As a ministry leader today there are certain things you can count on.
- The passage of time from one Sunday to another moves at the speed of light.
- Any phone call after 9:00 p.m. is NEVER good news.
- You’re supposed to have the answer to everything: from eschatological timelines to why there’s no toilet paper in the women’s bathroom.
One other thing you can count on as a ministry leaders is that at some point you will lead through a time of crisis. In fact, if you’re not in the midst of such a crisis right now- don’t worry it’s on its way. And when it inevitably arrives you will be faced with messy, difficult, and emotionally charged decisions that can have lasting consequences on ministry in the congregation and the community. So if crisis is something we can count on, what strategies can we also count on to lead our congregations forward?
Try these on for size:
- Embrace the crisis as an opportunity. The annals of history testify to the reality that the greatest gains in social, economic, political and even spiritual life came in the midst of crisis. Whether it was Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in the trenches of the civil war, FDR’s New Deal on the heels of the Great Depression, or Christ’s triumphant resurrection after Calvary: what looks like a crisis may be disguised as an opportunity to make lasting positive change. John F. Kennedy said it best when he remarked, “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” As you stand on the battlefield between the pew, the pulpit and the pavement, what opportunity is this crisis giving you to move God’s mission forward? How has this crisis open up possibilities that did not exist before? In the midst of this crisis what new leadership has emerged?
- Be the grown up in the room. During crisis situations the most well-meaning and mature people can be overcome by emotions. It’s really just human nature! We are creatures of habit and when routines and expectations are disrupted we have great difficulty in adjusting to new realities. When that crisis also affects the church, people are especially challenged because we are comforted by a static relic of religion rather than a living, breathing body of Christ. During these times, the ministry leader must maintain a position as the grown-up in the room: comforting those who are having difficulty adjusting and providing a non-anxious presence as people process the repercussions and the opportunity of the crisis. This is very hard work as we must regulate our own emotional reactions and moderate our opinions in service to God’s greater mission and vision.
- Focus on what’s next. There’s a critical juncture in every crisis where leaders must ask themselves: will this be an opportunity to move in a different direction or will we go back? Most of us would like to say that we would undoubtedly move forward but too often we lose the momentum a crisis creates by getting stuck in the quicksand of the past. And yet, crises often present themselves because something in the past was not working. In the challenge of leading through crisis we have to constantly redirect ourselves and our congregations to focus on what’s next and not what used to be. For the God that we worship is a God of what’s next! This creative, innovative and world changing Jesus is always, always, always calling us to new ways of thinking, ministering, leading and connecting with God’s people. Ask yourself: In meetings and visioning conversations, what questions are you asking to move people to what’s next? Does your congregation’s ministry action plan reflect “what’s next” in the community? Are you not only asking what’s next but who is next to lead ministry today?
As you navigate the mountain tops and valleys of crisis, trust that I am making the journey too. Together, may we embrace this season of change as an opportunity to further transform ourselves, our congregations and communities into those that reflect the love, grace and forgiveness of Jesus.
We’re in this (insert crisis here) together,