Change Leadership Series

“Shaping the Mountain of Change: An Overview”

by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® Vol.
8 – Change Leaders in Ministry

Study Objective: Equipping servant leaders to shape change in Christian ministry by understanding the nature of church change; assessing reaction to change forces; developing skills for guiding the change process; and exploring seven proven strategies for shaping change.

Leaders resist change as much as followers do. The result? Unchanged leaders equals unchanged organizations. People do what people see. –John
C. Maxwell, from Developing the Leader Within You

Purpose-driven churches will be the churches best equipped to minister during all the changes we will face in the twenty-first century.–Rick Warren, from The Purpose-Driven Church Dance of Change: the inevitable interplay between “growth processes and limiting processes.” (p.10) The framework of “the dance of change” will provide a starting point, enabling all of us who care deeply about building new types of organizations to become part of a common knowledge-building process, leading gradually to better maps and healthier organizations. (p.5)

— Peter Senge, et al. The Dance of Change: The Challenges to Sustaining Momentum in Learning Organizations

1. Living in the House of Change

“Other things may come and go, but change is here to stay!”
That is more than a clever witticism. How can we put it into our life and work picture? If the existence of personal and life changes were like living in a house, what would you include in the layout?

  • Current situation: Step up on the front porch, and read your own name and address on the mailbox; yes, you are at the right house.
  • People: Who lives with you in this house of change; how many, how old, how committed, how skilled to deal with change?
  • Change leader: Since this is your house, then must you somehow take charge of change? Who else will serve with you in change leadership?
  • Environment: Step inside, walk around, open windows and let some fresh air into the place (and stale air out); it may be refreshing to everyone who lives there.
  • Assessment: Take a good look around to see what change issues and their parts demand your attention–large problems in the living room, continuous issues in the children’s room; clothes scarce in the
    closets; checkbook in the office running in the red; nothing cooking in the kitchen; the clock on the wall is affecting everyone in the house. Right?  Sure!
  • Storeroom: Have you stored useable tools and supplies, or broken tools, emotions, and stuff?
  • Options: Where are you going to start, and what are your possibilities? Sit down somewhere and write down your options and action plans.
  • Workshop: Get to work on a change issue with the best skills and tools, involving as a team all those affected by the change.

2. Facing the Mountain of Change

“What are the change issues you are facing in your congregation right now?” If you were to step aside and list four or five major change issues facing you in ministry, what would they be? To confirm your experience with change, talk to fellow pastoral, lay leaders or family members. Far too often, others have been willing to say to me, “You’re a big boy, face it.” How often have we declared with resignation, “We live in a changing world, don’t we?” Yes we do, but are we preparing to shape that change with the sense of hope and purpose we have in Christ? He taught us clearly: “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

( Matthew 17:20 NIV)

When I explored the question of facing issues in a pastors’ seminar on change, the responses quickly became a microcosm of ministry life today. From my notes I recall: budget changes, need for long-range planning, relocation of the church, two churches considering merger, building programs, Sunday School reorganization, choosing curriculum, starting a language ministry, calling a youth minister, other staff vacancies, 200 new housing units nearby, other population changes, youth vs. senior adult, use of time/study schedule, personal financial needs, deacon training and leadership, use of Internet, relationship within the denomination, and retirement issues. What would your reflection be?

We are best prepared to face changes, large and small, if we are seeking to live and lead as a servant after the pattern of Christ. As we go about change in our time, there is stability that comes to us from the Eternal. Biblical texts make this part of our journey today:

Heb. 13:8 (NIV)– Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

1 Cor. 15:51 (NIV)– Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but will all be changed.

2 Cor. 3:18 (NIV)–And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed in his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

3. Congregational Change – What is it?

Church change–For the church, as in any other organization, change is the process of modifying or altering the current church structure, operation, or status to some new and different form, operation, or relationship.

Planned change–Change in the church within its current situation (which is the primary focus of  this study) is the designed, intentional effort to modify the structure or operation of the church in order to increase its effectiveness in fulfilling its kingdom mission and goals.

Change–its meanings and synonyms from the dictionary (Webster’s: Random House College Dictionary, 1991):

  • to make different in form or appearance
  • to alter or modify–as in appearance
  • to transform the state or condition
  • to change one’s mind, one’s feelings
  • to improve, develop, grow
  • to exchange for another (as money), to give and take
  • to transfer from one to another
  • to remove and replace the coverings
  • to become different, become altered or modified
  • to convert, innovate, retrofit, deviate

4. Change Leaders in Ministry:


Servant leaders in the pattern of Christ must be equipped to deal with change.  The tools and the process are depicted: they seek to show that each strategy and process has its own value, but that as a whole they are interactive. We want Servant Leaders Library and this series to assist in change leadership preparation. The articles will be posted to achieve very specific objectives:

  • Objective 1–To understand change as a basic experience of life, including the church and ministry; and to examine the leadership skills of shaping such change:
    • Understanding the nature of change
    • Affirming the changeless and the changing
    • Becoming a change leader
  • Objective 2–To identify and assess the forces for and against change in churches; and how people react to change:
    • Assessing forces to change
    • Reacting to change in the church
  • Objective 3–To Develop and improve the leadership skill of guiding a change process for church life:
    • Guiding the change process
  • Objective 4–To present and work with seven proven strategies for shaping change as an effective leader/minister:
    • Working with change strategies
  • Objective 5–To present the impact of systems and organizational
    change on the work of ministry leaders in the church:

    • Systems thinking in the life of the church.

Conclusion: “Church – the Change Place”

What better place to face and shape change than in a congregation committed to the Great Commission of Christ. So let us all pursue Christian ministry as change leaders after the pattern of our Lord. Read about change; think on it and put it into practice as those with “faith to move mountains.”
(Matthew 17:20 NIV)

© 2006; hosted and copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership