There’s an old hymn that says, “Come go with me the journey is long.” As leaders, we must lead for the long-haul. Leaders are called to guide and prepare those who follow us to a future destination. We cannot change the past and the present is simply a matter of circumstance.
No leader can fix the current, but a competent leader lays the foundation that will help others overcome their past, endure their current situation, and receive the hope of a prosperous future.
Imagine the church you lead has set a goal to double within the next 3 years. Leading for the long haul means that you are prepared for this growth. You have envisioned how your new congregants will fit into your building. You have updated your systems and procedures so that you can effectively minister to and track the new families that will soon grace your doors. Preparing for the future does not mean you don’t honor the past.
On the contrary, leaders honor the past by charting the path to the future, a future that honors the contributions of those who came before, but is not held hostage by their ghosts.
As Paul was headed to Rome he understood that the path to his destination would be wrought with danger (Acts 27-28). He tried to warn those with him about the perils they would soon face. His ability to follow the voice of God in the midst of the tempest and lead for the long haul allowed two hundred and seventy-six persons to survive. In the midst of the chaos, Paul was bitten by a venomous viper, which Paul quickly shook off into the fire. The native people who witnessed this expected Paul to die. What they did not understand was that God had a purpose for Paul that gave him power, exceeding the current expectations of humankind. Paul knew nothing was going to deter him from reaching his God-ordained destination.
Three things (which I think sound much better in Spanish) leaders should keep in mind:
- Muevete (Move It)—Move towards your vision of the future. Don’t just stand around navel gazing. Move forward in faith and with sound practices in place.
- Sacudete (Shake It)—You may feel like you are in the midst of a tempest or stranded on a desert island. You might even get bit once or twice, but you can’t wallow in self-pity or get depressed and die; you have to shake off adversity.
- Soportate (Endure it)—Put in place policies and systems that will drive the vision. Long haul plans need support. A trucker driving cross-country will make certain their truck is in tip-top shape. The route will be mapped and the driver well rested, so both the driver and cargo arrive at the destination safely and on time.
Once we begin leading for the long haul we can settle into our work and carry out our mission with confidence, whether it be in ministry, in business, or simply in our own homes.
Glen Guyton is the Chief Operating Officer for Mennonite Church USA, but got his start in youth ministry. He is an advocate for bringing intercultural competency and innovative leadership practices to ministry so that people can find practical and meaningful ways to engage the world. You can connect with Glen on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, his blog, email or website.