Turning a Big Ship: For Your Church

This past weekend, I went as a parent chaperon on a houseboat trip with my daughter’s 6th grade class. I wasn’t planning to drive the boat, but ended up at the wheel quite a bit. As we were putting along I made many comparisons to how driving this house boat was similar to leading a shift toward Family Discipleship. I’ve heard the analogy for making a change in an organization compares to turning a big ship around. We need to figure out the right speed that will accomplish a complete turnaround without throwing people overboard as you turn.  It takes a while to turn a big ship (or so I’ve heard) the bigger the ship and the bigger the shift the slower it happens.

As you are making a shift in your church to a Family Discipleship paradigm, it can get frustrating by how slowly it seems to be happening. It’s important to keep in mind the reason we’re going slow is so that we don’t throw families overboard as we transition.

We began this shift at Risen King nearly two years ago in October of 2010. We began making small changes in programming and big changes in priority. We are now seeing the changes that we have made trickling down to the families that we serve. The shift began in my heart and then moved to my ministry. The vision of what it could look like to empower people to disciple their families began with the leadership and seeped out toward those in our church.

There have been times when the concept of the Family Discipleship Path was clear to me and not clear to everyone else. This is when I have to be reminded to turn the ship slowly. This is the basis behind taking small steps in the path to move toward a church full of families who have been empowered, encouraged, and equipped to disciple their kids. And, as a result, a church full of kids and youth who have been empowered, encouraged, and equipped to reach out and lead the lost in their communities.

The shift from being a children’s or youth ministry that maintains a first priority of discipleship of kids and youth to a ministry with the first priority to empower, equip and encourage families to disciple kids and youth is a slow and steady shift. I have relied on the same three principles that I shared with families regarding times when they were frustrated about not seeing the desired results. See “Celebrate Movement: For Your Family.”

To keep your perspective clear and focused:

  • Celebrate movement! Are you closer to Family Discipleship than you were last year?
  •  Be realistic! Are your goals SMART? Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Recorded, and Time bound.
  •  Stop Comparing! Are you comparing your ministry to other ministries? Or are you comparing your ministry now to what it was last year or to what you believe God has called you to be?

What are some of the frustrations or stressors that you have encountered as you have led your church in this shift? What are some perspective shifts that help you maintain focus and celebrate movement? Another thought that I have with the big ship analogy—is that there are factors that make a turn more smooth and quick. When the weather and the tide are right, you can make a big turn quickly and smoothly. When the weather and the tide are against you it is impossible to be both quick and smooth. Please share your ideas of what are some factors in a church that would yield the circumstances for a quick and smooth transition….or at least ‘more quick’ and ‘more smooth’—I’m not sure that completely quick and smooth is an attainable goal. What do you think?


About familydiscipleshippath

My husband, Tim, and I have been married for 17 years and have 3 great children. Our girls are 13 and 11 and the baby boy is 9. We have been living in Redding, CA and serving at Risen King Community Church since August, 2000. I serve as the Family Ministries Pastor. As a mom and a pastor, I represent both the church and the home and am on a journey of discovering and communicating practical ways the church and family can partner together to guide the young ones in our lives to know and love Jesus and live their lives(their whole lives) in light of that love.
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