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We are living in times of great disruption. Every now and then events happen that shape the course of history. Events that not only interrupt the status quo but disrupt the course we were on. How do we lead in times of disruption?
This current global pandemic continues onwards. We have been hoping we are reaching the end for a while now. Each time the end is in sight something else seems to happen, a new variant, a new vaccine challenge and a new spike in cases. Most commentators are confident that the events of the past couple of years has reshaped our society. The exact nature of the change is yet to be determined but there are some clues already.
Some events reshape the world because they are so shocking, think of 9/11, the attack on the world trade towers in 2001. World politics and air travel have never recovered. Other events like the last recession of 2007-2009 will have shaped peoples views on the future, their perspectives on money and perhaps for some there have been bigger losses as they have said goodbye to careers or houses.
Back to today and the current disruption. This pandemic has been ongoing in most parts of the world for so long now that it has moved beyond that initial shock to actually shaping our habits and behaviours. Some things that have become second nature, like carrying a mask everywhere, or the widespread use of online shopping, will may remain for longer because they have become habit.
I have heard many speak about the anxiety they face when socialising is suggested. The walls we have built to keep ourselves safe are gradually coming down and it is challenging for everyone.
When it comes to church leadership this has been a hugely challenging season. I have spoken to seasoned church leaders, who have been leading successful churches for decades who describe this season as one of the most challenging they have ever faced. Everything we knew, loved and were to some degree, good at – was taken from us. Everything we understood to be church was not an option. Instead we were presented with a variety of options that simply didn’t excite us.
Speaking to a camera in an empty room got old very fast.
So how do we lead in these times of disruption?
1. Prioritise Rest
Leading in times of disruption is exhausting! The world we are used to is constantly changing. As things change fast around us we are scrambling to both understand the new paradigms but also react and make decisions.
All of this is exhausting. I have spoken to a lot of really tired leaders this year. The delight on their faces when they reach a holiday week is clear!
I’ve felt it myself as well. These have not been “normal” times to take on the leadership of a church never mind reevaluating the model of church we use. Home schooling, isolation and moving to a new area probably haven’t helped either!
I wrote about leading church in an Age of Hurry recently but beyond what I shared there, times of disruption require some unique responses.
One area I have been forced to grow in this year is in the whole area of boundaries. I’ve long heard teaching on this topic but it was only last year that I finally sat down to read the New York Times Bestseller book Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend*. I cannot recommend this book highly enough to everyone. It is full of practical advice to help you build healthy boundaries. The ability to say yes and no but also the ability to create boundaries that create life.
The book has helped me massively – by helping me see the boundaries of personal responsibility. Christian culture, and perhaps more so, Christian leadership culture highlights the values of self-giving love and sacrifice but sadly often results in broken and burnt out leaders.
So for me prioritising rest has involved having clear boundaries. Boundaries around when I am resting but also a recognition of what is, and is not my responsibility in this season.
Leading in disruption is exhausting because our energy is sapped by trying to navigate a new changing world and we also naturally pick up the anxieties of everyone around us.
Here in the UK we are just starting to more fully open up, hopefully this time for the last time! So we are thinking the last quarter of the year, getting in-person events back and running, could be very full on. Therefore we are deliberately creating a much quieter summer. We are tired from the past year already so it is even more important we rest if we are going to be ready for the next challenge.
Life and ministry is a marathon not a sprint and every pro athlete knows the need for recovery time. What are your plans to rest and recover?
In times of disruption it is vital that we prioritise rest.
2. Look For Opportunity
Times of disruption have always been times of opportunity. In the shaking there will be those who are positioned to see the opportunity and make the most of it. It is no secret that in times of recession and financial crashes – many millionaires are created than in normal times. Beyond the moralities of such findings – some simply know how to position themselves to do well in disruption.
In every disruption the things that used to work come into question. In the church there have been some radical upsets. When your entire strategy to grow is to get people in a building on a Sunday and you can no longer do that – it creates a problem.
Yet also in disruption we see opportunity. We saw this happen early in the pandemic. In a world where people are stuck at home many saw the opportunity to deliver their goods and services to the home. It is no secret the Amazons and the Netflixes of the world have thrived under lock down.
For the church there have been opportunities too. I’ve seen Alpha Online as one of the great success stories. Having always refused an online version Nicky Gumbel suddenly took the leap and in April 2020 they saw thousands and thousands sign up for Alpha online, many now integrating to local churches. Nicky himself is quick to say he never thought it would work, but they have found that in many ways it works even better!
Times of disruption can cause us to try things we never thought would work. And they might just work!
A church awaking to the possibilities of digital ministry see opportunity everywhere. Through social media we have the means to reach people anywhere and at any time. We don’t need to knock on doors we can turn up on peoples devices and become part of their daily routines. The average user spent nearly 2 hours per day on social media in 2020. It has never been easier for churches to show up there.
Even just looking at what has been produced in the past year or two. Most churches now have hours worth of video content now on a huge variety of topics, not to mention worship and other creative elements. That archive turned into short clips could reach many on social or YouTube channels if well framed.
There are opportunities everywhere if we look. For some churches the opportunities have not been digital. They have simply meant showing up for the local community in the midst of adversity, loneliness and poverty.
Times of disruption are times of opportunity if we can be flexible and willing to take some risks.
What About You?
I’d love to know how you are leading in times of disruption? What has helped you? What opportunities have you found? Let me know below or send me an email.
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