How To Lead Through Crisis With Confidence and Compassion | Interview with Daniel Grothe
By: Tim Stevens March 31, 2020
It's applicable now more than ever for churches to feel equipped to lead through crisis. Whether your church is currently dealing with trials due to COVID-19 or is fearful of what could happen, everyone is facing some kind of struggle. To give you an applicable roadmap on how to deal with crisis in the church, I spoke with Daniel Grothe, Associate Senior Pastor at New Life Church, who has experience leading through challenging times.
When All Was Well
New Life Church is a 35-year-old church with around 12,000 attendees across seven congregations that meet in five different locations. With that kind of history and reach, they have seen a fair number of trials but never defeat. When Daniel joined the team in 2005, the Senior Pastor was the President of the National Association of Evangelicals, a 30 million-member group out of Washington, DC. When the Congress or Senate was working through legislation on topics like marriage, they would call New Life. Mel Gibson even visited to release Passion of The Christ for a 3,000 pastor conference. You can understand the scope of success.
When Hardship Hits
In 2006, the Senior Pastor was caught in a scandal that turned their once encouraging press coverage into being covered for the wrong reasons. In this time, New Life uncovered that they were 26 million dollars in debt, and when the recession hit, they had to fire 44 people in one night. Devastating. Not long after, a shooter invaded their church hallways, committing a double murder, suicide.
New Life Church hit hard times throughout those years, but God redeemed. Their debt has reduced by over half, the church is larger than it was before, and the staff is stronger.
How To Get From Devastation to Redemption
Crisis is a time when deeper truths are revealed and you are tested. Here are Daniel's tips for getting through the dark times.
1. Take care of yourself - you're leading the flock, so your actions directly impact your congregation and staff. Ensure you're physically taking care of yourself and redirecting the negative impacts of anxiety to take care of your physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing.
2. Find a sage - Seek the wisdom of someone who's weathered multiple storms to lean on, push you, and guide you. Finding someone outside of your regular circle who won't be impacted by your decisions is the safest place to seek council.
3. Take the Opportunity to Build Trust - In times when all you have is each other, you can grow extremely strong bonds. There is truly nothing like a crisis to bond people, so take advantage of that every chance you get.
4. Prepare for Anything - Leaders need to be planning for the worst-case-scenario. If things turn out better, there is no harm in being over-prepared. But don't let negative outcomes surprise you.
5. Practice A Non-Anxious Presence - Every organization responds to the energy of its leader. Be sure to pray and sort through your thoughts and emotions before going into a room of your people. Your mood can bend the entire situation to become more positive or detrimental to the group's well-being. It's important to be able to show up, stand on the bow of your ship, and point the way forward.
Despite the hardship, your church has the opportunity to thrive during this time. Go forth knowing God redeems.