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Leadership Mistakes on the Pathway to Change

I resemble that remark! Having strung together a series of small wins as transitional pastor, I attempted a major change in a 136 year old church and was reminded that you can never cut corners.

We are experimenting with giving up traditional Sunday night service in favor of outreach to young families through AWANA . (I probably wouldn’t have chosen this approach but they already had AWANA and when I arrived, it was one of the few remaining public interfaces.) I fumbled the process on the front end but with grace and humility recovered fairly quickly. In the process, I learned or re-learned some of the mistakes leaders may make in effecting major change. This is not an exhaustive list, but reflects some of what we encountered making changes in the real world.

  • Lack of clear direction – On the front end, I was not as convinced or convincing as I need to be. When the leader is not clear and passionate about change, even those who are prone to follow him are left with questions. The leader can never afford to be unsure of where he is leading.
  • Lack of clear reasoning – Most difficult to understand was why this was better than asking the AWANA leaders and others to come on a different night to do this outreach. Both the area I am serving and the age of our congregation meant our people didn’t understand the culture of unchurched young families. They had to be given time to understand the “why.”
  • Lack of clear definition – Late adopters and even opposers need to know what it means to them. For the oldest members of our church who are unable to help with AWANA or the outreach to their families, they needed to know what it meant to them. The fix was as simple as providing a Bible study and enlisting them to pray for the AWANA ministry that was going on upstairs.
We launched last Sunday night with a 50% increase in children and students involved in AWANA with greeters, van drivers, listeners, and leaders who previously were in evening worship. The symbolism of the pastor and staff being involved in AWANA instead of in a worship service was powerful, but it almost didn’t happen because I did not communicate effectively.
Hopefully, the mistakes I make next time will be new ones, instead of repeating these. If you have led or are leading a small traditional church through change, I would love for you to add to this list.
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