Skip to main content

Author: Erin Cofield

Resources for the Replant Wife

“You can’t be a pastor!  That would make me a pastor’s wife!  And I am NOT a pastor’s wife.”  These were the very first words I said to my husband after he confessed to me that he felt God was calling him to be a pastor.  (Encouraging, I know… Bear with me.) Some women attend seminary and meet their future husband while he is studying for a career in ministry.  She’s prepared to be known as the “pastor’s wife” for their marriage.  That is not what happened to me.  I was completely unprepared to be a pastor’s wife– my husband was in logistics at a warehouse. I never imagined God would call him to be a pastor and I would be a “PW”– I didn’t even know what PW meant!

Thankfully, God brought me around and I joyfully accepted this new role. I looked at it as a big, new adventure we would go on together.  My husband and I, in ministry, doing the Lord’s work.  Proclaiming the Gospel to hurting and broken people, together! What could be better than that?

If you’re reading this and thinking, “Oh man… She might be in for a shock.”  You’re right.  I was!

After 16 years in ministry, I can honestly say it has been a big adventure– one that has included many wonderful, joyful mountains, but one that also included several painful and dark valleys. Most of those valleys have happened in the season of replanting/revitalization in our church.  In those valleys, it’s easy to feel isolated and alone in ministry.  Looking at other churches, I would think, “They have it all figured out.  They don’t seem to struggle the way we’re struggling!  Maybe we just aren’t called to this.” Perhaps you have felt that way, too. If you’re a pastor reading this, I can almost guarantee your wife has felt that!

On a recent episode of the Replant Bootcamp podcast, host Jimbo Stewart spoke with three replant wives (one of whom is probably his favorite guest of all time) to take a look at the resources available to the wives working alongside their husbands in church renewal.

The Replant Wife Experts

A woman prays alone

During those moments of isolation and loneliness, sometimes all we need is a small reminder that we aren’t alone. This is where I found myself at the first Replant Summit I attended with my husband.  We had navigated some very discouraging and hard times in our church and we signed up hoping to be refreshed and renewed.  I was burdened with many needs, some spiritual and some within our own family. When I saw a breakout session for “Replant Wives,” I thought, “Nope.” The last thing I wanted to hear was how amazing life was for all those wives and how wonderful their churches were.

My husband convinced me to go, and I entered that room overwhelmed and anxious.  I sat at an empty table prepared to sit quietly and speak to no one. But before I could enact that plan, other women came to sit at the table.  These women were all so friendly and kind, and I found myself sharing some of my concerns with them briefly before the session even started.  They seemed to understand everything I had experienced.  They seemed like they “got it,” in a way that my other friends didn’t.  Those women were Audrea Stewart, Darlene Dryer, and Barb Bickford, the hosts of the breakout session and the spouses of Jimbo Stewart, Josh Dryer, and Bob Bickford, respectively.  Turns out, I hadn’t sat down at an empty table– I was at “their” table! (I had somehow missed the purses, laptop bags, and materials they had around the table.)

For the next couple of hours, I sat with many other women in the room as these three incredible women poured into us with biblical, practical advice for this journey.  They each shared their stories, complete with heartaches and struggles.  They were transparent and relatable, but also gently and wisely continued to point us each back to Christ and His leadership.  As we each began to open up with our own worries and anxieties, I realized I had been wrong. I wasn’t alone or isolated.  There were so many women struggling with the same issues I was– and these three “expert Replant Wives” had struggled with them, too!

I know these three women would object to being called “experts”– they are just wives who are doing their best to assist their husbands in this work of church renewal. But that day, Audrea, Darlene, and Barb gave us more than the resources of books to read, biblical passages to study, and tangible tools for problem-solving– they gave us the resource of friendship.  We were able to connect with each other, as women all over the room began to bond over shared trials, joys, and everything in between.  The connections I formed that day reminded me that I wasn’t alone.  The resource of friendship was something that I will never forget.

The Replant Wife Facebook Page- a Source of Connection

After the Summit, I went home and immediately joined the Replant Wife Facebook Group.  There, I get to interact with Audrea, Darlene, and Barb, but I have also met Replant Wives from the Midwest, the Pacific Coast, and the Northeast United States.  It is a closed group, so wives can be transparent without worrying about breaking confidentiality.  They can share their burdens and know that someone out there understands what they are going through.  They can share helpful articles and books they’ve read, but they also share prayer requests and biblical questions.  It’s a forum for pastor’s wives in church renewal, so there are even helpful tools for struggling congregations.

Some of the questions that are asked and answered are practical– “Has anyone done VBS on a budget?  What tools were helpful?” “Has anyone been involved in rewriting bylaws?  What did you run into that you didn’t expect?” “What is a great meal for unexpected company or for feeding a large crowd?”  These questions are answered by other women in the context of church renewal– churches with normative attendance, budgets, and resources.  Churches a lot like yours.

This online connection fosters a community.  Now, when I go to a replant conference with my husband, I can connect with the women I know from the Facebook page and get updates on their lives and ministries.  We look forward to seeing each other and catching up.  Our community has borne each others burdens and celebrated each others successes.  We are truly in it together.

The Replant Wife Website, Blog, and Podcast

women shaking hands in collaboration

Another important resource for Replant Wives is the website, which also houses the blog.  Audrea, Darlene, and Barb have all penned blog posts regarding common issues in this renewal life.  Audrea wrote on navigating the post-holiday blues, Barb has written a series on longevitiy in ministry, and Darlene is writing about finding joy in trials. Think of this website as the “landing page” for all things Replant Wife.  In addition to Audrea, Darlene, and Barb, there are also resources from Kathy Addis (wife of Andy Addis), Jeanette Pugh (wife of Colin Pugh), and Joyce Jackson (wife of David Jackson), each of whom bring their own stories of  ministry mountains and valleys.

In addition to the incredible resources the three women have cultivated, they also have links to NAMB’s replanting resources.  NAMB is consistently looking for ways to support and care for pastors in ministry and one of those focuses has to be the pastor’s family.  In a replant/revitalization, where there are potentials for seasons of change and conflict, this is even more important.  A pastor does not weather the conflict alone– his family will feel it, too.  His wife will need support and encouragement, and she can find it within those resources.

But I think the best resource the women leading this effort have cultivated is their podcast.  This podcast seeks to be a refuge for the replant wife to be equipped and encouraged for the work God has called her to do.  Listening to it, you feel like you’re sitting around with three friends discussing Jesus, the bible, ministry, and families.  There, the three women discuss their blogs and talk about important topics in church renewal. They take the time to really dive into scripture and give biblical, practical advice.  They remind the listener that she is not alone in this work.  But they also remind her that this work is God’s glorious calling.

For every replant pastor, there is a replant wife who needs to know she is not alone.  We are here for you and we want to hear from you!  The Lord has called us to bring dying churches back to life– that’s an amazing honor!

If you want to meet these amazing women in person, you can do so at the Am I a Replanter conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary April 5-6 or at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary April 12-13.  (And, yeah, their husbands will be there, too.)

Reflecting on the Life and Legacy of Dr. Henry Blackaby

Henry Blackaby

When we talk about “spiritual giants,” few names loom larger than that of Henry Blackaby.  His bible study, Experiencing God (co-authored with Claude King), was published in over 75 languages and has sold more than 8 million copies in English since being published in 1990.  Countless pastors, ministry leaders, and church members have been radically challenged and changed by the bible study and its subsequent spinoff studies, books, and devotions.  Blackaby also coauthored several other books with his son, Richard, including one near and dear to most replant pastors, Flickering Lamps: Christ and His Church, which tells the story of the senior Blackaby’s journey of replanting a small church in Canada.

I never had the opportunity to meet Henry Blackaby during his life.  But if I had, I imagine he would find my naming him a “spiritual giant” a little humorous. He simply wanted to be known as a “servant of God.” Blackaby was not someone who bought into his hype– he never allowed himself to fall into the entitlement that sometimes comes with fame. He was not someone who dismissed others or expected them to cater to him.  Instead, he served God humbly, doing the Lord’s work wherever and however he was called to do so.

Richard Blackaby sat down with Jimbo on a recent episode of the Replant Bootcamp podcast to discuss his dad’s life and the legacy he left behind.  

A Fearless Follower of God

Henry Blackaby didn’t believe in limiting God to what was practical.  Was it practical to move a family of seven from the US to Saskatoon, Canada to a church with only 10 people in attendance and an offering of only $90 for the previous month?  No.  But as Richard stated, his dad believed “Ten people can’t start a church, but ten people plus God can start anything God wants them to.”

When he was faced with questions about moving to this small church in the middle of nowhere, Henry Blackaby believed even if no one else understood it, God called him to it.  He truly felt that if God called him to go, God would provide for his needs.  He said, “God called me to this. If you’d been there when we heard from God, you’d be just as convinced as we were. The difference is you haven’t heard from God and we have.”  

