Author Archives: Priscilla Hammond

Schrödinger’s Cat: Uncertainty & the Life of the Soul by Priscilla Hammond

The biopsy was on Wednesday. The results would not arrive until Friday. In the meantime, I existed in a space where I could be healthy or sick. Many have heard of “Schrödinger’s cat” – an illustration of a quantum mechanics concept. The hypothetical image was of a cat in a chamber with a radioactive substance and poison. Schrödinger painted such a graphic image in an effort to illustrate a perplexing state: until the cat can be observed, it can be considered simultaneously both alive and dead.

The time between examination and diagnosis leaves one waiting for the chamber to be opened to reveal reality. Until reality can be seen, the cat is simultaneously alive and dead; the mass can be considered both cancer and benign cyst.

But there is One who already knows the reality – knows what will be found when the chamber is opened, observable. In Luke 12:22-32, there is a well-known passage that Christians often turn to when we’re worried. The Message version includes the paraphrase, “People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions.”

A momentary crisis can quickly remind you of your own mortality. John Wesley experienced this when he was five years old. The family parsonage in flames, family members helplessly looked up to see John trapped upstairs. Community members created a human ladder to rescue him. He was physically saved by people and went on to assist in the spiritual rescue of people.

Your life is lived out in that space between the temporal and eternal. Every person exists in the space between. While we may all feel caught or suspended in uncertainty like Schrödinger’s cat, at least we are Schrödinger’s cats together. Our “God-reality” is that even in the middle of profound uncertainty, we live in community. My community prayed, encouraged, and when the diagnosis finally came, celebrated with me: benign!

Steeping yourself in “God-reality” means reflecting, like Wesley, on how God saved you, and finding ways to use that to serve others.

What has God saved you from? Who has God saved you for?

Featured image courtesy Georgi Benev via Unsplash.

Practicing Covenant Leadership: The Virtues of Christ by Priscilla Hammond

In our particular cultural moment, have you noticed a longing for values or traits that may seem absent in public life? Warren Bennis famously outlined key leadership characteristics, identifying vision, inspiration, empathy, and trustworthiness as essential leadership characteristics.  We long for leaders who model them; this longing seems innate in us.  In Scripture we quickly see that Jesus modeled these qualities. As the ultimate Servant, Jesus also modeled listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, commitment to the growth of people, and building community (see Robert Greenleaf’s work). Have you had the space to reflect on what characterizes your own leadership during this season?  Let’s take up the challenge to examine our leadership in light of Christ’s teaching by better understanding covenant versus contract leadership.

There are many examples of contract leadership. For instance, Dr. Richard Gunderman, M.D., a professor of medical humanities, might argue that the United States was founded on a contract. James Madison, author of the Bill of Rights and considered a father of the Constitution, understood the voluntary nature of contract leadership when he wrote about the restraints on, and rights of, the government and citizens of the country.  As suggested in a 2011 lecture by Dr. Gunderman, contracts are required because of a lack of trust.  Contract leadership characteristics may include concern for profit, narrowly defined responsibilities, and expectations of performance. The transactional nature of contract leadership requires adherence to rules and procedures and does not insist upon supererogation. 

Regarding transactions, the way in which rational people relate to each other through economic terms is sometimes referred to as homo economicus.  Within the realm of homo economicus, the primary desire is the acquisition of wealth and the primary ability is the choice between means (Gunderman).  John Stuart Mill suggests that humans desire to accumulate the most necessaries, conveniences, and luxuries with the least quantity of labor, which is the modus operandi of homo economicus.  

For example, many employment relationships operate with this paradigm.  When employees do not perform, they are in violation of their employment contract, and the employment is terminated.  In this sense, contracts limit relationships, have expiration dates, and are concerned with personal benefit. Contract leadership seems to be a form of transactional leadership. This can be effective in some contexts, but Dr. Gunderman suggests that we find a better word than greed and a better idea than economic transactions on which to base our leadership.

In fact, he challenges us to “not be concerned with writing our personal story, but discovering the larger story of which we are part.” This suggests that a worldview change is required to be a covenant leaderCovenant leadership is an other-focused leadership style which is transformational, as opposed to transactional contract leadership. Transformation or metamorphosis is expected by the covenant leader: that followers and leaders would become something more than they were previous to the relationship.  As opposed to contract leadership in which breach of contract might mean loss of employment, Dr. Gunderman cites the parable of the prodigal son to illustrate breach being met with forgiveness, healing, and celebration. For the covenant leader, concern is for the relationship and the wholeness of the covenant, not on the breach of contract.

Where homo economicus operates assuming lack of trust, Dr. Gunderman calls leaders to operate in the mode of homo ethicus, relating to each other through principles. Where homo economicus operates out of greed, homo ethicus operates out of sacrifice and generosity. Although many non-Christian examples may illustrate the sacrificial, transformational leader, many examples are found in Scripture.

Considering covenant in Scripture, one can begin with the creation of humanity through inspiration, the breathing in of divine influence. Humans are to imitate God’s creative nature, needing inspiration – the breathing in of divine influence – “to be fully alive, and to help those around us to be fully alive.” The biblical arc is full of examples of the characteristics of covenant leadership: trusting like the Good Samaritan, bestowing blessing like Isaac to Jacob to Joseph’s sons, being transformational like Jesus to Lazarus (called back to full life), and being changed like Paul on the road to Damascus.

