As a local church faces a time of rapid change, it wants to believe that the person or persons steering it are good leaders: competent in their field and of good character. In the hundreds of congregations Church Innovations has helped to move through change, their spiritual leaders have had to build, on the road, so to speak, their competence in the field of “leading through change or challenge,” since each church’s way forward isn’t some clear path and where, when the old ways break down, there are already available technical fixes. These spiritual leaders are competent in many things, but not in not knowing what to do to help a whole community move into change. And they realize this. And the realization often challenges them even more.
After a few years of helping single congregations move through change and realizing how valuable a one-to-one connection is for thinking and praying, exploring and testing, we knew a conversation every few weeks would be a must for spiritual leaders going through Partnership for Missional Church. We also knew that one or two consultant guides could not provide that service to 10-12 sets of local spiritual leaders in multiple PMC clusters that much one-to-one time. So we began training phone loop consultants who would connect by phone once every 6-8 weeks with local church spiritual leaders. In our longitudinal research of the first version of PMC, we learned that that phone session every 6-8 weeks was one of the single biggest factors for a church’s staying in the Partnership through all its phases. We thought then and still believe the phone loop was providing a spiritual discipline, forming a part of the leader’s character, and it was also reminding the leader of competences he or she was bringing to the challenging situation, all leading to a rise in confidence in the Lord’s leading, which could be seen and felt by the congregation.
In the coming weeks, we’ll post thoughts from some of our phone loop consultants about this long-distance but effective spiritual connection offered as congregations seek God’s preferred and promised future for them.