Leadership, Transitions

Our Time Is Now!

lightstock_116804_medium_byrene_haney

Every person and organization goes through a period of transition. We are facing one in the organization I serve.  As part of that pending transition, I have been nominated as one of three candidates to lead the next chapter in our district’s story.  What is different about our election process is that it is nothing like the last presidential campaign, thank goodness.  There may be a temptation to go out and campaign and gather a following.   We don’t get to design yard signs and cool campaign buttons. Nor do we come up with catchy campaign slogans like, “In your Heart, you Know he’s Right.” – Barry Goldwater.  Or Jimmy Carter’s, “Not just Peanuts.”

But that is not how our process works. It is not about catchy slogans or impossible promises of prosperity, nor is it a popularity contest.

Like a congregation calling its next Shepherd, it is a process bathed in prayer.  Prayer by the nominees asking for God’s will and the insight to discover His direction for His Church.  Prayer by the congregations seeking God’s will in determining His choice to shepherd our district.  The only thing that resembles the presidential campaign is that in March votes will be cast and a nominee will be elected.  It is not about shifting power from one side of our divided church body so that one gains an upper hand because it is not our church anyway, it’s God’s.  It is a time of spiritual discernment.  We have five months to spend time in prayer and seek God’s will for this little corner of His kingdom.  While our future leader is uncertain, it is secure, because God is directing it.

It is a time to celebrate what God has done while we look to the future.

Our leader, President Dan P. Gilbert will complete his time of service, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the grassroots missional movement that God has started under his leadership. However, as the old saying goes, “All good things come to an end.” With that transition comes uncertainty.

Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion applies well here: “Everything continues in a state of rest unless it is compelled to change by forces impressed upon it.”

Our district has had twelve years of steady and consistent leadership.  With this pending change, we could be feeling this law in very uncomfortable ways right now. The world around the church is changing at a rapid pace, and it is pressing hard on the church. Those forces have the body of Christ on edge and trying to decide what direction to go next. When a transition is forced upon you there are two natural roads to choose:

1) Cautious and fearful:

hunker down in the bunker and wait for the threat to go away or get tired of fighting.

Or

2) Confident and hopeful:

adapt and come up with a big, bold new approach to address the changes that the organization needs to take.

The church needs to find an improved way to do things to better connect with the society around them that has no intention of just going away. Over the next few weeks, I will share my observations about what the church can do to adapt. The message remains the same, but the approach and delivery system for that word can and does need to adjust.

Bunker Thinking

On June 4, 1783, at the market square of a French village of Annonay, not far from Paris, a smoky bonfire on a raised platform was fed by wet straw and old wool rages. Tethered above, straining its lines, was a balloon 33 feet in diameter. In the presence of “a respectable assembly and a great many other people,” and accompanied by great cheering, the aircraft was cut from its moorings and set free to rise majestically into the noon sky. Six thousand feet into the air it went — the first public ascent of a balloon, the first step in the history of human flight. It came to earth several miles away in a field, where it was promptly attacked by pitchfork-waving peasants and torn to pieces as an instrument of evil! – Today in the Word, July 15, 1993.

This story above illustrates just how hard it is for people to accept things that are new and foreign to them. I often get the sense this is where the church is today. We see the world around us changing, and we want to get sticks and attack the strange new things we see around us and label them as an “instruments of evil.” Now while there is plenty of stuff to be concerned about, everything is not evil. What makes things evil is the way they are used. Hiding in a bunker does not address the real issue.  It may make you feel safe, but the threat is still there, and the danger is real.

The church is threatened by the changes happening all around it. The church and mainline denominations are unsure how to relate to society in this strange new post-Christian world. One popular option is just to have a “this too shall pass” approach to the changes. “If we just wait this out, we will be ok.” If we just cut ministry down to the barebones and ration out the gifts of God, we can weather the storm. Is that really what God called us to do? Or does Jesus point us to trust in Him for the needs of tomorrow? Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on? Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Matthew 6:25ff

 God did not give us a Spirit of Timidity

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. 9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time…” 2 Timothy 1:7-9

Transitions are scary.  They create anxiety.  These times cause us to want to run and retreat, but God calls the Church to be bold in its witness to the world. We hold the keys to the kingdom. We don’t face the threats and uncertainty of tomorrow alone, we have behind us the power of Almighty God. Now is the time for church leaders to lead our people into the mission field which is right at the doors of our churches. It is time for the church to love those who are broken right outside our walls. It is time for the church to be bold in its witness, and hopeful in regards to carrying out the mission God has entrusted to His people.  We should be energized by the challenge ahead because the world has never needed the church more than now.   At the same time, we are uncompromising in the purity of our confessions because that is the foundation of the life-saving message of Jesus Christ.  The world is ripe for the harvest.

