Leadership Is About Change

Lovett Weems has written a helpful book on leading change in the local church — Lovett H. Weems, Jr., Take the Next Step: Leading Lasting Change in the Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003). Over the next few weeks, I will focus on some of his insights that are of relevance to pastoral leadership. Here are some highlights from his book that grabbed my attention and stimulated my thinking about pastors as leaders of change in the congregation:

Leadership is about change. However, change is also one of the toughest tasks that leadership faces. “People don’t want change. They just want things to get better,” says R. M. Kanter. Though organisms can adapt, they adaptation is very slow, and there is an actual inclination of all groups to resist change.

However, as people of faith, we have no option but to change, because change is part of God’s will for us. We believe in conversion. One of the attractions of religious institutions is that they help people to change.

Nancy T. Ammerman says, “The most common response to change, in fact, is to perceive as business as usual.”

Radical change is rare. Today’s management experts say that leaders need to reject revolution in favor of more gradual change. If change-oriented leaders are not careful, they can impose more stress on an organization than they can bear, and end up destroying what makes that organization viable. Leaders must emphasize continuity and constantly monitor just how much change an organization can bear, even as they are leading for change.

Bill Shore says, “Leadership is getting people to a place they would not get to on their own.”

Unfortunately, I fear that most of us pastors think of ourselves as caregivers to the congregation, maintainers of the status quo, rather than agents of change. Weems is calling us to another perspective on our vocation, a perspective that is informed by our theological commitments..

William H. Willimon

4 thoughts on “Leadership Is About Change

  1. I believe as ministers of God we must allow God to change us. We must be open to Him. Remember that he has called us. I believe once we are open to God change and working in our lives then God will change the people within the congregations where we work through our teaching. Our teaching will be more powerful, active, sharper, seasoned with salt. We must understand that God changes people in our churches all the time who we never would think. Something with words and points we never even make. Praise God being “change agent” and allowing us to be mouth peice of it.


  2. Very good insight! If we don’t change the way we do things, as leaders or as the church, it seems to me that we are saying that we have it all figured out. Things are how they are because at some point it worked but times change and people change and if leaders don’t change or if the church doesn’t change, how can it lead?


  3. In Ronald Heifetz’s book Leadership Without Easy Answers he gives multiple helpful principles of effective leadership. One of them is that one purpose of being a leader is to regulate tension enough that people change and grow but not letting the tension be so great that it overwhelms people and they quit. People are all different when it comes to change. A good leader will know how to get different people to make the changes they need to make in a non-manipulative way.


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