As a physician and leader in the ethics of health care, Dr. Gunderman calls organizational leaders to choose covenant leadership, issuing a challenge to assess whether we operate according to homo economicus or homo ethicus. We must evaluate what is most important to us and what we are striving to become. In the domain of homo economicus, work is punishment, a means to make money so that we can afford to do the things that we enjoy outside of work. In the freedom of homo ethicus, we work because God worked as a creative Being, creating not from necessity but from joy. Relationships within the work environment are to be enjoyed and used to generate transformed, better lives.

For covenant leaders operating from an assumption of homo ethicus, there is real opportunity to make a substantive difference. This is true even in a short time constrained by the brevity of working relationship. This leadership style is an active, ongoing choice.

Each moment, the organizational leader who desires to operate from the values of a homo ethicus approach must think of the sacred in the other, sacrifice selfish desires, and commit to the kind of creative, transformational covenant leadership found in the Creator’s actions throughout Scripture. 

Using the practice of covenant leadership as a guide, pastors and church leaders can endeavor to choose a homo ethicus approach as a consistent emblem of our servant leadership. When we cast vision, is it for the growth and transformation of those we influence? Do listen with awareness so that we can inspire people to Christlike character? Do we exercise empathy in healing, restorative, community-building ways? Are we trustworthy as we steward the leadership to which God has called us? What choices might you need to make in order to live as a covenant leader rather than a contract leader? Can you identify obstacles to this calling?

See Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader

See Dr. Richard B. Gunderman 2011 lecture Leadership: command, contract, or covenant?

For more from Dr. Richard B. Gunderman, consider We Make a Life by What We Give. His new book Contagion: Plagues, Pandemics and Cures from the Black Death to Covid-19 and Beyond is available now in Great Britain and is scheduled for publication in the U.S. in early 2021.

Opening the Door for the Spirit of God by Priscilla Hammond

If you’re a church leader, have there been times these past few months that you have been asked to make decisions all day every day? Have you felt the weight of listening to congregants and colleagues, pundits and politicians? The people had questions in March: how can we do church during a health crisis? Will we close? There were more questions in April: how long will we be closed? Will online church work? Systems and processes were put in place, but they were supposed to be temporary. Instead of opening our doors, faith communities had to close our buildings. We hoped this would go away when the weather changed, or a treatment was discovered, or because the hearty American spirit would prevail, or whatever we told ourselves to give hope toward the end of the questions.

The people of Israel came all day, every day, asking for an exhausted Moses to interpret the law and decide their disputes when Jethro told him, “What you are doing is not good” (Exodus 18). Jethro proposed that Moses should appoint capable leaders to share in the decision of simple cases, but that Moses would still interpret God’s will in difficult situations. Following the model of Moses, rabbis reconciled major issues by debating and discerning Scripture and the Torah. In rabbinic literature we find descriptions of Elijah appearing and visiting later rabbis to help them discern God’s will. So if an issue presented itself that seemed to be irreconcilable, it wouldn’t be decided, “until Elijah comes.”

Every day, for months on end, the seemingly irreconcilable questions haven’t stopped for pastors wrestling with how to come together for koinonia (meaningful Christian fellowship) without being present together. As a result, you may feel like Moses, or you may be ready to throw up your hands and say you won’t know “until Elijah comes.”

A better solution for our time might be a different Jewish saying about Elijah. Instead of waiting for the pandemic to resolve itself and being unsure what we should do until then, let’s recall a practice from the Passover Seder meal. Families traditionally pour a fifth cup, reserved for Elijah, in the expectation that the prophet will be with present with them. The family then follows the practice of opening the door in expectation of the arrival of the prophet Elijah, who will announce the coming of the Messiah. Instead of giving up hope or avoiding decisions about difficult questions, what if we open the door to answers? As believers in Jesus Christ, we know that he stands at the door and knocks, and will come in and eat with us – if we will only hear his voice and open the door (Rev. 3:20). We also know that if we lack wisdom, we need only ask God (James 1:5). We need to have an open door for the Spirit of God to speak to us in this time.

In the past, I’ve often written about principles of organizational change management and strategic leadership for Wesleyan Accent. But I feel like now is not the time to share “ten ways to lead in a crisis” or “failsafe steps to reopening during a pandemic.”

We need to practice opening the door for the Spirit of God to enter our striving for answers in contradictory times. When we have opened the door to ask God for wisdom and to invite Jesus to the table, then we can open the door for others from different walks, ages, genders, cultures, and political persuasions to offer their perspectives. If we have invited Jesus to the table, we can then sit at a table (even a virtual Zoom table) and wrestle (from a safe distance) with the irreconcilable questions of our day with others who also love Jesus but might see things differently than us. There may be some questions that are so very impossible to discern that we set them aside “until Elijah comes,” but if we struggle with them honestly, transparently, and with others, that very process may be the koinonia that we seek. No management textbook paradigm can better illustrate leadership than when we “open the door for Elijah,” inviting God into the midst of our struggle, and share in the decision-making with others who love Christ and his bride, the church.

Leave the door open.

How to Communicate Change in Church Policy During Chaotic Times by Priscilla Hammond

If you are you struggling to make decisions about policy and how to communicate those decisions to your church during this chaotic time, you are not alone. In this new normal of remote church, much consumes our day-to-day activities. It is difficult to plan and communicate future steps, sometimes even seemingly futile given the rapid changes occurring around us.

