From Charles Stone, these insights on the hidden factors that you must deal with when managing change in a church.change_bulldozer

 Why does it seem so hard to bring change in a church?

by Charles Stone

In my 30 plus years in ministry, change management has been one of the most challenging tasks I’ve faced. Most pastors would probably agree. Recently I learned an insight about how people’s brains work that helped me see what I may have unintentionally overlooked when I initiated a change.

Our brains are wired for us to want certainty in our lives. When something feels ambiguous or uncertain, we subconsciously feel threatened. When we feel threatened, it creates an away response, rather than a toward response. In the case of church change, an away response might be negativity, fear, passive resistance, or complaining from people. On the other hand, a toward response could be excitement, support, and good gossip, how we hope the church would respond. The more uncertain and ambiguous church change appears, the less support we’ll get and the more difficult the change will become.

So how we can we make church change less ambiguous and easier to bring about? I’ve listed some pointers below based on some recent findings in neuroscience.

Stay close to your key influencers during the entire change process. Remember, the more threatened someone feels, the more they will resist change. Learn their unique personalities because some personalities respond better to change than others. (Brin Jr. & Hoff, 1957).
Remain sensitive to characteristics that impact a person’s feeling of threat caused by the uncertainty change brings.
The more politically conservative they are, the more they may feel threatened by change (Jost et al., 2008).
The more personal anxiety they’re experiencing, the more threatened they may feel from change (Bishop, 2007).
The lower a person’s self esteem, the more resistant they can be to change (Ford & Collins, 2010).
Keep people informed with timely reports on how the change is progressing (helps minimize uncertainty).
Cast a compelling vision on how the new change can make things better (a form of reframing current reality).
Teach about characters in the bible who created certainty through faith, believing God was in control despite difficult circumstances and uncertain futures.
Teach about how to keep a healthy Christ centered self-esteem.
Teach on how to biblically manage anxiety—see blog

What are some tips you’ve learned that have helped bring change?

Related Posts:

6 Keys to Managing Church Change
The Brain and Successful Church Change


Bishop, S. (2007) Neurocognitive Mechanisms of Anxiety: and Integrative Account. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, xxx (x), pp.1–10.

Brin Jr., O. & Hoff, D. (1957) Individual and Situational Differences in Desire for Certainty. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 54(2), pp.225–229.

Ford, M.B. & Collins, N.L. (2010) Self-esteem Moderates Neuroendoctrine and Psychological Responses to Interpersonal Rejection. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98 (3), pp.405–419.

Jost, J.T., Nosek, B.A. & Gosling, S.D. (2008) Ideology: Its Resurgence in Social, Personality, and Political Psychology. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3 (2), pp.126–136.

Published on Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 8:43 AM CDT



“Leadership is not merely personal sanctification but the multiplication of disciples.” – Mike Breen

The majority of churches in America are not growing.  It is a well-documented fact.  The number one reason for this is that churches have become institutions instead of missionary movements.  Institutions tend to be inward focused, intent on preservation rather vision.  Movements figure out what God is doing and where He is going and join Him.

In many ways we have succeeded as a church–but succeeded in matters that are contrary to the metrics of the Kingdom. We make the pastor the chief discipler but insist on most of time being spent on the wrong priorities.  We want him present in programs whether there is a discipleship purpose or not.  We want him to attend to our every need instead of focusing on the work that God is clearly calling us to do.  We allow ourselves to be recipients of services instead of providers. In many cases we resist his allowing or equipping others to do what he does for fear that he will stop making our needs his highest personal concern.

And yet at the same time we want to see the church grow.  But again, we focus on the wrong metrics.  How many people are in the pews and how many dollars in the plate?  (Some pastors refer to this as counting nickels and noses.)  Because we are not really concerned with doing the work of Jesus ourselves, or that even the church as a whole does the work of Jesus, we never ask whether these additional people represent persons who will be a part of the ministry or simply more consumers of the ministry’s services.

In that scenario, the church is only growing at the expense of the pastor’s exhaustion or lowering the expectations of people who are part of the church.  And in that scenario, we have a whole lot of people who are sure they are going to heaven but aren’t insuring that they are taking anyone with them.

