5 Times Change is Hardest to Lead

By | Change, Church, Innovation, Leadership | 7 Comments

Change is hard – almost always. Sometimes change is harder than other times. And, it’s then where leadership is tested most, tensions mount and people are more likely to object.

In my experience, if a leader knows these times it helps prepare to approach the change.

Change is necessary. While change may produce conflict, without change there will also be conflict. When people sit still – when growth stalls – people complain. A very seasoned leader friend of mine says, “Two things I guarantee. People are going to complain about change. And, people are going to complain if things remain the same.”

Therefore, since change is necessary and inevitable, understanding these scenarios – before we attempt change – may help us lead change better.

Here are 5 times I’ve discovered that change is hardest to accept and implement:

When there hasn’t been any change in a very long time.

Change becomes more comfortable when it occurs regularly. When nothing has changed for a period of time, people feel even more uncomfortable and are likely to resist more.

Leaders in this scenario should make smaller changes to get small wins to hopefully spur hunger for more change – or at least stretch the comfort level for change again. Ease into it.

When there isn’t a culture for change.

Sometimes people are conditioned against change. Imagine a work environment where everyone wears the same colored pants and shirt every day – maybe black pants and white shirt uniforms. Remember IBM? I was raised to believe they had “uniforms” of black suits and white shirts. Since then I’ve read that they never had a policy of a strict dress code. It just sprang up as culture. I also read that changing the IBM culture took years.

Now obviously that was more of a style culture than a change culture, but when any culture is sameness leaders often have to address culture before they address change.

When the vision for change isn’t abundantly clear.

Of course, people will not always agree with a change even if it is clear to them. Some people never agree with change – any change. But, when people can’t seem to grasp a compelling reason for the change, opposition is more likely to occur.

Good leaders help people understand the why behind the change as much as possible. Pastors who lead change well use their “best sermons” to cast vision for change. It would be better to over communicate than under communicate.

When there isn’t an obvious or capable person to cast the vision and lead the change.

People follow leaders they trust. It is vital when implementing change that a leader be in place who can carry the charge for the change.

In cases where there is not a clear person to own the vision of change, I usually back away from the change until the leader is in place.

When the risk seems bigger than the potential return.

By definition, faith moves us into the unknown. When we can’t discern the return on the risk we are more likely to object. While this needs to be understood, it should also be understood that anything of value requires risk. Obedience to God requires faith. Every time. So the greatest things we can achieve in life will almost always appear to have bigger risk than the return we can see in the beginning.

Good leaders challenge people beyond their level of comfort. Leadership is the tension between the comfort of where we are and the potential of where we could be.

Again, none of these are reasons not to change, but understanding these can certainly help us better navigate through change.

What other reasons have you noticed that make change especially difficult?

7 Tough, But Smart Leadership Decisions

By | Change, Church, Innovation, Leadership | 9 Comments

Leadership is tough. And the toughest part always involves people.

It is interesting, however, in my experience, how often the toughest decision is the smartest decision. It’s the choice we know we need to make, but it’s the hardest one to make.

Every leader I know wants to be liked. They want to limit frustration among the people trying to follow. They want to be effective and for people to appreciate and value their leadership. Those are normal human desires.

And, making tough calls seems at times like they may jeopardize some of those things we seek as leaders.

Yet, the ability and willingness to make the tough calls — and doing it well — is what often separates the successful leaders from the not so successful.

There are many examples of tough, but smart leadership decisions. You have your own. I’ll just share a few of my own, which come to mind quickly. I’ve been guilty of all of these.

7 tough but smart leadership decisions:

If the answer is going to be no. Don’t delay saying no.

It’s easier to say “let me think about it” — or to delay saying no for a time, maybe even saying what people want to hear, but if you already know you’re eventually going to have to say no, the smarter decision — as tough as it is — is to say no now. It saves a lot of grief for you and other people. This includes saying no to good things so you can say yes to best things.

As a pastor, one of the toughest calls for me as a leader was telling someone I couldn’t meet with them. I hated it. I want to accommodate everyone, but I learned by experience I was not always the right person. We were a large church, with a very qualified staff. I sometimes complicated things by getting in the way.

