The Thermostat Ministry…How To Get Ahead Of The Problems Your Church Will Face
We are not fortune tellers. We knew that already, right? But as leaders, we must be able to forecast what is coming. If you wait until you have to make changes, it is often too late.
The thermostat at our church has taught me a valuable leadership lesson. In Virginia it can be rather cool in the mornings. By afternoon, the temperature difference from the morning can be substantial. Our first service is at 8:00 AM and it is the least crowded of the day – therein lies the problem.
Every week, someone on our “thermostat ministry team” feels led to crank the thermostat up because they feel a little cold – at time our auditorium is empty and the stage lights haven’t been turned on yet. By the time I get up on the stage to preach for our often full 9:30 service, you could cook bacon on our stage. After I sweat through my sermon and service, I check the thermostat. Sure enough – someone turned up the heat earlier in the morning.
Thermostat adjustments aren’t felt immediately but they impact our congregation significantly later in the day. If we turn the heat up for the 8:00 AM service, we have a hard time keeping it cool for our most packed services.
This is a common problem in leading people.
People react to their current circumstances and then make sudden and often big adjustments. A reactionary change is shortsighted – it often does more harm than good. I lead those that have the power to adjust the thermostat and do their best to forecast the future and not overreact to their current feelings.
It’s the same with church leadership.
If we wait until we feel the heat from a situation, we’re already too late. Here are some practical examples:
- If we wait until we are at 80% capacity to have a plan, we’re LATE.
- If we wait until the church is growing to create a system for plugging new people in, we’re LATE.
- If we wait to make changes after a significant sustained decline, we’re LATE.
A leader develops the ability to see what is coming.
What is needed in the next season? What is going to be a problem if we do not adjust it now?
While everyone else focuses on what is in front of them, the leader looks ahead.
If we adjust the thermostat because it’s a little cold at the 8 AM service, then it will be too hot for the 9:30 service.
A great exercise to take your team through is meeting with church leaders who are serving at churches at the next attendance barrier. If you are a church of 100, meet with a few key staff at churches that are averaging 200+. If you are at 200+ then meet with leaders of churches at 500 and so on.
After you meet with leaders, brainstorm for your context with these two questions.
- What do we need to stop doing now in order to get to that next level?
- What are we doing now that is not sustainable for the next level?
This will help your team stay ahead of the thermostat.