I don’t know about you, but I have been deluged lately with advertisements for things that will change my life in the new post-pandemic world. Ads for a new house – a new diet – a new pet – a new car – new products that will make me happier, slimmer, have more hair… If these advertisements are any indication, everybody wants to change their life!

And honestly, after the year plus that we’ve just experienced, change from that would be welcome, wouldn’t it?

We’re ready for things to be different. When I heard Virginia’s governor announce the changes to the restrictions, capacity limits, masks, social distancing, etc. that we’ve lived under for the last year, I felt a physical sense of relief. The worst of this pandemic seems to be behind us. And we can begin to rebuild so many of the things that we’ve missed. The shared experiences and events. The laughter. The celebrations. And for so many, the community.

I think it’s so interesting how often we take things for granted. The everyday, ordinary things. Things like getting to look people in the eye in person. Seeing someone’s smile – not just the edges of it around a mask. Listening to someone laugh. Sitting with someone while they cry. For many, this last year has meant isolation. And  that’s not how we were created to live. 

I was talking with a friend recently who shared how difficult the last year has been for him and for his wife. How the isolation really affected them. How they have begun over the last few months to get out after they got the vaccine, and how much they had changed and those around them had changed. 

I believe if we’re wise, we will intentionally pause as we enter this next season and ask the questions, “what have I learned, what have we learned, and what do we want to carry forward?”

I think the long term effects of this last year are not even close to being understood yet. And part of the reason why is that we take for granted that we are created, designed by God, to live life together – to live in community. To know others, and to be known by others. When that is interrupted, there are effects; there are consequences. 

It’s like with my car. I take for granted that when I get in, put in the key and crank it, that the engine will start and I can go on my merry way. But if I got in and it didn’t start, then what? I don’t know how to fix a car. And as pastor Andy Stanley said so well, if you don’t know why it’s working when it’s working, you won’t know how to fix it when it breaks. 

I’ve been teaching a new series at Southview these days that I called “Better than Before.” I used those words because I believe that, if we are intentional about the questions we ask and the actions we take, we can emerge from this season better than we were before. 

I’ve talked to a lot of leaders and pastors over the last year, and one refrain that I’ve heard again and again is “I just can’t wait till things get back to normal, like they were before.” I get that. After this season, that seems normal. But I have to tell you – I want something more than that. I want to be better than I was before! I want to have learned something during this season that I will take with me, that I can benefit from, and that I can help others benefit from! I don’t want to get back to what was before – I want to be better than before. I want you to be better than before. And I believe we can be. 

I was reading something that Amy Edmondson, a professor of leadership and management at Harvard University, wrote about this. She said “Too many are asking whether we will go back to normal. To me, the problematic word is “back.” There is no going back to pre-COVID times. There is only forward – to a new and uncertain future that is currently presenting us with an opportunity for thoughtful design.”

I LOVE that. “An opportunity for thoughtful design.” That is exactly what we have been talking and thinking about for months here around our leadership tables. What does the church we want to attend look like? What changes need to stick from this last year? What changes need to be made? How can we make Southview better than before? How can we better advance in our mission? How can we better serve our volunteers and attenders? How can we endear our church to our community in new ways? How can we serve others better than before? How can we show the love of Jesus in new ways? How can we inspire people to follow Jesus like never before? 

Here’s my question for you: are you taking advantage of this opportunity for thoughtful design? Intentionally designing what your life and organizational culture will look like going forward?

You can. 

You’ve heard me say that every leader needs a coach. I’ve had a coach for years, and it’s helped me tremendously. That’s one of the reasons I began coaching other leaders – to pass on what was entrusted to me so that I can add value to others. 

If you don’t have a coach, now’s the time. Coaches help you move from where you are to where you want to be. I’d be honored to talk more with you about this. 

Don’t let this moment slip away. As Edmondson put so well, we are currently presented with an opportunity for thoughtful design. Let’s intentionally grasp that opportunity, leaders. And let’s focus on a new chapter that is better than before.

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