It takes hard work and persistence to build momentum in ministry. If you want to help change people’s lives in healthy ways, you need to commit to a long-term strategy and keep at it. In this post, we will discuss ways you can posture your leadership to help launch a ministry or business project and sustain it over the long haul.
In the summer of my final college semester, I found myself working in a new church. When the church started, they had built a small coffee shop for the community. Everyone from the town came to this coffee shop. On Friday nights, I began to notice large groups of students filling the space. One of my co-workers behind the espresso bar began to introduce met to many of those students. I came to learn that there was quite a music scene in this little town, but not real venues to showcase the talent.
As we put our heads together together, we came up with the idea to host concert nights in the church sanctuary, which was down the hall from the cafe. The owners of the cafe agreed and we were off to the races.
As with anything you attempt to start, these concert nights did not go off without a few glitches. We figured out how to make the weekly events run more smoothly. Before we knew it, we found ourselves in a bit of a predicament with space. Luckily we had gotten to know some of the other business owners and church leaders in the community. We were able to work out arrangements with the owner of an old movie theater to host shows once a month there. This increased our seating capacity by hundreds... which we were quick to fill.
It was CRAZY. We had no idea what we were doing. We learned a ton about building momentum. We all burned out and things started to fall apart. Because of this, I have learned what it takes to sustain momentum over the long haul.
I am going to talk about a few things that I wish we had done when we were in our first stages. We were doing a lot of things right at that time, but we could have done a better job.
I have learned through many start-up endeavors that my role as a leader is that of a catalyst. In science, a catalyst is an agent that sparks the initiation of a change. Your role is to recognize that God is moving and begin to move your life towards that. You are the second mover in God's movement. This can feel isolating. Many people will question your motivations and in some cases, your sanity. My encouragement to you is to sit in the presence of God, receive clarity in how God is moving, and join that. Recognize that those in your organization who will join you first are the leaders. Your role is to serve them.
In my case, the group of students that I began interacting with were the ones that lead this project.
Our first few weeks of the concert night were small. Friends of the band were all that showed up. At this moment, it felt like a failed project. My hope was that this would be an "overnight success". I learned was that perseverance and regular change of our plans was going to be required. It is hard work to cultivate momentum in a ministry (or business) project.
The first group of students decided this was the right thing to do for their community. They did not lose heart. Their motivations were to create a welcoming and safe environment for their peers. They had conversations throughout the week that built excitement. More students began to come out.
It was their testimony that built the imagination of others. Those that came in our following weeks would be the ones that would make the space even more exciting to be part of.
This was a hard lesson for me to reflect on. Our first leaders were not the ones that carried things forward to the end. In fact, by the end of the time, I was not even attending the events anymore. I recognized that each stage of building requires different people to take the lead. Studying social movements throughout history, I have noticed patterns that repeat. Each stage is led by a certain profile of a leader.
Leading new endeavors is challenging. I have noticed that many leaders become impatient in the early stages of a new project. Their impatience threatens the building process required for the project to succeed. I have learned there are seasons we need to stop building. Leaders need to linger with the people in the season they find themselves in. They need to pay attention to what is going on in the hearts of people before they move forward.
The leadership principle is "good leaders leave". In those middle stages where momentum was starting to pick up, there were weeks that I left early. I handed the keys to one of the other leaders, patted them on the back and took off. Momentum took off when I started doing this more. At the time, I was upset that things were better when I left. What did that say about me and my worth? In hindsight, I realize that I had created a necessary leadership vacuum for others to step up.
If I could do this chapter of life over again, I would have been more intentional with how I left. I left because I was tired. I was not paying attention to leadership development. If I had the opportunity to do things over, I would have debriefed the team more effectively. I would have taken the time to help them plan the next event without me. They would have developed better systems had I done that, and more people would have been served.
I missed that opportunity because I did not have that insight. This ministry project shut down. They are not failures. Westerners have this weird obsession with the longevity of things. Not all things need to keep going. Churches and businesses close all the time. That is not a bad thing. God used them for seasons to do certain things in the hearts of people and they were no longer needed. We will explore this in others posts. For now, I encourage you with a few closing thoughts.
Are you beginning to think about starting a new project? Have you been working at something for a long time and feel stuck? What is the next step you will take as you read this? Who do you know that might enjoy this conversation?