When I was a child there was a series of books that I loved to read; they were called “choose your own adventure.” Shortly after the book began you, pretending to be the main character, were confronted with a choice. If you chose one path you would turn to a certain page, and you would turn to a different page for a different choice. Based on the initial path you chose, you would then be confronted with another set of decisions that were not on the alternative path. Leading during the pandemic has reminded me of those books.
If you viewed the pandemic as an interruption, you likely went down one path as a leader. And if you viewed the pandemic as a disruption, you likely went down another path. The two views and thus the two paths are vastly different. An interruption temporarily pauses the trajectory of life and work. A disruption alters or accelerates the trajectory of life and work.
Pandemic as an interruption:
Leaders who viewed the pandemic as an interruption viewed this season as a pause in the normal rhythms of life and work. They spent time working and planning for the day when things would return to “normal.”
Pandemic as a disruption:
Leaders who viewed the pandemic as a disruption started to ask questions about what was changing and what would change in people’s lives as a result of the pandemic. As they served people “today,” they looked to how they would be serving people in the future.
My former boss Thom Rainer recently articulated that the pandemic is a disruption for organizations, specifically ministries, and not an interruption. I believe he is right.
One of my favorite parts of the “choose your own adventure” books was that you could go back and choose the different path. Initially I treated the pandemic as an interruption. I absolutely loved the season I was in and did not want to imagine that March 2020 was anything more than a temporary interruption. I know I was not alone. While many of us leaders hoped the pandemic was only an interruption, because we loved our roles and the people and the season we were in, at some point we realized that we were leading through a disruption, not an interruption.
Are you leading with the understanding that we have experienced and are experiencing disruption? Have you gone back and edited your approach? Here are four ways you know you are leading with the viewpoint that we are in a disruption and not an interruption:
1. You are leading with optimism.
If you view this season as an interruption, optimism likely continues to fade as the interruption is lasting longer than you could have anticipated. But if you view this season as a disruption, you can believe that the Lord is using and will use all of this for the good of His people and the advancement of His Kingdom. You believe that the Lord, who is in charge of it all, is doing a great and gracious work – that the Lord’s plan for His church was neither interrupted or disrupted.
2. You are seeing new opportunities.
Leaders who are filled with optimism are leaders who see new opportunities to serve people. You are seeing that people long for community, that many are open to the good news of Jesus, and that the Church has always served people in the midst of crisis.
3. You are seeking to serve people now, not waiting until their lives return to normal.
Instead of viewing this season as an interruption and preparing for some future moment in time, you are finding ways to serve people in this season. Leaders, we hold our roles to serve people, not to be served by people. And we must do so in the midst of disruption.
4. You are listening and learning.
As you are serving people, you are listening. You are learning through action, and are open to adjustments that serve people better.