But Our Church Has Always Done It This Way

March 17th 2015

As churches evaluate their processes and introduce new ways of doing things, the biggest pushback they typically hear is, “that’s not how we’ve always done it.”

The elders don’t want to switch things up. The pastor doesn’t like change. Volunteers are worried new tools will be difficult to learn. Even tools and ideas that will simplify their jobs are shunned.

But we’ve always printed weekly bulletins.

But we’ve always passed the offering plate.

But we’ve always mailed follow-up letters.

Continuing to do things the way you’ve always done them with no consideration of improvements can be detrimental to your ministry for 3 reasons:

1. Your church changes

Is your church exactly the same as it was 25 years ago? Or has it tripled in size, or moved to a new location, or become predominately populated by young families? As the church grows and changes, the way it addresses needs and functions ought to change too. You might need to add ministries for the large number of single parents in your congregation. Your method of follow-up might need to adjust as visitors pour into your church. You may have been able to manage basic member information in Excel as a church plant, but that method just isn’t practical for a thriving church of 1,000. You’ll probably need software to simplify these processes.

2. The community around you changes

People probably aren’t looking for the exact same external qualities in a church that they were decades ago. And they certainly aren’t looking for churches in the same way. Many church seekers—millennials in particular—are now looking for a place where they’ll have the opportunity to get involved and make a difference, and they’re searching online for the right fit. Your church didn’t need a website 25 years ago, but people aren’t looking for a new congregation in the phone book when they move into town anymore. Their expectations have changed, and in order to reach them, your church has to adapt.

3. The technology changes

As technology advances at a rapid pace, the variety of tools available to churches only continues to grow. Volunteers no longer need to jot down the name of each kid in nursery—they can use check-in kiosks. Donors don’t have to hit the ATM just so they can make contributions to your church—they can give online. And staff members don’t need to waste hours on data entry—they can integrate their church management software with other tools. Refusing to take advantage of available technology simply because it would mean change could end up costing your church time, money, and disciples in the long run.

If what you’re doing still works, then carry on. But make sure you honestly evaluate your processes and determine that there isn’t a better way before you settle. And be careful not to swing too far in the other direction. Don’t switch things up if there isn’t a better way. You wouldn’t text advice to a person desperate for help. Face-to-face interaction will always be necessary for some things.

When you do adjust the way you do things and get buy-in from leadership, most people will eventually embrace the change if you explain the reasoning. But you can never make everyone happy. You’ll always face some disgruntled people no matter what you choose.

The constant in your church is the truth of the gospel—not offering plates or felt Bible stories or complicated spreadsheets. Embracing some change could mean great opportunity for your church.

How has your church broken free from the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality? 

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