5 Keys to Navigating Change

If you’ve been in ministry for a hot second, you have either experienced change or have been charged to make it. Every self-help book on the planet tells us we are supposed to embrace change, get behind it and cheer it on, but oftentimes it’s much easier said than done.

So, when that fork in the road appears and, as a leader, you know there’s a situation that calls for change, what do you do? When do you address it? How do you go about addressing it? How do you implement it? These are just a small sample of the questions that arise when change is necessary.

I’m the children’s pastor on a young church plant. We were not quite half a year into it, when we as a staff had our first big obstacle of change to overcome. If you’ve started at a nice and tidy one-service church plant, you know where I’m heading with this. We needed to add a second service. We had just really gotten into a good rhythm of things and now we were needing to change. As the children’s pastor, I felt like I had just enough volunteers to cover my bases with one service. How in the world was I going to handle two?

It would have been very easy to be frustrated and get a chip on my shoulder because my world—my neat, pretty, highly functioning with one service kid’s world—was being rocked by the decision to expand. Children’s ministry was going to bear the brunt and lead to even more questions:

How would I recruit more volunteers to cover a second service?
Which mainstay kids would go to the early service and which to the later?
How would they feel about being separated?
And again … where are the new volunteers a comin’ from?

The bottom line, however, was this: The change to two services was coming and I had to navigate it and answer all the questions that came with it. Looking back now, here are some strategies I implemented that, I feel, could be applied to any change situation you may be dealing with at your church … or anywhere else in your life.

1. Clear Communication. Have clear, open communication about the specifics of the change with your staff, volunteers and especially your lead pastor. I’m blessed to have a lead pastor who understands the importance of a strong children’s ministry. Prior to the service addition, he knew how tireless our volunteers were working as well as the importance of strong small groups. So, he was comfortable with allowing me to dictate when we would move to two services, as long as it was before Easter.

2. Keep an open mind. I was all for moving to two services, but my original opinion was to have children’s environments at only one of those two. I liked what was happening and I was afraid our groups and volunteers would be affected negatively, plus, how many more kids were really going to show up for that new service initially? Five? Eight?

As we sought advice from our overseers and other churches that had navigated this before us, their opinion differed from mine. They pointed out that by only offering children’s programming at one service, we were automatically labeling one service for families and the other for singles or younger-skewed attendees. They were right, and I realized my initial reaction wasn’t going to help the church. If I had dug in my heels, would our lead pastor have given in? Maybe (or maybe not!). But after seeking advice from others with an open mind, it was obvious we were better off to offer kid’s ministry at both services.

3. It’s not about you or your particular ministry. Remember to make decisions that better the WHOLE church and not just one person or a small group. At Hill City, one of our main ideas is that we want to make decisions based on people we haven’t met yet. That is the only way we can truly keep growing. Would children’s ministry be inconvenienced? Initially, sure. Would it allow for growth of our church and thus impact children’s ministry for the better? Yes.

4. JUMP! Rip off the bandage and dive right in headfirst. It’s OK if it fails. It’s OK that from the get-go it isn’t perfect (our new service had, maybe, four kids in it the first week). Go from there and polish it up as needed. We needed two services before Easter. Period. I had a month to recruit volunteers and pump up the ones I had serving. I chose to move to two services at the beginning of March so we had a full month to get the kinks out before Easter (mainly so our first impression for visiting families was not one of disorder). Sure enough, by the time Easter came we had enough reps where things went smoothly … and it was a good thing too, because both kids services were packed! (See, I told you we needed kidmin in two services. LOL)

5. Be a cheerleader NOT a jeerer. As a leader, folks will emulate how you see the change. Your team will mirror your attitude. If I had voiced all my negative concerns to my team, they would have felt stressed and could have read into situations in that same negative way. Instead, I made sure I let them know how our vision would grow the church and how this would be a pinnacle point we could look back on as a ministry to see how God provided for us and grew our volunteers and our families. Instead of sulking, I wanted them to know God was going to do more than we could even ask or imagine, and I invited them to pray us through it. I also asked that each one recruit one person each to serve in children’s ministry.

Sure enough, we launched that second service, and guess what? All of our needs were met. God supplied more volunteers than I could have ever predicted. God showed up big, and it’s amazing to be able to look at things and see the testimony of His provision as our church continues to grow.

If you are doing church well and reaching new families, there will be change. It’s a good thing, and hopefully you can experience the same blessing that we’ve experienced with our transition.  

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Chara Robinson
Chara Robinson is the children’s pastor at Hill City Church in Richmond, Virginia, a church plant that will be celebrating 1 and 1/2 years March 13 and are now navigating a third service . . . so she’s taking her own advice. Connect with Hill City Church on Facebook at Facebook.com/hillcityrva and on Instagram and Twitter as @hillcityrva or her personally, @CharaRVA.