My friend, Dr. Chris Sanchez, shared this article by James Scott regarding areas where pastors are failing their churches. I will add my thoughts to his article, but my focus will not only be on the failure of pastors but of leaders. After twenty-four years of being among and around leaders all over this country, and writing this article from the home of West Virginia University, I have learned a lot from observing an array of leaders.
What other failures need to be avoided for our church leaders and leaders of other organizations to help succeed in 2024?
4. A Failure to See the Truth.
Gordon Gee is a prime example of this. In 2017, when many were seeing the writing on the wall and sharing concerns about the future of higher education, President Gee announced a plan to grow WVU enrollment from 28,409 students (an average number that it had held for years) to 40,000 by 2020. The university spent to accommodate for this growth that never happened. Now with an enrollment of 26,000 and outstanding debts in the millions, optimism is minimal for most.
It’s time for us as leaders to get real! It is time to take seriously the realization that the next generation needs us and we need them. It is time for boards and organizations to make sure they are doing everything they can to ensure their influence for years to come.
Paul had a succession plan. His plan was Timothy. He gave Timothy a plan as well. That plan is laid out in 2 Timothy 2:2, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” Titus was to do the same by appointing elders in every city (Titus 1:5).
I was on the board of an organization that was struggling badly. The board was a group of eternal optimists. During a pivotal meeting, it was obvious they too wanted to ignore the reality of the current situation. I finally spoke up and said, “This ministry is a sinking ship taking on water quickly. We all know where the holes in this ship are. My question is are we willing to do what it takes to fix them?”
The president looked directly at me and said, “Where is your faith?” My reply was, “God has not called me to sink. I’ll take my life jacket and jump.” A few months later that is exactly what I did. Unfortunately, “that ship” never sailed again.
If you fail to plan, plan to fail.
5. A Failure to Accept Change.
It was 2021 and our Kindergarten class was coloring a classic picture of Christmas Carolers from the late 1800’s. One of the singers was wearing a large top hat. I noticed a child had colored a beard on him. I said to the 5-year-old, “Hey did you make him Abraham Lincoln?” He said, “No Pastor Spicer, I put a mask on him to keep him safe.” He (as well as the majority of the next generation) will always have etched in the psyche of their minds, “Is this safe.”
It is so frustrating watching organizations, churches, and colleges continue to operate like they did in 2019.
If you are waiting for things and people to go back to the way they were, you are living in a fairy tale world. It is not going to happen. We have a generation that is and will be different.
We must provide an atmosphere and environment where this generation feels close to home and safe. If that means having two Sunday services so they can spread out, do it. If that means moving shifts around at work to accommodate, do it. If a larger fellowship hall will solve the problem, provide it. If that simply means giving them options like online learning or remote classes on days when needed, provide it.
Titus had a difficult task working with the church in Crete. Its culture was unique, to say the least. Paul doesn’t tell Titus to avoid it, but while in this present world (Crete) to “deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live, soberly, righteously, and godly” (Titus 2:12).
I know some of you already are thinking, “Treg that is extreme!” I agree. I also know that the status quo will only last for so long before you find yourself desperate to make changes, but then it will be too late. We must change because things will never be the same.
6. A Failure to Deal with the Problems.
When our kids were ages 1-5 we moved to North Carolina. It was a major move for them, so we wanted to do something to help them adjust to the transition. The first purchases we made were battery-powered four-wheelers and a trampoline. They forgot all about Ohio when these items hit our backyard! It didn’t take long though for Cade to fall off the back of one of the four-wheelers and get dragged across the sidewalk. He skinned up his knee pretty badly with that fall. We cleaned up the wound and put a bandage over it. A few days later Cade was acting very strange. He was lethargic, and moving very slowly. We thought it might be the flu but he had no other symptoms. A few days went by and I noticed he would play for a few minutes and then lie on the floor. I was concerned. I then noticed him reaching for that bandage. So I went over and pulled the bandage off to find his knee fully infected. We took him to urgent care and after 24 hours on antibiotics, he was as good as new.
Again, in Crete, Paul tells Titus to, “set in order the things that lacking” (1:5).
It could be your institution, organization, or ministry is covering up some issues, programs, or staff members that are holding you back. This will infect the whole organization. Let me encourage you to set them in order. Rip the bandage off. Healing and restoration will never take place until you do.
7. A Failure to go where they are.
When in teen group, we would spend one evening a week going out to invite members of our community to church. We would meet at the church before our canvasing adventure and strategize where we would go. I secretly hoped I would be assigned to an area where I knew not many people were. That never happened. Why? The point was to reach people and go where they were. At that time it was the outdoor basketball courts, skate park, and apartment complexes.
Paul and his team were always on the go, and they were always going where the people were.
Today, if we are going to reach our potential customers or people for Christ, we must go where they are. It’s not the skate park anymore, it is social media platforms. If your organization or institution is not currently killing it on social media, any influencer will tell you it is too late. The good news is, they will also tell you, the best time to start is now!
When a guest walks through the doors of our church, they are not seeing me for the first time. They have already watched me preach and teach online. I had one guest walk in recently carrying a MacArthur Study Bible. I said, “I don’t know you but I already know I like you because of your Bible.” He said, “I wanted a Bible before I started attending church, so I watched your YouTube video about Study Bibles and bought the one you said was the best.”
If you don’t know where to start, HIRE A COACH! Watch a video. Buy a webinar! I am serious. A $500 investment could reap eternal benefits in a few short months.
Please, don’t be offended by this point, but I feel it needs to be made. If you are reading this and thinking, “I am too old for this stuff, the next President, Pastor, or CEO can do it.” Then hire someone who can, or prayerfully consider stepping down.
2024 could be the best year yet for you and your organization. Please, for the sake of the future and the next generation of leaders who need you, take time to analyze both of these articles to see what might need to happen to ensure success for years to come.