The last year and a half has been an exciting adventure for our high school volunteer team. Last August we started to ask the question, “What is the best way to reach and disciple high school students?” These questions have led our team to make big changes in the way we do youth ministry to high school students. After a year-and-a-half of discussions, ideas, and prayer, we have launched our new ideas this month. It’s been an exciting, messy journey. These experiences point towards something that leaders must do well: lead through change.
Here are a few thoughts to consider while leading through change.
About three years ago, I attempted to implement big changes with the way that we do high school ministry. These were ideas that I as the super youth pastor came up with on my own. I presented these ideas in a way that I thought would bring everyone into the loop. Instead of creating excitement, I almost had a mutiny on my hands. I decided to back off rather than lose our entire volunteer team. Six months later we started a process of asking what we should do next together. We approached the process with the thought that everybody on our volunteer team had something to bring to the table and that the Holy Spirit was working in all of us. Over about nine months we came up with a new ministry strategy. Now, through sharing the vision, our leaders have maximum buy in the ministry because they helped form the ideas. The days of the ‘super youth pastor’ are over. Our volunteers have come up with ideas and methods that I would have never come up with on my own. The power of our entire team was utilized in creating new ideas.
Communication is a key in leading through change. Think through who needs to know about changes. Who needs to be involved in making changes? When are students brought into the loop? When are parents brought into the loop? How about your direct report? The entire church body? We’ve taken the approach of full disclosure. Letting people know what’s going on as soon as possible has given people time to process, add their ideas, and give us feedback. Sometimes I would want to keep things secret, but I’m finding that most people don’t like surprises. I also feel extremely fortunate to be at a church where my senior leaders have totally gotten behind our ideas. Buy-in from senior leaders, the board, and general church body will bring an added momentum to leading through change.
Celebrate the Wins
This is simple. As we have launched out into this new idea, we’ve encountered many challenges. We’ve also experienced many wins. We build momentum with our leaders and students by highlighting the wins of these new ideas. Change is hard and there are always unforeseen obstacles. Being able to highlight wins will keep momentum in the right direction.
When God is behind the changes that we lead through, it is wise to expect adversity. There is an enemy and if the changes are from God, this enemy will fight back. Knowing that there will be conflict from unexpected sources helps prepare you and your leaders for when it happens. Being able to talk about this with our team before the conflicts have occurred has prepared them to deal with conflicts when they happen.
Follow the Cloud
In Exodus 13:21-22 the people of God followed a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. They knew they were going to a new and better land, but they had to trust God to guide them there. As we do ministry in our churches and communities, it’s easy for us to put God/ministry in a nice and neat package. We’ve lost the adventure of following the cloud. Maybe it is time to trust the Spirit. As this new decade starts, may we humbly lead through change.