A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a challenge to brainstorm ways to thrive as if things were to stay the way they are now for the next three to four years. Innovation means change. To make any effective change—from worship, to small groups, to children’s ministry—you would need to get people on board. And one of the biggest mistakes leaders make here is thinking you need to get everyone on board. You don’t. You just need to get the right people on board.
One of the biggest mistakes leaders make when navigating change is thinking they need to get everyone on board. You don’t. You just need to get the right people on board. Click To Tweet
Not having people on board will lead to a false start
Let’s say you decide to create a new approach to discipleship—one that is less big church-building based and more grassroots one-on-one. What you do not need to do is assign everyone in your church a discipler and a disciple and tell them to get started doing discipleship this way now. If you try it, you will hit your head hard against a thick stone wall of resistance. Your initiative would likely be over before it started. And a pattern of false starts builds distrust.
Sometimes we try new things with too broad a scope. Even big ideas start small and grow. Not everyone will try something new at the beginning, and that’s okay. Come up with something simple and scalable; start small, experiment with it as it goes, and let it pick up momentum from there. With any change, start small. Don’t start with everyone.Even big ideas start small and grow. Not everyone will try something new at the beginning, and that’s okay. Click To Tweet
Having the right people on board builds interest and excitement
To bring about change you need to get trailblazers on board, the ones willing to try something new. You need the pioneers. Let the rest of the people continue doing what they’re doing. Eventually, they will look to the pioneers and ask themselves, I wonder how things are going out there? They’ll look into it. Then they might decide to join them.To bring about change you need to get trailblazers on board, the ones willing to try something new. Click To Tweet
A small boat easily maneuvers around obstacles
Launching initiatives with a small group of pioneers gives you the dual advantage of letting more people opt in voluntarily as they see it working and the chance to work the kinks out of the system while it’s still smaller in scope.
For instance, let’s take the example of a new approach to discipleship. You find about a dozen people willing to try out a new way and start with them. You find that it mostly works well, but discovered that assigning disciplers and disciplees isn’t working well. It feels too hierarchical for your people. So instead you adjust the approach by shifting into groups of three and doing it as peer discipleship. As the system improves, more people express interest and it grows from there more organically.Launching initiatives with a small group of pioneers gives you the dual advantage of letting more people opt in voluntarily and the chance to work out the kinks in the system. Click To Tweet
Why we need trail blazers
A helpful read for this approach to getting people on board in changing ministry contexts is Tod Bolsinger’s book, Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territories. He revisits the story of Lewis and Clark’s expedition to find a waterway to the Pacific Ocean. Instead they found the Rocky Mountains. They had to shift strategies because the environment around them was no longer what they had prepared for and expected.
We are now in a similar season in Christian ministry—we are prepared for all the wrong environments and we need to figure out how to adapt. Certainly, some mistakes will be made as we go, but we need some people to get on board with us to explore the new terrain, brainstorm possible solutions, and try to innovate new approaches. When we have done that, we will have cleared the way for more people to follow in our footsteps.Today in Christian ministry, we are prepared for all the wrong environments and we need to figure out how to adapt. Click To Tweet
How do I start?
First, begin by thinking fundamentally about what the mission really is. Post it in large font and a bright color. Then, work through these questions to help you move forward together toward a new beginning:
- What are we as the church really trying to accomplish?
- What are the effective methods in this climate?
- How might we be able to help people take the next faithful step?
- Who might be willing to journey alongside us as we figure out how to do that?
This blog entry is part of a series called “Journey toward a new beginning.” Each entry explores a different topic in light of the Covid-related question: “What if things stay the way they are for the next three to four years? What would you do?” You can see the original blog entry here.
Change Management: We have several resources to help you navigate effective change. To learn where you need to focus, I suggest that you start with the Change Management Effectiveness Profile and then work through the Change Management Skills Builder. If you are coaching others in this season, you will find the Change Management Coaching Guide with Storyboard to be a powerful tool.