STRATEGY & a #3MinuteStrategy video from my personal story about why churches shouldn’t be using the word “assimilation” in their #GuestServices.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Click the picture below to see my latest “3-minute strategy” video on Biblical Leadership Magazine that just dropped on their website. Learn what the building behind me (Chicagoans – do you know it) can represent in the minds of Gen. X (and how we should adjust our guest services in response).

Read more at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/videos/video-a-church-consultants-story-about-assimilation-and-how-it-relates-to-the-borg/

#3MinuteStrategies #ChurchVisitors101 #GuestServices

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & WFH? Do this one thing to retain your employees and avoid the Great Resignation by Bob Whitesel PhD

Read more at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/wfh-do-this-one-thing-to-retain-your-employees-and-avoid-the-great-resignation/?utm_source=BLC&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=EMNA&utm_content=2022-04-07

PASTORAL TRANSITIONS & 5 Reasons Why a Retiring Pastor is Not the Best Person to Choose Their Successor: strings attached, mentor-mentee history, cultural changes, rarity of exceptional leaders & legacy. Read the article to learn why.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/21/21.

In my consulting practice, I’ve analyzed hundreds of church transitions. And, I’m preparing a Doctor of Ministry course for a nationally respected seminary on this subject. I’ve observed that many times a retiring pastor often puts forth, even informally, their successor. This can be a misstep for five reasons.

  1. Strings Attached: The retiring pastor has vested interest in the selection of a successor. The retiring pastor has financial relationships (loans, housing, benefits) and personal relationships (friends, enemies and even status, e.g. titles such as “pastor emeritus” or “founding pastor”), that can cloud, even subconsciously their selection.
  2. Mentor-mentee: The successor has operated in a subordinate relationship to the retiring pastor and the successor may have trouble transforming that relationship. This especially becomes problematic when crises arise and the subordinate may subconsciously acquiesce to the former leader’s view on the crisis.
  3. Culture Changes: The retiring pastor often seeks a successor that will reach a younger generation, a different ethnicity or another such culture. But theretiring pastors often tell me they select a successor, “Because I get along with them.” This is good in a subordinate. But this can be self defeating when you are trying to equip this leader to reach a different culture.
  4. Exceptional Leaders are Rare: The subordinate often will not have the exceptional character and gifts to lead an exceptional church. Leading a large and/or growing church is one of the most skilled and supernaturally empowered jobs on earth. And I’ve seen that men and women who can do so are very few and far between. Often they will not be found in your existing congregation. The best leader may be hundreds, if not thousands of miles away, and possibly in another denomination. The best solution is to use nation-wide search firm to cast a broader net.
  5. Legacy, because if things go bad later you may be blamed. Most pastors want to retire with a legacy that focuses on their successes. When a retiring pastor gets involved in the successor selection, that retiree’s legacy is tied to another.

Check out my other writings on this topic on how to survive (and thrive in) pastoral transitions. And, if you are intersted in auditing or earning seminary credit studying better church transitions, email me.

Read the entire article at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/5-reasons-why-a-retiring-pastor-is-not-the-best-person-to-choose-their-successor/

BLACK CHURCHES & What My Black Students Told Me About Their Preference for the Baptist Movement 

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 1/17/22.

Numerous times over the years I’ve tried to help unaffiliated students who were pastors to become affiliated with The Wesleyan Church or another denomination. My rationale was not to grow any specific denomination, but because I believed accountability was good for unaffiliated pastors. Many of my students were pastoring independent churches with little accountability. I didn’t sense they needed accountability then, but I was worried they would need it sometime in the future and it would not be available.

All of my efforts were usually unsuccessful with African-American students. I often asked why. And their answers helped me understand why Baptist historians have pointed out that many black churches have affiliated with the Baptist movement. The Baptist movement was, in part, a reaction to the hierarchies found in many denominations. In hierarchal (Episcopal or Presbyterian forms of denominational government) a group of denominational leaders outside of the local church would often decide who would be ordained. 

But not so in much of the Baptist movement. They embraced an organic and indigenous route to leadership. This meant that a person first distinguished themselves inside of a congregation and then after being mentored with the local pastors might be ordained. This natural and field-based route to leadership had at least three advantages in my mind.

Firstly, you could see how a pastor led a flock from a longterm experience with that pastor. Their strengths were known, as well as their weaknesses. In many ways the congregation was the accountability factor for the pastor in training.

Secondly it created mentor/mentee relationships between senior leaders and upcoming leaders. This fostered an environment of apprenticeship and training for future leaders. Another benefit was that if a volunteer saw a senior pastor training younger leaders, the church volunteer leader might start training others under him or her. In my clients I have seen that the mentorship model runs very strong and deep in the African-American church.

And thirdly, it was less likely that powers outside the church would make decisions about the leadership suitability of people immersed in the local church culture. In many denominations, including my own, the highest leadership positions are held by people who are mostly of one ethnic culture. African-American students whom I encouraged to connect with our denomination often told me that they preferred to be independent rather than to be accountable to people who might not understand the culture celebrated in their local church.

In hindsight, this third aspect is exceedingly important for judicatory leaders to grasp. And I’ll admit that I missed the mark. These churches need to develop their own culturally relevant systems and ministries. To draw them into a bigger denomination that is largely of a different culture may, in my view, undermine their uniqueness and cultural relevance.

But what about the argument that “They need to join us and influence our leadership culture?” I believe there is an answer for this. It’s a lesson to all judicatory leaders. We need to intentionally balance our leadership diversity by promoting and hiring at the highest levels of our denomination more diverse leaders. Just having a department or a director will not change the perception that a denomination is led by those of a specific culture. And, often leaders are elected because they have a family or professional history in a denomination. We must move away from these habits and affirmatively welcome, hire and promote the “other.” If not, we may unintentionally harden those invisible denominational boundaries that further divide the Christian landscape.

Read more at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/what-my-black-students-told-me-about-their-preference-for-the-baptist-movement/?

Read more articles by Bob Whitesel published by Biblical Leadership at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/contributors/bobwhitesel/media/

VISION STATEMENTS & How I have seen them underused, overemphasized & mostly ineffective (and an alternative…)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 4/13/18.

Yearly a handful of missional coach candidates shadow me on my consultations (more info here if you are interested in being considered for next year’s cohort).

Recently, the missional coach candidates and I were discussing the use, misuse and impact of mission and vision statements.  First, I will share my personal conclusions from having worked with hundreds of churches on their mission and vision statements.  Then (below my comments) you will find the discussion that inaugurated these conclusions.

I wrote:

If you have read my books, you probably know I am not a fan of Vision Statements (though I discuss them and the differences with Mission Statements in most of my books).Here is why.I agree with everything said (below, by the missional coach candidates I am training).

  • Vision Statements help visualize a preferred future,
  • create metrics for goal attainment,
  • etc.

But, I have seen them generate little use in these areas, despite pleas and pushing from the leaders.They often consume too much time, because I suspect, Christians like philosophizing and theologizing more than practicing something.

So, I have come to conclude that John Kotter has the answers.  He states that visions (created by a collation) are temporary and elastic things.  In other words, they are tied to a project.

  • Now, I’m not saying that vision statements aren’t needed.
  • They are, but they should be more flexible, temporal and more quickly created.

Yet, mission statements are different. They deal with unchangeable values (and for Christians, our theology).  They shouldn’t change.  But, the local church usually doesn’t need to craft them, because the denomination or network has usually done that for them.So, my recommendations to clients based upon my experiences over 25+ years.

  1. Have a Mission Statement that defines your theology, history and polity.
  2. Create multiple Vision Statements as time and projects dictate.

