When transition happens in a church, we see the best and worst come out in people. We can’t avoid transition and neither can a congregation. Inevitably, it happens. It may be a staff member leaving and a new one coming in, a new programming replacing old programming that some people were very invested in, or even transitioning to a new building.
Some people naturally thrive on change and welcome new experiences, while others dig their heels in and make themselves and everyone else miserable during the process. So how do you help your people walk through transition without walking away or turning on each other?
- Pray without ceasing! This seems like it would be our first approach, but surprisingly, far too often we leap into action before covering situations in prayer. When you know a transition is coming ask a team of seasoned believers to come together to pray for you and over the situation. Ask them to pray individually and corporately. Ask them to pray for discernment, unity, and a peaceful transition for your whole church. Keep them updated with how things are going and what change is ahead.
- Communicate continuously. Many times people aren’t actually against the change, they are just fearful of what they have not experienced before. So the more information you can give them prior to the actual change, the more it may help them with the transition. You will likely still get arguments and push-back, but just expect it and continue to provide as much information as you possibly can.
- Offer grace repeatedly. Unfortunately, when things happen that people can’t control, they can become angry and even say and do things that are hurtful. The more you can listen without allowing yourself to become defensive, the more you may diffuse the opposition. It also may help to give your congregation choices in some of the decisions. Sometimes when it comes down to it, the leadership may need to make some decisions, but other times it will work to receive feedback from your people and let them decide. No matter how the decisions play out though, someone won’t get what they want or what they feel should happen. When that takes place, you may have some really difficult conversations, and you’ll need to learn to walk in forgiveness and come to each of these conversations with buckets of grace.
Transition can bring a church together and set a congregation up for growth, but it can also lead to division and controversy. We set the tone as the leaders. We can’t necessarily control the outcome, but we can use these three tips to prepare ourselves and our congregations for the transition ahead.
As you look at potential change ahead for your church, what will you do to prepare?