Leading Through VUCA

Leading Through VUCA

VUCA is gaining traction in the coaching world and certainly has application to the world of coaching church planters, pastors and network leaders. The notion of VUCA was introduced by the U.S. Army War College to describe the more Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous multilateral world which resulted from the end of the Cold War.  

Previously, I discussed how to Coach VUCA.  To take VUCA from diagnosing to action requires a different framework.  Today I will flip the framework to coach on leadership “agilitly” so that leaders can take action to navigate change effectively (see diagram above).  

While coaching a newly established pastor in a new congregation to enhance their small group ministry I asked the question: “What is the state of your current small groups?” This question led to a number of insights about the health of the groups, fruitfulness, purpose, model, support and training, etc. This assessment gave him a realistic view of what he had to work with.

As he explored the future of their current small groups, it was apparent what he could expect. People would be cared for, lives would be impacted and about 20% of the congregation would assimilate into a group over the course of a 12-month cycle. Dissatisfied with those outcomes, he was led to prayerfully consider the “best case scenario” for small group environments where “life” was the primary goal.  From that place he envisioned disciplemaking communities where personal and community transformation took place.  The values shifted from assimilation to disciplemaking, meeting for the purpose of meeting to service in the community and maintaining group participation to growth through evangelism.

The point of the VUCA model is that the more a leader knows about a situation and, the better able the leader is to predict the potential impact of the actions proposed; the more capable the leader becomes at navigating change.

Regarding the pastor and his small group vision. With a clearer sense of WHAT IS and the necessary RIGHT ACTIONS – the better able the church has become at incorporating the vision for small group ministry.  

Once a vision is clarified then the following key questions are helpful when coaching a leader to Lead Through VUCA.

Vulnerability: Be Reliable

  • What promises do you need to keep in this situation?

Uncertainty: Be Trustworthy

  • How can you engage people?

Complexity: Be Direct

  • What information do people need to have?

Ambiguity: Be Understandable

  • What is the most compelling manner to articulate your vision?

As you coach leaders, this simple framework will be very familiar. See if these questions help you raise your effectiveness as you coach leaders who initiate bold new visions to make more and better disciples.  Please submit questions below that you have used to help leaders, Lead Through VUCA.

Coaching VUCA

Coaching VUCA

The term VUCA is gaining traction in the coaching world and certainly has application to leader development, church planting and church growth.  In addition, it can aid coaches serving leaders in those arenas. The notion of VUCA was introduced by the U.S. Army War College to describe the more Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous multilateral world which resulted from the end of the Cold War.

The “V” in the VUCA acronym stands for volatility. The challenge is unexpected or unstable and may be of unknown duration, but it’s not necessarily hard to understand; knowledge about it is often available.

The “U” in the VUCA acronym stands for uncertainty.  Despite a lack of other information, the event’s basic cause and effects are known.  Change is possible but not a given.

The “C” in VUCA stands for complexity. The situation has many interconnected parts and variables.  Some information is available or can be predicted, but the volume or nature of it can be overwhelming to process.

The “A” in VUCA stands for ambiguity.  Casual relationships are completely unclear.  No precedents exist; you face “unknown unknowns.”

A month ago I was flying through Istanbul after training leaders in the coaching process and skills in various VUCA regions around the world. Complex factors play a major part in the way they, and we, approach discipleship and leader development. It is important to be mindful of these four elements for leaders who make disciples and plant churches.  Think of the missionary that imports Western approaches to evangelism and you get a sense of the paradox.

For instance, one leader I know is leading a congregation in an agricultural community and another is relocating from the the east coast of the US to plant a multi-ethnic church in the same community. The established congregation is reaching middle class families from primarily European backgrounds. The church plant will deal with a very different socio-economic group of people even through they are relatively close geographically.  It is clear that the approach each leader takes to engage people will be unique; but the more agile the leader to assess and adapt, the more effective they will become. 

VUCA elements of any community/culture, whether India, Turkey or the US are significant and must not be ignored. The chart above provides a simple framework to bring perspective to VUCA.  If you would like to view a brief explanation of the VUCA framework, click “A Framework for Understanding VUCA” (Harvard Business Review article which is referenced in this blog).  

Next week I’ll talk about leader development in a VUCA environment and how to flip the framework to establish agile leaders.  What are some questions you use to help leaders work through the VUCA framework?

Re-entry: Ask the Right Question

Re-entry: Ask the Right Question

Apollo 8 was the first crewed spacecraft to leave low Earth orbit and the first to reach the Moon, orbit it, and return.  Its three-astronaut crew—Frank BormanJames Lovell, and William Anders—were the first humans to fly to the Moon, to witness and photograph an Earthrise, and to escape the gravity of a celestial body.  Re-entry is the final phase for the Apollo spacecraft and re-entry can be fraught with extra-ordinary challenges, like in Apollo 13.  I highly recommend the film “Apollo 13” if you haven’t seen it!

The internet is bursting with ideas to help businesses, schools and churches re-enter following the Shelter at Home phase we face with Covid-19.

As I’ve been interacting with church planters, pastors, denominational and mission executives – I’ve listened to real concerns, thoughts about the challenges of social distancing and future steps to reopening.  One leader I coach (who has given me permission to cite his letters to his constituents) has offered wise counsel on several Reopening related topics.  Neil Lebhar has served as the Bishop of the Gulf Atlantic Diocese of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) since his consecration in 2010.  We have been in a coaching relationship since July 2014.

Recently Neil led a devotion with his Executive Committee and one of the leaders shared this insight from Devi Sridhar, a public-health expert at the University of Edinburgh.

