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Tag: revitalization

What is Working Genius and How Does it Work for You?

Over the past eighteen months, our church has been revising and rewriting the church bylaws.  This has been an arduous, complicated process that took much longer than anyone expected.  The team that took on the project was coed and economically and generationally diverse. We expected to have disparate opinions and different ways of looking at many of the same issues.  We expected to have different strengths and weaknesses as we worked through this important project.

But there was one thing we didn’t expect– some of us felt excited during the same phases that left others feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. For several of us, the project’s initial phase was the most exciting– we loved asking questions and defining what needed to happen.  The possibility of creating a new document for our church that would be used for years to come was so inspiring! The lack of structure and organization during this time felt time-consuming and unproductive for others.  Likewise, some of us felt energized toward the end of the project as we saw all of the hard work come together, and we began to encourage our church about some new directions and ideas.  Others were ready to move on to the next project and wished we could move quicker to the next thing.

Did these differences mean that our team was unsuccessful?  Not at all. These differences are necessary and beneficial!  On a recent episode of the Replant Bootcamp podcast, Jimbo and Bob walked listeners through a new tool called “Working Genius” by Patrick Lencioni.  Though the premise may sound similar to other personality tests and quizzes, the “genius” behind Working Genius is finding out where your team’s skills lie and which parts of a project line up with those specific gifts.

six types of working genius

The Good News: We’re All Geniuses!

One of the best aspects of Working Genius?  We are all geniuses!  It’s true– we all have an area of uniquely talented gifting.  We are more fulfilled and happier when we can work within what we are naturally good at.  In addition to seeing what our skills and gifts say about us, we can also find out where we fit within our team and project phases.  

The Six Types of Working Genius

According to Lencioni, the six types of Working Genius are:

  • The genius of wonder: The natural gift of pondering the greater potential and opportunity in any situation.  People gifted in this area love asking questions and feel creative in ambiguity.
  • The genius of invention: The natural gift of creating original and novel ideas and solutions. People gifted with this genius find joy in taking the challenges and generating solutions. They enjoy innovating from scratch and love a blank whiteboard piece of paper with which they can brainstorm.
  • The genius of discernment: The natural gift of intuitively and instinctively evaluating ideas and situations.  People gifted in this area are good curators of what’s going on around them and can recognize patterns. They know how to connect the dots and give people good feedback across a broad range of topics.
  • The genius of galvanizing: The natural gift of rallying, inspiring, and organizing others to take action.  People with this genius love to get things moving. They’re great at pushing people out of their comfort zones, inspiring them to get started, and moving them in the right direction.
  • The genius of enablement: The natural gift of providing encouragement and assistance for an idea or project.  This genius is people-oriented– they want to help realize a vision and provide the support needed to move.
  • The genius of tenacity: The natural gift of pushing projects or tasks to completion to achieve results. People gifted in this genius are task-oriented.  They love to take things across the finish line, and they ensure that a project is going to have the impact it’s supposed to have.

Project Stages

Every project has a workflow structure that follows a specific pattern.  The initial stage, where we are asking questions and answering with possible solutions, is called “ideation.”  This is the stage where people with the workplace geniuses of Wonder or Invention will feel energized, focused, and most productive.

In the next stage, we have answered our questions and have decided on a possible course of action.  But we are still getting ready for the next step.  We need people whose workplace genius is Discernment or Galvanizing to help us move into activation.  They will help us create “buy-in” for the ideas and ensure we move in the right direction.  The people with these geniuses will be excited to engage others in the work and cooperate with every team member.

Finally, after we ask and answer all the questions, cohesively move toward solutions, and ensure we are heading in the right direction, we are ready for the final stage of the project: Implementation.  In this stage, people with the working genius of Enablement or Tenacity will find joy in checking off boxes, encouraging others in their work, and getting the project to completion.

The Bad News: We’re Not Always Geniuses!

A name tag that reads "Hello I am a Genius"

Lencioni states that each person has two geniuses that fit them well– these strengths allow them to feel the most joy while at work on a project. Each person also has two Working Competencies.  These are the areas where we can perform the work, and we may even find satisfaction in it.  While we might be somewhat gifted in these areas, they do not bring us joy.  We also have two areas that are working frustrations.  These areas bring us– you guessed it– frustration.  These are the areas where we just really don’t enjoy this aspect of a project.  

Unfortunately, we are not always able to avoid those Working Frustrations.  As Replant Pastors, we are often called to work on a project from start to finish, regardless of which stage of the project brings us joy. So, how do we work within those moments of frustration without getting… frustrated?

Finding Einstein

A picture of Albert Einstein

There is this temptation, especially as a Replant Pastor with limited resources and limited people, to believe that you have to do it all.  Everything rests on you.  Each project is for you to accomplish from start to finish, whether rewriting bylaws or redoing the children’s classrooms.

Pastor, here is some truth: You can’t do it all.  If you thought you could, you would quickly discover that road leads to exhaustion, discouragement, and burnout.  (See last week’s podcast episode and blog for some tips to avoid burnout.)  You need other people.  You specifically need other people who aren’t just like you.  You need other geniuses in the room!

I can tell you from experience it isn’t easy to work with someone with a different genius.  If you have the genius of Wonder, you’re going to frustrate someone with the genius of Tenacity.  While you’re asking all the questions, they’ll just want to push forward to the part where they can start doing something.  If you have the genius of Invention, you may feel unsupported by someone with the genius of Discernment who doesn’t think your idea is a perfect one.

