Leading Through the Wilderness

Brad M. Griffin | Feb 17, 2014

Photo by Navy Blue Stripes.

Last week we hosted an all-new Sticky Faith Cohort of nearly thirty churches from around the country and across denominations. We always learn so much from their stories and their courage to live out Sticky Faith in unique ways.

One of our coaches this year is 2010 cohort veteran April Diaz, whose recent book Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker we highlighted last fall. One of the words of wisdom she shares in her book is to regularly assess how we’re doing when we are leading change into new territory. Sometimes early momentum fades into painful criticism, and it can be easy to give up, offer quick fixes, or slap band-aids on those sore spots. Instead, April draws from the guidance of church change expert Gilbert Rendle, a resource we utilized in the very beginning of the cohort process. Those words ring very true this week:

The role of the leader is to pay attention long enough and not run off to fix something. It is to help people confront their pain, disappointments, and anxieties without diminishing them but also without being overwhelmed by them. It is to help people dream dreams of alternate possibilities that provide direction and energy. It is to help people escape the boxes of their assumptions and learned behavior so that deep change is not subverted by old rules. And, perhaps most importantly, it is to help hold people in the wilderness of their experience, the chaos of not knowing what comes next until it comes.[[Gilbert Rendle, Leading Change in the Congregation (Herndon, VA: The Alban Institute, 1998), 99.]]

Paying attention long enough without just trying to fix things.

Helping people confront their pain without being overwhelmed by it.

Holding people in the wilderness until something new comes.

These are hard tasks of leadership. They require us to draw courage from the hope that our vision is not ours alone, and that we do not accomplish it alone.

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, blogger, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and the series Can I Ask That?: 8 Hard Questions about God and Faith. Brad and his family live in Southern California.


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