EP 211 – YEAR THREE-STAYING THE COURSE
Greetings Bootcampers! Bob has settled the annual bet, donning the LSU pajama top once again as his Hogs lost to Jimbo’s Tigers. After the football banter the boys get down to discussing the reality that year three in a church renewal can be challenging and difficult making you want to leave. We break down some ways to look at the challenges and the years and we encourage you to preach, pray, love and stay.
Here are the highlights:
Yr 1 – Who are they, and who am I?
- Pastoral visits
- Self-Awareness and Growth
Yr 2 – I think this is going to be hard
- Conflict-this isn’t what we want it to be
- Stop changing everything
Yr 3 – I think I made a big mistake?
- the dip and double dip (attendance and finances)
- self doubt and spiritual warfare
Yr 4 – Okay let’s make this work……and get to work
- Develop a plan and work the plan
- Love and laugh
- Cry and grieve
- Execute plans not people
Yr 5 – 7 head down, celebrate victories, learn from mistakes, Pastor and love the church you have….
- I see the light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not a train or Jesus calling me home.
- People choosing to be part of your church because they found it and like it
- walking in the confidence of the Lord, he’s got you and this.
Here are some other podcasts which are worth a listen.
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JimBo Stewart: [00:00:00] Here we are, back at it again. Back at the bootcamp. Bob, I hope you’re ready for the next episode. And this is the episode where you get to wear the tiger pajama top.
Bob Bickford: Yes, Jimbo, once again, for the third year in a row I believe, I’m wearing The pajama top.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, you know, it looks good on you. It makes your eyes pop. Well,
Bob Bickford: Well, I am a winter, so dark colors look good on me. You remember that? Do you ever, did you ever do that? You’re probably too young. what that is. When I was in, uh, I think I was in high school, maybe, maybe college. People would code you based on the skin tone. no. But I was, I was called a winter, which a winter. A winter, which means that I look good in oranges and bright colors and blacks and those pastels. Nah, you know, if it’s pink and I’ve got a tan going, I’m looking pretty good.
JimBo Stewart: Oh, [00:01:00] you can rock the pink.
Bob Bickford: I can rock the pink.
JimBo Stewart: I mean, it is breast cancer awareness month. You
Bob Bickford: That’s right. It is, isn’t it?
JimBo Stewart: should be wearing pink,
Bob Bickford: right? Yeah. Yeah.
JimBo Stewart: Well, it was a hard fought game down to the wire. Like it often is. I was in Arkansas with my family, watching it, yelling so loud. my parents literally, between me and my sister, they knew it was going to get pretty raucous.
And so they literally, like, text their neighborhood group and was like, Hey, we’re just going to apologize in advance, if it gets a little too crazy. If you start to get frustrated, just come over, make a plate of food. and then talk to us and let us know if we need to quiet down.
Bob Bickford: Right, so you, you guys beat us by a field goal, right?
Last second, she ran the clock down and you know, I, I mean, you hate to lose by a field goal. It’s part of strategy. we missed a field goal, I believe, and so that could have been a, a little bit of a difference maker had we made that field goal, but you know, it was what it was.
JimBo Stewart: Arkansas is circling the from now on.
Bob Bickford: really well. No, Arkansas is circling the toilet bowl, Jimbo. We are really, really
JimBo Stewart: you guys beat Ole Miss?
Bob Bickford: Their offense just put up lost by Okay.
JimBo Stewart: Chance to catch it there in the last drive and just didn’t make it happen. but it was like an insanely high scoring
Bob Bickford: Yeah, I remember turning you texted me and I was preparing to preach here. We’re in Tulsa.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. It was like, well over a thousand of yards between both
Bob Bickford: Unreal. an
Alabama flag flying outside of
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. Yeah. It’s been, you know, I, as a matter of fact, I told Josh Wiley, he was probably gonna get another shout out this week. one for that, you know, we talked about how to. D. Crimson
Bob Bickford: tie
JimBo Stewart: your house, and you know, 24 hour marathon of games of Alabama losing it may, you know, [00:03:00] there may not be 24 hours worth, but, you find that, you know, and then Alabama fans, I think, hate Tennessee fans and Auburn fans more than anyone.
