Leading Change Without Causing a Revolt

We all need to change but none of us like it. I have yet to talk to a leader who has thought that change was not necessary to move their ministry forward. But how can it happen without causing a revolt? If you hope to effectively fulfill the Great Commission in and through your ministry you will have to face the challenge of leading needed changes. In this newsletter we will discuss several things that are paramount to success when seeking to bring about change your ministry.

Before you decide on the level or amount of change you need to get a handle on the following questions:

1.       What is the code of your church? (See Transforming Church by Kevin Ford)

2.       What is the culture of your church? (See Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code by Samuel Chand)

3.       What is your context? (The combination of your congregation and community)

When you go about leading change in your ministry you should consider every component connected to you, your ministry and community. You need to understand all of them. Let me illustrate by using our personal experience of fixing up homes over the last 30 plus years of our marriage. When my wife and I walked into a house we had to decide what level of change we would bring to the project. Below are some levels of change and the pain associated with it. Perhaps this will help you sort out what level of change to pursue with your ministry.

1.  RESTORE – Dusting off what you have / Little cost and pain

Some homes just needed a good cleaning from top to bottom. This is the lightest fixing up we ever did.  We simply cleaned and polished the existing structure and fixtures. It required the smallest investment of time, money, and energy to accomplish. For your ministry, this level of change will be met with the least amount of resistance. Few will fuss if you are simply cleaning and polishing what already exists. You haven’t really changed anything it is just spring cleaning if you will.

2.  REFURBISH – New Paint / Minimal cost and pain

This level moves up to the cosmetics of paint, flooring, and some fixtures but the changes really are cosmetic in nature not structural or foundational. This requires more time, money, effort and other resources to pull off. There is more pain involved but the level of resistance may be minimal. You haven’t tried to change the structure or foundation.

3.  RENOVATE – Replacing existing Fixtures / Medium Cost and Potential Pain

This level requires more than mere cosmetics and steps into building codes and construction that require replacing existing furniture, fixtures, and equipment that have served their time along with other components of your structure. If you aren’t facing full replacement then likely major repairs. This level of change is expensive. Once you step into this level of change in your ministry you will receive stronger resistance and will hear those dreaded words: “but this is how we’ve always done things”.  Consult the writings of Aubrey Malphurs or Gary McIntosh to study the levels of resistance to organizational change. Understanding these in your particular ministry will help you prepare for your congregation’s response. Knowing the condition of your flock is critical to leading your ministry through this level of change. Identifying who is going to accept or reject the change and at what level will help you navigate your way through the process.

4.  REDESIGN – Considerable Cost / Uncomfortable Pain Level

This is taking what exists and redesigning it so it looks and feels different. The foundation and basic structure remain but the same but the whole lay-out might be changed. Think of house crashers on HGTV – walls are disappearing and dust is flying. The pain meter will likely register at a higher, uncomfortable level. People may not recognize what once was and you will most likely be presented with much stronger resistance. Correctly understanding the code, culture and context of your ministry before you tackle this level of change is vital to preparing your congregation and stepping into this level together.

5.  REPLACEMENT – Highest Cost / Highest Pain

This is the most extensive level. You exchange the old for the new. You move or demolish the existing house and replace it with a new one from the ground up. This is, of course, the most expensive in every category and you will most likely receive the greatest resistance. Actually the resistance may look more like a revolt. Understand and prepare your people before you announce or implement this amount of change. It’s a rare leader that can bring about this level without much suffering along the way.

If you would like more information or help with guiding your ministry through change or developing a theology of change, please contact us. We’ll be happy to help you determine what level of change you should attempt and how to go about it.

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