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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

21 Mar '12

Paradigm shifts and the job of leaders

Paradigm shifts are very hard for most people to grasp. It is not that they are necessarily resistant, lack intelligence or don't want better results. The truth is that we see through a lens that is familiar and the unfamiliar is hard to grasp, especially if it requires us to think differently. The challenge is that the familiar will often not take us into the future. The world changes, and as it does the familiar often becomes our enemy, not our friend.


Interestingly, when change around us is rapid, we often cling to the familiar because it provides us with stability when in reality the familiar is destined to keep us from meeting new opportunities in our changing world. Think General Motors or Kodak. While they clung to the familiar the world changed and they were caught unable to catch up. The familiar was their nemesis.


For example, in the world of missions, the familiar is particularly dangerous as many of the traditional models will not carry water in the future. There are major shifts needed if mission agencies are going to meet the needs of a color world. Local churches must also make shifts in how they view missions strategy. In both cases, the familiar is the nemesis of future success.


This does not mean that what we did in the past did not serve us well in the past. It does mean that ministries need to ask the question of what will best serve them in the future. The future will never look like the past so it is reasonable that much of our methodology in the future will be different than in the past. That means a change in the way we think about what we do and how we do it. It is true in business and ministry. 


The challenge is that we are so used to the familiar that we often do not even question our methodologies. In fact, we often don't even think it is necessary to ask questions about our methodologies which is the real danger. And sometimes, those who do ask the questions are seen as irritants because they are messing with the familiar.


Leaders have the responsibility to take the time to consider where ministries need to go to meet the challenges of the future. That takes time, reflection and a lot of questions. No one else will do it for them. Then, they need to help their staff understand the needs of the future and press into needed changes in paradigms that will help them get there. This takes great courage because it requires us to give up the familiar for the unfamiliar.


Helping staff transition to new paradigms is a necessary, time consuming and dialogue rich discipline. Leaders who do not have the courage to position their ministry for success in the future leave their organization in a deeply vulnerable position. Here is what I know. The future is not like the past so we need to ask what old paradigms need to go and what new paradigms need to be embraced. And then, how do we help our staff and organization embrace new ways of thinking.