 

Advertisements
Culture Change, Leadership

Four Steps to Shift Your Culture

lightstock_184709_small_byrene_haney

What is culture? It is the ways of thinking, living, and behaving that define a people and underlie its achievements. It is a nation’s collective mind, its sense of right and wrong, the way it perceives reality, and its definition of self. Culture is the morals and habits a mother strives to instill in her children. It is the obligations we acknowledge toward our neighbors, our community, and our government. It is the worker’s dedication to craftsmanship and the owner’s acceptance of the responsibilities of stewardship. It is the standards we set and enforce for ourselves and for others: our definitions of duty, honor, and character. It is our collective conscience.  – Robert P. Dugan, Jr., Winning the New Civil War, p. 169.

One of the biggest barriers to organizational change is culture.  You have a big, bold, new vision for your group but until you solve the culture issue, nothing will ever change.  In this post, I will give you four key steps you can implement to shift the culture of your team and members.

  1. Describe your God-given vision repeatedly.

Vision is an elusive concept.  A God-given vision is one that flows from intense time with God in prayer and study.  It is always larger than ourselves. You can only accomplish the vision with the power of God driving it.  That being said, here is a great quote about vision. “All men dream but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds awake to the day to find it was all vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for the many act out their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible…” – T.E. Lawrence.  To move your people forward you must help them see their future selves in the vision you are communicating.

  1. Set up a structured training system.

Where most churches fall short is training its members for service.  If you want to observe this first hand at your next large gathering ask former elected officers, “What orientation and training did you receive when you were elected?” To add to the conversation share the results with us in the comment section.

  1. Model Transformation.

Paul’s counsel to young Timothy, “Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.”- 1 Timothy 4:11-13 (ESV)

My mom’s favorite saying was, “You can talk until you are blue in the face.”  As you attempt to get people to follow your vision, know that people will follow what you are modeling.

One Sunday morning in 1865, a black man entered a fashionable church in Richmond, Virginia. When communion was served, he walked down the aisle and knelt at the altar. A rustle of resentment swept the congregation. How dare he! After all, believers in that church used the common cup. Suddenly a distinguished layman stood up, stepped forward to the altar, and knelt beside the black man. With Robert E. Lee setting the example, the rest of the congregation soon followed his lead. – Today in the Word, September 1991, p. 15.

People need to see the standard you are trying to achieve lived out in you first before they will follow.

  1. Reinvest in People.

Finally, to change your culture you must be willing to die to self over and over again as you invest in the lives of those around you.  When the vision becomes about you and not God, you are reaching a danger zone.  At every level you and your organization climb, a piece of the old you dies to allow you to reach the next level.  Let me give you an example.

I am not the same pastor I was when I graduated from the Seminary.  In 1993, I was a “wide-eyed, transforming the world, rookie pastor.”  Now some twenty-four years later I still desire to change the world, but armed with bruises from battle, I know change comes at a high cost. The cost of the death of past failures, broken relationships based on overzealous passion, and the death of a rookie’s enthusiasm, yet better positioned with a balanced view of my role in transformation.

You must not take this journey alone.  No one should hang around you for an extended period of time and not experience transformation.  They could be transformed by the God-given vision, or the training system to equip them for service.  Some will be transformed by the ministry itself, regardless if this is from God.  Lives will be changed.  Go, change the world with the unique vision God has implanted in your heart.

Leadership, Transitions

Three Steps to Lessen the Pain of Change

lightstock_354747_small_byrene_haney.jpg

“Any change, at any time, for any reason, is to be deplored.” The Duke of Cambridge (late 1800s)

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians passed on from generation to generation, says that when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. Our modern bureaucrats, however, have a whole range of far more advanced strategies such as: Buying a stronger whip. Finding lighter riders. Harnessing several dead horses together to improve performance. Arranging an overseas visit to study dead horses. Reclassifying the horse as living impaired. Rewriting the performance requirements for dead horses. Providing additional funding to improve the performance of dead horses. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position. What a shame when churches behave like that! – “How to Flog a Dead Horse.” Author Unknown.

Change for churches is problematic.  When considering any change, you want to be prepared for the opposition, even flat out hostility and insurrection.  One solution to overcoming change is to invest more time and energy into strengthening relationships during the period of the transition. For any organization, stakeholders would soon fix a dead horse than admit the horse is living impaired and it is time to replace the old horse.  The old horse is comfortable. Stakeholders have become attached to the old mare.  Yes, it may not work like it used to or at all but dang nab, it is our dead horse. The goal of this post is to help you minimize the pain of change in your organization.

