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Power is part of every area of our lives. Whether it is romantic relationships, family interactions, work dynamics, or church connections, most of us spend our lives attempting to acquire and leverage power. 

We seek positions of authority in order to influence people, control resources, and direct information. We pursue decision-making positions to have some control over issues that affect our everyday living. There are experts who say that we all need power to live into our full potential.   

Power Comes with Responsibility

Effective leaders know and understand that with power comes responsibility. During these recent months of disruption and uncertainty, you continue to take on more responsibility than ever before. You are leading without the help of a roadmap. Your decisions are not only affecting the mission of the church but are impacting the safety and well-being of the people around you.  

On good days you understand the weight of this responsibility. But, there are days you want to use your power to put people in their place, or at least help them see the error of their ways.  So, as a leader, how do you use your power to assist people to live into their full potential? How do you empower them to become who God created them to be?

What is Power?

Some people would say that “power is your ability to control the activities of other individuals.” Although there is some truth in that statement, I believe Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. got closer to a healthy understanding of power when he said, “Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose.”

Some people would say that good leadership is “the ability to inspire people to follow your instructions without exercising any form of force.” Again, there is some truth in that statement, but I believe Brené Brown gets closer to defining a good leader when she says,

“A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and ideas, and has the courage to develop that potential.”

-Brené Brown

However you might say it, you and I, as followers of Jesus, have the responsibility to use our power, authority, and influence to assist the people around us to live into their God-given potential. It is by sharing your power and influence that helps you become more who God created you to be. So, how are you using your power to lead? How are you developing the potential of family members, colleagues, and friends?

To answer these questions, there are a couple of things to remember:

You Have a Purpose & Power

You have been given a purpose and the power to live into that purpose.  

  •  In The Acts of the Apostles, in response to a question about power, Jesus says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you to be my witnesses… (1:8).
  •  As a Jesus follower, your purpose is to be who God created you to be, a witness to God’s love.
  • You live out your purpose in a relationship with the people entrusted to your care. You extend the love you have received with family and friends, colleagues and neighbors, those who need special care, to strangers and, yes, even to enemies.  
  • You are given power to live into your purpose and to assist others in living into their purpose. Even when you think you are not equipped to love as you have been loved, you have been given power to do so.
  • How are you using your power to develop God’s love in the people around you? 

Different Types of Power

There are different types of power in leadership. Keeping in mind your purpose, to witness to God’s love, there is:

Power over

This power can be seen in parenting or in the classroom, as well as in the workplace and in the church. There is a place for the parent or teacher to have authority. This power is used effectively when exercised in relationships grounded in love (trust and compassion). 

But when this power is seen in the workplace or in the church, it is usually because the person of authority feels threatened or is afraid of losing power. It is difficult to develop healthy relationships of trust when you feel you must control every situation, decision, or person you encounter.

When you focus on having and keeping power, you seek to protect it. You leverage fear and intimidation to keep it. There is little trust and lots of manipulation. Vulnerability and empathy are seen as weaknesses, disagreements are seen as negative, and being nice becomes the major mode of operation. At this point, you have lost sight of your purpose of loving as you have been loved.

To use this power might help you succeed in the short-term, but over the long run you become a detriment to your purpose and you lose any positive influence you could have with the people around you. You might feel you are courageous to face the resistance you receive, but there is little or no courageous leadership when you lead by exercising power over people.

Power With and Power To

This power can be seen in the workplace and in the church, as well as at home and at school. In each context, those in authority know that power is not theirs to keep, so they seek to share it with the people around them. 

Whether at work, in the church, as a parent, or a teacher, you come alongside others as a mentor and you learn and grow together. You model the characteristics of vulnerability and empathy. When fear and uncertainty are present, you lead with transparency and grace. You leverage love and connection as ways of bringing people together to accomplish your purpose.

When you focus upon others, whether it be your children, colleagues, or friends, you create a climate for discovering, learning, and developing. You focus upon the needs, desires, and values of the people entrusted to you. You love them as you have been loved. You seek to serve rather than be served. You empower people to live into their strengths and talents and you benefit from their exercise of power. You love people because the development of people is your purpose. 

To use this power helps you become a person of positive influence. Bob Goff says it this way, “God doesn’t give us influence so we can lead people better. He gives it so we can love people more.” Courageous leadership is rooted in your love and care for people as you share power with them and love them. 

Power Within

This power is about developing your own sense of agency, as well as instilling within others their sense of agency. In the words of Martin Luther King, “I can achieve purpose and effect change.” 

When you lead from within, you genuinely love people. Your care and concern are not about dominating them but loving them. You depend on empathy, rather than showing your strength. You choose respect over friendship and want truth and transparency. You work for the good of the people entrusted to you. 

Your power to influence comes from within. As you learn that the power is not about you, you begin to understand that your character is important. You learn that it is not only what you say, but how you say it that makes the difference. As you lead from within, you discover that courageous leadership is clear and direct in communication. Because you are centered upon the love of God deep within, you become more credible, competent, and persuasive as a leader. 

To use this power helps you empower others to live into their potential. So, you become more the leader you were created to be by “recognizing the potential in people and ideas,” and sharing your power, as you come alongside them to love them.  

Your Next Step 

So, how are you using your power to lead? How are you developing the potential of family members, colleagues, and friends? As you assess your leadership, what do you need to change? In what areas do you need to grow?    

To become the leader God has created you to be:

  • Think of two people who have been influential in you living into your potential. What did they do to assist you? Now, give God thanks for them and for their love and care for you.
  • Think of two or three persons who have been given to you to lead. How are you assisting them in developing their potential? What help do you need to assist them? Now, give God thanks for them. Ask God for the power to love them as God has loved you.
  • What step will you take to become the leader God has created you to be? You have been given the power and you have the courage, what step will you take?

Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community. 

Remember, you have received power to be the leader needed at this time. Love as you have been loved.

Have you ever had one of those days when you just felt “out of sorts”? Although nothing catastrophic happened, there were a few insignificant events that ruined the day? As a result, you weren’t in the best of moods. The bumps along the way felt worse than they really were, and by the end of the day, you were exhausted and frustrated. 

I had one of those days recently. When I recognized what was going on, I decided I didn’t want to spend the rest of the day feeling crummy or as I say, “grousing around”. It wasn’t fair to my family, to the people around me, or to me. The last thing I wanted was to feel badly because I was a jerk. So, I took a few minutes for myself and focused on the things that had gone well and on the people with whom I had interacted. As I named each one, I gave God thanks for the opportunity to make a difference and for the people who enrich my life. 

Gratitude Can Transform Us

I know it might sound strange, but I have learned that gratitude has the power to transform. It is one of the most effective ways to become not only a better leader but also a better person. Gratitude is such a powerful behavior, it can and will enhance your leadership. Almost always, people respond positively to an expression of gratitude. 