In my role now it’s often when I try to handle decisions others are supposed to make. When I commit that we can do something someone else will have to implement. When I try to control my calendar, and I’ve given control of it to someone else. (I can’t tell you how many times I double-book appointments when I get involved.)

I also know I am not very effective if I don’t prioritize my time. As tough as it is leader, if you don’t protect your time to do the things you must do, everyone on your team will suffer.

If the answer is no — just say no.

Instead of making excuses. Own the problem.

I don’t know about you, but I can always find someone or something to blame. That’s the easy way. It is tougher simply to admit we made a mistake. We blew it. We made a mistake. We messed up.

And, if the fault is clearly mine — I MESSED UP!

And, in today’s world, it is smarter, by far, to be transparent than to try to pass the buck. People appreciate honesty.

When you aren’t sure what to do next? Admit it.

I’ve learned there are usually people on the team who have some ideas, which can help me if I’m humble enough to ask.

Years ago I learned this one as a small business owner. I should have been honest with my banker, for example, that I didn’t know what to do. I should have made him my friend. He wanted me to succeed as much as I did. He likely had resources to help if I had asked.

As tough as it is to admit you are in over your head, you’ll gain support by seeking input. Strange as it may seem, you actually add credibility to yourself as a leader.

If you’re about to crash. Raise the white flag.

This one seems especially needed for pastors these days. Yet, few pastors I know — and frankly few leader — are comfortable admitting they are facing burnout.

Pastors (and leaders) often fear is we would lose support by showing vulnerability. They have a false perception they must always appear strong for the team. (All leaders need to read about the honesty of Moses, Gideon, and Jehoshaphat.)

The smarter decision is always to confide in someone who can help. Getting help before you crash allows you to finish the race.

As tough as it is to be honest sometimes, it would be better to limp across the finish line than to be taken out of commission with a permanent injury. Get help now if you need it!

Challenge the sacred cows.

Every leader knows that change is hard. And, changing the things people say can’t be touched are the toughest changes.

Truth be told, I’ve learned some of these aren’t as sacred as they appear to be. It was simply no one ever challenged them.

I’ve also learned if a leader shies away from change he or she knows has to take place — for the long-term good of the church or organization — everything will eventually become a “sacred cow”. All change — even the smallest changes — will face opposition.

Release your right to get even.

That one is tough, isn’t it?

In reality, holding a grudge is much easier than offering forgiveness.

Leadership involves power and every leader is tempted at some time to use that power in revenge.

Leader, don’t do it. It never proves smart in the end. A leader is severely injured in ability to attract loyal, trusting followers — who have the potential of becoming leaders — if he or she is ever seen as one who gets even. The revengeful leader may appear to have followers, but they really only have subjects who will turn on a dime against the leader when given a chance.

Take a risk on an unproven person.

Good leaders like to surround themselves with competent people. Experience makes life easier for all of us.

But, some of the best leadership discoveries I have made came with untested people. We took a risk. Giving a young pastor a chance before they graduated from seminary, for example, proved to be some of my riskiest and yet wisest moves in my career.

Those are 7 tough, but smart decisions I have had to make in leadership.

Which of these tough decisions do you need to make today?

Do you have any you would share with me?

Common Reactions When Growth in an Organization Slows

By | Change, Church, Leadership | 13 Comments

A young pastor was battling the leadership of the church to make changes. He felt part of his call to the church was to make changes, but every change he suggested the leadership of the church resisted. All his efforts to help the church grow again were meet with opposition. When I talked with him he was questioning if he should give into them, push forward with more changes, or whether it was not even going to be a fit for him to stay long-term. He knew the current state of affairs was causing lots of stress for him and his family.

(And this story could be the story of many churches and pastors.)

This particular church was once a vibrant, growing church. People of all ages were being discipled and the church was engaging the community. Things were good. That was a number of years ago.

The pastor and I talked through the fact that the way change is introduced is incredibly important, but after years of decline, I agreed change would certainly be needed if they expect to see any new growth. As the saying goes, “More of the same will not produce change.”

The reminder for me, however, was of some common characteristics I have observed in organizations, whether the church, nonprofit or business, when growth begins to slow or future progress appears to be in question. In uncertain times, probably because all organizations involve people – people subject to emotional reactions – each has a tendency to react similarly.

During times of difficulty, organizations:

Resist taking risks – of any kind.

