Change. That word can be a very troubling thing for some people. And for others, it is a welcomed reprieve from a monotonous pattern. Regardless of where you personally fall on the continuum, the reality is that at some point in each of our lives, we will be faced with change. And there’s nothing you can do about it! But how you react to that change and how you help others walk through change; now that is what you can do something about.
If you listen to the podcast, you know that my church has recently gone through some major change. To make a long story short, we discovered some structural issues in the multi-purpose gym where we gather on Sundays. Those structural issues could potentially cause the building to collapse in the event of an earthquake (worst case scenario, mind you). So for the safety of our people, we are no longer meeting in that room. Instead we are now meeting in our Fellowship Hall which is smaller, and was not built to hold 350 people in a worship service. It’s different. It’s a big change.
During this transition, I’ve learned a lot about how I react to change. I’ve realized that I don’t like the process of change, but I love the result. And I believe that’s pretty typical of people with change. It’s work. It can be hard. There’s a learning curve. You have to develop new systems and it takes time and energy. But most of the time, the end result is worth it.
From the time we made the decision to no longer meet in the gym, to the time we had our first Sunday in the Fellowship Hall was less than 2 weeks. 12 days to be exact. 12 days to come up with a plan to create a sound system, lights, video, seating, and all the functionality of a Sunday service. I was stressed and it was hard. I did not like that change. But now that we’re in that room, it’s totally working. And surprisingly enough, people really enjoy it in there. It’s been 4 weeks now, but people are adjusting to the change.
And that’s the point I want to drive home: people will adjust and adapt. Some take longer, some take shorter, but eventually everyone gets used to the change. And how you respond to people who deal with change is really critical as a leader.
I remember the first Sunday we were in the new building and one gentleman, who has a hard time with change, was upset that I had moved the Prayer Sheets. He wanted them in a certain place and he appeared mad and frustrated. I remember thinking, “Get over it, there are 50 things I’m trying to balance this morning, don’t worry about where the prayer sheets are”.
Later, I shared with one of the Elders that interaction and I made the comment, “I can’t believe how mad he got at me!”. This Elder said something very wise: “Don’t confuse anxiousness for aggression”. The gentleman was anxious because things were different and he was stressed out. His anxiety was over the change, but it was not aggression towards me.
As leaders, we have the opportunity to help people in moments of change. But be careful not to react to peoples anxiety. Everyone deals with change differently, and we can help them but being loving, gentle, patient and kind. That reaction will go a long way to help soothe an anxious heart than to get defensive, assuming an attitude of aggression on their part.
We will all face change. Be prepared for it. It will take some time and work, but people will adapt. And those you minister with who have a hard time; you have an opportunity to love on them and be patient with them. In the end, things will settle, the dust will clear, and the change will become the norm… until the next change!