Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Are you willing to pay the price of change?

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In my newest book The Healthy Community: Moving Your Church Beyond Tunnel Vision I discuss the cost of change.  In this post I want to briefly touch on the different ways change will cost you.  I included this chapter in the book because of a phone call I once had from a church member who invited me to attend their next Church Growth Committee meeting and talk to them about how they can grow their church without making anyone mad.  I told him that I would save them a meeting and me a trip: You won't.  He sounded surprised until I explained that if their church could grow by what they are doing, it would already be growing.  Obviously, something needs to change, and change will always produce conflict in any organization.  In fact, change will cost the organization in a number of ways.

First, the leader will have to pay a price.  Very often, for a significant change to occur the leader has to be changed.  Sports teams fire the manager when they want to turn their team around.  Corporations fire managers and CEOs if the organization isn't producing the results they expected.  Sometimes churches fire their pastors if things in the church are not moving in a way that suits the leadership.  Whether the pastor is terminated or not, any significant transformation in a church will require the pastor experience that transformation first.  George Barna insists that a new pastor must be brought in to introduce significant change to the church.  Shortly after reading that the first time I seriously considered resigning as pastor of my church so they could bring in a new pastor who could begin the changes the church needed.  However, what I ended up doing was to allow God to make me into a new pastor.  I explained to the congregation that I had to become a new pastor if we were going to be able to move forward, and I began to reinvent much of what I had been doing as the pastor.

There is also a cost to the lay leaders in the church.  Some of them may need to step down from their positions before the church can move forward.  The church controllers will have to be confronted and may well need to leave the church.  Leadership roles will need to be changed

Any significant change will being about conflict, and sometimes the change doesn't have to be very significant for that conflict to sweep through the church and community.  Such conflict is often seen as a sign by the pastor that it may be time for him or her to resign and move to another place of ministry.  Unfortunately, where ever you move you will eventually encounter conflict.  That conflict may well cause others to leave the church.  For many churches, the fear of losing people is enough to stop the changes because it's a cost the church is not willing to pay.

Jesus taught that we should always count the cost before starting something.  Before you introduce a significant change to the church you should try to visualize some of the potential costs that such changes will require of you, your family, and your church.  The more you think of these things before presenting the changes to the church the better prepared you will be to lead the congregation around some of those costs.

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