10 Suggestions for Leaders Envisioning Change

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Change is hard. There was a time when “change” was nearly a curse word in our movement. Taking a quick scan of the Restoration Movement area of my bookshelves I see the word change appear frequently in the titles of some books and in every case it is used negatively and often harshly. We haven’t always had a good relationship with change.

When you talk about “creating a culture”, bottom line you are talking about change. You are implying that things aren’t all that they should be and that there is work to do in order to make things what they ought to be.

A few considerations for those seeking change:

  1. Check your heart. Make sure that any change you are seeking is about what is right and not about your ego. You don’t seek change to become the church known for being cutting edge. You seek change because you are convicted that God is calling this particular group of people to this particular other (notice I didn’t say new…not much is truly new) way of doing things. It is entirely possible that some churches will thrive best in their local context but not being cutting edge. If that is where you find yourself, learn what works in that context and adapt. God may be calling you, the leader, to change moreso than those you lead.
  2. Check with others. If God is calling a church to make a transition in the way something is done or in an underlying value system (which is much harder to change) then there will certainly be other people than yourself who feel or hear the call. If you are on an island about the change…refer back to #1. God has a way of affirming or discrediting ideas and bringing discernment through community. It is valuable, wise and prudent to listen to the hearts of those God has put you in community with. This might keep you from hitting an unnecessary landmine as they may see and know things you don’t.
  3. Check scripture. I don’t mean dig around until you find the one verse that agree with you, ignoring the 99 that don’t. I mean go to scripture with an open mind on the subject and honestly seek the truth on the matter, even if the truth blows a hole in what you already wanted to do. Our inconvenience is not enough leverage to push scripture out of the way and go for it anyway. Your dreams should never be pursued at the expense of scripture (#3) or at the expense of the discernment of others (#2)…if this is just about your dreams then you aren’t starting from the right place anyway. In fact, try to prove yourself wrong and see if your view comes out unscathed. Then you can feel confident that what you are pursuing has a basis in scripture, if it is a scriptural issue. Ultimately this study will have to move from personal study to public study if the congregation is going to accept the change. That is hard thing to navigate…when to start, how to bring people along, and how to engage in discussions with those who will inevitably disagree.
  4. Prayer. It may start with your prayers but changes that affect others need to be prayed about with others. Invite others into the prayer and discernment process.
  5. Diversity is important. As much as you won’t like it when someone disagrees with your position or direction, remember that there can be great value in diversity. If everyone runs the same way with no variation there are often necessary questions left unasked in the absence of disagreement. Disagreement and diversity of perspectives can be a strength rather than a weakness. Learn how to listen into it, value it and work through it. It might just make the direction better, not worse depending on the attitudes that are at work. This can be a headache but it might just be a headache that leads you in the needed direction that you wouldn’t have gotten from the 50 people who agreed with you.
  6. Reliance on the Holy Spirit. Remember, this is Christ’s church…he is the head and we are the body. He sent the Holy Spirit to us to guide us in all truth, to comfort us and to unify us. The role of the Spirit in navigating change is way underplayed.
  7. Understand the affect of limited vision. None of us can see as far ahead as we think we can. As you implement change you can’t predict all the things that will happen that will make adjustments to your direction. You can’t plan for it but you have to work through it. You won’t actually know step 10 until you get to step 7 because you just can’t see that far ahead until you get further through the process.
  8. Consensus is helpful but not always truthful. Just because enough people are saying it doesn’t make it so. Martin Luther King, Jr said, “a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus” and I would add…a good leader does that while keeping in mind some of the points on this list. That brings us to the next consideration…
  9. Humility – This is the attitude that must be embraced for change to not blow up in your face.
  10. Admit when you are wrong. Not only will this help you gain credibility…it is the right thing to do. Honestly, there is a repentance that can happen within the change process that is not the repentance we expect when we instigate or navigate change. When we promote change, leaders may be looking for the congregation to repent of their past way when the honest to goodness truth is the leader may have just as much to repent of as anyone else and needs to do so freely when appropriate.

What would you add to this list?

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