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Leading Change in the Church - Lesson 6

Helping Others Cope with Change

In this lesson, you learn about the various reactions people may experience when going through change, particularly in a church setting. The grapevine, or informal communication, plays a significant role in managing change. Understanding and managing the grapevine effectively can help ease the transition. To help others cope with change, it's crucial to communicate a consistent message, provide as many details as possible, listen and give people time to adjust, keep discussing the change, expect emotional reactions, and recognize and support healthy behavior.

Rick Sessoms
Leading Change in the Church
Lesson 6
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Helping Others Cope with Change

Lesson: Helping Others Cope with Change

I. Reactions to Change

A. Grapevine activity

B. Blaming others

C. Need for communication with leaders

D. Lower morale

E. Talk of the good old days

F. Higher absenteeism

II. The Grapevine and Communication

A. Origin of the grapevine concept

B. Managing the grapevine during change

III. Helping Others Cope with Change

A. Communicate a consistent message

B. Provide as many details as possible

C. Listen and give people time to adjust

D. Keep talking about the change

E. Expect emotional reactions

F. Look for and champion healthy behavior


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  • In Dynamics of Change, the speaker discusses the importance of leading change in the church and emphasizes the need to understand the dynamics of change and its effect on people, as well as the uniqueness of the church in this process, before delving into change strategies.
  • Leadership is about catalyzing change as organizations face an ever-increasing rate of change, requiring strategic leaders who can challenge, mobilize, and motivate people in a rapidly changing cultural climate; change is a function of leadership as it involves fundamentally changing the mind, and progress is impossible without change.
  • You will gain knowledge and insight into the nature of change, the reasons why it is needed in the church, strategies for overcoming resistance to change, the leader's role in change, and the process of leading change, including creating and communicating a vision for change, implementing and sustaining change, and celebrating success and learning from failure.
  • You will gain knowledge and insight into the impact of change on individuals through an exercise where you will think about the most significant change you have experienced in the past ten years and how it made you feel. The lesson will sensitize you to the effects of change and explore the dynamics of change and its impact on individuals before discussing change strategies.
  • You will gain insights into the challenges faced by a fictional family company, Johnson's Shoes, based in Boise, Idaho, and the strategies it must employ to overcome these challenges, including diversification of its product line, development of new technology, and introduction of new management techniques, and learn about the positive and negative outcomes of these strategies, and the lessons that can be learned from this case study.
  • Learn how to manage reactions to change in a church setting, understanding the role of the grapevine in communication, and effectively implementing strategies to help others cope, such as consistent messaging, providing details, and supporting healthy behaviors.
  • Gain insights into challenges faced by churches coping with change, including the movement of American culture towards post-Christianity and lack of common values, and explore questions to consider to help churches face 21st-century challenges.
  • This lesson teaches you about the challenges of leading in a chaotic context, the process of change according to Kurt Lewin's theory, and the importance of overcoming resistance. You will understand the limitations of the 20th-century rational change process model and the unique challenges faced by leaders in the 21st century.
  • ou will learn about the characteristics of effective change agents in the church, including humility, patience, sacrifice, self-control, and courage, as well as change management strategies like overcoming resistance to change and sustaining change through embedding change in culture and systems and continuously monitoring and improving.
  • In this lesson, you gain insights on discerning God's purpose in weathering change, learning to ask critical questions to determine if the change is appropriate, and understanding the characteristics of a change that glorifies God, ultimately leading to a stronger church community.
  • You will learn about the various ways that organizations and churches resist change, including through structural and group inertia, power relationships, and resource allocations. You will also understand how people with access to resources tend to resist change, while those without resources are more accepting. The lesson explains how expertise can also play a role in resistance to change, and how churches have natural systems that promote stability.
  • Gain insight into life cycles and resistance to change within organizations, including the church, and how changing leaders can help an organization change the spiral towards decline or irrelevancy by speaking to people's emotions, not just thought.
  • You will learn about creating a guiding coalition to lead the change in the unfreezing stage of change. This involves assembling a group of opinion shapers who can envision the preferred future state and developing them into a team by understanding team skills, defining purpose, roles, and process, and establishing effective leadership and communication.
  • You will learn how to empower broad-based action by removing obstacles to the future and generating short-term wins. This involves identifying structures, policies, and processes that block change, encouraging new ideas and risk-taking, creating a learning environment from failures, aiming for 90% involvement in problem-solving, and providing appropriate authority, resources, information, and accountability. Short-term wins should be planned for, visible improvements should be celebrated, and those involved should be rewarded. Change should be refrozen by consolidating gains, changing policies and structures, promoting and developing people who can implement the vision, reinvigorating the process with new projects, and anchoring new approaches in the church culture.

