By Published On: June 19, 20220 Comments

Of all the metaphors Scripture uses for the Pastoral Office, I have yet to find the metaphor of “Airplane Pilot.” Though not Scriptural, Peter Drucker in his book, Managing in Turbulent Times, may have some insight for pastors flying through the storm clouds of conflict and organizational chaos. Read, mediate, learn, enjoy…and happy landings!


Step One: Adjust When Necessary

In times of turbulence, pilots are trained to adjust to potentially damaging situations by adjusting the configuration of their aircraft and their priorities. Managing through turbulence requires reverting to the fundamentals, to ensure the aircraft can withstand the blows and maneuver to clearer skies.

Step Two: Slow Down–Way Down--To Minimize Damage

Upon encountering turbulence pilots are advised to revert to VA – the maneuvering speed. This is usually well below cruise speed and is the prescribed limitation for full or abrupt movements to avoid structural damage to the aircraft. At this slower speed the pilot is better assured the ability to withstand the abrupt blows without sustaining damage to the aircraft and to maintain positive control through the temporary but potentially threatening encounter.

Step Three: Go Back To Simple Fundamentals–First Things First!!!

The pilot’s priorities revert to the fundamentals. In any circumstance of disruption, severity, disorientation, or sensory overload, all pilots will likely hear the three words drilled into their brain by their first instructors and reinforced throughout their training – first things first – fly the airplane! The obvious priority is to have positive control over the aircraft, by adjusting to the appropriate maneuvering speed, properly orienting yourself to the circumstance, and maintaining or recovering positive control.

Step Four: Set The Course…And Proceed Toward Stability!

The inherent principles of managing turbulence in flight are that of making the necessary adjustments to maintain structural integrity to withstand the blows, and then restoring positive control and positional awareness to chart an alternate course to your destination. And in these difficult and challenging circumstances the pilot reverts to the fundamentals of flying the aircraft first, and then determining the next best course of action. Other Insights From Peter Drucker, Managing In Turbulent Times… Insight One: At all costs, manage the fundamentals well…

“An enterprise [e.g. church] has to be managed both to withstand sudden blows and to avail itself of sudden expected opportunities. This means that in turbulent times the fundamentals have to be managed, and managed well.”

  • What are the fundamentals of ministry in your setting???

Insight Two: You can only go as long as the financial and personnel resources last.

“The minimum liquidity needed to stay in business becomes something like the maneuvering speed to avoid severe structural damage….Liquidity by itself is not an objective. But in turbulent times it becomes … a survival need. In turbulent times the priority is structural integrity and survival.”

  • Does your congregation have the resources to keep the church–and pastor–from crashing?
  • Are you willing to hang in there when there are still enough resources to prevent a crash?
  • Are you willing to bail out, if necessary, when there’s not?

Insight Three: Keep Flying…Or Else You’ll Crash!!!

In turbulence it is critical to have the fundamentals handled exceptionally well – and when in doubt, or suffering severe blows, disorientation or sensory overload – fly the airplane first and foremost!

This most definitely means dealing intensely – with complete attention and awareness – on the fundamentals for survival. It also implies suspending or deferring attention from the host of other activities until a sense of positive control and positional awareness are re-established.

  • Have you found a competent, trusted, experienced brother to help you “land” this thing?
  • Have you enlisted every reasonable outside resource to gain essential perspective?
  • And, speaking of fundamentals, what’s God’s will in this situation

“And He will raise you up on Eagle’s Wings”… Just Ask Isaiah!

Thomas F. Fischer

Adapted From: The Best of The CEO Refresher
Copyright 1997 by Refresher Publications Inc.
All rights reserved.

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