EP 224 EIGHT QUESTIONS FOR 2024
Happy 2024 Bootcamp crew! Welcome to the beginning of the new year, we’re praying for you! Check out this list of 8 critical questions you can ask as you plan for the coming year. We’d love to hear from you! Drop us a line, send us some feedback and submit your own questions!
Eight questions to ask as you plan your projects and priorities for 2024
- Have we prayed about this?
- Is this a really big decision? (See our previous episode on weighing big decisions)
- Is this just something I want or is it something that is good for the church? Are you alone in this idea, or have you run it by others? (See our previous episode about formal and informal permission) – notes below
- Is this the right time to be making this change? Do I have the leadership capital for this change?
- How does this project or priority help our church grow in love, unity, or maturity?
- Are our priorities and projects focused more on God’s people and purpose or programs?
- Is the issue at hand a biblical command or a missional context issue? (Think front seat of the car [identity] or back seat of the car [infrastructure] – see our previous episode on spiritual and organizational church health)
- Does everything on our list of priorities, projects, and programs have a current value and purpose or are we just re-doing things because that is how we have done them before?
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JimBo Stewart: [00:00:00] Here we are, back at the bootcamp, back at it again. It’s been last year since we’ve talked to you last, Bootcampers, and we’re excited to be with you back in the new year, 2024. after all the travels and travails and excitement of the Christmas holiday. which, huge news in the Bickford house, you guys are one, one baby larger as a clan now.
Bob Bickford: Yes. Not, not Barb and I personally, but, we have a granddaughter that was, arrived. And, so little Annie Lorraine Richards was born to Joe and Emily. Emily’s my daughter. And so she joins the crew. And so the grandkid count is five and the count is three boys and two girls.
And so, the girls are creeping up there and my youngest is not married.
And so she will potentially add to the grandkid fold. I think my son and his wife are done. Emily might add another one. I’m not going to talk to her about it since she just had the baby.[00:01:00]
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, probably, that probably was.
Bob Bickford: yeah, but we’re pretty excited. Yeah. Great. Green kids are fun. And, so she’s a fresh baby. We’ll be a little, little bitty baby.
and I hopefully I get to go see her, this month sometime, 100%.
JimBo Stewart: Born, born just in time for them to get tax benefits for both 2023 and 2024.
Bob Bickford: They were counting on that and they were praying for that and pulling for that. So they’re, they’re pretty pumped. So little Annie Lorraine joined the family. And, couldn’t be happier for them. And Barb, Barb’s been able to see the baby. I’ve yet to see the baby as of this recording, but hopefully we’ll see the baby soon.
JimBo Stewart: Awesome. Praise God, man. That’s, that is good news. a lot of other good things. We had a lot of good travel, for our family. It was exhausting. We had seven different stops, slept in seven different places. And so a lot of friends and a lot of family and somehow, uh, were able to keep it all in the old minivan, the Dark Knight, the Honda Odyssey.
And, it was a pretty intense game of Tetris several times to try to get all the suitcases and gifts and everything into the [00:02:00] minivan.
Bob Bickford: Well, Jimbo, I’m glad you guys had safe travels. Glad the minivan held up strong. And, if you need to borrow my car top carrier, just swing by here on your way to wherever you’re going. If it’s, on your way and I’ll, uh, help you put the car top carrier on. It is a lovely thing. To have a car carrier.
JimBo Stewart: absolutely. Hey, let’s dive in. I was thinking about, you know, as you get into a new year, we often start to think through, priorities and projects and programs and things that we want to accomplish over the year. and so we’ve approached that conversation in a lot of different ways over the years that we’ve been doing this podcast.
And this year I thought we’d go about a little bit different and I’ve just got some questions I think would be good for you to consider. As you evaluate and plan your projects, your priorities, and your programs for 2024.
Bob Bickford: Love it. Let’s get started.
JimBo Stewart: Okay, so, I think the first one, you know, this is kind of the Sunday School answer. and so you’re gonna hear it and you’re like, oh yeah, well of course. But, but it’s a super important [00:03:00] question. The first question is, have we prayed about this? Like, I mean legitimately, have we stopped and we prayed and we asked the Lord for guidance and wisdom?
And and gotten this we’ve had a lot of podcast episodes about decision making you can look at that and we always start with prayer and asking the lord to speak into what we’re doing.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, I love those. I think in some of those previous podcasts, one of the things we said is you, you never have to pray about doing what the scripture says, right? You just do it
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
Bob Bickford: you probably don’t have to pray about serving others as Christ sir have served us. but what you have to pray about is, Lord, is this the right decision directionally?
