The Elements of Change
by Scott Lumsden
There are essentially three movements in making meaningful, intentional change in a congregation: the insight movement, the action movement, and the progress movement. In the insight movement, trust is established which brings forth new ideas, new identity, and new purposes, around which new actions are taken to embody a new goal. In the action movement, the emerging new identity and purpose is put into meaningful, actionable steps that the leadership takes in order to achieve change. In the progress movement, leadership is supported and equipped to pursue new goals, communicating and learning the results of their action steps, so that the congregation can experience transformation. Another way to say this is that in order for a congregation to change it must do seven things: establish trust; understand itself anew; embody its new identity in concrete ways; act in ways that support that new identity; support the leadership as it leads in new directions; communicate, learn, and talk about who they are becoming; and participate and grow into their new identity and purpose. The seven elements of change are described below in the three movements: Insight, Action, and Progress.
Trust is a foundational element of change. Trust must be high for there to be any movement toward a new identity or purpose to emerge. Assessing and building trust are important tasks the leader can do to encourage honest reflection and new insights into the congregation, its identity, and its future.
New insights are essential to establish new identity and purpose. An new insight can come in a variety of ways: through intentional discussion, unprompted conversation, casual comment, or even critique. The leadership however must be open to discern them and act on them in order for there to be any hope for change.
Defining (or redefining) purpose is the work of taking new insights and molding them into achievable actions. Renewal of a congregation's identity is at the heart of living out new purpose. Setting a new direction must have actionable steps that move the congregation toward new goals.
Action is the lynchpin of the change process. It's the catalyzing event. It's such an important element of the change process, it is its own movement. Without action, it's all just talk, meaningful talk to be sure, but talk. Most congregations and leadership groups are pretty good at talk, some are even good at meaningful talk, but talk doesn't get anywhere without action and this is where most change efforts fall short. Acting on an emerging identity or a new direction takes real effort from the leadership and buy in from those whom they lead.
Leadership is another foundational element of change. Leaders must be empowered to make the necessary decisions to move in a new direction. New identity and purpose will not emerge without leaders who are committed to pursuing a new vision.
Communication is the free flow of information for the building up of the body. It comes both from the leaders and to the leaders, and is best focused on the ways the changes are affecting the overall life of the congregation and the pursuit of its goals.
Making small incremental progress in the direction of a congregation's emerging identity and purpose is true progress. Progress does not have to be large or dramatic, but some movement toward the "new" is an essential element for continued growth and renewal.