5 Things Every Church Leader Should Unlearn in 2018 (If You Want to Stay Relevant)

5 Things Every Church Leader Should Unlearn in 2018 (If You Want to Stay Relevant)

So you likely have some learning goals set for the year ahead. That’s awesome.

But the best leaders don’t just learn new things, they unlearn old things that are holding them—and their teams—back.

Unlearning a few things might be one of the best things you can do this year, especially if you want to be able to reach the next generation.

This is true not only of reaching them with the message of the Gospel. It’s also true of any leader who wants to build a staff or volunteer team of young adults.

If you want to reach the next generation, you should unlearn some things that keep you from connecting with them.

Don’t get me wrong, every older leader brings wisdom and life experience that’s invaluable, but often our methods interfere with our message. Our strategy and assumptions sabotage our intentions.

This post is a companion piece to a post I wrote about seven disruptive church trends that will rule 2018. That post is designed to help us all figure out how the culture is changing and how the church needs to respond.

This post is aimed at helping you do a better job as a leader in leading that change.

Unlearning what’s wrong is as critical as learning what’s right.

With that in mind, here are five things every church leader should unlearn in 2018:

1. What Used to Work Still Works

In an age of massive disruption (which arguably we’re all in), it’s easy to cling to what’s known because so much feels unknown.

As a result, most of us naturally cling to things that used to work, hoping they will work again in the future.

Maybe you had an approach to leadership or preaching that resonated a decade ago but for some reason just isn’t anymore.

Or maybe you had a program that used to be standing room only that currently has a lot of empty chairs.

It’s so easy as a leader to think that you just need to pour more gas on the things that used to work to bring them back to life. The truth is, gas only lights if there’s a spark. And the flame left those things a long time ago.

If you’re pouring more effort into something with diminishing returns, it’s time to rethink everything.

Why?

Because leaders who cling to ineffective methods ultimately destroy the mission.

Here’s an example. I have a fairly widely-listened-to leadership podcast I host. Leaders often ask me, “So will you always podcast?”

My answer is “No.”

Why?

Because podcasting is the method, not the mission. My mission is to help leaders thrive in life and leadership. Podcasting is currently a very effective method of helping leaders do that.

But I’m sure the day will come that people take out their earbuds and something else comes along that’s even more effective. On that day, I’ll ditch podcasting and jump on whatever else helps leaders thrive in life and leadership.

On the other hand, I’m also in the final stages of writing my next book.

I think I’ll be writing books years from now. Why? Because the method (book writing) has been around for millennia and the book industry, while changing, is expanding rapidly. It’s also the best way to ensure your ideas get broad distribution over many years…sometimes even over decades. But again, if that changes, it will be time to ditch the method to fuel the mission.

Most leaders resist change.

And that’s their demise. The way you’ve always done it should never be the way you always do it.

More specifically, the next generation, who is attracted to the mission, will always look to join a team that’s flexible in its methods. You did when you were young.

Just because God doesn’t change doesn’t mean we shouldn’t.

By the way, here are nine things that used to work in the church a decade ago that don’t today.

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Carey Nieuwhof
Carey Nieuwhof is founding pastor of Connexus Church and the author of several books, including his latest best-selling work, 'Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow.' Carey speaks to church leaders around the world about leadership and personal growth.