By Sharon Mager, BaptistLIFE correspondent
COLUMBIA, Md.—Churches, aware that they are plateaued or in early stages of decline and willing to make changes to move forward, are invited to apply to be considered for Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network/BCMD’s “Turning Around Journey.”
The program is led by David Jackson, the Network’s team strategist for church multiplication, and Randy Millwood, team strategist for church wellness, with the help of several veteran Network pastors who have provided input and coaching services.
Millwood said the use of the term “journey” is significant. “Jesus’ invitation was to follow,” he said. “That would indicate a continuing process.”
The “journey” process lasts about a year, though the church’s continuing walk could take a lifetime. Each “Turning Around Journey” participating church develops and affirms a covenant crafted by the pastor and designated representatives of the church. The purpose of the covenant is to affirm leadership and/or congregational support for engaging a quest toward turning around.
The first step of the “journey” is seeking spiritual discernment during a two-day spiritual retreat allowing pastors to use ancient practices to develop discernment habits—hearing from God, knowing what He wants from them and the church, then taking those tools back to the church and leaders.
In addition there are one-day workshops, reading requirements, “Turning Around” church projects and participation in coaching experiences.
“We go very deeply into the change process,” Millwood says. “That includes identifying where they are as a pastor, as leaders, and as a church, and as well as conflict management or resolution.”
“You don’t lead change without some level of conflict,” Millwood emphasized, adding there is a godly righteous way to handle it and there is a worldly response. Churches need to find a style of conflict management that honors God and works for their congregations, he said.
They also deal with courage because “change is fearful,” Millwood said. Leaders must instill courage, not being brash or harsh, but courageous.
Other issues include evaluating structure including facilities, organization, constitution and by-laws and other necessary administrative issues of the church.
Finally, they look at the church’s external focus on evangelism and think strategically about becoming more external.
Eight churches are currently enrolled in the “journey process.” Some are already reaping benefits.
Millwood said all of the participating churches have completed an outwardly focused ministry project design and are beginning initial implementation.
The 2014 session is closed but there are plans to begin a new turning around group early in 2015.