Four Key Attitudes of Leaders Whose Churches Will Thrive in the Future

The topic of COVID or the pandemic often brings feelings of gloom and despair. Indeed, the year 2020 will be, in many ways, a year we will choose to forget. It has been difficult for many people and many organizations.

But during this trying season, I have been devouring news and studies of churches and other organizations that are poised to move positively in the future. These organizations are not succumbing to the inevitability of life getting worse and organizational health deteriorating. They do not have their metaphorical heads in the sand. To the contrary, they are looking up and looking around to see the new paths and the new possibilities in this new reality.

When I recently synthesized many of the articles and podcasts addressing these challenges positively, I saw a pattern. There were four attitudes among the leaders common to most all of them. I believe these four attitudes are emblematic of successful organizations of the near future. 

  1. “God is not done with us yet.” To be clear, the leaders of secular organizations were unlikely to articulate this attitude in the same way church leaders were. But all of the healthy organizations had attitudes of hope and possibility. Defeatism was a foreign concept to all of them. 
  1. “We are not waiting for things to return to normal.” Any organization waiting for a pre-COVID normal is already in trouble. Any churches expecting patterns of attendance, giving, and ministry to be similar to 2019 are really up against a wall. There will not even be a new normal, because normal cannot be defined. These leaders are looking for indicators of a new reality and they are making pivots to these new realities. 
  1. “We will be more outwardly-focused than ever.” Too many churches and other organizations got comfortable prior to 2020. The leaders of future-focused organizations are determined more than ever to reach beyond themselves. The churches and the organizations of the future cannot and must not be navel gazers. 
  1. “Major change is inevitable; we will embrace it.” The healthy church or organization of the future cannot simply move from change-averse to change-receptive. They must proactively seek and move toward radical change. They cannot wait for change to come to the organization. These organizations must take faith-based risks like many have never known before. If the leaders of these organizations succumb to the whiners who lament, “We’ve never done it that way before,” the organization is doomed. Healthy organizations of the future will embrace change with wisdom and courage. 

In many ways, we are indeed living in difficult and heartbreaking times. We cannot deny the reality of sickness, death, depression, and economic collapse COVID has brought to our world. But, in other ways, this season is a  time of incredible opportunity. Many organizations are paralyzed with fear and think the best strategy is hoping life resumes its normalcy. 

That’s not going to happen. 

Such is the reason the leaders of healthy churches and organizations of the future will take these four attitudes and change the world. 

I can’t wait to see what it will look like.

Posted on September 28, 2020

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • I received the link to this message from our music minister. After reading it I felt uplifted and encouraged. The timing of this message was perfect. At an open forum meeting with church attenders last week we were processing some sad news that our pastor was resigning. The regular church attenders who came to the meeting varied in their responses. Some were frustrated to learn the news, some angry, others filled with grace, love and mercy. Some have decided to leave our church; others have vowed to stay and work through the transition process of healing and finding a new pastor. The pandemic repercussions played a big part of the resulting resignation. Thank you for your succinct wisdom.

    • Virgilio m. Losa says on

      For my own opinion the pastor has big reason why he resign his position or ministry as pastor specialy this time of pandemic because for me to be a pastor is not permanent position it is changeable, so the member of the must find another pastor to continue the ministry he was lefted. It is so important that the church should always prepare or ready in any circumstancses. The church should undergo leadership trainning for pastoral

  • Thom,

    Do you think there’s something to be said for healthy churches post-COVID being ones that can successfully transition away from corporate-customer-service church models to more simple, “the flock serves one another” models? I just wonder what good things might happen if older, more financially secure pastors (it would be great if we could find them) played some real tough love with church members who refuse to grow into maturity because the church exists to serve them?

    I mean, I’d love to see some pastors look their immature members in the eye, and, in a pastoral way say, “You can either grow up into Christ or you’re outta here.” Perfectly biblical thing to do, imo.

    Who knows?