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?
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.
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.
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: