The church I currently pastor sits on the edge of our city, just past the last crossing street in town. As a result of our location many vehicles use our driveways as a place to turnaround. They went past where they intended to go and want a place to get turned around and go the other direction. We recently put this message on our church sign, “This is a great place to turnaround”. It caught a lot of attention. I doubt if everyone who read it considered the double meaning of the message.
Turnarounds in life, or in a church, or in a group are rarely simple. But after pastoring a few churches who were in need of a turnaround I have realized some keys to leading and experiencing a turnaround.
- Celebrate everything – focus on anything that goes well and celebrate it. Celebrate it publicly and be a cheerleader with yourself and your people. This must be sincere. It might be a little difficult at first but it will get easier and you will begin to have bigger and better things to celebrate. People love a celebration. Disaster might work for a TV news show, but people do not want to repeatedly come to negative gatherings. You don’t need to manufacture this, just become very observant of anything positive and celebrate it.
- Connect with your community – if you are in a church then make sure you get connected to your community outside of your church building. You can get involved in a service club. They are always looking to recruit new people, especially people who are willing to be involved in some of their projects. This connects you to people outside of your church or group and it exposes them to you and your church or group. If you are a pastor make sure you have personally spoken with your local funeral home(s) and let them know that you are available to help with families who have no church connection. Go to school. I am not talking about going back to college, I mean go to your local public school and let them know that you support education. You don’t need to agree with everything the school is doing to get connected. Then go to school events. Volunteer to help at some school events and especially let key people at the school know that you, and your church or group, are available to help families in need. Pay attention to what is going on in social media in your community. There are many other ways to connect but the fact is that you need to connect to the community you are in to make an impact in that community. People do not respond, at least not positively, to those who stand outside of the community and lob suggestions or criticisms. They respond to those who are standing with them.
- Love your people – the people around you in your church, group or family must know that you love them. Say it and show it. You cannot lead any church or group in a turnaround if they don’t know that you love them and want what’s best for them. Too many pastors and group leaders try to change their people without loving their people. It won’t work! People may do the basic things for you because they care about their church or group but they will not sacrifice if they don’t know that they are loved. So love them and let them know that you love them.
- Pray, a lot and get others praying – this is critical. Any real turnaround that lasts must have a foundation of prayer. You need this close communion with Christ, you need the direction you will receive as the Lord moves you through these times of prayer and there is something incredibly powerful when a group of people gather and pray.
- What if – you need to begin asking a lot of “what if” questions with yourself and your people. What if we tried that and it worked? What if we don’t try it, will anything change? What if … you get the idea. This is a part of sharing vision, but this is not so much about your presentation as it is about getting started and getting your people involved. What if discussions are a great way to gauge where your people are in regard to turning around your organization. I agree with Lyle Schaller who said “In the church we are not as afraid of failure as we are of success. If we fail at some new endeavor things will likely go back to what is familiar, but if we try something and it works, then things will never be the same again. And that scares us.” What if discussions helps people begin to adjust to changes before they are hit with them.
There are many other factors in leading a turnaround, but this is my launching place for every church or group that I have ever led. The list is not in order of significance. All of these are important. With that in mind where are you on this list? What could you begin to work on this week? If I can help you in any way please let me know.
Here’s hoping you begin to see movement in your turnaround.