Established churches do resist certain types of change, and not because they are unsaved or do not care about the Kingdom of God. Established churches are filled with members who have history, emotions, and lifelong investments in their church. Likely, these churches have had times when they flourished. Certain ministries and programs worked well.
Sam S. Rainer III wrote a very helpful book entitled Obstacles in the Established Church: How Leaders Overcome Them. Early in the book, he speaks of the reasons why many in established churches resist the concept of change.
- As a new pastor, if you change nothing else, remember: you are the change, a huge experience for your people.
- Recognize the difference between technical and cultural changes.
- What is the level of trust you have as a leader? It depends. Depending on the past, and how pastors may have treated the people, will indicate the level of trust you have.
“Even when people respect the office of pastor, not knowing the person who fills that spot often leads to cautious acceptance from the congregation. Respect and trust are two different mindsets. People may respect you while not fully trusting you” (22).
- A belief that change is not necessary. At a church where I ministered in seminary, one person told me, “If it was good enough 100 years ago, it’s good enough now!” Now matter how much one may communicate the need for change, some may not see the need. Showing them the hidden problem is key.
- A belief that the change is not feasible. Seeing the hidden problem is one thing. Believing that change is feasible is an entirely different matter.
- A resistance to change if it reshuffles the power alignment. Look to the key influencers in your church before you rush ahead. Something may make sense to you, but that doesn’t mean everyone will see the benefit–especially if it intrudes on the unwritten and assumed-to-be-correct structure of the church.
How should leaders navigate through this? Check back next Wednesday!