Is this the right choice for us? In the timeline of where we are as a church is this the right person to bring on the team, all those sorts of things where so you can’t open up the scriptures and immediately say, yes, we should hire Jimbo on the replant team. Right? So you’re just not going to see that.
But what you can do is you can discern through [00:04:00] God’s will and God’s word. And, really prayer is the substance of taking what you’re thinking and laying it before the Lord and then having him speak into that. And not just you praying about it Jimbo, but asking others to pray about it as well.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah And so I mean particularly if it’s a really big decision, we’ll point you in the show notes and link back to a previous episode where we talked about weighing big decisions and it’s I would encourage you to go back to that. It’s episode 207. We don’t have to dive into all the details of that right now.
but first pray about it. Second, is this a huge decision? Is this a big, weighty decision? If so, I would go back to that episode, before and look at that. Third, I would say, is this just something that you want? Or is it something that’s actually good for the church? In other words, like, are you alone in this idea or have you been running it by others?
Like you were saying, Bob, like, is this just something that’s really important to you? Cause I was thinking about this and, recently, you know, one of the things we talk about a lot in church leadership, leader change, [00:05:00] leadership in the church of renewal, revitalization, replanting, is that we have to lead people to love Jesus more than their preferences. We have to also remember that includes us. Right? That includes you, pastor. Like, it’s not just the church members. Like, you have to love Jesus more than your preferences. And there’s, you know, and so I think it’s worth, like, if it’s, especially if it’s something you’re super excited about and you haven’t really run it by people, and maybe you haven’t, and here’s the deal.
I don’t know if you’ve ever done this, Bob. Have you ever had an idea that you just didn’t run by people because you kind of just didn’t want their feedback? Because you didn’t want, you don’t want to run cold water all over your, your parade. And so you’re like, you know what? I think this is a great idea.
So I’m just going to go with it.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. I’ve Jimbo. And each time it’s gone poorly. Can I just say that? Like with like simple decisions, family decisions and absolutely church decisions. I can think it, it might be the right decision ultimately, but it might be the wrong timing for that. [00:06:00] And I remember, when I first went to the church that I replanted, we had a database that, you know, it’s kind of one of those membership databases.
We have 40 people, you know, the act that came on the regular basis, but you still had to keep track of their giving and. Their addresses and their birthdays and all that kind of stuff. Well, we have our single sourced computer and that computer was like an old 2000 windows computer. And so it was really crappy and it was about to die.
And I said, we need an online database, right? And so the one that I had used in other places, I wanted that one. Well, that’s the one I wanted. I knew how it worked. I knew you could do a lot of things with it. I knew they could discount it, but Jimbo, it was what I wanted, but it was not the right time. And it was my preference.
And so, like you said, and like you suggest, I brought some other people in and, and I quickly realized we weren’t there yet. Now, ultimately we got there, but I think that’s super great advice. Is this what you want or is this what God has for you in this moment and in this season? And Jimbo, what [00:07:00] I have found is oftentimes when you’re talking about making a choice, when the energy rises in the room in favor of that choice, it’s a good signal that God is moving among you and that’s likely the decision he’s leading you
JimBo Stewart: that’s good. We talked more about that in a previous episode on formal and informal permission. I did want to go a little bit, just a reminder of some of that. You did a great job of lining this out for us, when we, when we did that episode. Where we talked about, you know, what is the difference between formal permission and informal, formal permission in episode 146.
And, and you said it like this. Formal permission is the act of garnering approval via a recognized and agreed upon process for decision or action like bylaws, policies, committee meetings, business meetings. But what we’re talking about is largely informal permission. The leadership skill and insight which recognizes the power of influence and influencers and knows that forward [00:08:00] progress often moves at the speed of relationships.
Every church has influencers, gatekeepers, they’re 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’re often faithful, process oriented folks who have made hard decisions or assumed the important role of keeping the church legal and alive.
and so if you’ve not really, if, if you’re making this unilateral top down decision on your own, then just pause and go back, go back to listen to that episode. We talked a little bit about how to get informal permission. and so I understand the temptation to be like, well, it’s not that I have to get voted on, so I’m just going to do it.
Well, I mean, there are small things you can do that. Uh, but even small things, you might step on a landmine you’re not even aware exist.
Bob Bickford: Oh, a hundred percent. Yeah. I remember, Jimbo, the church I replanted had, framed Christian art that [00:09:00] was like three grades below what you might find at Hobby Lobby
all over the place. Right. Homemade purchased at a yard sale, you know, bought when a lifeway closed. I mean something like this crazy.
