Conflicted—Some people object to change because they are objecting to life. It’s not about you, it’s about them. They have past hurts they can’t resolve. They are injured. Maybe even by something that happened to them in the church. But maybe something in life that has nothing to do with you or the church, but your change reminds them of their pain and so they take it out on everyone else. And you’re leading the change so you’re the target now. Frankly, some of these people can be mean. These type of critics can be the most hurtful to a leader.
Suggestion: Attempt to understand them. I have learned many times they are dealing with an injury that never healed. Understanding their pain can often lead to helping them heal from something in their past. Unfortunately they usually influence others with negativity. Sometimes these people will be critics unless they are addressed directly. If you do—the change is necessary—and if you can’t get them on your team you may have to simply work around them. You can’t allow their personality or emotional injury to hold you back from what you need to do as a leader.
Care—These people simply don’t think you care. They assume, for whatever reason, the changes are being made without considering their opinion or concern. They may feel this way regardless of how much you have communicated. They may feel the changes favor one particular group of people at the inconvenience of another. Whether it’s true or not, it’s how they feel.
Suggestion: Spend time with them as you’re able. Or empower others to spend time with them. I have seen many times if these people are included in the decision process, and you acknowledge and attempt to understand their concerns, they will come along with you. Good vision casting can alleviate some of their concerns.
Control—This objection comes simply because you stepped on someone’s power. You didn’t check with them first. This is so common in church work. I have found many times pride and selfishness is the driving force here. They don’t like feeling they’ve lost their seat at the table of authority. Frankly, this reason for criticism is probably the most frustrating to me, because there’s little you can do about it unless you’re willing to appease them.
Suggestion: Recognize the pain. As difficult as this type criticism is to accept, I have observed that patient, honest, transparent conversations, while remaining firm with the change, can sometimes keep these critics from working against you—even if they still don’t agree with the change. Then sometimes, you simply have to move forward without their support. And yes, they are the most difficult people to confront, and can be intimidating. But remember—you’re the leader.
Comfort—These critics, who are the most common group, simply don’t like change. It’s uncomfortable. Resistance to change will be relative to the size of the change. I hear people say they aren’t change resistant, but all of us are at some level. Let me give you an example. Imagine your day off has been Saturday for the last 20 years. Suddenly your employment changes your day off to Tuesday. You now have to work Saturdays. How comfortable is that change? Don’t resonate with that example? Pick an issue where you’re currently comfortable and consider changing it. Try enough scenarios and you’ll find your level of resistance to change. That’s what most people are going through when you introduce change. They don’t know how it will feel after the change.