During this sabbatical, I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading. One of the books I read was “How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going; Leading in a Liminal Season” by Susan Beaumont.
This may be the best book I’ve read so far during my sabbatical.
Susan Beaumont is a consultant, a coach and a spiritual director. She has worked with congregations and denominations across the country. I first encountered her in her book “Inside the Large Congregation,” which was an amazing book about the unique ecosystems of larger communities.
Beaumont talks about what it is to be in a liminal season. Liminal seasons are those time “in-between” things, when the outcome and direction is at least partially hidden. Liminal seasons are often times of stress, or anxiety. Liminal seasons are also often times when we can most easily sense f God in our midst, if we open ourselves to God’s presence.
Beaumont takes a practical approach, and talks about how we blend organizational concepts and practices, contemplative leadership and a sense of wonder as to what God is up to to move forward during times when the path forward is shrouded.
Our path forward has felt shrouded. This is the case for the whole of the church. It is also the case for business, for government, for the social sector…for all of us.
In a liminal season, the only way forward is through the uncertainty and chaos. The leader’s challenge is not to eliminate the ambiguity and chaos, but to embrace emergence – and stand with people during the confusion.Susan Beaumont; “How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going,” p. 135.
Leading through a liminal season takes courage. For the leaders, but also for the organization as a whole. We have to be willing to “step into the mess” and make our way through it. We have to resist the natural temptation to “hunker down” and avoid conflict or confusion.
In fact, congregations should lead in these efforts. Because we know that we are accompanied by the God of grace, we can have the courage to do the hard things and to set the tone for the community around us. The church is uniquely gifted in this way.
I don’t know for how long we will be in this liminal season. Sometimes, it feels like “2 steps forward…one step back…” But we can have faith that God’s promise to be with us is never broken. We can have faith in God’s love and grace. And we can mirror that love and live as people of hope, modeling courage for those around us.