Richard expressed that some people assumed his dad was impulsive, or that he just thought, “We serve a big God. So let’s just try and start a lot of things.” But that wasn’t Henry Blackaby.  Instead, he made a practice of remembering who the master is and who the servant is. He would say, “We’re just the servants. We don’t come up with a plan. But when the master tells us to get busy and fulfill his plan, we’ve got no choice but to get moving.”

Henry Blackaby believed that once you heard from God, you’d be crazy to stay where you are. He was a fearless follower of God.  He didn’t take unnecessary risks, but he believed in God and took Him at His word.  He trusted that God would do what He said He would.  He trusted that God was all-powerful and he was reliable.

An Encouraging Optimist for Others

One thing Richard learned from his dad was the power of a few minutes.  After Henry’s passing, people would stop Richard to tell him how much his father had changed their lives.  Many times, the story wasn’t about a book Henry wrote or a sermon he preached.  It was usually the result of a short, ten-minute conversation they had with him between sessions or during a lunch break.  And many of the stories centered on Henry’s encouragement as he poured hope into their lives.

We’ve talked many times about discouragement in ministry.  It is no secret that working as a pastor can be discouraging– even more so as a pastor in a replant.  Change is difficult and people who supported you in the beginning will occasionally turn on you.  Your family will struggle, many times emotionally, spiritually, and financially.  Your work may go unnoticed or unappreciated. Honestly, it can be exhausting.

It was in that season of discouragement and exhaustion when a pastor might find himself at a conference standing face to face with Henry Blackaby.  Dr. Blackaby was always willing to spend time talking to people and hearing their stories.  (Richard shared the story on his blog of the time his dad offered to sign his book for a couple of people on their way to a lunch break, and FOUR hours later, Richard found him still talking to people and signing their books.) Dr. Blackaby would take the time to listen.

For many pastors, those ten minutes changed their lives.  It wasn’t just a quick conversation for them.  It was a lifeline of hope in a season of doubt.  When they would tell Henry about all of the problems they were facing, he would say, “I know all that’s true, but what, what do you have? You have Almighty God. The ruler of the universe is in your church. He’s the head of your church. He’s the provider for your church. What more do you need when you have him?”  

That changed their perspective.  Instead of seeing the problems, they saw the opportunities for God to work in their ministries.  Instead of feeling discouraged about where they were, they felt hopeful about where they could go. They left the conversation excited to get back to their churches and see what God would do. Richard described his father as a “raging optimist,” and that quality was contagious for those who spoke with him.

Dr. Blackaby also took time to remind pastors that replanting and revitalizing their churches wasn’t all their responsibility. Yes, He called them to that church.  But it was God who would do the work of revitalization, not them.  He reminded pastors that their role was one of a willing servant. Richard stated that men who were feeling overwhelmed and inadequate would leave a conversation with his dad with the reminder that they didn’t have to solve every problem themselves. Instead, they could rest in the knowledge that God has never been scared or overwhelmed by the church’s problems. All they had to do was follow God’s leading in obedience.

A Legacy of Faithfulness

The Henry Blackaby family

When asked what lessons Richard had taken from his father’s life, he shared that he wanted to follow the ancient paths his dad had walked.  Henry, he said, walked in deep fellowship with God.  He didn’t sway, didn’t falter, didn’t lose sight of God’s leading.  Richard expressed a desire to follow that same pattern of faithfulness and to depend on God the way his dad had.

Richard also said that he learned to never treat any moment with someone as “ordinary.” If God is present, he said, nothing about that moment is ordinary.  That quote really sat with me this week.  When we look at that in light of Matthew 18:20, we realize any time two or more followers of Christ are present, He is in their midst. And if the Almighty author of the universe is present, that moment has an extraordinary, supernatural quality to it.  Whether I am in the car with my children, sharing a coffee with a friend, or just quietly sitting with someone who is struggling, that moment is holy and has the potential for God to move and do something incredible with it.  

Another lesson Richard learned from his father was to keep your family as your most important ministry.  Sometimes in replanting a church, we get so focused on rebuilding that congregation that we neglect to realize our own home is breaking down.  The truth is, you may not always pastor that church.  But you will always be your child’s father. 

I have seen this to be true in so many ways. Pastors who were gifted at leading and who built wonderful congregations have pushed their families to the side while they do the work of the Lord. Instead of looking at their family as a part of their ministry, they sometimes saw them as a hindrance to it.  And when you put your family behind the church, you run the risk of losing both.

An Ordinary Man and an Extraordinary God

As Richard points out on his blog, his dad “didn’t write a book or become famous until he was 55 years old. For most of his life, he served faithfully in relative anonymity.” Henry Blackaby wasn’t a famous pastor because he had a mega-church.  His church membership never grew over 250 at most.  He wasn’t famous because he was perfect.  He had frailties and faults like everyone.  He wasn’t extraordinary on his own.  He was extraordinary with God by his side.

When we look at our legacy– at the things we will leave behind– we must remember that the books we’ve written and the sermons we preach will fade. The degrees we worked so hard to earn will no longer hang on the walls of our offices.  The churches we’ve poured our lives into will be under someone else’s leadership.  What will last are the people we invested in.  The relationships we built.  The time that we took to speak life into others.  

We are just ordinary people.  But as Henry Blackaby taught us, our extraordinary God can do a lot with ordinary people.

The Power of Partnership

A few weeks ago, my husband Will and I attended the AMS Lab from NAMB in Atlanta, Georgia.  Hundreds of pastors and AMS leaders from across the country gathered together to learn more about partnerships and collaboration in revitalizing dying churches.  We listened to several leaders discuss ways their associations and churches had worked cohesively for the spread of the Gospel and each other’s benefit.  We heard testimonies of how these collaborations bore the fruit of faithfulness, health, repentance, and revival. The message was clear: There is power in partnership.

In Genesis 2:18, we read that God formed Man and then came to an important realization: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”  Now, we know that God then formed Woman and declared it “very good.” But the main idea was not merely for man and woman to be in partnership together– the main thought is that it is not good for man to be alone.  Over and over in God’s Word, He reminds us that collaboration is better than alienation

We often remind our congregations that God has formed our church like a body, quoting from 1 Corinthians and Ephesians.  We tell them that we all need each other, we all have different gifts, and that we all benefit from our unity.  And yet when it comes to churches partnering with other churches, many pastors neglect to foster and encourage partnership in their ministries.

On a recent episode of the Replant Bootcamp podcast, Jimbo talked with Mark Hallock, author and Lead Pastor of the Calvary Family of Churches in Colorado, and Brandon Moore, Replant Specialist at NAMB, about the benefits of radical collaboration.  When we partner together, ministries flourish, churches come back from the dead, and pastors are strengthened.  On His way to the cross, Jesus prayed that the church’s unity and partnership would display God’s plan and His love for the world to see (John 17:23). 

God’s Command to Partner

Here is the truth of the matter.  Pastors who neglect to partner with other churches are working against God’s plan for the Gospel.  You might not realize it, but God desires us to be in close collaboration with other churches– not competition.  Too often, we get wrapped up in the human desire to grow our personal kingdom and not God’s.  

Of course, that’s not the language we use.  Pastors would never say they desire their kingdom to grow over God’s.  But when we hoard our resources for our gain, when we disparage the church across town (especially from the pulpit), and when we isolate ourselves from other pastors, we’ve created a “my church, my growth” mindset instead of a “God’s church, His kingdom” mindset.

God commands us to work in unity with other churches.  Our passion must be for God’s Kingdom to grow, because His plan is to reach the lost world through people– not only your church but mine, too.  His plan is for all of us to cooperate so that His name is magnified throughout the nations.

Where do I start?

At the AMS Lab, one of the phrases we heard from pastors and AMS Leaders was, “Partnership sounds great, but we don’t have that mindset in our association.  No one seems to want to share or to cooperate.” What a missed opportunity!

When pastors alienate themselves and build walls around their ministry, it typically signifies an area of personal weakness.  Maybe they’ve been hurt by other pastors in the past and they are hesitant to be vulnerable again.  Perhaps they are afraid to be transparent or admit that something isn’t working.  Or maybe it’s just good, old-fashioned pride that makes them feel like they don’t have anything to learn from someone else.  Regardless of the root issue, a pastor who “Lone Rangers” his ministry may need to evaluate his behavior and repent.

Often, one of the first steps toward collaboration is one of embracing humility. It’s one thing to agree we need pastoral friendships for encouragement, but it’s quite another to be willing to share resources like money, time, and leadership with fellow pastors.  It’s one thing to say, “I’m willing to help the church down the street,” but it’s different to say, “I don’t care who gets the credit, I just want to see God’s Kingdom grow.”  Humility offers us a chance to let go of our ego and step out of the picture, and it allows God to step in and do radically transformative work in both our congregation and in the other church.  Laying down our pride for the Gospel reaps fruit we can’t even begin to imagine.

