If you are a Senior Pastor, you need to facilitate healthy change. It should come as no surprise that it lands in the top twelve competencies of a senior pastor. It’s not only churches in crisis or transition that are in need of change. Every church needs to be moving actively toward healthy growth and change, and all Senior Pastors need to be equipped to lead congregations through that process well.
Facilitating Healthy Change
For the purpose of the Senior Pastor Profile, Facilitating Healthy Change means guiding others to transition toward greater organizational fruitfulness and productivity.
The Apostle Paul describes the ongoing growth of individuals toward all God has for them:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Church communities function in much the same way:
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
None of us is perfect—individually or corporately. We all stand in need of transformation to more closely resemble the example of Jesus. The way toward that kind of sustained growth is through humility and the willingness to stand open and ready to let God do his work in us. Senior pastors, as the primary leaders of local congregations, play a unique role in that process. They are called to a posture of openness, humility, and sensitivity to the voice of the Holy Spirit, who calls us forward. Only with such a posture personally can a senior pastor effectively lead a whole group of people along this path.
6 Habits that Demonstrate Facilitating Healthy Change
What does it look like for someone to facilitate healthy change? Although it’s a bit different for everyone, here are some of the features held in common:
1. Prepares others in advance of change
Announcing change is a shot across the bow. It’s alarming. All hands are called on deck and readied to fight for their lives. The analogy is dramatic but accurate. This is because the first step in change is loss. When you announce a change you are asking people to let go of something they are used to, maybe something they love. You may be right, your idea may be wonderful but if you fail to slow down to account for the losses, honor what was and is, and help people see the need for change, you are leading your church into stormy waters.
2. Encourages others through the process
Change is hard, and change is slow. People will need encouragement along the way. Just like initiating change isn’t a sudden announcement, neither is helping others accept change. It will require time, patience, validation, empathy, and encouragement. As the senior pastor, you’re in it for the long haul.
3. Confronts resistance to change appropriately
There will always be people who resist change. For many of them, it’s simply part of their nature. They’re not trying to derail your efforts; they’re trying to protect something valuable to them from being taken away. How you respond to this resistance makes the difference between eventual allies and long-term enemies. Rather than being strident and preachy, engage in dialogue that involves listening to the concerns of others and take those into account. Your change process will be stronger for it.
4. Monitors progress during the process
Just as it will take a while for people to accept change, not all the transitions will happen at once. Change comes in waves. Pay attention to the ebbs and flows so you can anticipate what’s coming next and recover in between each wave. Have some sense how long such transitions will take and prepare those you are guiding through it.
5. Makes mid-course corrections as necessary
One thing that’s absolutely certain is something unexpected will take place. Nothing ever goes as smoothly in real life as it did on the spreadsheets. Expect that and don’t let the bumps throw you off course. Recognize that you’ll need to make adjustments as you go to accommodate the inevitable surprises you never saw coming.
6. Celebrates important milestones
Change is exhausting. Even those who lead change get worn out; imagine those who are naturally prone to resist it. If you don’t stop to celebrate, your people will run out of energy and drop off along the way. They need the sense of accomplishment that goes along with all of the hard work.
How well do you facilitate healthy change?
If you would like to assess yourself in this area, take some time to reflect on the following questions. Write out your answers for more complete processing, or talk them through with someone if you’re more of a verbal processor.
- When have you prepared others in advance of change? What did you do and how did it work?
- What kind of encouragement and celebration have you provided alongside a lengthy project or process?
- What strategies have you effectively used to confront resistance to change?
- When have you needed to make mid-course corrections during a change process when not everything went as planned?
- How might you grow in this area?
Facilitating healthy change is one of the twelve qualities that have been proven to be essential to successful and healthy senior church leadership. To learn more, read The BEST qualities in a Senior Pastor. Next week, look out for another crucial quality for senior pastors.
If you are frustrated because of resistance to good and necessary change, you are not alone. And there is help! Discover exactly where you need to grow to better facilitate healthy change using the Change Management Effectiveness Profile then use the results to focus your growth using the Change Management Skills Builder. If you are a coach, the Managing Change Coaching Guide with Storyboard is a powerful tool to help others grow in this key ability.