When it comes to managing change, thinking carefully about who and what it will impact is key. You may be integrating a new e-Giving solution, introducing an outreach program or starting a different worship service, but in every case, emotions will be involved, and people will seek understanding and time to process what the change means to them.As Karl Vaters says in a recent Christianity Today blog, “Doing something slowly and right is always better than doing it fast and wrong.”
In part one of our two-part series on innovation, we looked at why a change mindset is so important for the church. In this second installment, we offer four steps your church can take to gain buy-in from members and manage the processes needed to see ideas through to reality.
Step One: Create a plan
Implementing change requires strategic planning. Document every step necessary, along with the resources you have and need. And make sure your project plan includes communication, which is critical to creating buy-in and acceptance:
Identify all the people and groups in your church who will be impacted by the change you’re proposing. While you’ll most likely want to communicate with everyone, some groups might warrant special consideration. For example, if you’re rebuilding your sanctuary and moving the choir from the balcony to front and center, you’ll want to make sure choir members understand why so they can support the project.
Decide how you’ll communicate with them about it. Your usual methods may well suffice, but you might also need to hold special meetings with affected groups or familiarize yourself with a new communications tool, such as survey software.
Determine how you’ll get their feedback. Giving people the chance to offer their input helps them feel involved and can increase the chance they’ll accept and support the change.
Share your plan with staff and influential members to build support for it.
Step Two: Form your team
Now’s not the time to go it alone; you need to bring those key influencers together. Your change management team should be a balanced mix of leaders, staff (ministry and lay) and volunteers who represent the demographics of your community. Take the time to understand the personalities of your team members and church leaders, how they make decisions and what role they might play in the change process. As a blog on MinTools describes, you generally can classify stakeholders based on their spiritual gifts, leadership abilities and priorities.
Visionary leaders are the change makers. Their primary concern is the change itself and how it will help the church grow. They may be inclined to “build the airplane in the air” — wanting to make changes, then figure out how to address challenges as they arise.
Administrative leaders are the change planners. Their main concern is figuring out how to implement change efficiently. They can be relied on for plans and processes, but may not be as good at paying attention to how efforts affect congregants.
Shepherding leaders are the change navigators. These people ultimately control change adoption. Because they are focused on helping people cope with the change, they may want to move slowly and need a gentle push from others on the team.
Step Three: Communicate the change
Here’s where you start to widen your communications beyond the change management team. Take the conversation to your congregation and illustrate what the church will look like in the near and more distant future as a result of the changes. Communicate those intended results to everyone who will be impacted. Listen and answer questions; based on initial feedback, you might need to adjust your plan before you implement any changes.
Step Four: Implement the change
Implementation is not the last step. It is the first in a new phase. As when you started, remember that communication is perhaps the most important priority. Act patiently and with respect to allow people to process the change and be willing to listen while remaining firm about acting on plans.
With care, you can enact change, knowing you have allowed ample time to make sure your congregation understands what is happening and when, why the church has made the decision and how it will impact them. With an approach built on respect and trust, your church can establish a productive template for managing change and enabling progress.
For more information on implementing change in your church, check out our white paper, Leaving the Comfort Zone, which discusses how to replace old traditions with new, particularly when it comes to e-Giving.