Change is always a unique time for any church. You may be launching a new ministry, adding venues, services, or restructuring an existing area or experiencing leadership turnover. Change is change, no matter how big or small, often times, people naturally resist it. So how do we deal with those who resist this change? We expect everyone (our team, volunteers, and members) to be on board, but in reality it takes some people longer to embrace it, and sadly sometimes we will lose people in the midst of it.
About 10 years ago I worked in retail, and my boss at the time gave me this book (Who Moved My Cheese) and asked me to read it – no explanations. I got very nervous and scared to say the least, but that book and the changes that followed were the beginning of a journey toward flexibility and trust. As I embraced change, God taught me how to navigate through it and be a champion of it.
Being someone who resisted change, I learned as a church leader how to steer people without losing their trust. The goal in casting vision and creating change is trust.
There are 3 kinds of people we will navigate: runners, walkers, and sitters. The runners are with you no matter what new thing is happening, they are on board no questions asked and are ready and willing to make it happen. The walkers are those who evaluate the new thing, ask a lot of questions, then begin running forward as they trust more. The sitters are those who oppose the new thing and vocally let their opinion be known and try to influence others to sit with them.
The runners are your champions and cheerleaders to the walkers. We all know in those early stages of something new the details are not always available, so those who need a lot of information up front will feel very insecure and cautious. You can gain their trust by allowing them to share their questions, concerns, and hesitations. Validate their feelings, ask for their help, and assure them they are valuable to making it all work.
Beyond the natural resistance to change, are people who openly oppose anything new and are intent on keeping things the old way, they are the sitters. The sitters are dealt with privately and quickly – we do not accommodate sitters. Allow them to express their perspective or opinion, then cap it. As a person of influence they must be able to trust you as their leader by letting go of any negative attitude and opposing opinion. If they cannot be won over, and agree to get on board, then you may have to have the difficult conversation of removing them from influence and replacing them with someone who will champion the new.
Negativity causes division and strife and will kill any forward movement. It’s natural for people to hesitate in the midst of change, but they should be able to fully embrace it and stay open to what God is doing. Your leadership team will voice questions, concerns, and other perspectives, but they will champion the forward movement of God’s Kingdom. Surround yourself with those champions (the runners and walkers), and remove any negativity from influential positions.
How are you navigating through upcoming changes?