Embracing a Culture of Change

 In Blog, News and Events

Change.  We are told it is that only thing we can count on.  We change our socks, our wardrobe, our hair-style and our mind with regularity. We know people change, which is harder to anticipate, but imperative to adjust to as the elder statesman Pastor encouraged with his quip, “My wife has been married to 5 different men, and all of them were me.”

When we pull over and change a tire, we realize we are forced to change and endure the inconvenience because we did not anticipate the change.  However, when seasons change we plan for the necessary actions to accommodate that change in weather.

What if we could anticipate the changes coming our way in ministry, and could avoid a flat tire in the midst of bustling down the road in our ministry machine?  We must either be proactive and initiate change or outside factors will force us to change. There are 3 steps we can do to create a culture that will anticipate and embrace the new seasons that are surly coming to our ministry.


  1. Understand the nature of change and why people resist.

It is obvious that the world is changing at a rapid pace and it demands that we look at out organizations to see how like a jockey, we might adjust our riding style, as we continue the race.  In his groundbreaking book Leading Change, John Kotter begins by explaining that need for change is not likely to end soon because of the, “Powerful macroeconomic forces are at work and will grow stronger over the next few decades.”(Kotter, J. 1996)

“Flexibility is key to organizational survival. Organizations must continually master new technologies, respond to changing market conditions and competitors, develop new products and services, react to rising energy costs, and so on. Groups that fail to adapt (or change too slowly) are doomed to failure. As evidence of this fact, consider that one-third of the Fortune 500 industrials disappeared between 1970–1983, and that the largest industrial companies live less than half as long as the average person.” (Hackman, Michael Z.; Johnson, Craig E. Leadership: A Communication Perspective (Page 246). Waveland Press, Inc.)

While businesses that don’t change mostly cease to exist, too often ministries that don’t adapt to change cease being relevant, or effective in ministry for years and don’t even know it.

As humans we are creatures of habit and naturally resistant to change.  We get in a rhythm, get comfortable, don’t like taking risks, and believe since something worked once it will always work.  Too often we confuse the method with the message and think the method is what is sacred.

Too often our staff Take it as an indictment the are stupid or wrong with the introduction of a new way of doing something.  After all, they have been successful so far with current practices, so why change?

Ultimately, the fear of what change would look like paralyzes too many people, as they wonder will they be able to be succeed doing their job a different way, doing a different job, or will they even have a job in this new world?  It is a survival mechanism to protect status quo.


  1. How to communicate change?

Too often we truly underestimate the magnitude of effort chat change will demand. “Generating desire for something different is the most difficult aspect of leadership, because leaders usually have only seconds to make the case for a new idea and get the audience to begin exploring a different, perhaps a radically different, future.” Denning, Stephen. The Secret Language of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Action Through Narrative (J-B US non-Franchise Leadership) (p. 167). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Although well-meaning too often our team members will nod their head in agreement but will not change (passive aggressive).  They think they know better, will speak of how they know someone who ‘tried this before,’ and sometimes implement with halfhearted effort and the failure of the idea becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In communicating change, we need to understand that logic doesn’t work.  “People do less because of analysis they are given that shifts their thinking than because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings, ”adding,“The flow of see-feel-change is more powerful than that of analysis-think-change.” (Kotter, John, The Heart of Change, 1998) We must engage their emotions and thus engage their heart, not just their brain, if we are to see real change.

“Writers on leadership often suggest the need for “a burning platform” story to create a sense of urgency for change.”(Denning, Stephen. The Secret Language of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Action Through Narrative. Wiley) In fact Kotter lists creating urgency to motivate for change as the very first step in his 8 steps of change management.  (Kotter, J. (1996) Leading Change)  Establishing urgency is so critical for the success of any change effort, he later devoted an entire book to the topic (Kotter, J. Urgency.  2004.  HBS Press)

“Another process by which leaders seek to generate enthusiasm for change is to externalize the forces impeding the change.”(Denning, Stephen. The Secret Language of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Action Through Narrative. Wiley).

Although seeing change embraces looks formidable, “The art of leadership accomplishes what the science of management says is impossible” (Powell, Colin, An American Life).


  1. Building Culture of change

As leaders, we “Have the ability to create reality through their use of symbols, and this is readily apparent in the organizational context.” Hackman, Michael Z.; Johnson, Craig E.. Leadership: A Communication Perspective Waveland Press) This is essentially culture in our organizations.

“Neglecting to anchor changes firmly in the corporate culture,” is one of the biggest errors we make as we seek to develop our ministries (Kotter, J. 1996) He continues the by explaining that two factors importation in anchoring change are

  • A conscious attempt to show people how specific behaviors have improved performance (don’t assume they will connect the dots themselves)
  • The next generation of management really do personify the new approach….so you have leaders throughout that are reinforcing the changes you have implemented

In creating this change-friendly culture, “Leaders make it easy for people to experiment by taking whatever action is required in order t make people feel safe and secure.” (Kouzes and Posner the leadership challenge)

Finally, “The idea must become the audience’s own idea. Stimulating desire for change is a subtle process of putting one or more options in front of people and enticing them to co-create a new future.”(Denning, Stephen. The Secret Language of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Action Through Narrative Wiley.)

In order to have a nimble organization we must,  “Institutionalize reflection and continuous learning. Adaptive organizations emphasize ongoing learning and experimentation.”(Hackman, Michael Z.; Johnson, Craig E.. Leadership: A Communication Perspective Waveland Press, Inc.)

If our goal is to lead a ministry that is effective and potent, we must learn to keep a fluid culture, adopting change as the new normal. A bright future awaits your church with this new anticipation of change.

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