Wish I Knew That Before

By Fr. Jeff Lorig, Director of Pastoral Services

If I knew what I know now, I might not have done it completely different, but I think I would have felt better and we probably could have done a lot more. When I became a pastor for the first time in 2012 at St. Ludger in Creighton, NE I discovered quickly that I didn’t know much about being a leader. Sure, I could have let things maintain as they were, but I didn’t really like the way things were and I was fairly sure we wouldn’t be able to keep things as there were for very long.  We were on a downward trend. Things needed to change. It’s not that St. Ludger needed change any more than the next parish; it was far from being a horrible parish. Great people. Great community. Amazing schools. I just knew in my gut that St. John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization needed to be answered because Jesus has so much more to offer us. The Kingdom is here, ready to explode and transform us, but we often settle for less. Nevertheless, I really didn’t how to lead us into that preferred future.

What I’ve come to realize is that all leadership is about leading change. Go ahead and say it, “People don’t like change.” So leadership is fun, right? While I didn’t face a lot of hostile opposition in Creighton, not everyone was excited about the direction I was proposing. I had tons of self-doubt and while I had my own voices of despair, I would consistently hear the naysayers’ talk around town. Never to me, of course. Sound familiar?

If I had known then that leading change would be so hard, I wish I would have known about the book titled Leading Change Without Losing It: Five Strategies That Can Revolutionize How You Lead Change When Facing Opposition by Carey Nieuwhof. Where the heck was this book when I needed it? The following is short synopsis of a few strategies, but if you have the time and the gumption and want to learn the strategies, I highly recommend this book for anyone in leadership, but particularly for those pastors and teams going through or will soon be going through pastoral planning.

Strategy 1: Do the Math.

How many are really opposed? Don’t confuse the loud with the large. The loudest groups are usually your opponents and your early adopters. Although the percentages will vary, they make up about 20% of the whole. The next 80% are usually pretty quiet and they’re made up of your early majority and the quiet majority and that last group will probably be with you, but they’re going to take a hopeful, but wait and see stance. It still stinks to hear the opponents, but if you want to sleep at night remember that 90% of the group is at least open and hopeful about the changes.

Strategy 2: Choose Your Focus.

“One of the most important questions you’ll ever answer as a leader is this: Will you focus on the people you want to reach, or the people you want to keep?” Now of course, the Church is called to do both, but we can’t let the threats from opposition keep us from going after those who aren’t in the room. Keep your focus on the preferred future – a Church that seeks and connects to the lost.

These two strategies would’ve been very helpful for me as a younger pastor and if you want to learn the other strategies feel free to give St. Ludger Parish some love by purchasing the book through St. Ludger’s Amazon Smile page.

Fr. Jeff Lorig can be reached at jplorig@archomaha.org.

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