Saturday, June 25, 2016

Seminary PL12: Leading Change

This is the ninth post on strategic planning in the Pastoral Leadership part of my Seminary in a Nutshell series. See the bottom of this post for the entire leadership series thus far.
1. My colleague Bob Whitesel suggests that there are four basic forces of change in a church. [1] The first is what he calls "life cycle forces." Where is your church in its life cycle? Is it getting older? Is it fairly new? Does it feel alive or is it growing stagnant? If a life cycle force is in play in your church, it probably came up when you did your SWOT analysis as a set of strengths or weaknesses.

The kind of force that strategic planning especially introduces are what Dr. Whitesel calls "goal-oriented forces." You have now set some goals. That is providing your church with an opportunity for momentum in new directions.

A third set of forces are "conflict-oriented forces." We are often content to be mildly dissatisfied or even happy with less than what could be when everyone is somewhat getting along. We can even ride that complacency all the way to our church's grave. Nothing sparks change more than conflict.

Finally, there are "trend-oriented forces." These are forces--opportunities and threats--from your church's environment. As such, they probably showed up in your SWOT analysis.

2. So how do you lead change once you have set goals and thus put some "goal oriented forces" in motion? The standard reference here is John Kotter, who suggests an eight stage process for creating major change (22):
  • Establish a sense of urgency
  • Put together a coalition
  • Develop a vision and strategy
  • Communicate the change vision
  • Empower broad-based action
  • Generate short-term wins
  • Consolidate gains and generate more change
  • Anchor new approaches in the culture
These points are the context in which the entire strategic planning process should take place. Indeed, Kotter suggests that these steps normally need to be accomplished in this order (25-27).

3. Goal-setting can of course be initiated without there being a crisis. When a pastor takes a new church or perhaps nothing has really been happening at the church, these are fair enough reasons to initiate strategic planning. A sense of need for change doesn't have to be church-wide. There just needs to be enough sense of a need for change among the leaders who can initiate change.

Of course crisis or conflict provides momentum for change. We can question the ethics of manufacturing a crisis in order to push change, but a moment of crisis or conflict can provide a kairos moment to seize upon toward change.

You need to have enough support to effect change. If votes are involved, you need to have the votes. There's no point in making a proposal if you don't have the votes. You need the right people on board at the right times.

This entire series of posts is about establishing vision and a strategic plan. Once the mission and vision, the values and goals have been set, if the broader congregation has not been involved in the planning (hopefully they have on some level), the leaders of the church should communicate that vision and strategy. It is easy enough to do so from the pulpit or, perhaps, in a special meeting.

4. Presumably, those who have set goals for the church have the authority and power to move toward those goals. As we mentioned in the goal-setting post, some of those goals should be short term goals, perhaps six months out. These should be goals that are attained fairly easily, to give a sense that progress is being made. They keep momentum going.

Each goal attained should be celebrated and used to energize toward the next goal. We will talk in the next post about making adjustments. If part of the goal-setting is to change the mindset or the culture, then the right words, the right metaphors, the right practices have to be reiterated over and over again. This is where having repeatable slogans (e.g., in the mission or vision statement) can help. "We care about people." "We want to reach everyone." "We are the Gideon church." "We are third."

Over and over and over again.

We can go through the whole process of strategic planning, but if these overall change dynamics are not in place, it probably won't go much of anywhere.

Next Week: Pastor as Leader 13: Evaluating Progress/Resetting Goals

[1] Also see his book, Preparing for Change Reaction. Get it, instead of "chain reaction" it's change reaction. For some reason it took me forever to get that.

The first eleven were:

Leadership in General
Strategic Planning

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