How is taking a mountain hike like a congregation’s transformation journey? Not much unless . . .
Before you read too far let me admit this article took shape during a mountain hike with my family was in North Carolina over a holiday weekend. Here are some of the thoughts that emerged during the hike.
First, the journey is longer than you were told at the beginning. At the start, even people with a map and who have taken this hike before misjudge the time it will take and the distance it covers.
In like manner, the congregational transformation journey often takes longer than first predicted, and covers more distance than projected. This is a surprise and can lead some people wanting to turn back.
Second, the resources you bring to the journey are often not enough. Some people come with the great hiking shoes. Some not. Some have thick athletic socks. Some not. Some have warm jackets. Some not.
Yes, it takes specific resources to transform a congregation. It takes a diversity of resources. Many people underestimate what is needed and come to the journey underprepared.
Third, not all people on the journey have the same capacities. Some people are fast and sure. Some people are slow and uncertain. Rest periods or waiting for others to catch up add to the time to complete the hike.
Congregational participants have a diversity of capacities. Leaders may be fast and sure, but they also know they must be slow enough to maintain an excited and enthusiastic ‘followership.’
Fourth, obstacles will be encountered you do not expect and for which you do not receive sufficient warning. Foresters clear some branches and trees from the route. Others have fallen since the last clearing. Recent rain and snow create water and ice obstacles that are unexpected.
Obstacles are often faced by congregations. This even occurs when attempts have been made to clear obstacles. New and unexpected obstacles often appear.
Fifth, at times you may lose your way. Because the path is not traveled by many. It is easy to get off the path. Either you must go back and find it or have the good fortune to come across it again.
Consistency and sustainability are too difficult to maintain during the long congregational transformation journey. It is too easy for congregations to lose their way. But, they may have the good fortune to find it again.
Sixth, when you get to your intended destination there is a great sense of accomplishment. It is great to make progress. It is wonderful to experience the rest and relaxation felt at what you hope is the end of the journey. Familiar signs of civilization bring relief.
It is wonderful to see a congregation become ‘FaithSoaring’ and arriving in the transformation zone of its journey as a congregation. It is a time for great celebration.
Seventh, then you discover your intended destination is really a rest stop along a longer destination. The tough discovery is that you are still a mile away from your cars and the journey you thought was over has additional time and distance to cover.
When a congregation arrives at its destination, what it means to be transformed continues to move forward. The journey is not complete. It is really ongoing. What it means to be FaithSoaring is continually evolving.
Eight, even when you make progress you still have scarce resources to continue the journey. You may drive to the starting point of the hike, but you still must have enough gas to go forward to civilization following the hike.
It is important that congregations not outrun their supply lines. The resources needed may never be enough. Congregations must discover ways to go forward with the resources they have or can develop.
Ninth, multiple people tell you they know the way. Along the hike multiple people believe they know the way forward even if out of the group, there are only one or two who have taken the journey before.
Within congregations are multiple people who think they know the pathway to transformation. Few of these have ever been in a congregation that has transformed.
Tenth, the people who keep moving forward are the leaders. The leader is not always the same. Different people play that role. At times leaders stop to help others and send new leaders ahead.
Congregations need leaders who have a bias for action. They want the congregation to keep moving forward. At times this will be different leaders than before.