Managing change is never easy. It’s complex because people are complex, and navigating people through change can be extremely tricky.
In a recent article, I wrote about helping to prepare your heart for when unexpected change arrives. Today, I want to discuss some principles that may be helpful for any leader in managing changes they initiate:
- THINK IT THROUGH. Take the proposed idea and consider it in the long term. First, will it advance the cause of the gospel? Is it sustainable? Where do you get the leaders and the workers from? This doesn’t mean that faith is not an important part of the plan, but it’s important to have a sense of direction of where you are going. Most of all, however, bring it all before the Lord: “A person’s heart plans his way, but the LORD determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9, CSB®).
- GATHER SUPPORT AND COUNSEL. No strategy can ever occur without gathering a group of people to inform, discuss, and champion the efforts. In the book, Leading Change, John Kotter calls this work establishing “a guiding coalition,” where leaders can encourage and lead others to help set a course for change. Proverbs 20:18a (CSB®) says, “Finalize plans with counsel.” Gathering support and counsel from leaders in the church will give you a safe place for feedback on ideas for change.
- LISTEN TO OTHER IDEAS. The truth is, not everyone is going to be happy about every idea. However, don’t take resistance to an idea to be an “us vs. them” situation. Instead, be a good listener and actually think through what is being said. This means to be receptive, not defensive, being sure to paraphrase their feedback after they’ve had a chance to speak. After all, people may not always agree, but it is important that they have felt that they’ve been heard.
- STICK TO THE PLAN. No idea is going to be perfectly implemented, and bumps in the road are bound to happen. But unless the plan is a complete disaster, stay with it. This isn’t to say that tweaks can’t happen along the way, but it can actually cause harm to a church if you change direction too soon or too often. You and your leaders have prayed about it, thought it through, and discussed it thoroughly, so give it time to work. By being patient, you’ll avoid confusion and allow for a new normal to take place.
- CHANGE THE PLAN. So what happens if, after a while, the plan isn’t working? Change it. Yes, that’s right, change it, especially if it’s clear that it simply wasn’t the right plan.
Whatever the cause might be—a blind spot in your decision making, bad timing, or even that the idea was a bad one, simply swallow your pride and make a change. Go back to your leadership to consider alternatives.
It’s okay to admit that something didn’t work, but be sure to take the opportunity to learn from it.
Change and the reaction to change are both difficult. Navigating through it involves time, counsel, patience, and a humbleness to be willing to listen to God and godly counsel. However, as you work through it, be encouraged—Christ can be glorified in what you’re doing as you make changes to reach more people with His gospel.
FRAN TRASCRITTI (@frantras) pastored churches for over 23 years and now serves with the Explore the Bible team at Lifeway.