Or how to get unstuck
You don’t need to be convinced that our world is constantly changing. It feels like we’re navigating endless change.
Some of you are the early adopters, pushing us to consider new ideas and new technologies. Others of you are the late adopters, concerned about whether all these changes are a good thing or not.
The theory of the Diffusion of Innovation, developed by E.M. Rogers in 1962, is a theory that seeks to explain how, why and at what rate new ideas and technology spread. It outlines five different categories people land in related to their propensity to adopt or resist change: Innovators (2.5%), Early Adopters (13.5%), Early Majority (34%), Late Majority (34%) and Laggards (16%).
Most of you sit in one of two seats within your church:
1. You’re an innovator or early adopter (16% or a minority) who is eager to use new ideas and new technology effectively. You get frustrated when your ideas aren’t eagerly received and implemented. You feel like your church is lagging behind, and it frustrates you.
2. Others of you are in the early majority or late majority (68% or the majority). You are slower to embrace change and quick to ask questions about the need for it. Additionally, you spend your time with church members who are most likely in the late majority or laggards. You’re the one who gets peppered with questions about why change is necessary.
With an understanding of this theory, I want to offer three perspective shifts you can make that will help you lead your church to engage change in ways that enable you to move your mission forward.
1. From Being Stuck to Being Curious
Before you tell me you’re not stuck, let me ask you a few questions. Tea or coffee? Apple or PC? Coke or Pepsi?
We all have preferences, and when you double down on your preferences, you have the potential to be stuck. Do you drive the same route to work every day? Do you eat the same thing for breakfast? If you have a predictable routine, you might be stuck.
I’m not saying that preferences or routines are bad. I’m just bringing them to your attention to demonstrate that you’re more prone to getting stuck than you might want to believe. We all like the comfortable and familiar. But as leaders, we must be aware when we are stuck in the comfortable and familiar rather than being curious about the unknown.
For those of you who are innovators, this comes a bit more naturally to you. You are more inclined to seek out new ideas. You are more energized by opportunities. You are more naturally curious. What I want you to recognize is that the majority of people you serve are not innovators like you. Where you get stuck is in being frustrated when others “don’t get it.” You need to become curious and understanding of the fact that others don’t embrace new ideas as quickly as you do. They won’t see a new opportunity with the same sense of enthusiasm. Understanding this will help you be more patient in casting the vision and helping them understand how new ideas can be helpful to the mission. Be patient and help others cultivate curiosity.
For those of you who fall in the majority, I want to challenge you to be more curious. Rather than having fixed ideas about what works and what doesn’t, ask questions and learn more from your innovators.
As leaders we must move from being stuck to being curious. Realize when you are set in your ways and when you need to be curious about new opportunities or ideas.
2. From Reactive to Proactive
Another shift that can be helpful, especially in engaging change, is to move from being reactive to becoming more proactive.
With an understanding of how some are slower to accept change, we must take responsibility as leaders to proactively lead them through change. Oftentimes we incorporate new initiatives without thinking through how others will receive them and react to them. To lead them well in accepting the new, we must be proactive.
Think about it for a minute. If you’re launching a new ministry or initiative, your team has spent months thinking about it, budgeting for it, designing it and launching it. You have spent considerable time getting comfortable with the new thing. It’s not foreign to you. But for the people you serve, it’s new. It’s different, and they haven’t had time to absorb it. We expect resounding applause for this wonderful new initiative, and what we hear are grumbles about what’s changed. We find ourselves reacting to every criticism and start to believe that people just don’t like change.
In reality, they didn’t have time to adjust. This is where we as leaders need to think more proactively in leading people to new ideas. How could you have invited more people into the designing and planning? How could you have prepared them for the transition from the old to the new? How could you get ahead of the criticism instead of reacting to it?
Really think through how you can more proactively prepare people. What will this feel like to them? How can you equip them? What questions will they have? The more proactive you are, the less reactive you’ll need to be.
3. Pointing Fingers to Taking Ownership
The third shift I want you to consider making is from pointing fingers to taking ownership. All of us can have a tendency to blame others when things are challenging. The innovators point fingers at the majority who are slow to embrace new ideas or technology. The majority point fingers at the innovators for disrupting their world.
Leaders take ownership, and wherever you sit in your organization, we need you to think like a leader and take ownership.
The best question I can challenge you to ask is, “What can I do? I might not be able to change things overnight but what can I do?” If you see opportunities for your church to engage in a new initiative, what one step can you take that would help people get more comfortable with the idea? Perhaps it is as simple as assembling a group of people from all ages and stages of life in order to hear their ideas and to have a conversation about how this idea can further your mission.
When we choose to shift our perspective, we think differently and we lead better. And this shift in perspective opens up ideas, conversation and doors.
We have the amazing privilege of leadership. Leadership is a sacred opportunity to change and affect the lives of others. Let’s do that with great care and intentionality. Think differently to lead better.