Any minister who has worked in any church for any length of time will know that there are those in every church who resist change. It is inevitable. Change is scary. Change is uncertain. And “the way we’ve always done it” is sometimes taken as seriously as the Word of God itself. There is just one problem: tradition, while often important, is not the Word of God, and in order to survive and make an impact in the world, change in churches is necessary.
It often goes something like this: a new minister comes to a church. They evaluate the church atmosphere and identify its strengths and weaknesses. The minister is initially met with tons of support. The minister begins to brainstorm ways to improve upon the weaknesses in the church. The minister suggests change. Some support it. Others create chaos and division because they just do not want to change.
So what is this new minister to do? Ministers do not want to anger or drive out people who have been members of the church congregation for years. But at the same time, they desire to see the church grow and thrive.
At the end of the day, the will of God and faithfulness to His call to make an impact for the Kingdom is the community and the world should drive ministerial decisions. But it is not always that easy.
So how does a minister face opposition without falling apart? Here are a few tips:
It should go without saying, but prayer is key. Prayer must guide all of our decisions. Change is not always necessary or a good thing. Sometimes we want to change something just because we like our way better. We must guard against this. We must make sure that any change we wish to introduce is Biblical and comes from the Spirit and not our own selfish hearts.
- Involve the Church as much as possible
The best way to get many people to go along with change is to involve them in the process of change-making. Some people will get on board with anything if they feel like it was their idea. Instead of just coming into a church and making change without ever getting input from the church, have meetings with those involved. Allow them to express their concerns without judgments. Perhaps they have good points as to why the change is not a good idea. Perhaps these things can be worked through. While working with others is more difficult and time-consuming, it is a way to let people know that even if you disagree, you respect them and do not judge them for their opinions.
- Go slowly
While many ministers, myself included, are eager to introduce new programs and make necessary changes, a church will not respond well to a minister who comes in and tries to change everything all at once. It is wise to move slowly. Get to know the church and what makes it tick. Make relationships with the people. Introduce one thing at a time. The Kingdom of God is an urgent matter, but God has His own timing, and sometimes going slowly is the best way to do things.
- Find those who are willing to help
Some people resist change just because it is change and give no regard to the ultimate call of God for the church to reach the community and the world. Find those in your congregation who are willing to do whatever it takes to bring the Gospel to those around you. Do not favor these people, but know that you can go to them for support and help. While there are those who bring opposition in every church, there are also always disciples who are willing to serve God no matter what. Thank God for these people!
- Do what is necessary, even if people don’t like it
If you have tried everything and still meet opposition, sometimes you may have to go ahead and make a change anyway. No minister can make everyone happy and at the end of the day, the only person you are answerable to is Jesus Christ Himself. Some people may get mad or not like you or even leave your church, but if you have consulted with others in the church, prayed, and tried to work with others and explain why change is necessary and they still do not support it, you may just have to bite the bullet.
Change is a hard thing. Human nature resists it. But sometimes in order for the Kingdom to grow, so must we. Be blessed on your ministerial journey, and walk the path of change with wisdom and grace.