What Every Church Leader Must Know about Change

People don’t hate change. You read the sentence correctly. Before rattling off a hundred examples of why “everyone knows that people hate change.” Hear me out:

If I were to give you $10,000, would you hate that?  No, you would say, “Thanks, buddy.” I have changed your financial situation, but you didn’t hate it. You welcomed the change. But if you gave me your bank account information and I took $10,000, would you like that? Duh! Again, I have changed your financial situation. One change you liked. One change you didn’t. What’s the difference? What you didn’t like was loss not change.

A woman in abusive relationship refuses to leave, why? Is it because she hates change? No. If her husband began to treat her with respect and love, she would be thrilled (assuming not too much damage has already been done). A positive change would be very welcomed. But she doesn’t leave the abusive spouse because of uncertainty in finances or living arrangements, or how the revealing of the abuser might split other relationships. She doesn’t want the loss. She would welcome change.

Churches have split over changes in worship styles, Sunday School emphasis and even carpet. But is it change that folks hate or might it be the loss of singing familiar hymns, the loss of relationships within the church, or the loss of their personal influence in making church decisions?  If a church was told, 200 new believers will be in church next Sunday, would they welcome that change? Most would. If they were told to keep the 200 believers coming, some folks might lose some responsibilities, some familiar songs might be lost, some sense of knowing everyone’s name and business will be lost.  Would they still welcome the 200 new folks? Not as gung-ho, if at all. It’s loss not change that’s the problem.

If change must happen (and clearly it does– every major faith group is in decline), then the gifted leader/board will discern how to make change without focusing on the losses but the gains.  It’s creating an environment where those who have invested their lives in a church will not feel like an outsider or that they have lost the church they love. It is challenging to make changes without suffering some loss, but the wise pastor/board will empathize with those who are struggling, focus on what is gained not on what is lost, and allow the Holy Spirit to fill any voids that may be expressed as changes occur. This last point about the Holy Spirit’s involvement is not simply tossing the “God card” into the discussion. Some folks are resistant to change not because of loss or change per se, but because of carnality.  Hence, the Holy Spirit must invade, drive and go before any change can occur in the church.

“Change” isn’t a four-letter word, but “loss” is. When making changes be mindful of what is being lost, then challenge and focus on what can be gained for the Kingdom sake!

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