What we know is this: A grateful leader is: 

Respected

Gratitude takes people seriously. When you express your gratitude to someone for his/her work, you are showing them respect and appreciation.  When people know you respect them, and take them seriously, you not only gain their respect, but you plant within them the desire to be grateful as well. 

Trusted

Gratitude is an expression of authentic care and compassion.  It cannot be faked. Think for a minute about a time you heard words like, “Thank you for visiting my mother,” or “Thank you for your sermon,” or “Thank you for your leadership with the committee.” How did you feel when you heard those words? Words of gratitude create a feeling of trust. Now, imagine how the people you lead feel when you express your gratitude to and for them. Expressing your appreciation and gratitude creates the trust followers need from their leader.   

Appreciated

Gratitude is always received positively.  Every person you know needs and wants encouragement and affirmation. So, when you say, “Thanks, that was awesome!” you are meeting a deep need. Grateful people are seldom angry people. When you express gratitude to and for someone, you not only gain their appreciation but create a positive culture of gratitude. 

Exercising Gratitude

Again, I know it sounds strange, maybe even too good to be true. But being a grateful leader is not easy. It requires a change of heart and persistent attention. So, how do you exercise gratitude?

Gratitude has an object.

To be truly grateful, your gratitude is focused upon a person or an event. Biblical writers are clear about the object of this gratitude:

o   “Oh, give thanks to the Lord” (Psalm 105:1)

o   “Thanks be to God” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

You can’t express gratitude in a vacuum. Gratitude, by its very nature, has an objective.

Gratitude is genuine. 

You can’t fake thankfulness. You may be able to pretend you are grateful for a while, but unless you are deeply and truly thankful, it’s not going to work. The good news is, by intentionally exercising gratitude on a daily basis, you can build up your gratitude muscle, and cultivate genuine gratitude.

Gratitude is expressed frequently.

Thanksgiving is more than one day a year.  A family gathering, with turkey, once a year is okay. But what is needed is a daily reminder to be thankful or a daily pattern of gratitude. To build your gratitude muscle, you will have to express it not annually, not monthly, not even weekly. Gratitude is a daily effort. When you think about it, there are a lot of things for which to be grateful, but the one thing to remember is: Gratitude is expressed frequently.

Gratitude is specific. 

Gratitude is not generic. As previously mentioned, gratitude has an objective, but it also has an immediate cause. Try these words of gratitude: “I’m really thankful for the way you handled that tense situation in the board meeting. You spoke softly, in a controlled way, but you also showed them why we need to move forward. Thanks for doing that.” Or “Thank you for that email last night. I know you stayed up to write it, and it was exactly the information needed for the meeting. Thank you for your hard work, and the detailed information.” You get the point. Be specific. 

If I could give one quality gift to each of my family members and to all you, my friends and colleagues, it would be the gift of gratitude. If I could have God do anything for you, I would ask God to make you grateful. Gratitude is the central virtue of the Christian faith. Over my 45+ years of ministry, I have never known a person who was grateful who was at the same time bitter, hurtful, or vengeful. 

Strengthen Your Gratitude Muscle

During the month of November and into the month of December, Sara Thomas and I are inviting you to strengthen your gratitude muscle by participating in two things: 

Daily 8:46 Prayers

Every evening at 8:46, Sara will post a prayer of gratitude for the evening on the Transforming Mission Facebook page and Instagam account. These prayers are short sentence prayers designed to assist you in developing a pattern of gratitude. 

Giving Thanks Podcast Mini-Series

Every Thursday, from November 5 – December 10,  Sara and I will provide a podcast focused upon gratitude for the week. Each podcast is designed to give thanks for the way God has gifted you to lead through these days of uncertainty and chaos. This is one way we want to thank you for your leadership.

Thank You

Every list of the characteristics of leaders different. Gratitude doesn’t make many of those lists. I think it is time to change that. I challenge you to put a little gratitude into your leadership. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Sara Thomas and I are grateful for you and your leadership. In gratitude for you, we are making ourselves available to assist you in your work of leading, serving, and caring. When Sara or I can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. Sara and I are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community.

When you think about leadership, what comes to mind? Trust? Compassion? Stability? Hope? Honestly, when I think of leadership, I think of you.

Over the past several months, you have discovered new ways of leading. Through the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, you have led people through protocols, live streaming, and Zoom meetings. You have learned to depend more and more upon the strengths and gifts of the people entrusted to your care. Whether you have liked it or not, you have done your best to respond with grace and compassion. 

Through the causes of the racial pandemic, you have learned more about the situations and circumstances of racist ideas and policies. You have discovered how these ideas and policies are intertwined with the systems and actions of everyday living. As painful as it is to confront the truth of racism, you have found your voice. You now yearn to speak up in the places you have been silent.   

Even in the midst of a political climate that is divisive, you have listened to opposing ideas, helped to keep people informed, and assisted in bringing people together. As time-consuming as it has been, you have worked to put your prayers into action, bringing hope and stability in the midst of complex and passionate conversations. You are to be commended. Thanks! 

The Most Important Characteristic of Leaders

As a leader, you have been a compassionate presence of stability as you have developed trust and offered hope. Trust, compassion, stability, and hope are the characteristics people look for in their leaders. 

These characteristics are, without a doubt, fundamental to good leadership. But there is one characteristic that is sometimes missing. I believe that the most important characteristic of leadership, especially in the times we are now living, is love. 

Yes, love. 

Love in Leadership

Now, I’m not talking about warm and fuzzy feelings centered on romance or friendship. Both romance and friendship are extremely important, but the kind of love I’m referring to is not centered on feelings. 

It is centered in action. It takes others seriously. It makes a place for relationships with people with whom we disagree. It is vulnerable and empathetic.  It listens without agendas and it works for the good of others even in the midst of misunderstanding. It provides a caring and safe place for people to become who God has created them to be. 

Love in Scripture

Paul described this love in his letter to the Corinthians: 

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now, we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

-1 Corinthians 13 

Who is the Focus of Love?

These words are rooted in God’s action on our behalf.  The problem is, we have made love more about ourselves than about God’s action and more about our preferences than the people given to us to love. 

We have limited the use of love by making it more about sentimentality, pushing it in the direction of weddings, babies, family, and friends. Each is important, but this is not the love referred to by Paul.  When he wrote those words, he wasn’t at a wedding. Although his advice would be good for a couple of young lovers, he was not writing a romantic road map. He was upset. 

Paul’s Reminder on Love

He wrote those words in a letter to the Christians in a little Greek seaport in the middle of the first century. He had started the congregation there around the teachings of Jesus, and now he was hearing stories of bickering, broken relationships, and bad behavior. The members of the church had forgotten the values that he had brought to them. 

