Scraping off old paint: Cultural change in faith-based organizations


Scraping layers of vintage paint offers lots of time to think.  Being me, I was thinking about cultural change in faith-based organizations.  It's a very similar undertaking. Some patches peel off easily, where the types of paint were totally incompatible and failed to stick.  Some paint had been there for decades and had NO intention of leaving.  I persisted.

What could be easier than repainting a bathroom, or changing an element of worship, or updating the website?  What could be harder?

First, the challenge of deciding on the colour.  People who are silent on theological matters will not hesitate to weigh in on the colour of the sanctuary.  In Heifetz' language, what seems like a simple technical change--tan will now be purple--is not always simple.

Will the new paint stick?

If the surface is well-prepared and the new paint is compatible, then yes, painting is relatively easy.

Is your faith-based organization undamaged?  Smooth and in good repair?  Do you know what lies beneath the surface? Will your new paint stick?

Some of the people who contributed a layer of history might not be around any longer, but they've left their mark. Persevere: expect tough going. What seems like a small change to you will be a big deal to someone else.

Know when to stop scraping

Dig though the layers but don't try to deal with every last remnant of paint.  Save your strength and don't spend too much energy on the small group of the most resistant to change. At some point, you sand it all down and put down a new base coat.

Seeing the fresh new colour will really help sell your change.  Who wants to get stuck in the awkward and ugly stage where all the layers are showing and it looks worse than before?  No one.

I raise my paint scraper to all of you with a vision of how your organization might change.  Scrape on friends!