“If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” – Albert Einstein

Are you feeling stuck, but more change feels too overwhelming?  Did you realize that the human mind is actually hardwired to resist change?  The brain interprets change as a threat and releases a hormone called amygdala for protection.  It’s that old fear, fight, or flight of our ancestors kicking in again.  No wonder we are feeling stuck and change is so difficult – our bodies are fighting against change!

But I bring you good news!  There is hope for those desiring to get unstuck!  In the 1960’s, David Gleicher created the Gleicher’s Formula:  C = D x V x F x CL > R or Change = Dissatisfaction x Vision x First Concrete Steps x Creative Leadership (added by Kathleen Dannemiller in 1992) > Resistance (aka monetary and psychological cost of change).   The formula represents the necessary factors for change to take place.  In other words, the pain of staying the same has to outweigh the perceived cost of the change.

Let’s unpack these terms a bit to understand them a bit better.  Dissatisfaction in the church world might be represented in fewer number of people, fewer resources, lack of energy, grieving the “good ol’ days,” and perhaps even a sense of apathy while seeing other churches reach new people.  Vision is defined as an inspirational new future, new opportunities, hope, some new situation or circumstance, and working together towards God’s preferred future for the congregation.  Those first steps are realistic actions, a coherent path, engaging steps, attainable objectives, or a smart approach for getting started.  The creative leadership might be a coach, consultant, or bold inside leader with outside eyes that can help those inside see and desire something new and be willing to give up the comfort of the existing to pursue the new vision.  The resistance is the fear of the unknown, lack of trust, reluctance to novelty, fear of change, challenging the “way we’ve always don it,” or “we’ve tried something like this before and it didn’t work.”

Below is a chart demonstrating the outcome when dissatisfaction (need for change), vision, creative leadership, (capability to change and resources), and first steps are left out of the change formula.  Notice the only path to successful change is for all factors to be in play.

According to Kurt Lewin, developer of Lewin’s Field Theory, there are driving forces and restraining forces at play during change, too.  (See chart above.) The driving forces are working towards the desired state – the new vision.  The restraining forces (resistance to change) are working against the driving forces trying to keep the status quo.  Lewin argues that the most effective change occurs not from increasing driving forces, but from decreasing restraining forces (aka belief barriers).  Imagine the dotted lines from the left side of the chart (i.e., anger) to the right side (apathy) as a rope taught with tension, but still connected.  A person can be anywhere on the continuum between these two psychological opposites, but the potential for swinging in the opposite direction always exists.  Lessening the restraining forces is helping move people towards aha’s (AHUYS) or new awareness.

“He who rejects change is the architect of decay.” – Harold Wilson

Change is hard!  Leading change is even harder.  Yet, when we are stuck and what we are doing is no longer working, it’s time to faithfully move on to what God has for us next.   

The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new.
Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.”
Revelation 21:5 (MSG)