But we must recognize that those differences, however frustrating they may be, allow us to work better. Romans 12:3-8 reminds us that God, in His grace, gives us different gifts– but just as important, it reminds us that we aren’t to think more highly of ourselves because of our specific gifts.  We cannot envy someone else’s unique gifts or judge their gifts as somehow less than ours.

I recently attended a symphony concert with my daughter.  As we listened to the incredible music, I never thought, “Man, I wish this was just 150 trumpets all doing the same thing.” As much as I might love to hear the trumpet, the music was beautiful because every instrument was playing its part at the perfect time and volume.  The trumpet player wasn’t jealous of the violinist because it took both of them to create the symphonic sound.  Likewise, the trumpet player didn’t look down on the harpist because a trumpet couldn’t make that sound, which was necessary for the piece. 

Find the other Einsteins in your congregation with a genius that is different than yours– and then work with them on projects to make sure you’re all playing your part cohesively and beautifully for the Gospel.

If you want to take the Working Genius test or purchase it for your team, you can find more information here: https://www.workinggenius.com/about. And if you’re interested in other resources for team building and team strategies, check out our podcast episodes on Leadership Judo by searching the term or by looking at Les McKeown’s work on Predictable Success.

Steps to Preventing Burnout

“My burnout happened because of two reasons. First, my church expected me to serve them in the place of God. Second, I had unhealthy, personal characteristics that made me feel like I had to serve in the place of God.”

His statement convicted and unsettled me. I was sitting in prayer service a few weeks ago, listening to the testimony of someone who pastored a previous church in the area. He was sharing about the anxiety, exhaustion, and eventual burnout that was the result of serving in three challenging ministry assignments. Now, months later, God reminded him of the call to ministry placed on his life. He opened up to our church about the realities of exhaustion that ministers face. 

From John 3:22-30, he shared how John the Baptist responded when his followers were more concerned about people following Jesus’ teachings than John. But John did not falter. He did not grow envious. He understood his ministry assignment, reaffirmed his calling, and clarified something for his followers about Jesus: “He must increase, I must decrease.”

He illustrated his ideas and explained that John the Baptist was like the best man in a wedding. He made all the preparations, but the wedding was never about him. The wedding was about the bridegroom. In ministry, when we make our work about us, it leads us to inevitable hopelessness. Ministry was never meant to be about us.

A Place of Hopelessness

Burnout is a topic that most ministers hear and know about, but none consider that it could actually happen to them. In the podcast last week, Jimbo and Bob discussed burnout this way: “Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress,” adding, “That sounds like ministry.”

It does.   

Let’s understand what burnout is. Is it too much stress? Is it fatigue or depression? Fatigue can be cured with a three-day weekend. Stress can be relieved by the completion of projects or tasks. Depression may be close, but depression is  doesn’t capture the level of cynicism and escapism frequently associated with burnout.

Brad Hambrick of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors says, “Burnout occurs when the things that we once relied upon for life and energy become a source of discouragement and drain. Burnout occurs when we begin to live as if caring were a necessary enemy, and we begin to prefer the ‘living death’ of numbness to ‘caring exhaustion’ of Christian relationships and service.”

Is Burnout Inevitable?

There has been some disagreement between some pastors about the certainty of burnout. Is it a choice we make or a choice made for us? We dealt with Forced Termination in another blog, But burnout is typically a choice we make when we are past the point of hopelessness. When facing this type of hopelessness, asking the right questions is essential. Instead of asking, “What did I do wrong,” we should ask, “Where am I emotionally, spiritually, and mentally?”

I recently spoke with a pastor who is considering relocating and quitting his church. Here are some of the things he said to me:

“I just don’t like my job anymore.” (no joy)

“There are a hundred people who could do this job better than me.” (comparison)

“I think our search team regrets hiring me.” (lack of self-esteem)

“I think God is pushing me out.” (disillusionment with God)

“Things would be better if we were just back home right now.” (escapism)

“If I were to grade myself, it would probably be marriage: D, parenting: C, school: C…I’m not sure about ministry.” (feelings of failure)

“I’m going to give it to the summer and probably be done.” (giving up)

These are all warning signs of someone dangerously close to burnout. Maybe you’ve had these feelings yourself! As an AMS, how did I respond?

“Brother,” I said. “The last thing I want to do is “be” the voice of God for you, because that is a dangerous place to be! But from an outsider’s perspective, I will say this: this is not about your ministry, your marriage, your parenting, or your education. This is about your walk with the Lord. And if the Lord is releasing you from this ministry assignment, and you have peace about his leadership in that area, that’s one thing. But if you’re exhausted, depressed, lacking joy, and comparing yourself to others, that’s something entirely different.”

Please hear my heart: I know how difficult ministry is! The Bible never promises to us that it will be easy! But by the grace of God, there are a few ways we can deal with the stress of ministry and prevent the looming burnout that we can all grow close to. I will propose four things.

Grace

Do not forget about the grace of God. To dwell on the grace of God is to allow God’s work to heal our wounds and mistakes. Many leave ministry because of some mistakes that they feel forever remove them from ministry. Did you preach a lousy sermon? Did you forget to visit that church member, and now they have passed away? Did you lose your temper during a business meeting?

Do not forget about the grace of God. Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then, with confidence, draw near to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need.”  John said, “From His fulness we have received grace upon grace.” John 1:16. 1 Cor. 15:10 says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” 

The song says, “Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,

Freely bestowed on all who believe,

All who are longing to see His face,

Will you this moment His grace receive?”

Will you? Will you receive the grace of God when you’ve failed? Will you, when you’re feeling lost? Will you, when you cannot turn anywhere else? Look to the grace that is greater than all our sins.

Rest

As exhausting as this may sound, you need to schedule rest. I am not talking about planning a week of vacation in your calendar, per se. I am speaking about scheduling rest in your daily rhythms of life. If you work with your mind, rest with your hands. If you work with your hands, relax with your mind. A healthy life requires a good amount of rest. We live in a day of restlessness, and many leave the ministry because they simply have not found rest. 

Consider the very gentle and lowly heart of Jesus, who says, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Jesus promises to give rest to all who come to him. Here is my question: are you going to him? Are you resting in Christ? If you get to work, and you are so focused on getting the sermon done, getting the bible study planned, and thinking about the draining budget from your church’s account, yet you have not sat in the presence of God for a while, you are not a person of rest. Rest comes naturally with the designation of time. How much time are you intentionally pursuing to rest and spend with God? 

Fruit

When Jesus spoke with his disciples in John 15, he encouraged them to “Abide” in him. He said, “By this, my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples (v8).” Richard Blackaby said, “I have never met a burned-out pastor ready to quit that was deeply abiding in Christ.” In the context of personal holiness, this is such a true statement.

I understand there are good reasons to leave a ministry position at a church. If God calls you elsewhere, you are dealing with an unethical dilemma or do not think it is wise to remain given various circumstances. But burnout is a choice that stems from a point of absolute hopelessness, exhaustion, and depression. Usually, this is an indicator that something wrong has happened on the inside. I understand there is a variety of circumstances that can change the dynamic of departure. But if you are leaving the ministry, it helps to ask, “Why” and “How did I get here?”

Business is not the same thing as fruitfulness. It is all too easy to get “busy” in ministry. But it is possible to be busy without bearing fruit. Accordingly, Jesus did not say, “By this, my Father is glorified: that you do a bunch of busy things for me.” This passage also speaks of pruning. Pruning is when God takes anything away from your life that is not fruitfulness. So, if something gets taken away from you in the ministry you worked so hard for, it could very well be God’s gracious, pruning hand.

Trouble

Here’s my last word to help prevent burnout: trouble. Well, maybe not trouble itself, but the likelihood of it. Going into ministry with a realistic perspective is helpful. Trouble will come. Church members (and we) are sinful sometimes filled with pride. Financial trouble stings. Hurtful words are said. Thankfully, we have the God of comfort on our side.

By the way, I’ve always loved the beautiful words of Paul in 2 Cor. 1. Blessed be the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our affliction! Why did he say this? Oh, he tells us in verse 8:

“For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt like we received the sentence of death!” The closeness of burnout sounds inevitable if not for the separation of one sentence: “But that was to make us not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” 

There is nothing that our resurrecting God cannot handle. Know his grace. Rest in Him. Bear fruit. And be aware of trouble. You will have set your mind on him when trouble comes and stayed the course. And if, perhaps, you do leave your church, at least leave after doing all that you could have done to abide in Him.

Kingdom Leaders and Civic Leaders: Working Together

If you were to browse the shelves of a bookstore or keyword search on Amazon “Books on Leadership,” you would be quickly overwhelmed. There are myriads of resources on the topic, and it would be difficult to exhaust the subject. Church Leadership is a subtopic that also gets a lot of attention. Any pastor, revitalization pastor, or replanter would do themselves a favor by putting much of their study and practice into leadership.

What are Kingdom Leaders and Civic Leaders?

But leadership has a unique factor in God’s design for the church. It’s communal, not singular. Church leadership does not all depend on one person. The congregation has decisions, and leadership relies on a mixture of different voices. Business leadership might have a top-down structure, but church leadership is cooperative. Those cooperative decisions work best when they are made by God-glorifying, humble servants who make up a church membership. 

  It seems there are also different types of leaders in a church setting that must operate together. In this week’s podcast, Jimbo and Bob discussed two types of leaders: “Kingdom Leaders” and “Civic Leaders.” These two distinct qualities can create conflict or make a beautiful partnership. A kingdom leader primarily focuses on what decision will best benefit the kingdom of God, while civic leaders make decisions based on wisdom, community, stewardship, or finances. Both of these leaders need to cooperate. 

Kingdom leaders need civic leaders to think about all aspects of ministry decisions. Civic leaders need kingdom leaders to recenter on gospel mission.

Pastor, have you ever desired that your church move forward in a decision, and when you brought it before your team, you were met with resistance? That’s because different leaders come to decisions with varying goals in mind. A kingdom leader will always ask, “What will best bring God the glory?” While Civic-leaders will ask, “What is the wise decision in this situation? What will provide the best outcome for our finances, resources, and time?” 

My pastor has a team of 4 other pastors and staff at my church. But every major decision that is made goes through a Ministry Advisory Council. This Council is not a decision-making board but a filter that provides different perspectives. Most decisions we make in a church setting must consult different viewpoints before becoming solidified.

Jimbo and Bob gave us a few ways that Kingdom Leaders and Civic Leaders can mesh together for God’s glory in the local church.

1. Lead with Respect

Notice that when we were saved and given the gift of the Holy Spirit, we were given various gifts and callings. Listen to 1 Cor. 12:4-7, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. Each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

When we begin working with others, we must quickly realize their gifts. That will help us understand how we relate to one another. 

Sometimes, aggressive leaders want to do everything themselves. They think, “I know they can do it, but it would be better if I did.” This type of leadership is domineering, not respectful. Leading with respect means that we lean on one another and utilize each other’s gifts and callings to serve in a way that best serves the kingdom of God. 

