Monday, May 13, 2013

The Paradox Of Change

One of the dynamics of leadership and ministry that continues to perplex me is the paradox of change.  People and organisations come to a place of dissatisfaction with where they are, express a vision for where they want to be, yet remain unwilling to embrace the change necessary to experience their preferred reality.  In my role as a church leader I see this paradox manifested personally, corporately and spiritually all the time.  While I am no psychologist, it almost seems there is a greater sense of security in the dysfunction than the uncertainty of the necessary change, resulting in a frustrating cycle of blame, denial and resistance.

As a strategically minded and practically oriented person I find a real conflict between this paradox and my personality.  I understand resistance to change when the need for change is not recognised and that there is a journey that needs to be travelled in order to get to a place where the present reality becomes indefensible.  What I don't understand is when a shared journey of discovery has led to a place of mutual recognition that change is needed, yet the agreed process for change is resisted every step of the way!  This is especially perplexing when those you are leading are the ones who initiate the change process.

Sue Mallory, author of "The Equipping Church," provides some helpful insight into this paradox:  “I can’t emphasize enough how pointless it is to change a system and not address its underlying culture...Healthy and wise change rarely happens apart from deep cultural understanding."  In other words, change that does not address the underlying culture or values will only attract a superficial commitment.  Effective change begins with the realisation that there is a lack of alignment between personal values or organisational culture and an individual's or organisation's desired reality.  

So, while the need for change may be intellectually acknowledged, if it is not intrinsically motivated, it is unlikely to be fully embraced.  Maybe the resistance that I struggle to understand is actually an outward expression of the inward tension felt by a person or organisation wrestling with the same paradox? 

As a leader I am coming to realise that the journey involved in motivating cultural and value based change is as important as the change itself.  The process, while at times frustrating, is essential to moving beyond the paradox towards a new paradigm of change that will cultivate a positive environment for personal and corporate transformation.

1 comment:

  1. Walter Brueggemann talks about a concept called "funding imagination" in his book, 'The Bible and postmodern imagination' (1993,p.20). It occurs to me that as ministers (leaders)our primary function is too stimulate vision. To do this we need to fund imagination.

    Motivating change essentially would involve funding the imagination of those around to process how that change would become a reality. This involves participation - which is why we are the church -I.e: the congregation are not passive consumers involved in a buy and sell, transactional style of relationship. I could go on...I wrote a little on this here: