It has often been said that people dislike change and therefore resist it. That is so true, especially in the local church. But we also know that healthy congregations want their church to be innovative, improve and reach more people. That always requires change.
This can seem contradictory to leaders, but change has always been more art than science.
Three insights to help you navigate the art of change:
1) People relate to your church the size it was when they first attended.
If someone began attending your church when the attendance was 180 and it’s now 580, they still relate to it as if it was 180. That’s what they knew and loved. That’s what it was when they chose to stay! This is a primary reason they resist change. It’s not that they dislike 580, but they try to see (connect to it) it with a lens adjusted to 180 and that doesn’t work.
It’s like the wrong prescription for your glasses. They feel displaced, possibly disoriented, and are no longer sure how to “navigate” the church they love. It requires constant vision and culture communication to help people see the church accurately. Until they do that, they won’t feel connected and will resist change.
2) People need to believe that the gain is greater than the loss.
How change is presented and how each individual perceives gain or loss, as a result of the change, is important. There is always a loss when you change something. Be honest about that. Define that loss, and talk about it. Successful change is dependent upon your ability to communicate the true benefits of the change you desire. It’s essential that the benefits far outweigh the perceived and real losses.
3) People need to trust the person making the change.
If the followers trust the leader, the potential for successful change increases exponentially. I watched the presidential debates for the Republican Party last week and it was relatively easy to discern the viewer’s opinions. From the TV commentary to social media banter, it was largely about which candidate they liked and which ones they trusted, far more than the actual content (answers) of the presidential candidates.
I’m not suggesting that the actual change you are making is irrelevant, any more than I’m suggesting the presidential candidates answers don’t matter. I do want to emphasize that it’s vital for you to consistently lead in such a way that you earn the trust of the people you lead. The more you do that, the less resistance you will receive even for changes your congregation find challenging to accept.
I hope these insights are as helpful to you as they have been to me.