Healthy Leaders


The Momentum Myth

Mike BonemMike Bonem

Newton’s first law of motion states that “an object in motion will stay in motion, at the same speed and in the same direction, unless acted upon by another force.” Roll a ball down the street and it will continue forever. Except we know that’s not true because other forces act on the ball. Friction slows it down. A slight crown in the street means that gravity will pull the ball toward the lower side.

Churches and ministries have a lot in common with that ball rolling down the street. They have a certain momentum that keeps them moving in the same direction. Your first thought may be of a program that seems to have a life of its own, and you can’t figure out how to cancel it. But this blog focuses on those places where you are currently experiencing success.

Why is that important? I often see leaders who embrace the first part of Newton’s law, but forget the second half. They assume the positive trajectory will continue. A new worship service that has been reaching new people will continue to do so, right? The vibrant youth ministry will always be one of the church’s strengths.

And while momentum is powerful, it is unwise to ignore the reality that other forces are at work. The new worship service becomes stagnant. The dynamic youth director leaves. And over time, or sometimes quite suddenly, that upward movement turns into a decline.

As a leader, you may not be able to stop the negative forces. Youth leaders eventually leave, no matter how hard you try to keep them. So what can you do?

  1. First, don’t buy into the mistaken belief that your momentum will continue indefinitely.
  2. Second, identify the negative forces that are threatening (or could threaten) your momentum.
  3. Then third, develop plans to address those threats and to maintain or build your momentum.

Newton’s law doesn’t predict your demise – it just points out the folly of the momentum myth that assumes continued success.

This article originally appeared here.

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Mike Bonem