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Tag: NAMB

Resources for the Replant Wife

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

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

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

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

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

The Replant Wife Experts

A woman prays alone

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

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

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

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

The Replant Wife Facebook Page- a Source of Connection

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

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

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

The Replant Wife Website, Blog, and Podcast

women shaking hands in collaboration

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Batman and Robin

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

We were stunned.

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

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

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

What Does Success Look Like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Association of Collaboration

Mario and Luigi from the Super Mario Bros franchise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Association of Comfort

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

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

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

two men shaking hands

Celebrating a Beautiful Partnership

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

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

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

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

Resources:

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

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

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

Weighing Heavy Decisions: 7 Steps for Better Decision Making

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

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

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

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

Bob’s Big Move

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

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

Step One: Pray about the Decision

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

Step Two: Spend Time in the Word

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

multiple block with different arrows pointing in different directions

Step Three: Take Enough Time

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

Step Four: Get Some Perspective

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

Step Five: Seek Wise Counsel

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

Step Six: Let it Marinate

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

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

Step Seven: Decide!

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

One Last Note

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

How to Say Hello–3 Practical Ways to Greet Your Guests

welcome sign for front door

I recently revamped the front entrance to our home. I bought a new doormat and new pillows for the bench, and spruced up a wreath for the door.  Then I did something I’ve never done before… I hung up a sign to greet visitors with large letters that say, “WELCOME.”  (As an introvert, it should more accurately say, “Welcome… unless my people meter is low.  Then, not so much.” But that wouldn’t fit on a sign.)

It’s easy for guests at my home to know the way in.  There is a clearly marked driveway for parking, an easily accessible front door (which is also the only entrance), and chances are, I will be there to show them our foyer with a visible bathroom just to their left. If you are visiting my house for the first time, you will have no problems knowing where to go.

Wouldn’t it be great if visitors to our churches could have that same experience? In this week’s episode of the Replant Bootcamp podcast, Jimbo and Bob tackle the unique challenges (and advantages!) normative size churches face when implementing a hospitality team.

Greeting Starts at the Door– But Which One?

multiple doors

When we started at Central Baptist, one of the first things we noticed was how many different ways there are to get into the building.  We have a front entrance that faces the road– but that’s not the “typical” entrance, because using it would actually place you coming into the back of the church.  That entrance made sense when everyone walked to church and there was only one part of the building– the sanctuary and classrooms underneath.  But an addition long ago placed parking behind the church and made a new, single-door entrance.  This entrance would take you through our old classrooms which were no longer in use and up a set of narrow stairs to the sanctuary, where you come in to the side of the platform.  A third addition in the 90s added a fellowship hall and wing which created a new, double door entrance that allowed access to the nursery and childrens’ areas and stairwell access to the upper level and the sanctuary.

It was a maze to navigate– and that was AFTER you’d made it through the dilapidated, weed-infested parking lot with the faded white lines which made it impossible to know exactly where you should park.

We had a few guests that actually left before ever getting inside because they just found the whole building impossible to navigate.  When we hosted events at the church, people would genuinely get lost inside the corridors, hallways, and stairwells. Guests coming to the church were likely to wind up in an old, dusty flower closet wearing a choir robe from 1972 only to be found during a church clean up day several weeks later.

Ok, not really… But we  realized we had a problem, and it was one of the first steps toward revitalization that we needed to take:  We needed a clearly identified entrance.

The first thing we did was redo the church’s signage.  We purchased a large banner for the road-facing entrance of the church.  It can be changed out seasonally and can highlight special events like Vacation Bible School or Christmas and Easter services. We also purchased signage to show where visitors can park, and repaved the parking lot to make it simpler. Then we put up a large sandwich board style sign that welcomed everyone toward the double door entrance.

Once inside, we used clearly identifying signs to funnel people toward children’s areas, the sanctuary, and the restrooms, as needed. We made coming to our church as easy to navigate as coming to our house.

Unfortunately, great signage and great directions don’t always equal a successful greeter experience. To make people feel welcome, you can’t just show them the way in– you have to have people who make them feel at home.

We needed a greeter ministry or hospitality team to guide people to the right place once inside.  Fortunately, our smaller church had an advantage in this area: First, it was easy to identify who was new.  One look across our congregation could inform us of any new faces.  Second, in a smaller church, everyone is a greeter!

Develop a Friendly Greeter Ministry

In the podcast, Bob stated, “People want to be welcomed and wanted, but not watched.” When we are thinking about the experience of a first time guest at our church, we need to ask ourselves this question from Jimbo: What does our church communicate about who we are and what we believe is important? From the parking lot, to the welcome desk or area, to the service itself, we are communicating a message to a first time guest.  It needs to be a good one!

