A colleague of mine had a four-point charge. He asked them one day if they didn’t think that closing one church would be a good idea. They all agreed since the churches were very close together. He then asked, “Which one?” Not one person thought their church should be closed. I’m afraid we are all this way when it comes to change. If it affects someone else, it’s okay but if it affects us, it is not okay! Some churches received new pastors recently. These new pastors will see changes that need to be made and some church members will have every reason in the book why they should not change! Change is a major reason that John Wesley wanted his pastors to “Itinerate” – move from one church to another. 314 years ago, Wesley knew that change was good, and growth often depends on change.
If you are a new pastor, please know that you must have impeccable integrity. Take time to know the people of your church(es). If you are a leader in your church, take time to get to know the people you lead. Pastors and leaders must create relationships. These relationships will help the church to change.
Don’t ever underestimate the amount of time it takes to communicate. A good leader over communicates. It always takes more time to communicate a change than one would think.
Take your time. For new Pastors, we often tell them to not make any changes for six months or sometimes a whole year. This is because church members have often invested their whole life in the church, and in some cases, their ancestors have invested generations. We need to show respect for a church’s past whether we are the pastor or a member. By showing respect for a church’s stories, we are showing respect and reverence for the job we have been appointed to or have been chosen for. The very first thing a new pastor or a new leader needs to do is to sit down with small groups and ask them to tell their stories and tell how the church got to where it is today. Members will respect this and it will make change possible.
When we lead people, we must never attack them. People can have different opinions but it is never okay to tell them how wrong they are. If people are to ever be changed, we must love and respect them for who they are – not who we think they should be. We should always believe the best in people. We should put ourselves in their shoes. A secret I learned a long time ago is to always wait a day before you react. To react to a note or phone call when you’re upset is always a mistake. It’s always better to talk to people in person, or at least by using the phone. Text or email is often too impersonal and we have no idea of how people are reacting when we can’t see them or at least hear them.
Probably the most important thing to do when you think a change is necessary is to check your ego at the door. If people see the leader as wanting to be in charge of everything, change will never happen. The only way for change to be effective is when everyone agrees with the change and this only occurs when the group has been brought along slowly. The leader must make others think that they are leading and that they have good ideas and they are part of the change. If the leader has to always be in charge, the possibility of a change taking place will be severely hampered.
Pastors – take heed! Leaders – listen up! Let’s strive for “change” together.
Author: Tommy Herndon