Sunday, December 12, 2010

Managing Change in your Church

What is the biggest fear most people have in their life? Is it death, public speaking, sharks? I think the most common fear for people is the fear of change. People are scared of it. They don’t like it and sometimes will do extraordinary things to avoid it.

But in reality change is inevitable and in fact we face it daily. Just by growing old we face change. I think it is in fact not change we are scared of. People may articulate it as change but it’s not change but loss that people are actually fearful of. Loss of something they once had. It’s not the change of body shape we actually fear as we get older but the loss of our youthful energy, the loss of hair colour or even hair. The loss of normal slimness of youth replaced by middle-aged spread.

Church ministers are people who are constantly challenged with leading congregations through change. Recently I have spoken with several ministers who are currently taking their congregations through the difficult process of change. In these cases it is changing the format of their Sunday service. One of the things that will make it easy for these minsters is the recognition that is not change but loss that these congregation members actually fear. Loss of a familiar worship style, loss of predictability, loss of routine.

Now to some of us these may seem trivial things but to those people they are real losses and they will have real feelings of grief. For most of then they will in fact go through the 7 stages of grief over the loss of service style.

A smart minister will recognise this as loss and they work with those people in a more appropriate manner rather than thinking they are opponents of change. I actually think the oldies in our congregations are some of the biggest accepters of change because in their lifetime they have witnessed huge changes in society and technology. More and bigger changes than our kids have seen.

Why is it then that they seem to struggle then with a change in the church service?

I think Bill Hybels summed it up very well at the recent Global Leadership Summit when he said a good leader moves people from here to there. How does he do it? By making the ‘there’ more attractive than the ‘here’. Help them want to embrace the there by having the current here so unbearable that they will want to run to the there.

The three keys points for us as leaders to recognise in bringing in change is

• Recognise loss is the biggest part of change
• The need to make the end point more exciting than the start point
• Allow open two way communication through the change process

These are just some random thoughts. I would love to get some feedback on your experiences on implementing change in your church.