Nigel Ring on August 16th, 2017

Terry Virgo’s first church plant
On August 21st 1977 sixty-five of us met in the Bar Lounge of Clair Hall, Haywards Heath, at the launch meeting of the Mid Sussex Christian Fellowship, the first church that Terry Virgo planted. House groups had been meeting in five locations around Sussex for the previous few years. These started in Janita’s and my home in Scaynes Hill in May 1973 (photo). Others soon followed in David and Margaret Coak’s home in Balcombe, John and Joan Salmon’s in Uckfield, Ken and Audrey Dalgleish’s in Burgess Hill and Phil and Agnes Ball’s in Henfield. (Sadly John died recently, Joan having died several years ago.)

So, in a few days the re-named Kings Church (Mid-Sussex) – there have been several other names en route – celebrates its 40th birthday. Several of the initial group are still members.

Recently I had a discussion with Jim Partridge, who now leads the church. We enjoyed reminiscing. I was also greatly encouraged by some of the activities they are now pursuing to bless and interact with the local community. Other initiatives not mentioned include See Kenya, the provision of prescription glasses through regular eye clinics (a ministry of the church, but operating under a separate charity) and the partnership they enjoy with Edward and Fridah Buria.

I hope you enjoy listening in to our conversation.

Happy 40th Birthday Kings Church!




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Nigel Ring on August 2nd, 2017

Please take action!
To help families in Burundi, one of the poorest nations in the world, just click on this link and scroll down until you find this cup. Then click on it. If you are in the USA you can also make a purchase. It is hoped that they will become available in UK shortly. Here is the story.

Milk for transformation
I have written previously about the initiative to help transform Burundi through milk and here is a video. By providing rural families with high milk-yielding cows they can generate a steady income.  This helps them in various ways, such as getting children into school rather than following the traditional long horned cows into the hills, as well as the obvious nutritional benefits. So far 400 families have been helped.

One Grow cup = 2 cups of milk
Now an entrepreneurial couple, Brad and Emily, have come up with a brilliant idea. Please ask your church or local coffee shop to purchase the Grow disposable cups shown here since this will significantly accelerate the programme. Each cup purchased produces the equivalent of two cups of nutritious milk through the above cow purchasing scheme.

Make it prominent in a Search
It is important that the cup comes up on the first page of a search – and in just a few days since the launch it has achieved this but it now needs to become the first product. So please click above to help it climb even higher….

…and if you live in the USA – Buy Some!

Thank you!

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Writing as a guest author, Gary Borland concludes his series on Management of Change. He is happy to enter into communication with readers. Contact him by clicking on his name, above.

In order to maximise the opportunities to unlock an organisational vision, it is essential to have a demonstrable and commonly understood way in which those in the church or ministry work together to deliver it. Strategy (the ‘how’) is the way in which this is done to maximise and optimise resources and to create clear line of sight for everyone in the organisation to align their contribution to in support of unlocking the vision and delivering the mission. A poor or absent strategy is seen in a lack of motivation to participate or contribute, disjointed activities delivered to varying degrees of success, and where success may be difficult or impossible to measure. People expect to be led well and a key component of being led well is having clarity not only in where they are going, but also in how they are going to get there.

Organisational Design
With a strategy in place, an Organisational Design is created to deliver the strategy in the most efficient, effective way. Organisational Design is an approach to take the strategy, consider what capabilities, people, practices, processes, metrics and structure are required to optimise strategy execution, and then to build accordingly. A key component of this is the operational model that sits at the heart of the organisation. A set of supporting plans will identify what resources are required, in what order things will be done and will create the opportunity for people to grow their giftings, and in turn develop their leadership, which will increase the capability and capacity of the organisation many times over.

Risk and Opportunity
Managing both risk and opportunity are vital to the success of any organisation. Situations and challenges arise that could not have been anticipated. However, unless a structured method of risk management is in place, entirely predictable circumstances could have unnecessary and damaging consequences. Similarly, if opportunity is not managed in a structured way, openings and possibilities are likely to pass by without ever having even been aware of them.

