CHANGE & My video introduction to “The 4 Forces that Control Change” #LEAD600

Here is a video introduction to articles I have written (for anyone) and assignments (for students in LEAD 600, etc.) that deal with controlling change (which we call theories of changing). It introduces the viewer to “The Four Forces that Control Change” and how to manage each.

©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.

Articles mentioned in the video as well as additional articles are available at the following links:

Download the Church Executive article by Bob Whitesel here:  ARTICLE_Four Forces-Whitesel (Church Executive Article)

Fownload the article in the Journal of the Great Commission Research Network here: article-whitesel-gcrn-toward-a-holistic-and-postmodernal-theory-of-change-in-cg-literature-gcrn . To subscribe and/or receive more information about The Great Commission Research Journal (the new name) click here:

And find more “theories of changing” articles on here:




CHANGE & Understanding the J-curve of Resistance

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Jerald Jellison, famed University of Southern California Professor of Psychology created the change management “J-curve” to explain how people deal with change. It confirms Dyke and Starke’s 6-stage/5-trigger model of change. For more on this latter model and it’s application to the church, see the books: “Preparing for Change Reaction: How to introduce change in your church” and “Staying Power: Why people leave the church of a change and what you can do about it.

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J-curve 5.pngRead more at … change management “J-curve”

Speaking hastags: #NewDirectionChurch



CHANGE & How to Change a Ministry in 8 Stages (seminar presentation)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., 6/21/15. (adapted and annotated for seminars by the author from his book with Mark DeYmaz, reMix: Transitioning Your Church to Living Color, Abingdon Press, 2017).

So, what steps are required to transition a church? Just 8 actually.

John Kotter is a renowned and respected change coach who perfected eight steps for organizational change that have been applied successfully to thousands of organizational transitions.1  Harvard Business Review said, “Perhaps nobody understands the anatomy of organizational change better than retired Harvard Business School professor John P. Kotter.”2

NOTE:  Here is a link Kotter’s seminal 1995 article and #InfoGraphic on change and the best overview of this Harvard professor’s change methods.

I have consulted or mentored hundreds of church transitions. And, I have found Kotter’s eight stages to be reliable, valid and important steps for a healthy church transition to living color.

Here are the key phases for implementing the principles and procedures of a church revitalization.

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8 Steps to Transforming Your Church 3

1. “Establishing a Sense of Urgency.”

  • It is important to begin with a period of time where you acquaint the congregants with the need and Biblical mandate for transitioning to a church living color.  Because of the urgent situation, many church leaders will be tempted to ignore this step and launch headlong into transition.  Yet, in my consulting work I have found that this step is critical.  Pray, study, research and dialogue on the importance of a church transition first.
  • Share the urgency is multiple venues.  Don’t just use sermons, but let this be the topic of Bible studies, discussion groups, prayer groups, small groups and Sunday School classes.
  • Remember, urgency is a key.  Congregants must understand that we are today at the point where changes in communities across North America requires churches to stand up for Biblical principles of growth and change.

2. “Forming a Powerful Guiding Coalition.”

  • The second step which you must successfully navigate is the development of an influential and guiding coalition.  Even though you might think you know the situation the best, due to history, education or background: a church is a communal organization and leadership works best when there is a communal leadership.  Find those that resonate with the transition and help them take the vision to the rest of the congregation.
  • Look for “persons of peace.”  When Jesus told his disciples to spread out and take their message to the byways and villages of the Israel, he suggested they rely upon persons of “peace” they might encounter (Luke 10:6).  The Greek word for peace is derived from the word “to join” and it literally means a person who helps people from divergent viewpoints and even warring convictions to join together in unity whereby oneness, peace, quietness and rest result.4 So, enlist people who are “peacemakers” who have demonstrated they can bring warring and opposing parties together.
  • Listen to the naysayers, even though they may not be part of your guiding coalition, your coalition should hear them out.  This is a step that if overlooked will usually splinter the congregation. This is because research has shown that unless you go to the naysayers and listen to them, they will feel left out of the consultative process and eventually fight the change.5  So go to those who will most affected or displaced and listen to them.  Hearing them out has been shown to create new networks of dialogue that can prevent polarization.  But, you must go to them early in the vision creating process.

3. “Creating a Vision.”

