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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!

EP 210 Congregational Theological Education

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Replant Bootcamp
EP 210 Congregational Theological Education
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Well Bootcampers, the Battle of the Boot is over, Jimbo and his LSU Tigers win again. Bob will wear the pajama top in Oklahoma. In this week’s EP the guys get down to the important business of discussion facilitating theological education for the church.  Here are the highlights

Introduction

  • Spiritual maturity does not always correlate to age – the young can be spiritually mature, the seasoned immature.
  • We are often theologically educated beyond our level of obedience.

STUDYING God’s Word makes a major impact – more so than just reading it – but we need to teach our people how to STUDY God’s Word

Strategies for providing theological education (it is not a one size fits all scenario and there are multiple ways to layer this into the culture of your congregation):

  • Sermon series
  • Sunday School or small group series
  • Sunday night seminars
  • Guest speakers and workshops
  • Online resources like right now media, replant hub etc.
  • Utilize denominational confessions and creeds

What stood out to you?  We’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line and let us know what you think

Resources:

Get equipped to connect with your community, our great sponsor, One Eighty Digital, can get you headed in the right direction. Call them today and let them know you are a bootcamper.

 

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Church Leadership in the Election Season

Election season can be one of the most challenging seasons of your pastoral ministry. If you’ve been a church leader for the past ten years, I’m sure you can tell stories of discord, arguments, and conflicts in the church due to political tension. This tension can easily seep into your congregation and threaten the church’s unity and the mission that we Christians are called to uphold.

But this week on the Bootcamp episode 209, Jimbo and Bob gave us some helpful insight on navigating the upcoming election season. Here are some practical ways to handle the election season with unity and grace without sacrificing conviction.

Call Attention to Unity

The devil loves to attack church unity during a voting season. I remember when I was a seminary student during the 2020 election. Our family lived in Wake Forest, which was pretty conservative during that time. While the neighboring city, Raleigh, was much more liberal. Seeing the difference between the two cities while we lived there was surprising. 

We went to a very healthy church in that area that did a great job of emphasizing unity during that season. But on campus, there were many wide-ranging conversations on the political spectrum. While I grew up in South Georgia, close friends of mine grew up in more urban areas with different political leanings. You can imagine the heated dialogue and probably have had a few of those yourself.

One thing that has become clear to me in working with churches is that if we don’t intentionally pursue unity, it won’t happen on its own. While many scriptures point to this reality, one of my favorites is Romans 12:16-18. It says, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but enjoy the company of the lowly. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If possible, as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

This is a scripture that teaches us that unity is something we must actively pursue with one another. Don’t neglect using the word to speak to the life of your congregation. Good leadership will allow you to counsel your flock in a way that teaches that we should give each other the benefit of the doubt. A church is filled with people who come from different backgrounds and experiences. While you preach on theological truth, Christian engagement can be met with differences, and that’s okay. 

There is a difference between unity and uniformity. Not everyone in your congregation will vote the same way, and not everyone will have the same views and opinions politically as everyone else. But as Christians, we know that even if we aren’t all the same, we still have a strong commonality in Jesus Christ that will cause us to live in harmony with one another, even if our flesh enjoys strife.

Think Slow, Think Wise

Another pursuit as a church leader during this season should be wisdom. I was listening to a preacher once who said, “Real Christians can only vote for one party.” He said this in a large church with a balanced mixture of ethnicities, generations, and backgrounds. While many agreed with his sentiment, there was an awkward shifting of glares in the room. 

Such a statement seemed derogatory and unnecessary, especially for those who didn’t share the same opinion. While attempting to unify the church on voting matters, it actually caused tension and stirred up quite a bit of conversation that distracted from the church’s mission.

When we put political rivalries in black-and-white statements, we create a complex conflict within the church body. The church is not a polling booth (though some churches are used as polling booths). We cannot put unrealistic expectations on church members who are diverse in their thought processes and hold specific values over others. 

Implementing wisdom also causes us to slow down on significant changes this season. If you are trying to change the ministries of your church or some other significant change during the political season, don’t be surprised when you get met with more pushback than average. Sometimes, stepping back and calculating your church culture before doing anything that might cause division is good.

During this season, use wisdom to help your church focus on biblical truth and Christian living. Don’t add something that can become fodder for unity. This includes things like social media. We have to be skilled as leaders in addressing polarizing issues from different angles. Social media throws context out of the water. When we say things on social media versus in person, it’s difficult to read and understand its meaning. Don’t use social media in a way that causes confusion or conflict.

