EP 214 ASSOCIATIONAL LEADERS AND CHURCH RENEWAL
Hey there Bootcampers! We hope your Fall ministry season is going well. Today the guys tackle the subject of Associations and church renewal. Both Jimbo and Bob are firm believers in the relevance of the local Association and recommend any church pastor considering engaging in Replanting or Renewal connect with the AMS and other Pastors in their local Association.
Here’s how AMS leaders can serve the churches in their area.
- CORRECTLY DEFINE SUCCESS:
- Normative size church is a church with less than 199 in gathered worship.
- 91% of all SBC churches have less than 199 in gathered worship
- 79% have less than 100
- Every SBC pastor who preached to more than 2000 would fit on a regional plane. The could bring their spouses and fill a 737
- Less than 90 churches reported over 2,000
- Every SBC pastor who preached to less than 200 would fill a major league stadium
- COOPERATION: Cultivate a culture of cooperation instead of competition.
- Churches in need of replanting will be far more open to receiving outside help from a church that they already feel they have a relationship with. Find ways to get churches to do things together – not just the pastors – but the congregations.
- COHORTS: Another way that associations can help is to help their pastors grow in their leadership together through cohorts. Bring pastors together to learn together. Help equip them to be better pastors – but it is important that they do that together to help cultivate the community and culture of cooperation like I mentioned before.
- CALL OUT THE CALLED & CREATE RESIDENCIES: We also can help churches setup residencies to train up men called to ministry so that we have guys ready. We can also help older pastors think through how to pass the baton well, maybe by having them help train up pastors in a residency to pass the baton to.
- CONSULTING: Associational leaders can also help their churches by consulting and coaching them.
- Help them define and face reality
- CRISIS INTERVENTION – Part of this is stepping in when crisis happens.
- Interim pastors
- CELEBRATE: When you have a great story of revitalization or replanting – share it – celebrate it
- Partnership Profile Tool
- Associational Replanting Guide
- AMS Replant Lab Feb 19-20 registration opens soon
JimBo Stewart: Here we are back at the boot camp, back at it again. Bob, I hope you’re ready for the next episode up there in Nash, Vegas.
Bob Bickford: Jimbo, I am, I’m been in the midst of cardboard boxes and unpacking and I’m trying to find a lot of things, but I have my three monitors set up and I am ready to go. We’ve got Google fiber, so I’m, I’m pumped. We’re ready to roll.
JimBo Stewart: Well, your internet will definitely be faster than mine. I am sitting in the Hilton Garden Inn, in downtown Jackson, Mississippi. in old Mississippi. my home state. tomorrow morning, after the recording of this, two days prior to this episode’s release, I will be speaking to a gathering, a statewide gathering of associational leaders, from Mississippi, right before their state convention.
So, if you’re hearing this, and I didn’t see you, and you were at the Mississippi State Convention, Man, that’s a bummer. I tried to see it, but I didn’t get to catch it, so. I will try to catch as many people as I can, in the couple days that I’m here, so.
Bob Bickford: Everybody needs [00:01:00] them little Jimbo, you know, Jimbo, I, I do want to bring back a report when we rolled into the rent house here in, East Nashville. There was no Alabama flag, which I was
JimBo Stewart: Oh, good.
Bob Bickford: so I put up, uh, put up an American flag and Josh Wally, or messaged me on Facebook and said, how’s the flag?
so I, showed him a picture of the American flag that I, uh, put up and I’m, then, uh, I found Jimbo. I found a vintage International harvester hat that I texted Wally today and said, I’m going to send this to you. Send me your address. So there you go.
JimBo Stewart: Nice. Well, I’m glad you did that. I couldn’t do that this week. I can’t be friends with Josh Wiley again until November 5th. you know, a lot of schools get Bama Hate Week as they prepare to play Bama, for LSU, we get two weeks usually, cause we usually take our bi week right before Bama, and, you know, it makes me feel good, Bama typically takes their bi week before LSU, and so we are now in two, Two weeks of Bama Hate Week, and I really can’t be friends [00:02:00] with Wally again until after the Bama game.
