“How many church members does it take to change a light bulb?” Ever hear of this joke? The answer is that church members don’t change! (And besides, my grandmother donated that light bulb!)
The unique culture of the church seems to make it harder to facilitate change than what happens in other organizations. Change management is such a complex process that dozens of books have been written on the necessary strategies to make it happen. And each approach seems to be more complex than the next.
Try these five important tips the next time you need to lead change:
- Communicate well. Good change cannot happen without good communication. Avoid seeing yourself as the keeper of all information. Freely share your knowledge and plans. Communicate with a variety of methods, because people learn in different ways.
- Identify key people. People look to others for influence. Watch for those whom other people seem to follow. Take time to invest in these key people, answering their questions and sharing details about the change. The more they understand and own the process, the more they will help others understand and get excited about it.
- Work with others. Share ownership of the change process. If you are the only person who has decided on the change, you have missed out on valuable information. While you can’t consider every person’s perspective, it’s important to invite some people into the process. The added questions, ideas, and strategies will facilitate the change process.
- Ask questions. Purse questions and answers for as long as it is productive but be careful not to get bogged down with over-analyzing. Also, ask questions during the various stages of change, especially as people begin to process the change. When there is an emotional reaction to proposed changes, there is usually a deeper underlying reason. Take time to gently probe into these deeper issues.
- Allow time. Some people thrive on change. It energizes them, and they can’t wait to get started and see it through. Others take more time to warm up to new ideas. They need to ask questions, make a list of pros and cons, and even grieve over a loss or changed tradition. You don’t need to wait for every single person to jump on board, but do be considerate and patient with those who take more time.
[Editor’s Note: This article was excerpted from Practical Stuff For Pastors: Leading Change.]