Ron Crandall’s Turnaround and Beyond: A Hopeful Future for the Small Membership Church (Abingdon Press, 2008, Kindle Edition) belongs in the library of every interim pastor, small church pastor and pastor who wants to tackle the “turnaround” problem. [affiliate link]. It overflows with encouraging stories, practical strategies and insightful comment on the challenges of turnaround ministry.
The material for this book consists of surveys of turnaround pastors. This means it is “self reporting”, not independent research and analysis. I’m not sure that we pastors are the best judges of our own successes and what brought us there. Other than this caveat I recommend the book.
Here’s a sample the book’s structure and contents.
The chapter titles show the progression of thought. The contents of each chapter can stand alone; you can dip into this book just about anywhere, but you’ll soon find yourself going back to the start!
- Pathways to Turnaround
- Pastors as Turnaround Leaders
- Turning toward the Spirit
- Overcoming the Obstacles
- Turning toward Others
- Developing True Disciples
- Turnaround and Pastoral Transitions
- Turnaround and Beyond
Let me give you just a flavor of each chapter. I’ve grabbed a “money quote” from the various chapters to whet your appetite.
This chapter opens with strategies that will get the turnaround ball rolling. The following suggested strategies show that this is an eminently practical chapter.
- Enhance congregational confidence and hope for the future.
- Stimulate concern for unreached persons in the community.
- Engage in proactive and effective pastoral leadership.
- Encourage an open, loving atmosphere in the congregation.
- Clarify your own personal vision and be an example.
- Help develop a clear, shared, congregational vision.
- Work and pray for spiritual renewal among the members.
- Provide high-quality preaching and inspirational worship.
- Lead the effort to reach new people and grow.
- Emphasize and practice prayer.
- Develop new programs, especially for children and youth.
- Plan to take risks and take them.
When the participating pastors identified and ranked their own strongest qualities and skills for ministry, their top twelve answers were:
- Loving people
- Working skillfully with people
- Administrating and organizing
- 5. Teaching and training
- Being a visionary and motivating people
- Visiting one-on-one
- Leading by example
- Living faithfully and loving God
- Being an energetic, hard worker
In this chapter on “Turning Toward the Spirit” Crandall leverages Howard Snyder’s work by identifying six areas that contribute to congregational renewal. He mentions (1) personal pastoral effort, (2) prayer, (3) special events and spiritual retreats, (4) Sunday worship and preaching, (5) small groups, and (6) community involvement.
Crandall identifies various obstacles that turnaround pastors face. They include alack of vision for doing God’s will, defeatist attitude draining energy from people, members attached to old ways and ideas, inadequate finances, inflexible older members, rundown facilities, low levels of faith and commitment, cold shoulder toward outsiders, cliques that create conflict and a survival mentality.
It is easy to see by looking at this list that pastors serving smaller churches effective in outreach, evangelism, and growth have a very balanced view of ministry. They are not narrowly focused on evangelism. The primary credit for growth is not assigned to a visitation program, even though when asked what they would change if they could in the church’s outreach efforts, these pastors indicated “more lay visitation” as their second most-often expressed wish. But notice that growth producing outreach and evangelism in small churches is primarily related to inviting persons to attend warm and exciting experiences of worship.
Three foundational leadership priorities are identified as foundational for pastors of smaller churches who lead their congregations through the transitions into new life as effective centers of Christian ministry.
- A high value on momentum
- Don’t try to change everything at once
- Adapt leadership style to the needs at hand
A successful pastoral transition involves more than just caring for the outgoing and incoming pastors. This is why turnaround churches with a greater emphasis on making disciples rather than on getting more members make it through these transitions easier.
This chapter, written as an update to the original book, explores the relationship between sustainable turnaround and churches that have groups that make abiding in Christ a priority. Many of the churches in the original study were unable to sustain their turnaround after the turnaround pastor left.
We came to believe that ongoing renewal, turnaround and beyond, begins with a deep sense of personal and conceptual renewal that is nurtured in groups holding each member accountable in love. The end, however, is not just for personal transformation but also for a movement of God’s mission in the world—for fruit, much fruit, “fruit that will last” (John 15:16).
“Turnaround and Beyond” will be a helpful addition to any pastor’s library. If she is a small church minister in need of strategy, she will profit greatly. If he is an interim pastor who needs to consider the “succession question” the last two chapters are worthy of close scrutiny.
The last couple of chapters raise a troubling issue in the search for reliable turnaround processes: churches often fail to sustain their turnaround after the pastor leaves. The next pastor coming in is often unable to sustain the progress and many revert to status quo ante.
Let’s hope that further research, some of which is currently being conducted, will reveal additional tools to help churches sustain the miracle when the turnaround pastor leaves.