Why People Resist Change

Change is hard, people will fight to keep things the same, but why? Why is change so difficult? I was reading an article by Lynn Hardaway (with The Bridge Network of Churches) that brings a few key insights.

What can be done when your church’s core values have drifted away from what makes a church healthy? How can a pastor lead people back to Great Commission values? The first step is to understand why people in an established congregation resist change.

1. They do not feel a need to change.
Unless the church is in crisis, most members believe “all is well” and will not be responsive to the pastor’s pleas to adopt different values. An old adage from the farm says, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink; you can, however, mix a little salt with its oats!” Show them the benefits of change and the danger of refusing to change.

2. People prefer the status quo.
It is safe, comfortable and familiar; moving out of that safe zone to a new place risks giving up control and feeling vulnerable. You should lead them to stop looking at what “is” and to start looking at “what can be” and “what should be.”

3. They have vested interests.
Because some people have been resident members of the congregation for an extended period of time, they have accrued positions of power and influence. You and your ideas for change are new on the scene and, in many churches, you are merely the current pastor who will probably leave within a few years; why should they change their values for a temporary leader? This leads to the next reason people resist change:

4. They do not trust you, yet.
You will need some time and successes to build your credibility in their eyes before they will let you make organizational and behavioral changes. People want to know if you can be trusted, if you know where you are going, and if you are capable of leading them there.

5. Old values and traditions have become sacred to them.
Whether those traditions are grounded in the Scripture or not is irrelevant; they are closely tied to how your people understand and relate to God. We all know pastors who found themselves ostracized because they dared to challenge the “sacred cows” in a congregation. Preach the Word of God compassionately, carefully lead the people to understand the difference between biblical values and cultural forms of worship, and you may be able to lead them away from this unhealthy mindset.

6. People prefer the simple over the complex.
When you introduce healthy systems, such as assimilation and evangelism, it can create confusion and frustration in the minds of your members, and they will naturally resist what they do not understand. They do not have the time or expertise to grasp novel concepts, so you must go the extra mile in clarifying and simplifying the process for them.

7. All human beings are basically self-centered.
While Christian people aspire to selflessness, most of us will react to a new value or idea with the question, “How will this affect my life?” You must remind your people regularly that life is not about them; life is about God’s great passion to see lost people become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

Once you understand these seven reasons people resist change, you can begin the process of moving them from unhealthy values to healthy values.

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