Pastors Who Want Parishioners to Change—Physician, Heal Thyself!

July 28th, 2011

Change is a difficult thing. One of the complaints I hear most from my pastoral colleagues is how difficult it is for their churches to embrace change; and because they refuse to think of doing anything radically different, they are slowly declining and heading toward closing the doors.

But my question to my fellow clergy is how willing are you to change? How willing are you to do things differently? A pastor goes to a new church where the sermons have been delivered with PowerPoint and she is unwilling to learn PowerPoint, so that is the end of that. Or a pastor goes to a church with a contemporary service and does not care for contemporary music, so he immediately starts to reshape it in more "traditional" ways. Or a church has been very active in taking short-term mission trips, but the new pastor doesn't like to travel and refuses to participate. I have to confess that my impression of more than a few pastors I've known is that they bemoan the stagnant rut of their congregation's "we've never done it that way before" attitude, but they themselves exhibit the same attitude in reference to their own vocation.

If the mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, how can we who lead the church expect the church to do whatever it takes to fulfill that mandate, when we've been in the same ministerial rut ourselves for years?

Every time I begin a new appointment, I survey what I believe needs to change with that church, but I also reflect upon what I need to do differently myself in reference to sermon preparation, worship planning, and the general discharge of my other duties. Pastors must lead the way in demonstrating a willingness to change. Only then, can they with integrity insist on change from their congregation.

Pastors, do you want your parishioners to change? Physicians, first heal thyselves.

Allan R. Bevere is a United Methodist pastor in Akron, OH. He blogs at
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