Bob Bickford: Well, I’ll support that. And I’ll affirm that. And, I just want to let you and the listeners know, and in case, you hear a train in the background, Jimbo, we, we live like just a block from the train tracks. And I’m going to tell you, they roll through here at 4 45 AM. At 5 45 a. m. Sometimes a couple times during the day.
And then right now, uh, it’s about 8 0 3 p. m. So we’ve got this train and I think like an 1130 train. And so, um, I think I was for the first time I slept through one this morning. And, I think I’ve acclimated to that, but most of the time Jimbo, I will not have to set my alarm clock.
JimBo Stewart: There we go. Hey, look, you might hear a train on this side too. The hotel I’m in right next to. Like, I could, I could jump out the window and just jump on the train if I wanted to. so if we
don’t hear it on your side…
Bob Bickford: Well, if you do that, I put that live video, video that on your phone. I want to see that. If you do, if you decide to do
JimBo Stewart: I’ll just go on Facebook Live as I head out the
Bob Bickford: there you [00:03:00] go, there you go. Awesome.
JimBo Stewart: so, I’m talking to associational leaders here in Mississippi, and I was talking to brother Jimmy Thornhill, who asked me to come do this, and, about what? And based off of that conversation, here’s what I’m going to ask you to do, Bob, is, I’m going to ask you to, to be my workshop and bounce this off with me tonight.
This is what I’m, thinking about sharing with the guys tomorrow morning. he essentially asked, they understood, the guys that I’m going to be talking to understand they’re associational leaders. So even if you’re not an associational leader, I think this could be helpful for you. Associational leaders.
that understand church revitalization, want to see churches revitalized, but they want to know, a lot of these guys, how, what’s, how do I do this? How do I lead my association to see a movement of church revitalization and replanting happen in my association? So, I’m going to give you seven C’s.
We’re going to sail. The seven C’s of church revitalization and replanting in a local association or a network of churches, either way. and these are also things, a lot of these things you can think through in your [00:04:00] own church as well.
Bob Bickford: Well, I love alliteration, and because I’m a good Baptist and so we love alliteration. And so, I do not want to ever sail in the sea, because Jimbo, I’m afraid of, just very deep water and sharks. But I will sail these seven seas as we think about our good friends in the association. So Captain Jimbo, lead us away.
JimBo Stewart: Well, you know, you don’t have to be that scared of sharks. They’re not that big of a deal. You know, I hear all the time, you know, Such and such kills more people than sharks every year. Do you know vending machines is one of the things that kills more people than sharks every year?
Bob Bickford: Yeah, I think Maggie, Maggie discovered that, right, the other
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, so is dressing up as a vending machine for Halloween because it’s scarier than a shark. And,
so next time you walk by a vending machine, just be like, Whoa, whoa, whoa, shark, don’t kill me. Uh, you know, you know what else, you know what else kills more people than sharks every year?
Bob Bickford: Taco Bell.
JimBo Stewart: Maybe. Chiropractors.
Bob Bickford: [00:05:00] Chiropractors
JimBo Stewart: Chiropractors kill more people every year than sharks.
Bob Bickford: kill people?
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
Bob Bickford: Alright, well
Barb loves to go to the chiropractor. She loves to go to the chiropractor. She’s cheating death.
JimBo Stewart: He is. I mean, continually. Well, look, let’s cheat death. Let’s sail the seven seas. Let’s jump into it. I think one of the first things you’ve got to do is you have to correctly define success. of the things we do when we start talking about church revitalization is we all maybe have a little different picture of what success looks like in that and unfortunately a lot of times it means a smaller version of what big churches do or being a big church So this is some stats that we kind of give out.
This is an updated Version of some kind of a rundown we’ll often give when we go around and talk to churches and networks, so i’m just going to rattle off some stats and then I want to hear your feedback So, we talk about normative sized churches a lot. So normative, here’s some stats. Normative sized church is a church with less than 199 [00:06:00] in average gathered worship.
