Pivot. Adapt. Change.
You are probably hearing these three words a lot these days.
COVID-19 makes them non-negotiable.
- Pivot – Alter your direction.
- Adapt – Accept what is different internally.
- Change – Take action on necessary new practices.
You might pivot and change because you just don’t have a choice. But the best way to accept the challenge of a difficult situation and leverage the opportunity for the best results is to personally adapt to what is happening around you.
The leaders I’m talking to, including myself, (yes – sometimes I talk to myself 😉) are all saying they have changed their ministry practices more in the past three-four weeks than over the last three-five years.
Life and leadership online is the new norm. And we are all thinking about what that looks like on the “other side.”
Ministry to those who battle fear, worry, and anxiety is at an all-time high. And if we are honest, leaders are in that group at some level too.
Ministry to basic needs such as food and essentials is unprecedented.
Learning how to work at home, with your whole family as your “office mates” is not just a two-week adventure.
Not only is the amount of change significant, but it’s also fast.
The amount of time we have to process is minimal. “Praying through” something is more like mid-flight refueling and repairs. You are praying while moving, and by the time you say “amen,” something else just changed.
This much change that fast, and lack of knowing what next week will bring, can rattle the confidence of even the strongest of leaders.
Adaptability is essential to navigating this season of crisis, and it is a core component in developing your confidence.
I have an entire chapter on adaptability in my newly released book Confident Leader! But I want to give you extra content on the same topic that is focused on the context of COVID-19.
4 practical insights on adaptability:
1) Adaptability is a character quality that begins internally at a soul level.
Comfort, routine, and predictability. Those are all words that breathe a little peace into our souls. We need some of those things to function normally over the long haul.
Yet the truth is that if you are leading, you’ve never really had long term consistent comfort, unchanging routine, and guaranteed predictability.
If you are leading change and making progress, you are a strategic disrupter of the status quo.
The difference between pre-pandemic and now is that the level of disruption was manageable before. Now it’s not just your ministry, but life itself has been disrupted to a level that has thrown the entire world off-center.
Adaptability is a character quality that allows you to not only be an intentional disrupter of the status quo but to also handle life altering disruption that you don’t choose or want.
It’s a quality that resides in your soul that indicates you are willing to shift, pivot, and change.
You are willing to adapt for the sake of the mission and the good of others.
2) Resistance to change only digs a deeper hole.
Here’s the problem. It’s easy to nod in assent to what I wrote under the first point, but no one actually likes change or disruption that they don’t plan, and we definitely don’t like forced change.
However, if you resist adapting, if you resist change, you only make things worse for yourself, along with the people you love and lead. It’s like digging a hole full of problems even deeper, and soon it’s so deep you can’t get out.
In contrast, when you learn to adapt rather than resist, you will discover that your confidence rises.
When you realize that you can do it, you gain authentic confidence from practice, not theory, or an externally-based motivation.
There are leaders who are hunkering down and asking God to help them just hold the fort steady till the storm blows over, so they can go back to the way things were. That’s an option, but it’s not a good one.
It’s not a good option because while we will eventually go back to church in our physical buildings, it may never be completely the same. No one knows that answer yet. But your level of adaptability will determine, to a great degree, the effectiveness of your ministry.
3) Accept that change brings about temporary stress.
I’m not techy. Well, that’s an understatement. But hey, I’m now doing Zoom calls like a champ! (I know, a five-year-old can do Zoom meetings, but I’m still pretty pumped about it!)
However, flying solo on my first few Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other platforms caused stress. I didn’t want to let anyone down, especially if I’m the one leading the call.
That’s why it’s important to know that even good change brings temporary stress, its wise to simply accept it because the outcome is worth it.
My example of Zoom calls is pretty lightweight. I know. But you get it.
The significant changes that you need to adapt require much more of you and often deliver much more stress.
Here’s the key. There is a difference between changing on the outside, (just your behavior), because you are forced to, and internally adapting to something new.
When you change because you are forced, you will go right back to what you knew as soon as you can. In effect, you didn’t change or grow.
When you adapt internally, you actually make real change, you grow, and become a more confident leader.
4) Adapting pulls you from your comfort zone into relevant innovation.
Most churches had a method and systems that worked for them. They might have even been so good at it; they were able to enjoy some level of a comfort zone. At least for seasons at a time.
The comfort zone, however, never realizes relevant innovation. It’s when we pursue and embrace adaptation that we innovate the best. And when the church “works” better, we become more confident.
The multisite movement taught thousands of churches about how to use technology at new levels. We adapted to something new. Innovation strengthens the reach of the church.
We all had lots of time to experiment, practice, and learn how to make it work. (Along with allowing those who attend church to adapt as well.)
COVID-19 allowed us to adapt at hyper-speeds to make literally everything digital. And we did! It’s relevant, and it works.
“All things digital” is not necessarily something all leaders want for the long haul. But adaptation is allowing us all to continue to lift up the name of Jesus and help people mature in their faith.
Our job now is to figure out which of the things we’re currently doing that we should keep, or further adapt because they will strengthen the church in the future.
And we will – together, we can do this.
Adaptability will help us all become better leaders, strengthen our confidence, and build the church in a way that reaches more people for Christ.