Transformational small churches (1 of 3)

What are the common characteristics of churches that transform their members and their communities? The folks at LifeWay Research set to find out, and published their findings in a book, Transformational Churches. Last September, they held an all-day webinar specifically aimed at small churches. Being part of a small church, I tuned in. Though much was aimed at pastors, there was something in there for folks in the pew like me, and here are my (sometimes disjointed) notes.

The transformational loop

the transformational loop
The transformational loop

The transformational loop underpins the transformational church, giving churches a way of measuring how transformational they are. You can read more about the loop in this post or this book review.

Vibrant leadership, with Thom Rainer (00:22:45)

Principles of vibrant leadership

  1. The L+1 principle. Have one person whom you can mentor, who will in turn mentor others.
  2. The principle of reward. What you reward is the kind of behaviour you’re going to see. If you lift up certain models (in sermon illustrations, in casual conversation), people will follow those models.
  3. The principle of eating an elephant. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Cultural change takes time. Be the kind of leader who’s out in front of the people far enough that they can see you’re leading, but not too far that they mistake you for the enemy and shoot you in the rear.
  4. The principle of strategic relationships. Identify those people in the church who, when they speak, everyone wants to listen. Get them on your side without compromising principles, biblical or otherwise.
  5. The principle of a leadership team. Don’t lead alone. Have a formal or informal group of people who can help. Characteristics of a great leadership team are:
  • It has a compelling purpose (for example, a love for the community and a desire to minister to it)
  • It has the right leader, who is moving them forward
  • It has the right team, without excluding the rest of the church
  • It has a conducive culture and a missional focus—from all about us to reaching beyond ourselves

Q&A (00:45:10)

Q: How do I know if the leadership issue is with me or them?

A: Have a confidante (or more) who speaks truth; people who neither knock you down nor puff you up. Have a thick enough skin to accept criticism.

Q: How do I develop as a leader?

A: Find a mentor—even a long-distance one—that you respect and who’s making a difference. You could also read books and attend conferences, but a mentor is much better.

Q: How do you discern the best place to begin change?

A: Go for the low-hanging fruit, for the things that’ll give you some early victories. These early victories will encourage you and others to go on to the next step.

Q: What are appropriate ways of giving rewards?

A: What we count (e.g. attendance, offering) is a reward system. Make a new scorecard, for example, people involved in missions.

Q: How do you transform a church which is the last refuge from change for a 60-year-old and over people?

A: The worst way would be to force it. Ask them to look in the mirror and what ways they see of going ahead.

Relational intentionality, with Thom Rainer (00:55:10)


  1. The principle of strategic relationships. When a leader loves his people, it shows. Love like Christ loved, knowing that Christ loves us anyway.
  2. The principle of early victories. Encourage people on what they’re doing well.
  3. The principle of matching passions. Everybody is gifted at something, and is passionate about something. Point them in the direction of their passions.
  4. The principle of leadership modelling. Somebody is watching you, more than you think. Another person, that is.
  5. The principle of intentional ownership. You may have to do things you don’t like, for example, introverts may have to learn to be outgoing.

Q&A (01:09:40)

Q: What exhortation do you give to introverted pastors?

A: Introverts aren’t introverts with people who know them well (family, close friends). So, get to know people better. Second, just do it: don’t think too much.

Q: What is the connection between relational intentionality and spiritual formation?

A: The closer we grow to people, the more accountable we can be with them.

Q: What is the difference between relational intentionality and mentoring?

A: RI tends to be more informal, though not necessarily.

Q: What should a new pastor do to live out RI?

A: Focus on building relationships.

Conclusion (01:16:28)

A transformational church is a congregation that joins God’s mission of sharing the gospel and making disciples. Those disciples become more like Jesus and the church thus acts as the body of Christ, transforming their communities and the world for the kingdom of God.

There are three kinds of transformation:

  • Of individuals by new life in the Holy Spirit
  • Of churches by God to make His fame known
  • Of communities, as we’re agents of reconciliation.

Prayerful dependence, with Ed Stetzer (01:?:?)

Dr. Stetzer quotes Psalm 127:1 and Acts 2:42.

In TCs, prayer drives and undergirds everything. Prayer happens naturally and spontaneously. People spending time in prayer before serving is normal, and seeing people praying is normal.

Sometimes, we can get so busy working for God that our relationships (with God and with others) suffer.

Principles of prayerful dependence:

  1. The proper use of His house: embrace Jesus’ priorities
  2. Accessibility: prayer is a way for everyone to connect with God. People should go home amazed not by a communicator, but at the possibility of a relationship with Christ.
  3. The Lord wants us to be involved in His work. We do this through prayer, which changes us and our circumstances.

Praying churches:

  • experience breakthroughs and celebrate them
  • have praying leaders
  • commonly experience answers to prayer
  • pray because they believe it matters if they pray

People who love Jesus go to Jesus in prayer together


Q: How do you get a non-praying church to start?

A: Use the L+1 principle. Start with 1 or 2 people praying. Hold each other accountable and model and communicate that prayer. The answer is to listen to and obey God, not the tools used.

To be continued…