In his book In the Leadership Mode, Don Dunoon provides a helpful path forward, beginning with the difference between leadership and management communication. One is not better than the other. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens,” both leading and managing.

There are times when a leader has to put on a management hat and focus on processes. Right now, many pastors are engaged in process management. The tasks of initiating online services and producing content each week have taken precedence. Management mode focuses on “things” – technology and systems, strategies and plans, and the measurement of how well those things are working. Completed tasks become a measure of productivity that help managers to feel effective. Management problems are solved through technology and a focus on the explicit problem at hand. Managers rely on their formal authority to get things done, delegating tasks and taking action. For example, in Exodus 18, Jethro gives great advice to Moses about delegation and decision-making.

There is a lot of management required during this time of change in the church, but leadership is needed even more. Dunoon has created a process for leading through contentious change, and one could argue that there is no time more contentious than the present. The rate of change has been increasing exponentially. It took over a millennium for the church to embrace the organ as a worship instrument, and another millennium for some churches to be convinced that it is not the only instrument that can be played in church.1 But along came the coronavirus, and it only took a few weeks for church leadership to figure out that the internet was a positive way to connect with parishioners.

Interestingly, many pastors during this time of Covid-exile say they most miss relationships, but relationships are often the one thing absent from our decisions about what to do next. If we operate in management mode, we may appear to be detached, problem-solving machines. In leadership mode, we comprehend that the problem isn’t technology, systems, or the need for a new plan, but the problem is perception, paradigms, and relationships. People don’t need to just understand the explicit problem (e.g., “we can’t meet in person”); change is needed in behavior and thinking. And if the church tries to change systems, people get defensive (if you don’t believe me, try changing from the organ to electric guitar), and defensive people defend systems.

Dunoon’s process to work through contentious change is ARIES: Attending, Reflecting, Inquiring, Expressing, and Synthesizing. It’s a relational process, and managers struggle with this because listening and reflecting doesn’t get the content produced for the next livestream. But if pastors spend some time processing what is going on within people instead of video content to push toward people, you will make better policy decisions that will be received, not without pushback, but definitely with more understanding.


Dunoon encourages us to set aside our achievement orientation and truly connect with others. Attending requires interaction. There is a setting aside of our agenda. Instead of producing a weekly church service, a daily devotional, and online small group interactions next week, could you have a town hall Zoom meeting where members can communicate what they’ve been going through and their perceptions about how the church could respond to this crisis? Could you make some calls? Attend to the perceptions of those in the church.


After we hear people, we need to reflect on what was unstated. Are there ways that people of faith are expected to act, in order not to be judged, that leave gaps in our depth of understanding of true feelings? People need to have a safe space to think, process, and continue the conversation. Is there a path you can create for congregants to communicate their fears to you? Can they tell you how they really feel about what might change about the church, moving forward? Create a safe space for those in the church to reflect.


Leaders often feel pressure to have all the answers. People come with us with questions, not for questions. Managers have answers because they have been given formal authority over systems that are static. But in chaotic times, we don’t always lead with answers; leaders ask questions. Contentious change means there is no perfect answer. There are myriad perspectives represented in the church, and by asking relational questions, shared meaning is developed. Inquire, listen, and allow the congregation to teach you and communicate back with you.


In our sermons, the goal is to preach truth. But generally, pastors don’t just get up, read the lesson, and sit back down. We spend time fashioning our words in a way that will help the listener understand that truth. We give the history, the context, tell stories, and offer take-aways. We care enough about each person that we take the time to craft our message in order to persuade them of this truth. The message matters because the people hearing it matter, and this is the case for all church communications, not just Sunday morning. Expressing involves building a shared meaning, including our own views, so that individuals know they have been heard and are a part of the solution. Everyone’s view matters, including our own. Policy changes that result from this process are not dictated by managers, but rather develop as expressions of our collective fears, assumptions, and hopes that demonstrate a relationship with leadership.


Task-focused decisions about things like systems and policies that are communicated from the top-down will be met with defensiveness. Even decisions that are made through relational processes as described above will not be received without pushback. There are no perfect answers, but when problems are solved together and people feel they’ve been heard, the solution can be communicated as a shared vision for moving forward. Ongoing discussions about the changes will continue in relationship because, even though everyone may not agree, they know there is a safe process for them to participate in church leadership.


1 See for fun facts about the organ in church.

When Change Is Uninvited: Leading through Uncertainty by Priscilla Hammond

Have you ever welcomed an unexpected guest into a house that is not ready for visitors? It is difficult for some of us to prepare for invited guests, as kids, pets, or spouses seem to undo whatever has been done. Things are even worse though when those guests are unexpected. You apologize for the chaotic appearance, leading the way as you toss things behind closed doors. You explain that things don’t normally look like the ruined temple of Jerusalem, its gates burned with fire!

Chaotic change is an uninvited guest. Like an unplanned extra person at an already too-small table, everything seems forced. Decisions have to be made before their time. People have to make room, take on new roles, or change habits even while leading.

Reasons vary when it comes to people disliking change. We may not like being out of control, or we may fear surprises or an uncertain future, or dread a heavier workload. We may have a preference for the “same” over something different, or have defensiveness over our territory, or feel that others question our competence, or we remember past resentments (1). And when that change is unexpected, these feelings are magnified.

