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 >>

figure-whitesel-kotters-8-steps-for-church

ENDNOTES:

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 https://hbr.org/2007/01/leading-change-why-transformation-efforts-fail/ar/1

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 https://hbr.org/2007/01/leading-change-why-transformation-efforts-fail/ar/1

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

CULTURE & Why a Salad Bowl Metaphor Is More Accurate Than a Melting Pot

Augusto Portera describes the failure of cultural “fusion” and the so-called “melting pot” metaphor in lieu of the rise of the “salad bowl” metaphor:

EXCERPT Agostino Portera Intercultural 2010 p. 10-11 Metling Pot

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Agostino Portera, “Intercultural and Multicultural Education: Epistemological and Semantic Aspects” in Intercultural and Multicultural Education: Enhancing Global Connectedness, ed.s Carl A. Grant and Agostino Portera (New York: Routledge, 2013), p. 16

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.

KEVIN MYERS: THE INTERNAL CHALLENGE OF CHANGE

By Kevin Myers • February 27, 2014

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“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.

TURNING POINTS

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.

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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 … http://www.outreachmagazine.com/interviews/5417-embracing-change.html

METAPHOR: Is Popular Media Promoting an Orphaned Hero Metaphor In Lieu of … the Grandparent Metaphor? (A Leadership Exercise)

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

To help pastors hone their teaching/preaching skills I use the following “preaching exercise.”

Margaret Mead discovered that grandparents better translate spiritual values down to grandkids that parents do (A House Divided, 2001, p. 51). And, most church leaders recognize the important influence that grandparents have upon the spiritual values of grandchildren.

Is the popular media creating a new and incomplete metaphor: the orphaned (super) hero?

Here is a question about “orphaned heroes,” spurred by a previous student. The student noted that in some “classic TV shows” there was a strong grandparent-grandchild story line. The student mentioned “Little House on the Prairie” as an example with the grandparents living with the grandkids.

For your leadership exercise, answer and then discuss the following questions.

  • So, today what kind of metaphor is the modern media creating (e.g. by stories in movies, books, TV, online, etc.)?
  • How does the media portray the “hero” and “super-hero” today?
  • Do they have strong grandparental ties or weak ones?

You will want to look up the popularity of the “orphan” metaphor in popular culture.  In other words, who are some of the famous “orphans” in popular culture (again, e.g. movies, TV, shows, etc.) that are serving as models for young people.  And, how prevalent are these models of “orphaned heroes?”

METAPHOR & A Domino Effect Video: “Who am I, and where do I belong?” narrated by Sharon Koh

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  One of my recent DMin students at Fuller Seminary, Rev. Sharon Koh, shared an amazing “domino effect” video that uses OT metaphors to teach “It is not who you are, but whose you are.”  Watch this intriguing video (I guarantee you won’t stop it once it starts).

Here is the link to the video: https://vimeo.com/123465875

METAPHOR & Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling #HarvardBusinessReview #Change #Narrative

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “This research by Paul J. Zak and colleagues explains why when undertaking organizational change it is important to tie that change to a story, metaphor and narrative. It turns out that stories create in our brains a positive chemical reaction, creating anticipation, excitement and good feelings, (which are helpful when undertaking some new change). Read this Harvard Business Review article for more insight from Zak’s research.”

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2014/10/why-your-brain-loves-good-storytelling/

METAPHOR & Once Upon a Podcast: 11 Storytelling Podcasts To Love

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “As you know from my postings, researchers have found that utilizing a story as the central aspect of a sermon or when creating church change will make your endeavors twice as effective (Wilchert, 2012). Knowing this, I often wonder why so many pastors rely mostly on topical sermons when research shows that narrative- and story-based sermons are better remembered and their lessons retained more clearly. Could it be that our seminaries don’t teach and our pastors don’t know how to present a good story? If you’re having trouble making a story come to life, then listen to some of these podcasts with great examples of how to make a story come to life.”

Read more at … http://www.brit.co/storytelling-podcasts/