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10 Keys to Managing Change in a Church

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Leading through change can be difficult. Leading a church through change can be near impossible. Churches in particular have a tendency to resist change because they get trapped by the comfort of past success, practices and traditions. It takes an incredible amount of wisdom, the art of timing, and plain old courage and grit.

Many churches I talk with want different results; they actually want to see more people meet Jesus and follow Jesus this year than last year. Unfortunately, they just aren’t willing to change, let go of old tactics and take a different approach.

Recently I had a conversation with a church staff team that is courageously leading their church through change. Here are a couple of things that came out of the conversation.

1. No Change is Perfectly Executed

No matter how well-planned change is, how good it looks on paper, or how much sense it makes in your head it’s not going to go the way you think it’s going to go. There is going to be a surprise. Something is going to take more or less time, cost more or less money, or be more or less difficult than you planned. Point is, work hard, plan your work, work your plan and then be flexible.

2. Communication is Key

During change management, communicating the right message to the right audience at the right time is essential and can take a lot of time. There are multiple audiences to communicate with including the church staff, the church board, lay leadership, volunteers, and the congregation to name a few. Some churches due to their polity and structures have even more groups to get on board.

3. Everyone Carries 2 Buckets Around with Them

Everyone carries around 2 buckets with them, a bucket of water and a bucket of gasoline. One fuels change the other puts it out. Water fuels change because it douses the fire of resistance. Gasoline puts change out because it fuels the fire of resistance. Anytime your staff listens to complaining and says, “I understand how you would feel that way” without redirecting them it pours gasoline on the situation and validates the complaint.

4. What about Me?

Most people are fine with change as long as it doesn’t affect them. One thing you can do to get on the solution side of positively leading through change is simply think those thoughts ahead of time. What are people going to embrace or reject about the change you’re trying to implement based on how it’s going to affect them (real or perceived), then address those pressure points.

5. It isn’t Easy

You know all those church conferences, books and blogs you read full of stories about how some pastor just turned things around at their church, “Jesus just paved the way.” Yea, it’s never really that easy. Change is hard, it takes time, and requires grit and courage. It is not for the faint of heart. Anyone who tells you any different hasn’t actually had to lead through change before.

6. The Ripple Effect

Change has a ripple effect that you often don’t seen until much later. It’s almost like painting one wall of a house you move into. It leads to another wall and another. And of course, then you need to change the flooring, the faucets, the cabinets, etc. Then it’s time to start on the outside of the house…ugh. Bottom line…change has a ripple effect.

7. The Minority can have a Majority Voice

In a season of change a small group of people can have a loud voice and make it seem like everyone is against you. The silent majority is typically with you and those who are positive about it rarely say they’re positive about it. It’s the negative few that always bark the loudest.

8. Lead Different with Different People

Remember what you read above? That communication is key in a season of change? Well it’s also key to remember that you don’t communicate to and lead every group of the same way. Anyone who has more than 1 kid knows you don’t parent every kid the same way…so why would you try to lead every group the same way?

9. Small Change can Reveal Big Issues

One small seemingly harmless change can tell you something about your church. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen church leaders try to change something that seemed small and innocent to them not to realize that they were stepping on a landmine that blew up. Make sure you truly understand not just what you’re changing things to become or how you’re going to change them but what it is your actually changing and why.

10. Training vs Challenging

Sometimes people don’t have the right information and they don’t understand why they should get on board with the change. Other times people don’t want to jump on board with the change because they have their own agenda.  Either way it can appear that people are digging their heals in and fighting you on the change you’re trying to make. What you’ve got to do as the leader is find out if they’re fighting due to ignorance or obstinace. You train ignorance and you challenge obstinance.

Interested in learning more about leading through change at your church? Check out these helpful articles.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing, Testimonial

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2 Big Leadership Questions you Probably aren’t Asking

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I want to thank my dad, David Alexander, for this guest post. Retired from a career with the Department of Defense in which he oversaw billions of dollars of government assets and hundreds of employees, today he enjoys fishing, his grandkids, and driving my mom crazy! Love you dad, hopefully some of your leadership experience rubbed off on me. And hopefully this post helps church leaders think a little differently about leadership.

