Change in a Congregational System

This edition of Mentor Online is adapted from the PREPARE/ENRICH program.

Change in a congregational system is never linear: It is naïve and often leads to frustration if constituents think and act as though it is simple to get from Point A. to Point G. we only need to move through B., C., D., E., and F.…

What happens in all systems, and especially in congregational systems, is an invisible force known as homeostasis takes over and ever so gently or with chaotic upheaval tugs, yanks or pulls a system back to a time when of normalcy or balance that was acceptable and accepted. Some congregations have shown a preference to returning or restoring times of absolute chaos rather than risk or accept anything new or progressive.

Leaders that are unprepared for the affects homeostasis are destined to be frustrated disappointed and feel like failures or victims or both.

Change viewed as progress or improvement in faithful is more cyclical or uneven and seldom straight-line (for long!).

Wave theory

Cyclone theory

While leaders of improving or enriching faithfulness seldom lack clarity of purpose others in the system may be prone to be examples of the corny joke: “How many Methodists (Lutherans, Baptists, Presbyterians, etc.) does it take to change a light bulb?”

Often the answer in congregational systems is “What do you mean change!? That is one of our favorite light bulbs and I can remember when my grandfather (uncle, cousin, best friend, etc.) installed it. It has given long years of service and should not be changed!!!”

Thus as a congregation approaches a time of change, progress or enriched faithfulness there is a need for wisdom, patience, stamina and immunity to returning to or restoring some past time of perceived greatness or comfort.

Published by

Retired Lutheran (ELCA) clergyperson. Founder & owner of Brookover Leadership Development & Consulting, Inc. (1967)

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