The good news is it feels like we’re entering a new season of leadership and ministry.
Although the coronavirus is still with us, churches and businesses are reopening almost everywhere.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that the new season is perhaps even more complicated than the season of crisis we just left.
I also realize you’re likely tempted to stop reading right here.
After all, you really can’t handle one more person saying more change is ahead.
I get it. Some days, neither can I.
We’re all more than a little fatigued, frazzled and irritated. And everybody (including me) is long for some semblance of normal.
Everything in you wants to go back to as much normal as you can possibly find. And that would be great, if it wasn’t also deadly.The good news is we're entering a new season. The bad news is that it's likely more complicated than the season of crisis we just left. Click To Tweet
When change is as profound and disruptive as what we’ve gone through, this next season isn’t a finish line, it’s a start line.
Right now, every organization is a startup and if you see it that way, you can advance your mission.
And as hard as it is to hear, the next season will probably require more leadership from you, not less.
But, because of deep fatigue, a longing for normal and a hope that all the problems go away, too many leaders will default into managing what was rather than leading into what will be— trying to bring the past back, to normalize their work, and to recreate what was lost rather than moving ahead into a new future.
But your work is too important to do that. You know it. I know it.
For all of those reasons and more, it’s just far too easy to blow it in this next season of leadership.
Here are 8 easy ways to do it.When change is as profound and disruptive as what we're going through right now, this next season isn't a finish line, it's a start line. Click To Tweet
1. Don’t Take Time off To Restore Yourself
I was going to put this last, but let’s lead with it instead and call an audible.
The reason you don’t want to read this post, let alone act on it, is because you’re tired. I get it. This has been a very tiring season.
And one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to not take time off to restore yourself.
While this isn’t a clinical definition, having burned out years ago, I’m sensing three levels of weariness in myself and amongst other leaders right now:
Tired responds quickly to cause and effect. You put in a long, hard day, you eat well, get some exercise and get some sleep, and soon you bounce back. If not the next day, then shortly thereafter.
Fatigued is a level of weariness beyond just tired. Fatigue will respond to stimulus (sleep, rest, diet, exercise, prayer) but it just takes longer. You’re not burning out, but there’s a slow drain going on that you really can’t ignore.
Exhausted is a place you find yourself in where you’re more than just tired or fatigued. The recovery is longer, harder and you need more time for restoration. It can easily lead to burnout if you let it (here are 11 signs you may be burning out).
Again, those aren’t clinical definitions, but I hope they’re helpful definitions.
The point is regardless of which stage you’re at, you need time to truly restore yourself this summer. The more tired you are, the more intentional your plan for recovery should be.Leaders, the more tired you are, the more intentional your plan for recovery should be. Click To Tweet
So what’s your plan? If in fact you’re going into a prolonged season of uncertainty and dislocation, you need stamina for the long haul.
Maybe the best thing you can do as a response to this post and the challenges ahead is to book some downtime and then figure out a sustainable pace that will take you through the next few years.
I share the strategies I use to find a sustainable pace here.
If self-care is important in normal times, it’s 10x more important now.
And please hear me…the work you’re doing is so important, and you want to be well and stay well for the road ahead.
Because, as you know, the work is both important and challenging.
Which leads us to the second way to blow it in the next season of leadership.If self-care is important in normal times, it's 10x more important now. Click To Tweet
2. Let Your Fatigue Drive Your Decisions
Your level of fatigue as a leader impacts more than you and your family. It also impacts your organization.
Why? Well, it can be so easy to let your fatigue drive your decision-making. You avoid the hard decisions, take the complicated things off the agenda and go into robot mode or stick with what you know because it’s just, well, easier.Don't let your fatigue drive your decision making. Click To Tweet
So how do you counter that?
The best way to gain energy for the decisions you know you need to make is to simplify your model.
If you only do a few things and do them well, you’ll be able to put most of your energy into the things that need it most, rather than diffusing it across a dozen things.
Think about it this way: Doing the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing, ultimately energizes you.
Taking the path of least resistance ultimately drains you when you discover you’ve lost ground and grown irrelevant and ineffective.
Hint: in leadership, the right thing is almost always the hard thing.
So get some good rest, and then rally the team and do the things you know you need to do.In leadership, the right thing is almost always the hard thing. Click To Tweet
3. Play The Short Game
Another easy way to blow it in leadership is to play the short game.
The short game right now probably looks like this: get back to normal as quickly as possible with in-person services and pick up where you left off or recreate what you lost.