When Nehemiah approached the actual ruined temple of Jerusalem, he evaluated the situation, assessed the damage, and called the people to rebuild. But in reading the Old Testament book of Nehemiah, have you ever noticed the people to whom he was speaking were already in the city?

They could see the same broken-down gates and walls; they were standing on rubble as he called them to change. They hadn’t done anything about it, though, before Nehemiah showed up and called them to rebuild. There is a sentence between his evaluation and the people’s response that is easily overlooked due to its brevity. But it explains how the people were inspired and motivated to change.

“I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, ‘Let us start rebuilding.’ So they began this good work.” (Nehemiah 2:18)

The people had smelled the smoke. They had seen the walls fall. Change had come and there was nothing they could do about it. Attendance falls. No one shows up to serve. Staff leaves. The budget isn’t met. We smell the smoke of chaotic change. Something is broken.

Nehemiah showed up to the ruined temple without anything more than a positive vision, inspiration, and the commitment to persevere. He had a sense of urgency to bring chaos under control and rebuild. And through his leading, he received the response from the people, “Let us start rebuilding.”

They answered challenges as they came. Naysayers attacked with mocking words, and Nehemiah responded with the vision. Rumors flew of the project’s demise, and Nehemiah responded with changes in roles, delegating half to work while half stood guard. Midway through the rebuilding he had to deal with budget issues and threats to vote him out. Nehemiah 1-6 contains an example of every possible element of a contentious change. Nehemiah 7-12 is an example of the results of persevering through the chaos.

We all want so many volunteers at church that we have to draw straws, everyone “storehouse tithing,” confessing their sins to one another, and living in agreement. Idealized circumstances rarely come to life. We have to see the rubble and be willing to make hard decisions and put in even harder work, leading to make the vision come to life.

This type of chaotic change doesn’t usually follow a step-by-step program, which can frustrate planners used to taking followers through a structured, rational process. Project managers want to analyze and create the best solution with specific leadership roles, which are wonderful skills – for planned change. But when we’re standing on the rubble smelling smoke, how do we manage organizational change?

First, you need to step back and evaluate the situation. This isn’t data collection for a thesis, but a quick assessment – Nehemiah took three days to evaluate an entire city.

Next, evaluate the leaders’ experience, influence, capacity, and willingness to change (both your own and any potential leaders). People have different approaches to change. One resource, de Caluwé and Vermaak’s color-print model (2 and 3) is an excellent way to understand the approaches of your leading team members.

The strength of the leadership team is dependent on having the right type of change leader in the right place for that change situation. In the color-print model, there are five colors, and each can be used to describe the dominant approach needed for the current change initiative. For example, a blue-print thinker is organized and great at managing controlled, planned change (blue = architectural design). Yellow-print thinkers form coalitions and are great at lobbying for change among a power base (yellow = power/sun/fire). When you need to bring common interests together to create a win-win situation, the yellow-print should lead the charge, not the blue-print. Nehemiah may have been a red-print motivational leader, focusing on the emotions of followers; their behavior changed as a result of inspiring vision (red = heart). He was the right leader to lead a downtrodden Jewish remnant who needed to be stimulated to action.

After evaluating the situation and the leadership team, the change requires both management and leadership. This is the equivalent of having a tool in one hand and a weapon in the other.

We must continue to manage what is working in the organization and decide how to prioritize resources for the ongoing activity of the church, while leading in creative collaboration to fix what is not working. Leading means looking past the broken walls being repaired to see the contentious issues on the horizon and working together with followers to craft solutions.

In both planned and unplanned change, leaders are called to exercise wise decision-making, with trust in God, the people, and the process. Leaders must persevere, inspire, and remain positive. Learning the language of change management and different tactics to lead change can result in effective organizational change – even when the change is uninvited.

1 Kanter, R. M. (2012). Ten reasons people resist change. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

2 de Caluwé and Vermaak Videos:

3 de Caluwé and Vermaak Article:

What Change Models Look like in Your Congregation by Priscilla Hammond

If you have been a leader for very long, you have heard the question, “Why do we need to change?” In 1967, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson declared, “He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.” (1) So we must change if we want to live. Long before the 1960’s, philosopher Plato used Heraclitus’ axiom, “Everything changes and nothing stands still.” For millenia, humans have adapted to survive – or they haven’t, and didn’t.  So asking why we need to change is really like asking why we need modern medicine or why electricity is useful: there are many examples all around us of why significant change can shift life for the better. 

Instead of asking why we need to change, then, leaders assess the landscape and ask what, who, how, and when we will change. These are the questions that are answered when you engage in an organizational change process, and there are multiple change models to consult.

Depending on the type of organization and the type of change, there are plenty of change process models to consider as you navigate how to lead fruitful change. The ways to lead change vary; I will highlight some of the better-known models and theories so that you can answer the questions of what, who, how, and when we will change as you initiate and manage fruitful change in your context.

But first, a word of caution. In 2007, researchers at Gallup asked a series of questions on whether Christians rely more on human reason or on an outside power such as God for moral guidance and for planning for their future. For many, human reason trumped God in their responses. (2) The organizational change management processes, models, and theories highlighted here are helpful tools in determining the what, who, how, and when. But in all of this, I encourage you to make sure to remember Who leads you as you lead change.

The following three change models illustrate planned organizational change (as opposed to unplanned change). They are intended to illustrate changing organizational systems processes. Let’s take a look at the theory of the change models and then the application of how they might look in a real life church setting.

