“Is this a trend?” asked the new Pastor. Then he continued, “I’ll be out to supper with my wife and a church member will come up to me and say, ‘Pastor, I want to introduce you to Bill and Jane. They used to be members of our church.’ Then I’ll be visiting someone in the hospital and the patient will say, ‘Pastor this is Judy. She used to be a member of our church.’ Everywhere I go church members are introducing me to people who used to be members of our church. Is this a trend?”
He posed the question to me, but I turned it right back to all the members of the revitalization team sitting around the table. “What do you all think? Could this be a trend in the church?” Within a few minutes they had indeed identified a trend that had been ongoing for twenty years. It seems that over the years each time the church had to say good-bye to a staff member, they lost several families.
What the team did not know, and the pastor had confided in me, is that the church was about to lose another staff member. Had that conversation not come up in the team meeting, it would have breezed by everyone including me. But now that I did know, I was able to work with the pastor and the church lost only the staff member, his wife and son and one other couple. This was a victory for the church.
Eight months later I received a call from this pastor. He was about to lose another staff member. I worked with him on this one and the church lost only the staff member and her husband. Total victory. A trend had been identified and a course correction had been set.
Churches and other organizations of people can develop trends in a very short term and can carry them for many years. Unhealthy trends are not easy to overcome, but they can be broken and healthier trends can be instituted to guard against falling backward into old trends.
Your church has trends. Some trends may be healthy. Most are unhealthy in moving the church forward to reaching its God-given goal of fulfilling the Great Commission. What will it take to rightly identify and correct the course of these trends? It takes willing hearts and steel-toed shoes.
Actually, the shoes may not be required, but an open, honest assessment to identify trends is needed. In the story above had the pastor’s heart not been disturbed of so many people – friends of members – who were now former members of the church, no one would have considered a conversation to connect the dots of former members and past staff. Don’t be afraid, start the conversations. Trends cannot be corrected if they are not first identified.
It is important when looking at the trends of an organization to attempt to unveil any subdued or hidden causes or reasons. When similar actions are taken on numerous occasions, a trend is being cultivated.
The important part is to unearth the reasons for trends in the organization. Many church members and leaders are actively involved in the trends of the organization and may not realize the reason for the trend. The detriment of the trend may not be realized by the church – until irreplaceable damage is made.