There is good reason to be optimistic about the start of this program year. People are back from a summer of traveling and reconnecting with loved ones. Staff are rested and brimming with new ideas. Many children have been vaccinated, and a more predictable school year seems likely. We are coming out of pandemic mayhem. However, a more robust start up to the new program year is not a signal that we have arrived at “the” new normal. We are still in a liminal season—and need to lead accordingly.
The church is a volunteer organization. Even the most staff-driven congregations rely on volunteers to make ministry work. The pandemic has impacted volunteerism profoundly, in ways not yet clear. Volunteerism isn’t bouncing back as readily as other aspects of congregational life. We can take steps to engage our volunteers more effectively now, while we wait to learn more about what the future holds.
Much of our decision making over the past two years has been reactive. Continually shifting COVID protocols, political polarization, and local and global turmoil leave us feeling fragmented. You may be wondering whether you have been strategic enough. Has your preoccupation with managing the chaos prevented you from pursuing mission, vision, and intentional innovation? Cultivating six habits can help you get strategically reoriented now.
Many are turning to planning now, trying to coax order out of the chaos. It would be lovely if planning resolved liminality. It doesn’t.
Plans create an artificial sense of control, but they cannot resolve the deep disorientation of a liminal season—a season in which something has ended but a new thing is not yet ready to begin. In fact, the wrong plan will distract you from the innovation needed to thrive in the next chapter.
This season has been relentless in its assault on our equilibrium. Mistakenly, many feel that they must resolve their own sense of overwhelm before they can effectively lead others. But overwhelm isn’t a problem to be solved; it’s an invitation to shift perspective.
Staff who negotiated the first waves of the pandemic with resilience may be hitting the wall now. The relentless stress of this season is incapacitating some of our best employees. If you are a supervisor, you may wonder how to recognize and respond to traumatized members of your team. Five key practices will help you provide a trauma-informed workspace.
The beginning of the pandemic was overwhelming, but our focus was clear—figure out how to worship, connect, and teach in an online environment. The boundaries marking what we could not do provided clarity. Now, in-person engagement is returning and we face another kind of overwhelm—too many options. How do we make choices when some boundaries have been removed, but not everything is possible? To meet the needs of this season, we must help our leaders shift out of decision-making mode and into a discerning mindset.