Making a Change at Church: Eight (not so) Simple Steps

In a previous post I quoted John Maxell who observed that  older and “insecure leaders view change as a threat rather than an opportunity. ”  But what if you have to change.

Many small churches are facing declining membership because their traditions have not changed in decades.  The prevailing belief is worship traditions are Biblical and any deviation must certainly be a sin.  Even though largely attracted to the spiritual (review the popular movies today) , younger generations are increasingly turned off by  what they see as rigid and irrelevant.

The elders tasked with leading the changes are hesitant,  fearing revolt among the older (financially supportive) and disconnected from the younger they become fixed by fear.  Because of their fear they fail to make even small changes that would keep the younger generations in the church family.  They know there should be a change, but settle into the comfort of programs and schedules from the past and scratch their heads (or blame the youngsters) when they don’t work (yet again)

I suggest changes can be eased into without alienating old or young as long as the leaders have a long vision of where they want to go and deliberately move to that vision.   Elderships across the country would do well to take some notes from the corporate world.   John Kotter provides a simple eight step model for change:

  1. Establish a sense of urgency
  2. Create a guiding coalition
  3. Develop a vision and strategy
  4. Communicating the change vision
  5. Empower employees for broad based action
  6. Generate short term wins
  7. Consolidate gains and produce more change
  8. Anchor new approaches in the culture

Simple, but not necessarily easy.  I’ve participated in this change process when we transformed a large and tradition organization with a multi-million dollar budget into a lean and flexible force able to adapt to rapid changes.  The key was a strong leader with a vision creating and communicating the vision constantly.  I worked…but it took time and persistence.

Interested?  Read this book…

Leading Change One of the world’s foremost experts on business leadership distills 25 years of experience and wisdom in this visionary guide to what it will take to lead the organization of the 21st century. “Every business leader can profit from Kotters thinking on change.”–Larry Bossidy, Chairman and CEO, AlliedSignal, Inc.

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