Severn Christian Church
Leading is difficult. At times it can be incredibly rewarding while other times, some may argue most of the time, it is incredibly challenging. Leading is even more difficult when leading through change. In their book, "Leading through change," Barney Wells, Martin Giese, and Ron Klassen give nine steps on how to lead congregational change.
Church members or church growth gurus often reference leading the church like an organization or sports team, but the reality is "Jesus did not call the leaders of His Church generals, coaches, or CEO's. He called them shepherds" (1). A shepherd is called to guard, govern, and guide the congregation entrusted to him. In order to do that, He must understand the members and the culture in which they live. There are some that say the shepherd should just stick to teaching the Bible and leave the culture to itself. This is an ignorant view of the shepherd’s calling. It is a faulty point of view because Bible teaching that isn’t applied to Bible living governs the flock but doesn’t guide or guard. Furthermore, this view is contradictory because the point of understanding the Bible is to skillfully apply that knowledge to live in the culture (i.e. wisdom).
The only way to bring about effective change is to understand the culture in which the members live and leverage that knowledge to produce the best possible growth. Leading through congregational change lays out eight practical steps to bring about change:
Preparatory preaching and teaching are initiated by the preacher who “has a unique instrument to effect change” (3). The bible should be the foundation for any change that takes place in the church. In leading congregational change God’s “word will provide instructions regarding that change” (4). The first objective of preparatory preaching and teaching is to expose the why and what behind the how. Congregation members may be frustrated if they only hear the “how” of the change and not hearing why the change is being made or what is exactly being changed or the purpose of the change. Who do you need to inform about the change? What do you need to tell them?
Building loving relationships also seems to be obvious, but an underused, tool in the workshop of cultivating change. Perhaps the best description for this tool is it is an aspect of change that is taken for granted. Importantly, “loving relationships within a congregation, modeled by the leaders, are essential for leading change” and “if relationships are intact, then the congregation will be much more responsive to their leaders’ proposals for change” (6). If change is lead through relationships then the basis of that change is formed around trust and self-sacrificial love and therefore has a higher probability of sustainable and acceptable change. Who do you need for formulate relationships with in order to facilitate the change?
One-to-one communication with decision-makers helps make sure “the idea is understood...show respect for their opinions and input” (7). In order to cultivate sustainable change, and if the people in the congregation are important to implementing that change, then buy-in from the decision-makers is essential. After all, the congregational decision-maker members “have an understanding of the culture and community that you may never have, and, to paraphrase the Apostle Paul, they too have the Holy Spirit” (8).
To rely on key persuaders and diplomats is to find people that members in the congregation “...regularly turn to…and the results are consistently wise counsel” (9) in order to bolster the change that needs to take place. These people can be found through observation or prayer. These people may also “have a long history and moral authority to hold respect” that “tend to be gracious, friendly folks who smile and tell stories” (10). How have been/are the decision makers in your church or business? Who do you need to get on board?
To identify similar innovators is to “gather some leaders from your church and take them to see the innovation” (11) in other churches that have a similar identity. How can your group learn from the success other churches or businesses?
To use history and tradition is to first change the perception of it from an obstacle to an opportunity in order to harness the change to catapult and cultivate the change. If change-makers can “learn what your congregation is proud of from its past” or “the times when they think they were at their best,” one can leverage that nostalgia experience as a motivation for helping “them see that change they need to make as being another step along that path” (12). Who can you leverage to bolster this necessary change for your church or business?
To sample the change is to try a change with no-risk. It is to try a temporary change that is subject to reversal. This may make the change process smoother. How can you communicate your change in such a way that reflect flexibility and openness?
Finally, after these steps are completed, one may evaluate the effectiveness of the change by asking three questions, “(1) Did the change accomplish what we had hoped? (2) Did it have effects we did not intend? (3) Can we sustain the change?” (13) The change is made for an “agreed upon purpose” but “subject to the law of unintended consequences” which may be “beneficial or adverse” (14).
1) Wells, Barney, Martin Giese, Ron Klassen. Leading Through Change: Shepherding the Town and Country Church in a New Era. Bloomington, MN: Church Smart Resources, 2005. 81.
2) Ibid., 82.
3) Ibid., 84.
4) Ibid., 84.
5) Ibid., 85.
6) Ibid., 85.
7) Ibid., 87-88.
8) Ibid., 89.
9) Ibid., 92.
10) Ibid., 92.
11) Ibid., 93.
I2) Ibid. 94.
13) Ibid., 95.
14) Ibid., 94-95.
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