They were fighting, splitting into factions according to who baptized them. They were suing each other. Sleeping with each other’s spouses. Some of them were demanding special treatment regarding Holy Communion, while others were just getting drunk at fellowship dinners. Paul wrote this letter and sent it into the midst of their dysfunction. He wrote emphasizing the characteristics and actions of love. 

Echoes of Paul’s Frustrations

When you listen closely, you hear some of the same sounds in our world today. The sounds are coming from political leaders, as well as some people in our congregations. Sometimes it even sounds like the conversations around the Thanksgiving dinner table. The very situation that moved Paul to write to the church in Corinth sounds a lot like many of the situations and circumstances in which you have been leading. 

Paul wrote because the Christians in Corinth had forgotten that at the center of being a follower of Jesus is love. Paul offered them the only way he knew to redeem the mess they had gotten into. They had stopped loving one another, so he wrote about leading with love. 

To Lead with Love is to…

1. Know the love Paul is describing. 

Most languages have several words that capture the different dimensions of love. In the language of the New Testament, there are three frequently used words to describe love: Eros, philia, and agape. Eros is romantic or sexual love. Our English word erotic comes from Eros. This was not the word used by Paul in his letter. Philia is fraternal, brotherly, or family love. The city of Philadelphia is called the City of Brotherly Love. As good as it is, this is not the word used by Paul in his letter. Finally, there is agape, which is love for others beyond ourselves. It is a sacrificial love that seeks the good and well-being of others, whether family, friend, stranger or enemy. This is the word used by Paul. 

2. Live with a firm commitment to act for the well-being of others.

It can be personal or political, individual or communal, intimate, or public. But it will never be segregated or shaped by personal preference. Because agape is rooted in God’s dream for each of us and for all creation, it is experienced and expressed in acts of care and compassion. Because its source is Jesus, it is the love that holds us together in the midst of disagreements, conflicts, and turmoil as well as the love that transforms us into the people God has created us to be.   

3. Model a life of humility.

You are patient and kind; not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. You are not concerned about getting your way but are working to make a way for everyone. You are not irritable or resentful. You rejoice in the truth. You are authentic and transparent. You are focused upon people, listening for the purpose of developing relationships, without pushing agendas.

4. Help others stay grounded in the midst of the chaos that has invaded lives today. 

It is to stay decent in indecent times. When selfishness excludes, love makes room and includes.  When selfishness puts down, love lifts up. When selfishness hurts and harms, love helps and heals.  When selfishness enslaves, love sets free and liberates. 

Lead with Love

You might lead through a pandemic, keeping people safe and healthy, but if you don’t lead with love, you do nothing more than irritate the people entrusted to your care. 

You might find your voice to speak up in advocacy of others, but if you don’t lead with love, you create more racism and participate unknowingly in the ideas and policies that perpetuate discrimination.   

You might know the qualities of trust, compassion, stability, and hope, but if you don’t lead with love, you have missed the point of becoming who you were created to be. 

Lead with love. It will not be easy but you will get stronger with practice. 

When Sara Thomas or I can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. Sara and I are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call upon us as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community

All leaders experience moments of frustration. Whether it is from not knowing how to handle a certain crisis or from unreasonable expectations, we all experience frustration from time to time. When perspectives clash, conversations grow tense, and people become annoyed, frustration levels rise. 

As a leader, you don’t want to be the source of frustration, but the political climate, differing opinions, and general weariness can lead you to wish you could lash out and say exactly what you are thinking.

Frustrations are a Part of Life

As you know, frustration is a part of life.  There are simple frustrations. I can get frustrated when I go to the grocery store, pull into the parking lot, and several spaces have grocery carts in them. I immediately say to myself, “How tough is it to return a grocery cart to the place it belongs? How rude to push the cart into an empty parking space and drive off.” Through my frustration I have learned that I do not like to be inconvenienced.

There are more complicated frustrations. I get frustrated when, during a pandemic, people want to politicize wearing a mask, or during a time for learning and conversation about racism, people get defensive and dismissive. How difficult is it to “love your neighbor as yourself?” It is frustrating to think that people who call themselves followers of Jesus have difficulty showing their love and care for the people around them. Through my frustration I have learned I have little tolerance for those who have little tolerance.

What Frustrates You? 

You might think my examples are silly, but it is important as a leader to know what frustrates you and what you do to frustrate others. When you experience frustration, it is a time to stop and ask yourself “why am I frustrated?”. Once you understand your frustrations, you can gain a greater understanding of your frustrating behavior. It is only in facing your frustrations that you can begin to change your behavior.

I’m sure you don’t frustrate people intentionally, but here are several behaviors that frustrate the people you love and serve:

Lack of integrity 

It can be as simple as not following through on what you say you will do. You are only as good as your word. There is nothing more frustrating than someone saying one thing and doing another. A sure path to frustration, mistrust, and disrespect is not backing up your promises with action.

Indecisive decision making

People thrive on action and progress. They are frustrated when they can’t move forward because you can’t make a decision. Trust your judgement. You have the education and experience to make the necessary decisions. You frustrate people when you can’t make up your mind.

Lack of vulnerability

You frustrate people when you have the attitude that you know more than anyone else. When you have to be right by making other people wrong, you shut down conversations and damage relationships. The people avoid discussing anything important with you. It’s okay to be vulnerable. Keep an open mind and heart. Take the ideas, thoughts and perspective of others as seriously as you want them to take yours. 

Blaming others for your mistakes

You are also frustrating when you refuse to be accountable or responsible for your mistakes. You damage relationships, undermine trust, and make people angry. People become fearful of being blamed. They stay in the background and often refuse to participate. Learn to take the blame and give the credit.

Self-preservation

When you are looking out only for yourself, you are not only a source of frustration, but you are perceived as self-centered and untrustworthy. You are in leadership to love and serve the people entrusted to your care.

Constant complaining

It is frustrating to work with people who are always complaining. Things do go wrong, and everyone complains occasionally, but non stop griping sucks all the energy and enthusiasm out of any group. Keep in mind that people follow your lead. Your attitude is contagious.

Now that you know how you might frustrate others, let’s look at how you can lead with courage and confidence. All leaders experience frustration, but you can lead by being a calm presence and by responding with care and kindness. Below are five characteristics of effective leaders in regard to controlling frustration. I am sure you already use some of these ideas and techniques.

Attributes of Effective Leaders

As an effective leader, you control your frustration, because you are:

Self-aware

You pause and reflect. You are aware of your emotions as well as the emotions of others. Instead of saying the first thing that comes to mind, you think through what needs to be said. Then, even if you need to express anger, you can do so calmly and reasonably. Controlling your emotions is a part of effective leadership, especially in the midst of change.

Aware of others

Things never happen in a vacuum. When you know the context of a frustrating behavior or a frustrating situation, you can resolve it. The more closely you observe the people around you and their intentions, the more you understand them and the bigger picture.