So you just bring over a couple of Auburn fans, Tennessee fans, let them cry War Eagle and play Rocky Top and it’ll drive out all the Crimson Tide spirits.
Bob Bickford: Yes.
JimBo Stewart: I told you the other reason you get a shout out is I’m blaming LSU’s loss against Ole Miss on him. Because right towards the end of the game, LSU’s driving and it looks like they could pull off this win.
And Wally texted me, hey could you tell your guys to hurry up because they’re not putting the Alabama game on until this game is over.
Bob Bickford: Oh gosh.
JimBo Stewart: And we were winning when he texted me that. And then it all went downhill. And Ole Miss won. And so I told Wally it’s his fault. That’s, that’s why L s U
Bob Bickford: He broke the momentum. He put some juju on you. And, we’re going to hold that against him and all of the Crimson Tide.
JimBo Stewart: Absolutely. Well, all right, let’s move into the topic. We could probably talk football [00:04:00] for way longer than anybody wants to listen to on this podcast. what do you, what do you wanna talk about today, Bob?
Bob Bickford: Well, I was having a great conversation. We’re here in Tulsa and I was talking to Pastor Mike Lehew, who is the pastor of Church Inside Out, which is a replant partnership between his church, Church Inside Out, and Red Fork Baptist, and uh, so we were just having a conversation, and one of the things he said to me, Jimbo, is, you know, it’s been really challenging.
the past season in ministry. And I was like, you know what, tell me about what’s going on. And so he did. And I said, Oh yeah, well, you know, you’re, heading into year three. And, uh, my own pastor shout out to him, Aaron Halstead of mid cities, Maplewood. he is in it fully squarely in year three and, uh, is experiencing the same thing.
And so this is the faithful. three year mark, that that guys encounter and they wonder if it’s normal. So I thought it might be helpful for us just to remind the guys. And [00:05:00] we’ve talked about this off and on in our podcasts from a number of different ways. But how do you make it to the three year mark?
But then also, how do you make it beyond the three
JimBo Stewart: mark?
Yeah, I mean, I, I was actually having a conversation about this recently with somebody and was talking about how, I mean, pretty consistently, year three year, maybe year four, maybe mid to late year two. Somewhere in that part of the process, you’re gonna hit something. You know, my father-in-law has been pastoring.
for a very long time. And he said the pattern that he has recognized is every 18 months, you’re going to hit a speed bump. But every three years, so two of those 18 months is when you’re going to hit something really hard. and so it’s like 18 months is going to be a speed bump. The next 18 months mark is going to be.
and then you’re going to hit another one. He’s, that’s what he’s experienced. And so there seems to be some consistent observable patterns in how human beings operate [00:06:00] in this. and so we’ve talked about that some, if you harken back, we can link them in the show notes. We did an episode on the emotional cycle of change and we did an episode on the vision adoption cycle.
And I think in both of those, we talked a little bit about how some. Social sciences have pointed out just when you’re leading change in general, when,
uh, anything like that, there is a little bit of a cycle and a process to how people receive that, which may give some insight as to why year three becomes a little bit problematic.
but first you got to get to year three. Jimbo,
Bob Bickford: it to year three.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. Right. Yeah.
Bob Bickford: He endeavors to lead the church, makes it to year two, maybe year three. And then what does he do? [00:07:00] He, he challenged, uh, he encounters a challenging time and then he leaves. And then you have another year, to recoup, to find another pastor. And then that pastor maybe gives three years. And so you’re right at a decade almost.
trying to help a church move forward. And if you string a couple of those three year cycles together, it’s no wonder that a church has 20 plus years of decline.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. David Jackson was doing a, interim training with me in Dallas recently. he was doing all the interim training. I talked about some other things. David is in his 20th
Bob Bickford: Amazing.
JimBo Stewart: And, he was talking about one church that, the interim pastor that they had. Was the longest tenured pastor the church had ever had
Bob Bickford: interim pastor?
JimBo Stewart: it wasn’t david it was another interim pastor the interim pastor is the longest tenured pastor in the history Of the
Bob Bickford: And how long had he been the interim pastor?
JimBo Stewart: I mean, I’ve heard of that happening. I don’t know. There ought to [00:08:00] be like a thing where you’re like, you’re no longer the interim.
