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Leadership
Love the people around you, and when you must have uncomfortable conversations, keep them solutions-driven.

Leadership: Through Transition and Change

For new tech people who are finding themselves inheriting technology and volunteers, there are some things you need to be aware of when turnover or transition happens in a church.

There are a lot of tough things that one is tasked on leading through, but I think leading through transition is one of the hardest.

People are creatures of habit, and we don’t respond well to uncertainty and instability.

I wish I could find some statistics on how long tech people last in churches, but let’s face it, any time there is turnover in tech ministry, it’s an opportunity for professional tech and volunteers to lead through a transition. This is especially tough for people coming into a new church, but hopefully, there will be some observations in this article that could help everyone leading through transition, to have some tools to smooth the way.

For new tech people who are finding themselves inheriting technology and volunteers, there are some things you need to be aware of when turnover or transition happens in a church.

First, all change is a critique of the past.

If you inherit technology, you need to be careful what you replace and upgrade, especially early on. While it’s tempting to simply throw out all the old and make lots of changes, change is going to be viewed as a judgment of your predecessors.

If your predecessor was universally liked, this puts the volunteers in the position of supporting the new person at the cost of betraying their trust to the person who was there before. As a result, it will be hard for people to not take it personally every time something is different.

Speaking of volunteers, it’s important to be aware of your serving schedule regarding your changes. If you have volunteers who only serve once a month, you need to make sure your changes aren’t so frequent that every time those people serve, they find out that something else is different.

People are creatures of habit, and we don’t respond well to uncertainty and instability.

If you need to make changes, then do so, but going about them slower is going to be better. Also, there is a difference between changing a little converter box, versus changing a process and procedure.

In many cases changes can be made that will be transparent to the volunteers, with those tending to be easier to make.

Keep in mind, as a result of such a transition, some volunteers will stop serving. This shouldn’t be seen as unexpected. The important thing to note is that such a situation, some would have stopped serving under any circumstance, especially the volunteers that have been serving for a long time. There is a good chance many of these volunteers were on the edge anyways, and this transition becomes a convenient excuse to step down.

Others will feel that to the only way to support your predecessor is to step down; this is also to be expected. If you encounter this, tell them you understand and ask what you can do to help. From there, it’s best to have contact information for other ministry leads to offer them, along with making sure they have your contact information, and that they know they can reach out to you for any reason. 

I acknowledge that doing this is not easy, but there is a great quote from author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss, that fits here “A person's success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”

By continuing to put the people first, this will communicate to the entire team that you understand the ministry side of technical ministry.

Also, include volunteers in your decision-making process. You might be surprised to discover the method to the madness really makes a lot of sense, when you can take it in context.

There are lots of ways to “skin the cat” so to speak. If your predecessor implemented the use of a different brand of wireless mic over one that you prefer, maybe you don’t need to make that change. The old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” really applies here.

The last piece of advice is probably the hardest: Honor those who came before you. This is especially tough, if techs are coming in because of turnover, especially if it was a bad turnover.

The temptation is to throw the baby out with the bathwater, where one can be caught up into thinking, “The last person quit or got fired, so their decisions cannot be trusted.” Keep in mind that circumstances have changed, otherwise they would still be there.

Beyond that, take a look at John 13:35: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” It’s tough to say you love someone, that you are constantly bad mouthing.

Transitions are tough, turnover is painful, but it’s also a very natural part of any ministry.

Love the people around you, and when you must have uncomfortable conversations, keep them solutions-driven.

Don’t let things get too personal; chances are good emotions are going to be raw, so don’t exacerbate the problem by badmouthing your predecessor.

When it comes to church, it’s incredibly tough for people to not take change personally, so be careful with what you change, and how quickly.

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