Leading through Change – Part 1

The three “F’s” of Change

If you have ever been part of church leadership or participated in congregational meetings, then you would know that Churches rarely change and when change occurs, they are slow and many times painful. Part of the mandate given to leadership is the responsibility to manage and bring about change. But doing it, and doing it well is easier said than done. Leading a congregation through change requires a set of skills not usually taught in our schools. During the next few posts I want to invite you to explore this subject with me in the hope that the right kind of change can take place in our churches.

We can’t talk about change without encountering our first “F” word- FEAR! As we endevour to bring about a change initiative, fear can be seen in the faces at all levels of the organization. To be perfectly honest, the fear of the unknown is normal, but we need to learn to recognize it and deal with it.

For those at the highest levels of Leadership, fear can manifest itself as:

  • Risk aversion
  • Intense focus on short term results
  • Self-imposed isolation
  • Sleepless nights
  • Irritability
  • Unwillingness to listen to others

For those at the middle leadership level, fear can mask as:

  • Doing only what’s required
  • Unwillingness to deal with crisis – passing the problem upwards
  • Reluctance to speak into the situation
  • Looking for a way out of position or employment

For those at the grass roots level, fear can produce:

  • Decreased engagement and productivity
  • An over active rumor mill
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Lack of trust in leadership

Have you seen these types of responses within your church?

The second “F” word present whenever a change initiative is presented is-FAILURE. What if no one comes to our second service? What if our outreach ministry doesn’t yield any fruit?  What if this initiative gets voted down? The fear of failure is a constant enemy of change. Part of our aversion to change may come from unsuccessful ventures in the past. We all know that failure has the potential to teach us great lessons and sharpen us. However, Failure can also have the opposite effect and cause us to decrease in leadership capacity.

What then is the solution? How do we deal with FEAR and FAILURE? Well the solution lies in the third “F” word- FAITH. Faith is the only real antidote to fear and the fear of failure.

  • Have faith in God – It is His church after all. If He is the one stirring change, then trust that He will see it through.
  • Have faith in the process – Allow God to use the process your church has agreed on, to lead you to the right kind of change. One of the biggest mistakes that a leader can make is to undermine or unilaterally change the agreed upon process for decision-making.
  • Have faith in the plan- If you and your leaders have prayed about it, spent energy thinking, consulting and developing a plan, then trust that the plan will work. Some adjustments may need to be made so allow for flexibility in your plan.
  • Have faith in the people- God always uses people. Those that He has entrusted to you for the sake of producing change need to have your trust. Constant interference or micromanaging can be viewed as lack of trust.

As a leader, it is your job to recognize fear and when you see it set about giving the people in your ministry something to hold on to…FAITH.

Elton DaSilva
Executive Director