How you do you navigate change when your context is really…traditional? Sometimes the very idea can seem impossible.

In today’s interview, Ron Edmondson shares several important principles that have helped him and his team lead significant change at a plateaued traditional church and more than double attendance in under two years.

AND, don’t miss my podcast contest! Make sure you enter today. 

Scroll all the way to the bottom to enter this week’s prize—free autographed copy of my book, Leading Change Without Losing It  and be entered to win the grand prize: admission to the Orange Conference 2015, plus coffee with me and Jon Acuff.

Welcome to Episode 10 of the podcast.


Guest Links: Ron Edmondson

Immanuel Baptist Church

Ron’s blog

Ron on Twitter

Ron on Facebook

Links Mentioned in this Episode

Leading Change Without Losing It

Perry Noble at NewSpring Church

Plan B: What Do You Do When When God Doesn’t Show Up the Way You Thought He Would? by Pete Wilson

Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires, and the Lies You’re Believing by Pete Wilson

3 Things You Can Do Right Away

Change is always uncomfortable. It can be messy and difficult, and that’s in any environment. There’s always a tension involved. Change is most successful when there is a relational trust involved.

  1. Lead into those relational strengths you already have. Many times you have relationships in church that are built, but you’re not necessarily using them because they may or may not be directly affected by the change. Those relationships actually may be able to help you through change because those people trust you, and they may have voice into the people who are directly affected.
  2. Embrace the current culture without erasing it. Respect the church’s past and understand its previous transformations. It may feel uncomfortable in the temporary, but in the bigger picture, understand that change is a very common thing, and it makes room for growth.
  3. Change the conversation in the community, within your church and among members. Get out into the streets and reach out to those outside the church walls. When someone experiences a critical life situation, it’s common for them to seek refuge in a church. Be active in providing that place where they can seek solace and redemption when they need to start over. If your church hosts a lot of activities that invite the community in, keep your messages persistent to draw attendance to Sunday services. Also, have conversations with active church members and encourage them to bring, not just invite, a friend. It’s one thing to send an e-mail asking someone to join you, but asking someone to meet you at church guarantees a better experience overall.

Quotes to Share from Ron

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Got a question?

Next Episode: Pete Wilson

No matter how successful you are you, you still struggle. Pete Wilson, lead pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville—a church plant that’s grown to over 5000 on 5 campuses—talks about seasons in which he’s had to overcome discouragement, dissatisfaction and being overwhelmed as a leader. Pete’s insights can help keep any leader going through whatever season they’re facing.

Enter HERE to Win Coffee with Jon and Me, a Ticket to Orange Conference 2015 & More!

Win a prize every week with our first ever listener contest! When you enter by leaving a comment in the show notes of the blog, it’s also your ballot to win the grand prize. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Leading Change Without Losing It.

The grand prize, which will be drawn a few weeks from now, is a free ticket to The Orange Conference 2015 in Atlanta in April of next year. Not only does it get you in for free, but you get a coffee with me and Jon Acuff backstage!

We are selecting the grand prize winner from all of the comments shared in two weeks so you can enter multiple times by participating each week. And each week one person will win the book of the week. This week’s prize is free autographed copy of my book, Leading Change Without Losing It.

So…enter to win by answering this week’s question ­­– 

What has been the biggest obstacle to change you’ve faced, and how have you overcome it?

Scroll down, leave a comment.

Your comment is your ballot for this week’s prize AND the grand prize of a  free ticket to Orange Conference 2015 and coffee with Jon and me. Go!


  1. […] How to Rapidly Navigate Change in a Traditional Church Context – An Interview with Ron Edmonds… […]

  2. Anthony on October 10, 2016 at 7:49 am

    Our biggest obstacle to change has been the many years of history and elders our church has. We are gently pushing for change to reach more generations and people far from God, while trying not to trample on the effort, love, and sacrifice of many who have gotten us where we are today. We want our patriarchs to feel valued, while we reach into the future for the sake of all who are searching for God. We have had a big breakthrough recently as we are progressing to change our entire auditorium, video, audio, etc. Our lead pastor has done a great job winning the hearts of our older generation for the changes coming up in the next few months. So Thank you again for your podcast, blogs, & books. We are learning so much!

