· Ministry to Men, Leadership Development

Attack the gap!

By Jim Boesch

“The gap between knowing and doing is often much greater than the gap between ignorance and knowing.”

This quote by Ken Blanchard speaks loudly to the fact that while a lot of good, relevant training events occur, much of it is never applied. The training is not producing the results it is designed to achieve.

Too often, the learner invests time, resources and energy into the venture, but he comes away no more equipped to produce the anticipated change in his behavior than when he started.

In order to ensure training is effective, we need to do more than have participants fill out evaluation forms on their way out of the door.

We also need to provide post-training experiences to help learners transfer new skills and knowledge to their ministry roles. Additional sessions should help overcome the inevitable obstacles that will surface as men attempt to apply their training in their families, at work and in their churches.

When we seek to help men move from knowing to doing, we must be aware that to learn something new a man will always go through four levels of change:

1.Knowledge change begins with instruction. Learners must be provided with more information on a specific topic, subject or task. If this doesn’t occur, the rest of the change attempts will be built on a faulty foundation. As the old adage goes, “You can’t do what you don’t know,” and “You can’t sell what you haven’t bought.”

2.A learner must have the proper attitude. Does he regard the training as relevant and worthy of his time and energy. Attitude is tougher to change than knowledge but easier to change than behavior.

3.Behavior must change if anything lasting is going to happen. A change in behavior can lead to transformation in life. If it doesn’t have a lasting effect, then the learner will soon fall back to his original patterns and the event will create just a short-lived behavior modification with no lasting change.

Note: The first three levels of change must occur within the heart and soul of the learner in order for the fourth level of change to have any possibility of success.

4.A change in behavior is embraced by a community. The change becomes system-wide when all of the members of the organization accept and support the desired change by having gone through the first three levels successfully.

But why is change so hard? The answers are considered below in the discussion of principals of the “Seven “Dynamics of Change” with strategies to mitigate some of the resistance:

1.Men will feel awkward; ill at ease and self-conscious. Most people would rather things stay as they are with a minimal of change in their lives.

Strategy: Help people know what to expect. Provide an accurate picture of what the future will look like when this change occurs. You can also provide advance promotion about proposed changes.

1.Men will feel alone even if everyone else is going through the same change. Many people internalize change as to how it affects them, even when others are right there with them, suffering alongside. Also, men have a tendency to separate from others when under duress or struggle so they can fight their battles alone and in control.

Strategy: Structure activities that create involvement utilizing the change process among as many of the people being affected as possible. People are very resourceful and can often help each other come up with varied and successful solutions to anticipated issues accompanying changes.

2.Men will think first about what they have to give up. Even change that men may deem to possibly be good for them at the beginning may soon fall prey to the negative thoughts of having to also give up something they are used to doing in order to accommodate the new behavior.

Strategy: Pray and ask God to help identifying what needs to be “given up.” Help men be more willing to give up some of the control they have over their lives by helping them get in community with others. Encourage them to “give it up for God and a cause greater than themselves.”

3.Men can only handle so much change. Men handle the newness and often difficult nature of personal change in varying degrees. Some men seem to thrive on large doses of change while other men can get almost paralyzed by even the smallest disruption in their everyday schedules of life.

Strategy: Set priorities, and go for the long run. Help men see the prioritization schedule of the various steps of change they will need to manage. In most cases, the entire change process does not have to be taken in one fell swoop. Be considerate of the actual needs of the men along with the timelines that need to be followed to accomplish the change effectively. Be willing to have discussions with the men with regard to how you see this strategy playing out. Their buy-in is critical to the success of this strategy.

5.Men will be concerned that they don’t have sufficient resources (time, money, skills, etc.). Some men will have a legitimate cause for concern in this area as some of their prior change management experiences will have been poorly handled in that the resources were not adequate to produce the new behavior as it was presented to them.

Strategy: Get creative about how you can involve the men as much as possible in the change strategy planning with regard to how, when, where and how much of the required resources are going to be allocated.

6.Men are at different levels of readiness for change. Some men, by nature and personality, will just be able and willing to handle change more rapidly and completely than others. Don’t fight it or try to change the dynamics of the man; try to be considerate of the needs of the men as you are designing and scheduling the change-management schedule.

Strategy: Identify those areas where change is easy and then look for areas where there’s more resistance to change. Let men work through the easiest changes first, and coach them through the rough spots as they occur. Get peer support for them by working in teams.

7.Remember, if the pressure to change is taken off, men will revert back to old behaviors. If allowed, human nature takes us back to that with which we are comfortable until the new behavior has had time and practice to create permanent change.

Strategy: Find ways to keep the “pressure on.” Continue to promote the benefits of the new behavior to the men and make sure they continue to be exposed to the coaching leadership style of training in which the men are fully supported in their efforts to change by observation and feedback on a consistent schedule.


Jim Boesch, deployed staff member

General Commission on United Methodist Men


Jim is a master trainer in facilitating workshops for “Lead Like Jesus,” servant leadership training; “Understanding Men's Ministry,” discipling leadership training; and “Equipping Equippers” learning-facilitation training. You may host any of these workshops in your area by calling him (407-721-0416) or by e-mail.


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