3 Things I Didn't Expect
One of the things I teach to clients is that there is much in this life that you can not control. As leaders, we have to be able to control the things that we actually CAN control.
As we've been serving Churches, helping walk through efforts of Revitalization, there have been 3 things that smacked me right in the teeth. I thought I was doing a great job of preparing, communicating, having a great attitude and responding as best I could (those are the 4 things that you can control - another article for another day) when these 3 things caught me by surprise. I wasn't expecting them, I didn't see them coming and they were a punch in the gut. My hope is that you'll heed this warning as you embark on helping changing a culture of an organization, as a leader - get ready, these may very well happen to you too!
1. People Will Bail Out RIGHT Before the Payout
Things were going great! We were making tons of progress, seeing new life, seeing results, seeing health and then it happened. People who were with us from the beginning, apart of every Core Team Meeting, every big decision, serving in leadership roles, even serving as a Deacon - left!
Now, people leaving the Church during times of change, that's just par for the course. Change is hard and many aren't up for it. However, this is different. These are people who, all along said that they were not only on board with change, helped instigate it. They were champions of new ideas and they were putting in the sweat to see it through - then, out of the blue (or so it seemed), a resignation note would come in the mail with a set of keys. A handwritten resignation note dropped off on the Pastor's desk with a set of keys. A request of transfer of letter of someone who was just in the Deacon's meeting two days ago. Ouch! I wasn't expecting that!
Didn't they know that the hardest part was over and that we were starting to see all of the effort turn from potential to promise? Didn't they realize that they were going to miss seeing this thing come back to life? Surely, they had to see that all of their time, effort, energy and gifting were finally paying off and the ship had turned!
Why now? Why, after all of the praying, hard work, fighting and preparing did they choose to leave - the pay off is here!
Its interesting that the ones who seemed to fight the hardest for you and with you, were the ones that when you were ready to celebrate with them, decided it was time to go. That hurt - I had no clue that this was going to happen. Over time though, I've seen it happen time and time again. Now, I expect it. I teach on it and now get it. The work is hard. Its hurtful at times and its certainly something that they take personal.
Our job as leaders is to love people the best way we know how, lead them the best way we know how and trust that they will be there just the exact right amount of time that they are supposed to. The beautiful thing that happens each time, which I was again, not expecting - God sends someone else to fill their spot. Amazing how that happens, isn't it?
2. Bi-Laws Can Be the Death Claw!
Every Church that I encounter that is struggling, has something in common - Bi-Laws. That's right, a set of documents that lay out the plans, provision, particulars and punishments for an entire Church, seemingly to an exhaustive point.
Bi-Laws are rightfully meant to help protect the Church, the leadership of the Church and ultimately, the people of the Church. They are well meaning and when done properly, help maintain order and provide a non-emotional understanding to a decision that needs to be made.
The problem is, most of these were written in the 80's when the Church was thriving. A particular Church we served, when the Bi-Laws were last amended, has a strong group of lay leaders who helped keep all major decision on the lay leader and congregational side of things. Now, I won't get into the whole Theological debate over Church governance, I will simply say - it's really hard to institute change in a group of people who have been in that Church since Jesus was a little boy and have no plans on seeing anything changed.
In practicality, the Bi-Laws, in many situations we've been leading through really, REALLY slow down the process. This makes it nearly impossible to make changes and almost assuredly keeps those who don't want to see change, become very loyal to the law of the land, or as I like to call them - the "Bi-Claws"!
I had no clue when we started serving Churches that Bi-Laws were going to be one of the main things that kept us from moving a Church forward. If you didn't know, Bi-Laws are very difficult to change and are the reason that meetings last so long - they hinge on the interpretation of every single word.
Don't be caught off guard like I was when it comes to Bi-Laws. Take the time, read them over, read them again and be sure to work diligently to update them, modernize them and use them in an effort to survive and thrive. My prayer is that they don't become your Churches death certificate and will. Most turn out that way.
3. Seminary Didn't Prepare You For This!
I went to school to be a Chorus teacher. I was taught how to read music, how to arrange music, how to conduct music, how to sing it, the languages, diction, all of the musical terms - I even got a chance to lead a choir or two in concert before graduating. When it comes to education, I knew exactly what it took to stand in front of and conduct a choir - being a Chorus teacher, that's a completely different story.
No one taught me how to handle kids. How to work with my administration, how to deal with parents, budgets, field trips, discipline, football players who want to miss Chorus practice for Football practice. When I did my student teaching, I was lost - I had no clue what I was doing.
This is true in most professions, sadly. We are prepared to do the basics of our field. Pastors, this is no different for many of you. You have an incredible education. You know scripture, you can interpret it effortlessly, you know the Greek, the Hebrew, the Aramaic, the Latin - you have entire books of the Bible memorized. You are taught what discipleship looks like, you are even taught how to communicate well. The problem is, teaching the Bible is only about 2.5% (give or take a couple of percentage points) of what you are called to do.
You get to lead people, counsel people, hire people, fire people, create and maintain budgets, you have hundreds of thousands of dollars in facilities, construction, you have endowments, trust funds, trustees, marriages falling apart, teenagers addicted to drugs, women having miscarriages and on top of all of that, giving is way down and you can't pay your bills - oh yeah, you are bi-vocational as well! Sound familiar?
Who knew? I didn't. It wasn't until I started to see a trend in the Pastors who really struggled at a lot of the things I mentioned above. They wanted to "just preach" - that's what I'm called to do "just preach". With all due respect, you aren't called to "just preach". You have to lead. You have to lead through difficult decisions. You have to counsel when all of "it" is hitting the fan. You have hold the hand of a mother who just lost their child and the hand of a mother who can't seem to get hers to stop with their destructive behavior. You're going to have to be a presence in your community. You are going to have to "worry about" the money. You can't just let the building keep falling apart without doing something about it.
I honestly wasn't prepared to teach Pastors what leadership looks like - from the ground up, but, it's a reality. I wasn't expecting it. I was privileged to serve on a Church staff that spent time nearly every day developing leaders and the leadership of everyone on staff. A staff team that talked about all of the little things that make up "the job". I got a first hand look at all of the areas and applications it takes to Pastor people and lead them well.
Pastor, if you aren't in an environment like that, you owe it to yourself, your Church and your calling to get in one! Find a coach, find a network, find a cohort and learn what leadership really looks like - not just what you can read from another book. Sadly, your education didn't prepare you for all of this - it's now up to you to get prepared!
These 3 things completely caught me off guard. I wasn't expecting them, but, I hope this helps you prepare you head, your heart and your plan as you lead through change yourself. As I've heard football coaches say - "keep your head on a swivel!".