(Below is the conversation among my 2018 Missional Coaches candidates on this issue):

On Apr 13, 2018, at 11:10 AM, Tim W. wrote:

I did my graduate degree in business in the days when the competitive edge of Corporation, Inc. rested in these kinds of organizational tools. The church world then adopted the language and approach. My bias is still towards using these. I see them as critical pieces in organizational design BUT I also do not want to spend copious amounts of time/energy/money generating these statements. More to the point, if a congregation does have them, then they need to embed them deeply into the heart of the church. AND, if they are not authentic and missionally-driven statements, then it’s pointless anyway. :))

On Apr 13, 2018, at 9:01 AM, Mark C. wrote:

I would agree on many of your points. The fact that what the local church does is actually their vision is truer that what we or they want to believe.In most cases the Great Commission Vision has been neglected in place of a Great Coffee Dream.Here to surVMark 

On Wednesday, April 11, 2018 9:19 AM, Tim W wrote:


Hi all … I want to chime in on some of the mission/vision statement comments in this string from my experience as a denominational exec.I agree that churches can spend too much time on massaging vision and mission statement(if they even understand the difference/function of these two tools), but I also thinkmany churches spend too LITTLE time on them as well. There must be a balance. When properly formed and used, these statements provide a great deal of agenda harmony, synergy in the organizational system, clarity of priority in budgeting, effectiveness in staffing right, and a host of other things. Most importantly, it removes the fuzziness in the minds of the congregation as to congregational direction. In fact, when done well, the very process of drafting a statement together reveals gaps, relational deficiencies (both personal and organizational), and then creates energy, excitement, optimism, and makes strategic planning more robust. Of course, these statements in themselves can’t do anything for the church; it’s all in the way they are employed into the organizational system.The truth be told, though, most churches already operate from vision, but it’s usually informal, imprecise, and carried by a few power brokers in the church. A couple of great questions to ask when conducting a first consult with the congregation is this: if your church was at its very best, what would this look like? where would she spend her time and resources? These questions do not directly address the vision question because if you ask “what is your vision?” most people will either recite what they read on the bulletin cover or will look dumbfounded. When asked outcome oriented questions, however, a picture emerges and this picture is the imperfectly constructed vision.Ultimately, the vision statement is a tool to help organize for mission—no more and no less. It’s power is in its simplicity to direct and excite and it’s contribution to the real-world ministry of the church.Just my thoughts…Tim Read more of the ideas about mission and vision statements that I’ve come to embrace after seeing them in practice here.

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & My latest article published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine: Vision Statements & How to Adjust Them to Grow a Post-pandemic Church (plus pics of 2021 Missional Coaches Reunion in Orlando).


Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: To grow the post-pandemic church you must adjust your Vision Statement, especially if you have …

  • aging buildings,
  • plateaued/declining attendance,
  • overbuilt sanctuaries &
  • underfunded staffs. 

In my newly publishing article in Biblical Leadership Magazine, I explain the importance of post-pandemic adjustments to your Vision Statements in an article called: “Vision Statements: How they are underused, overemphasized and mostly ineffective.”

Check it out.  Then, check out pictures below from our 2021 Missional Coaches Reunion in Orlando as well as pictures from my seminars from the Midwest to the South.

And don’f forget –

  • If you or someone you know wants to join 44 other grads who have shadowed me in my consulting work,
  • Only 5 shadow me each year,
  • But Missional Coaches applications are now OPEN (scholarships to the first 3 who request this)>

MISSIONAL COACHES APPLICATION > https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2022MissionalCoaches

Bob
BOB WHITESEL, DMIN, PHD
COACH, CONSULTANT, SPEAKER & AWARD-WINNING WRITER/SCHOLAR

MULTICULTURAL & Steps to grow multicultural congregations (& reconciliation too) #HealthyChurchBook #reMIXbook

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I created a new typology for understanding multicultural churches: The 5 Types of Multicultural Churches and ranked each based on how well they create reconciliation (to God) and reconciliation (to one another). See my address to academics and popular articles on this here:

MULTICULTURAL & 8 Steps to Transitioning to 1 of 5 Models of a Multicultural Church #GCRNJournal by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., The Great Commission Research Journal, Biola University, 3/1/17.

UNITY & 5 ways church unity creates a powerful influence in your city by Bob Whitesel, chapter “The Church as a Mosiax: Exercise for Cultural Diversity” in

re;MIX Transitioning Your Church to Living Color (Abingdon Press, 2017).

The Church as a Mosaic: Exercises for Cultural Diversity, A Guest Post by Dr. Bob Whitesel (Dr. Bob Whitesel explores what it would look like for the church to be variety of ethnicities and culturesoverview courtesy of Ed Stetzer on The Exchange, Christianity Today, 2/10/14.

If Reconcilation are the goals, then one of the best strategies is to integrate a church rather than just plant or support an autonomous congregation (and in the push both congregations apart).

In the chapter I contributed to the book, Gospel after Christendom: New voices, New cultures, New expressions (ed. Bolger, Baker Academic Books, 2012), that before St. Thomas’s Church in Sheffield, England became England’s largest multicultural congregation … it was first a multicultural merger between a small Baptist church and a small Church of England congregation.

The power of mergers has been under estimated and underutilized in creating multicultural churches.

And, with so many small struggling mono-cultural congregations, the idea of merging two homogeneous congregations to create a multicultural congregation needs to be the strategy of more churches and denominations.

The power of mergers has been under estimated and underutilized in creating multicultural churches.

See my book The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart (Wesleyan Publishing House, 2013) for ideas and the chapter “The Church as a Mosiax: Exercise for Cultural Diversity.” You can read an overview courtesy of Ed Stetzer on The Exchange, in Christianity Today.

Also, read this article for more ideas:

Integrating Sunday Morning Church Service — A Prayer Answered

by Sandhya Dirks, National Public Radio, Weekend Edition, 8/11/18.

… Which brings us to Pastor Kyle Brooks and Pastor Bernard Emerson. They knew creating an inter-racial church was not going to be easy, but they kept kicking the idea around. They would take long walks through Oakland’s Dimond District and dream about it out loud. Maybe at some point in the future, they thought.

Then a year ago, Neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, and they felt like they could no longer wait.

First, they had to break it to their congregations.

“I saw it on facebook, and instantly I typed back, ‘oh my god, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for,’” said LaSonya Brown, who had been attending Emerson’s church, The Way, for about a year. “I’ll be the first one to join,” she said.

Brown was raised in a black church with only two white people in it. One was her godfather, who had married into the black community, the other was a white woman who would “speak in tongues, and then translate the tongue.”

“I never knew her name, but I’ll never forget her,” Brown said. Despite it being different than what she had known before, Brown welcomed the idea of an inclusive congregregation. “I think it was something that I wanted, but I didn’t realize that I wanted it until I saw his post,” she said.

At first she thought it was going to happen instantly, just everyone showing up to church together. But it is not that easy to flip the switch on hundreds of years of segregated worship.

“It’s much more complicated than that,” Brown said. “You don’t think that your life is different than somebody else,” but it can be. In an ideal world, she said, people want to think about what they have in common and not their differences.

But we do not live in that ideal world of race relations. “There’s a lot of things that we don’t do in common,” she said. “But we do want to know how to be together.”

Each church individually went through months of workshops and classes, owning up to their own fears about what merging would mean.

Many people in Pastor Brooks’ white congregation were afraid of being uncomfortable. There was a feeling of discomfort around everything from different hymns, to the service being in a different neighborhood, to different styles of worship. There was also discomfort in having to face up to their responsibility, as white people, in ongoing American racism. Everyone in the church was excited about the merger, but that did not make it easy.

Pastor Emerson’s congregation was also supportive, and not just because they are largely family. The black congregants of The Way had different fears, fears that they might not be welcomed. Emerson said some of them asked, “will they accept us for who we are?”

Read more at … https://www.npr.org/2018/08/11/637552132/integrating-sunday-morning-church-service-a-prayer-answered

TECHNOLOGY & Why the secret is accessibility, not control. #MinistryMattersMagazine @BobWhitesel #ORGANIXbook #GenZ

Whitesel Ministry Matters page full

(article continues)

Modern Miscue: Seek to control networks.

The modern leader has lived most of life in a realm of “command and control.”  Command and control is necessary in crisis situations, such as warfare or firefighting.  For Baby Boomers born after World War II, the command and control way of leadership became a popular leadership style in business and the church.

Modern leaders of this generation believe the way to succeed is to control through power, rewards, and punishments.  Slow cycles that grew out of an agricultural economy began to affect business principles, where the agricultural approach of “command and control” began to be applied to the business world. Like breaking a horse, “The worker must be trimmed to fit the job,” Frederick Taylor famously intoned. Subsequently, modern leaders bristle at the thought of losing control.  When wrestling with the freedom found in emerging networks, the modern leader tends to try to exert control through ownership. In the ever democratizing world of electronic communication, control through ownership is increasingly difficult.

Modern leaders attempt to take possession of networks that shape them.  In business, this often means controlling access by charging a fee and thus reinforcing a modern notion of ownership. In the church, we may do this by restricting access to those times and places the modern leader deems fitting.  Former Silicon Valley executive Rusty Rueff noted, “Movie theatres have long tried to control mobile phone signal in their movie theatres. They say it is because it disturbs people.  Really, they don’t want teens text-messaging their friends that the movie is dreadful.” From the days of passing notes in church, to text-messaging a friend far removed from the church sanctuary, church leaders have also tried to limit the location and occasion of electronic communication.

Millennial leaders who have grown up in the expanding world of communication networks, view these networks as public property.  And, to restrict access or monopolize them seems tyrannical.  Modern leaders may recall similar unfair restrictions.  At one time, restaurants and businesses charged a fee to use the restrooms. Charging a fee or otherwise restricting network access should seem just as illogical to leaders today.

