No pastor can succeed apart from serving as an agent of change!
Growth, be it personal development or church expansion, requires change. Yet, leading any kind of change, from increased emphasis on daily Bible reading to starting a new outreach to other transformations, whether large or small, sometimes seem difficult.
However, there exist known best practices for leading change and some common pitfalls that pastors can easily avoid.
Seven traps pastors may fall into:
They attempt change prior to adequately building trust. Trust is the currency in the economy of change. Remember, it’s not so much about length of tenure as it is about degree of trust built.
They fail to build the need and foster a sense of urgency in the minds of the followers. Prior to implementation, raise awareness of the need and stir it up until people begin to think, “We must do something about this right away!”
They fail to involve congregants early on. When people have input, their involvement in an initiative dramatically increases! It needs to be ‘our vision’ and not just ‘pastor’s vision’. Larger changes or new programs may fare best when you develop a team to help implement them.
They fail to carefully craft a vision and strategy for change. People need to know what is going to be different, why it matters, and how it will be implemented.
They fail to communicate the vision adequately. The vision for change needs to be clear, compelling, and complete with specific steps. Then it needs to be repeated often and in various ways.
They fail to follow through on changes. Letting programs drop through the cracks can decrease buy-in for your subsequent programs. Congregants may be hesitant to put their money and time behind something that they think may just go by the wayside.
They forget to maintain momentum by celebrating small wins. Celebrating even small successes builds momentum and a sense of achievement.
Leading congregational change requires care. However, put a little thought into avoiding those deadly errors above and see how influential you can be!
For more reading on this topic, two resources I recommend: Leading Change (2010) by John Kotter and Leading Congregational Change: A Practical Guide for the Transformational Journey (2000) by Herrington, Bonam, and Furr.