Step One in Leading Change

Back in October, Thom Rainer posted Seven Reasons Pastors Get Fired. The first reason pastors get fired is "Members who can't deal with significant change." He later notes, "They would rather see the church slowly die than suddenly become healthy."

But a primary role for a leader is to lead change. Pastors who take their leadership role seriously will need to lead their congregations through significant change. Even at the risk of losing their jobs.

But much of this can be avoided if the pastor takes the first step correctly. The reason churches struggle with change, the reason church members would rather accept slow death, is because leaders mistakenly shift the group into the new beginning before putting to rest the current situation.

Dr. William Bridges, in his book Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes, identifies three phases of a transition. They are:

  1. an ending
  2. a neutral zone
  3. a new beginning

Although we are talking about a church changing, you can see this clearly by looking at life's example. Childhood needs to end before a person becomes an adult. (In life, there are several transitions - child to teen - teen to young adult - and so forth.) The important thing to know is that before you begin, the current situation must end.

There is a church near me that is going through this very thing. They are in the midst of a serious change. And the pastor and his associate are preaching and teaching about the need for change. They are helping the congregation understand why the current situation must end. They are doing this before the new begins.

Leading a church through change might get you fired. But that can be avoided if you help the church first understand the necessity of ending. If you make the mistake of dragging your people into the future before you end the present you will surely get canned.

More on this in future posts. Also, look for podcast episodes on leading change. Below are links to the resources mentioned.

But let me close with this question: What is one thing you have done to lead your congregation through change?

Resources mentioned

- The Seven Reasons Pastors Get Fired, by Thom S. Rainer
- Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes, by William Bridges
- Managing Transitions, by William Bridges