 

Lesson One: Circumstances will get sicker before they get better

First, know that any change to an organization is like death for many impacted by the change. No matter how well you try and prepare people with realistic expectations, major change means that life for the group will be different.  Even if you have planned for all the possible bumps in the transition road things will get worse before they get better.  During this transition, you will lose some of your best and most dedicated people.  You will fray friendships and strain relations.   This change will cost you, but do it because it’s an investment in the health and effectiveness of your organization.  Nothing worth doing is ever easy, it comes at a high cost, with the potential for high rewards.

Lesson Two: Change will require buy-in by the entire ministry team.

With my first congregation, I came out of Seminary with guns a blazing.  I was young, energetic and a visionary.   In the last six months I had prayed, studied, done research and I knew without a doubt just what direction this urban church needed to go.  So, at the council meeting, I laid out this bold new agenda.  And it went over like a black, lead balloon.  I forgot one critical step in the vision implantation process, I expected this change to happen but failed to gain buy-in by my volunteer ministry team.  Unless you like being the Lone Ranger any change requires collaboration from the entire ministry team. If all stakeholders aren’t in, they will either become disengaged or undermine the preferred future you are leading the organization to.  It is possible that you can effectively change some ministry programs without this buy-in, but the change will not be a lasting one. In three years the organization will be in the same place, however, the leader may not be. Frustrations will grow and any future changes will be more difficult as the trust in the leadership would have eroded.  Start with the end in mind. Lock arms with your ministry team and plan for the long change road ahead together. Transition begins with building deep trust with all stakeholders. Guard relationships during this phase.

 

Lesson Three: To Make Lasting Change you must change the Culture.

Thomas W. Lloyd said, “Culture beats strategy.” Some attribute the quote “Culture eats strategy for dinner,” to Peter Drucker, but experts say that doesn’t sound like Peter Drucker. None-the- less the point of both quotes is that if you don’t address the culture of the organization, nothing you attempt will survive.  Culture will always win in the end. Changing culture takes at least three to five years.  Leaders, you are the primary culture creators by the values you hold, the stories you lift up, and the behaviors you model. When attempting to change the culture there may not be much fruit for at least 18-24 months.  Hang in there.  It may take at least three to four years before you uncover lasting fruit.  Once culture change occurs you will experience transformed programs, a revitalized organization, and people with a clearly defined sense of purpose. All in all the change is worth it.

Congregational Life and Ministry, Transitions

Three Critical​ Steps In Leading Organizational Transitions

lightstock_188387_download_medium_byrene_haney_

Life is about transitions.  Whether that transition is from diapers to walking, from High School to college, or more life altering from dependence to independence. And the final crossing over, from death to life.  Each evolution comes with a certain uncertainty and fear. Leaders in those moments of change face a test of their leadership skills.  Your leadership range is measured by your ability to empower and equip others for the next horizon, the next chapter of the organizations’ story.

I remember years ago witnessing a leadership meltdown.  The elected leader was now in control of a large million-dollar non-profit organization.  As the new head got into office, he discovered that the former chief financial officer used some creative accounting practices to balance the books.  While the practices weren’t illegal it gave the impression that the organization was healthy.  It wasn’t, it was hemorrhaging money and had been for years.  The new CEO discovered this right before his first meeting with the stakeholders.  As I recall that meeting, the CEO had this awkward deer-in-the-headlight look about him.  He appeared overwhelmed by the situation in his first six months of leadership.  He overacted.  He panicked and fired executive staff who had nothing to do with the current or previous financial situation.

It was a turning point for the new CEO and the organization.  It sent a clear message ‘we are doing something’, but are we doing the right something?  Here is the message being sent.  “We are cutting services while demanding a higher level of commitment from our customers.” Situations like that will challenge organizations to find a resolution.  A crisis will occur in every organization’s life cycle however, leaders need to be clear about desired outcomes and the company’s mission. In this post, the question is, how do you prepare your organization for the next chapter of its journey?  From the real-life story above that did not happen.  That transition was not smooth or even well thought out.

There are three keys was to ensure you as a leader help pilot your people into the next chapter.

