Leading a church through change is one of the most difficult things in leadership. Many times those of us in leadership moan that our people are “holding on to the past”. We are frustrated by the fact that people have a hard time letting go of yesterday, but perhaps holding on to the past is actually a good thing.
When leading a church through change, we should always tie the change to the past. Look back at the legacy of your church and why it was founded. You’ll see that the thing people cling to is the memory of the good that was done in the past. People aren’t as attached to that old building as you might think. They’re attached to what that building represents. People aren’t as attached to a particular style of music as you might think. They are attached to what that music represents. People aren’t as attached to that old program as you might think. They are attached to what that program represents.
So when we lead through change, it’s vital that we listen to those who have been around a while. We should listen to the stories they tell about how wonderful things were in the past. Ask questions about the lives that were changed in the past. Ask questions about how effectively the mission was being accomplished, and capture all those stories.
The people who “cling to the past” have fond memories of people being impacted in that old building. They have memories of people being changed by that old music. They remember when that old program was reaching lots of people for Christ. Listen to their stories and capitalize on them. Tie the needed new change to the legacy of the past. Help people see that what they love about the past are the stories, not the programs, buildings or methods.
When leading your church through change, you must tie it to the mission and to your church’s legacy of fulfilling that mission. In doing so, more people will embrace the change. Let’s face it, leaders who don’t tie new change to the old past ultimately promote division in their organization, and that’s never healthy. Tie new changes to old stories and you’ll promote unity in the middle of needed change.