When your church is in a season of transition, there are opportunities for growth, efficiency, and health. But transitions also bring opportunities for pitfalls and poor decisions. It takes intentionality to choose the former!

Everyone intends to create smooth transitions. Everyone wants the ideal team, working together in a way that is healthy and positive. But when it comes down to actually accomplishing this, it can get messy and confusing.

In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins constructs a pathway for pastors to embrace. Here are five key steps from Collins to set your church or organization on a path to greatness.

  1. Embrace Level 5 Leadership. Greatness begins with leaders who possess the paradoxical personality combination of personal humility and professional will which is quite familiar to those of us who study the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus was completely mission focused and also completely willing to lay down his life. Are you willing to become a leader like Jesus and pursue greatness through service? Take time to prayerfully consider Mark 1:43-45. How does this passage inform your practice of leadership?
  2. Adopt a “First Who, Then What” Mindset. Leading your organization to greatness requires great people. Collins calls this, “getting the right people on the bus, in the right seats.” Great churches and organizations emerge when quality people join and are deployed into their giftings. Patrick Lencioni advises that we recruit people who are humble, hungry, and smart and then learn what makes them tick. In churches, this means we recruit and get to know volunteers of exceptional quality. Do you have a system for attracting and deploying great people? 
  3. Confront the “Brutal Facts” with Faith. Collins recommends a reality-based approach to organizational improvement. Collins advocates taking stock of what is going on in our churches and organizations even when things look bleak. This is a difficult step that cannot be ignored. This advice is reminiscent of Art De Pree’s recommendation in his book, Leadership Is An Art, where he states that the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality and the last is to thank the people who work for your organization. How Are you defining and confronting the unique challenges within your church so you can begin to plan and pray for the future?
  4. Practice The “Hedgehog” Concept. Finding inspiration in an ancient Greek parable that states, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing,” Collins developed the Hedgehog Concept. “The essence of the Hedgehog Concept is to help an organization obtain piercing clarity about how to produce the best long-term results, and then exercising the relentless discipline to say ‘No, thank you’ to opportunities that fail the hedgehog test.” The goal, according to this concept, is to operate in the sweet spot between four key questions: What is your organization most passionate about? What can you uniquely contribute to the people you touch? What can you be the best at? And what drives your resource engine? Consider gathering a small group of trusted leaders in your church to work through the questions of the “Hedgehog” concept. How would you answer those questions?
  5. Enact A Culture of Disciplined Action. Enacting a culture of disciplined action for our churches means that we filter each Good to Great move through a scriptural lens and through Church tradition. Christ commissioned us to make disciples of all people groups in the context of worship and through the traditions of the Word and the table. All our entrepreneurial aspirations have miraculous potential when following the mandates of the Messiah. How is your church prepared to reach its full missional potential while fulfilling the great commission, participating in worship, and following the commandments of Jesus?

To learn more about following a “Good to Great” path for your church, see the following resources:
Collins, James C. (2001). Good to Great. New York: HarperCollins.
Collins, Jim. (2006).  Good to Great and the Social Sectors: Why Business Thinking is Not the Answer. New York: HarperCollins.
Lencioni, Patrick. (2016).  The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues: A Leadership Fable. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
De Pree, Max. (2004). Leadership Is an Art. New York: Currency.