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Hope you had a great 4th of July-we’re back at it this week talking about something that every Pastor, Replanter and Revitalizer needs to get a handle on: Formal and Informal Permission. What is it? Check out the definitions and discussion below.

Formal Permission: the act of garnering approval via a recognized and agreed upon process for a decision or action. Like these examples below.

  • Bylaws
  • Policies
  • Committee meetings
  • Business meetings

Informal Permission: the leadership skill and insight which recognizes the power of influence and influencers and knows that forward progress often moves at the speed of relationships

  • Every church has influencers, gatekeepers – they are the ones who everyone looks at when a discussion turns to a point of decision or is considering killing a sacred cow.
  • These aren’t necessarily “problem” people – they are often faithful process oriented folks who have made the hard decisions or assumed the important role of keeping the church legal and alive.

Keep this in mind:

You can’t ignore the processes and expect to have the support of the congregation

You have to know the processes and policies and work within them (even if you want to change them)

You gain the opportunity to change them – by working in them and then suggesting or proposing a better way

  • Is this decision making structure leading to the accomplishment of our mission?
  • Is this decision making structure hindering the accomplishment of our mission?
  • How might we more effectively make decisions on important matters?

Forward progress often moves at the speed of relationship and trust.

Need some help with Bylaws? Check out the Bootcamp EP 92 with the Baptist Bouncer, Craig Culbreth to brush up on your bylaws skill.



Make the decision today to take your church website up to the next level by contacting our great partners at One Eighty Digital. They can have you up and running in no time.

Show notes powered by Descript are an approximation of the verbal content, consult podcast audio for accuracy and detail.


JimBo Stewart: [00:00:00] Here we are back at the bootcamp, Bob. I hope you’re ready for the next episode on one of the nation’s leading podcasts or church replanting, according to the Southern Baptist convention, 2022 book of reports, I’m gonna milk that for all it’s worth.

Bob Bickford: You are man all the way until maybe the next following year. Whoa, that’s fun though, man.

JimBo Stewart: So I don’t even know if anybody’s gonna listen to this this week is everybody’s gonna be, they’ll catch up on it at some point. we are batch recording here, ahead of time because we’re all gonna be on the road, all kinds of places in. So this one should come out. July 6th, just a few days after independence day.

we are still a little unclear on our July 4th plans. Normally our tradition is to go to my SI oldest sister’s house in Aiken, South Carolina, just north of Augusta, Georgia. And spend it there. They’ve got a great house in a, in a [00:01:00] great neighborhood. That’s like the neighborhood does this fun neighborhood firework show around the lake.

And it’s just awesome. And, but with everything going on with my youngest sister and her brain tumor, it is possible if not likely that we will end up in Arkansas spending some time there, with her. And so we will either be in South Carolina or Arkansas or on our way, probably on our way back from one of those two, or just gotten back when this podcast airs we’re we’re in the world heirs.

Where, where in the world will the Bickford’s be for July


Bob Bickford: Jimbo. We’ll be right here in Webster groves, Missouri. And that’s one of the few weeks that we are actually in, uh, in. And, we’ve got some, some vacation and then, some other things are, they’re taking us out, but you know, Webster, groves does the fourth. They do a really big parade on the fourth and, firework shows and all this kinda stuff.

Well, it’s not gone without some controversy here in the fair Burg of Webster. yeah, we, so every, every [00:02:00] year there’s some kind of uproar about some parade entran. a float, people walking and you you’re okay to walk in the parade. As long as you have a culturally approved message. Should you stray outside of those bounds, then there will be articles written about you in the newspaper and in the Facebook communities.

And you might even make it to the city council meetings where people ask that you not be allowed to March in the parade again, if you have a message contrary. So, so you just never know what, how, how the webs are preed is gonna go this year. I, I imagine this could be a lot of fireworks before the fireworks.

If you know what I’m saying, so my youngest is coming in town. her roommate from college is gonna come in town and, and, uh, so we’re gonna do the parade. We’ll probably do some cooking out in the backyard. We, we probably will invite some neighbors over and then, we’ll catch the fireworks. And so, that’ll be, be a time.

