Let’s start with the word ‘transform.’ Look it up in a dictionary and you will find a definition like this:
a. to change in composition or structure
b. to change the outward form or appearance of
c. to change in character or condition
Yes, it is about change. There is no getting around it. So, church and transformation together is about the church changing. No, this is not change for change sake. This is about change for God’s sake and the world’s sake. Notice this does not say for our sake. Church is not about us, it is about God’s work in the world. Therein is a major insight into one of the ways we need to change!! Of course, it is somewhat about us, but only as we are in service to God’s redeeming work through Jesus Christ in the world.
The impetus for transformation comes from the realization that things have changed (and are changing) in the world enough that the church has got to pay attention. Kennon Callahan says it this way:
The day of the professional minister is over.
The day of the missionary pastor has come.
The day of the churched culture is over.
The day of the mission field has come.
The day of the local church is over.
The day of the mission outpost has come.
(From Effective Church Leadership by Jossey Bass)
The Office of Church Growth and Transformation is a place where we are learning what it means to help our congregations navigate these changes. We mostly work in partnership with presbyteries and synods and other groupings of congregations (and directly with individual congregational leaders as time allows). The goal of our work? Congregational leaders with the capacity to guide their churches effectively into a vibrant future and with the tools they need to do so.
Where did the Small Church Office go?
What was once called the Office of Small Church and Community Ministry has now become the Office of Church Growth and Transformation. Small church leaders, don’t despair! This does not mean we are going to stop paying attention to the needs of the small church. We are a denomination of small churches — 50 percent of our churches have less than 100 members. So in reality, a lot of what we do on the national level happens with small churches!
Why no more office of small church and community ministry? We all need to do more with less these days so we decided to create more flexibility in this area. While most of the work will still be with small churches, the work in the area of transformation will spill over to benefit other congregations as well. And community resources will still be made available, as it is an important way to connect congregations with their community (an integral component of transformation).