In the first few minutes of our service we typically go over our welcome and announcements. In those first few moments, first-time guests are mentally deciding whether or not they’ll return for a second visit. Are your announcements about upcoming committee meetings?  Community outreach projects?  Future children’s events?  Adult Bible Study and Discipleship opportunities?  What does your first few moments of service tell a first-time guest about what your church thinks is important? 

What about the rest of the service?  Are you joyful in worship?  Is there excitement about being in the house of God?  We know that corporate worship is integral to the discipleship and growth of the believer, and we know that there is great benefit to joining other believers in weekly fellowship. So how are we communicating that importance to our members and our guests?  

Some churches feel passionately about an order of worship and a bulletin.  Others have done away with them completely.  The truth is, there isn’t a right or wrong answer for whether or not your church should or shouldn’t have them.  One thing is clear–for a visitor, there is so much value and security in knowing what’s coming next.  

I recently visited a church where my daughter serves while she is away at college.  This church is a very large church of a different denomination than what I currently attend.  The opportunity to be a “first-time guest” allowed me to really experience for myself the discomfort of unfamiliar places and faces.  One thing they did well was to have a QR code for me to scan for the order of worship.  I was able to quietly look at a bulletin and know when we would be reading scripture, what songs we would sing, when children were dismissed, and they even designated when to stand and when to sit for each part with a small asterisk. It made the experience so much easier.

One thing they also did well was their time of “fellowship.” This was a time to look around and greet unfamiliar faces and also to catch up with each other.  As I mentioned above, I am an introvert– I want to go in my shell and peep out when I’m comfortable.  This time can be really hard for me, especially in the middle of a service where I am already feeling very awkward. But instead of a meet and greet in the middle of the service, they offered for any guests to step into a small room off from the lobby and meet the pastor and his wife at the end of service if they chose to. They offered beverages and small snacks, and several friendly members stayed as well and said hello.

This church had clearly taken time to develop a culture of hospitality, and it made a difference in my experience as a guest. What efforts have you made to cultivate an environment where the guests to your church leave feeling cared for and considered?

Greeting that Goes Further than the Front Door

a word wall with welcome, hello, hi, etc greetings

Every first-time guest is not just a visitor–they are a potential family member.  We view our church as our family, so each person who visits is someone who we hope will eventually become a sister or brother in this family of believers we call Central Baptist.  The gospel gives everyone a place to belong.

In order for your greeting to extend past the front door, you must be willing to invest time and energy into the follow-up for every single guest.  In order to be known for hospitality, you must first learn to be hospitable. (Go figure.)  It isn’t enough to just hand someone a first-time guest gift and say “Hello.” You need to take some time to get to know them.

Many pastors will run themselves to the ground in an effort to follow up with everyone and to engage every guest.  But if you cultivate a culture of hospitality, you can expect your members to help you greet, engage, and follow-up with each visitor.  One way to do this is to encourage your members to share a meal with someone they don’t know or have never shared a meal with–that can be a visitor, but it can also be another member they just don’t know that well.  

Not everyone is gifted in the area of hospitality, but that’s why we “practice” hospitality.  We can always get better at it.  Pair up those people who are naturally gifted at making others feel comfortable with those who aren’t–show them how to engage with others.

Another way to cultivate a culture of hospitality is to give first time guests small gift cards to local eateries or coffee shops. Let them know that you would really like to sit down with them and have a conversation about the church and answer any questions they may have, or they can use it on their own, the choice is theirs.  I’m willing to bet that they will take you up on the offer to sit down and chat! If your church does fellowship dinners for a small fee, offer guests a “free” coupon so that they feel comfortable coming back and being a part of that ministry.

The easiest and perhaps most used way to cultivate hospitality among your members is the card or phone call follow-up.  Handwritten cards are always a nice gesture and feel so much more sincere than a formatted letter.  (Jimbo recommends the Felt App for this purpose.) Do you have some members for whom a shared meal would be difficult?  They would be great assets to use for card writing or simple follow up phone calls to welcome guests!

In order to be a church where guests turn into members, you must take the time to reflect on what message your church sends to each visitor that comes through your (well-marked, easily identifiable!) door.