Millennial Attitude: Networks should be accessible

Rueff, who serves as an advisor to the president at Purdue University, recently showed a picture of a classroom at that university.  Of the almost 100 students assembled, every one was sitting behind a laptop computer.  “Think of when this will happen in your church,” Rusty Rueff, the former Silicon Valley executive, said.  “What do you do in church?  Is there a place for those who want to communicate with laptops?  Or would an usher ask them to put their computer away?”

Immediate, Even Critical Feedback.  In a millennial world where unfettered networking is routine, millennial church leaders are starting to accommodate instant feedback.  Some young churches have an “ask assertive environment” where those who disagree are encouraged to state their differences of opinion, even during the sermon.  Millennial congregations such as Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis regularly invite questions or challenges from the audience during the sermon. Even millennial megachurches such as Mars Hill Church in Granville, Michigan, sometimes welcome a congregant on the stage to ask the preacher questions during the sermon (since the audience is too vast for everyone to shout out a query). Leo Safko, author of the Social Media Bible calls this “a fundamental shift in power … no longer does the consumer trust corporate messages … they want to be educated by, hear their news from, and get their product reviews by people they know and trust.”

At recent conferences I keynoted, participants were given a keypad so they could rate the presentation and/or their understanding of the content in real time. Even now increasingly smaller smartphones allow electronic feedback as presentations unfold.  Though modern leaders might initially resist such quick and honest feedback in the church, the day is not far off when immediate, even critical feedback will be visually displayed in our churches in much the same manner that words are displayed to a song.

Fact checking and further research.  Allowing laptops and smart-phones into churches may at first seem disruptive, but it will enhance understanding as it allows checking of facts and further research on a topic. I remember sitting in college classes, balancing a three-inch (or so it seemed) textbook on one knee, while holding in my left hand a large diagram of the human organs.  Amid this balancing act, I tried desperately to write what the professor was stating. Today, multiple items sit neatly on computer desktops where only a flick of a mouse pad is required to separate sources or conduct further research.

Nurturing Accessibility

The accessible church describes a church that is accessible via as many social networks as possible.

The accessible church creates networks that reach out to those in need.  Meeting the needs of the disenfranchised is a priority among millennial leaders. Expanding network access should not be limited to just Christians who attend a church, but to those outside as well. One congregation in Edmonton, Alberta started a church plant in an Internet café. Unexpectedly, the free Internet access they offered met the needs of a large Asian-American community in the neighborhood that did not have computer access.  As a result this accessible church in an Internet café created an ongoing network with a growing Asian-American community.

The accessible church fosters instantaneous research and feedback at teaching venues, including during the sermon.Because Christianity is an experience- and knowledge-based faith, access to information can foster a better understanding about God. The accessible church can offer Internet access at teaching times such as during sermons, Sunday school, committee meetings, etc.  Many modern leaders bristle at the thought of laptops and Smartphones being used during church, but so did professors several years ago (only to lose the battle).  At one time sound systems, video projectors, guitars and even pipe-organs were banned from many churches. Though uncomfortable at first, new ways of communication and exploration will emerge, first among these cutting-edge millennial congregations, and eventually among everyone else.   When speaker Stan Toler speaks to younger audiences he often uses instant messaging so attendees can ask their questions via a Smartphone while he is still speaking.  He then displays their questions on the screen and answers them during his lecture.

The accessible church provides on-line communities to augment its off-line fellowship. Online communities “felt the connection and affinity they experienced in these groups fully justified their designations as a form of community.”  Online communities often enhance off-line friendships. A church offering a 12-step program can create an online group in which participants can dialogue between meetings. Groups, committees, Sunday School classes and small groups can create, share and edit documents via Web-based word processors, such as Google Docs.  These online documents allow collaborative work (such as designing a Bible study) prior to face-to-face meetings. Online communities can allow those who have special needs or limited time/resources to still feel like full participants in the community.  In the same way that Robert Schuller continued a life-long ministry to drive-in worshippers because a physically-challenged lady’s husband requested it, online communities can engage people who might be challenged in their ability to physically connect with a church.

Leaders having little experience with online communities may wonder about their cohesiveness, value and permanency, but those who have seen them in action know that increasing accessibility to the church community only enhances the faith experience.

This article is excerpted and adapted from Organix: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church, Chapter 6, “Networks.” Used by permission and it can also be found in Ministry Matters magazine.

#GCRN2018

REVITALIZATION & The Church Restart Model – What Is It and Is It For You?

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D. and Kent R. Hunter D.Min. & Ph.D.

The 3 Steps of the Restart Model

         Some denominations have a program in place designed to resurrect an aging congregation.  Sometimes called the “restart model” or the “regeneration process,” this procedure allows a church to dissolve the present entity and form a new congregation with help from nearby congregations of the same polity.  Components of this program usually include the following:

The restart model is a viable alternative to closure and has been employed extensively by the American Baptist Church.  While unable to preserve the traditions or history of the aging church, this approach does preserve a denominational presence in the community.

2 Pre-conditions

         However, the advice below must be considered when considering the restart or regeneration model.

1.  The church leadership must be ready to relinquish control of the new organization to a steering committee comprised of people outside the local congregation.  

2.  Church members must understand that their spiritual sustenance will come from a small group setting for at least six months during the transition phase.

This model is frequently successful in planting a new and oftentimes younger congregation in the same community as the aging church.  

2 Considerations 

However, older members of the former congregation usually do not make it through the transition due to two important reasons.

         First, aging members are accustomed to sharing intimacy and closeness through Sunday School classes which often are their smaller groups.  Home Bible studies, while more popular among Boomers, do not provide an attractive alternative to aging members who traditionally have enjoyed small group intimacy through the Sunday School format.

         Secondly, the restart model works best when the existing leadership is fragmented or non-existent.  The restart strategy then provides needed leadership to fill the void.  However, if an existing and long-lived leadership is already in place, and in most aging churches this is the case, the restart model often prunes a majority of these steadfast saints from the process.  Long-standing leaders will feel they are no longer wanted or needed, and resistance to forward progress often spreads informally among the aging congregation.

         Though the restart model is effective in establishing a younger church in the community context, it usually fails in preserving a Builder sub-congregation.

(This article was adapted from “A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps in Your Church,” by Bob Whitesel and Kent R. Hunter, Abingdon Press, 2000).

CHURCH GUESTS 101 & Don’t Say That – Say This! Revitalize a church with the words you speak. Here is a list of things not to say when you want to connect with your visitors.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, 4/27/21.

Learn more about the changes needed in your hospitality ministries in the course, Church Guests 101 part of ChurchLeadership.university on uDemy.

When leading a church it is very easy to miscommunicate your intentions. It usually happens because you’re concerned about pressing organizational needs as well as the needs of the believers you shepherd. Subsequently, we often use phrases that appear to prioritize the needs of the saints over the needs of the non-churchgoer.

I’m going to show you how this happens in your greetings, your announcements and even your church vision statements … and what you should say instead.  

Jesus’ message of compassion for the not-yet-believer.

Jesus emphasized the importance of meeting the needs of those who don’t yet have a personal relationship with him. The “parable of the sheep” (Matthew 18:10-14) where the shepherd leaves the 99 to retrieve the one lost lamb, visualizes this. And in his actions, Jesus demonstrated a deep concern for the wellbeing of not-yet-believers (Mark 1:33-34, Luke 5:1-11). Mark records a poignant image of this when the crowds followed Jesus and his disciples to the seashore. Jesus saw their desperate needs and Mark noted: “So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mark 6:32-34).

Your message for the not-yet-believer.

Many times those first messages a visitor receives will inadvertently push them away, rather than draw them in. This is because when welcoming church visitors, leaders use phrases often tainted by the concerns of the congregation. Church leaders are worried about church finances, not having enough volunteers or reaching a new culture of people. And, this comes out accidentally, but clearly in your welcome. The result is often an unintended pushback by church guests.

I don’t believe that most churches are intentionally putting the church family’s needs over the needs of non-churchgoers. It’s only that we spend so much time every week deliberating on the church’s internal needs that this colors the things we say. And though we intend to reach out to newcomers and help them experience a new life and growth in Christ, we often share those concerns in a way that communicates the organization is more important than the people who need Christ.

What is the most important type of church growth?

Donald McGavran, the Fuller Theological Seminary professor credited with founding the study of church growth, said there were three types of church growth – but only one was desirable. 

Biological growth:  This is a church that grows because families within the church are expanding. 

Transfer growth: These are people who are moving into the area and transferring their attendance or membership. In my research I believe this may be the largest contributor to church growth in America. Often we find growing churches in growing suburbs. The growth is often fueled by transfer growth, not by new believers. McGavran said that this type of growth means, “The increase of certain congregations at the expense of others… But transfer growth will never extend the church, for unavoidably many are lost along the way.” Transfer growth grows one church at the expense of other churches.

