Very rarely does success come from jumping from one venture to another every few years. And very rarely does long term impact happen from short term tenure.
And yet in ministry and in life, people often jump from venture to venture or church to church hoping the next fit is better than the last fit, only to be perpetually disappointed.
One of the things that characterizes most leaders who make an impact in our generation is staying power. Andy Stanley has has been at North Point since he started it 17 years ago. Rick Warren has served at Saddleback for three decades. Craig Groeschel, Perry Noble, Steven Furtick and so many more have all had or are working on long term ministries.
I’m not saying leaders should never leave. I’m just saying in my view too many leaders leave too often before critical breakthroughs happen.
Most people who become ‘overnight’ successes have put in a decade or more before anything really note-worthy has happened.
It is tempting to quit. And if you don’t know how to persevere through adversity, chances are you won’t. So what is it quitters never master?
1. Being unpopular. Long term leadership has seasons, and in some of those seasons you become unpopular. Sometimes it’s a sign you need to work on something. So work on it. But sometimes you just have to be prepared to be misunderstood. There are very few biblical characters who were ever perfectly understood. Eventually, people will see what you were trying to do. Hang around long enough to let them see it. Even if they never do, God does.
2. Personal growth. It’s easy to change an organization (at least at first), it’s much more difficult to change you. To thrive long term you have to be relentlessly committed to personal growth. Face your demons. Learn from your mistakes. And get the help you need to grow and get better.
3. Trusting God more than themselves. The change you can bring happens quickly. Most of us are skilled enough to look good for a season and change things enough to bring progress. But then we run out of ideas. The change (transformation even) that God brings happens over time. To sustain a long term vision for ministry requires a growing faith and trust in God.
4. The ability to withstand highs and lows. A great season doesn’t mean you’re great. And a terrible season doesn’t mean you’re terrible. Long term leaders learn not to ride the highs too high or the lows too low. Learn from each season, and move on.
5. Developing a circle of trusted friends. Most long term leaders I know have a circle of people who love them, are genuine friends and tell them the truth. These are the people who keep you grounded. Quitters are often isolated. It’s easier to pick people off one by one than in strong teams and groups.
It’s not that you should never leave, it’s just that you should never leave for the wrong reasons.
What has kept you in the game over the longer haul? What mistakes do you see quitters making?