Next Steps

Hopefully you now see the importance of starting a new (or adjusting your existing) greeter ministry.  Some easy, practical next steps to take are:

  1. Ask an outsider to perform a “mystery shop”– this can be a friend, coworker, or neighbor whose opinion you respect.  Ask them to assess what it’s like to be a first time guest at your church.  What are their first impressions?  What message did they leave with?  Did they notice anything out of place or confusing?  It can be easy to overlook our own flaws, that’s why we need an outside perspective on them.
  2. Take some time to polish your welcome and announcements time.  Find a way to communicate an invitation for everyone and an orientation for guests. Make sure you’re giving your congregation guidance on the importance of Sunday morning worship and also what comes next. If something is different on a specific Sunday that will change the normal order or worship, explain that and give people the security to know what comes next.
  3. Find your greeters and your hospitality people– you’ll know them.  These members always know who’s having surgery, who’s child is heading to college, who recently experienced a job change, who has moved.  They know these things because they know people.  They are excited to spend time with people and they enjoy meeting new people.
  4. Come to the Replant Summit to get ideas from others!  If you want practical tips for people who have been where you are, you NEED to register and attend the Replant Summit in Atlanta August 28-29.  There is no better opportunity to meet fellow replanters who are in the trenches with you.  This is the retreat and refresh your ministry needs!

Making Sure Busy Doesn’t Equal Burnout

“You need a break.  We’re a little concerned that you’re stretching yourself too thin. You just seem really busy and stressed out.” My friend was concerned, and to be honest, I was, too.  I was going through our busiest season of ministry and I was so exhausted that I was snapping at my family regularly enough that my kids were walking on eggshells around me. I was mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually drained.

I agreed with my friend that I did absolutely need a break, and I was grateful that they at least acknowledged how hard I was working.  But then, in the very next breath, they said, “It would be great though if you could please counsel with my friend– I told her you’d be happy to call her and talk her through some emotional stuff she’s going through.”

Sigh.

Unfortunately, this story isn’t unique.  Pastors everywhere are facing jam-packed schedules and struggling under the weight of congregational expectations. Replant pastors are often their church’s pastor, discipleship leader, janitor, maintenance man, events coordinator, interior designer, and communications director. With all these jobs and more, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day!

In 2021, a study conducted by Soul Shepherding, a Christian leadership training ministry, found 75% of pastors reported feeling extreme stress, 90% reported feeling extreme fatigue, 90% were working an average of 55-75 hours per week, and 85% had never had the opportunity to take extended time off. 

With those statistics in mind, the latest episode of the Replant Bootcamp podcast sought to give pastors some tips to prevent our busyness from leading to burnout. 

The Truth About Being Busy

a busy man with multiple arms and legs juggling a briefcase, clock, cell phone, and papers

We are wired to enjoy being needed– and as a pastor, you are definitely needed! Usually by everyone, all at once!  But there is a danger in finding your satisfaction in being needed: eventually, you make yourself so necessary that you can never take a break.

Here is a fun fact about work– our brains are also wired to find accomplishing tasks rewarding. Recent studies have proven that your brain releases dopamine when you achieve goals, and that checking off a “to-do” list can make you feel happier.  

There are two problems in this, as Bob pointed out. First, sometimes we allow ourselves to love the ministry that we have for Christ more than we are loving Christ. Second, as Jimbo says, ministry never ends– there is always another meeting, someone in the hospital, someone’s house you need to visit, some marriage that needs counseling, a committee that needs to be met with, or a contractor that has to be negotiated with for your AC or your copier lease. Then, of course, you always need to get a weekly sermon prepared. (Whew.) 

If the ministry is never “done,” then we never get that rush of dopamine from checking things off.  Instead, we just keep feeding the ministry beast– but it’s a monster that is never satisfied. And if you aren’t careful, you will feed your own ego, as well.

Another truth about our busy schedules is that we don’t always allow ourselves to have a proper “Rest Day.”  For us, Sunday is a work day.  It may be a “day of rest,” for many of our congregation members, but for us, it’s Game Day. It’s the day we show up early, stay late, and preach the Gospel in between. 

The command to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy wasn’t about making sure you went to church and then napped.  It is a command from our creator to rest– not because He needed it, but because we do. God knew we needed time to reset our minds and to refocus on Him. He knew this about us because He created this need in us!  When we get so busy that we neglect the Sabbath, we operate outside of God’s will and His power.

Too Busy or Too Distracted?

Here’s the thing– many times, when we’re busy, it isn’t because we are doing everything God has called us to do.  Some of us have lists of ministries, activities, and tasks that aren’t ours to do.  Either we have taken on someone else’s responsibilities or we have placed too much emphasis on our own abilities.

Take a look at your life– where are you feeling the most stress?  The most anxiety?  What task feels like it’s taking more time than you can possibly give?  Is this something that God called you to do?  Sometimes we forget that while, yes, God called us into ministry, He never asked us to do every part.  We forget that He said we are all one body, but different parts, and instead we try to take on every single role in the church.  This is a trap of Satan– if we get busy enough, we get stressed, then burnt out, and then distracted.  We take our eyes off the goal of loving God and loving people and start to focus on working for God and working for people.

