Why Churches Change So Slowly
Dr. Ray PritchardDr. Ray Pritchard's Weblog
- 2007 Sep 04
During lunch with a friend, the conversation drifted to the question of why churches get stuck in a rut and never seem to change. Eventually one key fact emerged. Every organization is perfectly calibrated to produce exactly the results it is producing. That “calibration” is mostly invisible, but it is there, and it is hard to change. That one fact explains every business, every nonprofit, every ministry, every church, every school, and every other organization on earth. By some slow process of inertia, we drift into doing the things that produce exactly what we are producing.
That’s true of individual lives also. Take the problem of weight. For most of us, we weigh what we weigh because we have calibrated our lives to produce exactly that result. Which is why the scientists do not tire of telling us that without lifestyle change, we will weigh what we weigh no matter how much we say we want things to change.
Because churches are made up of people, they tend to change very slowly. It helps to think of it this way. Your church is the way it is because it is currently perfectly calibrated in terms of staff, preaching, traditions, programs, location, leadership, and so on, to produce exactly the results it is producing. And this “calibration” is both unconscious and invisible so that most people are completely unaware of it.
How to change the “set point” of a church varies from place to place. Sometimes it takes a cataclysmic event from the outside (Hurricane Katrina being an extreme example) to shake things up. More often it requires a change in leadership, which brings its own kind of trauma. It takes patience, wisdom and perseverance to change the calibration of a church. You also need thick skin, strong faith and clear vision.
Change is hard in the best of circumstances. Sometimes it seems exceedingly difficult, so much so that we get impatient and want to tell God to hurry up. Wise are the leaders who understand the calibration of their congregation and work to change it slowly over time.