Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains and friends,
Steve here… All people are change adverse. It’s hard to change. So much is changing around us at a pace society has never experienced in history. The one thing most people want is their church to remain the same — “Everything else is changing, but please, not my church.” But the church needs to change or it dies.
The truth is leaders will not keep up with the pace of change. No one can. But, that is not the goal.
All church leaders should have a decent understanding of change. To be effective, we need to understand change dynamics and how to manage change well. Our understanding helps us to better adapt and adjust to the changing dynamics around us.
In the 1940s, Kurt Lewin gave us one of the most brilliant and basic models of change, it remains the best place to start. The Lewin Model is simple:
1. Unfreeze (your current behaviour)
2. Change (to your desired state)
3. Refreeze (so that your desired behaviour becomes the new norm)
Too simple, right? Or perhaps its just plain brilliant.
Try it. What one area of my life do I need to unfreeze? What one area of my church do I need to unfreeze?
The Bible constantly tells us God wants things to change, be transformed and renewed in life: my attitude, behaviour, location, beliefs, obedience, giving and worship.
A Dr. John Kotter wrote a now famous article called “Leading Change”, which quickly became the most reprinted article in the history of Harvard Business Review. The ideas he captured resonate with leaders’ hearts – and with biblical truth. These ideas make sense! Dr. Kotter noted that the majority of organizational efforts fail, many of them miserably. Why? Because leaders treat change as an event rather than a process. There are necessary stages that must be considered to achieve lasting change.
Here are Kotter's eight steps for lasting change:
1. Creating dissatisfaction and the need to change.
2. Getting the right people on board and working together.
3. Shaping the VISION with actionable steps.
4. Communicating effectively with word pictures.
5. Empowering others to act successfully.
6. Planning and celebrating short term wins.
7. Reinforcing improvements and changing more.
8. Freezing the changes into the organizational culture.
Bill Hybels said, “When we wanted to start a new ministry or create a change at Willow, in the past I would start by sharing a new vision – I don’t do that anymore.” But that is what we do – with mixed results. Change management research proves that leading with vision is not the best way to lead change, especially in the church. Why? Because people don’t want to change. When my dissatisfaction with my current reality grows, then I will change.
Leaders have a job to do. The key for leaders is to passionately communicate dissatisfaction with current reality before presenting a vision for a better future. And not just once, do it many times and in various ways.
Leaders must create the compelling need for change before we suggest a solution.
Hybels put it this way, “I now begin by sharing the need for change, the fact that we cannot stay where we are, the complete dissatisfaction we must have with the current circumstances.” Now, rather than saying, ‘We should build a new resource center to help single moms,’ I will spend four weeks saying things like: ‘We live in one of the most affluent areas of the United States, but most of the single moms in our area don’t have enough food and clothes for their family.’ The next week I’ll say, ‘The average single mom has two jobs and less time with her children, and she has to pay for childcare while she is at work!’ ‘Are we really concerned about these facts?’ Finally I would ask, ‘How does God feel about the plight of these single moms?”
Hybels notes, “By this time, people are rising up and saying, “We’ve got to do something about this!’ Only then are they really ready for a new vision.”
Most change efforts fail, and most of the leadership failure happens here; leaders simply don’t help people see the crisis and need for change. Remember – people are change adverse. Therefore, they won’t accept your vision until they feel the need to change. Establish a great sense of urgency. Start there, every time, without fail.
Have a blessed week,