Sometimes it’s not that it’s someone else’s responsibility, but their expectation.  Frequently, pastors are approached by people who really feel their church needs a specific ministry or a specific event. These are good projects, and pastors may agree they are needed.  But when asked about who will lead it, typically members will say, “Well, not me.  I just had the idea.  Can’t you lead it or head it up or find someone else to do it?”  Their expectation is that we have the time and energy to lead every single thing at the church.  In reality, God most likely called them to that ministry.  He gave them the vision and he impressed it upon their heart. 

When we take on someone else’s expectations of what we should be doing, we shortchange God’s work in their lives, while simultaneously creating unnecessary stress on our own. We feel this pressure to make sure they know we’re working hard.  We want our members to see that our car is always in the parking lot, that we are the first to arrive and the last to leave, and that we are always in the office (never mind the fact that so much of ministry happens outside of normal office hours). We feel like being present at every event and every meeting somehow secures our job and makes us seem like the hardest worker in the room.

But here is a hard truth:  You’re not God.  You aren’t omnipresent. You can’t be everywhere, all the time.  The faster you operate knowing that you aren’t capable of doing it all, and the quicker you remind other people of that, the better your schedule looks.

Before You Burn Out

a sloth hanging from a tree

Now that we’ve diagnosed why we’re busy, what can we do about it?  Should we just quit everything and become sloths?  Tempting, but no.

First, you need to set a sane work schedule.  Look at everything you do in a week– literally everything.  How much of your time is spent in sermon prep?  Bible study?  Personal time with God?  Kids sporting events?  Date night with your spouse?  Now start recognizing what is important versus what is urgent. A recent podcast and blog can help you identify those terms better to help you make that decision.

Next, focus your work according to your wiring.  You are naturally geared toward specific schedules and productivity times.  I am not a morning person– I don’t come alive until after the coffee is in my system and my body is sufficiently awake, usually around 10 am.  I am super productive until about 2 pm, then I eat lunch.  Typically I have an afternoon slump after lunch but pick back up around 4 and stay powered up until 9 pm.  If I schedule an intense meeting at 8:00 am and pencil in my bible study at 3 pm, it’s a recipe for disaster.  

Look at your rhythms of productivity and schedule accordingly. When are you most creative?  When is a good time for administration related tasks that require less brainpower?  When are you at your best physically for those tasks that require more physical strength?

I am also an introvert.  I know if I have “peopled” too much for too long, I will eventually run out of power in my social meter.  I have to remember to schedule myself appropriately and leave time for me to recharge so I don’t grow weary of socialization.

Now, delegate and elevate.  Those people who thought of a great ministry activity and expected you to lead it?  Empower them!  Allow them the grace to find their footing and lead it themselves.  They may make a mistake– that’s OK. You can train them and release them much easier that you can try to do everything yourself. Is there something you’re doing that falls under the description of a committee, elder, or deacon responsibility?  Delegate it.  They have a job God has called them to do; it’s time for them to do it.

And last, but certainly not least— remember to pencil in time with Jesus at the top of your list.  He calls us to come to Him and receive rest when we are weary (Matthew 11:28). Before you burn out completely, start making it a priority to come to Him.  Meditate on His words, not just for sermon preparation, but for your own personal time with Him.  Allow Him to show you areas of weakness and areas where your ego may be leading instead of Him.  Take time to talk to Him, but make sure you include time to listen, too.  Jesus longs to bring rest to your exhausted soul– let Him.

Resources for the Busy Pastor

a front copy of the book Redeeming Your Time by Jordan Raynor

Many of the applications we mentioned in this podcast and the accompanying blog are tips we’ve learned from our friend, Jordan Raynor.  Jordan’s book, Redeeming Your Time, has reshaped and changed our schedules for the better and we highly recommend it.

Right now, Jordan is offering Bootcamp listeners a discount for his online course where you will learn the principles Jordan teaches on how to make your work more productive and more meaningful. The course is normally $249, but Bootcamp listeners can sign up for only $49 using the discount code “JImbo.” Email us to connect with Jordan’s online course.

We also have the Replant Summit coming up in exactly one month.  If you haven’t registered for it, please do so now!  The theme this year is “Renew” and we are excited to meet each of you and spend time with one another.  

As always, if digital marketing is taking up too much of your time, our friends at 180 Digital are happy to help.  Contact them and see what resources they have to make your life a little easier!

