Leading on the edge: How to navigate unfamiliar territory in your church

“The pandemic is causing us to re-evaluate just about everything and re-think what we do, why we do it, and how we do it. I really don’t know where we’re going to go or what this next season is going to look like …”

I’ve heard this sentiment from many friends and pastors in the last several months, and perhaps you resonate. It’s overwhelming and stressful to lead in the face of so much unknown. Yet while I deeply empathize with the challenge and weight of leading through change and uncertainty, I can’t help but also get excited when I have this conversation with other pastors. 

Yes, excited!

Moments of uncertainty like the ones 2020 has brought make me excited and hopeful because they are where great change and transformation happens. When we are open to trying new things, we know we don’t have the answers; and when we’re looking ahead at an unknown path—those are the moments we’re on the brink of doing something new and the church is brimming with hope and opportunity. 

Facing a new way forward requires trust and faith. When we find ourselves leading on the edge of unfamiliar territory, it often means we must depend more on prayer, faith, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and less on our previous habits and programs, our skills, or what we’ve always done before. 

All of this is incredibly difficult, and profoundly worthwhile. 

Tweet this: When we find ourselves leading ministry on the edge of unfamiliar territory, it often means we must depend more on prayer, faith, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and less on our previous habits and programs.

Let’s accept the loss that comes with change

Even when we know it’s needed, most of us resist change. It’s hard, and often painful. As Fuller leadership professor Scott Cormode tells every Growing Young Cohort: “People don’t resist change, they resist loss.” So many of us have a hard time embarking on new changes, because loss comes with change—even when it’s ultimately for the best.

In 2016, my church was going through a period of significant change. To make a long story short, my 2-campus church of about 400 people simultaneously had a (geographical) split, a merge with another church, and we planted a new campus. It was a lot.

That was also the year we decided to join the Growing Young Cohort, and I’m so glad we did. On one hand, it sounds crazy: with so much up in the air and changing, how could we have the space to step back and assess, let alone change, our church culture in the way Growing Young invites us to do? Why add another layer of change into the mix? 

On the other hand, those are precisely the reasons it was a perfect time to participate in the cohort. Growing Young author Jake Mulder writes that there is tremendous possibility and openness when we’re in a season where everything has changed. 

Let’s navigate change together

In 2016, changing circumstances meant my church was forced into a period of self-evaluation, openness, and reflection on who we were, and who we hoped to become. Those are precisely the kinds of questions and processes that we wrestled with in the Growing Young Cohort. It didn’t give us all the answers, but it gave us the tools, space, and support to engage with questions like: 

  • Who are you, and who you hope to become as a congregation?
  • What values do you hold, and how can you embody them?
  • How can you more effectively engage your community? The generations in your congregation? And especially, your young people?

Not only does joining the Growing Young Cohort give you a year of research-based webinars and summits with ministry experts, you’ll also have a coach to walk alongside your team as you navigate these questions. You’ll gain encouragement and expertise, tools to navigate the change, and a rallying point for your church to prayerfully work through change together. 

“The church as we know it is calibrated for a world that no longer exists,” Scott Cormode advises. Change has been thrust upon us—loss, grief, and all. We find ourselves in a time where our churches have had to be creative, re-evaluate, and constantly make new decisions. While that statement feels even more true now in 2020, it also means there is an opportunity and an openness to trying new things, asking big questions, and making significant shifts in our approaches, our culture, and our ways of being together. 

The Growing Young Cohort can be a much-needed guide in the important but difficult process of leading change. We’ve added new content and speakers to address some of the most pressing realities today’s young people are grappling with: adapting to a changing ministry landscape, walking with young people struggling with anxiety, and navigating the complexities of intercultural ministry. And we’ve adapted to the changing times by going entirely digital so that you can access FYI’s groundbreaking church training wherever you are.

Change has already happened. Our ministries have already been cracked open and forced to ask new questions. So let’s engage those questions prayerfully and intentionally, seeking new paths together. 

Tweet this: Change has already happened, and our ministries are forced to ask new questions. So let’s engage those questions prayerfully and intentionally, seeking new paths together. 


Join the movement of churches that are growing young.

We’ve spent more than a decade studying effective ministry with teenagers and young adults. Our Growing Young Cohort is a unique, fully-online training opportunity that walks hand-in-hand with your team, as our Growing Young research helps inform and transform your ministry. 

Register today