Think of the last time you saw this sign on the inside of a restaurant, right at your table. I was in a fast-food chain restaurant (shall remain nameless) with a friend on Saturday morning.
These small placards were pinned up at each table on our side. “Well, I’m glad we sat in non-smoking!” I thought to myself sarcastically.
This sign felt so out-of-place.
Either the restaurant hasn’t renovated in a while, or there are still people trying to light up while enjoying their root beer floats (hint).
The reality is, having these signs at every table feels like over-kill because Canadian culture (and law) dictates that all restaurants are and should be smoke-free anyway. It’s been that way for a quite a while now.
Yet, as my friend (a little older than I) recalled; even planes used to have smoking sections. A thin curtain separated the non-smokers, which didn’t help at all. Everyone in flight got a good puff either way.
Even this change didn’t come easy.
This friend (career fire fighter) also recounted his days at the fire hall, when the No Smoking laws came into effect. As is always the case with the introduction of new laws, there was much discussion about rights and freedoms.
The guys at the fire hall didn’t like it all, nor did a lot of people.
Even though there were countless cases of lung cancer amongst every community across the country, and the health of smoker’s coworkers and loved ones was at stake; personal satisfaction was still a factor.
Change is difficult to swallow (or inhale).
If we can separate the ethical stance on smoking for a moment, I believe that we, as church leaders can learn a lot from our little No Smoking sign.
For one reason or another, many people were in fact, resistant to change something that they knew was bad for them, and their loved ones.
Even when the benefits and outcome are obvious, change is still very difficult.
5 Principles to Effectively Implement Change
With the above information, we can assume that change in the church will be equally or even more difficult. Change must be Spirit-led and rolled out effectively.
Before making that next change into your church programming or structure, check through these 5 principles. They might just help you avoid a few tough scenarios.
1. The change should be Spirit-led.
First off, the Gospel will never change. Lean on that and make it the starting point. Change for the sake of change can be very destructive. If we’re introducing something new and we haven’t pitched it to God first, we’re off to a very shaky start.
Before ever explaining our change to anyone, we should spend a week wrestling with the Spirit on whether or not this is an effective move. Going into that change with God’s approval will make a drastic difference as the process is rolled out.
2. The change should be reasonable.
Reasonable in the true sense of the word. We must have good reasons, that make sense.
We should sit down with a coach or mentor, for an hour or more, explaining each reason for the change. Get their feedback on whether or not some factors are unclear or need more supporting argument.
3. The change should be difficult (for some).
Change will always cause emotional distress for at least, a portion of our congregation. We should acknowledge that this new piece of information will be tough for some people to work through. Verbalising this, will show them grace.
For example, “We understand this change might be difficult for some of you and that it may cause you some discomfort.” As opposed to statements like, “This shouldn’t be that difficult!” or “Why is this so difficult for you to accept?“
Change is difficult, period.
4. The change should be explained.
After acknowledging that our change will be difficult, take the time needed to explain the process. Explain those reasons that you first outlined to your coach or mentor.
Caveat: Not the Sunday before implementing the change.
There needs to be time given (a few weeks) for people to have some conversations and ask some questions about the change. Priming the pump can limit anxiety and negativity.
5. The change should be evaluated.
Some changes are bad.
Yup, it’s true. Some changes just don’t work out. Evaluation can help us track what changes have or haven’t worked. Schedule these evaluations into your calendar; 30, 60, 90 days out from the implementation of the change.
If it was a flop, we have to own it. It takes serious humility to stand up in front of a congregation (naysayers included) and admit that we’ve made a mistake. That we’ve changed something that was already working well. It’s time to change it back.
Doing this when we’ve got it wrong, will help us when we get it right. The congregation will have an understanding that leadership is willing to be vulnerable. It leaves them with the thought, “If it doesn’t work, they’ll let us know and fix it.“
What other principles for effective change would you add to this list?