Review: Transformational Church

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You’ve probably begun hearing about Transformational Church by Ed Stetzer and Thom S. Rainer.  If you haven’t picked up a copy yet…you need to.  This is a book that will help you think carefully about what you’re doing in ministry, why you’re doing it, and if it really is making the kind of difference you want.  I think it’s also a book that is packed with insights that will help you sharpen your approach to small group ministry.

Transformational Church is the result of an intensive study of 7,000 churches.  Developed and conducted by Lifeway Research, the study looked carefully at a set of churches that met certain criteria (i.e., must have grown by at least 10 percent in worship attendance when 2003 and 2008 were compared, must have a predetermined percentage of worship attendees in a small group, Sunday school class or other similar group, etc.).  This aspect of the study was conducted by telephone.  A smaller set, 250 of the pastors representing the top 10 percent of churches, were personally interviewed by a Lifeway Research consultant in a visit to the church.

Their findings led to the identification of 7 elements in three categories (discern, embrace, and engage) that formed what they now recognize as a transformational loop. There is a chapter on each of the 7 elements of a transformational church, which were found to be:

  • Missionary Mentality
  • Vibrant Leadership
  • Relational Intentionality
  • Prayerful Dependence
  • Worship: Actively Embrace Jesus
  • Community: Connect People with People
  • Mission: Show Jesus through Word and Action

Stetzer and Rainer are careful to point out that what the study uncovered wasn’t a 7 step process to becoming a transformational church.  Rather, the churches that were found to be transformational were practicing these elements.  In addition, the study found that although the elements do stand on their own as an idea, they are “dependent on the other elements in order to take effect in the church (p. 33).”

Transformational Church is well written and packed with stories that illustrate principles.  As a result of the hours of interviews that form the basis of the study, there is plenty of qualitative data to go along with a very quantitative approach.  In other words, this is a book that’s about more than numbers.  It really does share the real life evidence of transformation and that’s very helpful when we’re trying to break it down and transfer learning to action.

I noticed the two chapters that most obviously concerned small group ministry right away.  Relational Intentionality and Community: Connect People with People are both filled with takeaways and insights that will make a lot of sense and will no doubt have a lot of light bulbs going off.  I’m sure I’ll be coming back to Transformational Church again and again, just like I have to Simple Church and the 7 Practices of Effective Ministry.  It will have an impact on my ministry and I bet it will on yours as well.

Transformational Church is written in such a way that you’ll be able to diagnose and very quickly begin prescribing some new practices.  If you want more or want help, you can check out where you’ll find information about other available products, upcoming seminars and retreats, as well as an assessment tool that will help you evaluate the transformational potency of your congregation.

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  1. Kare Anderson on August 23, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    The book sounds valuable, not only to the church community but to any organization that wants to thrive.

    I was especially interested in the value of small groups within the larger community, perhaps similar to what Rick Warren was a trailblazer in creating – highlighted well in a M. Gladwell article in New Yorker.

    Your blog is a gem of ideas Mark – thank you!

  2. Mark Howell on August 23, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Thank you for jumping in here Kare! Transformational Church does really deserve careful examination for the insights that might drive real change in people, organizations and communities.