A leader has several strategies available to produce a change. He will need to consider
the change and the people involved to decide which strategy to implement. There are also several things that can be done when one encounters resistance to change in the church.
The rational man strategy is based on the assumption that man is a rational being and that men will follow their rational self-interest once they know it. Here the person wishing to cause change makes it appear as a positive thing that will appeal to the self-interest of the others.
The educational strategy sees change as involving attitudes, values, skills, and relationships. These must be altered through new information and education. Change must be produced by way of new information.
The application of power or force strategy is one of compliance of those with less power to the desired changes of those with more power.
Combination – Another approach is to use some combination of the three.
Factors affecting resistance
Resistance to change is to be expected. The greater the proposed change is to be, the greater the resistance will be. Surface changes may come and go in a short period of time and with relative ease. This is because surface behavior is not deeply ingrained in society. For example, the giving up of a narrow necktie for a wide one does not require a major readjustment in the male population of the country. Rapid changes will produce more resistance than will more gradual changes. Even a small change, if it occurs abruptly, can cause a sharp reaction. The advice of going slowly with change is very significant. Good timing and pacing will help to remove the resistance to the change. Stronger resistance should also be expected in situations which have remained static for long periods. Usually there is more of a psychological investment in a condition of long stability. Resistance may be directed more at the process of change than the actual change.
People that are “stakeholders” with a clear personal involvement in that which is to be changed will have more resistance than those that are on the periphery and do not have a vested interest.
Groups that are more mature have less resistance than groups that are immature. Group maturity is a concept of group dynamics and does not refer to group member’s ages or how long the group has been together.
Treatments for resistance
The resistance should be heard, and an attempt should be made to understand it. The leader needs to accept the importance of the feelings that are aroused by change. Experience has shown that while the positive benefits anticipated from a change can help motivate people to make it, they do not, in and of themselves, diminish the feelings of loss which may result. This is the dynamic reason why over-persuasion is psychologically unsound. It tends to encourage the repression of negative feelings, which only come out later in some other context. Sometimes resistance is treated with such things as force, threats, payoffs, stalling, and distance. It will usually be better to treat resistance with understanding and not become judgmental. Leaders need to understand that most change will initially be felt as a loss. Even if a person will receive benefits from the change, he will usually be reluctant to give up an existing pattern or relationship. He must be convinced that the advantages promised by change are worth the unhappiness involved in giving up the familiar.
Ways people resist
People are well equipped to resist change:
1. A “no” answer is easier than a “yes” answer.
2. People use selective listening and only hear what they want to hear. They don’t let things into the mind that will disturb them.
3. People use sacrosanct and make things sacred that are not sacred. This becomes an end-means inversion.
4. People use vested interests, which are the things that they have invested time, effort, or money in.
5. People also use a suspicion of outsiders, because they are afraid they may bring in change forces.
6. People will attack the competence and integrity of those who propose a change.
7. Church people will resist changes with withdrawal. They will withdraw their financial contributions, they will withdraw from their places of service, they will withdraw their attendance, and they will withdraw their membership. Churches need to be careful with change to keep from experiencing this withdrawal of people.
Stages of organizational resistance
During the life of a planned change, there are a number of stages of perceived resistance. This includes some surprises, as the change makers become the defenders of the status quo.
1. Change is only in the mind of a few visionaries. Everyone else knows the change will not work.
2. Forces for and against change become identifiable.
3. Direct conflict comes and a show down with the resistance becoming more organized to crush the change. This stage will mean life or death to the change.
4. If the change survives, then the supporters of the change are in power, but there may be some persisting resistance hoping to modify the change.
5. The opposition gradually disappears and change is accepted. Gradually, in this stage, the ones who produced the change become the ones who are status keepers and begin to try to maintain the status quo against new change agents.