Welcome to the Change Process

Greetings, Convergence Leaders!

Perhaps you have had to lead your congregation through a process like one of these … or perhaps you will in the future:

  • Starting a new congregation
  • Purchasing/Building a new facility
  • Moving to two or more services
  • Adding staff
  • Restructuring leadership
  • Starting a major new program
  • Changing your liturgy or order or style of worship
  • Increasing your budget
  • Decreasing your budget
  • Renovating facilities
  • Merging congregations
  • Changing your doctrinal statement
  • Changing a policy, for example, on LGBTQ equality/inclusion
  • Becoming more multicultural
  • Participating in a city-wide initiative
  • Relocating
  • Welcoming a new senior minister/pastor/priest
  • Joining or leaving a denomination or movement
  • Launching a church outreach/growth initiative
  • Refocusing on children and youth
  • Deciding to discontinue a congregation
  • Becoming more engaged in social justice/public life

If so, you discover that leading through times of change brings a new set of challenges and demands of you a new set of skills and qualities.

Here’s a bit of my change agent biography:

Along the way, church leaders learn about change in many ways - through mistakes, through successes, through pain, through joy, through study. This video invites you to do some reflection on what you’ve learned about change so far in your leadership. You probably know a lot more than you realize!

Some changes are technical (or lateral); others are adaptive (or creative). Chances are, your congregation needs some of each, as I explain in this video:

Technical changes result in “fixes.” The problem or challenge is clear, and the solution - or change - is also simple. Often, one expert can come in and make the change happen decisively. That doesn’t mean technical change won’t involve pain or push-back, but the change solves a problem, and once the problem is solved, that change process is over. 

You might say it like this: in technical change, we don’t have to change. In fact, the purpose of the change is to allow us to keep going more or less as we have been. But in adaptive change, we have to adapt. The change includes us. Our thinking, our assumptions, our way of life have to change in some way. We are part of the change. There is no simple “fix.”

So, in adaptive change processes, we must rethink things, unlearn and learn things, see and respond to reality in new ways. Often, no “fix” is possible … only wise adaptation. 

In addition, in adaptive change, no single person or group can design and implement the change successfully; instead, many people are involved, with complex processes of input and feedback, brainstorming and selection, evaluation and problem-solving. Often, facing adaptive challenges, we don’t say the change has been implemented and the problem solved, but rather that we’re making progress. 

If you’d like to learn more about adaptive and technical change, check out these resources from Ron Heifetz:

What is your change agent biography?

  1. Where do you find joy and challenge as a leader in congregational change?
  2. Define Technical Change in your own words. 
  3. Define Adaptive Change in your own words.
  4. For this intensive, we’re going to ask you to grapple with some real-life change situations in your church that require change. List at least one technical and one adaptive change that you’d like to work and play with during this intensive.