Leading Change in the Church - Lesson 11

Force Field Analysis

This lesson explains how organizations and churches resist change through structural inertia, group inertia, power relationships, and established resource allocations. People tend to use their relationships and influence to block change and hold onto their resources, while those lacking resources are more accepting of change. Existing expertise tends to resist learning new skills or capacities. Churches have natural systems and processes that support stability, such as selecting leaders that fit the motif.

Rick Sessoms
Leading Change in the Church
Lesson 11
Watching Now
Force Field Analysis

Lesson: Force Field Analysis

I. Understanding Resistance to Change

A. Structural Inertia

B. Group Inertia and Threats to Membership

C. Power Relationships

D. Established Resource Allocations

II. The Nature of People and Change

A. People with Access to Resources are Unlikely to Give Them Up

B. Those with Existing Expertise Tend to Resist Change

III. Natural Systems and Processes in Organizations and Churches

A. Selection of Leaders

B. Support for Stability

  • In this lesson, Dr. Sessoms discusses the importance of leading change in the church, emphasizing the importance of understanding God's role in change, the effects on people, and the distinctions between leadership and management.
  • Learn about the shift from management to strategic leadership and the necessity of change for growth, and the unique challenges churches face in adapting change ethically, contrasting secular and Christ-centered leadership models.
  • Gain insight into how change affects individuals emotionally, the importance of leadership sensitivity during change, and the stages of the change cycle from comfort to renewal.
  • Gain insight into the emotional stages of change and practical strategies for coping, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging emotions, communicating feelings, maintaining engagement, adjusting responsibilities, and seeking support during times of change.
  • In this lesson, you analyze a fictional case study of Johnson's Shoes, learning about leadership changes during mergers, Patrick Johnson's emotional journey, and the importance of respectful, inclusive leadership processes during organizational change.
  • 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. Understand the limitations of the 20th-century rational change process model and the unique challenges faced by leaders in the 21st century.
  • Learn about essential leadership qualities, the need for repentance and forgiveness, organizational development, faith integration, and John Kotter's eight steps for leading effective change in the church, highlighting the importance of authenticity, collective intelligence, and genuine dissatisfaction with the status quo.
  • 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.
  • Explore force field analysis to understand and navigate organizational resistance to change, focusing on mechanisms of inertia, types of power within the church, and the necessity of a strong bias toward change, conducted discreetly within a leadership group.
  • 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.
  • Learn the essential steps of unfreezing for church change, focusing on urgency, forming a guiding coalition, collaborative visioning, realistic strategy development, and inclusive, redundant communication to manage and embrace change effectively.
  • Learn to empower broad-based action, involve many in problem-solving, generate short-term wins, consolidate gains, promote vision implementers, reinvigorate processes, anchor new approaches in culture, and recognize rare calls for change against odds to honor God.

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

Dr. Rick Sessoms
Leading Change in the Church
Force Field Analysis
Lesson Transcript

The second thing to look at is what we call a force field analysis, and this goes back to Lewin. I said to you that organizations actively resist change through several means, and churches do, too. They resist things through structural inertia, through group inertia, and threats to membership expertise, power relationships, established resource allocations, and I could go into each one of those, but what that means in simple language is that people will use their relationships and their clout to block change. If they have access to resources, they are more unlikely to give up those resources. The people that lack the resources in the church tend to be more accepting of change than those that currently have the resources. I mean, that's just the nature of people. The people with the existing expertise tend to resist change that would ask them to learn a new set of skills or a new set of capacities, competencies in order to go forward. 

So organizations have all of these natural built-in mechanisms. Churches have these natural systems, these natural processes, this stuff to produce stability, and that's natural. For instance, they systematically select people, and they put people in positions of leadership, and they put other certain people out of leadership that fit that motif, and it supports that process for making sure that that system is stable. When the organization then is confronted with change, this inertia acts as a balance, as a counterbalance, in fact, to sustain stability. So if anything comes in to threaten the stability of the church, all these things tend to serve as a counterbalance; ‘no, we’ve got to stay stable here,’ and that is true of any living system and is true of the church as well.