Once we’ve embraced the command to partner with fellow pastors and churches, and we’ve repented of any pride or fear standing in our way, it’s time to lean in and pursue partnership.  Now I wish this was as easy as simply passing a note to another pastor at the next Association meeting that says, “Do you want to partner with me in ministry? Check yes or no.”  Unfortunately, radical collaboration takes a little more time and effort! 

To start with, you need to actually attend association meetings.  Those meetings aren’t merely to give you information and discuss everyone’s budget and church attendance numbers.  Those meetings are opportunities for networking with other pastors and for encouraging each other! You have something to learn from them.  The Holy Spirit indwells them just as He indwells you!  God has given them unique perspectives, experiences, and giftings that can benefit you, even if they are different than yours. 

Being a good partner in ministry means being a good friend.  When you’re at the meetings, ask good questions of your fellow pastors.  Pray over their churches.  Have someone from your church send them a card to encourage them.  Some of our best partnerships have come from having close friends in ministry.  Last year when we were gone on a mission trip, we needed help with our worship service– we were short a pastor and a worship leader.  We were able to call our best friends in ministry and ask for their help– and they sent a worship team over to lead our service, even though it meant their church struggled a little that morning.  Why?  Because we aren’t in competition, we’re in cooperation.

Maybe not everyone will understand your desire for partnership.  That’s ok. Start with a few guys who do.  Plan a night of worship and combine your campuses. Look for ways your church can help with their VBS (or vice versa).  Do you have a couple of talented musicians while their church struggles to have live music? Ask one of your people to serve there a couple of weeks a month. Not because you don’t love your church and your people, but because you’ve taught your church to love other churches. And before you know it, a funny thing happens when other people see radical partnership thriving… they’ll want to join, too.  That’s where you see the culture change.  That’s where the goal of “church growth” becomes “Kingdom growth.”

The Superpower of Partnership

Hopefully, by now you’ve realized that we need to partner with fellow churches for one very good reason: God commands us to!  But partnership isn’t merely a rule to follow.  Radical collaboration is a superpower.  Once we tap into it, the benefits to our ministry and our personal walk with Jesus are huge!

One of the main benefits of partnership?  We are better together! Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 reminds us, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”  There will always be times when ministry is a struggle.  I have a friend who swears her husband quits ministry every Monday morning.  Discouragement, disappointment, and feelings of frustration with church members or church politics can feel overwhelming.  But partnerships with other churches mean your problems aren’t just your own to solve.  You have helpers to pick you up and raise your arms, as Aaron and Hur did for Moses (Exodus 17).

Another benefit?  Faithfulness in the ministry. A recent Barna study found that 65% of pastors reported feeling isolated or alone in 2022… that’s up from only 42% feeling that way in 2015. It seems many pastors are feeling like Johnny Cash when he sang, “I’ve got no one to tell my troubles to, no one to care to call my own. It seems that I must always be alone.” And when pastors feel isolated, they are more susceptible to temptation, hip-shot decisions, and leaving the ministry altogether. When you partner with other pastors, you have built-in encouragement, but you also have built-in accountability.  Your partners are also pastors who can tell you, in humility and love, where you might be going off-track.

Lastly, there is the benefit of having a cohort to help you navigate the complexities in the culture and society we face today.  We are dealing with aspects of culture that society has not wrestled with before and in our digital and technologically advanced society, these complex questions do not stop at the church’s front door.  Increasingly, these cultural issues are encouraging pastors to take a new look at their by-laws, their polity, and even their own personal beliefs. Having other pastors beside you as you walk through these decisions gives you a plurality of educated leaders that you may not yet have access to within your own congregation.

The Superhero of Partnership

 

I hope that you now see the superpower of partnership and the ways collaboration benefits your ministry.  Now, allow me to introduce a superhero who can help you in your quest for partnership– your local AMS.  

Hopefully, the local AMS at your association has been there long enough to have the one gift you need– the power of connection.  The AMS has an acute knowledge of not only the churches in his association, but of each pastor, and each congregation.  When you need ministry partners, there is no better place to start than your AMS.  Have a music/worship need?  He knows of a local cohort of worship leaders you can join.  He also knows which churches have large choirs and an abundance of musicians who may be able to join you for a while.  Have a question about polity?  He knows which church recently rewrote their bylaws, and what roadblocks they ran into, and he knows who you need to call at the state level for assistance.  Need help with VBS?  He knows the church doing theirs weeks before yours, and he’s happy to put you in touch with them so you can borrow their decorations when they’re done.

If you’re interested in hearing more ways your AMS and your local association can assist you in radical collaboration, the Replant Bootcamp has a podcast and blog on the partnership between pastors and Associations.  

Opportunities to Partner with Us

When we talk about partnerships between pastors and associations, there is no better place to explore that than at the Replant Bootcamp events.  We have several coming up, from two Am I a Replanter labs in April, the Revive Summit in May and September, and of course, through our website and archives.  

Don’t forget to let us know how much your ministry partners have helped you by suggesting them as future guests using the “Suggest a Guest” button!  We would love to hear your stories!

Creating a Rhythm of Rest and Renewal

“It’s just a busy season.” 

“I just need to find a better balance.”

“Once we’re through this, things will slow down.”

“I just need to get back to a normal rhythm.”

If I had a dollar for every time my husband or I have said one of those phrases in the past twenty years of ministry… Well, let’s just say we wouldn’t need to have five jobs between us! 

I’m sure you can relate.  Pastors and their families often feel overworked, overburdened, and overstimulated.  We look at the December calendar, take a deep breath, and plow through the busy holiday season of multiple services, Christmas dinners, small group get-togethers, end-of-year meetings, children’s plays, and family time only to flip the page and realize January is full, too.  Easter sneaks up on us before we can blink, and then BAM– we’re in the center of summer with VBS, youth camps, the SBC convention, weddings to perform, and maybe we can squeeze in a family vacation before school starts.  Before we know it, the year has gone and we’re back at Thanksgiving, looking ahead to the Christmas chaos again.

And if we’re honest– we don’t even have the energy to plan the following year’s calendar because if it looks like this year… we aren’t sure we’ll make it.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.  Andy Addis, a friend of the Bootcamp and fellow Replant laborer, talked to Jimbo recently about his new book, Rhythms.  Andy explained why we need rhythms, how to establish rhythms, and most importantly, what God says about rhythms in our lives.

The Rhythm God Established

When we read Genesis 2:2-3, we see God do something interesting.  The creator of the universe stops, pauses, and rests. Why does He do this?  Is He tired?  Is He worn out from all the creating and designing?  Does He need to rest?  Absolutely not.  God does not need human rest. But God knew we would!

God didn’t rest for His sake, He rested for ours.  God established this pattern of rest after work for our benefit, so we would see the importance of a set apart, intentional time of rest.  But we ignored that pattern and stayed overworked and overburdened. In fact, by Exodus 20, God commanded that we honor the Sabbath.  Instead of a mere pattern to follow, we now had a command from the Lord.

We know that this is something God desires for us to do and a law He wants us to follow.  As Andy pointed out on the podcast, “pastors will be disqualified for breaking commandments [murder, adultery, or lying]. But do you realize that the fourth commandment is to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy?”  It’s not a small thing to break one of God’s commandments. But so many pastors I know break this one every week.

The Rhythm You Need

Why is it so important that we honor the Sabbath and establish a rhythm of rest in our lives?  Because a pastor who is overworked and out of rhythm is most likely also a husband and father who is out of rhythm.  And that busyness without rest leads to a phrase we’re hearing more and more lately: Burnout.  If you crash and burn in ministry, you will likely find another type of job.  But if you experience burnout in your family… you lose everything.  

The truth is, churches and ministries in general will take everything you have to give.  They aren’t the bad guys, they just won’t draw the boundaries for you.  It’s up to you to draw those lines in the sand and say, “I have to institute some pauses for my health and for my family’s well-being.” No one else will do this for you.  

As pastors, we often don’t have the luxury of having every week go according to plan.  While we might look at a calendar on Sunday and map out our week, a congregation member’s death on Monday and the ensuing funeral on Thursday will have us completely out of step.  We might think we have built-in margins in our schedule but throw in an unexpected need for pastoral counseling and a few hospital visits and those margins evaporate.

The Rhythms of Renewal (and Rest)

Rhythm is not just about rest, although that’s certainly part of it.  We need rest, yes.  But we also need renewal– we need time to reflect on God’s Word, refresh our souls, and replenish our energy tanks.  This is no mere vacation– because let’s face it, most of us need a vacation from our vacation, especially if there are small children involved!  Instead, we must establish regular times of renewal.

I offer the following recommendations on rhythms of renewal with the following two caveats:

  1. This is a broad overview.  Andy’s book goes deeper into each of these rhythms and has a workbook on how to implement each of them.
  2. We do not recommend attempting to implement all of these rhythms at once.  Instead, work on one at a time, and go from ones within your control to those that need further input or require structural change.

