I recently spoke with a church member who was frustrated with his local church. He confided he was considering attending elsewhere. He expressed doubt in the leadership’s ability to make wise choices. He always felt out of the loop. Announcements made about changes in the way things were going to be done with kids, small groups or upcoming event schedules always came unexpectedly and last minute. There was never any room for discussion. They were announced and it was assumed that everyone would line up and follow the new marching orders.
His solution to the problem was to quietly slip out the back door. When I suggested he talk to the pastor he made a very interesting comment. He said, “I wouldn’t know what to say to him. He’s in charge, I’m not. Plus, it’s not like he’s done anything grossly wrong.” When I pressed him further, I discovered he actually had tried to talk with the pastor about the issue earlier in the year, as best he could. The problem was that he didn’t really know exactly what the issue was – just that he felt discontent, disconnected and powerless to make a difference. Nothing changed.
There are two very important elements that every church leadership team should include whenever introducing change. Most don’t. Both elements slow things down. They gum up the works and make things more complicated. However, without them there will almost always be dissension and dissatisfaction. Something the apostle Paul warned us to stay away from.
In my years of ministry I have come to the conclusion that the below formula is super important when introducing change to your congregation. It doesn’t matter if the change is something huge like a building campaign or something relatively minor like switching youth group night. Following this formula will ensure the highest involvement, participation and commitment to your cause from your attendees.
Here is the all-important formula:
Communication + Time = United Change
Let’s unpack the formula a little bit.
The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. George Bernard Shaw People need to get the skinny if you want them to buy-in. Even better, give them a chance to pipe in with their thoughts and input. All you have to commit to is explain and listen. Most complainers wouldn’t be so difficult if they were just heard. Of course, who wants to do all that work? Better to just make the decisions and roll them out, right? That could work, but it won’t lead to committed people. The people that usually follow that kind of leader are those who are either loyal to them no matter what or those who really don’t care either way. No. Share the vision with them and give them time to process and be part of the discussion, first. “When people see their own ideas and fingerprints on the work, they have a sense of ownership that feels true and genuine.” Barry Demp
If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over? John Wooden Communication must be combined with time. That is, people need time to think through your vision. To process. To ask questions. To check their schedule and life and see if it will fit. When you don’t give people time, you are showing a lack of respect for them – the very thing you’re trying hard not to do. So give people time to process change, especially change that will impact them. If your changing worship team rehearsal night from Tuesday to Wednesday, there are only a few people who need to know, but give them time. Communicate + Time will more likely lead to wholehearted commitment to the changes, even when it requires a sacrifice on their part.
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 1 Corinthians 1:10 The Word of God has a lot to say about the topic of unity. We are called to work hard at obtaining unity and maintaining it. How ironic that many times we are the reason we lack it, simply because we don’t go the extra mile to communicate clearly and give people time to get on board!
How do you introduce change to your congregation?