Back in olden days, between the end of WWII and the end of the War in Vietnam, pastors had a simple goal for themselves and their churches: keep doing what they’ve been doing.

It was a period when an homogenous culture shared was rapidly expanding into new communities around America’s urban centers.

The people who populated these new suburbs shared common values, many of which closely resembled those held in suburban churches that sprouted up to care for the spiritual needs of these new subdivisions. Public schools, local governments and social institutions reinforced those values. Thus, the threshold at the church’s front door was low; there were few cultural and social barriers between those in the church and those without.

Responsible citizenship. Intact families. Respect for authority. Stable career. Protecting children. Sexual restraint. Liberal education. Financial discipline. Reverence for God. Neighborhood friends. These were the values held by all, even if they were honored in the breach.

Visiting church was not a foray into unfamiliar territory. After all, these were the salad days of the social service clubs like the Elks, the Odd Fellows and Rotary. Attending church was pretty much like attending any other voluntary association: the men wore suits and ties, the women wore dresses and hats, and the children were all well behaved. (I’m not crying for a return to those days, merely making observations of what I remember of those days)

The call to faith in Christ and the subsequent call to discipleship – if there was one at all – wasn’t radical or jarring or sacrificial. After all, church people lived pretty much like everyone else in the community. That is, apart from their distinct belief in Jesus as Savior.

We’re not in Kansas anymore

We all recognize and lean into the reality that since the 1970s society has changed. It’s a different culture because its experiences and its values have changed. Immigration. Multiculturalism. No-fault divorce. Deconstructionism. Post modernism. Credit driven debt. Consumerism. Technology. Body modification. Sexual license.

We’re not in Kansas anymore.

But a foray into many of America’s stagnant and declining church is like going back to the farm. The values inside the American church are radically different than the values of society at large.

In a sense, it’s a return to the status quo ante since ~ 300 A.D. We’re strangers and aliens in an increasingly hostile culture.

Today the pastor’s job and the church’s mission is different – radically and remarkably different – than it was 50 years ago. This presents pastors with an unfamiliar challenge for which they’ve neither received training nor have exemplars to follow.

They need more than strategic plans, management systems and clear vision. They need an intimate understanding of the human component of change – how to align people, values, behavior and culture – to continue the mission in this new world.

They need the tools provided by the change management and change leadership disciplines. Since the two are often mistakenly conflated, here are working definitions of each.


Change management, which is the term most everyone uses, refers to a set of basic tools or structures intended to keep any change effort under control. The goal is often to minimize the distractions and impacts of the change. Change leadership, on the other hand, concerns the driving forces, visions and processes that fuel large-scale transformationâ .[1]

Change management is a collection of procedures designed to insure that change remains under control and to avoid (or minimize) the problems typically associated with change. In other words, change management is a collection of methods you will use to (1) reduce and manage resistance to change and (2) drive adoption of the new behaviors, processes, values and policies needed to achieve the ministry results articulated in your vision.

Change management tools used effectively in churches include:

  • Champion groups (inside the very large church)
  • Consultants
  • Budget controls
  • Leadership teams tasked to promote change
  • Communications
  • Programming

Change leadership is a set of behaviors that “puts an engine on the whole change process”â [2] so that it operates more efficiently by creating a sense of urgency. The objective is to motivate people embrace change. These behaviors and tools include,

  • Big vision of what things will look like after the change
  • Empowering people to make change
  • Motivating people to make change
  • Creating passion around the change


What training in change management and change leadership did you receive while you were preparing for ministry? Or, what have you learned on the job that works well for managing and leading change? Click here to leave your comments below.


  1. John Kotter, “Change Management vs. Change Leadership – What’s the Difference?” Forbes 7/11/2012. Accessed 12/11/2014 online  â†©
  2. Ibid.  â†©