Unfreeze: Change: Refreeze – Lewin’s Model of Change

A social psychologist named Kurt Lewin researched group dynamics and the impact of leadership on groups. His model is not a prescription for change with a step-by-step how-to process; rather, it’s an explanation of how change occurs.

First, the organization becomes aware of the need to change. When the status quo is no longer working, the organization must unfreeze – releasing its grip on continuing to do the same things in the same way. The second step is implementing change. The organizational participants react to the lack of equilibrium by generating new responses and actions that are more effective. Finally, the organization refreezes  as it assimilates the changes and regains equilibrium, operating effectively again.

For instance, during any snow event in the American South, “is it sticking?” is the first question asked. In the South, the ground isn’t frozen. When snow falls, it melts. Unless there is an extreme environmental change (temperature drops and snowfall increases), the snow disappears on contact. Lewin’s refreezing takes place after change has been implemented. It is the time when leaders check in to see if the new responses and actions deemed more effective are “sticking.”

What it looks like in your church: print & digital communications

Every process in a congregation can be evaluated in light of the Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze model. It provides the language of change to every level of leadership, whether staff, lay, or volunteer. In this way, everyone can discuss change in terms of solving a problem and increasing effectiveness.

For example, let’s say there are complaints about church communication. Many churches have leaned into social media and multimedia communication, leaving print-lovers behind, while other churches refuse to leave the Gutenberg era to embrace the opportunities of electronic communication. Both can result in frustrated churchgoers or visitors. This is a problem.

Using the Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze model, we see a basic movement unfold: first, discover the need for change due to consistent communication problems affecting daily function; then, identify new processes and activate new approaches that will lead to effective communication with multiple constituents; and finally, implement the new processes and approaches and evaluate their impact.

Lewin’s ideas have been used as the basis of many modern change models in which you will see elements of unfreeze-change-refreeze. For example, Harvard Business School Online has a course that uses Lewin’s model as the framework for change. (Visit here for a modern, expanded example of Lewin’s model.)

The Change Path: Awakening: Mobilization: Acceleration: Institutionalization

The change path model of organizational change is another adaptation of Lewin’s model (3), in which there are four stages:





This is an excellent model for making changes to processes within an organization (which is distinct from changes in culture, mission, or values). The awakening stage is similar to Lewin’s unfreezing stage. More than just an awareness of the need for change, in awakening, the organization must consider the nature of the change (planned or unplanned, internal need or external pressure) and its alignment with the organization’s vision. Once the awakening is defined in a way that everyone can understand, mobilization begins. Mobilization is the process of identifying the distance between the current and desired states: what needs to be done, who needs to do it, what the cost is, and other questions. In the acceleration stage, plans are drawn up in response to the mobilization questions. Institutionalization is the implementation of the plans and refreezing of the organization around the new process.

What it looks like in your church: gaps between denominational statement and practice

In the past 15 years, one denomination with which I’ve interacted was awakened to the fact that many churches had local membership processes and requirements that varied from the denominational membership requirements. The policy “on the books” did not match the policy in practice. This was a problem.

Several decisions could be made: ignore the discrepancy, allowing local churches to continue to be out of alignment; put pressure on local churches to conform to the denomination’s membership requirements; or adjust the denominational requirements to better match the local churches’ current practice.

Awakening includes defining the nature of the change and describing it in the vernacular (in this case, proposals submitted to the General Board).

Mobilization took place in the General Board sub-committee, which was tasked with reviewing the various proposals and determining the gap between the present state of some churches and the future state of membership in the denomination.

Bureaucracies have specific processes in place to manage planned change, so the mobilization phase is clearly defined, but to allow for some collaboration, plans for bridging the gap through action planning and implementation were drawn up. When the final proposals were presented, they had been combined and rewritten in a way that reflected that collaboration.

The final step was institutionalization. Just changing the written “rules” of the denomination was not enough to institutionalize the change. The change had to be implemented at all levels. Resources were created for churches to initiate the change. Annual processes changed at the local organization level, which carried the weight of making significant changes not only to processes but also in local culture. The change needed to be measured to determine effectiveness of the change initiative, which required changes in data collection and reporting.

The challenge for many leaders is the desire to jump straight from awakening to institutionalization: “I have identified a problem and the most logical solution—make it so” (as we dictate the obviously logical solution to the staff/board/volunteers). The process of moving from awakening into a time of collaborative analysis and planning prior to institutionalization is imperative to the success of the change. The contribution and buy-in of those who need to activate the change cannot be overemphasized. That process is even further explained in Kotter’s model.

Kotter’s Eight-Stage Change Process

Task-oriented planners (or those who need someone to provide a step-by-step process so that they will not venture off the change path) will appreciate John Kotter’s detailed map for planned change. The eight steps begin by creating a climate for change, by

1) Increasing urgency

2) Building a guiding team

3) Getting the vision right, and

4) Communicating for buy-in. This moves the entire organization in the direction of the change,

5) Enabling action and

6) Creating short-term wins. The implementation and maintenance of the change continue as the change leaders then

7) Don’t let up and finally

8) Make it stick.

This framework was first introduced in Leading Change, further supported by real-life success stories in The Heart of Change and, because winning the first step is imperative, an entire book dedicated to A Sense of Urgency.