2. Lead with Cooperation

Leaders collide, conflict occurs, and personalities clash. This is precisely what the enemy wants. But Kingdom work is cooperative work. Great leaders can take the strengths and weaknesses of others and create better leaders in one another. We are better when cooperating because the Mission of Christ is collective. 

In the podcast, Bob said, “My ideas have either been shaped or improved or strengthened or eliminated through the process of collaboration.” Sometimes, we can be so blinded by our excitement that we don’t realize that our ideas may not benefit our setting most. We need one another to collaborate with and filter through ideas for the glory of God.

3. Lead with Humility

Leading with humility recognizes that sometimes it’s good to take a back step and follow others. The best leaders are often the best followers, as well. It can be tempting in leadership to act like you are flawless and show no weaknesses. Humble leadership recognizes that authenticity is a critical factor in decision-making. Humble leaders know who they are and what they bring to the table.

One of the best examples is Jesus’ servant leadership in John 13. As he washed his disciple’s feet, he said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Jesus was willing to put others above himself, and God exalted him highly because of that humility. Even so, when we put others above ourselves, God strengthens and lifts us because he loves a humble heart.

4. Lead with a Healthy Dose of Reality

I am a dreamer when it comes to ministry goals. But God had a sense of humor when I married my wife and quickly discovered she was a realist. Our “creative discussions” are not so much pessimism vs. optimism but more idealistic vs. realistic. While we love to try and conjure up our ministry with lofty dreams, it helps to have a healthy dose of realism.

This means recognizing that success is often measured in many cycles of victories and setbacks. When we fail, sometimes, it can be a brief setback to come back from or a significant fall that you think you can’t return from. Failure simply will happen from time to time, and people will fail you, too. If you lead from a realistic perspective, you will have much more grace towards yourself and others. 

5. Lead with the Right Goals

While we live in a world of resources, strategies, and programs, make sure that your church mission is simple and that you keep the main thing the main thing. I saw a mission statement once that said, “To be the best church in our community and grow our congregation.” What? Focusing solely on church growth can be peremptory. Magazines will tell you exactly what type of lighting you need to grow your attendance. But replanters must keep the main thing the main thing. Our mission is the mission of Jesus Christ. To go and make disciples. Let’s lead together, toward this effort.

Every Generation Matters

Every Generation Matters

Do you genuinely love and have a deep, affectionate care towards every generation in your church? In a world of target groups, demographic information, and “projected growth rates,” it can be tempting to gear your ministry and activity towards a specific generation and fail to honor others.

In a Replant or Revitalization every generation matters and has a vital role in the local church’s life. Some have a tendency to adopt ministry approaches that are only geared toward the next generation of children, students, or young adults. The older generation starts to feel a bit…shoved out the door. On the opposite side is a tendency to only cater to the older generation for fear of your faithful few leaving and causing a stir after being long-time members. After all, they’ve contributed to the church much longer, right?

As a Replant leader, you must have an affinity for reaching multiple generations to connect with all age groups and ensure they are loved, valued, and heard. Multi-generational ministry is essential because that’s the picture of the gospel-centered community we see in Christ. And Jesus Christ said, “I will build MY church…” Salvation is not age-limited, and healthy churches should do all they can to focus on ministering to every age group of believers.

A Mosaic of God’s Grace

Multi-generational ministry shows a beautiful mosaic of God’s divine grace in the makeup of a local church. Some people come to Christ at eight years old, some in their twenties, and some in their late 80s. The drawing and convicting work of the Holy Spirit is no respecter of persons, and the salvation that God brings can come at any age in which someone repents and believes in Jesus Christ for salvation.(Thank God!!) 

In the biblical community, the local church comprises vast differences in age groups but with the same common denominator: The gospel. Paul didn’t preach differently towards differing people; he said, “We preach Christ and him crucified.” In Galatians 3:28, Paul explains that we are all one in Christ. This beautiful text shows that those who do not support multiple generations of focused ministry do not truly understand the gospel.

The gospel unites a church behind the banner of Christ regardless of age, ethnicity, socio-economic condition, or anything else. 

Holistic Discipleship and Biblical Instruction

In the epistles, age groups have different roles. In Titus 2:3-5, older women are taught to instruct and disciple younger women to care for their families and grow in their godliness and calling. In Titus 2:2, Older men are advised to be sober-minded, dignified in every way, and to lead in holiness. Younger men and women are taught to listen to and submit to their elders and are instructed to serve with passion and zeal. 

You see, if we want to express the biblical community modeled in the New Testament and taught in the Epistles, we must seek to reach every generation with the gospel and encourage them in different service areas of the church. If we want to do discipleship in the most holistic way possible, it takes every generation playing their part.

Build Bridges, Not Barriers

If you want to build bridges between different age groups, one of the worst things you can do is separate your people at every possible moment. That means having various worship services that target different age groups, having only age-specific discipleship groups, and misplacing expectations on specific age groups without considering the others.

Instead, we must seek out ways to build bridges between generations. Don’t focus on worship being too “young” or “old.” Just practice biblically sound worship. Look for ways to fellowship with one another outside of regular church practice. Create opportunities for younger men and women to be poured into by the older generation. 

Every generation has strengths and weaknesses. Celebrate and utilize their strengths instead of complaining about a group’s shortcomings. A good leader will look past the imperfections, celebrate spiritual gifts, and employ them when possible. It helps to eliminate preconceived notions about a specific generation and focus on ministering to them. As you pour into them, you’ll likely be surprised at their growth and openness.

Outdo One Another in Showing Honor

When you target preaching on inter-generational relationships, it can be a beautiful picture of discipleship. 

