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Change Takes Time

Carey Nieuwhof
Carey Nieuwhof Thursday February 6, 2014
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We are part of a culture that is fast paced and expects immediate results. We want answers and results now. It’s why, every year at about this time, the New Year’s resolutions that we swore we’d keep have become “things we will work on next year.”

We have the best of intentions of working out two hours every day, eating only vegetables, and reading through the Bible in a year. But when the diet and exercise don’t produce results in two days, and we get behind on our reading plan, we give up. We think: Surely this is not going to work. I might as well go back to what I did before. After all, not changing is easier, right?

I think about how long change takes every time I eat a pineapple, odd I know. Every time I cut a fresh pineapple I think, I should totally plant the top of this pineapple so that I could have my own plant. And then I think, it will take two years if I plant this, and that’s too long to wait. So, I don’t plant the pineapple and I still don’t have a pineapple plant. The ironic thing, is that I have been telling myself I should plant a pineapple plant for about eight years. Eight years? Do you know how many pineapple plants I could have had by now? But no, because the effort it would take far outweighs the immediate results that I am looking for, so nothing changes.

Don’t we often do this in our ministries? We know there are changes that need to be made. We feel the strain, but the effort that it would take to turn the ship around seems way too difficult, and without immediate results we feel that the changes aren’t worth our time. But maybe it’s our expectations that we need to change first.

Carey Nieuwhof, senior pastor at Connexus Community Church, author of Parenting Beyond Your Capacity and Leading Change Without Losing it, and regular contributor to Stuff Leaders Want, wrote a blog that addressed this question leaders ask: How Long will it take for my church to change?

Here’s what Carey wrote:

So, how fast can you change? While times will vary, here’s what I believe is a reasonable timeframe for change based on an organization that is currently not on a pathway to change:

12-18 Month Prep Period. Again, assuming you are going to bring up change in a change resistant culture, it might take you 12-18 months to get the prerequisites outlined above in place. If you have a change-friendly context, you might be able to do this in 3-6 months.

Year 1. Year one is the time to get some quick wins under your belt. Move to a better curriculum. Preach better series. Introduce some new music. Change your meeting structure or frequency. Paint something. Pick some changes that are easy to make and will result in a better experience now. Remember, these are clear steps that are going to help you get to your five-year goal, not just random and unstrategic changes.

2-3 Years. Choose some structural changes you want to make. We reformed our governance structure, made initial plans to sell our historic buildings, started introducing new musicians and a band (as we moved away from traditional music), introduced some new spiritual growth initiatives and moved our kids ministry to where we wanted it to be. You need to start laying the structural support system for change now or by the time you get to year five, your change won’t be sustainable.

4-5 Years. Make your final changes. For us, it meant that our transformation in Sunday service style, governance, structure and more was complete. The last 10 percent is always the hardest, so don’t quit. Don’t overestimate what you can accomplish in one year, but don’t underestimate what you can accomplish in five.

5+ Years. Keep changing. You’re never done. And now you’ve got new issues to solve and anticipate that didn’t exist when you started. So, keep going.

“Navigating change is about making it to the end. If you quit before the breakthrough happens, transformation doesn’t happen. If deep and revolutionary change were easy, everybody would be doing it. And they’re not.” —Carey Nieuwhof

Five-plus years is how long change can take. If we can grasp the time it takes to create change, then maybe we will be more willing to take the steps to cultivate change.

What have you learned about change? What stumbling blocks or change-accelerants have you discovered?

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Carey Nieuwhof is the founding pastor of Connexus Church, a growing multi-campus church north of Toronto and strategic partner of North Point Community Church. Prior to starting Connexus, Carey served for 12 years in a mainline church, transitioning three small congregations into a single, rapidly growing church. Carey is the author of several best-selling books, including the Amazon #1 best-selling Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow. He is also the author of Leading Change Without Losing It and co-author of Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey writes one of today's most widely read Christian leadership blogs at www.careynieuwhof.com and hosts the top-rated Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast, where he interviews some of today's best leaders. He speaks to North American and global leaders about leadership, change and personal growth. He and his wife Toni live near Barrie, Ontario and have two sons.