Zooming In And Out On Church Renewal

Written by Bill Whitt
March 9, 2023

Successful church renewal requires both a zoom lens for the particulars and a wide-angle lens for long-term vision and mission.

Great photography requires both a zoom lens and a wide-angle lens. During the winter, I love to pull out my zoom lens and focus on a single snowflake. Then, I reach for the wide-angle lens to capture the entire landscape. Successful church renewal also requires both a zoom lens and a wide-angle lens. Sometimes, you have to zoom in and look closely at a particular weekend’s logistics. Other times, you have to step back evaluate how well you are accomplishing your church’s long-term mission and vision. When churches get out of balance, it is often because they don’t use one of these lenses often enough. Either big picture innovation is sacrificed to detailed execution or vice versa.

Below are five recent changes we’ve made at my church to make sure we are spending enough time looking at both the big picture and the details.

Seeing the Big Picture in Church Renewal
Change 1: Decide Who Is the Decider

We recently clarified which people are primarily responsible for setting the vision and which people are primarily responsible for implementing the vision. At our church, the council is responsible for setting the long-term destination of the church (the vision), and the staff members are responsible for finding the best path to that destination (the strategy). If you are not clear about this, decision-making will grind to a halt, as different groups step all over each other. Often, big picture thinking and long-term planning will be the first to go, leading to decline.

Change 2: Have “Working on it” Meetings

Notice the difference between working in a system and working on a system. Often, churches never work on the system because they’re too busy working in it.  At one staff meeting per month, we set aside the day-to-day business to look at some aspect of the larger mission/vision our council has set for us. We track our progress toward long-term goals and make adjustments as needed. The tone of these meetings is fun, creative, and positive — focusing on opportunities rather than roadblocks.

Change 3: Have “Working In It” Meetings

At two staff meetings each month, we focus on the details of ministry execution. The goal is to make sure everybody is fully in-the-loop and cooperating well. Doing ministry with professionalism is a gift to the people we serve. That is why we set aside time to consider details like room reservations, publicity, and post-event follow-up.

Change 4: Have “Working On Us” Meetings

At one staff meeting each month, we intentionally work on the spiritual health of our staff members. A church is rarely healthier than its leaders, so any investment in the spiritual lives of leaders pays huge dividends. Ministry is hard, and it is easy for leaders to grow weary and discouraged. These attitudes can filter down through the entire church if you are not careful. The opposite is also true. Energy, optimism, and healthy spirituality are also contagious!

Change 5: Make Mentoring a Priority

It can be incredibly difficult to get outside the system enough to objectively evaluate it and to work on it. A good mentor or consultant can provide that broader perspective for you.  I encourage every member of my staff to have mentors, spiritual directors, and/or counselors. This helps them through the ups and downs of ministry and helps them stay connected to the bigger picture. The Center for Church Renewal offers great resources in this area, so please reach out if you are interested!

Putting This Week’s Newsletter In Action

I took at Lake Michigan recently. That experience reminded me that I have to intentionally zoom in and out to take in the entirety of the scene in front of me.

What hobbies of yours remind you about the importance seeing the big picture and the details?

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