4 Ways to Navigate Change In Ministry

Today I want to share an excellent article I found by Luke McClain. Luke is a youth pastor in the Pittsburgh area with a great deal of insight. I learned a great deal from this article in regards to the leadership changes happening at both Randall and Renewal churches. I hope you find it helpful as well! - Milo Wilson

During the polar vortex two winters ago I realized (right before bed time) that I had to pull my car in the drive way so I didn't get a ticket. I honestly considered calling the police and leaving my car on the street because it was so cold out. I'm not a wimp…it was crazy cold!

So, I bundled myself up, opened the garage door, and started off toward the street.

About two feet later I was hit with an icy wind that took my breath away. I considered running back into the garage or standing there until the wind stopped. The wind never stopped. It only got worse.

I decided to keep pushing through the wind. After walking with my hands in my face I finally reached my car. I slammed the door, turned the key, and pulled in the driveway.

Luke Randal Post

I think many of us can relate to this story in a different sense. As ministry leaders, we desire to lead and love our teams and people well. We strategize, develop, and coach our teams to make great impact on those we have the joy of ministering to.

Then change hits us like an icy blast, stopping us cold in our tracks. What we do next makes us or breaks us as leaders.

Maybe change looks like:

  • A structure change within senior leadership
  • A new reporting structure
  • Budget cuts
  • More or less responsibility
  • Values no longer supported or encouraged
  • Philosophy changes

No matter what change we experience, we have an opportunity to steward that change. We have an opportunity to grow and honestly…lead. Granted, there will always be changes that we just can't embrace because they compromise our values and or our beliefs. Those situations may warrant a change in role or company. For most changes, we have before us an opportunity to lead.

Here are four ways to I've found to navigate change in ministry:

  1. Be an early champion.

    Keep going. As you move forward through the change you will grow. One of the best ways to lean into the change is to champion the change as soon as you can. Capture the big picture and the benefits this change proposes and communicate them to your team. Field questions from your team and communicate to senior leadership. This shows you are on board and supportive about the change.

  2. Be pro-active in communicating with direct reports or senior leader.

    The majority of the time those who communicate the change would be happy to meet with you to better explain or answer questions regarding the change. Even when making the change decision, consider your communication plan with everyone it will affect.

  3. Adjust your expectations.

    This is something you can learn from the first time you experience change in ministry or anywhere: There will always be change. Learn as a leader to prime yourself for change. Ask yourself questions like, "What would I do if this stopped, moved, or looked differently?" or "How would I communicate with my team if this major event got canceled?"

  4. Don't complain to co-workers.

    When you receive news that something is changing there will always be the temptation to drop an email or text to a co-worker complaining about the change. Instead, go back to #1 and champion the change. Complaining just creates division and it also a pour way to lead through change.

Regardless if you are finishing your first or twentieth year in ministry, change is inevitable and we're responsible to lead well. If change (big or small) happens today, how will you lead through it? Does your team trust you to lead them through change? 

- Luke McClain


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