The Only Problem with Incremental Change is that it Brings Incremental Results

So you want to bring about change but you’re afraid of the pushback that you know the change will create?

Totally understand that.

So you’re tempted to do what many leaders have done. Instead of bringing about the deep or radical change you know needs to happen, you decide to introduce change incrementally.

  • Rather than remove the furniture you know needs to go, you move it an inch a week, hoping nobody will notice.
  • Rather than fire the poor performer, you transfer him to a new position and hope one day he’ll leave.
  • Rather than kill the programs that need to go, you add a few new ones instead and skirt the real issue.
  • Rather than make all the changes you know need to be made, you create a 10 year time line, thinking that people will better accept the change the longer you delay.

Sound familiar? What’s wrong with this picture?

More than a few things actually.

The problem with incremental change…

…is that it brings incremental results.

If you want incremental results, then embrace incremental change.

The reality is that most leaders don’t want incremental results. You dream of significant results.  Of radically different results.

Yet for some reason too many leaders fall for the leadership lie that incremental change will usher in radically different results.

It won’t.

Radical change brings the potential for radical results.

Incremental change never does.

Why Do Leaders Fall For This?

Why do you as a leader talk yourself into believing that incremental change will produce the results you’re looking for?

There are at least three reasons:

1. You fear people’s reaction to significant change

You’ve seen other leaders get crucified for ushering in change. And you don’t want that to be you.

Fear is one of the main reasons change isn’t happening fast enough in the church or in many organizations today.

Personally, I think it would be a terrible thing to stand before God one day and explain that the main reason you didn’t do what you were called to do is because you were afraid.

Do you really want fear to be your final epitaph as a leader? Or would you rather go down trying?

Personally, I’d rather die trying.

2. Past opposition to change

You tried change once, and it failed.

Well, awesome. You also had a bad meal once, but you didn’t stop eating.

Why is it leaders shy away from change once they’ve had any opposition to it?

Maybe the change itself isn’t the problem. Maybe your strategy is the problem.

This is why I outlined 5 specific strategies to lead change in the face of opposition in my book Leading Change Without Losing It.  And why I’m so passionate about helping leaders navigate change.

Just because you failed at leading change once doesn’t mean you’ll fail forever.

Get a new strategy. What’s at stake is far too important not to.

3. Belief that progress should come without pain

Now we get closer to the heart of the matter. Many leaders secretly wish progress came without pain.

Progress almost never comes without pain.

Significant things are rarely accomplished without significant struggle. Our heroes are always people who suffered to bring about a better end. Part of us wants to live like that, and part of us doesn’t.

The leadership question is whether you’re willing to endure pain for the sake of a better future.

Real leaders say yes to that. They honestly do.

So…if you want significantly different results, push past the fear and stop thinking incrementally.

Incremental change brings about incremental results. Now you know what you’re dealing with.

What are you learning about change?


Are you ready for change that brings significant results? Learn more about getting things done with Auxano’s Execution services.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

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The Single Most Important Factor of Leading Change in a Resistant Setting

I speak about change regularly. And you deal with change almost every week, if not every day.

The #1 question/conversation that comes up after one of my talks goes something like this:

Well, that’s great that you could lead change where you are. But you need to understand my context. My church is so (fill in the blanks here) old…traditional…resistant that I don’t know where to start. Sometimes I think it’s impossible. Is it?

I love that question.

One of the great consistencies in almost two decades of church leadership for me, is change.

We’ve changed everything, moving from three very traditional, dying mainline churches to a vibrant church that’s reaching unchurched people. And in between, everything has changed: our locations, our structure, our worship, our governance, our team and even our denominational affiliation.

So…is a church or organization ever too old, resistant or traditional to change?

My answer is that change is possible anywhere. That actually, it’s necessary. And at a bare minimum, change is worth the best shot you’ve got.

So is there a secret ingredient that can help you lead change in a traditional context far more effectively?

I think there is.

Before I share it, a few nuances for all of us.

First, Let’s Check Our Excuses

The grass is almost always greener on the other side of the leadership fence.

When it comes to change, most of us think it would be easier if we lead at another church or in another organization.

The reality is that ALL of us will struggle to lead change wherever we are.

As enthusiastic as we say we are about change, all of us resist it. That’s why you haven’t lost that final 10 pounds, haven’t cleaned out the hall closet nearly as often as you should, and haven’t started that blog you were going to launch/book you were going to write. All of that involves change, and we’re resistant.

