How to Deal with Leaders Who Question Change

Most people don’t like change. Most leaders want to challenge the status quo. Leadership is, in part, the process of helping people see the need for change, embrace the vision for change, and then implement the change.

Getting mad at people who question change does not help the process of change. Those who are truly malicious are typically small in number. When people have questions about change, it does not necessarily mean that they are questioning your leadership. It’s likely they just have questions. In fact, the only leaders who go unquestioned are despots.

Particularly in the church, there is built-in institutional resistance to change. Almost every church has this inherent resistance, especially established churches. The body may spend decades building something—a program, a worship space, or a culture. Shifting direction on a decade’s work is jarring, even if it’s the right thing. The church is often the place people cling to the familiar. The world is changing rapidly, after all. At least the church offers some solace from what feels like a whirlwind of change.

When a church leader introduces bold change, a strong reaction should be expected. Some will complain it’s too much too soon. Others will complain it’s too little too late. Others won’t care. And a few will champion the change.

Bold change almost always raises questions from people. Getting mad at people who raise the questions does nothing to help move them through the process of change. Yet a leader’s visceral reaction to these questions is often anger. I’ll admit I’m guilty! And it’s wrong, a leadership flaw, arguably sinful in many cases.

So what can you do in the moment when questions fly your way? How can a church leader quell the knee-jerk anger to questions about change?

  • Listen. Seriously, just listen. Don’t talk. Don’t say anything. Don’t explain yourself. Don’t get defensive. Let people speak to you about the change. Many times people just need the opportunity to hear themselves speak and to know you heard them.
  • Learn. Your posture and your tone can speak more loudly than your actual words. When introducing bold change, take the posture of a learner. Let’s assume you’ll make a big announcement from the podium about a large change initiative. Make a resolution to be a learner the moment you walk off the stage. And the way you’ll learn is by listening to questions about the change.
  • Smile. Remember school pictures? I never liked them. I often didn’t smile, and the low quality of the pictures reflected the intensity of my scowl. The quality of your change initiative will be directly correlated to the amount of encouragement you give people. If you think more explanations, more spreadsheets, or more structure will get people moving, then think again. Forcing people through change without encouragement signals that the change is for your benefit, not their benefit. You’ve got to love the people who are affected by the change through the change. When questions come . . . smile. Encourage. Love.

You’ll never please everyone. How many times have I heard that? How many times have I said that to others? You know upfront that change initiatives can be tough, that people will resist change. Getting mad at followers ensures only one thing: failure. I’ve never heard a leader mention how unjustified anger inspired people to embrace a change initiative. So listen. Learn. Smile. And perhaps the change initiative might just go a little more smoothly.

> Read more from Sam.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sam Rainer III

Sam serves as lead pastor of West Bradenton Baptist Church. He is also the president of Rainer Research, and he is the co-founder/co-owner of Rainer Publishing. His desire is to provide answers for better church health. Sam is author of the book, Obstacles in the Established Church, and the co-author of the book, Essential Church. He is an editorial advisor/contributor at Church Executive magazine. He has also served as a consulting editor at Outreach magazine. He has written over 150 articles on church health for numerous publications, and he is a frequent conference speaker. Before submitting to the call of ministry, Sam worked in a procurement consulting role for Fortune 1000 companies. Sam holds a B.S. in Finance and Marketing from the University of South Carolina, an M.A. in Missiology from Southern Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies at Dallas Baptist University.

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— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
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Clarity Process

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Five Foundational Questions Church Leaders Need to Ask

A recent article in the Atlantic cited 17 questions every college should be asking. The point was that “we need a serious conversation about the future of America’s universities.”

They’re right.

We do.

And the questions they posed were good ones, including:

  • What is quality, and how should it be measured?

  • If we were building from scratch, would we make almost every program the same four-year duration?

  • We are witnessing the emergence of high quality, low-cost ways of learning online. How should we think about hybrid curricular options—that is, the mixing of new forms of pedagogy with old—that might be available to us? How will this affect the residential model?

  • Will most extant institutions survive the coming ed-tech disruptions in roughly their current form?

In the same spirit, what questions should every church be asking if there were to be a serious conversation about its future?

There are so many that could be asked that would reflect bleeding-edge issues in culture, but for the church, it has to begin with the most foundational questions.