Bob Bickford: That’s an ensconced interim, not a intentional interim. And I think that begins with an E, doesn’t it?
JimBo Stewart: It
Bob Bickford: does. Okay. I’ve
JimBo Stewart: also heard of the intrusive
Bob Bickford: Yes. I’ve coined that
JimBo Stewart: But I mean, yeah, pastoral tenure. This is one of the reasons we say if you’re gonna go. Five years minimum, right? You gotta get them through whatever that year three, four hump is. Stabilize on the other side of that. And then really, what we’ve also observed, is that’s when you really start to be able to live out being people’s pastor.
I mean, obviously, no, the day one, you’re the pastor of the church.
but you don’t really fully get to live that out in the relationships and your leadership, till about year five. And I think all of this stuff’s connected. I think it’s connected to, like, you have to kind of show them you’re going to stay through that year three trouble.
You’re going to see them through and lead them through that year three trouble and stabilize it on the other side. And, and [00:09:00] it’s through that that you start to earn credibility and are able to really then lead as their pastor.
Bob Bickford: Mm hmm. So what I want to do is, is kind of walk through years one through five.
just to kind of in a general way, maybe make a couple of points and and kick this back and forth. So let’s talk about your one year one here. Here’s really what’s going on. You’re asking who are they? And then you’re finding out who you are, too. So it’s who are they? And who am I? So, you know, What do you do?
Pastoral visits are key in that early season. You’ve got to go visit the people, visit them in their homes, at their places of work, spend time with them outside of church, just to get to know them. And then what I would also say, Jimbo, is you are probably figuring out who you are as a pastor. Now, this might not be your first rodeo.
But if it’s your second, third or fourth, you’re going to be a different pastor in a different context. And so you’re going to take some lessons learned. You’re going to have some, some wounds that you’re trying to get healed up. You’re going to have some mistakes that you made that you don’t want to repeat.
And so a lot of [00:10:00] that you’re trying to, to always practice or should be. Some self awareness and some growth, right? What did I do in the last church that I don’t want to repeat? What did I do that was really good that I want to capitalize on? And so I think in year one, you’re just doing a lot of that stuff.
Discovery is what I would say. Discovering who they are and discovering who you
JimBo Stewart: I guess it’s a good point. I, I like how you point out that even if this isn’t your first rodeo, You are not the same pastor, and this is not the same context. And so you can’t run exactly the same playbook, that you ran somewhere else. And you’re, you’re gonna have to take some time to get to know. I mean, this is where we lean into the characteristics of organizational awareness.
We’re gonna spend some time getting to know the organization, understand the organization, and, the context that it’s in. the pastoral visits, man. Especially that first year. I don’t know that you can underestimate or overestimate how
important those are
to just face to face, having some conversations, hearing people’s [00:11:00] stories like Johnny Rumbo does in his interims.
You know, what’s your Jesus story? What’s your church story? and just getting to know who the sheep are that God’s called you to shepherd and the community God’s called you to be a missionary
Bob Bickford: Mm hmm. Yeah. So here’s year two.
I think this is going to be hard. That’s the phrase I’m used to hearing. So here’s what’s going on in year two. Uh, you’ve probably experienced some conflict maybe at the end of year two, maybe at the middle, maybe at the beginning. and part of that conflict is year two, year two, you’re now probably changing a couple of things.
Uh, you’re kind of leaning in, you, you’ve kind of seen some things that maybe, you know, the, the bulletin, maybe the order of service, maybe something about the kids ministry, you know, whatever it is, you’re going to start changing some things. And whenever you change something, change is always viewed as a loss to those who experienced the change.
And everybody’s okay with change until it has their personal address on it. Right? So they’re going to resist change. And then sometimes in year two, [00:12:00] when you are leading the church forward, Jimbo, I’ve seen this happen. You might have a big conflict or two with people who realize that they’re losing their grip of power and on the congregation, right?
They might have played nice in year one. But when you have a conversation with them and they’re trying to influence you and you say, Mmm, I don’t think we’re going to do that, right? Then, hello, get ready, you’re probably going to buckle up for some, some, probably some of your first significant conflict
JimBo Stewart: two.
