Note: This is a guest article by Transitional Leader and Author Len Hjalmarson* currently serving as a Transitional Pastor at Crossroads Community Church in Chilliwack BC.
We live in a time of profound disorientation. Some have called this ‘the great unraveling.’ Institutions we relied on are failing us. Millions of people have experienced radical displacement through wars, famines and droughts. And now suddenly we find the economies of the world in free-fall. To add insult to injury, our normal support systems are barely able to cope, straining under the requirement of isolation.
For churches and church leaders, the experience is not different. Our relationships are what make us a body. Yet that glue itself is tested under the solvent of these unique conditions. How do leaders lead when we can’t gather? What can we do anyway? We are definitely not equipped to lead organizations under these conditions. We find ourselves having to adapt to these times while...
I am struck today, during this unprecedented worldwide Covid-19 situation of what God sees. What is He saying to us during this unique period of isolation? How do we take full advantage of this opportunity?
I have been drawn to the women at the well (John 4:4-42) - read it from her isolation perspective. She is isolated on three levels. First, as a Samaritan, she is isolated culturally from the Jewish community. The isolation is quite bitter and downgrading towards the Samaritans.
Secondly, she is isolated (ostracized) socially from other people in her community. This is a result of her lifestyle choices of being with too many men. She is at the well in the middle of the day because she is not culturally allowed to be with others in the morning. All alone.
Thirdly, we come to understand she feels isolated from worshipping God at the temple
Yet she encounters Jesus in a powerful way in her isolation. Jesus uses some very bold dialogue...
“Quiet down before God, be prayerful before him.” - Psalm 37:7
What do you do in times of uncertainty? How do we lead when anxious people look to us for stability and a road map when we don’t have one?
Times of uncertainty are certainly not new but when they come, we are called upon to act in such a way that provides help and hope for those depending on us. To do that, however, we have to get our inside world put right.
For me, what has helped me get my inside world right is Psalm 37:7 and the promise found within.
Quiet down before God, be prayerful before him.
These words are an anchor in the storm. A beacon in the fog. A rock amidst shifting sand. A place to lay down our weary lives.
We quiet down before God not just as an escape from our duty but as a place to go in order to fulfill our duty. I (not unlike many of you) have had to deal with canceled events, lost opportunity, financial loss, health concerns,...
“It isn't the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions.” — W. Bridges*
Change is situational and transition is the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation (according to W. Bridges). Unless transition occurs, change will not work.
“There can be any number of changes, but unless there are transitions, nothing will be different when the dust clears.” — W. Bridges
We see this in our personal lives and in the congregations we serve.
Transition begins with an ending, moves into the neutral zone, then enters into a new beginning phase.
1. An ending
Transition begins with an ending and a letting go. Israelite's were given the opportunity to let go of Egypt as the first step in their transitional journey to the Promised Land. Their ending involved a radical event and was the intervention strategy God used to launch them on their journey...
A small beginning can lead to a big impact!
God’s Word to Zerubbabel through Zechariah went like this, “Do not despise these small beginnings” (Zech. 4:10).
This message was delivered to discouraged leader and a demoralized people who were trying to get back on their feet after a difficult transition. In his doubt, Zerubbabel needed this message from the Lord…
Start small and see what a difference you can make when I’m in it with you!
I’m approaching this new year with a focus on the small beginnings — the ones I believe God is in on.
What’s your temperature as you begin 2020? Optimistic? Excited? Overwhelmed? Doubtful? Cautious? Determined? Expectant? Curious?
I’m approaching this year from a posture of stillness.
Truth is, I’ve picked STILLNESS as my theme for 2020 — my one word. I’m very aware that I need to cultivate and practice stillness if...
John Wayne once said, “You're short on ears and long on mouth.” I’m not sure who John was talking to but it could certainly have been me.
How about you? Do you ever find yourself short on ears and long on mouth?
Listening is one of the most loving things you and I can do at home, with our friends, and in the places where we lead and seek to make a kingdom difference. Paul Tillich agrees: “The first duty of love is to listen.”
Paul said, “Love cares more for others than for self…[love] doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always me first…”
Are you more like a soldier or a scout?
A soldier’s job is to protect and defend a position. A scout’s job is to seek out and explore new possibilities. Two distinct approaches with very different outcomes.
In his book, The Book of Beautiful Questions, Warren Berger suggests that scout like behavior gives a leader a definite advantage.
During times of change and transition, this is especially true. We need flexibility and approach situations as scouts who are on the look out for new possibilities, new ideas, and new ways forward.
“The mindset of a scout is rooted in curiosity. Scouts are more likely to say they feel pleasure when they learn new information or solve a puzzle. They’re more likely to feel intrigued when they encounter something that contradicts their expectations.”*
Leaders with scout-like behavior have what’s called intellectual humility.
Intellectual humility is “a state of openness...
Working with churches in transition is challenging work and requires a certain type of leadership. The season of transition is messy and filled with a wide range of emotions and experiences.
After spending a few days training some transitional leaders and hearing stories from the front line, I made a few observations and gained some fresh insights I wanted to share with you hear. Feel free to add to this conversation.
1. To learn new skills you have to get uncomfortable.
Pastors are often ill-equipped to be coach-like facilitative change management specialists. They must learn to use and strengthen new muscles. They must be aware of their learning gaps and be willing to go through the awkwardness of unlearning behaviors that get in the way of being an effective transitional pastor, leader, and coach.
It’s not easy or automatic to make the shift to a more coach-like approach to ministry. Pastors are trained to...
“Yesterday’s solutions and procedures may not provide an adequate or appropriate response to the present challenges. Hence, the biggest hurdles facing long-time leaders may not be in learning new insights and skills, but in unlearning what they consider to be tried and true and what thus provides them with a false sense of security.”
— Eddie Gibbs in Leadership Next
Your biggest challenge in working with a congregation in transition, may not be to simply find the right map to follow but in helping them unlearn what might be holding them captive to past solutions.
An analogy I've found helpful in thinking about the role of a traveling companion and coach to congregations in transition (of any kind) is to see our role not as map readers but as navigators. I give credit to Leonard Hjalmarson in his book, Broken Futures, for reminding me of this way of framing the work we do (a book I recommend you add to your reading list).
Eddie Gibbs says further,...