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Do You Have a Crew to Lead Change?

By Todd Adkins

In my early days of ministry, you would have found me guilty of viewing the people of our congregation as vessels to be filled instead of torches to be lit. May that never be said again of me or you as a church leader. But today, we have a tremendous opportunity to build an army, not just an audience, especially in times of crisis. 

The greatest obstacle that stands in our way of emerging from tough seasons with a stronger church body faithfully engaged in using their gifts in service to Christ is clarity in the midst of chaos. 

Every leader is leading through the uncertainty of the day, but you can’t afford to allow that lack of certainty to manifest itself and become a lack of clarity. Your staff and congregation will follow you through uncertainty, but they can’t follow you if you’re unclear about where your church is going and where they fit into the process. 

Stowaways, Pirates, Passengers, and Crew

My Will Mancini Will uses the analogy of a ship in his book Church Unique. If a church is a ship, there are four types of people on it: stowaways, passengers, pirates, and crew members.1

The question you must ask is: when someone is on board, are they really on board? Do they have clarity for your vision? Have they bought into that vision? Do they actually contribute to your vision? If you lack clarity, you will have no crew. You are forcing your people into the other three quadrants by default.

Stowaways. If there are people in your church who are not really onboard, don’t get the vision, and aren’t actively contributing, then they are stowaways. They may show up, but they are going through the motions for the most part. You likely wonder why they’re even around in the first place. They just show up for the service occasionally and go back home.  

Passengers. If a person is on board, they may somewhat get the vision. But if there’s not enough clarity that compels them to make a contribution, then they’re a passenger. They are engaged and enjoying the amenities of the ship, but they are simply along for the ride. By providing a clearer vision and strategic on-ramps, you have a higher likelihood of passengers responding in action and becoming contributors. 

Pirates. Now, if a person is not onboard with the church and actively contributes, but what they’re doing does not align with your vision, then that person is a pirate. Any contribution that does not align with the vision is an act of piracy. Like the passengers, you can strategically shift them to become crew members by providing a clear and compelling vision and strategic on-ramps. Or, ultimately, they may need to find a new ship

Crew. Which leads us to the crew. The crew is on board. They understand and can articulate our vision and how this change aligns with it. The vision is so clear and so compelling that they are willing to contribute. 

We want as many people as possible to relate as crew members on our ship. If you have more stowaways, pirates, and passengers than you do crew members, assess your vision to be sure it’s clear and compelling. Remember that people will follow you if you are uncertain, but they will not follow you if you are unclear. You must paint a clear picture of what the change will be like when we get there. 

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. Adapted from Will Mancini, Church Unique (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008), 211.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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