We often equate longevity to spiritual maturity. But this is not always the case. Are older generations  not receptive to change? No, we need to get rid of our preconceived notions. Some of the older generation have seen enough of the hardship in their church that they may be willing to try anything to see their church grow as it once did. 

Scripture commands us to outdo one another in showing honor. Scripture commands us to die to ourselves. Scripture commands us to humble ourselves. Scripture commands us to love one another. If you want to build relationships between generations, start with scripture. God’s word has an answer to everything pertaining to life and godliness.

In some encouraging words from Jimbo and Bob, they said, “Pastor the people God has called you to, not the one you want to pastor.” Multiple generations is a picture of gospel unity made possible by Christ. Don’t fear the generational gap. Embrace it for the glory of God.

Navigating Consensus Decision-Making: Identifying Challenges and Opportunities

In a recent episode of the Replant Bootcamp podcast, Bob and Jimbo walked us through what it looks like to weigh big decisions.  In that episode (and accompanying blog linked here), we discussed seven steps we can take when making difficult decisions as a replant pastor or leader.  These decisions can be made unilaterally, allowing the pastor to think through his choice and move forward. But many decisions require more than just the pastor thinking through them– they require a consensus of thought from many different voices and viewpoints.  

Consensus is defined as, “a general agreement, [or] to arrive at an agreement about a matter, thing, or initiative.”  And this process of collaborative consensus has real benefit when it comes to unity and support within the church, but it is not without challenges.  Thankfully, Bob and Jimbo are here to guide us.  Let’s dive into episode 216 and look at the challenges and correctives in consensus decision-making.

Obstacle One: 100% Agreement Might Be 100% Impossible

10 Ways To Keep Team Agreements Alive - Hanna Cooper

As I write this, Thanksgiving is two weeks away.  That means it’s time to send the annual “What does everyone want for Thanksgiving Dinner”  family group text.  You might think Turkey Day has a standard menu of Turkey, Dressing (or Stuffing, depending on your regional preference), cranberry sauce, etc.  And in most families, you’d be right.  But not in mine.

I have one kid who hates turkey.  He always requests a small ham.  I have another family member who doesn’t care for mashed potatoes but will eat sweet potatoes.  I have one child who despises green bean casserole and two who can finish the entire casserole dish themselves. I have one person who prefers pumpkin pie and one who prefers pecan.  One who wants corn casserole and one who wants macaroni and cheese. Only one person will eat cranberry sauce.

I am only feeding between 5 and 10 people any given Thanksgiving, but getting all 5 to 10 people to agree on a menu for that day is nearly impossible because everyone has their own preferences. If I wait for everyone to agree on a menu I run the risk of Christmas being here before we can eat.

Church decisions are often like this. One faction wants one thing, while another would prefer something else. If we wait for everyone to agree, we may never reach the place of decision.  

Our challenge is often in seeking 100% agreement in the outcome.  Instead, we need to look for 100% support for the outcome.

Bob Bumgarner, the Lead Missional Strategist for First Coast Churches in Jacksonville, Florida, sees it this way: Maybe we can’t get 100% of the people to agree on 100% of the decision, but can we have 100% of the people agree to 80% of the decision? In other words, can we all agree on the fundamentals so we can support the decision and stand by it without disunity and disharmony? Can we give up our preference for one stroke of the painting to allow for a decision that provides the best portrait?

Consensus decision-making requires us to acknowledge that we may not achieve a unanimous decision, but we can agree on the essentials enough to move forward. 

The First Opportunity Found in Consensus

When we go into a decision knowing 100% agreement might be 100% impossible, we might run the risk of feeling somewhat discouraged.  But there is an opportunity here in this obstacle.  While we can’t guarantee a unanimous decision, we can seek to love each person at the table in mutual submission and grace.  

Ephesians 5:21 states, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  I can push my personal preferences aside when I remember that it’s not about me. We must honor each other as we sit around a table and seek wise counsel. 

In any collaborative decision-making process, there will be opportunities for discussion and perhaps even debate.  In those moments, it is crucial that we remind our people to truly listen to each other.  When we actively listen to someone else’s position, we aren’t looking for new ways to convince them toward our side.  We are instead serving them and honoring them by seeking to understand them better.  

Mutual submission allows each person to not only feel heard and validated, it also acknowledges a very powerful truth: We do not have all the answers.  Spoiler alert: We do not know everything! In hearing someone else’s opinion and truly listening for deeper understanding, we are humbly recognizing that we don’t know it all.

We may not be able to agree on everything, but we can all agree that honoring each person at the table is more important than anything.

Obstacle Two: Desperate Times Make for Desperate Decisions

Have you ever been in a meeting that just… wouldn’t… end…?  I was once in a staff meeting where 15 different staff members were all trying to decide on a solution to a very frustrating situation.  Every person had a valid opinion and every person felt that they were correct. No one seemed to know how to fix the problem.  After 3 hours of back-and-forth discussion, do you know what was finally decided?  Absolutely nothing.  The decision was tabled until the next month’s staff meeting.  

There was just one problem… That situation still needed a solution.  In desperation and frustration, management made a unilateral decision that angered everyone and threatened to induce a mass walkout.  

Their desperation to make a decision, ANY decision, led them to make one that really didn’t solve the problem and instead led to newer, far more serious, problems.  Churches can experience that desperation, too. In our rashness for ANY decision to be made, we can jump into the wrong one.  We can allow the conversation of our preferences, our desires, and our thoughts to become the standard for decision-making.