What it looks like in your church: a must-have/user-friendly resource

In Kotter’s best-selling book Our Iceberg is Melting (similar to the popular Who Moved My Cheese?) he walks the reader through the change process in an easy-to-apply parable. This is a great resource for a local board to use as a small group study in order to illustrate the process of change. It is also helpful to leaders to find their fit on a change team as they identify with characteristics in the illustration. It is also helpful in demonstrating to church leaders what has been shown to cause organizational change to fail time and time again, equipping them with steps to guide the organization through a difficult change initiative.

When Change Processes Aren’t Planned

These three organizational change models are all options for moving through planned change initiatives. However, we all know that circumstances external to the organization can force change and internal situations can pop up without notice. In the next post, we’ll examine helpful models for those times when we cannot respond to change with a strategic, step-by-step blueprint but rather are forced to make changes in the midst of chaos.  


1 Wilson, H. (1967, January 24). Speech to the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg, France, January 23, 1967. The New York Times, p. 12.

2 Gallup, G. H., Jr. (2007). Total trust: Trust is one of the basic bonds of relationships. Leadership Journal. Retrieved from

3 Cawsey, T. F., Deszca, G., & Ingols, C. (2020). Organizational change: An action-oriented toolkit (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


Decision-Making for Productive Change by Priscilla Hammond

Productive decision-making designed to foster change is modeled throughout the Bible in a variety of ways. For example, the Apostles exercised prompt decision-making when a justice issue arose in the fledgling church, responding to a need through discernment (Acts 6). Moses followed his father-in-law’s advice and learned the value of delegating in decision-making (Exodus 18). But as many great examples as there are in scripture of how to make decisions – and how not to make them – most decision-making doesn’t carry implicit moral ramifications.

Church growth consultant and author Carl George provides lasting insight into the challenge of weighing options and making difficult decisions that don’t fall into ethical categories but rather into discernment categories. He observes,

Many Christian leaders are handicapped because they almost inevitably think in moralistic terms only: rightness versus wrongness. “What’s the right thing to do? What ought to be done?”

I keep reminding leaders there are other modes to consider: effective versus ineffective, good versus best, safe versus risky.

Virtually every decision has a moral aspect, either in its consequences or in the way the decision will be implemented. And most of us carry an intuitive desire to reach for the godly, to hear the words of God on a given issue and line up with him rather than against him. But not all church administration deals with Mount Sinai issues. Many decisions are more mundane and subtle.

Questions leaders need to be asking are: “What are my options? Who should be involved in the decision-making process? How do I know when I have enough information? When is it time to bite the bullet and decide?”

These are the questions that aren’t asked often enough. (1)

The change theorist’s job is to understand and explain how or why change happens. Your job as an organizational leader is to anticipate and plan for change and to react to unanticipated change. (2) When as a leader you understand change theories and models, you’ll be equipped to create change, not just to watch change happen. But for any church leader, productive decision-making must be practiced before effective change management can take place.

For example, the balanced scorecard model highlighted the challenges to change management when there’s a heavy reliance on measuring one or two areas of the organization to the exclusion of others. So a church leader might encounter this dynamic in a scenario like this: if the budget of the church is well-funded due to the generosity of members, and no one has complained that the music is too loud, we can believe that we’re on mission and no change is needed.

However, in this scenario, both internal processes and organizational capacity are ignored as important factors in moving the mission of the organization forward. Without developing systems and investing in the growth of our human resources (leaders and participants, staff and volunteers), we will not successfully navigate change, regardless of whether it is initiated by us or just happens. And when change “just happens,” it never happens to move the organization’s goals forward.

Since change will inevitably happen, part of a discerning church leader’s calling is to initiate and manage the change process. Yet the failure rate for change initiatives is close to 80 percent. (1) This means it is essential for leaders to discern the best change strategy, for their leadership style, in their organization, at this time.

Unfortunately, researchers have proposed at least 80 different methods for organizational change! So not only do leaders have to make decisions in the midst of change, they have to make decisions about how to initiate the change, how to manage the change, and how to measure the change in order for the change to be productive and aligned with explicit organizational goals.

Sound, strategic decision-making is key in this change management process. Confronting any lingering personal fear of failure can provide the necessary resolve to make quality decisions. Several common team dysfunctions may also be the same reasons leaders find it difficult to make decisions. There may be an absence of trust, a fear of conflict, or the avoidance of accountability; those dysfunctions lead to an inability to make decisions, and the inability to make decisions will halt the change management process.

Soon I’ll cover a few change theories and models and how they can be applied by church leaders in congregational settings.  You and other leaders likely are wrestling with questions like, “What are my options? Who should be involved in the decision-making process? How do I know when I have enough information? When is it time to bite the bullet and decide?”

But for now, practice confronting any fear of failure that is hampering your resolve to be decisive about change; practice trusting leaders and participants in your setting with the change; be ready to encourage, not fight, for change; and take responsibility for decisions about systems, processes, and people that will encourage productive change toward your shared, stated goals.

  1. George, C. F. (2007). Weighing Options: Few Decisions in Life Are Clear-Cut. Leadership Journal. Retrieved from
  2. Black, J. S., & Gregersen, H. B. (2008). It Starts with One: Changing Individuals Changes Organizations (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.


When Pastors Face Dysfunction: Leading Change for Congregational Health by Priscilla Hammond

Dr. Priscilla Hammond teaches Organizational Change Management to graduate business students. As an ordained minister, she believes that the church is the organization that most needs to understand and lead change. This series will help Christian leaders to better understand and apply organizational change theory to their contexts.

