Four Tips for Learning to Change

By Thom S. Rainer

It's Your MoveThom Rainer, known for his research on church growth, recently blogged about how churches should respond to change.

How do we respond to change that is inevitable and substantial? My response has thus far involved four progressive phases:

Phase 1: Accept reality.

I bought my first e-reader five years ago. I had been keeping up with the developments in the digital world, but that device brought me to a new reality. The world I knew was changing, and it would soon change rapidly. I could do like so many others, and argue that it’s a fad that will soon fade, or I could accept the new world in which I would be living.

It is easier to deny reality and think we can return to the comfort of the world we know. But that denial will only make matters worse when the evidence of the change becomes overwhelming. I had to accept the new reality.

Phase 2: Fully grasp the impact.

For several years, Lifeway Christian Resources has been moving into the digital world. There remain many unanswered questions about platforms, monetization and acceptance of digital books and other publications. But one thing we do know. The impact of this new reality is huge. We are regularly evaluating our speed into this delivery system and our customers’ desire for digital options.

When change affects an individual or organization, a major step in dealing with the change is to understand its impact and longevity. Is it indeed a fad or temporary change? Or is it something that will become a new normal, where failure to respond will be final or fatal? Many organizations fail because they do not fully grasp the impact of change that is upon them.

Phase 3: Ask why the change is taking place.

There are different reasons why the digital publishing world is becoming more pervasive as the choice of readers and authors. In most cases purchasing a digital publication offers both a better price and a more convenient method of purchasing the product.

But perhaps the greater reason the change is taking place is that customers, both authors and readers, now have greater control over what they write and read. The role of an intermediary, such as a publisher, is changing at the least, and being minimized at most. Ultimately, power is being shifted from the middle person to both the creator of content and the user of that content.

When we are on the receiving end of change, it is critically important to understand the genesis of that change. Only then can we move forward positively and proactively.

Phase 4: Learn how to move forward with the new reality.

When change is inevitable, we have one of two larger options. First, we can bemoan the new state of reality and fight it as long as possible. Or more positively, we can learn how we can best move forward in the new world with new ideas, new creativity and new hope. The latter is admittedly more challenging. But the former is a formula for decline and even death.

Our organization is embracing the new reality of the digital world with hope and enthusiasm. We don’t have all the answers, but we are energized to find and implement new solutions each day.

You can read Thom’s full column at

Thom S. Rainer

Thom S. Rainer

Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam,  Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at