Avoid change – at all cost.

Cling to tradition – as if it were gold.

Think inward – rather than outward.

Control everything – and limit extending power to others.

Become selfish – in protection of who they’ve been in the past.

I should admit I’ve been in both sides of the equation. I’ve been in the times of fast growth and times of steady (even rapid) decline. I’m certain I have even contributed to each of these reactions at one time or another.

Unfortunately, I’ve never seen any of these reactions work. They feel needed at the time. Our emotions may even tell us they are more comfortable at the time, but they fail to produce that for which they were intended. They stall growth rather than spur growth.

In my experience, these are the exact opposite reactions that spur 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 – start with small ones first.

Embrace change – even when it hurts or is scary.

Hold tradition loosely – celebrate it, but don’t be afraid of new traditions.

Think outward – more than inward.

Empower others – more than you control.

Be generous – with resources you do have and towards new ideas.

To the church leader, I would say this: You must walk by faith. And keep walking by faith. I understand it is natural to react in fear and hold on to what you can easily understand when circumstances become difficult. I’ve been there many times.

Something tells me though in the history of the church, to get you where you are today, there were seasons of tremendous risks of faith.

If you want to grow again, however, you’ll have to walk by faith – again.

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

My 7 Strategies in a New Leadership Position

By | Change, Church, Church Revitalization, Innovation, Leadership | 17 Comments

Whenever I enter a new position, I want to be strategic. I’m having to live this advice again, but I’m trying to be strategic.

The first couple years in my last position were challenging and fun at the same time. I met so many wonderful people, but there were more opportunities than time it seemed.

It proved to be a great ministry assignment, and I thank God for the opportunity, but it did require intentionality.

If you know me at all, you know I’m pretty strategic. I was strategic from day one.

Here were 7 elements of my strategy for the beginning days:

Get to know key leaders

I tried to get to know the staff and key influencers in the church. I believe God uses the influence of others to build His church, so I wanted to know who I would be working with in the days to come. Think of it this way – if Moses was implementing the “Jethro method”, his primary energy would need to be communicating and investing in those leaders he enlisted to lead others. I used this approach. If I hoped to make any substantial changes I knew I would need these influencers support.

I’m doing the same again. I’m getting to know board members, substantial donors, key client churches and senior staff members. I can’t know everyone immediately, but I need to know the people who have the largest influence.

Let people get to know me

For an introvert it was exhausting, but I was very visible in the early days. In fact, in my ministry I’m usually always very accessible, just as I am online. I have written before (HERE) I may not always be available but I can always be accessible. I wanted people to feel comfortable with me and trust my leadership, so I think they needed to see me frequently – even more so in the beginning days of my pastorate.

In this new position I don’t have the benefit of Sunday mornings. I have to rely on non-traditional methods. Sometimes people will only learn me by what we post online. I’m trying to keep that in mind as we do.

Set my initial vision

People wanted to know where I was going with my leadership. I set an initial 7 part vision for the people. I really wanted 3 or 4 initial initiatives, but I landed on 7 – because all these seemed important. They were all things I was passionate about implementing. Some got started faster than others – we are really just seeing a couple of them come to fruition – but the church seemed anxious to get behind all of them. And, just to be clear, I didn’t lead all of these initiatives, but I was the chief vision-caster for them.

In this new position, I’m doing something similar. I’m trying to land on a few key areas where we need to grow. The more I limit our reach the better we can focus and succeed.

Identified quick wins

I looked for some things I could immediately impact and change for good. These were things I believed everyone could agree with, didn’t require a lot of resources or long debates. There were a few minor paperwork nuisances which impacted staff morale I changed immediately, for example. I invested energy in some areas of ministry which never received a lot of attention, but motivated people. I re-energized some areas the church had previously been excited about, but weren’t seeing much excitement about currently.

In this new role, I wanted to learn some places people were excited about and would rally around again. In our context, that was doing more with innovation and putting pastors in peer groups. We aren’t there yet, but at least we know where we need to fuel engagement.

Did the unexpected

It seemed like such a small deal, but I roamed the balcony on Sunday mornings. It took a little more time, but it proved to be a big deal. I talked to the person who would be changing my slides on the screen prior to the service. This was a surprise to them. They said it had never happened before, but it proved to be a big deal. I roamed the halls of the offices during the day, walking into people’s offices, and allowing drop-ins to my office when I was available. All unexpected, but it brought very positive feedback.

