How to Ruin the Chances of Change Happening in Your Church (In One Simple Step)

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Chances are you want to change something.

Or a lot of things.

You’re a leader. You have a vision. A passion. So do members of your team.

But so many visions die because of opposition to change.  And leaders grow disillusioned.

As a result, in so many churches and organizations, change seems impossible.


Here’s How to Ruin Change

There are a host of reasons change doesn’t happen. (I talk about those reasons and how to overcome the obstacles to change in detail here.)

But if you don’t solve this one issue that plagues so many churches and organizations, you will always sabotage change.

How do most leaders kill change without knowing it?

It’s really quite simple: give everyone a say.

Change is almost impossible when everyone has a say.

Change is almost impossible when everyone has a say. Click To Tweet

Why On Earth Would We Want Everyone To Have a Say?

There is this strange consensus in the church and in many non-profit organizations that says everyone should have a say when there’s a proposed change.


I mean, does any effective organization run that way?

I realize you are ready to hit the ‘comment’ button right now and fight back, but push hard. Think about this.

Can you ever find an example where an effective biblical leader tried to give everyone a say?  I suppose the best example is when Moses disappeared and Aaron took over and listened to the people (Exodus 32).

If the goal of our change is gold calfs and idol worship, giving everyone a say may be exactly what we need to do.

Think of what never would have happened if everyone had a say:

The Israelites would still be back in Egypt if everyone had a say. They wanted to turn back from freedom as soon as they left. 

Jesus never would have gone to the cross. His disciples thought it was a terrible idea.

The early church would have never been born. Very few people thought including the Gentiles was a good option.

Surgery might never have been invented. Seriously, who thought cutting open another human body to save a life was a stellar idea (even if it was)?

We still would be riding in horse drawn carriages. As Henry Ford famously quipped “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

You couldn’t run a business if you had to get people to vote every time you had to make an important decision. You couldn’t run a country that way for that matter.

The problem with giving everyone a say is that everyone has an opinion.  When everyone has an opinion, it’s impossible to get consensus.  And even if you pull off the Herculean feat of getting consensus from a crowd, the vision will be so diluted it won’t be worth sacrificing for.

So why would you run an organization in such a way that everyone has a say?

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses. Click To Tweet

So What Do You Do?

Because it takes a leader (or team of leaders) to bring people to a place where they would not naturally go, you need a strategy to accomplish that goal.
So…what’s your strategy for that?

Here’s what I believe is key:

1. Have the humility to listen to all voices, but the wisdom to follow the most insightful voices.

Read all your emails. Host some meetings. Listen to people. Empathize (here’s how to do that). But listen most to the most insightful voices. The most insightful voices will provide both correction and direction.

2. Give people a time for input, but leave the decision making to leaders.

When you separate discussion from decision making, things go better. If you stop giving everyone a say in the future by reserving the decision making to leaders, you will have a much healthier organization.

So how do you get input without giving everyone a say in what you should do next? Hold a town hall style meeting for discussion, without a vote. At Connexus where I serve, we offer occasional Town Hall style meetings for information and so people can be heard. Often people just want to ask question, and getting together can be a great forum for that. The decisions remain with elected and accountable leaders, and that frees up the conversation with others to be far more healthy because a decision isn’t at risk.

Next week, I’ll share three tips on how to hold a non-voting Town Hall style meeting with your church with my Blog Insiders via email. If you’re not an insider, sign up today (fill in the box under my pic) and you’ll get that email on Monday. As a bonus, you’ll also immediately get my free ebook, 5 Strategies to Reach Unchurched People.)

3. Lead boldly

 Once you’ve listened, lead. If you’ve got a good team and a God-given direction, go for it. Often people will thank you for taking them to a place they didn’t initially want to go.

Input happens best

Have the humility to listen to all voices, but the wisdom to heed the most insightful voices. Click To Tweet

Get Going…

So here’s a new way of thinking about change that could help everyone in the end.

If you stop focusing on what everyone is saying, you might get everyone somewhere worth going.

Lead With Confidence and Clarity. Grow Your Church.

As leaders, we tend to see the challenges and roadblocks before other people do.

We've all been there before...

  • You need to refresh your vision for the future but know that change will be an issue for that person.
  • You're overstaffed (or missing a key role) and can't find the right person to fill the role.
  • You aren't reaching enough new people even though you've tried everything that's working for other churches.
  • You can see the issue but aren't confident in what to do about it.

And with another Sunday morning coming up, it'll just have to wait until next week when you have a few minutes to figure it out.

Now ask yourself this:

What would it feel like to have those answers at your fingertips 24/7?

Whether it's reaching new people, improving your preaching, increasing volunteers, refreshing your vision, engaging your staff, or any of the countless challenges we face as church leaders, The Art of Leadership Academy will equip you to lead your church with confidence and clarity.

Between comprehensive church leadership courses, live coaching calls, staff and volunteer training resources, and direct access to an online community of senior-level church leaders, you'll get the exact insights and answers that fuel your church for growth.

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Carey Nieuwhof
Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is a best-selling leadership author, speaker, podcaster, former attorney, and church planter. He hosts one of today’s most influential leadership podcasts, and his online content is accessed by leaders over 1.5 million times a month. He speaks to leaders around the world about leadership, change, and personal growth.