For the past twelve years or so a group of Christians in places of influence has gathered quarterly to network , pray and learn from one another. Yesterday, despite the "White Death From Above" a vigorous and interested bunch of men and women came together at Kenwood Baptist Church to learn more about the ways people change.
I find that many Pastors and Para-church leaders face great disappointment and angst because they have very irrational expectations about how easily and quickly people change. Most Christian leaders have an intense desire to see people change. In our group yesterday were people whose change foci's were very different. They included folks that emphasize the following kinds of change:
That churches will become more outward focused to reach unbelievers
That unbelievers will become Christians
That Christians will become disciples
That Christians will turn their entire lives over to Christ
That Jesus will be Lord of everything to believers
That sexual purity will expand in the world
That Christan's will have a desire to gather in groups
We all wanted to be change agents; to be more effective as influences of people. That certainly is my strong desire. I am a minister and a therapist. I want to see the churches of God become safe places of growth and healing. To heal the broken hearted and set the captives free.
I laid out the six stages that people seem to go through as they morph from one stage to another regardless of the kind of change they are undertaking. Prochaska and his colleagues write about these stages in the book, Changing for Good. Here are the six stages:
Pre-Contemplation or Pre Conviction: I am not aware of my problem so I am not thinking or Contemplating a change in the next six months. God has not Convicted me of my need to change. (To give more; to stop watching porn; to read scripture; etc. )
Contemplation or Conviction: I have become aware of my possible problem. Because of a sermon, a testimony, a book, the move of the Spirit or a friend I am nudged to consider a change in the next six months but don't push me or I will rebel.
Considering Change Planning to Change: I am actively trying out a few minor steps to alter my behavior and count the cost of the changes I am required to pay. The cost may be in friends, emotional pain, family, lack of "medication" contained in the bad habit, etc. But changes always require a cost.
Change Action: I am in; I will throw away my cigarettes, stop watching porn, be assertive instead of aggressive or passive, give to the church, witness to my friends, go out with my wife, stop eating fatty foods, etc. This is what we all expect when we say, "I want to see a change" but it is just one of six stages. This stage is critical but not the most critical.
Change Maintenance: This is the time when lapses and relapses are common. Take care as a change agent that you help support people for at least six months. If and when they lapse try to encourage them to go on and not get discouraged, relapse and give up. When a new person comes to Christ make sure you give them strong support for at least six months. New member groups are very important. New marriage groups are important. Recovery and Support Groups for sexual temptations, alcohol, mothers, divorce, etc are crucial.
Change Completion: I am no longer tempted to lapse and relapse. Hallelujah I am free from that problem. A.A. says we never stop being tempted so always be in Recovery.
- People change is always self-change. We do not change anyone else
- People make faster changes if they have two or more options
- People will change if they are convinced that the benefits outweigh the costs
- People do not mind change but they hate to be changed
- Reduce fear, pressure and failures to speed changes
- Only some 20% of any group is at Stage Four; Action.