Have you read the Great Commission lately? “Then Jesus came to them and said, `All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20

Permit me to highlight two phrases: go and make disciples and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  Jesus defined his mission as making disciples who would share the Good News of the Kingdom of God.  He did not say, “Once you’ve got it made as a disciple” you’re finished.  Nor did he say, “Once you have learned my commandments” just hang in there until I return.  And he did not say the pastor takes care of the disciples and the rest of us watch.

People on mission for Jesus know that what Jesus counts is how many disciples we have made and disciples are measured by their obedience to the will and purpose of God.

The church is not growing because it is not making disciples, just highly savvy religious consumers.

It’s time to change that.  Jesus IS returning.

(C) by Stephen L Dunn


by Stephen L. Dunn

Churches who are vision-focused and mission-disciplined are the most likely to be churches whose ministry is fruitful in dynamic and irresistible ways.  There is a spiritual energy to such churches  that serves as a conduit of God’s grace from a deep well of God’s transforming love.  There is a supernatural reality at work that draws the church forward in life-changing ministry.  It is exciting to be a part of such a church and exhilarating to be one its or pastors or leaders.

The Holy Spirit could and would sustain such a movement except for two factors that emerge from our human nature.  We tend to go it alone in too many things and give little time or attention to our relationships as Christians.  The excuse is often in such a church, “We are busy in the work of the Lord.’ The reality is that as we grow busier we become disconnected from the Body itself robbing one another of the daily support, encouragement, and accountability necessary for human beings to participate in a supernatural work.  And as new people are “added” we often do not take the relational time to assimilate them into the Body, i.e., to connect them. New people who do not become connected early often find the back door.  Long-termers who have grown disconnected drift away.

The other is commitment.  We are not seeking members in this supernatural ministry but fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ.  Busy churches, caught up in the energy of a dynamic work, often equate numbers and activity as a measure of success instead of making authentic disciples. Disciples who pray, who serve, who learn from God’s Word, who give, who sacrifice.

Churches that seek to ride the wave of the Spirit over the long haul need to make a commitment to the systems or structures that help embed the DNA on connection and commitment into its people.  Otherwise, God will be leading but we will follow only to a point …

(C) 2011 by Stephen L Dunn

Permissions: You have blanket permission to reproduce any original post by STEPHEN DUNN on this blog, as long as it is not altered in any way, is not part of a resource for sale, and proper attribution is made to the author.  A link to this blog is appreciated.  A copy of your use is appreciated as well. Send it to sdunnpastor@coglandisville.org


From the archives of Steve Bowen’s blog NEXT WAVE:

Why does the church Exist?

The Church is God’s great idea. It is a place where people can discover a new life living a new way. The people of the early church were “the called out ones”, “disciples”, and followers of the “Way”. In the early church there was an atmosphere which included a sense of awe, togetherness, unselfishness, unity, power, community, and a strong sense of mission. The resulting fruit?… The Lord added to the church day by day those being saved…and the church found favor with all the people.

Our mission and focus is all important. It defines why we exist and why we are here. Emil Bruner in his book God’s Forgetful Pilgrims, Recalling the Church To Its Reason For Being states,’The Church exists by mission as fire exists by burning. Terry Virgo, leader of New Frontiers Ministry in the U.K. once said, ‘When we lose sight of the great commission we lose sight of our great prophetic purpose in life.’ Both statements are extremely important. When any church focuses upon any thing less than the Great Commission as it’s primary purpose for existence it will eventually loose it’s purposeful mission. That church will quickly forget why it is blessed in the first place.

Many people need to recover their sense of mission. Disillusioned Charismatics in particular, who were seeking the great dream of a painless, prosperous Christianity have realized the dream was merely a vapor without substance. In their pursuit to find fulfillment through the accumulation of things, and seeking to become successful they have become inward and blessing focused.

God wants to get the attention of the church. His purpose… that the church might seek Him and discover His passion for our dismembered world.