Be a Well-Rounded Teacher

One of the most helpful things you can do is teach through several topics related to the political season. For example, when you teach on the connection between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, church members can rest in that while their candidate may not have won, they can still know that God is in control and has a plan.

When we teach our congregations about how Christians interact with the culture around us, your church recognizes that even in conversations with others, we should seek to be peaceful, winsome, and full of love towards the outside world. Amid rivalries, Christian speech should be seasoned with salt. There should be no unwholesome talk that comes out of our mouths. 

When we teach about the difference between God’s kingdom and man’s kingdom, we help our congregations live in a way that first and foremost honors God and doesn’t idolize political candidates. We should desire to equip our people not only to know but also to understand that our hope is not in elections or government leaders. 

A well-rounded leader will help their church understand that Christians are Christians in the polling booth and the church. While we shouldn’t use the pulpit as a political tool, there are undoubtedly biblical values to highlight and point to during this season. During this season, may we echo the words of Paul in our ministries:  for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God (Acts 26:27).

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.

EP 207 – WEIGHING BIG DECISIONS

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Replant Bootcamp
EP 207 - WEIGHING BIG DECISIONS
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Greetings Bootcampers! In this episode our guys talk about the process of weighing out big decisions. Bob shares a personal update and Jimbo talks about the upcoming battle of the Boot.  The annual bet is on once again-who will be wearing the other’s team colors?

Here are some of the highlights of this week’s EP.

When you are weighing big decisions here’s a helpful process:

  • Pray
    • Scripture Support (James 1:5 CSB): “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him.”
  • Spend Time in the Word
    • Has God Given Us an Example?
      • Scripture Support (Psalm 119:105 CSB): “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.”
    • Did Scripture Speak to This Specifically?
    • Are There Commands to Obey, Are There Warnings to Heed?
      • Scripture Support (2 Timothy 3:16-17 CSB): “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
  • Give Yourself Time
    • Scripture Support (Proverbs 14:29 CSB): “A patient person shows great understanding, but a quick-tempered one promotes foolishness.”
    • Scripture Support (Ecclesiastes 3:1 CSB): “There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven.”
  • Walk Around the Issue – See It from a Variety of Points
    • Those Who Are Making the Decision
    • Those Who Will Be Impacted by the Decision
    • Immediately
    • In the Future
  • Seek Wise Counsel
    • Scripture Support (Proverbs 11:14 CSB): “Without guidance, a people will fall, but with many counselors there is deliverance.”
    • Scripture Support (Proverbs 19:20 CSB): “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and you will be wise later in life.”
  • Let All of This Marinate
    • Scripture Support (Psalm 46:10 CSB): “Stop your fighting, and know that I am God, exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.”
    • Scripture Support (Isaiah 30:15 CSB): “For the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said: ‘You will be delivered by returning and resting; your strength will lie in quiet confidence. But you are not willing.'”
  • Decide
    • Scripture Support (Proverbs 3:5-6 CSB): “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight.”
    • Scripture Support (Proverbs 16:9 CSB): “A person’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.”

Don’t let the decisions of trying to figure out your web presence weigh you down. Get with our sponsor, One Eighty Digital. They’ve got the know how, the skill and can develop a great plan for your congregation to connect with your community.

 

Mentioned in the Show Notes

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We Need More Volunteers!

We Need More Volunteers!

Picture this: You wake up in the morning, ready to preach God’s word and love on God’s people. As you head to church, you go through your sermon points a few times in your mind, spend some time in prayer, and walk into the church building. Stepping inside, you notice the greeters aren’t at the door. As you pass the children’s area, you’re notified that three of your children’s workers didn’t show up that day. 

You feel bad for repeatedly asking the same few people to fill those slots, but you assure them you’re trying to get more volunteers. When you take a copy of the bulletin, you glance at it. “Shoot,” you think. “The Announcements.” As you run through different calendar events coming up and things to be prepared for, you remember to write it down: ask for volunteers. Then comes that part of the service when you walk up and give the morning announcements.

“Ahem, good morning everyone. It’s so good to see you in the house of the Lord. Before we continue to worship, I want to give you a few announcements. Don’t forget about our Fall Festival coming up in a few weeks. We need helpers in several areas, so don’t forget to look at the sign-up sheet on your way out. We also need some additional workers in our children’s area on Sunday mornings. Also, we need more greeters. Please let me encourage you to sign up to fill in these areas.” 

Blank stares. 

You preach an awesome sermon. Grab your bible, talk to a few people, and then go to lock up everything behind you. On your way out, you check the sign-up sheet. “Seriously?!” 

