Integral to leadership is serving as a change agent. Yet leaders often fail in the way they implement new ideas. Unwise approaches often sabotage great ideas. Applying the three principles that follow may expedite acceptance of your changes. I’m aware of a lot more principles of change, but these three deserve top-shelf priority.
- People don’t trust new ideas or programs. They trust (or mistrust) people.
A leader who doesn’t initiate caring relationships with people will be more suspect.
A leader who’s relatively new to the church will seek individuals within who have “source credibility.” By virtue of their longevity, character, and visibility, these are persons whom the majority of members already respect and revere. Getting these folks on board to help explain and promote the change increases the likelihood of the idea’s success.
A pastor I know wanted to overhaul the Wednesday evening program of his church. But he waited to propose this change until he had spent two years establishing credibility through strong preaching and shepherding of the people. When the pastor first broached the idea in a deacon’s meeting, an influential deacon said to him, “I’m a bit uncomfortable with your idea. But I am not uncomfortable with you. I’ll support it.”
- The timing of a new idea’s presentation affects its acceptance.
Start talking about your vision to the board or congregation months before an official decision must be made. Here’s how experienced pastor Ron Edmondson explains this principle:
People need time to warm up to the change that is coming. The less you surprise people, the greater your chance of success. Change always comes with emotions attached to it. Giving ample notice allows people a chance to acclimate those emotions.
Another application of this principle concerns the time in which you present your idea during a board or staff meeting. The worst time to broach it is two hours into a meeting when folks are tired and want to go home. They aren’t in a mood or physical state to assimilate your idea properly. Instead, ask that your presentation come first on the agenda for the next meeting.
- Dignify the past.
Your change may mean a death knell to a program established long ago. If that’s the case, publicly praise God for using that ministry for so long. If a staff member or church members are present who served in that ministry, bring them up front and thank them for their contributions.
Here’s how Gary McIntosh, in One Church Four Generations, summarizes this point:
*Bless the past.
*Affirm the validity of the previous method or program.
*Highlight the biblical principles that spawned the previous method or program.
*Communicate the new idea as an extension of the past, rather than merely a replacement.
*Emphasize how the new approach carries on the values and purposes of the former ministry.
Think of a change you will propose sometime in the near future. If you applied these three principles, what would it look like? Before you present your idea to the board or congregation, discuss the applications as a staff.
What core principle of change would you add?