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15 Aug '14

Change is often necessary but the process we use will either create greater unity or dissention

Posted by T.J. Addington
Bringing change is a tricky business. Often the need for change, whether in a church or organization is profound. The world never stops changing and therefore while our eternal truths remain the same, change is inevitable. However, many change processes are deeply flawed and lead to the ministry taking steps back - and conflict rather than the intended result of leading it forward in unity.

I watch this often in churches where a pastor, often new decides that new ways of doing ministry are needed. What they often forget is that those who have been there a long while are used to what is. It is comfortable for them and most people simply don't like change. Here are some of the mistakes I watch in churches and organizations make leaders bring change.

1. They move too quickly. Just because the leader is ready to bring change does not mean their people are. Fast change is usually going to bring conflict, misunderstanding and even deep division within the organization. I have watched congregations literally lose half of their people when quick changes were made.

2. They don't talk and dialogue with their people at length before the change. People have strong opinions and feelings. If one can present a case for change that makes sense, most people will go with you but only if they have been part of the process and understand the end goal. The less dialogue up front, the more resistance there will be. Because that resistance is often an emotional response, it can cause emotional responses that are strong.

3. They don't take into account the various constituencies of the group. Sometimes it is wise to move in new directions without disenfranchising those who are vested in a different paradigm. Examples in the church might be worship styles or a desire to start small groups. Simply chopping out the old and putting in the new when it disenfranchises a significant segment of people is not wise. This is where patience and process is needed to get where you need to go without creating conflict and irritation.

4. They don't admit when significant resistance comes that the execution might be flawed. Sometimes one needs to take a step back before one can make a step forward. If people are balking it probably means that the change has been too fast, that process was not run and that some "compromises" need to be made. One can only move as fast as the organization is willing to follow. Significant resistance is a sign that you may need to evaluate the plan. I am not talking a few loud voices but significant groups.

5. They see resistors as "evil" or "bad" rather than understanding that often this is not the case. This further divides the group into those who support and those who oppose which then fractures relationships. When we categorize people we lose relationship and relationships are keys to major change. This is further complicated when leaders start to discount the opinions of those who resist.

Change is always an art. It is the art of helping people see where we could go and that in order to get there change is needed. But, the five mistakes above can be deadly if they are not taken into account. It is the job of leaders who bring change to ensure that it is done in a timely, wise, relational and healthy way so that the end product is both greater effectiveness and greater unity.