Too many of us make too many excuses.

I wrote pretty directly about getting past your excuses in this post and again recently as one of the lessons from the collapse of Mars Hill Church.

So don’t think you’re ‘special’, that the ‘rules don’t apply’ to your church or that other people who successfully led change ‘had it easier’. They probably didn’t.

If you go in with an excuse mindset, you’ve set yourself up to fail.

So park your excuses if you want to lead change.

And For Sure, Leading Change Isn’t Just About Mastering “One Thing”

There isn’t just ‘one thing’ that will help you lead change. Leading change is complex.

In my book, Leading Change Without Losing It, I outline 5 strategies that can help you overcome the inevitable opposition you’ll face when you lead change (I also tell the story of how we changed in the book).

But it can be done. Ron Edmondson recently led a traditional, plateaued church from 1000 in attendance to over double that in less than two years. He outlines his approach here.

But there is one thing that has helped me more than anything else in almost 20 years of leading change. And by ‘helped me’ I don’t just mean helping me lead others, I mean it’s also helped me stay motivated myself.

What is it?

Focus On The Why

You likely know this already, but it’s so easy to forget in the heat of the moment. Or to think you’ve said it once and don’t need to say it again.

Here’s the one thing that’s helped me more than anything else I’ve done in leading change in what started out as a very traditional setting, and can help you lead change in the most stubborn, resistant and traditional settings:

Focus on the why. Not on the what and the how.

There are really only three issues that come up around any leadership table.

> What are going to do?

> How are we going to do it?

> Why are we doing it?

Most leaders intuitively focus on the what and the how, neglecting the why.

That’s the mistake. And here’s why that’s a bad idea.

What and how are inherently divisive.

Why unites people. 

People usually disagree on what. You like a certain style of music. Someone else likes another. You want to paint a room grey, someone else likes taupe. You prefer earlier services, someone else thinks evening is best. You think you should spend the money. Others disagree.

How is often just as divisive. As soon as the discuss starts, people start asking: So how are we going to pay for this? How are we going to get people on board? How are we sure this will work? How long will this take? 

That’s why effective leaders consistently refocus the conversation on why. Why are we proposing these changes?

> Because this isn’t about us.

> Because we imagine a church that our kids and grandkids want to come to.

> Because we want to be a church our friends love to attend.

> Because we want to be a place where people who don’t feel welcome today feel welcome tomorrow.

> Because we love Christ and the world for which he died.

> Because we have a passion for those who don’t yet know Christ.

> Because our current methods aren’t optimally helping us accomplish our mission. 

It’s hard to disagree with statements like these, isn’t it?

Why appeals to the best in people.

Consequently, when you focus on why, you bring out the best in people.

After all, most people are part of your church because at some point, they decided to give their lives to Christ and be part of a cause that’s bigger than themselves. Your job is to remind them (and yourself) of this daily.

Leaders who relentlessly refocus on the why are always the most effective leaders.

If the entire group gets focused on the why, the what and the how have a way of working themselves out far more easily because why motivates.

When people agree on the why, the conversation starts to sound more like this:

  • Well I might not like it personally, but it is the most sensible approach. Let’s go for it.
  • We’ll find the money somewhere.
  • Let’s give it a try. I’ll put my objections aside.
  • I feel like there’s a future again!

Will you get some opposition, you bet? But, as I outline in my book, likely no more than 10% of people will be opposed and you can leverage a strategy for handling that.

And if a few people leave…let them go. They can always find another church they can go to. The people you’ll reach will likely far outweigh the people you lose.

What’s the single best way to navigate change in a traditional, old or very resistant setting? Focus on why far more than you focus on what and how. 

What are you learning about leading change in a traditional or resistant context?

>> Read more from Carey.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

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8 Charts Depicting Cultural Change: How Will Your Church React?

One of our roles as church leaders is to have our pulse on the shifting cultural around us so we can serve our community better. We need understand the times so we can have clarity on what actions we should be taking as a church. Below are some “signs of the times” and some quick thoughts on what impact I believe these will have on us in the coming years.

>> Your community is more culturally diverse than it has ever been.

8Charts-1

There are more people who don’t “look like you” than ever before. Our churches need to learn how to move beyond trying to reach one monolithic stereotype cultural group and figure out how to ensure our ministries can reach a wide variety of cultures. Still doubt this reality?“Minority babies” are now “majority” in our culture. Some impacts of this shifting reality in your church might be:

  • Spanish Translation // What are you doing to make your services available in spanish?
  • Leadership Makeup //  When was the last time you asked why your staff doesn’t reflect the community you are trying to reach?
  • Music & Parties // There isn’t one type of musical expression or celebration that is enjoyed in your community anymore … what does that mean for your services?

