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Navigating the Double-Edged Challenge of Leadership…and Why it’s Worth It

2018 is here!

Some congregations have already given up. Victimized by an inability or unwillingness to take on their greatest challenges in their past, hope has left the premises.

In many more congregations, taking on today’s challenges looks a lot like going back to the same old strategies that haven’t worked and seeing if they work this time.

It’s easy to shake our heads…if each of us didn’t at least flirt with one or both of these options.

Congregational leadership is difficult! Probably always has been. Doubly difficult today.

Here’s why….

Leaders face a double-edged challenge.

Edge 1

The “it’s a good thing to go to church” culture is mostly gone and no longer buttresses our ministries. Now…it’s navigating unfamiliar territory. It’s discovering new ways to give meaningful voice to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a world not all that convinced that the Good News is “good news”!

Edge 2

Congregational resistance to the very changes necessary for our own survival can seem almost insurmountable.

(Edge 1 can be further complicated by local recipes of navigating new language groups, shifting demographics, congregational school enrollments no longer supported by member/generational loyalty, city governance and ordinances, generational priorities, neighborhood violence, etc.)

The leadership task to cultivate a collective resiliency in the people of God to lean into and not shy away from its greatest challenges is no small effort if congregations intend to faithfully and fruitfully live out the Mission of God into which they have been invited.

Leaders must develop the capacity to manage well:

  • Resistance and conflict, and…
  • Disappointment when right choices fail to cater to congregational comfortability.

If I had known how much of my leadership energy would be spent dealing with resistance and conflict and disappointment when ministry decisions didn’t match the “does it make me feel good” test, I probably would have opted to take a leadership pass. Fortunately I “didn’t know what I didn’t know” until I was well entrenched in the high stakes role of congregational leadership just like you.

But as one who’s surfed those rough waters…it’s worth it when you see the fruit of the Spirit’s work in the lives of folks who once were “no people” but now are “God’s people” or, for that matter, the thrill of former resistors investing themselves in a mission greater than themselves.

So, pass this around your leadership circles. Welcome ‘em to the double-edged challenge of leadership in 2018. Tell ‘em they’re up for the challenge. Tell ‘em it’s important.

Over the next few weeks we’ll break this down a bit and assemble a tool kit of useful disciplines and practices to navigate this “doubly difficult” day for leadership.

Two final thoughts:

  • Benchmark where you finished 2017 and where you’re starting 2018.
  • Thank you. Gail and I simply want to say thank you! The last few weeks we asked you to help PLI fulfill a $50,000 matching gift before December 31. And you did! You and so many like you made gifts…small gifts, large gifts, all types of gifts…that fully funded the match and will help enable PLI to impact the trajectories of hundreds of leaders and their congregations that are coming behind you. Thank you!

Jock Ficken
Rev. Dr. Jock Ficken

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