EP 196 – THE IMPORTANCE OF REVITALIZATION AND REPLANTING

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EP 196 - THE IMPORTANCE OF REVITALIZATION AND REPLANTING
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The boys are back from the Big Easy and SBC23 and take some time to stop down and talk about food, connections, fun and Resolution One from this year’s convention: On the Importance of Revitalizing and Replanting.  Listen in on the conversation between the guys and Luke Holmes, Pastor of FBC Tishomingo, and author of resolution one from this year’s annual gathering in New Orleans.

SBC Resolution One

Read more of Luke’s writings here

 

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A spring flower comes up out of leaves signifying renewal and growth

The Importance of Spiritual Renewal

When we started our replant, we had all the tools to implement structural and administrative renewal in our congregation.  We read all the books, we listened to the podcasts, we went to all the conferences.  We were equipped to begin the hard work of changing culture and engaging our community.  We were prepared for conflict and criticism.

But we weren’t prepared for one thing– the need for our own spiritual renewal.  We worked tirelessly to patch holes in what many times felt like a sinking ship– all while feeling like we, ourselves, were drowning.

Perhaps you feel this way today.  Perhaps you are like the pastor Jimbo was counseling who, when Jimbo reminded him not to let a situation steal his joy, responded with, “What joy?”

I’ve been there.  If I’m being really transparent, I’m still there some days.

Thankfully, the fellas at Replant Bootcamp addressed this need and gave us some keys to living a renewed life: Joy, Prayer, Worship, and Resting in Christ.

A person trying to scoop water from a sinking ship with a small glass

Renewed by Joy

“Restore to me the joy of my salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” Psalm 51:12

Do you remember the “joy of your salvation?” The moment that you realized that Christ had forgiven you of your sins and you no longer carried the penalty of death and eternal separation? I do. There was such peace in that moment. I prayed at the altar and when I stood up, I felt completely different.  I was changed.  The fear and anxiety that I carried with me at all times seemed to fall off; it was like a heavy coat was removed from my shoulders.  I was happy and excited for the future, because I knew that from now on Jesus was in control.

When I think back to that day so many years ago, I remember that feeling of peace and joy.  I find myself praying with David that God would restore to me the joy of that day, just as David does in Psalm 51, verse 12.  

But we sometimes forget that verse 12 is one of 19 verses.  And that Psalm 51 is not merely David calling out to God for joy– it is David’s confession to sin and his shame. David’s request for restoration comes only after his repentance.

When I find myself lacking the joy of my salvation– that feeling of awe and wonder that God would forgive my sins– it’s often because I am struggling with those very same sins.  Before I can pray Psalm 51:12, I have to pray through Psalm 51:1-11, and especially verse 10: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

There is a temptation for us as Christians to fail to recognize our need for continued sanctification.  The sin of pride leads us to believe that we can live in the same way as the lost world and have no consequences. But in order to experience spiritual renewal, we must examine our lives and see if we have allowed sin to creep in.  

Ephesians 4:17-24 tells us that the lost world will act in a certain way– they will be callous, sexually immoral, greedy to practice impurity.  But in verse 20, Paul writes, “But that is not the way you learned Christ.” He calls us to something different, something new. He writes that we as Christians will experience a spiritually renewed mind when we remember to change out of our old selves and to put on our new self.  It is a picture of removing a filthy, smelly old coat and instead wearing a new, fresh, and clean one. Paul is saying that we are called to look, act, and be different than the lost world

When I find myself lacking joy, one of the hardest things to do is to admit that perhaps I am not feeling the joy of my salvation because I am not seeking the things of God as much as I did then.  Perhaps it is not that God feels distant, but that I have moved too far from Him.

Reminding myself to seek God and His purpose and plan brings me back into a restored relationship.  When I repent and acknowledge my sins, I am able to once again experience the joy of knowing that I am never too far from God’s grace and mercy.

Joy comes not only when I remember what Christ has done for me, but also what He continues to do.

a person stands with hands lifted high and arms spread in a sunset background

Renewed by Prayer and Worship

It seems clear, doesn’t it? When you need spiritual renewal, going to God in prayer and worshiping Him seem like obvious first steps. But I often unintentionally leave it as one of the last steps I take.

In our world as Replant pastors, there is a temptation for prayer and worship to be relegated to Sunday morning duties.  My own daily prayer time can get pushed aside as I strive to complete ministry related tasks.  As a Worship Leader at our church, listening to Worship music becomes less about tuning my heart toward God and more about listening for specific instruments and vocal parts.

When I feel a need for spiritual revival, I will often turn toward advice from others to help. I will talk to trusted Christian friends about it, read books about it, and even ask others to pray for me. When I’ve exhausted those options, I usually feel a little tug on my heart… God will remind me that I’ve talked to everyone but Him.

