Leading Change
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Does Your Leadership Style Moo?

Paving the Cowpaths“Rather than creating some sort of idealized path structure that ignores history and tradition and human nature…look where the paths are already being formed by behavior and then formalize them.”–Paving the Cowpaths from the Designing Social Interfaces Blog

Leaders must have a compelling vision and know where they want to go but those that see the most traction and growth understand that practically they must “pave the cowpaths.”

In ministry I have seen “idealized path structures” most commonly manifest in relation to previous ministry success at ANOTHER location. Something worked amazingly well in one context and the assumption is that if only this new context would employ _______ then significant growth would happen.

Yet for me significant growth happened when I took notice of what those I was leading were ALREADY doing and aligned our structure to connect with it.

In relation to leading a team:

Where are areas where my team is naturally gifted? How can I draw those out before trying to take them somewhere they have yet to go?

In relation to your ministry culture:

Who do they younger/new people in your ministry follow? Are they leaders or non-leaders? Rather than trying to change large masses of people seek to align the influencers (those who set the social AND spiritual tone–often times they are different people).

In relation to your ministry structure:

What part of your structure has the most buzz? What activities/events do people seem to always show up to regardless of promotion? What sort of sub-events/activities can you design to raise the momentum and energy even higher?

    photo courtesy of 66164549@N00


    1. Paul Nunez says

      Wow, I really connect with this post being a new leader in location that already has a lot going on. I need to always be thinking what can I build on, what do we need to change, add to, subtract etc.

      Just an example of what you’re saying:
      When I arrived, the students were doing something called “love feasts” which were very different from the normal small groups I was used to leading. I actually thought it was a good idea and even though they saw it more as something for new people or non believers, I saw it as something that could be more a central part of our ministry. The next semester we called it something else (Oikos), expanded it’s vision, made it our small group structure, and it was the most consistently attended and liked thing that we implemented as the new missional team.

      But part of it’s success was that the previous leaders had come up with it’s basic design and it “fit” with the culture of the students. I was thankful to find something I could grab onto that already was seeing success instead of starting everything over.

      • that’s a perfect example paul!

        at chico it was co-ed, non-dorm based bible studies.

        at ucla it would have almost been a sin to nix the dorm groups because students strongly identified w their dorm–at chico state there was virtually no dorm pride and christian students were so isolated that they were always looking for opportunities to get out.

        once we changed the structure our retention went up significantly and our attendance grew as well.

        thanks for sharing that example!

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