When you hear the name Harley Davidson you most likely think of motorcycles. I know I do, since I rode Harley Davidson motorcycles for many years! But something you may not know about the company is that in 1981, it had a U.S. market share of only 15% and reported a loss of $15 million. Competition from Japanese manufacturers, such as Honda, was
creating problems for them and they were struggling.
Then Richard Teerlink was brought on board as the chief financial officer and eventually became CEO in 1989. He decided to refocus the company on some basic principles:
• increasing quality
• improving customer and dealer services
• producing world-class motorcycles
By the time Teerlink stepped down in 1997, Harley Davidson had increased their U.S. market share to 50% and saw annual sales of $1.7 billion.
While serving in ministry is not exactly the same as running a business like Harley Davidson, it can certainly go through similar struggles of plateau or even decline. While there are a number of factors that can bring about struggle for a church, how leaders approach these times will have a great impact on the trajectory of the church moving forward. So, what are some things that leaders can do to help bring about the change they are wanting in their church or ministry?
First, it’s important to stop and take stock of exactly where you are right now. To do that, you need to gather data and look at measurable factors. Once you have that information, evaluate it honestly. What’s working well? Where is there room to improve? Be specific. It can be easy to make sweeping generalizations about what isn’t working and why, but it’s important to look at specific things that can be changed and then reevaluated to see if it worked.
Trying to turn a ministry around can feel like trying to turn a cruise ship on a dime — nearly impossible. To help avoid you or your staff becoming discouraged, take small steps and look for small wins along the way. However, that doesn’t mean that you take your eyes off of your bigger vision for the future. There needs to be a balance. When making a turn on a motorcycle, you don’t want to stay focused on the ground right beneath you. Instead, you want your gaze to look ahead to where you’re going, which will help the turn to be smooth and steady.
No matter what, you need to follow God’s leading and continue to persevere in the face of trials. Hebrews 12:1 tells us to strip off every weight that slows us down and run with endurance the race that God has set before us. After all, God is the one who directs our paths and He is the one who can truly bring about change.