5 Levels of Change Receptivity In Churches

Thom Rainer
Thom Rainer

One of the more frequent questions I get is somewhat related to leading change in the church. The expressions of frustrations are often the result of different expectations. For example, a pastor search committee may tell a pastoral candidate they want to see change in the church. But their understanding of the level of change is far different than the perception of the candidate.

In this post, I look at five types, or levels, of change receptivity in the church. Church leaders should attempt to understand where their church fits on this scale. The level of receptivity to change is directly related to the type of leadership needed to lead change best.

Change Resistance Scale

  1. R1. Fiercely resistant. These churches typically resist almost any noticeable change. An example might be a slight modification in the order of worship services. These churches need long-term leaders with the patience of Job and the skin of a rhinoceros.
  2. R2. Steadily incremental. For the most part, R2 churches are change-resistant. Members of these churches, however, will accept change if it is slow in developing and methodical. For example, they may be willing to add a second worship service if the leader prepares the church for around a year in advance.
  3. R3. Significant improvement. An R3 church will likely accept change readily if it is an extension or improvement of an existing ministry, program, or facility. Worship times, new small groups, and building programs do not meet resistance because they simply reflect improvement upon that which already is in place.
  4. R4. Substantive change. Members in an R4 church understand that much needs to change in order for the congregation to have an impact in their community and in the world. Though multi-campus models may seem strange to them, for example, they are willing and desirous to move forward if leaders explain to them the benefit of the change.
  5. R5. Leading edge. Members in an R5 church typically are moving faster than the leaders. They don’t understand why change is not happening at more vigorous pace. They have a firm grasp of cultural realities. Though they would not compromise biblical truth, anything else is up for change or replacing.

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SOURCE: ThomRainer.com
Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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