And so we’re trying to train Daisy, the pup. She hasn’t been mentioned on a couple of [00:03:00]podcasts, But Daisy, the pup, we’re trying to make sure that she’s gonna be desensitized to fireworks our other dog about had a heart attack. Every time fireworks would, come around. But Daisy doesn’t seem to be scared of anything Jimbo, which is

pretty good.


JimBo Stewart: Yeah.

So how do you, how do you, how do you, train a dog to be ready for fireworks? Do you like wake them up with,

Bob Bickford: Pretty much no, according to the Internet’s Jimbo, what you do is you find a fireworks, display that’s online, maybe YouTube or something, and then you, you stream it over your Bluetooth speakers and you just crank it up and you just.

JimBo Stewart: Yeah, that is much less involved or dangerous than what immediately came into my brain.

Bob Bickford: and then while that big booming sounds going off, you just feed the dog treats and speak in a nice pleasant voice to the dog while, while the fireworks are going off. So we’re, we’re probably in, uh, entering into some days where our window of desensitization needs to [00:04:00]engage at full speed.

JimBo Stewart: Yeah. Yeah. Here on the west side of Jacksonville, the only controversy is, was that fireworks or was that gunshots?

Bob Bickford: Yes

JimBo Stewart: so the game we start playing in late June, early July. West Jacksonville. So one of the things you talked about to, to transition us beautifully into our topic for today, you were talking about the parade and Webster groves and how there is a formal and informal process of who who can get to be in the parade.

And if you upset everyone informally, you might get reprimanded formally in

Bob Bickford: Yeah. Yeah.

JimBo Stewart: session. Man we’ve been diving into, I would say almost a master’s level, discussions here recently on organizational health, church health leadership of the church. And, as we are leading change, one of the things that you brought up, offline as we were talking about [00:05:00] this together is there really is kind of two ways that we get permission to move.

And we kind of, there are informal. Formal ways to get permission, to get things going. so talk to us about what is the difference? what are the difference between those two things?

Bob Bickford: Yeah, let me give you a definition for formal permission. So formal formal permission is the act of garnering approval via a recognized and agreed upon process for a decision or action. Right? So that’s kind of a textbook sounding type of definition, but this is bylaws jumbo. It is policies and procedures.

It’s committee, meaning, guidelines. It is business meaning guidelines, right? So we are in a. We’re working towards a particular task and we have to decide how we’re going to decide something,

right. and it’s a couple weeks ago, that’s what we experienced in the Southern Baptist convention, you know, and there would have this thing called point of order, right.

Where people would [00:06:00] say point of order, I think we’re doing something that goes against the way we are supposed to. Conduct a business or have discussions or make decisions. And so there would be a ruling and people would be, uh, point of order. Well taken. Yes. Thank you for pointing that out. Or they would receive a ruling point of order, not well taken.

Right. Which means, yeah, that didn’t, that’s not gonna fly. Right. And so what it enabled us to do, whether we agreed with it or not is enabled us to do what we were called there to do, to, to move forward with the decision. So in a church, Jimbo, here’s the deal. You really have to understand re planters, most declining churches operate by business meeting principles and Robert’s rules of order and they do business meetings and you cannot ignore the process of decision making and expect the support of the congregation.

Like you just can’t do it. Right. You just can’t go outside to those GA bounds. Right. And it’s not gonna work.

JimBo Stewart: Hey and give a shout. I wanna give a shout out. We should put in the show notes. last year, around the time as [00:07:00] convention, we had on the Baptist bouncer himself, Dr. Craig Colbert, who is a Floridian here, works for the Florida Baptist convention and is one of the parliamentarians for the Southern Baptist convention.

Uh he’s. He is the guy who stands behind you and taps on your shoulder. If you take too long. And, he is a friend of the bootcamp. We had an episode with him last year and he walks through how to

Bob Bickford: Yeah, I love what he just talked about. There, there is a, there’s a, there’s a way to do it in a way that helps everybody move forward, but there’s not a rigidity in it that we would expect in, in the sense of. There’s he provided some great guidance. So we’ll, we’ll definitely link those show notes.

The other thing I would say is, rep planers have to know the process and policies and work within them, even if you want to change them, right. Especially if you want to change them. So, one of the things that is great about. Going to replant is [00:08:00] you get to figure out all the things that need to be worked on.