Curious

You ask questions for clarity and dig deeper for understanding. You know that you can find a solution to any frustration by tracing it back to its source. You don’t settle for superficial explanations but keep digging to find the underlying cause.

Listening

You know how to let people speak without letting your emotions get in the way. You give the other person the opportunity to say what they need to say. It can be hard to do when you want to interrupt, to defend yourself or just walk away. You stop and listen. You let them vent and get it out of their system so, together, you can start working toward a solution.

Responding and not reacting

It is easy to make a “mountain out of a molehill.” You control your own frustrations so that you don’t add to an already rising frustration level. Once you have responded with calm and coolness, it is easier to keep frustrations under control. You are vulnerable and transparent. You focus on the parts of the frustration that are in your control or influence. You don’t make false promises of change. 

Managing Frustration

Controlling frustration is a demanding skill. We admire the people who can keep their cool in tense situations. It takes practice. And sometimes it feels more like on the job training.

So, this week, try an experiment. 

Connect with a trusted friend and talk about what frustrates you. Then ask this question, “What do I do that is annoying or frustrating to others?” Practice listening. Don’t be defensive. This is not an easy exercise. Even if you get frustrated you will become a better person and a more effective leader.

Remember, Sara Thomas and I (Tom Bias) are available to assist you and your congregation in the midst of your frustration. Don’t hesitate to call upon us as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community.

I’ll be frustrated if you don’t!

How are you feeling today? How are you caring for yourself and for the people entrusted to your care? You don’t need me to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a variety of unprecedented health-related, financial, and emotional difficulties. There were enough stressors and anxiety before the pandemic, but fear and anxiety about the virus and what might happen are being multiplied several times over. 

As a leader, amid the stress, you are expected to assist people to find some normalcy. 

Lead with Courage & Compassion

Here are some things to keep in mind as you lead with courage and compassion:

  • Personal stress is created by feeling disconnected and isolated, as well as by a fear of getting sick during the pandemic.
  • Financial stress is driven from a loss of income due to reduced hours or being laid off from work, as well as from not receiving offerings on Sunday mornings.
  • Family stress is generated by the need to balance learning how to work at home while caring for children 24 hours a day, assisting with educational needs and household responsibilities, as well as trying to go back to work while the children are at home.
  • Cultural stress is fueled by a concern over the changes occurring in local communities and as well as in the church. Will our favorite restaurants survive the pandemic? Will I be able to return to my gym? Will my church bounce back from the financial hardships created by the pandemic?
  • Cumulative stress encompasses all the above as well as social media and other media experiences. 

Acknowledge Current Reality

Keep in mind, whether real or perceived, these stressors can make living through the time of a pandemic a traumatic event. Your awareness of these stressors will help you respond appropriately to the actions and reactions of the people around you.         

As a leader, as well as for yourself personally, it’s important that you keep yourself healthy. When you are healthy, you are more self-aware and better able to respond with care and compassion. During these uncertain times, you have the opportunity to model for others as you care for yourself. Here are some things to keep in mind for your own health. 

Focus on What You Can Control

During times of uncertainty, you might feel you have no control over what is happening. Keep focused upon the things you can control. Things like:

  • Having a positive attitude.
  • Following CDC health recommendations.
  • Washing your hands
  • Wearing a mask
  • Maintaining social distancing practices in your daily life.
  • Turning off the news before it increases your level of stress and anxiety.
  • Limiting your social media consumption.
  • Acting with kindness and grace (be Christian)
  • Having fun and experiencing joy
  • Focusing your energy on these items instead of factors that are out of your control will help you regain a sense of empowerment. 

Encourage the People Entrusted to Your Care

As a leader, your to-do list is already long. Consider how you might incorporate one of the following in your daily or weekly rhythm as a way to encourage the people entrusted to your care. These things will help people shift their focus from themselves to the people they love and care for.

Practice Gratitude

  • Start each day with a reflection of thankfulness. It will help you stay aware of the good things that are happening in your life during the pandemic. Use the Read, Reflect, Respond, Return pattern.

Establish a Routine

  • The pandemic has disrupted most daily routines and has made it harder to remain productive. Setting a routine is important. It is not too late to set one. It will take some initiative, but once you have started, stick with it as much as you can. Allow yourself flexibility to adjust as needed based on things that come up during your day. This will help you stay productive, even if your productivity level doesn’t remain consistent with pre-pandemic levels.

Give Yourself A Break

  • Literally, breaks are a way to help be more productive. Active breaks continue to stimulate your brain. They also help you stay focused when you are tired or losing interest in what you are doing.

Exercise

  •  Times of high stress and anxiety can negatively impact your motivation to be active. Brief physical exercise can boost your energy, stimulate your thinking, and lower your emotional stress levels.

Stay Connected

  • Social distancing can make you feel more disconnected to the people in your life. Look for ways to stay connected to friends and family. It is just as important to Zoom with people who bring you joy as it is to Zoom those important meetings. 

What’s Your Next Step?

As you read through that list, was there one action that you found yourself saying, “I can do that.” or “I want to do that.” Start with one small step. Along the way, remember that you’re modeling for others what it means to be a healthy leader. An all or nothing approach will lead to failure. Take one step.

So, to get started, what one activity or practice will you start this week? If you are already doing some of these things, which one will you continue and invite others to join? As you continue to nurture your body and soul, you’re becoming the leader God has created you to be for this time and place in history.

If you need and want help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org, Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are ready to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, strengthening your relationships within your congregation, increasing your connections to the surrounding community as you lead a movement of Jesus followers.

How are you doing today? As you hold the mission of the church before your congregation, how are you leading, this week, through this pandemic, differing political views, and understanding racism?

Although you might not think you are, you are leading with distinction.  No one has ever had to navigate such uncertainty in our lifetime, and you are doing it every day.

Recent research conducted by Harvard University found that when leaders focus on building relationships, they create conditions that lead to higher levels of commitment as well as increased accountability, hope, and satisfaction.

Giving Of Yourself

Albert Einstein wrote, “From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that we are here for the sake of each other, above all for those upon whose smile and well-being our own happiness depends, and also for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the labors of my fellow men, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.” 

Einstein’s quote sums up the nature of leadership today. Your leadership is not defined by what position you hold or what you might achieve, but by what you give of yourself to help others evolve and grow.

Do You Have These Skills?

As a follower of Jesus, you are being faithful in your leadership as you work for the good of the people entrusted to your care. You are being an impactful leader as you help the people around you become more who God has created them to be. You are changing the world as you lead with love and grace and assist others to do the same. 

Effective Leaders have made a shift from “administering” procedures to ministering to people. They are skilled at building and maintaining relationships. They are:   

1. Self-aware

Self-awareness is not only knowing your strengths and weaknesses but is also knowing the impact that your behavior has on others. For example, let’s say you enjoy hands-on involvement with people entrusted to your care. To be self-aware means you would also realize that your hands-on style might frustrate people who have been given responsibility for certain areas of ministry.  Your behavior creates the appearance that you don’t trust or appreciate them or value their work. By considering your actions, you can adjust how you relate to the people around you. 

