Perhaps one day it will happen. Perhaps one day the statement “Everyone is saying …” will really mean everyone is saying. Perhaps one day the statement, “A lot of people think …” will really mean a lot of people think. But so far, in nearly 20 years of experience in ministry, “Everyone” has never been everyone. And “A lot of people” have been far less than a lot.
Leadership is often about change, leading people from one place to another, and change is never easy in a ministry or an organization. The status quo can be powerful. Even if the proverbial iceberg is melting, people like the iceberg just the way it is. So inevitably as a leader, you will one day hear from a concerned person that “This direction is wrong because a lot of people are saying …” But how do you respond as a leader when you hear the “Everyone is saying …” statement? Let me suggest:
1. Invite “everyone” to come and talk to you. When you hear the statement, tell the person you would love to talk with those who are concerned and that he/she does not need to carry the burden of being the representative voice for everyone.
2. Remember the “why.” As ministry leaders, we love people. We did not get into ministry because we want to hurt them; therefore, ministry leaders who hear that others are being negatively impacted by changes often struggle internally. In these moments, go back to the “why” — the clear conviction that the Lord gave you and your team, the direction that you are absolutely convinced is best for the body of believers. Don’t let the mirage of “everyone” deter you from the direction the Lord has given. Remember: Don’t lead or initiate change without a clear and holy conviction that the change is ultimately best for the kingdom and for the people you are responsible for.
3. Remind others of the “why.” If the Lord gives you the great opportunity to share with people who are struggling, share the “why” behind the changes. Listen. Share your heart. Listen some more. Own areas where you could have done better communicating, sharing, etc. Though the person(s) may not agree, help them understand that the changes are not haphazard, that they have been prayerfully considered and ultimately put in motion to better fulfill the mission of the ministry/organization.
4. Love people through the changes. Change for people is often emotional and not logical, meaning a clear “why” coupled with a wise plan will not eliminate concerns or criticism. At this point, by God’s grace, do all you can to love people through the transition to change.
Some leaders overreact to concerns and criticism and change ministry directions like the wind. Others fail to love and listen to those they lead. Both extremes can be avoided. You can lead with boldness and clarity, without changing directions, while still loving those who are struggling.