A 9 Minute Read - By Chris Bright - posted on November 26, 2020

5 changes that are so meaningful they’ll make people mad

“If you change something and no-one gets mad, you just changed something that doesn’t matter."

Dan Reiland

I recently saw this quote from Dan which really got me thinking. After all, we often go into change thinking about how we can take people with us. If anything, all of the focus of leading change is all about how you can make the change land as easily as possible. We spend lots of time thinking about how we can communicate the change well so that people go with us.

Taking people with us and communicating change is very important, and Dan’s quote in no way diminishes this, however what Dan is getting at here is that change must disrupt the status quo. We need to disrupt the status quo, because as humans, we’re prone to liking ruts. As soon as we find a groove, we want to stick with it. Think about it, when you hit your 30’s you stop listening to Radio 1 because you think that the new music isn’t as good as what it was in the 80’s, 90’s or 00’s. We like our ruts.

In church, we’re just as prone to ruts. We like the auditorium set out a certain way, people have their preferred seats, they like a certain type of worship music. We like church done a certain way. But that way is only a method of the mission, not the mission itself. As soon as we feel like we’ve struck the formula, we’re in a rut.

This is where the role of change comes in. Change seeks to disrupt the normal to take people into something new. The problem is that, like Radio 1, some people don’t like the new. It’s not an age thing, it’s a human nature thing.

However, if we are to continue to move towards the mission God has called us to we must keep changing. There are some changes that are easy, and as Dan says, if they don’t cause some people to get mad, it’s just not important enough.

As your church culture develops, different things will get people mad. In the first instance, it will be things like making changes to the décor in the auditorium. Next it goes to changing things like the style of music and the church logo. But there will always be some things in church life that will always cause some kind of backlash.

Grief Cycle

Whenever you make a change, you send people into a grief cycle. First is denial, then comes anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. Some people go through this in seconds, some go through it in weeks, months or even years. The crucial thing is that we all go through it. When it comes to making meaningful change, we have to accept that anger is an important part of people coming to terms with change.

Here are 5 changes that may be necessary in your church that will cause people to get mad:

1. Staffing changes

Systems thinking suggests that your current system is perfectly designed to get the results it is currently getting. That means that how you are staffed is perfectly designed to get the results you are currently getting. Many churches struggle with hiring the wrong roles, and often that means hiring too many people as well.

In order to move forward as a church, it may be necessary to re-structure your staffing team. Perhaps you’re overstaffed. As a general rule we recommend that your staffing levels are 1 full time staff member for every 100 congregants, or approximately 30% of your total operating budget. That kind of change can mean redundancies, new job roles and a new way of thinking in your staff team.

This sort of change is meaningful enough that you won’t be able to do this without making some people mad. This, however, should be done with grace, understanding and goodwill. Making staff changes, whilst causing a stir in the congregation, should always be conducted in a way that honours the individuals that are affected by the change. You can make redundancies where the person being made redundant feels cared for and honoured.

Please note: Making staffing changes should never be done lightly, and you should always seek expert HR advice before making any changes.

2. Shaking up volunteer leadership roles

Volunteer leaders are crucial to the effective running of any church. However, after a while, some volunteers can start to hold the role too tightly, and silos start to form. Shaking up volunteer leadership roles is a great way to bring freshness to a team, but it will definitely make people mad. Make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons, commit yourself to each leaders ongoing development and be honest as to why you’re changing things.

3. Cutting a ministry

As churches grow, often the amount of ministries balloon. Usually these ministries are started by passionate people who have a heart for a particular people group. Whilst this is good, this can often lead to the church becoming ineffective as money and volunteers are stretched thin. The church service becomes a fight for advertising space for their ministries. All of these things are a sign that it’s time to prune your church.

Cutting any ministry will make people mad, but you’re job is to look at things from a 30,000 foot view. You can only apply your resources to a limited amount of things and it’s much better to focus on a few key things. Whenever you cut, do it slowly and seek to honour the leaders who have poured their time and effort into the ministry. Seek to find new roles for these leaders. By focusing on the why, you can help people come to terms with purpose of cutting the ministry.

4. Centralising for multisite

Multisite is still quite a new concept in the U.K. and it’s only going to become more common. However, many churches find that going multisite can cause the campuses to go in different directions. The more localised they become, the harder it is to keep things together. This is where multisite churches seek to centralise their operation. By bringing things together, there is a stronger culture and way of doing things, it becomes more efficient as new campuses can set up faster.

However, whenever you centralise, you always take power away from the campus leaders. This is going to make them mad, and understandably so. By focusing on why you’re centralising things, you may be able to bring them around to the idea, although for some, this will be too much of a change. After all, it’s much harder to pull the reins than letting them go.

5. Budget changes

A church’s budget can become messy quite easily. When you focus on amounts and have no financial principles in place, you’ll find yourself saying yes to things that gradually skew your budget.

Changing a budget means taking money from somewhere to put it somewhere else, that could be reducing your staffing budget, taking money from one ministry to fund another, or simply saying no to a new request.

Whenever you take money off someone, or say no to someone, you’re going to make them mad. But as a church leader, it is your responsibility to ensure your church is working within the constraints of solid financial principles.


Sometimes you need an outside perspective when seeking to make changes in your church. Often it’s the case that you don’t see the issue because you’re too close to it, or that you need someone to ask the naïve questions that unlock your thinking. We can help. We provide facilitation to help you make big, gutsy decisions that will make people mad, but will also inspire people and take your church forward. If you’d like to start the conversation, book a FREE 1-hour consultation call with us today.