One of our most valued and long time clients has been Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas. We work with the PowerPoint radio and television outreach hosted by Pastor Graham. Kathleen and I consider Jack and his wife Deb close friends and I admire his ministry and his leadership a great deal. Even though Jack’s ministry career is an example of remarkable integrity and credibility, one of the most fascinating aspects of his skill as a leader is how he handles a crisis, and I’ve been fortunate to see that leadership up close and in action. As a result of watching him lead through challenging situations, here’s 3 important lessons I’ve learned:
1) Have a plan. In today’s world you never know what could happen – accidents, money problems, mistakes, sexual impropriety, baseless allegations, – all kinds of things. So you should coach your team regarding who to call, how to handle the press, and who speaks for the organization. Plan it ahead of time so when a crisis happens, you’re not caught off-guard.
2) Be honest and tell the truth. Trust me – in the age of Google, you can’t hide anymore. So be upfront, welcome the press when necessary or appropriate, and confront it head-on. Hiding only makes it worse. Jack understands the importance of cooperating with law enforcement, and as a result, they’re able to move on with community support. In one case, Scott Seal and the Power Point TV team released a video of Jack’s response to a particular situation immediately to the press, and as a result it was seen around the world in a matter of hours. Even Jack’s friend, pastor Greg Laurie, traveling in Rome saw it and sent Jack an encouraging email.
3) Understand the power of “Brand Equity.” I’ve said in other contexts that the Billy Graham organization could weather just about any crisis because they’ve spent so many years building up integrity and accountability. Jack and Prestonwood are the same way. Because of their integrity, track record, and involvement in the local community, during a crisis, the public is far more willing to understand and cut them slack. You can’t pay for the favor that a lifetime of integrity, accountability, and honesty can bring to a situation.
This is an example of why I consider Jack such a great leader. If more churches and ministries would handle a crisis like Pastor Graham and the executive team at Prestonwood, the Christian community’s perception in the non-Christian world would be far better.