Church (Organization) #9. Meet David Raymond. He is the coach and consultant for ChurchFuture, an organization that works with churches in decline. According to the website, “ChurchFuture can help your congregation turn your dangers into opportunity.” It’s an awesome ministry!
One of Raymond’s favorite topics to engage with congregations is about change. Often, he addresses that there may be technical changes that need to be addressed such as shifting service times or new bulletin covers.
But Raymond likes to dig deep with churches. He speaks about a “change without adjectives” known as adaptive change. It’s change that is concerned with the attitude or climate of the congregation. When churches need an attitude adjustment, Raymond suggests four elements to help with the process:
- People need to be motivated. Often the motivation for change in churches is pain. Decrease in giving and participation hurts. But once people can name the reality that is driving the discontent, change is possible. It’s not fun to be in pain but it can motivate people to do, be or think differently.
- People need to be motivated by their convictions! Wallowing in pain will only keep a congregation in pain. And faith that is grounded in the Gospel is not about wallowing. It’s about loving God and loving people. The work then is moving people from pain into faith that with change God can create something new.
- People need to feel competent or confident. Raymond says, “It’s realizing that a church can do change!” This is where the swapping of stories is important. As change begins to happen people begin to see the small resurrections in every day church life. Time and space need to be devoted to this so people can share their stories.
- People need a leader. This is the Aha! moment for most congregations. Not only will pastors and staff need to be all on the same page but so will the church council and other key lay leaders. The question “Who is going to carry this change forward?” will need an answer.
Raymond says, “The most important thing is for church leaders to know how to lead change.” To break it down in percentages, Raymond shared that 10% of a congregation will resist the change; 20% will lead it. That leaves the 60-70% who will need the leadership to pull them through the change.
Why does it matter to know how to lead through change? It matters because of the story found in Luke 15, the Prodigal Son. Raymond says, “It could be called the ‘Parable of the Older Brother.’ It’s the eldest son who found change hard and unfair.” We know it was not a welcomed change to have the younger brother back on the farm! Some of those who resist change in churches are the eldest members. Remembering how things were 30 years ago when things were thriving makes change painful. Validating their pain is needed as their precious memories are what’s left. So it’s important then to have the right leadership in place before moving forward. Trusted leadership that can help others see that change on the farm or at church is sometimes necessary for the sake of the other.
For more information on this story, please contact David Raymond at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-823-0526.
(For more information on technical and adaptive change read Ron Heifetz’s book entitled “The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your -Organization and the World.”