So, let’s break it down. 91 percent This is the most recent stats we got from DoubleDoc, Josh Dreyer. 91 percent of all SBC churches have less than 199 in gathered worship. 79 percent have less than 100. So if you took every Southern Baptist pastor who preached to more than 2000, you could fit them on a regional plane, not even a big plane, a regional plane, and they could bring their spouses.
And then you could put them on a 737. You know what? Cause it’s less than 90, less than 90 churches. reported over 2, 000 in the last year. I think it’s actually 89, uh, reported over 2, 000. So, but if you took every Southern Baptist pastor who preached to less than 200, you would fill a major league stadium.
Matter of fact, the number that Dreyer gave me, on that specific stat was 36, [00:07:00] 409 churches. In the Southern Baptist that reported less than 200 in average attendance.
Bob Bickford: Man, every time I hear the latest iteration of those statistics, I’m just reminded. That the SBC, the Southern Baptist Church, church family is a collection of normative size churches that dot all across North America. And we attended one today that was, you know, there might’ve been 80 to 90 folks there.
Maybe that might be pushing it a little bit, but Jimbo man is a good spirit and they are, here’s the one key thing that I would want to say about this. This area needs a church and there are not, there’s not a space in this community. for a mega campus for, for a church. It’s a community, right? And so, I think if we’re, some of our listeners are out there that are struggling with size and thinking about, you know, are they significant?
We just want to tell you, if you are a normative [00:08:00] size church and you’re running 80, 90, a hundred, 200, you are the majority of the SBC. So take heart brother.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. And so I think when we define success, I think we’ve got to go, I love, well, we bring it up all the time. Clifton’s definition is a culture of making disciples that make disciples that in turn make the community noticeably better. So getting a church to focus on making disciples and serving their community.
with the gospel, is a win. Whether there’s 15 people there, 30 people there, or 30, 000 people there, it’s, are we making disciples and are we on mission? So let’s correctly define success. Let’s make sure we’re doing that. second C, cooperation. I think as an associational or network leader, but even if you’re not that, if you’re a local pastor, you can, you, I mean, they can’t do this without you.
how do you do this in your city? You have to cultivate a culture of cooperation instead of competition. And so one of the things required in replanting and even helpful in revitalization is for churches to [00:09:00] help churches. Now, the problem is we typically don’t try to connect those things until the church is in deep need.
And now we’re having to have this awkward conversation of, Hey, we, let’s get this church to help you out. What if, Bob, what if instead that was just our normal culture in our city, in our community is that churches were already doing stuff together. So as an associational leader, I think you, or even a local pastor in your community, I think you have an opportunity to help cultivate this kind of culture of let’s do this together.
Let’s do. Mission stuff together. Let’s do worship stuff together. Let’s pray together and not just the pastors a lot of associations are good at doing this with pastors, but if you can do that with the congregations as well Bring like figure out ways to get congregations, especially in in their area, but even across the community Because then when a church does need help It’s a lot easier process to go, Hey, you know that church that you’ve done these like three mission efforts [00:10:00] with?
And they came and, you know, cleaned up the trash in your yard and they prayed over you. And what if that church came and helped? That’s a lot easier. That’s a lot easier ask than, Hey, let’s go find some random church that you’re scared of because they’re bigger than you to come help you.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. What I really experienced this when I was a student pastor in the Kansas City area, we, we had a network of youth ministers that decided, you know what, we can do some things together and, and be more effective together and do some of these larger events and impact the city in some ways that we couldn’t individually.
And so why don’t we partner together? Pull our resources together and then create just this citywide impact. So we did that with disciple. Now, as we did that with mission, we created this event called renew and restore that was, was dedicated towards, uh, you know, taking some of the homes and refurbishing them and.
And painting them and all those sorts of things and, sharing the gospel. I a hundred percent think that, if churches serve together, they build relationships and they feel less threatened by [00:11:00] one another because they realize we’ve all got the same mission. And I will also say this, we need all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people in all kinds of locations.