>> People are getting older.

8Charts-2

The Baby Boomers have defined so many cultural trends of the last 100 years and they are just starting to define “retirement” and “the older years”. Life expectancy is set to continue to rise for the next 20-30 years to point where a larger percentage of the population will be living past 80 years of age than ever before. Some potential impacts of this trend might be …

  • Boomer Pastors // All those boomer pastors that now in their 60s … might very well be serving well into their 70s. What impact will that have on passing leadership to the next generation?
  • Half Time // People will be looking at the “second half” of their lives and wondering how they can move from success to significance. How can the church provide a place for these leaders looking to invest their abilities into reaching the next generation?
  • Senior Targeted Churches? // When is someone going to come out and launch a church targeted at people over 60 and their families?

>> Marrying Older, But Sooner?

8Charts-3

If you have been involved in helping people get married you’ve noticed that median age of people getting married has risen over time. This is somewhat true … In reality the trend was that in the 50s & 60s people where getting married at a younger age than was typical. Even more intriguing to me is that as life expectancy has grown longer and longer the percentage of their lives that they are married has grown significantly. Almost 3x what it was 100 years ago! [Click here to see the female version of the above chart.] Some impacts of this trend might be …

  • What are young adults? // Some ministries go pretty negative on the “non-married” young people attending their church … labeling this period between the end of college and marriage as a “second adolescence”. Our churches need to embrace this reality and not alienate this group from our church!
  • Release This People! // Paul was pretty clear in 1 Corinthians 7 that there are some distinct advantages for the gospel to not being married. How can we cast vision for this group to leverage this unique time for the mission of Jesus?
  • New Pressures? // People are married for a long time … “until death do us part” means 3x as long as it did for people 100 years ago. What pressures does this place on marriages that didn’t exist back then?

>> We’re not delaying having kids.

8Charts-4

In the late 1980s a new cultural trend took hold that has continued until today … as a culture we started having babies before we were married. Today, almost half of all babies are born to unmarried mothers, and the median first birth happens around one year earlier in a woman’s life than her median age of first marriage. Some questions this trend has generated in me are:

  • Where are the single moms? // Why aren’t there more single moms in my church? What does that say about our ability to reach the community?
  • What is “Family Ministry”? // Parenthood has changed. Have our assumptions to what “family ministry” is changed?
  • How can we support? // We know that kids born into a strong social network have a better shot at life. Marriage provides one of those social networks … since that is a fraying institution how does the church need to step in and support these families?

>> Our community is more politically divided.

8Charts-5

Okay … before you jump all over me to fusing politics and church life … I believe that politics is just one way to get a sense of what is happening in the broader culture. I’m not making a values judgement on this divide … but the reality is that there is a growing gulf between the “left” and the “right” in our communities. As an example … Tony Campolo hasn’t changed his political views but in the last few years he’s caught flack from the “Christian right” on a regular basis. (I remember as a young person our church showing a Tony Campolo film at our evening service … I’m not sure that same church would do that today.) For my Canadian friends … Would former Baptist Pastor, Tommy Douglas be welcomed in your church today? Some questions on this polarization for church leaders:

  • Withdraw to the Mountains? // “When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.” –John 6:15
  • A Faith of Our Own // One of the clearest thinkers on this topic I’ve run into is Jonathan Merrit. Read his book … or watch this video of him at our church a few years ago. What do you think about what he’s saying?
  • Fox News Faith? // We all have political leanings as church leaders.Admit it. How do your political views shape your leadership and view of the world around you? Lead from a self aware point of view. Jesus rejected political answers to conditions of the heart … so should we.

>> Welcome to the Age of the Nones.