Philippians 4:6-7 tells us, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” When we seek God, He gives us the promise of His peace to protect our troubled minds.

Worshiping God with our lives and our actions results in spiritual renewal.  My aunt used to tell me all the time that the key to fighting discouragement was to find someone to help.  She’s onto something there– when I meet someone else’s needs, I am acting as the hands and feet of Jesus.  And this act of worship turns my heart and mind from anxiety and worry to a renewed sense of peace and purpose.  

Renewed by Rest

Man… If there’s one thing I know, it’s that there is so much work to do in a Replant.  I often tease my husband that he is incapable of just resting when a project is done.  He is always looking to the next thing, because there is a never ending list of things that need to be done.

Unfortunately, that is reality for many of us in this type of calling.  There is always something that demands our attention and time.  We could spend our days from here to eternity on the next building improvement or maintenance project, the next community outreach, the next evangelism training, the next new member’s class… (I could keep going, but I’m starting to exhaust myself!) And, if you’re in the early days of your replant, it’s likely all falling on you until you have more leaders equipped to help.

There are multiple problems with getting too little rest, from physical health risks to emotional and mental struggles.  But for us as Christians, one of our biggest issues with too little rest is that we often try to find our rest in the same place we find our worthour own selves.

When I try to find rest in myself, it can seem almost impossible.  Last week I told a friend that I was so mentally tired, even resting felt like a chore that needed to be penciled into my schedule. Trying to get enough sleep while also trying to do everything that needed to be done resulted in me being so anxious that I actually woke up at 3 am in a panic because I needed to do laundry (true story). I relied on my own strength to get it all done.

But spiritual renewal requires us to rest in the right place– we must rest in Christ and in His faithfulness.  When we are feeling overwhelmed and discouraged, looking to the past can help us remember that Christ has been faithful and we can find true rest in knowing that just as Christ has met our needs in the past, He will continue to be faithful in the future. Think back on those times that God met your needs in the past.  Was everything done on your timetable?  Probably not.  But God used His timing to bring His plans to fruition.  He will continue to do so.

Our rest can be found in Christ.  Do you believe that Christ loves your church and your congregation? Do you believe that Christ loves you? Then we can trust that He is using your present circumstances for His glory.

NAMB Replant Summit 2023- a Time for Renewal

several people are gathered around a circular table at a conference in 2021.
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All of these thoughts come as we at Replant Bootcamp prepare for the Replant Summit in Atlanta on August 28-29. The theme this year is “Renew.” We will have multiple guest speakers and breakout sessions to help you (and your spouse) experience spiritual renewal.  It is an awesome time of refreshing words, songs, and fellowship with replant pastors and spouses from all over the U.S.  If you haven’t already registered, please do so!  You will not regret taking this time to refresh your spirit!

EP 194 – MINISTRY MAXIMS PART 3 OF 3

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EP 194 - MINISTRY MAXIMS PART 3 OF 3
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How’s it going Bootcampers? The boys are talking about the food recommendations in NOLA just ahead of the Southern Baptist Convention and then get around the to the important work wrapping up the Ministry Maxims series.  Here are the food recommendations with the show notes below.

Bootcampers if you are attending the SBC Convention stop by the NAMB booth and see us!

Now to the show notes, as you seek to bring renewal to your church with the Lord’s leadership remember the following:

Maxim #6 Pursuing Faithfulness vs. Chasing Fruitfulness

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.  1 Corinthians 3

Maxim #7 Commiting for the Long Haul vs. Considering another call when things get difficult

For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.  1 Corinthians 16

 

We hope this series has been an encouragement to you. If you’d like to connect, if you need some specific encouragement reach out, drop us an email, leave a voicemail or drop us a comment. We would love to hear from you.

 

Our great sponsor, One Eighty Digital can give you some great help with your church branding and website, give them a call and let them know you are a Bootcamper.

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Measuring Success in Ministry (Part 2)

I feel like there are two kinds of people in the world.  One type is wired to love English/History. They most likely enjoyed these classes in school and did well in them.  They love that a sentence can mean different things when read in different ways.  They enjoy words and stories. The other type of person is geared toward Math/Science. They performed well and liked those subjects in school.  Ambiguity is frustrating to them.  They enjoy numbers, measuring things, and equations.

My husband is this type of person. He is a numbers guy.  Give him a spreadsheet and some formulas, and he will “Excel” at putting it all together. (As you may have guessed by that horrible pun, I am the other type. Words are awesome and I use a lot of them–the punnier the better.) This skill as a numbers person worked really well for him when his career was in Logistics and Warehousing.  But as a Replant Pastor, playing the numbers game can be discouraging and frustrating.

