is it time to learn to pivot

Yesterday, Tim asked, “How do we get to the place where we walk by faith and not by sight?”

Allow me to offer a suggestion: deep spiritual change necessitates we learn to pivot.

Yes, pivot.

You thought I was going to say pray, worship, or be in a small group, didn’t you? All of these are necessary components of a grace-filled Christ follower’s life. If change is on the horizon (hint, hint: it is!) embracing the spiritual practices are not only necessary, they are essential to our daily and weekly rhythms.

What is Walking By Faith?

Allow me first to say what walking by faith is not: It is not sitting back and “praying” for God to move a mountain. By all means, pray! Pray consistently and constantly. When we pray for God to send us the people no one else wants and don’t seek to welcome the people God sends us, we are committing spiritual malpractice. When we pray we are invited into the movement of God. Often we don’t walk by faith because we don’t know where we are supposed to be going.

It seems to me, whether you find yourself swinging back and forth on a swing set or going round and round on a carousel, your first task is to recognize one simple fact: you are going nowhere.

How’s that for a statement of the obvious?

Next, admit it’s time to stop going nowhere.

Third, get moving!

But, that still begs the question, “Where are we going?” Before we can embrace deep change, we have to know where we are heading.

Central to missional leadership is clarity. Leaders must know, claim, and communicate the purpose of the organization. If our purpose is “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” (and it is) and we have not had any professions of faith or baptisms, it may be time to pivot.

In his book, The Lean Startup, Eric Ries introduces the challenge all entrepreneurs eventually face. He asks, “Are we making sufficient progress to believe that our original strategic hypothesis is correct, or do we need to make a major change? That change is called a pivot: a structured course correction designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis.”¹

Walking by faith is not walking without direction or purpose. Walking by faith is clarity of purpose and assurance of God’s guiding direction. If we have not been making disciples, I submit it’s time to learn to pivot. Maybe it is time to stop and ask the question, “What are we doing and why are we doing it?”

Know Your Why 

It has already been noted, the ability to walk by faith and not by sight necessitates deep change. Deep change will be possible when leaders have 1) missional clarity 2) actionable, accessible, and auditable metrics, and 3) relationships with grace-filled Christ followers who covenant with us to be accountable.

So, why does your congregation exist? If you are uncertain, a great place to begin is with Matthew 28:16-20. Or, if you are United Methodist begin with the mission of the denomination, “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

The next question is to ask, “How will we know we are fulfilling our mission?” We’ll explore that in the next post. For now here are a few thoughts on types of pivots that may be needed in your context to lead people toward deep change and walking by faith.

Examples of Types of Pivots

Zoom-in Pivot²

What you thought was one feature of a program or ministry, becomes the whole ministry. You designed a special ministry night for “Parents of Teens.” Only you’ve realized “Parents of Teens” are a growing, ongoing, robust, ministry need in your community. Pivot and embrace the new focus of a ministry that is changing lives and helping parents raise young heroes for Christ.

Zoom-Out Pivot³

Conversely, sometimes you think you have identified a new ministry only to realize it lacks the depth and breadth to be supported. You zoom out and pivot, making the ministry a part of another ministry or a one time experience.

Customer Segment Pivot

Ries notes, “the company realized that the product it is building solves a real problem for real customers but that they are not the type of customers it originally planned to serve. The customer has changed.”4 Think about this in the context of the local church. The community around you has changed and the ministry in the local church has not. It’s time to pivot.

Value Capture Pivot5

Ries was referring to the value, or cost, of a product when he used the term “value capture pivot”. In terms of ministry, reflect on this pivot in terms of prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. Are people willing to invest time and money in what the church is offering?  If not, it may be time to pivot.

Channel Pivot6

How are you delivering, and engaging, people in ministry? Is the pastor the only leadership voice, the only person offering care to the congregation? Has the congregation grown (or declined) in such a way that how ministry decisions are made and leadership is identified much change? It may be time to pivot.

Technology Pivot

“Occasionally, a company discovers a way to achieve the same solution by using a completely different technology.”7 Think for a minute about delivering cassette tapes to homebound members. Today, we have live video streaming and podcasts. Yes, if you’re still delivering cassette tapes, do we need to say it? It’s time to pivot.

Here are three final reminders:

  • The ability to pivot does not replace strategic thinking. You still need to know where you are going and how to get there. Identifying a needed pivot will require you to ask more questions, not fewer; to strategize, and to assess. More in the next post on this.
  • Second, “a pivot is a permanent fact of life for any growing business.”8 In other words, the ability to recreate and redirect ministry for a changing culture and context is essential to vitality.
  • Third, “a pivot is a special kind of structured change designed to test a new hypothesis.”9

How will you know if it is time to pivot? Great question. We’ll explore that in the next post. If you’ve identified why the church exists and found yourself among the illustrations of possible pivots, you’re in good company.

Get ready to pivot. It will be an opportunity to walk by faith and not by sight.

For now, perhaps you’ll want to go back and review these articles:

Leadership Challenges for the Missional Church – Programs

Leadership Challenges for the Missional Church – Assessing Transformation

Leadership Challenges for the Missional Church – Releasing People for Incarnational Ministry

 

Notes

  1. Eric Ries, The Lean Startup, 148
  2. Ibid, 173.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid,
  5. Ibid, 175.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid., 176.
  8. Ibid., 177.
  9. Ibid., 178.
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