If you’re reading this from a church member’s standpoint, you might be thinking, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” My observation in some churches is that the people don’t want to move the corpse because it’s broken; they just want to keep trying to resuscitate what has been dead for years. Although change is not something some of us handle well, it can be done well and for the right reasons. With that said, let’s look at some things I have learned about change in almost 24 years of church work.
Don’t change something for change sake! Have a purpose! Many pastors and staff members get a little too happy about wanting to do new things. If the reason for change is simply because you want to, tell yourself no, pull your big boy pants up, and wait on God.
Let circumstances drive the change and the pace of the change. For example, if you are having to pull out chairs every week to accommodate people, it might be time for another service option. Don’t add an additional weekend service just to build a resume. When I was in my first full-time worship ministry, the church had 3 keyboardists all playing the same thing. I was in a church where the pastor would throw you under the bus rather than stand up for his staff, so I awaited the right time to do something about it. December 2008 brought great choir growth, so much that two keyboards had to be removed. I called the lady who donated them, and she wanted them back. I contacted the two ladies who played them, and they would rather see the choir grow than play the keyboard unnecessarily. The circumstance drove the change.
Have the trust of the people! It is true that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. If they don’t trust you, they won’t follow you two feet from where they are standing. In his leadership books, John Maxwell has written frequently about building relationships with the influencers. I’m not talking about sucking up to people but building genuine relationships. I can attest to the fact that people have followed me many places because I first cared about them as human beings.
Teach the church through the change! Pastor John Houston of Point Harbor Church in Chesapeake, Virginia is a prime example of one who taught the church through the change. Nearly half the church left initially, but the growth far exceeded those who could not embrace the change. I heard him preach once about how he wept with some who left because of long relationships they had from when he had previously served on staff. Through every season, he gave biblical basis for the change. The church that once had 200 in attendance has nearly 1,000.
These things do not come without a little resistance, but be sure people will be more resistant to your selfish agenda than biblical change. Change is a part of the Christian life if growth is going to take place. In fact, the Christian life begins with the change Christ makes and continues as we are sanctified. It will not stop until we enter our Heavenly Home. May your end goal be to help people enter a relationship with Christ who grow to the point of helping others enter that relationship. Let the Bible be your foundation and Christ your focus. He will take care of the rest!