UNITY & A Leadership Exercise to Design Unity Celebrations for the Multi-venue Church

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/4/15.

A tactic of a leadership collage should be to minister to as many cultures (generational, ethnic, affinity, etc.) as feasible.  But, you should likewise have a plan for unity services as a tactic of your leadership collage.

But, here is a warning.  Unity services should not be about the event, but about the effect … of helping congregants appreciate that we are different generations with different cultural tastes.  Thus, don’t have a unity service or unity event because you have a low-attendance Sunday coming up, but host a unity event so you can help the congregation appreciate all of the cultures present in the church.

Some churches have a combined unity service on every the Fifth Sunday.  Others like Saint Thomas’ Church of Sheffield, England had a weekly Sunday Evening Service which is a unity encounter for its nine (9) different cultures.  I suggest if you have two or more worship services, you have a unity event at least once every three months.

So, how do you plan to do it?

A Leadership Exercise:

First, settle on the right goal. A unity event is not about combining services for a low-attendance Sunday (holiday weekends) but about “helping congregants appreciate that we are different generations with different cultural taste.”

Secondly, do some research on what others have done to create unity celebrations.  Use the Internet, your network of friends or just brainstorm with colleagues.  Here is a link to the story of St. Tom’s Church in Sheffield, England and my experience at their Sunday evening unity events.

Thirdly, create a plan.  Share with other leaders some ideas about how you will, or have seen others create real unity events, where people see the differences in cultures … and then come to appreciate each culture more. Make a personal plan from this.

Some of you may have seen how Greater Traveler’s Rest Church in Georgia famously held a unity service every Thanksgiving season to celebrate their different generational cultures.  Because they used secular music, the pastor (a friend of mine) received threatening letters. Thus, the video I formerly posted here is gone.

But, below is a URL of a video of the entire service, showing how one church does it.  Greater Traveler’s Rest Church is an African-American church and they were influenced by a colleague of mine:

So create a plan regarding how your church could localize and customize a “unity” experience that would be appropriate for your culture.  It probably wouldn’t happen like the video in your church, but it might in some 🙂  If you need a little shot of enthusiasm as you near the end of your course, you may want to watch the video again 🙂

NEED MEETING & A Leadership Exercise to Assess, Rather Than Guess, Nonchurchgoer Needs

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 11/30/15.

Our sharing of the Good News should be founded upon an authentic concern for meeting the needs of those who don’t yet have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

The Most Overlooked Part of our Strategies

A need-meeting foundation is often the most often overlooked aspect of our outreach strategies  But it is central to it, for remember it is by reaching out and meeting their needs that we demonstrate God’s love, grace and offer to be reconciled.

But, most church leaders tell me then don’t know how to assess needs in their community and thus they just guess.  But, this is an extremely ineffective planning tool for it results in a lot of ministry failures with resultant burnout of the volunteers who worked so tirelessly only to discover the strategy (not their efforts) was misplaced.

A Leadership Exercise

To help colleagues, clients and students find tools for need assessment, they undertake the following leadership exercise.,

Each person conducts an online search and finds one tool that can assess the needs of the unchurched. (And give us a link so we can check it out too.) Then each person writes four paragraphs:

Paragraph 1:

Each person looks at the outreach process (i.e. marketing) and tells why assessing needs should be Step 1 in your four step outreach (i.e. marketing) strategy.  Download this presentation from The Church Leader’s MBA: What Business School Instructors Wish Church Leaders Knew About Management (Ohio Christian University): HANDOUT ©BobWhitesel MARKETING

Paragraphs 2, 3 & 4:

  • Each leader shares a one paragraph overview of the tool’s strengths
  • Then each leaders shares a one paragraph overview of the tool’s weaknesses.
  • Finally, each leader shares a one paragraph overview of how they could implement this tool in their ministry.

This exercise will not only help you discover innovative need-assessment tools for your ministry, but it will also make you more attune to the needs of your community.

So, in this leadership exercise, do a little sleuthing and share with others the best and brightest ideas for discovering the needs of those who haven’t yet been reconciled to our heavenly Father.

MEASUREMENT & A Biblical Leadership Exercise To Help Leaders See Why Counting Is Critical

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/27/15.