The Annual Rhythm

The first rhythm Andy suggests is an annual sabbatical break. Ideally, pastors should take three weeks off: one for a vacation to spend intentional time with their family, one for time to study something new, and one to plan. 

Now when we talk about a week of study, we don’t mean a week to do some heavy theological lifting.  This is “restful studying.”  It is studying with purpose, of something that you want to learn.  Maybe it’s a new hobby, a new interest, or a new language.  Maybe it’s baking the perfect loaf of sourdough bread, or attending a writer’s conference, or apprenticing for a week as a pyrotechnician.  You’ll need to dream a little to discover what would feel both reenergizing and restful to you.

When we talk about a week to plan, this is not “back in the office, back to normal.”  This is time to spend with God reworking discipleship pathways or revamping the church calendar.  This is an intentional time to focus on leading the church well.

This annual rhythm of renewal ensures that pastors are not just surviving but thriving in their roles. This is particularly important if you are a longer-tenured pastor as we have discussed before.

The Regular Rhythm

Another crucial rhythm is a regular break every six to eight weekends.  This break allows you as a pastor to be out of the pulpit at least every other month.  This intentional break creates time for personal spiritual growth and for family time.  Your church can hear from another perspective and your family gets to have you in a normal role of father and husband instead of pastor.

I can speak to this rhythm personally.  My husband has used the past year to establish a theological training program for men in our church and surrounding churches who are called to preach. Not only has this provided them with valuable knowledge and theological education, but it has also established a pipeline of men who are qualified and equipped to fill the pulpit.  On those weeks when they preach, my husband can focus on something other than sermon preparation. That is hours he wouldn’t have otherwise.  

The Bootcamp dove a little deeper into this subject on a recent podcast, where we shared helpful tools for establishing a similar pipeline at your church and within your context.

The Weekly Rhythm

Another rhythm to implement is the weekly rhythm.  This involves designating one day a week as a true Sabbath day of rest.  For most pastors, this will NOT be Sunday.  Sunday for pastors is just like gameday for an athlete.  You aren’t resting this day– you get up early, preparing and planning, and you are most likely up late, closing up the church after evening activities.  This is a work day for you, and you won’t likely find “soul” rest on this day– even if you’re fortunate enough to get in a Sunday afternoon nap.

When we decided to establish this rhythm, we chose Friday as our day of rest. My husband and I are both fortunate enough to have the same day off since we both work in ministry. You may have to find a different day or use a different time frame (maybe Friday night to Saturday morning). For us, Friday is sacred. Nothing goes on the calendar on Fridays.  We try not to set an alarm or have specific plans unless those things are set aside for an activity that we find engaging in our lives and spirits. Now– it isn’t perfect.  There are Fridays when a hospital visit must be done or someone needs us to be at an event of some sort.  In those cases, we try to carve out Saturday if we can.  But the goal here is progress, not perfection.

The Daily Rhythm

Finally, we have the last rhythm of renewal, the Daily Rhythm.  In this rhythm, Andy encourages pastors to choose two out of three parts of the day (morning, afternoon, or evening) for work and leave the other one for family time.  This intentional approach ensures that the family gets dedicated time and attention, preventing the exhaustion that comes with working non-stop. By planning family activities during specific day parts, pastors can create a healthy balance between ministry responsibilities and personal life.

For example, the pastoral training class my husband leads is every other Thursday night.  Since he will be working on those specific Thursday nights, he takes time for rest that morning.  Or he may take the afternoon to go for a motorcycle ride through the backroads.  When our children were younger, he might grab lunch with them at school on a day he knew he would miss dinner.   

Dividing your day into three parts and leaving one open for rest and renewal allows you to be present with your children and your spouse while still recognizing that there are unavoidable church responsibilities that fall under your leadership and role.

Get Rhythm

Johnny Cash once sang, “Get rhythm when you get the blues.” But here’s a greater truth– get rhythm and maybe you can avoid the blues! Start small and gradually incorporate these practices into your life. The goal is to move from the trap of constant busyness to a sustainable ministry that allows for rest, family time, and personal growth. By embracing intentional rhythms, pastors can model a balanced life for their congregations and lead by example in navigating the demands of ministry. 

If you want more information on pastoral self-care, establishing boundaries, and leading without burnout, be sure to sign up for The Replant Summit in 2024.  You can also check out our blogs and podcasts on these subjects by searching for those topics on our website and browsing the resources listed on NAMB.

What is Working Genius and How Does it Work for You?

Over the past eighteen months, our church has been revising and rewriting the church bylaws.  This has been an arduous, complicated process that took much longer than anyone expected.  The team that took on the project was coed and economically and generationally diverse. We expected to have disparate opinions and different ways of looking at many of the same issues.  We expected to have different strengths and weaknesses as we worked through this important project.

But there was one thing we didn’t expect– some of us felt excited during the same phases that left others feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. For several of us, the project’s initial phase was the most exciting– we loved asking questions and defining what needed to happen.  The possibility of creating a new document for our church that would be used for years to come was so inspiring! The lack of structure and organization during this time felt time-consuming and unproductive for others.  Likewise, some of us felt energized toward the end of the project as we saw all of the hard work come together, and we began to encourage our church about some new directions and ideas.  Others were ready to move on to the next project and wished we could move quicker to the next thing.

Did these differences mean that our team was unsuccessful?  Not at all. These differences are necessary and beneficial!  On a recent episode of the Replant Bootcamp podcast, Jimbo and Bob walked listeners through a new tool called “Working Genius” by Patrick Lencioni.  Though the premise may sound similar to other personality tests and quizzes, the “genius” behind Working Genius is finding out where your team’s skills lie and which parts of a project line up with those specific gifts.

six types of working genius

The Good News: We’re All Geniuses!

One of the best aspects of Working Genius?  We are all geniuses!  It’s true– we all have an area of uniquely talented gifting.  We are more fulfilled and happier when we can work within what we are naturally good at.  In addition to seeing what our skills and gifts say about us, we can also find out where we fit within our team and project phases.  

The Six Types of Working Genius

According to Lencioni, the six types of Working Genius are:

  • The genius of wonder: The natural gift of pondering the greater potential and opportunity in any situation.  People gifted in this area love asking questions and feel creative in ambiguity.
  • The genius of invention: The natural gift of creating original and novel ideas and solutions. People gifted with this genius find joy in taking the challenges and generating solutions. They enjoy innovating from scratch and love a blank whiteboard piece of paper with which they can brainstorm.
  • The genius of discernment: The natural gift of intuitively and instinctively evaluating ideas and situations.  People gifted in this area are good curators of what’s going on around them and can recognize patterns. They know how to connect the dots and give people good feedback across a broad range of topics.
  • The genius of galvanizing: The natural gift of rallying, inspiring, and organizing others to take action.  People with this genius love to get things moving. They’re great at pushing people out of their comfort zones, inspiring them to get started, and moving them in the right direction.
  • The genius of enablement: The natural gift of providing encouragement and assistance for an idea or project.  This genius is people-oriented– they want to help realize a vision and provide the support needed to move.
  • The genius of tenacity: The natural gift of pushing projects or tasks to completion to achieve results. People gifted in this genius are task-oriented.  They love to take things across the finish line, and they ensure that a project is going to have the impact it’s supposed to have.

Project Stages

Every project has a workflow structure that follows a specific pattern.  The initial stage, where we are asking questions and answering with possible solutions, is called “ideation.”  This is the stage where people with the workplace geniuses of Wonder or Invention will feel energized, focused, and most productive.

In the next stage, we have answered our questions and have decided on a possible course of action.  But we are still getting ready for the next step.  We need people whose workplace genius is Discernment or Galvanizing to help us move into activation.  They will help us create “buy-in” for the ideas and ensure we move in the right direction.  The people with these geniuses will be excited to engage others in the work and cooperate with every team member.

Finally, after we ask and answer all the questions, cohesively move toward solutions, and ensure we are heading in the right direction, we are ready for the final stage of the project: Implementation.  In this stage, people with the working genius of Enablement or Tenacity will find joy in checking off boxes, encouraging others in their work, and getting the project to completion.

The Bad News: We’re Not Always Geniuses!

A name tag that reads "Hello I am a Genius"

Lencioni states that each person has two geniuses that fit them well– these strengths allow them to feel the most joy while at work on a project. Each person also has two Working Competencies.  These are the areas where we can perform the work, and we may even find satisfaction in it.  While we might be somewhat gifted in these areas, they do not bring us joy.  We also have two areas that are working frustrations.  These areas bring us– you guessed it– frustration.  These are the areas where we just really don’t enjoy this aspect of a project.  

Unfortunately, we are not always able to avoid those Working Frustrations.  As Replant Pastors, we are often called to work on a project from start to finish, regardless of which stage of the project brings us joy. So, how do we work within those moments of frustration without getting… frustrated?