So if you are going to be an effective leader, you will need to take a step back to consider the realities and challenges of the people around you and focus upon their strengths and skills as you understand and improve your own. That is why self-awareness and understanding are essential in building healthy relationships. 

2. Willing to delegate important tasks and decision making

Delegating helps to build experience and confidence in others. It also forces you to give honest, consistent feedback and to motivate and reward people for their work. With that in mind, it is important to know the strengths of the people with whom you are working. 

Effective leadership is not about overcoming weaknesses but is building upon the strengths of the people with whom you are working. True delegation is centered in knowing what strengthens the whole. This is where building relationships is important. You discover what excites people and you give them responsibility where they can and will fully invest themselves. It is in and through your relationships that you connect people to what truly makes a difference in the world. 

3. Good interpersonal skills

Effective leaders are able to negotiate and handle problems without alienating others. This requires understanding others’ perspectives and needs. You are able to develop a rapport with all kinds of people.  

Have you ever known a school principal who is equally comfortable with students, parents, teaching staff, and school board? If so, you have seen interpersonal skills at their best. Here is where healthy relationships help you grow and mature as a leader.  As you interact with each individual and group, you are sharpening your skills as a leader. 

4. Collaborative in style

Effective leaders use listening skills and communication to involve others, build consensus, and influence decisions. It is easy to focus upon what you want to accomplish or what matters most to you. It is easy to fall into “I can do this better myself.” This often leads to using people as a means to an end rather than helping them become who God created them to be. 

This is where healthy relationships help you understand what people hope to accomplish and what makes them feel as if they are truly making a difference. This is where you help people connect with the mission and invest themselves in it. On the surface, being an autocratic leader seems to bring greater results. But over time, the leader who values relationships and is collaborative builds support and can accomplish more. 

5. Effective at receiving and giving feedback

Effective feedback is one of the best ways leaders can improve their relationship skills. Feedback lets people know how they’re doing, reinforces goals, and encourages engagement. When giving feedback, remember to be clear is to be kind. Make sure to focus on a single message, be specific, and sensitive. Judge the behavior, not the person.

When receiving feedback, remember to risk vulnerability. An effective leader will not only receive the feedback but will engage the people around her/him to incorporate appropriate changes. Being good at relationships isn’t a personality trait. It does not depend upon whether you are an extrovert, outgoing and good at conversation. A good leader listens and is open to becoming who God has created him/her to be. Even introverts can do that.   

Adapt and Evolve

We are living in a divisive world. Whether it is differing political views, theological debates, or just the way people were raised, our world is divided like no other time in recent history. Your effectiveness is no longer dependent upon whether you are relevant, use technology, or meet in the sanctuary. Your effectiveness is in your ability to adapt, evolve, and function in today’s complex and interconnected environment. 

Your Next Step

So, let me ask you to take a few minutes to reflect upon the questions below. This is for you and for your growth. After you have completed the questions, consider meeting with one or two trusted friends to discuss your answers.  Again, this is for you and for your becoming the leader God has created you to be. 

Think about one or two significant relationships in your life.

Get a face in your mind and a name on your lips.

  • How do these relationships inform and/or shape your life?
  • What role does self-awareness play?
  • How do you listen and communicate within these relationships?
  • What do you feel when people offer feedback?
  • Now, think of one person with whom you work/associate but have no relationship.
    • Get a face in your mind and a name on your lips.
  • How does this relationship inform and/or shape your life?
  • What role does self-awareness play?
  • How do you listen and communicate within this relationship?
  • What do you feel when this person offers feedback? 

Your Turn

Now, think of the people entrusted to your care. What is one thing you can and will do to become a more effective leader? 

There is no doubt about it, our churches and communities need effective leaders.  Leader who can develop, cultivate, nourish, and adapt the relationships needed to navigate the chaos and confusion of today and lead into a new future. 

If you need and want help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are ready to assist you in becoming the leader God has created you to be.

How are you doing this week? Has anyone told you that you are doing a great job? Even though I can imagine that you don’t feel that you are, I want to assure you that God has not abandoned you.

The people entrusted to your love and care are looking to you for connection. Those with whom you live, work, and see from a distance on Zoom, or some other form of social media, are looking to you, as their leader, to keep them connected to one another and to God.  

Please understand, I’m not trying to put more on you.  I am stating a fact.  You were created to lead through an unprecedented worldwide health crisis. 

Navigating Uncharted Territory

With no warning, you have altered the way you do just about everything. You have watched more than one black man be murdered in the street. You have learned of levels of racism that you never dreamed afflicted your family, your friendships, or your leadership. As you have tried to make sense of it all, you have done it without a single hug or needed affirmation.  

Although you hear me say that you were created to lead in such a time as this, you don’t feel equipped for this. You feel overmatched and overwhelmed. And at best, you feel disconnected from the community that has shaped, formed, and affirmed your identity. 

From where I stand, I think you have done a fantastic job navigating uncharted territories. As you have met the challenge, you have become who God created you to be. I want to affirm your leadership by reminding you, that as a follower of Jesus, your leadership is rooted in your relationship to God and to the people entrusted to your care. 

Jesus’ Teaching

From the perspective of Matthew, the first followers of Jesus were to teach others to obey everything Jesus had taught them (Matthew 28:20) with the assurance that Jesus would be with them. The question is “What had they been taught?” 

From Matthew’s perspective, God sent Jesus to teach us how to live before God or how to live a holy life.  For Matthew, at the heart of holy or righteous living was relationship. The words “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” is what Matthew wants us to know about living in relationship with all the people around us. Being in relationship with God and with one another is what it means to be a Jesus follower.  Being in relationship with God and with the people entrusted to your care is the foundation of effective leadership. 

5 Reminders about Effective Leadership

Let’s think of it this way. Effective leadership is rooted in: 

1. Healthy relationships

Whether with family, friends, strangers, or enemies, you have been taught to be proactive in how you treat others.  You act on behalf of others not because they have acted on your behalf but because loving others is who we are as a Jesus follower.

2. Self-respect

Having respect for yourself in such a way that you are a person of your word.  It means that you are integrated in your living, that what you are living on the outside in your relationships grows from the convictions of your inner life. 

3. Seeking first the kingdom of God.

Being self-aware and keeping all aspects of life in a healthy perspective.  

4. Caring for others in such a way that you are caring for Jesus himself. 

You are growing to the point that caring for others becomes so natural that you don’t even know that you are caring for Jesus.  You lead with care, not to become holy, but because you are holy. 

5. Being proactive in forgiveness. 

Relationships are so important; your leadership is about investing your life in the people around to the point that broken relationships are restored and become productive.    

