You’re probably trying to change something right now.

And — if you’re honest — you’ve already thought about backing off.

Change seems too difficult.

You’ve watched friends get hurt trying to lead similar change.

You’ve heard the voices of opposition get a little louder.

You really don’t want to be afraid to open your inbox every morning.

But what if this is true?

Change is harder than it needs to be because it’s more mysterious than it needs to be.

And it doesn’t need to be quite that mysterious.
Here’s what I believe about change.

Change has dynamics; and the dynamics can be learned.

A couple of years ago,  I wrote a book about leading change while facing opposition. I’m passionate about change because I’ve lived through it and can vouch for the fact that change is more than possible.

I’m also passionate because if the church (and other organizations) are going to reach their potential, change isn’t optional, it’s inevitable.

If the church is going to reach its potential, change isn't optional. It's inevitable. Click To Tweet

13 Facts About Change Many Leaders Miss

So, if you’re navigating change, here’s a short cheat sheet of 13 key principles that I hope will help you maintain clear thinking amidst the sea of emotions that leading change brings:

1. People aren’t opposed to change nearly as much as they are opposed to change they didn’t think of.

Everybody’s in favour of their ideas, but most organizational change is driven by leadership.

All real change is.

So you just need to realize that most people will come on board.

You just need to give them time until a leader’s idea spreads widely enough to be owned. And by the way, great ideas eventually resonate.

People aren't opposed to change; they're mostly opposed to change they didn't think of. Click To Tweet

2. Change is hard because people crave what they already like. 

You have never craved a food you hadn’t tried, and change operates on a similar dynamic.

Your people want what they’ve seen because people never crave what they haven’t seen.

That’s why vision is so key – you need to paint a clear enough picture that people begin to crave a future they haven’t lived.

3. Leaders crave change more than most people do because they’re, well, leaders. 

Your passion level is always going to be naturally and appropriately higher than most people’s when it comes to change.

Just know that’s how you’re wired and don’t get discouraged too quickly if your passion for change is higher than others. You’re the leader.

4. Most of the disagreement around change happens at the strategy level. 

Most leaders stop at aligning people around a common mission and vision, but you also need to work hard at aligning people around a common strategy.

It’s one thing to agree that you passionately love God, it’s another to create a cutting edge church that unchurched people flock to.

One depends on vision; the other is a re-engineering around a common strategy. When people are aligned around a common mission, vision and strategy so much more becomes possible.

5. Usually, no more than 10% of the people you lead are opposed to change. 

Okay, maybe it goes to 30% at the high watermark.

But are you really going to sacrifice the majority and the future for the sake of a small group of opposition?

(I spend a good chunk of Leading Change Without Losing It dissecting this principle…I promise you, the final analysis is good news for leaders.)

6. Loud does not equal large.

Just because the opponents of change are loud doesn’t mean they’re a large group.

The most opposed people make the most noise.

Don’t make the mistake most leaders make when they assume large = loud. Almost every time, it doesn’t. (See Principle 5 above.)

7. Most people opposed to change do not have a clearly articulated vision of a preferred future.

They just want to go back to Egypt.

And you can’t build a better future on a vision of the past. Remember that when they tell you about how good things used to be.

You can't build a better future on a vision for the past. Click To Tweet

8. Fear of opposition derails more leaders than actual opposition. 

You will spend a ton of time living through your fears.

Courage isn’t the absence of fear; it’s the determination to lead through your fears.

By the way, this does wonders for your faith.

Courage isn't the absence of fear; it's the determination to lead through your fears. Click To Tweet

9. Buy-in happens most fully when people understand why, rather than what or how. 

What and how are inherently divisive.

Someone’s always got a better, cheaper, more expensive, faster, shorter, longer way to do what you’re proposing. So focus on why when you’re communicating.

Why reminds us how why we got into this in the first place. And why motivates.

Always start with why, finish with why, and pepper all communication with why.

Always start with why, finish with why, and pepper all communication with why. Click To Tweet

10. Unimplemented change will always become relief or regret. 

One day, you’ll be so glad you did. Or you’ll wish you had. Remember that.

11. Incremental change brings about incremental results. 

You’ll be tempted to compromise and reduce vision to the lowest common denominator: incremental change.

Just know that incremental change brings incremental results. And incrementalism inspires no one.

12. Transformation happens when the change in question becomes part of the culture. 

You won’t transform an organization until people no longer want to go back to the way it was.

