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Leading Change in a Change-Resistant Context with Father Michael White

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Hey, everybody, and welcome to the unSeminary podcast. We have a great conversation lined up today with Father Michael White from Church of the Nativity in Maryland.

Church of the Nativity is a Catholic church, but its approach is a bit different than that of most other Catholic churches you might have encountered. Father Michael is with us today to talk about the changes they made and how they worked through the resistance they met along the way.

  • Learn from everyone who can teach you. // Church of the Nativity started out as most churches do with a vibrant beginning, but then decline in attendance and inactivity on the part of membership and a general malaise settled on the parish. As a result, the church started studying intentionally-growing, healthy churches, becoming students and eventually great friends of Pastor Rick Warren and Saddleback Church. Learning from Saddleback and other churches outside of the Catholic denomination in order to rebuild may seem strange, but the Church of the Nativity was amazed at what they were able to apply to their church.
  • Change does not come easily. // There was great resistance to any change from the traditional practices within the Catholic culture. Criticism is hard to deal with, but you can get to a point where you use criticism objectively. Take what you need to learn from it and discard the rest. Sometimes change leads to people leaving the church, but Father Michael made the decision to keep moving forward with his plans in order to reach the unchurched and make the church healthy again.
  • Support your staff. // The hardest criticism to withstand is when it’s directed toward your team members, especially the younger members of the staff. It’s often hard for them to accept this type of criticism can happen within a church setting. As a leader you have to stand with them through that and make sure they know they have your unwavering support.
  • Start somewhere. // When Father Michael and his group first went out to Saddleback Church, they were overwhelmed and the first thought his staff had was that none of what they were learning applied to them. Saddleback was a church in a wealthy community in southern California, and it was hard to think of how any strategies could apply to a small Catholic church on the east coast. But there were so many things they learned from studying Saddleback. Church of the Nativity started by adding a hospitality ministry on Sunday mornings, and then moved on from there. When trying to rebuild your own church into a healthy and vibrant ministry again, it’s ok to start small – the important thing is to start!
  • Rebuilt. // Father Michael has written a book called Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter. In the book he explains the strategies and procedures they used in rebuilding their church. The book tells what they learned during the process and how they’ve grown. Four years ago when they had the opportunity to publish the book, they felt writing the story would not only help others to understand their story, but also help them more fully process it themselves.

You can learn more about Church of the Nativity at www.churchnativity.com or find Father White’s book on Amazon.

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Lightning Round

Helpful Tech Tools // William Vanderbloemen’s Blog

Ministries Following // Rick Warren and Saddleback Church

Influential Book // Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

What you do for fun // Read, write, relax with a good movie

Contact // website www.churchnativity.com

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.