  • People must see the future before they can work toward it.  The goal is to have an easy to read, clear vision statement in no more than a paragraph.
  • Get all of the members of your guiding coalition to help you draft, refine and edit your vision.
  • Many times church leaders rely solely on a written statement of vision. While this is helpful (if drawn up with input from your guiding coalition, see above) you must create a vision with the following “communication elements” too.

NOTE:  A vision should be a “visual representation” of what the church will look like in 5 years.  USE:  (a.) A small group to create, (b) a short statement to communicate.  Here is an article on “The Art of Crafting a 15-word Strategy Statement” from Harvard Business Review  Good vision statements and Poor Vision Statements (compared).

4. “Communicating the Vision.”

  • Use all communication vehicles available to you: written, vocal, electronic, narrative, arts, mixed-media, etc.
  • Experience it first-hand by taking your leaders and congregants to places where turnaround ministry is being done. In these locales congregants can see first hand, ask questions and experience the heart of a ministry that is being revitalized. Vision can be communicated best by picturing something rather than just writing out a paragraph of technical terms.
  • stone-stack-sign-1500x430Use stories to help people picture change.  Scott Wilcher while studying change found that successful change is more than twice as likely to occur if you attach a story to depict the change.6  In the Bible you can find dozens of Biblical stories that depict change.  Attach these stories to the vision to make the vision “come to life in a story” (after all that is what Jesus did with his compelling use of parables).

NOTE:  Read more of 12Stone’s story here.  CLICK here for a HANDOUT >>> HANDOUT Whitesel – Metaphor (popular) copy about how metaphor increases change from 30% success rate to 85% success rate.

SLIDE Metaphor 85% = 30% Change based on Wilcher

5. “Empowering Others to Act on the Vision.”

  • Delegate your power to others.  Too many times passionate church leaders are tempted to go it alone. One pastor said, “Jesus had to do it alone.”  And atonement and redemption were definitely things that only the Son of God could accomplish. But remember, he rounded-up and delegated to his disciples his ministry (Matthew 10, Mark 6, Luke 9, 10).  You too must delegate to those you have mentored.
  • Create accountability.  Because the Good News (Matt. 28:19-20) is so essential, it requires that evaluation and accountability be central too.  Have regular checkup discussions with clear objectives.
  • Remember, because change can be polarizing, oversight and accountability for progress are essential.

6. “Planning for and Creating Short-Term Wins.”

NOTE:  This is probably the most overlooked step.

  • This is the key step most overlooked.  Kotter discovered, and we have confirmed in our church consulting, that short-term wins help people see the validity and direction of a new vision.
  • Short-term wins are projects, programs and processes that can be undertaken quickly and temporarily. They usually won’t change the long-term outcomes (yet).  But they demonstrate the validity of the transition in a quick, temporary way.  Thus, they pave the way for long-term wins.
  • Many short-term wins will convince reticent constituents of long-term legitimacy of the new direction.
  • Use temporary “task forces” instead of semi-permanent committees to investigate and launch new directions in ministries.  Then as task forces prove their effectiveness they can be transitioned into more permanent committees.

7. “Using increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit the vision.”

  • As noted above, wins even in the short-term can give the leadership coalition the social capital to make structural changes.
  • Don’t start with structural changes. You haven’t got enough buy-in from hesitant members and/or most of the congregation.
  • Only after your short-term wins validate your approach will you be able to change systems, structures and policies.

NOTE:  There is a “continuum” or “progress toward” better models for a multicultural (or multiethnic) church.  All are found in The Health Church (Wesleyan Publishing House).  Here are three from good … better … and best:

FIGURE ©Whitesel HEALTHY Multicultural Partnership copyFIGURE ©Whitesel HEALTHY Multicultural Mother Daughter copy

FIGURE ©Whitesel HEALTHY Multicultural Alliance copy

8. “Institutionalizing New Approaches.”

  • As your ministry moves in the exciting direction of revitalized ministry, encourage an organizational structure that promotes this in the future.
  • Institutionalizing principles of church transformation will allow you to reach out to new people and cultures as they develop in your community.
  • Finally for long-term health and viability, the revitalized church of must acquire a personality and reputation as a church of consistency in theology but change in Godly methodology.

You can download the article here >> WHITESEL ARTICLE 8 Steps to Changing a Church

Below is the slide I use in my presentations >>



1 John Kotter, Leading Change, (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1996), John Kotter, “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail,” Harvard Business Review (Boston, Harvard Business Publishing, 2007), retrieved from

2  Editor’s note to John Kotter, ibid. Harvard Business Review.

3  John Kotter, “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail,” Harvard Business Review (Boston, Harvard Business Publishing, 2007), retrieved from

4 James Strong The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Thomas Nelson, 1990), 1515.

5 Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change and What You Can Do About It (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002) and Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2008).

