Change and Conflict – Part 1

After years of helping congregations understand the importance of change, and the unavoidable conflict that comes with it, I wrote a book about it—Thriving In the Fire: Coaching Through the Conflicts of Change. The premise is that conflict and change are integral parts of life, and that without them we can’t grow. In my experience, congregations tend to treat change and conflict negatively, but (instead) they often generate life, excitement, and growth.

Let’s explore the dynamics of change…

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1 | Change Is Often Misunderstood
We often talk about change with a certain degree of naivete. We say we want change… until we need to change. We tend to forget that change will transform our current reality. It will force us to adjust, let go of some things, and look at our world from a different perspective. The truth is that change impacts our lives in greater ways than we anticipate.

2 | Change Takes Time
The time required for a change to take place is directly proportional to the level of change required. In other words, the greater the change, the longer it will take to happen. Implementing change in a congregational culture is akin to trying to turn a large ship. It takes time, coordination, and patience.

3 | Change Requires Consensus
Congregations love to take votes to make decisions. Although there are certain things that require a vote by law, most decisions made by a congregation don’t require a vote. The truth is that when you take votes, you get “winners” and “losers.” In my church experience, it was often the case that the “losers” never lost. They simply resorted to creating roadblocks and obstacles in an attempt to stop whatever decision was made from being implemented. Consensus, on the other hand, provides an opportunity to create “winners.” Put simply, consensus is the art of inviting people into agreement, even if they are not 100 percent in favor of it. The reason why we often shy away from seeking consensus is that it takes time.

4 | Change Requires Constant Monitoring
Change requires an intentional process to measure progress. This is where S.M.A.R.T. goals play an important part in the change process. Monitoring change allows us to see if the plan is working. It also allows us to change course or refine our goals as we go. Often, the reason change doesn’t take hold is because we believe it is self-sustaining when it is not.

Reflection Questions
  1. What’s your reaction to change?
  2. What often stops you from embracing change?
  3. Reflect on how your life has changed through the years. What new learnings/insights did change bring?
  4. What’s one small step you can take to open yourself to change?

Rev. Dr. Felix Villanueva has been coaching for 24 years. He’s a Mentor Coach with International Coach Federation and the Director of Vibrant Faith’s Coaching School He’s also served in ministry as a U.S. Navy Chaplain, a Hospice Chaplain, and Senior Minister at a church in California. In his spare time he enjoys playing the Native American flute and traveling around the world.


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