When I played football in college at Alabama A&M University (Go Bulldogs!) my coaches would always talk about how to deal with sudden change. In nearly every game there were instances where the momentum would change suddenly. It could be an interception or a fumble. It could be a big play touchdown or a huge penalty. And these types of shifts would happen sometimes in our favor and sometimes at our expense. Of course, we love the moments where the momentum shifts drastically in our favor, but what about when it works against you?

The test of a solid team is not whether or not you can avoid sudden change, because it is almost inevitable. The test is our response to the inevitability that change will come; and sometimes it will come swiftly. New churches deal with the same challenges and opportunities. Our church start, The Faith Community, has recently experienced one of these changes as a key-person in leadership has decided to take their career in a different direction. What do you do when you have barely gotten started and you lose a key person? How do you recover?

Well, first of all, I’m learning that the best thing to do is slow down. Don’t panic and go into a frenzy trying to fix everything immediately. Moments of sudden change present the best opportunity to take a deep breath and relax. This applies whether the change was tragic or life-giving (Side note: Some tragic moments can ultimately be life-giving). People will come and go. Programs will sometimes succeed and sometimes fail. Experiments will work out exactly as you predicted and sometimes they are utter disasters. That’s a part of the process. Just relax!

After you take a moment to relax and breath, then it’s time to regroup. No program or experiment should make or break your organization. No person should be indispensable to the manifestation of your vision. And when God closes one door, there is almost always another door opening. Or the alternate door may have been open the whole time, but you just never noticed it because you were so preoccupied before the sudden change shifted your focus.Yes, the process may be murky and present some unforeseen challenges. You should, however, surround yourself with people who support you and support the work you seek to accomplish. You would be surprised what people are willing to do when you simply ask them.

What I believe is the most important part of the process is to accept the reality that things will never be the same. Don’t try to force the new circumstances to fit into the exact same mold of the previous circumstances. You simply have to adjust to a new normal. Try something new. Adjust your schedule. Adjust your expectation. Adjust your timeline. The best football coaches are those who can make mid-game adjustments to the game plan. I’m learning that successful ministry leadership requires the same ability. Sudden change is going to happen. The question is, how will you respond?