Brent Chapman, Lead Pastor at SouthRidge Fellowship, Langley, BC, and President of Fellowship Pacific.
Leadership has never been for the faint of heart but during times of crisis your ability to lead or at times your inability to lead will be on full display to everyone. Whether that is to the staff, the volunteers, the board, the congregation or even the community you have been called to serve, people will observe how you handle the crisis and take their cues from you. No pressure, right! The people you lead need someone who will step into the moment of crisis, reassure them as to what is still true, speak with authenticity and transparency, and give them a plan on how to move forward.
Many leaders understand these aspects of crisis leadership intuitively and will charge into this leadership defining moment and be a blessing to those they have been called to lead. Other leaders will struggle and even falter during these challenging times. I have been fortunate to have many great mentors in my life that have instilled in me leadership lessons that I have used over and over again during this COVID-19 crisis. Let me share just one with you.
Focus on three things that don’t change during a time of incredible change.
It is always good to remember our theological conviction that God is sovereign. He was not surprised by COVID-19 or how it would affect our country or how it would impact your church. If you take the time to examine the months or even weeks leading up to the crisis, you will see how God was preparing you. At SouthRidge there are many examples but let me share two with you. The first was a nine-week, church-wide focus on our discipleship rhythms during January and February. This prepared our people to focus on their own discipleship even during a time when we could not meet together. The second was the paying off of our mortgage this past December. This lessened our financial expenses during a time when as leaders we have to make hard spending decisions.
Your church’s mission, vision, and values are still the same. These don’t change during a crisis although how you accomplish them will. It is important to remind the people that you lead that these are still what God has called us to accomplish and live out. At SouthRidge, we are still called to be outward focused and to live generously so people will experience God in their lives. As finances tighten, spending decisions need to be made based on your mission and vision. During the past number of weeks, SouthRidge has partnered with other churches in Langley to advertise to our community that we are here to help them and we have provided meals to a number of families from one of the elementary schools near our church building. Both of these decisions were easy to make because they allowed us to continue to live out our ‘Outward’ vision for Langley.
Your ability to lead is based on the trust that the people whom you lead have in you. Trust. That is your leadership currency. If you are a seasoned leader, you will be drawing on the trust you have built up over time to chart a course for your church or organization, and people will follow you if you have their trust. If you are a new leader and have not built up a great deal of trust then here is some good news. There is no better way than leading well through a crisis to build trust in your people. This does not mean that everyone will agree with the decisions you end up making. It also does not mean you will not make mistakes You will. You will build trust by acknowledging those mistakes, owning them and then pressing on in leadership. During the first week of the crisis, I did a video explaining to our church how different Sunday would look when they came to worship together. Two hours after the video was posted, the BC Health Officer announced that all gatherings over 50 people were banned. After quickly working with our team and figuring out what church online would look like for us on that Sunday, I shot another video updating our church and asked for their forgiveness during this rapidly changing time.
If God has placed you in leadership, He is asking you to step into that responsibility. These are exciting times and you are being called to lead during a once in a lifetime opportunity. May you lead well.
 SouthRidge’s mission and vision https://southridgefellowship.ca/about-us/story-of-southridge-langley-church/#mission