In leadership courses we must look at the important (but often disregarded) strategic tool of quantitative analysis.  Yes, that means numbers.  Now I know you have heard that numbers aren’t what discipleship should be about, and that is right.  Numerical growth (according to Acts 2:42ff) is just one of four elements of biblical church growth.  According to Acts 2:42 there are four arenas of church growth (growth in maturity, growth in favor, growth in unity, and growth in numbers … which, by the way, Luke reminds us that it is God who provides the latter).

A Leadership Exercise.

But church leaders often shy away from numbers except when absolutely necessary. And that is unfortunate because numbers are used in the Scriptures to demonstrate God’s move.

To uncover this, undertake this short leadership exercise.  First, share with other leaders some of the insights that knowing the numbers might give you about your ministry.  Each leader should give two insights (with one paragraph each, for a total of 2 paragraphs) about how knowing the quantitative growth of a ministry can help lead that organization, be it a church, para-church ministry or non-profit.  But, don’t just be brusque in your reply.  Go into a  bit of detail, and tell how knowing the numbers can (and potentially will) help you chart the strategic future of God’s mission.  Use a few scriptures to support your ideas.

Then secondly, share in one paragraph why you think leaders don’t want to know the numbers.  Give some responses that you have heard, and then give me your replies.  Again, a paragraph is sufficient.

Share your results with other leaders and comment upon their responses.

That’s it.  Just three (3) paragraphs for this leadership exercise. But, the insights on why we should (and why we don’t) know the numbers can be insightful.

NEED MEETING & A Leadership Exercise To Learn About Needs of Non-churchgoers

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/13/15.

I’m writing this while attending the CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) conference. At this conference we try to seek out new ways to find needs in our communities and to then meet those needs as a demonstration of God’s love and His Good News.

A Leadership Exercise.

Here is a leadership exercise designed to help you uncover unmet needs in our communities that ministries can meet.

I know you understand that we must become skilled in polling the opinions and needs of our mission field (those we are reaching out to) and not just our congregants.  I often am disappointed when I hear that church leaders polled the congregants to discover when they should add another service.  What they are doing is getting the input of people who already attend their church.  Now this is fine if you are adding another service because of the onset of sociological strangulation, and thus you are targeting your existing attendees.

But if you are evangelistically reaching out to unchurched people (like every church should be doing according to Jesus’ Great Commission in Matthew 28:19ff), then we need to become better acquainted with the needs, opinions, and attitudes of unchurched people within the scope of our reach.  And, the best research is quantitatively based, not anecdotal .

Thus, in this leadership exercise, share some innovative ways that your congregation, or another ministry, has ascertained the needs and wants of the community they serve.  With students, I usually grade these postings on relevance and quality.  Thus, a student said, “Church A asked some people on the street,” this response describes a strategy that will not be very effective due to the small size of the sample.

Therefore, this leadership exercise is looking for good, creative, and powerful tools that churches are employing to reach out and ascertain the needs of the unchurched.  This may mean that you have to do some sleuthing, either on the Internet, among colleagues, or with denominational offices.  But then bring to this discussion some of the best ideas for understanding the unchurched person’s needs and wants.

FACILITIES & Floor Plans That Promote Multiple Venues (a leadership exercise)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., 11/13/15.

QUOTE: “As you know, Sunday morning continues to be the major time that unchurched people are the least busy and when they will visit a church.  Thus, we should offer as many culturally relevant worship encounters as possible, to lead as many different cultures as possible to an encounter with Christ.” 

A Leadership Exercise:

This is a leadership exercise designed for churches (or students) who are considering facility expansion.  It is designed to help leaders think creativity about church designs that will equally promote church expansion and health.

Search on the Internet and find a church floor plan (i.e. the diagram of the floor/room layout an architect might use).

The floor plan should be one that promotes multiple worship encounters.

In other words, the floor plan should allow:

  • multiple worship encounters (services) to be held at the same time,
  • so that 2+ (the more the better) different worship services in different styles could be held at the same time,
  • with a minimum of congestion before and after the encounters.

This is a fun little exercise to look for church floor plans that allow a church to hold multiple worship services at the same time. Be sure to look for floorplans that allow people to enter and exit as well as have spaces for fellowship between services. And, it should also be a floor plan that allows several sub-congregations to worship at the same time in different styles in and different parts of the same building.

Post a paragraph about why you think this floor plan promotes multiple worship encounters.

