Adapting Our Approach

The longer a Congregation continues, the more its people will experience different kinds of emotions. If we want to serve them well, as things change, we will need to continually adapt our approach to leadership.

Idea and image courtesy of Ian Parkinson from CPAS [Church Pastoral Aid Society]


When a Congregation has become cynical, it is no good trying to make them enthusiastic about their collective purpose. This is not the time for planning a ‘Vision Sunday’ or for inviting a visiting motivational speaker to ‘stir things up’. In fact, such an approach could be counter-productive, and birth in them a defensive and negative reaction to all new ideas.

Sadly (but understandably), cynical people often feel disappointed. They have heard many ‘great ideas’ and tried many ‘great initiatives’, but they have not seen enough of what was promised truly come to pass. So, what they most need is grounded and practical steps, with concrete tasks, and clear processes. More realistic approaches can help them re-engage.



Image courtesy of @markusspiske


However, when a Congregation has slightly overdone it with their tasks and processes, they can get quite tired. This is not usually as complex as cynicism – it is often just a case of having worked too hard for too long with too little margin for spontaneity, leisure, and friendship. Fortunately, the solution for this is simple – they just need to change gear.

However, if what they hear in advice to ‘change gear’ (for a season) is interpreted as being permission to opt-out (indefinitely), that is not constructive either. Instead, what they really to hear is a strong encouragement to invest in their relationships with one another, and to prioritise spending quality time together, whatever that might look like.



man carrying to girls on field of red petaled flower

Image courtesy of @jule_42


But without a compelling sense of purpose, an extended focus on internal relationships can lead to boredom and complacency. It can even result in a Congregation’s decline, eventually. We must not forget that God still has a mission, and therefore we cannot suspend our engagement in that mission for too long, or we will lose all sense of spiritual vibrancy.

So how can a renewed sense of collective vision be stimulated? Practices like collective prayer and fasting, alongside honest and open conversations, are all helpful. Additionally, things which have already been mentioned like ‘Vision Sundays’ and/or motivational speakers can be helpful. Timing is a critical factor in the development and ownership of a vision.


Image courtesy of @jakobowens1 


However, some may find it deeply unsatisfying that our initial diagram looks both repetitive and cyclical. They may question the sheer volume of adaptations which it seems that leaders must make in order to effectively serve peoples’ ever-changing emotional needs.

But that’s the point.

Leadership is not a static discipline, any more than our emotions are static. We cannot just develop one leadership approach (that often mirrors our own preferences), and expect it to remain relevant forever. It won’t. Leadership is a dynamic discipline, and to serve people well we must learn to adapt our approaches to suit their dynamic emotional needs.


Review the CPAS-inspired diagram below, and re-consider the relevance of your own approach to leadership, in the life of the Congregation you serve, in this particular season of your life together.

Idea and image courtesy of Ian Parkinson from CPAS [Church Pastoral Aid Society]