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What comes next?

January 12, 2021

Congregations need help to discover what their new normal will look like

COVID-19 has changed everything. That might sound like hyperbole, but it’s not. Just over a year ago, I there were a bunch of things that I never thought would be part of my life. Things like working from home most of the week, recording worship services on my iPhone, having my kids give a weekly saliva sample for COVID surveillance, wearing a face mask in public, and ordering groceries from Instant Cart. Those things weren’t part of my life then. They are now.

All of us have experienced changes to our way of life since the pandemic began. It’s easy to think that when it’s over–whatever that means–things will go back to normal. We want that–we think we do, anyway. It’s not likely to happen. The single biggest change over the last year has been to make “home” the center of our universe.

Before 2020, many of my neighbors and I spent less than seven waking hours in our homes each now. Most of us, today, spent most of our waking hours in the house. It’s our office, our restaurant, our gym, our accomadation, and even our church. That’s not going to change even after the pandemic ends.

This raises some really significant questions for congregations who want to be wise stewards of their resources and intentional about reaching their communities. Congregations cannot base their future plans on what things were like prior to the pandemic. Things won’t ever be the same.

In planning for the future, congregations need to figure out how members, friends, and their neighborhood or community is likely to behave after the pandemic is over.

There are three options based on an article in the Harvard Business Review:

  • Sustained behaviors – activities that are likely to return to their pre-crisis state.
  • Transformed behaviors – activities that will continue, but with fundamental changes.
  • Collapsed behaviors – activities that are unlikely to continue at all.

We can illustrate these different types of changes by looking at the travel industry after 9/11. After the attacks, people immediately stopped flying and staying in hotels. Over time, however, those activities resumed. Hotel owners needed a plan to “make it” through this short-term disruption until things normalized. This is an example of a sustained behavior.

When people resumed their business and personal travel, they did so under new security protocols. Those changes in security are transformed behaviors. Travellers began to get used to removing their shoes prior to going through security. They adjusted to whole body scanners. These measure were inititally disruptive, but in the end, travellers overcame them.

Other behaviors went away almost completely, collapsed behaviors. Curbside bag check-in. Carrying coffee through security. If you made your living as a Sky Cap or owned a coffee shop on the departures level, you probably don’t now.

The question for congregations is: which of our ministry models from before the pandemic, will collapse?

Not all of our ministries will collapse. Some will be transformed significantly.

My take-away is that congregations need to identify collapsed minstries and make plans to let them go. The name of the game is keeping ministry simple.

With the transformation that is happening in ministries like worship and small groups, congregations need to intentionally muster their resources to invest in meeting these new challenges so that they can continue to be effective for the Kingdom of God.

I stumbled on this video today while doing some research. It offers an inside glimpse into the book industry through the lens of Penguin Random House. While IVP is significantly smaller, pretty much everything you see in this video is mirrored in the way we carry out or publishing mission. Enjoy!

Surviving a crisis

June 19, 2018 — Leave a comment

 

When the storm hits

I almost drowned once. No, I wasn’t caught by a rip tide. I didn’t lose my bearings and drift out to sea. And a helicopter didn’t rescue nor did David Hasselhoff. 

I’m speaking metaphorically.

I served in the leadership of an organization that went through a terrible ordeal—a conflict I’ve never seen the likes of elsewhere. 

And it almost killed me.

Drowning—metaphorical or not—isn’t a pleasant experience. 

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]The thing is, however, that once you escape it and survive it, it re-calibrates your expectations. [/inlinetweet]

Recalibrating expectations

That heated conversation in a meeting? We can get past that. 

The difficulty planning logistics for a conference? We can muddle through. 

A challenging author? No worries. 

When you’ve survived extensive exposure to a near-toxic environment, just about everything else becomes manageable. 

As one former infantry officer put it, “Did anyone die?” If no one died; it’s a good day.

When you emerge after the crisis it’ll take you some time to find your feet again, but you will. 

Leaders will occasionally find themselves in situations where, for a variety of reasons, they are unable to speak publicly about a matter that is directly related to them. It’s not an easy spot to be in. After all, most of us who serve in leadership roles value the opportunity to use words to describe both the situation and they way forward. When a leader is not able to do this, it can be both frustrating and energy-sapping.

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My first year on the senior staff team of a large church has been exhilarating and pretty challenging. One of the biggest challenges has been learning to coordinate ministry initiatives across the church. This coordination requires effective communication and often meetings form the starting point for that communication. In a given week I usually lead a departmental staff meeting and three to four one-on-one meetings with direct reports. I participate in our senior staff meeting which is led by our Senior Pastor/Head of Staff, which is a blend of strategic discussion and tactical planning. I also attend our weekly pastors’ meeting which covers a variety of topics related to pastoral care, worship, and the like. That’s a total of seven meetings not including bi-monthly session meetings, and other committee meetings.

In each of these meetings, I capture notes as well as actions that I am responsible for. Early on I realized that by the end of the week I had a bunch of legal pads with meeting notes and actions accumulating on my desk. A lot of times it seemed that the stack kept growing and that I was at my capacity to keep up with things using such an ad hoc system. In ministry, just as in business, people don’t like it when you drop balls or miss important details. It erodes trust, which is the currency of ministry.

Stress Man

I decided to revisit David Allen’s influential book Getting Things DoneIf you’ve never read it, do yourself a favor and get a copy as soon as you can. Read it. Implement it. It will change your life.

Allen’s approach (GTD, for short) is a simple five step process that will enable you to externalize tasks so you don’t have to have them buzzing around in your head. Here’s a snapshot of the system:

  1. Capture—collect what has your attention
  2. Clarify—process what it means
  3. Organize—put it where it belongs
  4. Reflect—review frequently
  5. Engage—simply do

Consider this a GTD tutorial. You can learn the system and put it into practice by reading the five posts (of which this is the first).

Step One – Collect or capture what has your attention.

My Capture Tools: these are the places–physical and virtual–where I place “to dos.” They’re sort of like different buckets that I empty regularly into an orderly system for processing.

  1. Email Inbox: I get about fifty emails a day (at work, which is low). Most contain information and often an action. I process my inbox daily with a goal of getting to zero messages in my inbox.
  2. Office Phone Voicemail: I get relatively few phone messages. I usually listen to them and write brief notes on an index card and then throw that card into my physical inbox for processing later.
  3. Cell Phone Voicemail/Text: Same as #2.
  4. Office mail box: I process my office mail box several times a day, putting actionable items into my physical inbox.
  5. Levenger International Pocket Briefcase [Link]: I put receipts in my wallet, jot notes on index cards that are in the wallet, and process these into my physical inbox every time I return from outside of the office.

All of these capture tools end up moving action items either (1) into my physical inbox or (2) into a file in Outlook that I use to categorize and process emails into task manager.

inbox-zeroDavid Allen will tell you that the critical thing about collecting is that you have to collect everything. You’ve got to build trust in the system by using the system to handle all of your tasks or other data points that are taking your concentration or subconscious memory. And you have to discipline yourself to take one of five responses to something that comes across your desk (see the graphic to the left).

For all of these decisions (other than deleting) you have to have a system to help you to do things like:

  • Keep track of items delegated to others so that you can follow up on them.
  • Keep track of items deferred so that you’ll come back to them when the time is right.

It’s a big task especially in a profession where there are often unplanned major events (hospital visits and funerals) alongside a rigorous normal schedule of worship and work.

Next up: how to clarify!