Check Your Speed

Church leaders regularly have conversations about the craft of leadership and how it applies to ministry. There’s a lot to consider. What skills do we need to cultivate? What decisions should we make? What should our response be to a pressing issue? 

We tend to discuss strategy quite a bit, too. How should we approach this season? How can we love our community in new ways? How can we adapt our leadership to meet new needs? 

We have even more grounding conversations about purpose. Why does our church exist? Why does our mission matter? 

But there is one crucial aspect of leading and serving we don’t talk enough about: speed. 

Yes, speed.

The pandemic created a lot of stress and a lingering anxiety remains in the air about the future. Many of us have missed out on opportunities, and we have a gnawing desire to make up for lost time. We want to leave this season in our rearview mirror. I suppose this is due in part to insecurity and in part to our wiring. We’re built to start things, but we haven’t been able to do as much as we would have liked because of COVID-19. 

The New Year tends to generate a lot of speed, and 2022 feels as if it will be supercharged. Many leaders I coach are like a caged tiger––ready to run hard and fast. And that makes sense—many feel as if they have been on the bench and now are ready to get back in the game. I anticipate a lot of leaders may even be running at a faster and harder pace than their teams or congregations can match, which could create more issues than it solves. You don’t go from sitting on the couch to running a marathon. You don’t go from fasting to an all-you-can-eat buffet. 

This is a key moment to pay attention to how your team and congregation are actually doing. Perhaps you need a speed check to reassess how your congregation and your team are holding up after a challenging season. 

Take time to talk openly with your team about speed. How fast are they ready to run? How healthy do they feel? How tired are they? What fears do they have about the coming year? What are the biggest challenges we will face? After discussing their answers, invite each team member to say on a scale of 1 to 10 the speed at which he or she is comfortable running, with the pace of boiling a frog as 1 and ripping off a Band-Aid as 10. This exercise will give you a good picture of where everyone is. 

When I consult with elder and staff teams, I uncover a speed comfort for each member. Some leaders approach change quickly, while others operate more deliberately. Often we unduly praise those who make quick decisions while we unfortunately villainize those who handle change at a slower pace. Leaders on the slower end of change often have valuable experience or discernment we need in order to make wiser decisions. I encourage you to yield to that as we wrap up 2021. Go slow to go fast.     

Can I encourage you to do one more thing? Pray. Prayer is often the first thing to go when we’re focused on speed. We have been through way more than we think, and it has taken a bigger toll on our teams, our congregations and us than we think. We need God to reveal what is under the surface. We can’t truly make meaningful progress getting where we need to be until we’ve made sense of where we are. 

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