Being the Leader You Were Created to Be

Jesus says “to obey” the things you have been taught. In other words, it is easy to talk about effective leadership, but it is not easy to be the leader you were created to be. There are times that you are vulnerable and you step out in faith to live out your purpose. You become who God created you to be as you practice your faith.  

Fred Craddock tells the story of a missionary, Oswald Goulter, who served in China in the 1940’s. An agricultural missionary, he taught people to raise their own food as he loved and cared for their families. When the Communists came to China, they forced him to leave. So, his supporters in the United States wired him money for a ticket home.  

His journey home took him to India. While he was there, he discovered there were Jews living in barn lofts, attics, and sheds throughout the city. They were there because India was one of the few countries that welcomed Jews after Hitler expelled them from Europe.

Goulter was glad to see them. It was Christmas time and he visited them in the barn lofts, attics, and sheds saying, “Merry Christmas!” They said, “But we are Jews.”

“Oh, I know, but Merry Christmas anyway. What would you like for Christmas?” They said, “But we are Jews.”

He said, “Oh, I know. But is there anything you want for Christmas?” 

Several of them thought about it and said, “It has been years since we have had German pastries.”

Goulter went all over the city and found a shop that sold German pastries. He cashed in his ticket to the United States and bought boxes of pastries. Then he delivered them to the Jews in the barn lofts, attics and sheds. Handing them out, he said, “Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!”

Years later, that story was told in a gathering where Goulter was present. After the story was told, one young preacher in the back of the room stood and asked, “Dr. Goulter, did you really do that?” 

Goulter, a little taken back said, “Yes. Yes, I did.”  

The young preacher said, “I can’t believe you did that.”

Dr. Goulter asked, “Did I do something wrong?” 

The young preacher said, “Those people aren’t Christians. They don’t even believe in Jesus!” 

Dr. Goulter responded, “But I do!” 

The effectiveness of your leadership is seen in your faithfulness to your relationship with God and with the people entrusted to your love and care. 

You might not feel equipped. Maybe you feel overmatched and overwhelmed. You might even feel disconnected from the community that has shaped, formed, and affirmed your identity. But the good news is, you are not alone.  Jesus is with you as you lead into and through the chaos, confusion, and uncertainty. 

Your Next Step

So, here is what I want you do:

  • Give God thanks for the opportunity to live and work in this time of chaos and confusion.
  • Confess your need for relationship with God and with the people entrusted to your care.
  • Place the people, situations, and circumstances into God’s hands.
  • Ask God to use you as an instrument of peace and love. 

O God, thank you for the opportunity to live and work at this time in history. I confess that I do not know what to do. But, I do know I need you and I need the people you have given me to love and to serve. I place my relationships, the church, and the people around me into your hands. I pray that you will use me as an instrument of your peace and love. By your grace, I offer myself to you in the name of Jesus.  Amen. 

Let me say it again, from where I stand, you are doing a fantastic job navigating uncharted territories. You are growing into the person and leader God has created you to be. Remember, you are not alone. As a follower of Jesus, lead on.  We need you to lead us now more than ever before. 

Want to practice self-compassion and kindness towards others in this time?

There are at least three things you’re going to need. Below, I outline what you’ll need and what can get in the way. At the bottom of the page, you’ll find a YouTube link to watch a conversation Tim and I have with some of our pastors.

First, consider Psalm 103:1-18. As you read that psalm, notice the qualities of God. Then consider this question: do you treat yourself the way God treats you? For most of us, the answer is no.

In this season, self-compassion and kindness are needed. Yes, they’re always needed. But, as we’re trying to quickly adapt to the changes around us and navigating a new landscape, it’s much easier to be hard on yourself. Here’s what you’ll need to practice self-compassion and kindness towards others.

What You Need

  1. Self-kindness

    • This is about being accepting and understanding of yourself when you suffer, fail or feel inadequate. We have all, at one point or another, felt inadequate in the past month as we’ve navigated this pandemic. Here’s your reminder to talk to yourself and others the way God talks to you. Here are a few reminders about the nature of God:
      • God’s not easily angered
      • God’s rich in love
      • God doesn’t endlessly nag, scold or hold grudges
      • He knows us inside, out and remembers we’re made of mud.
  2. Remember our Common Humanity

    • Suffering and feelings of personal inadequacy are a part of the shared human experience. It’s something we all go through rather than something that happens to you, all alone. 
    • How many of you have thought, “I’m no good at this? I’m the only one who can’t do this? How many of you are frustrated because caring for people can’t happen in the same ways? Yeah…it is called being human. You’re not alone!
  3. Paying attention

    • Self-compassion requires paying attention to your emotions and interactions. Specifically, it necessitates balancing your approach to negative emotions. Don’t suppress or exaggerate your feelings. You can’t ignore your pain and feel compassion at the same time. (You might want to read that last sentence again.)


Now, consider this: which one of the above items do you do well? Which one do you need to improve? If you’re brave, share your two numbers in the comments below. You’ll hear others have already done so on the video we share below. 

What Gets in the Way?

Here’s what gets in the way of kindness and self-compassion. These might be thought of as the opposite end of the spectrum from the items listed above.

  1. Self-judgment

    • This is about beating yourself up and self-criticism. It is where you say to yourself, “I’m dumb for not being able to figure this out. Instead of, “I need to take some time to learn this. It’s all new information.” Or, saying to yourself, “I’m a bad pastor…” No, you’re a pastor who is experiencing something none of us were trained to navigate. As I’ve said many times to many people in the last month, whatever you are doing and however you are doing it, God honors your faithfulness.
  2. Isolation

    • This is where you say, “It’s just me. I’m the only one who experiences this.”
      • Nope. You’re not alone. Got it? Feeling isolated is different than isolating yourself. It’s also very different than our physical distancing right now. This is where you don’t reach out and say to a colleague, “I need to talk with you about something.” Instead, you isolate yourself and don’t ask for help, seek counsel, or guidance to get unstuck.
  3. Over-identification

    • This is simply over-identifying with your feelings. It can be in the form of suppressing, ignoring or exaggerating your feelings. You’re fixated on one emotion and because you’re fixated you’re unable to see the totality of what is happening. 

Which one of these barriers to self-compassion and kindness would you like to kick to the curb because it gets in your way at times?

If you’re brave, share your two numbers in the comments below. You’ll hear others have already done so on the video we share below. 

One Final Reminder

Return to the first three items. Notice I mentioned common humanity. We all do all of these things some of the time. When you want to practice self-compassion and kindness, it’s helpful to be aware of when it’s happening so you can hit the pause button if it’s not helpful.

Finally, remember this: compassion spreads quickly. When you’re kind to ourselves, you create a reservoir of compassion that extends to others and to the people you live with and lead. Those same individuals learn to be self-compassionate by watching you.  That builds trust.

