How to Lead Through Change: A Lesson From Preaching

The answer to leading your church through change can be found in an elementary principle of modern preaching. How to Lead Through Change: A Lesson From Preaching

You may or may not be following this principle in your preaching or your leadership, but if you want to lead people through significant change you have to adopt this principle. If you ignore this, you and your church will get left behind in a rapidly changing culture.

It will make the difference between you creating a movement and you creating a whole lot of nothing.

It will make the difference between you getting people excited and you getting people confused.

It will make the difference between you implementing what God is leading you to do and you growing frustrated with the people you lead.

So, what is it?

How to Lead Through Change: A Lesson From Preaching

A basic elementary principle in modern preaching that is vital to leading through change is this:

CREATE TENSION

We’ve talked about this idea on episode 1 of our podcast. Creating tension in your sermon should happen before you ever get to the text of Scripture. One of our values at The Crossing is practical teaching. One of the best ways I know how to make sure the text of Scripture is practical and helpful is to bring it in as the solution to a problem we face. 

Let’s face it: people aren’t reading the Bible often at all. Just look at the graphic below:

Bible Engagement
Credit: Facts and Trends

Many of the people in your congregation don’t care about things just because they are true. They care about what is helpful. They are bombarded with information on a daily basis, much of it is true information, yet they find themselves facing common problems. What if our preaching displayed the fact that Scripture is helpful to know, read, study, and live by? The way you do this in your preaching is through creating tension in the beginning of your message.

This translates perfectly to leading people through change. 

Odds are you have a ton of great ideas. You’re probably working through some important change that needs to happen in your congregation so that you can be more effective in reaching the lost, discipling your congregation, getting people plugged into serving, etc… 

Your great ideas are just that – great. But if you don’t get anyone else on the same page as you, you’ll quickly grow to become frustrated and stuck. The way you avoid this is by creating tension before you ever bring up the change you desire to make. 

As leaders who are focused on making the necessary changes in order to further God’s kingdom, you’re probably so excited about the change you want to make that you cast the vision for the change before you ever bring people up to speed with where you’re coming from. 

Maybe you know this, maybe you don’t: people aren’t thinking about your local church like you are. They aren’t analyzing attendance patterns, giving patterns, assimilation effectiveness, serving involvement, or leadership pipelines.

The biggest mistake leaders make when leading through change is not casting the problem before casting the solution.

If people don’t see what you see, they won’t readily see the need for change that you see. You HAVE to be intentional at creating tension before you share the grand solution that you’ve been working on.

Leading Through Change the Right Way

The way leaders usually brainstorm through what things need to be changed goes like this:

Problem -> Possible Solutions -> Decided Solution

The way leaders usually cast vision for the change they want to make goes like this:

Decided Solution

Is it just me or or do you also see the disconnect here? It shouldn’t surprise us when the people in our congregations aren’t on the same page as us when we never even get them on the same chapter as us. 

The way leaders should cast vision for change is the same way they brainstormed through the change in the first place:

Problem -> Possible Solutions -> Decided Solution


Maybe you’re working on expanding the services you offer on a Sunday morning and this means there will not only be an additional service, but also a change in service time. 

Current Situation: One service at 10am

Problem: One service is keeping the church from reaching more people. There isn’t enough room in the sanctuary, children’s areas, teen areas, etc…

Solution: We will offer two services instead of one. The new service times will be 9:30am and 11:00am. 

Tension: God has called us to further His kingdom by making disciples. What we know to be true is that a lot of people’s first connection to hearing the Gospel is through coming to a church service. We want more people to know the love of God. But we have a problem that is keeping us from doing this, from sharing the Gospel with our hurting, broken community. The problem is we are running out of room in the sanctuary (or children’s area, teen area, etc…). As a church, we desire to [insert mission statement] and we are being held back from being able to effectively do this because [insert problem]. 

We could always expand the size of our building or seek a different piece of property, but I think we have a much better solution – a solution that would be much cheaper, much more efficient, and much more effective. This is what we believe we need to do: [insert solution].


If you can get people believing in the problem that you know is present and is necessitating the need for change, you will be so much more effective in leading your congregation through change. 

It takes an absolute commitment to being intentional and following the process. You have to keep that grand solution for the end. You have to lead with the tension, you have to lead with the problem. People have to see what you see so they can see the necessity for change. 

When you lead through change in this way, you’ll find that people aren’t as opposed to change as you once thought. They’re just opposed to unnecessary change. I’m afraid that too many pastors have tried to lead their congregation through change without ever bringing them to an understanding of why the change is necessary in the first place.

So go change stuff. Just make sure you do it the right way.

Written by Brandon Kelley

Brandon Kelley is the co-founder of Rookie Preacher and the author of Preaching Sticky Sermons and Crucified to Life. He serves as the Spiritual Development Pastor at a fast growing church in Batavia, Ohio, called The Crossing. Among the many things he does at The Crossing, serving on the teaching team is one of them. He also writes at BrandonKelley.org. You can follow him @BrandonKelley_. Watch his sermons here.