How do we know when an organization isn’t healthy?

What symptoms cue people inside and outside an organization that systemic dysfunction is occurring? Patrick Lencioni identified five dysfunctions of a team: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. At what point do these dysfunctions move an organization beyond the capacity to change the habits that have hindered it to the degree it can no longer pursue its raison d’être?

If individuals need to exercise and keep a balanced diet for optimal health, organizations need to exercise management discipline and keep a balanced scorecard. Kaplan and Norton wrote a business best seller in 1996 that laid out the balanced scorecard concept. In its most recent form, it organizes business goals into four quadrants of organizational performance: financial, customer/stakeholder, internal process, and organizational capacity (originally called learning and growth). Often organizations focus on numbers and customer satisfaction and ignore internal capacity and learning and growth, to the detriment of long-term success. (For a quick business overview on the balanced scorecard framework, watch here.)

The capacity of any organization to structure itself for effective ministry and growth – so that the next generation continues to feel its influence – depends on internal processes and organizational capacity. An organization can focus on internal processes by evaluating their services to ensure that they are both efficient and continuously improving. Breakthrough performance requires focus on organizational capacity, which includes human resources, infrastructure, technology, and culture.

In the church, it’s tempting to focus on numerical growth and congregant satisfaction as indicators of health. It’s even tempting to spiritualize this by baptizing it in terms of the Great Commission or spiritual virtues. But as anyone who has ever attempted to change their diet knows, the scale and happiness are sometimes at odds with each other. When we get out of balance, we’re unable to stay on mission. Exercising our internal capacity and implementing new processes can energize the congregation and have the side-effect of growing the church. When an organization is functioning well and balanced, it can regain its missional focus, but effective change cannot occur in organizations that do not have a balanced perspective.

Let’s not wait until critical symptoms emerge that indicate the organization is dysfunctional and unable to pursue its mission. Let’s discover where the issues are and make adjustments now. In this series, I will discuss some of the most important elements leaders must apply to influence effective organizational change, including decision-making, trust, perseverance, inspiration, and positivity.

Priscilla Hammond ~ How Church Personalities Reveal Epiphany Living

January 6 marked the beginning of the season of Epiphany in the Protestant Church. This date celebrates the revelation of Christ to the wise men from the East (Matthew 2:1–12), in which Christ is revealed to the Gentiles. Of course, we also use the word epiphany to describe that moment when something suddenly becomes clear.

Christ is revealed

I grew up in a “high church” tradition. The liturgy cycled through the church year with steady reliability; Charles Wesley’s songs were as contemporary as it got; and even if the seasons weren’t readily apparent in the moderate Georgia temperatures, they were obvious in the vestments of the clergy. As an adult, I became a member of a modern megachurch, where my mother visited and whispered, “Applause is okay at a concert, but not appropriate in church.” I have been a member of a small church plant that had a five-minute greeting time during the service (and all the extroverts said “Amen!”). I have attended my siblings’ churches: Presbyterian, Baptist, and non-denominational. I have visited a Church of Christ congregation that didn’t use instruments in worship. I preached at a church in Kenya following a wonderful celebratory dance by Maasai women accompanied by a drum and tambourine. In all of these churches, I have observed that the form of worship changes, but the manifestation of Christ does not.

An epiphany during Epiphany

Over Christmas, my husband and I visited a church while on vacation. Old carols sung in contemporary arrangements preceded call and response preaching on the theme “Nothing is Impossible with God.” As I listened, I had an epiphany about Epiphany. Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Christ to those outside of his Jewish lineage. Jesus’ genealogy had been presented in Matthew 1 as proof that he had a place as the leader of God’s chosen people, but Matthew 2 quickly demonstrated that he holds “the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). Today’s “Gentiles” include thousands of different people groups. If people are divided by language, ethnicity, culture, behavior, education, customs, and ideology, but unified by the Gospel, then shouldn’t we expect churches to also be unique expressions in their contexts, with different worship, preaching, and organizing principles?

Gospel Personalities

Through my personal epiphany I realized that the differences in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry reflect each of the Gospel writers, each a unique expression of their context. That same unique expression is reflected in all the different forms of church structure and worship.

Matthew began his Gospel with a detailed genealogy followed by an account of Jesus’ birth and the visitation by the Magi. These facts set up a series of organized pericopes and major discourses in which Matthew’s personality shines through. This Gospel has a theme of unification, which is not surprising given Matthew was an ostracized Jew who reached out to sinners and outsiders after his conversion.

Mark’s encouraging storytelling is an exciting journey through Jesus’ ministry as told by a young follower. His loosely connected but grouped episodes resonate with those who value experience over education.

Luke was an educated man who processed through the facts to get to his faith. The theme throughout Luke’s Gospel is challenging Christians to put their faith into practice. Luke’s thoughtful study results in action.

John’s audience is the most diverse. His theme of love unfolds through miracles and signs. His desire for the diverse people of God to be the family of God is true spiritual community.

Church Personalities

Though each Gospel presents the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, they are all unique in their specific presentations, and they are organized differently.

And so are our churches.

A Matthew personality church focuses on liturgy and teaching. The preaching is expository and connected to the church season or a planned annual church calendar. The education of the leadership and the congregation is important but not overly emphasized. Small groups are focused on Bible study, which will help believers “to live a life worthy of the calling you have received . . . Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4: 1, 3).

