Plateaus are comfortable destinations after a long, arduous climb. They are places where we celebrate, look back over the cliff we’ve scaled, and feel a sense of accomplishment.
But what’s next? That’s the trouble with plateaus. The “next” isn’t a part of the original plan. We set out on our climb aiming for the high place, but didn’t really plan on climbing higher. So the plateau becomes the pinnacle and the only direction we can see now is DOWN!
Many churches reach a plateau after years of strenuous effort and successful ministry. They’ve climbed for awhile, enjoying the journey of growth and new ministry, but then find that growth leveling off and even hard to maintain. What happened? How did steps forward turn into dances at the same level? The plateau.
While some might insist that plateaus come for many reasons, clearly the primary issue is vision. Vision helped motivate and drive us to the current level, but then comfort and success talked us into settling where we are and enjoying the view from here. Little did we realize that our vision had turned horizontal and “good enough” had become our mantra. We rested at this level and seemed to lose the momentum it takes to climb.
Vision takes aim at a new climb, a new ministry effort, a new future not yet within reach. When we have clear vision, we can begin strategizing each day’s climb in light of new hopes and goals. New vision requires new investment of energy and resources. It often means new direction and even shifting priorities.
The plateaued church is a happy church–at least it was until it discovered that all the available “next steps” seem downward. Typical plateaus come when a church pays off a building, can finally pay the pastor full-time, establish a long-needed effective ministry effort, reaches an attendance goal, or any other spot where it feels good to rest for awhile.
If your church is plateaued, its time to revisit vision. Who are you not yet reaching? What elements of mission remain unfulfilled? How can you make a greater difference in your community? Questions like these help new vision surface, and that vision will help you reach toward new heights.
If your church is climbing, enjoy the new levels of ministry success, but beware of the plateau. Celebrate each day’s victories, but be sure you wake up tomorrow ready to keep climbing. There’s always a next level!