Yeah, so this would correlate, I think, to Emotional cycle of change that we talked about how you start out in uninformed optimism, right? So year one, you’re in that uninformed like, this is exciting.
You’re loving the people, loving the community. Year two is maybe the informed pessimism.
Bob Bickford: pessimism. Yes.
JimBo Stewart: Now that I’ve been here a little while, I realize just how hard this is actually going to be. I quoted you at the interim training and uh, one of my favorite quotes of yours [00:13:00] is most pastors new pastors think they’re going to change the world and then they change the bulletin and almost get fired
Bob Bickford: Yeah. And that’s not original with me. I picked it up somewhere. I don’t know, but
JimBo Stewart: I mean i’ve heard it from you and i’m just i’m claiming it as a pick
Bob Bickford: for Okay, well, we’ll, we’ll make that, so let it be said and done
JimBo Stewart: All right, so year two and then we start to hit into year three
Bob Bickford: Yes. Now I’m a Seinfeld fan and, uh, if you, uh, watch Seinfeld. You know that there was a phrase that Jerry would use occasionally in a few episodes. And he would say in kind of a funny voice, I think I might’ve made a big mistake. Right. He would say it really fast.
I think that’s, that’s year three Jimbo, where you go, I think I made a big mistake. Right. Where you realize this is going to be, Oh, this is. I think I made a mistake. Right. And what was I thinking and all those sorts of things. So here, here’s kind of some things that can happen in year three. You can experience a slide in attendance and a slide in finances.
And sometimes [00:14:00] Jimbo, it’s not just an initial slide. Sometimes it’s the double dip, right? It’s like the first loss in both attendance and finances. And then maybe it stables out and then
JimBo Stewart: a second
Bob Bickford: the second loss. So that’s what we call the double dip. And here’s what I experienced in, in. Um, that season misery, a lot of self doubt.
I don’t think I can do this. And then also a lot of spiritual And, and I don’t want to minimize that, that, that there’s something about year three where spiritual warfare just really cranks up. and, and then when you’re around your pastor friends at the association or state convention or the national convention, you don’t want any of them asking you about how it’s going at your church.
JimBo Stewart: Make the mistake of isolating, just because you don’t want to answer that question. Right? Like, how are things going at the church? Well, Bill, they’re horrible.
Bob Bickford: I had to cut my salary. We have the worship leader tried to lead a coup and I had to [00:15:00] fire him. And we’re dealing with a lot of spiritual warfare. So other than that.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, not even sure I still want to do this.
Bob Bickford: to answer
JimBo Stewart: You know, it could almost be like a Saturday Night Live skit of like, what if pastors answered that question honestly at association and convention meetings,
Bob Bickford: Yeah,
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I mean, year three and look, we’ve referenced this several times on this podcast, but, Man, it’s consistent, like just consistent as we travel across the country and we talk to people and hear from people over and over.
There’s this, like, I just gotten aware now when I start to talk to a guy and he’s telling me about his woes, like one of my first questions is like, well, how long have you been there? And I mean, I’m going to, I’m going to make up. an observational statistic. For, for me, in my experience, it’s been like 90 percent of the time, it’s year 3.
I mean, 90 percent of the time, when I ask them, it’s, I’m in my third year. Like, so then I’m able to at [00:16:00] least bring some comfort, like, hey, brother, I have some good news. This is not unique to you. This is year 3. Hmm. And they’re always looking at me confused and they’re like, no, but this is a pretty unique scenario.
You’re right. Whatever scenario you have is, is unique. Yes. The timing of it is not unique. Yes. This is, this is what happens. This is, I mean, over and over and over. So if you’re listening and you’re year three and you’re starting to feel it, like just know, it’s not necessarily that you screwed everything up like this, this, it is just part of the process.
Bob Bickford: I love how you said that, that, that is, it’s not you, what you’re experiencing is unique to you, but the timing of it is not
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
Bob Bickford: It’s, and, uh, so deem in study, uh, alert, thesis alert.
If you are out there and you are. enrolled at one of the many institutions that’s offering a demon in church revitalization. Can I just, can we just ask you as a bootcamp listener, why don’t you study the phenomenon of year three, right? We’ve we’ve got the outreach things and we’ve got the, you know, evangelism training and [00:17:00] we’ve got all those other things.
