Pastors and church leaders often find themselves in a time of major change in their church or organization. In this video, Dr. Jeff Iorg, President of Gateway Seminary, discusses the biggest mistakes leaders make as they enter a season of major change.
The entire video is above, and the complete transcript is below.
Today I’d to talk with you about the biggest mistake that leaders make when trying to lead major change. Now by major change I mean something that’s gonna take, say, two to five years to accomplish in your church or your ministry organization. Something that’s really going to change the direction of your ministry or your church or your organization for years to come.
The biggest mistake that leaders make in this context is failing to identify how the major change connects directly with the mission of the organization and more importantly to the mission of God. The only reason to ever initiate major change is to more effectively lead your church or organization to accomplish your mission in the context of God’s mission.
Know Your Mission
Now that implies a couple of things. First of all, it implies you know the mission of your church or organization. That you can say in one sentence what you’re about, what your purpose is, what you’re trying to accomplish.
And then that also assumes that you understand God’s mission and how you fit into that. Now I think the simplest way to express God’s mission is to describe it as the Great Commission and the spirit of the Great Commandment.
And so I’d ask you this question before you start initiating any major change: Do you understand the mission of your organization and how that mission fits into God’s mission in the world today?
And if you do then you ask yourself this important question: How does this major change possibility that I’m considering fulfill our mission and, as a result, fulfill God’s mission? If it doesn’t then you have no business initiating that kind of major change.
Change for the Wrong Reasons
I say that because sometimes people initiate major change for the wrong reasons. Sometimes they do it to satisfy their own ego. I want bigger ministry. I want a bigger auditorium. I want more notoriety. I want more social media followers. I want it be more about me. I want to be better known. And that’s hard to admit, but let’s be frank, sometimes that’s what’s driving us to initiate these changes.
Here’s another one: Sometimes people initiate major change for personal comfort or to make things easier for themselves.
Once recently a younger pastor said to me, “Hey, I’m finally going to get an associate pastor.”
I said, “Really?”
He said, “Yes. We’ve been through this major change process of finding the money and reorganizing our staff and changing expectations of our leadership team. And now I’m going to get an associate pastor.”
I said, “Well, what will you have this person do?”
He said, “Well, I want them to take on some responsibility that I don’t really enjoy doing and do some things I don’t do very well. Basically just make my life a little easier.”
And I know this guy pretty well so I was pretty direct with him. And I said, “I hope you fail at that.” I said, “I hope you don’t find anyone who will do that.”
He said, “Well, what do you mean?”
I said, “You’re about to spend a significant amount of resource and you’ve already spent a lot of time and energy all to make your life easier. I hope find an associate who will help you fulfill your mission, who will multiply your work, not make it easier, but actually make it more complicated as your organization, in this case a church, expands.”
So sometimes we want to initiate major change for ego needs or for comfort needs. Here’s another one, sometimes we initiate major change and try to connect it to the mission to give it legitimacy when it really has a different reason. Don’t do that. Be frank and honest about why you’re trying to change something.
And if it really relates to the mission of your organization or church, and it really serves God’s mission, then put your energy into making it happen because the change then is essential to the mission. And that has significant, significant ramifications as you go forward about how you handle everything from resource allocation to conflict when it comes up to your own perseverance to get it done.
Listen, if the major change is related to the mission, you’ll do anything to accomplish it. If it’s not, don’t ever start it in the first place.