It is interesting to view church movements from a distance. While some seek Him for personal blessing, others seek Him for the lost. They are mission/value-driven. Some of the fastest-growing churches in the USA are in this category. They are doing all they can to reach everyone they can. They are focused upon the main thing. Everything else follows.

For example Pastor Rick Warren… with the 15,000 member Saddleback Church… author of the 1,000,000 best seller The Purpose Driven Church… He encourages leaders to recapture their purpose, by defining their mission…A church committed to the great commandment and to the great commission will grow a great church.

80% of his church growth is by first-time believers. As one man stated, “We cannot continue to be a traditional church and expect non-believers to want to be a part of it. They won’t. They don’t want our religion. They want to experience the reality of life-changing answers for life’s problems and the God of that reality.”

The questions Warren asks in his book provoke thought…What drives your church? What is it’s purpose in life? What is it’s mission? Does your church have a sense of mission? Or is it a church adrift?

Sometimes getting back to our foundations defines our business. As Christians and church leaders we need to continually ask ourselves, what business are we in? and how is business? Sometimes it is facing the hard questions. We need to discover our present reality in order to move forward.

One year during a losing season Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi gathered the team together and said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” This is getting back to basics. I think our great Coach would like to gather His team together, point to our world and say, ‘Church this is your mission.’ It really does matter where you focus your aim. It will set the course of your life.

Where are you aiming? Inward or outward? What is your purpose? Why do you exist?

Read entire article


In his blog THE WORLD VIEW CHURCH, Michael Craven has written:

It is all too evident that biblical discipleship is either absent or woefully inadequate to producing any tangible fruit, much less real freedom in Christ. Thus too many within the body are mired in sin management rather than freedom from it, while others remain shackled by past wounds and sinful choices, and far too many are discouraged by the elusiveness of peace that Christ promised.

There are a number of reasons why I think we have come to neglect disciple making. Foremost may be the reduction of the gospel to merely the personal plan of salvation. By excluding the kingdom and its present implications from the gospel of the kingdom that Jesus taught and preached, Christians are left with a gospel whose only real implication occurs when you die: you get to go to heaven! Unfortunately, by reducing the gospel to nothing more than the means of achieving eternal security, there is no impetus for bearing good works here and now or bringing forth the kingdom. Under this paradigm, loving your neighbors is only worthwhile if “you get them saved.” Defending righteousness, opposing injustice, helping the poor, sick, and suffering, and so on, is meaningful only if it directly leads people to faith in Christ. Everything else that Christ commanded his church to do is reprioritized under the preeminent goal of “saving souls.”

Of course the church is called to proclaim the message of salvation through Christ, but it is also called to do many other things, which together achieve and bear witness to God’s whole redemptive purpose. From the standpoint of discipleship, if all that matters is an individual’s eternal (i.e., future) security, what else is there to know about the Christian life? As a result, discipleship is reduced to teaching Christians nothing more than how to share the personal plan of salvation. I submit that a century of this reductionism has rendered the American evangelical church among the most theologically uninformed, radically individualized, and socially irrelevant in history.

Read more I’d appreciate your feedback-Steve


Advent has begun. It is season of the church year that is often lost in the rush to Christmas. The season when the church focuses on the expectation of the Messiah.  When in the midst of a people living in deep darkness, a voice begins crying “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.”

A lot of churches use this season to draw attention to themselves, to their presence in the community.  Christmas carolers and acts of kindness in the malls. Food drives for the poor and the needy.  Festive decorations adorning their facilities and musical extravaganzas in their sanctuaries and auditoriums.  Christmas mailers to everyone in their zip code and block parties for the children of the neighborhood.

All very good things.

But here’s an important question.  What are you planning to do as a church that will continue to bless and transform your neighborhood after the Advent and Christmas season have passed into memory?  You may add to the festive spirit of the season.  You may even pontificate that Jesus is the reason for the season so people won’t let that truth get lost. But what is your plan for ministering amidst the hopes and fears of the New Year?

Because you’re going to be around after Christmas, aren’t you? Will your neighbors? Will they be blessed by it?