Onboarding For Church Transformation: Establishing Your Transformation-Focused Working Agreement

Aspiration = To move toward the best expression of Church we can be, faithfully living the gospel of Jesus Christ with relevance in our community

We yearn, long, and stretch for it…we so want to be invigorated communities of disciples, who are making disciples who transform the world! At the same time, the old wisdom applies: “If you find the perfect church, don’t join it, you’ll mess it up.” As individuals and churches we are works in progress. We trust that one day God will complete God’s good work in us; but until then, we disciple on, working with what we have to work. I remember one pastor’s response in a clergy coaching group when another was wishing for more faithful people in the church….”We work with the Christians we have.” In other words, we are who we are; works in progress who also yearn and long to be all that God believes we can be.

Thus, the gap; the gap between where we are as a church and where we can be. Seen this way, every church is called to fill in the gap, to transform itself into a fuller, greater, more faithful and relevant expression of church. This is what church transformation is about.

But, given our humanity, plenty are not on board with this church transformation endeavor. We like our comfort and preferences when it comes to being church. Currently, I’m coaching several pastors who were called to their churches to lead transformation; at least that’s what the Search Committee told them. You know the familiar story. Now the pastors are struggling since they believed that message too much. Readiness for change is a huge factor. A sufficient portion of the church has to be onboard for church transformation to take and hold. (Learn more about cultivating congregational readiness in Farming Church: Cultivating Adaptive Change In Congregations, 2017).

“Onboarding” for church transformation is pivotal. We aren’t looking for everyone to buy into the idea that we are open to God’s transformation in how we are church together. Unanimity is highly unlikely. Instead, we need to be sufficiently onboard as a church. Entire books are written about the onboarding process, yet let’s focus on one activity who’s effect can be pervasive…in a very good way.

Establishing Your Transformation Working Agreement

In every church there is a working agreement regarding church transformation. Typically it’s unspoken, yet becomes very clear when moves are made which violate the unspoken agreement. This is why our Transforming Church Initiatives include a written and signed Covenant For Transformation, explicitly committing ourselves to working a transformation process. Your church (whether involved in one of our TCIs or not) may want to explore your working agreement regarding church transformation. Some form of a working agreement is already present, running through most everything your church does, quietly guiding efforts to grow (or not).

So, this may be an opportune time to raise this discussion with your leadership. Factors to explore together are readiness of the church for transformation, clarity of purpose and calling, identifying next transformational steps, and agreeing on a time frame (time-limited season of transformation). Then these “agreements” can turn into your working agreement (covenant) toward church transformation. If you need further help, let us know and we can share a sample covenant from our TCIs with you. You might begin by sharing this article with your leaders as a way to prime that pump.

Onboarding For Church Transformation

Don’t assume too much. Don’t avoid the topic. Bring what’s hidden into the light. Identify your current unspoken working agreement for church transformation and then adjust it in light of your church’s calling for this season of life together. Trust me, you’ll save a boat-load of pain and suffering, while gaining momentum toward living into your church’s best self.

Mark Tidsworth, President, PLA

Helen Renew