Ministry Maxims

In the most recent episodes of the podcast, Jimbo and Bob have been discussing some new “Ministry Maxims.” These truths, when applied to replanting, can shift our mindset and help create new practices that allow replant pastors to see and celebrate the successes instead of focusing on the setbacks.

In the first episode  of the series and in last week’s blog, we focused on the first three Maxims:

  1. Discerning and Adapting 
  2. Leading Paradigmatic Change
  3. Empowering and Equipping Others

In this week’s episode, we added two more:

      4. Actions over Results

      5. The Importance of Multi-stream Revenue

Changing the Metrics for Measuring Success

If you are a numbers guy, like my husband, your metric for success in your church might be attendance, baptisms, and discipleship program participation.  But in the Summer, when we experience a “Summer Slump,” those numbers may seem a bit skewed.  And truthfully, those numbers might not be giving you a full picture the rest of the year, either. 

Instead of looking at those results, shift your mindset to a new Ministry Maxim– measuring actions, not results. When we measure results, we are often looking at the end point of a journey that actually  had several successes along the way.  An increase in attendance is hopefully a result of successfully reaching your community.  Increased baptisms is a result of successfully discipling your congregation to recognize that important step of public obedience.  And an increase in discipleship  participation is certainly a result of equipping and empowering your congregation to make disciples and to take their faith to the next step. Each of those seemingly small steps is a chance to celebrate success!

In my church, as in many others, we have a display that gives us a visual reminder that every success is important.  We refer to it as the “Who’s Your One” board.  There are five colored ping pong balls, and we drop them in whenever we successfully complete a step in our gospel process.  The first ball is white– we write a person’s name on it as our “One.” This person is someone we have identified as a person in our sphere of influence to whom we are making the commitment to pray for daily and to engage with the Gospel.  The next ball is red.  We drop those in when we have listened to and heard our “One’s” story. Next, we have the orange ping pong ball.  These are used when we share a meal with our “One.” The next ball is blue, and it represents meeting a need for our “One” in a tangible and practical way.  And the final ball is green, and it represents the moment when we are able to share a gospel conversation with our “One.”

A board displays ping pong balls with colors representing steps in a church discipleship process

Each of these balls has a story and represents not just a small step, but a consistent and committed effort to reach someone who is far from God with the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We know that each of these steps are worth celebrating– not only for the potential result of a new life in Christ, but for our members who are growing in their faithful obedience to God’s call to share their faith.

Our decision to celebrate these small steps was strategic: first, we identified the measurements that were important to us as a church.  We weren’t looking to be the biggest church in town, and we didn’t want to grow from membership transfers.  We wanted to reach people who were far from God with the Gospel, and we wanted our members to take ownership in that process. So our metric went from “Are you inviting people to church?” to “Are you sharing your life with someone who needs the Gospel?” Once we identified the actions that represented that goal, then we communicated them to our people and built a visual reminder of them.  And lastly, we celebrate each time a ball is dropped in that display.

What are the actions your church is taking toward reaching your community?  Are your members meeting the needs around them?  Celebrate it! Are they engaging in conversations with others?  Celebrate it! These are important victories that are going to lead to bigger results. Every Sunday, take time to recognize the successes and remind your congregation that each step is vital, not just the end goal.

Changing the Metrics for Measuring Revenue

As Bob pointed out in the podcast, we are entering into a season where resourcing mission and ministry will require more than just tithes and offerings.  While there is a biblical mandate for the congregation to support the ministry with those gifts, replant pastors would benefit from shifting their thinking from a sole source of revenue to multiple avenues to generate income for their church.

Often, replant churches have a lack of money and manpower. But what they do have, sometimes in abundance, is property and buildings. Those unused classrooms and parcels of land that have sat empty can be used as income-generating revenue for your church that you can use to move the ministry and missions of your church forward.

Our church had an empty 4 acre corner lot at the edge of our property.  Because of the way it was positioned, the church could never use it for any specific purpose.  Much of it had overhead power lines that would prevent us from being able to build, and it was too far from the current sanctuary to be beneficial for us.  

After much prayer and discussion, we opted to sell the property.  We were specific in what we were looking for.  We wanted a buyer who would develop the 4 acres into new, affordable housing for our community.  The property sold within a few weeks, and now there are newly constructed homes on ½ acre lots waiting for new families to settle in.

