by Tim Studstill — July 9, 2013
Have I mentioned before that I really love to travel? I thrive on new experiences, opportunities, restaurants, scenery, people and places. I have often found, however, that the first time I go someplace can be a little frustrating, perhaps even intimidating, until I get my bearings in a new environment.
Driving is my preferred manner of transportation around Texas, but my tight schedule this past year has necessitated many flights to get me there and back again in time to go somewhere else and back again. Again. But there is a silver lining to all of this flying: I am now a frequent flyer with one of my favorite airlines! As such, I have been granted admission onto the coveted “A List” and use of the “Fly By Lane” to speed me through security. I have arrived! I now know — or can at least appear to know — just where to go and how to expedite a confident journey through airport security.
But then someone threw a kink into my comfortable travel routine. For a while now “my” Dallas airport has been undergoing a rather substantial renovation. This has been long needed and will accommodate more travelers, airlines and commercial business. Good for Dallas. Good for the economy. Good for my fellow travelers. What a great plan… except for the changes that impact ME!
Not long ago I was able to fly through MY airport! What a comfortable experience. It was beautiful! Spacious, contemporary, familiar… but no more. MY airport has become a stranger to me. Now it takes me longer to get to MY gate. I have maneuver through wonderful restaurants, coffee bars, gift shops, kiosks and resting areas. I am no longer sure where to find the closest and most convenient men’s room. The numbering on the gates is not obvious to ME. It takes ME a while to find the correct baggage claim. Finding the correct loading area for the shuttle back to MY parking area is frustrating to ME.
For over fifteen years I have navigated MY airport with ease. But now I have to allow extra time, read signs and take my place in a herd of people who don’t have a clue where they are going. Frustration and irritation begin to clog MY brain as I try to learn the new terminal with its amenities, floor plans and traffic flows. When I come home it still feels like I have arrived in a different city. It is not MY airport!
I know it was for the best. I know my outdated, old friend needed change. Overall, I like the changes. They have created new opportunities and conveniences. I’ll adjust eventually. But right now, frustration and confusion are their predominant impact on ME. My brain says it’s all for the best. My emotions say “No! No! No!!!”
John P. Kotter, world-renowned expert on leadership, states that WE are sensitive to our emotions when it comes to change:
The emotions that undermine change include anger, false pride, pessimism, arrogance, cynicism, panic, exhaustion, insecurity, and anxiety. The facilitating emotions include faith, trust, optimism, urgency, reality-based pride, passion, excitement, hope, and enthusiasm.
(John P. Kotter, The Heart of Change: Real-life Stories of How People Change their Organizations. Harvard Business School, 2002, p. 180.)
Most churches are like my outdated, old airport. They need change in order to effectively help more people move from Point A to Point B. Isn’t this our primary calling as ministers, as believers, to help our fellow travelers transition from “Point A” – a lost and fallen world – to “Point B” – a new creation. Faith demands change. True believers are charged to continually become more like Christ, mature in our faith, grow in our relationships with our Creator and with each other. As our faith grows and changes, so must our expressions of that faith. Our church must continue to change, not just in worship expression, but in Bible study, facilities, ministries, staffing, etc., to meet the changing needs of our communities and our world.
As we seek to facilitate necessary change in our churches, let’s not forget how difficult change can be for congregations who generally feel a sense of “ownership” of “their” churches. They like the familiar, the comfortable. How can we help minimize the negative emotions prompted by change, and instead, help promote the positive emotions of “faith, trust, optimism, urgency, reality-based pride, passion, excitement, hope, and enthusiasm”? How can we help our people embrace change? Perhaps we should try, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28)
May God’s blessings go with you as you travel the friendly skies of change!