So you never show up at the office and go, I’m not sure really what I’m supposed to do. right. You just, you just never show up and go,

JimBo Stewart: [00:00:00] Yeah. I recently, overheard two church planters talking to each other one had been a church planter. I mean, I, I don’t know what point you quit being a church planter and just become a pastor.

Bob Bickford: I don’t know, we need a line there. We’ve gotta define that, but it’s, it’s outta the purview of our, uh, it’s not in order.

JimBo Stewart: yeah, so one of those, one was a friend of mine. Who’s been a church. He planted a church. Eight years ago. And the other one was brand new, who, who started right for the pandemic. And he, it hasn’t or right in the pandemic and it hasn’t grown a lot yet. And he said to what I would call the legacy planner.

he said I’m at that point of church planting where I don’t have enough members for me to do a whole lot. So I’d love to just go get coffee and chat for a while if you want. And it like blew my mind. I was like, I, I, I, I cannot remember a moment of pastoring where I’ve. I, I got nothing to do.

Bob Bickford: Oh man.

JimBo Stewart: I can’t like my daughter asked me the other day, what do you do when you get bored?

Dad? And I was like, man, I, [00:01:00] I don’t know that I can remember the last time I was bored. so yeah, I mean, as a re planter, there’s always plenty to work on and maybe changing the bylaws, or the, your policies and structures is one of those things that you need to be working.

Bob Bickford: Yeah. And let me give you a couple of questions. Uh, I’ll give our rep planers some questions to use in thinking about. Having demonstrated a willingness to work within the systems that exist in the, by use the bylaws that, are presently active in the church. Here’s some ways to ask questions about them to lead towards changing them.

Right. Here’s the first one is the decision making structure is this decision making, making structure, leading to the accomplishment of our mission, right? Here’s the one that’s related to that is this decision making structure hindering the accomplishment of our. And I’ve told the vacuum cleaner story, but basically we needed to buy a vacuum and we didn’t have enough people.

So we had to wait an extra month to officially buy a vacuum at the replant. This was the, this was the early days Jim. I was a month in. Right. [00:02:00] And so we were able to say, you know what, the way we’re making decisions here is not super effective. Right. And then here’s the question that gets you working together with leaders who you’ve garnered their respect.

You ask them this, how might we more effectively make decisions on important matters? Is there, is there another way we can make decisions on important matters? What I’ve found is is that most often the people want to participate in decision making the big. The big decisions, but not every decision.

Now, some people are gonna listen to this and go, yeah, well, you don’t know old bill who goes to my church now. I don’t. I know, I do know old bill, right. and old bill does want to, he wants every, like every Inver, like he just does. Right. But ultimately. Most people are not like old bill and just want to gum up the, the works and stick sand in the gears.

Right. They, they just want to know the big decision. So we often talk in the replanting world about the big four. If you can get your church to agree in the future, having [00:03:00] demonstrated a willingness to work within the policies, the, the bylaws and the procedures that exist, if you can get them to agree to only voting on the big four, which would be this the call of the senior pastor, should there be a vacancy?

The annual budget, which also really represents the ministry plan for the. acquisition or disposition of property or debt, and then any enduring changes to the constitution of bylaws. If you can get everybody to only agree to vote on the big four, then what you can see is the committees and leadership teams and that decentralized leadership group that we were talking about last, you know, last couple episodes you empower them to do what you’ve.

Approved that they would do within the budget and also within the existing governing documents or the bylaws. And so then it streamlined your decision making and then you could go to monthly business meetings, or you could go to, quarterly business meetings.

JimBo Stewart: Yeah, there might even be an initial rejection of like, man, I don’t even, I don’t even, you know, what is Roberts rules of order? Why are we letting that guide us? We’ve got scripture. I would just say, man. [00:04:00] Times in the book of acts, especially where we see like acts chapter six when there is debate over, if people, if the widows are being fed, in a fair manner, I think even maybe a better example, acts chapter 15, called the Jerusalem council.

