Scott Hodge


Leading Cultural Change

Nov 1, 2006

These past couple of months I have had quite a few emails with questions in regards to leading cultural change and transition in existing churches.  Those of you who know our story, know that this is the journey that we are now on the other side of. 

So now I’m curious as to how many of YOU are currently serving in or leading an existing church that is attempting major change and transition. 

Would you do me a favor and let me know?  Just leave a comment (anonymously if you prefer…)

There’s a reason I’m asking – more on that later… 

Thanks for your feedback!

14 Responses to “Leading Cultural Change”

  1. Layne says:

    Yeah I am currently pastoring a church on an interim basis I like to call it transitional pastoring.
    It is an independant, 30 year old, pentecostal church. The founding pastor left after 28+ years. He and the church stayed the same and ran stuff the same, ministered the same way, reached out the same way blah blah blah. So here I am, we have had some structural changes con/bylaws, changing (very slowly) toward team and task orientation rather than the never ending ministry/department (you can check in but you can never leave, if your are serious about your relationship with God) I am an AoG Pastor, have a ba in Pastoral ministry, and an MBA. (I don’t mean an axe head from the middle bronze age) Also I feel pretty much over my head. Though most of the time I really do feel like good stuff is happening,I think I will have to ask the guy who comes in after me “how’d I do?”

  2. Chad says:

    I currently serve as the children’s pastor at a small church (40-70) on a Sunday. God has been working on me for a while and has given me a vision for something new.
    I presented this vision to the lead pastor (also my father-in-law). He agreed it was what we needed to take us to a new level. We are primarily an older, sleepy church. We are going to start change with a new Sunday evening service geared toward people who don’t like church. Now, I think every service should be like that, but I don’t get that much say.
    I’m currently in the process of trying to put together a new worship team. The youngest person on our current worship team is I believe 51.
    Through this process I’ve begun to question whether this church is the right place to do this. I cannot shake the feeling of God calling me to start this as a new church instead of trying to turn a church 180 degrees. Of course being told by just about everyone that that’s not what God is saying (usually due to my age 26, and my complete lack of seminary education).
    I’ve served in ministry since I was 17, and know that I don’t have it all figured out. However, I don’t feel God calling me towards more education. I feel him calling me to reach people for Jesus. If God says go to school, I’ll be the first one in line. However, that’s not the case right now.
    I’m not sure if that’s what you wanted, but I needed a place to vent.
    This makes me wonder about culture’s effect on God’s call. If I didn’t have people surrounding me, saying I can’t do it right now, I would absolutely do it. Do we fail so often because we let good-intentioned people get in the way of our faith in God?

  3. jason deuman says:

    My name is Jason, and I serve as the student ministries pastor at Creekside Church in Seattle, WA.
    We are replanting our church. We are moving from a 50ish year location in North Seattle, to a beautiful property in Mountlake Terrace, 5 miles north. We are renaming, re-purposing, re-valuing everything in our church. It’s crazy, difficult and incredibly exciting

  4. I would love to read as many of your thoughts on this subject as you would care to share.

  5. Josh Scott says:

    Hey Scott,
    I’m an Assistant Pastor in Columbus, OH. My old youth pastor became the new lead pastor of a 40 year old church 4 years ago and I decided to move my family back home to be a part of it.
    The story of the church is this: It peaked during the mid-80′s at over 1000 people. Over the next 15 years and after a series of events, the church declined. It hit a low mark of 250. That’s when the pastor resigned. So, we’ve got a TURNAROUND church. We are in a very upper class part of town and have a 120 acres. We have sold off about 40 of that to finance the turn around for 7 years. We’re 4 years into it and our numbers are hitting 400. We built a new children’s auditorium and just finished a 5 million dollar child care center.
    So that it. There’s a lot more to it obviously. But leading turn around efforts are tough. I think Barna says only 4% make it. We’re not completely thorugh it yet.

  6. Allen Arnn says:

    Until July, I was part of a church that had been trying to transition for about thirteen years! In reality the church had not really transitioned but rather turned over the membership (out with old, in with new). That experience left me wondering if changing the DNA of a place is possible. I know that it DOES happen sometimes. It requires great leadership and the hand of God.
    Not to imply that churches needing transition are necessarily “sinful”, but I was just thinking how maybe a church experiencing remarkable transition by the hand of God is like a person who becomes a “new creation”.

  7. Kerry Snyder says:

    I am Pastor of Student Ministries at a church that lost our senior pastor 2 1/2 years ago to health reasons. His son was the Jr. High leader, his father and father in law on the board, his son in law a worship leader, and most people in the chruch by products of his personal relationship with him. We have had a new pastor for a litte over a year now, and we have grown so much. We are in the middle of a capital campaign to build a bigger worship center, overseas missions involvment, and local church planting and community involvment. We are in a major shift of vision and direction.
    I am also the current speaking pastor for a 20 somethings church that is the plant of a larger church in a different location.
    Things are hectic!
    By the way, I may be back in the Chicago area sometime in mid December, is there any way we could meet for a coffee, I could pick your noodle, and check out the orchard?

  8. Hey Scott. We transform culture by mocking it. This embrace allows our peeps to see that “we get it.” Then we gain their trust. Then we make them laugh. Then we show them that Jesus likes to laugh. Then we show them community. Then we show them how to serve. Sometimes, the order of all of these things are totally different – we leave that to the end user…

  9. Rob Petrini says:

    Can you actually lead a cultural change and transition in an existing church? I’ve been in two different churches that tried it, and I don’t know if I want to go through it again. I am an associate Pastor now of a new church plant and found it a lot easier to create a culture instead of having to change one, though we are currently going through a transitional stage where the senior pastor has left. Christians are notorious for bringing their baggage with each place they go, and so, even a new church plant has to work hard at maintaining it’s vision and mission. I agree with Allen, new church or old, to bring about change you are gonna need a strong leadership

  10. David says:

    It is my prayer to be a part/start something that would shake the cultural/racial walls in my area. I’m tired of the same old junk that seperates people and keeps them from being a follower of Christ.
    You with me??

  11. Doug Ruhs says:

    A common theme running through the previous comments, is strong leadership, and that starts with listening for the heart of God.
    As a newer member of The Orchard (Scott’s church), I’m not really familiar with the entire transition. Two of the things that attracted my wife and I to The Orchard was (1) being let into some of the “groanings” of Scott’s dad (previous pastor), through some of the promotional material. (2) The church was led by the same “board” through the entire transition. None of the board members got mad and left or took their toys and went home. This indicates a group of leaders that were dedicated to what God had in store for The Orchard.
    Spirit led leadership, in my opinion, is the key.
    Glad to be a part of The Orchard!!

  12. Matt Singley says:

    I sit on the senior management team at our church, and we have been working night and day on re-working our vision and alignment. We’ve been doing this for 10 months. We roll it out to our congregation at our annual meeting this coming Sunday the 5th. Pray for us!

  13. Joni says:

    Reading your comments makes me glad that God has not placed me in your leadership shoes. You all have an incredible responsibility that I’m sure must weigh heavily on you. Please accept God’s mercy and grace as you make decisions-some that will work and others not. He is on your side and so wants you to succeed in the mission He’s given you. Hang in there and be encouraged! Let His Spirit be your comfort and affirmation.

  14. Art says:

    I pastor a small A/G church in NW Indiana. When I say small I mean 30-40 people. We desperately need to transition to a more relavent, effective ministry – but I have no idea how to do it.

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