Common Reactions When Growth in an Organization Slows

by | Jan 13, 2022 | Church Leadership, Church Revitalization

A young pastor was battling the leadership of the church to make changes. He felt part of his call to the church was to make changes, but every change he suggested the leadership of the church resisted. All his efforts to help the church grow again were met with opposition. When I talked with him he was questioning if he should give into them, push forward with more changes, or whether it was not even going to be a fit for him to stay long-term. He knew the current state of affairs was causing lots of stress for him and his family.

 

(And this story could be the story of many churches and pastors.)

This particular church was once a vibrant, growing church. People of all ages were being discipled and the church was engaging the community. Things were good. That was a number of years ago.

The pastor and I talked through the fact that the way change is introduced is incredibly important, but after years of decline, I agreed change would certainly be needed if they expect to see any new growth. As the saying goes, “More of the same will not produce change.”

The reminder for me, however, was of some common characteristics I have observed in organizations, whether the church, nonprofit or business, when growth begins to slow or future progress appears to be in question. In uncertain times, probably because all organizations involve people – people subject to emotional reactions – each has a tendency to react similarly.

 

During times of difficulty, organizations:

Resist taking risks – of any kind.

Avoid change – at all cost.

Cling to tradition – as if it were gold.

Think inward – rather than outward.

Control everything – and limit extending power to others.

Become selfish – in protection of who they’ve been in the past.

I should admit I’ve been in both sides of the equation. I’ve been in the times of fast growth and times of steady (even rapid) decline. I ’m certain I have even contributed to each of these reactions at one time or another.

Unfortunately, I’ve never seen any of these reactions work. They feel needed at the time. Our emotions may even tell us they are more comfortable at the time, but they fail to produce that for which they were intended. They stall growth rather than spur growth.

In my experience, these are the exact opposite reactions that spur progress.

 

Here is why I’m writing this post:

If you are in a time of decline, perhaps it’s time to think differently than your natural, even understandable emotions would lead you to act.

 

Perhaps you need to:

Take new risks – start with small ones first.

Embrace change – even when it hurts or is scary.

Hold tradition loosely – celebrate it, but don’t be afraid of new traditions.

Think outward – more than inward.

Empower others – more than you control.

Be generous – with resources you do have and towards new ideas.

To the church leader, I would say this: You must walk by faith. And keep walking by faith. I understand it is natural to react and hold on to what you can easily understand when circumstances become difficult. I’ve been there many times.

Something tells me though in the history of the church, to get you where you are today, there were seasons of tremendous risks of faith.

If you want to grow again, however, you’ll have to walk by faith – again.

 

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Ron Edmondson

I am CEO of Leadership Network. I was previously pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church, a church leader and the planter of two churches. I am passionate about planting churches but also helping established churches thrive. I love assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy, and life. My specialty is organizational leadership, so in addition to my role as a pastor, as I have time, I consult with church and ministry leaders. I have more than 35 years of leadership experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and have been in full-time ministry for over 15 years. I have successfully led the restart of one church and the planting of two churches, and now we are seeing God’s hand tremendously in church revitalization. I have a seminary masters and a master’s in organizational leadership. I also once helped lead (as an elected official) a mid-sized city, where I served as Vice Mayor and Finance Chair. The greatest times for me are with my wife Cheryl and our amazing adult sons, Jeremy, his wife Mary, and our youngest son Nate. Over 20 years ago, I founded a non-profit ministry called Mustard Seed Ministry, which provides devotional resources, conducts family, marriage, and parenting, and church leadership seminars. My INTJ personality on the Myers-Briggs indicator means I have big ideas, I love creative and critical thinking and I love to see progress. I am usually around people but crave downtime. For years I was usually training for either a half or full marathon. Running was my most productive thinking time. Knee problems in recent years have caused me to stop running, but I’m committed to finding the time I need to fuel my mind, body, and spirit. I write several times weekly on leadership, church, and family. To sign up for my blog on a reader or by email, click HERE. I do interact with my readers, so feel free to contact me. You can email me at ron.edmondson@gmail.com.I am also on Google+ at http://www.gplus.to/ronedmondson, Twitter at www.twitter.com/ronedmondson and Facebook at www.facebook.com/ronaedmondson. My devotional site is www.mustardseedministry.com