And right now, we’re in a HUGE season of building TRUST. Next week, we’ll have more to say about trust. For now, let us know what comes easy to you and what’s a challenge in the comments below. 

Enjoy our conversation with pastors about this topic, too.

How are you doing this week?

You have entered your third week of the “stay at home” order.  You just celebrated the most unusual Palm Sunday ever celebrated. You are listening to and watching the conflicting reports regarding the pandemic. Truthfully, you are ready for this pandemic to be over so you can go back to doing what you know you do best. Yet, you are now into Holy Week and you are preparing for Easter Sunday in a way you never expected to be preparing.  

So, I’ll ask my question again, “How are you really doing?”

Chicken Little or Not Doing Enough?

On March 13, Dr. Amy Acton, Director of the Ohio Department of Public Health said, “On the front end of a pandemic, you look a little bit like an alarmist. You look a little bit like a Chicken Little.  The sky is falling. And on the back end of a pandemic, you didn’t do enough.” I share her quote to do nothing more than give a perspective of where you might be as you live into and lead through this pandemic.  

You can find yourself anywhere between disbelief and acceptance. Externally, you are learning new ways and living into this pandemic the best you know how.  It is truly surreal. Who would ever have imagined what is going on in the world today?

Internally, you find it hard to believe that the situation is as desperate as the reports say it is. You are disturbed over the talk of a “new normal,” and you are overwhelmed with the pain, confusion, and the distress of people you know and love.

Life and work have changed. The idea that you have little control over what is going on creates anxiety you have felt very few times in your life.  You can’t do what you know you can do, so you have decided to learn new ways to get through this time of crisis.

Who Do You Need to Be?

The truth is not one of us have been at this place before. I have not faced any situation like this in my 46 years of ministry.  But, with that said, I have given a thought and reflection upon who we need to be and how we can proceed together to enter the day that emerges on the other side of this crisis.

So, here is what I have been thinking:

  1.   Keep focused upon who you are

  • You have what you need to live into and to lead through this crisis.
  • Reflect upon the experiences and/or events that have shaped your thinking and feeling.
  • Affirm what you have learned through your relationships, experiences, and education

I am convinced you are created to navigate the uncertainty and anxiety of the situations and circumstances of these days.

  1.   Keep focused upon why you do what you do.

  • Keep the mission of the church in mind – Whether you articulate the purpose as “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” or in another way, remind yourself of the church’s purpose.
  • Stay grounded upon your call to ministry – Your call is to people
  • Continue your study of and reflection upon the scripture – Something that might be helpful is the God Is with Us daily devotional
  • Continue to keep the people entrusted to your care focused upon God’s love and care for them. How are you engaging them in the study of scripture? Worship? Care?   

When you focus upon why you do what you do, you will be the leader that you need and want. You will model the behavior needed to live in this crisis and provide the leadership to get through the crisis.

  1.   Begin to focus upon your strengths.

  • Do you know your strengths? If not, this would be a great time to learn your gifts.
  • How do your strengths complement the strengths of family members? 
  • How do their strengths complement yours?

Now, more than any other time, you can strengthen family relationships and learn the strengths of others as you lead and care for the people God has entrusted to you.

  1.   Stay present in the moment. You are your best when you are present. 

  • We are presently in a “transitional normal.” Stay present as you step into new and different ways of working and living
  • We are moving toward a “new normal.” No one of us knows exactly what that means, but when you stay focused and present helps you model and lead through all transitions.
  • Remember: If you spend too much time in the past upon what you have lost or what you should have done, you lose yourself in regret.  If you spend too much time longing for the future, wishing for something different, you lose yourself in worry. 

Stay in the moment and take one step at a time.  Offer to walk with others who are lost in regret and worry.  Assist them in staying in the moment and stepping into every day with hope and courage.

  1.   Learn to pace yourself. 

  • We are in the midst of a long transition.
  • Keep yourself healthy – Get enough rest, exercise, eat healthy meals. Your health is essential as you lead others into and through this crisis
  • Stay open to learning new systems and new ways of providing the care and services you have been providing.
  • Continue to improve your use of technology and social media.  Record or live stream worship or bible study. Maybe you can experiment with one or two forms of technology or social media and discuss this blog or earlier blogs.
  • Continue to use technology to reach out and connect with the people you lead and serve.  If nothing more than a phone call, text, or email, you are staying connected. Take a risk and use Zoom or Skype to connect with people you are accustomed to seeing on a regular basis.

You have stepped up and responded in remarkable ways. Because we are in this for the “long haul” it is important that you pace yourself, keep yourself healthy, and lead with hope and courage.

“We Made It, Together!”

My intention is not to add more to your life but to improve your life. I am convinced that if you focus upon who you are why you do what you do, and when you live with your strengths, and stay in the moment, you will get to the end of the pandemic and be able to say, “We made it! And we made it together! 

Know that you are not in this alone.  Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are with you. We are ready and willing to journey with you into and through this crisis.  Keep yourself healthy and now that I will come back with my question, “How are you doing? How are you really doing?” 

 

In times of crisis, there are two things every leader must keep in mind. It doesn’t matter the number of people you’re leading – whether it’s your family, a small congregation, a staff, or a large congregation.

These two things are also essential for self-leadership.

What are these two things?

First, you must face the brutal facts of your current reality. Second, you must maintain hope that you’ll make it in the end. These two things provide a springboard for five considerations for Christian leaders navigating the current crisis.

Stockdale Paradox

Admiral James Stockdale, a prisoner of war for seven years in Vietnam, endured torture and solitary confinement. When asked how he survived, he responded, “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be.”

Popularized as the Stockdale Paradox in Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, it reminds us in order to make it through difficult circumstances we have to simultaneously do two things: 

  1. Confront the most brutal facts of our current reality.
  2. Never lose hope that we will prevail in the end. 

Scroll to the bottom of the page to watch a video or listen to a conversation Tim and I have about the Stockdale Paradox. Or, keep reading!

“Brutal Facts” and Hope

Consider for a moment these brutal facts:

  • You’re living in a pandemic.
  • You can’t worship in person for at least another month

As of 1:08 p.m., Sunday, April 5…

  • Over 1.2 million people have contracted COVID-19 globally
  • 67, 260 people have died
  • The highest number of confirmed cases in the United States are in New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and California.

Those are a few of the “brutal facts.”

How about hope?

Here is the hope I continue to hold onto: We are the body of Christ.

For over 2000 years, faithful people have endured persecution, pandemics, wars, and much more. Still, our faith in Jesus continues. I believe we will get through. I trust our resilience is growing exponentially with each passing day. Finally, while much of our daily life is disrupted, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

With these “brutal facts” and hope anchored in the love of God you know in Jesus, there are at least five areas to consider as a leader. This is not an exhaustive list. Some of these things you’ve likely already cared for. They’re included here as a jumping-off point.

