Riding the Wave of Change
By Michael Wedig
“Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different...” - C.S. Lewis
When we think of change, our minds will typically jump to all of the ways in which we are different than we were a few years ago. Of course, there’s the little things: maybe you have a different hair style, or maybe you lost 30 pounds. Then, there’s the big things: perhaps you have a new job, or a spouse, or children. Maybe you lost someone, and you’ve never been the same since. When it comes down to it, your priorities, your interests, virtually every decision you make has likely completely changed compared to a decade ago. And the crazy part is, you are only one person.
Now consider the change that occurs over that same decade in a business, a church, or even a society. If the vast majority of people are completely changed compared to ten years ago, then consequently the groups that they make up will also be completely different in an exponential way. We see it everywhere. For better or worse, I bet you would agree that America (or the entire world for that matter) is a completely different place in 2019 than it was in 2009. And as Mr. Lewis so eloquently points out, perhaps the most shocking part of change is that we rarely notice it’s happening until it’s too late.
I believe there are few better cases for this than the Church. We all to often miss our chance to see the direction people are moving and adjust our strategies appropriately, so before we know it we’re viewed as “out of touch” or “old news” when in reality Christ has never been more relevant. It’s quite daunting; how do we keep up, or even better, stay ahead of the curve? The answer almost feels too simple – we just have to ask questions, and respond with open minds. You see, God provides us with all of the resources we need to forecast and shift our decision making to meet the current and future needs of our world, we just rarely utilize them. They walk through your church’s doors every week and experience feelings and emotions with every interaction (or lack thereof) which drives them to choose whether or not they’ll come back again. The only problem is we never learn what these experiences were, so how could we possibly adapt to have a positive impact on them?
The goal of assessing your ministry is to understand and harness these experiences (the good ones and the bad ones) and optimize your program(s) and purposefully create positive experiences that make people want to come back for more. Asking the right questions of the right people allows you to make informed decisions that have data-based evidence behind them, rather than relying on guesswork based on how you might think people feel about your ministry. The tricky thing is that to be successful, it can’t be a one-time study. Remember, change is always happening and it’s tough to notice (until it’s too late). That means that what people are saying about their experience today will probably be different next year, next month, or even next week. The challenge for ministry leaders is keeping a steady, ongoing pulse on their ministries and riding the wave of change along with (or slightly ahead of) those they’re trying to steer to Christ.
It is all too easy to miss what people are thinking or feeling, and slip into the “out of touch” bucket. And once you’re there, it’s going to be VERY difficult to get yourself out. But, as always with God, there’s hope. You can prevent falling out of touch by committing to three things: asking, listening, and reacting. All three of these are equally important to a successful ministry, and together define a healthy assessment. And don’t get me wrong, it definitely is a commitment. Be ready to check in on your ministry on at least a quarterly basis and potentially make some significant changes every time based on the results.
It might sound like an intimidating task, but I truly believe we’re called by God to do it. There’s a reason for all of the change – God designed it this way! We are not meant to stay stagnant, and that most definitely applies to our ministries as well. To change is to be alive. It’s how we grow as people, as Christ followers, and as leaders. So embrace it, and learn to adapt to it through healthy assessment. Tap into the resources God places in your building every week, and set a reminder ten years from now to look back and see all that He’s done.
Senior Project Manager at Burke, Inc.
Burke is an independent, full service marketing research and decision support company. Burke capitalizes on its state-of-the-art research execution, advanced analytical techniques and leading edge technology to provide decision support solutions to companies across all major industry sectors.
When Michael is not at work he enjoys hanging out with his wife Kelly, family, friends, and their three dogs. He also enjoys writing, playing music, and serving as a high school youth leader at his church.