The S curve (4) – the pain of leading


A new S curve doesn’t cause failure.  But it seems to. 

Think through the initial phases of a new curve as we’ve seen them: the hidden hard yards, and then the resultant growth.

Those hidden hard yards take time, and money, and prayer, and committed people away from the original curve. And for quite some time that seems to be fruitless.  In fact, you seem to be investing in failure when the original line is succeeding. That’s bad.

But then if you get it right, something really bad seems to happen.  The new S curve starts to lift off just at the same time as the old one starts to slow into decline.  To you that looks like your decision was justified – you anticipated the slowdown and successfully started a new curve which will continue to rise.

But to onlookers, it looks like the new curve caused the decline of the old one.  You sucked people, prayer and resources into the new; no wonder the old is not working as well as it did.

There is, therefore, a period of huge leadership challenge when you have to hold your nerve – between x and y on that diagram. You know that, allowing for God’s sovereignty, the usual pattern is that in time the new curve will lift off to heights that the old curve would never have achieved.  The new service plus the old one will reach more people.  And so on.

But until that sweet spot happens, and the new curve achieves what the old one was never going to, you have to hold your nerve.  Because every fibre of your being, and every one of our friendly critics, will be telling you to stop doing the new thing because it’s sucking the life out of the old one.

Hold your nerve.


Are you thinking of starting some new curve at your church – a home group, an outreach, a service, a mercy ministry?

What are you planning it will cost your church in time, talent and treasure for that to happen?

Are you and your leaders prepared for the reality that you will have to keep pouring those resources in for the hard yards?  How long are you prepared for that to last?

Are you prepared for the reality that during those hard yards and even any initial success you will be blamed that this is at the expense of the original ministry?

2 comments on “The S curve (4) – the pain of leading”

  1. James,

    Would be good to hear back on how the review goes and the lessons learnt. Handling the “review” is probably as important as handling the launch etc. We have just moved to having two Sunday morning congregations (just under two months in so all very challenging at the moment) and will have a first proper review at Easter

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