Scott Wilcher, MetaSpeak: Secrets of Regenerative Leadership to Transform your Workplace, Ph.D. dissertation (Nashville: Turnaround 2020 Conference, 2013).

VIDEO of Scott Wilchert explaining the role of metaphor/story in communicating change:

Scott Wilchert, MetaSpeak: Secrets of Regenerative Leadership (Nashville: Turnaround 2020 Conference, 2013), video at this link.

ADDITIONAL FOOTNOTES for PowerPoint slides:

F. J. Barrett and D.L. Cooperrider, Generative metaphor intervention: A new approach for working with systems divided by conflict and caught in defensive perception, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science (Maryland: Silver Springs, NTL Institute, 1990) Vol. 26, pp. 219-239

Julia Balogun and Veronica Hope Hailey, Exploring Strategic Change, 3rd Edition (New York: Pierson Publishing, 2008).

G. Bushe and A. Kassam,  When is Appreciative Inquiry Transformational? A Meta-Case Analysis, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science (Maryland: Silver Springs, NTL Institute, 2005) Vol. 41, pp. 161-18.

Sohail Inayatullah, “From Organizational to Institutional Change,” On the Horizon (London: Emerald Publishing, 2005), Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 46-53.

Speaking hashtags: #BreakForth16 #Renovate15 #ChurchRevitalization #TheologicalReflection #Renovate16 DMin

CHANGE & Practical Steps 12Stone Church Undertook to Change

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: My colleague Kevin Myers is a studious and well-read pastor. I’m not surprised that when undertaking structural and branding changes at 12Stone church that he intuitively embraced many of the principles of effective change. Read this case study about the change that took place and notice the following important PreparingChange_Reaction_Mdelements for effective change. 1) They built consensus before they moved forward. 2) They retained what was working in the past and built upon it. 3) They looked at things that weren’t working in the past and then carefully and thoughtfully changed them. 4) They carefully built a consensus to select the best new ideas. And 5) God gave Kevin a Biblical metaphor that helped people visualize and internalize the missional nature of the change. For more on these and other “steps of change” see the book that came out of my PhD research on change titled, “Preparing for Change Reaction.” And then read this article for a good introduction regarding how one church did it well.


By Kevin Myers • February 27, 2014


“We often talk about ‘change’ as if it’s easy. But leading change is often dealing with our own resistance as well as others’.”

Kevin Myers Senior Pastor
12Stone ChurchLawrenceville, Ga.


When 12Stone was 20 years old, nobody called us 12Stone. Our founding name was Crossroads Community Church. We birthed and built with that name. It was supernaturally given and sacred. We started with a name and eight people in a living room. It took seven years to break 200 and 15 years to break 1,500. At 20 years, we were more than 3,000. Yet we sensed a new era was before us as we were making changes for a new campus with 2,500 seats and becoming a multicampus church. So I introduced a turning point for our leadership team:

Since we have so many “changes” in front of us, let’s make the change that will affect everyone, and let’s change our name! Let’s face it, there are already so many “Crossroads” churches that we cannot maintain our distinction as we expand campuses. For that reason and more, let’s teach our church how to “change”!

So we entered into a redefining season and led the entire church into a teaching series that peaked with introducing our name change. In one weekend, we changed our 20-year name to the re-imagined 12Stone Church. I reminded everyone that, No.1, our mission is to keep God, his word and salvation sacred, but our methods and even our name can change, and No. 2, while we appreciate and celebrate our past, we will re-imagine and change for our future.


Through that process of change, something shifted in me as a leader, and something shifted in our church. We often talk about “change” as if it’s easy. But leading change is often dealing with our own resistance as well as others’.

So we settled it. If we were going to take new territory for the kingdom, we would have to let go of things that were familiar, much like David before he became king. What got him noticed was taking down Goliath with a sling. But what made him famous was taking down tens of thousands with a sword. Sometimes you have to trade your familiar slingfor an unfamiliar sword as part of “becoming and conquering.”

stone-stack-sign-1500x430Changing our name was not the primary reason we grew from 3,500 to some 14,000 over these last five years. But the spirit of making leadership changes for the sake of the mission ignited a new era and a fresh freedom—the freedom to lead “change.” So where do you need to trade in your sling for a sword? (The Bible never records David using the sling again.)…

Read more at …

THEOLOGY & A Theology of Ecclesial Change

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/22/06.


