Leading into the future

February 8, 2021 by Rob Hagan

Calder Pickett, the History of Journalism professor at the University of Kansas, edited a compendium of famous sayings, quotes, statements of Americans over the last 200 years. He entitled the book “Voices from the Past.” He shared in class that he wanted to have a resource that will highlight the incredible power of words that really changed history.

Paul says to the church in I Corinthians 4:1: “This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.” These words hold the mysteries of God that not only changed history but the most important change of all – human hearts.

The stories of impact which people of faith have exhibited in the local church must be rekindled and shared with those in pews at home and in person. Those voices of the past and of the future embody the Heliotropic Principal. Simply put, the Heliotropic principle states that every living organism gravitates towards the strongest energy, whether that energy is positive or negative. The sunflower is the strongest example of this principle. It begins its journey with the sunrise and ends the day following the sunset.

I have seen the churches in the Northwest rise to the opportunity for ministry, which this time affords. The church has pivoted and has embraced change in worship, collecting the offering, congregation meetings, celebrating high holy days. The list goes on. You can add to it from the ministry of your own church.

Churches however, are not only pushed by their past. They are pulled by the collective image they hold for their future. Charles White of the Alban Institute states, “The church is over-managed and under led.”

The Church must lead! Leadership is coping with change. Management is coping with complexity. As God calls us to lead, we must answer the following questions:

As leaders, what are we setting out to do?

Answer: Set Direction. Remember, people give to vision, and people give to people, not a line-item budget. Develop a vision and strategies to achieve that vision. Set high and reasonable standards. People do not give generosity on their own. The church's responsibility is to teach that giving is an act of love and spiritual disciplines, including prayer, worship and bible study. The concept that telling the congregation that the church needs money to balance the budget will produce generous givers is a myth that needs to be put to rest. People will give if they see and hear about impact. Cultivate those stories and share them during the offering and during ordination and installation of elder and deacons. Share those stories during any opportunities that you have.

As leaders, how do we deliver results?

Answer: Align People. Communicate direction to influence teams and staff to understand the generosity which the church exhibits now and in the future. Connect the ministry vision with life and change. Also, to invite financial leaders into the vison and strategy development process. It is critical that the leaders become involved so this vision will be funded.

As leaders, how do we make it happen?

Answer: Motivate, Mentor and Inspire. Energize people to develop and overcome barriers to change. Share the ministry plan (the budget) in a way that will inspire through the voices of the past and the future. The future of the church is likely to be new members and short-tenured members; be sure to ask them why they love this church, and share those stories. Help your long-time members see the congregation through new, fresh eyes to bring inspiration.

As leaders, what will be the outcomes?

Answer: Produce Change. Make generosity a core discipline teaching of ministry. Do not cut the budget or staff. Communicate stewardship with grace and love. Many people are hurting and have lost loved ones. Let them know the church deeply cares for them and stands by them.

We as the church have embedded in our DNA the charge of being that Heliotropic Principle by revering the voices of the past and engaging the voices of the future as the church changes to ministry in a changing culture.

Rev. Dr. Rob Hagan is the Ministry Relations Officer for the Presbyterian Foundation serving the Northwest. He works with pastors and church leaders to cultivate generosity and promote stewardship within their congregations. He also meets with donors to assist them in making gifts to support their church and other ministries.