Conversion growth: The third type of growth is what McGavran calls conversion growth. This is a church that is growing because people are being spiritually transformed from their former lives and embarking upon a new Christ-centered journey. McGavran stated, “The third kind is conversion growth, in which those outside the church come to rest their faith intelligently on Jesus Christ and are baptized and added to the Lord in his church. This is the only kind of growth by which the good news of salvation can spread to all segments of American society and to earth’s remotest bounds.”

3 categories of crises that push people to want to change their lives.

Researchers (using the Holmes-Rahe Social Readjustment Scale) have found that people who are interested in changing their lives are usually motivated by a combination of three categories of crises. 

Concern about death and the afterlife. The first crises that drive people to seek to change their lives is a concern about death and dying or a loved one’s death. They have questions about eternity and heaven. They wonder if their loved one went to heaven and who will help them with their grieving. Churches can meet these needs in part by preaching/teaching on the afterlife and offering grief share ministries.

Family or marital difficulties. A second area that drives people to want to change their lives is marital or family difficulties including marriage problems, child-rearing difficulties, divorce, adultery, etc.. Many times they feel inadequate or a failure due to such difficulties. They come to the church seeking to change their life and to be a more adept and competent person. Little wonder that child-rearing classes, marriage enrichment seminars and divorce care have been helpful (and popular) programs in our churches. 

Concern about illness: The third category that pushes people to change their lives is illness they are experiencing or someone they know is experiencing.  They have questions about healing, helping others and improving their outlook on life.  Need-meeting congregations have embraced prayer ministries, counseling programs and support groups for those who are suffering.

Because these three major categories cause people to want to change their lives, we must welcome guests and greet them in a way that shows we know they have needs and we are here to meet them.

THE LIST: Don’t Say That – Say This!

To help understand how to communicate your true intentions (of meeting the needs of others) I have created a list I call: “Don’t Say That – Say This!” Consider each statement and then notice how one better communicates your true intentions.

Don’t Say That: “I’m glad you are here” or “We are glad you are here.”

Say This: “How can I help you?” “How can we help you?”

Why: When you say, “I’m glad you are here,” it is usually a true statement. You are glad that they are present. You see their potential to encounter Christ and become a committed part of the faith community. But what they hear is a statement focused upon you and the believers, it’s not about helping them, but it’s about us being happy. Remember, people often come to a church because they have needs and crises in their lives. And healthy church growth comes from people’s lives being transformed for the better through the community of faith and the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Don’t Say That: “We want to tell you about the church.”

Say This: “We want to know how we can help you.”

Why: The purpose is not to tell them about the church, but for them to tell us about their needs. Though it is helpful to offer information on the history and theological perspective of the church, guests are usually not ready to learn about this unless they are engaged in transfer growth. Most guests want to let you know why they came to church and what they’re looking for.

Don’t Say That: “I love being in the house of God.”

Say This: “God is here and he wants to connect with you (or help you, or fulfill your life).

Why:  As Christians who are growing in our faith journey, we often talk about our growing enthusiasm as we know God better. But for people who are just beginning their journey of discovery about God’s love, we may seem too far ahead of them to lead them forward and be a relevant leader. Though you love being in God’s house, re-phrase that statement in the context of God‘s presence being there and that he wants to connect with them.

Don’t Say That: “We have a gift for you.”

Say This: “We would like to know how we can help you. So please visit one of our guest services booths so we can help.”

Why: Even though you want to show your gratitude, an appreciation gift can inadvertently create a sense of this-for-that at best, and manipulation at worst. In the leadership world we call this transactional leadership. You give something in order to get something. A person gives 40 hours or more a week at their job and they get a salary. If a better job comes along, they might leave because their motivation is based upon a transaction: giving their time in order to get money. Can you see how a gift might be perceived as a lure to sign a card or visit a booth can feel transactional? One former student of mine offered a $100 gift card to be drawn from the names of newcomers who visited each month. I know him and his generosity is exceptional (they have a region-wide food pantry in their smallish church). But the message he was sending was not helpful to the newcomers. Instead tell them you want to know about their needs and see if we can help meet them.

Don’t Say That: “I don’t know.”

Say This: “Let me find out.”

Why: Many people have heard about the art of hospitality practiced by the Walt Disney organization. Part of their Disney hospitality is to never say, “I don’t know,” and instead to respond along the lines of, “Let me find out for you,” or “That is a good question. I will find out.” This takes the emphasis off of the lack of knowledge of the hospitality person. And instead it puts the emphasis upon the hospitality person’s desire to help the newcomer find an answer to the problem.

Don’t Say That: Our mission statement is Belong – Begin – Become

Say This: Our mission statement is Begin – Become – Belong

Why: “Belong – Begin – Become” is focused on how the organization sees the newcomers journey. The organization expects a commitment, to which the organization will respond with tools and community for the newcomer to become a new person. But look at this from the newcomer’s perspective. They want to know more about you first. Unless they are transfer growth, they are not ready to “belong” in their initial step. Rather, starting this mission statement with “begin” reminds new travelers that there is a process in getting to know one another, experiencing the community of faith and encountering Christ. One of my former professors, John Wimber, described this relationship as dating. When a person first learns about the Good News, your relationship with them is similar to dating. There is no commitment, but you’re getting to know one another. The next stage of the relationship is engagement, and that’s where a new believer begins to give of themselves and the church responds by giving back even more. Finally, marriage serves as Wimber’s metaphor for when a person is ready to make a commitment to both Christ and the church. So, check your mission statement. Even run it by people who are not churchgoers. Look closely and you may find that its focus is on inspiring churchgoers rather than informing those who are just beginning their journey with Christ

Don’t Say That: “You’re welcome.”

Say This: “I am happy I was able to help.”

Why: Of course if you’ve helped people at your church they will be appreciative. They will usually say, “Thank you.” And the most common reply is to say, “You’re welcome.” But that has become so overused that it’s almost like adding a period to a sentence, rather than opening up to converse further. Instead it’s better to say, “I am happy I was able to help you.” That lets them know that you derive your happiness in part because of your ability to help them. Though it may be focused on your happiness, that happiness is based upon your ability to help others.

Don’t Say That: “Come back soon (or next Sunday).”

Say This: “This week, think about ways we can help you.”

Why: As we’ve seen above we want to leave the message, and especially with our parting words, that we are here to help.

Now, make your own list!

This list is not mechanical phraseology to be memorized or anemically repeated. Instead this list is designed to remind leaders how our intentions can be miscommunicated due to the words we use.

Rather than memorize this, do these three things.

1. Re-read the list often and add more phrases to it. Create an ever-expanding list of things you don’t want to say and things you should be saying to better communicate your heart. And, you can join together as a ministry team and create a ministry team list. At your meetings add an agenda item to add to your list and ask people for their suggestions.

2. Re-write and edit the short paragraphs that explain each of your list items. Help someone who is reading your list for the first time to understand why one phrase is preferable over the other.

3. Resist shaming or criticizing others who say the wrong thing. Everyone goes through cycles where their own pressing needs cloud what they want to say. After years of doing this I still catch myself saying things because it’s customary or because my own needs are driving my attention. Have grace in the way you encourage one another. Don’t criticize or tease those who speak out of their needs rather than the needs of others. Rather, use this exercise and your expanding list as a reminder about how to keep the needs of others first.

ACCESSIBILITY & Drive-in worship: Why you should keep it after the pandemic passes

by Bob Whitesel, Biblical Leadership Magazine. 12/6/21

During the pandemic more worship services, including holiday events, have moved outside. And while the novelty of this has attracted some, should these outdoor venues continue after the pandemic?

I believe they should for three reasons.

First, the outdoor venue allows people to experience worship from their cars, which can be important for physically challenged people.

Robert Schuller tells a story that changed my view of drive-in worship. It seems that early in his church-planting career in Garden Grove, Calif., he was unable to find a suitable location to hold their worship service. So, on a temporary basis, they used a drive-in movie theater.

Of course, the novelty of a “drive-in church,” coupled with the image of car-crazy Californians, led to national media attention. As a result, more people began visiting the church and the church grew.

But the drive-in theater location was only meant to be temporary. Once they had enough money, Schuller and his team intended to build a traditional church building, without drive-in options.

But then a woman from the church contacted Schuller. She explained how her physical disabilities made it hard for her enter a church building and be comfortable. Even if she was able to enter, uncomfortable stares from ushers and congregants gave her less than a peaceful experience.

She explained to Schuller that she was like a full participant in drive-in worship. And she asked them to continue a drive-in option with the new church building. Schuller’s mission statement had been “find a need and fill it.” And with the drive-in option, they had stumbled across an under-reached people group: those with physical challenges.

