|Courtesy of Jarvist Frost|
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Dealing with Change
I am getting ready to go through a major change process at church. As I reflect on this, I realize that it is going to be difficult. I think that most people resist change and things have been going well at church since the major split about 10 years ago. So with this change comes a reflection on how to deal with it. As I think about this, I reflect on the way that Jesus instituted change in the Bible. Jesus gives us the ultimate example of how to deal with change. So here are some thoughts I have gathered about dealing with change as I look at Jesus as the example.
1. Gather a group of key people around you and explain the change. Jesus gathered some disciples and started to explain to them the change in the way that things were going to change. No longer were the concerned with the law per se as much as it was taking care of the least of these and feeding the hungry and taking care of the sick. We need to make sure that we have strong leadership in the change process, that the people who are going to help make decisions on how to deal with the change are prepared for the process and are doing so in the best interests of the church and the ministries that we have worked hard on.
2. Deal with current realities and then what could be. Jesus did his best to show the disciples the current reality of the situation. There were people who needed care, who needed food, who needed physical and spiritual healing. Then he talked about how taking care of these people and loving them as their neighbor would help to usher in the Kingdom of God. Jesus continually talked about the current reality and what would be the new reality with the change. While the current reality may seem nice at church, we have to recognize that there can be a newer and better reality and instead of letting people spend time thinking about what was, we need to help them to think about what could be.
3. Jesus modeled the change. Jesus not only taught the disciples about the way that they needed to change, he lived it out. He took change by the horns and dealt with it himself. He feed the hungry, healed the sick, point out the hypocrisy of the religious elite and did so even at his on detriment. If we want to lead people through change we have to be the leaders who model the change as well and not stand back while others do it.
4. Jesus always talked about the change in everything he did. He explained to the disciples why he did things. He told them how this fit into God’s plans and he kept drilling it into their minds that everything that they were doing had purpose even when the disciples did not feel confident about what was going on. Jesus never let them doubt themselves or the changed. Even then they doubted themselves. We have to make sure that even when it seems like it is the darkest that we keep telling our folks throughout the change process the importance of change and what the future reality will be if we just persevere through the process.
At the same time we have to be careful of the potential risks with change.
1. When confronted with change people sometimes leave never to be heard from again. Jesus told the Rich Young Ruler what to do. When confront with change, he left and we never hear from him again. When we talk to people about change, there is always the fear that they will leave and not be heard from again.
2. When change does happen we can revert to do what we have always done rather than accepting the change and being transformed by it. Just look at the disciples. Even after spending years with Jesus, watching the miracles that he did, once he was crucified and buried they went back to what they were used to doing, fishing. Despite the training that Jesus had given them and all the work that he did with them to prepare them for change, they just did what they always did. We have to realize that change means something is going to change and includes us. We have to be open to the change and realize that it is going to make us different people, but that is not a bad thing. We have to let it shape us and we have to become better for it. We should not revert back to our old habits hoping it will be the same as it was before the change occurred.
3. Finally change can come at a cost. Change cost Jesus his life and the lives of many of the disciples and early church mothers and fathers. While I do not think we will be put to death for the change we are going through, it might feel like a part of us is dying because of the change. We are to accept that it will be difficult and it may cost us some things, but we can come through it and be better for it.
Change is hard; we don’t deal with it well. However, Jesus gives us some ways to deal with change. If we embrace it and continue to pray for our church as we go through the change, we can find a way to come through it and continue on with doing the work that God has entrusted us to do on the Lord’s behalf.
What things do you do to help with change? How would you help a church going through transition?