LeaderLines – from Hillcrest Baptist Church, Austin, Texas  Contact Tom Goodman, Pastor
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Hillcrest Church Office
August 12, 2004

LeaderLines is a weekly “e-briefing” providing valuable information and inspiration to those who serve at Hillcrest Baptist Church.

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Here is this week's LeaderLines. . . .

“How People React to Change”
by Tom Goodman

Don’t forget that we go to one service this week, August 15, at 10:45 a.m.!

Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodge have written “The Seven Reactions People Have to Change – and Ways Leaders Can Ease the Transition.”  All seven reactions and suggestions for leaders ring true for the ministry of transition I have experienced.  I will comment on their insights to help you identify how people may react to your proposed “endings” and “beginnings” and ways in which you can respond to those reactions.

1.  “People will feel awkward, ill at ease and self-conscious when confronted with change.”  Change proposed by a leader forces people to go where they would not normally go on their own.  Like a child who has mastered walking and running, learning to ride a bike without training wheels challenges her basic skills and threatens her self-confidence.  Blanchard and Hodge suggest the leader should “tell people what to expect.”

2.  “People will feel alone even if everyone else is going through the same change.”  People process change through their own personal experiences.  They deal with change as it affects them personally, not how it affects the whole.  The sense of being alone in change grows out of their personal losses and challenges.

Blanchard and Hodge tell the leader to “structure activities that create involvement.  Encourage individuals to share ideas and to work together to help each other through change.”  Transition in the church is best done in community.  When people know they have been heard and have a part in the solution to their concerns, they are more likely to follow you through the transition.

3.  “People will think first about what they have to give up.”  Loss of security is one of our deepest fears.  Blanchard and Hodge invite the leader not to “try to sell the benefits of the change effort initially.  Let people mourn their perceived losses.  Listen to them.”  Part of leading in a ministry of transition is being a pastor to those who grieve the loss change brings.  Plan purposeful times to hear the hearts of those you lead while being empathetic to their sense of loss.  The authors are right.  People don’t care about your enthusiasm about the new until they know you have empathy for their loss of the old.

4.  “People will think they can only handle so much change at once.”  They think, “Everything in my life is changing.  I don’t want my church to change too.”  People are forced to juggle changes in how they communicate and work through their stages of life and constantly changing relationship with others.  The change you offer them in order to be more effective in reaching and maturing people in Christ may seem too much to add to their already filled plates.  Remember that, unlike you, they have not given their full-time attention to future opportunities.  Blanchard and Hodge guide the leader to “set priorities on which changes to make, and go for the long run.”  Post those words where you can see them everyday.

5.  “People will be concerned that they don’t have enough resources (time, money, skills, etc.) to implement the change.”  A scarcity mentality can overcome both leaders and followers when changes begin to happen.  Vision always demands resources greater than the present state, so this concern is real to those who face the change.  People vote with their feet and their pocketbooks no matter what 51 percent said at the last business meeting.  Loss of people and financial resources cause people genuine concern as you face the future.  Blanchard and Hodge tell servant leaders to “encourage creative problem solving.”  Bill Hybels said during the 2003 Willow Creek Leadership Summit that “leaders love problems.”  Problem solving is what leaders do, and they love doing it!  Facing the reality of fewer resources calls for creative problem solving by the leader and those he leads as part of the leadership challenge in a ministry of transition.

6.  “People will be at different levels of readiness for any particular change.”  Blanchard and Hodge suggest you “don’t label or pick on people.  Recognize that some people are risk-takers and others take longer to feel secure.  Someone who’s an early adopter of one type of change might balk at another type of change.”

7.  “If pressure is taken off, people will revert to old behaviors.”  Homeostasis is the natural “process by which an organism maintains constant internal conditions in the face of a varying external environment.”  That truth in nature is also true about people and how they react to change.  Since we prefer things to stay the same, we naturally resist any challenges to our “natural state.”  This is too often true when church becomes a static institution and its keepers have things operating the way they want them to operate.  Blanchard and Hodge encourage the servant leader to “keep people focused on maintaining the change and managing the journey.”  The art of servant leadership is knowing when to put pressure on people to change and when to pull off to the side of the road for rest and recreation.  Once you start down the path of transition, you cannot look back.  Remember Jesus’ words, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).


Today’s LeaderLines is taken from C. Gene Wilkes’ book Paul on Leadership, page 63-66.

Important Notes:

Leadership Breakfast THIS Saturday!  About fifty people have signed up to come to our Second Annual Leadership Breakfast, August 14, from 8:30-11:30 a.m.  Your Ministry Staff will cook your breakfast, and we’ll look at some important information about the 2004-2005 church year.  We’ll introduce all leaders to the Purpose-Driven Life Campaign.  Call the church office immediately if you plan to come!  Childcare through fifth grade is provided for those who let us know you need it.
Send an E-Card!  The popular ventriloquist Dennis Lee will be at Hillcrest August 15 at 6:30 p.m.!  Tell your friends about it!  Send them an e-card at www.HillcrestAustin.org/ecard.