Part 6: How fast can I make changes?
Note: This is Part 6 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.
When we get a great new idea, our natural instinct is to get a group of people together, make a big announcement, and try to make a lot of change quickly. The problem is that this ratchets up the pressure for the change to succeed right away, and does not provide the freedom to fail or learn from mistakes.
Instead, consider creating experiments on the margins. These are smaller attempts to create change in which you do not announce what you’re doing. An example is gathering a group of adults and teenagers to work together at a soup kitchen, without making an announcement in front of the congregation that you’re moving toward intergenerational ministry. If this type of experiment fails or goes poorly, you have the opportunity to learn from your mistakes.
Part 6, Question 2: Can I experiment publicly with change?
Experimenting in public requires a high tolerance for failure. There are some congregations that are so comfortable trying new things (whether they succeed or fail) that it’s alright to experiment publicly with change. However, this will not work in most congregations because there is a high penalty for failure.
So far, you and your team have listened to those in your congregation (part 1 and part 2), assessed the effectiveness of your youth ministry (part 3), told stories to communicate your new Sticky Faith vision (part 4), and thought through changes and the loss associated with each change (part 5). Your next step is to begin introducing these changes. The following exercise will help you get started:
- At your next leadership team meeting, use a whiteboard or large piece of paper and make a list of the changes that you’d like to see in your ministry. (The work you did in part 3 and part 5 of this Toolkit will be helpful here).
- Come to an agreement on the one or two most important changes that you’d like to start with.
- For each change, brainstorm several ways in which you can experiment on the margins.
- Go out and try these experiments! (This is an ongoing process that will take weeks or months).
- Come back together as a team and talk about how each experiment went, and what you’ve learned. Be sure to put these follow-up meetings on the calendar as soon as you plan an experiment, so they’re not forgotten. Use the questions below both as you go through this exercise and reflect on it afterward.
Reflection questions for you and your team:
- Given the culture of our church, is it better for us to introduce changes quickly or slowly? Why?
- Are there any changes that would be better for us to introduce immediately or publicly?
- Of the experiments on the margins we’ve tried, which of our experiments went well, and which ones did not go well? Why is this?
- In the experiments that did not go well, are there some elements that did go well that we’d like to continue?
- What did we learn from these experiments about introducing change in our church?
- Now that we have experimented in each of these areas, where do we go next? How do we continue to introduce these changes?
Resources to Go Deeper:
- Stop Blaming Your Culture – An article by Jon R. Katzenbach and Ashley Harshak about how to use your culture to maximize performance.
- Fail People’s Expectations – An article by Scott Cormode about failing people’s expectations at a rate they can stand.
- Taking Summer Programming Out of the Box and Reflecting on Taking Summer Programming out of the Box – Practical examples of implementing Sticky Faith changes in a congregation from Student Ministry Pastor Kris Fernhout.
Explore part 7 of this toolkit: How can I help my senior pastor understand that something needs to change?