The work of adaptive change requires an open heart to respect and appreciate the pains of change that you are asking people to sustain. - Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky (“Leading with an Open Heart,” Leader to Leader, Fall 2002, 33.)
I have attempted to step back now and then, as I move a congregation through revitalization, to make sure I am bringing people along. My brain is wired to think far ahead but I know that is not the case for everyone. I am usually thinking two years ahead and then working back from there to see what steps or direction we need to be heading as a church. I can get so caught up in my steps and planning that I forget to tell people what is happening.
For United Methodist Pastors it can be hard to remember the pain we are putting people in as we create and move a congregation into change. We may be moving into a better form of Church and keeping what are core values are (see previous post for more) but do we recognize the pain associate with that. Do we respect it? Do we honor it? Do we ignore it? Do we speak to it?
One of the greatest moves I have witnessed in my congregation was the willingness for our senior’s Sunday School to move classrooms. In other congregations, I have witnessed a vise grip on classrooms and they have been seen as sacred space. Our nursery needed to move. It was tucked into the corner of the first floor of our Education building. It was way in the back and hard to get to. There would be no way a guest would be able to find it. We also (with the addition of my two kids) had more children in the nursery at that time and the space was too small for the amount of kids we had. When I approached the class about possibly moving to give more space for the nursery, they did so happily and with pride.
They moved to another room right off the Sanctuary, which is smaller and doesn’t provide limited noise buffering from anything happening in the sanctuary. There have been some pains since that transition and I admit there are times when I don’t give it much thought. But their class has grown and they are filling up that space now. The question I have to continue to ask myself is how can I continue to serve and honor them as we change? My worry is that they will feel we are pushing them again with more change. They might feel left out, ignored, or cast aside. Yet they are a core of who we are and they are doing vital ministry within our congregation. I cannot ignore them nor the pains we are asking them to endure as a class.
Change is a lot like hiking with a group of people. You can only go as fast as the last person. As a church leader we have to continue to look backwards and see who is at the back of the pack. How are they doing and how are they reacting to the journey we all are going on. This doesn’t mean you stop moving forward but it does mean you are doing it together without leaving people behind.