  3. Kevin on December 1, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    My biggest obstacle to change has been the difficulty in bringing a paradigm shift – a change in thinking and not just in activities or methods. A new paradigm requires different goals, a different evaluation standard. That shift in thinking and understanding is still a struggle.

  4. Robert Morris on November 25, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    My biggest obstacle of change has simply been now working in a context where it takes a little longer to fully implement the change. My previous roles allowed me to implement change more quickly because of the smaller size of the organization. This is mainly due to the amount of people I now have to influence or “get on board.” Because I now serve in a larger environment, I ask myself if this is the kind of change I’m willing to put the blood, sweat, and tears into rather than just changing for change sake. So, in reality, the biggest obstacle is myself and deciding if I’m willing to put in the work to see this change through (even if it takes a few years to make it happen).

  5. Neil Horner on November 24, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    One of the biggest obstacles to change that I’ve faced is helping people to see things from new perspectives, in particular the perspective of people who are new to the church, or who might not even be at the church yet. Insider language, lack of explanations, “let’s just have a potluck to celebrate”…all things that insiders are familiar with and have no problem with, but someone new likely hasn’t got a clue!

  6. David Lindner on November 24, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    My biggest challenge to lead through is when change was forced upon me, ie when I was let go without warning and having to overcome and learn that God was at work even in that big life change.

  7. Liz on November 24, 2014 at 10:30 am

    My biggest obstacle to change is my old, traditional downtown church and the folks who would make it a museum if allowed. I am working to overcome this constant challenge by working with key people to continually cast vision for family ministry. It is a very real challenge, but the “end cone” is worth all the effort!

  8. […] But it can be done. Ron Edmondson recently led a traditional, plateaued church from 1000 in attendance to over double that in less than two years. He outlines his approach here. […]

  9. Chris Shumate on November 21, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    His idea of senior adult pastor got me thinking about the potential benefits. Even as church culture changes, it is still important to continue investing in the lives of the older members. Many churches are so focused on the next generation that seniors, and people not considered seniors, but still older, are getting left out. Does any leader here that is aging really want to be left out as you progress from your 40s, 50s, 60s? Perhaps it is viewed better to minister to a 25 year old and not as important to minister to the 55 or 65 year old.

    The people that founded the church I attend nearly 20 years ago are in their 50s and 60s (some older!). Thank God for them, but I hope in efforts to reach the next generation we (as in all churches) are not neglecting ministering to older generations.

    The only other great nugget I got from it that I didn’t read above is where he said “Instead of asking for more money, take what money you have and divide it differently.”

    I heard of a church study that found it takes people around 13 months of attending a church before they start giving. If a church explodes with growth, growing by 50% that means they are serving more people with the same amount of money for around 13 months. Divide the money differently, tough, but needs to be done sometimes.

    I used to hate any type of change, so I will have to ponder the question before I can answer it. Be looking for another post this weekend as I contemplate it.

  10. Danny Price on November 20, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    The most difficult thing I have recognized about change has been I often have to change before I can lead others there. I tend to see how everyone else can do the transformation but miss how God is trying to do something in me first.

  11. Alan on November 20, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Great podcast but (there’s always a but) I tried all this and still failed even read your book and implemented it all. Went into a church that said they wanted change the memebrship dropped over ten years from 250 to 30 members. Sometimes it just means they (leadership) need to learn a lesson

  12. triphealey on November 20, 2014 at 10:42 am

    Routine. Routine is healthy because it creates consistency and pace and gives us a sense that things are under control and in order. But routine is also difficult to break when it becomes comfortable.

    Just over a year in to our church plant and we have realized how quickly people have fallen into a rhythm and routine even when our entire culture is built on the idea that “it’s not all about me.”

