I hate that word–for a couple of reasons. First of all, it says there is something wrong. Secondly, it’s probably the toughest thing on earth to do. And if that change involves anyone other than yourself, get ready for the fight of your life.
For most of my career I’ve dealt with community change. This requires vision, collaboration, determination and resilience. In other words, you’re going to need a tough skin. Rejection and opposition seem to be the norm so you can imagine that my plan for each day was to simply try to maintain a forward motion. People are all different and they adapt differently to change.
Resisters. They look and observe but are not engaged in the conversation. When I walk away from a conversation with this type of person, it feels like the lights are on but nobody is home.
Passive Aggressive. They listen and may even nod their head, and then they act as if nothing was ever said. They heard but they didn’t let their learning translate into action. Their minds were made up so knowledge never became understanding.
Receptive. They will seek to understand–they ask questions and want to know the whys, not just the whats.
Adopters. These people quickly grasp the issue, the change required and ask the how questions. They are ready to receive the good, just need to understand their role.
Leaders. They look at issues and envision a new paradigm and ask “Why not.” These people shake things up and often cause the earth to shake for those around them. Good is never enough–there’s always a better.
Our comfort with change has a lot to do with our ability to see ourselves in the new paradigm and to understand our roles and responsibilities. In other words, it’s the “all about me” syndrome. And to be honest, we all fall victim to this way of thinking at one time or another. It may simply be instinct and self preservation at work. But somewhere along the line we have to open our eyes and see that the change may be coming and we need to adapt whether we asked for it or not.
Probably the hardest change I ever had to deal with was the personal computer. I taught a typing class (now known as keyboarding). I could make those machines sing (that doesn’t mean I could change the typewriter ribbon–there’s not a mechanical cell in my body). I was proud of my typing skills and speed. Well, forget all that. Here came the PC. My boss bought one for the school where I worked. He unboxed it and sat it on a table in the back of his office and we all just looked at it for about two weeks. Yep, we owned one but had not a clue what to do with it. The coach had been dabbling in PC’s at home and was eager for us to adopt this new monster into our lives. I told my boss I’d be glad to read the manual and see what I could learn, but he felt that was his responsibility and so we waited for him to get around to it. After a few days I simply ignored its existence for it could be awhile before the boss actually had time to figure this thing out–we are talking months if not years.
Then the impossible happened–a paradigm shift as they say in corporate America. We needed to send a letter to every parent and it had to be customized with information about their child(ren). Being a fast typist, I started calculating how long it would take me to type over 350 customized letters. This was going to be a mammoth task but I was ready to dig in. As I wrestled with this new project, the coach came in and said, “Oh, this would be a perfect project for the PC. You simply create a spreadsheet with the data you want in each letter, create your template letter and merge/print.” Oh he made that sound easy enough, but we still hadn’t figured out how to plug the thing in. I needed to get cracking on these letters if I was going to make the deadline. There were going to be long nights and weekends in my future and I didn’t have time now to stop and learn all about this new fang-dangled machine and things like spreadsheets.
As the saga unfolded, he left my office undaunted and cornered the boss, convincing him that indeed I must use the new PC for this new project. So my boss arrives in my office and announces that NOW I’m supposed to get that manual out and learn all about this machine and use it for my new project. Talk about resistance. This was not what I asked for nor what I wanted. This change was stressful to the max. As he left, I walked in and stared at this thing. I was afraid to plug it in or touch the keyboard for fear I’d break it, but somewhere in the box there had to be a manual and I would start reading. I’d offered to do so two weeks earlier and been rebuffed, but suddenly I’m now supposed to become the new resident expert. Can we just all remember that in those days the manuals were anything but user/reader friendly. I took the manual into my office, but soon realized I needed to be looking at the parts of the machine if I was going to understand. Determined to do my best, I loaded up this thing with all of its cumbersome parts and took it into my office. But there wasn’t a place for it. So I sat down on the floor with this big plastic thing, its box and wires, and a big screen that felt like an eyeball looking back at me. And I began reading what might as well have been a manual written in a foreign language. When my boss walked in and asked how things were going, I burst into tears–real tears. Yep, I cried real tears the first time I had to use a PC. I was overwhelmed. I was flooded with frustration and a fear of failure. How did he think things were going?
Well, long story short, I figured it all out. The coach came back and helped me and today I cannot imagine my life without my personal computer. Like it or not, change is inevitable. We cannot stop it but we can commit to trying to understand and learn. I’ve watched our churches change music styles, worship times, dress codes, programs, etc. And we have changed the way we work and deliver messages–I’ve even learned to tweet and my church has an app. But while we may change our tools and methods of communication, we must never change our message–LOVE.