One of my favorite sound bites from Jesus is John 4.23. He uses this trippy phrase: the time is coming and is now here. Whenever I read that I slip out of exegesis mode and into sci-fi mode. Like—what? Coming and now here? Which is it?
This phrase gives us the perfect way to think about change as well:
It’s already here.
It’s always coming.
It’s always here.
In your ministry context, as in all walks of life, you will inevitably face daily decisions that are either improving or deteriorating your personal relationship with change.
Change is a river. The river is flowing. It’s a given. But how will we steward it? Our answer to this question is a trajectory-setting factor in our ministries for at least three reasons.
- You can’t build your ministry without stewarding change.
- You can’t steward change without keeping your head clear.
- Ministry entails change, by definition, because transformation is at the root of our purpose.
If we aren’t careful, we can end up in a street fight—throwing hands wildly at change. Then the question becomes, “Who is stronger?”
You can be certain of this much: you will not impose your will upon change. You may as well try to master the ocean tide.
Here’s what you can do. You can learn to steward change skillfully and faithfully. Leaders who do that will have their efforts repaid many times over.
Maybe you’re not convinced that change stewardship is quite as important as I’ve made it seem. Usually that comes from a few specific internal objections.
- As a leader, you don’t personally have an appetite for change.
As much as we would all love avoiding things we don’t enjoy, pushing through our personal ceilings as leaders requires us to face some challenging things head on. Change included. It’s inevitable, so even if we don’t prefer it, we cannot avoid it.
- You’re concerned about the disruption represented in the change.
Have you ever been around a stagnant body of water? Would you drink it? Not if you have any olfactory function at all! Stagnation leads to stink. It’s a fact of life. Stewardship means managing the disruption intrinsic to change so that people can adopt change without being enveloped by chaos.
- You know that your key stakeholders simply do not want change.
This is where you get to flex those leadership chops. As you grow in the art and science of leadership, you will also grow in your ability to bring stakeholders along so that they “get it.”
- You worry change will cost too much financially and take up too much valuable time.
It’s true that change comes at a cost, but the costs of not learning to steward change are exponentially higher than the cost of change itself. Remember, stagnation does not bring desired results. All dynamic, healthy organisms change.
- You’re concerned that change may take you away from your core mission and vision.
With clarity, stewarding change well actually moves you closer to the center of your core mission, values and vision. It helps you achieve what matters most, because every change you make can be the right kind of change–the kind that moves you directly toward your objectives.
- You aren’t sure change is actually happening as quickly and ubiquitously as I’ve described.
This is true in some ways. It’s important to manage your own expectations as to what you actually see now vs. what you will eventually feel, even if it is not yet “seen,” per se. Some of the most significant changes to be stewarded will not show up immediately, and will take time to fully mature.
- You’re afraid your audience doesn’t want change.
Inspiration, compelling vision, and leadership prowess are keys to internal change that ultimately manifest in meaningful ways for audiences. If you miss these things internally, they will most certainly not have the desired impact with your audience. Listen to them to discern their appetite for change. Don’t assume they have zero appetite for it.
Instead of being tossed by the waves of change, let’s learn to steward change toward redemptive ends. Here’s how to start. You have to decide what your relationship with change will be. You can either steward and harness change, or you can spend your life being bullied by it. Your choice.
Click here to learn more about change stewardship from The Resonate Group.
Kerry Bural is the founder and president of The Resonate Group. Prior to this role, Kerry served as the Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Director of Public Relations for Southeastern Seminary, and the Coordinator of Public Relations and Marketing for Criswell College. Kerry began his career in 1989 as an Assistant Visual Coordinator for Visual Planning and Presentation at Neiman Marcus.