Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Implementing Change

Change is often necessary, but hardly anyone likes change.  We may say we do, but most of us, when push comes to shove, are pretty happy with doing things like we always have.  It's comfortable.  It's known.  But, change is a part of life and especially when you go into a new place of ministry, change is inevitable.  No, doubt the people you are working with will need to implement some changes, but you must be willing to change too.  And if you implement change in the wrong way, you can ruin your ministry even before it begins.  So, here are a few tips that have proven useful for me.

Change very little in your first year.
In one of my ministry classes, this was taught as a key part of church leadership.  If you come into a new place and start to make big changes right away, you have already driven a bit of a wedge between yourself and your new congregation.  In fact there is an old pastor's saying (no idea who came up with it) that says, "If you make two big changes in your first year of ministry, the third change will be you."  And this is indeed a true statement.  We like to come in and make everything work the way WE like it...after all that means that WE won't have to change.  But, it is really much smarter to wait to implement change.  After all, for the entire first year of your ministry, you are doing everything for the first time in your new location.  You need to see how things have been done in the past before you know what is working and what is not.  That's not to say that you can't put your own spin on things, but there is no reason to fix things that are not broken. Take note of yearly events.  What is working?  What needs improvement?  Then the next time that event rolls around implement those improvements.  But don't just change things because they are different than what you normally do.  You have to see the perspective of your people before they will be interested in your perspective.

Change only what is necessary.
If you move into a new ministry position and find that there are no safety procedures in place, that is something that needs to be changed as quickly as possible.  If you see that there is not a sign-in/sign-out area for the department, that is something that needs immediate change.  Or perhaps you find that the curriculum in use is not actually teaching the correct theology for your denomination (it happens more than you might realize), that would be a necessary change.  But if it is not a detriment to safety or the spiritual learning and growth of the children, it is probably a change that can wait. There are exceptions to this, of course, but choose wisely about what is necessary and what it simply a preference of yours.

When change is needed, do so slowly, prayerfully, and with your Senior Pastor's support.
Any change you make, will probably cause some sort of ripple in the department.  Sometimes it's positive, sometimes not so much.  Make sure you pray about any big changes before you implement them.  Is this what the Lord is leading for this church?  Or is it simply what you want?  If it is the latter, your chance of failing is pretty much off the charts, but if God is behind it, you are already ahead of the game. However, when you find it necessary to implement changes, make sure your Senior Pastor is supportive.  More than likely, if folks don't like the change, the Senior Pastor will hear about it before you do and you want him or her to understand, and be able to explain the changes people are seeing.  You need their support, so keep them in the loop.  And when you do make a change, you need to be able to explain why it was necessary.  "Because I like it better this way," is not going to be a good enough reason and neither is, "We did it like this at my last church and it was great."  You need to be able to show your people why, at this church, this change was needed.  If they understand the reasons, they will be more likely to embrace the change.

Make sure your Children's Council is on board with the changes.
These people are the backbone of your Children's Ministry and if they are not on board with any changes, no one else will be either.  Talk to them.  Get their advice.  And once you have come up with the strategy to implement the necessary changes, let them help you institute it.  They are also a great way to hear what others are saying.  Complaints (especially those about you or something you are in charge of) will often go to your team but not to you.  So, make sure your team knows that you want to know what they are hearing...good or bad.  Then be sure to listen to that feedback and make further adjustments if they are needed.

Change is never easy, but if you take your time, are prayerful in your decisions, and listen to those around you if can be done without too many problems.

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