All of this requires good leadership. Sadly, many people and many leaders approach their life and their various roles with a default strategy of survival; survive as a parent, employee, leader, partner or other area of life. Leaders who operate in a default strategy of survival, invariably consider themselves to be victims. They see themselves as victims of other people, circumstances, events and so on, thereby killing any prospect of stepping out into a bold possibility as a consequence of fear. Operating from our convictions and not our fears is a key leadership attribute, particularly in the context of major change or transformation.

The way we speak and the language we use tells people a lot about our leadership. In simple terms, leaders have two options: ‘Descriptive’ or ‘Committed’ language.

Descriptive language talks about things or refers to them and is normally focussed on the past and talked about as though issues and challenges are all to do with circumstances, and not as a result of ineffective leadership (ie someone else is/was to blame). Descriptive language uses stories, opinions, judgements, explanations, complaints, assessments, predictions, justifications, reasons, assessments…….but often delivers little, if anything.

Committed Language is about making things happen, creating possibilities, outcomes and actions. It is focussed on the present and the future, and is determined by the people engaged in the discussion, not the circumstances or descriptions used to explain why things can’t be done!

Self-aware, committed leaders, standing for new possibilities, leading from a position of conviction and not fear, using committed language, who seek dissenting voices, commit even when uncertain, and understand the power of unlocking the capabilities and potential of their people, are what organisations require in order to achieve extraordinary breakthrough. When linked to effective strategic planning and by embracing some powerful change management principles, there is little that cannot be accomplished. If God is for us, who can be against us?

I am so grateful to Gary for writing this series for my blog. If you wish to make contact for further help write to Gary Borland.

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In the penultimate blog in this series guest writer Gary Borland touches on the final steps of ‘Kotter’s 8 Step Process for Leading Change’.

The Strategic Planning Process and supporting plans should by now be ready to deliver and/or delivering a considerable amount of what the overall programme sought to achieve. Maintaining focus and momentum is vital; programmes become highly susceptible to reversing out the benefits if either is lost.

Let’s look at the final 2 steps in ‘Implementing & Sustaining Change’.

Step 7 – Never Let Up

The challenge of maintaining focus and momentum can vary at different times of a change or transformation programme, but it’s important to realise that one of the most dangerous times is after considerable progress has already been made.

Once we have in place a strong sense of urgency, an effective Guiding Coalition, clear and well communicated vision, empowered people and an on-going stream of short-term wins and successes from the programme, it is very, very easy to take the foot off the pedal. This can result in a loss of focus and, when looking back, the realisation that the fruits of the programme have just unwound at an eye-watering pace. Leaders may ask “what happened?” Inevitably whatever happened has its roots in leadership failure – maybe a premature declaration of programme completion and success, or an urgency that’s dwindled to barely a flicker, or people getting bogged down in unnecessary, non-contributing work or a failure to continue to learn from experience, apply, re-learn and re-apply.

Relieve the pressure – set the example
‘Change fatigue’ is prevalent wherever busy people are asked to do different or additional things over a sustained period, while other things continue to change around them. People can feel demoralised if they are asked to do everything they did before and have new work added as a consequence of the change programme. It may be obvious, but if there’s too much work, finding other ways of doing it or stopping it is a very effective way of relieving pressure. Simply having leaders constantly complain about their own workload while failing to model new ways of working, is a rapid catalyst to a very tight downward spiral. Leaders must lead.

Step 8 – Incorporate Change Into The Culture

Culture is a widely used word. It is often used to describe how leaders would like the culture to be, rather than describe the culture that actually exists. Culture, cultural change and the embedding of cultural change is a vast and complex subject, hence this blog seeks only to highlight a few considerations in the context of change or transformation. Simplified, culture could be considered to be ‘How we do things around here’.

Culture and Strategy
‘Culture eats Strategy for breakfast’ has been over-used and is misunderstood in many organisations. They are not intended to sit in isolation. One does not trump the other nor is either a reason why the other can be absent. Ask many leaders to explain the culture specifically and you may be there for a while. Ask them about the gap between the culture they would like to have and the one that currently exists and you’re likely to be there even longer. Why? Because it is a very, very challenging element that’s ignored at our peril.

