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The 7 Steps of Agile Leadership

By Todd Adkins

In the past, a leader may have led one or two major changes throughout his or her career. Now, major changes happen every 5-10 years, if not more often. This is the lot we have been given as leaders. Two things are happening, change in the world is increasing while there is ever increasing access to information, data, and expert opinions. Many leaders feel like they need a degree in chaos theory to move forward. Never have we had a greater need to implement change and never have we had so many tools at our disposal to do so. But I am afraid this access has led to greater confusion, fear, undermining, and doubt in the way we lead.

This is not something we can get away from because leading in the church will mean leading change. 

Leading change in any organization is both an art and a science and requires us to be agile leaders. We tend to overemphasize the science part and rely on superior planning, but that is only half of the equation. As Mike Tyson said “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”1

The other half of the equation is the art of leading people. You may need to adjust your plan to align with your unwavering purpose as a church: the gospel. Of course planning is critical. But if you can’t lead people, then you can’t lead well in an ever changing world.

Changing Ministry Practices

In this rapidly changing world, churches have been forced to assess how we do ministry. What was once considered a normal ministry practice has likely adapted or changed altogether. 

For example, you may now have fewer available seats in your worship center to practice social distancing. Maxing out the space is no longer an option. Maybe you screen volunteers with temperature checks before they serve or ask them to wear a protective mask. Speaking of volunteers, some of your key volunteer roles have likely adapted or new roles have emerged. Outside of Sunday mornings, weddings and funerals are now likely live streamed, with fewer attendees present. And weekly cleanings on your campus have probably increased. This list could go on and on. 

7 Steps to Agile Leadership

With these ever-changing dynamics, I want to provide you with a step-by-step guide to lead effective change and become more agile leaders. In doing so, you are better prepared to adapt to whatever unforeseen circumstances you may encounter in your church or ministry. These steps are designed for you to use over and over again.

The most utilized change management process ever written was by John Kotter in Leading Change.2 We’ve used Kotter’s original eight steps and adapted them to help your church remain agile in the seasons to come. 

Step 1. What Matters Now? What is most essential to your church and how do you carry it out? 

Step 2. Ready Your Team. You need people with authority, influence, and the right skill sets to remain agile as you adjust and adapt ministry.

Step 3. Cast Vision and Strategy. You must cast vision and strategy to show how this agility and adaptability will be the best course of action for your church.

Step 4. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Communication should be clear, concise, and genuinely from the heart. 

Step 5. Re-Allocate Resources. You must consider what to stop, shift, strategize, and scale in your ministry. 

Step 6. Create Wins. A flywheel is difficult to start turning, but, once moving, its momentum keeps it going forward and gets easier to move the faster it goes.

Step 7. Remain Agile. Change is transformation that helps you remain agile and best meet the needs of your church and ministry in an increasingly changing world.

Agile leadership is not a one-and-done thing. But becoming more agile as a leader in your church will help you to best propel your church and your ministry forward in gospel impact. 

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. Mike Tyson and Larry Sloman, Iron Ambition (New York: Penguin Random House, 2017), 439. 

2. Adapted from John Kotter, Leading Change (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2012), 23.

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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