Part 10: Handling Transition
Interestingly, psychologists say that one of the things that can cause tremendous stress in life is change. So thinking about your life when change has occurred, whether moving towns or cities, changing jobs, getting married, or having kids, can stress your life tremendously. For some people, it’s good stress, a good change, but it can go the other way. Transition is like changing gears in a car. When a gear change is done well, it adds to the vehicle’s momentum; when poorly done, it’s a bit of a grind and can cause the car to halt. It’s a helpful analogy to get our heads around regarding the topic transition in Connect Groups. Transition is necessary when it comes to Connect Groups. Whether it’s because of some natural factors, like a leader moving to another city or a new leader coming in to lead, transitions will come at some point within a Connect Group. But how these transitions are handled ultimately results in healthy or painful transitions for people. Here are a couple of lessons we learnt along the way regarding transitions.
Challenges & Resistances to Transition:
Resistance can often happen when you and I, as leaders, have been thinking through a change for many hours, days, and weeks, but the people haven’t been aware that change is coming. Then, suddenly they encounter a transition, and at first glance, it may appear to you like there’s immediate resistance. This resistance can catch us slightly off guard, but people have been unaware.
A second challenge to a transition may occur when groups are split. There may be a big bustling group, and it’s very exciting. In your mind, you’ve said, ‘I’m going to split this group, and one group will go that way, and the other that way.” Unfortunately, The presumption assumes that relationships will continue in the same vein. But often, that doesn’t happen. Since relationships are severed apart, the group just ends up being different in a different lounge with a different leader. It can often become starchy to start a new group as a new culture is formed along the way.
A third challenge to transition is what I’ve called presumption; it’s acting without faith; it’s just presuming that we’ll do it again this year because we transitioned last year. We can make these leadership steps without faith. However, faith pleases God. Faith is a vital ingredient in bringing about change.
A fourth challenge would be poor communication. Again, we can presume that people are just on the same page as us. But if we don’t communicate proactively, it can result in much pain during the transition process.
A fifth challenge is the depletion of critical mass. In a small group, we often have, we have those that contribute, we have those that bring food, we have those that are just good, faithful attenders, we have those that may help with lifts, those that are good at communication etc. When you transition a group, suddenly, the first week, some of that critical mass is not there anymore, there’s not the same level of contribution, not so many people are involved, etc. So this is an element to be considered.
Tools to help transition
Here are five tools that are important in handling a transition. The first is prayer. The start of all big decision-making and considering that we are dealing with people’s lives is spending time in prayer. It’s essential for the people you’re leading down a new path to know that their leaders have weighed and waited on these decisions. Pray changes the hand of God; it moves the hand of God. So it’s an essential part of the transition process.
A second tool would be communicating at different levels. People shouldn’t hear about the transition process for the first time in a public meeting. It needs to be communicated with the new leader first, then with some other group leaders. Why? Because they have got influence. They will settle the rest of the group if they are on board with the new change and excited about it. Also, consider those that are vulnerable in the process. They might need a coffee or dinner to help them process what’s about to happen, notably if they’ve tapped into you as a leader. You’re asking them now to have faith in a new leader along the way. Give others at least a phone call and tell them what is about to happen. Thirdly look at the public announcement; when you announce it at Connect Group, it needs to be a declaration of faith saying something along the lines of, “We believe God’s in this, it’s an exciting time, and this is how we’re going to do it”.
Lastly, have a definite process and timeline. A 4 – 6 weeks timeline is a good length when considering a transition. More than six weeks is too long, whilst shorter than four weeks may not allow you to get everyone on board and the time to process the transition. It should be somewhere between 4 – 6 weeks. If you’re going into two groups within your current group, you can start establishing separate group cultures in a safe space before launching out. The handover meeting should be full of faith and bring in some elders and other leaders that can help celebrate the moment because change is ultimately good; the kingdom is advancing! The moment of the handover meeting needs to be a declaration of faith and victory; celebrate it, and make sure the food is generous and everyone is excited.