That title may startle some, the benefit of a church crisis. Nobody likes a crisis. No one likes bad news or being disappointed or being uncomfortable. We like when things work, when things are easy, when things go our way.
Yet if you are a leader, at some point you will walk through a crisis with your church.
It could be financial, you may struggle with where you are meeting, it might be relational with another leader or someone in your church. It might involve your sin or the sin of another leader. It might be that you have someone on your staff who does something stupid, and you have to pick up the pieces of that situation.
In that moment you have some options as a leader:
1. You can run. Many pastors when they hit a crisis run from it. While no one likes conflict, relational conflict in a church can be especially painful. We put off conversations we should have, we avoid people we need to run into. Or, many pastors leave when a crisis hits. I heard one pastor say that an average church has a crisis every 18 months, and the average stay for a pastor at a church is 18 – 24 months.
A crisis is where leaders have the opportunity to shine. It is the moment they are needed the most.
2. You can pretend it isn’t happening. Many people in their personal relationships act like a crisis isn’t happening. Couples pretend they aren’t hurt by the other or that they aren’t angry. Many pastors, when a crisis hits, pretend nothing is going on. Instead of looking at hard numbers (i.e., our attendance is dropping, less people are serving, less people are joining small groups, giving is going down, we aren’t seeing people come to faith), they simply keep doing business as usual.
Another sign of this is making it everyone else’s fault. The culture is hard, people aren’t dedicated anymore, no one is listening. So the blame game continues to get passed.
The reality is: numbers are your friend. Numbers may be painful and reveal some truths you don’t want to look at or want to pretend aren’t real. But numbers are your friend.
3. You can outlast the crisis. Hopefully you are picking up a theme in this post.
Leaders shine in a crisis. Leaders don’t shine when things are going well because they aren’t needed as much. They are needed, but a crisis is when it shouts for leadership.
Leaders outlast the crisis. Does this mean that people who leave aren’t leaders? I would say yes.
No one said leadership is easy; simply look through history. It is filled with people who rose to the occasion in spite of great difficulties.
4. You can learn from it. Never waste a crisis.
As soon as possible, begin learning from the crisis:
- Could we have seen this coming?
- Did we do something to make this happen?
- Did we overlook something?
- Is there a system that is broken?
- Did we miss something when we hired someone?
- Did we extend ourselves too far financially?
Make no mistake, a crisis is when leaders shine. A church crisis in many ways is a wake up call to a church. It is God’s grace to a church. It causes a church and its leaders to see what is most important.
It can also cause leaders to take a step of faith they should have taken but maybe were too afraid to take. Many times in my leadership a crisis has pushed me and our church out of our comfort zone. That is hard and painful, but it’s also good.