Friday, June 5, 2009

Change As Loss & Gain

I was unable to discover who said, "All change is experienced as loss." I wanted to offer the name because I think someone this smart should be acknowledged. 

This axiom is especially true in church work where the known and the familiar is sacrosanct. So that, when a church's servant leadership -- e.g. pastors & deacons in my franchise of Christianity -- are called upon to offer leadership with one eye on the past and one eye on the future, (read: change) he or she is often shot at from both sides. 

Such is the nature of the work, or as I am fond of saying, if you can't take these shots you can't take the work because that is what servant leadership is all about -- responsibility without authority.

Two ideas must kept in mind at this point -- especially when the shots are falling from the sky like meteors. First, change is inevitable. That is, the ones who fight change with the most vigor are actually merely covering a retreat. Change, in the end captures us all. I have tried to bring this home to the place where I serve by showing the demographic reality of our church. If present trends continue, and without some sort of discontinuous change, we will be the last generation of believers inhabiting our hallowed halls. This is a fact. This means that some sort of intervention, or organizational development process, becomes extremely important.

By definition, organizational development is "an effort planned, organization-wide, and managed from the top, to increase organization effectiveness and health through planned interventions in the organization's 'processes,' using behavioral-science knowledge.” (Beckhard, Organization development: Strategies and Models) All of which sounds straightforward, but in reality is messy, and filled with winners and losers and busted egos. 

For example, recently, our church began to institute some changes in schedule. Overwhelmingly the majority wanted this to occur. Those few who did not are now wounded and in some cases angry. Would it have been better to leave things as they were, allowing the change of decay to finally do its work? Perhaps. Time will tell if the changes we made bear the fruit we hope.

The second idea is humility. As servant leaders we may think we have the best ideas, but we must teach our tongues to say, "I do not know," and our ears to hear ideas that are not our own. Said another way, in the institutional church, organizational development is collaboration and compromise. This also means that, while both sides of the change issue must be willing to say, "You know, I was wrong," servant leaders must be especially open to this path of reality.