Updated: Oct 27, 2022
Many church leaders allow their fears of offending or not doing things people like to dictate their lives, resulting in missed opportunities and unfulfilled vision. There’s no denying that fear can be paralyzing.
Whether it’s fear of doing something new and different, fear of rocking the boat, fear of the unknown, or fear of reaching people that you’ve never reached before, that little voice in our head can talk us out of anything. But what if you could learn to overcome your fears and finally start growing your church?
If you’re ready to break free from your fears as a leader and start growing your church, try these strategies:
1. Identify and confront your fears.
First, identify the things that scare you—for example, doing your weekend services differently. It’s easy to get into a pattern and routine, into the concept of “we’ve never done it that way before.” The results often being that we could still be a church the way it was 50 years ago and no longer culturally relevant. Once you know what your fear is, you can address it.
For instance, we are making a big change in how we launch our Christmas series this year, we are doing a big Christmas party called Merry Mania to reach all generations and our community. At first, we thought of doing it as an extra event, but we quickly realized we were only doing that because of the fear of not doing a normal Sunday service. After praying and facing the fear, we are doing our services differently that weekend to reach all generations and the community through one big party while still sharing the Christmas message.
2. Face your fear with innovation.
One of the ways that we have dealt with fear at our church is through innovation. The more we live in innovation, the more we grow in how many people we reach and in maturity in our faith. Innovation will often help you and your church conquer fear, yet we struggle to be innovative because of the fear of the unknown.
We have to be okay with being uncomfortable and stepping out in faith. This could look like starting a new worship service, doing a big event, or anything that would get us outside of our comfort levels as a church. For us, it has been stepping into using the One Voice model of ministry. This innovative way of speaking to all ages with the same biblical content but at age-appropriate levels radically changed our ministry for the good of reaching people for Christ. When we started to innovate this ministry idea, we were told it was a great idea but that there was no way it could be done. And if it could be done, it wasn't sustainable. Now, 3 years into living in this model, we hear stories of lives being transformed for Jesus every week.
As a leader, you may not feel like you are an innovator. And many of us are not. So what do you do? You don't have to personally be an innovator to lead your church in innovation. You can hire staff or develop gifted lay leaders in this area. You can also seek resources and training to help you and your team become more innovative. But whatever you do, don't allow the fear of innovation keep you from doing what God has called you to do.
3. Take small steps continually rather than giant leaps.
Start by leading your team and church leaders in small goals that are realistic and achievable. For example, when we began ministry with One Voice, we set out to do 4 series in the first year as a trial to see the results.
The results were amazing, so we committed to doing several more teaching series in alignment next year. Then by building on the success of those smaller goals, we could shift to living in alignment for every teaching series. And now we can share those with other churches as well.
The giant leap of sharing One Voice with others in the church was not our first small step. That would have been overwhelming. Take small steps and keep taking small steps. Don't allow yourself as a leader or your team and church to ever be complacent, stretch your faith continually. Which leads to the next step.
4. Continue setting goals that challenge you and your church.
You’ll be one step closer to conquering your fear with each goal you achieve. Once you have achieved one goal, look to the next goal that God has for you and your church. It's good to celebrate, but you need to challenge a fresh vision on the heels of success and celebration.
The danger for us as leaders is that we are tempted to coast once we reach a goal, which is very costly because you can only coast downhill. So, it's important for us and our teams to always have goals and a clear vision of the future God has for you. Fear will set in as soon as you allow yourself and your church or team to coast a little.
5. Lead with intention.
Once you’ve overcome your fears, it’s essential to live your life and lead with purpose. What God has called you to do is more important than what others think. When you lead with intention, you’ll be confident in your decisions and better equipped to conquer any fear that comes your way.
The key to leading with intention is being clear about your calling and living out of that each day. As a leader, you must be clear about God's calling and ensure that your decisions, actions, and words align with that calling. It's not easy, but it's so worth it.
Fear can be a debilitating emotion that prevents you from achieving your goals and living your dreams. But it is possible to overcome fear and start living a more fulfilling life. God did not give us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). Take these simple steps and break free of fear!