“Everyone wants to know when this will end. That’s not the right question. The right question is:

How do we continue?”

Neil used the motif of Apollo 13 and showed the clip of the control room when things didn’t go according to plan.  One of the first things the NASA team did was assess the situation.  They asked, “What do we have on the spacecraft that’s good?”  From that initial understanding of the materials on board, the crew worked with the engineers and essentially “duct-taped” a safe re-entry.  Referencing Philippians 3:8-16 Neil assessed the losses, gains and future aspirations for followers of Jesus.

We know Jesus – the most valuable treasure in the world, regardless of losses

8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith

Knowing Jesus includes both experiencing his resurrection power and suffering

10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Neil closed with this excerpt from the book “Victorious: Corrie Ten Boom and the Hiding Place”

Point people to Jesus - Betsie Ten Boom to her sister Corrie

“Corrie, never tell people that it was your faith, for people will say, ‘I haven’t got Corrie ten Boom’s faith.’ But when you tell people that it was Jesus, then they will know that the same Jesus who carried us through is willing to carry them through also. For Jesus died at the cross for the sins of the whole world, not only for us, but for all the Jews and the Gentiles of the world, and He says, ‘Come unto Me, all who are heavy laden.’ So we have a message for the whole world.”

5 Reflection Questions as you Consider Re-entry

  1. What indicators are you assessing for your congregation to re-open?
  2. How are you maintaining an unanxious presence in this VUCA (Volatile-Uncertain-Complex-Ambiguous) moment?
  3. What is your longer-term plan for online services?
  4. If you re-open and later forced to shelter at home again; what does that look like for your congregation?
  5. How would you describe the “win” for your congregation through Covid-19?

Please share any ideas you are discovering as you navigate this season with other leaders who are going through this time along with you, so that we can learn from each other – see below.

If you are interested to read well-informed SAMPLE PLANS FOR RE-ENTRY, Canon Jessica Jones (a member of Neil’s team) compiled 4 strategies congregations are contemplating based on CDC Guidelines – CLICK HERE.


Blessings to you and your ministry during this time!

Gary Reinecke
Executive Director


Covid 19 – Carpe diem

Covid 19 – Carpe diem

Last week I interviewed Brian Wilson of Access Church.  I asked Brian how he is helping his congregation navigate this VUCA moment – to watch, CLICK HERE.  In case you don’t recognize that acrostic, VUCA stands for:

  • Volatile
  • Uncertain
  • Complex
  • Ambiguous

As I’ve interacted with pastors and church planters over the last month they tend to fall into one of two camps as it relates to this VUCA moment.

  • Camp Survival (hunker down to weather the storm)
  • Camp Shine (leverage this season for the Kingdom)

Both camps are triggered by VUCA characteristics, or combinations of…  

For instance, if a leader is triggered by a shift in power, then this season is extremely stressful.  This leader may be struggling to keep things within their control that are really out of her/his control.  The key question for this leader is: “How can we survive?”

In the other camp, the leader sees this season filled with opportunity to try new things.  To attempt things they had hoped to do someday; but are now challenged to do now!  The key question for this leader is: “How can we leverage this for the Kingdom to bless our community?”

A good example of this is taking ministry online.  Delivering worship services in living rooms on devices vs. engaging the BIG room, is one significant step.  This has expanded the reach of many of these congregations AND is something most congregations have done for the very first time in the last 30 days.

Releasing people to care for each other in small groups, using a variety of online platforms, is another significant step many leaders have navigated. The fruit has been impressive. What pastors and church planters are discovering across the country is that leaders:

  • can be trusted
  • can provide care
  • can lead effectively

Back to the two camps analogy.

Here are three questions for you to reflect on to “seize the day” during this VUCA moment!

3 Questions to “Seize the Day”

  1. What camp do you find yourself in today, right now?
  2. Are you content “camping” there?
  3. Based on your response to the previous question:
    • If “no”, what can you do to switch camps? 
    • If “yes”, what can you do to maximize this season to help your church shine?

I’ve written two blogs in the past that you might find helpful, related to the topic of VUCA:

  1. Leading Through VUCA
  2. Coaching VUCA

None of us have been down this path before. If you are confident that you know the way forward – then good on ‘ya. For the rest of us, my prayer is that His light would illuminate the path so that you can take the next significant step to lead yourself and your congregation forward.


How Brian Wilson is leading Access Church to leverage Covid-19 for the Kingdom WATCH HERE!

How Brian Wilson is leading Access Church to leverage Covid-19 for the Kingdom WATCH HERE!

Several years ago I met with Brian Wilson and one statement he made back then stuck in my mind.  It was in response to the notion of church planting.  Brian’s response went something like this: “that is so hard, I don’t think I would ever want to plant unless the Lord made it super clear”.

Three years later, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, Brian has partnered with Him to plant Access Church – a vibrant community of Jesus followers in Menefee, CA.

Brian is a member of our Leadership Collective.  Last week I interviewed him to ask how he is helping Access Church navigate this VUCA moment.  In case you don’t recognize that acrostic, VUCA stands for:

  • Volatile
  • Uncertain
  • Complex
  • Ambiguous

As I’ve interacted with pastors and church planters the last month they tend to fall into one of two camps.  Survival (hunkering down to weather the storm) or Shine (leveraging this season for the Kingdom).  Brian shared his observations as he leads Access Church through this VUCA season to Shine in the midst of adversity.

Chance for the church to shine:

  • Opportunity to shine brighter
  • Create momentum & connection
  • Be opportunists

Encouragement to Pastors:

  • Leaders shine brightest in adversity
  • Attend to yourself
  • Come out of this stronger

Watch the entire interview – CLICK HERE.