Why is change so fundamentally difficult? It certainly isn’t just a ‘church thing’ – Parents dread the Terrible Two’s because their precious perfect little child becomes a terror. Remember what a big step it was when you had to begin ‘changing classes’? Is there any bigger change than puberty? Little boys begin to stare at their arm pits…I won’t even mention the trauma for the girls. Junior High to High School. High School to College, or Career. College to Work Force. Single to Married. Couple to Kids.
Change in the church world scares, even terrifies many. I remember when I installed the first projector and screen in a church I was serving in. People were scared…what will the older people think? Will we quit using the Bible and the Old Hymns? Funny thing. Some people didn’t like it – even complained. Yet, I got a hug from one of the oldest women in the church…It was the first time she had been able to ‘see’ the words to the sons we were singing. The Hymnal print was simply too small. It didn’t take long for the people who had complained it was to contemporary, or cost too much money were asking me to put their announcements on it. A husband was able to quit transcribing the sermon for his wife with a hearing impairment.
I learned a valuable lesson from that experience: WHAT you change is mostly irrelevant. It is simply the change, the new color, new sound, new place, new seat, new personality, new people that makes for all the anxieties. This has always been difficult for me to understand – I am a personality type that handles change well – even desires steady loads of change. I don’t drive the same way to work, simply because I like variation in life. Other personalities, however, are more slanted towards the comfort that comes from continuity – steadiness – constants.
A fact of life is change. Another fact of life is: personalities handle change differently. When change happens – and it must – especially in the church, the ‘changers’ need to be sensitive to the ‘constants’. Clear communication as to how and why things are changing is imperative. There needs to be legitimate reasons for transition – because change for the sake of change isn’t always best. The church must keep up with the culture – the stakes are too high to lose touch with who we need to reach. But we must do it efficiently – changing for the good- the right way.
Of course, no matter the vision of the leader, the quality of communication, the clear purpose of a plan: change will be criticized, even despised. See Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. However, every now and then – you get a hug from an old lady who for the first time in a long while can finally see the words to the songs!