Finding Einstein

A picture of Albert Einstein

There is this temptation, especially as a Replant Pastor with limited resources and limited people, to believe that you have to do it all.  Everything rests on you.  Each project is for you to accomplish from start to finish, whether rewriting bylaws or redoing the children’s classrooms.

Pastor, here is some truth: You can’t do it all.  If you thought you could, you would quickly discover that road leads to exhaustion, discouragement, and burnout.  (See last week’s podcast episode and blog for some tips to avoid burnout.)  You need other people.  You specifically need other people who aren’t just like you.  You need other geniuses in the room!

I can tell you from experience it isn’t easy to work with someone with a different genius.  If you have the genius of Wonder, you’re going to frustrate someone with the genius of Tenacity.  While you’re asking all the questions, they’ll just want to push forward to the part where they can start doing something.  If you have the genius of Invention, you may feel unsupported by someone with the genius of Discernment who doesn’t think your idea is a perfect one.

But we must recognize that those differences, however frustrating they may be, allow us to work better. Romans 12:3-8 reminds us that God, in His grace, gives us different gifts– but just as important, it reminds us that we aren’t to think more highly of ourselves because of our specific gifts.  We cannot envy someone else’s unique gifts or judge their gifts as somehow less than ours.

I recently attended a symphony concert with my daughter.  As we listened to the incredible music, I never thought, “Man, I wish this was just 150 trumpets all doing the same thing.” As much as I might love to hear the trumpet, the music was beautiful because every instrument was playing its part at the perfect time and volume.  The trumpet player wasn’t jealous of the violinist because it took both of them to create the symphonic sound.  Likewise, the trumpet player didn’t look down on the harpist because a trumpet couldn’t make that sound, which was necessary for the piece. 

Find the other Einsteins in your congregation with a genius that is different than yours– and then work with them on projects to make sure you’re all playing your part cohesively and beautifully for the Gospel.

If you want to take the Working Genius test or purchase it for your team, you can find more information here: https://www.workinggenius.com/about. And if you’re interested in other resources for team building and team strategies, check out our podcast episodes on Leadership Judo by searching the term or by looking at Les McKeown’s work on Predictable Success.

Navigating Consensus Decision-Making: Identifying Challenges and Opportunities

In a recent episode of the Replant Bootcamp podcast, Bob and Jimbo walked us through what it looks like to weigh big decisions.  In that episode (and accompanying blog linked here), we discussed seven steps we can take when making difficult decisions as a replant pastor or leader.  These decisions can be made unilaterally, allowing the pastor to think through his choice and move forward. But many decisions require more than just the pastor thinking through them– they require a consensus of thought from many different voices and viewpoints.  

Consensus is defined as, “a general agreement, [or] to arrive at an agreement about a matter, thing, or initiative.”  And this process of collaborative consensus has real benefit when it comes to unity and support within the church, but it is not without challenges.  Thankfully, Bob and Jimbo are here to guide us.  Let’s dive into episode 216 and look at the challenges and correctives in consensus decision-making.

Obstacle One: 100% Agreement Might Be 100% Impossible

10 Ways To Keep Team Agreements Alive - Hanna Cooper

As I write this, Thanksgiving is two weeks away.  That means it’s time to send the annual “What does everyone want for Thanksgiving Dinner”  family group text.  You might think Turkey Day has a standard menu of Turkey, Dressing (or Stuffing, depending on your regional preference), cranberry sauce, etc.  And in most families, you’d be right.  But not in mine.

I have one kid who hates turkey.  He always requests a small ham.  I have another family member who doesn’t care for mashed potatoes but will eat sweet potatoes.  I have one child who despises green bean casserole and two who can finish the entire casserole dish themselves. I have one person who prefers pumpkin pie and one who prefers pecan.  One who wants corn casserole and one who wants macaroni and cheese. Only one person will eat cranberry sauce.

I am only feeding between 5 and 10 people any given Thanksgiving, but getting all 5 to 10 people to agree on a menu for that day is nearly impossible because everyone has their own preferences. If I wait for everyone to agree on a menu I run the risk of Christmas being here before we can eat.

Church decisions are often like this. One faction wants one thing, while another would prefer something else. If we wait for everyone to agree, we may never reach the place of decision.  

Our challenge is often in seeking 100% agreement in the outcome.  Instead, we need to look for 100% support for the outcome.

Bob Bumgarner, the Lead Missional Strategist for First Coast Churches in Jacksonville, Florida, sees it this way: Maybe we can’t get 100% of the people to agree on 100% of the decision, but can we have 100% of the people agree to 80% of the decision? In other words, can we all agree on the fundamentals so we can support the decision and stand by it without disunity and disharmony? Can we give up our preference for one stroke of the painting to allow for a decision that provides the best portrait?

Consensus decision-making requires us to acknowledge that we may not achieve a unanimous decision, but we can agree on the essentials enough to move forward. 

The First Opportunity Found in Consensus

When we go into a decision knowing 100% agreement might be 100% impossible, we might run the risk of feeling somewhat discouraged.  But there is an opportunity here in this obstacle.  While we can’t guarantee a unanimous decision, we can seek to love each person at the table in mutual submission and grace.  

Ephesians 5:21 states, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  I can push my personal preferences aside when I remember that it’s not about me. We must honor each other as we sit around a table and seek wise counsel. 

In any collaborative decision-making process, there will be opportunities for discussion and perhaps even debate.  In those moments, it is crucial that we remind our people to truly listen to each other.  When we actively listen to someone else’s position, we aren’t looking for new ways to convince them toward our side.  We are instead serving them and honoring them by seeking to understand them better.  

Mutual submission allows each person to not only feel heard and validated, it also acknowledges a very powerful truth: We do not have all the answers.  Spoiler alert: We do not know everything! In hearing someone else’s opinion and truly listening for deeper understanding, we are humbly recognizing that we don’t know it all.

We may not be able to agree on everything, but we can all agree that honoring each person at the table is more important than anything.

Obstacle Two: Desperate Times Make for Desperate Decisions

Have you ever been in a meeting that just… wouldn’t… end…?  I was once in a staff meeting where 15 different staff members were all trying to decide on a solution to a very frustrating situation.  Every person had a valid opinion and every person felt that they were correct. No one seemed to know how to fix the problem.  After 3 hours of back-and-forth discussion, do you know what was finally decided?  Absolutely nothing.  The decision was tabled until the next month’s staff meeting.  

There was just one problem… That situation still needed a solution.  In desperation and frustration, management made a unilateral decision that angered everyone and threatened to induce a mass walkout.  

Their desperation to make a decision, ANY decision, led them to make one that really didn’t solve the problem and instead led to newer, far more serious, problems.  Churches can experience that desperation, too. In our rashness for ANY decision to be made, we can jump into the wrong one.  We can allow the conversation of our preferences, our desires, and our thoughts to become the standard for decision-making.

I know what you’re thinking… But Erin, you JUST SAID we needed to humbly listen to everyone! You’re right.  But there’s one more person we must listen to over everyone in the room: The Holy Spirit.  

If the only standard we use for decision-making is our own flawed human logic, we are bound to fall into desperate decisions that aren’t Kingdom-minded.

The Second Opportunity Found in Consensus

The best decisions we can make are those that honor God: His Word, His Work, and His Way. Our logic, preferences, and opinions all take a back seat to the wisdom that is only found in the Holy Spirit.   

As leaders in the room where it happens, we have a unique opportunity to guide our people toward listening for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  When we remember to rely on God’s timing and God’s provision, we are less likely to jump into desperate decision-making that leaves Him behind.  

When we encourage our members to pray for upcoming decisions, we are reminding them to look for God’s leadership and not just ours.  When we guide our members to search the Scriptures for verses specific to the topic, we are reinforcing our mutual belief that God’s Word is alive and active, even for our “modern-day” decisions.  When we shepherd our members to wait for God’s timing, we are motivating them to remember that He is faithful even in the waiting.

We are strengthened as a community when we remind ourselves that the Holy Spirit’s voice should be the strongest in the room.

Obstacle Three: “I Never Liked It From the Start”

Hindsight bias: the knew-it-all-along phenomenon - Ness Labs

You know the expression, “Hindsight is 20/20?” I know a woman whose hindsight is not only crystal clear, but she will also be happy to remind you that her foresight was, too.  “I was never on board,” she boasts. “I knew this was a bad idea from the beginning.” The problem is, she never says anything in the beginning!  It’s only after a decision has been made and then found to be less than ideal that she finds this voice.  

You might imagine that consensus decision-making would discourage this because there is ample opportunity to speak up and collaborate on decisions.  But instead, sometimes the opposite is true.  In a consensus where everyone is part of the process, there is a challenge for everyone to not only agree with the decision but support it, as well.  

As we said in the first obstacle, we may not all agree on the entirety, but we hope to agree enough on the fundamentals to come to a decision.  But even if we don’t agree with it all, we MUST support it all.  It is imperative that every person involved in a decision-making process leaves the room ready to champion the final option.