  1. Focus on Building Character

9 While they were crossing, Elijah asked Elisha, “What should I do for you before I’m taken from you?” Elisha answered, “Let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” 10 Elijah said, “You have asked for something difficult. If you see me taken from you, it will be yours. Otherwise, it will not.” 11 As they continued walking and talking, a fiery chariot with fiery horses separated the two of them, and Elijah went to heaven in a windstorm. 2 Kings 2:9–11 (GW)

Elijah’s career ends when the prophet was picked up by a Holy Uber transport. Elijah is taken away in a windstorm accompanied by a fiery chariot.   Before Elijah takes this final ride, Elisha, who had refused on three separate occasions to leave his side, saying, “I solemnly swear, as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not abandon you.” Now he requests a double portion of his spirit.  Elijah basically responds that is not mine to give, but it will be if Elisha sees him as he is taken up.  Elisha watches him until he disappears, and then tears his clothes in two and takes up Elijah’s mantle. And the mantle is passed from one great prophet to another.  Often, there is a major drop-off in the quality in the succession.  It has little to do with abilities but more so character.  Solomon had greater wisdom than his father David but he lacked the king’s character.  One of the key roles a transitioning leader plays in championing the next horizon is to find staff with high character.  Before you turn over the reign and empower the next group of leaders, make sure you are building character in your organization.

  1. Build Character through relationships

Think ahead to your next question, and how exactly do you build character?  You build character through relationships.

6 Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here because the Lord is sending me to the Jordan River.” Elisha answered, “I solemnly swear, as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not abandon you.” 7 Fifty disciples of the prophets stood at a distance as Elijah and Elisha stood by the Jordan River. 2 Kings 2:6-7 (GW)

Bible scholars believe that Elisha served Elijah for six years before Elijah was ushered into heaven. During this time, a test of the strength of their relationship was placed before Elisha. It is apparent that due to his age Elijah’s final journey was near. Elijah three times told Elisha to stay behind, but each time his successor refused to leave his side. While others were watching from a distance, Elisha wanted a close-up and personal view of what God would do in Elijah’s life.  Elisha was rewarded for his perseverance with a double portion of Elijah’s spirit.  The character of Elisha was formed through that six-year relationship.  Relationships like this take time.  Character formation then takes time.

  1. Have the right outcomes.

Finally, to help shape the next chapter in your organization you need to focus on the right outcomes.  Are my settings of the outcomes God-directed and kingdom oriented? One important lesson I learned early in ministry is that you don’t control people you control outcomes.  Trying to control people is pointless and frustrating.  Your goal in ministry is to create shared ownership of the vision and mission that will lead to the kingdom expansion many of us are seeking.  To be clear I am not talking about numeric growth, the Holy Spirit controls that outcome.  However, if you expand the number of people who are involved in carrying out the mission and vision you will expand the reach and impact of the ministry.

Transitions are hard to manage but I pray these three steps give you the tools to make that transition a little smoother.

Leadership

In A Time of Transition Be Strong and Courageous

Walk with comets

Every person and organization goes through a period of transition.  My current role in ministry is about to undergo a radical shift within the next year.  Our leader will complete his time of service, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the grassroots missional movement that God has started under his leadership.  However, as the old saying goes, “All good things come to an end.” Our area churches will elect a new man of God to lead them into the next story of our organization’s future.  With that transition comes uncertainty.

Usually, changes cause me high anxiety. Which is rarely grounded in reality but only the perception of what horrible things might be and I am aware of that, but it does not stop the heart from racing. When that anxiety comes, you need an outlet. Here is the problem or blessing for me, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, so my outlet is music. Music soothes the anxiety beast. However, this transition has not come with a lot of anxiety, maybe being on the other side of fifty it just takes too much emotional energy, and I need all the energy I can muster to chase around my energetic six-year-old son. Not wanting to be a victim of the anxiety monster has also allowed me to step back and look at the landscape of the path forward for my organization. Maybe the lessons I learn could be of benefit to my readers.

Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion applies well here: “Everything continues in a state of rest unless it is compelled to change by forces impressed upon it.”

My church body is feeling this law in very uncomfortable ways right now. The world around the church is changing at a rapid pace, and it is pressing hard on the church. Those forces have the body of Christ on edge and trying to decide what direction to go next. When a transition is forced upon you there are two natural reactions:
1) hunker down in the bunker and wait for the threat to go away or get tired of fighting.

Or

2) adapt and come up with a big, bold new approach to address the changes that the organization needs to take.

The church needs to find a better way to do things to better connect with the society around them that has no intention of just going away. Over the next few weeks, I will share my observations about what the church can do to adapt. The message remains the same, but the approach and delivery system for that word can and does need to adjust.

