Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Organic Change

Change is inevitable

This is true for both people and groups.

I have been reflecting on the idea of change within institutions and organizations. Someone asked me what the relationship should be between tradition and positive change, and I said that I felt that tradition is important because it holds a group together and that change should be organic.

What is organic change? It is a group making adjustments to it’s way of doing things as new ideas, needs and purposes come to the forefront. Perhaps the emphasis of the group will alter in some way or maybe new people will bring about a change in style. Organic change is a community moving forward together.

Organic change comes from within the group, and is often “grassroots” in origin. Wise leaders who wish to make changes will build a base of support before moving forward. I am aware of one situation in which new leaders significantly changed an important tradition against the wishes of the majority. Their tenure was short-lived, by their own choice. When they left, the group immediately reverted to the old tradition, which had served them well and is still doing so. Another organization, a camp, had a long tradition of holding a fall gathering with traditional harvest activities, camp music, games and food. Part promotional event, part fundraiser, the event had been a highlight for decades. But then attendance began to fall and enthusiasm to wane. Over several years, adjustments were made to the program, but there was no real energy for it anymore. Only long-time attendees were still participating and many of them only for tradition’s sake. So the event was dropped and something new was tried. There was little protest. The leaders had their eyes on their constituents and knew the time was ripe for change.

Sometimes a change from within a group is imposed by circumstances beyond the organization’s control. A tragedy such as a central building burning down will, if a group is healthy, stimulate sudden change that is still organic in nature. I know of a school that that lost both it’s building and sponsorship near the end of one school year but opened in a new place with new leadership the following fall. They had to alter some of their traditions to fit their new space, but they remained a vibrant educational community.

Tradition is important. It keeps us connected to the past and to the history of the community to which we belong. It can have both spiritual and social benefits as it allows people to know what to expect in a given time and place. Used rightly, it can point us to God.

But traditions do change. Transformation and renewal can require that. If we prayerfully take our direction from God and watch the pulse of the community to know we are moving forward well this, too, can point us to Him.

May we blessed by both tradition and positive change.

What examples of organic change are you aware of?


  1. Well said, change is inevitable and the most effective change is that which is born with enthusiasm and prayerful expectation of the good things of GOD. Thanks for sharing

  2. It is interesting to see how groups change over time. I've been thinking about this theme in two areas of my life. I may have to take that leap of faith and ask the hard questions. Thank you, Melinda. As always, insightful and on point.