by Bob D’Ambrosio
They say the only person who likes change is a wet baby. If your church members are dry and content with ministry as usual, it may indicate there is no clear vision for a preferable future. After all, “we’ve never done it that way before.”
When asked why change in the church is often so difficult, one pastor commented, “It’s because we’re never really sure if the change is worth the conflict it will cause.”
A clear and compelling vision drives the focus for moving the church in a new direction. Aristotle once said, “The soul never thinks without a picture.” Proverbs tells us, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Vision provides a snapshot or a painting of the church’s preferred future with all its possibilities.
As you formulate a vision to lead the changes needed at your church, consider these five components.
1. Identify current opportunity – What is the status quo, issue, or opportunity that may be driving the change? For example, it may be that the current worship center is at seating capacity, or there’s a lack of funds to support the budget, or perhaps an influx of new homes is being built in your community. How does the opportunity define the change that needs to happen?
2. Determine the change needed – What are you hoping will change? Is it a change to a process, system, or behavior? Or is it a more complex change that’s needed to the church culture? Identify the target you want to hit—and aim for it.
3. Understand why change is necessary – In their book Groundwork, Scott Larson and Daniel Tocchini state that people are ready to change when the pain of not changing is greater than the pain of changing. So in determining why you need to change, explore if the process of changing will be less painful for your people than if they don’t change.
4. Plan a change timeline – How long will the change take? Is it something that can happen in a few weeks, months, years? The scope of the change will determine the time needed. Culture changes can take three to five years to turn the ship.
5. State desired result – How will you know when the change has been accomplished? What’s the desired result? And most importantly, how will you measure the result to know it has been fully embedded in the culture? Identify desired outcomes in connection with your change timeline so you can celebrate the quick wins of any incremental steps toward the goal.
If your church needs change, but no one wants to change, it may be that your vision is a little cloudy. Examine these five areas and you may discover it’s easier to change a wet baby than you thought.