The world is awash in change. Some say that there’s not been a period like this in the last 100 years. Whether it is the raw elements of dealing directly with a pandemic or facing the cascading social, political, economic, organizational implications – the sheer number of elements of life that are affected can be staggering.
Elements of the world we live in today would have been unthinkable even ten years ago. And, at the current rates of change, in another ten years the world the Church seeks to reach with the power and love of Christ may be unrecognizable. But none of this has caught God off guard! As part of God’s company, the journey will be marked by wonder, faith, possibly some tears. But, most certainly, with new, sometimes profound experiences in a context of constant change.
There has never been a time when working together is more critical – for strategic, economic, and personal, spiritual reasons. If there was ever a time the world needs to see believers working together it’s now! Your partnership or network may have “come to the Kingdom for such a time as this!”
In this world of amazing change, where stability seems elusive and tradition almost gone, what is to be done? Listening to His Spirit, and others, you can be part of shaping the future with the power of the Good News! In this brief article I want to be very practical. But, first, a bit of background.
Heraclitus, the Greek writer and philosopher is credited with the oft-quoted line –
“The only thing certain is change.”
While change may be inevitable, anyone playing a leadership role is well-advised to seriously consider the observation of the political philosopher of the Renaissance, Niccolo Machiavelli when he said, “There is nothing more difficult to carry out, more doubtful of success, or more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things”
The Bible is laced with hundreds of references to change; change of heart, change of allegiance. change of status, change of habits, and change of hope.
Talk about old and new order. Consider this reference (emphasis mine)–
“O King Zedekiah,[a] evil prince of Israel, your final day of reckoning is here. 26 Take off your jeweled crown,” the Lord God says. “The old order changes. Now the poor are exalted and the rich brought very low. 27 I will overturn, overturn, overturn the kingdom, so that even the new order that emerges will not succeed until the Man appears who has a right to it. And I will give it all to him . Ezekial 21:25 1
The good news is that we know that the Lord does not change. “For I am the Lord—I do not change. That is why you are not already utterly destroyed, for my mercy endures forever. Malachi 3:6 1
And, that the ultimate purpose of all of our Kingdom work is summarized in Paul’s hopes for the Galatian church. It doesn’t make any difference now whether we have been circumcised or not; what counts is whether we really have been changed into new and different people. Galatians 6:15.1
So, as facilitators or other leaders in Kingdom networks or partnerships, keep in mind – we are agents of change. The heart of our mission is seeking change. But, along the way, our own context and resources are going to change. And, to keep our collaborative effort relevant and effective we must be aware of and responsive to the changes that come.
Change: Specific To The Vision and Your Initiative
Here are some of the places where change is likely to happen – inside your network or partnership; the strategies you and your colleagues are using; or within the audience you’re trying to reach – to see changed with the power and love of Christ.
Your network or partnership –
Here are some of the places you can well expect change to occur. In each case, as network or partnership leaders we need to ask, “What are the implications of this change?” And, how will I, our leadership team, or the network or partnership as a whole actively and positively address these changes?
- New ministries coming on board, others leaving
- The ‘mix’ of your partner ministries such as country or region of origin, specific focus of their ministry, their aspirations, etc.
- Turnover in the leadership of your partner ministries – either at the filed level where they may be active participants in your collaborative effort. Or, at the regional or ‘home office’ level where a change in policy or strategy may affect the field personnel’s engagement in your network or partnership.
- Change in your network or partnership’s leadership team. This could be in your Steering Committee, leadership of your working groups, or other key roles.
- Priorities, life circumstances, and policies such as furlough/home leave create a natural turnover among your colleagues. Remember: all effective collaboration is based on restored, trusting, effective personal relationships. People – their health and commitment to the vision are everything!
- New opportunities for strategic working groups or other forms of leveraged collaboration among your partner ministries as circumstances change.
Change Outside But Relevant To Your Network or Partnership
Your “Audience,” Strategies, and Resources
Change is a constant inside and outside of your network or partnership. The audience you’re seeking to reach and serve is central.
- What changes spiritual, physical, or social changes are occurring in the group of people (language, tribe, city, etc.) we are seeking to reach and serve? Consider pandemics, migration, displacement due to political unrest or natural disasters, etc.
