“Making good judgments about what needs to be preserved, what might be altered, and what should be totally redesigned are the difficult issues that institutions face.”
Green and Hayward, Transforming Higher Education.
January 22, 2018—Change is the constant, the saying goes, though it may not seem so from some vantage points. Most people in an organization desire a sense of permanence. Given the nature of the day-to-day routine most people experience on the job, it’s not difficult to appreciate they are lulled into a sense of stability and immutability in their organization. From their perspective, the constancy of the job gives a sense of continuity. Even for church members, the annual rhythm and cycles and the church year–liturgical or otherwise—can give an unwarranted sense that things change slow from year to year.
From the perspective of the leader, however, change is the constant—intended or not. Congregational and organizational leaders will confront, manage, resist, hold at bay, or instigate change every year. Most leaders would welcome a single year with a minimum amount of change that can provide a “breather” from the steady stream of issues, challenges, and problems that bring about some level of change at multiple levels. Unfortunately, the nature of the function of leader means most will work amidst a constant swirl of change.
C. William Pollard, author of The Soul of the Firm, provides a perspective on change that is critical to institutions in this era. Pollard said, “Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.” Congregational and organizational leaders should also take his caution to heart: “Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”
Leaders are stewards of change in their organizations. As such, wise leaders will also question change—that is, they will avail themselves of critical questions that can help them discern the purpose, necessity, and nature of the change they will lead.
Here are sample perspectives that can help leaders “question change”:
Abigail Brenner cautioned that “Change without transition may only serve to recreate old scenarios and reinforce old patterns of behavior. For change to have a salutary effect on us, we need to learn to effectively work with it and not to run the other way when it presents itself.” (“The Nature of Change,” Psychology Today. May 6, 2011).
To learn more about leadership and change, join us at the Leadership in Ministry workshops, offered at four locations: Atlanta, Boston, Portland OR, and two workshops at Lynchburg ,VA.
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning and Director of Online Education at the Columbia Theological Seminary. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and; A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer and Don Reagan and and Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in the Congregational Context..