What’s even more challenging is that for a meaningful percentage of organizations and churches, online engagement is up and so is giving, or at least it’s steady.
That kind of success or stability will keep your focus on the short game while you ignore the tectonic shifts happening in culture.
And that’s as complex and challenging as it sounds.
So many of the methods broke long before COVID. Trying to resurrect them isn’t going to resurrect your organization for the long term.So many of the methods broke long before COVID. Trying to resurrect them isn't going to resurrect your organization for the long term. Click To Tweet
4. Ignore Volunteers
Disclaimer: Points 4-8 take a heavy focus on churches, so if you lead a business or non-profit, these points might not directly apply to you, but the timeless principles behind them still will.
Because most churches were staffed and programmed for in-person ministry, one of the things that went dormant almost instantly was the volunteer corp at most churches.
When church went online, what used to take dozens or hundreds of people to run suddenly only took a handful.
As a result, many churches have dozens (or hundreds or thousands) of volunteers who haven’t served in months.
Many indications are that many volunteers, worried about the virus and having swapped a 5 hour Sunday commitment for a 1 hour Sunday commitment, like many others, might not return.
Connecting with your volunteers, encouraging them to serve in their community and remobilizing them even before you need them will prepare you for a strong future.
5. Assume Families are Automatically Healthier
I realize it’s been a year of crisis, so it’s understandable that many leaders haven’t had the bandwidth to think about volunteers. But there’s another group that probably needs your attention: families.
Families have had a difficult year. With zoom school, social isolation, and no sense of normal to cling to for ages, it’s easy to assume that families will be healthy now that things are more open and normal.
Not so fast.
The long term effects of isolation, trauma and everything else we’ve been through are just starting to surface.
So what can you do? Be ready. Be open. Plan on helping.
And know this: ignoring families tends to produce less effective ministry than serving them does.Ignoring families tends to produce less effective ministry than serving them does. Click To Tweet
6. Let Your Staff Go Back To Their Old Roles
You’ve probably already caught onto this, but the staffing structure you had heading into the crisis is likely not the staffing structure you need heading into the future.
Why? Well, when things change, you need to change too.
Most churches we’re staffed for in-person ministry, and that’s about it. As complex as in-person ministry is right now, online church is probably a big part of the future.
And if that’s the case, how are you positioned for it?
As things reopen, it’s easy to snap back to where you were. And that will be a mistake.
Tagging online church onto your creative team’s job description or handing it to a 19-year-old volunteer is probably not a great long-term strategy.
Further, it’s probably going to require a skillset you may not have on your current team. So continuing to recruit volunteers and staff around that is wise.
So is allocating some of your budget. Most churches spend 99% of their budget on in-person ministry.
If everyone you want to reach is online, you may want to rethink that.Most churches spend 99% of their budget on in-person ministry. If everyone you want to reach is online, you may want to rethink that. Click To Tweet
7. Put Online on Autopilot
Most churches have made significant progress with their online ministry: either they’ve started one or seen the existing online outreach and ministry grow.
And right now, the big temptation is to leave all that on auto-pilot as assume it will grow automatically. Which of course, as soon as you say it out loud, you realize won’t happen.
When you invest in digital ministry, you’re investing in the future and in reaching the world.When you invest in digital ministry, you're investing in the future and in reaching the world. Click To Tweet
8. Put All Your Focus On Sunday
In the early days of the crisis, churches were trying all kinds of things online.
Maybe you’ve noticed too. Almost everyone has pivoted back to focusing only on Sunday.
For all the reasons already listed in this post (especially fatigue), that’s understandable. It’s also a mistake.
For the first time in history, online ministry allows church leaders to come alongside people 7 days a week in an easy, accessible way.
I’ve written about this extensively elsewhere, but church-in-a-box was already past its expiry date.
Returning your focus to one day—Sunday—and taking your eye off of all the other opportunities positions your church for the past, not for the future.
Here are some ideas on the future church.
In the future, churches will shift their focus from Sunday to every day, because people need to find faith and live out their faith every day.In the future, churches will shift their focus from Sunday to every day, because people need to find faith and live out their faith every day. Click To Tweet
What Do You See?
I realize how tiring all the change ahead can be. So please, get some meaningful rest and find a sustainable pace.
I hear you. I’m with you.
But you know this, as leaders, truth is our friend.
And just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
The future is unkind to the unprepared, so I’m grateful we get to think through this together.
What else are you seeing?
What other things can catch us off guard in this season?
Scroll down and leave a comment!