We’ve got the Sunday school, you know, revitalization. We need the year three survivability.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. Yeah. We need PhD level
Bob Bickford: Yeah. Yeah. So you guys get on that.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, somebody get on it.
Bob Bickford: get on it.
JimBo Stewart: I’m done with school.
Bob Bickford: yeah.
JimBo Stewart: and even listeners, like, we would love to hear, like, what have been your year three experiences? And if it wasn’t year three, was it year four? Or were you just a better pastor than us?
Bob Bickford: We’ll give you the microphone.
JimBo Stewart: got to year seven and no issues whatsoever. man, praise God.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. Yeah. All right. Let’s jump to year four. year four, here’s the phrase I use to describe it. Okay. Let’s make this work and let’s get to work. Right. So here, here are some things that are key in year four.
One is by this time, you probably have a plan for bringing renewal and health and vitality to the church. So. Get the plan and work the plan. Right. I would also say this, love and laugh, like love these people, right? [00:18:00] Um, you probably have weathered a few departures, uh, some that you, you know, were, were hoping would leave.
And then some that you were hoping wouldn’t leave. But by this time, even the people who were there that you had doubts about that stayed there, love them, right. Get to know them. And then here’s what I would also say, laugh as often and as much as Right. Eat together, have fellowships together, spend time together, go to ballgames together, you know, do picnics together, whatever you can do just to spend time enjoying one another’s love and laugh.
Here’s another one that goes along with that cry and right? Jimbo. I think sometimes we move past our grief too quickly. And when we move past our grief too quickly, we don’t realize that life is filled with ups and downs and a lot of And sometimes we just need to grieve, right? We need to grieve that that we’ve lost friends or that people have unfriended us from Facebook or that this was not how we thought things were going to go.
And it’s a [00:19:00] loss. And so grieve that fully and faithfully. And then, what I would say is this execute plans. But don’t execute people.
JimBo Stewart: That’s good. Yeah, you know, I think on the grieve, I think sometimes we Either swing to one extreme or the other, and we either just move past grief and ignore it, or we just sit on it for way too
Bob Bickford: long.
JimBo Stewart: and so, try to recognize, have some self awareness of what extreme you might lean into on that, and lean away from that extreme. whatever it is, like if you, if you, here’s what I’d tell you. If you’re like me, and you have a tendency to just ignore the grief, and just keep running. what I have learned is it will hunt you down.
And if, what, here’s what I’ve learned about big emotions, with, especially with grief and things like that. you either have to deal with them head on, or they will pick the most inopportune time and place to take [00:20:00] over.
Bob Bickford: Hmm.
JimBo Stewart: Like, if, and I haven’t just observed that in my life and others, like, if you decide I’m just going to push this down, I’m just going to push this down, like, they’re just going to pick, like, the worst time to just be like, oh, nope, you’re dealing with me now.
Bob Bickford: What, like physically and emotionally or every, every way?
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, so like, what I hear, so for me, what happens a lot of times, it will lead to a sinus infection.
Bob Bickford: Okay.
JimBo Stewart: So, legitimately, if I’m stressed, and I just ignore my stress, I will end up with a pretty bad sinus infection. what I’ve seen with some other people is they will, not process their stress or emotions at all.
And then all of a sudden they’re in the middle of like something that should be good, or just normal, and they just lose it. Like, and they just, their emotions just all come out. That stuff has to come out, somehow. and so, you gotta deal with it. The other thing I would say, I love your list here, You know, love and laugh, have a plan, make it work.
love the people that are there. I think that’s part of even how you get through year three.
Bob Bickford: Mm hmm.
JimBo Stewart: I think maybe, [00:21:00] sometimes. A small contributor to the difficulty of year three is in your mind as a pastor, you kind of want to pastor a different group of
Bob Bickford: Yeah, absolutely.
JimBo Stewart: And you’re going, I really thought we’d have a different.
type of congregation by now.