Five come to mind, along with what I would argue the answers should entail:

1. What is the purpose of the church?

To use marketplace terminology, understanding our purpose is understanding what business we are in. What is the business, or purpose, of the church?

From the earliest biblical portraits of the church in Acts, in light of the settled teaching of the New Testament, it is clear that there is a five-fold purpose for the church: evangelism, discipleship, ministry, worship and community (e.g., Acts 2:42-27). Put more actively, we are to evangelize the lost, assimilate the evangelized, disciple the assimilated, and unleash the discipled for ministry and evangelism. This is what the church does.

Of course, churches too often lose sight of this. Rather than worship or evangelism, a church can fall prey to thinking that its purpose is keeping up a tradition, holding a particular event, meeting a budget, or maintaining a building. These activities may flow out of a purpose, but they do not make up the purpose of the church itself.

As a result, the foundational purposes of a church must reign supreme. When they do, renewal flows. According to a study of faith communities in the Executive Summary of a Report on Religion in the United States Today, congregations with a clear sense of purpose feel vital and alive. A purpose-driven mentality is able to look to the future, as opposed to clinging to feelings of unity based on heritage (the past).

2. What is the church’s mission?

Think of the church’s mission in military terms. It is one thing to know the purpose of a particular military unit, such as being an infantry division. It is another to know the specific “hill” the unit is trying to take as that infantry division. This has to do with mission. A church might understand its purposes but not know what it is trying to accomplish through those purposes. If the biblical purpose of the church involves evangelism, discipleship, ministry, worship and community, then the mission question is simple but profound: What specific objective is the church devoted to accomplishing through those purposes? In other words, what is the church trying to do through evangelism, discipleship, ministry, worship and community?

Jesus made many statements that spoke to how He desired the various purposes of the church to come together in a singular mission. The most well-known is often called the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20). According to this passage, the mission of the church is to reach out to nonbelievers and develop them, along with existing believers, into committed followers of Christ. This is the mission that the purposes of the church are intending to accomplish.

Yet I am not the first to observe that many churches have other missions in mind for those who walk through their doors, such as wanting people to “believe like us” doctrinally, to “behave like us” morally, to “have an experience like ours” emotionally, to “become like us” culturally, to “support the church like us” institutionally through time and money, or to “participate with us” sacramentally through baptism, confirmation or communion. These goals are not in and of themselves wrong. The problem is it would be possible to realize most of these goals within a life and still not be a Christian. In other words, they have little to do with the actual mission of the church.

Even more disturbing are those surveys that find that the vast majority of church members believe that the mission of the church exists to take care of their needs—as opposed to win the world to Christ.

3. Whom are we trying to reach for Christ?

The most common answer to this question is “everyone.”  That is not a good answer.

In truth, no single church can possibly reach out with equal effectiveness to every conceivable person. The more focused a church is on whom it is trying to reach, the more effective it will be at reaching them. So no surprise that from the earliest days of the church, as recorded in the New Testament, it has seemed to please the Holy Spirit to birth a wide variety of churches in order to reach a wide variety of people. Churches, therefore, are wise to examine such issues as geographic location, demographics and culture.

The implications of such an understanding are far-reaching. Once a church knows whom it is trying to reach, it gains enormous insight into how to go about achieving its purposes and mission. As anyone in the marketplace will tell you, once you know who your customer is, you know what it is you are offering, whom you are offering it to, how you should go about offering it, and where you should offer it to them. Knowing whom it is you are trying to reach affects not only what you do but also how you do it.

But there is one demographic from which we are to begin our segmentation. If the mission of the church is to turn nonbelievers into fully devoted followers of Christ, then the primary target of a church should be those who are nonchurched nonbelievers.

4. What determines whether the church is alive and growing?

Once a church recognizes its purpose, its mission, and whom it is trying to reach, the next foundational question—one that is notoriously overlooked in the life of many churches yet is essential for rethinking—relates to the definition of success.

You say, “We are not called to be successful, but faithful.”

Yes and no. Faithfulness is not always rewarded with what might be deemed “success” in the eyes of the world, but God is always wanting a church to strive and reach its full redemptive potential.

So here is a definition of success worth wrestling with: Success for a church involves fulfilling its purposes in such a way as to reach its target and complete its mission. In other words, are you reaching lost people and turning them into fully devoted followers of Christ? Most churches, at best, are successful at the back half of the Great Commission (discipleship), but in terms of the front half (evangelism) are failing miserably, growing solely from transfer growth or biological growth.

