I just finished reading “Who Moved My Pulpit” by Thom Rainer. Wow… it’s filled with insights for anyone who needs to manage change in their church, which is what I’m currently in the trenches doing. It outlines the need for churches to change, the challenges, and the process for bringing change in a healthy way. It’s so full of good stuff! Even if you’re not currently managing change, this one you can put in your back pocket for a later day, and you’ll be glad you did. Here’s a synopsis…..Enjoy!
You are here because you either want to lead change or be part of leading change. But there is something about people like you and me. We want to see tangible results right away. We want to be as active as possible. Leading change for us means moving forward. That might be the biggest mistake you could make. Before leading change, it is time to stop. It is time to stop and pray.
Leading change in the church is impossible in your own power. It can be both redundant and exhausting. There will be days where you will wonder if it’s worth it. You will be worn out. You need to pray for God’s strength.
You might have a special place you can go to be alone with God for a few days. You may not have the opportunity to leave and go somewhere, but you know whereyou can go for an hour or so a day to pray about you, your church, and the need for change. Hear me clearly. I have never seen successful and sustaining change take place in a church without prayer. Never. Not once.
Your role as a change leader has three major components. First, you have to lead the congregation to face reality. Then you have to communicate that reality and the steps needed to move forward again and again. Finally, you must communicate with a sense of urgency.
Numbers can be helpful for accountability and for facing reality. If your church has declined in worship attendance from 300 to 175 in ten years, something is going wrong. If your church used to reach thirty people a year with the gospel, but no one has been reached in three years, something is wrong.
Next, find someone who has never been to your church. That’s usually a pretty easy task. Ask them to assess all of the church’s facilities, from the signage to the parking lot to the exterior to the interior, and the worship service. Ask them to take copious notes. Perhaps you can even pay them a small stipend for the effort.
After they have looked over all of your facilities, grounds, and service, take the information and assess it yourself. Perhaps you bring in a few key leaders. It’s time to face the reality of what guests see when they come to your church.
Take time to share the numbers. Tell the stories of those who have looked at the church’s facilities. Share the experiences of the secret guest who came to the church. Share the information clearly and factually. Hold nothing back. Share the good and the bad.
As you lead change, you confront the realities of your church. You communicate those realities to the congregation. And you communicate them with a sense of urgency. So, what happens next?
You repeat the process again. And again. And again. As a leader, you are constantly confronting realities, communicating realities, and communicating the urgency of the moment. You may tire of the redundancy. You may think it’s time to be quiet for a season. But it’s not. You communicate. And then communicate. And then communicate again.
The process of building an eager coalition is vital to the change leadership, but there is no precise roadmap that describes how you move forward. There are, however, some key lessons we’ve learned from many change leaders.
First, the process is usually informal. There is no formation of a task force or a committee. The leader typically meets with key persons over a meal, in a coffee shop, or in the office. The leader does indeed present the idea, but the process involves as much listening as it does speaking. And, as change leaders listen, they must be willing to pivot and change as they hear better ideas.
Second, the process is individual. Perhaps there will be times when coalition building involves more than a one-on-one conversation. But they typically work better when the leader gives the person his complete attention. The one-on-one meeting communicates clearly to the church member their importance to the leader.
Third, the process can be lengthy. It may or may not take as long as ten months, but it can seem painfully slow at times. But this phase is absolutely vital if you really desire to lead change in your church. Once you get the eager coalition gathered, it’s time to formulate and communicate the vision to the rest of the congregation.
A healthy church has a hopeful and visionary pastor. The essence of this facet of change leadership is simple and clear: become a voice of hope and provide a clear vision for the church to move forward in a strategic fashion. Change leaders who provide hope and vision are the most successful change leaders. It’s just that basic.
About nine out of ten churches in America have settled into dangerous complacency. Many members have dug in deeply and are headstrong to resist change. Do not enter into change leadership lightly. Do not begin the process without concerted prayer. And realize that change is all about people. If you don’t deal with people issues in leading change, you will fail. It’s just that simple.
In his seminal work on change leadership in the secular world, Leading Change, John Kotter talks about “generating short- term wins.” He sees this as a crucial step in leading an organization toward major change.
My thoughts are similar, but I prefer to use the metaphor of “low-hanging fruit.” It seems to paint a vivid picture of potential reality. The idea is to demonstrate from an incremental perspective how the impending change will be a positive outcome for the church. The leader seeks to find and articulate easier victories for the church that will lead to greater, and potentially more challenging, victories.
You are the pastor. You are the church staff person. You are an elder. You are a deacon. You are a key lay leader in the church. Are you ready to make a difference in this brief life whatever the cost? There are tens of thousands of churches in need of a massive infusion of revitalization.
God has called you to lead change for such a time as this. Be prepared. Be courageous. Be the leader of change for the glory of God.
Interested in reading the entire book? You can purchase it here: http://amzn.to/2rH111Y