Monday, July 20, 2015

So bad things have happened in your church!

Well, first, lets be clear - you are not alone. It has been happening since the time the church became a reality in the New Testament which is why we have a good number of the Epistles. In other words, you are in good company and it is precisely because your church is made up of redeemed but flawed people that bad things have happened. While we don't like it, be of good cheer, you are not alone.

Second, you need to do what you can to clean up whatever mess there is. Facing the truth and looking in the mirror is the only way we avoid the bad things from becoming a trend - and often they already are. This may mean an "autopsy without blame" to figure out why what happened happened. That may lead to admitting fault and seeking reconciliation where that is possible. Certainly it means that we understand why bad things happened and deal with whatever we need to deal with.

Third, when bad things happen it is not usually that there was a bad person afoot (although that is possible). Usually there is a confluence of events that led to whatever we must deal with. This may include leaders inattention to issues they knew were present, a lack of leadership acumen on the part of a leader, a DNA within the congregation that prevented the issue from being dealt with or other factors. Here is my point. When bad things happen in  your church there is rarely one reason but rather multiple reasons and all of them need to be factored in.

Fourth, you cannot "resaw the sawdust." In other words, what has happened has happened and apart from dealing with issues one needs to deal with (above), leadership needs to focus on the future rather than focusing on the past. This will irritate some people who desire that leaders resaw the sawdust and recreate what was! That will not happen. The past is over. We cannot recreate the past but we can re-envision the future. I learned a long time ago that some things don't get solved this side of heaven. 

Fifth, crisis in one's church is a great opportunity to address issues that have probably been present for some time but have not been dealt with. This is the upside of crisis. The question is whether we will take the opportunity to deal with the situation so that we don't repeat the cycle in the future. This is where courage from leadership is needed. This is not a time to spin, to ignore or to cover up. It is time to take an honest look, be transparent with the congregation and act to ensure that the church moves toward greater health. Crises can be opportunities if seen in that light.

Finally, if the crisis is significant, get a coach from the outside to walk you through a process to handle it. If leaders were in any way liable for not acting when they should have or ignoring issues that got you to where you are there is a loss of credibility already so finding an outside coach to help you negotiate the situation can save the church greater pain and help leadership move in a healthier direction. An outsider can also speak to the congregation without being perceived as having a personal agenda which is critical if "sides" have formed and positions taken.

Crises can be opportunities if you choose to see them in that light.

Posted from State College, PA

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

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