Change Can Be an Adventure!
Are you familiar with this quote from Benjamin Franklin? “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” I’ve always felt that there should be another word added to that list: change. Change is another certainty, it is inevitable. And we get to choose how we handle change.
We can be so deeply familiar with change and its challenges that we experience change as an adventure instead of a crisis.
Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linksy have spent decades studying change in a wide variety of contexts. In their book The Practice of Adaptive Leadership, they have identified Technical and Adaptive as two types of challenges that require change.
Technical challenges can be met with current know-how… resolved through the current structures, procedures, and ways of doing things. These changes are the easiest to make because they replicate known solutions to known problems with reliable success.
Adaptive challenges are gaps generated by bold aspirations amid challenging realities. For these, the world needs to build new ways of being and responding beyond the current repertoires of available know-how… What is needed are new forms of improvisational expertise, a kind of process expertise that knows prudently how to experiment with never-been-tried-before relationships, means of communication, and ways of interacting… that build upon and surpass the wisdom of today’s experts. Deeply held beliefs are challenged, the values that made us successful in the past become less relevant, and legitimate yet competing perspectives emerge.
Churches today are facing adaptive challenges, but many congregations are not responding to today’s ministry challenges in an adaptive way.
Here are some examples of prevalent mentalities within churches:
Problem: Not enough young families are coming to church, so our church will die.
Technical Change: We’ll hire a young pastor who is attractive to young people.
Technical Change: We’ll sing new songs instead of using hymnals in our Sunday morning worship service.
The technical changes fail to address the root causes of the problem that young people aren’t attending Sunday morning worship services.
Adaptive change recognizes the possibility that young people are connecting with God outside of traditional Sunday morning worship... That a congregation needs to adapt its procedures and culture to match the needs and desires of young people.
As I’ve said, the majority of churches are failing because they implement technical changes in response to adaptive challenges. The good news? We can learn to be adaptive. We can learn to become really good at diagnosing the root of a challenge instead of addressing symptoms of it.
It is an honor to be doing groundbreaking work at Broadway Church. Over the next few months, I invite you to fully accept that we are pioneers, working at the edges of God’s wildest dreams. We will create ministry unlike anything we have experienced before. It won’t always be easy, and it will be an adventure. Are you ready?