    Overcoming this…well you never fully overcome this, because we will always drift toward routine and comfort and familiarity. So dealing with this drift requires constant, and I mean constant, reminders that we need to be concretely flexible…in other words, grounded and founded securely in our purpose and vision, yet fluid and flexible enough to shift and make necessary changes and adjustments.

    We have attempted to keep this front and center by creating a language to talk about it and then repeating and restating it every week. Our language is to create a “Day One” culture…”because every Sunday is Day One for somebody.” We say this every week and it is a constant reminder that what we do on a Sunday morning is significant because that day will be somebody’s first day.

    If we can filter everything we do through that lens, change may just be a little less painful. It’s not about me.

  13. Zach on November 19, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    The biggest obstacle I have experienced has been when the Church Senior leadership has placed value or status on people within the church. What I mean by this is that they have decided who’s input is worth more based on their political status within the church. If they are larger tithers or have certain connections then they have more value or status within the feedback system. So, when we make changes and the people have more value in the eyes of the Senior staff, even though it doesn’t represent the majority, we as a youth ministry staff have to make right with those people. Even if it means we have to focus on pleasing them instead of focusing on what we should be and why we have made the changes in the first place. To be honest, we haven’t overcome it. We sadly are trying to stay afloat and we don’t know how to overcome it.

  14. justin on November 18, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    My biggest challenge has been shifting the culture. If a church has been around for a while under one leader, it has an engrained culture. There is nothing wrong with that, but when a new leader comes through it can be a challenge.

    Changing myself has been an equal challenge. Growing and developing myself to be a better leader.

  15. Debbie on November 18, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    My biggest challenge is and has been changing from a Sunday School mentality and format to large group small group thinking. Getting people to realize that we should never do what we’ve always done just because we’ve always done it that way! Over time people have come and gone from our Family Ministry Team and we have come a long, long way! We are not all the way there yet but we are really making headway.

    We have changed areas (new paint and all), we have renamed our time, we refer to our leaders as leaders and not teachers, and we have ongoing conversations about mission, vision and strategy. We are changing things with language and environment. We are planting vision wherever we go. We are trying to include parents in more (still some struggle there, I won’t lie to you!).

    I think the smartest thing we have done is plan a mission and strategy that we all got behind and shared it with small groups of people and slowly got a lot of folks to buy in to it. There is something to be said for planting seeds. We have really come together as a team and dropped lame duck activities and events – if it doesn’t align with our vision we really pray over it’s value and decide if it’s worth our time and treasure. We are getting there – with prayer, discussion, planning and more prayer! Praise God!!

  16. Chuck on November 18, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    The biggest obstacle for me– CULTURE itself. Idealistically, I used to fervently feel that sincere Christians would be willing to look beyond cultural differences…after all, that’s what Scripture tells us to do, right? Love one another… Put the needs of others before yourself…. Die to self!! Right?!?! Yes, Biblical truth. Cultural truth? Not always… That is a huge frustration for me personally.
    Even in this area, there are ideals about community… certain groups are supposed to love it, other groups are stereotyped as hating it. NONE of it’s true. Trust me. Road maps and travel guides are useful but not always accurate!!
    I have needed to first apply that to myself…am *I* really embracing other cultures, across demographics, but also across time… across worldview… without breaking either theirs or mine. I could like, start a blog just on that topic alone…. Still learning…

  17. gregandapril on November 18, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    The Biggest obstacle I have faced in leading change in a traditional church is buy in from the whole leadership team. Many will say they know things need to change, but oppose anything they have never seen accomplished before.

  18. Ricky Powell on November 18, 2014 at 9:47 am

    The biggest obstacle I’ve faced in leading change in a traditional
    church is myself. I have had to grow in my own leadership abilities in order to
    lead our church through the transitions required. I have had to develop the clarity
    of vision in my own heart in order to cast it to the congregation. I’ve had to
    adjust from a primary role of pastoral ministry to one of leadership. I have
    had to learn to handle criticisms without allowing them to derail God’s plan
    for His church. I am learning to be humble in my trust in God, while also
    allowing the courage of my convictions to motivate me to lead like He wants.

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