When people push back on your vision

April 28th, 2015

Inspiration has finally hit. You’ve prayed. You’ve listened to your congregation. You’ve surveyed the community. Now, guided by the Holy Spirit, in consultation with trusted leaders, you have crafted a bold, inspiring, kingdom-oriented vision. You’ve tested your assumptions and thought through implications. You’ve prayed for and received confirmation.

In fact, you have dotted every i you can think of and crossed every t.

And then the unthinkable happens: People start pushing back. The very people who seemed to support it before are now raising objections.

Now what?

Caught unaware, too many church leaders get taken out at this stage of the game. But before you get discouraged and throw in the towel, I want to share with you four pushback paradoxes that will help you gather momentum and move the vision forward.

A few years back, I was mentoring a lay leader who was experiencing some push back in his congregation. He’d done just the kind of homework I mentioned. Which made him all the more defensive when the objections started. It got to the point where every time someone raised an objection, he saw it as an attack. The more attacked he felt, the more he closed himself off and hunkered down. The more he hunkered down, the more shut out and shut down they felt. It was quickly turning into a no-win situation.

Here are the four pushback paradoxes that helped him rebound with grace. I believe they can help you too.

1. Take pushback as a sign of interest. You’re introducing something new that is catching people’s attention. That’s a good thing. Because it’s likely to introduce new dynamics and change up the way things are going, people want to have their ideas, concerns or refinements included in it. Take their objections as a sign of interest. This shift in your perspective will set the stage for a more productive process.

2. Don’t shoot from the hip. At this point in the game, people will want some details. Don’t shoot from the hip. Take time to organize your thoughts. The pushback may simply be a sign that they don’t understand some key details or how it will all come together. Pause, organize your message and communicate, communicate, communicate.

3. How receptive are you? Check to see if you are criticizing or challenging every new idea or tweak suggested. If you are, take a deep breath, close your mouth, open your heart and listen. Many people will want to have their fingerprints on a major change in the church. Suggestions and objections actually help them buy in to your vision.

4. Be open to exchanging perspectives. Belief in the vision is commendable. But check to see if you are simply presenting your vision as a done deal or if you are open to give and take. Even if you don’t ultimately incorporate their ideas, being heard has a calming effect. It reduces anxiety, buoys morale and lets people know they matter.

The truth is, pushback is necessary for buy-in. Without pushback, you can’t be sure that people have had a chance to fully consider and think through the new direction God is calling you to. Better to have it surface now than simmer just below the surface.

If you listen closely, your people will tell you what’s missing to make the vision a new and shining reality. Remember: Take time at this stage of the game to organize your thoughts, communicate with clarity, be receptive to what people have to say and to do some give and take. This will strengthen your vision and make implementation that much easier.

You’ve heard it said, “Where there is no vision, the people will perish.” (Proverbs 29:18.) Now consider this: Without pushback and buy-in, the leader will perish … because they’ll be in it all by themselves.

Rebekah blogs at RebekahSimonPeter.com. If you want to dive deeper into the ideas presented here, check out Rebekah's program Creating a Culture of Renewal.

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