Do you know who you work for?

Seems like a silly question, I know. Let me explain… I was once asked to work for the Under Secretary of The Navy for Research and Development for a few months in order to help with the work load. While there I worked for the Deputy Under Secretary, Rear Admiral Dave Oliver. My first assignment was to give a briefing about our lab facilities on the west coast to the new Under Secretary who was a new appointee under the Clinton Administration.

The Under Secretary had a very large office as far as Pentagon standards and had a great view of the Washington monument.  There were a number of Navy Captains, high level civilians as well as the Under Secretary in the room. Just before my brief, my boss, ADM Oliver told me to be sure to introduce my self and explain I was on loan from the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command to ADM Oliver. He was standing in the back of the room and had a smile on his face. As I started my brief, and introduced myself and who I worked for, the Under Secretary stopped me in mid sentence saying, “Mr. Alexander, I want you to understand, you don’t work for ADM Oliver you work for me!” Sometimes people, especially political appointees, feel the need to flex their positional authority mussels. The ADM was now laughing and trying to hide it and pointed at me from the back of the room. Nothing wrong with positional authority, sometimes it’s a way to get things accomplished. ADM Oliver totally set me up and he thought it was very funny. But there’s a real lesson here. No matter how large or small an organization, in which you serve, you need to know who you really work for and who your boss really is. I can tell you, it’s probably not your direct report! Maybe it’s others….or just maybe ADM Oliver was just trying to make me, the new kid, feel like part of the team, could be he just needed a good laugh, not sure. But that was the high point of the brief. From that point on, I always made sure who the boss really was.

What are your priorities ?

You can get all sorts of answers to the question of priorities in the work space. As the Executive Director of the Nuclear Submarine Base New London, Groton CT. I had the privilege of working with various unions and union leadership representatives. Having some important info I wanted to discuss with the union leadership representatives and members I asked that they meet with me at close of the business day for an hour and that I would pay them overtime for the hour.

We had two shifts on base so I asked each shift to meet with me at 1600 (4pm for those who may not know how the military tells time). To make a long story short my HR division head informed me that paying union members over time to attend a meeting was against the rules and that I can’t have the meeting. I thanked John, my HR Director, for his input, but that I was having the meeting anyway. He decided to report me to HR headquarters in Washington DC!

Bold move to say the least since I signed his pay check. I had the meeting and a couple of months later I received a phone call from the senior officer on the base. It was the ADM in charge of water space management for submarines in the Atlantic Ocean. Although not in my chain of command, since he was the senior officer on the base he had lots of positional authority (goes to knowing who your boss is). The ADM called me first thing in the morning one Monday and asked if I would come see him. He was just being polite. Of course when the ADM asks you to come see him your not going to say no. Sitting across from his desk he said “David did you have a meeting with the union folks and pay them overtime to attend?” I told him I did. Then he asked, “Would you do it again if you needed to.”  I simply said, yes I would. He then crumpled up a letter on his desk and made a perfect swish to the trash can (I’m thinking two points!) and said, “I thought so.” That was the end of our brief meeting that morning. I could tell because he stood up and turned to ask his administrative assistance something, so I simply exited his office. That’s how things are done lots of times.

I assumed it was a letter from HR headquarters talking about my transgression with paying the union folks. I later found out it was.

Even though I had much to do each day, one thing was always more important than the issue at hand. That was making people a priority. Knowing your priorities is key to success and I believe in most organizations the priority is your people. Do what’s best for them, sometimes it may have to be in spite of the rules. But if you do decide to break the rules, you need to be sure it’s the right thing to do.


