As we move from one stage [of spiritual formation] to the next, we gain understanding and cultivate new virtues that strengthen us for the rest of the journey. Each stage also involves certain temptations. Yielding to these temptations disorients us from the path, but conquering them takes us ever closer to God.
I believe in the axiom that says you grow at the edges. What that means is that you are most likely to grow through the excitement and contagious exuberance of the people who are newest to your church. They are the ones most likely to invite their friends to come and enjoy what they are enjoying. These are people who have been around for one or two great Christmas Eve services, not 10 or 15; people who saw the Maundy Thursday service for the first time this year, not the seventh. These are the people who are more likely to have unchurched friends than the ones who have been around so long that all their friendships are rooted in the church.
Here are five implications to consider:
- We should spend as much time in our “newcomer” event listening as we do talking. Asking great questions and getting good feedback from the most enthusiastic and motivated peole among us is a good idea.
- We should make sure we have great “entry points” that help people on the edge to invite their friends. Since they likely still retain most of their network of unchurched friends, we want them to have natural and relaxed opportunities to bring those close to them.
- If we see we are losing people at the edges, we should be very intentional in finding out why. Is there a disconnect helping new people find their way? What is the retention rate of the church? If it isn't healthy, i.e. >25%, the church will miss the natural evangelism that happens at the edges and will struggle to grow.
- When filtering out people’s complaints, and every church does, we mustn’t dismiss people because they are new. People who are new bring a fresh perspective. Find ways to engage them.
- Our first impressions and connecting ministry must get first priority. If any of our systems and teams needs to work smoothly and be healthy, it's those that make our first impressions on the fringe.
Throughout the five books of the Psalms we journey through every human emotion and circumstance – grief, lament and suffering, persecution and conflict, sin and guilt, joy and prosperity, victory and success, love and friendship, security and peace. The list goes on and on! Yet, at the end of it all, once human life is considered in all of its seasons and experiences, God remains God and is always worthy of our praise.
In a recent trip to 12Stone Church I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Dan Reiland, their Executive Pastor. Dan is an accomplished author and leader who has played a key role in the growth and success of 12Stone. In a testimony to 12Stone's openness and humility, Dan and several other key pastors gave me time to ask them some questions. 12Stone is where we hope/expect to be in several years, both in size and in multi-site development.
Fairhaven is a multi-site church and we are also in a capital campaign to raise $10M. One of the elements of that campaign is long-term funding for our multi-site strategy. We want to frontload our vision for 10 multi-sites. So that's the larger context of my meetings.
One question that I posed to Dan was relative to the concern that some in our church family have expressed as to whether we would plant a multi-site near an existing evangelical church. In other words, would we encroach on another Bible-teaching churches' "turf"?
I asked Dan what he thought of that concern. His answer was the "aha" moment of the trip for me. He said, "We wouldn't give that a second thought. We wouldn't care if there was a good Bible-teaching church right across the street." He said that they planted a satellite campus barely a stone's throw from a thriving, well-known evangelical church. I'm not sure if surprise registered on my face, but inside I was picking my jaw up off the floor.
Dan went on to explain that they believe that there are more than enough lost and unchurched people around for every church to be healthy and growing. As long as there are people who need Jesus still left in the community, there is room for another church to preach the Gospel.
He shared a business analogy with me that seems to make great sense. If there is one good restaurant on a corner of an intersection, that restaurant may do reasonably well. But if there are three good restaurants at an intersection, all three restaurants will do better. In other words, three healthy, thriving churches in close proximity to each other will actually be better than one church alone. A recent trip to visit Dallas churches seems to support that principle.
When I returned to Fairhaven and shared that with our Lead Pastor, Dr. David Smith, I could see he had the same "aha" moment I had. He said, "that one idea was worth your trip." I agreed.
A rhythmic approach to life encourages seasons of high intensity that require personal sacrifice, but these times should be followed by a season of rest and renewal.
[Spiritual] Disciplines disrupt the normal pattern of thoughts and feelings in me to give room for new ones. You can’t so much choose your attitude, but you can, over time, disrupt one attitude and gradually replace it with another.
The other day I read through the "What's Next?" booklet sent out by Leadership Network. It was an interesting little read. In case you didn't receive one, below are the points that I found most interesting, at least as they apply to our situation here at Fairhaven Church.
- We've seen a trend toward budgeting spending at 80-90% of the previous year's income. Overages are then reserved as opportunity funds for strategic purposed throughout the year. || Yes! That is a critical issue if we are going to respond to strategic opportunities. We must have the funds available.
- Megachurches planting multisites are careful to adapt to micro-contexts and cultures, rather than laying down a prefabricated play that never varies. || We have learned this through the school of hard knocks. On a scale of 1-10, 1 being "have it your way" and 10 being "cookie-cutter", we are at about 6.
- Currently at least 50% of megachurches are also multisite churches.
- A decade from now, an Internet campus will be the new normal, complete with a campus pastor and a full team commissioned to nurture, disciple, and counsel the participants. || I can see this coming, but not sure how I feel about it from a theological perspective. It will take some wrestling through by senior staff.
- We expect to see new churches moving into closed, expansive retail stores, as well as reopened church buildings enjoying second lives with new congregations. This can be a serendipitous moment for new churches looking for non-traditional spaces. || We are looking at available retail spaces for our next multi-site location.
- Commercial areas may soon be begging churches to move in, if for no other reason than to keep the properties from decline and blight from setting in. || All "beggers" in the Dayton area are welcome to call me!
- If you are a large, growing, innovative church in a diverse community, your participants, staff and leadership will reflect that reality or risk being discounted by younger generations. || True.
- Larger, innovative churches tend to grow through word-of-mouth endorsement, participant to potential participant. || We have moved away from all traditional forms of advertising, which has saved us huge dollars and helped us be more strategic in niche marketing.
- One of the key development arenas will be structured intern and residency programs, targeting younger generations who come forward to ask for practical training. || We are just entering a partnership with 12Stone Church in GA for our own residency program. Excited!
- Larger, innovative churches have grown adept at telling their impact stories in moving ways. Anecdotal evidence can be powerful, but key metrics are equally essential. || You need both!
"There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness."
Since we have pushed formal performance appraisals to the side in favor of less formal coaching, we may miss the opportunity to get good feedback from our employees and direct-reports on the way they view our leadership. That's a problem because it creates the potential for myopia. We're always focused on what others are doing around us, but we lack any insight on how others view our leadership.
Don't risk thinking that you're doing it all right. Even the best managers need some coaching. Those we supervise have a unique perspective on our leadership. Take an opportunity with your staff and ask them to give you some honest feedback around questions like these:
- How well do I communicate to you what I expect from you?
- Do I make my expectations clear, especially in terms of deliverables and dates?
- How would you describe my involvement level in your work (i.e. too involved, too little involved, or a comfortable level of involvement)?
- Do you feel comfortable asking me for explanations, clarification, or discussing ministry-related issues?
- Am I approachable?
- Am I available to you?
- Do I convey that I am interested in your issues and in your success?
- Do I convey an openness to new ideas?
- Do you feel you are treated fairly?
- What's one thing you wish I would do differently?
I've been told I'm extremely introspective. Very true. But as valuable as introspection is, it doesn't provide the input of how others view me. Healthy emotional intelligence requires being self-aware, and these questions can help us improve our leadership skills.