How to Lead Effectively Through Resistance to Change

They say 10% of people hate change, 10% of people love any kind of change and 80% of people do not really care. In the church this is  an important concept to keep your eye on.

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As leaders we should be consistently evaluating our work as well as the work of the organization that we lead. Naturally this will lead to wanting, desiring, and needing to implement change. The problem with church work is that many people are resistant, no, VERY resistant towards any kind of change in the church.

You want to preach in a polo this week? No you cannot do that. You want to install new carpet in the auditorium? Nope. You want to do a jazz worship service? Nah.

Okay, so maybe none of us  are trying to implement a jazz worship service but you get my point. No matter how progressive, how accepting, how innovative your church setting is there is still going to be some resistance to change you try to implement, it just might come from different places.

For instance: some people might struggle with resistance from their board, some might struggle with older members in the congregation, some might struggle with a particular powerful faction in the church, some might struggle with other staff.

I want  to look at some principles of how to lead effectively through resistance because it is something that we will all deal with, and it is something that very much, if not done well, can lead to fractures, splits, or just general ineffectiveness in ministry.

Formulate Your Proposal Well Before Presenting It

This is very important. I’ve seen frustrated leaders in the aftermath of their ideas being rejected come to me angry and say “they just are not open to anything”. This could very well be the case, but many times I find out later that the idea they presented was half-baked and incomplete.

Now, I am not saying you need to take a final proposal in with you to every board meeting, but do come prepared and be prepared to address questions and concerns that might come up. Any idea that you cannot even fully explain to fruition or how it is going to add to the mission is not worth presenting yet.

Make sure you have a clear, fully defined plan to present before you go in.

Do Bring in Other People Along the Way

By no means am I suggesting that it should be an idea only inside your head until it is a fully functioning concept. Bring other people on board along the way. This is especially helpful if you find the 10% who do like change and give them some ownership in the project as well.

A good idea is to form coalitions behind the change you want to implement.

Create Individualized Proposals For All Your Projected Resistance

If you are thinking, “Oh well I am not even going to try this change  so and so will never go for it” maybe try a different approach.

Sit down and write out what the people who are going to push back are going to say. What are their challenges to the change going to be. It is good to think through these things before you propose the change.

Clearly Communicate How the Change Will Reach People For Jesus

This is THE KEY when we are looking at leading through resistance to change.  If you and your team can clearly explain how the change will help advance the name of Jesus here on Earth then that is what really matters.

If you can do all these things including clearly communicating how changes will advance the Kingdom of God here on Earth and you still get rejected over and over again it may be time to move on. Harsh, maybe, but this is a fast way to experience burnout and complacency in your leadership and ministry.

How have you lead through resistance to change? Let us know in the comments.

Written by Joe Hoagland

Joe Hoagland

Joe is a pastor at Grape Grove Church of Christ in Jamestown, Ohio. He is newly married to his awesome wife Jenna and together they have 2 spoiled dogs and a cat.

He loves to lead people to Jesus and preach God's word.

You can often times find Joe hiking, camping, writing, reading, or enjoying technology.