This is Common

This week in the podcast, Jimbo and Bob talked about how to recruit volunteers. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a Replant, a Revitalization, or any other type of church or ministry. You know the struggle: The lack of volunteers is an issue in many churches. Is it that they don’t care? Is it that they are immature in the faith? What is it? The reason for this need is multifaceted, and as a new pastor or leader, there may be some things in a member’s  history you are unaware of.   d

Some church members are new to the faith and think the church is a service to attend rather than a family they contribute to. Some members are burned from over-service. They’ve volunteered and led under every committee, every team, and every role you can imagine. Some are lulling and going through the motions. Some members have fallen asleep to the needs and don’t recognize the value of servants. Some may be walking in sin and don’t feel like they are in a place to serve. Lastly, some members just…don’t want to. 

As difficult as this is, our mission as church leaders is clear. “…to equip the saints for the work of ministry and to edify the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12). So how do we address the need biblically AND practically?

Biblically Address the Need

For those members who may not understand the need and the value of church service, there are some ways to address it biblically. Remember, the word of God doesn’t return void! When you preach and teach scripture, rest that God works in peoples’ hearts. You can do this both through short conversation points with members but also as sermon topics. Listen to these powerful scriptures. 

“But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” 1 Corinthians 12:18-20:

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.Colossians 3:23-24

“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” Romans 12:4-8

Numerous scripture passages about the joy, benefit, and need for serving exist. Click here to see a list of several other scriptures on this topic. When we make statements to our churches and back them up with scripture, it adds to the validity and purpose of that point.

Practically Address the Need

Recruiting members to serve at your church can be challenging, but with the right approach, you can successfully use individuals willing to contribute their time and skills to the body of Christ. Here are some steps and tips to help you recruit more servants and volunteers at your church:

Identify Service Areas

Begin by identifying specific areas in your church where additional volunteers are needed. This could include roles such as greeters, ushers, children’s ministry workers, worship team members, administrative support, or any other areas that require help. You can begin developing a plan for addressing these needs by identifying them.

Organize an Initiative

Most volunteer programs are messy and chaotic in churches. Some children’s ministry workers are never relieved of their duties. We hardly allow for rotation of workers and expect people to sign up and work in a ministry area for the rest of their lives. Instead of “sharing a need,” we must communicate an opportunity. You can write a well-defined opportunity with a time commitment so people know what they are signing up for!

Churches need a pathway where if someone says, “I want to volunteer,” they have an exact place to start looking at how to serve. Utilize your church website by creating tabs for different areas with a description under each. If you don’t have a website, send members home with some information, sharing a description of each need, so that they can go home, pray about it, and be willing to come back and join in. Use a point person who is aware of all church needs. This may be someone on staff or…a volunteer. This helps to streamline all your volunteer opportunities through one person.

Broadcast the Opportunities

This is where you promote, announce, and spread the word about volunteer opportunities. Utilize various communication channels such as your bulletin, social media platforms, website announcements, and an email list to reach out to existing members and potential volunteers. Highlight the specific roles available and emphasize the positive impact volunteering can have on spiritual growth for you and the others they serve.

Church members are not quick to sign up for the next service area because we don’t discuss it correctly. We discuss it in passing, such as “We need more workers. Please sign up.” But if you communicate the need, stress the urgency, and encourage the work, you will get more quality volunteers. “We have a great opportunity to serve in our children’s area on Sunday mornings. We know we want to be a church that loves the family and gives children every opportunity to learn, grow, and know Jesus from a young age. This is a one-year commitment, and we would love to have you help serve in these areas.”

Provide Volunteer Training and Support

Once volunteers join the work, they must be provided with proper training and ongoing support. We often need to do this better. Give volunteer training opportunities and ensure they have all the tools necessary to serve well. Conduct orientation sessions to familiarize new volunteers with the church’s mission, values, and expectations. Offer workshops to enhance their skills and knowledge in their respective roles. Regularly check in with volunteers to address their concerns or provide guidance.

Recognize and Appreciate Volunteers

Consider organizing volunteer appreciation events or providing small tokens of gratitude to express your thanks. Feeling valued and appreciated will encourage volunteers to continue their service and inspire others to join. Outside of your regular encouragement of them, make sure at least once a year, you take time to honor your volunteers with a meal and a gift. This shows them they are valued and honored for their hard work and service.

In summary, recruiting more volunteers at your church requires a strategic approach that involves identifying needs, developing a straightforward program, promoting opportunities, providing support, and recognizing contributions. For any needs that arise, don’t forget to contact us.

