Shifting Gears

My husband tore a tendon in his shoulder. He cannot drive his six-speed car, so we’ve switched vehicles. It’s been nearly three decades since I drove a car with a manual transmission. I was a bit nervous, wondering if I would be able to manage the clutch. After a few excursions, I fell back into the rhythm of shifting gears. The experience has reminded me of key leadership principles.

Focus on WMU is this month. As you bring attention to the programs and ministries of WMU, take a moment and focus on your own missions influence. Often plans are made at the beginning of the church year and WMU leaders are on automatic cruise control by midyear. Take time to assess missions progress. Do you need to speed up and shift to another gear to implement a new initiative? You may need to consider reducing speed and downshift to spend more time emphasizing a particular missions strategy of your congregation. You must be flexible to shift gears as needed.

Precision timing is important as you move through gears. Shifting too early causes the engine to lag. Shift too late and the engine will strain. Timing is also important in missions discipleship. Implement too much too early and your congregation will get overwhelmed. Implement too little too late and participants will lose interest. Careful planning will help your team make good decisions.

When shifting gears, you must maintain focus. If I lose concentration and try to shift from third to fifth gear, then the car lets me know I’ve made a mistake. Many things can distract us. However, if we believe in our purpose, we will continue to focus on making Him known in the world.

No one who drives a standard transmission vehicle wants to stop on a hill. However, we all know hills are unavoidable at times. Stay alert and be prepared. As you help lead your congregation to be on mission, you will encounter hills and bumps in the road. Don’t cancel the road trip. Calmly navigate hazards and proceed with caution.

As I approach a red light, I often shift into neutral and let the forward momentum propel the car. If the light turns green, I can shift into a gear that matches the speed of the car. If the light turns red, I can quickly brake. It is OK to shift into neutral and coast for a time while you assess the lay of the land. Be open to new missions opportunities coming your way.

Shifting gears takes more effort. Yet there are benefits. Manual transmission cars are less expensive. You can accelerate quickly. They save energy. And they can be incredibly fun. Turn off the cruise control for a moment and evaluate the missions programs and endeavors of your congregation. Don’t be afraid to shift gears and adjust as needed.


Help us to be willing to adapt to the plans You have for us. May we be flexible and open to new opportunities You bring our way. Guide us to shift gears when needed to accommodate Your extraordinary purpose. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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