‘GOD’S PLANS ALWAYS REQUIRE CHANGE (1 of 5)
Like most pastors, you probably entered ministry as a response to a deep sense of personal calling from God. But now that you’ve been leading for awhile, you recognize the need for some tools to help you mobilize your church body to collectively reach people and disciple them into devoted followers of Jesus Christ who minister to one another and the world. The value of understanding the nature of change can’t be overstated, yet most pastors and church leaders have little training in the actual ministry skills required to bring about effective change. Leading the change process is especially important to you as a pastor because any changes in the church environment can have a significant impact on the lives of many people, both inside and outside your church. While strategic planning helps you anticipate the future God has for you and your church, the ministry skills of leading change allow you to accomplish the future God has for you.
“...God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you...” Genesis 50:20-21
Churches that make an impact don’t just happen. It takes more than a plan to make a difference. It requires leaders who possess an ability to bring about the necessary changes that will empower their people to overcome barriers and seize opportunities.
The Nature of Change
Let’s agree on a working definition for change—change is the process of transforming the manner in which an individual or group of people currently behaves. As a young pastor I was so confused about the response of some people to what seemed like a small change. I ultimately understood that the reason change is so difficult is that we are asking human beings to change from one set of behaviors to a new set of behaviors. I also awakened to the truth that the reason I rarely struggled with the change I was trying to bring about was because I was in charge of the change. I had thought about the change I wanted longer than anyone else, I had researched and lived with the idea longer than others. So, I learned that one real key to successfully leading through change is to have some empathy for people who had little time to process and accept a new idea.
Resistance to change is a force active in individuals and in groups that minimizes or limits the amount of change that will occur.
Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. Loosely translated from the French this means “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” In the words of Machiavelli, “There’s nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in introducing a new order of things.” These quotations point out two basic and somewhat opposite concepts about change.
No change is final. This really means that a static mode in any church culture is almost impossible. The church that chooses – by either design or default – not to adapt to changing opportunities and environments, may be doomed to become irrelevant. Each change creates a set of other changes.
Change is difficult. Most people and many churches become comfortable with the way church is done. CAU (church as usual) is often thought to be the easier route to getting one’s ministry done. Managing change implies changing people’s habits, behavior patterns, and sometimes attitudes about how ministry is performed.
The concept of change encompasses the future—that is, the unknown. Change brings uncertainty, and each action of change produces a reaction. An announcement from the senior pastor indicating a new direction, a new system for outreach, or a new small groups method, etc., is sure to evoke discussion among those responsible for implementing the change.
Change occurs daily in churches – by design, spontaneously, or by default. Change is oriented to the future, and each individual change may provoke a reaction that in turn provokes another future reaction. Consequently, change often triggers a chain reaction of reactions to future events.
God told the Apostle Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And Paul’s response was that of a mature leader: ‘Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Most of the time I have either faced a change I had no control over or led the church intentionally into a change of some kind, I have felt a kind of “weakness” or vulnerability. During those times I have learned to trust God that He is in control and His support and grace are enough to see me through the chaos of change.
NEXT WEEK: We take a look at Reasons People Resist Change