Change can be quite unsettling and launch us into a future that unfolds in ways we never anticipated. We experience this sense of confusion, uncertainty and even fear in aspects of our lives where we might be expected to have more faith.
This past month I lent my expertise in change leadership to the service and justice ministry in my church. This significant volunteer effort needed serious reforming and the leadership’s first proposal to reorganize and strengthen the group’s structure and processes hit strong and heartfelt resistance. I facilitated a working group to make a second attempt at a set of recommendations to strengthen the ministry.
Through a concentrated push of three 90 minute sessions, meeting once a week, we got to a set of eight recommendations everyone could accept as a pilot initiative. First we built trust by respecting all the feedback from the congregation and the ministry’s volunteer leaders. The working group listened to each other and honored each other’s experience and intentions. We drew upon the sense of purpose, relationships and fellowship that the ministry volunteers deeply value. And then we searched systematically for areas of opportunities to lead change. The eight recommendations focus on role clarification, accountability and good process with a few important structure changes. It’s a creative and pragmatic set of solutions that will strengthen the ministry for now. Everyone understand the ministry must be a work in progress and continue to evaluate and improve where needed.
In a faith community, it is easier to call on and trust God’s guidance to open our eyes and hearts to possibilities. In more secular experiences in change, we feel like we have to rely on our own intelligence, experience and wisdom. Believers know this is not true; we just forget.
One of the working group members found this quote the day before we reported back to the full ministry group. C.S. Lewis offers a universal truth about change even when we do not acknowledge God’s presence in that work.
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage; but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” –C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Most of us can imagine and handle experiences of change that only stretch us to create that cozy and familiar cottage. We quake in the face of bolder visions that ask us to become far more than we ever imagined might be possible. Opting for safe, we miss the full blessings that could be ours.