Three Ways Your Brain Reacts to Change

BrainChange is difficult! In almost 25 years in ministry and 14 years as a lead pastor in established churches, I have seen how jittery change is for many members. In fact, change is difficult for leaders as well–make no mistake about that. Anytime I as a leader propose change, I have a particular process I go through in my own mind.  While I may enjoy something greatly, I may have to set aside something I enjoy greatly for the benefit of our vision and mission as a body of Christ.

Fast Company recently published an article entitled, How Your Brain Reacts to Change.  Here’s what’s affected and why:

  1. Social Connection: “That drive toward connection is so real that in the presence of social pain or discomfort, our brains have been shown to react similarly to the way they do when we’re in physical pain.”
  2. Enough Information: “Seeking out information in the face of uncertainty is therefore a crucial way in which we can better adjust to change, says Scarlett. ‘It’s these little missing bits of information that are distracting,’ she says. ‘If you give people that information, it settles the brain.'”
  3. Taking Care of Your Body: “‘If you’ve got a big decision to make, sleep is really important for the brain . . . It’s that ability to stop, pause, and respond, rather than just reacting very quickly to things,’ says Scarlett. ‘We forget how much energy making decisions takes out of us. The impact of not having sleep is the equivalent of going to work drunk, yet we don’t see it that way.'”

Every major change I’ve suggested and our various churches have undergone have dealt with at least two of the three areas mentioned above.

Social connection.  One of the ways that this difficulty arises is when we deal with a change in gathering times (small groups, worship services, etc.) or in dealing with adding classes (addressed in a recent blog post on multiplying).  Those social connections among believers are important, and losing those brings about a sense of pain and grief that many do not realize.  Leaders in church need to help people navigate through this.  Many times, the mission of making more disciples who are taking that next step in Christ means providing more environments for this to happen, especially as a church grows.

Enough information.  Remember my comment about our folks becoming jittery?  Information settles that jitteriness.  While some may want things to move more quickly, taking a couple of extra breathes, slowing down your pace a bit and giving more information and allowing people to respond and ask questions will serve you well as a leader down the road, especially if you’re in an established church. Yet, I believe every type of church would benefit. Leaders would benefit from providing plenty of information; church members would benefit from listening and processing same said information.

Taking Care of Your Body.  We all need to watch what we eat, get enough sleep, and exercise–both leader and non-leader alike. It’s amazing how much better we process what’s around us better when we take care of ourselves.

I’m passionate about helping people navigate through change, even as I myself work to navigate through those choppy waters. But changes is necessary.  Change means growth.  No change means stagnation and death.  Let’s help each other move more toward Christ, taking that next step in being hopeful, joyful disciples of Jesus.


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