What Happens When An Organization Slows

By December 5, 2012Change, Church, Leadership

I was talking with a young pastor recently. He is battling the leadership of the church to make changes he feels he was called to the church to make, but because they have experienced some difficult years recently, they are resisting any efforts he makes. He’s questioning if he should give into them or push forward with more changes.

Of course, the way change is introduced is incredibly important, but after years of decline, change is certainly needed if they expect to see any new growth. As the saying goes, “More of the same will not produce change.”

It reminded me, however, of some common characteristics I have observed in organizations, whether the church or in business, when growth begins to slow or future progress appears to be in question. In uncertain times, probably because both the church and businesses involve people, each has a tendency to react similarly.

During times of difficulty, organizations:

Resist taking risks

Avoid change

Cling to tradition

Think inward

Control everything

Become selfish

Granted, I’ve been in both sides of the equation. I’ve been in the times of fast growth and the times of steady (even rapid) decline. I’ve even contributed to each of these reactions at one time or another. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen them work. They feel needed, even more comfortable for a time, but they fail to produce that for which they were intended.

In my experience, these are the exact opposite reactions that spur growth and progress.

Here is why I’m writing this post:

If you are in a time of decline, perhaps it’s time to think differently than your natural, even understandable emotions would lead you to act.

Perhaps you need to:

Take new risks

Embrace change

Hold tradition loosely

Think outward

Empower others

Become generous

To the church leader, I would say this: Walk by faith. Keep walking by faith. I know it is natural to react in fear and hold on to what you can easily understand when circumstances become difficult…I’ve been there…but if you want to grow again…you’ll have to walk by faith again.

Have you seen an organization react this way in times of decline?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 12 Comments

  • Daniel Burke says:

    I love how you dealt with the issue not in a condescending way but rather in my interpretation: "here is where we screw this up" and "here are some ways to handle this better"

  • Josh Hanson says:

    I stepped into a church that was a prime candidate to check off your entire "times of difficulty" list. It had been in decline for over a decade and without a pastor for over a year. The denomination had pretty much given up hope for the church.

    But here's the good news. I'm finishing up my first year this weekend and things are so much better than when I first arrived. It takes hard work. A lot of relationship building (my wife and I invited every person in the church to our house for dinner). Tons of reminding everyone why we exist. More patience than you'll think is possible. And a desire to love all of the people that God has placed in your care.

  • Jen says:

    This the time when better communication is needed. Not stop with what you know is right or reality, or give up, but connect more. The people need to feel listened to. They have fears and doubts, but they need to air them. I’ve found at times like this if you just push forward, you break things.

    This isn’t just at work or in meetings, but on marriage, too. You try to just push through, it ends up breaking the connection.

    You have to enter their world to get on the same page. It’s like turning into a slide, when your car is sliding on an icy road.

    You can feel like you get lost in their emotions, but people need to feel heard.

    If he hasn’t done it before. It’s probably a good idea to get a coach or mentor that can walk him through it, so he doesn’t break it.

  • @EricDingler says:

    Of course. But in this regard…it's camp, people expect us to be creative, unique and fun as long as we do everything the same way they experienced when they came to camp last time. Oh wait…same problem.

  • @EricDingler says:

    The last church we were at suffered from this. They were more focused on keeping people than reaching people. The church wasn't built for Christians but BY Christians for the world. But it's easy for me to say, I run a church camp..very different than a church.

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