Question 4. What is adaptive change?

Changes have been classified as technical and adaptive. Technical changes are quick fixes, changes that can be implemented with current know-how. Technical solutions have been applied to stewardship issues for a long time. Congregations do a one, two, or three week stewardship emphasis to fix the money problem. Unfortunately, when it comes to the money problem there are no quick fixes. This is evidenced by the fact that after the initial response to the quick fix the money problem resurfaces.

That’s why stewardship issues, which are much broader than just the money problem, need adaptive changes and not just technical changes. Adaptive changes are changes in people’s priorities, beliefs, habits, and loyalties. These changes happen as the Holy Spirit works through the Word. Christian stewardship is not focused only on meeting the budget. Christian stewardship is about the whole life of the child of God. It is about understanding that we are not owners, we are stewards. It is about understanding that as His stewards we manage all He entrusts to us freely, with joy and generosity. It is about knowing that we are accountable to Him for the life of stewardship we lead.

One of the most frequent mistakes leaders make is applying technical solutions (quick fixes) to adaptive problems.

“The problem is not that technical change is bad and adaptive change is good. There is a place for each. But while some technical change is almost always in order, effective leadership seeks to go deeper and to understand the adaptive issues, directing as much of the energy of the system as possible toward those. Otherwise, to use a phrase popularized by Bill Coffin, we are just ‘rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic’” (Reframing the Church by Richard Hamm, p. 12).