We must remember that those of us making decisions will occasionally make a decision that doesn’t turn out exactly how we imagined.  In that moment, we must be able to acknowledge the reasons why and move forward without finger-pointing and murmuring against each other.  The full support of each person in the consensus is necessary for unity and accountability.

The Third Opportunity In Consensus

In Galatians 5, Paul reminds the Galatians to live ”by the Spirit.” He tells them that the works of the flesh are evident.  The first few refer to sexual impurities, but then he mentions, “enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, [and] envy.”  Paul’s reminder is fitting for us, as well, as we think through collaborative decisions. When we walk in the flesh, we are prone to backbiting and dissension.  We allow rivalries to build up and bitterness toward our fellow members to grow roots in our hearts.  We make decisions not out of a spirit of love, but out of pettiness and jealousy.

But when we are led by the Spirit, Paul writes, we bear the fruit of the Spirit, namely, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Imagine being in a room where decisions were made in that kind of generosity of Spirit.  Imagine collaborating with fellow Christians who all listened to each other with those fruits evident in their interactions.  

Now imagine that the decision didn’t work out for some reason, and imagine seeing those same people respond to each other with grace and mercy, the fruit of the Spirit on display as they support each other and encourage each other.

Consensus decision-making can be challenging, but when we meet those challenges with biblical community, we honor God and testify to His Spirit in us.  We see our members grow in grace, love, and unity with each other, and that overflow informs our decision-making process.  We make better decisions with better support and we see a transformation as we do so.

The Local Association and the Local Pastor: Make it A Dynamic Duo

 

Batman and Robin

This past summer, my husband and I were on a mission trip to California.  We were speaking with a replant pastor there and were telling him how surprised we were that their local association listed churches for sale on their website.  We were heartbroken that these churches weren’t being replanted or revitalized.  Instead, the association was selling them for commercial property to the highest bidder.  “That doesn’t surprise me,” he said.  “We have spent the past five years trying to help with replanting and planting churches in this area, but the association hasn’t done anything.  They haven’t invested time, money, or resources.  It seems like the association doesn’t care.” 

We were stunned.

But as we talked about this at the base camp that night, we realized that we had heard those same sentiments over 15 years ago from a different pastor in a completely different context.  We started our ministry journey in 2007, and at that time, we asked the youth pastor at the church we served in what the local association did to assist pastors in the area.  “I couldn’t tell you,” he said.  “I’m not even sure who leads it. We haven’t heard from them since the last pastor left several years ago.” Again, we were stunned.  

These are extreme examples and are not the norm for most associations and pastors.  The vast majority of local associations have leaders who are working alongside the churches in their area and are committed to replanting and revitalizing dying churches.  But for some of our replant pastors, this extreme is the unfortunate, heartbreaking context in which they find themselves. How can we create a partnership that thrives and flourishes? What separates the associations and pastors who have an amazing partnership and those who, unfortunately, don’t?

This week on the podcast, JimBo and Bob discussed how associational leaders can be partners in the gritty and glorious work of replanting dying churches.  They identified the “Seven C’s” of church renewal for local AMS leaders (Associational Mission Strategist, formerly DOM, Director of Missions) and their pastors to navigate the complex oceans of church health.  

What Does Success Look Like?

The very first “C” is the most important.  Without it, everything else lacks clear direction.  Our first “C” is this: Correctly define success.

What does a “successful” church look like?  If your association is celebrating accomplishments and applauding “success,” what metric are they using?  Pastors and AMS leaders alike may be tempted to base success on numerical attendance.  But consider these statistics:

  • A “normative” size church is a church with less than 199 gathered in worship.
  • 91% of all SBC churches have less than 200 gathered in worship on any given Sunday, and 79% have less than 100.
  • Out of all the churches in the SBC today, less than 90 report an attendance of over 2,000.

Mark Clifton defines success at a church this way: A culture of making disciples that make disciples that in turn make the community noticeably better.  

When we base success on the number of attendees on Sunday morning, we are like the couple who goes on a long road trip without deciding who is navigating: We may get somewhere eventually, but we’re going to miss opportunities along the way and we may end up with some hurt feelings before we get there. 

If we aren’t correctly identifying what success looks like, we will miss the opportunity to celebrate God’s faithfulness in churches that are making disciples and positively impacting their communities.  We will look at the church running large numbers and assume that God is doing great work there but will fail to look at the small church that has increased their giving to missions and has built a discipleship program from scratch.

If we fail to define success correctly, we also run the risk of alienating our partnering churches by making them feel insignificant. Our churches will feel overlooked and unappreciated, and their pastors will feel unsupported and alone, a recipe for burnout and frustration.

An Association of Collaboration

Mario and Luigi from the Super Mario Bros franchise

Our next three “Cs” all work together, and that’s fitting because they call us to… All work together!

As an AMS, the networking capabilities are practically built-in.  An AMS has access to one thing many pastors don’t have… Other pastors! Too often, pastors forget that we are all in this glorious calling together.  We get consumed with a spirit of competition between churches.  But the church down the street is not our competition– they are our colaborers in Christ!

While Southern Baptist churches are autonomous and make their own decisions, AMSs have the unique opportunity to encourage pastors to shift from a competitive mindset to a collaborative one by implementing three words: Cooperation, cohorts, and callings.

An AMS can connect a church with resources to one that is lacking them.  AMSs should be continually looking for opportunities to foster relationships between churches, not just pastors.  Is there a church with an exceptional Children’s Ministry? Parter their team with one that is just starting to grow their kid’s area.  Is there a church where discipleship is taking off and people are growing in their faith?  Pair someone from that church to teach the pathway to the church that is implementing a program.

When churches cooperate together, the church up the street stops being an enemy of growth and starts being a friend in health. When resources are shared between churches, each church learns to trust and rely on the other, resulting in a much easier transition if one begins to decline and needs to look at an adoption or fostering process.  One area where this is happening successfully is the Lexington Baptist Association in South Carolina, led by Johnny Rumbaugh.  Johnny has worked with many churches in his association and others by offering a collaborative process by using transitional pastors.  You can hear more about his work on this episode of the Replant Bootcamp podcast.)

Cohorts are another great way for AMSs to facilitate collaboration between churches.  We often use the phrase, “Don’t pastor alone.” This phrase is a key component for First Coast Churches, an association of churches in Jacksonville, Florida where the partnership between pastors and the association is strong and vibrant.  We don’t use this phrase because we want every church to have multiple pastors on staff.  We use it because when the storms of life hit, and they will, you NEED other pastors.  

Cohorts are small groups in which pastors can get together in a safe environment to talk about their struggles, their burdens, and to celebrate their “wins” together.  As an AMS, facilitating those discussions and providing a space for them can make all the difference for pastors who are struggling and on the verge of quitting.  You can engineer a bridge that brings pastors together when the waters get deep.

Another way AMSs can help create a collaboration of pastors is to “call out the called,” by assisting churches to create residency programs.  Small churches are a great place for men who have been called to the ministry to begin serving in that capacity.  Not only are you preparing them for ministry in a normative church, but the church itself benefits by having someone share the work.

AMSs can build a pipeline of pastors who are willing and ready to train others, hopefully with a variety of different gifts. As JimBo stated on the podcast, exposure to pastors and leaders with different gifts allows you to expand your learning and your experience. By building a residency program that utilizes multiple churches and multiple pastors, the association has now not only bridged a gap between pastors but has also given young men the opportunity to serve and to lead in the local church, especially by using these young men for pulpit supply. In Charlotte, North Carolina, Bob Lowman, at the Metrolina Baptist Association has worked alongside pastors in his area to form the City Residency Project to train and equip pastors who are called into ministry. Bob says, “We’re better together. The more we can come together and make this kind of effort, the more I believe we’ll see multiplication happen instead of addition.”

An Association of Comfort

There are going to be times when an AMS will need to provide comfort to a church in their area.  Consulting and crisis intervention are the next two “Cs.”  When an AMS learns that a church in their area is struggling, he can often provide a powerful resource to help… He can provide himself! 

One of the hardest parts of church revitalization and replanting is that churches don’t often realize they’re sick until they’re dying.  Churches need to have someone who can help them accurately diagnose their condition and get them the right treatment.  When an AMS learns that a pastor is leaving his church, the AMS can offer consulting to that church on their pastor search committee, asking them good questions to help them get a clear picture of their health. Not every church will accept this help, but for those who do, the advice and expertise of their local AMS can be invaluable!

Some churches in an association will face a crisis (or many crises)– in those difficult times, having an AMS who can help them walk through their next steps is critical.  The AMS can provide comfort to the church AND the pastor as they navigate exhausting and complicated situations.  The role of the AMS and the association is one of encouragement and reassurance that God has not forgotten them.

two men shaking hands

Celebrating a Beautiful Partnership

I began by telling two stories of unsuccessful and discouraging partnerships between local associations and the pastors they led.  Those stories are heartbreaking because everyone in them is discouraged and is missing out on a “match made in Heaven.”

