During this week’s research, my “pay attention moment” from the Spirit came while I was reading an interesting article on 6 Ways to Turn Your Church Inside-Out. Pay attention moments are those times when your brain halts your current activity (like reading), and says you need to pay attention to what just happened. In this case it was a sentence I had just read. Here is the sentence:
“We must be careful not to make the success of the past our only roadmap for the future.”
It is such a simple sentence and yet it is packed with wisdom. Over the last 25 years I have worked with many churches seeking to develop a multi-year strategic plan. Often as church leaders collect data and feedback on the current state of their church, they will come to the conclusion that since all is going well today, let’s just continue to do more of the same. It is at this point that I encourage the leaders to consider two key factors.
The first factor is described by Jim Collins in his work: Good to Great and the Social Sectors (2005). He states, “No matter how much you have achieved, you will always be merely good relative to what you can become. Greatness is an inherently dynamic process, not an end point. The moment you think of yourself as great, your slide toward mediocrity will have already begun.” His bold assessment in his book Good to Great (2001) is the title of his first chapter, Good Is The Enemy Of Great. Jim promotes a two-step process for planning for the future of your church. As church leaders, we should seek a path to the future that Preserves our Core Values and Core Purpose while seeking to Change our operating practices, goals and strategies that can best respond to changes emerging in the future.
The second factor is the most obvious. It is stated well in the article above, “Many churches are preparing for a future that may never come.” I think we can agree that our world is changing at an exponential pace. Just this week I was listening to a discussion that highlighted the impact of social media on our lives. As fast as we seek to understand the emerging technology/services and how to incorporate them into our faith communities, a new technology or service emerges and becomes the “must have” technology. This is just one example among the many social, educational, and world issues that are changing rapidly as church leaders seek a path to the future for their church mission and ministry.
Here are some brief thoughts on how to respond to this reality:
- Embrace a Changing World – Rather than fear, make curiosity your mantra. Read extensively and engage others in exploring how our churches and our ministry can flourish amidst constantly changing environments.
- Be intentional – As church leaders, we must establish regular practices that evaluate our current ministry outcomes and be willing to make changes in our ministry that reflect both the future that seems to be emerging and a future that we believe God is calling us to. Annual and strategic planning are critical leadership activities in response to a changing world.
- Seek Partnerships – Our chances of impacting our world increase significantly if we identify and link up with local, regional, national and global partners. Not only will this increase our awareness of the world we seek to serve, but it will offer our members many opportunities to use their gifts in service to others.
- Build Relationships – As noted in previous postings, our churches have moved through key phases over time. We have moved from Attractional (build and they will come to us), and Missional (we must serve those outside of our church), to the newest sense that we need to be Relational (make connections with those outside of our immediate church community). As noted in the article above, find “ways you can air out your ministry.” Be visible beyond your walls, fulfilling your church roles in places where the people are. Here is a great resource to spark your imagination in this effort (50 Ways to Take Church to the Community).
I hope as church leaders, you are experiencing “pay attention moments” that are informing and guiding your decisions and actions. Please share your Spirit wisdom with us as The Center for Parish Leadership seeks to support you in your church leadership roles. Many blessings on your work in the coming week.