Why planning for the future starts now

imagesLeaders come and go.  It’s part of the ebb and flow of organizational life.  But what happens when the key executive exits through tragic circumstances?  That very thing happened to a mega church in middle Tennessee and the way this organization has prepared and walked through (and continue to) provides a lesson for us all.

David Landrith became senior pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in 1997.  Under his leadership, weekly attendance grew from 350 to more than 7,000 across four campuses and the weekly services.  He was diagnosed with an extremely rare and aggressive form of cancer known as colorectal melanoma in March 2013.  After the diagnosis he began his succession plan.  And upon his recent death, the church leadership team began putting into motion what had been decided during the last 12 months.

In the toughest of circumstances, this team has led in a way that teaches others some important truths:

Communicate honestly.
What has been so impressive is how well the church has communicated to its large member base throughout the process.  A special website was created that provided update to Landrith’s health and in addition, along the way let folks know how to reach out the family.  The same is true in our organization.  Your employees (members or volunteers depending on your organization) desire to know what is going on.  In the absence of information, human nature tends to assume facts.

Proactively answer questions.
Questions are a natural part of organizational life, particularly when change occurs.  Upon Ladrith’s death, the church anticipated the questions its members would have and quickly made information known.  A special tribute page was created that gave members the chance to share a story, read the official press release as well as ways to support the family.  Then a final section listed answers to “Questions You May Have”.

Share the vision.
For any organization, the future must be continually shared.  It’s one of the key elements that keep the team plugged in, committed and involved.  When sudden or even planned change occurs, providing information of what’s next is vital.  One of the things the Long Hollow team did so well was informing their congregation what to expect in the aftermath of their pastor’s death.   I’m convinced this was not a last-minute messaging campaign, but rather a process that David and the team had spend time prayerfully considering and crafting.  And your organization desires the same.

It is without question that the church and ministry of Long Hollow Baptist Church will feel the absence of its revered pastor for years to come.  But his leadership focused on the greater vision of the organization and in that, he ensured his absence would become a legacy.  Every organization could learn from the example.  Thank you David Landrith for your leadership.

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