But the income we generated in that sale didn’t just sit in a savings account to gather interest.  We used it to repave and paint our parking lot, which was dangerously uneven and had grown into a weed-filled eyesore. The new layout of the parking lot not only gave us a better first impression to visitors and to our community, but it also provided several new parking spots in the repainting.  The ministry and the mission of our church was funded through the sale of a parcel of land we would never use.

a close up of a parking lot with drainage problems and broken pavement

Another church in our association had an excess of space in their building.  They recognized that unused classrooms and hallways were not functioning as the best use of their church.  Instead of shutting them down and leaving them empty, the church partnered with a local Christian school and leased the space to them.  Through the week, this Christian school meets in those once-empty classrooms and uses the space.  What was once an empty hallway is now a thriving school.  This partnership generates income for the church while meeting the need for Christian education availability in the community. The mission and ministry of the church is funded by utilizing an otherwise unused resource.

Maximizing the Maxims

In my family, we will often talk about needing a “win,” or a success.  Sometimes it’s a good grade on a test, an unexpected check in the mail, or a presentation at work going better than I expected. But when we’re feeling like we’re taking loss after loss and we’re discouraged and banged up, our wins can be small things: finding a close to the door parking space in the rain, realizing we have money on a gift card for lunch, or an uplifting word from a friend. Celebrating these small wins helps me focus on the positive things in my life.

Likewise, when we utilize these Ministry Maxims, we shift our mindset from focusing on setbacks to looking at successes. Instead of being discouraged and frustrated by places we think we’ve failed, we recognize the places where God is still working and moving in our congregations.  And when we get excited about that, so do our members!

Which ministry maxim are you most interested to implement?  Let us know in the comments or connect with us on social media!

 

EP 174 – THE IMPACT OF FORCED TERMINATION

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EP 174 - THE IMPACT OF FORCED TERMINATION
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Greetings Bootcampers!  The boys were living large in Texas while teaching a DMin Cohort at Southwestern Seminary. Today’s topic is an important one; The Impact of Forced Terminations on a Church. Check out the references in the show notes to learn more.  And leave your comments on the blog, email or the Bootcamp hotline.

Forced termination of a Pastor is defined as an involuntary dismissal from service, due to no fault or moral failure, or dereliction of duties on the part of a Pastor, brought about by a few within the local church.

  • Of all pastors, 23-41% will experience a forced termination at least once in their career
  • In 2012, a Lifeway survey, in partnership with Baptist State Convention leaders, a panel identified 452 pastors and staff members who succumbed to a non-voluntary or non-self-initiated separation from the church they served.
  • It is estimated that over the years of their vocational service, four out of ten pastors will be forced out of their church by firing or some sort of pressure that leads to their eventual resignation.

When a Pastor is terminated without cause, it is often a prediction point in the history of a church, it is the place where steep, prolonged, and sustained decline begins. It is the marker under which many dysfunctions are buried.

  • Where Pastors were forced out, 34-45% of those congregations had simmering divisions and internal conflict that predated the Pastor’s arrival.
  • 23% of the congregations who forced terminated a pastor had done the same with previous pastors.
  • 2/3 of the congregations who forced termed a Pastor did so within the first five years of his tenure.
  • The top reasons cited for conflict leading to a forced separation: Conflict for control among groups in the church 68%, congregational stress 43%, values/directional conflict between Pastor and some people in the church 27%

We often think of how a forced termination impacts the Pastor and his family. We may not think deeply enough about the impact of these actions on the local church.

David Meyers, a retired Director of Missions from Chattanooga TN states: What forced termination does to the soul of the congregation is significant in and of itself, but the practical, logistical impact is also significant. The church may lose members who are unhappy with what has occurred or how it was done. The loss of financial support may result from membership decline or withholding money. The name and reputation of the church is marred in the community and beyond. Hesitant, reserved, or negative recommendations of the church are given to prospective new ministers for that church. Many ministers are reluctant to consider relocation to a church that terminated its previous minister(s).

What can be done for the church caught in this act or pattern?

  • Address the wrongs committed to Pastors and their families who were undeserving of a forced termination. Repent and publicly apologize and make restitution where appropriate.
  • Remove those who were involved in or instigated unfounded and unreasonable forced terminations from leadership positions within the church.
  • Address informal campaigns to force a pastor out through biblically based and bylaw-supported church discipline.
  • Make careful note of the actions taken above in the minutes of a Church business meeting so that the record may show these actions will not meet with approval.

Check out these resources on forced termination:

  [1] https://www.baptistpress.com/resource-library/news/pastoral-termination-common-but-oftern-avoidable-experts-say/

[2] Musical Pulpits, Baker Publishing Group, 1992. Rodney J. Crowell pg.25, 66

[3] https://ministeringtoministers.org/2017/12/forced-termination-affects-churches-too/

[4] https://www.sbc.net/resource-library/resolutions/resolution-on-the-forced-termination-of-ministers/

 

 

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