We all know that change is inevitable. Whether we initiate it ourselves or someone else forces us to change, the ancient philosopher Heraclitus’ words certainly ring true: There is nothing more constant than change. So, think about a change that you enjoyed, and now think about one you didn’t. What was different about them? Why did you like the first and resist the other? Let me offer four potential reasons:
1. You lacked a common goal.
This could have happened because (1) the change wasn’t communicated or (2) everyone didn’t agree on the goal. Everyone sets goals for themselves, and churches are no different. Whether it is being more involved in the community or having vibrant ministries, we are all working towards something. If a change is not clearly communicated, it makes it difficult for people to support changes when they do not understand “the why” (even if a deep-rooted passion to support the change exists). God provides a proper example in Genesis 12. He clearly articulates to Abraham his plan for him and for Israel. In addition, people need to agree on the goal. Of course, you’ll never get everyone to agree, but it is important to genuinely consider opposing opinions and compromise where possible. People appreciate feeling like they have been heard and a conversation that thoroughly discusses their concerns goes a long way in arriving at a shared goal.
2. You lacked a good plan to achieve your goal.
We have all been there. A plan is communicated, but important items were not considered. More often than not, those leading the change either assumed you cared about something you didn’t or didn’t realize you cared about something you did. In my prior career, my role was to help organizations understand how to change effectively. This required not only understanding what was being changed, but the people who were being impacted. The plan was only as good as the level of collaboration. Jesus is a prime example of this. While he could have accomplished his missional purpose without our assistance, he instead commissioned his disciples to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. Likewise, we would be wise to work with others to identify their needs before making unilateral decisions that affect someone else.
3. You lacked the resources to enact your plan.
For example (and this is just an example), let’s say Immanuel desired more vibrant worship in their members, and the plan was to change the style of music. The next questions would be: Is there anyone in the church who could lead that genre of music? Do they have the proper instrumentation for it? How will we transition from our current style to our new style? It’s important to consider all these details, otherwise the change will fail. But, even more important than these details are the people involved. You need people who have a heart and a passion for what the goal of the change is setting out to achieve. After all, preparing people’s hearts is just as important as preparing their minds. New behaviors begin to take root when the gospel truth catches fire within our hearts. The hearts of the people are a viable resource to tap into, so it is important to understand what matters to them and educate them on how reasons for a particular change are guided by the Gospel.
4. You weren’t prepared for the change to occur.
Change is a process, but that does not mean effective change must happen slowly. For example, moving out of your parents’ house can seem daunting unless they took the time to prepare you to be successful by equipping you with tools like budgeting, critical-thinking, and sound decision-making skills. It is the same for any change. What matters most is not the speed at which the change occurs but that the time was taken to prepare and equip people for the future. Going back to our example about Jesus missional purpose, he spent three years teaching his disciples and preparing them for a time when he wouldn’t be physically with them anymore. Not that they were alone for the Holy Spirit was provided as a guide. Similarly, we should remain involved even after the change occurs.
So, think back to your examples of a change you enjoyed and a change you didn’t. Do these reasons resonate? What can you do to overcome these barriers? What can you do to reduce the negative impact of change? How can you, with Christ as your example, prepare those in your life for changes that may come? Understanding why people oppose change shows us what not to do and will ultimately help people in being able to make the switch.
Jonathan White, Pastoral Intern
Immanuel Baptist Richmond