I recently sat down with 5 Sr. Pastors who are all leading Multisite Churches ranging from 5,000 to more than 15,000. Here’s some of what they had to say regarding church leadership. Miss Part-1 of this post? Follow this link to get caught up on what they had to say about what it takes for “Young leaders to earn the right be heard and succeed.”
Question #2 “What are some indicators that momentum is moving the wrong direction and how do you turn the tide?”
Linn Winters: This is that part of leadership that has an awful lot of art to it. This is why you can’t put a diagram in a book and say this is when momentum gets lost. But the best way I can describe it is the church is a dinosaur. It is this big behemoth of a thing and it intuitively wants to sit down, it wants to rest. And the problem is if you ever let it sit down getting it to get up and move again is a horrific challenge. So better to have a tiny bit of momentum headed in a certain direction than to ever let it sit down. Because you guys have seen churches who have let the dinosaur sit down and were never able to recover that moment. But what I would say that as you go back and try and tackle momentum…because all of us have had to do this in a department, in a division of the church, or church wide…is that the thing I think that happens too often as leaders is we see the big problem. We think if we could take that hill 80% of the problem we’re dealing with right now would be solved…by taking that hill. And intuitively as leaders many of us try and take the biggest hill and solve the biggest problem in the room. And the problem is once the dinosaur has slowed down or sat down, the dinosaur no longer has confidence that it can take that hill. It does not believe you, that it can take that big hill. And I think in that moment, you and I are much better served as leaders to ask the dinosaur, “Hey what’s the biggest problem you see?” Because in this moment all you’re trying to do is get the dinosaur to move. You don’t even care what direction the dinosaur moves. And then once you get a little momentum, then you’re going to turn the dinosaur in the right direction. So an example of that would be, I think a lot of guys go into churches, they’re going to be turning that church around, and they can see they need to redo the auditorium or change the whole leadership culture. They can see the big pieces. But if you went to the church, the average person in the church is horrified to take that hill with you. You don’t have the confidence or the clout to do it. And the most powerful thing you can do is to ask that church, that division, that ministry segment what’s the hill you think we can take? And they’re going to come back with something really impressive like paint the nursery. And you’re going to go…that doesn’t even hit my radar! But what great leaders understand is that isn’t the issue. The issue is that I’ve got to get the dinosaur to move. And powerful leaders embrace this, they read the temperature of the room and they paint the nursery. And they go the Elder Board and they get the money to paint the nursery, and they get the men of the church to come down on a Saturday and paint the nursery. And now the nursery is painted, and what do the women of the church say? Oh, our Sr. Pastor is the smartest Sr. Pastor in the whole world. He painted the nursery. And now as they go home, because they have their freshly painted nursery, what are they saying to their husbands…that guy is the man! And what you’re doing is you can now go back and say what’s the next hill? And you’re building confidence and momentum with simple wins until you can go and take that big hill.
Don Wilson: The purpose of a leader is to define reality and the problem is with many of our churches that are growing, we’ll stand up here and tell you how it’s growing, but the truth is we really don’t know. Because there are some God things going on that you can’t put 1-2-3 to in my experience. So the struggle is a lot of times if you don’t know why you’re growing and it stops, you won’t know how to get it growing again. And if your church is growing you’re not as good as you think you are, and if you’re church is declining you’re not as bad as you think you are. We’re all in the size of churches that we’re no longer a canoe we’re a cruise ship. It takes a lot longer to turn a cruise ship around than a canoe. And so the danger with momentum is once you lose it, you can work hard, but you may not see any movement for 12-18 months. And that’s where I think a lot of people get disenchanted because they say your ideas aren’t working. So I think one of the toughest things in leadership and momentum is that you might be growing now, but it might be a false growth.
You may be declining but your numbers show that you’re growing. And one of the keys of leadership is recognizing where that bell-curve is and to make the changes before you start seeing it go down. A lot of times we grow because we happen to get a great location, the timing is right, the church next to us has problems. There are a lot of times where we have a tendency to say, “Well God is just doing a great thing here.” Well no He could just be blowing up stuff everywhere else. And we’re not that good. All of these guys have been in our churches a long time. And if you’ve been in a church a long time and your church is healthy, you will automatically get church transfer growth whether you want them or not. Because they’re in churches that are jacked up. And so those people come, and it can look like healthy growth but some of the worst growth you can get is church transfer growth. Because for a while it looks great, but they really have a different agenda that you don’t know about until later on.
Cal Jernigan: I think a lot of times we have a hard time with reality. You know that expression, “Facts are your Friends.” I think a lot of times there’s an instinct in leadership to not really want to know the facts. When you’re losing momentum, your people will tell you that you’re losing momentum. People around you will tell you. It’s really obvious to a lot of people. But the leader is often times the last one to know it or want to deal with it. Because the leader is ultimately the guy who is going to have to do something about it. So I think just a willingness to say we’re going to listen, we’re going to deal with it. We’re not going to spin it, we’re not going to put lipstick on it and try to make it pretty. We’re going to call it out, this is our problem and we’re going to develop a strategy to get this thing fixed. It seems to me that in a lot of churches the problem is obvious but they’re not ever declaring it. And by the way it is easy to know when you’re losing momentum, they’re going to somebody else’s church.
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