Bunker Thinking
On June 4, 1783, at the market square of a French village of Annonay, not far from Paris, a smoky bonfire on a raised platform was fed by wet straw and old wool rages. Tethered above, straining its lines, was a balloon 33 feet in diameter. In the presence of “a respectable assembly and a great many other people,” and accompanied by great cheering, the aircraft was cut from its moorings and set free to rise majestically into the noon sky. Six thousand feet into the air it went — the first public ascent of a balloon, the first step in the history of human flight. It came to earth several miles away in a field, where it was promptly attacked by pitchfork-waving peasants and torn to pieces as an instrument of evil! – Today in the Word, July 15, 1993.
This story above illustrates just how hard it is for people to accept things that are new and foreign to them. I often get the sense this is where the church is today. We see the world around us changing, and we want to get sticks and attack the strange new things we see around us and label them as an “instruments of evil.” Now while there is plenty of stuff to be concerned about, everything is not evil. What makes things evil is the way they are used. Hiding in a bunker does not address the real issue.  It may make you feel safe, but the threat is still there, and the danger is real.

The church is threatened by the changes happening all around it. The church and mainline denominations are unsure how to relate to society in this strange new post-Christian world. One popular option is just to have a “this too shall pass approach to the changes. If we just wait this out, we will be ok.” If we just cut ministry down to the barebones and ration out the gifts of God, we can weather the storm. Is that really what God called us to do? Or does Jesus point us to trust in Him for the needs of tomorrow? Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on? Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Matthew 6:25ff

God did not give us a Spirit of Timidity
7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. 9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 2 Timothy 1:7-9

Transitions are scary.  They create anxiety.  These times cause us to want to run and retreat, but God calls the Church to be bold in its witness to the world. We hold the keys to the Kingdom. We don’t face the threats and uncertainty of tomorrow alone we have behind us the power of Almighty God. Now is the time for church leaders to lead our people into the mission field which is right at the doors of our churches. It is time for the church to love those who are broken right outside our walls. It is time for the church to bold in its witness,  and hopeful in regards to carrying out the mission.  And energized in its outreach in the world because never has the church been more needed.   At the same time, we are uncompromising in the purity of our confessions because that is the foundation of the life-saving message of Jesus Christ.  The world is ripe for the harvest.

 

 

Leadership

How To Make a Good First Impression

images-5

One of my favorite comments from my seminary training was, “You only get two new changes in the first year of your call, and you are the first change. So you only get one more; choose wisely.” I have found that advice to be Master Yoda-like wisdom, for all those Star Wars fans. As a new shepherd coming into a new setting too much change too soon sends a message to the congregation and not always a good message. It says to them, “Here are all things you have been doing wrong, and lucky you I am have been called by God to fix you.” Listen to the wisdom of Proverbs 14, “Patience leads to abundant understanding, but impatience leads to stupid mistakes.” The temptation will become overwhelming to walk into a new place and make an immediate impact, resist that temptation. Here are some important reasons why:

1. Your changes need to be built on the foundations of relationships.

To be clear, if there are issues of doctrine that is a different matter, but even there you need to take the time to instruct before correction. Here we are thinking about issues of practice and tradition. The things being done have usually developed over a long period of time and have become second nature to the congregation. When you decided to take on that sacred cow, you need to first understand how the sacred cow became sacred. Who instituted the practice and why? Are you unknowingly attacking the ideas of a beloved former pastor or charter member? You don’t often win those fights by the way. However, how you go about addressing the issue is spending time with God’s people in meaningful conversation as you are building lasting relationships, so you develop the assets of trust. When change backfires it is often because people question your motives and don’t know you well enough to trust your actions. In being patient enough to build on the foundation of strong lasting relationships, you earn the right to be trusted and make necessary changes but takes time.

2. Remember to minister to your family.

So often pastors are so excited and eager to get going in their new calling that they tend to forget the emotional changes that the family is going through. As a congregation here is where you can be a huge blessing. This is a great ministry opportunity for the lovely compassionate ladies of the congregation to take the time to build a relationship with the new pastor’s wife and family. Imagine the anxiety the new wife in that new community is experiencing. Wondering if people will like and receive her as a valued member of this long established community. She doesn’t have a history there.  Usually no family connections. It is just her small family unit providing support and a sense of comfort. Wouldn’t be great for the people with the gift of hospitality to take time to intentionally plan ways to make this family feel a part of this community? This is one area I see that determines how long a pastor may stay. If the family never gets integrated into the church’s community, it makes for an unhappy congregation/pastoral marriage.

With all the talk of elections and transitions here are just some thoughts for pastors and congregations to consider. To God be the Glory!