Change is a big part of ministry. Churches have seasons and it's important for ministries to adjust and adapt and change as the congregation grows. As a worship leader, you see a lot of these changes first hand. In fact, your position in front of people each week often gives you a unique perspective on how the church is doing. Plus, you're a creative person, which means you probably like coming up with new ideas.
But church is a big organism. Full of people from all different walks of life. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) you can't just show up and start changing stuff on your own. Most of the time, you've gotta' talk it over with your co-workers and staff members.
I wish I could say I'm good at this, but I'm not. My worship leader career is filled with great ideas that were poorly communicated. I take full responsibility and I'm hoping you can learn from my terrible choices! Take it from me, here are five ways you should never suggest change.
NEVER START WITH NEVER
If time-travel ever becomes a reality, this is the one I'm taking back to young worship leader Todd Wright. Starting a conversation about change by saying, "We never do this right" or "Why have we never done it this way?" is always a bad idea.
The things is, you might be right. There's probably lots of stuff your church has never done. But when it comes to leading people or being part of a team, starting ideas with never immediately puts people on the defensive. And unless you've been at the church since it started and you're familiar with every single ministry, you might end up looking dumb if someone pipes up that the church HAS, in fact, done the thing you're ranting about.
TIP: If you're wanting to suggest something new, it's much smarter and more effective to use phrases like "it might be cool if we..." or "I wonder what would happen if..." Starting with never almost never works.
NEVER SAY EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING IT
Showing up with a CD in hand or a YouTube link is okay when you're brainstorming ideas, but we have to be careful that we don't come across suggesting mimicry. Long-lasting, sustainable change is always jeopardized when all we're doing is trying to imitate someone else's success.
You might get people on board initially by copying someone else's model, but eventually the uniqueness of your church will run counter to that big idea you took from some other church in some other location.
TIP: When doing research on an idea, you're looking for "best practices" - looking for what other folks are doing philosophically, not specifically. You're looking for principles to implement, not moves to imitate.
NEVER ONLY HATE IT (HONESTY WORKS BEST)
We've all been there. Something in ministry drives us crazy and we want to fix it, but don't know how. We've thought about it and thought about it and tried to figure out a solution, but we just can't figure it out. That's common. It happens all the time. The trouble comes when worship leaders aren't honest about that.
When you show up to a meeting or some sort of vision-planning session and you don't have a solution, it can seem as if you've just shown up to hate something. The reality is that you don't "just" hate something...you just don't have an answer. Be mindful of how your frustration or desire for change comes across. It's much more productive to be honest when suggesting change. Don't be afraid to admit you don't have a solution. It's a great opportunity to ask others to help you find one.
TIP: If you find yourself in this position, appreciate the silliness of it. Tell your team, "Okay, I hate something and I don't know how to fix it so that makes me officially the worst guy in the room." Make a joke. Put it out there that you want to find a better way.
NEVER MAKE IT PERSONAL
Don't ever make changes based on your preference. Your job is to serve your people. When you feel God leading you to make some changes, make sure that you're thinking of your congregants as you work through it. Yes, God will use you as a leader, but if you're not thinking about the impact on your people, you'll fail every single time.
The beautiful thing about being in leadership is that God will help you to find changes that you can support AND that put your people first. If we'll surrender our pride and our preference, God will always be faithful.
TIP: When you pitch an idea, don't talk about why you like it. Don't tell people how it'll make you feel. In fact, try to make yourself use "I" only when talking about the community you serve. ('I think this would really give our people a practical way to apply scripture,' etc.)
NEVER GUARANTEE RESULTS
Maybe there are some churches that have the same group of people every Sunday and the congregation hasn't changed in years. Maybe. But most of us lead churches that change week-to-week. Based on your community, you may see congregations come and go on a yearly basis. That's why we don't guarantee results. Because we don't know what's going to happen.
Goals are good. When we plan, we have to have markers so we can assess how an idea has worked. In any planning meeting, you're going to eventually have to come up with some concrete numbers and results. That's exactly how it should go. The problem happens when you start promising your bosses that your idea will work.
TIP: When talking about results, use honest language - "I'd love to see 80 people attend the class" or "when I've tried this before, we added 6 new people to the team." That's a way to set goals without making promises you have no way of controlling.