For change to be incorporated into the culture, people need to believe in the change and what that change means for the culture. Some people won’t ever like it and will leave. Trying to keep people who aren’t enrolled, don’t want to be enrolled and don’t align to where you’re going or how you’re getting there can be a serious mistake. But supporting them in leaving well says so much more about your culture than the words on the brochure or website. How does someone know what the culture in your organisation is like? Because they experience it, not because you tell them what it is.

Over time, decisions should continue to support the change and the change eventually becomes part of the culture. People no longer have to think about it; they live it.

Next time we will conclude the series with a return to what is undoubtedly the foundation on which either success is built, or failure is inevitable – Leadership.

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My guest contributor, Gary Borland, continues his series on Management of Change. He is happy to receive enquiries.

Last week, we continued our overview of ‘Kotter’s 8 Step Process for Leading Change’ as an overlay to a Strategic Planning Process. Concurrent and parallel activity is commonplace in major change or transformation programmes.

In this blog, we will look at the next 2 steps step in ‘Engaging & Enabling The Whole Organisation’ which Kotter describes as:

Step 5: ‘Empower Broad-Based Action’

Step 6: ‘Generate Short-Term Wins’

Step 5 – ‘Empower Broad-Based Action’

Embrace challenge
The number of obstacles in the way of change are often seen only when you start asking people – and the best people to ask are not the leaders themselves! Leaders like to believe that they empower others; that they are open to challenge, open to ideas and indeed open to change. While this is true for some, for many it is not true.

The Guiding Coalition need to look for every opportunity to identify and remove obstacles. It could be the belief that change is not possible, that their local leaders aren’t interested in what they think, or perhaps that the systems, structures and processes make it difficult to do things differently. Successful empowerment involves people believing they have permission to stop activities that do not add value, relentlessly purging the non-essential.

Measure it!
Empowerment without measurement is abandonment. Empowerment is neither about creating a free-for-all, nor abrogating responsibility. What the organisation does and the way it does it, needs to be integrated with the change or transformation programme. But it’s all too easy for leaders to arm-wave about non-specific risk, which can often be covering their own insecurities. A good question to keep asking is “what is the cost of doing or not doing this, and what price will be paid as a consequence?”. Transformation is not a ‘zero sum’ activity.

Step 6 – ‘Generate Short-Term Wins’

It’s one thing to enrol people in a big future and big transformation programme, but it’s quite another to keep them enrolled. Enrolment is an on-going process. One of the motivators for people to stay engaged is evidence that what they are committed to, and the sacrifices they are making, are worthwhile and contribute to unlocking our vision.

The Guiding Coalition need to look for, celebrate and communicate things that are contributing to on-going success. Those short-term wins need to be visible and real, unambiguous, relevant to what we do and where we’re going. Most importantly, these wins should be celebrated. Integrating short-term wins into on-going communications forms a key part of the communications strategy and supporting plans.

Next week we will look at maintaining focus and momentum, and embedding change into the culture.

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Nigel Ring on July 4th, 2017

Last week, we continued our overview of ‘Kotter’s 8 Step Process for Leading Change’. As an overlay to a Strategic Planning Process, these steps can be highly effective, and can take place concurrently, depending on the nature of the programme.

We are now moving onto the first step in ‘Engaging and Enabling The Whole Organisation’ which Kotter describes as:

Step 4 – ‘Communicate The Vision for Buy-In’

Irrespective of who defined the change vision the need to communicate it is a critical next step in engaging and enrolling people at all levels and in all areas across the organisation. Unfortunately, many leaders outsource communications to the ‘comms person’ or ‘comms team’ and then wonder why people ‘don’t get it’. Ownership of the communication process by the leaders is vital.

Devote sufficient time and energy to communication
A communications’ strategy and supporting communications’ plans are time and resource intensive to create and deliver well, and require a breadth of relevant expertise. Many leaders confuse their ability to communicate well in front of a compliant audience with the harsh reality of major change or transformation. When that change involves potentially significant turbulence and personal impact for many people, the once adoring ‘compliant’ audience very quickly turns into the full spectrum from strong, committed advocate to deep, disruptive and damaging cynic.

