I used to wear hats all the time in high school and college. I had a vast pool of hats that I could choose from, usually of the sports teams that I supported.
My collection of hats now have dwindled to one. Most of the hats got lost in various places- movie theaters, planes, subway, beach. The last hat that I held onto for years was a Superman hat that is in the twilight of its life. It’s more than falling apart. It looks dirty and just raunchy, but I refuse to wash it. (It would wash away all the character the hat accrued during our tenure together). But I couldn’t ignore the fact that this hat needed to be retired and that I needed to go hunt for a new hat.
I haven’t had to buy a new hat since, I don’t know, 5 years? So I went hat shopping, only to find that I couldn’t find any hat that spoke to me. And, when did hats become so expensive? Were they always that expensive and that I didn’t care when I was younger? And I’m very peculiar with my hats. One, I don’t like the adjustable hats, I need to get fitted or the flex fitted, one size fits all, type of hats. Second, the thing that really put a wrench in this hat search was the bill of the hat.
When I was in school, the first thing we did when we bought baseball caps was to roll the hell out of the bill so that it’ll curve. And I mean roll the hell out of it. Some of my friends would roll it up, and put a rubberband around the rolled up bill and leave it over night. I remember constantly having to adjust the bill so that it’ll remain curvey.
But today’s hats? The style is to wear it with a straight bill. And bill of the hats are flimsy and couldn’t handle the abuse that we would give it as teenagers. And frankly, I think I’d look ridiculous trying to rock a hat with straight bills with the label still on them.
I knew I hit a new stage in my life when I was standing in Lids (a hat store) and held a New Era hat in my hand and said to my wife, “Back in my days, the hats were much better and had more character.”
After months (and I mean months) of searching, I finally settled on a hat with a thick bill that I could curve. Some of you may ask, “Why not just stop wearing baseball caps anymore, now that you’re over 30?” Well, to you I say, “Go away, you’re not my mom.”
That was a very long and unnecessary intro to what I really wanted to write about: change. We pastors and leaders seem to love change. That may be due to the fact that part of our job description is to vision for the future. And we see this plan that God has for the church and we’re excited and we know that this is where God is leading us. But we’re met with resistence from our church members, and a lot of times, we get frustrated and think that these stiff-necked people hate change and would rather “die.”
But here’s the thing. When I said that we pastors love change, that’s half true. We love implementing change. We’re not immune to hating change. We’re just as resistant to change. It’s human nature. We just don’t realize it, because we spend most of our time fighting to implement and bring change.
I mean, for me the style of hats changed. I don’t like it.
For many, we hate the changes that Facebook makes. We cry bloody murder when Facebook changes its layout. I still hear people griping about timeline. “Why change something that was working?” “Facebook changed again? Argh! Why? I hate the new format!” “I never said I wanted timeline!”
Sure, there are some that adapt easier to change, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they like change.
My point is, when we try to “change” the culture of our local church, it takes time, prayer and grace. In change, everyone loses something and they need time to mourn that change. Change is a form of loss. Even if change is necessary and required, nevertheless, it’s a form a change.
We can’t just come into a church as its newest family member and say, “This is changing now!” and get rid of a sacred cow that, in the big picture, has no right or purpose of being there. Then be shocked and angry that so many people are resisting this absolutely necessary change.
We need to bring people on this journey of change from the beginning. Yes, I know that God has placed in our hearts a vision for this ministry. But we have to remember that this vision is for the entire church, and not just us leaders.
Maybe we don’t really take into account the fear that comes with change. Uncertainty, fear, and anxiety are Change’s best of friends. Like many of you, I felt that anxiety and uncertainty when I graduated from high school. I couldn’t really mess around no more. I was legally an adult. I felt anxious and uncertain when I graduated from college, because now I had to grow up. I felt even more anxiety, worry and uncertainty when I graduated from gradute school, because now I really had to grow up. I’ve felt all sorts of anxiety when I was getting married, because you know, now I really, really, really had to grow up. I’ve felt uncertainty when I had to move churches. I’ve felt anxious when I turned 30, because, now I had to be grown up. I’m in my 30’s for Pete’s sake. No more excuses. No more laughing a pre-pubescent jokes. I’m mean, I’m no longer in my 20’s. And I’m sure the anxiety and uncertainty will hit me again when God blesses us with a baby. (I mean, that’s it, right? I have to really, really grow up when that happens…)
Fear comes with change. We can’t ignore that. The best of leaders aren’t the ones that forcefully drags people to the place where the leader already is standing. No, I think, the best of leaders start on that journey together with the people, from the beginning, standing in the front serving as a visionary and guide when she needs to be. Or standing in the back of the pack and being the encourager and giving them a graceful push when he needs to. Or walking side-by-side with the people. The leader doesn’t always have to stand in the front of the pack.
We need to soothe the fears that come with change. Let them know what is changing, what isn’t changing, why it’s changing. And we owe them that because the vision that God has is for the entire congregation, and not just for the implementer. We also need to give them space to let the change sink in, to mourn the loss if you will.
I can’t speak from personal experience. But this is what I’ve gathered from listening to stories of those who’ve gone before me, from books about vision and leadership, and from my time as a Lewis Fellows.
I don’t know much, but what I do know is that change is difficult for everyone. And I hope that knowledge will help me be more empathetic when the time calls for me to be the implementer of change.
In the mean time, I’ll always prefer my hats fitted and with a curved bill. And, I’m less ashamed to rock my Redskins hat today, because we have a new hope in the form Robert Griffin the Third.