Steps Out of Stagnation – Step 6: Mastery and Routinization

The experienced revitalization pastor understands the deceptiveness of synergy; the temptation to believe you have discovered the “magic bullet” that will build your congregation if you just keep doing this one thing is subtle and deadly. Ideas that successfully bring new people into the church are discovered through a process of embracing a God-given vision, experimenting with ideas to gain insights which lead to desired results (confirmations) and a brief time of synergistic energy; but programs and ideas lose their effectiveness and new ones must be ready to take their place.

The natural process of human thought is to take something that is working and master it; do it better by improving, improvising, tweaking it. For example, if you have reformatted your worship service and more people are attending, your team will respond to the positive responses by finding ways to do it better. This then progresses to the last step, which leads back to stagnation: routinization.

Rather than keeping fresh ideas in the cycle, the ones that worked last year (or last decade or century) are held onto tenaciously and made into routine that produces a level of comfort and familiarity fueled by nostalgia rather than synergy. Routinization makes programs untouchable, unchangeable and slides the congregation into stagnation and, ultimately, a death spiral. New people rarely return, the faithful core rise up to be defenders and protectors of the once glorious past (synergistic times), and a new leader must be brought in to start the steps out of stagnation.

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