And so it’s not a competition. It’s a collaboration.
JimBo Stewart: So the first two, correctly define success, cultivate a culture of cooperation, those are both kind of about culture and the way that we think about it. So let’s move from that into how do we equip the leaders that we need. So the culture to the leaders. So, one, I think you can start with cohorts. you can bring pastors together, go through some church revitalization books together, meet once a week, once a month.
once every other month, for coffee, for whatever, and you’re iron sharpening iron, doing this together may be even the way that you open the conversation to doing some stuff together as a church. So, you probably gotta start with the pastors, and then you encourage them, Hey, why don’t you guys do that mission project together?
Why don’t, why don’t y’all go on that mission trip together? Why don’t y’all do that [00:12:00] worship night together? And we start learning about each other and caring for each other. And we can start to break down those walls of competition while also equipping the pastors to be better leaders.
Bob Bickford: I love what James Nugent in South Carolina is doing through cohorts, the through associations, like he’s partnering several associations together to get pastors who are engaged in the work of renewing the local church to get them together, learning from one another. Young and more, more seasoned folks.
And they’re just spending a lot of time working through the principles of church renewal, sharing their own stories, praying for one another, encouraging one another, coaching one another. And so, absolutely. we started seeing some of this happen before we left St. Louis, that some of the pastors were getting together and just talking about the challenges they were facing.
And so it could be something just. As informal as that, you know, pastor’s coffee where a pastor’s lunch, where they would get together and talk about, about those things. I think it, goes to the next level when they’re able to go through a process and actually do some work together in terms of evaluating where their church is, [00:13:00] their leadership style.
their pipeline in terms of developing leaders or their discipleship strategies. When they’re talking about what they’re doing, then rather than just supporting one another in ministry, because it’s difficult, then you start seeing really cool things take shape when they’re coaching one another.
Then you start seeing the mission move forward in the city.
JimBo Stewart: All right, so let’s move to the fourth C. So the first two kind of hit culture, cohorts. This next one also kind of hits leadership development. Call out the called and create residencies. If you want to see a movement of revitalization and replanting, you’re going to quickly realize. We need pastors that are ready and excited and trained to do this.
So the best way to do that is you as an association help your churches create residencies. I think one of the things we do is we think I got to be a big church to do a residency. and big churches can do residencies, but I’m gonna tell you your small church can do a residency and it can do it really well.
as a matter of fact, if we’re trying to train a guy to go into a small church. and [00:14:00] raise it up, what better training ground for him to learn in than a small church? and you can get churches to partner together. There’s a lot of ways you can think about this, but whatever you do, you got to start calling out the called and building, building a pipeline, a group of guys who are called to this and are being equipped and ready so that when that opportunity arises, we’ve got somebody ready to do it.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. And, the normative size church provides opportunities for a guy to learn and grow. And experiment in his leadership and his preaching more than a large church, right? And because we have so many normative size churches and so many of them are in need of pastors, this is a, it feels like a no brainer, right?
Until you train it, you train a guy in a normative size setting or context. And he then goes and teaches or pastors and, you know, cuts his leadership teeth and in terms of getting experience in a, in a normative size church. And so it’d be great for a number of these churches to collaborate together and do residencies.
Cause I think that’s the [00:15:00] challenge that some pastors face. They feel like, well, you know, we’re in normative size church. What do I have to share with anybody? You’re probably going to be, good at one aspect of ministry that is, you know, that’s your zone. It’s your wheelhouse. Like maybe it’s, maybe it is pastoral visits.
Maybe it is discipleship. Maybe it is, overseeing the affairs of the church. Maybe it is, is preaching. You know, find what you’re good at. Find guys in your association who lead normative sized churches who are good at other things, and then build a cohort of guys from all of those churches, rotating the guys who, who can teach from their strength and teach from, from their areas of great competency and skill.
