Published Apr 11, 2018
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Jeff Iorg knows a thing or two about leading a ministry through major change.
As president of Gateway Seminary, Iorg was responsible for relocating the 70-year-old institution — along with its employees and students — to a new location 400 miles away.
Now, Iorg is sharing the account of the relocation and other stories of successful change in his book, “Leading Major Change in Your Ministry,” by B&H Publishing Group.
Faced with a deteriorating campus and up against stiff community opposition to redevelopment, Iorg made the difficult decision to transition one of the nation’s largest seminaries — previously known as Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary — from its location in Mill Valley, Calif., to its new main campus in Ontario, Calif.
This move, completed in 2016, involved creating a fresh organizational structure, forming a new compensation strategy, upgrading technology and renaming the seminary.
In his new book, Iorg presents a model for how such decisions should be approached. He draws insight not only from the seminary relocation but also from his time spent as a pastor of a local church, as a church planter and as executive director of the Northwest Baptist Convention.
“Decisions about major change require thoughtful, prayerful, courageous leadership,” Iorg writes. “Leaders need more than an intuitive feeling, an experienced hunch, or a moving emotional moment to solidify a decision to lead a major change.”
Iorg says his experience includes shepherding a traditional church to step outside its comfort zone, creating a new church’s organization from scratch, building new facilities and developing a new denominational paradigm with organizational changes to sustain it.
“My hope is these leadership experiences, along with the work done by so many colleagues in various ministry organizations, will be instructive,” he writes.
Iorg’s isn’t the only voice included in the book. Sprinkled throughout are testimonies of alumni, faculty members and a few of Gateway Seminary’s more than 2,000 students who lived through the relocation. Their perspectives show how major change can affect everyone in a ministry and how leaders can make hard decisions while still caring for the people they oversee.
Still, Iorg paints an honest picture of the challenging nature of change in ministry. With a chapter titled “Major Change is Messy and Difficult,” he candidly offers advice on how to encourage healthy conflict.
“Leaders must live through some conflict, likely making some mistakes in dealing with it, as part of learning how to manage it well,” he writes. “Relational battle scars are both an occupational hazard and experiential necessity for mastering this difficult area of ministry leadership.”
While Iorg’s book provides pragmatic advice for how ministry leaders can “get the job done” when enacting change, it also emphasizes the ultimate goal of glorifying God.
“God is glorified when a major change is worthy of being done in his name,” Iorg writes in the concluding chapter of his book. “Grand projects that require sacrificial effort and result in people becoming Christians, churches being started or enlarged, human needs being met, or holy causes advanced are worthy of God’s name.”