I could be wrong, and I’m sure people will tell me if I am, but I’m working overtime to make connections in this new role. Some of these connections might take years to make, but I’m trying to shorten the time. I know it’s valuable to building for the future.

Paced myself

I realized I’m only one person and although everyone wanted some of my time and there were more ideas than we could ever accomplish, I knew I would burnout if I didn’t pace myself. This meant I said no to some things – really many things. It wasn’t easy to say no to such eager people, for me or them, but I knew it would prove best in the end if I was able to last for the long run.

I’ve received some similar feedback in this new role. Some staff members have indicated they haven’t spent as much time with me as the would like to in the future. I understand. I feel the same way. I can’t, however, be everywhere I want to be and be effective where I need to be. I have to see the marathon over the sprint.

Moved slowly on the biggies

Being honest, there were some big items I knew I’d like to change immediately. I had enough prior experience, however, to know some changes are too big to launch quickly. I could have. I was in a honeymoon period. I could probably have “gotten away with them”, but the people didn’t really know me yet. I might have won a battle, but I would have lost the war. (To be clear, there wasn’t a battle – just using a cliche.)

I’m there again. There are so many things I “see”, but I can’t yet “realize”. I know I must take things in sequence and with patience. (And patience is hard for me.)

Ever been the new leader or the new pastor? What advice do you have for me?

Playing it Safe — Not My Style — And, Often Not God’s Plan

By | Change, Church Planting, Innovation, Leadership, Life Plan | 32 Comments

A number of years ago, I observed a characteristic in me I hope is not permanent.

After our boys moved out of the house, we moved to a downtown condo. The condo sat on a hill, overlooking the river district of our community. We loved the view, but it presented a problem on windy days. We had to weatherize our front porch every time we suspected a storm, turning over the furniture and making sure everything was secure.

One night Cheryl heard the wind picking up and asked if we should prepare the porch. What she really meant was I should get up and prepare the porch, but I love the gentle way she “suggests” such things. Getting up at 1:30 AM to step onto my front porch in my boxers has never been my idea of fun, but I do like a happy wife, so I headed out to do my job. When I got back into bed she thanked me to which I replied:

“Better safe than sorry.”

Instantly the thought occurred to me. I would have never used this phrase a few years ago.

“Better safe than sorry” has never appealed to me before. Sounds like something my mother would have said to me.

I like risk-taking. I embrace change. I lived my life running to things others say can’t be done or they aren’t willing to try.

Even more, I’ve made a commitment to walk by faith — but this is more than a spiritual decision. It’s a personal wiring. It’s in my DNA. I’ve been a small business owner – with success and failure. God led us to plant two churches and we took on two church revitalizations.

In fact, I’m scared of “better safe than sorry“.

What happened to me? Am I that old? 🙂

Granted, there are times to play it safe. The night at home may not be a good illustration, because I’d likely do it again. Protecting my wife and my home is part of my life’s ambition also.

But, it did trigger something internally in me about my overall life direction. I want to continue to be a risk-taker. A person who willingly walks by faith – throughout my life. I want to be like Abram who was willing to “go” and trust God even in his old age. I found myself asking if I would take another risk if I knew it was something God called me to do – even though life was very comfortable.

So, I came up with an immediate plan.

Shortly after this, my oldest son and I have went skydiving!

We jumped out of a “perfectly good plane”.

I had to! I couldn’t stand the thought of resting on the safe side.

What’s the purpose of this post? You’re wondering, right? Do I want you to jump out of a plane? No, and I’m not saying God told me to do that either.

But, if you’re like me, the older you get, the more likely you are to play it “better safe than sorry”. You want to be comfortable. You want to pay your bills and keep your children in the right schools and plan for retirement and live in a safe neighborhood. I get it. And, all of those are okay. There’s nothing wrong with living a so-called “normal” life.

Unless God calls you to something else.

Not long after this incident was when God called Cheryl and I to leave a very successful church plant, which had started in our living room, and go to a considerably smaller, established, historic church in need of revitalization. It didn’t make sense at the time, but following God’s will did. (And always does.)

