Consider this. A pastor goes to a conference to learn about the new ministry that launched a church forward in growth. He immediately implements that new ministry in his church, only to discover that it does nothing to spur on the growth of his church. The pastor is discouraged and the people become less willing to accept a new idea in the future.
Or, a manager learns of a new strategy for his organization. He roles out the new strategy in his department and it meets with so much opposition that he eventually moves things back to the way things were before. The manager wonders why it didn’t work and the employees see yet another failed attempt to change the organization.
Both of these scenarios play out every day in our churches and businesses.
In both cases, they have learned the one reason many new ideas fail: we fail to take into account the culture within which we are attempting that change effort. In his book Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision and Inspiration, Dr. Samuel R. Chand identifies 5 types of cultures that can be found in your church, or your organization. They are (the titles are Dr. Chand’s and the descriptions are mine):
- Inspiring – a culture in which new ideas and ministries are enabled to flourish
- Accepting – a culture in which new ideas and ministries are easily accepted and have opportunity for success
- Stagnant – a culture in which new ideas and ministries are not easily accepted and have little chance for success
- Discouraging – a culture in which new ideas are resisted and attempting new ministries is discouraged
- Toxic – a culture in which new ideas have no chance of success due to the dysfunction in the organization
When attempting new ideas in your church or organization, you must take into account the culture of the organization. Asking the following questions will help you determine the potential success or failure of your new idea.
- Is the culture of my church/organization ready to accept this new change initiative?
- How can I best implement the new idea within the current culture?
- Is there a better change initiative that I can implement within my current culture?
- Do I need to change my current culture before implement my new idea?
When looking at your current culture and your new change initiative or idea, take the time necessary to investigate the potential success of that idea within your current culture. Not sure how to do that? Then, I want to encourage you to participate in my new FREE Webinar on culture change. I want to share with you some of the things that I’ve been learning about changing the culture within our churches. I’ll be announcing the details in a few weeks. For now, be certain that you have subscribed to my website by filling out the form at the top right of this page. You will be notified as soon as registration opens for this FREE Webinar. You’ll also receive a free e-book as my way of saying thanks.
This past week, a major snowstorm hit the east coast dumping massive amounts of snow on the New England states. In my town in Pennsylvania it was predicted that we would get between 8-14″ of snow overnight. In preparation for that storm, businesses advertised they would be closed the next day, some schools would be closed, parents allowed their children to stay overnight with friends, and school teachers stayed up late knowing that they would not have to go to work the next morning.
Then, the unpredictable happened. As the evening went on, a small high pressure system developed over our area and remained in place the entire evening. It was snowing to the west and to the east of our location, but this small area of high pressure formed a wall that kept the snow from hitting our area. The result was that we had no snowfall throughout the night. However, everyone had made plans based upon the forecast.
The next morning we discovered a very different world than was predicted just the night before. The plans no longer worked, the strategy no longer fit the circumstances, and everyone was scrambling to figure out how to respond. Sounds a lot like the church, doesn’t it? We plan our plans and dream our dreams only to find out that something unpredictable has changed our world. We are left asking the question: “What do we do when our plans don’t work out right?” Let me suggest 4 simple steps to take.
- Reevaluate your plan: Take a fresh look at what your strategy or plan looked like and what has changed in your current circumstances. Even when things work out right, it is a great practice to continually reevaluate why you are doing what you are doing.
- Develop a new plan: Based upon the changing circumstances, develop a new strategy or plan. Reevaluate your strategic goals and develop new goals based upon the new circumstances. Our world is fluid and is constantly changing. Many times this takes us off guard and we find ourselves behind in the game. That’s when we need to reevaluate and develop new strategies for this changing world. See my post on 3 Level Vision Planning for more help in this area.
- Respond immediately: When you find yourself off track, begin immediately taking steps back toward the right path. The longer you wait to respond, the further you will get from your intended target. I am famous for getting “in the zone” when driving and talking at the same time. One time I was leading two vans full of people toward our destination at a retreat center. Finally, one of the team asked me why we were heading the direction we were traveling when I should have taken a left turn back at a certain intersection. The problem was that he waited 25 minutes to let me know I had missed my turn. I learned that day the quicker you respond to changing circumstances, the shorter the time it takes to get back on the right path.
- Learn from your mistakes: When we miss a goal or our circumstances change, there are always things that we can learn from our mistakes. Back to my snow storm example for a moment. As the evening progressed, the high pressure system developed and remained stationary. Had the business owners, parents, and schools kept an eye on the developments, they would have noticed that throughout the evening the forecast began to change and the snowfall amounts were lowered. The indicators were changing and the weather forecasters were adjusting their predictions. Thus, the events of the next morning would have been different if someone had kept an eye on the circumstances as they were changing. It could have been as simple as staying up and watching the weather forecast instead of being distracted by their favorite TV show. Most times, the predictors of change in your circumstances are there to be seen, but no one is watching for them.
Our world is changing faster than we can imagine. Even our best predictions and goal setting efforts will fall short many times. However, implementing these four steps will help you make sure your plan is as effective as possible and will help you make a better difference for God’s kingdom.
How will you implement these four steps into your goal and strategy planning?
Much has been written on the subject of spiritual gifts and their importance in the ministry of the church. In recent days I have been reflecting on the fact that there are essentially two distinct types of spiritual gifts: serving and equipping. The serving gifts are used for service in the kingdom (i.e. hospitality, mercy, serving, faith, etc.), while five of the gifts listed in the Bible in Ephesians 4 are specifically for the purpose of “equipping God’s people for service.”
In his blog, The Forgotten Ways, Alan Hirsch puts forward the idea that the church leader needs to know their APEST score to better understand how God has gifted them to lead in the church. APEST is his term based upon the 5 ministry roles found in Ephesians 4: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, and Teachers.
On his blog, Hirsch has created a test to enable you to discover how these five roles influence your leadership and role in ministry. This is a great test to understand your leadership role. Hirsch also puts for the idea that we are missing the apostolic and prophetic leadership roles in our current expression of the church. In an article published in Christianity Today, Hirsch writes “We needed a new type of leadership, one with the courage to question the status quo, to dream of new possibilities, and to innovate new ways of being the people of God in a post-Christian culture.” To be that kind of a leader, we need to first know who we are as a unique creation of God. The more a pastor or church leader knows about themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, the better a leader they become and the more effective they become in leading Christ’s church.
Previously, I had written a post entitled 4 Things Every Pastor and Church Leader Should Know About Themselves. To that list, I add the APEST score. It was interesting for me to note that the results of my personal APEST score fell right in line with the results of my other profiles that I mentioned in my “4 Things” post. Together, these five profiles give a great understanding of how God has wired you for ministry.
Learn first who you are. Then, lead as God has created you to lead!
While in college at Mount Vernon Nazarene University, I read a book by author Jeremy Rifkin called Entropy: A New World View. While I cannot remember anything the book said, I do remember the principle that he was sharing. Entropy is the tendency to gradually decline into disorder. This is true in our lives, at our workplaces, and in our churches. Entropy tells us that our churches, if left alone, will gradually decline into disorder. This has been stated in other ways, as well. Proverbs 29:18 reminds us that if there is no vision, the people will perish. We’ve also been told that if the pastor doesn’t lead, someone will. The truth is that if there is no sense of vision or direction, entropy will begin to take hold in the church. Usually, in the church community, entropy is seen in one of two ways: (1) through defaulting back to an inward focus on fellowship (just being together); or (2) division and fighting for control and power.
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