Part 5: Why are people afraid of change?
Note: This is Part 5 of a multi-part series. Check out the entire Making Changes Stick Toolkit for more ideas you can use today to help lead change in your ministry.
It seems like our churches are full of people who are afraid of change. What we’re missing is that their fear isn’t primarily about change; it’s about loss. People don’t actually resist change – they resist loss.
The Sticky Faith changes you’re asking people to make will cost them something. As a leader, part of your role is to figure out that cost. For example, many of the parents in your church may have had a great experience in youth group when they were teenagers, and want to replicate that exact same experience for their own son or daughter. If you’re introducing a different type of youth ministry, you’re asking them to give up their expectation of what youth ministry should be.
Part 5, Question 2: How should I respond to people’s fear of change?
The youth leader’s job is to anticipate the loss and prepare a response. This means that you must be proactive in listening to those you lead, so that you’ll be able anticipate how or when they might feel loss. Once you’re aware of this, meet with these people (maybe more than once) and give them a vision of what is possible if the change is made. Once they begin to understand your vision, they will no longer experience the change as loss, but as hope.
We’ve mentioned that your job as a leader is to anticipate the loss that people may experience as a result of change, and then to prepare a response. Below is a chart to help you and your team begin to do that. The first four rows are examples of common changes that many people go through, and some of the losses associated with that change. The next four rows are left blank for you and your team to fill in.
At your next leadership team meeting, distribute copies of this chart. As a group, discuss each of the examples of change in the left column and come up with other losses that might be associated with each change. Next, give everyone time (on their own) to think of 2-4 changes your youth ministry needs to make, and the losses that might be associated with each change. Then come back together as a group and discuss your findings based on the reflection questions below.
Reflection questions for you and your team:
- What are the changes our ministry needs to make, and what are the losses associated with each of those changes?
- Who will be experiencing those losses?
- What can we do to be proactive in responding to the losses? Who will do this?
- How does this relate to vision, and the story we have been telling from part 4?
Resources to Go Deeper:
- Technical and Adaptive Change – An article by Dr. Scott Cormode that explains different types of change, and why change is often difficult.
- Avoidance and Grief – An article by Dr. Scott Cormode about the grief process people go through as they experience change and loss.
- Leading Through Conflict: How Tensions Can Change Your Ministry…And Change You, Too – An article by Kara Powell and Jeff Mattesich about the conflict that will result from change, and how to lead through it.
- Good Grief – An article by Kimberly Williams about the types of grief we may experience and how to help people through grief.
Explore part 6 of this toolkit: How fast can I make changes?