A Mark personality church may create short three to six week series centered around a topical, relevant theme. The preaching is inductive, beginning with stories that add up to a general conclusion of a scriptural application. The leadership of the church may not emphasize academic credentials. The congregation is drawn to experience over education. Small groups may be organized as semester-based experiences. This church may have a hard time with the “be still” command of Psalm 46:10.

A Luke personality church challenges its members to put their faith into practice. Academics are important, as we are called to study in order to correctly handle God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15). This prayerful study should instruct our faith, moving us forward on our social justice journey. Sermons may be textual (using Scripture as the starting point). Small groups are formed for Christian education and service.

A John personality church includes diverse fellowship. Signs and testimonies are emphasized. Leaders have different academic paths, but education of the congregation is not a priority unless it leads to deeper spiritual community. The purpose of small groups is fellowship, since “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

Churches have personalities, expressed through their organization, Christian education processes, preaching, and worship. Each can have strengths and challenges, but the diversity is reflective of the differences we see in people, including the Apostles.

Instead of focusing on which organizational structure or form of worship we prefer, we need to ask if our church is manifesting Christ to the world. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John churches all have the opportunity to serve those who are lost and to “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Just as Christ was revealed to the wise men, we all have the opportunity to help people on their epiphany journey.

Priscilla Hammond ~ Living a Life of Advent Light: When a Wreath Is More Than a Wreath

Many churches are currently setting up Advent wreaths to mark the weeks leading up to Christmas. The four candles that encircle the wreath illuminate the area around them as they point toward the center candle. Those outer candles relate to prophecy, Bethlehem, shepherds, and angels, while the center candle alludes to Christ.

The prophecy candle represents the expectation of the coming Messiah and the hope of salvation.  The Bethlehem (manger) candle represents love, the shepherds represent joy, the angels represent peace, all pointing to the middle Christ candle, which represents purity.

We read the Scripture and light the candles each year. However, what if we see the Advent wreath as not just a representation of the Christmas season, but of our active faith? What if Advent is a time to remind us not just of the historical actors in the Christmas drama but also of our ongoing response to Christ?

The prophetic message of hope is needed today

Skepticism seems to be the modus operandi of our socially mediated culture. Disbelief, distrust, doubt, and despair fill our newsfeeds. These are the opposite of hope. During this season of Advent, what if we choose to display hope in our communications? What if we embody the prophetic promise of Isaiah 43:19, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” and looked for hope in the world? What if, instead of seeing a valley of dry bones, we have the prophetically hopeful eyes of Ezekiel? What if our ministry to our community focuses on being a ministry of hope?

Love is the gift we celebrate at Christmas

If you’ve attended a sporting event, you’ve probably seen John 3:16 on a placard in the stands. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” It’s a popular verse, but a fan-filled arena wasn’t the original context. This verse was the response of Jesus to Nicodemus, who saw God in Jesus (John 3:2). Jesus didn’t go around yelling at people about God outside of their context; He shone God’s love into their contexts. If I communicate hope, but do it without love, I’m just making noise (1 Cor. 13).

Love is what we have that causes someone to ask what we have and how we came to have it. We don’t need to bang a gong; we just need to let the light of Love shine. The prophetic word of the coming Christ is delivered through a man-made manger—that is the incarnation of love into our context. What if our celebration of Christmas focuses on loving our neighbors and our enemies (Matt. 5:43-48) wherever they are, not just asking them to join a bunch of Jesus fans in an arena?

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart (where!?)

Imagine the shepherds, biding their time in the fields, hanging with the sheep, doing what shepherds do, when suddenly, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified” (Luke 2:9). Joy does not seem like the right word for that moment. The shepherds might have sung “I’ve got the fear, fear, fear, fear, down in my gut.” But they were told the good news that joy was on the way—a joy that came from the hope that love was awaiting them. This prevenient grace of God went out and let people know that hope, love, and joy was there for them. They didn’t hear about it in church; they received word while they were working and hanging out. When Jesus gave the disciples (us) our commission, he said, “Go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19a). That word, go, means to pursue the journey you’ve already started. On the first Christmas, the truth was shone into the place where the people were working and hanging out. What if we choose joy and spread the prevenient grace of God while we are on our journeys in our communities, workplaces, and relationships?

Not that kind of peace

When Jesus was born, the angels declared, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14); however, during his ministry Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth” (Matt. 10:34a). It’s the same word in both places, so did he change his mind? Or do we expect the wrong kind of peace? At the end of his life, he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (John 14:27a). We will always live in the midst of chaos, but we can receive peace, and we can give peace to others. Peace with God is received when we engage in the hope, love, and joy of the Christmas event. We will enjoy peace in our hearts, out of which peace with others can be possible. What if we can pass the peace of Christ in the chaos of our world?

Constructive interference

The Advent wreath uses light to symbolize the Christmas event. Jesus is the “light of the world” (John 8:12), and when we believe in him, we become “children of the light” (John 12:36). When light waves meet, constructive interference occurs and the two waves reinforce one another. These wavelengths combine to produce a super light wave.

As we embrace hope, love, joy, and peace, we reinforce the message of Christmas, and his light is multiplied into the world. What if Christians unite as the church, illuminating the world around us as we point toward the Christ?