This latest move for Cheryl and me has stretched me. I’ve been “out of my league” more than I’ve known what to do. I wake up some mornings wondering what I should do today. It doesn’t always feel “safe”.

Here’s my advice. If God is calling you to something bigger than your ability to understand –

Don’t play it safe! Play it by faith!

It’s wisdom! It’s strongly Biblical. Again, I’m not suggesting you don’t weatherize your house. I’m certainly not suggesting you jump out of a plane.

But, I am suggesting you be willing to do everything God asks you to do — even when it’s scary, the future is uncertain, and you don’t have a clue how in the world you are going to do it.

Regardless of your age – or your fears.

And, maybe you do need some disciplined risk-taking to stretch your ability to make the big moves again.

God never promised a safe-life. He promised an abundant life. God never asked us to “play it safe”. He asks us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. He never promises a risk-free life. He promised a victorious life — as we trust in Him!

Here are a few questions I’d challenge you to consider:

  • What is God calling you to do which stretches your “safe zone”?
  • Where is your faith being stretched these days?
  • What are you having to do, which to be successful, God will have to come through for you?
  • Is there any area of you life you know God wants you to move – something He wants you to do – but you’ve not yet been obedient? You’re still playing it “better safe than sorry”.

Be honest: Are you more likely to prefer a risk or the safe side?

Writing a Simple Life Plan, Part 5

By | Change, Culture, Encouragement, Family, Leadership, Life Plan, Vision | 23 Comments

It’s day 5 of our life planning series. This week we’ve attempted to take it step-by-step, in a simple format, to write a plan that will help us achieve some specific goals for the new year. If you missed any of these posts, be sure to catch up by reading:

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

Today we have our final step…and it’s a good one…in fact…it’s my favorite….

Read More

5 Step Process to Write a Simple, but Achievable Life Plan

By | Change, Encouragement, Innovation, Leadership, Life Plan | 7 Comments

As we head into a new year, I want to help you think through life planning. I believe in purposeful living and that means you have to be intentional in where you spend your time. We are told in Ephesians 5:16 to “make the most of our time.”

Here is a reality I have experienced personally and in observation of so many others. Most likely, the degree of success you experience this next year will be directly proportional to the direction you head your life and how intentional you are with the decisions you make. If you have an idea or goal of where you want to go, and a plan of action coupled with discipline, you are more likely to achieve your desired results. You can’t control many of the things life brings you, but you will have a better chance of achieving what you want in life if you create some organization in your life to help you reach them.

I also believe simple is good, so for the next few posts, I want to offer segments of developing a one-year life plan. I’ll break it down a little each day to keep it from seeming overwhelming. At the end of the series, if you follow along, you’ll at least have some plan of action. The key is you are doing it far more than how you do.

This is NOT a complex life plan. If you don’t know me, you wouldn’t know I prefer simple. If it’s complicated or too involved, I’ll opt out quickly. My goal here is to keep it simple. I think with something simple you feel you can and will actually do you have a better chance of achieving success than with something complex you are never going to do.

I should be transparent here. I’ve posted this series several times over the years. There are far better “models” out there than the one I’m sharing with you, but I keep bringing this forward, because I hear from people who have incorporated it and found it helpful. But, you’ll notice some of the comments are from years past.

I’m praying God allows many of us to realize dreams and goals we never thought possible.

Here is step one in writing a simple life plan:

Step one, List three or four goals you want to achieve next year.

Think through several areas of your life where you would like to see improvement. Areas such as:

  • Spiritual
  • Personal
  • Marriage or relationships
  • Physical
  • Financial
  • Professional

Include a stretch goal, such as run a marathon, read through the Bible. learn to fly a plane, get out of debt, start a side business, or write a book, but limit yourself to three or four. In my opinion, if you have too many goals you’ll burnout trying to reach them and too few will keep you from achieving all that’s possible. You can add more goals later if you have initial success in these first goals.

At this point, the goals can be very general. They shouldn’t all be “stretch goals” – limit those to one or two, but they all should be goals designed to take you somewhere you want to go in life – somewhere you hope to improve.

Spend some time today and list your goals. Remember, no more than four. No less than three.