Where there’s this theological debate over Gentiles. And what happens with Gentiles as far as how Jewish does a Gentile have to be, to be a follower of Jesus and, Paul, who is not ever short of his own opinion, Submits himself to a structure and a system. Right. And he goes back and there’s this kind of council and there’s, and that doesn’t give us the details on how the meeting went and what a point of order would’ve looked like, in that.

But it does give us an example of their moments when conversations, decisions are so important. That we can’t just go off our intuition or hallway conversations. I, I said [00:05:00] this in the episode we had with Craig Colbert, no meeting has ever made me more grateful for Roberts rules of order than the Southern Baptist convention.

there’re just so many people in that room. If we did not have a clear structure, it would be chaos. and, I mean, it already could feel like chaos

sometimes. Even with the structure. but even in our, there are so many meetings. I, there are me several meetings I led as where you plant pastor that I now wish I would’ve paid more attention to a proper order of how to run a business meeting, just to make sure that people get a voice and that things are, are done well in a way that we make the right decisions together.

yeah, you’ve gotta know those and here here’s the other thing I would a caveat I would give you understand. in America, the way that we work, your bylaws are legally binding.

 And, man, you gotta be careful if you start operating outside of your bylaws, um, Man, you could get in some hot [00:06:00] water, like, and it can, it can turn ugly really bad.

and so even if you do it right according to the bylaws, you can get into some legal processes, but if you’ve done it according to the bylaws, then you’re protected. and you get, you get to court and somebody decides they’re gonna Sue you because of the way you did things and don’t act like that doesn’t happen.

It happens. then your bylaws are, if you just will operate by the bylaws, that that will protect you.

Bob Bickford: Mm-hmm , let’s talk about informal permission. So informal permission. Here’s a way to think about it. It’s the leadership skill and insight, which recognizes the power of influencer and influencers. And knows that Ford progress is off that Ford progress often moves at the speed of relationships, right? So here’s the deal.

Every church has influencers or gatekeepers, and they’re the ones you can always identify them here. They’re the ones that when a discussion in the church, body or team [00:07:00] or committee, when it turns to the point of decision or is considering. A step in a forward direction. That’s different from preservation of the past.

Everybody waits till they speak, or everybody looks at them. You have just identified the person of influence. Now they may be in a position of influence, but oftentimes they’re not right. They’re just a person of influence. So now one thing to think about Jimbos they’re, these folks are not necessarily problem people.

They are certainly process oriented folks. And oftentimes they’re the ones who have potentially spoken up or participated or suggested the hard decisions. That have kept the church moving forward or alive or thriving. They’re they’re the folks who are, are trying to care for the organization in many, many ways.

Now there, these also sometimes can be a dysfunctional person who wants to keep the [00:08:00]church from moving forward. Right? So you have to discern, is this person part of the problem or are they part of the solution just in terms of they really care about the church and they want to help the church maintain, uh, its viability.


JimBo Stewart: Yeah. And so it’s so important to distinguish that. And then, and then either way, approach it with discipleship. If they are a problem person of man, rather than just booting them or ignoring them, build trust within their relationship. Steven Covey wrote a book, called, the speed of trust. And he talks about how in organizations really, we can’t, we cannot be.

And he is really addressing this kind of informal, permission piece in that book. And he talks about how in organizational leadership. We can only go as fast as people trust us. and, he says, there’s a quote he says in there, I just found it. I love it. He says in a high trust relationship. So when, when we build high trust in those informal relationships, you [00:09:00] can say the wrong thing and people will still get what you were trying to mean.

in a low trust relationship, you can be very measured, even precise, and they’ll still misinterpret you.

Bob Bickford: yeah.

JimBo Stewart: It’s so true. and so this is, this is even where that platform and table stuff comes, right? Like you need to consistently be the same person in the platform as you are around the table. and you need to build trust as you pastor people, as you disciple people, as you shepherd people. And if you’ll build trust, then when you inevitably misspeak and you.

You will misspeak. It will happen. They’ll they’ll go with you. They’ll trust. You they’ll know what you were meaning or they’ll ask for clarification, but if you only do platform. If that’s all you do is lead from the platform. Then you’re not engendering trust amongst your people, just from the platform that requires table leadership.[00:10:00]

And, and if you don’t build that trust, then man, and we’ve all seen it. It does not matter how clear you are. It will get misinterpreted. for sure, man, I got receipts. I could tell you stories

Bob Bickford: Absolutely. I’ve consulted that church, man.

