Bringing Change


Through my 18 years of church and non-profit experience, along with my time as a church consultant I have learned a lot about the right and wrong way to bring change. Today, I want to share what I have learned as necessities to bringing impactful and long-lasting change. If you are a leader, your survival may depend on how you bring change.  Why is that?  People do not like change and if you bring it about poorly you will lose the people. 

Here are six things you can do to be a positive change agent: 

Mission and Values:

Does the change you want to bring drive your mission forward and align with your values? If the answer is no, you need a new idea.  If it is yes, now you have something you can share and inspire people with. The mission and values of your church should always serve as a filter for your ideas. 

Be Relational:

If you want to bring change successfully you must build relationships. People need to know you are there for them, not for your own agenda.  During this stage it is important to learn by listening and being empathetic.  Remember, change is hard on people!

Culture Matters.

In real estate the most important thing is, location, location, location!  In bringing change it is, culture, culture, culture!  This is especially important as you consider bringing change that has worked with another church or helped you at your last position. Just because it worked elsewhere does not mean it will in your current context. Assessing the current culture will help you formulate a good change strategy.

Bring small change people will love.

You need to show people that change is not the enemy and can be the best thing for them.  What change can you introduce to your organization that most people will love?  This type of change can take many forms, but make sure it is a slam dunk for everyone. 

Do not be a loner.  

Change always has a better chance to succeed with collaboration. Why is it important to collaborate? First, it gets the support of more stakeholders.  This helps with buy-in and you will have others casting the vision for you.  People will be skeptical if all the ideas and plans come from you alone.  Second, a team will have your back.  Conflict is inevitable, but why deal with it alone?  Third, you have weaknesses where others are strong.  Maybe you have a lot of ideas, but execution is not your strongest skill.  Having a team will help you overcome that. Teams can accomplish more than you can ever do alone.  Finally, building a team is a great way to develop more leaders and help the organization thrive after you leave someday. 

Celebrate the “Wins.”

Change is hard and celebrating “wins” is a way to help show your people that it was worth the pain.  This is another way to show that change can be good!  Leadership can be frustrating and lonely, and celebrating “wins” can give you a hope and an ability to persevere.  Finally, when people see the “wins” it builds their trust in you as a leader and your influence will expand.  

Being a change agent can define your time as a pastor.  I hope these steps can help you succeed at bringing the change your organization needs.

Bob Van Baren is a church consultant and coach at his company Vision 2-10. He also has 18 years’ experience in church ministry and non-profits, along with a Master of Arts in Leadership and Organizational Development from Bethel Seminary. 

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