Here are some examples:

  1. Lose 10 pounds. (I went specific here, because most have an idea of a number on this particular goal. You can simply put “lose weight” at this point if that’s one of your goals.)
  2. Improve my marriage communication.
  3. Pay off my credit card.
  4. Read through the Bible.
  5. Write a book.

In the next post we will take this a step further.

Are you up for the challenge? Do you need something like this? Have you ever written out a plan for the New Year?

(Side note for those who are thinking.God is in control of my destiny ,so I’ll just let Him direct my paths. I don’t need a plan. I couldn’t agree with you more about God being in control – as He should be. All our plans and goals are futile without His input, but read through the Bible and you’ll see countless illustrations of how God allows men and women who seek Him to create a plan of action; sometimes for good and sometimes not. There are times God gives us clear and direct instructions and other times – and I would even say most times – God allows us to figure out the best course of action based on the wisdom and experiences He has allowed us to have.)

Of course, all of this should be done by committing your plans to God first. For help and an example of that, you might read this post: 7 Ways to Make Your Prayers More Effective

10 Suggestions to Welcome a New Pastor

By | Change, Church | 31 Comments

As a pastor and through my online ministry, I would frequently receive questions from churches who wanted to welcome a new pastor and do it well. I’m revising a post I’ve written and shared before, but it’s timely now. As I type this, I’m preaching this weekend for a church that will soon be getting a new pastor. The church I recently left as pastor is voting on a new pastor – this weekend.

I have some advice to give a congregations on how to best help the pastor and pastor’s family feel welcome and acclimate.

10 suggestions for welcoming a new pastor:

Pray for the pastor daily – It’s something I’m almost expected to say, but there is truly no greater comfort for a pastor than to know people are praying for them by name. As a pastor, I could literally feel people praying for me at times. On an especially stressful day, I would sense God’s protection by the prayers of God’s people. I believed in prayer so much I always had a personal prayer team. (I’m in the process of organizing one now in my new role with Leadership Network.)

Love and honor the pastor’s family – This includes helping them acclimate to the community. Especially if there are still children at home, they will need more family time at home, not less. The family is stretched and stressed – out of their comfort zone and pulled in so many directions. Let the pastor have adequate time at home. Let the family time be honored as much as their time at church.

Tell the pastor and family your name each time you meet – And, then tell them again. And again, if necessary. Learning names may be the hardest thing a new pastor has to do. Give them ample time to learn yours and, please, never trick them or ask them, “Do you remember my name?” That may be one of the hardest questions I received as pastor, because I always wanted to and couldn’t always. (Frankly, sometimes on Sunday mornings I couldn’t remember my own name.)

Don’t gossip about the pastor or family – There will almost always be changes when a new pastor comes to a church. If you don’t understand something simply ask. Be very careful not to propagate misunderstandings. Be a positive voice for the future. And, stop gossip and rumors as soon as you hear them.

Speak encouragement – Say, things like, “Pastor, I’m here to help.” And, mean it. Find positive things with which to encourage the pastor and family. Send a personal, hand-written note. And, don’t write, “I’m thankful for you, but…”. Just say thank you. Those notes are kept forever.

Introduce the pastor to leaders – In the church and in the community, it is helpful if the pastor knows the influencers whom they will likely encounter during their ministry. The earlier they can know them the better.

Let the pastor set the pace – It will take a while for a new pastor to figure out their stride. Give them your understanding during this time. They may not make every visit you want them to make. And, depending on the size of the church they may not ever make every visit you think they should. There’s only so much time in a day. They may not place priority where you think it needs to be placed. They may not introduce change as fast as you want them to or change may seem too fast fo you. This is all part of the newness in a time of transition. Let them set the pace – especially in the early days.

Don’t offer a million suggestions – There will be time for that, but the new pastor needs time to learn the church. Most likely you’re already doing lots of things – some good and maybe some not so good. Let them learn who you are as a church, before you fill their head with too many new ideas.

Don’t prejudge their performance – A new pastor will make their own mistakes. Don’t hold a previous pastor’s mistakes against them. Don’t assume, based on their history or your expectations of them, that they will perform a certain way. They may. They may not. When I went to my last church I had come out of the church planting world and into an established church. I think some people assumed I’d wear sandals my first Sunday. I didn’t. The whole time I was there. (And, I regret that. Just kidding.)

