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Becoming an Agile Leader

By Todd Adkins

As a church leader, you can’t leave “good enough” alone in ministry. God’s hope for the world is the local church. There is no Plan B. To help you assess your plans and hone in what you’ve implemented, I’m going to discuss a framework for concentric alignment. Using this tool over and over again will ensure your ministry stays on track. 

John Boyd was a World War II military strategist who said that during dogfights between fighter pilots, each pilot went through these four decision phases. Whoever did them quicker was the one that won out. Most of us aren’t locked in a life or death struggle while leading through a crisis, but these four phases are helpful in agile decision making to help us move forward with clarity and purpose.1

  • Observe: First, we look at our present reality. What is going on around us? What is the situation?
  • Orient: Next, we develop a present theory. What do we need to orient to or adapt to what is going on? How do you need to change in light of your current reality?
  • Decide: Now we are looking at future theory. What do you have identified as an opportunity for change? What can you decide on that will actually help you move forward?
  • Act: Finally, we move toward future reality. How can you see it through to completion? What will you do to observe the results?

Again, this assessment is one that is never truly done because one decision leads to another, especially in a time of rapid change. This framework is a concentric adaption loop, not a linear diagram. So yes walk through the exercise now, but more importantly use it on a regular basis moving forward as you make continuous improvements to your ministry. Don’t let your success in leading this first big change make you complacent.

Agile Leadership

Agile leaders ignore the inertia of success, because they continually evaluate the situation and improve their systems and alignment of resources, which ultimately improves their leadership. The quicker you are at making solid decisions that align with the vision or directions that you have set, the better leader you will be in the seasons to come.

Remember, whether in time of peace or in a time of crisis in your church, the best thing a leader can provide is clarity that directly aligns with the vision. I can’t give you the vision for your church or what the next great change should be to better equip your church for gospel impact in your community. But hopefully these tools, exercises, and frameworks have helped you and your team become more agile leaders. In doing so, your leaders and volunteers up and down the pipeline become more agile themselves, able to make decisions in perfect alignment with your church because they know where you are going as a church and where they fit in. 

To help you lead change in your church or ministry, our team has created a FREE course on Leading Rapid Change: 7 Steps to Agile Leadership in your church. Click here to get started. 

1. Chet Richards, Certain to Win: The Strategy of John Boyd, Applied to Business(Bloomington, IN: Xlibris, 2004).


Todd Adkins

Todd Adkins (@ToddAdkins) is the Director of Leadership at LifeWay. Prior to LifeWay, Todd served as an executive pastor at McLean Bible Church. He has a background in launching strategic initiatives and scalable campus models to provide immediate growth while remaining financially solvent. During his time at LifeWay, Todd has introduced customizable, web-based leadership development through MinistryGrid.com. He is passionate about helping churches build a Leadership Pipeline and develop Training Pathways for every role in the church.


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