Scott Hodge, what is working for you?
Let me introduce you to Scott Hodge. I cannot remember how I found Scott, but I know that I am very thankful that I did. Scott lives in the Chicago area and works at Orchard Valley Community Church in Aurora, Illinois. His churches mission is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. To learn more about Scott visit his blog at http://www.happyweeble.blogspot.com
Let’s see…what’s working?
At a time in our culture when starting something new is the “big thing”, the idea of taking a 75 year old church and attempting to turn it 180 degrees is perhaps, crazy.
So it was.
Two and half years ago, we began a major (and fast) turnaround effort at the church where I now work. Formerly, my wife and I were on staff at two “mega” churches and left that “world” to come and help a declining church of a couple hundred people.
But, this was a bit personal for us. It was my dad’s church. For 27 years he led this church and saw some great things happen – but, somehow in the last few years things began to decline. Morale was down. Staff loyalty was questionable. Beyond the “surface”, things weren’t looking very good. And worst of all – the community around us might have been just as well off had we not existed. Not good.
About three years ago, my dad finally reached a point where he knew that things had to change. So, at the age of 58, instead of planning for his retirement, he decided to go for it. So he brought me on staff and we both dove in to this world known as “turnaround.” And without getting into all of the details, let me just say that we took quite a gamble. In fact, there were a few times that we almost lost everything – and I mean everything!
The hardest part was not changing our name or mission statement (those are “surface-y” changes). The real challenge was changing mindsets. What we needed was a cultural change. We had a church culture that loved to “massage” people’s issues. In fact, we had really become very focused on ourselves. We wanted to help connect our community to God, but we wanted to do it on our terms. (We “love” you, but you better like OUR music and dress how WE dress or come to church at a time that is convenient for US.)
Two and half years later, we have seen our church more than double in size - from 300 people at one point to 600 people who now consider our church their “church home”.
The culture of our faith community is completely different than it was before. Morale is higher than it’s ever been; people are fired up about what is happening and inviting their unchurched connections. It’s really an amazing thing. (And humbling too… Because when something like this happens, you quickly realize that without Divine leadership at the helm, there is no way this thing could have pulled through the tough moments.)
Here’s the kicker… On October 12th, my best friend – my dad – passed away at his home completely unexpectedly. So, a new journey has begun for me and my family. This one wasn’t planned. At least not by me. But the honor that it was to work alongside my dad to journey with him through the greatest years of his “ministry” life is indescribable.
So – what’s working? Turnaround. It can happen. It costs a lot. But if you are willing to go for it and take some serious risks, turnaround is possible.