Extend the honeymoon – Honestly, it usually seems too short anyway. If the pastor begins to make any changes at all, some people lose faith in them. A new pastor needs time to acclimate. They need time to learn you and the church. Keep loving and supporting them, even when changes become harder to make and harder to accept. If God brought the pastor to your church, God wants to use them there. Let God do as God intended.

Those are my suggestions. Of course, this is a general post. It is one of principle, not a specific post to your exact context. Most likely, for those reading this, I won’t know your church or your new pastor. I do hope these can help a few churches.

Pastors, anything you would add?

5 Common Objections to Change – And 5 Ways to Lead Through Them

By | Change, Church, Leadership, Organizational Leadership | 14 Comments

One of the biggest, yet seemingly smallest, changes we have made in church revitalization was switching our service times. It seemed so simple, yet I was pulled aside and told several times it would be the last change I made in the church. The word was some of the seniors, who primarily attended the later service, had made so many changes they weren’t doing this one. And they were apparently extremely serious about it – at least some of them.

(Let me give a side note here to my pastor friends. Your seniors who don’t like change are usually more supportive than you think they are or will be. Granted, there are those few who are difficult, but those people come with all age groups. Good leadership can bring your seniors along, which is the point of this post.)

But, foolish as I can be, we changed the service times.

(Another side note. To all leaders. If you aren’t occasionally doing some things others call foolish – at least initially – you may not be leading.)

Frankly, I don’t believe we would have ever appeared on any “fast growing church” list had we not made the change in our service times. It was that critical to moving the church forward.

And, it wasn’t about style of music. The church had made a decision, before I arrived, to begin a contemporary service. It would happen before the established worship time, which had a more blended style of worship. That, in and of itself was probably the best they felt they could do. And, that’s just my opinion. (I don’t think anyone chooses to start a contemporary service early morning with a goal to reach young adults and college students, because it’s the ideal time.) They knew they needed to do something to reach younger crowds, but this was the best they could accomplish in their current context, or so they thought.

The problem was it took young families out of the room of the largest worship service. No matter how many younger visitors I could get to attend that service, which was the natural time visitors came, they would look around and see few people in their demographic. And, it wasn’t that they didn’t like people with grayer hair. They just couldn’t find people in their season of life. So, they left and never returned.

So, this was my first major leadership hurdle. And, it wasn’t easy. There was plenty of resistance. We even lost a few families. Not many, but a few.

For the most part, however, it was an enormously successful change.

Part of the reason is we were methodical in our process and about addressing objections.

I’ve learned in leading change there are a few common objections to change. If you know a change is necessary, understanding why someone is objecting may help you respond accordingly.

Here are 5 common objections to change, followed by ways for addressing them:

People are confused -These people just don’t understand the why behind the change. They can’t get their minds around it yet. It doesn’t make sense to them. They may lack information. Often they have heard misinformation. Or they heard one point about the change and came to their own conclusion about the everything else. Their resistance is based more on a lack of understanding than even what they like or don’t like.

Suggestion: Over communicate. When you think you’ve shared too much – share it again. And again. And, share in different formats. We created a brochure for a change, which seemed to many to be so simple to understand. We held multiple meetings – with large and small groups of people. We placed it in the Sunday bulletin. I talked about it from stage. Many times, in my experience, once the change is explained, people become supportive or less opposed. Understanding the why, what, how, and when makes gives people a level of comfort in the change.

People are personally conflicted – Some people object to change,, because they are objecting to life. It’s not as much about you as it is about them. They have past hurts they can’t resolve. They are injured. Maybe even by something, which happened to them in the church. Maybe something in took place in their life, which has nothing to do with you or the church, but your change reminds them of their pain. So, they take their pain out on everyone else. And, the fact you’re leading the change, which is stirring the emotion, makes you the target now. Frankly, some of these people can even appear mean – they may or may not be under other circumstances. These type critics can be the most hurtful as a leader.

Suggestion: Attempt to understand them. I have learned many times people are dealing with an injury, which never healed. Understanding their pain can often lead to helping them heal from something in their past. Unfortunately they usually influence others with negativity also. Sometimes these people will be critics unless they are addressed directly. If you know the change is necessary, and you can’t get them on your team, you may have to simply work around them. You can’t allow their personality or emotional injury to hold you back from what you need to do as a leader. But, as a leader who cares about people, and all good leaders do, you should at first attempt to understand them and help them process their pain from life. Get them help if they need it.