In response, their new facility (and every other worship facility Garden Grove Community Church built) offered a “drive-in option.” Drive-in options are not needed because they are unique, but because they can connect with an underserved, physically challenged community.

Second, the outdoor venue allows people who are susceptible to illness to worship in a safer environment.

Research shows (Flavil Yeakley, Univ. of Ill.) that a motivating factor for many people who visit a church is personal illness or death of a family member. Our church visitors are often asking spiritual questions about life, health and death. And not surprisingly, in the new normal there is an increasing interest in health and the cleanliness of our churches.

Outdoor venues are safer for those with compromised health. And this reminds us that everyone should have unrestricted access to worship opportunities. A poignant example was when children, often viewed as social nuisances, were welcomed by Jesus unreservedly. Matthew 19:13-15 describes it this way (The Message):

One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.” After laying hands on them, he left.

Third, an outdoor venue allows people who don’t yet feel part of your church-going culture, to join you semi-anonymously.

Our dress expectations, insider terms and unspoken territoriality are all too familiar to non-churchgoers. Not surprisingly, visitors become apprehensive when entering our unfamiliar cultures.

Yet Jesus asked us to humbly make the Good News accessible. Mark 6:7-13 (The Message) describes Jesus’ inaugural instructions to his 12 apostles this way:

Jesus called the Twelve to him, and sent them out in pairs. He gave them authority and power to deal with the evil opposition. He sent them off with these instructions: “Don’t think you need a lot of extra equipment for this. You are the equipment. No special appeals for funds. Keep it simple. And no luxury inns. Get a modest place and be content there until you leave. If you’re not welcomed, not listened to, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way.” Then they were on the road. They preached with joyful urgency that life can be radically different; right and left they sent the demons packing; they brought wellness to the sick, anointing their bodies, healing their spirits.

And, Paul descried actions he took to minster cross-culturally, stating:

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Cor. 9:19-23, NIV).

Did this mean Paul changed his theology for different cultures? No, according to verse 21. But he did change his language, his illustrations and his locales, “so that by all possible means I might save some.”

During this pandemic God may be pushing you into new ways to connect with underserved portions of your communities. Look for the fruit from these endeavors and ask God to give you the boldness to expand your proclamation of the Good News.

Read more at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/drive-in-worship-why-you-should-keep-it-after-the-pandemic-passes/

TURNAROUND CHURCH & Don’t fall into these three newbie turnaround traps by @BobWhitesel published by @RenovateConf.

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Subscribe to Church Revitalizer Magazine here … http://renovateconference.org/magazine

Don’t fall for these 3 newbie turnaround traps … Do this instead (and start out strong).

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, May/June 2019.

As I prepare to teach my course titled “Turnaround Church” at Fuller Theological Seminary this fall, I thought it would be helpful to describe the most common traps into which inexperienced turnaround leaders fall (and ways to avoid each).

TRAP 1: Being hired to do the work of revitalization. 

Why this trap occurs:  

Hiring your way out of trouble is a standard practice in the for-profit world. However, because their business model operates on a for-profit basis, it allows them to plow profits into hiring their way out of adversity. Nonprofits run mostly on volunteers and small staffs. They have leaner budgets and usually cannot afford a hiring solution.

The lean-staff and “keep it simple” alternative has been immortalized in Jesus’ instructions to his disciples in Luke 9:1-6 (MSG): 

Jesus now called the Twelve and gave them authority and power to deal with all the demons and cure diseases. He commissioned them to preach the news of God’s kingdom and heal the sick. He said, “Don’t load yourselves up with equipment. Keep it simple; you are the equipment. And no luxury inns—get a modest place and be content there until you leave. If you’re not welcomed, leave town. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and move on.”

Commissioned, they left. They traveled from town to town telling the latest news of God, the Message, and curing people everywhere they went.

Do this instead: Mentor & delegate. 

This is may be hard for trained church leaders, because they feel they have been hired to be the experts. Thus, they customarily attempt to do most of the work themselves. However, this usually leads to burnout. Instead, church shepherds should model Jesus’ example of giving his disciples responsibilities and then sending them out to minister to others (Luke 9:1-2). 

Mentoring is characterized by a back-and-forth dialogue with the mentee regarding how the processes going. We see such examples in Jesus’ dialogues with his disciples, for instance Matt. 17:18-20 (MSG):

He (Jesus) ordered the afflicting demon out—and it was out, gone. From that moment on the boy was well. When the disciples had Jesus off to themselves, they asked, “Why couldn’t we throw it out?” “Because you’re not yet taking God seriously,” said Jesus. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.”

Delegating is slightly different from mentoring. It means giving others something you could do yourself, but allowing them to learn as they fumble their way through. Jesus, as the omniscient Son of God, knew his disciples would be unable to cast out demons (Luke 17:19). But still he let them try. In His omniscience, Jesus knew an important lesson would be driven home if the disciples first had a chance to flounder and then learn from that experience.

TRAP 2: Giving (and requiring) 110% effort.

Why this trap occurs:  

People usually feel that if they overwork themselves (e.g. give 110%) they will succeed. This manifests when a leader works more hours during the week than for which one is paid. Such leaders may expect volunteers to increase their hours too. A trap occurs when burnout, neglected families and leadership turnover result. Billy Graham stated similar regrets:

“Although I have much to be grateful for as I look back over my life, I also have many regrets. I have failed many times, and I would do many things differently. For one thing, I would speak less and study more, and I would spend more time with my family.” (billygraham.org)

Do this instead: Adjust everyone’s duties

Remind them that the church is going to need to do different things and that there are two ways to do this. One way is to ask everybody to give extra, e.g. 110%. But, you recognize this only leads to burnout. Remind them you don’t want to see them or yourself burned-out or families neglected.

The second, and more rewarding way, is to ask them to purge from their duties 20% of what they are currently doing. Ask them to use that 20% to become involved in new activities, e.g. involved in a new service or a new community outreach. The principle is that this requires, for the sake of spiritual health, to pull back and reduce their current volunteer efforts by 20% to open up 20% involvement in new activities. 

Exemplify this yourself. Acknowledge that you are unable to continue to do everything the previous pastor did while at the same time reaching out to new generations and cultures. Remind them that you don’t want them, or you, to sacrifice family or spiritual well being. Show them you have too much respect for  your and their spiritual health.  

As you ask them to readjustment their volunteer activities, suggest they write this down and submit their “readjustment” to the person overseeing their work.  

TRAP 3: Promising big changes too soon.

Why this trap occurs:  

Plateaued and dying churches have been dreaming about health for so long, that they often expect it to take place too fast. In addition, models they see of healthy churches are usually many years in the making. My experience and research has let me to believe that healthy church change is slow, but deliberate. In fact, one of the most knowledgeable researchers on organizational change, Harvard University’s John Kotter (Leading Change, Harvard Press), found that “celebrating small-term wins” leads to more change, more quickly.

Do this instead: Plan for & celebrate short-term wins

Meet with the church leaders and discuss what the church should look like in five years. Then ask them to describe what would it should look like in 2.5 years, one year and six months. Map out several goals for the next six months, asking yourselves which are most likely to be attained. Write these six month goals down and begin to create tactics to reach them.

As soon as you reach any of your short-term goals, celebrate! The key is for people to see and celebrate progress. For effective change, people don’t have to see enormous changes, but they do need to see movement.

 

LEADERSHIP & Who are the strategic leaders? by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 08/21/19.

(Click the following link for a short, self-scoring questionnaire to discover your 3-STRand leadership mix: https://churchhealthwiki.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/3-strand-leadership-questionnaire-c2a9bobwhitesel-fillable.pdf)

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The word strategy comes from the Greek word for a military general: strategoi. The generals of ancient Athens, led by the forward-thinking Pericles, undertook a grand building project to make Athens the cultural and political center of Greece. The Athenian generals’ strategy paid off, with beautiful buildings such as the Parthenon, making Athens the Greek capital.

Subsequently, in the military field the word strategic has come to refer to the bigger-picture planning that is done before a before a battle begins. Strategic leaders see the big picture, and envision outcomes before the battle commences. They intuitively know what the results should be, even though they are not experts in getting there. In the military, strategic leaders are generals, admirals, etc.

In architecture

An analogy from the world of art may be helpful. The strategic leader is akin to an artist. He or she seems the dim outline of the future, perhaps a gleaming office tower or an eye-catching museum. They can envision what it will look like once it is complete. But, they seek only general forms, shapes and appearances. They see the art and the results.

In the military

Strategic leaders are intentional, big-picture leaders who deal in theoretical, hypothetical concepts and strategies. For example, in World War II generals such as Dwight Eisenhower and Bernard Montgomery strategically knew that France must be invaded and wrestled from the German occupiers. The decisions to invade North Africa, Sicily, Italy and eventually France were decided upon by the generals. But, once each of the invasions commenced, leadership was put into the hands of tactical leaders.

