The Danger of Restlessness

This week I’ve participated in a gathering with Leadership Network called Multi-Site Accelerator. It’s a great learning experience. I appreciate the Leadership Network team, and how they help churches across the country.

The focus of this gathering was to learn and gain insights from business organizations. The idea is to translate those learnings to become more efficient in the multi-site church model.

That’s the context for the content, and it’s great. But I’ll bet you’ve experienced like me, that some great insights also come from more lateral thoughts and hallway conversations.

So, here’s one of those add value ideas, broken down into 5 bullet points.

  1. Leaders in very large churches tend to be driven and get restless when the church isn’t growing as fast as experienced in recent years or even just months. (This doesn’t mean that leaders in small and mid-sized churches aren’t driven. It was merely the context of this gathering.)
  1. This restlessness causes high capacity driven leaders to divert their primary and creative energies from core activities to launch new endeavors within their churches. The danger is that the basics are perceived as boring, and the new creative things capture time, attention, and energy. The new projects gain quick momentum and can give the illusion that the church is moving forward. But this momentum is usually short lived. In reality, the church is simply busier reaching the same people.
  1. These new ministries, projects or events are good, but not focused and streamlined in a way that helps the church make concrete and measurable progress. Reaching more people is not the result. Restlessness can become busyness.
  1. The irony is that this investment of leadership energy is often the very thing that slows or prevents the primary mission, to reach more people for Christ and help them mature in their faith.
  1. The better investment of leadership energy is to dig deep into the basics and stay focused there. Combine that with massive doses of discipline along with innovation toward improvements. But again, stay focused on only that which is imperative for the church to thrive. Everything else is eliminated.

The point is to redirect restlessness that becomes wasted sideways energy by focusing on core basics that are mission-critical.

The following are practical questions to help you discern if this is a reality in your church.

  • Is your church growing slowly or perhaps plateaued?
  • Are your high capacity leaders looking for a new challenge to conquer but not improving the basics?
  • Is that new challenge something that is necessary to achieve the mission of your church?
  • Are you exercising “innovative discipline” to get better at the basics in ministry?
  • Is there any restless energy in you, your staff, or key leaders that needs to be redirected back to mission critical ministries, processes or practices?

9 thoughts on “The Danger of Restlessness”

  1. Great stuff! This paradigm also applies to my profession – marketing and content writing. Often, clients want to “try something new” thinking that will quickly translate to revenue spikes. My client marketing/content strategy always maps to long term vision and goals, so results may not appear tomorrow. But in this digital world, it’s a hard sell. In leadership and marketing the moral is the same – stay focused on the end game and don’t be distracted in the short term!

  2. Eddie Anderson

    Reminds me of the story I heard about Vince Lombardi – it is said that every year when his Green Bay Packers players reported to training camp, he always started the first meeting the same way “Gentlemen, this is a football.”

    “What I received, I passed on to you as of first importance; Jesus died for our sins according to the scripture. He was buried, and he was raised on the third day according to the scripture.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
    Gentlemen, this is the gospel.

  3. Good stuff as always Dan. Thank you. I don’t consider myself a high capacity leader. I am an artist, an adventurer, I love a challenge and my mind is constantly analyzing systems and thinking about how we can improve something. Sometimes I have to watch to make sure it’s not about that adrenaline rush that I get when developing an idea, designing an implementation plan or implementing it.

  4. Years I pastored a church that was nearly extinct. They had lost their building and pastor. One of the first things I did was to ask the people about their neighbors. Most of the people knew very little if anything about their neighbors. So I removed most of the programs and met with the leaders every week teaching them how to reach people and make disciples as Jesus commanded. They had more programs than people attending the church. Within one year everyone of the leaders started their own group and began the discipleship process with those they were reaching. That church today owns 20 acres and everything is paid for. God did some amazing things in an through all of us as we prayed and tried to make disciples as Jesus commanded. Timidity became boldness. Worry became a celebration of God’s hand.

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