Many times in leadership the intangibles determine the quality of our leadership. I have learned this is especially true in church revitalization.
Of course, we need change management skills. There’s always a need to cast vision and delegate, and we must manage effectively. I didn’t realize, however, how important the intangible skills of leadership would be.
As we end this season of our ministry, I reflect back on some of the successes we’ve had—and, some of the mistakes we made. If you want to attempt church revitalization, or honestly, just practice better leadership, learn from some of the things we did right—and things we did wrong.
Here are seven intangibles needed in church revitalization:
Listening – Thankfully this was one I had learned earlier in my ministry and business career. There was a day when I tried to convince people I knew more than I really did. I felt people needed to know how smart I was so they would follow my leadership. I was wrong. People actually follow people best when they feel they are being heard.
As leaders, especially in seasons of change, we need to practice listening far more than talking—especially in the early days. In revitalization it would be arrogant to arrive at a church and assume you have all the answers or that nothing good has been done before you arrived. Listen. Hear from people. Listen for the good times and the not so good times. Your best building (or rebuilding) will be from what you learn.
Understanding – People want to be understood. In church revitalization, for example, there are likely reasons why the church needs to be revitalized. You’ll hopefully discover them while you’re listening, but also realize more than the stories you hear, there are real emotions involved. People may have been hurt. Most people love the church and want what’s best for it. Most will know things could be better. But, before they will accept changes they want to make sure you understand how they feel. The emotional aspect of change is often more important than the actual change.
Humility – Again, many of my best leadership skills came from painful experiences of doing things the wrong way first. There is a huge difference in confidence and pride. People want a leader to be competent, courageous and visionary—all products of confidence.
But, people reject a leader who thinks they know everything or tries to convince people they do. (God seems to reject this kind of leader also.) Don’t have all the answers. You don’t, but don’t act like you do either.
Forgiveness – There will be things said and done, in person, by email, written on the bulletin and slid under your office door (not that I know what I’m talking about here), in person and behind your back. People often respond unkindly to change. And, yes, it can hurt. But, to have any success in leading change long-term, and to live with yourself and God, you must learn to forgive. As pastors, we certainly would teach this truth to our people. We must live it before them also.
Repentance – This may be on behalf of the pastor or the church. There may have been some sin involved in bringing the church to the point of needing revitalization. Sometimes you can’t move forward until people repent of the past. And, yes, this is a hard one. Very hard.
Healing – People need time to heal. And, there is such a fine line of time between initiating needed change and giving people their ability to heal. I don’t know if there is a perfect way to discern which needs more priority, but we must be cognizant of people’s processing of pain. This is one reason I found we couldn’t have too many major changes happening at the same time. I tried to lead us through no more than two or three major changes per year. And then allow people in between to heal as needed, celebrate and reflect, before we attempted another major season of change.
Challenging – There may be people who have used way too much power to control the church. There are others who simply aren’t kind. There are those who stir trouble with gossip and passive aggression. We need to love everyone. We need to make sure we remain open to correction and are teachable. But, we must also not be afraid to challenge—wisely and gracefully—those who are simply disrupters.
I realize there is a lot to this post, which for my friends who are in the early and hard days of church revitalization can be difficult to read. I hope it’s equally helpful. Don’t neglect the intangibles. They don’t always make the leadership posts and books, but they are just as—if not more—important in leading church revitalization.
This article originally appeared here.