In the church

Let’s look at some typical characteristics that distinguish leaders in the church. And, in my consultative work, I have routinely witnessed that pastors can be drawn into the ministry by two competing roles.[ii]

1. The shepherd. Many pastors enter the ministry due to a desire to help fellow humankind with a hands-on, relational, personal and mentoring type of leadership style. This is analogous to the guidance of a shepherd, and is reflected in scriptures about nurture, care and cultivation such as in Isaiah 40:11, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

And, this is exemplified by Jesus who is described as, “our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep” (Hebrews 13:20). Pastors drawn by this role often become relational leaders.

2. The visionary. Pastors in this category have an overriding desire to make a significant impact for Christ and His kingdom. They are impassioned by statements such as John 4:34-38, “‘My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying, ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

Visionaries have what church growth researcher Win Arn called “church growth eyes … a developed characteristic of individuals and churches who have achieved a sensitivity to seeing possibilities….”[iii] Pastors drawn by this leadership role usually become strategic leaders.

3. A mixture. Oftentimes pastors and church leaders have a mixture of the two above roles and may fluctuate between one or the other at various times in their ministerial journey. However, it is important to note the dissimilar nature of these roles. One seeks to build interpersonal camaraderie and intimacy, the other seeks to attain a physical forward-looking goal.

In the former, intimacy is the purpose, and in the later the future goal is the purpose. Which is needed? They both are, but the wise church leader will employ each as the circumstance warrants and as their abilities allow. Thus, let’s look a bit more at strategic leadership.

Pastors attracted to the ministry because of a vision to make a significant impact for Christ often exhibit strategic leadership. And, they are often passionate about their work, for they see the depravity of humankind and they perceive how Christ provides the necessary answer.

Subsequently, they are often highly enthusiastic and energetic about reaching people for Christ. This passion can sometimes be misconstrued as a fervor for growth, size or power. And, such negative attributes can sneak in. However, what customarily motivates these individuals is the picture they envision of many people coming to know Christ.

As such, visual and revelatory scriptures hold great sway, and they can readily perceive the “great multitudes of Revelation 7:9-10 “… a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”

In the change process

Strategic leaders are the first to notice that change is needed. This is because they are always looking ahead. To a degree, they live in the future better than the present. Thus, they can be frustrating to work with if not accompanied by the tactical leader. Strategic leaders thus see the need for change, and love discussing the rationale and theories of change.[iv]

They know what the change should look like, but they have trouble seeing the individual steps to get there. Thus, they are critical for the change process, for they look ahead and see where the church is going and needs to go. But they are also frustrating for other leaders because strategic leaders know what the results should look like, but they are weak at envisioning the step-by-step process.

Characteristics

Strategic leadership is “future directed.”[v] Strategic leaders often want people to move forward, and thus they are the first to start moving in new directions. Historian Martin Marty said they “are extremely sensitive to where people are, but are not content to leave them there.”[vi]

Other names for strategic leaders are:

1. Visionaries (George Barna,[vii] Leith Anderson[viii] and Phil Miglioratti[ix]).

2. Role 1 Leaders (Phil Miglioratti[x]).

3. “Top management” (John Wimber, Eddie Gibbs[xi]).

4. “Strong, authoritative, directive pastoral leadership” (Wagner[xii]).

5. Upper-level Management (John Kotter[xiii]).

6. Sodality leadership, which is described as “vision setter, goal setter, strong leader, visionary, upper management” (Ralph Winter[xiv]).

This is the second article in a series of articles on 3-STRand Leadership. Check out the first, “How church change drove a family away,” by Bob Whitesel. Click here for footnotes.

Excerpted from Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church by Bob Whitesel (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007).

Photo source: istock 

Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/understanding-graffiti-leadership/

MOSIAC CHURCHES & Understanding Graffiti Leadership by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 2/21/19.

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One of the most influential art forms in American history first appeared in its current form on public walls in the late 1960s.

Graffiti is an improvised, colorful and risky art that is layered on public buildings, bridges, railway cars and subways. A product of urban artists who often eschew training, it is a fitting metaphor for another characteristic of millennial leadership.

While modern leadership often disciplines itself to keep colors and lines in their place, millennial leaders create a leadership collage of colors, symbols and statements. (Paradoxically, the style known as “modern art,” including the works of Matisse, Picasso and others, shunned the orderliness of previous periods of art and acted as a precursor to millennial thinking. This demonstrates the broad strokes and limitations underscored by the term “modern.”)

Some of the attributes of graffiti artists are:

  • Risk-takers
  • Improvisers
  • Led by spirit and passion
  • Breaking human convention for the sake of improvement
  • Creating a collage of colors, styles, messages and meanings that make the world take notice
  • Different artists add their style to others’ art
  • Personal symbols and icons retain individuality.
  • And, graffiti often contains reoccurring elements, including:
  • Name or epithet
  • A philosophy line
  • Synergy created by blending multiple shapes, styles and colors

Graffiti reminds us of the improvisational, risky and outward-focused collage of Millennial leadership. This is not for the faint-hearted, nor the small-minded.

Graffiti leadership embraces risk

In response to these modern perils, the Millennial leader seeks a more elastic and organic approach. While the modern leader tries to create stability and minimize risk, the millennial leader recognizes that chaos is a byproduct of the human condition (Romans 3:23, 5:12). According to organizational theorist Mary Jo Hatch, the millennial leader “embraces complexity and uncertainty and their contradictory demands.”

When researcher Lois Barrett and her colleagues studied churches that were effectively reaching young non-churchgoers they found that a reoccurring pattern was “taking risks as a contrast community.” This is a church that is learning to take risk for the sake of the gospel. It understands itself as different from the world because of its participation in the life, death and resurrection of its Lord. It is raising questions, often threatening ones, about the church’s cultural captivity and it is grappling with the ethical and structural implications of its missional vocation.

A moving example of risk-taking comes from the story of John Perkins, a black man who left Mississippi after his brother was shot by a policeman. After an encounter with Christ he retuned to Mississippi to work with children during the turbulent civic rights struggles of the 1950s.  Eventually, Perkins founded a Christian ministry that included student tutoring, co-ops to share food, child care, nutrition programs, medical facilities and Bible studies. This was risky behavior in 1950s Mississippi.

The millennial leader understands such risk because as Lewis Drummond observes, “In postmodern terms, we might say that Jesus came to bring equal access and opportunity to this in substandard living condition, to give voice and identity to those other than the dominant elite and to alleviate the ravages of capitalistic imperialism and colonialist economic aggression.”

Lois Barrett concluded, “These congregations seem to be living by a set of rules different from that of dominant culture. Their priorities are different. They act against ‘common sense.’  They are trying to conform to Jesus Christ rather than to the surrounding society.”

Such risk-taking for the sake of the missio Dei is akin to the risks a graffiti artist takes for one’s craft.

Excerpted from Organix: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church, by Bob Whitesel (Abingdon Press). Used with permission.

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Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/understanding-graffiti-leadership/

LEADERSHIP & Why Relational Leaders Are the Glue to Hold a Team Together by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 9/13/19.

(Click the following link for a short, self-scoring questionnaire to discover your 3-STRand leadership mix: https://churchhealthwiki.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/3-strand-leadership-questionnaire-c2a9bobwhitesel-fillable.pdf)

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In the military, relational leaders are the men and women who lead skilled teams on critical assignments. They have an immediate, urgent and vital task to perform. They may not see where their efforts fit into the bigger picture, but they are the masters of relational leadership. They lead an intentional and personal effort to build a team of interdependent soldiers. While the key to strategic leadership is forecasting and theorizing, and the contribution of tacticians is precision and allocation, the skill of the relational leader is his or her connection with their team and the ability to think creatively, improvise, adapt and be successful.

In architecture

These are the skilled craftsmen that build a house and give it the working components. They are often knowledgeable in a certain predefined field such as electrical, heating/cooling, framing, etc., because of the complexity of the task. And, they like to see the immediate results of their hands. One relational leader told me, “I like to see immediate results from what I am doing. I do not have the patience to wait for an outcome. That is why I am a painter. I like to see the results right now from what I am doing.”

In contrast, the strategic leader may wait years to witness the culmination of a project, and thus may leap to a new idea before the first has come to fruition. The tactical leader is also patient in waiting for the project to be completed, but the tactical leader finds it rewarding to see that progress is being made and the end goal is getting nearer. However, for relational leaders, seeing immediate results in even small steps is one of the most rewarding parts of the process.

