Responses to Change: Late Adopters

In this series, we’ve been considering how people in church congregations respond differently to change based on their history and perspective. If pastors and leaders aren’t careful, they might be tempted to interpret the slower pace at which some respond to change as an outright refusal to change. However, this way of seeing things is not always accurate.

While there are those who move quickly on a change journey, there are a number of considerations that make fast-paced responses to change extremely difficult for others. Behind the Early Adopters and the Mid Adopters, Late Adopters make up about 15% of the people and lag for a variety of reasons.

Let’s once again consider these groups alongside the biblical account of the Israelites’ journey from slavery in Egypt through the wilderness toward the Promised Land.

Among the Israelites, Late Adopters were likely the people who moved slower because it was harder for them to move. Maybe they were older, had more possessions, or seemed more attached to “where we’ve been.” For these friends, the call to “move out” isn’t exciting because it’s a lot more work for them to pull up the tent stakes and begin to move forward.

Typically, Late Adopters are more attached to the status quo than others. They are usually those who cannot see how they will benefit from the change, and they won’t enthusiastically embrace the change until they feel they are being left behind.

Late Adopters are often older members or those who have been in leadership for a long time. They have grown comfortable with the way things are and see change as a lot more work.

They move slower, but they will go forward if we treat them with patience and understanding. Sadly, in many change journeys, pastors see them as enemies of change and we draw lines in the sand that send them off on their own in the wilderness.

Pastors must love these people! Their decision to buy in might take more time, but they will never be given that chance unless they feel love from those in leadership. 

As leaders, we must move forward, or nothing will ever move. However, pastors must also commit to love those they lead regardless of where they are in the change journey, reminding them that the church we’re dreaming of becoming has a place for everyone, late-adopters included.

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