Communicating the vision for buy-in requires an understanding and expertise in effective communication strategies, combined with the ability to enrol people, rather than simply announcing it or telling them.

A communications strategy could include:

  • Clearly defined outcomes and objectives
  • Specifically identified and targeted audience or audiences
  • Core and key messages
  • What’s being communicated
  • Who specifically is responsible for which communications
  • When will it be done by
  • How progress will be monitored
  • How success will be measured

Considerations affecting Enrolment:

  • Telling is not enrolment
  • What you say and what people hear are often not the same thing
  • If someone believes they cannot say ‘No’, they are unlikely to say ‘Yes’ in a way that is meaningful
  • If you or the person you are enrolling are not authentic, true enrolment will not happen
  • Commitment to do something is the outcome of effective enrolment
  • Enrolment begins with you – if you’re not enrolled, you are unlikely to authentically enrol others
  • You’re always leaving an impression – loose conversations & chatter kill enrolment
  • We spend a lot of time enrolling people in things – being intentional, focussed and structured will help
  • Showing vulnerability is not a weakness

You cannot over-communicate!
For everyone to truly embrace the vision, they need to hear it over and over – everywhere. The risk of over-communicating is unlikely to materialise! Leaders need to be relentless about ensuring that their communications and behaviours are consistent with what they’re asking people to do or to change. Nothing undermines a change or transformation more than leaders behaving inconsistently with the vision. It’s a key role of the Guiding Coalition to put the vision everywhere. It needs to be incorporated into all communications and regularly referred to — and reinforced — in meetings, conversations and wherever opportunity arises to talk about the vision.

Actively seek dissenting voices; welcome them, embrace them, engage with them and, more often than not, they will become advocates and become enrolled. They will already have added value to the programme by their challenges. Weak, insecure leaders get defensive very quickly!

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Last week, we started to look at ‘Kotter’s 8 Step Process for Leading Change’. Importantly, we touched on the need to use these steps as an overlay to a Strategic Planning Process. It’s also worth reiterating that although Kotter’s steps can appear linear, effective application often involves concurrent and parallel activity aligned with the Strategic Plan.

We will now look at the next 2 steps in ‘Creating a Climate for Change’ which Kotter describes as:

Step 2: ‘Create The Guiding Coalition’

Step 3: ‘Develop a Change Vision’

Step 2 – ‘Create The Guiding Coalition’

Commission’s Guiding Coalition in a Q/A session during the recent Prayer Days

A Guiding Coalition is a group or team of people with enough influence, capability and credibility to lead a change or transformation programme. The Guiding Coalition need a common goal to work towards, they need to have trust and confidence in each other and to invest time in building relationally. Equally important, everyone else in the organisation needs to trust and have confidence that they can lead and deliver the change or transformation.

Key to the success of a Guiding Coalition is that it comprises ‘a diverse many, rather than a limited few’. Too often, groups are made up of only senior managers and leaders, many of whom are detached from the reality of what gets delivered on the ground, and even if they’re not, are likely to be perceived by many in the organisation as being disconnected. As always, perception and reality have a habit of coming together in unhelpful ways.

A key role for the Guiding Coalition is to enrol more people in the change or transformation. Pockets of urgency are likely to be alive and well right across the organisation, but unless it’s modelled from the top, engaged and harnessed, it is likely to fizzle out, resulting in a backward step rather than a delivery of change for the future. Creating opportunities for people from all areas and levels of an organisation to be part of the change process is essential, and will ensure there is sufficient critical mass to overcome the inevitable resistance in other parts.

Step 3 – ‘Develop a Change Vision’

Who develops the vision?
Vision was touched on previously and it can often be the case that the vision is created by the ‘Guiding Coalition’. While there are benefits in this approach, the reality is that a Guiding Coalition in a transformation programme may include significant numbers of people, thereby introducing very practical challenges. In the context of church or a wider ministry it is usually more appropriate for the vision to be determined by the elders or leaders to create a compelling, motivating and inspiring vision. While ‘Step 3’ is ‘Develop a Change Vision’, circumstances may determine a different sequence in which the vision is created. Dogma has no place in major change or transformation.