If you don’t have the facts about your current leadership circumstance, the potential to focus on fear, fatalism or unrealistic optimism increases exponentially.

Use these five considerations to gather the information you need, have conversations, and confront your “brutal facts” while maintaining hope.

1) Foundation

First, remind yourself of the foundation of the church. The foundation is the mission, or purpose, of the church. Whether you articulate the purpose as “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” or in another way, remind yourself of the church’s purpose.

With that in mind, ask yourself if you have what you need to lead people to live into the purpose right now. Likely, your immediate answer is “no”. Consider, however, the following. Don’t get bogged down in how it is happening. Simply ask yourself if the following basic functions of the Christian community are happening:

  • Worship
  • Discipleship
  • Missions
  • Pastoral Care 
  • Administration

Are the basic functions of the body of Christ happening? If yes, great. Keep going and stay encouraged as you continue to learn new ways of being the body of Christ. If no, what do you need to make it happen? If you’re stuck, reach out to a colleague and have a conversation about how they’re navigating this time. 

Now, ask yourself: What does this new reality make possible? Talk to God about what this new reality makes possible. 

2) Services and Supplies

There are services you rely on to keep the physical church building functioning, the body of Christ active, and the community connected to Christ and one another. As you consider the basic functions I named above, what services do you rely on every week or every month? Who cares for these items?

One church I served had a meal ministry, where eggs were delivered for Sunday breakfast every Saturday morning. Another had boxes of paper delivered every month. And another had a piano tuning service scheduled each quarter.

As you consider the services and supplies utilized, is there anything you need to pause, pivot, or plan in a different way? This will help you consider cost savings and also identify essential services.

If you can’t quickly identify service providers from accounts payable, it may be time to do an inventory. Consider everything from utilities to computer programs. Here are a few things you might consider:

  • Computer Programs 
    • Worship planning center (or similar program)
    • Quickbooks or a financial software program
    • Zoom, YouTube, Social Media accounts
    • Graphics
  • Physical Services
    • Garbage pickup
    • Mail services
    • Cleaning services 
  • Supplies – Delivery and Standing Orders
    • Paper delivery
    • Cleaning supplies
    • Communion elements
    • Food distribution
    • Nursery supplies
    • Candles
    • Giving/pew envelopes and attendance pads
  • Discipleship and Pastoral Care Supplies
    • Prayer shawls
    • Quilts
    • Children’s bulletins
    • Sunday School and small group curriculum

Once you have the facts, ask yourself, what does this make possible? You may be thinking, “NOTHING – it doesn’t make anything possible. That’s the challenge!” Give it a day. Live with that question and see if your answer changes after talking with God and a close colleague.

3 ) Leadership and Processes

You may be the pastor, a lay leader, member of a ministry team, or faithful participant in the church. To navigate this season, leaders need to have clarity and consistency. Yes, you’re likely doing some things in new ways. That’s why having leaders work together is essential. Together, you can identify new processes, if needed while making sure current processes continue. Something as simple as checking the mail is important.

Further, as you encounter needs, communicate with the congregation clearly and consistently. The congregation can’t read minds. But, they have many skills. You might be surprised who has the skills to help.

As you consider your leadership structure, whether it is staff or chairpersons, a few things to keep in mind include:

  • Is your team (paid and unpaid) working remotely and do they have what they need? Have you asked?
  • Are you cross-training leaders? Is there a backup for everything that needs to happen? Who are you training to do what you do if you should get sick?
  • Do you have a realistic picture of the financials?
    • Do you have a plan for what happens when savings hit certain levels?
    • Have you implemented online giving?
    • Are you providing clarity to the church about basic financial needs?
  • Have you explored the Care Act? 
  • What other aspects of leadership and processes need to be considered?

Again, what does this new reality make possible?

4) Congregation and Community 

As you think about the congregation and your local community, it’s likely you know someone who is serving on the front line of this pandemic. Now more than ever, recognizing the spiritual, physical, and emotional needs of people in the congregation and the local community is essential. If you’re already serving the community through a feeding ministry or care program, keep going!

If you’re uncertain how the church can respond, it’s time to ask. Talk to city/community leaders, first responders, and teachers.  One month ago, who would have thought quilting groups would be so needed in our communities? Yes, we love our quilters. But, suddenly, their sewing machines have a new, life-saving purpose. As the need for cloth masks grows, a tangible way churches are helping is through their quilting groups.

Questions to Consider

Once you have identified needs, consider these questions as well:

  • What is the perception of the church right now? 
    • Is the church essential? Optional? Off the radar? Important?
  • How are you serving the congregation and community in their time of need?
    • Again, do you know the needs of your local community?
  • If you’re worshiping online, how are you welcoming new people? Are you?
  • What new communication needs to happen and what needs to stop?
    • Remember to overcommunicate in this time. Attention spans are dwindling and the rapid pace of changing protocols necessitates consistent, clear communication.
  • In every communication piece, including in your Sunday message, have you made sure it’s not “tone deaf”? While everything you do right now does not have to revolve around the pandemic, it does need to acknowledge what people are experiencing and feeling. If your communication is tone-deaf, you’ll be tuned out and turned off. 

Again, consider, what this new reality makes possible. If you haven’t picked up on it by now, asking this question is what will propel you towards a future with hope. Don’t gloss over it.

5) Context 

The first four groups were things you have the ability to lead people to change, adapt, pause, or pivot. There are things happening around you that are also out of your control.

You do not have control of these things, yet often these are places where worry and fear take root. Sometimes, it’s also where worry and fear get out of control. Your role in helping hold the tension between the brutal facts and hope-filled future is this: don’t get consumed with what you can’t control. 

The following items are things out of your control. Being aware is not an invitation to be consumed by fear or worry. As a leader, it is wise to acknowledge the circumstances out of your control.

  • Consider the stock market and interest rates
    • How will fluctuations impact giving and confidence?
  • In Ohio and in many states there is a “Stay At Home” Order in place
    • How does suspending in-person worship, social distancing, limiting the number of people in stores, etc. impact the congregation?
  • Utilities
    • Do you have everything you need? Does your community? Something as simple as an internet connection going down can change a lot right now.
  • Social media
    • What are you communicating, how often, and by whom?
    • Again, communicate clearly so as to not spread misinformation.

Here’s your final opportunity to look forward with hope. Ask yourself, “What does this new reality make possible?”

Your Next Step

While this may be a long list, it’s far from an exhaustive list. What brutal facts are you facing and how are you facing the future with hope? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

God is with you as you navigate these uncharted waters.  Confronting the brutal facts and having the hope that you’ll prevail in the end may feel like a paradox. But, it’s the paradox that will help you stay grounded in current reality while following Jesus every day. 

As you ask questions and uncover whether you need to pause, pivot, plan, or proceed, know that Tim and I are here to assist you in navigating this season of ministry.  

 

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