5. How will we accomplish the mission God has given to us?

As a younger man, I played organized basketball for years. After my playing days were over, I had the opportunity to coach part time while completing seminary. Both as a player and a coach, I learned that the key to success in a game was having a strategy based on what we knew about the opposing team. The game plan was not just getting together before a game and saying, “All right, boys, let’s go get ’em!” If that had been the extent of our strategy, we would have lost virtually every game.

One of the most important questions a church needs to wrestle with has to do with strategy. How will we accomplish the mission God has given us and reach success?

Unfortunately, this is one question I cannot venture a simple, concise answer. It lies at the cutting edge of much of my blogging and writing, conferencing and personal thinking/experimentation.

Yet it is through answering the first four questions that a church can begin to engage in the fifth. The church has a five-fold purpose, a unique and compelling mission that those purposes are to achieve, and the means by which to know whether it is being successful. Now we must develop a strategy for our day in light of those timeless, foundational anchors.

Then, and only then, can we say, “Now, let’s go get ’em!”

> Read more from James Emery White.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Check-Up Time: 8 Questions to Ask Every Year

It’s easy to get so busy doing ministry that you don’t take the time to evaluate your ministry.

But evaluation is how you get better.

It’s like your annual physical. No one wants to get a check-up, blood work, and maybe a test or two, but that’s how you learn what you need to know.

Then, of course, you need to act on what you learn.

The 4-point plan to get better:

  • Ask the right questions.
  • Give honest answers in a group process.
  • Determine the best-prioritized plan for improvement.
  • Take action.

It starts with asking the right questions.

8 good questions that will help your ministry get better:

1) How is the unique culture of your church helping you make progress?

Sam Chand wrote an excellent book titled Breaking Your Church’s Culture Code. He states that more than vision, programs, money, or staff, culture has the greatest impact on your church’s future.

How would you describe your culture? Is it what you want? Is your church culture helping or hurting as you pursue God’s purpose for your church? What changes do you need to make? If the culture is healthy, what practices are in place to stay healthy?

2) How would you describe the overall morale of your church?

Are the people happy with your church? That question seems very subjective but is surprisingly easy to answer.

Do they trust the leadership? Are they fired-up about the mission? Are they passionate about following Jesus? Is there momentum? Are problems solved with relative ease (without significant resistance? You get the idea.

Morale and culture are closely linked. If you are struggling and the culture and morale are not ideal, I urge you to pour your leadership energy there first.

3) What is your approach to spiritual formation in your church?

Is there an overall sense that people are pursuing God? It’s not about perfection, but do you see progress? What factors do you consider important to help assess spiritual maturity?

Consider things like prayer, serving others, obedience, and financial generosity. How about the fruit of the Spirit like love, joy, and peace, etc.?

Do you utilize small groups? How is community developed? What priority does biblical truth hold? A great overall approach to assess spiritual growth is to gather stories of life change.

4) Are you developing new leaders?

Next to the favor of God, everything rises and falls on leadership. Do the leaders in your church demonstrate a strong spiritual depth and a servant’s heart? What is your plan to find and develop new and better leaders? You will not realize your potential as a church without a serious dedication to this process.

Here’s a great plan to start with.

5) How would you describe the strength of your volunteer teams?

Are your volunteers part of vibrant and productive teams or a struggling band of survivors? Much of that depends on how you select, train, encourage and empower your volunteers. Do you recruit to a vision or just to get a task done?

All churches face the pressure of needing people to volunteer to serve, but how you build teams makes a significant difference. How would you rate the overall esprit de corps of your volunteer ministries? What is the first best step to strengthen your teams?

6) What are the financial indicators telling you?

It is relatively easy to measure results when it comes to money. The weekly offering defines reality. At the same time, one of the largest challenges a leader will ever face is successfully inspiring the people to trust God with their finances and remain faithful to generous giving.

Are you bold in your teaching of God’s truth about money? Do you offer practical training about money management? Do you personally model generosity? Where are you stronger regarding money, faith or practice?

7) Are you on mission?

You must first be clear about the purpose of your church. What is your mission/vision – exactly? Does your congregation have a good sense of what it is? Are you acting on that mission?

