Five Setbacks to Lasting Change

It is one of the most common questions I am asked.

Essentially, the question, in one form or another, deals with organizational change. The church wants to change its staff structure. The leadership wants to reconsider the roles and functions of elders or deacons. The lead pastor wants to have different people reporting to him.

To be clear, organizational change is absolutely necessary . . . some of the time. But much of the time, we lead organizational change for the wrong reasons. And the results are often frustration, exhaustion, and loss of momentum. Here are five clear reasons church organizational change fails:

  1. The change is a substitute for dealing with people issues. There are one or more people in the organization who are problems in their current roles. They may be over their head, lacking people skills, lazy, or incompetent. Instead of having the courage to confront the people directly, we organize around them. This erroneous move is sometimes called a “work around.” You are working around the real issue instead of dealing with it directly.
  2. The change becomes a substitute for execution. Work is not getting done in some areas. Ministry is languishing in other areas. The church tries to create an organizational structure to get the work done. But the greater need is simply for people to roll up their sleeves and do the work, as messy as it can be. Organizational change is not a solution for poor execution.
  3. The change gives a false sense of comfort and security. Sometimes leaders make organizational change and declare the work done once the changes are made. But the work should only be beginning after the change. The new organizational structure gives a false sense of comfort and security that the challenges have been met.
  4. The change does not keep up with the pace of other changes. Many organizational structures are so rigid or complex they cannot adapt to the fast pace of change. The new structure thus becomes a hindrance for future and greater health.
  5. The change is a copy of another church. There is nothing wrong with emulating another church’s organizational structure. But if we fail to discern if the new structure is really best for our context, the change will do us more harm than good. Unfortunately, too many church leaders contract emulation fever and it makes the whole church sick.

Change done for the right reason is good. Change done for the wrong reason or for the sake of change itself can leave the church in a more difficult position than keeping the status quo.

Lead change well. Lead organizational change well. Learn what is best for your church rather than copy another church. Seek wisdom before action.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 

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