Right. And so, I just started every week I would take one of those things down and put it in one of the back rooms. I didn’t ask anybody. I just started doing it cause I thought, well, you know, our church, we got a church of 40. This is, they’re not using the Sunday school wing, blah, blah, blah, blah. Well, one of the guys came to me and he goes, Hey, uh, I got a question for you.
Hey, sure. What? What’s the question? He goes, um, are you taking some of the art pieces down? I was like, yeah, yeah, I am. And he goes, oh, okay. And then he didn’t say anything and he walked away. And, but I knew Jimbo, I knew it was noticed. And I knew that I really didn’t have cultural approval to do that. I may have had my design style approval, which is not really high and great.
I’m not, I don’t consider myself like a. You know, a designer like Extreme Home [00:10:00] Makeover, you know, church edition guy. but I just knew I wanted rid of some of that cheesy art. and so I started doing it, but I can just tell that there was a cultural cost to
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
Bob Bickford: there. We didn’t have to vote on it, but I just started doing it.
And, um, and there was a cost to it.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, and I get the temptation to just get things done. but it’s, you know, there is a cost. There’s a leadership cost, when you do that. You’re talking about, you know, taking time to notice. This has nothing to do with church, but maybe you think it really funny. a church member, we went, we went to a church member’s house that we frequent as a family and, you know, in the hallway they have the, the wall with all the framed pictures, right?
And there’s just tons of framed pictures of family and we go over this house a lot. Like the kids there, my kids are basically like, unofficial cousins grown up together over the last 10 years. And, there’s, for a long time, there’s been this one frame that I don’t know if the picture fell out or somebody took it out, but it’s just this frame hanging on the wall with no picture. And so,
Bob Bickford: Was there, was there a family incident? Did [00:11:00] somebody do something wrong? Did they betray the family
JimBo Stewart: I don’t know.
Bob Bickford: okay. All right.
JimBo Stewart: But a literally drew a stick vis stick figure version of the Stewart family and wrote the stewards and just taped it to it and, and the, the dad of the house recognized it pretty quick, but didn’t tell anybody.
Bob Bickford: Yeah.
JimBo Stewart: it took a pretty long time for the mom of the house or anybody else to recognize that we had put ourself.
What’s, what’s awesome is I just went there for. The Redemption Church Christmas party. They invited us graciously to come be a part of that. And, it’s still on the wall and, the, the Stewart’s, picture is still up there. one of the things you mentioned in that, that I think is really important that leads me to my next question is, maybe this is the right.
priority or program or plan or whatever, but is this the right time to be making this change? Do you have the leadership capital? Have you thought through the leadership capital cost of this change? You know, tactical patience, organizational awareness, is [00:12:00] this, is this the right time to actually be doing that?
Bob Bickford: Yeah, man, I just start thinking Jimbo about, you know, this, my mind immediately goes to the worship leader who was on staff at the church when I be, when I became the renewal pastor.
JimBo Stewart: Mm hmm.
Bob Bickford: And I think I’ve told this story on the bootcamp before, but he would clutch the side of the pul, the sides of the, uh, pulpit and stare at the back wall with his head cocked sideways, and look like I absolutely hate everything that I’m doing in this moment,
right. And that was like from, from the very first seconds that we arrived there and Barb, Barb leaned over and said, this is going to have to change. So I was like, you know what, we got to make a change like right away. And, but what I realized was, you know what, I don’t know that I can do that. Number one, I don’t know who we can have lead music.
And then number two, there’s a cost to this,
right? And so the timing was the timing was a key factor. And ultimately he came to me and said, you know what, where you want to go and what I can do in the [00:13:00] available time that I have are incompatible. I think it’s probably wise for me to leave. And so he said that.
And then we worked through several weeks before he actually made that announcement public. And I was so thankful. That we held off on that decision, right? And so it might be a renewal pastor might be thinking about changing a program, a curriculum piece, maybe the decorations, the carpet, maybe, you know, there’s a giant pew that needs to be removed and he’s thinking there’s a certain timing, you know, to that, etc.
But man, that is, you can be right, but you can be right at the wrong, you can be right at the wrong time.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, you can be right at the wrong time, and you can be right in the wrong way.
Bob Bickford: Yes.
JimBo Stewart: communicating it, saying it wrong, doing it like, and so, it’s one of the things, you know, when we talk about tactical patience, we, we often say, not changing something yet does not mean affirming it or agreeing with it.
it’s just having the wisdom to, to hold on and understand. pointing back to some, some old episodes again, episode 190, we did an episode on leadership [00:14:00] capital, where we said leadership capital is the influence that you acquire over time, which is stored in the minds and the hearts of those you lead.
