This article was published in the regional Learning Network newsletter for this month, and it said much of what I was thinking of writing about – so I decided not to re-invent the wheel...
Adopt a Bias for Action
Many congregations are experiencing a deep erosion of purpose and confidence, thinking that their best days are a long way behind them. However, the past does not have to determine the future. The resurrection affirms for us that even after years of malaise and apathy a church can be resurrected to competent and compelling ministry.
So how do we create energy and momentum in a culture that is experiencing neither of those things, and in the midst of 'we tried that before' and 'that would never work' comments? It begins with action. It is only change that changes things – a different action, a different approach or, quite possibly, a new way of thinking. The catalyst for that may well be a few small wins which point to the new future, generating momentum and energy. Momentum and energy can change the course of any organisation, and in time build enthusiasm, confidence, and a new culture.
To get those wins we have to create a sense of urgency, particularly where churches have become comfortable in their decline and accepted it as their situation. Urgency begins with honesty about the current reality of the church. However current reality without future hope simply depresses people and fosters hopelessness. There needs to be a bias towards action.
Try something, almost anything, as the first step in introducing action and change. Necessary technical changes (maintenance, decoration, signage, heating, seating, compliance) may be the small wins you need to get things moving before changes to ministries, programmes, and services. Even if the early actions are things which you need to do, or motivate and drive, yourself, remember that seeing change builds hope and energy energises.
Action involves risk, but what are the risks of inaction? Try a lot and if it fails, fail quickly and move on. Having a bias for action thrives alongside clear communication and feedback that pilots the narrow path between a bull-in-a-china-shop approach and a leader. A leader is one who has co-leaders and collaborators. You cannot be effective without them. Leading and discipling people involves walking alongside to allow your energy and action to energise and inspire, so that they will learn to follow Jesus more closely.
Don't be held hostage by people not liking actions that need to be taken, but don't be paralysed by a need for everyone to like you. True leaders move people to act, not because they have all the answers, or all the responsibility but because they are custodians and "crafters of the culture". Crafting the culture begins with knowing your mission, understanding your vision, being able to articulate them and lead others into acting on them.
Without action, nothing happens. Without change, nothing new happens. Effectiveness requires a bias towards action, or as James (2 v14-20) says:
"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill', and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
But someone will say, 'You have faith and I have works.' Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith without works is barren?"
Wishing you a fruitful autumn,
Adrian, Jon, James and Katie
The Southern & Islands Region Learning Network