It’s essential that your leaders become and remain aligned together in that mission. It will always feel like you are swimming upstream if you are not headed in the same direction.

8) Do your people enthusiastically invite others to your worship services?

I have coached churches where the people had obviously lukewarm feelings about the worship service. They were not motivated to invite someone even if they had a friend they wanted to bring.

It’s not always the worship service, but it starts there. Is there anything about your church that would cause your congregation to pause about inviting their friends?

This is a huge evangelistic combination. If your people are committed to the vision enough to invite people to church, and your worship experience (from nursery to invitation) is worth inviting people to – that is the combination you work toward!


I trust these questions will be helpful to you and the health of your church.

I pray God’s wisdom for your leadership and His favor upon you!

> Read more from Dan.


 

Connect with an Auxano Navigator to learn more about asking the right questions about your church.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Reiland

Dan Reiland

Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together. Dan is best known as a leader with a pastor's heart, but is often described as one of the nations most innovative church thinkers. His passion is developing leaders for the local church so that the Great Commission is advanced.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

6 Gut-Check Questions to Ask When Your Ministry Seems Stuck

We’ve all had ministries or programs in our church that aren’t going well. They lack critical mass to make the sort of impact we are looking for. They seem just a little stale and past their prime. Your people are “voting with their feet” and not showing up to the ministry like they used to. Rather than get bitter about this reality … our job as leaders to make things better! Here are some questions that you could use to evaluate that ministry you suspect is losing traction:

  • Can you clarify the why? // People in your church need to have a clear sense of “why” this program or ministry is a vital part of their spiritual journey. When you communicate about it make sure to spend more time talking about the “benefit” of the ministry to them rather than just the “features” of it. Don’t just tell people that the student ministry meets on Sunday evenings and includes a great small group experience … explain to parents and students that your ministry is designed to help students wrestle with the issues of faith, make friends and be influenced by great adult leaders. People won’t engage with something if they are unclear how it will benefit them.
  • Do you need to reduce the internal competition? // Don’t make your ministries compete for the time, resources and attention from your community. Make sure that you aren’t asking your people to do multiple things at the same time. Cancel everything else where people might be choosing that over the ministry you value. People get to the point of “ask fatigue” … you can only ask so much from them. Clear the calendar and your people’s “head space” to be available for your ministry.
  • How can you listen to your people more? // Have you taken time to listen to your people about why they aren’t attending your ministry? Grab a few “opinion leaders” in the group you are trying to serve and take them out for a meal … people rarely refuse a “free meal” … and ask them why people aren’t engaging with the ministry. Send out a digital survey to the people you are trying to serve and ask them open ended questions about what they are looking for from your ministry. [Use tools like SurveyMonkey, Wufoo or Google Forms] Listen carefully to what people are saying … try not to prejudice them with your thoughts on the “what and how” of the ministry.
  • Have you used enough channels to communicate with people? // How many different ways do you communicate to people about the ministry? Chances are you need to increase the messaging to your people. If people aren’t complaining that they are hearing too much from you … you aren’t communicating enough. If you are relying on just one or two ways of getting the message to them … you aren’t communicating enough. (Oh yeah … Sunday morning announcements doesn’t count as a communications channel … it’s a terrible way to reach your people.) Usually higher friction forms of communication get better traction. Gather a group of committed volunteers and call people to let them know about the upcoming event. Arm a group of people to “lobby surf” on Sunday to find potential candidates for your ministry. Good ole’ fashion snail mail still works … send them a snappy direct mail piece!
  • Do we have the wrong leadership in place? // Would you follow the leader who is leading this ministry? Are they trained and equipped to do the role that you’re asking them to do? Sometimes in churches we have a tendency to just put in “available” people rather than the right leaders. You might need to switch the person leading the ministry to gain the traction you are looking for. Every ministry area needs to be lead by people who attract other people. At the most basic level … if people don’t want to be around the leader it’s hard for the ministry to gain traction.
  • Is it time for a gut check? // Would you be a part of this ministry if you weren’t in leadership at the church? Do people you really care for “opt out” of the ministry and you’re okay that they are missing it? Are you having to generate a bunch of internal energy to convince yourself it’s worthwhile? Maybe the best thing to do is just to cut this ministry or program and find a new approach to impacting people?

Great churches are defined more by what they don’t do than by what they do. How have you gone about evaluating ministries in your church and whether they should continue?

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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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.