8Charts-6

It’s official … the fastest growing religious group in our culture are people who identify their religious affiliation as “none”. The acceleration rate of people identifying themselves in this category is breath taking. In the coming years you will increasingly bump into people who don’t identify themselves as having any “faith tradition” at all. Some potential issues for church leaders to think about on this are …

  • Cool Alternatives Aren’t Enough // Offering a church service that is “better” than what people experienced when they were kids (and last attended church) isn’t enough to reach “nones”. Put it this way … if you’ve never been (and aren’t interested in) horseback riding the fact that there is a really cool stable in your town means nothing to you … you’re never going to check it out. We have to start our conversation with people in a totally different manner.
  • Huge Opportunity // I see this as a massive evangelism and discipleship opportunity. The idea of not having to “unprogram” people negative past approaches to faith is exciting.
  • Learn From Others // We need to stop looking to the south to learn from churches reaching people in communities with less “nones” than in the rest of the country. We should be looking to Canada, Europe and other cultures to find churches reaching those communities with the message of Jesus despite this cultural reality.

>> People are More Educated

8Charts-7

People have more formal post-secondary education than ever before. On top of this people have wide spread access to information at their finger tips really for the first time in history. At one point in history church leaders where amongst the most educated people in a community but that just isn’t the case anymore. [As a side note … females are far more educated than males in our culture. What does that do to your cultural understanding of 1 Timothy 2?] Here are some impacts this trend might have on your church:

  • 3 Points & Joke Doesn’t Work Anymore // You can’t just wing your messages on the weekend. Sermons need to be rigorously prepared and assume people have a level of education that whoever taught you about preaching didn’t assume.
  • Work With the Internet // In a world where people have access to unlimited knowledge we need wisdom even more! Help people learn how to learn not just what they need to know.
  • Present Different Points of View // The Kingdom of God is a rich and diverse community with people that have very different theological points of view. Be okay with that. Educated people know that not everyone shares the same point of view as them … and they are okay with that. Don’t be so dogmatic with your gray area theological intricacies. It turns educated people off.

>> People Drive Less

8Charts-8

Stay with me for this last one … as a kid who grew up with a dad who worked in the automotive industry I’ve seen the impact that the car has had on our culture. In some ways … the history of the last one hundred years can be seen as a story that the car has had on our culture. Something has shifted in the last few years where people are driving less than they used to. (Gas prices, home offices, cocooning, etc.) This is bound to have an impact on our churches …

  • Average Drive Time // The “church growth movement” was largely driven be “destination churches” where people would drove past their local parish and drive to a church that met their needs more. People are going to be less likely to drive long distances to come to your church. This reality is driving the growth of the multisite church movement today.
  • Your Actual Neighbors // How are we reaching people who are within a reasonable walking (or biking?) distance of our church buildings? Do we need to double down on that? Maybe the parish wasn’t such a bad idea after all …
  • House Churches // This reality will drive the growth of people meeting in homes to have a fully functional “church” experience … rather than driving to some religious building. How is your church leveraging that opportunity?

What trends do you see happening the broader culture that are impacting your church?

Read more from Rich here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rich Birch

Rich Birch

Thanks so much for dropping by unseminary … I hope that your able to find some resources that help you lead your church better in the coming days! I’ve been involved in church leadership for over 15 years. Early on I had the privilege of leading in one of the very first multisite churches in North Amerca. I led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 4,000 people in 6 locations. (Today they are 13 locations with somewhere over 5,000 people attending.) In addition, I served on the leadership team of Connexus Community Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. I currently serves as Operations Pastor at Liquid Church in the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. I have a dual vocational background that uniquely positions me for serving churches to multiply impact. While in the marketplace, I founded a dot-com with two partners in the late 90’s that worked to increase value for media firms and internet service providers. I’m married to Christine and we live in Scotch Plains, NJ with their two children and one dog.

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8 Strategic Changes You Must Consider When Changing Culture

Since the world around us is constantly changing, the inability to change with it can have huge, negative consequences.

Everyone knows this and yet many organizations – even those full of very smart people – often find it almost impossible to change.

Geoffrey James has written a manifesto that explains the source of the difficulty and provides a set of steps that can help an organization move from what might be called “20th Century” thinking to “21st Century” thinking.

That type of thinking involves asking some tough questions which lead to strategic changes you must consider when changing culture.

  1. What is business all about?
  2. What is a corporation all about?
  3. What is management all about?
  4. What role do employees play?
  5. What really motivates people?
  6. What is the nature of change?
  7. What’s the role of technology?
  8. What is the essential nature of work?

Also covered in this manifesto:

  • 8 Strategic Changes You Must Consider When Changing Culture
  • How to Change an Organizational Culture
  • 26 Strategies that Match Action to Belief

>> Download James’ manifesto here

8StrategicChanges

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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comment_post_ID); ?> It is a good idea to to know how christians should be good leaders. Thanks
 
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comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent information, thank You
 
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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.