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Leading Change in the Church

by Jeff Jamba

Leading change is difficult anywhere.

Leading change in the church can be particularly difficult because many churches not only function as complex organizations but also as extended family for many people.  Leading change well in the church requires a sustained focus of prayer, strategy, and extra strength doses of patience.

In ministry there are programming, staffing and philosophy changes that we have to lead our staff, volunteers, and families through.  It is never a simple or easy task.  While leading change is difficult, asking three simple questions can help us lead those changes well.

Is the “why” perfectly clear to you?

If you are considering changes because you just came back from a conference, are bored with what you are currently leading, or realize your organization is in decline and you just need to do something, stop.  You need to have a reasonable and informed why for the change you are introducing.

Why are you pursuing this change?  Make sure you understand the why before you even get started with the how and what of the change you want to see happen.

The why needs to be clear enough to share with someone in 30 seconds.  It should be broad enough that everyone in your church, ministry or organization can understand the reasons for why you are pursuing this change.  They may disagree, which leads to the second question…

Do you have reasonable answers to questions you will be asked?

You are going to get pushback, no matter how well-crafted and prayed over your plan for change is.  Successfully navigating change requires us to be prepared to answer the questions that we will receive.  Imagine in advance the challenges you will receive.  Ask your team what objections may be raised. 

Process these in advance of initiating change with your team.  As you do, it will help you know if you’ve answered the first question well enough.

 Once you’ve thought through the questions you will likely be asked, and have some reasonable answers to them, you need to ask perhaps the most important question you can ask yourself as a leader.

Are you convinced the opportunity is worth the pain?

All meaningful change in ministry is going to be painful.  People will make untrue and hurtful statements about you simply because you are introducing change.  You will likely get yelled at and criticized.  People will threaten to leave your church and some very well may.

Some will be on board with your why immediately.  Others will not at first and may be resistant at the beginning but will slowly come on board.  Some will take it upon themselves to fill the role of being a thorn in your side in your ministry or church. 

Know in advance you will have these three groups.  Realize that almost always you will feel the pain of leading change before you experience any positive results.

Jesus talks about counting the cost in Luke 14:28 in terms of following him.  The same principle is true for you as a leader of change.  God has placed you where you are not to be comfortable or to have a nice, safe church family that adores you. 

He has placed you there to lead.

You are there to be an agent of change to help move your church to reach those far from God, to help people grow in what it means to follow Jesus, and to sacrifice to meet the unmet needs in our cities and the world around us.

That is going to be painful.  That is part of what it means to lead.  What is more painful is one day waking up and realizing all of the opportunities you may have missed out on because you were not willing to push through that pain.

Leading change is difficult.  These three questions will hopefully help you navigate the next change in your ministry well.

To help with leading change well, we are offering a free 1 hour coaching call to help you process a potential change you may be looking at making in your ministry.  The insight and coaching from those outside your setting should be a regular part of processing change. Contact us today at 616-218-8895 to set up a time to talk through these questions to help you navigate the change you would like to see happen in your ministry.

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