Challenging Trails

Yesterday I set out on a hike, intending to take on the more challenging trails through the steep hills surrounding our neighborhood.

While I knew from experience this particular trail I chose would be a workout, it also offered the potential to be of great benefit physically, emotionally and spiritually as I burned calories, admired the wonders of nature and intimately talked with its Creator.

What I hadn’t really taken into consideration on my hike this time, was the impact of the time of day, heat index and my lack of provisions.  I was too stubborn to turn back early.  By the time I did give in and shut down the excursion, I was overheated, dehydrated, had a crushing headache and was on the verge of throwing up and passing out.

Stupid, I know.  But none of my previous adventures had required planning or provisions, so this time I also casually and comfortably hit the trail assuming all would be well.

So often as church leaders, we approach change–particularly in the implementation of a new ministry direction or development of a new program for our church–in a similar way, often lacking a thoughtful consideration of timing, climate and preparation of our staff and congregation.

We tend to be comfortable in our skill of managing and developing new opportunities within our churches and are confident that we can make whatever appears to be a good idea, work.  So when we are exposed to a new ministry approach at a conference, or see a new strategy working within a church in an online magazine or at a booming congregation down the street, if it seems like it might be a fresh and beneficial way to further our ministry, then, hey, we just move forward and do it.

Maybe it’s more important than we realize–to pause and take stock BEFORE adopting a new idea or starting a new program, to make sure it’s the right move at THIS time, for THIS congregation, in THIS way, where YOU have been entrusted to lead.

Here are just a few questions you might consider in your evaluation process before setting out on that seemingly routine journey, only to discover the path may have hazards you hadn’t anticipated.

1.  Is the origin of this “new idea” borne from a prompting of the Holy Spirit and a significant season of prayer within your leadership and staff?

  • Take time to identify your motives so that you are not initiating change from a place of expectation, imitation, envy, pride, desperation or people-pleasing.

2.  Will this “new idea” or “new program” serve and strategically further the stated mission of your church?

  • Make sure the new venture is valuable enough to your purpose to warrant the significant people and material resources it will require to do well.
  • Identify if this opportunity will just be another “good thing” to offer amongst many good things you already offer, or will it provide a unique opportunity for your people to embrace and learn to follow Jesus in ways He has directed, and you are lacking.

3.  Are there pastors, staff, or lay leaders EAGER to take on the key leadership roles for this new venture and invest themselves in it–or will the responsibility for this venture just get added to someone’s already full plate?

  • Overburdened, under-motivated leaders will not create the momentum needed to lead change effectively.
  • Currently at Slingshot Group, we talk with so many pastors across the nation who are considering leaving their ministry roles.  They are carrying so much responsibility, over so many programs, they lose heart, feeling they are stretched so thin they can’t do anything well.  Be careful not to burn through your staff.

4.  Is your Lead Pastor fully committed to publicly and privately champion the new changes, and have the backs of the implementors of that change?

  • It is crucial that the Lead Pastor LEADS both the staff and congregation through changes.  Ongoing vocal endorsement of the value of the new ministry direction or new program is a huge factor in how effectively the new change will take root and grow.
  • Consider highlighting relevant stories of life-change in a high-profile way (from the platform, in video, via website, emails and print) that will show the FRUIT of the changes you are making.

Even when challenging, change can be of great value when it is:  motivated by the Holy Spirit, thoughtfully considered, purposefully prepared for and resourced, and wisely led and supported.

What challenging trail is in front of you today?

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