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Climate Changers: Lesson 1 – What’s the Temperature?



The need to initiate and implement planned changes from within an organization is one of a leader’s biggest challenges, but before you begin making changes, you should determine what type of organization you’re leading.  Is this a covenant community or a voluntary association?


  1. They share long-time friendship ties.
  2. They have strong family relationships.
  3. They hold long-standing traditions and shared past experiences.
  4. They have institutional loyalties to the denomination or church.
  5. They have a widely-shared affection for the church property which is filled with sacred memories.
  6. They have a strong affection for former leaders.
  7. They have a powerful past orientation.

All of these shared beliefs and experiences create an institutional environment that resists change.  Change is viewed as a threat rather than a challenge.  All denominations began as covenant communities, but over time, they evolved into voluntary associations.  Each member is a voluntary association retains the right to withdraw from the organization at any time which makes change more difficult and time-consuming.


  1. They have a clear-stated belief system.
  2. Their founder is still the leader.
  3. They have an absence of local and denominational traditions.
  4. They maintain a high level of religious commitment.
  5. They have highly-visible, specific goals.
  6. They show a powerful and optimistic view of the future.
  7. They share a passionate commitment to global evangelization.
  8. They have a strong teaching ministry.

The covenant community functions on the assumption that every member is completely committed to the ideas, purpose, belief system, and goals of that organization.  It’s this high level of commitment that eliminates the option of members withdrawing from the covenant community.  Because of the high commitment to the beliefs of the covenant community, it becomes much easier for leaders to produce change.


In a voluntary association, the purpose of existence is more complex: this is our church, and we must keep our people happy while we preach the gospel to them.

In the covenant community, the purpose of existence is simple: we exist to reach this neighborhood and our world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Covenant communities are organized around changing the status quo and influencing tomorrow; whereas, voluntary associations display a powerful past orientation that places high value on tradition and shared past experiences.  When the vision of new tomorrow conflicts with sacred traditions, it becomes easy to rally people to resist change and seek to perpetuate yesterday’s experiences.

Voluntary Associations Naturally Resist Change!

Covenant Communities are Naturally Receptive to Change!

Questions I must answer before attempting change:

  1. What kind of organization am I leading?
  2. Is the ice beginning to melt? (When the ice begins to melt is a good time to implement change.)
  3. As a leader, am I a thermostat or a thermometer?


Change happens either with us or without us.  It’s impossible to stop change.  As leaders, we should be influencing the future by helping to navigate change.  Change happens when:

  1. People learn enough.
  2. People see enough.
  3. People hurt enough.

One of the primary responsibilities of leadership is helping change the climate.


Lessons in the series How To Grow A Church

Climate Changers lesson 1

Download Resources for the series

Climate Changers
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