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A Closer Look at Your Leadership in Uncertain Times: The 4 Fundamentals

Last week we introduced 4 fundamentals for leadership in uncertain times.

  • COUNSEL from those you trust
  • CLARITY of your mission
  • FLEXIBILITY with programs or plans
  • TRANSPARENCY even when it’s not pleasant to say or there’s not much to say

I recently met with some folks who lead a prominent national ministry. We had a lot to discuss, but they wanted to discuss in particular PLI’s Leadership fully online training of millennials in 1,000 Young Leaders and its fully online cousin for folks older than 20-30’s. They wanted to better understand why both were having such a transformative impact in the lives of the participants. In a moment of frustration and candor (think transparency) they said:

  • If our national organization doesn’t make some significant changes we will be out of business in ten years.
  • The board of our national organization is inflexible when it comes to the program (think flexibility). It’s willing to sacrifice our mission (think clarity) and the organization itself so that we can keep doing things the same way…until we can’t. 

To be honest…

I pivot between “that’s what institutions do”—they sacrifice their mission (think clarity) in favor of doing the same things the same way (think flexibility)—and being angry that a ministry that I value is placed at risk.

There’s a sense that pandemic uncertainty is over. We are getting close to “post-pandemic.” (Maybe!) But maybe we’re deeper into the woods of uncertainty today than we were before.

For the vast majority of churches in the U.S., if you’re trying to reach people under 50 OR you plan to still be in business 10 years from now, something needs to change.

Here’s what I’m hearing about leadership in uncertain times:

If your measuring stick and your sense of personal satisfaction is attached to the Sunday morning attendance in the church….you’re struggling.

If you’re connecting with lots of unchurched families in your school, early childhood center or other ministry, the bridges have been washed out on how to make any meaningful connections to the rest of your ministry. You’re struggling.

If the leader pool is tired and there are more leadership hats to wear than fresh leaders to wear those hats…you’re struggling. (Pay particular attention to folks who have carried the load for the pivot to online worship!)

We need to recognize that some things have changed:

  • Online worship just might be here to stay.
  • Plenty of people got out of the habit of worshiping, or worshiping regularly. They may or may not be coming back. What reasons are you giving them to return?
  • Way too many churches are wishing that the American culture still values going to church as a good thing and they are equally wishing that unbelieving people are uniquely motivated to come to worship. They haven’t imagined an alternative.
  • If our plans for the future of our church center solely/primarily around Sunday worship, a single pastor (with some support) can lead. If it’s not, we need to think of discipling others to multiply the leaders beyond the sanctuary.

So, allow me ask a couple of questions:

  1. Which is more important in your congregation? The mission God has entrusted to your church to influence and reach your community OR maintaining the same programs and plans. MISSION vs FLEXIBILITY?
  2. Are you being TRANSPARENT with each other or the people you lead as to what the future looks like 5 or 10 years from now? Or today?

Let me offer three observations:

  • If you haven’t decided already, you’ll need to decide your congregation’s posture regarding online worship for the post pandemic days ahead.
  • If you haven’t decided already, you’ll need to begin investing in—discipling—people in the church to become leaders going out from your church. D2MC will help you make the larger congregational shifts. 1,000 Young Leaders leadership and Not So Young Leaders will accelerate the shift and give you large doses of hope and encouragement. Each will help you recover the mission your church says it values.
  • If you haven’t paid attention to your own relational and emotional well being…
    1. Seek out a friend.
    2. Find a local counselor or connect with Pastor/Counselor Jim Otte or Gracepoint Institute for Relational Health in Omaha.
    3. Accept the generous hospitality of good friends of the PLI Leadership family who love ministry leaders and want to offer them a free respite.
      1. The Biblers in Texas
      2. The Martins in the Smoky Mountains 


  • Share this with your leaders.
    • Ask which is winning: Clarity or Flexibility.
    • Ask each other if we’re being transparent about our realities.
  • If you’re married, share this with your spouse. (Or, talk to yourself!) “How are we doing?” “Would we benefit from the hospitality of a friend of PLI Leadership? (Can you believe their gracious generosity?) Or a confidential counselor?”

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