It’s safe to say that congregations are not favorable to change. In fact, Herb Miller, author of Church Personality Matters, notes that “congregations resist positive change as energetically as they resist negative change.”
I would say, to those both previously and currently serving in church leadership, that your inability to influence in past situations doesn’t necessarily mean you lack the ability to influence. It may have been that the situation in which you found yourself – or are currently in – was simply an immovable situation right from the start. It may have been a situation that resisted change, demanded failure and you, as rough as this might come across, weren’t the right person for the job. I would argue though that, in many cases, no one was the right person for the job.
Our lack of influence may have been a direct result of a corporate stance against change, yet that doesn’t change the fact that it has broken – or is breaking – us down. The need to influence our targeted audience is overwhelming to those in leadership and when we do not achieve our desired level of influence amongst those we are called to reach, it can become a decisive factor in the future of our ministry. And, for some, even in the totality of their faith.
Some might say that you could narrow down one’s lack of influence by examining their level of endurance. Maybe some would argue that if only those who left the ministry would’ve held out just a bit longer, things might have turned around. I can’t say I disagree with that. However, I think that, for the majority of the time, there’s a great possibility things would’ve never turned around.
Influence is not easily achieved, we can agree on this. We can also agree that the strain on the individual and their family is enormous and it tears at their core. Simply narrowing it down to endurance isn’t an effective argument. But instead, if the individual focuses their efforts on eliminating some of that pressure, I believe, they may have less of a difficult time warring against the people they so desperately wish to help. Removing some of the burden which accompanies leadership and placing it onto the shoulders of those being led might be the thing that proves more effective.
For example, instead of relying on words or deeds to demonstrate deep character, the leader can think of themselves (and allow others to view them) as empty instruments in God’s hands, the One who molds with hands of grace. And maybe, in terms of vision, we can allow it to emerge from elsewhere in the body of believers and not only from the leader, trusting the Spirit of God to be the one who ultimately casts vision.
If a leader, and governing leadership within a church body, can aim to relieve some of the burden that rests on the shoulders of the individual, maybe we wouldn’t need to worry so much about congregational change after all. It may just end up happening as a result of our efforts. And, maybe, our need to influence others will be drowned out by the overwhelming health (and possibly growth) of the church we’re leading.