Posted in Leadership, Testimonial

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Why I’m the Lid to Growth at my Church

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One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that it’s usually the Sr. Leadership Team of a church that is the ultimate lid to growth. Many of them don’t see it and most of them wouldn’t agree with what I’m saying, but it’s true. Whether or not the Sr. Leadership Team of a church is willing to let go of authority, ministry decision making, and truly empower and lead through others can make or break a church.

Early in our multisite journey at Sun Valley we hadn’t developed the Campus Pastor role or team yet. So, like in most growing organizations, that meant double duty. I was serving as the Campus Pastor at our original location and serving as the Executive Pastor at the same time. I love leading teams and coaching church staff members, so it was really a fun season. But before long it became apparent that if I didn’t let go of leading the Lead Team on our original campus I would become the lid to growth at Sun Valley. I wouldn’t have the bandwidth to provide the church what it needed. So as much as I loved leading with that team, I had to let go of that team and build a Team of Campus Pastors to lead the campuses through.

Over time as we added more campuses and we expanded our Executive Team another point of tension came along. Again, I had to let go of leading a team that I loved leading with. I had to let someone else lead the Campus Pastors so I could provide leadership to the Executive Team and Central Service Team at the church. I had to give up something I loved, leading with a great team of Campus Pastors, for something else that I loved even more, seeing the whole church continue to take ground and move forward.

I failed to mention that along the way I also had to let go of teaching. For years I was on the Teaching Team at Sun Valley and taught about 20% of the time at our weekend worship services. I’m more of a leader that can communicate than I am a communicator that can lead if that makes any sense and we have some absolutely fantastic communicators on the team. For the church to grow what was needed from me was more strategic leadership and less teaching. And so once again I found myself letting go of something that I love for something else that I love even more.

This same scenario has played its way out in different ways over and over again the past 20 years of ministry. The secret of leadership that no one ever tells you is that the higher you go in leadership the more you lose. There’s no going up without giving up. But if you’re made for it, it’s worth it.

Every time I’ve given up my personal preference for what’s best for the church instead of what’s best for me the church has grown. And every time I’ve been reluctant to do the same, the church has been held back. When I do what I do best, the one thing where I bring the greatest value to the church, the church takes ground and I find fulfillment. When I do what’s best for the church not only does the church win, but I win too. When I don’t, I’m embarrassed to say it, but I hold the church back from everything Jesus has dreamed up for it to be.

And I imagine the same is true of you.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing, Testimonial

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Multisite Webinar

A healthy multisite strategy can help you lead more people in your region to Christ. But launching new campuses can quickly turn organizational cracks into significant gaps.

What steps can you take to avoid getting stuck on your multisite journey?

In this free webinar, Tony Morgan will host Gavin Adams, Paul Alexander and Tammy Kelley for a conversation about the four most common mistakes The Unstuck Group has seen churches make when they launch campuses… and practical ways to avoid getting #multistuck yourself.

Wednesday, March 15 at 1pm EST
45 min. webinar +  15 min. live Q&A

Follow this link to register

When you register for the webinar, we’ll give you a free copy of our guide, 10 Multisite Readiness Checkpoints, a resource we share with all of our multisite consulting and coaching clients.

TONY MORGAN
Chief Strategic Officer,
The Unstuck Group

For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He’s written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.

 

GAVIN ADAMS
Lead Pastor,
Woodstock City Church

Gavin serves as the Lead Pastor of Woodstock City Church, a campus location of North Point Ministries. He is a Ministry Consultant with The Unstuck Group, and writes to help others make leadership and faith transferable at GavinAdams.com.

 

PAUL ALEXANDER
Executive Pastor,
Sun Valley Community Church

Paul has more than 20 years experience serving in the local church, the last 15 of which have been on the Sr. Leadership Teams of some of the nation’s leading mega-churches. Currently, Paul is serving as the Executive Pastor at Sun Valley Community Church, a large multi-site church located in the Phoenix area.

