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Of Course We Want Our Church to Grow—We Just Don’t Want to CHANGE

I’ve heard it several times this week already from different sources.

One of the tensions many of us wrestle with as leaders who are trying to navigate change happens when people tell us:

I want our church to grow. I just don’t want it to change. 

Every time I hear or read that, my brain says “Ugh.”

As much as I think that’s a dumb reality to live in, it’s a reality so many of us face in leadership.

How do you respond when people want a church (or organization) to grow, but not change?

Here, eat this bacon cheeseburger.

The problem you and your organization are facing is a challenge a lot of us experience in life.

Isn’t wanting to grow but not really change actually like saying, “I want to lose weight, but I really want a bacon cheeseburger”?  Well, yes, it’s exactly like that.

People hire personal trainers all the time to help them lose weight.

A trainer’s message is not revolutionary.

It is almost never, “Just take this diet pill and you will magically lose 50 pounds while eating cupcakes.” Yet, most of us want to believe that we can take a pill and eat cheeseburgers and cupcakes and lose weight. At least I do.

A good personal trainer’s advice is always some variation of “eat smaller portions, eat healthy foods, exercise and make sure your calorie input is less than your calorie output.”

And people pay them money—lots of money—to tell them what they already know to be true.

You’re not that different as an organizational leader. Really.

6 things you can do.

As a leader, don’t try to navigate change in a congregational meeting. You will get stuck in the mud before you know what’s happening. Fifty people or 500 people won’t agree on anything. And they will certainly never agree on anything courageous. (I talk more about navigating the dynamics of change in my book Leading Change Without Losing It).

Sit down with your real leadership team—your board, your key staff or even a new group you form for the purpose—and start the conversation.

As you lead that conversation, here are six things you can do to tackle the challenge of leading a group that wants to grow but doesn’t want to change:

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Speaker and podcaster Carey Nieuwhof is a former lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church, one of the largest and most influential churches in Canada. With over 6 million downloads, The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast features today's top leaders and cultural influencers. His most recent book is “Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences.” Carey and his wife, Toni, reside near Barrie, Ontario and have two children.