The Ceremonial Approach to Leading Change
Ritual and ceremony have long been recognized in society as agents of support in times of major or disruptive change.
Examples include baby dedications, graduations, marriage ceremonies, retirement recognitions and funerals.
Church leaders who fail to recognize the benefits of formal and informal ceremonies are missing a key strategy for reducing the impact of change in their congregations.
Ceremonializing Touches the Heart
To effectively introduce and implement change, leaders must touch both the head and heart of those impacted by the change.
Acts of ritual, ceremony, honoring, blessing, memorializing and dedicating can touch the emotions and communicate appreciation of the influence of past church programs, buildings, leaders and traditions.
Followers are more likely to give the benefit of the doubt to change leaders who take the time to commemorate the past that is being replaced and celebrate the new that is being birthed.
An Example of the Ceremonial Approach
Our church had just completed a multi-million dollar contemporary worship center with all of the latest bells and whistles. After years of meeting in an ill equipped fellowship hall the Young Adult Worship Service could now move to a spacious and well-designed room.
Much to our surprise there was wide spread push back to the new room following the inaugural worship service. We thought we had practiced good change management in casting vision for the new space, involving the participants in the design and providing information throughout construction.
Closer examination of the critical comments revealed a strong emotional attachment to the old room. There young adults had come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior, had been healed from a painful past, experienced community for the first time and in some instances met their eventual spouse.
We determined to acknowlege this reality by ceremonializing those experiences. The following week we met back in the old fellowship hall and devoted the worship service to sharing stories and celebrating the life change that had happened there over the years. At the conclusion of the service we marched in unison by candlelight to the new worship center and dedicated it to the Lord and His glory.
From that point forward the new room was embraced with enthusiasm and the worship service experienced a fresh spirit and renewed growth. By simply acknowledging then celebrating how God had worked in the past, the way was paved for the future and the changes it would bring.
Frequently in our zeal to implement change we lose sight of the meaningful attachments people have to the past.
Wise church leaders empathetically acknowledge these attachments to the past by recognizing and celebrating the impact of the people, places and events that are being replaced or altered by change.
Finally, the act of ceremonializing touches the emotions and provides a positive up force that counteracts the inevitable negative down pressures of the change curve.
Posted on January 20, 2015