Transform Your Business Meetings

We’ve all been there. It’s Wednesday or Sunday night, and it’s been almost an hour. And you’re still caught up in a business meeting after church. As you wait, a few comments come up: “Why are we still here?” “Are these necessary?” “Is there a better way to do this?” “Who is Robert, and what are these rules?” Especially in a replant or revitalization setting, business meetings can become the death of a church!

As Christians, we are supposed to be filled with inexpressible joy (1 Pet. 1:8). So, why do some business meetings suck the fun out of you? Business meetings are often associated with a sense of boredom and monotony. These gatherings, intended to facilitate communication and decision-making, can sometimes become tedious and unproductive. But this past week, Jimbo and Bob discussed ways to excite church members with better business meetings and some practical tips to kill the boredom once and for all. 

A Mentality Change

When my wife and I lived in Raleigh, North Carolina, we had the privilege of attending what we considered a very healthy church for the first time in our lives. No, it wasn’t perfect, but it was a church that took sin seriously and had exceptional leadership, biblical worship, solid preaching, and well-executed ministries.

After we became members, somebody told about an upcoming “Member’s Meeting” coming up. Our whole lives, we had grown to either dread business meetings or skip them altogether. But we decided to go to hear more about our newfound church family. When we walked in on that Sunday afternoon, I kid you not, and the atmosphere was joyful and exciting. Music was playing, people were hanging out and finding a place to sit, and the sanctuary was almost FULL. As the meeting progressed, there was not a boring part, including the “financial update” by one of the pastors. Every month, people in our small group and the larger church family were excited about the upcoming Member’s Meetings. 

We all want this, but how do we get there? Here are a few things to think about as you change the mentality of these crucial meetings.

Change the Conversation 

First, it’s good to ask the question: what’s the purpose of our gathering? Is it because your church by-laws require you to once a month? Because it’s necessary that you vote on every issue that comes up? Or do you truly desire, as a body of Christ, to think about more ways to gather together so members can rejoice together, pray together, hear about the ministries, and attend to business matters with joy?

Sometimes, all that’s needed is a refresh in how you talk about your upcoming business meetings. I would not want to go after hearing something like, “Well, after church today, we are going to have a quick business meeting to take care of some things around the church, so please stick around.

“Hold on,” I’m thinking. “I’ve got a toddler that needs to get to nap time, and what business are we talking about?” With an announcement like that, I’d probably skip it. The repetitive nature of business meetings contributes to their dullness. Sessions often follow a predictable structure, with participants going through the same agenda items month after month (or quarter). This lack of variety can lead to monotony and disengagement among members. Moreover, if the same topics are discussed repeatedly without any tangible progress or resolution, it can further exacerbate the feeling of boredom. 

Change it up.

That’s right, change it up. 

Listen to this announcement: “On [this date], we are going to have time to gather together and hear some exciting updates from our ministries. It will also be a time to enjoy fellowship and pray together about important matters. We want to communicate some updates that require your input as a church member. So, let me encourage you to try to be here on that day.”

What changed? 

Before, there was a lack of communication, a sense of boredom, and an unimportant call to gather for just another meeting.

Now, some words cause an emotional reaction, like “exciting,” “enjoy,” “together,” “require,” and “encourage.” Words matter! And nothing will change if we do not modify the conversation about it.

Sometimes we have to cut out the fluff. What do you talk about at your business meetings? Is it mainly earthly temporal things, or kingdom-minded things? Does it involve dealing with complaints, voting on everything, and endless discussion, or do your meetings have intentional purpose where you use each moment to point people to the Lord Jesus?

Involve Your Members

Do your business meetings involve that same deacon or leader standing up and speaking for 45 minutes to an hour? One of the ways you can change it up is by including other church members to take part of those meetings. You can incorporate them by allowing them to lead worship, share testimonies, lead in prayer, or read scripture. Doing this involves sharing responsibility and giving opportunities to serve in a new way.\

The lack of active participation and interaction during business meetings makes them boring. Sometimes, meetings turn into one-sided monologues where only a few individuals dominate the conversation while others passively listen. This not only stifles creativity and excitement but also makes the forum less engaging for those not actively involved in the discussion. Additionally, if there is a lack of opportunities for members to contribute their ideas or ask questions, it can further create a sense of boredom and disinterest.

If you’re nervous that this will just add additional time to the meetings, have people share testimonials or prayer topics that directly relate to the business of the church (like baptism stories, a camp experience, or the blessing of a particular ministry). Using kids or youth in these activities gives them a feeling of leadership and responsibility. These are things you want to cultivate in your church family.

