Transition: Changing an Organization’s PURPOSE

“Become an Expert on the Process of Change
(Hebrews 6:1-3; Psalm 48:14; Isaiah 42:16; John 16:13; Psalm 27:11)
Read everything you can get your hands on about leading an organization through change. Use the knowledge you gain to keep evaluating, not only the stages of your process, but also the methods you’re using to implement change.” Chuck McAlister, “How to transition an established church,” Part 2, []

Is your church going through CHANGE? You might not even be aware of it! A series of article explaining how to deceptively facilitate your local church through the “change” transformation process is posted at, Rick Warren’s website for pastors. The quotation above is from part 2 of a 6 part series. 5 parts are posted on the web, in order, Part 1:; Part 2:; Part 3:; Part 4:; Part 5:

Many aspects of church CHANGE might seem to be unrelated to “transformation” on the surface. But the very beginning of Part 1, McAlister provides a list of everything that could be used to start the process of church change. Be sure to read the entire list at Part 1. It includes such seemingly mundane and superficial things as launching a new member’s class, locating new property for a relocation, and starting in-home community groups.

In the article we began to review yesterday by John C. Hillary, “Paradigm Change: More Magic than Logic,” he lists the following components of an organization, one built upon another:


Yesterday Herescope looked at the “core processes,” which are superficial ways of doing business that don’t seem to have much to do with the underlying culture, mission/purpose or paradigm. Hillary makes the case that second-order change is intended to transform the underlying domains. Applied to the Church, this would mean changing the CULTURE, the MISSION/PURPOSE and the ORGANIZATIONAL PARADIGM.

Has your church undergone the “mission-vision-values” process? That is indicative of transformative change. Second-order change requires an organization to re-define their mission (purpose). It also begins to change the church culture, by such things as bringing in more “unchurched” people (who may or may not have had conversions) and ecumenical curricula. These added ingredients can be leveraged to strain an existing system into starting into “transition.” (See McAlister’s articles for details.)

The end goal is to shift the church’s paradigm to “transformation.” But to get there, a church must undergo “transition.” And things can get pretty ugly. Hillary states that there “are special challenges in orchestrating planned second order change.” These include “the knowledge and skills required to (1) enable the intentional disintegration of the existing context of organization. (2) facilitate the synthesis of a new context, and (3) survive the turbulent period in between the two. . . “

Hillary addresses the leadership issue:

“The leader of planned second order change will be regarded as out of context by the organization. If he thinks and behaves in accord with a vision that requires second order change, he has no choice but to violate or challenge the established culture, mission/purpose, and paradigm of the organization. From the existing frame of reference, such behavior will be seen as illogical. Powerful and pervasive psycho-social forces will bear down on the renegade in a relentless organizational effort to bring him back into alignment. Unless the leader succeeds in progressively bending the pervasive frame, persistence is increasingly risky.”

Hillary then vividly describes the ensuing “cognitive dissonance” that occurs when everything is up for grabs. Does this describe your church’s “transformation” upheaval? Note that this upheaval period does not mean that “transformation” is stopped. Leaders are trained this is normal and to expect it. Their goal is to survive it. (See McAlister’s articles.)

“During second order change, the organization must face and hopefully pass through a period of widespread psychological ambiguity, social disconnectedness and general confusion. . . . The requisite disintegration of the existing culture, mission/purpose, and paradigm disrupts the organizaton’s frame of reference. During this time, there is little or no clear and consistent context to guide the thinking and behavior of members. In social systems, this condition produces dysfunction, anxiety, frustration, disequilibrium, and systemic change. . . . Burns and Nelson (1984) define such organization as having ‘devolved’ to a ‘reactive’ state.

It is no wonder, then, that McAlister, in Part 2 of his “How to transition an established church” already brings in the concept of “Graciously Release Those Members Who Choose To Leave.” Note the parallels between McAlister’s statements (below) and Hillary’s comments (above). The only difference (and one of concern) is that McAlister spiritualizes the “planned” and “intentional” part. Leaders are told to believe that this second-order change is “God’s plan.” There is a certain arrogance and self-confidence inherent in this “transformation” process which is particularly ingrained in the leadership training:
“You must remember that the transition will not please everyone – that would be impossible. Do not abandon your vision to appease a person or even a group of persons who choose to leave. God will send other leaders to take their place.

“This is the most difficult part of the process for some pastors because we are wired to please people. You must remember that pleasing God is what matters; besides, the church does not belong to you or a disgruntled church member. It belongs to Jesus Christ. We are simply called to do what God says is best for His church.

“Our church family has continued to grow through this process of transition. However, we have also lost members. I have been personally maligned and even attacked. Transition is a painful process, and often, it is the pastor who bears the brunt of the pain. Remember that you are carrying out God’s plan for His church. Your reward is coming. Stay faithful.” [http://www.tinyurl.comfbanl]

[All emphases in above quotations are added.]

The Truth:

“Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy way? . . . (Jeremiah 2:36a)

Tomorrow: What leaders are told to do. . . .