Things change. I don’t always like change (unless I am the one initiating it). I sat with a young leader the other day and told him, “Ministry is changing, the tools are changing, the strategies and styles are changing and I’m no longer the one initiating the change.” I told him, “It’s primarily your generation that’s innovating.” I’m 47 years old and I find it fascinating that this next gen leader doesn’t live in my world…I now live in his. I’m having to adapt to the changes his generation has brought to ministry.
I remember the days, when I was in my early 20’s and felt compelled to “do church” differently. Now it‘s my son’s generation who feels compelled to bring about change. So older leaders, like me, we have a choice. What will our Change Reaction be? Will we be Critical, Cautious or will we earnestly Champion change?
I want to be an early adopter when I hear my son say, “Dad, I want to do it different than you.” I want to support next gen leaders when they say, “I feel compelled to take a God-sized risk.” I want to be a Champion for those who drive the Gospel forward in innovative, creative and imaginative ways.
So I have to be careful with my words anytime someone says, “I have an idea.” In Proverbs 16:23 Solomon says, “A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.” The Hebrew word for guide is sakal, which means to look upon and to ponder. It has the idea of being very intentional in our speech.
As I grow older I am realizing that part of my role is to discern what God is doing next, identify who He is doing it through and be very intentional in my encouragement, support and in doing so champion God-initiated change.
Are you criticizing change or are you a champion of change?
Price Pritchett said, “Change always comes bearing gifts.” It doesn’t always feel that way, especially when you’re the one introducing the change. As leaders we see the possibilities, the potential and the prize at the end of the change. But it’s not always so easy for followers to see what we see.
While we think of the Critical response as the most dangerous, I believe there is a second type of change reaction that is actually a bigger threat to the change process: The Cautious reactor. We typically call them mid-adopters. They aren’t “critical”, they’re just hesitant, reluctant and uneasy.
Here’s the trouble, many times they don’t speak up. When we introduce change the Cautious reactor responds with silence, passive questioning and even a seemingly positive head nod. But deep down they’re not bought in. The leader who cannot “read the room” could be in danger. At least the Critical responder is verbal and you know where they stand. But the Cautious responder may unwittingly lead you to believe they’re with you all the way, when in fact they are not.
A wise leader has a sense of when people are with him. He takes the time to ask the right questions and to probe thoughts. He puts his finger on the pulse of their hesitancy. Instead of fearing it, he engages it and learns from it. And in doing so the Cautious responder offers us a gift. He gives the gift of understanding. In Proverbs 2:2 Solomon advised, “Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding.” The word “incline” in Hebrew is natah, which means “to stretch”. When introducing change we must make sure we don’t run ahead to quickly but take the time to ask questions, listen, process and allow the voice of the Cautious Responder to “stretch” our understanding. Their perspective could help take our idea from good to great!
Don’t forget the middle adopter represents around 60-70% of our followers. If we fail to get the majority of our followers excited about the change then there is a high likelihood things will not turn out as we plan
How well are you listening to what’s not being said?