Is your church any healthier today than it was at this time last year? Have you taken effective steps toward the preferred future you envisioned? Recently I heard that the reality is that after –
- Speeding up the music!
- Spicing up the sermons!
- Sprucing up our buildings!
…our church health and overall spirituality is no better off. You have to know that it is not easy to take the steps that need to be taken for your church to be what God desires it to be. There will be challenges that will tax you and there will be challengers that will push you to your wits end at times.
- You should expect there to be some resistance. Not everyone will like your ideas or suggestions and to be completely transparent some will hate them. In this process of accepting the reality of resistance you should determine the level of resistance. Are they hostile, resistant, passive, cultivatable, receptive, or ready? These have also been described as never-adopters, late-adopters, and early-adopters. Realize that some need time to process and there needs to be a balance between going too slow and not slowing down enough.
- With whom do you need to have a conversation? The temptation is to avoid and stay away from those who seem to always oppose innovation and change. The reality is that you should pull them in close, listen to them, and see if you can discover why they are against your proposal. Yes, there are some (the never-adopters) who will just be against it. They can even be hostile toward change but that is actually the exception and not the rule. Do not allow one person to hold you hostage and see if there is a way you can move forward with your team.
- Make sure that you are clearly articulating the vision and changes you believe need to be made. Ask several to share with you what they are hearing and see if they are close at all. The communication curve is sometimes very steep and is always a challenge. Be willing to consider ways you can make the vision and message clearer. Ed Stetzer says, “People are willing to sacrifice in the present for something better in the future.” Make sure you cast a vision for the end result and goal and not the changes that need to be made.
- Develop a prayer strategy. Listen to what Samuel said to the people in I Samuel 12:23, “As for me, I vow that I will not sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you.” It is hard to remain mad at someone you are praying for regularly. Take time in your meetings to pray out loud for one another. Get in groups of three, ask what you can pray about for them, and then take turns praying for one another. The work of the Lord requires much prayer. We say we know that but we must make sure that we are intentional and strategic in implementing this prayer strategy.
- Determine what needs your attention first. Do not be overwhelmed by all that you have to do but instead focus on what you can accomplish and where you can make a difference. As you look at a particular ministry, program, or area of your ministry start by asking what is working. Then you must ask, what is missing and what is confusing?
- Consider thinking through the necessary steps for the change you desire to occur. Learn from others. An excellent resource is John Kotter’s Leading Change. One aspect of his process is to create a guiding coalition. Make sure you have prayer partners who are willing to speak into this process honestly and with transparency. The team concept is biblical and it provides you strength in numbers because it gives you a system of checks and balances. Make sure that you always remain a good listener and that you have a teachable spirit.
- Brace yourself for opposition because it is coming at some point or time. Everyone will not like your ideas and they may hate some of them, a lot. Get ready because the attacks that seem very personable sometimes are not. They point the blame at you and the attacks are often founded upon the thought that they didn’t have the problem until you brought it up. I recently heard it said that if no one is upset you probably are not doing enough and need to get busy. Certainly, our goal is not to upset or anger people but when you lead it will happen.
- Make sure that you practice patience. The change you propose and lead your church in will not happen overnight. We already made reference to this but you must acknowledge that some people are just going to oppose you. Prayerfully consider what the real issue is and what questions you may need to answer for them. We usually cannot accomplish all we want to in one year but normally we can accomplish far more than we imagine in five. Develop a five-year plan and then begin taking the necessary steps to make it a reality.
Leadership can be lonely but remember that He has promised to never leave you nor forsake you. Knowing that He will never abandon us as we obediently follow Him allows us to never give up, never give in, and never give out as we depend upon Him daily.