You can change some things in a year and almost everything in 5 years. But transformation happens when people own the changes.

That’s often 5-7 years; only then do most people not want to go back to Egypt.

13. The greatest enemy of your future success is your current success.

Successful organizations create a culture of change because they realize that success tempts you to risk nothing until decline forces you to reexamine everything.

Keep changing.

The greatest enemy of your future success is your current success. Click To Tweet

Make sure you’re leading change in the right direction. 

Whether you’re a church that isn’t growing, has plateaued, or whether you wish your church was growing faster than it is, I’d love to help you break through. That’s why I created the Church Growth Masterclass.

The Church Growth Masterclass is everything I wish I knew about church growth when I got into ministry more than 20 years ago.

Naturally, I can’t make a church grow. You can’t make a church grow. Only God can do that.

But I believe you can position your church to grow.

You can knock down the barriers that keep you from growing. You can eliminate the things that keep your church from growing and implement some strategies that will help you reach far more people. That’s what I’d love to help you do in the Church Growth Masterclass.

In the Church Growth Masterclass I’ll show you:

  • The 10 reasons your church isn’t growing
  • Why even committed church-goers aren’t attending as often as before
  • How to tell if your church leaders are getting burned out
  • The 5 keys to your church better impacting millennials.
  • What to do when a church wants to grow … but not change
  • 5 essentials for church growth
  • 5 disruptive church trends to watch—and how to respond
  • How to increase church attendance by increasing engagement.

The Masterclass includes a complete set of videos that you can play with your team, board or staff, PDF workbooks that will help you tackle the issues you’re facing, and bonus materials that will help you navigate the most pressing issues facing churches that want to reach their cities today.

You can learn more and gain instant access to the course today.

So Now What?

I hope these 13 principles can keep you focused on a few of the toughest dynamics associated with change.

What would you add to this list?

And what’s been the most difficult aspect of change for you and your team?

Leave a comment!

13 Little Known Facts About Change Too Many Leaders Miss


  1. Dr. Michael A. Cousin on February 15, 2021 at 2:45 pm

    The only person who looks forward to change is a wet baby! Change may not be wanted; but change is needed.

  2. Jarrod Spalding on February 14, 2021 at 9:47 pm

    I’m wondering where you got the 5-7 timeframe. I’ve heard Auxano quote 3 years before but have no definitive research on how long change takes to be fully realized. Would love to know if you have specific research/books on this.

  3. Scott on February 14, 2021 at 8:46 pm

    How to reconcile number 11 and 12? 5-7 years sounds like incremental change…

  4. Rev. Robert Barnes on February 14, 2021 at 12:53 pm

    Incremental change is sometimes all that one can do. Get enough small changes right in a row and then there are opportunities for larger-scale change.

  5. Rev. Robert Barnes on February 14, 2021 at 12:52 pm

    Incremental change is sometimes all you can do. Succeed at incremental change enough times and larger changes become possible.

  6. Paul Cummings on September 14, 2014 at 6:38 am

    Very timely article Carey as we are going through this process right now as you already know. Very well articulated and encouraging. Thanks!

  7. Randy Churchwell on August 28, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    Brent Fuller is certainly correct. It is really surprising the amount of fear that is under estimated, a foundation shaker. Yet, if we allow emotional shock to embed and blurr our focus, change has meet it’s end at the starting block. I view change like rusty bolt. If the goal is important, the out come will be worth the effort. Try not to live by a time line if possible, time focus will frustrate the process.

  8. Notable Voices: August 28, 2014 - on August 28, 2014 at 6:00 am

    […] 13 Little Known Facts About Change Too Many Leaders Miss – Carey Nieuwhof […]

  9. Brent Dumler on August 26, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Number 6 is so common, Carey. I’ve seen too many leaders turn away from much needed change simply because of one or two loud voices. It is easy for us to assume that when we constantly hear opposing voices of a few that this somehow represents the masses. In my experience, it never does. Recently, our staff team has been challenged significantly. Of over 20 staff members, about 10 of us have been transitioning (at the same time) into completely different leadership roles. There is overlap, and there are gaps. It has been challenging but has also made us stronger.

  10. Pr. Dennis Meyette on August 25, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    I agree with your assessment of leadership and change. my experience has taught me your principles are easier said than done and often takes longer than you would like… YES change does happen in the end.

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