Change Management Research Paper

Pages: 5 (1562 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  Level: Doctoral  ·  Topic: Leadership

Coutta, Ramsey. A Practical Guide for Successful Church Change. Bloomington: iUniverse.

According to Coutta, "the church itself is a fascinating mixture of the changing and the unchanging," (p. 1). This statement is true for the religious movements that comprise Christian history, as well as for the individual church organizations or congregations. The purpose of Coutta's A Practical Guide to Successful Church Change is to show what elements of a church need to remain stable and steady, and which need to change to respond to the needs of the community. Coutta sets out to provide "guide" for church leaders, so that they can recognize the life cycles of a church, recognize the value and importance of change, ground change in scripture, and ensure that any change is successful. In general, the book itself is a success in providing a blueprint for successful church change.

Strengths

Coutta's book is brief and to the point, divided into only two parts. Those two parts include the first, which is about defining and describing effective change, and the second, which is the actual guide to implementing change. The book is also organized well, with thirteen chapters that flow logically from one to the other. For example, in the first section of the book, Coutta talks about why change has historically proven itself to be both necessary and helpful to the mission of Christ and to individual Christians too. By starting off the book with historical context, the reader can better understand how contemporary church changes fit into God's overall plan for the evolution of the Church and the fulfillment of the destiny of humanity. Naturally, the author provides a Biblical model for change, showing that the author does ground his theories in scripture. Commitment to scripture is another core strength of the book. Whenever possible, Coutta presents his theories in light of what the Bible has to say. It never seems as if Coutta is squeezing the Biblical passages to support his beliefs. Quite the contrary, Coutta's approach shows that he is coming from a place of scripture first and then using that as the springboard to discuss church change. Coutta seems knowledgable about the Bible, and shows how Jesus is the ultimate model for change.

One of the most important features of the first section of A Practical Guide is the section on why some change is unsuccessful, coupled with the section on how to overcome resistance to change. Coutta concludes the opening section with information about change leadership. Change leadership of course requires a review of the quintessential change leader: Jesus Christ. Christ, according to Coutta, provides the model for change that should guide church leadership. Coutta identifies a process of change as it is presented in the Bible, starting with the identification of need. From a Biblical perspective, this is most obviously located in sin. Applied to church change, an organization does not need to reach a point of debauch and devastation in order to change. In those cases, the change might have arrived too late. The point is to recognize the need for change early enough to prevent sin, and to ensure that the church and its congregation remain on the right moral track.

Coutta does a good job showing how a change leader can blend the Bible and leadership theory. For example, the leader is urged to prey and seek God's wisdom and then to apply that vision to the vision for church change. No matter what stage of the change process the leader might be in at the time, it is essential to check in with God, receive guidance, and proceed in a method that is in accordance with scripture. Change fails when leaders stray from their path, and Coutta emphasizes this fundamental tenet.

Resistance to change is a difficult subject matter to broach, but Coutta does a respectable job in the short space he allots to this topic. Although the book might be stronger with more attention paid to resistance to change from the Christian perspective, the author at least addresses this important concept. Managing resistance to change often stems from creating a strong organizational culture, and Coutta does show how the change leader can start by developing the right attitudes and sharing the vision with the members of the team. The pre-planning for change can be more important than actually implementing a change blueprint, because haphazard or ill-informed change will often fail. By the end of reading the "Essentials of Change" in section one, the reader should feel equipped to lead change within a Biblical framework.

The section on "Conducting Change" is the heart and soul of Coutt's book, offering the "practical guide" the author promises. Here, the author divides the process of change into understandable parts, not necessarily arranged in chronological but more of a topical order. Doing this is critical to the success of Coutta's book because change is not necessarily a linear process. Setbacks and challenges to change can arise at any moment, causing a two steps forward, one step back momentum. A poor leader becomes frustrated and gives up, therefore forfeiting the hard work that had been done and losing out on the potential to grow into a stronger church. Coutta does a good job showing that all change involves a continual self-assessment and evaluation of goals, values, and Biblical principles. The identification of the need for change, for instance, is not a static step. A change leader working on a church understands that the identification of need can become a habit that is ingrained in good leadership skills. The effective leader always seeks God's advice, and listens to feedback from church members and colleagues.

Once a need for change has been identified, the tricky steps of implementing organizational change begin. Here, Coutta refrains from reverting to a business model and instead provides a Biblically informed roadmap. Determining God's will is the key to developing a vision for the future of a church that will leave a lasting mark on the Christian community. However, Coutta recognizes that even the greatest change leader cannot work alone. The church is a social institution as much as it is a religious one. In order to create change, all stakeholders must be involved and taken into account in some way. Ideally, a small group of change leaders will form a team around the pivotal leader. The change coalition can grow into the future leadership of the new church.

Coutta identifies some of the elements of effective church leadership in discussions about change, which is going to be helpful for many readers. Communication is an especially important subject because many church leaders fail to recognize the importance of maintaining open communication with their team members or congregation during the change. Keeping open and informing others about the changes will help engender trust. Likewise, the congregation needs to feel empowered and informed. Regular information sessions, or discussions about the church changes after sermons might help to strengthen the change process and create a stronger community. The author concludes the book with a brief closing statement that is inspirational and motivational.

The tone of the book is absolutely appropriate for its audience. Christian in spirit, the book encourages the change leader to be strong and face fears, using the Bible and the teachings of Christ as guides. When a church leader recognizes the need for change, it can be a difficult personal challenge. Some leaders start off reluctant to change out of fear of losing members of the congregation or simply, fear of failure. Coutta's book is inspirational and encourages all leaders to embrace change as a natural part of the church process.

Weaknesses

The weaknesses of Coutta's book include the author's leaving the reader wanting to learn more about what Coutta has to say. A Practical Guide is short,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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