A leader’s best friend is momentum. We all know that to be true. Momentum in your church is a really big deal. Once you have it you want to do everything possible to keep it going. If you lose it, you want to do everything imaginable to regain it. Tim, a good friend of mine, and a pastor at a growing church in Kansas City, asked me an intriguing question. Tim asked if there was a formula for momentum. At first blush I thought no, it’s really mostly about God’s favor and some about the talent level of the leader. You can’t put something as powerful and illusive as momentum into a formula. God grants favor as He chooses. Thinking about it a little more, however, I changed my first quick response. We don’t tell God what to do, we don’t command the supernatural, but we definitely tap into that power through prayer. Further, we know there are clear leadership principles that if we practice them, God’s favor and power is much more likely to get traction. I personally believe that God wants to bless His Church. I believe He wants to bless your church. If that is true, then when it’s not working, we need to look at what we are doing or not doing that might be part of the problem. We need to consider what might possibly block God’s favor, not just assume His favor isn’t present. So maybe there is a formula. Not a formula that trumps God’s plan or favor, or ignores the reality of leadership skill levels, but one that acknowledges both those factors. Here it is:
I could play it safe and say “= the potential for momentum.” But let’s just go for it. We have already stated sufficient disclaimers acknowledging God’s presence and power. Let’s break each part down and take a closer look:
If you are the leader of the church, or a department, or even a small group, the vision starts with you and God, not a committee. It is wise for you to take the vision to a team for affirmation, clarity, buy-in, development, etc. But vision starts with the leader and his or her understanding of what God has in mind. In this way, momentum starts with the intersection of the natural and supernatural — you and God. It’s difficult to communicate how important this is, that is to hear the voice of God, but you know what I mean. Without God in the mix, it’s just a cool idea at best. Your idea might generate some short term momentum, but nothing that really lasts. It is true that no church has permanent momentum. Momentum has seasons of ebb and flow. I wish momentum was consistent and predictable, but it isn’t. Maybe that’s why we are intrigued with the idea of a formula! Nonetheless, when the vision is clear, you now are poised for momentum. But vision alone isn’t enough. We need to go to the next component.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a Waffle House, but here in the Southeast they are big. They’re kind of like Starbucks, one on every corner. The first time I went I was both amazed and entertained. I asked for hash browns and the list of options blew my mind! Scattered, chunked, smothered and on the list went… I sheepishly replied, “I just want hash browns”. I don’t know how they keep up with that many options. When the church tries to offer too many options they burn the hash browns! The church was never designed to be busy, (a mile wide and an inch deep), it was designed to be focused. Less is more. As a leader, your energy is finite. And of that energy, the more you apply toward advancing the vision the better. The more you diffuse it into other options, (squeaky wheels and things that don’t matter), the more you weaken the vision. No one church can do everything, so keep your ministry lean and stay ruthlessly focused on the vision. Use your energy wisely.
The number one thing that can consume most if not all of your time and energy is people. In one way, that’s a good thing. As church leaders, the whole point is people! But, if you are expending sideways energy and going no where because you are putting out fires and solving people problems, it’s time to get honest about the overall morale of the church. Even a vision straight from God will have trouble catching traction if the culture is toxic. Meaning, the people are unhappy, the morale is low and even the staff are restless. If this is the case, take the time you need to get a true read on what is going on. Find out the real reason for low morale. Get honest about it. Talk about it, but talk in a way that is full of hope and with a bias for action that involves solutions. In some tougher cases, you may need to bring in a consultant to help you get to the real issues and positive solutions.
Willingness To Sacrifice
There is no life or future without sacrifice. Jesus demonstrated this truth on the cross. In the practical realm, there is no growth without sacrifice. A church that is bent on comfort, staying safe, and not paying the price will not gain momentum. This is not an indictment, it’s just a fact. Nice and momentum are not companions. It starts with the leaders. What will you give up for the church to move forward? The people will follow your passion and commitment. This is not meant to suggest some ascetic or weird practice, but simply seeking what God asks, and obey. It’s often financial, but not always. Sometimes it’s time, (less sleep), fasting, enduring opposition, etc. I don’t want to make a list because I don’t want to miss the one thing God really wants of you or your church! And perhaps even more than those possibilities is your commitment to win. If you possess a “whatever it takes” disposition, it’s amazing how that fans the flame of momentum!
If any of these four components are missing, you may struggle in achieving all the momentum you desire, or perhaps even the momentum God wants you to have. I’d love to hear what you think of this “formula!” Even better, perhaps you can improve it! Let’s discuss in the comments below.