When leading change, you must make withdrawals from this account. and you have to factor that in. if you have to remind people that you’re the pastor and you don’t have to get a vote on this, you’re probably not leading in the right pace.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, when you have to say, I’m the boss around here,
JimBo Stewart: Yeah,
Bob Bickford: you’re not really the boss.
JimBo Stewart: yeah. And so just because you don’t have to vote on something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give people a voice on something. You gotta factor a lot of things in. You gotta factor in the emotional cycle of change, and just how to lead in a wise way in the right time. Alright, next question would be, How does this project, priority, or program help our church grow in the things that matter?
Right, and so we talk about love, Unity, maturity, often on this podcast, we talk about making sure we’re being on mission, making [00:15:00] disciples that make disciples that make the community around us noticeably better. are, are these priorities and projects, these things you’re going to focus on in 2024, how are they helping your church really be more of who God has called it to be?
Bob Bickford: Yeah, I think if you ask that question, Jimbo, you’re going to start crossing stuff off your to do list, right? To implement this. And, I hate to say that because you just reading that question made, made the renewal pastor side of me just bristle, right? Can I just be honest? I didn’t like that question at all, right? It’s like, well, I don’t care. I just want this thing to change. Right. And I don’t care. I just care what it does, but I’m just gonna be honest with you. But, I am going to say, I agree with you. That’s an important question, even though I don’t like it. It’s an important question.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, we don’t, it’s kind of like medicine. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to take it.
Bob Bickford: Yeah.
JimBo Stewart: It’s a, you know, it’s a tough one. And I think it’s one, you know, we’ve talked about it a lot of times on this [00:16:00] podcast. It’s really easy to get distracted with kind of the pragmatic pieces of everything. And like, you know, I just need that ugly art gone, right? Like it’s just. It’s just hideous and it’s just got to go.
And what I would say is, you know what, you’re probably right. It probably does need to go. but how, how, how do you go about doing that in a way? that you’re not ever sacrificing, the ability to continue to lead well, the people that God’s called you to lead. And just make sure, at least, look, you’re going to have to make decisions that have nothing to do.
You know, I’ll say, their decisions you’re going to have to make have nothing to do with making disciples, if we’re being honest, right? You’ve got to decide which company you’re going to go with for your internet. Well, that has nothing to do with how you make disciples. You’ve got to decide, you know, things like that.
Uh, and so you need to make those decisions. What I’m saying is like, when we’re talking your priorities, like the things that you’re going like, this is what we’ve really got to accomplish. in 2024. make sure you’re, you’re primarily focused on the things that help you stand before the Lord one day and [00:17:00] hear, well done, good and faithful servant.
Bob Bickford: gr So, so good of you to unpack it like that. And I agree a hundred percent even though I don’t like the question.
JimBo Stewart: All right, next question. Maybe you like this one better. is, is the issue at At hand, whatever you’re thinking through, whatever decision you’re making, plan you’re making, is, is the issue at hand here a biblical command or is it a missional context issue? And what I’m saying is, it’s not that, you know, we need to be primarily focused on the biblical commands, but there are some missional contexts, some things that are, Contextual, right?
and part of that is, like, the worship leader, the worship, the way you lead the worship service, you know, the Bible does not give you an exact liturgy of how you need to follow everything you do on Sunday morning. So you got to make some contextual decisions there. There are other things that you’re leading that are kind of backseat of the car, you know, if you, if you harken back to the episodes where we’ve talked about, Organizational church health and spiritual church health and so you don’t need to [00:18:00] neglect the organizational health of your church It just can’t take priority over the spiritual health of your church.
And so I think you’ve got to ask Is this a organizational health issue or a spiritual health issue? And here’s why you have to ask that. It’s not that you don’t do the organizational health issue. It’s just, you treat it differently, right? If it’s a, if it’s a spiritual, a spiritual health issue, a biblical command, then we’ve got to see what scripture tells us to do.
And we’ve got to, as leaders, let the word of God guide that decision. If it’s what internet company do we do our contract with, that’s a contextual issue. And so you need to make a wise decision on that. But you’re not going to find a Bible verse that’s going to tell you what you want to do.
Bob Bickford: Sure. I, and I think the spiritual one gets more heat. Right? It, it, you’ve gotten a little hotter fire under it to, to make the change. ’cause if you’re, if your church is engaging in something that is contrary to the biblical, commands that you’ve received as, as, um, believers, as Christ followers as a church, then you gotta, you gotta really deal with that pretty quickly.
Right. and I think we [00:19:00] see in our, in our churches today across North America, churches that don’t take care of that side of the aisle, often spend more focus on the administrative side of the aisle, right? So they’re, they’re more concerned about. The internet company or did we get three bids or, you know, this and that and the other and, and the surprising and shocking, how many of them will focus on those sorts of things and not really focus on being faithful to scripture.