I was able to do, participate in that in a group of pastors in St. Louis, where we had some young guys that were training for ministry. And they particularly wanted to focus on renewal. So, you know, we had guys that were engaged in the work come in and visit with them. So they take a night and they would present and they would talk and answer questions.
It’s a fantastic way for, a, plurality of leaders to speak into a group of men who are pursuing ministry. And that’s one of the things I think [00:16:00] about is you can learn a lot from one particular mentor that you spend a long time with. And I think you should do that. But if you can get an environment where you can get exposed to a number of different leaders who are good in a number of different ways and different things, man, you’re, you are expanding your learning and your experience.
And then if you can go exercise towards sort of take a lab day, right. To exercise some of those opportunities to serve and to lead in the local church, it just really gives you a great experience for what the Lord could do in terms of calling you to, to serve him in the future.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. And I think one of the things you can do even that we’ve seen work really well is as you’re raising these guys up, use them for pulpit supply.
Bob Bickford: Yeah.
JimBo Stewart: have them, you know, that’s another thing that makes this process a lot easier is sometimes you send some young guy that you’ve been developing in a residency to do pulpit supply at a dying church.
And they hear that guy preach a couple of times. They fall in love with that guy. They fall in love with his wife and his kids. And you just say, Hey, what if the church he’s coming from were to partner [00:17:00] with you, and he became your new pastor? That becomes way easier. Yes. We’ve seen that work so much faster and quicker.
You get around so much process sometimes when you can do it that way. So just another idea to think through. But, that’s not always how it works out. Usually, it requires our next C, Consulting. So, the first two have talked about the culture and how we approach and think about this. The second two talk about development.
Now we’re going to talk about how we interact with the churches themselves, the dying churches, the next two. which is consulting and then crisis intervention. So consulting, obviously there’s a lot that we can go into this. We’ve gone into this some in other episodes. We have the associational replanting guide that can kind of help you have that conversation.
AMS replant lab. Will be February 19th and 20th registration isn’t open yet, but it is opening soon and so we’re still getting some of those things nailed down and so there are other resources out there as well. But part of this is going to be getting your foot in the door and [00:18:00] helping them define and face reality and seek conviction, holy discontentment and ask what is the Lord’s, not there’s the Lord’s next step for the church.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, and churches are afraid of this sometimes because they don’t want to face reality and I think for associational leaders one of the great approaches is simply to say particularly one of the greatest windows of opportunity is when they’re certain the church is searching for a pastor and one things an association leader can say is We would love to help you all in your pastor search.
One of the things I think is important is always to think about where’s your church today and what kinds of qualities and leadership experiences does the pastor need to have who God would call to your church to help your church move forward in the future. What experiences do they have? What do they need to be particularly skilled at or have aptitude for?
And so let’s not just help you figure out the nuts and bolts of a process of here’s how to. Post an ad. Here’s how to [00:19:00] receive resumes. Here’s how to process those resumes. When the pastor shows up to interview, one of the things he’s going to ask is tell me about your church. Will you guys outside of telling them the history of the church and all the committees and programs and things that you’re doing, could you tell him accurately the condition of your church and its historical trend lines over the last 10, 20 years, right?
That’s really where. you, you can help a church as an association leader. You can help a church understand where they are, their trajectory to present themselves to a, potential pastor to know where they are. And to know if he’s the right candidate for them.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. I mean, this is so much of what we think about when we think about helping dying churches. And there’s just so many ways to approach this and have this conversation. but it’s a key piece. sometimes it’s going to be in consulting, but sometimes just because you have a pulse. On the heartbeat of what’s going on in your association or your community or your network there’s going to be moments where crisis intervention is needed.
there’s going to be moral failures. There’s going to be, pastors that die. There’s going to be, situations of [00:20:00] hostility and division where you have an opportunity to step in, and help them resolve conflict and think through things. there’s a lot of ways that this is how you help a church.
through that crisis, but you help them through that crisis by pointing them back to Jesus and getting them back focused on who God has called them to be.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. But in church pastors, existing pastors can get sideways with deacons or trustees or, you know, any number of things, or they can be facing some issues in terms of maybe the, the city council and can they do this event or that event? And so oftentimes meeting. outside wisdom and experience of an association leader comes in, handy for a local church to think through how to address the crisis that it’s facing.
