Staying on Course By Jon Noto

If you are leading a small groups ministry, odds are you don’t have a problem dreaming big. A compelling vision of where we want our church or ministry to be is what keeps us invested when our day-to-day work can feel like herding cats!

The challenge arises when we start looking at just how we will bring that vision to reality. How long will culture change take at my church? How do I raise relational equity with my leaders? What should I be thinking from a staffing perspective? How do I make sure my leaders are growing? Each element of a thriving ministry comes with its own difficulties that can blow us off course.

Imagine you are a pilot flying from my hometown of Chicago to California. In empty space it would be easy enough. Just aim the plane towards your destination and be on your way. In reality though there are many factors to deal with. You would have to adjust for weather, fuel, passenger comfort, etc. There’s a core factor so important and omnipresent that it can be easy to forget. As a pilot you need to have constant awareness of crosswinds.

If you’re heading to California and there’s a north crosswind you don’t account for, you could end up closer to Canada. Now imagine your plane is your small groups ministry and your vision of transformational communities is your destination. What crosswinds are you experiencing? What resistance exists in your current context? What are the external factors that might take you off course? There are several things to keep in mind about crosswinds.

Lean into the wind. Pilots dealing with a heavy crosswind need to steer into the wind in order to stay on course. What are the 1-3 things that are most likely to cause drift? What few things might keep your ministry from achieving its mission and vision? If you aren’t sitting down with your team to talk openly, honestly, and frequently about those things then you’re ensuring they’ll keep you off course.

Whoever said flight would be easy? I live close to O’Hare International Airport. I have become accustomed to looking up at any time and seeing a half dozen airplanes somewhere in the sky. My two little boys love to point up and find them when they hear them. It is easy to look up and marvel at how effortlessly they seem to glide through the sky. However, I’ve been up close and personal having a seat next to the engine on my most recent flight. A lot of effort, planning, repair, and fine-tuning go into each of those flights. The same is true of your groups ministry and mine. Each one comes with challenges even if they look perfect from the outside.

Crosswinds aren’t bad even if they make things harder. Whenever you are changing culture you will find resistance. Keep in mind, too, that any sort of transformation implies a big change, so we as Christians should be especially familiar with the system shock that change can create. If you’re like me then your brain can easily make the jump from “this makes things hard” to “this is bad,” which is probably not true. It might be time for you to perform a heart check. Are there areas in your ministry in which resistance has turned to resentment? What are you doing to combat that? Keep in mind Christ’s words in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I hope these thoughts give you encouragement. Above all else I hope they help you stay on course and realize you are not alone in the pursuit of transformational communities.



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Daniel Thomas

Connections Director


Daniel serves as Executive Pastor at Community Church of Mountain City, TN.  Daniel and his family are on a mission to establish roots within their community, fight for peace and serve well.  He serves as our Connections Director in laying the groundwork for Circles. He loves great coffee and traveling with his wife Tia and two children, Deklan and Aden



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