Isn’t it strange that the only thing we hate more than change is for things to stay the way they are?
But is it really true that we hate change?
Even though the realization of our biggest dreams involves massive change, like marrying our soulmate, having children, getting a pet, or building a home, we engage in these events. In many ways, we’re always trying to change things we don’t like, even if we’re going at it in ineffective ways.
So it’s not really change we hate, per se. It’s uncertainty, disruption, and discomfort, hassles, and effort we don’t have time or energy for, the burden of decision-making, and — scariest of all — risk.
Our greatest fear is what if all the effort and expense don’t pay off?
But when you think about it, even remaining stagnant is change, in the sense that everything around us is changing while we aren’t. Staying the same is negative change. It’s regress instead of progress.
Staying the same because we aren’t good at being uncomfortable is a little like the one-talent man who let fear drive him to bury his talent rather than growing it.
More than a decade ago, in an effort to stay in touch with givers’ changing preferences, churches took on change in a big way by venturing into the online giving world. They had a 5- or 10-talent mindset. But several unexpected things happened:
1) A massive chunk of a whole generation (the ones with the changing preferences) turned away from the church. We’re still dealing with this disruption to the normal and expected generational succession of giving.
2) Technological progress marched on to keep pace with the world. Its evolution is so rapid it’s tempting to wish for the good old days when you passed the plate and made a weekly in-person deposit. Done and done!
Unsure of how to keep moving forward, some respond by clinging to frustrating first-generation online giving solutions that keep financial staff mired in complex, time-sucking contribution management. It’s a white-knuckle, grin-and-bear-it approach.
Or, as online giving has tried to keep up through the years with this rapid technical evolution, some like-minded churches risked change yet again with second-generation solutions. Unfortunately, though they were slicker, they were built—unbeknownst to most ministry leaders—on the same infrastructure as previous iterations. Old wineskins, so to speak.
But risking change only to be disappointed, you can start believing the whole thing is a merry-go-round, going nowhere.
The Right Kind of Change
Clearly, all change is not equal. Change for the sake of change is not a worthy goal. Change forced upon us because we didn’t take timely action is the kind we especially hate. And external changes that don’t get to the heart of the matter don’t result in sustainable forward movement, as every preacher knows.
So how can churches address stagnant giving growth and the burden of back office contribution management? By understanding the hidden pitfalls of change that hinder effective change.