WHY WE HATE CHANGE (and why that has to change) — Part 2
In a previous post (WHY WE HATE CHANGE Part 1) I suggested two of the 5 Reasons We Hate Change In The Church.
In this post I’ll provide the three that remain in the hopes of preparing us for the inevitability of life (which changes all around us, all the time).
Just before we get in, though, I want you to understand the heart of this. As the leader of a church I’m hard wired to be discontent with the status quo. I can’t help it, it’s part of my DNA. I am always looking for how something can be done better, for ways that people can be challenged to grow and for ways in which the church can extend it’s influence for the Kingdom of God in it’s context.
I am of the firm conviction that God is not done with my church or with yours. I do believe, however, that the workers are few and that a lot of that is the fault of leadership. Ministry is hard work because it’s heart work. It’s challenging because it demands our devotion to the Lord and our personal discipline in pretty much every area of life. That’s daunting without a solid church family (which I’m blessed to have). Pastor’s need people on their team, and I’m hoping that this might help accomplish that in some way.
So . . . picking up from where we left off . . .
3. WE DON’T BELIEVE WE NEED TO CHANGE
You’ve been at the same job for 20 years. A change now would be foolish financially, professionally and practically speaking.
That ministry that was so effective 10 years ago worked really well. You already know how to do it. You have all the curriculum and the volunteers, for the most part, already know what’s expected of them. A new ministry, a new program, a new curriculum . . . do you know how much work that’s going to be?
Most likely, one of the scariest aspects of change is the amount of time, effort, planning and energy that change might require. First, if you are the one who is attempting to lead in the change, there’s the work of convincing a group of people that you’re not crazy and/or full of evil intentions. Then, of course, if you are invested in being part of the changing process, there’s all the different phases—pre-launch—that you’ll have to go through: planning meetings, recruitment, training, contingency planning, paperwork, campaigning, etc. Even if you’re not “involved” in the process you still have to do the work of “catching the vision,” supporting the workers, praying, mentally and emotionally transitioning, grieving (on the chance that something else had to end so that this new thing could begin) . . . it’s a lot.
As a result I’ve found that people tend to default into, what I call, a “ministry coma.” A ministry coma is when a body of people stop asking the questions that monitor and sustain the life of a ministry and instead just go through the familiar motions week in and week out. Sure, there is life in that ministry because there is a physical presence to it . . . but that doesn’t mean the ministry is healthy or that it’s doing much more than simply surviving. I’m not saying that the people stop caring or that they stop working hard. Most ministry workers that I’ve come into contact with, care deeply and work passionately. There is a difference, however, between working hard to maintain a ministry and working hard in a living, changing, growing ministry.
We are all prone to this ministry coma. It’s easy to get into and often it is very comforting to maintain. Somewhere along the line we start to believe that we have it all figured out and that, if there are changes to be made they are merely cosmetic. Even if there is no growth in a ministry or signs of life being breathed back into the body of the church through a ministry, it’s easy to think that there is no reason to change.
Ministry comas are dangerous and common. We, as the living body of Christ, need to do the hard work of making sure that we are part of a living, changing and growing ministry. We need to fight the urge to believe the lie that, even though the world and everything in it is changing all around us . . . we’re all good in here. We must strive for excellence, in all things, for we have a high calling.
You might need to change, so don’t assume otherwise before you’ve done the hard work of ministry life evaluation.
4. CHANGE MEANS WE MIGHT LOSE OUR IDENTITY
My alma mater where I did my undergraduate studies just went through a name change. When I graduated the words “Bible” and “Baptist” were in the title. Now, both have been removed and the schools new name links it more to a location than to a denomination or belief system.
Upon announcing the change the school’s website stated, “Although the name will change, the Institution’s mission and its dedication to providing students with a quality biblical education will remain the same.” The school’s president elaborated by saying, “Our mission will not change, but the tools we use to advance it are always changing. This name better reflects the degrees we offer and a variety of other options here.”
Now, I can’t speak for the general publics reaction to this. I know a few people who are outraged and a few who are completely on board. Truth of the matter is, I had mixed feelings about this change.
Here’s the thing, I understand why the change was made. I believe the leadership to be well intentioned. I even buy into the idea that the name change was necessary for the future health/growth of the school. However, I’m concerned about the change because I’ve seen similar churches, schools and organizations do something like this and in many, many cases . . . it was the beginning of the end.
Sometimes it takes a decade or two before the change comes, other times the change happens when the next leader comes in and takes over and on rare occasion, the change is immediate. It doesn’t happen every single time, but it’s happened enough that I’m concerned. A church, school or organization changes it’s name and then . . . it changes it’s core identity.
The same fear rests in the hearts of all those who go through significant changes. They know who they have been, historically. They know who they are, presently. The future . . . well, that’s a big question mark.
So, what do we do? Well, let me tell you how I’m going to respond to my alma mater. I’m going to get more involved. I’m going to stay more informed. I’m going to work to be part of the change in a way that propels the school forward in a healthy way, but that maintains the core identity, focus and purpose of the school historically. I’m going to become the school’s biggest cheerleader, privately, by increasing my prayer efforts for the leadership and I’m going to do everything in my power to be a defining part of the transition process.
I believe the heart behind the change is sound and the thinking behind the change is solid. It will take a little bit for me to be comfortable with the new name and direction (because I love the school), but I refuse to be an outside observer, an uninformed naysayer and a disassociating grumpy pants (which is the technical term).
This is what Christ-one’s do with fear. We allow it to push us towards greater effort and increased dependence on God. We get involved in a way that builds up and does not destroy. If change is coming, Lord, then use me to make it a change that will bring You more glory.
5. IT’S ONE PERSONS VISION AND WE CAN’T SEE IT
Communication will propel or destroy you.
I made the mistake, a few years back, of canceling a ministry at my church. Now, that particular ministry needed to go, that wasn’t the issue. The issue was in how I addressed the change. I had a clear vision for what my church needed, I knew all the statistics and I had done all the research. I even had a replacement plan so that we didn’t have a massive gaping hole in our current ministry structure. BUT . . . I did not communicate the change very well.
Actually, looking back, I realize that I did years of damage to my leadership and to the people that I dearly love and have the joy of serving.
While it would be amazing for God to give every single person in the church the same, clear vision of what He would have them do (and God could certainly do that), this is not, historically, how God chooses to work.
In the Old Testament God gets one guy, changes his heart, gives him clear instruction, equips him with power and then send him out to lead the people. In the New Testament God continues to work in much the same way. While the New Testament ushers in the age of team ministry (pastor/elders and deacons) God still continues to lead His people through the vision of one or two.
This is problematic when the person who is attempting to lead is a bad communicator. It’s even more problematic if the person leading isn’t leading with God’s vision or with God’s help. Unfortunately, the majority of the burden of proper communication falls onto the shoulders of the one (or two) that are leading the charge. It is only by prayer and searching God’s Word that most people will be able to test the vision that is being presented to them.
To those leading I would suggest that organization, planning and prayer is the starting place to any and all good communication. A rule that I use is: If you can fit your explanation on a diner napkin and explain it clearly to someone who is hearing it for the first time then you are ready to lead in change. If it takes a 12 page packet, you’ve still got some work to do.
For those who are part of the crowd, might I suggest that you may be the greatest asset your leader will have (other than the Holy Spirit). If you have the right heart and are willing to do some digging with the leadership and in God’s Word, then your thoughts, questions and opinions will be an enormous and welcome blessing to your leaders. Actively be part of the process until their vision becomes your collective vision. Then, and only then, will you move forward with joy instead of doubt and trembling.