We all knew church was changing. The past nine months have accelerated that change. It is so much easier now to stay home, to church-hop online, to compare our local congregation to what others across the country are doing, or not doing. What I have heard from the Network in the past few months is church will be about quality rather than quantity. People are showing up for church for the fellowship of believers, not for the teaching or the fireworks from the praise band. What does all of this mean? That what I have heard – that church will be about neighborhood, in the best sense of the word, about relationships and caring for each other, and encouraging each other in the worst of times – is what we will seek from church. We don’t need buildings for that. We need people who are committed to loving each other the way that God loves us.
Church leaders leading in the new reality
I imagine this is scary for church leaders. I have heard that leaders are concerned for each other and for what is happening around them. There is great hope for the future of the church, and great understanding that leaders will need a completely new set of skill, ones that they haven’t necessarily been taught in seminary. But I believe that great leaders have a core of adaptability inside of them, an ear to hear and eyes to see, and an innate sense that there is always another way. One of my favorite books is “Leading at the Edge,’ by Dennis Perkins, the leadership lessons of Sir Ernest Shackleton. It is a great read for church leaders now. It is a great read for any leader now, because wherever we lead, there is a new reality we are all facing.
High performing teams
What does a leader do when they don’t have all the skills they need to face new challenges and new realities? They look to their team. I have always believed that leadership is a team sport. The best leaders don’t believe they have everything they need. Rather, they build a team of leaders around them who are smarter than them at some things, and better than them at other things, and their primary goal is to create success for the organization through success of the team. Early in the pandemic on-line learning and skills development was in high demand. Initially I think that leaders were looking for ways to keep their teams busy working from home, and skills development was something to keep the team occupied and engaged. I am seeing now a longer-term understanding that in order to face the crazy changes coming at us, we need every single team member engaged, effective, and using all of the talent they have to its ultimate leverage.
Scaling an organization
Why do I think that the topic of scaling an organization belongs in the same commentary as a small, networked, and neighborhood church? The two ideas seem contradictory on the surface. What I am hearing from the Network is that the concept of scale has taken on a new meaning. Organizations are scaling in the digital realm, not the physical realm. When we all stay home, and home becomes the hub of our lives, expansion happens in different ways. We have been consistently moving from a world where the size of one’s building and one’s employees are the measure of scale, to a world where networks and hubs that are interconnected can move more quickly and scale faster. The lockdowns have accelerated that. What will it look like to scale in world where we can unite around values and purpose, and create financial models that are flexible and scalable in different ways? I believe the church will do this in the years to come. How will the rest of us scale?