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Leadership in Times of Change

Change is always happening in the church, whether we like it or not! The challenge for leaders is to manage that change in ways that lead to greater health in their congregations, rather than conflict and discontent.

This showcase features resources that will help pastors, worship leaders, and all church leaders to manage change in positive ways which are more likely to lead to good results.

Key Insights

  1. Wise is the congregation that realizes that all churches go through change, and that changes which are appropriate to the context and time can be times of great learning for the congregation.
  2. Wise is the church leader who understands that change brings resistance and stays calm in the face of that resistance, thereby reducing the anxiety surrounding the change.
  3. Wise is the church that welcomes healthy changes as transformational opportunities for the body of Christ.


Stilling the StormStilling the Storm: Worship and Congregational Leadership in Difficult Times (Alban Institute, 2006)
by Kathy Smith
This book is intended to help still the storms in congregations and in their leaders when facing times of change by focusing on worship as a healing process and a sure foundation. After considering the dynamics of change in a congregation, I analyze three situations--crisis, transition, and conflict--that are common in church life, and seek to provide principles and liturgical resources for congregations going through such changes.

When God Speaks through ChangeWhen God Speaks through Change: Preaching in Times of Congregational Transition (Alban Institute, 2005)
by Craig Satterlee
Homiletics professor and parish pastor Craig Satterlee reflects in this volume on how to integrate significant transitional events in a congregation's life into the preaching ministry of the church. Rather than offering a blueprint for preaching, however, he walks alongside pastors, seminarians, and other congregational leaders who want to make sure the gospel, not an agenda, is preached.

Discerning the SpiritsDiscerning the Spirits: A Guide to Thinking about Christian Worship Today (Eerdmans, 2003)
by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. and Sue A. Rozeboom
Christian worship in North America has undergone great change in recent years. But change always brings uncertainty—at times even division—about what constitutes "authentic worship." Plantinga and Rozeboom gathered a team of church musicians, ministers, worship leaders, and educators from eight church traditions and used their wisdom to broaden today's "worship wars" into a bigger, richer discussion that moves from arguments over musical tastes to good thinking about the overall purpose of worship in relation to church life and God himself.

The leaders journey.jpgThe Leader's Journey: Accepting the Call to Personal and Congregational Transformation (Jossey-Bass, 2003)

by Jim Herrington, Robert Creech and Trisha L. Taylor
An excellent and accessible resource for church leaders that helps them understand the dynamics of congregational systems in flux, and gives guidance for healthy leadership in those situations of change. Addresses both congregational and personal transformation in the process.

Leadership on the line.jpgLeadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading (Harvard Business School Press, 2002)
by Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky
A classic text in leadership during difficult times that includes wisdom for and examples from the spheres of business, school, church and synagogue. The important concept of “adaptive leadership” is explained in this volume.

Congregational leadership.jpgCongregational Leadership in Anxious Times: Be Calm and Courageous No Matter What (Alban Institute, 2006)
by Peter Steinke
This book applies a systems understanding of congregations to leadership in crisis situations, giving good advice for leaders and parishioners alike.

Web Resources

Effective Leadership for Worship Renewal
by Kathy Smith

Feature Story: Pastoral and Worship Excellence: Becoming More Like Christ
by Joan Huyser-Honig

Worship in Difficult Times: Thoughtful leadership during crisis, conflict, or transition by Kathy Smith
This article gives some key ideas from my book to help congregations going through or anticipating crisis, transition or conflict.

Beginning a Communal Conversation: A Process for Developing Intergenerational Worship
by Gil Rendle
In a changing world and a changing church, author and consultant Gil Rendle reflects on the multigenerational nature of the church, and helps church leaders navigate the various levels of changes going on within and around the church. His wisdom helps churches to deal with differences while maintaining healthy conversations.

Culture Shock: Redefining the relationship between church and mission now that we've lost the home-field advantage
by Craig Van Gelder

Effective Leadership in the Church
by Faith Alive Resources
This free booklet was written by an interagency team of the Christian Reformed Church, but contains sound theological and practical insights for leaders in any church context. Also contains ideas for use as a training tool.

Leading Through Change
by Kathy Smith from the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence program of the Christian Reformed Church
This article sums up some of my advice for church leaders and church members dealing with changes in the church.  Includes a list of recommended resources.

Faith & Leadership
Faith & Leadership is the online magazine of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School, which aims to strengthen the practice of Christian leadership through video interviews with transformative leaders, theological reflections, in-depth articles and stories, and reading lists.