Good leaders understand a necessary part of their job is leading change. They understand the need for change and they have the desire to lead it, but often they face major obstacles in bringing it about. Barriers to change can cause even the best leader a great deal of frustration and discouragement. It’s imperative that every leader be able to identify barriers to change.
The Church can be one of the most difficult places to lead change. The “we’ve never done it that way before” mindset is enough to drive any church leader crazy. Let’s take a quick look at some of the most common barriers that affect leading change in the local church.
1. Failing to understand the mission. When people understand the mission and are passionate about seeing the mission accomplished, it makes change more acceptable. Misunderstanding the mission keeps people stuck in what they are comfortable with and resistant to change.
2. Leaders who don’t trust the Pastor. Let’s face it, leading change begins with the pastor, and key leaders can make it hard for for that person to lead. If a core group of leaders are pushing back against the pastor’s leadership, it will be almost impossible to bring change without hurting the church.
3. A Pastor who cannot be trusted. There are times when pastors have their own agendas in mind and can’t be trusted to lead the right way. When a church has a pastor who cannot be trusted to lead selflessly, positive sustainable change probably will not happen.
4. Comfort means more than the cause. I know a leader who says, “If you are comfortable, it is cause for concern.” I agree with him. Growing churches need to change to grow, and if leaders of the congregation care more about their own comfort than leading change, it probably won’t take place.
5. A lack of resources needed for change. Often times change requires financial and/or “people” resources. There will always be times when change is needed and wanted, but the lack of resources keeps it from happening.
6. Fear of losing people. Let’s face it, sometimes local churches do not change because of the fear that people will be unhappy and leave. Here is a real truth. You will likely lose people if you change and you will likely lose people if you don’t. Make the change even if it means some people will not like it.
Leading change is a challenge in every organization, and especially in the local church. People get caught up in traditions and power struggles that prevent change from happening. It takes real courage to lead a church to change.
A good leader with the right heart and the patience to bring others along with the mission can successfully navigate change when and where it is needed.
By Ken Adams. Used with permission.