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Biblical Seminary’s doctor of ministry program is welcoming twenty-two students to campus in early June for Dr. Larry Anderson’s Leading Missional Communities course. Many of these students are halfway through their programs and are engaged in planning—and sometimes—implementing their applied research projects.

The planning process of the applied research project is key to its overall quality and its ability to provide insightful conclusions and recommendations to pastors and ministry leaders facing similar challenges. Sometimes these projects are so well planned and implemented that they are published. Recent DMin graduate, Paul Dunbar ’07, gave me his project in book form last week. Paul was the primary author of the book, along with co-author, Anthony Blair (PhD and DMin), president of Evangelical Seminary in Myerstown (Pennsylvania) who served as Paul’s project advisor.

Their book is Leading Missional Change: Move Your Congregation from Resistant to Re-Energized (Wipf and Stock, 2013). Through case studies from their ministries, other church leaders, and the New Testament, the authors engage the reasons why many congregations resist change and what forms the resistance takes. From there they discuss the role of trust/mistrust in any change process. They argue that an environment of trust must be nurtured within local congregations prior to and during the change process. When an environment of trust has been established, people may be more open to embrace missional change.

To explore the relationship between trust levels and readiness for change, Paul developed a Congregational Trust Survey. He used in the survey to discover if there were “any correlations between levels of trust and mistrust in a congregation and the growth patterns of those churches over the previous decade.” (p. 16) Thirty-one congregations across the United States participated in the study. The research confirmed a correlation: congregations with high levels of trust were less resistant to change.

The survey was designed so that church leaders could use it as one of several tools to assess trust levels in their congregations, and, by implication, their readiness for change. The authors discuss the behaviors that contribute to mistrust and provide guidance for church leaders who experience resistance from their congregations, even when people know that missional change is critical for the health of their church.

Church leaders are likely to find that this book challenges their leadership practices while giving them concrete ways to advance their leadership skills for missional change. The authors’ first-hand experience with pastoral leadership and change contribute to its authenticity and value for local church leaders. The photo above was taken at Paul’s church sometime after an important missional change was embraced by the congregation. I blogged about it here.

Susan Disston, DMin, is the assistant dean of curriculum and assessment at Biblical Seminary. http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/adjunct-faculty-theology

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