- Are there any ‘breakthroughs’ occurring and/or new apparently effective models of ministry or new strategies appearing?
- How should we be giving these visibility and encouraging those in our network or partnership to learn from them and consider change?
- How relevant are the strategies that our partners are using and to what extent are we encouraging evaluation so that effective change can be considered?
- Are resources being threatened? Is our leadership facing these issues squarely and honestly? What are the implications for the individual ministries and/or the network? What alternatives can we consider, encourage, and facilitate? Are we encouraging/facilitating honest, creative discussions about these issues?
- Are there new resources Possible (people, money, technology, etc.) that our network or partnership partners need to know of? How can we help our partners effectively use or leverage these new resources? When it comes to money, for instance, ministries frequently are reticent to discuss details. But, can we provide a creative forum in our network or partnership to collaboratively consider these things?
External Yet Critical Changes
We may not be “of this world” but we certainly live in it – both individually and in our collaborative efforts such as networks and partnerships. Here’s a reminder of some of the things that may be obvious but which can have a profound impact on our network or partnership’s operations and effectiveness.
- Technology – presenting new options for witness, service, or facilitation of our network or partnership’s leaders and, therefore our effectiveness.
- Social/political circumstances. New political realities, new religious or social tensions, forced migration (refugees, diaspora, etc.), natural disasters, pandemics, etc.
- The ever-changing nature of global church and mission structures. New alliances, emerging resources from unexpected sectors of the global church community, etc.
- The nature of what other networks or partnerships are doing that may align with some aspect of what our network or partnership is seeking to do. The potential of exploring connections between like-minded networks or partnerships.
Tools For Action
Effective network or partnership leaders always seek to be proactive rather than reactive. So assuming that change is going to occur and planning our strategies or action plans ahead of time is always more effective. Here are a few ideas for you to consider:
- Keep a ‘forward looking’ state of mind. Aware of the current status of things but constantly on the lookout for points where change is likely or could occur.
- Particularly on those changes that are likely inside your network or partnership, put a team and/or an action plan in place before hand so that you’re ready.
- Do an annual network or partnership assessment or evaluation among your partner ministries. In this annual evaluation consider a few things:
- Get help in designing your survey – particularly critical when surveying partner ministries from different cultural and language backgrounds.
- Keep it simple. Better to get good information on a few key issues relevant and useful for your network or partnershp’s effectiveness.
- Among the most critical issues to explore are: How many of the partner agencies attend/participate in the network’s annual meeting? How many of the attendees at the annual meeting are senior personnel? How many of the partner agencies have been in touch with or worked in some way with others in the network in the last year? What real, practical value to their own agency do partners see in the network? High, Medium, Low?
- Use an ‘off the shelf” software platform like Survey Monkey or similar which does an easy to read/understand summary of the data.
- Get help in analyzing the results – what does the survey “say” and, most important, what does it mean for our network?
- Make a commitment among your leadership team before the survey is done that you will commit a full working meeting – 3-4 hours or even a full day – to consider the results and agree on priority action plans – who will do what by when!
- Do an analysis of your network or partnership using the lists above. Which of these areas of change are most likely or, in some cases, you know will occur? Then ask, “What kind of action plan do we need to have in place to address these issues?” Examples might be –
- New partner agencies coming in, others leaving. Count on it. Put people and plans in place to address this predictable reality.
- Changes in your leadership team. Life circumstances, personal priorities, and official responsibilities in their ‘home’ agencies change. Rather than having to address these serious issues at the last minute or under pressure what can you be doing now to maximize stability and effectiveness?
- New information “from the field.” If our network or partnership is being effective, we should be having a steady flow of information about developments at the field level? All of this represent change – positive or negative. How do we collect and share this information for max effectiveness?
We always wish that the change we encounter is ‘change for the better.” But, as we all know, that will not always be the case. Classically change is always accompanied by opportunity. Think ahead, Have your leadership thinking ahead about change. And be planning for it so that you maximize the opportunity that change always provides.
And, always keep in mind –
“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” Philippians 1:6 2
- New Living Bible.
- The Message