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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Church Leadership Assumptions

I discovered a wealth of information from the leadership seminar notes of the Norfolk Area Baptist Association Minister’s Conference on May 13, 2010. This is pretty intriguing information about the relevance of the church in today’s culture.

The Church in America is in desperate need of a new model for the local church. We currently develop churches based on a model of ministry that was developed several hundred years ago, rejecting the fact that the society for which that model was designed no longer exists.

“The constant cry of the unchurched, ‘The church is irrelevant to the way I live’ cannot be addressed until the model itself is renewed to acknowledge that the times have changed. Our approach to meeting people’s needs with the unchanging truths of the gospel must reflect our sensitivity to that change.” — George Barna

Why don’t you go to church?

  1. Churches are always asking for money
  2. Services are boring and lifeless
  3. Services are predictable and repetitive
  4. Sermons are irrelevant to daily life as it’s lived in the real world
  5. The pastor makes me feel guilty and ignorant, so I leave church feeling worse than when I came

“There is much to be said for people feeling that they are part of a winning team. Adults these days are too busy and under too much pressure to cheerfully and willingly offer their free time to activities that continually fail.” – George Barna

False Assumptions in Church Leadership

Here is an excerpt from an article by Dave Travis. The article challenges us on several fronts and I think it merits your attention. Travis writes, “These false assumptions lead to misguided ministry, out of touch with those who need to be reached.” He shares the false assumptions and then contrasts them with his view of reality:

Assumption – We live in a church culture.
Reality – There are far more people out there with no connection to the church than we care to admit. Kennon Callahan said it best in his book, Effective Church Leadership, “The day of the churched culture is over. The day of the mission field has come.” Leaders need to do a gut check in order to see the persons in their neighborhoods as persons that we can reach. Leaders should represent the unchurched to the churches’ teams and committees, helping to keep focused on the need to reach them for Christ.

Assumption – People will be committed to a cause or a group.
Reality – In days like these, you can’t count on anything. Too often, the members of church leadership teams don’t show up. Some of our leaders are committed to too many ways of making a difference. When congregations have too many focus points, everything looks diluted. What are the one or two ministries where you can have an impact?

Assumption – People know reality is not what they see on TV or movies.
Reality – The media is defining what is real for many people. Frequent stories of violence and decay distort reality for many. In the movies and on TV we see sin without consequences leading many persons to believe that there should be no consequences in real life. Church leaders need to be able to communicate both sides of reality. No, there is not as much crime as some media portray but yes there are consequences to bad choices.

Assumption – We assume that our culture is word-oriented.
Reality – It is visual. Computers have revived writing as a skill but it is not a pen-and-paper effect. It is actually a visual effect. Bookstores are expanding, but profits are found in readers over 40 who buy for themselves and their children. The emerging generations respond to visual stimulation. We need to consider our communication styles and media within the church and to the larger community.

Assumption – We assumed the solutions to our life situations and problems are passed from an older generation to a younger.
Reality – The present culture is extremely mosaic and eclectic. With the half-life of technical and specialized education now lasting under five years, older generations are learning from younger people, not vice versa. We must be willing as individuals, in our committees and teams, and as a larger organization to seek out solutions from the best providers.

Assumption – We need to bring people into the church to make disciples.
Reality – We need to equip people to go out to make disciples in the world. It’s not what happens inside the four walls, but what happens outside that counts. We must equip leaders to be equippers of others who minister in the marketplace, in the neighborhood, and on the mission field.

Assumption – Eventually we will learn what we need and return to a stable state.
Reality – There is no stable state, and there probably never was one. Everyone, church leaders and church members, must be constantly learning to handle the changes in our culture. Change will only increase in the next decade. We must not build hope for a false utopia. A life lesson for all of us: when you find yourself in white water you’d better learn to row and keep on rowing.

New Year’s Resolutions

The beginning of a new year is traditionally a time for examining the past and resolving to make improvements in the coming year. Being involved in the ministry full time, I find that my evaluation of the previous year always finds me lacking. There is always more that I could have done, opportunities that I did not take, people to whom I did not serve. My assignment on staff at King’s Grant has three main areas: small groups, assimilation and leadership development. With the worthiest of intentions, I resolve to do this better in 2010:

I will be more of an equipper and less of a doer. Ephesians 4:11-12 says that the purpose of leaders in the church is to equip the people to do the ministry of the church–not for the leaders to be the ministers themselves. So I will seek to spend more time consciously empowering others in ministry. My first chance in 2010 is a meeting on January 3 with my Sunday School Director, Adult Department Director and Outreach Director to go over a proposed strategy for outreach, guest assimilation and member involvement in the church.

