How to Move People Who Don’t Want to Move

I love Bill Hybel’s definition of leadership:

“Moving people from here to there.”

It really is that simple isn’t it? Here’s where we are. There is where God is calling us to move. Let’s go!


If it’s that simple, why is it so hard?!? Leadership is challenging when people don’t want to move. One of the greatest frustrations of leadership is motivating people to move when they resist.

We’ve all been there. You’re incredibly excited about a vision that God has given you for your ministry or church and when you share that vision, the people who follow you resist. COME ON!

So, how do you move people who don’t want to move? This is the stuff of real leadership. I have a few ideas that might help.


If I don’t trust you then I will never trust your ideas. This is so true isn’t it? You can’t expect to move people from here to there unless they trust you as a leader. This means that your first step in creating change is building relationships.

I’ve never forgotten the advice one of my college professors gave me:

“Don’t make any major changes to the ministry you lead during the first year of your leadership.”

In other words, you have to earn the trust of the people you lead before you try to take them from here to there.

If you are contemplating asking your people to move, then you must first build trust. If they trust you, they are likely to embrace your ideas.


Change hurts. Even if you’re like me and you thrive on the energy of progress and movement, change is painful. It means something has to be left behind. It means a program has to die. It means embracing the unknown. Change hurts.

As the leader, you instinctively believe that there is better than here. But, here’s the thing: your people probably don’t. They are comfortable. And, until they believe that there is better than here, they will resist your attempts to move them because change hurts.

One of your most important tasks as a leader is to paint a compelling picture of why “there” is worth it. Don’t take it for granted that they get it. Take the time to paint the picture. Spend time with your key stakeholders and convince them that staying here will actually be worse than the pain of moving there.


You’ve probably heard of the concept of love languages. Years ago, Gary Chapman wrote a book describing the relational love languages every one of us has. He was, and is, spot on.

5 love languages

I happen to believe that there’s such a thing as leadership languages. I think this concept is helpful when the person you are trying to motivate and move has authority over you, for example, your boss, your board members, or your church elders. What I’m trying to say is that each person has a unique leadership language and if you want to motivate that person, you’d do well to speak their language. Here are a few examples:

1. The Language of Data

My boss speaks the leadership language of data. He is motivated by cold, hard facts.

data-driven church leadership

If I want to convince him of the merits of an idea, I know that I better come with actual data, not feelings or beliefs.
Here’s as a successful proposal for someone who speaks the language of data:

I believe we need to move our student ministry from Wednesday night to Sunday night and here’s why: After surveying parents, 30% of our students don’t attend regularly because of scheduling conflicts on Wednesday night. If we moved to Sundays, this 30% would likely start attending regularly.

Here’s an unsuccessful proposal with someone who speaks the language of data:

I’ve been doing a lot of praying and I think we need to move the student ministry to Wednesday nights.

Nope. If you want to motivate a person who speaks data, then you need to pray about it AND compile accurate information that supports your idea.

2. The Language of Vision

One of my mentors will fall asleep if you share a bunch of data. He isn’t moved by the numbers. He is moved by vision.

vision-driven church leadership

When I want to create movement with him, I talk about what could be. I might say something like:

Imagine what our student ministry could become if moved to Sunday nights. No more school conflicts! Imagine how many kids would show up and imagine what kind of impact we could have with all these kids. It could be incredible!

What am I doing? I’m creating a vision of what could be. Leaders who speak vision will be moved by a compelling picture of “there.”

3. The Language of the Proven

Some leaders are highly motivated by proven success. I spent 5 years working for someone who speaks the language of the proven. For him, to embrace a new idea, he needs to see somewhere else where the idea is working.

example-driven church leadership

Here’s a successful pitch for someone who speaks the language of the proven:

I really think we should move the student ministry to Sunday nights. I did some research and North Point moved their student ministry to Sunday nights and it has blown up!

This type of leader is naturally skeptical and wants to see that the idea works in the real world. To speak the language of the proven, show him or her a working template, compelling research or utilize the opinion of an expert.

So, when it comes to motivating someone to move from here to there, it starts with building trust because we typically won’t trust the ideas of a person until we trust them.

Secondly, it comes down to convincing people that “there” is better than “here.”

Lastly, you’re going to have to speak the leadership language of the people you are trying to motivate.

In my experience, these are three practical tools for motivating people to move when they are resistant. We’d love to hear your ideas on how to move people who don’t want to move. Feel free to leave your ideas in the comments.

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