I know what you’re thinking… But Erin, you JUST SAID we needed to humbly listen to everyone! You’re right.  But there’s one more person we must listen to over everyone in the room: The Holy Spirit.  

If the only standard we use for decision-making is our own flawed human logic, we are bound to fall into desperate decisions that aren’t Kingdom-minded.

The Second Opportunity Found in Consensus

The best decisions we can make are those that honor God: His Word, His Work, and His Way. Our logic, preferences, and opinions all take a back seat to the wisdom that is only found in the Holy Spirit.   

As leaders in the room where it happens, we have a unique opportunity to guide our people toward listening for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  When we remember to rely on God’s timing and God’s provision, we are less likely to jump into desperate decision-making that leaves Him behind.  

When we encourage our members to pray for upcoming decisions, we are reminding them to look for God’s leadership and not just ours.  When we guide our members to search the Scriptures for verses specific to the topic, we are reinforcing our mutual belief that God’s Word is alive and active, even for our “modern-day” decisions.  When we shepherd our members to wait for God’s timing, we are motivating them to remember that He is faithful even in the waiting.

We are strengthened as a community when we remind ourselves that the Holy Spirit’s voice should be the strongest in the room.

Obstacle Three: “I Never Liked It From the Start”

Hindsight bias: the knew-it-all-along phenomenon - Ness Labs

You know the expression, “Hindsight is 20/20?” I know a woman whose hindsight is not only crystal clear, but she will also be happy to remind you that her foresight was, too.  “I was never on board,” she boasts. “I knew this was a bad idea from the beginning.” The problem is, she never says anything in the beginning!  It’s only after a decision has been made and then found to be less than ideal that she finds this voice.  

You might imagine that consensus decision-making would discourage this because there is ample opportunity to speak up and collaborate on decisions.  But instead, sometimes the opposite is true.  In a consensus where everyone is part of the process, there is a challenge for everyone to not only agree with the decision but support it, as well.  

As we said in the first obstacle, we may not all agree on the entirety, but we hope to agree enough on the fundamentals to come to a decision.  But even if we don’t agree with it all, we MUST support it all.  It is imperative that every person involved in a decision-making process leaves the room ready to champion the final option.

We must remember that those of us making decisions will occasionally make a decision that doesn’t turn out exactly how we imagined.  In that moment, we must be able to acknowledge the reasons why and move forward without finger-pointing and murmuring against each other.  The full support of each person in the consensus is necessary for unity and accountability.

The Third Opportunity In Consensus

In Galatians 5, Paul reminds the Galatians to live ”by the Spirit.” He tells them that the works of the flesh are evident.  The first few refer to sexual impurities, but then he mentions, “enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, [and] envy.”  Paul’s reminder is fitting for us, as well, as we think through collaborative decisions. When we walk in the flesh, we are prone to backbiting and dissension.  We allow rivalries to build up and bitterness toward our fellow members to grow roots in our hearts.  We make decisions not out of a spirit of love, but out of pettiness and jealousy.

But when we are led by the Spirit, Paul writes, we bear the fruit of the Spirit, namely, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Imagine being in a room where decisions were made in that kind of generosity of Spirit.  Imagine collaborating with fellow Christians who all listened to each other with those fruits evident in their interactions.  

Now imagine that the decision didn’t work out for some reason, and imagine seeing those same people respond to each other with grace and mercy, the fruit of the Spirit on display as they support each other and encourage each other.

Consensus decision-making can be challenging, but when we meet those challenges with biblical community, we honor God and testify to His Spirit in us.  We see our members grow in grace, love, and unity with each other, and that overflow informs our decision-making process.  We make better decisions with better support and we see a transformation as we do so.

Long-Tenured Pastors Can Still Lead in Church Renewal

Is it ever too late for a pastor to lead his congregation toward church renewal? 

In the replanting and revitalization world, there has been much discussion on the barriers to church renewal. One of those topics has been the tenure of the existing pastor. 

Replanting is usually described as the decision to close an existing church and re-launch it as a new church with new leadership, new name, new identity, new governance, new ministry approach and overall new philosophy of ministry. 

Although this is one of the ways to describe replanting, there are different variations of church renewal, such as church revitalization, fostering, and merging. 

Still, the question remains. If a church needs to enter into a renewed effort and process, does the existing, tenured pastor need to go?

In this week’s podcast, Jimbo and Bob discussed this vital topic and clarified where some may be confused. The answer is yes: a long-tenured pastor can certainly lead toward church renewal. But it takes some clear thought, a considerable commitment, and the power of God working through the Pastor and congregation.

To highlight some of the discussion, here are three things that must be stressed when a long-tenured pastor wants to lead a church toward church renewal.

A Renewed Pastor

Every faithful pastor who cares about his church is concerned about his church’s spiritual health. Pastors might implement different strategies and approaches to help their church engage their community, reconnect to their mission, and focus on discipleship. I’ve talked to older pastors who have commented: “Many of us have been doing ‘church revitalization’ before it became a system or a process.” That’s encouraging.

It tells us that a true pastor’s greatest desire is to lead his congregation in the best way that honors God and grows God’s kingdom. Those qualities should be applauded and celebrated.

But there is a difference between slowly implementing different methods vs. trying to enter into a new season of renewal for a church. Church Renewal often takes an intentional, set-apart initiative that is time-bound and goal-oriented. Sometimes, it can be easier for a church to “start from scratch” and get a new pastor. This can often result in forced termination. Do we think that a church can be renewed entirely by just switching leadership? Although this may help sometimes, it can speak even better testimony if a church engages in a new process with the same tenured leadership.