I will stop treating Christian service as optional. Jesus called his followers to complete life change, which is total spiritual transformation. In fact, he went out of his way to make sure people understood how much he demanded of them before they became his followers. Jesus made it clear that he expected people to be actively serving him. I like what Paul wrote in Romans 12:1, 2 and Ephesians 2:10. We are created to be different and to do good works. My Bible study beginning on Wednesday January 6 is on the sermon on the mount, which is probably the best “Jesus Manifesto” on what the Master wanted His followers to be and to do. For Christ-followers and church members, giving time to serve in ministry is not optional.

I will be an encourager. In a world full of negative attitudes and criticism, I will demonstrate Christ’s love by celebrating the accomplishments of others. I will give personal, meaningful affirmation. If someone fails to show up, my first reaction won’t be frustration that he or she let me down; it will be concern that something might be wrong. I will take more pleasure from their successes than my own. I will seek ways to publicly praise them. My goal will be to be an example of Barnabas, the one who was called the “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36, 9:27).

I will challenge people to serve with boldness. Rather than fill slots with people, I will boldly invite them to contribute their time, energy and efforts to the most significant cause in the universe. In John 6, Jesus called people to radical commitment and many turned back and no longer followed him. He then turned to the disciples and asked if they too will be leaving. I love Peter’s answer, “To whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). If Jesus’ focus was on the level of commitment people were willing to make, rather than the number of people who followed, then I will not be shy in asking people to give more of themselves.

I will devote resources to developing leaders. Equipping people for ministry is more than just giving encouragement. I will give people constructive feedback. I will pay their way to appropriate training events. I will purchase the tools needed for them to flourish. God has blessed this church financially, and we can find the appropriate seminars and training that people need to be successful in their service.

I will forgive myself for last year. Because I take ministry so seriously, it is easy to pile on guilt for the things I have failed to do or did wrong. But God chose to do this ministry through me, knowing that I’m a broken vessel. I will spend time now consciously determining what I need to learn from my mistakes, and then I will join God in casting them into the Sea of Forgetfulness.

I will remember the one thing. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus reminded Martha that while all her attempts to serve him were good, the one thing most important was developing a growing relationship with Jesus. I will remember that ultimately it is not about my ministry or my church. It is about me and all those around me developing a growing relationship with Jesus. With the Bible in 90 Days Challenge, I hope that I meet with God through the pages of His Word, more than accomplishing a goal of finishing the Bible in three months.

And perhaps I should add one more: I will keep these resolutions longer than the ones about dieting and exercise.

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Appointed or Anointed?

We have been studying the life of David in our Sunday morning Bible study and something struck me the other day. It’s no secret that Kim and I have been called by God to minister to the Lord through a local congregation, but if we are not careful, we can lose focus on how we got into the ministry in the first place. Let’s take a look at Saul for a moment…

In 1 Samuel 18:7, 8, 9, Saul is imploding as a leader. He’s got anger issues. He’s got jealousy issues. He’s got evil spirit issues. He’s a madman who’s got fear issues (1 Samuel 18:10, 11). I believe it is all because Saul forgot who had called him in the first place. He was more concerned about his popularity ratings with people than pleasing God. The people praised David more than the king (1 Samuel 18:7), “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands!”

This made Saul very angry. “What’s this?” he said. “The people credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!” So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.” Saul forgot who had made him king! Saul was afraid of the people appointing David, but Saul wasn’t appointed by people. He was anointed by God.

If you forget who called you, you’ll run into trouble. You’ll become a people pleaser. You’ll feel threatened because of your insecurities. And the fear of man will be your downfall. David was Saul’s greatest asset, but Saul was threatened because of his insecurities.

Mark Batterson at National Community Church in DC writes:

Can I offer this simple reminder to pastors? You weren’t appointed by a denomination or elected by a congregation or ratified by a board. You were anointed by God. And if you forget, you’ll leadership will implode. I’m not saying you aren’t accountable to a denomination or congregation or board. But never forget your ultimate accountability is to the one who anointed you in the first place.

For David, he understood the anointing (1 Samuel 15:17), “The Lord has anointed you king of Israel.”