Solomon, gifted with great wisdom summarizes in six words an eternal truth: “For everything there is a season…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
The one constant we have in life is that change happens. We can resist, be annoyed, or dislike change. But despite our preference for life to stay the same, it doesn’t.
My 96-year-old mother-in-law frequently reminds me how life was much more comfortable, less stressful, and more enjoyable 50, 60, or 70 years ago. But as wistful as it may seem to want to return to those years of “bliss,” we can’t. Change is a constant part of life.
One thing I’ve observed in my years of ministry is: Any new venture worth pursuing will most likely face opposition.
No matter how noble the cause, how necessary it is to advance the mission, or how significant the potential outcomes are; some people are just inclined to resist change.
I’m not convinced that people’s reluctance to change is always a result of a willful resistance. Most of us enjoy the familiarity. We’re creatures of habit. We typically respond well to known routine and procedures. Disruption to the “norm” is always somewhat disconcerting.
Also, fear of the unknown can overshadow the prospects of something new. Ever hear people say: “This is always the way we’ve done this”? This type of response does not necessarily reveal a closed mentality of new ways to do things. Instead, it often exposes the fear of the unknown.
To help those who are uncomfortable with change, here are some things we can do:
Communicate. It’s beneficial to recognize the value of aligning others with a clear and compelling vision. To do so requires finding multiple ways of encouraging and reassuring people that the mission before us is so essential, that not embracing change would be detrimental.
Listen. Encourage others to express their concerns. Permit them to voice their fears. Acknowledge their hesitancy. Reassure them of your support. Sometimes people need to know that lead-instigators hear their anxiousness.
Reinforce. You can’t expect to announce the change and have people automatically on board. Repeating why change is necessary helps others to overcome reluctance to change.
Thank them. Acknowledge their courageous spirit. Praise them for their desire to engage in a cause larger than their self. Remind them they are making a difference!
Being intentional to attend to – and address – the fears of those who resist change, encourages lives and improves our outcomes.