An earlier ethnographic survey of 12 Christian congregations that were largely led, staffed and populated with adults between the ages of 22 and 35, was designed to uncover synergies and strategies that might inform further research among our master and doctoral students in the College of Graduate Studies at Indiana Wesleyan University regarding how efficacious change was implemented in these environs.

This monolith appropriates Van de Ven and Poole’s four-force model of change (Van de Ven and Poole 1995; Poole and Van de Ven 2004) and applies it to changes the early church underwent in the Acts of the Apostles as it grappled with the assimilation of Gentile converts. A five stage process-model for organizational change is proposed with an accompanying suggestion for a theology of ecclesial organizational change.

Greek Designations For a Theology of Ecclesial Organizational Change

A Scriptural predilection for personal behavioral and cognitive change largely overshadows most investigations into the organizational change that a Pharisaic and Diasporic Judaism was undergoing in a transformation into an in situ Messianic community. Laubach points out that this emphasis upon behavioral and cognitive change is evidenced in both Greek and New Testament authors in their proclivity to employ strepho, hapostrepho and strepho in contexts which suggest cognitive and behavioral changes of philosophic and moral perspectives (Laubach 1967:354-355).

A study of Greek literature suggests that morphe might be helpful. Greek writers debated the dynamic “twilight” between reality and form (Plato 1941), and in doing so they employed morphe to emphasize the outward appearance of inner change (Braumann 1967:705-706). Yet, Braumann’s Scriptural examination suggests organizational change is not encompassed in this word’s New Testament usage either (ibid.)

Metanoia might be the most well known word for change, yet it appears rarely in classical Greek literature (Goetzmann 1967:357). This leaves its focus at the mercy of the Septuagint and New Testament writers, where it too carries the force of personal rather than corporate turn in direction (Behm 1964-1974).

However, one word does come into our view carrying the connotation of outward change in appearance with an emphasis upon the form the change evolves through and into (Braumann 1967:709-710). This word, a cognate of schema, is meteschematizo and occurs five times in Paul’s writings to the Corinthians and once in his writings to the Philippians. Let us look at each, the later first.

In Philippians 3:21 the import of meteschematizo is an eschatological outward change in humankind’s appearance, or as Braumann describes “real participation in the glorified body of Christ (Braumann 1967:709). Synergy with outward organizational change is not fostered here, but rather an emphasis upon eventual and outward personal change (Ladd 1981:563-564).

In 1 Corinthians 4:6 Paul warns his skeptics that he applies (meteschematisa) certain constrictions to his outward teachings, because of his desire to be a faithful and trustful servant of Christ’s message (1 Corinthians 4:1-2). Braumann points out this connotes a thoroughness in transformation (Braumann 1967:709), while Scheider suggests here also lies an emphasis upon an outward appearance that is not the “expected or customary form” (Schneider 1964-1974:958). While this is closer to a description of organizational transformation into an unexpected form, meteschematisa here is applied personally and not corporately. Yet, the use of the term to describe unexpected or uncustomary outward changes in appearance that are due to inner enthuses will be suggested later to describe organizational change in the New Testament.

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 contains the remaining instances of meteschematizo where the word is employed by Paul to describe a fallacious appearance of false apostles. The NIV describes this as a “masquerade,” while the NASB and RSV employ the less animated “disguise.” Yet, the usage here retains an external emphasis based upon an inner adjustment, but again applies it personally rather than corporately.

A scouring of theological summaries provides limited analysis of organizational change beyond the above understandings. And thus we find tantalizingly useful words, but not applied to the organizational transformations we seek to discuss in this monolith. Subsequently, an analysis of New Testament history, especially as reflected in Luke’s writings of the Acts of the Apostles (an intentional delimitation to ensure this discussion is not unwieldy), can provide an understanding of the forces for change and resultant processes employed under the unction of the Holy Spirit within the early church to organizationally transition from a Jewish sect into a widespread force for altruism, faith and change.

