What, me change?

Raj Gupta

How many Anglicans does it take to change a lightbulb? Answers vary – five, one to call  the electrician, and the others to talk about how good the old one was; first, we must establish a committee; change?

Several variations are floating around (and not just for Anglicans), and what they have in common is picking up on the difficulty of change. In a society that is changing at a higher rate than ever before, I am becoming more and more convinced that difficulties like this one are holding many churches back from being on the front foot with the message of Jesus. I know of some who find the challenge so difficult that they do not try.

Indeed, this observation is one of the advantages of church planting – starting something from scratch means that there is no starting point that needs changing.

At the same time, God has entrusted enormous numbers of people and resources to our leadership, for the purpose of growing the kingdom of God both up and out. Having failed many times in the process, I am thankful to have stumbled across John Kotter’s simple but helpful change management process. While any approach needs to be adapted to a particular context, a powerful point is that almost all of the time skipping one of the steps for short term expediency will have longer term consequences.

Here are the eight steps, with my own initial comments.

1. Establish a Sense of Urgency, with prayer – while this may involve admitting past failures, the Gospel of Jesus and his return provide the ultimate urgency to reach people for Jesus. This can also be localised as a way of making it more tangible.

2. Forming a Powerful Guiding Coalition – is essential to enable ownership and the often neglected buy-in. Obviously the group (such as a leadership team or Parish Council) must be in a position to implement the changes that will end up being proposed.

3. Creating a Vision – a vision, for example, to reach people for Jesus, will have powerful guiding principles, and should be supported with concrete strategies.

4. Communicating the Vision in words and actions. One of my own recent lessons is that, in 2013, no one method of communication can be relied on. Different people receive information in different ways. Younger people no longer read emails, as strange as that may sound – they use social media like facebook. People are not at church every week. Most do not read articles or blurbs, yet still need to be informed and support what is happening.

5. Empowering others to act on the vision, removing obstacles to change, and encouraging risk taking.

6. Praying and planning for short term wins. How many times has an idea been raised only to hear someone say – ‘we tried that 20 years ago, and got nowhere’? Short term wins are an opportunity to thank God as well as breeding human confidence, including among those who were previously fence sitters.

7. Consolidating improvements and producing even more change. With some small things, in the above context, successful – you can now move to other and bigger areas.

8. Cementing new approaches

Prayer and a dependence on God must be littered throughout the process, not just at the times I have specifically mentioned it.

Yes, such an approach takes longer. But, it also means longer lasting change.

How would you further adapt this framework?



Feature photo: ChrisGoldNY