A long-tenured pastor may face the barrier of staleness and an inability for his congregation to follow him or try something new. But if a church is to be renewed, it must take a dedicated effort. A long-tenured pastor can lead this way, but they must focus first on their own renewal.

This can begin with a pastor taking a sabbatical and personally resting from the work of ministry to have somewhat of a “restart.” During that time, that pastor should do some prayerful personal evaluation and possibly reach out to others for training on church renewal. Pastors committed to the long haul must commit to seeing it through.

In a situation like this, a pastor must get some perspective and insight from others. As difficult as it may be, it helps to reach out to congregants and those outside the church to ask the questions:. How am I doing? How can I be a better pastor? What do you see from the outside that you think will help our church? These questions can sometimes be painful, but we all have blind spots we must be aware of.

Working with others, decide what your strengths and weaknesses are and how you can come back ready to lead your church in an intentional process toward renewal.

A Hungry Church

If a church is not hungry and thirsty for God’s righteousness, a new pastor or a tenured pastor will change nothing. Church renewal occurs when God’s people draw near to him, ask him to reveal sin in their church, and seek his face daily through prayer. Church renewal happens when there is a revival of the church’s holiness and mission. 

If a church enters a renewal process, it must enter a season of prayer and anticipation. The leadership of a church communicates this through meetings and regular communication. It helps to set up a time-bound goal. At the first church we began serving towards Revitalization, we created a booklet called “90 Days of Prayer.” We challenged the church to enter into that season of seeking God together. This set up the stage for leading them to reconnect to their community and mission partners down the road.

We’ve talked before about creating a sense of “holy discontentment.” By conviction of leadership, help your church see that there’s something wrong. You’ll have to lead your church in some strong evaluation and rightly define reality. There are several different resources to do this. It can be tempting to jump from one Bible Study to another. But, a great leader will often go through a Bible study and then spend weeks leading his church in the application utilizing different functions and ministry. 

For example, most of you probably have read or at least heard of the classic Bible study book, “Experiencing God” by Henry Blackaby. Thirteen weeks. What a great study! What great information! But how will you take this study and point to its application regularly? How will you help your church see where God is working and join him in that work? Let us not forget the words of Jesus: “Blessed is he who hears these words of mine…and does them.”

Church renewal cannot rise and fall on the pastor. If this happens, a church is not dependent on God. They are dependent on a man. If a church is hungry for a “new pastor” but they aren’t hungry for God, church renewal will never take place.

An Intentional Culture

Lastly, for church renewal to take place through a tenured pastor, the culture of a church must also change. “Business as normal” must be challenged and shaken up. 

When we began leading our first church in revitalization, one of the first changes we wanted to make was to start worshipping together in the old sanctuary, which was much smaller than the new. The new sanctuary sat about 300 people, but only 12-15 were regular attendees. Moving into the old sanctuary created a sense of authenticity and reminded us that we were one family gathering together.

A long-tenured pastor must intentionally lead the church in a defined, new direction. He must also be able to communicate it clearly and compellingly. That message must be amplified as much as possible.

It’s essential to cast a simple but compelling vision statement. Where do you want to see your church in five years? In ten years? When you have “wins,” celebrate them regularly and build momentum.

There are many resources to help in your efforts. But one of the best resources is right here on this website! Many blogs, podcasts, and resources are here for you to browse through how to lead your church in these efforts. If you’re a long-tenured pastor seeking to lead your church in renewal, consider these things and implement them. It may very well be that God is not finished with your season of ministry at this church.

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!

Your First Five Years

We have 15 churches in our small Baptist Association. Three of those churches have pastors with close to 25 years of tenure. As I have built relationships with these great men of God, I’ve learned that they are much more concerned with personal holiness than with their ministry’s success. Rather than overwhelm themselves with church marketing strategies and techniques, they are devoted to prayer and devotion to God and want to be led by the Spirit. Of course, there is a place to learn about church growth, leadership structure, and helpful ideas. But none of those could take the position of the health and development of our own spiritual lives.

I have also learned that this type of tenure is the exception, not the rule.

On average, a pastor will stay at a church for about five years. A Duke University study showed that 85% of seminary graduates entering the ministry will leave in the first five years, and 90% of all pastors will not stay until retirement. There are several reasons for this, and I can’t pretend to do a complete diagnosis of the issue. But I have noticed one thing in my generation of 25-35-year-olds and now the generation under me. We have grown up with false expectations of ministry.

We grew up on the launch and rise of social media, where all the prominent “big-name” pastors have platforms for the masses. In this mentality, ministry looks like a spotlight, and tentative pastors have much to look forward to but are sometimes met with a false sense of fame and glory. Jimbo and Bob said on the podcast, “Future pastors think they’re going to change the world, but then, they change the bulletin and almost get fired.” Most churches are not mega-churches that you see on viral clips online. They are simple, small congregations scattered throughout the U.S., many of them in rural areas. 

If we’re honest, we could make the world of Replanting and Revitalization look like a glamorous ministry endeavor by marketing efforts, resources, and heroes who speak at conferences. But the reality is that this type of ministry is, in fact, a gritty and glorious work. We should never pretend to create false expectations, but face the truth. Replanting is an amazing, God-favored work. But it is a difficult and gruelling work as well.

If we can continue to share the realities of ministry, as this podcast has done so well, we can give replanters and pastors the hope they need to make it through and celebrate their wins in ministry while acknowledging the hardships. So, speaking in general terms, here is what your first five years replanting a church may look like.