Scholarly Discussion of a Theology of Ecclesial Organizational Change

A Scriptural focus upon personal change may have resulted in ecclesial organizational change receiving less than adequate analysis among theologians. A search of American Theological Library Association (ATLA) databases provides less than a handful of journal articles on a theology of change. And, most investigate the personal, cognitive and behavioral change that humans undergo, rather than corporate change. A few however, bear mentioning.

Ellen Charry posits an interesting contribution to her reflections upon Jurgen Moltmann’s work, titled “Reviving Theology in a Time of Change” (Charry 1996). Though designed to address the task of theology in the elastic world of postmodernity, she none-the-less argues for new workings in theology while hinting at the importance of studying the dynamic tension between theology and changing contexts. Charry opens the door for more study on the synergies created when contextual change intersects theology. She leaves the reader standing with the door ajar, perhaps wishing her reader or students to cross the threshold. However, her contribution is not just in the observation that contextual change is a force unfairly neglected in theology inquiry, but also in her conclusion that postmodern generations eschew broad systemizations in favor of fluid and elastic understandings where change serves as a force to be reacted to and embraced (Charry:118)

In a similar vein, Martyn Percy pens a hopeful “A Theology of Change for the Church” in his contribution to a book on Anglican ecclesial management (Percy 2000). However, the result is a less than satisfying theological apologetic for Anglican polity and practices as responses to change (2000:177-178). A theology of how ecclesial organizational change occurs is not evident, overshadowed by a defense of denominational polity and actions. Nor does a Biblical theology emerge from this discussion, rather Percy tenders an apologetic for Episcopal-based structures and hierarchical controls (2000:177). Not unexpectedly, the result is better labeled a theology of changing (see my upcoming explanation), and still bears greater resemblance to a theology of leadership, with sub-sets of control and administration.

However, it is de Jongh van Arkel who hints at the potential for a theology of change in his insightful article “Understanding Change as Practical Theologian” (De Jongh van Arkel 2001). Though discussing a theology of personal change, he observes that “in theology we often talk about change as if there were little to explain or understand” (2001:31). This tendency to avoid what on the surface seems pedestrian and self-explanatory may also be the malady of any investigation of theology and its relationship to ecclesial organizational change. De Jongh van Arkel argues that “religious change …. is still an open field for research” with a potential to result in a more complex, yet holistic view of humankind and its actions (2001:58). He thus sees a requisite duty of theologians to analyze this theological step-child to elicit “a more informal understanding and theory of change (that) would become part of our basic theories in practical theology” (2001:31). While de Jongh van Arkel is making his arguments largely targeted at crafting a more holistic theology of personal change, the same should be true of the construction of a theology of ecclesial organizational change; where both are subsets of a practical theology.

A contributing factor to what de Jongh van Arkel describes as a modernist neglect of a theology of change, may be because change is a messy, uncharted and muddled arena. It has been observered that a modernist Christendom likes to have its concepts tidy and neatly packaged (Dockery 1995:14-15; Oden 1995:27-31; Grenz 1996:71-81). Yet, postmodernity seems to have no apprehension toward tackling the shadowy-side, of Christian life and community (Whitesel 2006:108-123). Mike Yaconelli penned a book popular among postmodernal young people that eschewed Christianity as a nice, codified set of principles, and rather acknowledged it as unclear, ambiguous and even sometimes hazardous to personal mental peace (Yaconelli 2002). Brian McLaren’s summative title, A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/protestant, Liberal/conservative, Mystical/poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-Yet Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished Christian (McLaren 2004) alludes to this multiplicity. Hermann Hesse’s protagonist may have said it best, when he insinuates modernist man longs for the regimentation of the Middle Ages, by stating “a man of the Middle Ages would detest the whole mode of our present-day life as something far more than horrible, far more than barbarous. Every age, every culture, every custom and tradition has its own character, its own weakness and its own strength, its beauties and ugliness; accepts certain sufferings as matter of course, puts up patiently with certain evils” (Hesse 1957:22).

Subsequently, there may be little hesitation for postmodernal thinkers to closely examine and conjecture on the relationships between change, theology and organizational behavior. De Jongh van Arkel’s avoidance hypothesis, is hopefully no longer required by a generation that sees and welcomes both beauty and ugliness in God’s creation, including the church and its theology.

