We all know change is hard. As our church has grown in the last several years, the rate of change in my own life has accelerated as the church has had to adapt to new situations. Being a person who likes to lead through consensus and cooperation, I’m always open to hearing about ways to help me lead through change more effectively.
That desire for knowledge led me to a great book on the topic called, Switch: How to Change Things when Change is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath. They relay a great analogy for change, saying that when it comes to change our emotional side is like a big elephant, and our rational side is the rider attempting to rein the elephant in. They talk about leading through change by directing the rider, motivating the elephant, and finally by shaping the path for both to ride on.
In the final section about shaping the path, I read a quote that stopped me in my tracks. They were writing about the reality that most of us do the things we do because people around us are doing them as well. Peer pressure doesn’t end when we graduate High School. As part of shaping the path of decisions and change, they suggested the following:
“In situations where your herd has embraced the right behavior, publicize it.”
Nothing earth-shattering there, right? Nothing except that seems to be exactly the opposite way we tend to function when we need to make changes, especially in church world. As a church leader I know very well the tendency to see the negatives first. We see the ones who are hesitant to change. We look at the people who may not be on board first and wonder how to get them there. But in the process we forget the (likely) majority who have already adopted the change and are willing to run forward.
This applies particularly to the area of volunteers. As a church leader with only one other staff member, and a whole host of volunteers I realize almost everything we do as a church happens by the contributions of our volunteers. Our budget is raised from people who willingly give money to our efforts. Everything we do relies on the generosity of our community. And, truth be told, more of them are contributing their time and resources than are not!
So allow me to publicize that a little bit this afternoon, and if it sounds like bragging, I’ll beg your forgiveness.
This weekend we’re going to throw a Block Party for our community where we hope somewhere between 400-500 people will show up to spend the day with us. Everything we do that day will be free for our guests from the ice cream for the kids to the hamburgers and hot dogs in the food tent. It will cost us a pretty significant chunk of our annual budget. It will also cost us a significant amount of volunteer labor.
By my count half of our people – including youth and kids – who show up on any given Sunday will be volunteering in some way on Saturday. That’s our “herd”, and they have embraced something that makes our church a great community to be a part of. They understand that they’re not here just to be served, but to serve. So they’ll be willing to stand in the sun by the grill, or the bounce houses, or stay late when everyone is tired to make sure the place gets cleaned up, and they will do it all because they love being part of the community where their lives are being changed.
Not only will they do that all on Saturday, but many of them will turn around and volunteer again on Sunday morning. Some will be playing the music, others teaching the kids, and still others making sure that every person who walks through the doors is warmly welcomed. I can’t tell you how impressive that is. Every one of them could be doing something different this weekend, but together we’re going to throw a party for our friends and family that is going to flat out rock!
So, thanks to every one of you New Lifers who are going to serve well this weekend and every other weekend. I’m so proud to be your pastor and friend!