 

TAMMY KELLEY
Creative Arts Pastor,
Christ Community Church

Tammy has over 20 years of ministry experience serving in key leadership roles at Ginghamsburg Church, Willow Creek Community Church, Vanderbloemen Search Group, and in her current role as Creative Arts Pastor at Christ Community Church. Holding an executive MBA and practical church experience, she brings a good blend of business and arts to the team.

Posted in Leadership, Testimonial

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10 Articles that will Help Your Church Make Vision Real

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Thank you for starting the year off great and making January another great month here at Helping Churches Make Vision Real! It’s fun to stay connected with you through social media and hearing that these articles have been helpful. So, thank you for connecting with me through the content on this blog! You made these the top posts from this last month. If you missed out on any of them, here they are all in one place for your convenience!

Overcoming Leadership Lids of Competency and Character 

If you lead long enough, eventually you’re going to hit a leadership lid. It happens when you reach your capacity in a particular area. But what you do next has the potential to make or break your leadership future. Ignore it, deny it, make excuses about it, or refuse to acknowledge and deal with it and you’ll undermine your impact. Face reality and you’ll create a window of opportunity to grow and break through your leadership lid.

8 Keys to Changing your Church in 2017

Most church leaders I’ve talked with want things to change for the better, they want this year to be better than last year, but they don’t want to do anything different. People always want to change their circumstances, but they never want to change their lives. But everything gets better when we get better. Families get better when fathers and mothers get better. Students get better when educators get better. Organizations get better when leaders get better. And churches get better when church leaders get better. But change is painful. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. It’s always easier and more comfortable to stay where you are than to change and move forward.

Why I Love Working at Sun Valley Community Church

When I was a freshman in High School I prayed a prayer, begging God to let me to be a part of helping thousands of people meet Him. It’s crazy to think that all of these years later God is answering those prayers. Every year at Sun Valley Community Church we share wins from the previous year of ministry and I thought I’d share them with you. I hope this is encouraging to you, inspires you, and prompts you to pray for the ministry of Sun Valley.

8 Reasons Why People don’t Volunteer at your Church

I’ve never worked with a church that has said they don’t need more volunteers. But I’ve worked with a bunch of churches that have trouble getting people to volunteer and stay engaged volunteering.

The Difference between Preparation and Planning

Do great organizations prepare for the future or do they plan for it? The answer is, “yes.” To be clear preparation and planning are not the same thing, and great organizations become great by doing both.

How to get People to Follow You

Leadership can be a funny thing. It’s more than just influence. And while anyone can learn leadership principles the Bible teaches us that leadership is a spiritual gift. The easiest way to tell if you have the spiritual gift of leadership is to look and see if people are following you. But how do you get people to follow you?

10 Signs your Church is Headed for Decline

What if there were early warning signs (flashing lights on the dashboard) that helped indicate that trouble was ahead? In my experience Coaching Church Leaders and Consulting with Churches across the country I’ve seen the following 10 indicators of an impending decline over and over again.

When to Add Another Worship Service at your Church

Many churches are stuck in attendance simply because they haven’t maximized their current facilities and campus. Thinking about adding another worship service at your church? Here are five strategic concepts to consider before you do.

6 Keys to Selecting your Next Multisite Location

This past weekend Sun Valley Community Church (the church I have the honor of serving at) just launched their 5th location with over 2,000 people attending one of the three services! It was a successful initial launch but now the hard work begins. If your church is thinking about embracing a multisite strategy here are a few things you should consider when selecting your next location.

[Webinar Replay} Leading Change: 3 Shifts for Health and Growing Churches in 2017

Monday I had some fun hanging out with my friends Tony Morgan, as well as Carey Nieuwhof, and Gabe Kolstad from The Unstuck Group‘s consultant team, for a webinar about one of my favorite topics: leading change. We specifically dug into three big church changes that more than 600 pastors told us were the most important onesthey wanted to lead in 2017.

Photo Credit: justin fain via Compfight cc


Posted in Creative Arts, Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing, Testimonial, Volunteers
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