September 2017 – Honor, Disrupt, Align – The Actions of a Transformational leader

September 6, 2017 | | GNJ News, Bishop's Relay Column

Honor, Disrupt, Align – The actions of a transformational leader

Have you ever watched a college band play at half-time during a football game? To play in the band, you have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. In a band you have to play a musical instrument and march in synchronized order. It looks natural, and the best bands make it look easy, but it takes vision, coordination, practice and a willingness to work together. Think about it, the band member is playing their instrument in harmony with a lot of other instruments. The instruments are in tune with each other. The band members march in different directions to create a visual picture or spell out a word. It takes alignment.

This is the third and final part of a three-part series on how effective transformational leaders honor, disrupt and align goals, ministry and people.

Previously I talked about honoring and disruption. Honoring is essential during change, otherwise people experience the change as being critical and even condemning of past ministry or even more damaging to the people who led the ministry in the past. Honoring people and past traditions is critical to future progress.

Churches and organizations do not make important progress without some disruption. Disruption is caused when leaders make changes to move the mission forward. Generally, people must change or even stop doing something that may be a long-standing tradition because it is not making new disciples of Jesus Christ and engaging disciples in mission.

Alignment is bringing all the pieces together so that they work in harmony. A band whose members do “their own thing” is not a band you want to listen to.   If the tuba players play a different song than the rest of the band or the trumpeters turn left when the rest of the band turns right, you have a band nobody wants to see perform. In the church, we fail to see how important it is for worship, small groups, spending, staff time, and organizations to support one common mission and work toward accomplishing the same four or five goals. Groups say, “we are different” or “we have different priorities” or “our mandate is to…”.   Churches with groups who think and act this way are like trumpeters marching in the wrong direction, and tuba players playing ‘How Great Thou Art’ when everyone else is playing ‘Amazing Grace.’ It is confusing for the church members and even more confusing for visitors. Alignment recognizes different expressions of achieving the same mission and goals.

Alignment is helpful to the congregation, particularly visitors. When leaders and congregational organizations are all using similar language about the direction, mission, priorities, ministries and goals of the congregation, the worshipers and visitors have an easier time understanding what is important to the congregation, its direction and how to engage in its ministries.

Alignment isn’t easy and requires resonance. In other words, people do not align because someone told them to, but because most of the congregation resonates with the mission, ministries and goals. It is easy to align a machine so that all the parts work together, but people are not machines. Resonance is brought about by building relationships and developing shared vision and goals. We do not achieve resonance by telling people what to do but by inviting them into a process to create the mission and goals and encouraging them to develop ministries and activities that achieve the mission and goals. It is one thing for everyone to talk in similar ways about the mission, but to inspire people to carry out the mission and ministries enthusiastically requires alignment to mission and goals that resonate with most the people.

To achieve this type of alignment requires clarity of purpose and identity that connects with the congregation and community. People will not get on board because it is a good idea, but because the purpose and identity connects with them.  They believe and feel this is God’s calling for the church and for them.

Here are ways to align people, the mission, and goals of the church.

  1. Have a clear, concise mission phrase. Here are a couple of examples:
    1. Knowing Jesus and making Jesus known
    2. Connecting with Jesus by connecting with people in need
    3. To be known by our love for God and our love for others
    4. To make a difference in people’s lives and the community by sharing God’s grace
  2. Have a scripture passage that identifies who you want people to be
    1. We are a Good Samaritan church
    2. We are a Matthew 25 church and serve Christ by serving others
    3. We are a Philippians 2 church; we imitate Christ

The key here is to choose a passage of action that is embedded in your belief rather than a passage that is only about a belief. The passage is to organize people around the mission and action of the church.

  1. Set a few clear goals. Here are some examples of clear, crisp goals:
  2. We will become a hospitality church by creating…
  3. We will increase the number of visitors by…
  4. We will train ___ new small group leaders to lead ____ people in small groups

The key is clear action oriented goals that are measurable.

Once you achieve this type of clarity, communicate and invite people to participate in helping to achieve the mission, purpose and goals of the church. For instance, a sermon may lift up a person who is living the mission by telling a story about her or him. In your morning worship, pray for one of your goals and ask God to help the congregation achieve the goal. Write a newsletter article about why you have the mission you do and in meetings or when groups gather, spend time in conversation about how the congregation is achieving its goals and mission. There are many other creative ideas about how to continue to lift up your mission and goals and invite people to participate in them. This is what Jesus did. He came with a mission of helping the Kingdom of God become real and known in people’s lives. He taught about it, demonstrated the Kingdom of God in his actions and even did miracles to demonstrate God was present and active.

Today every congregation needs lay and clergy leaders who honor, disrupt and align. The churches that are vital, making new disciples and serving the community with life-changing mission are honoring, disrupting and aligning. I encourage each of you to honor more deeply, disrupt even more, and align by developing clarity about your purpose, mission and goals and communicate them all the time.

I am grateful for each of you who lead a church, a particular ministry or an administrative team. You are important to the movement of God through your congregation.


Keep the faith!


John Schol, Bishop


The United Methodist Church

Greater New Jersey