Influence

 the shape of leadership

In With the New

Three questions to ask before making a major change

Nichole Schreiber on January 8, 2021

It was a typical Tuesday, and my to-do list was growing in typical fashion. I scribbled in my notebook: “New wallpaper in lobby. Update nursery checkout system. Use the word ‘guest’ instead of ‘visitor.’ Turn the bass guitar down.”

Leadership is like inspecting a sea wall. You constantly look for cracks — the areas where weaknesses are showing, or the places that are beginning to leak — so you can patch them up.

Good leaders not only identify and respond to current challenges, but they also try to anticipate where problems may occur in the future. They make repairs, and they add reinforcements.

Despite our efforts, some days it feels like the ocean comes crashing in on us. It happens to the best of leaders. At such times, all we can do is wring out the salt water and rethink our strategy.

The only way for any organization to grow and remain strong is to adapt and change. Few people like change, but change is necessary. A church that welcomes change encourages innovation, develops leaders, and creates more opportunities for advancing God’s kingdom.

In Scripture, God often led His people toward change. Isaiah 43:19 says, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Change is a part of life and ministry. As leaders, we regularly make small tweaks that few people will perceive, and even fewer will have strong opinions about. But we know big changes will be noticed and critiqued. Such changes require wisdom and prayerful consideration.

Here are three important questions I ask before making a major change:

1. Is this God’s will and timing? The first step when facing any big decision is to seek wisdom from God for knowing how to proceed.

A church that welcomes change encourages innovation, develops leaders, and creates more opportunities for people to advance God’s kingdom.

God’s voice regarding a change is often a growing knowing. There may be times when we experience a lightning-bolt moment — when we know exactly what to do and have a clear plan. But in my experience, clarity comes more often through a series of confirmations as I pray and seek counsel from godly people.

Once you are confident God is directing you toward change, an equally important step is to determine the timing of that change. A good plan, executed at the wrong time, can create new problems.

There have been times when my team and I identified a problem, brainstormed a solution, and consecrated it in prayer, only to realize something still didn’t seem quite right. We needed to wait for God’s timing.

Ask questions to determine whether the time is right for change: When does this logically fit into the calendar we have already implemented? Will this change happen naturally when a program ends, a season comes to a close, a staff member leaves, or a crisis arises?

2. How can I make this change in phases? Sometimes changes can’t wait, such as when equipment breaks or there is a surge in attendance that necessitates the addition of service times. Other changes may be implemented more slowly, in anticipation of future needs.

Most people are change averse. If something seems to be working, they may have a hard time understanding why a leader would implement something new. One way to lessen the shock of changes, particularly if there are many, is to make them in phases.

Pace the changes. Think about the end goal in steps. At every step, communicate the vision of why the change needs to happen, showing how it relates to the mission of your church.

3. What will the results look like? Before making a change, take some time to visualize the end result. Think about what success will look like after the project is complete.

This process can help you anticipate any trouble spots you may encounter along the way. It also allows you to measure whether the change was successful.

Without a clear vision, you will never know whether you hit the target. If possible, draw a picture, journal some expected results, or talk with team members about objectives to measure against.

Submit your idea fully to the Lord. Give Him every detail, every decision, and every speed bump. Let God lead, and expect Him to exceed your expectations. Through every change, God’s character is unchanging. He is always working to advance His kingdom.

As Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose for them.”

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