Do you want the good news or the bad news?? Well, the bad news is that you as a pastor or lay leader are probably challenged in this time. The good news… you as pastor and lay leader may be transformed for mission in this time.
Do you feel like the rules changed in the middle of the game? They did. Gone is the church of yesteryear. Now we are tasked with embracing a new set of circumstances, stressors, challenges, and obstacles, yet we’re finding ways to focus on mission. The dangerous thing that’s hanging in the balance right now isn’t the future of the church. No, what’s at stake is our openness, willingness, and yes… trust to continue to be faithful God’s mission, and not the trappings of the church that have absorbed so much of our time and energy for the last 100 years, and insulated our sense of safety and righteousness.
Church Leadership is about Transformation
Tod Bolsinger in his 2015 book: Canoeing The Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory, considers how to lead when the terrain changes and your training and experience leave you unprepared. Bolsinger describes church leadership: “Leadership is energizing a community of people toward their own transformation in order to accomplish a shared mission in the face of a changing world.” Bolsinger tells us if we as pastors and church leaders are not tumbled about in a potentially messy transformational process, then we are not leading well. It is not enough to preach via video, meet with committees online, and wait for a return to complete normalcy.
Nope. It’s not gonna happen.
Former Church Ways Don't Work Anymore
It’s not about simply dispensing a recorded service at weekly worship. It’s not enough. To be about the mission of the church, it requires, first a change from within. Bolsinger admonishes “congregational leadership in a post-Christendom context is about communal transformation for mission.” He goes on to say that “The Christian community is about gathering and forming a people, and spiritual transformation is about both individual and corporate growth, so that they—together—participate in Christ’s mission to establish the kingdom of God ‘on earth as it is in heaven’.” Hard to do on a normal day, but now? When we have our hands full of crises, anxiety, weird isolation and paranoia, uncomfortable realizations of racial injustice. Yikes. How are we to take on more?
Survival or Challenge?
When we are stressed, “leadership is an extraordinary opportunity to address the needs of people and direct their energies toward a common purpose.” Peter Steinke has spent decades working with church leaders on healthy ways of leading when the anxiety is flooding the church or organizational system. Steinke, in UPROAR: Calm Leadership in Anxious Times, commends leaders to, “draw people’s attention to something larger than themselves. In highly anxious times, people become more demanding, however, about meeting their needs, and leaders are tested in new ways.”
Pastors and leaders, hear me now. It is not your mission to chase, achieve, or fulfill. It is the congregation’s mission. It is their calling as people of God. “Leadership therefore is about the transformation of a congregation so that they collectively, can fulfill the mission they, corporately have been given.” Bolsinger posits that in our post- Christendom world, “transformation is at the very center of life. While the urgency of transformation is made evident by the reality of our circumstances, the energy for transformation is inherent in our call and identity as followers of Jesus.” So, while our crazy Covid19 world is making this a top priority, it is our faith and focus on Jesus that gives us what we need to engage a two-part transformation.
Isn’t that good news? This two-part transformation (leaders AND community of faith) is our calling now. We can let go of the some old and be willing to walk with boldness into an intentional journey of transformation together--for the sake of God’s mission in the world. We are changed by change. It’s not about us, and we can be freed to live and lead a church and a mission on the loose. Buckle up, Buttercup.
For more information, here is our path for healthy congregational change: Change Facilitation.
Kristin Wiersma | Consultant Team Lead | The Joshua Group | email
Metal art: Rev. Glenn Berg-Moberg
Bolsinger, T. E. (2015). Canoeing the mountains: Christian leadership in uncharted territory. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Steinke, P. L. (2019). UPROAR: Calm leadership in anxious times. Lanham, MA: Rowman & Littlefield.