By Margaret Marcuson
In the depths of my hard drive (from 2011), I found the following tips I wrote back then to help leaders deal with change at church. They all still apply as we walk through these days when so much has changed.
Clarify your own thoughts on the issue at hand, whether the change is about worship, structure, leadership, music. Spend some time alone to think about it.
Think through when and where to appropriately share your thoughts. Stay as clear and as calm as you can when you do so.
Connect with people in key leadership positions, both paid and volunteer. Work on relationships constantly.
Watch for triangles that develop at times of change – for those who pull you in to resolve difficulties or for those who leave you out of important conversations. Don’t get too emotionally caught up in these triangles. Avoid complaining about others, which creates more triangles.
Observe how people express their views about the change. Those who can define their position in terms of themselves are more mature than those who say “you should,” or “you shouldn’t” or “they always” or “they never.” This will give you a clue as to those who are more mature than others.
Fill your role and stay in it. For pastors: be fully present in leadership and provide necessary oversight for the change. For staff members: do your job, relate appropriately to staff and church members, and stick to your area of responsibility. For lay leaders: be clear on what your volunteer role is (and isn’t) and carry it out. Don’t invade other people’s space.
Keep your sense of humor. It will help you and others get through this time more easily. (But watch for sarcasm, which is an anxious response.)
Be a learner: about yourself, about others, about what happens in a church at times of change. Those who are open to learning manage change better. Recast the challenge of change as a learning opportunity.
Notice any complaints or criticism which come your way. Avoid getting defensive.
Pray about the change and for those involved in it –those you agree with and those you may disagree with, those who are functioning well and those who are not.
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