Celebrate Your Ministries

Like most businesses, executive officers and owners want their investors to see the value of their investment in showing the quality of what they produce. In a church setting, members want to see the value of the ministries they supports by seeing how it affects people’s lives for the kingdom of God. Are you looking for ways to celebrate your people and ministries?

A lot of this has to do with the language we use in those settings. The use of jargon and technical language in business meetings can contribute to its boredom. When leaders use complex terminology or acronyms that others may not be familiar with, it creates a barrier to effective communication and understanding. 

This can lead to confusion and disengagement among members who may struggle to follow the discussion. The way we combat this is by utilizing people and simple language to communicate updates about the ministries and celebrate together.

Involve Prayer and Food

Remember that we can do nothing apart from Christ. Any time your church members gather together, use it as an opportunity to pray for one another, your church, and your community. This creates the ability to help members see that your business meetings are about eternal, kingdom matters, not temporary, meaningless matters. 

Eat food. What brings people together like a good meal? Have everyone bring a covered dish, and sit down to enjoy it together, afterwards. The Church is not a business that operates off meetings. Church is a family of God that operates off of shared community and servanthood, and sometimes this involves “doing some business.” With that in mind, my encouragement to you is to enjoy one another. And if you approach business meetings like that, you’ll approach it with joy instead of boredom.

For more podcasts on this topic, see the following.

EP 8: How to handle a Bad Business meeting w/Evan Skelton

EP 92: Robert’s Rules of Order w/Craig Culbreth

EP 146: Formal and Informal Permission

EP 203 – HOSPITALITY IN A REPLANT

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Replant Bootcamp
EP 203 - HOSPITALITY IN A REPLANT
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Hey Bootcampers, welcome to this side of history as the Bootcamp bros make history as the longest running (as far as they know) Replant Podcast. Today the guys spend time talking about hospitality and guest experience in the normative size Replant church.  Here are some of the highlights.

  • Emphasize genuine hospitality
  • Don’t assume people know where to go
  • Work hard at making your service welcoming
  • Create a follow up process and enlist a team to assist you in welcoming guests

How are you helping to welcome others to your Church?  Drop us a line and let us know.

Is your online presence welcoming to the community?  Our awesome sponsors at One Eighty Digital can walk you thru setting up an online presence that is effective and consistent with who you are.  Contact them today and let them know you are a Bootcamp listener.

 

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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 201 -BRAIN FOG AND MINDFULLNESS

Replant Bootcamp
Replant Bootcamp
EP 201 -BRAIN FOG AND MINDFULLNESS
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Welcome back Bootcampers! We hope you are doing well.  Every single one of us has on occasion dealt with the challenge of “brain fog” and struggled to do even the most simple of tasks.  Why? Pastoring is a 24/7 job and we never are fully disconnected from the weight of ministry.  Brain drain and fatigue are real, you have to be proactive and get rest.

In a recent survey Pastor’s said:

A study conducted by Soul Shepherding, a Christian leadership training ministry, found the following:

  • 75% of pastors report feeling extreme stress;
  • 90% work an average of 55-75 hours per week.
  • 90% feel fatigued each week
  • 70% struggle with depression.
  • 80% say their ministry has negatively impacted their marriage and family
  • 85% have never had the opportunity to take extended time off.[1]

What can a pastor do when they are just totally exhausted?  The guys break down some practical realities and then offer some solutions.  If you’re tired, worn out and struggling to do the next thing, give this EP a listen.

Truths

  • We love to work-get stuff done and it feeds us (ego, drive, sense of accomplishment)
  • We love to feel needed.
  • Ministry is exhausting-it is never finished
  • We were not made to work and work and work (God mandated a day of rest, for reflection and renewal)

 Application

  • Set a sane work schedule
  • Focus your work according to your wiring.
    • Creative
    • Admin
    • People
    • Meditation/Evaluation
  • Delegate and elevate – you cannot and are not supposed to do it all
  • Establish a daily quitting time (of course respond to emergencies)
  • Fellowship with Jesus (prayer, devotion, meditation)

 

[1] https://www.christianity.com/wiki/church/what-should-pastors-do-when-worn-out-and-weary.html

 

Don’t let your lack of inspiration or knowledge keep you from getting a handle on your church web presence. Get with our great sponsor, One Eighty Digital. They have the know how and expertise to get you up and running. Let them know you are a Bootcamp listener.

 

 

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