And the crisis will come. And the reality is the church and the pastor and the people of the church, they need somebody to help walk them through. Oftentimes, you know, when, when, when a family’s in crisis, If they could [00:21:00] solve it themselves, they probably would already solved it. But oftentimes they’ll reach out and they’ll get an outside perspective.
They’ll get an outside resource to come in and help them think through some things that provides perspective. That’s different from theirs because they’re, they get an outsider’s view, who’s not as close. closely involved with an inside situation and not feeling the emotions is heavily and can really be an objective resource for them.
And so I think that’s a super valuable, super valuable role that an association leader can play.
JimBo Stewart: Alright, so, that’s six of the seven C’s. The first two correctly define success, then create a culture of cooperation, deal with the culture, how we think about it. cohorts and calling out the call and creating residencies, how we develop the leaders for it. Consulting and crisis intervention is how we work with the churches in need.
And then the final C is one that I see a lot of churches. I observe a lot of churches. associations miss is celebrate. this is so important when you have a great story over vitalization or replanting, share the heck out of it, [00:22:00] celebrate and write blog articles. it is worth every dime for you to hire a professional videographer.
to make a video of the story so that you can share that with your other churches. You share it at your annual meeting. You share it in your newsletter. You share it because what happens is so many dying churches, when they hear about replanting specifically, they think that means blacked out walls, smoke, and all these scary things.
And what they, what they miss is that this is a work of God. And this is a beautiful thing. And having a video of a church that they know of, they drove by that church. Maybe they used to be members of that church, or they know somebody who’s a member of that church. And then they hear about what God has done.
through some sort of cooperative effort of revitalization and replanting. And now it seems more real and more attainable and something that they actually are interested in. And so this is a huge step. it’s, sometimes it’s going to be really hard for you to get [00:23:00] the first big win in this. But when you do and you start to celebrate it, you’re going to end up with a flywheel of this happening in your, in your area.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, I, agree with you Jimbo. We, we don’t celebrate enough. And, when you get those good video stories, you can use them to encourage and equip other people, encourage them to take the bold steps and equip them just understanding how do I, how do we take that first initial step towards pursuing renewal?
I remember one of the videos, that was, From a good friend of mine who replanted a church in a nearby town. And, one of the key moments was when an association leader was consulting that church and the oldest guy in the church, a guy named Tony, and they tell this story in the video. He writes on his, he tears off a little piece of paper on his legal pad cause he always had a legal pad and he wrote these words.
I’m all in. And during the presentation of the associational leaders, he was talking about what the [00:24:00] possibilities were about renewal and replanting and all that. Tony took that little slip of paper and he pushed it across the table to the associational leader. And so you capture that on video. And people realize, I see Tony.
Tony is, you know, well into his eighties, older eighties, and he hears the vision about what could be, and he’s in right. And, you know, Jimbo, there’s, there are ways to present information. That, are helpful and you can enhance the presentation, that information through a video with the visual, with the audio, with maybe some music, with some scenery of the history of the church, all those sorts of things, all those things work to serve and communicate to help a story, like a, a church that has chosen the difficult path to, to choose a renewal path.
It really is something we’re celebrating. And then what we have seen when those videos are captured. When we share those widely across North America, people catch the excitement and the vision for what God could do. And it makes a huge [00:25:00] difference. I think of the pastor Sam video as well that we’ve seen where people just realized, Oh my gosh, church renewal is possible.
And some of the folks who are leading the way are the seasoned saints among us.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. Until you have your own videos, we have some that we’ll put in the show notes that, you can, you can use, to go ahead and start sharing that story and that vision. And so, look, we’d love to hear from you. What are ways that your association, your network, your group of churches, you as a pastor are helping to cultivate a movement of church renewal in your community?
And how can we come alongside you?