Believing you don’t care. – These people simply don’t think you care for them or their uncomfortableness with the change. They assume, for whatever reason, the changes are being made without considering their opinion or concern. They may feel this way regardless of how much you have communicated. They may feel the changes favor one particular group of people at the inconvenience of another. Whether it’s true or not it’s how they feel.

I’ve learned, such as in the example of changing worship services, this can be more true the further you are demographically from the people. If they are older or younger than you, have differences in gender, ethnicity, etc., they may think you don’t understand them – and, again, that you don’t care for them. (Again, that’s likely not true, but it’s how they feel.)

Suggestion: Spend time with them as you’re able. Or empower others to spend time with them. I have seen many times if these people are included in the decision process, and you acknowledge and attempt to understand their concerns they will come along with you. Good vision casting can alleviate some of their concerns.

You’re taking control – This objection comes simply because you stepped on someone’s power. You didn’t check with them first. This is so common in church work. I have found many times pride and selfishness is the driving force here. They don’t like feeling they’ve lost their seat at the table of authority. Frankly, this reason for criticism is probably the most frustrating to me, because there’s little you can do about it unless you’re willing to appease them.

Suggestion: Recognize the pain. As difficult as this type criticism is to accept, I have observed that patient, honest, transparent conversations, while remaining firm with the change, can sometimes keep these critics from working against you, even if they still don’t agree with the change. Then sometimes, you simply have to move forward without their support. And, yes these can be the most difficult people to confront and can be intimidating, but, remember, you’re the leader and you can’t stall leading, because it’s uncomfortable or difficult.

Its uncomfortable. – These critics, who are the most common group, in my experience, simply don’t like change. It’s uncomfortable. Resistance to change will be relative to the size of the change. I hear people say they aren’t change resistant, but all of us are at some level.

Let me give you an example. Imagine your day off has been Saturday for the last 20 years. Suddenly your employment changes your day off to Tuesday. You now have to work Saturdays. How comfortable is that change?

Don’t resonate with that example? Pick an issue where you’re currently comfortable and consider changing it. Try enough scenarios and you’ll find your level of resistance to change. That’s what most people are going through when you introduce change. They don’t know how it will feel after the change.

Suggestion: Sympathize with them. Change can hurt. Every change has an attached emotion. (I’ve posted on these emotions previously.) Understand the emotional response part of change. It’s normal. The only real solution to this one is to provide clear communication, cast the vision well, and be patient as people adapt. Most of these people will come along eventually.

Criticism is common in leadership and change. The only way to avoid it is to avoid change. I’m not sure that would even be leadership, but that’s the only solution to be criticism-free. The fact is, the more change occurs, and the more it becomes part of the culture, the less resistance there will be.

I should note, this post is not intended to help you avoid criticism, and certainly not completely dismiss it. As a leader, you must consider whether the criticism is valid, be open to other ideas and even rebuke if needed. Thinking all your ideas are great is an error in judgement and character. This post is intended to help you understand the basis of many objections. Even the best ideas will receive some.

7 Ways to Make Strategic Decisions Quickly

By | Business, Change, Church, Leadership, Organizational Leadership | 29 Comments

Recently I posted “Leader, Strategically Keep Thy Mouth Shut”. The title was startling perhaps, but the principle is important. I wrote the post to encourage leaders to think strategically, especially when making quick decisions. Many times a leader says something or does something in a quick response which can negatively impact other people or the organization. Sometimes it is best to say nothing until the best answer can be decided. This often requires the work of more than just the leader answering the questions. One reader asked me to expand on the phrase “thinking strategic in the moment”; specifically how I do that.

Again, it should be understood that this post addressed decisions which should require some thought. Most leaders make hundreds of decisions a day and many of those require very little thought. If a leader is asked a question where an answer has already been clearly defined then the leader can answer quickly. When the issue, however, has an undetermined answer, especially if the answer could alter the direction of the organization, impact other people or require a change in the organization’s finances, then the leader needs to learn to think strategically in the moment. That may result in saying nothing at the time.

With that in mind, how does a leader think strategically in the moment? Here are 5 thoughts of how I do this:

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