The evening session on Wednesday night was dedicated to breakout groups. I chose to attend Larry Osborne's session on "Building a Healthy Leadership Team." Osborne is probably outside the group of people I normally am influenced by, but I have appreciated a few things he has written. I wanted to hear his take on leadership. The session was not necessarily about building a team, but about how your team can continually get past ceilings as it grows.
He began by giving his observations of several things that keep a ministry from growing. These are leadership lessons 101. He began by saying that a ministry might keep hitting walls because the main leader has outgrown their leadership skills. Second, there might be certain organizational structures that continue to prohibit growth (for instance, how do you run a congregational meeting for a church of thousands). Third, your organization might continue to hit the ceiling when it is continually blind-sighted by a major cultural shift. What used to work no longer works.
From here, he briefly articulated how someone knows if their ministry is hitting the ceiling. First, there is a stagnant or decline in attendance. Second, there is marked increase in conflict. Third, the revolving door syndrome. This was insightful for me. I get the first two, but the third one was an eye-opening moment for me. Our church continues to have new people come, but it also has people leaving. I just have not understood it. At this point, I was much more engaged into what he was saying.
When a ministry hits the ceiling, there are several initial things they tend to do. At first, people begin to work harder. They put more effort into their ministry. Then they begin to work smarter. They are more efficient. And then they begin to raise the bar. Their quality of work increases. But if none of those help you get through the ceiling, he suggested three things you need to do.
First, Look For New Advisers. He strongly emphasized that you have to get outside of your tribe to ask questions to find answers. He used the illustration of Moses seeking his father-in-law Jethro, who was a pagan, for help.
Second, Look For New Expectations. There are always expectations that people have with the pastor. Sometimes, those need to change. If a church is going to grow, it must change. In Acts 6 when the Apostles encountered a problem with the widows, they changed the expectations by bringing on some deacon-like men.
Third, Look For New Structures. There might be traditions, policies, or sacred cows that are holding the ministry back. There might be some structures wasting time. They need to be identified and removed.
I have only given the details of what he said. The impact upon my life and ministry are still brewing in my heart. I do think that there are things we have changed in the past two years at our church. And there are things that probably need to change. I do not want to change expectations or structures just to change them. If something needs to be changed, I want it to be purposeful.