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What to do...when change hurts

We are so often to speak of the need for change, to consistently be moving with the culture and contextualizing ministry.  When we do go for changes, what do we do when it hurts?  Is there a time to pull back?  Is there a time to push forward?  Is there a time to deal with obstacles?  When is that time to "plow" around the "stumps"?

Dr. John Kotter wrote in Leading Change how a part of the changing process in any organization is empowering broad-based action.  This is essentially dealing with obstacles that stand in the way and how to keep moving forward in the face of adversity.  The point that he held to was how in the same time that you are seeking to remove obstacles, there also has to be the encouragement to envision the future.

I think that is an interesting point in dealing with change that hurts.  So often when we are confronted with an obstacle to change we will either push it away (denial) or confront the obstacle with negativity (aggression).  Why?  Those are the things that are easier to do, those are the things that will cause the least resistance, we become so focused on everyone agreeing that the call to change becomes meaningless.  Are we missing though the call of how to deal with obstacles?  What if  the best way to deal with obstacles is to be so encouraging in the future so that the vision becomes larger than the obstacle that stood in its way.

Do you remember what happened to the Israelite nation as they were confronted with the obstacles to enter into the Promised Land?  The people were so lacking in faith that they saw the obstacles that stood in the way.  While at the same time they didn't want to hear the encouragement that was coming from Joshua and Caleb.  The result:  the generation of people so focused on the obstacles and lacking in faith had to die off before the nation could come into the land.  They had to see the vision before they could move ahead.

This is probably the biggest issue that new pastors/leaders face in a ministry situation.  They want to come in and make changes, not to just make changes, but to see the people move forward where God desires them to go.  Then when an obstacle stands in the way, they become discouraged.  A part of this could be that they just want to ride the emotional roller coaster.  The other reason could be in that they haven't communicated the vision for why change is occurring.  Then the obstacles become larger than the vision and they start to deny or become aggressive.

Dr. Jeff Iorg in his book The Painful Side of Leadership states how change resistance is proportional to the core commitments, which means the more that a change will affect a person's core issues the more resistant they will be to the changes.  This doesn't mean that we do not seek to keep making changes, but the more that a person's core will be affected in what you are seeking to change, the more their perspective will be affected.

I have experienced this in church's before where a change was made that really affected them to the core and when I went to look for my Christmas card in the Lottie Moon post office, I thought they would address it to the devil (sarcasm implied, I was not expecting even a card)  Why?  Because my leadership vision and actions that were being implemented were affecting them at a greater core.   They were willing as well to let me know about it.  Yet I have found that when I took the time to sit down and discuss what the vision is with them, either individually or in a more intimate group, the changes are embraced, because it moves away from their core, or they are at least understanding how our core values match according to God's Word!

The simple reality is that change is going to hurt.  Some will embrace it, some will be resistant completely to it.  My role is not to have everyone agree with the changes, my role is to serve Christ and be as encouraging about the vision that is put before us, rather than focusing on the obstacles that could stand in the way.  This doesn't mean that we do not listen to the complaints that people are rising, especially those that understand the vision, because they may be seeking to deal with their own obstacles in their life.  We must though continue to push forward in leading people to ready to act and build upon the work that God has already done and desires to do!


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