The Art of Chaos (and How Your Church Can Grow From It)


A few months back, we had a stage set up snag in our church office. Everyone was talking about it. Who didn’t do what they were supposed to do, who didn’t tell so and so how it was supposed to be, what happened and why wasn’t it done correctly?

It was a bit stressful and tense. And, to use a famous word (at least in our church and at least around this type of issue), we were quite discombobulated.

Truth be told, it probably wasn’t any one person’s fault, but part of the process of growing through an ever increasing use of the stage for particular set ups, events, and ministry opportunities, often with tight turn around times.

In a word, there was chaos.

And for some people, this word is scary.

I feel blessed because certain chaos doesn’t bother me too much – in fact, at times I even thrive in it. If there are ill effects on my life, they must be deeper than I realize on the surface.

But one thing I know, without times of chaos, nothing changes.  The status quo remains.  No one is motivated to fix a problem because the problems aren’t on the forefront.  It’s true – chaos is one of the vehicles to prompt improvements, changes and more effectiveness.

The good news is, if you feel like something is beginning to boil, you or your church could be moving toward some change. Without it, we would remain comfortable with the way things are.  Status quo would be our nature.  We would never change.

Chaos can be our friend – because it does more than nudge or get us thinking.  It forces innovation.  It creates a door.

If you look back on your life, you will probably see a trend of the most growth coming from the most stressful and unknown times or seasons. Getting through three jobs and college, dealing with an illness, raising young children, dealing with a loss, or working through a tough job transition.  Those times seem insurmountable while you’re in the middle of it, then upon reflection after making it, you grew!

It’s the same way in the church.  We should always look ahead to great days!  The little steps we take on a daily basis, no matter how hard they seem, are helping us get there.

Here are a few thoughts about chaos:

You’re Not The Only One In Over Your Head

Most every church leader I know could spend more than they have in money, time and ability. The needs are endless. Most church leaders are in over their head when it comes to ministry. This helps us stay faithful to God’s unending and deep well of wisdom, resources and energy.  Without being overwhelmed we may be tempted to think we did it all!

Chaos Raises Our Leadership Level

There are times when our environment becomes so toxic and disorganized that it passes the point of no return and often the result is a change in senior leadership. In most cases however, wise leaders look to the points of chaos as areas they can learn and grow in.  What areas of leadership do you need to grow in to help pave a path for growth in your organization?  Some starting points may include:  delegation, clarity of mission, communication, disciplined schedule, and communication.

Chaos Helps Us Ask Important Basic Questions

During times of chaos, questions are extremely helpful.  Why?  How?  What?  Why are we doing this in the first place? How can this be better?  What is this teaching us?  What needs to be changed?  How can it be changed?  Why are we trying to make this better?  Answering the overall why of your mission will help the what and how come together better.

Chaos Demands Action

Chaos will do its part to help rally conversation around an issue or a problem, but you have to do your part – respond and take action.  Responding, different from reacting, requires some thought and clarity.  What action are you taking to bring about positive change due to this issue?  Let your response be known, even if it’s that you are thinking about it and that you will have a decision soon.

But Know When To Tolerate It

There are times when everyone needs to feel the tension.  If you rush in to fix or set down the mandate, there isn’t time for the whole organization to feel the weight of the chaos.  Small issues, like the one I described above, are for a small group of people working out the kinks in an ever changing growth environment.  But bigger overall issues might need to percolate.. There are times we must all live with the tension together.  When clarity or closure to the chaos comes, everyone is on board.

Chaos Breeds Innovation

Where there’s smoke there’s fire.  When you see chaos, there will be innovation.  Look for it, pinpoint it and celebrate it.

God Can Use These Times

Don’t be afraid of crazy times in your organizational structure and growth.  They are hurdles to cross over.  And once you have crossed those hurdles, there will be more down the road.  The truth is God can use these times to bring about the work of the kingdom.  If the outcome turns out to be successful, you’ll step back and think, “We couldn’t have done that one on our own!”

There’s an old saying that says, “You won’t move forward until the pain of not changing become worse than changing itself.”  This is how chaos can serve us best.  Be thankful, even in the tough times.

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