Welcome to NEXT University! During the month of August, we are highlighting our most popular posts and videos on the NEXT blog from the past few years, with suggestions for how to use this content with church sessions, committees, staff and other leaders.
Today we highlight two articles that address leadership. You may wish to discuss these posts separately or combine them into one larger study.
Creating Tension is a Pastoral Skill by Andrew Foster Connors explores the ways that good leaders are called upon to “turn up the heat,” but in the right amount, in order to inspire change.
Even a novice student of the Jesus Way would recognize early on how much tension there is in the Gospels. Anytime Jesus comes around, someone is likely to be challenged. In any church that finds itself “stuck,” or leans toward a status quo that has or will endanger its ability to adjust to changing circumstances, tension is the fire that we light to get people moving.
- Andrew writes, “There is a fine line between effective agitation that challenges people to act in ways that are consistent with what they say is important to them, and irritation that poisons relationships unnecessarily.” Have you seen either of these circumstances at work—in the church or in other organizations? What factors allow the former, healthy version of tension to thrive? What factors foster the latter, unhealthy version? Assess your own congregation’s comfort with tension.
- Looking at the example Andrew gives about the church member complaining about the lack of a small-group ministry, consider one or two ways you might respond in a way that creates healthy tension and inspires growth.
Curing Presbyopia by Becca Messman offers a diagnosis of what afflicts those of us who are stuck in “mainline decline.”
We see the distant past…when every sermon was masterful and coffers spilled over and there were traffic jams of Dodge DeSotos cramming into church parking lots.
We see the distant future…when we fear moss will overtake pulpits and raccoons will take up residence in the organ.
- How could your leadership cultivate “better eyes”? What aspects of your church or community do you need to see more clearly, with the eyes of Christ?
- And how can you cultivate “longer arms”? Who in your community needs to be embraced with the love of Christ? What’s one way you could venture into your neighborhood, to “come to others’ doorstep”?