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How to Manage Organizational Change Well…From the New Book “Every Pastor’s First 180 Days”

organizational change

In your first 180 days on the job at a church, you must manage organizational change well. At the Willow Creek conference years ago, I took copious notes as I marveled at their facility and their success. The speakers spoke with deep conviction and inflamed my passion for the church that they coined “the hope of the world.” On the flight back, I began to compose what would become my infamous “Willow” sermon that I’d deliver to the church a few weeks later. I outlined the incredible possibilities that loomed before us, which would require immediate and drastic changes to how we currently did ministry.

Over the next few weeks and months, I forced those changes with little regard for the impact on the people. The result? We lost nearly one hundred people during the next twelve months. My organizational change efforts flopped.

In my zeal to grow our church, I had failed to properly manage and communicate change and failed to include others in the process. The church paid a great price and so did I. It took years to regain momentum, and the church never became the “Willow” of the south. Some things certainly needed to change, but in my naivety and passion, I had tried to force organizational change too fast.


In your new role, people will expect you to bring change. Yet many of those changes they expect probably don’t align with the changes you hope to bring. Nevertheless, they do expect some things to be different. What is the key to successful change? Manage it wisely. The decisions you make early on will “label you as either rash or purposeful, firm or indecisive…. The impression you make and signals you send will either motivate people to pledge their loyalty or allow them to sit on the sidelines, or worse, impel them to turn against you.” That’s what this chapter is all about…how to bring wise, healthy change and avoid unnecessary collateral damage.

I’ve listed below the five key change management concepts that I cover in this chapter. These concepts relate to fundamental mindsets to understand and develop to bring a healthy change in your new role and deal less with the specifics on how to actually create change. A Google search will reveal many books on the how-tos of change. However, one specific change concept is so crucial that I’ve devoted an entire chapter to it, Define Reality (chapter 6 of Every Pastor’s First 180 Days: How to Start and Stay Strong in a New Church Job).

Here are the five organizational change management mindsets.

  1. Communicate
    Communicate well what you intend to change, building upon the prior chapter’s content.
  2. Understand
    Understand why people resist change.
  3. Recognize
    Recognize that different personalities respond to change in different ways.
  4. Empathize
    Empathize with those who may resist and fear your changes.
  5. Discern
    Discern the appropriate pace and degree of change.


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