Overcoming Motion Sickness
By Melvin Amerson
Have you ever experienced motion sickness? Persons who suffer from motion sickness become severely ill when traveling at certain speeds or distances. In many cases, this limits or prevents extensive travel. Not only can this rob the person of valuable experiences, it may also hamper the travel of other family members.
After years of pastoring and consulting, I believe some congregations are afflicted with a form of motion sickness. Leading indicators are fear, complacency and stagnation. In chronic cases, it is expressed in these often shared quotes, “We have always done it that way” or “We have never done it that way before.” Too often, fear, complacency and stagnation prevent congregations from moving forward or in new directions. Change is inevitable; yet many churches resist and fail to move and eventually fall into a state of decline. Unfortunately, over the past few decades numerous congregations have fallen into that predicament.
In spite of this trend, there is hope for this disorder. It is curable and does not require “Dramamine.” Visioning, change in pastoral leadership or leadership style, new programming, and changes in worship are typical causes for congregational motion sickness. Ironically, visioning and leadership are the likely remedy for this potentially debilitating condition.
When congregations are led through visioning exercises and strategic planning, their scope for ministry broadens, vision clarifies, and resistance to change dissipates. Consider moving forward with a vision/strategic planning retreat. Keep the newly-found shared vision before the congregation through preaching, teaching, and life transforming ministries throughout the year.
Congregational motion sickness will not be cured overnight or through one or two planning sessions. But through an ongoing journey of learning, change, and transformation, a new ministry paradigm will appear. The prophet Habakkuk shares a remedy in Habakkuk 2:2, “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.” Let’s get moving!
Melvin Amerson is a stewardship consultant with the Texas Methodist Foundation and author of Stewardship in African American Churches and co-author of Celebrating the Offering (both from Discipleship Resources).