Because leadership challenges look different in every church plant, they can be difficult both to identify and to figure out how to handle. Sometimes the issue is a spiritual one; other times it’s a management one; sometimes a combination. Different problems necessarily have different solutions.
The first step is discerning what you’re dealing with. Then, depending on the particular challenge you are facing, here are a few potential strategies for navigating them. When you are facing challenges in church planting, consider which of these courses of action might be helpful to you and try it.
Rehearse the goodness of God. At many difficult times in my planting experience, it has helped me to take a look at the good things God was doing. Going over a mental list of blessings–progress that was being made, lives that were being changed– can go a long way in lifting a planter’s perspective.
Take a break. Many times as I’ve been coaching planters who are facing discouragement, I ask, “When is the last time you took a full day off?” When they can’t remember, I suggest taking a sabbath. We were not meant to work non-stop. Work is difficult, and we need life rhythms with built-in rest and enjoyment.
Review your calling. How did God lead you to this place? Revisit the time of your calling and recommit to it. If God has called you to play a part in building his church, he will pave a way to make that possible. Remember your vision and your values. Remember what God has called you to and be faithful.
Avoid isolation. Maintain connections with family and friends. Have people you can talk honestly with. Keep a strong connection with your coach, and really confide in him or her, reflecting on your learnings. You don’t want to get isolated or consumed by the work, and you need outside perspectives.
Pray in the opposite spirit. Particularly when the issue is a spiritual one, you can pray against it. Discern what type of spirit you are facing and then determine its biblical opposite. If you find yourself planting in an area where greed is predominant, pray against greed and practice generosity. When you face a spirit of fear, pray for hope. The best way to get rid of the darkness is to turn on the lights. Ask God to fill the space with his light.
Delegate. Sometimes when you are growing, you find yourself with too many things to oversee. You become personally overextended and stretched too thin. In these cases, you are facing a management issue. A good strategy can be mobilizing more effectively to keep moving forward. Prioritize and re-prioritize what’s most important for you to do. This often means increased delegation and the development of other leaders.
Focus on your next faithful step. Take time to reflect and seek God’s perspective. Prioritize and re-prioritize. Ask God to help you determine what’s the most important issue to address now. Then seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to identify what needs to be done next — and with whom.
This blog entry has been excerpted from my upcoming book, The Church Planting Journey. For more thoughts on handling leadership challenges, check out my book The Leadership Difference.