Strategies for Change [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Lyle E. Schaller
eBook Category: Spiritual/Religion
eBook Description: Strategies for Change argues that church growth techniques and measurements are only symptomatic. Change is the larger issue in any institution.
This book is the fruit of Lyle E. Schaller's popular week-long workshops on planned change.
The author begins by focusing on the institutional context for change. Is your church a high-commitment covenant community or a voluntary association? Where are the sources of authority for making changes? What kinds of leaders can best make changes? The book concludes with a checklist of strategies and tactics for making changes.
eBook Publisher: United Methodist Publishing House
Fictionwise Release Date: March 2002
The story has been told of the faithful, devout, and hardworking Roman Catholic nun who suddenly died as she was completing her fortieth year of teaching in the same parochial school in an inner-city parish. She was ushered into heaven and taken to a large and beautiful classroom that had one wall filled with bookshelves and sunlight streaming in from windows on two sides. It was explained to her the room also was equipped with all of the most advanced technological pedagogical instructional equipment including remote controlled projectors in the ceiling for showing videotapes on a screen, a computer at every desk, and a variety of remote control devices. "Sister, this is where you will spend eternity."
"Oh, no!" she exclaimed. "I wouldn't know what to do here. I spent all my life in a small classroom with plaster walls, a hardwood floor, blackboards, a tiny bookcase for our library, and two pictures on the walls, one of the Pope and the other of George Washington. Every year I was given a new box of chalk and two reams of colored mimeograph paper. Once, about twenty years ago, we got new desks for all the children. That's what I'm used to. I wouldn't know how to teach in a room like this."
"Sorry, Sister," came the reply. "All of those classrooms are down below."
The moral of that story is everyone has two choices -- adapt or go to hell. This book has been written for those who prefer the first of those two alternatives.
From a different perspective, another question can be asked. What is the number-one issue facing Christian organizations on the North American continent today? What is the one issue that faces every congregation, denomination, movement, theological seminary, parachurch organization, and interchurch agency? Dwindling numbers? Money? Social justice? Competent leadership? The growing dysfunctional nature of ecclesiastical structures? Television? The new immigration from the Pacific Rim and Latin America? Governmental regulations? Human sexuality? The fact our society has become an increasingly barren and hostile environment for rearing children? The shift from verbal to visual communication?
After more than three decades spent working with thousands of congregational, denominational, seminary, and parachurch leaders from more than five dozen traditions, this observer places a one-sentence issue at the top of that list. The need to initiate and implement planned change from within an organization. That is the number-one issue today for most congregations, denominations, theological seminaries, parachurch organizations, and reform movements.
One subject will illustrate that statement. During the past three decades tens of millions of words have been published on church growth. Countless workshops and seminars have been held to promote church growth. Several denominations have made church growth a high priority.
The Church Growth Movement has produced a huge variety of valuable insights and resources for those interested in promoting numerical growth. Opponents of that movement have marshalled their arguments to explain why this emphasis on numerical growth falls somewhere between heretical and demonic.
The neglected facet of this debate is that numerical growth is not the issue, but rather a product of a larger concern.
The big issue is change. The central issue in any effective strategy for numerical growth -- whether by a congregation, a denomination, a theological seminary, or a parachurch organization -- is change. Reversing a period of numerical decline requires changes. Numerical growth also produces change.
From this observer's perspective that means the key to the effective implementation of a church growth strategy is skill as an agent of planned change initiated from within that organization. That often means a change in the priorities in the allocation of scarce resources among competing demands. That may require changes in schedules, staffing, real estate, and other means-to-an-end issues. It may mean a change in the criteria for recruiting and training a new generation of leaders.
Skill at initiating change from within an organization also will be the critical variable in determining which organizations will be most effective in propagating the gospel to new generations in the twenty-first century.
This is the fourth in an Abingdon Press series of five books by this author on planned change. The first, The Change Agent (1972), was directed at the individual who seeks to initiate change in any organization. To my surprise and delight, it also was used as a textbook in at least a couple of medical schools that defined the role of physicians as intentional agents of planned change.
The second, Getting Things Done (1986), focused on the leadership role and style of individuals. The third, Create Your Own Future (1991), was directed at members of long-range planning committees. It covers everything from the reasons for the existence of these special study committees to criteria for selecting the members to the functioning of the committee to preparing and implementing recommendations.\\Fn="pop001"1\\Fn
The distinctive focus of this volume is on the institutional context and the climate for change and the sources of the authority required to initiate change. It concludes with suggestions on strategies and tactics.
The fifth and final volume in the series, The Interventionist, will be directed at denominational staff members, parish consultants, seminary professors, and others who accept the responsibility for direct on-the-scene intervention in congregational life.
