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That didn’t work. Ooops, that didn’t go like I thought it would. That reaction hurts. Really, they said that? They did that? Why? Hey, I am pastor/leader around here. I thought that meant something. I think he/she/they have the problem, not me.

We could go on phrasing reactive scenarios but the point is that everything we do causes some reaction. But sometimes the reaction is even greater than we could have imagined. Push back is not only unexpected but the intensity of the pushback is much more than anticipated. How come?

It is my opinion that pastors in churches are trying to do too much, too soon, with too little. The leadership virus in articles, blogs, books, videos and messages infects us to believe that if we are not “leading” or “challenging” or “acting as a change agent” we are deficient even negligent in our leadership. Probably true but like everything in life there is a context.

Think on this–

1. if you enter into a group (congregation?) that is beyond 10 years of age, it is already deeply confirmed in its behaviours. Your suggestions/directions for change are going against some deep historical patterns regardless of whether you like the pattern or not.

2. if you are new to the group, you have some initial creds but you can only affect immediate change if you made the change as part of the entry-contract. For instance, if you said “I am only coming if you agree in the first 6 months to sell the organ” then they have a chance to assess your change in the initial negotiations. If you don’t announce your intended changes in your entry plan, you are constrained to observations and musings for the first year or two. Seriously, if you make major changes in the first year or two without having built it into the entry ramp, you “break the contract” and you’ll get some serious pushback. People that say they loved you when you came will also be the people willing to see you leave.

3. If you want to gain ground, spend the first year pastoring the people. Wander around, visit, smile, ask questions, do assessments, draw your conclusions. You may be accused of going too slow but that’s okay. Be patient.

4. Bury some people. Do a few weddings. Handle a few major family crises for people. Walk through a church crisis with grace, civility, and decorum. You’ll earn a lot of respect and trust.

5. about year three start talking about a 5 year plan. Take a year or two to put it together. By then you’ll have built the creds and trust to actually pull something off.

Until then, you have too little in your bank.

The first 5 years of engagement are trust building. The next 5 years are activating. Once you get through the initial cycle, you can accelerate the change process. But be careful of trying to do too much, with too little, too soon in the engagement.