Generate Buy-in at Your Church with these 4 Strategies

Posted by Aaron Buer on January 20, 2022

Have you ever had a brilliant idea…that nobody bought into?  All the middle children out there know what I’m talking about!  

Have you ever felt like you knew exactly what your church needed to move forward and seize opportunity, but you couldn’t get key leaders on board?  

What we’re talking about here is buy-in.  It’s one thing to have a vision for the future, it’s another thing to convince the people who need to be convinced.  

So, how do you get buy-in?  How do you rally people behind your idea for change?  Here are 4 strategies that might help.  

Identify Key Stakeholders

Here’s an important question:  Who must buy into your idea for it to work?  In other words, who, if they resist you, could shut down progression?  

These people are key stakeholders.  We might be talking about your elder board, key volunteers, your senior pastor, an influential young person, or 85-year-old Mrs. McGillicuddy.  

Whoever these people are, you must identify the key stakeholders and ensure that they are onboard with the change you want to pursue. 

Engage Stakeholders With The Power Of A Pre-Conversation

Nobody likes surprises.  Well, I mean there are those people who like surprise parties. And my wife who chose to be surprised by the gender of each of our five kids (true story!). But let’s be real, when it comes to significant changes at work or church, we like to be in the know.  

One of the most powerful tools in generating buy-in is the pre-conversation.  Once you have identified the key stakeholders in the change you want to lead.

DO NOT—I repeat DO NOT— surprise them at a roll out meeting.  And, if they hear about the change you want to lead secondhand, through someone else, you’re dead in the water. 

Set up a one-on-one meeting with them and roll out the change you desire to lead as a wet cement concept.  Listen to their concerns and feedback. 

If your key stakeholders feel valued and heard, you have a great shot at securing their buy-in.  

Disappoint People At A Rate They Can Manage 

What about those times that the venerable old Mrs. McGillicuddy is NEVER going to buy in?  How do you handle that?  

It’s very likely that some of the change that needs to happen in your church will hurt.  For example, maybe it’s time to close Sunday School classes and move toward small groups. 

Some of your older people have been in a particular Sunday School class for 40 years.  Let’s just say they aren’t going to jump on board with your newfangled idea overnight.  

The key here is to disappoint people at a rate they can manage.  Let them know that change is coming, acknowledge what they are losing and walk with them through their grief.  That’s how you effectively lead change with people who would never personally choose the direction you are taking them.  

To continue with the Sunday School example, let them know that their class will be ending in 6 months rather than 2 weeks.  Take the time to hear their frustrations and pain. 

Don’t pretend like you aren’t taking something away that they hold dear.  Just acknowledge it.  Walk with them through the pain of loss. 

All change is a form of loss and for some in your congregation, the change you want to lead will create a significant sense of loss.  

By taking your time, disappointing people at a rate they can manage, and walking with people through the pain of loss, you have an opportunity to build trust and respect, even from detractors. 

Believe it or not, this kind of patient, people focused leadership creates buy-in.  

Be Willing To Adjust

One last thought, and this might only be for me.  When it comes to leading change, I often move too fast. 

I tend to be overly optimistic.  I can under-estimate the cost of change.  And that’s because I actually like change!  I find it exhilarating.  

I have a suspicion that this is true of a lot of leaders, possibly even you.  Something I’ve learned the hard way over the years is that I must be willing to adjust course with the change I want to lead.  And often, it’s a timing issue.  The change I want to lead is the right move, but the wrong time.  

Something surprising to me about getting buy-in is sometimes the buy-in comes from listening to feedback and concerns and adjusting course. 

In other words, sometimes Mrs. McGillicuddy has a point and you would be wise to listen.  

Here’s the counter-intuitive truth, listening to feedback and adjusting course creates a different, more valuable kind of buy-in.  Buy-in on you, as a leader. 

When the people under your leadership see that you listen to and value their concerns, you build trust and this trust paves the way for future buy-in.  

In other words, there are times that choosing to wait or change course because of someone’s feedback will build trust in your leadership and a greater willingness to follow you the next time you bring forward a vision for change. 

Wrap Up

As you work towards leading change that can make an impact on your church, I hope these 4 strategies for buy-in help. 

If you have other strategies you’ve found to be helpful, please share them in the comments.

Lastly, if you're in need of resources to help you grow as a leader, check out this article.

Topics: Advice

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