Change is a word that gets some excited but makes others cringe. Regardless of which side of the fence you are on, change is going to happen.
I became the lead pastor of a church when I was 29. It was the same church I had attended since my early twenties. While the ministry had experienced many years of success, it also had a few challenging seasons before I became the pastor.
A few years into my tenure, I realized the church needed a major overhaul. In the fall of 2013, I called a leadership meeting to discuss this. I shared my heart about the need for change. We decided we would evaluate every person on staff and every program in the church, and after making the needed changes we would re-launch the church.
I thought the change process would take six months and then we would be ready to re-launch. Instead, it took sixteen months. Once we re-launched, we saw new life come to the church. The process definitely challenged me and taught me a few things about leading change in an organization.
1. Change is hard. There, I said it. When you decide a major change is needed in an organization- especially one that has been around for a while- the course will be tough. Change is hard, but the consequences of staying the same are harder. I heard someone say you have to decide between two pains— the pain of change or the pain of slowly dying.
2. Change must begin with the leader. If you personally are not growing and changing, your organization will not change; change begins at the top. During my season of change, my leadership skills grew by leaps and bounds. I read books, attended conferences, prayed earnestly, and got help from peers and coaches.
3. Not everyone wants change. You may wrongly believe everyone in your organization will agree on the need to change, but this is often not the case. When people don’t see a need for change, they may resist it. There are always some who enjoy things the way they are. Many times those resistant to change have the loudest voices.
4. Not everyone will still be there after the change. This is always a tough one. It’s never easy when people are no longer part of a church or organization. While you should never intentionally push people away, some people will leave when things are not the way they were yesterday.
If you are truly making some big changes, chances are you may have to adjust roles or let some people go. I heard Joyce Meyer say that every time the bus stops, someone gets on and someone gets off the bus. This is something you are going to have to be all right with.
5. Not everything has to change. Before we re-launched our church, I thought everything needed an overhaul. After evaluating, I realized some things still served our ultimate purpose. In the end, many- but not all- things changed. The change is needed only if it helps us move towards our desired outcome. We should never change simply for the sake of change.
6. Change is worth it. The last few years have been incredibly challenging, but well worth it. Yes, it was tough and some members weren’t fans and left the church, yet the fruit that came, in the end, was worth it. We are a few years past that first meeting, and I am so glad we moved forward.
There are a lot of things I am still learning, but here are a few tidbits to help you lead change:
1. Be clear on why you need to change. If you are not clear on why change is needed, no one else will be. For you, it could be a shifting market, a change in culture, or that the organization has hit its life cycle. If you are not clear and passionate about why you’re changing, you may not make it through the process. The why behind the change is more important than the what. People need to know why we can’t stay where we are.
2. Get buy-in from key people. Before telling everyone about the change, you need buy-in from key stakeholders. These may be direct reports, managers, board members, or key volunteers. Give these people time to think about what you are proposing and give you feedback. I believe it’s best to make decisions together. Scripture tells us there is safety in the multitude of counsel. Once they have bought into your ideas, these key people can add keen insight and be your greatest champions of the vision.
3. Over-communicate change. You can’t talk about your desired change in one meeting and expect everyone to get it. It may be something you have been thinking about for months or even years, so not everyone will get it the first time. Talk about the change in your meetings and emails, on social media, and via other communication outlets. Give your employees or members of your organization a chance to absorb the information in various forms.
4. Celebrate the small wins. We need to stop and celebrate the incremental changes happening along the way. This will communicate your desired change but in a different tone. Sending someone a thank you note, rewarding your team with dinner, or publicly acknowledging a job well done goes a long way. It communicates, “This is exactly what we are looking for.”
When you start on the journey to change an organization, change may not be immediate, but it will be well worth it.
What step do you need to take today to make the needed changes in your organization? Are there any other points you would like to add that is not listed here?