Four Ways to Navigate Change in Ministry

Youth Specialties
April 14th, 2016

During the polar vortex two winters ago, I realized—right before bedtime—that I had to pull my car into the driveway so I didn’t get a ticket. I honestly considered calling the police and telling them to go ahead and give me a ticket because I was leaving my car on the street. It was just so cold out! Check out what a polar vortex is on wikipedia. . . I’m not a wimp!

But I bundled up, opened the garage door, and started off toward the street.

After about two feet, I was hit with an icy wind that took my breath away. I considered running back into the garage or standing there until the wind stopped. But the wind never stopped—it only got worse.

I decided to push through. I put my hands over my face and kept walking. I finally reached my car. I climbed in, slammed the door, turned the key, and pulled into the driveway.

I think many of us can relate to this story. As ministry leaders, we desire to lead and love our teams and people well. We strategize, develop, and coach our teams to make great impact on those we have the joy of ministering to.

Then change hits us like an icy blast, stopping us cold in our tracks. What we do next makes or breaks us as leaders.

Maybe change looks like

  • Structure changes within senior leadership
  • New reporting structures
  • Budget cuts
  • Changes in your level of responsibility
  • Changes in how your values are supported or encouraged
  • Philosophy changes
  • Schedule changes (e.g., the prayer meeting is now on a different day or time)

No matter what change you experience, you have an opportunity to steward that change—you have an opportunity to grow and lead. Granted, there will always be changes you can’t embrace because they compromise your values or your beliefs. Those situations may warrant a choice to leave your role or company. But most changes offer an opportunity to lead.

Here are four ways to navigate change in ministry:

1) Be an early champion.

Keep going. As you move forward through the change, you’ll grow. Lean into the change by becoming a champion of it as soon as you can. Capture the big picture and the benefits this change proposes, and communicate this to your team. Field questions from your team, and clearly communicate with your senior leadership. This shows you’re on board and supportive.

2) Schedule a meeting with your senior leader.

The majority of the time, those who communicate the change would be happy to meet with you to better explain or answer any questions.

3) Always expect change.

There will always be change. Learn to prime yourself. Ask yourself questions such as, What would I do if this stopped, moved, or looked different? or How would I communicate with my team if this major event got canceled?

4) Don’t complain to coworkers.

When you receive news that something is changing, you may be tempted to send an email or text, complaining about the change. Instead, go back to #1, and champion the change. Complaining creates division and is a poor way to lead.

Whether you’re in your first or twentieth year of ministry, change is inevitable—it’s your responsibility to lead well.

If change (big or small) happens today, how will you lead through it? Does your team trust you to lead them through change?



luke mcclainLuke McClain is on a mission to help leaders move forward in their development one step at a time. He has been working with student ministry teams for 9 years and currently serves as a youth pastor in Pittsburgh. He is a life colliding with Jesus, husband, and a father of 3 boys. He is all about team culture and leadership development.

Youth Specialties

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.