Clarity of vision
An effective vision should paint a bold, achievable and clear picture of the future. It should connect people at a head and heart level, be specific enough to enable effective decision-making, broad and flexible enough to cope with the inevitable changing environment and context in which it will be delivered, and it should be easy to communicate.

A vision statement itself is only one part of the ‘change vision’. For it to be meaningful, the top level strategy and accompanying initiatives need to be developed and shared to bring a vision statement to life. In the absence of a supporting story, ‘Step 4’ (Communicate the Vision for Buy-In) becomes extremely challenging as the ‘how’ is absent, and so the vision statement can appear hollow.

Next week we will begin to look at ways in which the whole church or ministry can be engaged and enabled.

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Nigel Ring on June 21st, 2017

‘Kotter’s 8 Step Process for Leading Change’ was introduced last week as a helpful model for understanding and managing change, particularly when used in conjunction with a Strategic Planning Process and associated Strategic Plan. It’s important to reiterate that while Kotter’s steps appear linear, there needs to be concurrent/parallel activity which is overlaid and aligned with the Strategic Plan.

Kotter’s model is not, in my opinion, a strategy in itself, but rather a very good overlay to optimise the likelihood of success. The steps are shown in the diagram below:

We will now look at the first step in ‘Creating a Climate for Change’ which Kotter describes as:

Step 1 – ‘Establish a Sense of Urgency’

Change is difficult, transformation is very difficult. Without a genuine sense of urgency, minor change will falter and transformation will not progress from anything more than an idea. The Great Commission has a strong sense of urgency, yet for many of us, that urgency gets lost in a sea of activities and ‘being busy’, leaving little time for even considering a sense of urgency, let alone doing anything about it. Of course, urgency does exist, but what are we urgent about?

Leaders rarely tell you they have sufficient spare capacity to create and deliver strategic change and direction for their organisations, yet if they’re not doing this, it raises a serious question about whether they are actually leading. Maybe they are just delivering a 24/7 set of management activities on a rudderless ship.

Leadership capacity and expectation
Returning to the notion of organisational drift being what’s currently predictable without leadership intervention, then a key role of leadership is to intervene in that drift, create a sense of urgency, and make something happen that wasn’t going to happen already. Until leaders are equipped to increase their leadership capacity, rather than the amount of hours they work, they will return time after time to stories of how difficult it is, the peculiarity/uniqueness of their circumstances and a host of reasons why they can’t actually lead. Perhaps there is indeed ‘nothing new under the sun’.

If the senior leader and senior leadership team themselves have no true sense of urgency, then we shouldn’t expect others to be excited, enrolled, inspired or motivated. Don’t export something you don’t believe in yourself. Evidence of urgency will ultimately be seen through people behaving differently and relentlessly purging the non-essential to make capacity for the most important activities.

Next week we will look at the next 2 steps in ‘Creating a Climate for Change’.

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Nigel Ring on June 15th, 2017

Are you radical?
Radical is a word that gets a bad press these days yet taken back to its origin it is a good word – roots (Latin – radix). Do you know your roots?

500 years on
On October 31st we will be celebrating 500 years since Martin Luther posted 95 theses for debate on the church door in Wittenberg. This was the root of the Reformation. Following his striving to please a righteous God, whom he saw with increasing dislike and as a god of anger and hatred, he discovered in the Bible that God does not wait for us to be attractive in order to love us but loves us first!

Others were discovering the same truth. One, William Tyndale, was burdened that people could not easily access the Bible in their own language; he wanted ordinary people to be able to read the scriptures and so translated the Bible. This was hated by the authorities and he was martyred in 1535. Following Christ was not for the faint hearted. Yet, shortly after that Henry VIII commanded that a translated Bible should be placed in every church.