Now, what do you hear me saying? Have you seen that? I mean, is it true in your experience? When change is introduced, that there are systems and there are processes and there is experience and there's clout that serves, that tends, particularly those that have it, the ones that are the holders of the keys tend to resist that kind of change initially? Do you experience that in your church? Yes or no? Maybe I'm talking to those people, I don't know. 

STUDENT: Those who feel they're best fed are the ones who want to go to a different field or a different area to get fed. I'm happy right here, so, I mean, people might be, I mean, to use an animal analogy, if there's limited resources and people are feeling really stirred up, they are open to that change, but those who are getting the lion's share of the grass, so to speak, I don’t want to move; I'm happy right here! So, yeah, I've seen this. 

Yeah. So I can't emphasize enough that all theories of change are really about theories of stability, that there is a bias towards stability of all living systems, including the church; there's a bias toward not changing, and so establishing this sense of urgency through something like a SWOT analysis and then a force field analysis, which we'll get into a little bit more, is really critical, because even if individuals want to change, the group norms act as this constraint within your system. Any redistribution of decision-making as a result of change threatens the long established power relationships in any collective. That's a sociological reality. Groups in the organization that control sizable resources, as I've said, often see change as a threat, whatever those resources happen to be. Those that benefit from current allocation of resources feel threatened by changes that may affect future allocations. 

So this resistance to change can be overt or it can be implicit. It can be covert. It can be immediate or it can be deferred. Frankly, if it's more immediate, it's easier to deal with than if it's deferred. It's easier to deal with if it's right now in your face. If it's later on, you say, oh, here comes the wave, and, I thought everything was going great. This stability, this bias toward homeostasis that we've been talking about is good since it provides a degree of stability within the church, and it also provides predictability in our behavior. Without resistance, organizational behavior would just fly into total chaos without any basis for being able to live and exist and function together. So we're not against stability; we're just saying that when change takes place, we've got to study that bias toward what is the weightedness towards stability as opposed to the change. Questions about that? 

STUDENT: Not a question but a statement: There're different kinds of change. You think about the prodigal son‘s father. He did not change, but he let his son go, and so that can seem like a change, but then as the son went through the path that he went through and when he returned, there was the father, so we have to be careful in saying that changing some aspects is not changing the underlying of who we are, and that's a difficult thing. 

Absolutely. That's a great point. 

STUDENT: I really like that underlying thing that’s changing – excuse me – I really like the particular deliverables, and I’ll say that’s an underlying thing. 

So, when Paul says, “I have become all things to all people so that by all means I might save some,” what was he saying? Is there a relationship between that and what you're stating? It seems to me you're saying that there're some grounding foundations that need to stay the same. Paul was not saying in that statement that his grounding is going to shift, but he's saying that the means may change, that that process by which, that approach by which I'm going to reach out and have this kind of kingdom impact on others may change profile over time, but the ground on which I stand, which is Jesus, my Savior and Lord, is solid. I think that's what he was trying to say. I think that's kind of where you were going with that. Is that correct? 


STUDENT: He holds to the norm and releases the form.

He holds to the norm and releases the form. That's a great way of saying it. Can I borrow that or steal it or... [laughter] That's good! 

So, this force field analysis is important because the reality is that we have to know what we're dealing with in terms of the collective. What are some of the things that create, for lack of a better word, power within the church. What are some of the things that create power? Personal power or collective power. What kind of things in the church create that? What different kinds of power are in the church? 

STUDENT: There's positional power. 

Okay, there’s positional power; in an elder or pastor or Sunday school teacher or whatever, there is positional power. What else? 

STUDENT: Historical power. 

Okay, what do you mean by historical power? I’ve just been around a long time, is that what you mean?

STUDENT: You’ve been around a long time, and you’ve had people listen to you and so you know that people have followed you before. 

