If things didn’t need to change we wouldn’t need you to lead.
We could get by with some excellent management of existing resources. We could keep producing what we produced last year. We could point people to last week’s message (or book, or meeting, or event) and talk about how well things went. All of these are necessary, but none of them will help you and your tribe grow and continue bearing fruit through the next seasons of challenge and opportunity.
One of the lessons I have learned during my seven year stint as a vice president for a 60-year old global nonprofit is this: to lead change, first change the paradigms. A paradigm is simply a mindset, a model, a template or an assumed way to look at things. In our case, I realized that in leadership gatherings, the ministry leaders I interacted with tended to emphasize two primary measures of success: (a) how many staff members they had working in their countries and (b) how many students were regularly attending their meetings. Both of those numbers indicate a degree of health and momentum. The paradigms were based on staff numbers and attendance.
But our calling as an organization is to help fulfill the Great Commission which we do by making disciples among all tribes, tongues, peoples and nations. When we are at our best we raise and release leaders. So first we had to change the paradigms from staff-focused efforts to student-led efforts. Also, rather than allowing leaders to spend 90% of their time and emotional energy dealing with a handful of staff members on a few campuses, we asked them to dream about how they might reach out to students on the next 5, or 10, or 100 top tier campuses in their nation.
This type of thinking took a few years to drive into the culture. It can’t be done in one leadership meeting or a single email blast. It required sustained focus through multiple conversations. We had to answer objections such as “we don’t have enough money, or staff, or time or whatever to think about adding more work to our schedule.” We helped people prune programs and events that were no longer necessary. We quit publishing and warehousing outdated materials. We highlighted early adopters who had voiced similar objections but had made the switch and were now experiencing the benefits of the change. We tried, in a friendly way, to starve ineffectiveness. In short, we changed the scorecard for effectiveness.
The results? We’re praising God for a 39% increase in one year in the number of campuses we touch around the world, as well as a corresponding 33% increase in the student leaders involved with us. Most of the growth has not come from an increase in staff members, or from gathering more people into our meetings. It’s come from inspiring and releasing students to lead.
If things didn’t need to change we wouldn’t need you to lead. What paradigm(s) do you need to change?