Over the years, I have been a pastor in churches, a chaplain in hospital systems and an interim director for a nonprofit counseling center.
One thing I have learned to depend on is that change will happen, if it isn’t already occurring.
This is a constant we face in today’s world, yet we continue to want to ignore or resist the change that is about to happen.
Perhaps we are tired, simply like what we have or are afraid of the change.
In spite of ourselves, clutter happens, discord occurs and difficulty arises. So what’s a body, or a church, to do with this?
With the help of James Prochaska’s theory about stages of change, here are a few thoughts to help you be proactive on what lies ahead for you and your congregation:
Stage 1 – Precontemplation: This is when someone is not even aware of the need for change.
If you are a pastor or church leader who is in a situation where you recognize the need to move forward on a change, but those within your membership do not see this need, how do you approach it?
When you introduce a change to those who don’t even have it “on their radar,” it is important to have a clear purpose and outcome, facts and information needed, and a clear context with which you can introduce the idea of change.
Some people need details to listen; some need context. Both are important.
Stage 2 – Contemplation: Now that everyone recognizes the need to make the change and is thinking about it, it is expected that there will be many questions.
â— What makes the suggested change better than what we already have?
â— How will we manage during transition?
â— How will we pay for it?
â— Who makes the decisions?
The list of questions can go on and on, which may feel chaotic, confusing and even frightening to many. The questions and raising concerns are a part of the process to growing acceptance and support toward the change.
This is why strong, able leadership and clarity of purpose are important.
Stage 3 – Preparation: The idea of change has been accepted at this point. Logistical issues are now addressed, and information is gathered and organized to consider all possible solutions and outcomes.
For the church, depending on what the project is, this is an opportunity to call out those who have gifts and skills among your congregation that can both lead and have the vision for the project at hand.
Within the church setting, often preparation includes taking major decisions, such as building projects, staff changes and other major financial decisions, before the congregation and getting their input and appropriate support before going forward.
Stage 4 – Action: All the facts and possible directions and solutions have been considered, decisions have been made, and the project logistically begins.
Whether it is a building project, change of staffing, or a significant change in schedule, it will lead to some confusion and even some discomfort for your congregation. Communication is essential during this time.
Let your congregation know what progress has been made and what is coming next. Acknowledge both the discomfort and the anticipation of what is ahead.
There may be some that are inconvenienced in this process. Keep them informed and make appropriate considerations for their needs and concerns.
Stage 5 – Maintenance: Now you and your congregation have established your changes.
Congratulations! Now what?
This is a time that the change has been completed and you are integrating the change into your routines of the church life.
There continue to be opportunities to support those involved, as this is a time of high energy for many who have been working hard and for those who have been looking forward to this new thing that has happened.
Stay aware of both those who need continued support and those who are excited and hopeful with this new change.
Stage 6 – Termination: You have done the work, it is well integrated into your regular congregational routines and church life, and it is no longer necessary to intentionally focus on this issue.
With clear focus and intentionality, being proactive in how you move forward can make the difference in how the congregation pulls together to support and make the change happen.
As Einstein so beautifully stated, “Out of clutter find simplicity; from discord find harmony; in the midst of difficulty lies opportunity.”
With intentional and informed leadership, you can develop a mindset for the change that you need.