“It’s not the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions… Change is external, transition is internal.” William Bridges ‘Managing Transitions’
Any season of change brings disruption along with possibility. While we may not be able to prevent change we do have the ability to control how we react to it.
As those called to lead through change, we have the opportunity to model a response that is rooted both in God and in who we are in relationship with God. Rather than being undone by change, our deep connection with God and who God calls us to be helps us to remain curious, without judgement and open to whatever God reveals as we navigate change.
Whether change happens slowly or overnight, we are called to lead in the season in between, to accompany others as they let go of what used to be and take hold of a new reality. We are called to be with others in what are sometimes called liminal spaces, navigating emotional and psychological responses to change, whether those changes are chosen or imposed. Hearts and minds need time to catch up with the pace of change and effective leaders can be a positive influence in that process.
Change is often perceived as loss and, once initial resistance to change is overcome by patience, persistence and reassurance, loss has to be acknowledged and normalised. Listening carefully and communicating well are vital at every stage of leading through change but particularly at this stage.
‘Leadership is energizing a community of people toward their own transformation in order to accomplish a shared mission in the face of a changing world.’ Tod Bolsinger ‘Canoeing the Mountains’
Mission is often described as seeing what God is up to and responding to God’s invitation to join in.
As leaders, our task is to be grounded in God, maintaining a listening connection and modelling spiritual practices that enable us to hear God’s call today.
This doesn’t necessarily involve finding another few hours in the day for more quiet time, prayer or bible study. Often, being more intentional in things we already do – repurposing our daily run or walk, even coffees with friends, can become the spaces we focus on hearing God. When we can encourage others to join us in the practice of discernment, both individually and together, our collective sense of God’s heart and mind is heightened.
This is a move away from leaders devising a strategy and selling it to others to a shared awareness of God already at work and the leading of God’s spirit.
Our rootedness in God also helps us make sense of both our faith stories and our community’s stories and how those speak into the future to which we are being called. We are not called to abandon our past but to recognise how it shapes us for good or ill and to rediscover our purpose for this season.
As the landscape around us changes, those activities in which we once engaged are unlikely to still be relevant. However the values that underpinned our engagement – the love, the care, the desire to share and to see our community prosper are still core to our purpose and will underpin how we engage in the future.
“It is possible to prepare for the future without knowing what it will be. The primary way to prepare for the unknown is to attend to the quality of our relationships, to how well we know and trust one another.” Margaret Wheatley ‘When Change is Out of Our Control’
In transition, a further task for leaders is to be a non- anxious presence in a time of confusion. We cultivate trust by our care and dependability. We cannot control the chaos that might be experienced, nor can we articulate a future strategy. We can, however, be supportive and encouraging. We can in particular create an environment that engages innovation, experimentation and risk taking and values learning from failure.
Liz Crumlish has served as a Health Care Chaplain, Parish Minister and, for the last 5 years has been leading Path of Renewal, a movement aimed at renewing a missional culture in inherited church.