Bob Bickford: now. Thought we’d be cool and hip and
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, we would be more like me. They’d
Bob Bickford: be…
JimBo Stewart: No, like, you start, and so, you gotta, you gotta love the people God sent you. Like, or you think, man, I’d have all stars and I’m gonna have a residency and I’m gonna be training up and sending out church planters like crazy. And, that may just not play out that way. And, I think part of how you get through As you recognize, well, these are the people that God’s called me to love and shepherd. And so, this is who I’m going to love and shepherd.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, let’s go. years, five through seven. I just want to combine these, right? Because sometimes that’s the years five through seven are pretty, pretty similar. Here’s what I want to say. Walk in the confidence of the Lord,[00:22:00] That’s a pretty profound statement in a simple statement, but. Here’s what you, you likely have learned at this point.
God has his church in his care and God also has
JimBo Stewart: you in his care,
Bob Bickford: So what does this look like? I think what it looks like Jimbo is when you show up on Sunday and something’s crazy has happened. Toilets overflowing or the tech guys not there on time or the worship leaders late or you know, whatever crisis you experience, It doesn’t freak you out because you’re just like this, not that big a deal.
Right. And what we don’t realize is that it’s not about the show of Sunday and the transitions. And if everything’s like, you a 10 plus, it’s about being the people of God together in that place and worshiping God and hearing the scriptures read and taught, praying together and having people respond to the work of the Lord as [00:23:00] it happens in that Sunday gathering.
Right. That’s what’s about. Right. And so what I would simply say is at years five, seven, and I love when I see guys do this and I loved, I loved my years five through seven where I could just walk in the confidence of the Lord. I could show up on Sunday and walk among the people, listen to the people, not be freaked out about things.
Pastor that volunteer or that leader who’s freaking out a little bit about things and say, Hey, we were going to be fine. Like just relax. We’re going to be fine. And then what I think Jimbo is that translates. into your congregation because what it does is it builds culture, right? And here’s the picture.
I always, in my mind, I always think about Jesus in the boat when the storm was raging. What did he do? Well, he’s taking a nap, right? And then everybody’s freaking out and they wake him up and they’re like, don’t you care, Lord, that we’re going to die. And, you know, he’s just, he’s
JimBo Stewart: pastor, which pastor, you know you’ve prayed a prayer like God,
Bob Bickford: But Jesus, he’s like, [00:24:00] Oh man, you are, you have so little faith. Right. And then he just speaks a word and the storm goes away. Right. I really get the sense of sometimes. in our churches that if we are walking in the confidence of the Lord, we’re like Jesus among a group of people that are freaking Cause you think about it, you’ve got parents that are battling their two year old, you’ve got there, you’ve got middle aged adults that are trying to figure out what they’re doing with their job or their aging parents. You’ve got marriages that are just hanging on by a thread and everybody comes to church and everybody is And as a pastor, when you’re walking in the confidence of the Lord and you’ve made it into those years, you can simply just be a calm presence that exudes confidence in not only of yourself, but in the sovereignty and the faithfulness of God. And so what I would say is when you get past year four, if it bleeds into year three, man, just relax and be confident in the Lord in years five and seven.
And here’s what will happen. The culture in your church will notice and it will be wonderful and [00:25:00] awesome. And people will not want to miss because God is there and he’s present. And it was not that he wasn’t there before. But you might be in a position where you’re able to point people to Jesus in the midst of crises and storms because you’ve endured him
JimBo Stewart: because Do all things without grumbling and complaining or grumbling and disputing. And as I was studying to prepare for this sermon, what hit me is He’s not talking actually about don’t complain. Don’t complain is a result of walking in peace and contentment and depending on the faithfulness of the Lord.
and fearing and trembling God appropriately and following Him. And when you do that, you can have that kind of peace that can handle the storm, that can…
The [00:26:00] reason Jesus could take a nap in the boat is because He feared and trembled God, the Father, not the storm. And because the storm feared and trembled Him.
Bob Bickford: and trembled him.
JimBo Stewart: and that’s the God we serve. And so we don’t have to get overly, stressed out about the circumstances.
Be a success in whatever definition you’ve come up with there. we trust in the Lord, um, and lead the people well. I mean, I think, I think that’s a good word. I think, and just see that light at the end of the tunnel. With, if you’re in year three, and put your head down, do what
you know you’re called to do, and trust in the Lord.