Even over a quarter century ago these tensions were shaping the mind of Michael Ryan (Ryan 1975). While contributing to a volume he edited on The Contemporary Explosion in Theology, Ryan suggests that life-cycle forces are causing a reevaluation of modernist institutions and their beliefs by younger generations (1975:1). Though embracing a postmodernist viewpoint, Ryan does not utilize the term postmodern. Instead he prefers to call for the contemporary theologians bursting upon the scene to contemplate the dynamic tensions inherent in change and craft an understanding (1975:10-16). Due to its inevitability, Ryan encourages that change be embraced by the church, because there are “vital forces and new institutions around them demanding that they change, that they adapt to new conditions of life” (1975:1).

Toward this cultural and theological demand, the remainder of this monolith will seek to inaugurate a discussion. While theologians such as Percy, de Jongh van Arkel, Ryan and others have scratched the surface, it is the hope that this present study will release creative new ideas for theological inquiry, and will enlarge research of ecclesial organizational change and a theology that might inform it.

 Historical Evidence of a Theology of Ecclesial Organizational Change

Download the rest of the article HERE: ARTICLE ©Whitesel – Toward a Theology of Ecclesial Change PhD

MISS 600 LEAD 600 LEAD 558

AGING & Increasing Insecurity: Why Older Adults Don’t Welcome Change

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 10/25/15.

(Note: “They’re looking for someplace where they can have some degree security.”)

The student replied that she was fed up with the older generation “not wanting to change.” She stated “They never want the church to change anything, even if it means closing the doors of the church.”

I responded that I was not sure I could completely agree with her conclusions.

Insecurity: The Reason Older Congregants in My Client Churches Resist Change.

I explained thus is because I conduct focus groups of older people at every church I consult, literally hundreds of churches. One result is that I’ve found it’s not that they don’t want to change, but it’s that they have increased insecurity in their life. Let me explain by citing here my response to her.  I stated the following:

Older congregants have increasing insecurity in;

  • their health,
  • their friendships (because friends are moving away),
  • and their finances (as they struggle with mounting bills as they live on s fixed income.)

Security:  Looking for Security and Familiarity in Their Church

Therefore in my client churches they’re looking for someplace where they can have some degree of security. Someplace with things can remain the same. Someplace where their friends can gather and reminisce and enjoy the old old and good days.

This often is in what we call the third space. The first space is our family. The second space is where we work. And the third space is where we hang out with friends. For younger generations this could be a Starbucks or Café.  But for me the older generation this is often their church. (See my articles on Odenberg’s theory of “third space.”)

Thus seniors are afraid of losing the community they enjoy and that gathers in the third space. And that third space is usually the worship service as well as the time they meet before and after.

Let Them Have Their Worship Service (along with its styles, traditions, etc.)

I found in my case-study research that churches grow faster when they let the old traditional service alone. Let them have their third space and worship community… in the style they like .

But, add something new too!

But, add  something new at a different time or different place to reach other generations and/or cultures.

Just remember, the older members are seeking security and I believe God has provided the church to provide that security. And it is often at church where they  feel secure in the predictability of the worship service,  it’s liturgy and structure.

Speaking Hashtags:  #BreakForth16

CHANGE & The Name Researchers Give to the Way Most Churches Change

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 10/19/15.

One of the more interesting theories of changing is called the “Garbage Can Theory.”  Loosely stated, it is that an organization is a container in which you throw a lot of people with creative ideas and a lot of problems and you mix them up and see what works.

Churches often succumb to this “trial-and-error” approach to change. “Try this, if that doesn’t work, try that.” The problem is that trial-and-error often burns out volunteers because they get tired of trying new ideas only to see them fail because they were not vetted for suitability.

Thus, the Garbage Can Model is not the recommended for non-profit organizations because it has a high level of trial-and-error and this burns out volunteer organizations.

One of my favorite quotes from Cohen, March and Olsen about this is, “From this point of view, an organization is a collection of choices looking for problems, issues and feelings looking for decision situations in which they might be aired, solutions looking for issues to which they might be the answer, and decision makers looking for work” (Cohen, March and Olsen, 1972:2).

That doesn’t seem like a place that hurting people would like to join.

But, trial-and-error may be the primary way our churches handle change.  Thus Bøje Larsen might say (along with Cohen, March and Olsen) that churches usually employ a garbage can approach for tackling change.

Take a look at the attached diagram of how Bøje Larsen views the GCM interplaying with the expertise of leaders as well as quality management.  (Diagram is by Bøje Larsen, “The garbage can life cycle model of quality management” The TQM Journal, 2001:95-104; retrieved from – CLICK to enlarge.)

FIGURE Garbage Can Model of Change