Session by Carey Nieuwhof
The first change is always the most difficult.
Once change happens, it can become part of the culture. The tension is that we as leaders are attracted to change, especially the results of change, but that reality doesn’t match the dream. We have to be willing to walk into the drama, not knowing what will happen, trusting God in his guidance.
WHY PEOPLE CHANGE
People change because they want to better the status quo. A leader’s job is to take people where they WOULDN’T GO if it wasn’t for the leader’s influence. It’s difficult and tense. Change is a good word for leaders, but not for everybody else. When you’re not a leader, you don’t like change.
Most often, people change when the pain associated with the status quo is greater than the pain associated with change. We gravitate toward the same thing, until we realize facts involve that spur us to change. We need to raise the level of discontent with the status quo.
5 Principles to Create a Culture of Exponential Change
1. Cast a vision bigger than yourself. Outward focused visions attract people. Cast a vision bigger than just the success of your church. The problem with our structures etc is that we’re content with what they’re doing currently. A bigger vision implies bigger change. You will only change as big as your vision becomes. Incremental view of change will be frustrating and expensive. If you’re going to change, you might as well change everything that’s not working. Not saying to do it all next week, but over the next 5-7 years you can. Plot and share trajectory. Show everyone where we’re going if we change, and where we’re going if we don’t.
2. Focus on the why behind the what. Why is the best question a leader can answer. “WHY” unites. People will do almost anything if there’s a great reason why. “How and what” divide. How and what need to be continually trumped by why. Start with the why, hit the what and how, and end with the why.
3. Set realistic expectations for everyone. Understand, but do not be deterred by, the cost. PEOPLE. WILL. LEAVE. Handle that dynamic well, but realize that your focus needs to shift from who you want to keep to who you want to reach. Think about who you would lose if you don’t change. If you don’t change, you’ll lose the progressive leaders and the people waiting for someone to man up and lead it. And for what it’s worth, the people who leave stopped tithing a long time ago. Understand the sigmoid curve. Things peak out. Prepare to live it. It doesn’t take a leader to kill something that’s dead, but it takes a leader to sacrifice something that’s living for something that’s better. Start asking questions while something is growing like crazy. Eventually, it’ll stop. Changing what’s working can create greater long term success.
That takes you into an area of conflict. Changing what’s working creates conflict.
4. Communicate change in concentric circles. Those who are most invested should have the most input. The killer in congregational change is the congregational meeting. Change almost never happens when everyone has a say. A congregation spends 1% of it’s time in preparation, and 99% in evaluation. “We didn’t prepare for church at all, but we do work at lunch on the pastor’s talk.” Leaders do the opposite. Therefor, input works best when it looks like this.
- DIALOGUE with the core.
- INPUT from the committed. Say to people invested in your ministry, “Hey, we’ve been thinking on this, what are your thoughts?” Don’t make the decision in the meeting, just get input. A lot of times, people don’t want to make decisions they just want to be heard.
- INFORMATION to the congregation. Send it out to them.
- VISION to the crowd. Vision and information and input all along the way. Don’t air your laundry to the public, but here’s what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, etc. Give an invitation to the community. “Hey neighbors, we would love for you to jump in on this.”
5. Be prepared to change again. You are never done. It’s not bad when things stop working, it’s just part of it. Don’t rest on your success, the greatest threat to your future success is your current success. The more successful you are now, the more complacent you become. DO NOT BECOME the guy who says, “I know this is what we need to do. This is where God is sending us. But, the cost is just too high.” Ride out issues as long as you can and your kids will be the ones to clean it up down the road. Stay committed to the vision, but not necessarily to the strategy. A bad strategy doesn’t need to kill a great vision. Hold your model loosely. Hold the mission tightly. This prepares people for a culture of continual change.
ACTION POINT: I LOVE the concept he gave of sharing trajectory not just of where you want to be, but where you’d end up if things don’t change. That’s huge. Everyone needs to here where we will be if we don’t change.