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How Do You Respond to Constraints in Ministry?

By Todd Adkins

When you face constraints in ministry, are you a victim, neutralizer, or transformer? 

In the book A Beautiful Constraint, the authors found that those who refused to scale back their ambition in the face of constraint were the ones who most likely found a way to make the constraint beautiful. The authors also discovered that leaders who reduced their ambition found the constraint strangled their ability to accomplish their mission.

Their hypothesis at the time was that there were three kinds of people: victims, neutralizers, and transformers. But they soon discovered that these three postures are not necessarily fixed to individuals or organizations but can also be stages that build on one another. 

Here are three stages of response to constraints. 

  1. In the victim stage, you lose ambition and you feel the constraint because you can’t figure out how to resolve the issue and move forward. Unfortunately, most people never make it out of this stage. They stay in the victim stage and make excuses. They shift the blame and never move forward. 
  2. In the neutralizer stage, you feel ambitious, but you actually find an alternative solution. You work around the constraints and find a solution that is at least as good as the one you had before. So, it’s not anything better, new, grand, or different, but you have a solution that is neutral to where you once were.
  3. In the transformer stage, you look at the issue you are facing as an opportunity. That posture makes all the difference. It makes you more ambitious, and it makes you seek a new and better solution than the one you had before. You are not confined by the constraint. You are emboldened by it. It gives you energy. 

To best solve problems and face your constraints in this season of ministry, you must ask yourself a couple of questions. First, why are you stuck at this stage? Second, how can you get beyond it? You must examine your mindset, your methods, and your motivations to get an accurate picture of why you are stuck where you are. Only then can you take a step back and get better progress toward a solution.

To help your church move toward a new normal in response to COVID-19, Ministry Grid has created a free course, which includes this victim, neutralizer, or transformer exercise. This course includes 9 videos and 15 documents to establish clarity in the midst of chaos, think through who you’re serving, create financial and ministry contingency plans, shift focus and resource the right things, and emerge from this season stronger than before.


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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