Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Change. This six-letter word can either create panic or elicit excitement.
And both responses depend on how the change is presented, communicated, and validated.
Change in the church can be a difficult thing to sell.
Members get comfortable, employees settle into a routine, and leadership often settles for the status quo.
However, change is necessary for a church that is growing, thriving, and making a difference in its community.
Either can have the same results for those who are impacted by the change – depending on how the need for change is communicated.
For instance, if an employee’s job responsibilities need to be modified, it is essential to consider how the decision to make that change will impact the employee.
It is the leadership’s responsibility to help stakeholders accept and embrace a necessary change.
6 Tips for Managing Change in the Church
1. Think About the Impact
As leaders, we sit in planning meetings and get excited about the next new thing.
We “get” why a change is necessary and get excited about pushing a new initiative.
However, most changes impact people.
Think about how the proposed change will impact key stakeholders – employees, volunteers, or members.
For instance, think about the stakeholders and answer the question, “How will this change impact me”?
Once you can answer that question, you can address any issues impacting possible resistance to what you are trying to do.
The more effectively you can answer those questions. The easier it will be for people to embrace change.
2. Organize a Change Management Team
Recruit a team of employees, members, and volunteers who can help manage the initiative.
Include team members with diverse perspectives and expertise to ensure all populations are represented.
For instance, if you are changing the software used to manage Children’s Ministry, you might want to include someone from the IT Department and representatives from the Children’s Ministry.
Encourage everyone’s involvement and listen to any concerns they might have. Allow them the opportunity to provide feedback and use their experience to help resolve problems or issues that might arise during implementation.
The goal is to have team members who can champion the changes with the goal of increasing buy-in and commitment to the change.
3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
One of the biggest mistakes organizations make when rolling out change initiatives is announcing the change and then going silent.
Be deliberate in communicating the reasons for the change and the benefits of the initiative, and then tie it all back to the church’s mission.
As church leaders, we need to give stakeholders (employees, volunteers, or members) time to absorb the new information, understand the reason for the change, and come to terms with the inevitable.
Be present during this transition by being available to answer questions, clarify intent, and support those who may be struggling with the change.
Create a timeline and offer ongoing updates as details are implemented. Address concerns as soon as you learn of them. No detail is too small to share as a major change unfolds.
4. Articulate Why a Change is Necessary
People get comfortable and set in their ways, and it is often difficult for them to accept a change unless they understand the reasons behind these important decisions.
We do a good job of putting a communication plan in place to explain what the change will be and how we plan to implement it.
However, stakeholders need to understand the “why” so they can accept and support the change initiative.
Explain why a change is necessary so stakeholders can understand the intent.
For instance, if you are changing software programs to save time, money and improve a process – explain that.
Learning new software can be difficult and frustrating, but if stakeholders understand why the change is necessary, they will more easily embrace and support it.
5. Clarify Misunderstandings
What people don’t know, they tend to make up or fill in the blanks.
Before a significant change is announced, consider how that change will impact all stakeholders – employees, volunteers, and church members.
While in the planning stage, select a few employees to pitch the idea to and let them ask questions.
You may learn about some concerns that you hadn’t thought of.
Address those concerns, and when you roll out the change, answer employee questions before they can ask them.
For instance, if the church changes its health care benefits, provide employees with the information to answer their questions about cost, coverage, and claim processing.
6. Lead by Example
Some changes are made to save budget dollars.
Be aware of your communication and try to avoid speaking negatively about a necessary change.
If employees hear you grumbling, they will surely follow your lead.
Even if you struggle with a necessary change, lead by example and be the cheerleader that it will take to get everyone on board.
7. Provide Necessary Resources
Don’t sabotage the initiative by not providing the necessary resources (people, time, and money) to pull it off.
Every significant change requires a lot of behind-the-scenes work. Take the time to figure out what steps need to be taken to implement and identify someone to make it happen.
If it means pulling an employee off other responsibilities during the transition, ensure they have the time and resources to devote to the change effort.
8. Provide Training and Support
Some change initiatives will require training and support.
For instance, if you change the software system in Children’s Ministry, all volunteers and employees will need to be trained.
Assign an expert and use this person to help others learn the skills needed to transition to a new program.
9. Monitor Results
Use the implementation team to help you monitor the results of the change.
Ask team members to provide feedback and offer suggestions for improving the change process.
Be flexible and adapt the plan based on feedback from those closest to the change.
10. Evaluate the Rollout
Use the experience of implementing a change to learn.
Schedule a debrief session and ask the team to share their perspective on the success of the implementation.
Ask the team if there are ways that the process could be improved the next time a change is necessary.
For instance, ask the team to offer feedback on how well the initiative was communicated to all stakeholders.
Change Is Constant
There is a saying about change in that it is constant.
Managing change explains the why, answers the question – of how this will impact me, and provides the resources to implement it.
These simple steps can help you avoid the resistance that comes when you say that six-letter word – change!