I don’t mean that lightly– truly the partnership between an AMS and a pastor can be God-ordained and God-sent.  I have seen it to be true in my own life. When we went through our biggest struggle in ministry– one that had us questioning the very call to pastoring and made us feel like quitting– it was our friends and partners in ministry who pulled us back from the ledge.  Our friends were fellow pastors we met through cohorts and collaborations that were created within our local association.  The partnership we had with the local AMS reminded us that we had a network of relationships that supported us and kept us from walking away.  And in that time, our replant truly began to flourish.  If we had walked away we would have missed out on something incredible.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 states, “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

If you are an AMS, you likely have stories of great success where you have seen churches brought back to health through all of the efforts mentioned above.  When you have those stories, celebrate them!  Talk about cohorts that are developing leaders from leaders.  Talk about the pastoral pipeline that offered a struggling church new hope with a new pastor.  Bring pastors to your annual meeting to speak on a panel about the value of collaboration.  Have church members talk about the growth they experienced from joining another church in ministry.  These success stories are your testimony to the work that God is doing in and through your association and you!  As a ground-level partner in church health, your local knowledge and expertise are often the key to ensuring we all navigate these “Seven Cs” of church revitalization even in the most turbulent waters!

Resources:

One of the best resources for AMS leaders regarding replanting, renewal, and church health is the Annual AMS Lab in Atlanta.  This event will be held February 19th and 20th in Atlanta, Georgia.  We will update you with the speakers and registration as it opens!

We also have the Partnership Profile Tool and the Associational Replanting Guide as tools that you can use to assist you as you partner with replant churches in your area.  

And as always, the Replant Team is here to assist you! Leave us a comment and let us know how we can help you in this gritty and glorious work!

Transforming your Ministry: The Power of Congregational Education

Pastor, are you exhausted from trying to craft three or more sermons per week?  Are you overwhelmed with preaching on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights?  What if I told you there is a way to simplify your life while also providing your congregation with multiple spiritual benefits?  The answer is not more sermons, it’s more congregational education.

As a pastor, your time is at a premium. You are busy– I probably don’t need to tell you that!  But imagine if you could align your Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday nights in a way that allowed you to spend less time preparing sermons and more time engaging with the Word. Instead of three separate sermons, you could focus your energy on the theological application your church needs.

For many of the people in our congregations, there is a belief that because they have listened to countless sermons in their lives, they are theologically educated.  However, if individuals engage with theology solely through sermons, their spiritual growth might be constrained.  Sermons, by nature, are limited.  There is a time limit (the average attention span is not everlasting), and there is a limit to how much wisdom we can impart through monologue (lecture-style teaching) versus dialogue (discussion-based learning).

In this week’s podcast, Bob and Jimbo discussed the numerous benefits of congregational theological education and how to implement theological training among your congregation.

The Benefits of Congregational Education

two men studying their bible together

Congregational education is not just about aligning your workload to be more effective. There are multiple benefits for your congregation, as well.  

  • A deeper faith: Theological education deepens our understanding of our faith, equipping us to navigate the complexities of life and engage in meaningful dialogue with others.  
  • A more unified faith: Biblical unity is inherently theological.  When a congregation studies theology together, they experience greater unity because they share a common understanding of their faith.  
  • A more mature faith: As your congregation studies the Word, they grow in understanding of it.  They become better disciple-makers and better leaders.
  • An empowered faith: A well-educated congregation is mission-oriented.  They understand the need for evangelism and they engage in their faith in a new way.
  • A transformed faith: When members learn to actively engage with God’s word instead of just passively reading it, the Word comes alive to them.  It stops being words on a page and becomes a lamp unto their feet, and like honey to their mouth. (Psalm 119)

How Do I Provide Congregational Education?

multiple people around a table with their bibles open for study

OK, I hear you saying it– you understand the benefits of congregational education, and you recognize the need for it… But how do you provide it without being overwhelmed with a new task on your already long to-do list? By aligning it with your Discipleship program, Sunday morning sermon, and your leadership pathways. 

At our church, our discipleship pathway encompasses Sunday morning worship, small group bible study, one-on-one discipleship, and leadership development. This is not radical or new, nor was it our invention.  It’s simply aligning all congregational education under one umbrella. As our members grow in their faith, they move into deeper theological understanding, culminating in making new leaders who are equipped to be sent out to assist other churches.  We do this by providing multiple educational resources.

At your church, in your setting, this may look different than it does at ours.  There is no one-size-fits-all approach to educating your members.  For you, it can look like any of the following:

  • Structured Biblical Training: Offer training on each book of the Bible.  Provide the context, intended audience, and theme of each book, from Genesis to Revelation.  Encourage the members to read the book together, and to discuss specific verses in small groups or discipleship relationships.
  • Collaborative Biblical Training: Utilize the resources you have within your local association.  When you go to conferences, bring some lay members with you.  Connect with other churches and use guest speakers to conduct workshops that would provide theological education for all members.
  • Online Biblical Training:  The Replant Hub from NAMB has countless resources on apologetics, evangelism, replanting and revitalization, and biblical education. Utilizing these online resources for your small groups to study might allow you to recognize possible conflicts before they arise. Right Now Media provides tools for your church as well, from the smallest members to the more “seasoned.”
  • Engage with Other Faiths: Explore other religions and their beliefs.  We did a Sunday Night study on other religions that included their backgrounds and beliefs, but also allowed us to educate our members on apologetics and how to share their faith with people of that religious affiliation.
  • Dissect the Creeds and Confessions of Our Faith: If your church is Southern Baptist, dig into the Baptist Faith and Message and help them understand why we believe what we believe. If your church is of a different denomination, look at your creeds and go through those step by step with your members.
  • Daily or Weekly Prompted Self-Study: Utilize your church’s app or email and have members sign up to receive a daily or weekly prompt that gives them a chapter or verse to study on their own and to write down their thoughts.  Use this as a starting point for small group or discipleship discussions.

Recommended Resources for Beginning Congregational Education

an open bible with a blue highlighter for studying and making notes

No Silver Bullets by Daniel Im: This book underscores the importance of studying, not just reading, God’s word. It reveals how in-depth Bible study can be the most impactful spiritual discipline, positively affecting all other aspects of faith.

99 Essential Doctrines: A comprehensive resource to explore the core doctrines of Christianity.

The NAMB Replant Resouce Hub: This site has many blogs, podcasts, and books for replanters to “dig in” with their congregations.  Incorporating your church into the vision builds unity and is a hallmark of leading change effectively.

When we teach our congregations to truly study the Word, and not just read the Word, we engage them in Bible Study with us.  You can preach a sermon series on Sunday morning that aligns with the Scripture you want to study on Sunday Night, then allow the small groups to dig even deeper on Wednesday night.  You can break down the Word in each space, allowing for discussion and engagement with the Scripture that fosters a greater understanding of it.

We know it can be difficult to plan ahead when you can only see what is required in front of you. However, being intentional about your church’s educational growth is a way to help deepen their faith for the future stability of your church’s discipleship plan.

Weighing Heavy Decisions: 7 Steps for Better Decision Making

three arrows pointing in different directions that say decision, right, wrong

Early in our marriage, my husband and I were offered an opportunity to move from our home in Georgia, where he was born and raised, to a new job opportunity in Virginia. We had a very hard time making the decision.  There were advantages and disadvantages to both moving and staying.  I made a list of pros and cons, which were roughly equal.  We prayed but hadn’t received a clear direction.  

Finally, while we were on our official visit to Richmond, my husband and I jokingly talked about “throwing out a fleece,” Gideon-style (Judges 6:36-40). We were in a mall outside of town, just killing time between meetings, and said, “God, if this is what you want for us, let us run into someone we know here.” We were very casual about it, and I don’t think either of us was very serious. Within minutes of making that joke, we ran into (literally– I bumped into him) our deacon from our church back home.  He happened to be in the area for a company conference and was just killing time between meetings!  We were shocked– and at that point, our decision became easy!  We moved to Richmond and spent a wonderful two years there.

But not every decision has such a clear and direct answer.  Often, pastors in a replant or revitalization must make difficult choices that directly impact their congregations.  How can we determine the best course of action when faced with these weighty decisions?  Is there a way to know the “right” and “wrong” answers?  What steps can we take so that we can say, as David does, “I sought the Lord, and he answered?” (Psalm 34:4)

Bob’s Big Move

On the most recent episode of the Replant Bootcamp Podcast, Jimbo and Bob discussed decision-making in light of Bob’s recent announcement.  Bob will be transitioning off the Replant Team at NAMB and heading to a new adventure, partnering with and working for threeonethree in Nashville, TN. (Don’t worry, though– Bob will still partner with the Replant Bootcamp, so we aren’t losing him!)