Year 1: Who are they? Who am I?

In a Church Replant, it can be natural to look around, see all the negative, and start making changes. But you know that your first year of ministry is a trust-building season. If you don’t intentionally pursue building trust with anyone and everyone, they won’t be ready for any change you bring. During the first year, a pastor should focus all their efforts on being a pastor. 

Pray and ask God to help you develop relationships and love this flock. Don’t see this church as a stepping stone for a future ministry role. This is where God has called you. Teach, lead, and care for the sheep while you learn how to shepherd them well. During this first year, you will probably have many opportunities to sit down with them in their homes, find out where they work, and build friendships with them. You also will want to take this first year to grow and get to know your community.


Also, this first year will allow you to discover who you are as a minister. How do you deal with stress? What are your natural strengths in ministry? Your weaknesses? What areas do you need to work on in your own personal life? Ask God to lead you each day as you seek to minister to these people. 

Year 2: I think this is going to be hard

It is natural in year two to begin experiencing some conflict. Any type of change you recommend has started to become problematic, and people are resisting your leadership. They trust you as a pastor to care for them but aren’t sure they should trust you as a leader to lead effective change. Change is viewed as a loss for those who experience it. Slowly, some members may feel like they are losing their grip on power and influence.

As you lean in and develop relationships, some get close to you and are your most incredible supporters and encouragers. Others criticize your leadership and have their own opinions. But still, you remain optimistic and consider what the future looks like. Remind yourself, “This is where God called me. God has called me to love these people. To pastor these people. To care for these people.” “Sure,” you think, “The grass might be greener elsewhere. But it couldn’t be greener than being in the center of God’s will.” That hopeful optimism will carry you into year 3. Still, somewhere between years 2 and 3, many pastors begin seeking a new church. 

Year 3: I think this was a big mistake

As much as your optimism has kept you afloat, the third year of ministry will generally become more complex than anything you’ve expected. Church leaders and experts have studied the dangerous third year of ministry. And according to Church Answers, here are some reasons why many pastors consider leaving during that third year.

  1. The honeymoon phase was over from the church’s perspective. The church began seeing the imperfections in the pastor’s ministry. Many brought concerns about those imperfections to the pastor.
  2. The honeymoon phase was over from the pastor’s perspective. Some promises made by those who first sought the pastor were unfulfilled. The pastor may feel like he was misled.
  3. When a new pastor arrives, most church members have their own expectations of the pastor. But it is impossible to meet everyone’s expectations. By the third year, some of the members become disillusioned and dissatisfied.
  4. By the third year, the church typically has several new members who arrived under the present pastor’s tenure. Similarly, some members who preceded the pastor have died or moved away. The new members seem great in number compared to existing members. These changes threaten some.
  5. In any longer-term relationship, that which seems quaint and charming can become irritating and frustrating. The pastor’s quirks thus become the pastor’s faults.
  6. All relationships have seasons. None of them can remain on an emotional “high.”

At the Replant Bootcamp, we agree with many of these reasons why a third year in ministry seems to be the hardest. Sometimes, you may even see a significant slide in attendance and finances. And you’re thinking, “Why?!”

On a personal note, you’ll experience a lot of self-doubt and spiritual warfare. You may even avoid people and resent people, reverting to isolation to avoid criticism and question God’s call.

But through this difficult season, God is using your experience to teach you something. With as much caution as I can use, I think God is saying this: “Hang on. Hold on. Stay in there. Because I’m doing some ‘pruning,’ some ‘molding,’ and some ‘refining.’ I’m doing some work on people’s hearts. And if you’ll be patient, I will use how you handle yourself in this season to purify your ministry and give people hope in your leadership.”

During the third year, God is like a gardener, doing some pruning (John 15:2). God is like a potter, molding his clay (Jeremiah 18:1-5). God purifies his silver like a refiner (1 Peter 1:6-7). And if we just place our hope in him through the turmoil, He will sharpen the authenticity of our faith and give us the resilience to make it through.

Year 4: Okay, let’s make this work

You may still be going through some fire, but you see the light at the other end of the tunnel. You begin to see in this season what it looks like when God gives you the vision to lead with effective change. By now, you’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. You learned to love the quirks of your congregation, not to let them aggravate you.

You are starting to accept things for how they are. And you know how to lead change that doesn’t cause a mass exodus because your people trust you more and more. Our encouragement to you in year 4 is to love and laugh. Love them unconditionally. And laugh as often as you can. Eat together, spend time together, and enjoy one another. Cry and grieve with them, and find the right pockets of time to implement change.

Your sermon development has turned into a joyful preparation to feed God’s flock instead of damage control just to maintain. Some of the pressure has started to ease, and you’ve settled into your pastor, leader, and caregiver role. Yes, conflict still exists, but you know that all pain has a purpose. God is using you, so don’t give in yet.

Years 5-7: This is my new normal

In year five, you put your hand to the plow, and there is no looking back. During this time, you celebrate victories, you learn from mistakes, and you pastor and love the church you have. Don’t grieve the church that “could have been.”

By this time, you’re starting to settle into what you believe will be a long-tenured ministry if God allows and directs. One of the principles of a long-tenured ministry is that you trust your call, even when things get complicated. You cannot neglect your spiritual discipline. Be in the word, be in prayer, and make sure you rest. Preach on ecclesiology every year. Your church must be taught and reminded of how to be the church.

Somewhere along the way, the church is beginning to see you, not as someone passing through, but as their pastor. Remember that a long-tenured ministry requires patience, dedication, and the ability to weather both the highs and the lows. 

 

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).

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.