Of all the commercials that aired on the last Super Bowl broadcast, one stood out to me.  Larry David, the famously crotchety actor known for Curb Your Enthusiasm and his creative partnership with Jerry on “Seinfeld”, plays his cynicism for laughs by mocking humanity’s great innovations. The wheel, he declares, is “a miss.” He informs Thomas Edison that the light bulb “stinks.” And he tries to tear up the Declaration of Independence asserting the ridiculousness of democracy because with it, “even stupid people get to vote.”

Near the end of the ad an FTX employee describes the company’s app as a safe and easy way to get into cryptocurrency. David responds “Eh, I don’t think so. And I’m never wrong about this stuff.” The commercial closes with Mr. David rejecting FTX’s crypto pitch, and then a warning: “Don’t be like Larry. Don’t miss out on the next big thing,” I hate to admit it but Larry David’s character in the commercial reminded me of many people I have known over the years in  church.

Resistance to change seems more prevalent in church settings because of a simple principle, we can’t reach for the new without letting go of the old and a lot of church folk seem to be stuck on how good the good old days were. Letting go of anything typically means some kind of loss, and most of us will avoid loss as much as we avoid conflict. Regardless, if we want to grow our churches in depth, influence, and reach, we will inevitably have to let go of something that was comfortable in order to grasp onto something new and unfamiliar.

Change is inevitable. Having a baby, starting or ending a relationship, losing or changing your job, relocating, graduating, empty nesting, retiring: the list is endless. Change happens and in the last couple of years change has been intense. With a pandemic, the wheels of change seem to be rolling more swiftly than ever. In fact, 74% of U.S. adults say their life has changed dramatically because of the effects of Covid-19. Change is a stressor that can destabilizes us, and our brain reacts accordingly, often choosing a path of resistance.

Wise leaders understand that with the inevitability of change, it is important to have an open mind when it comes to adopting new ways of doing things. Lasting change requires leadership to change first before an organization will adjust to anything new. Communicating the need for those changes is an important part of the process and the leader’s responsibility.

Frequently, when people express fear of change, they really are expressing the grief of loss. One of the things I hear regularly is “Well, we don’t want to do change just for change’s sake.” So when you do propose change there has to be a good reason for it. I believe that whatever change you are attempting to make must tie into the advancement of your church’s mission. Your role as the leader is to help your people see change not as loss but as gain. Help them see the benefits of change and how it will positively affect the mission of your church. 

I have written about dealing with people like Larry, in “I-Ignore the Naysayers”, a chapter in my latest book, Church Turnaround A to Z.

Church Turnaround A to Z: Ermoian, Kyle: 9780991380541: Amazon.com: Books