CHANGE & A Case Study of the 4 Forces That Control Change

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 10/16/15.

Change is an intricate interplay of four forces that are driving change:

1) Life-cycle Forces,

2) Goal-orientated Forces,

3) Conflict-oriented Forces, and/or

4) Trend-orientated Forces.

And, in hindsight it is often evident that these four forces are at play, pushing a church to change (download this Church Executive Magazine article for an introduction to the four forces of change: article_four-forces-whitesel-church-executive-article(1) )

As a leadership exercise to help see the interplay of these for (4) forces it is often helpful to use a case study.

The Leadership Exercise:  The Story of First Church

Create a “Case Study” as a leadership team or cohort, where each participant adds a little more to “The Story of First Church.”

I will start, and then each participant adds some more details to the story.  Try to create a story that will show the delicate interplay of all four forces pushing First Church toward change.

Here is the beginning:

Pastor Theresa has just been hired by First Church as the senior pastor.  She has been told by a pastor friend that this church is a pastor-killer.  Not to be daunted, Theresa has prayed with her friends and spouse and feels more than up to the task.  As she is unpacking her books in her new office, there is a knock on the door.  In walks Ed, the chairman of the administrative board.  Ed is younger than she, and always full of ideas.  In fact, Pastor Theresa had been excited that she would be working with an innovative person like Ed. The first words out of Ed’s mouth are, “I’ve just been to a conference, and I’ve learned that updating the worship service can help an aging church like ours…” (Life-Cycle Forces of an aging congregation are pushing Ed to suggest this change. And Trend-orientated Forces are pushing Ed to suggest they adopt the latest worship format.)

Now you can begin to add the rest of the story

Here are the rules for adding to our case study story:

  • This is first-come, first-served exercise.
  • Each person adds a few sentences to this story.
  • You can add more than once, but wait until at least three others have responded. Usually each participant should post to this story twice, but you can add more, just remember the “additions by three others first” rule (to ensure parity).
  • When you add something that has to do with one of the four forces, name that force in parenthesis, e.g. (Trend-orientated Force).

This is an often creative, yet poignant way to study the complex interplay of the four forces pushing for change. And, it will hopefully help you recognize these forces more in the future.

Remember, this exercise is the development of a “theory of change” and thus you do not have to delve into how to control that change yet. For the current leadership exercise just create a “case study” of how the hypothetical leader of First Church encounters change in all of its glorious intricacy and friction.

Thanks for adding to Pastor Theresa’s  dilemma.

PS  I just (wink) found this great video (below) of Pastor Theresa when she was considering going to seminary.  I hope it adds a bit of humor so that this exercise doesn’t get gloomy: