You’ve seen this situation before: A beloved pastor of many years has gone and now there’s a new pastor. The congregation is finding it hard to readjust. Even small changes in direction feel threatening. There is uncertainty about where the church is going. What will happen? Is this a good direction? Should we trust this new pastor? What will we be losing if we do?
In the face of change, we very often run into strongholds of fear. Yet we need to find ways to face the fear in order to get traction and move forward. That can be confusing; it can feel uncomfortable; it can even feel like disloyalty. But the questions need to be asked in order to move forward in any direction at all, as opposed to being stuck.
Getting congregational buy-in is a big job. It’s also a process that many leaders aren’t comfortable with or aware of. Yet it needs to be intentionally engaged to move forward. That process begins by identifying who the key leaders and influencers are—whether official or unofficial. Who has the voices that are being heard? These are the people you’ll need to get on board if you want to accomplish anything at all.
How do you go about getting this alignment? One of the most significant processes is listening. That requires time and relational investment. It requires asking the hard questions and dealing with the fears and losses that are involved in taking any new direction—no matter how beneficial it might be. It’s still different; therefore, it still feels threatening.
Most of the time, creating buy-in means listening to those fears and acknowledging them. Sometimes just knowing you’ve heard their concern and can verbalize it back to their satisfaction, can alone be enough to lower people’s anxiety because they know they’re understood. “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). Part of that process is to acknowledge what you’re dealing with, confirm that you’ll love each other through the process, then ask them for help and input: “So how then do we get from A to B? If B is something God wants for us, how do we get there?”
In this way, suggestions for change can come from within. A positive future is something that others are increasingly recognizing that they want too. There’s a good future ahead, and it can come through them. Having change come from within rather from without is a way to help your people take hold of the revitalization process and make it their own.