I will never forget one of the first campus visits I made as children’s director at Elevation Church. I was newly promoted from kids’ campus director, and I was thrilled at the opportunity to lead the charge and make a greater impact on families. I climbed out of my car and skipped to the door. Okay, I may not have skipped, but I was definitely walking on clouds as I made my way in, clipboard in hand. It was going to be a great day, a start to an incredible journey.
It was most definitely the start of an incredible journey, but it most certainly was not a great day. Two hours later, head hung low, shoulders slumped, I traipsed to my car. How had it gone so dreadfully wrong? What did I do? I clearly made the campus director nervous. She kept glancing at my clipboard like I was making war plans, instead of taking notes, and that wasn’t even the worst part. I hadn’t held my tongue when a volunteer asked my opinion. I freely shared my thoughts only to be left dumbfounded when the volunteer and her husband picked up their personal belongings and walked out, leaving me and the campus director to deal with the kids. Let’s just say it was a learning experience.
As exciting as a change of position can be, whether you’re new to a church, recently promoted, or asked to take on additional responsibilities, it’s important to remember CHANGE IS A PROCESS, NOT A POSITION. Authority feels good. A new position can bring confidence. Thoughts cross your mind: “They believe in me. They think I have good ideas,” or “They’re finally acknowledging all that hard work I’ve put it.” While all of that may be true, a new position doesn’t remove resistance. It does mean you’ve been afforded an opportunity to make a greater impact, and even more importantly, it means you have to step up to the plate, increase your capacity, and lead better. Over the years, I’ve discovered a three-step process to help navigate those early days of a new position.
If you’re just starting with a new church or organization, you probably already recognize the need to establish trust. Those that hired you may believe you have what it takes, but trust is only extended as far as their faith in your resume. However, you may not realize, even those that make an internal change in position have to reestablish trust. Greater authority has been granted. Your capacity to lead at a higher level is yet unknown. You too, must establish a foundation of trust. The best way to do this is through consistency. Arrive on time. Hit deadlines. Come to meetings prepared to contribute. Find ways to help those around you succeed. When you prove yourself a reliable team player, you build a foundation of consistency and establish trust.
Build Relational Equity
Have you ever wondered why it’s so easy to forgive family, to overlook their flaws and love them despite their quirks? I believe it’s two-fold. First, you know you have to find a way to get along. They’re family. They aren’t going anywhere. Secondly, I believe it’s because you know them. You’ve spent time with them and are intimately aware of their insecurities, their passions, their worries, and their dreams. It’s why you love them despite their annoying behavior at Thanksgiving dinner every year. Healthy relationships aren’t built overnight. They come with time. If you desire to be a part of the team, you have to make time to get to know your teammates. Go to lunch. Workout together. Invite them over for game night with your family, and decide right now to stick it out for the long haul. Relational equity is a key component to establishing healthy working relationships with those you lead and work alongside.
Inspiring your teams to act is more than a well-delivered speech. There are actually several key elements.
Align the Vision
The vision you have for the ministry you lead should ultimately align with the vision of the church. It should support the initiatives and direction set forth by your senior leadership. Before you can inspire action, you must first ask yourself, “Does this plan coincide or conflict with what’s already been established?”
Clarify the Win
The teams you lead and your senior leadership should be aware of and in agreement with the objectives for any new initiative or direction. Clearly identifying the “win” builds unity and creates excitement.
Set an Example
In many ways, you determine your ministry’s momentum. If you want your teams to commit to a project, you must be the first to commit. If you need volunteers to buy-in to a new system or standard, you must first set that standard for yourself. The best way to drive change is to inspire action by setting the example for those you lead.
I learned several lessons in my first few days as children’s director. The most important one: CHANGE IS A PROCESS, NOT A POSITION. Your title means very little to those you lead. The trust you establish and the relational equity you build will help you inspire action, but ministry is relationships. Keep that in the forefront of your mind and you’ll enter your new position with grace.