Deep Imprints

Your Workplace is your Ministry

What Do You Do When People Don’t Want to Change?

“I’ve tried to implement this but…I have come against the hard wall of opposition to change.”

Ever feel that way when you are trying to make much-needed changes?

This is very normal. When you try to make a change of any kind, you are going to meet resistance. In fact, you will have a small percentage of people who are early adapters – they jump right on board.

Then you have a few who are never-adapters – it doesn’t matter what you do, they will only change what and when they want.

The people who give us the most stress are the middle and late adapters. How can you implement change so that push back is minimum, and everyone is on board?

Let’s start by discussing changes you make changes your own life – we can learn how to help late and middle adapters from these familiar patterns.

You decide to eat healthier, exercise, and basically get your body in shape. Your “early adapters” jump on board. You get that laser focus, and get to the gym three days in a row. You make sure your diet is just right, and you even start sucking down the water.

Then about day three, your late adapters kick in. As you roll over and turn off your alarm clock, you can hear them.

“You mean this wasn’t a trial run?

I don’t like getting up early.

I miss sleep.

I miss sugar. Yes. Must. Have. Sugar.”

This is where you have a choice. How do you fix your wanter (late adapter) so that you can keep your personal focus on healthy living – for yourself, personally, and for your congregation?

1. Give a little. Understand that change is a process. When your late adapters throw up their arms, don’t focus on their dissension. Instead, focus on the goal, and discover new ways to get your people to it. Your goal is a healthy body, but if you force everyone to fit the new mold, you will have mutiny (also known as sickness, when we are talking about the body you are trying to get out of bed.) Allow for gradual adaptions. In your church, you don’t have to change the whole service. Perhaps at first, you just need to change the focus of your sermons from doing what is right to relying on Jesus for insight and strength.

2. Create baby steps. People usually throw up resistance when you are moving too fast. Go back and identify the baby steps toward change. On your personal health regiment, this might look like avoiding one snack a day for the first week, only walking 1 mile on the days you really don’t want to move, etc. For those pillared saints, it might mean teaching them how to make friends outside their immediate friend group (but still inside the church) before you have them invite neighbors who don’t know Jesus to a barbecue.

3. Set up rewards. You know what this feels like – the first time you see those scales come up five pounds less? What if you had a church event and 20 people showed up who were casual visitors, or nonattenders? How could you celebrate what is going right? Your late adapters are resisting change, but they still want to see good results. Set up rewards that will celebrate how things are going right.

4. Provide days off. If you never eat sweets, there will come a day when you dive off the deep end into a vat of chocolate. (Okay, maybe that was dramatic.) In the same vein, your late adapters and even middle adapters need an opportunity to feel familiar rhythms. Look at the traditions you have had – what did they provide socially and spiritually? Create events that will work in a similar way. Just because you moved hymns off of Sunday morning doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be sung – make sure you have times when your hymn lovers can rockout to,  swing to, bebop to  enjoy the Rock of Ages.

The bottom line is that change doesn’t happen quickly. It is created one habit at a time, and becomes permanent your new habits out number the old.

What do late adapters (or early resisters) look like in your church? 

How have you creatively helped them enjoy new activities?

For further study:

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How Do You Surf the Waves of Change

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  1. Great points, Kim. Slow, steady progress is far superior to the quick, knee-jerk reactions to the need for change. Many minstries have failed because the leadership saw the need for change but failed to take the people through a process. Instead, they demanded that their people simply embrace the change or leave–and they left.

    I just remember that It took 40 years of desert wanderings for Israel to be ready to enter the Promised Land and another 40 years before they finally settled. Jesus took 3+ years to train his apostles and Paul spent three years in the Arabian desert before he returned.

    Thanks for this reminder, and these very do-able steps to change.

    • Kim

      19/07 at

      Thanks Michael – you are so right, and encourage me to be patient even with myself in the process of change.

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