JimBo Stewart: Well, and that’s where the real fireworks seem to happen that will surprise you as a pastor. When you, you and you are making a decision on something that is a contextual infrastructure. Backseat issue,
Bob Bickford: Yeah.
JimBo Stewart: but people treat it like it’s a biblical command You know, we the worship service used to be at 1045 We’re gonna move it back to 1030 and people people will act like, you know, there was a 11th commandment in the Old Testament You know thou shalt start at 1045 and they they treat it like it’s this huge spiritual [00:20:00] thing And so that’s why I think you’ve got to ask that question because it’s a different mindset At least for me.
When I think about a decision I’m leading, I’m going, is this, is this like a we’re being faithful to the Word of God thing, or is this a strategy and systems question? And, I treat those differently in how I approach and lead those.
Bob Bickford: As you should.
JimBo Stewart: All right, last question. Does everything on your list of priorities, projects, and programs have a current value and purpose? Or are we just kind of redoing stuff because that’s what we did before.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. One of the first committees that committee meetings that I went to at the church that I was a renewal pastor at was called the committee on committees. Right. And basically it was no church council. It was a church council. There it was. and basically the church council met to look at the next month or two months ahead and basically say, well, okay, what did we do last year?
And are we going to do that again this year? Right. And [00:21:00] that was kind of it. Like they, they’d been repeating the same programs over and over Jimbo for in heavens knows how long, right. Very little innovation, very little structure. And there was such a familiarity. And a comfort in that routine. And so it was inward focused for comfort.
They knew what to expect. They knew how to pull it off. And so, they were well discipled in pulling off things that they had done, you know, 10, years ago. But the thing they were not disciplined in is examining and evaluating it and saying, is this the right thing for us to do right now?
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
I think that’s so key It’s it can become so easy to just keep doing things because that’s the way it’s done I always love the old story of because I love cooking stories of the the lady who you know would cut the end off of the ham and then put it in the pan and then put it in the oven and You know her daughter was like, hey, why do you always cut the end off of the ham?
And she’s like well because that’s the way my mom always did it And so then she calls her, the girl calls her grandma and she goes, Hey, why, why do you, why do you [00:22:00] always cut the end off the ham before you put it in the oven? She goes, I don’t know. It’s the way my mom always did it. And, and she and her great grandmother was still alive.
So she calls her great grandmother and she goes, Hey, why did you always cut the end off the ham before you? Put it in the oven, and she goes, because my pot was too small. Like it’s, but, but they had, you know, pots the right size, but they just kept doing it, because that’s, they didn’t know, and they didn’t think through it. And so, I think we have to evaluate, right? a replanter, text me a picture of a book. I’ve not read the book, so this is not an endorsement of the book, but I will say the title is pretty hilarious.
it’s, it says, the title is, Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Burgers.
Bob Bickford: Oh yeah. By Billy. Some. Yep.
I know it. I have read portions of that maybe on a blog. I think I actually picked it up. my, pastor in St. Louis, Aaron Halstead was cleaning out his library, the church library and found that book. And he was just taking pictures of different books. And he sent me that one.
I was like, bro, like that is [00:23:00] one of the most classic. Church renewal books that has ever existed. And I don’t remember what the published date on it is, but Billy, some
living in Corpus Christi,
JimBo Stewart: I’m gonna have to give it a read.
Bob Bickford: smart guy. it was a renewal pastor of the United Methodist tradition. one of the, one of the early fathers of church renewal and a great book, in terms of just him challenging, our assumptions and doing new things.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, absolutely. So, I mean, figure out how to do it wisely. Figure out how to do it with formal permission. Pray about the things that you’re planning. If it’s a really big decision, there’s some more, you know, weighty decision. There’s some time you need to put into it. And so you can go back to an episode we have about that.
Make sure it’s not just something you’re wanting. Make sure that, you know, you’re not standing alone here on this. make sure it’s the right time. Make sure you have the right amount of leadership capital to be making the changes that you’re trying to make this year. make sure that this is truly.
You are focused more on the things that actually matter, than anything else. But you don’t disregard the systems and structure stuff. You just do it well and you, you [00:24:00] approach it differently and make sure it always stays in the back seat, and that we’re focused more on God’s purpose than anything else.
and then make sure we’re not just doing things because that’s the way you always did it. Hey guys, thanks for listening. And if you have read, the sacred cows book, let us know your thoughts. If you’ve got other additions to this, let us know your thoughts. We’d love to see you soon. Love to hear from you.