The dynamics, effects, and strategies for change in the church.

Dr. Rick Sessoms
Leading Change in the Church
mc612-06
Helping Others Cope with Change
Lesson Transcript

[00:00:02] When we're going through change, even in the best of initiatives, there's going to be some reactions. We can talk about these. The grapevine activity is going to increase. You can expect that there's going to be a blaming of others that that takes place and change initiative in the church. There's going to be more need to talk to leaders. And so leaders in the process are going to need to expect to spend their time in the hallways and with people to allow people to process out loud what's going on. There's going to be a lower morale for a time. You can expect that dip in morale to happen. There's going to be talk of the good old days, even though the good old days might not have been such good old days. But Egypt looks pretty good when you've got nothing to eat. And and so the good old days are what they are. And then there's a higher absenteeism. People just don't show up. And and so those kinds of lags you can expect through the change process. So when when you are experiencing change, have you seen any of these actions take place, the reactions in churches that you've been part of? When change happens. Yes to all of them. We were talking in the relay with the grapevine and this example, the Johnson shoes. Even if the board had not been doing things behind the scenes, if they were just stumbling your way through it, you could still create that grapevine. So the concern can be, what are they doing? They're not they're not telling us as part of the grapevine conversations. And you can be poorly led but innocent. But the assumption being with their stuff going on, that they were not being told.

[00:01:56] Right. That's true. It requires strong, intentional leadership. Right. She's not secretive. We're going to talk about the informal communication process when we get the communication. But just as a precursor this grapevine thought is. Often looked upon by leaders as sinful. We tend to look at it as a negative thing in the church. The grapevine, you know, all the grapevine is active, the grapevine is going, it's passing down through the grapevine. And so we don't generally seen as a positive thing. The history of the grapevine, of course, comes out of the civil war in the United States, where the troops were trying to figure out how to communicate when they were across the valley from one another. And so they created this line that would traipse through the trees and and, you know, very informally, they would they would drape this line and they could actually communicate through these cans and they could communicate very informally through these systems. And that's how the grapevine concept came about. And in the church world, often we we equate grapevine with gossip. Uh, but the reality is that it's, it's, it's really helpful as leaders, particularly when we're going through the process of change, to learn how not to resist the grapevine, but to learn how to manage it. And we'll talk about we'll talk about that in terms of when I was going through my Ph.D. work, one of the one of the the tasks that a colleague and I had was to do an a communications audit of the Tennessee School Authority. And it was a huge group. And we went in and did a communication. I had to find out, in effect, how the grapevine worked and then to advise the and advise the leadership on on how it worked were the what we call Centrals and peripherals were in this grapevine process and then help them learn how to manage that effectively for the best of the of the work that they were doing.

[00:04:11] And it's fascinating. I'll tell you more about that when we got to communication. But grapevine is a critical thing to understand and to manage well when you go in through change. Well, this is a discipline to stay in the zone. When you perceive as a leader the change is positive and that this is a great idea and even this is of the Lord. There can be agreement on that to stay in the discipline in his own, giving people the time and the space to work through this death and dying process of change. This disruption, particularly if it's significant, is is is really important in order to, uh, to function in a way that honors the bride of Christ. So how do we help others cope with change in practical ways? Number one can communicate a consistent message. It's very important in change to continue to communicate. And when I say communicate a consistent message, not only does an individual need to communicate consistent message, but the leadership plural, native communicate a message that is the same. If there are various messages coming from various leaders that can really, really make it difficult. Well, are we going to change or aren't we? Is this disruption for real? Is it worth it? And so forth. So communicating a Christian message, Christmas, a consistent message is critical. Secondly, provide as many details as possible. This is a very important principle. I was I was with a friend of mine recently and and he was telling about his own church. And they had just gone through the loss of a youth pastor and the youth pastor. That was a significant disruption. It was a significant change in the church. And so there was this open forum. There wasn't necessarily about the youth pastor.

