Using XP3 in a Small Church (Part 2): Leading Through Change

The XP3 blog is all about you, the student ministry leader. That’s why we love it when we’re able to share helpful ideas and insights straight from student pastors and leaders like you. If you would like to contribute in a future post, send us an email.

By Tim Van Dalen

Having been involved in a number of small church settings, I know that change can be one of the most difficult things to navigate. And if you are considering making a switch to XP3 it probably represents a significant change for your student ministry and church. The way that you lead through this change will go a long way in how others respond to it.

Most people do not enjoy change. “Change” usually means we’re about to do something with an unknown outcome, and that can be a little scary. As I have navigated through lots of change over my years in ministry, I have done it well a few times and totally failed at other times. But along the way I’ve learned a few things about navigating change in the small church context.

One of the most important things you can do when making change is to start from the top and work your way down.

It is important to get buy-in from leadership and key volunteers first. When you have their support, it shows the rest of your volunteers and the church that this is a new direction the church is heading and not just your “crazy new idea.” It brings a weight to the change that causes others to pause and consider, “If they think this is the way we should go, then maybe I should give it a chance.” It doesn’t mean everyone will love the change, but it gives you a foundation and support system to work from.

So how do you get buy-in for making a change?

A great place to start is to use it as an opportunity to cast a vision for your student ministry and how this change can help you accomplish that vision. This is a great opportunity to remind leadership and your volunteers why ministering to students is so important. Remind them of what is at stake. Remind them that they are helping the next generation develop an authentic faith of their own. But don’t stop there; tell them why making this change will help you do that better. It is difficult to argue with a well thought out plan to help accomplish your vision.

As you are casting this vision, consider using this technique that I have learned from Bill Hybels: Your vision is about moving the ministry from where it is now (here) to where you want it to be (there).

Take a couple of minutes to explain what will be lost if you stay “here” and the benefits of getting to “there.” Then connect the change to XP3 as a component of getting to “there.” This will probably not be the only aspect of accomplishing your vision but share how it is a key component of it.

But sometimes even the best vision casting is not enough to help everyone accept the change that comes with it. When you run into those who are still resistant, don’t give up. Simply ask them if they would be willing to give it a try for a defined period of time and then evaluate after that time if it was helpful or not. This helps those who are resistant to feel like it is not being forced on them, and it gives you the chance to let them see how helpful this change can be.

Agree to a 3-6 month window of time and then gather input from the team. At that point—even if there is still resistance by a few—chances are you will have buy in from a vast majority of your team. At that point it is no longer just a change you want to make but a change that most of the team is behind.

Change is never easy, but when we take the time to do it well it can prove to be a springboard toward accomplishing the vision we have for our students. And that is worth it every time!

This post is part two of five in a series of posts called Using XP3 in a Small Church. Here’s what’s coming up in this series:

Tim is the Family Ministry Pastor at Cocalico Community Church in Reinhold, PA. He has been working with kids-college students in various capacities for more than 15 years. Tim enjoys doing ministry alongside his wife, Jen, who oversees the Preschool environment for 3-5 year olds at CCC. They have 3 kids, Kaylee, Ashlyn & Josiah. Tim enjoys reading fiction, watching movies, soccer and the Steelers! To get in touch with Tim, connect with him on Twitter or Instagram.