July 30, 2017 by: Laura Lincoln

As a leader, the last thing you want is to find yourself in the middle of a complex task you aren’t sure you can do well. This fear is compounded if you’ve been a part of a failed project (of any kind) in the past. How do you get past the past, and put down any old baggage from past failures? Better yet, how do you learn from the past so that you can be calm during change and resolve all types of church conflicts without hurting or derailing the building project?

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  1. Forgive yourself. No one person knows everything and everyone makes mistakes. Holding on to hurts or blaming yourself can freeze you in time. Learn from what you did or didn’t do, but then give yourself an opportunity to do better. You’re worth it and your congregation deserves the improved you.
  2. Beware of groupthink! Good decision-making requires that every person on the building committee feel comfortable saying just what they think.  Groups need to have people who challenge assumptions. But if trust isn’t there, you will need to take time to develop relationships within your leadership team. You don’t want people to just go along with the crowd in the meeting and then have regrets in hindsight.
  3. Ask the experts. Good leaders know that they need information and opinions from people who are experts in their fields. From learning how to do fundraising to selecting interior finishes, there are many resources out there for you.  Seek out and engage the experts.  And then rely on them for their expertise.
  4. Be wary of cousins, friends, or anecdotal advice. Again, go to the experts and commit to doing some research to find answers to your questions. If a friend or relative really does have expertise, you owe it to them to check around and compare.  Be sure you’re getting information that’s best for you.  You will be more likely to make solid decisions if you don’t also have to deal with emotional/personal relationships.
  5. Take an unflinching look at the past. You can learn a lot from past mistakes. Sit down and do your best to sort through exactly what went wrong and why. What was beyond your control?  What could you have done better?  Were there early warning signs that may tip you off if there’s going to be a problem with the current project?
  6. “I don’t trust them”. If you were ever swindled or ended up with work that was sub-par, it will be hard to trust any new contractors or anyone associated with a building project. To move forward, you will need to rely on people who know things that you don’t. Ask lots of questions. Get more than one opinion. Follow up on references. Online reviews have their limitations, so if you can, go visit the sites of other projects. Ask people there about their experiences.
  7. You aren’t alone. Talk with other leaders who have experienced building projects like the one you are contemplating. What did they wish they knew before they started? What did they learn? What strategies worked well for them? What advice would they offer you?
  8. Plan, and plan some more. You can do this. If you prepare well, you will set yourself up for a positive experience. Gather experts and information. Set realistic timelines. Ask every question you can think of. Know that there will be delays and setbacks. That’s not failure. That’s life. Keep the lines of communication open with everyone involved, and before you know it, you will have led your congregation through a successful building project!

Download the entire resource "Managing Church Change and Conflict" and let us know if we can help you on your next building project:

Managing Church Change and Conflict

Guest blogger Laura Lincoln, an expert in managing church change will be contributing a series of blogs over the next several weeks dealing with early issues of conflict in planning for a major building program.

-- Laura Lincoln, MA, MS

Laura Lincoln, MA, MS is a theologian and organizational psychologist who has served as an intentional transitional minister, organizational development consultant, professor of Christian Worship, and campus minister. She has worked as a consultant for churches of various denominations in both the United States and England, is the former Executive Director of the Texas Conference of Churches, and the current Director of People and Organization at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Austin, Texas.

Laura studied at/has degrees from Walden University, Yale University Divinity School, St. John's School of Theology (Collegeville, MN), Gettysburg Seminary, and the Lutheran Seminary Program in the Southwest.

Design Process/ Building Committee/ Master Planning/ Church Change