[00:06:25] It was just about kind of like an annual meeting or whatever it was. And the pastor was moderating this. That may have been his first mistake. But but when he was moderating it, a question came from the floor, because this happened so abruptly and so unannounced. And one day the guy was there, the next day the guy was gone, the youth pastor. And so one of the families of of youth simply asked the question, Can you share with us, Pastor, what happened to the youth pastor? And literally the pastor looked at the man like this, turned away and said, next question. You can imagine the devastation that that created. There are some of our cultures in the Christian world that are that are only on a need to know basis and you don't need to know kind of thing. We as followers of Christ and of respecting people, I would suggest to you that we share everything that we absolutely can, and we communicate in such a way that we communicate to people will only share with you what we cannot share with you in order to either protect you or individuals or the church itself. But otherwise, we're going to be open with details as much as possible that make sense. This is a does but is so difficult to apply with a delicate personnel matter. It is. It is. I'm not saying that the pastor you describe did it very well. But be I imagine what he was thinking was I've got I can't. There's nothing I can do. So how do you. Well, it was you don't want to speak for 20 minutes and then not seem right. I think it was a fear that came over him in that moment. And so his response, the fear was controlling the situation.

[00:08:10] So that was the only way to do it. You're absolutely right, though. I agree. I think it and in saying something as simple as you know, I think you have a great question. It's a legitimate question. We were all so sad to see this crumble and and and we all loved a name, his name or whatever. And if it's a delicate situation, it's it's simple enough to say, you know, there there's just things, folks, that we cannot share because we put we put the church in jeopardy. It's personal issues. We we would be potentially creating a situation that's just it's just not healthy for the church. But I think saying something like that, even in that context, I mean, I've been in situations where there were illegal things that were happening and and and and, you know, a person's here one day and gone for another because of child pornography or whatever the case may be. And a very, very difficult situations. But the reality is that people are going through a grief process again and to give them time to talk to to share their grief, to share their pain, to share the hurt, the sorrow, sadness, the the fear, what's going to happen to our kids is really what what people are looking for in those moments. And I think a pastoral approach that is very helpful, that makes sense. And it served them because it was interesting what's going to happen to them. So finish with what you say about the children or something would have been a good response, although it doesn't answer the question of why this person's gone. When we've had some experiences. Yeah, sure, it is tough. They were they were very tough. Yeah. And it kind of depends on where you are and being informed.

[00:10:02] Like, did they learn at that meeting that these girls go on? You know, there's also a time limit as to how crucial it is, but you want details and, you know, to realizing or maybe it really is in the best interest of you. But but that is a desire immediately, as I want to know details on what happened here. Right. So provide as many as you can. Listen, simple. But listen, we're going to talk about responsible listening later. Give people time to adjust. It going through this process is not overnight. The significance of the change, the experience of the loss increases, and it just takes time to move from that denial through the through the whole process to acceptance and working through it. Keep talking about the change. Keep, keep, keep sharing about it. Don't don't push it under the rug and and hope that if we just don't talk about it and it just happens that it's going to be okay. Um, that doesn't really help a great deal. Expect people to be emotional through the process. And finally look for people doing things right. It's it's important in change to recognize and champion healthy behavior. Questions about those. Other ideas about helping others cope with change. You guys have had a lot of experience with it. Curious. I was part of an organization that had a very sad change occurred. It was a death in the community, a large organization, and our leadership was very good about wanting to share and keep things as normal as possible in terms of the day to day activities. And that was important for the community to to both talk about it and listen and look for people not to be people to do things like continuing the norm, if you would, as opposed to taking a break, that that could actually be an impediment to people processing what trying to gloss over it to both and not an.

[00:12:11] Good. Excellent. And that example you gave, if that person had just a listening partner, just let them know they were heard, that would really benefit the ignoring part. Just added. Yeah.

 

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