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.
I read just yesterday about several pastors who resigned their churches and “are available for interim or other full time work.” It broke my heart because I interpreted this to mean they had no other choices but to leave their position due to some sort of issue(s). I talked to a former pastor friend of mine the other evening and he left his pastorate for personal reasons but we talked about a lot of the dysfunction that is in the DNA of the congregation.
I read this leadership devotion just this morning and wanted to pass it on to you. Taking courage because His presence will not leave you:
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
Life in general is filled with highs and lows, but it can especially be apparent for those in Christian ministry leadership positions. Just look at how many pastors, youth ministers, and worship directors eventually leave ministry. The work wears on a person. The constant complaints of doing too little of this or too much of that can drain anyone. As a leader, you are expected to be there for everyone at every moment of the day. No one is able to be there at all times. Still, guilt fills the mind and causes you to doubt your ministry and your effectiveness.
Yet, we are not left alone in this world. Through the darkest valleys of life, through the most difficult times of ministry, God is with us. As we lead his people, we can rest knowing that God leads us. When things get tight, the problems don’t seem to go away, and we struggle with guilt–the false guilt of not being able to be there for everyone–God will comfort us. He shields us even during the assaults of bitter people and harsh words. He will always lead us in a path meant to protect us and keep us strong.
When the road is dark and tough, God will guide and protect you. When you feel overwhelmed with loneliness, the Lord is close beside you. When your heart is asking hard questions and you feel beaten down, God will sustain you. We don’t need to live in fear, for God is always with you. He is willing to comfort and protect you. He guides you through every mountain and valley of life. He is your true Leader/Shepherd. And the more you trust him as Lord, the more you will experience the wonder of having a Shepherd.