When Is It Safe To Try Something New?

I am two years and three months into my ministry at St. Paul’s. Crossroads is an old ministry. It has been around for over 10 years. It’s a program that has touch dozens, if not hundreds of lives. It has a history and a tradition; even a culture that’s all it’s own.

So how does one introduce something new to a group and a program that had been around so long?

This December I hope to experiment with a slight modification to our Sunday night program. Sunday night is our big night event! We want to welcome our students and guests with a fun, innovative, and friendly night of ministry! Right now, we have a set flow that doesn’t always welcome the first time visitor. The change I am proposing moves our discussion groups, which tend to be cliquey and exclusive, to tables instead of break out groups split by grades.

The change places one adult leader at each table. As the students arrive, they take a seat at a table. They are free to sit wherever the want, with whoever the want. Once the table is full, you have your table group! Following the message, there will be a 15 minute discussion time that the adult leader moderates.

In theory, the plan will work; adding to our community the opportunity for new relationships to be established. But there is the possibility that it could all blow up in my face. The culture that I have to consider is one that has turned our discussion time into more of a small group atmosphere. It’s an atmosphere that is intensely protected by our students. Thing is, I want to move our students into “real” small groups with intentional ministry.

So how do I dare introduce table discussion instead of the current discussion groups? Here is how I am doing this.

1. Come Up With The Plan.
– I have been praying about a change like this for well over a year. As I sat down to plan for our next series, I felt that this might be a great way to introduce table groups. But, I needed a plan. What will the night look like? how do I prep my leaders? How do I get my leaders on board? I needed a plan. So I spent the day working out all the angle I could think about and answer as many questions as I could. I developed a plan for how the leaders will interact at the tables, how we will still include our game time, and even save time at the end of the night for our discussion groups, which we are now going to call, CAREgroups. I then emailed the plan to my leaders so they could review the plan and pray about the idea. Then at our most recent leader meeting, I shared the plans, shared the pros and cons as I saw them, and allowed for questions and discussion.

2. Develop the Change Around An Upcoming Series.
– I love to create a series that consumes the group. We develop our series in a way that allows us to play out the theme in everything we do. My leaders will wear special t-shirts, our stage area will be decorated with props, our drama team writes skits to draw out each weeks message, and our graphics, posters, and promo materials all support the theme and series. I have found that there is room for experimentation when you introduce it as part of the series. For the students, knowing that a change in the program has a beginning and an end. And you can get feedback from the students without committing a permanent change.

3. Be Ready To Listen.
– Change is hard, especially when you make a change to something that everyone has an opinion on. Be ready to listen to your students and your leaders. Separate yourself from your idea so that negative comments don’t feel like fists pounding you in the gut. God is bigger than you and your desire to develop the best ministry for your students. Remember that He is in control. If the idea is from Him, He will work everything out. Know that your ministry is His ministry, that His love for the students is great then your love, and that His purposes are better then your purposes. Listen to what is said, the good and the bad, and think about it prayerfully. Let God protect your heart.

4. Be Okay With The End Result.
– I am hoping that this change to our Sunday program are accepted and become part of our regular weekly worship, but it might not. It is important to accept the outcome of the experiment. Our students might not like the table groups. Our leaders not find the change to complicated. Student might stop coming because they feel like they are loosing what they think IS Crossroads. When the series is over, I plan to poll my leaders and a few of the students who’s maturity allows me to trust and appreciate their thoughts and opinions. I will need to be okay with the end result. If the table groups work and the leaders and the students want to keep doing it, GREAT! But if not, I need to let it go.

5. Pray From Beginning To End.
– Throughout the planning, development, and even the execution of the plan, I will be bathing everything in prayer. I want to trust that God is in this and that I am being obedient to what He is doing. But I realize that at times, my own agenda can push through and my will can rear it’s ugly face. So I am praying about the table groups and the future establishment of legit small groups. I want my heart’s desire to be pure in this, and my goals to be God’s goals. Pray about the changes that you are thinking about. Gather others to pray with you and for you. Seek the counsel of those you trust. And listen to the advice God is giving them to share with you.

Change can be god, but only when it’s good change.

Our series starts on November 29, 2009 and wraps up on December 20, 2009. I will be posting throughout the month and I’ll let you know how it goes.

– jay

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