Leadership in Process

We made it to 2021, and we’re still finding ourselves leading in uncharted territory. When 2020 ended, many of us might have exhaled. Though a new year often signals new possibilities, our leadership circumstances might have only nudged a bit toward fewer restrictions. You might still be leading behind a computer, or maybe, you’re back but in PPE (personal protective equipment). Maybe your classrooms don’t have walls anymore because you’ve embraced the outdoors. None of these scenarios are quite how things used to be. 

You’ve had to do a lot of reorienting. 

I have been deeply inspired by what I’ve observed in this community. Together, we have led with adaptability, endurance, and the ability to problem solve. None of these leadership traits came from “arriving.” They have all been wrought in the process. The process is a hard place for most of us to attend to – we would much rather spend our time thinking about the concrete results or impact of our efforts. The process can take a lot of energy, and it can feel messy. Though this is true, it is because the process is where transformation happens, and it is where wise leaders must direct their attention (especially in uncertain times). So we start there. 

Here are 3 steps toward attending to your ministry processes and seeing them as opportunities to grow. 

1. Pay attention to what is or is not working in your ministry.

You already know what is and is not working in your ministries. But have you pinpointed why? Write down every area of ministry you are doing right now and list the ways that ministry is succeeding or struggling. For example, if you’re gaining traction with volunteers, write down why. If you can’t seem to make time for training, write down why. If people are showing up and seem a little lost, write down why. From that list you can celebrate the successes and make changes where the process isn’t accomplishing the goals.

2. When it’s failing, learn from it and change.

My greatest ministry moments were not when Sunday School ran perfectly, or I had a great idea for a Fall Festival in a staff meeting. My greatest moments are tied to failures that I learned from that led to a change. If you’ve pinpointed areas in ministry that aren’t succeeding, what can you do to adapt and change? Who can you call to help you make changes? Though admitting an area in your ministry is failing might be challenging, when you change it, you will have a deeper appreciation for the work that you put in and awareness that you can do challenging work with favorable results. And your ministry will be better for it.

3. Experiment.

This year has been one experiment after another for everyone. And yet, there is still more experimenting you can do to create environments for kids and families to experience Jesus wherever they are. In March when everything shut down, I found myself pivoting to online ministry. The student director had a lot less on his plate as all his events were cancelled and his midweek service was shortened to 40-minutes a week. At that time, I was swamped with making multiple videos a week and trying to connect with families via email and socially distanced visits. He quickly jumped into collaborating with me to make hilarious kid’s ministry videos with a crazy scientist called Professor Beardo. He became a weekly feature in our kid’s messages, and I was able to try new story-telling techniques with his help. 

Where might you need to experiment with outreach, volunteer training, in person gatherings, or parent engagement? Remember, if it works, you can assess why and move with that momentum. If it fails, you can change and learn from it. 

Be curious about what is working and not working, use failures as a learning opportunity, and keep on trying- these simple steps to pay attention to the process will empower you to experience greater growth and transformation in your leadership and your ministry. 

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