In the Church

My dad was a sergeant in the military, and initially a relational leader who led his small team of second service ushers successfully for four years. Like many relational leaders in our churches, Dad enjoyed getting the job done. I often remember how fulfilled and satisfied he was after church, where he had faithfully discharged his duties with his team.

In the change process

During the change process these are the church leaders who get things done. They often see things from the viewpoint of their task. If they are an usher, then as my dad, ushering seemed like the most important job in the church. Still my dad, like many relational leaders today, knew that the church was an organic organism of many functions and ministries (1 Corinthians 12:12; Ephesians 4:11-13). But Dad so enjoyed the task at hand, that at least for him and his giftings this was the most important job imaginable. As a result, he discharged his duties with speediness, precision, care and results.

Characteristics

Relational leaders have the knowledge, skill, relational abilities and dedication to get a job done. Once the parameters are defined and they see how their task fits into the bigger picture (they are helped in this by the tactical leader), the relational leader can accomplish almost anything. Anthropologist Margaret Mead observed, “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” [xxvii]. And, thus the contribution of the relational leader is critical to the change process.

Relational leaders often love their job so much that they do not see themselves “moving out” of this role in the foreseeable future [xxviii].

But, if the relational leader does not have the go-between of a tactical leader, the strategic leader’s vision may be too imprecise to motivate the relational leader. Thus, we see once again while all three types of leadership are needed, it is the glue the go-between tactical leader provides that helps the relational leader move the strategic leader’s vision forward.

This is the fourth article in a series of articles on 3-STRand Leadership. Check out the third, “What is tactical leadership?” by Bob Whitesel. Click here for footnotes.

Excerpted from Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church by Bob Whitesel (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007).

Photo source: istock 

Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/why-relational-leaders-are-the-glue-to-hold-a-team-together/

TURNAROUND CHURCH & 7 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Revitalizing a Church by @BobWhitesel published by @RenovateConf #BestOfYear

By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, 6/12/18.

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Though the church began to grow again on my first turnaround effort, knowing the following would have made the journey more pleasurable for both myself and the congregation.

I wish I had known #1. Church revitalization will take 2 to 3 times longer than you expect. 

As my first church revitalization effort, I asked and received a one year contract. The church and I felt this would be sufficient time to turn the church into a new direction. But, at the end of one year I had only gained enough social capital for the congregation to start trusting me. It took another year, which the church graciously offered to finance, before the first signs of change emerged. However, when small fruit emerged at the end of the second year it provided a foundation for revitalization to actually emerge in the third year.

Here is a timeline that works in many congregations, yet it’s slower than the church or the shepherd usually desires.

Year 1: Fact gathering and building up the social capital needed for the congregants to trust you.

Year 2: Implementing small change in the organization. Small victories can begin to convince reticent members of the church the validity of the new direction. More on this in “ Things I wish I had known # 2.”

Year 3: Church systems begin to change. Often times church leaders think if they change the system, then the congregants will change. But because the church is an organic institution (1 Cor. 12:12-27) changes in the system must bubble up from changes in people, not from top-down changes dictated from the top. A three year process gave this time to happen.

I wish I had known # 2: the power of small victories.

In year two, initial but small goals were attained. One of our small goals was to see in both the spring and fall a “Newcomers Sunday School class” emerge. We publicized the date for the beginning of the class even when we didn’t yet have any visitors. But once we published the date, suddenly members in the congregation started inviting their friends to church. The newcomers’ class provided a tangible target. Thus, small victories in the second year convinced the congregants we were headed in the right direction.

I wish I had known #3: Don’t speed up too fast just because you have some small victories.

The small victories got the church excited and soon they were ready to launch a worship service oriented towards younger people. At this time I came under a lot of pressure to begin the service immediately before it was thoroughly mapped out, staffed and prepared. Many of the leaders had read books that discussed how a church can grow up to 15% by adding a new service. And because the church had limped along not meeting it’s monthly budget for about 18 months, the pressure of an added revenue stream push the leaders to decide a new service was necessary sooner rather than later. 

I advised and eventually convinced the leaders a slowed down approach was warranted, so that the new service could be better planned and developed. I fact, this new service did not begin until almost 11 months after we began planning it. The slower paced allowed new and younger leaders to be recruited and prepared. The extra planning time seemed excessive to me at first, but in hindsight it was just about right. It allowed the turnaround church to develop indigenous leaders who reached out in a well prepared worship expression.

I wish I had known #4. Don’t expect new people to support the church financially or physically for some time.

The newcomers kept our church at arms length for almost a year or more before they decided to become part of our membership. They seem to thoroughly enjoy the newcomers class, but when membership was mentioned they often stiffened.

In response I used the metaphor of dating. 

The first date: I said when new people visit a church, it’s like being on a date: you aren’t ready to commit to a long relationship but rather want to get to know the other.

The second date: Going to the newcomers class was like a second date: it was a time to get to know about the hopes, aspirations and purposes of one another.

Engagement: After completing the newcomers class I said they may want to pray and consider becoming a member. I encouraged them to consider more carefully their level of involvement, their spiritual gifts and how they would fit in. I also stressed that the engagement could be as long as they needed.

Marriage: Finally I explained that when they agreed to be part of a membership class, this was like marriage. They were not marrying to just a local congregation church but also to the body of Christ as present in His people.

I wish I had known #5. You must spend more time in leadership development than you think.

As the church began to turnaround, there was an influx of people excited about the church’s direction. But this sometimes draws people who did not fit well in their previous church, because they were not mature enough to take on leadership responsibilities. I learned the hard way that sometimes people who come to a revitalized church are often people who need revitalization themselves – because their involvement in another church has not been a healthy one. Therefore I developed leadership courses and a mentor/mentee system so that new leaders could be vetted and trained before they were put into volunteer roles.

I wish I had known #6. There’s more power in spiritual transformation than most people realize.

People began to share testimonies about how their lives were being changed by the Holy Spirit. An emphasis upon salvation began to refocus the church. Older members recalled how in the early days the church, they had also emphasized conversion accompanied by powerful testimonies of change. Older members began to see that a turnaround in spiritual climate mirrored those times in the past when the church had been happy and healthy.

As a result I train turnaround pastors in the importance of understanding a church’s history and to pinpoint when they had been alive in the past. Usually a church had been alive in the past when the church was involved in evangelism and conversion. Reminding a church about this part of their history, made it more palatable for their present… the salvation of individuals. 

7. Last, but not least, is the power of a praying congregation. I set a goal for the prayer ministries to grow at the same rate as the church. If the church grew 10% in six months, we then expected 10% more people involved in prayer ministries. It has always seemed to me a spiritual principle that vibrant prayer life in a church would lead to a vibrant church.

You can subscribe to Church Revitalizer Magazine and access the original article here … https://issuu.com/renovate-conference/docs/cr_mag_final_3b02554e558e8a

HAVEN & 5 Principles for Making Your Church a Haven by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine. #HealthyChurchBook from @WPHbooks

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 5/29/19.

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Jesus called His Church to come out from among the restless divisiveness of Jerusalem and be an avenue for God’s remarkable love for neighbor and God. The very words the biblical authors used for God’s love in the Old Testament (chesed) and in the New Testament (agape) described God’s steadfast, committed and pursuant love. This uncommonly potent and persistent love was the love the Church was to reflect.

Here are five principles to focus your church on reflecting God’s love and reaching those who are hurting and longing for security.

1. Not condemnation, but aid.

Shunning and shaming is a tactic that rarely works when people are suffering. Chiding people with statements such as, “You are wrong. You are sinning!” is usually not productive. In fact, Jesus emphasized that conviction of sin is not the church’s job, stating:

If I don’t go away, the Companionwon’t come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

When he comes:

  • He will show the world it was wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment.
  • He will show the world it was wrong about sin because they don’t believe in me.
  • He will show the world it was wrong about righteousness because I’m going to the Father and you won’t see me anymore.
  • He will show the world it was wrong about judgment because this world’s ruler stands condemned” (John 16:8-9, italics added for emphasis).

Jesus’ repeated use of the emphatic “He will show the world…” reminded His hearers that despite the tendency of religious people to condemn and shame, conviction was the duty of the Holy Spirit.

However, the human role is to pray and rehabilitate, not persecute. The Church’s task is thus to provide aid with candor and honesty. Such a church becomes not so much an abode of recluse saints, as a community of caregivers.

2. Unfiltered agape love.

To help those ravaged by violence and abuse, the church must be a front of unrelentless and unfiltered love by reflecting the agapelove of the heavenly Father. Cambodian refugee Somaly Mam movingly writes, “I strongly believe that love is the answer and that it can mend even the deepest unseen wounds. Love can heal, love can console, love can strengthen, and yes, love can make change.”

