5 Keys To Avoid Worship Change Buyer’s Remorse
Buyer’s Remorse is the negative emotions or feelings of regret after making a major purchase or costly decision. The buyer may have felt pressure from others to buy or buy-into a product before he/she was ready. The high price of the new often seems extravagant and is sometimes seen as inferior or unnecessary after acquiring it.
In an effort to initiate worship change, leaders often rush into doing anything different than what they think is not working now. And failing to initiate worship change when change is necessary can cause a congregation to get stuck. But initiating those changes without appropriate preparation could cause congregational buyer’s remorse. Consider the following keys to avoid the inevitable regret of impulsive worship change.
Select the Appropriate Score
Score: A tool used by a composer, conductor or analyst that shows all the parts of an ensemble, enabling the experienced reader to “hear” what the composition will sound like.
Selecting the appropriate score for change requires preparation, prayer, discernment, study, observation and buy-in before actually initiating a change. Andy Stanley wrote, “Designing and implementing a strategy for change is a waste of time until you have discovered and embraced the current reality. If you don’t know where you really are, it is impossible to get to where you need to be. What you don’t know can kill you.”
The score is the focus, outline, containment and limitations of the considered change. Even though a score has framework limitations it is still open to the interpretation of the conductor and players.
Rehearse Before You Perform
Rehearsal: The practice of something to be performed, usually to test or improve the interaction between participating people, or to allow technical adjustments.
Rehearsing a change is actively soliciting buy-in from congregants with unique gifts, perspectives and abilities. The pain of transition is amplified when leaders discount congregational members as uninformed, as incapable of grasping the theological implications of change or by assuming that they are so rooted in their old identity and behavior that they are unwilling to think in new ways.
Rehearsing change creates an environment where individuals realize their wisdom is an essential part of what is being created. Shared vision allows a congregation to consider the various perspectives and molds them within the framework of the score. It then creates a unified ensemble ready for the final presentation.
Peter Senge describes shared vision as, “creating a relational child, a unique future that will only emerge with shared dialogue and cooperative implementation.”
Set A Healthy Tempo
Tempo: Tempo is the relative speed at which a composition is to be played. Rehearsal gives a congregation time to set the proper tempo for change. What might appear to a leader to be the quickest and most direct route may seem reckless to those members of the congregation who have the same goals but are more comfortable taking safer or slower routes.
Ignoring signals of caution can create conflict, sabotage trust, leave those we lead in our wake and cause us to re-trace our steps. What was intended to accelerate the pace may in fact lengthen it. The tempo established during rehearsal can kill a composition or it can encourage its success.
Utilize Modulation in Key Changes
Modulation: The process of moving from one key to another. The essential word in the previous definition is process. Change is a process, not a one-time event.
Modulation offers a congregation a less painful transition by allowing time for them to come to terms with their identity change. Jumping from one key to another without the process of modulation is abrupt and jarring, leaving the listener stunned and frustrated.
Ironically, one of the key components of a successful modulation is dissonance. Dissonance will occur in the change process and cannot be ignored or it will surface again. Resolving dissonance in the modulation process releases the tension of moving from the previous to the new. Transformation takes time and the process is just as important as the end result.
Perform – Initiate the Change
Performance: The act of presenting; of doing something successfully; using knowledge as distinguished from merely possessing it. In his book, The Next Generation Leader, Andy Stanley highlights the story of how in the early days of the Civil War; northern generals were so focused on avoiding casualties and embarrassing losses that they would miss strategic opportunities. They spent more time exercising the troops than they did engaging the enemy. Stanley wrote, “Simply recognizing the need for change does not define leadership. The leader is the one who has the courage to act on what he sees.”
Leadership is not about making change decisions on your own but it is about owning those decisions once they are made. Stanley also said, “While the average man or woman fears stepping out into a new opportunity, the leader fears missing out on a new opportunity.”
Initiating worship change without planning and serious reflection often causes unnecessary buyer’s remorse. Faithful leaders, however, successfully open their congregations to new concepts by accenting what they are now doing well, by giving those congregants time to consider what they might do better and by involving them throughout the process.
“The main dangers in this life are the people who want to change everything…or nothing.” Nancy Astor
 Peter Senge in Brad Berglund, Reinventing Sunday: Breakthrough Ideas for Transforming Worship (Valley Forge: Judson, 2001), 11.
 Ibid., 51.
Dr. David Manner is the Associate Executive Director for the Kansas Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists. His convention responsibilities include worship consultation and leadership development. Before joining the convention staff in 2000, David served for 20 years in music/worship ministry with congregations in Kansas, Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma. David writes for various online and print publications and can be followed on Twitter @DWManner or on his Worship Evaluation Blog: http://kncsb.org/blogs/dmanner.