I hear too often that church members are afraid of change. This observation is at best simplistic, at worst misleading. What members fear is the losses that come with change, not change itself.
When leading change, ensure members value what they gain more than what lose. Here are three real-life illustrations:
Leaders were anxious about repairs and upgrades to the sanctuary audio-visual system. They especially expected complaints about the cost.
Once the congregation started using the new system, not a negative word was breathed. In fact, they heard the opposite. The system included ear buds to assist people who struggled to hear in the spacious sanctuary.
The members gained more (a better worship experience) than they lost (church funds).
Leaders were afraid of starting a new praise worship service. They anticipated the following complaints:
- We won’t feel like “one church” anymore.
- The praise style will “water down” worship.
- We won’t know everyone anymore.
- We will become a divided congregation.
Three months after the new service launched, there were no ill words. Why? Inactive members, the children and grandchild of long-time members, starting attending the new service.
Did the members experience some of the anticipated losses? Yes. However, they gained something they valued even more: Family members regularly back in God’s house.
A church hadn’t had enough children for Sunday School for years. Finally, a handful of new, young families started visiting the congregation. The church had a cry room for worship services. They made it very clear parents should use the cry room.
The families joined other churches. The parents refused to be separated from their children on Sundays as they were the rest of the week.
Armed with this information, the pastor and elders proposed allowing young children in the sanctuary during worship. They even turned the cry room into a storage space.
When the leaders closed the cry room, they heard complaints:
- Crying children in worship is not respectful to God.
- We can’t hear pastor when children are crying!
- Children’s juice cups and fruity snacks will stain the pew cushions!
Sure enough, young families started to join the church. Yet, six months after the change, no one was voicing concerns.
Members still experienced the loss of the quiet sense of reverence in the sanctuary. But they gained something they valued more: Hope for the future of the church.
It’s not change itself that bothers members. It’s the losses. When leading change, ensure the gains are greater than the losses.
What lessons have you learned about leading change in churches? Leave your learning in the comments or shoot me an email.