Unfiltered love does not mean turning a blind eye or disregarding sin.  Rather unfiltered love means that it is truthful love that is not filtered by contempt, by disapproval, by scorn and/or by oddity. Unfiltered love emerges when caregivers realize that but for the mercy of God they could be in the same predicament and in need of the same consolation.

Also, everyone in a safe-haven church seeks her or his role in caregiving. Everyone seeks to do one’s part in fostering an environment of love and health, where the ill-treated and injured can recover.

3. Take the ill-treated into our daily life (i.e., home).

A helpful scripture that sums up theimportance of a haven is Romans 15:7. Paul, addressing the divided world illustrated in the story that began this chapter, states, “So welcome each other, in the same way that Christ also welcomed you, for God’s glory.”

The word the Common English Bible (CEB) translates “welcome” is translated in other versions as “accept” (i.e., NIV). Still, the Greek word carries the welcoming idea better than the latter, indicating “the idea is to take something or someone to oneself, illustrated by inviting someone into your home.”

Therefore, this scripture might be paraphrased as the following.

“In the same way that Christ also welcomed you,” the church “for God’s glory should take the stranger into our life in all the ways that would mirror taking them into our personal residence” (Romans 15:7 paraphrased).

This would mean meeting their daily physical needs and their emotional needs. Today, when so many people have suffered violence striding brazenly and victoriously through their world, it is critical that the Church sees her task as not an intermediary (pointing those in need to others) but as primary caregiver (meeting others’ needs directly).

4. Compassion and assistance for the ill-treated.

As we create safe-havens taking more and more needy people into our faith community, all Christians must grow in their ability to render effective assistance. Our human inclination is to be self-seeking and to pull back from others’ needs. And so, putting first and then meeting the needs of others becomes difficult.

However, to overcome this limitation it is helpful to recall that humans are created in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27). Christians thus should reflect His image in their actions.  But, how do we live out God’s image? It becomes easier if we follow theologian Anthony Hoekema’s suggestion that the image of God is best viewed as a verb rather than a noun.

Hoekema states, “We should think of the image of God… not as a noun but as a verb: we no longer image God as we should; we are not being enabled by the Spirit to imageGod more and more adequately; someday we shall image God perfectly.” So, the Church’s task is to imageor modelGod more clearly, through daily welcoming and attending to those ravaged by a heartless world.

5. Standing up for those ill-treated.

Being created in “the image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27) also means that all people, regardless of how they feel about their heavenly Creator, are nonetheless created in His image. This requires the Church to hold accountable any person who tramples that image, for such action offends God and should also offend the church.  Oscar A. Romero stated:

As holy defender of God’s rights and of his images, the church must cry out. It takes as spittle in its face,  as lashes on its back, as the cross in its passion, all that human beings suffer, even though they be unbelievers. They suffer as God’s images….whoever tortures a human being, whoever abuses a human being, whoever outrages a human being abuses God’s image, and the church takes as its own that cross, that martyrdom.

Safe-haven churches are thus not only settings for healing, but also for advocacy.  They remain connected to the downtrodden and disheartened; standing up for their rights as well as giving them a pathway back to health.

Excerpted from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heartby Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing 2013)

Photo source: istock 

Read more of the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/5-principles-for-making-your-church-a-haven/

CRITICISM & 3 Questions That Will Diffuse Criticism (and move a relationship forward) by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 12/18/19.

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During 30 years of consulting and coaching, I’ve found three simple questions that leaders can use to diffuse criticism. Today responding to criticism is increasingly important, because divisions must be defused before they spread into viral polarization. Here are three questions that will accomplish this.

Elsie Keith, CEO of Lucid Meetings, provides the first question to ask when you are criticized or in a highly critical environment. It is to be curious and reply with curiosity.  

Question 1:

“Wow, ok. I hear that you feel xyz. I want to understand that better. Can you tell me more about where you’re coming from?”

This reply doesn’t mean you agree, but it does tell them they’ve been heard. It begins to establish a rapport between the two of you. You weren’t acquiescing to their criticism. But you’re letting them know they’ve been heard and that you want to learn about their perspective. 

Depending on how you count them, in the New Testament there are between 200 – 300 questions that Jesus asked his listeners. In fact, as a rabbi or Jewish teacher (John 1:38), Jesus would be expected to ask questions. 

For example, even as a young man, when Jesus remained in the temple he defused his parents’ criticism as they arrived. “His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.” Jesus replied, “But why did you need to search? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:48-49 NLT). 

Jesus wasn’t acquiescing to their criticism (e.g. “why have you done this to us?”). Rather he let them know they’d been heard. Then he deepened their understanding, “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49 NLT). 

While talking with Dr. Rob Voyle, a colleague who utilizes counseling skills called “appreciative inquiry,” I learned the next two questions to ask.

Question 2:

“What do you need to be able to move on?” 

“Anxiety is always about the future, not the past,” Dr. Voyle told me. Therefore, when criticism is given it’s because someone is not able to see a preferred future. Instead, they see a future that worries them. 

Jesus’ response in John 1:38 NLT gives us an example. “As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, ‘Look! There is the Lamb of God!’ When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus. Jesus looked around and saw them following. ‘What do you want?’ he asked them. They replied, ‘Rabbi’ (which means ‘Teacher’), ‘where are you staying?’ ‘Come and see,’ he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day. (John 1:36-39 NLT).

Asking others about the future and what they need to get there, is the second question. “If you focus on the past you’ll just hash it over with no resolution or progress” Dr. Voyle stated. 

How many times have we hashed out the past only to find ourselves in the same polarized state after hours of discussion? This is because the direction of our discussion is wrong. It should not be about the past, but about the future (or you’ll get stuck in the past). Once you’ve asked question number one, letting them know they’ve been heard, then it’s time to focus your discussion on what’s ahead. Focusing on the future and their role on it moves the relationship forward.

The third question is to figure out where the person fits in the future solution.

Question 3:

“What do you love to do, what you want to do more than anything else?”

This helps you and them begin a dialogue about where they fit into the solution. You want their participation in the solution to be based upon what they want to do. But, you also want them to understand that their participation might require them to do things that they won’t enjoy.

In Jesus’ leadership we see that though he is omniscient and knows their questions in advance, he engages in the following questions and answers. 

“Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do us a favor.” “What is your request?” he asked. They replied, “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.” But Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?” (Mark 10:35-38 NLT)

Jesus asked a question that pointed out that their desires were fleshly, carnal and self-serving. Then, Jesus put those desires in perspective by saying that following Him meant being immersed in bitter pain, suffering and sacrifice. In the biblical lives of James and John we see that Jesus’ answer began to foster in them humility, tenacity and sacrifice. James eventually was stabbed to death on the orders of Herod (Acts 12:2) and John would live many of his elder years in a slave-labor colony on the island of Patmos (Rev. 1). Both had changed from their boisterous, self-seeking nature ( they were labeled, “sons of thunder”) to become models of sacrifice and service.

So as I coach leaders about receiving criticism while charting out a future strategic plan, these three questions are critical. To recap, begin communication by responding with curiosity. The second question is to ask them what they need to be able to move forward. And the third question is to ask what they love to do and discussing together what their participation in the future will look like. 

With these three questions you can begin a discussion that will quickly move the focus from criticism … toward a solution.

Read the original article at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/3-questions-that-will-diffuse-criticism/

FRIENDSHIP & Why Every Leader Needs a Barnabas Friend by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 10/10/19.

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Proverbs 18:24 depicts two types of friends:

“A man of many companions may come to ruin,

    but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

The first type are those the NIV calls “unreliable friends.” In the Hebrew, rea`,it is defined more like a “companion” (ESV, HNB) that journeys with you because they benefit from your companionship.

Leaders will always encounter these type of people. These are the ones that partner with your leadership because of what they derive from the relationship. They get more than they give. And they are probably the majority of our partners in leadership.

The second type of friend, in Hebrew ahab, is one who “loves you as family.” Leaders will also encounter these people. They may be fewer and farther between, but they are evident because it is their nature to give to another rather than to take. Hang onto these relationships. They will be there with you through good times and more importantly bad times.

This proverb also suggests many of the first types of friends (companions) lead “to ruin.”

The second type of friends will “cling to you” (Hebrew dabeq) like family.

To help visualize (and identify) those friends who love you like family and will cling to you through difficult situations, we have only to look to the friendship exemplified by the New Testament disciple: Barnabas. His very name means son of encouragement. And, he was the one who encouraged skeptical disciples to accept the redeemed Saul, now named Paul.

In my life these people who have clung to me and stayed with me like family have been the greatest source of encouragement. They don’t seem to be the majority, maybe only 10 percent of the friends I know. However, I love them and value them.

The author of Proverbs reminds us to deepen our relationship with the “Barnabas friends” who will last forever.

Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/why-every-leader-needs-a-friend-like-this/