Inasmuch as each volume was and is intended to stand alone, there is some overlap in the material presented. This will be most apparent to those who have read The Change Agent and now read the sixth and eighth chapters of this book. Far less overlap will be found by those who have read Getting Things Done or Create Your Own Future! and this volume. The least overlap will be this book with the forthcoming The Interventionist.
The most frequently heard evaluation from pastors or denominational staff members who have just completed a five-day workshop on leadership and planned change is, "I wish I had been taught this in seminary."
That is a predictable comment, but it reflects an unfair and unrealistic expectation.
First, the responsibility of theological seminaries is not to try to teach this and similar subjects. From this observer's perspective the number-one responsibility in theological seminaries should be to cultivate in seminary students a joy in learning, a desire to learn more, and a skill in how to learn. If this can be supplemented by enhancing reading and writing skills, that is half the battle.
The other half of the responsibility of theological seminaries should be to do what they can do best. Ideally theological seminaries will follow the advice of Bishop Herbert Chilstrom, who advised the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Task Force on Theological Education: "We cannot compromise on such basics as the study of Scripture and the Greek, the theology of the church, the history of the church, preaching, Christian education and leadership in worship. We must resist the temptation to water down basic curriculum by the addition of study after study that detracts from a certain essential core."
The only argument this observer would offer would be the first two years of theological education should be limited to Bible, theology, orthodox doctrine, history, and missions. A case can be made that in those theological seminaries that require an intern or vicarage year out between the second and last year of classroom study, a few electives could be offered to seniors from what is known as the practical field.
A second reason it is unrealistic and unreasonable to expect theological seminaries to teach leadership, strategies for change, evangelism, administration, or other "practical" courses is the context. The theological seminary classroom cannot be expected to provide the parish context needed for that kind of instruction.
A graduate school in a large research university can teach students about politics. It also may be able to teach students how to teach undergraduate courses on politics after they complete their doctorate and get a job in a four-year liberal arts college. That graduate school should not be expected to train students to become politicians! That is the responsibility of political parties, not of graduate schools.
The most that should be expected of theological seminaries in the so-called practical field is they might train students in the pedagogical skills required to teach other well-educated adults and to train students in basic communication skills including reading, writing, speaking, and preaching.
The other practical skills could best be taught in a two-or three-or four-year post-graduate residency on the staff of a large seven-day-a-week program church.
The third, and perhaps the most obvious reason theological seminaries should not be expected to offer a variety of courses in practical skills is that this simply adds to what already are excessive expectations.
Place the responsibility for offering those learning opportunities where it can best be accomplished -- in that rapidly growing number of megachurches that have accepted this teaching role, in parachurch organizations, in teaching hospitals and mental health clinics, in governmental internships, in various denominational agencies, in the centers for teaching practical skills attached to dozens of large research universities, in professional schools, and in retreat centers. Reduce the expectations placed on theological seminaries to what they do best!
Finally, for the benefit of those who are reading this page in a bookstore while they contemplate spending the money required to purchase the book, a word needs to be said about the contents.
Why are some leaders more successful than others in rallying support for the implementation of new ideas? The predictable temptation is to answer that question by comparing the skills of the effective agent of planned change initiated from within an organization with the skills of the less successful leader. That may explain the difference. That explanation, however, often overlooks a critical variable. This is the context or environment for planned change. That environment is the theme of the first two chapters of this book. Neglecting the power of that context or climate can lead to frustration, disappointment, and rejection.
The crucial issue in this discussion is the vast difference between high commitment covenant communities and voluntary associations.
A brief third chapter introduces the fundamental point that planned change always begins with discontent with the status quo.
A society filled with people who contend one idea is as meritorious as another often challenges the advocates of planned change on the basis of authority. The fourth chapter reviews the shifting sources of authority. It emphasizes that for most of us in today's world, only rarely does adequate authority come with the office or title. It must be earned!
The fifth chapter underscores the thesis that leaders must lead. That means the advocate of change must be willing to initiate, to lead, and to decide.
Those seeking "nuts-and-bolts" suggestions on how to do it will find these in chapters six and eight. Both chapters lift up checklists on change for those who seek point-by-point checklists.
Between these chapters is an essay reflecting on what is the toughest question for aggressive and impatient advocates of change. Do I seek reform from within? Or do I take the easier and more promising choice of leaving and creating the new? The younger the reader, the more likely you will be motivated by the vision of a new tomorrow rather than by institutional loyalties.
Do not give up prematurely, perhaps the most productive beginning point will be to change the climate for change.
Copyright © 2002 by Abingdon Press