Keep These Real-Life Principles in Mind When Leading Change

One important tip is putting your intended change in writing. (Pixabay)

Last week, I was at a church that is preparing to enter a $10 million dollar building project. I watched as the pastor introduced this massive change to the congregation. He did a masterful job. From observing this, I learned seven keys about leading change.

1. Honor the past. He took the people back to the past and showed how God had blessed their church when they stepped out in faith to follow the vision God had for them. He honored past pastors, past building projects, past growth and past steps of faith.  Before you introduce future change, honor people for being willing to change in the past. This reminds people that change has always been a part of their journey and this new change is just part of what they have always been about.

2. Ask the right questions and listen. Great leaders initiate change by asking the right questions and then listening. The pastor had asked extensive questions to a wide array of church members: "Where do you think the church is right now?" "What do you think it would take for us to reach more people?" " How do you think we can be more effective?" "What obstacles do you see hindering the church from moving forward?"  "An effective vision originates from asking great questions."

3. Put the vision in writing. The vision was clearly stated and explained in a brochure. Details, timelines and plans were shared. Show people in writing where you are taking them. Clear communication is an essential part of effective change.
4. Share why the change needs to happen.  The pastor showed that the current services were 85 percent full. In order to continue growing, they would have to expand the seating capacity. He showed that the student ministry room was overflowing on Wednesday nights and needed more room. They had even used a drone to film the parking lot and show guests pulling in and then leaving after not being able to find a parking space. He reminded them that their mission was to reach people with the gospel, and this is why they must continue to grow. The "why" of the vision must be the primary motivating force for the change.

5. Share the benefits that will come from the change.  He provided a list of positive benefits that would come from the change. They would reach more people. They would have sufficient room for Bible study. It would be easier for guests to navigate the building. They would have better parking. People want to know how the change will benefit the ministry. Show them. When people see the benefits will be worth the sacrifice needed for the change to happen, they will get on board.
6. Get key leaders on board before taking it to the masses.  The pastor was surrounded by key lay leaders in the church with whom he had already shared the vision and gotten on board. He had some of them get up and share why they were on board with the vision. When people see that the key lay influencers of the ministry are on board with change, they are much more likely to get on board as well.

7. Expect there to be some opposition. I couldn't help but smile when the pastor announced that it would cost $10 million for the vision to happen. An older lady sitting in front of me gasped, put her head in her hands and started shaking her head in disagreement. It is natural to have some opposition when you introduce change. Change moves people out of their comfort zones and into unfamiliar territory. This is scary for some people, and so they resist. Don't take it personal. They are simply struggling with being uncomfortable.

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How do you respond to opposition? Stay humble and invite open dialogue. The pastor encouraged those who had questions or concerns to come and talk with him and the other leaders. In fact, he announced a special time that would be set aside for this. The people who oppose the change simply want to be heard and know you care about them and their concerns. When you invite open dialogue, you help break down resistance to the change.

That's what I learned watching this change start last week in real time. What are some things you've learned about leading change effectively?  What are some do's? What are some don'ts? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Dale Hudson has been in children's ministry for over 27 years. He is the director of children's ministry at Christ Fellowship Church in South Florida. Christ Fellowship has nine campuses and ministers to over 25,000 people on weekends. Dale leads a children's ministry staff team of over 70 and a volunteer team of over 2,600. He has authored 100 Best Ideas to Turbocharge Your Children's Ministry100 Best Ideas to Turbocharge Your Preschool MinistryChildren's Ministry in the 21st CenturySunday School That Worksthe Top 100 book and If Disney Ran Your Children's Ministry.

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