Okay. I would add to that that historical power also means that I have some degree of power if I really know the story and you don't. You know what I'm saying? Well, for example, there are in, you know, some denominations have a long history. Those that really know that history can pull the trump card with a newbie, and in discussion, somebody says, well, you don't even know what happened in ’64 at that conference we were at. How can you possibly know? I mean, we've been down this road before. You know, that's the historical power that I'm referring to. You've you kind of been there, right? So what other kinds of power exist in the church? 

STUDENT: The resources that a person has. 

Absolutely. When you say resources, what kind of resources are you referring to?

STUDENT: It might be in terms of the amount of money or time or space or privilege or recognition, those types of things. 

Yeah, I would imagine that in a church like Chapel Hill Bible Church, that someone with not a high school education may feel that -- you guys may not be trying to project this -- but I would imagine a person like that may feel that they don't have the kind of power that a bunch of PhDs have. It's just simple, right? So that's a resource power, right? There's expertise power. If I know the book of Joel better than you do, that is going to help me in the process of expertise power. What are some of the other kinds of power? There's one other, really two that are really critical. 

STUDENT: Contrasted with positional power, which we talked about, is personal power, which is personal influence. 

We could call that social capital, right? Or, you know, if you've got relationships, that you can move groups of people or, you know, sometimes in churches whenever I'm looking to work with a retreat, I always ask the leader, can I have the people around the table who are the opinion shapers? I'm more interested in having those people than the formal leaders, quite frankly, because those are the people that have the social capital to move or not move a group of people. What is another one that hasn't been mentioned here? No, you mentioned money... 

Spiritual power. Now, when I say spiritual power, you make go like this -- What I'm talking about is perceived spiritual power. Now that that may be an illusion, it may be real, but there is a real sense that in churches, when others sense that that person has this spirituality, this connection, if you will, there comes with that, and whoever that may be; it may be the 90-year-old matriarch, it can be the pastor, it could be somebody else. But the reality is when a person has that perceived spiritual power, they carry with them a lot of weight. 

So, we've talked about some of the ways. So, as we think about force field analysis, we think about those kinds of questions and how we're going to move forward in that kind of an arena, because, again, there's a bias towards stability, and the analysis would suggest that in the force field, and we're mostly talking about people here, we're asking the question, in this force field, is this group ready to move? Because if that force field strongly suggests that the people with the power, if you will -- I know that's a crass word in the church, but it's what we're talking about here -- those people, if they have this bias towards stability, you’ve still got some work to do before we begin to push this forward. Does that make sense? Tammy, you're smiling. You’ve been there, done that, right? 

One of the things to keep in mind when we're dealing with (I'm going to just give these) you define your desired future state; in other words, as you're going through this, what would this future state look like? And this is not something you announce, but just in conceptually speaking, you identify your driving and restraining forces, stakeholders, internal systems, external environment. You assess the strength of driving and restraining forces; you figure out, as you would, the image of a pendulum, and you assess that, and through that process, you determine where you are at this point in time in terms of, is there a decided bias toward change? Now, that was an important statement; there needs to be a decided bias toward change. If there's not that decided bias, remember, the tendency, the bias, will be towards stability. In other words, if it looks even, it's not time. There needs to be a decided bias toward change in the force field before we're ready. 

So, to predict which interventions will reduce or remove the restraining forces, that's the next step, and what we're talking about here is not going out and shooting somebody, but there's a process by which we need to continue to talk about this sense of urgency and a number of ways to accomplish that. Questions about those? 

STUDENT: I believe you said that in the force field analysis, not all of this has to be done publicly or announced…

It should not be done publicly or announced, and I'll get to that. That's a critical point. This is your leadership. It should be limited to a relatively small group of people. This leadership needs to be tasked with collecting intelligence, so this is not ‘we're the only ones in the room who are going to think about this’; we need to go out in the byways and highways and collect good, factual, reality-based information, but the kind of discussions we have about this desired future state are as a small group at this point, and we look at this force field as a small group.



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