Patience wins the day.
The file showed up, exactly where we’d hoped and with the proper @ tags for staff next steps.
Specifically, it was the weekly study questions for our connect group leaders. Previously it had been distributed via email attachments, produced as a blog post and uploaded to our app and then stored locally on everyone’s hard drives. Email reply closed the loop. Pretty standard.
Over the last eighteen months we had been developing a centralized ministry planning approach that linked to dynamic project pages, file uploads, and targeted communication strings within those pages. Everything in one place. Everyone needing to know, directly prompted. And anyone else just wanting to know, with the capability to find what they needed in very quick fashion.
This was the first time this particular task was pushed through the new system. A palpable sigh arose. Not earth-shaking, but really nice. One more step for a sense of team and subtly showing the merits of the system change.
Here are three quick things about church systems change you already know, but might be nice to review:
1- Systems change is change
But it’s true. And it’s doubly-true when we’re talking about an environment (church) in which the primary focus (as it should be) and primary skillset (as it should be) are set on God and people. Tools come second. Sometimes third. Sometimes way, way down the list. Pastors are people whose sense of calling everyday is in the realm of ideas and relationships. They measure their accomplishments in those arenas. Tools are necessary, sort of. To make a rapid move to another form of getting their work done is a big ask. No, it’s a big, big ask.
2 – Make the case and then wait for the next opportunity to teach and encourage
Eighteen months. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a huge pebble in the shoe kind of thing for the support ministries team. We were okay with the extra steps and indirect nature of the previous process. And, it wasn’t like we had been asking for this specific workflow for eighteen months. But when this (small) win appeared, it did provide a sense of moving forward, together. It was the right moment for the ministry leader to catch the value of the new method. Anything earlier would have been less than what we’re hoping for. Which, of course, is mission momentum–in unity. No one gets dragged (or nagged) into that.
3 – Senior Leadership is the Icebreaker
And that’s a good thing. We’re not going anywhere without them. At least not anywhere good. Church staff coups, as one might imagine, are a non-starter. The writer of Hebrews gives clear direction:
“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” (Heb. 13:17)
The better way we might see will never achieve its highest good when implemented via emotional pressure or quiet constituencies. God has placed leaders where He’s placed them. Other than the exceedingly few reasons for removal of senior church leadership, we only have one directive. Work alongside them joyfully. Patiently. Thankfully.
For more thoughts on church systems change management see Flow: The Surprising Role of Systems in the Health of Church Staff and Key Leaders.