Strategies for Causing Change

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.

Making Change Effective

One of the responsibilities of a leader is the obligation to facilitate change. Promoting change requires more than objective analysis. The success of efforts to bring about change often hinges on the strategies employed, and in particular upon whether the leader takes into account the feelings of the people involved.

Effective change can be brought about if the following conditions can be met:

1. There must be dissatisfaction with the present situation. Some call this an unfreezing of the present situation.

2. There must be knowledge of an alternative that is better than the present situation.

3. There must be knowledge of the first step to take in claiming the alternative.

4. The sum of the first three conditions must be greater than the cost of making the change.

5. The resources to make the change are available.

A number of things can be done to make change easier, more effective, and more permanent:

1. Begin well and move slowly. Probably this simple bit of advice could help to make many changes more effective.

2. Involve the people in planning. Change can be made easier if the people affected by the proposed changes are involved in its planning and implementation. If a problem is presented and the people are involved in exploring possible solutions, all of which will involve change, they tend to accept the ultimate change with much less difficulty than if the changes are simply announced to them. Even when advance planning has been done, the wise leader will accept improvements to the plan if they are offered.

3. Use reference groups to explore possible changes. People will not be as impressed by research reports as they will observation reports, especially if the observations have been by peers.

4. Pilot projects, done with a small group where everyone is kept informed, and even have a chance to observe the pilot projects, will make change more effective. This removes many of the objections to change if the people can see a successful pilot project.

5. Field trips can help to make change less dramatic. When the people are able to see a successful program that uses the changes being suggested, they can become more motivated to make the changes.

6. Maintain communication in planning for and making changes. When making changes, keep everyone informed, and be sure all the communication is truthful. A positive image about the change by the leadership team will help to produce an effective change. If some of the major leaders are not convinced about the need for the change, and are voicing that opinion, it can cause problems in the process.

7. Use a trial balloon to announce a planned change. This is used often in political circles, but can be used to help in religious circles. The idea is to suggest the change, but to do it in such a way that the leader is not tied to it. If it seems to gain acceptance, then go with it. If the trial balloon is not accepted, then divorce yourself from that change.

8. Consider using a consultant to recommend the change. Sometimes an outsider can be more professional, more objective, and have his opinions more accepted than a local leader. The other obvious advantage is that the consultant can recommend the change, help convince the people, and then leave town. Sometimes the use of a consultant helps prevent a pastor having to leave a town.

9. Realize the importance of timing in planning and promoting a change.

10. Recognize the persons who will probably oppose the change, and plan a strategy for converting them.

Responses to Change

People will respond to change in different ways. They will generally fall into one of three categories of response to a planned change.


These people are usually few in number, and are the pioneers. They may be overly confident in the merit of the new, and their enthusiasm for it may tend to disregard its weaknesses or disadvantages. They have an emphasis on building the new, and not on destroying the old. An innovator may be a reformer and want to overhaul the existing system and make it work. Innovators may be revolutionaries and feel that the existing system must be torn down and a new system built.


Reactionaries respond negatively to change. Their reaction may be direct or indirect. Behaving as if change had not occurred is a form of denial or indirect rejection.


Assimilators are between the two extremes. Creative assimilation is the process whereby people seek to be selective in their acceptance of the new. The more secure a person is, the more likely he will use assimilation.

The amount of time and the degree of difficulty to produce a change will vary with the type of change being sought. The time and difficulty of implementing change increases as a movement is made from a change of knowledge to a change of attitude to a change of individual behavior to a change of group behavior. Producing a change in group behavior will take longer and be more difficult than any other type of change.

There are a number of reasons why people will resist change:
1. Threatens security
2. Preservation of “holy things”
3. Afraid of risks
4. Loss of control
5. Pride
6. Affects their identity

Levels of opinion change

One part of the study of change deals with the process of opinion change. Three levels
have been suggested at which people’s opinions change:

Compliance changes – are not self-maintaining, and the people would revert back to the original conditions if not forced to maintain the change. This change is very shallow and superficial. An example would be the 55 miles per hour speed law, or segregation in the south.

Identification changes – occur as an organization goes and copies another model that appears to be successful. They may not understand all the reasons the model was developed. The models are chosen but the organization does not get into the development of it. An example could be the many churches that have started “Seeker Services” after the Willow Creek Community Church model.

Internalization – the model is adapted to fit the organization. This is the ideal, and it is self-maintaining. A church that continues to grow after the pastor leaves shows that he had caused them to internalize the changes, and they are self-maintaining.

Why Change?

A number of reasons can be given for making a change. Some of these will be more important in one situation than others. The leader needs to be sure that one or more
reasons for change are present if he intends to bring about a change.

New discoveries and breakthroughs

Make change more economical than to stay with the status quo and allow for more efficient ways of doing things. Example: radio has gone from crystals, to tubes, to transistors, to solid state, and each has been better.

Modernization changes

Research indicates that one way of doing something is better than another way of doing the same thing. Doing the same thing in the same way for years and years becomes less attractive and loses its punch. This is especially true in advertising, and new advertisements are constantly being developed. Changes will renew interest and challenges will develop enthusiasm.

Name changes

Sometimes made to change an image or feeling about something. Examples: filling stations becoming service stations, trailers became mobile homes, etc. Liberty Baptist College was changed to Liberty University to broaden the appeal to non-Baptist students.

Expansion or diversification

Change is also brought about to allow for expansion of a concept or for diversification. Example: the title “Music Director” has been changed, in many cases, to Minister of Music to reflect an enlarged concept of the position.

Survival adaptation

A person or organization must change to survive. Examples: a man changes his lifestyle because of a heart attack, or a church changes its ministry because the community has changed.

Intro to Change

The Christian faith centers around change and the introduction of new things: the new birth, a new beginning, a new song, a new commandment, a new covenant, a new life, a new creation of God at salvation, and walk in newness of life. Growing to Christian maturity requires that one make change.

Many changes in the church produce conflict. If a church grows, then changes will come; and with those changes come conflict. Changes in the music in worship are probably the most significant changes today. Even a change in the order of worship can produce problems. Other changes that occur often in churches, and cause conflict, are: changing a position from volunteer to paid position, changes in room assignments, and changes in
policy and procedures. Careful planning for change can reduce the conflict.

One of the most important things to consider with change is to go slowly.  A person in a new situation may consider not making any major changes in their first year.

Change is a new condition brought about by adding to, subtracting from, or replacing an existing condition. Change is a regular part of any growing organization. Many plans that are made will cause changes to occur. The planned change may be a minor one, such as altering a written policy, or a major one, such as the relocation of the church facilities or merging with another congregation. As plans are made that produce change, some effort should be exerted on planning to make the change with as smooth a transition as possible. The study of planning for change involves studying how change is created, implemented, evaluated, maintained, and resisted. Producing change involves three things: unfreezing, changing, and refreezing.

Change cannot be avoided; the only decision leaders have is how to respond to the change. Change is often considered a negative factor, but change itself is a value free term. Change is considered positive when used with growth, development, improvement, training, education, counseling, consulting, and some other situations. The value comes from the goal of change and the way it is viewed. Change can be personal, or organizational, or social. The goal of change is to create a new condition, which is self-maintaining. There are basically two types of change: those I am for and those I am against. Those I am for are generally internally motivated. Those I am against are generally externally motivated.

Four kinds of change:
1. Change of structure – has to do with the changing of the organizational chart, the shuffling of positions or personnel, and the reworking of the organization itself.
2. Change of technology – such as the introduction of electronic processes (e.g., e-mail, the internet, telemarketing, etc.)
3. Change of behavior in persons
4. Change of assumptions and values – the causes of behavior – are the hardest kind of change. To produce this fourth kind of change, the leader must have an understanding of why people behave as they do.

Kurt Lewin (1890–1947) developed a theory of change that had life being lived in a dynamic equilibrium between sets of opposing forces; the forces were for and against change. The equilibrium in the middle is the status quo, and includes such things as beliefs, attitudes, values, habits, relationships, roles, norms, social structures, policies, laws, and other things. Using this theory, one would want to make a list of forces for and against a change to understand what would be necessary for the change to be made. Any change will disturb the emotional equilibrium, which exists between a person and his environment. It is also obvious that change will usually benefit some and hurt others. If a change is made, the persons opposing it will feel hurt. If the change is not made the ones for it will feel hurt.