Making Good Changes in a Highly Structured Environment

The best

We had a situation recently where a staff member felt the need to make a change in his area of ministry. It would save the church lots of money, is more in line with our vision, and would have a greater Kingdom impact. Sounds like a no-brainer to me.

It’s the best decision.

Problem? It’s changing the way something has been done for years and something that is very popular.

We are a 104 year old church. Every church acclimates towards a defined structure…an established way of doing things…some traditions. Even if that tradition is continual change (which this church is not), every church (and every organization) forms a unique DNA of how things are done. In our setting, it’s developed into a highly structured environment of systems and procedures, which makes change more difficult than in some churches. This is not atypical of an older, established church.

We talked about what would have to be done in order for this change to be successful. Who to talk to. Which committees need to weigh in. Who the influencers are in this area of ministry. Part of being an established, highly structured church.

His statement hit me hard. It’s one I think we often confuse in making organizational changes, probably especially in the church. (Which is often very slow to accept change.)

He said, “I just hate having to be so political in making what we know is the best decision.”

I completely understand his concern, but it’s in that statement that exists the confusion.

I said to him, “You have already made the right decision. That’s what we will do. We just have to be strategic in the implementation.”

And that is what it takes to make disciples…to grow a church…to stop stagnation.

Make the right decision.

The best decision. Use collaboration not control, but do what is best for the church or organization.
Not the one that makes you popular, or even the one that causes the least conflict, but the wisest, most promising decision. That’s good leadership.

But be strategic in the implementation.

Take your time. Establish trust. Build consensus. Talk to the right people. Even compromise on minor details if necessary. Accommodate special requests if possible and if it doesn’t affect the outcome. Be political if needed. It’s part of the process, especially in a highly structured environment. (Does that describe any churches you know?)

Structured environments shouldn’t keep you from making the right decisions involving change. They just alter the implementation process.

Knowing this difference provides freedom to visionary pastors and leaders in highly structured environments. You can make the change. You can. You’ll just have to be smarter about how and when you make them.

Do you understand the difference in decision making and implementation? How does that shape your process of making change?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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3 thoughts on “Making Good Changes in a Highly Structured Environment

  1. Could you address how you handle it when you have done all these things – when you have tried to bring people in and along – and they dig in their heels and continually refuse to change?

    • Yes. I've written a couple these type posts. Bottom line is you move with movers. And, some churches structurally cannot be changed.  —Sent from Mailbox for iPhone