Transforming Church Team Blog
resourcing leaders…reenvisioning the future

Navigating Change: Part 1

Kurt Andre, Senior Partner

Kurt Andre, Senior Partner

“What is going to keep us from being successful with this strategic plan?’
The question was simple enough, but captured the fear and concern of many people in the room…
It was the end of a long day, the group of church leaders- a combination of staff, elders, deacons and lay leadership had worked incredibly hard over the course of several months. They had discovered their church’s unique identity or code, worked to focus on a particular audience in their community they felt uniquely designed to engage, completed a thorough self assessment and prayed fervently throughout, seeking to discern the next chapter for their congregation.
Ultimately, they identified a few key areas the church was going to focus on over the next few years. The final step was to develop an action plan for each area; turning them into objectives, identifying action steps and anticipating the potential challenges that could inhibit their success and making a commitment to see these ideas become a reality.
But this lay leader just asked the $64,000 question. It stopped everyone in their tracks, silenced the room and you could almost feel everyone lean forward as they resonated with the fear and challenge inherent in what was being asked.
So what does keep churches from actually taking the necessary steps to navigate change- especially if they have a plan to get them there?
We have worked with hundreds of churches across the US, in virtually every denomination, geographic region, urban, suburban and rural, from as small as 32 in worship to those above 10,000 on a Sunday.
What we have discovered is that failure to navigate change has less to do with a lack of a plan or strategy and far more to do with the competing values, certain attitudes and ultimately behaviours that are deeply ingrained in the church that manifest resistance, that without change in these, their ability to successfully live into their plan will be significantly limited if not impossible to become a reality.
More will be said in the following blogs on this dynamic, but by way of introduction, these struggles are what are called the Adaptive Challenges of a church.
Adaptive Challenges are those struggles that relate to heart change (i.e. how people feel about things) and minds (i.e. how people think about things). They are issues that outside experts can’t solve; rather those with the struggle are key to navigating it.
Often these adaptive issues surface as competing values- the very thing churches value but are often conflict with each other- outreach and discipleship, developing community among those who are connected in the church and the need to continually assimilate new people.
And depending on how a church handles these and navigates through them, become the pivotal determinant to their ability to navigate change.
I’ll unpack this struggle further and trust the journey towards change enables every church to become who God has called them to be and have their plans become a reality.

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