Paid with their lives
Others who paid with their lives for pursuing the truth were the Bishops Latymer and Ridley, the great reformers; they were burnt at the stake in Oxford in 1554 to be followed shortly by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer.

Social impact
But a fire had been lit which could not be put out. Amongst many other benefits the Reformation released a tidal wave of social improvement: the abolition of the slave trade, the ending of the sale of young girls into prostitution, the outlawing of small boys being sent up chimneys as sweeps, the provision of education, food and housing for the poor, to name a few examples.

Informative and Evangelistic
Freedom Movement is an attractively illustrated book of less than forty pages. It not only records the key events and people involved in the Reformation but also presents the gospel clearly in an accessible form. As such it is a book for both Christians and those seeking after truth.

Priced at £4.99 per copy, but only £1 per copy for orders of 25 or more, it is amazing value for money! I strongly recommend it. Buy it, read it and give it away.

Thank God for the world changing reformation recovering the truth of the all-sufficient cross of Christ! As Michael Reeves points out in his inspiring text, prior to the Reformation religion was disguising the problem rather than solving it. Five hundred years later people from around the world with open Bibles celebrate the rediscovery of light that dispelled their overwhelming darkness.
Terry Virgo, Founder and Teacher, Newfrontiers

Running through this little book on the Reformation is the surprising legacy of joy. The fact that we have no portraits of any Reformers smiling is a fluke of history. Nobody smiled for portraits until fifty years ago! If you want to know what made this movement explosively joyful, don’t look at the pictures, read the book.
John Piper, Founder and Teacher,



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Nigel Ring on June 13th, 2017

Where are you going?
A successful change or transformation programme has many components. However, unless leadership provides clarity on what a programme seeks to achieve, there is unlikely ever to be more than loose directional alignment and half-hearted commitment.

Many organisations, including churches, have no clear framework within which they dream or deliver, preferring to describe their strategy in terms of the collection of (often good) activities that they undertake. But these may not flow from a clearly articulated vision, supported by a top level strategy, through to a set of plans, delivered by highly motivated, enrolled and equipped people.

Be specific, succinct and clear
Vision statements (the ‘where’) should be future-based and inspire, and give direction to members of the organisation, rather than necessarily to the external community. They should be inspirational, clear, memorable, and concise. Unfortunately, many vision statements are quite the opposite and are a muddle of mission statements and long-winded, non-specific descriptions.

As part of, or in addition to, a vision statement, some form of specific measurement can be very helpful – ‘What gets measured gets done’. Many leaders prefer not to have anything against which to measure their performance, preferring the apparent benefit of not being on the hook for anything, thereby eliminating any prospect of ‘failure’. The success of the organisation is dependent on leaders who are prepared to take a stand for something bigger than themselves, despite not knowing exactly how they will get there as they set off on the journey.

How will you get there?
Strategy is the way in which the organisation will go about unlocking the vision. Priorities, plans, resources and many, many other things then flow from the vision and strategy to ensure ‘top to bottom’ and ‘bottom to top’ alignment. With clear alignment, clear line of sight, and everyone knowing and being valued for their part in the strategy, the wider team then sets about making it happen.

What is our starting point?
Having defined a clear, exciting future state, an honest, sober and robust assessment of the ‘now’ state is essential. The catch 22 is that without great leadership, the assessment can become more of an exercise in describing what the leaders wished their organisation, whether church or wider ministry, were like, rather than actually confronting the reality. Whatever the current state of the organisation, ‘it is what it is’. Only by getting straight about what it is does it become possible to create and deliver extraordinary breakthrough. Get this significantly wrong, and the path to failure has already been laid.

Some form of Strategic Planning Process with an accompanying Strategic Plan are essential components of significant change or transformation. The following diagram is an example of a top level ‘Vision led Strategy’, which is underpinned by a set of plans, and a linked organisational design that will deliver the strategy and ultimately unlock the vision.

The Strategic Planning Process and associated development and delivery of the Strategic Plan can be supported by ‘Kotter’s 8 Step Process for Leading Change’ which describes a helpful model for understanding and managing change. We will cover these 8 steps over the coming weeks.

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