In their discussion, the guys identified seven helpful steps to take when weighing decisions.  You may not have a crystal clear answer after following these steps, but by leaning into them, you can know that you’ve followed a clear purpose and plan in your choice.

Step One: Pray about the Decision

James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” When praying over a decision, we are not merely asking God to give us a clear answer.  We are asking for His wisdom and His guidance.  This seems like an obvious step, but I’m always surprised at how often I talk about a decision without actually praying about it.  Sometimes, I realize I’ve gotten everyone’s opinion about what I should do without asking God for His wisdom.

Step Two: Spend Time in the Word

When considering a big decision in our modern world, sometimes we forget that scripture still speaks to us. We might think we must read the latest book, blog, or article while overlooking God’s Word. But we must look to God’s word for wisdom and discernment before we seek man’s.  While we are not Biblical characters, there are biblical examples we can study for guidance. There are also areas where the Bible gives clear, specific directions that we must obey.  When we are in daily study of the Bible, seeking God’s guidance, He may reveal warnings and commands that lead us to a decision.

multiple block with different arrows pointing in different directions

Step Three: Take Enough Time

There is so much pressure to make decisions quickly– it sometimes seems everyone is pushing for an answer immediately.  Too often, we rush to decide out of worry that if we don’t do it quickly, opportunities will pass us by, or people will become irritated.  And while there are time limits on many types of decisions, we must acknowledge this truth from Proverbs 19: “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” When we rush into a decision, we risk missing the mark because we haven’t taken the time to examine it honestly. 

Step Four: Get Some Perspective

Bob referred to this as “walking around the issue,” and I think that’s the best analogy I’ve heard in a while. See the decision not only from the perspective of the decision maker but also from the perspective of those affected by it.  Think about what impact the decision will have in the immediate, but also what the future effect will be.  Taking the time to see the outcomes from every angle will inform your decision, but it also shows others that you care about the consequences of it.

Step Five: Seek Wise Counsel

In this step, I want to focus on a specific word: “Wise.”  Sure, there may be friends who can offer encouragement and support, but when you have a tough decision, you need to seek out those friends with biblical wisdom to help. When deciding whether to stay in a secular career or go into ministry full-time, a well-meaning friend discouraged us from God’s calling.  “You’ll be broke; how can you support your family?” And while this came from a place of love and concern, it did not come from a place of biblical wisdom.  Proverbs 11:14 reminds us, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” Surround yourself with people who will give you biblical counsel as you weigh your options.

Step Six: Let it Marinate

Take some time to sit with the decision.  During this time, just be still.  Remind yourself of the truth of Psalm 46:10. “Be still and know that I am God.” Stop striving.  If you’ve taken all these steps, now is the time to just sit with God and trust that He is God.  God is big enough to handle the outcome of your decision.  Confirm your decision in your heart and sit with it quietly before you announce it.  Let it settle into your soul.

arrows that say this way, that way, the other way

Step Seven: Decide!

We have moved across multiple states three times in our marriage.  Each time, we weighed the pros and cons and talked endlessly about whether or not the decision was the “right” one.  At a certain point, we had prayed about it, looked at all the angles, read every scripture we could find, and threw out every fleece…But eventually, we had to move, both figuratively and literally.  We couldn’t sit still.  We had to trust in God’s word in Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  We trusted that He had a plan, and we just needed to follow it.  Sometimes, we weren’t sure what the future would be like, but we knew our next step, and that was enough.

One Last Note

Pastor, as you weigh decisions big and small, let me encourage you to remember that God has never experienced shock or surprise.  God is not floored by this decision, nor is He tying Himself in knots, wondering what will happen.  If we believe that God is in control, let’s trust Him to know our next steps and guide them.  There will always be unknowns and challenges down the road, but they are not surprises for Him.  Rest in knowing that God is ordaining your steps and follow His leading.

Replanting Partnerships with Hispanic Churches- Are You Missing an Opportunity?

We hear a lot about a post-Christian nation and a post-Christian culture. Studies have shown that Christianity, especially practicing Christianity, where church attendance and biblical discipleship are customary, is on the decline in America. But did you know that there is a group of evangelicals that is actually increasing?  Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic of evangelicals in the United States. As replanters, if we don’t have a plan in place to partner with our Hispanic brothers and sisters in our community, we are missing an opportunity to reach the next generation with the Gospel and to see a glimpse of Heaven while we do it.

A Hispanic worship service

Struggles for Hispanic Speaking Congregations

Jimbo and Bob spoke on the most recent podcast with Dr. David Quiroa, pastor of Valley Baptist Church-Espanol in Bakersfield, California. David has been a guest on the podcast before, and shares much wisdom on how English speaking congregations can partner with Hispanic communities and churches. David shared that one of the biggest struggles Hispanic speaking congregations have is that they often don’t realize replanting is an option. Their congregations have had only two choices for the past generations: grow or die.  While the initial generation who moved to the United States may thrive, they lose the second generation (those who are born in the United States or were very young when they arrived), so the church often only lasts for the duration of a generation. 

Another challenge Hispanic congregations face is a need for more resources, something with which many replanted English-speaking congregations can undoubtedly identify! While churches in Texas and other places with high Hispanic populations are thriving, there are currently no Hispanic churches in places like West Virginia. (That was shocking to me as I listened!  A whole state of Spanish-speaking people in the United States is unreached!) 

Hispanic congregations are also mislabeled as “Mexican” congregations, when in reality, there are 20 separate countries where Spanish is the native language, not to mention regional and cultural dialectical differences within those 20. David, for example, pastors 17 different nationalities within his church.  As a pastor, he has to contextualize his sermon for multiple ethnicities and be aware of cultural and social differences.

What Can Your Church Do?

A handshake

Now that you know the need for replanting and revitalizing Spanish-speaking churches, you might wonder how your church can meet that need.  There are some steps you should take before you place a sign-out front advertising services in Spanish and brush up on your Duolingo app.

First, you must exegete your community.  If you haven’t done that, the Replant Bootcamp has access to resources available to help you.  Our Free Demographic Report can assist you as you try to sort out what the community around your church truly looks like and believes. The address of your church is not an accident– those people are your church’s responsibility.  You will most likely find a more significant population of Hispanics in your community than you originally thought.  And that number is set to grow nationwide.  By 2060, the Hispanic population in America is expected to grow from 60 million to over 110 million.  

Next, prayerfully consider which model for church partnership you will use to reach our Hispanic neighbors. There are typically two types of replanting partnerships for Hispanic congregations– the first is a “1 building, 2 church” model.  The English-speaking church offers their facilities to the Spanish speaking congregation. The churches operate completely independent of one another, with separate budgets, staff, services, and congregations.  Each assembly treats the other like a mission field.  This partnership offers the Hispanic church a place to meet to reach the Hispanic community around the church, with the vision that they will grow and be able to “launch out” from the English speaking church at some point in the future.  

The second model for partnership is a “1 building, 1 church” model.  In this model, the Spanish speaking service is part of the English speaking church.  They operate as one church with two services, one in each language.  Their pastor is on staff with the English-speaking church, and the congregation is one with each other.  Typically in this partnership, the Spanish speaking service and the English-speaking services will combine for church wide events and fellowship.  This type of partnership offers the chance to replant a new type of church in your community that bridges the language gap between neighbors.

And finally, seek out a person of peace.  We’ve talked about a person of peace before as a powerful tool in reaching the community.  Is there someone in your congregation who is fluent in Spanish? Or perhaps a person in either community with ties to both?  This person can help you navigate the cultural differences and also introduce you to the Spanish speakers around you.  You will need to build relationships and get to know people to know what their spiritual and physical needs are and to understand their culture.

Revelations 7:9 tells us that Heaven will be filled with every tribe, every tongue,  and every nation singing praises to the Lord.  We can catch a glimpse of that here on Earth when we make reaching other nations a priority in our replant.  We have the opportunity to impact not only our generation and our culture with the Gospel, but also future generations and cultures.

Upcoming Summit News:

We hope you are planning to attend the Replant Summit this weekend in Alpharetta, GA at NAMB headquarters.  We are excited to meet each of you and to have a time of renewal and refreshment.  We are also offering a new resource this year: some one-on-one time with 2 very skilled counselors.  

If you are a struggling pastor who needs some Godly counsel and biblical prayer, you will have the opportunity to register for a time of one-on-one conversation and prayer with Pastor Jim Parrish of Shepherd’s Help. Jim has been helping pastors for decades and is an awesome resource for any pastor who needs an ear to listen.

And, if you are a pastor’s wife who will be attending the Summit and you need to speak with someone, you will be able to register for time with Dr. Darlene Dryer of Renewing Her Biblically.  I have been on the receiving end of Dr. Dryer’s wisdom and I can tell you from experience, ladies, she is an absolute treasure.  You will not want to miss the opportunity for her to speak life into your situation and apply biblical wisdom to it.