10 Thoughts about Change in the Church

Today, I’m thinking about change in the church. Join me in this discussion…

  1. The healthiest churches are always in a state of change. That’s because they’re continually evaluating their work, and they’re doing what it takes to reach people and make disciples. 
  2. All generations can be opposed to change. It’s not just the older folks who fight change. Take on the right issue that affects them, and the younger folks can be equally obstinate about change. 
  3. People want to know the “why” behind the change. When they hear the explanation for the change, they’re often more open to accepting it. A change without explanation feels forced. 
  4. Their opposition to change isn’t always a personal attack on the leader. It might feel that way, but sometimes the leader happens to be the only person who’s available to hear a complaint or concern. 
  5. They might oppose change in the church simply because that’s the only place they have a voice about change.  This is particularly the case for older adults. Their world is changing around them, and they have no say in much of it—except at their church. Their opposition is really a cry for something to stay the same. 
  6. Some aren’t opposed to the change; they’re opposed to the process. Perhaps it was too quick. Maybe the discussion didn’t involve all the proper groups and committees. It might be that the leaders never secured the needed permissions according to the church’s guidelines. 
  7. The best change agents take their time to secure support. They know they need influencers on their side, so they take time to make that happen. They understand how important this step is. 
  8. Our assessment of opposition could be overly optimistic. I can take you to pastors who were convinced of the church’s support for a change, only to discover otherwise by surprise. They overestimated support and underestimated the depth and breadth of opposition within the church. 
  9. A vote for a change is not a guarantee of support for that change. We won’t fully know about support for a change until after that change is made. I’ve seen churches that support a change in a business meeting then turn around and become obstacles to the change. Keeping folks on board must be intentional. 
  10. Often, any immediate chaos caused by a change settles down after that change is made. That means that leaders must stand together through the chaos, knowing that the change will be good for the church.

What would you add to this list? 


  • Paul says:

    Unfortunately, most organisation change skips 1-9, and goes for 10, considering any collateral damage worth the cost, even if it ends in a Pyrrhic victory…

  • Kathy says:

    In my experience as a leader communicating the need for change and why before you announce a solution lays the groundwork to acceptance. Telling folks why after you have already worked through the solution makes them feel unheard. People want to feel included in the process.

  • Deb says:

    Wow! So insightful, Chuck. Thanks. I think with elder led congregations the struggle to be elder “ruled” more so is trying to avoid pushback from the congregation. In reality, if the congregation participated in fleshing out the change, especially in regards to the impact on the people, in particular, buy-in would come. Trust stays high, and interpreting and executing the change doesn’t just fall on the shoulders of the few but on the church at large. Thanks for a place to resonate.

  • Robin Jordan says:

    I minister in a jurisdiction in which the lion’s share of the churches were established as a reaction to doctrinal and other changes in another denomination and as refuges from a changing world. Implementing change is very difficult and even those who recognize the need for change struggle with actual change. They may not always do this consciously but from their responses it is evident that they are struggling with it. The base from which these churches primarily drew their members is aging and dying so unless they reach out and engage other segments of the population, they are going to close their doors. But this requires making changes, not only in the way they worship but how they do ministry and mission. I am discovering in my church that some members of the congregation feel really threatened by Jesus’ teachings because his teachings require that they make changes in the way they are accustomed to living and I am experiencing a backlash from these congregants.

  • Jerry Watts says:

    One time, in a culture far-far away, I heard a pastor say, ‘People aren’t afraid of change, they’re afraid of loss.’ – I thought those were good words to remember. After 40+ years, I have discovered that change is okay as LONG AS you don’t mess with me. This cuts across generations. Thanks for a good word.

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