You are leading in times of rapid change. It’s hard to keep up with new revelations, not just in technology but also in science, history, and culture. It is undeniable that things aren’t what they were this time last year and we will be saying the same thing next year.
As ministry leaders, you have gone through a lot of changes, some of them sudden and unwelcome. Yet you have navigated those changes, adapting your ministries, keeping your head above water, and maintaining perspective throughout. In fact, if you are even still serving in the same role you were three years ago, you can consider that a significant and unusual accomplishment. You didn’t quit! You’re still there!
Navigating Changing Times
As we move from the old year into the new year, I think of a sermon my friend Rev. Dr. Adam Trambley gave recently on the topic of transitions. He was preaching on the Apostle Paul’s reckoning with his upcoming death: “I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NRSV)
Rev. Dr. Trambley made the point that even though change itself may often happen suddenly, our getting used to change is a process… and sometimes a lengthy one. Here is how he helped his congregation understand change.
On the back page of your bulletin is a chart. This chart comes from William Bridges Associates and it deals with transitions. By transition, they mean our psychological, mental, emotional, and spiritual processes for dealing with change. Change often happens almost instantaneously. Our process of dealing with that change can take longer, however.
The chart shows three areas: Endings, Neutral Zone, and New Beginnings. We go through these areas whenever we experience change, whether a positive change like a getting a better job or a negative one like the death of a loved one or even a neutral one like moving a phone from one side of your desk to the other.
This process takes longer and is more intense for bigger changes, but all change requires a process. I’ve seen research that says if you move a phone from one side of your desk to the other, it can take six months before you always reach for the right part of your desk when the phone rings. We might need six months of transition for something as minor as reorganizing a desk.
Faithfulness during transition
Transitions are hard on a person. In the midst of many transitions, my prayer for you is that you stay rooted in one who called you and continually inspired by the finished work:
Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:1-5)
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.
A Way with Words– Rev. Dr. Adam Trambley’s recent book demonstrates the power of the weekly sermon to change the culture of a congregation. Using the analogy of language learning, Adam Trambley shows how a consistent ministry focus over an eighteen-month period can help a church address areas that inhibit growth even as the pastor preaches on a diversity of subjects or uses a lectionary. I highly recommend!