Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Second of five parts: Leaders lead change

 In my first posting on this topic, I asserted that church leadership teams could add to their tool bag by defining healthy change. However, no matter how important our well-crafted definitions, they are worthless if we fail to do something with them.

For that reason, I believe that the second essential of change leadership is that leaders lead change. On the surface, that may not sound very profound. Nevertheless, some leaders do this well and others do not. Some know how to move freely from the academic aspects of change to practical applications. What’s the difference? How do leadership teams that lead well, lead?

Defining characteristics

Teams that lead change well have these characteristics:

·       They see change as a leadership responsibility
·       They create a clear path from today’s reality to their vision
·       They build change on a culture of disciple making and leadership development

If we do not see change as part of leadership, it’s not likely that we will lead change effectively. Scripture is not nearly as ambivalent about this as some of our leadership teams. The pastoral epistle 1 Timothy 3 includes the skills of teaching and managing in the job description of elder or overseer. This clearly places on leaders the responsibility to steer the church in the direction of biblical health.  

Leaders who consider change as part of their responsibilities not only follow the Scriptural admonition to do so, they also see their role as “opinion leaders.” Everett Rogers coined that term in his landmark 1962 work on change leadership, Diffusion of Innovations. (See pp. 26-27, 2003, Free Press). Leaders who lead change perceive themselves and act as models who point the way toward healthy change.

Pointing the way

When change leaders point the way, it includes three distinct aspects

1) They talk about the weaknesses of today’s reality.
2) They paint a vision-picture of what reality can be in the future, and
3) They construct a bridge across which everyone can walk to get to that preferable future.  

As an example of this approach, in 2014 I worked with a “Strategic Focus Team” of 26 people at Cranston Christian Fellowship in Rhode Island to define a new mission: Calling all to love God, follow Jesus, and serve others.

However, they didn’t stop at merely writing definitions. Senior Pastor Dave Gadoury recently reported, “This is driving our push to excel in disciple-making through Sunday morning life groups and the Gospel Project curriculum, and in service through an Acts 1:8 team and a new local outreach team.”

Disciple development

Finally, I have seen how effective change leaders build their leadership on the discipleship of their people and the development of their leaders. As someone recently told me, “Changed people change churches.”

Maturing people are much more likely to be receptive to healthy change. They are also going to be more understanding if their preference is not chosen by those in authority.

Maple Grove Evangelical Free Church in Minnesota is an example of a leadership team that has built change leadership on these two primary qualities.

In 2011, the church concluded that they had too many ministries that didn’t align with a Great Commission focus of making disciples. To address this less-than-appealing reality, they created a ministry initiative called “Sharpen Ministries.” This initiative authorized ministry leaders to refine or eliminate ministries as needed to better align their programming with their mission. As a result, they have increased their effectiveness.

Next Time: Followers follow trustworthy leaders

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