JimBo Stewart: yeah.

Bob Bickford: been in there, right?

JimBo Stewart: Where you say it and you’re so clear. I mean, you look back at what you said and you go, no, that I couldn’t have said that any clearer, but they still are gonna misinterpret you.

And so just to tie this back in of how, why it’s so important to build trust around tables.

Bob Bickford: Yeah, just look at your own marriage. There’s probably happening. That’s happened

before your own. Hey, let me give you three tips, to, building connections with informal permission people. Right. Here’s the first one, spend time getting to know them on their turf. Right? Whatever their turf is, it’s their house.

I had a, a, a guy that was the, the gatekeeper, the king of [00:11:00] informal permission, getting this guy named Claris. And, and I would just go spend time with him in his kitchen table and would talk through things with him and, and, really. Began to appreciate him, even though we were like just complete polar opposites.

Uh, but we developed a strong relationship. So get to know him, mother turf, whether that’s kitchen table, the garden, the workplace coffee shop, wherever it is. Second dialogue about the church with him dialogue now, not monologue. Not cast vision, not just dialogue. Right. So dialogue is, Hey, what do you think about where the church is?

Or what are some of the things that are challenges that, that you have faced in the past with the church? And what are you thinking we’re facing now? Like asking good questions, right? Getting that two way dialogue going. that’s super important cuz every. Church that has a new pastor knows most likely that that new pastor has vision and strategy and wants to do some things, but they’re not quite sure they trust him yet.

Right. So it’s really important to go in and, and ask those questions and dialogue about him. [00:12:00]Then I would say this love them, man. Love him. They’re there for you. Uh, they are, wanting to see the church often wanna see the church move forward. What they’re not for is you just running loose and doing whatever the heck you want to do.

right. They’re just not because they’ve spent time protecting the church, right. From possibly, you know, pastors who, for whatever reason, didn’t have the best interest in mind and had an agenda in mind, or were unwilling to work with them and develop relationship. So they feel a sense of ownership and protection to, and, and in the right and in the rightest way that I, I could convey not, not in a.

Let’s preserve it and not make any changes, but they just want the people in the church to, to be well cared for or loved and led well. And so therefore you doing that. So, man, love them. Get to know them. It’ll start loving you and then you’ll build a relationship with an informal permission giver. And I think it’ll go well for you.

JimBo Stewart: Yeah. I mean, this all ties in so well to the conversations we’ve been having about platform and [00:13:00] table leadership. the, I would say the formal stuff is largely platform, right? The formal stuff is not entirely, in committee meetings and stuff like that is, is when it’s still, it’s kind of that from the platform type mentality and knowing that it’s important to do that.

but even. Understanding that it’s, it’s really important to sit around the table and spend time getting to know people on their own turf, making it a dialogue and not a monologue, and listening to them. And here’s what I’d say is when it comes to informal permission, let’s make sure that we actually are listening.

To feedback, right? And that this is not just let me convince everyone of what I think needs to happen. but really do go with a loose grip and, and be open to people, improving the idea that you have, because they have a different perspective and insight than you do. And there’s, there’s a real value in not just getting [00:14:00] permission, but getting their perspective as.

Bob Bickford: That’s great. I love it. Don’t just get permission, get perspective. And then that will really help, you understand where they’re coming from and I think it will make the church, and your, it will make your leadership stronger, but it has the potential to make the decisions that you make together in a.

In a position of unity, even more God honoring and more profitable for forward progress.

JimBo Stewart: Hey boot campers. We would love to hear back from you on your thoughts on this, which you’ve seen work and not work. Any feedback, questions, pushback that you’ve got. Cookie recipes, whatever you’ve got. we would also love to see you at the replant summit next month. Replant You’ll see the.

The schedule, the speakers, registration, registration will probably the time that this podcast goes, be closing soon. and so make sure to go ahead and register replant some It’s gonna be a great time, Bob and I will both be there. We’d love to see you, and get to meet you in person. If we have not already.[00:15:00]

formal permission, informal permission, leading change, permission, platform and table

Jimbo Stewart

Replant Bootcamp Co-Host

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