Bill Hybels describes the work of leadership as moving people from “here” to “there.” The first investment in this leadership move, according to Hybels, is convincing people that we cannot stay “here.” Leaders know this is incredibly challenging. Nearly everyone prefers “here” to “there.”
John Kotter, emeritus professor of leadership at Harvard Business School, in his book LEADING CHANGE calls this leadership move “establishing a sense of urgency.” Kotter points out that having a sense of urgency is the first and most important catalyst for change. He writes that we should “never underestimate the magnitude of the forces that reinforce complacency and that help maintain the status quo.” As leaders our first responsibility is to convince others that “we cannot stay here!”
Here are five ways to create a sense of urgency:
Church leaders name reality when they examine congregational trend lines (i.e. membership, average age, evangelistic growth, professions of faith, finances, attendance, etc.) and extrapolate those trend lines into the future. A simple PowerPoint with a few line graphs can stir up a sense of urgency and convince folk “we cannot stay here.“
HIGHLIGHT BIBLICAL CONTRAST
Leaders should identify a biblical vision for a Spirit-birthed community (Acts 2:42-47 is a good place to start) overlaying this biblical vision with congregational reality. The contrast between a congregation’s “is” and the Bible’s “ought” has a way of creating urgency.
PAINT A COMPELLING PICTURE
Leaders and their teams should develop a clear picture of God’s preferred future (our “there”) and highlight why the “there” is preferable to “here.” A longing for what could be creates the urgency for leaving behind the comfortable for that which is far more fulfilling.
MODEL FUTURE REALITY
Good leaders lead by example. Leaders must be the change they want their people to become. Before leaders urge others to travel to distant lands they must explore those lands themselves. If leaders want followers to be evangelists and disciple-makers then they must become evangelists and disciple-makers first.
TAKE SMALL CALCULATED RISKS
Moving from “here” to “there” seldom happens overnight. Change typically happens through smaller baby steps of doable risk taking. For example, rather than getting rid of that stately old pulpit in one fell swoop first memorize a portion of the message and step in front of the pulpit to deliver its content. In doing so a leader acclimates people to a more intimate communication style that supports a change of sacramental furniture in the future.
The time to embrace urgency is now. In the CRCNA 75% of churches are plateaued or in decline. The average loss of membership in those churches has been 25.1% in ten short years. The time is now to convince the church “we cannot stay here.”