Here are some hints for finding church floor plans:

  • Many churches will have “maps” of the church available under “newcomer” or “visitor” information on their website.
  • Churches that are building new facilities will usually have floor plans on their website too.
  • Church architects will often show church floor plans on their websites (but be careful, as you noticed in your reading my research has led me to conclude that most architects who build churches build them in such as way that they do not promote multiples services).
  • Also, if any of you have hints about where other leaders could find such floor plans, share those URLs here too (more points can be garnered).
  • A good way to do this is to search the Internet for “church floorplans” and look through the images you find.  Then pick one that you think would promote multiple simultaneous worship options.  Logically in my courses, the best examples garner the most points.

Surf the Internet for a floor plan that promotes multiple worship encounters at the same location and share that floor plan with a one paragraph explanation about why it promotes multiple worship encounters.

Then comment on at least two other leaders’ diagrams/analysis bringing in 2-3 relevant textbooks and 3-5 relevant outside sources.

As you know, Sunday morning continues to be the major time that unchurched people are the least busy and when they will visit a church.  Thus, we should offer as many culturally relevant worship encounters as possible, to lead as many different cultures as possible to an encounter with Christ.

WORSHIP & Three Reasons for Worship Wars and Three Lessons to Learn (A Leaderhip Exercise)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/11/15.

In the popular leadership exercise on “Worship & A Leadership Exercise to Untangle Worship Controversies” I’ve noticed that worship disasters often result from:

  1. lack of preparation,
  2. lack of understanding (of a different culture),
  3. and/or lack of focus (i.e. the goal of connect people through worship, to God with resultant evangelism).

Thus, here a few thoughts from the professor.

1.  Encourage your people to take more time than you think you need to prepare for worship events.  This means more time in prayer, practice and evaluation in addition to preparation.  Often people think that “If we provide it they will come.”  And they are right, if we provide an “authentic connection” with God, they will come.  But often our connection is weak or distorted.  It is like that mobile phone company commercial that intones, “How many bars do you have?”  Thus, we need to make sure our connections are strong and static free before we try to link people up.

2.  Next, ensure that your leaders fully understand the group they are reaching out to via your worship expression.  This is why in the textbook I suggest having different worship committees, over varying worship expressions. The purpose for this is to ensure that indigenous worship expressions develop.  In addition, help those involved in worship to understand how divisive this subject can be. This is because it deals with something very personal: a persons connection I with God.  And, few people want that connection severed or damaged.  As I mentioned in an earlier posting this has to do with an understanding of the nexus between Christ and culture.  Remember, this means we must “sift” culture, judging some elements and affirming others, with the goal the transformation of the whole. That is why I have found some of the best people to get involved in cross-cultural ministries and strategy teams are missionaries.  They are trained in the regimens and procedures of (as Dr. McGavran would say) “building bridges” to other cultures over which the Good News can travel.

3.  And finally, don’t forget that the goal of worship is to encounter God.  It is like it says in Good to Great, get the “right person on the bus.”  Instead … get the right goal on board.  In addition, for some people this worship experience can be a cathartic event in their life’s focus, and thus worship can be a powerful conduit for evangelism.  Always be prepared to encounter this, with incorporation strategies ready.

Thus, worship disasters provide us a framework through which to see alternative courses of action, parallel outcomes, and adjusts to strategy.  Don’t forget to analyze your failures as well as your successes!  Sometimes the former are more revealing .

BUDGETING & When Does Pledge-based Fundraising Work? A Leadership Exercise.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/11/15.

Sometimes churches have budgets that are generated by a congregation “pledging” their giving for the upcoming year.  The church then budgets according to the level of pledges it receives.

While this can be a valid way to set budgets, it can also have some caveats.  On this issue one of my student’s once wrote, “we ran with this system and I hated it. I felt that it was way too restrictive and left little room for God to move.  The budget was set strictly on what was “pledged” – vital ministries were cut. Some of the leaders got tired of me pushing and asking “how big is your God?” – and I did so without the idea of getting stupid and jumping into huge (none-God-lead) increases just for the sake of it. So over time we have totally moved away from any pledge drive. Our budgeting process begins in prayer and we go with the increases we believe God is calling us to. I also preach/teach the tithe –and sense we have moved to this the giving has actually been better than it was when we were just pledging.”

The pledge-system he describes is really a type of “line item budgeting,” where a “faith promise” now takes the place of just incrementalizing last year’s budget.  As Butler noted (2010, p. 71) a strategic budgeting combination of line item and zero-based approaches creates a more holistic approach.  Butler calls this “strategic budgeting” (ibid.).

J. D. Berkley writes, “The system has drawbacks, however.  It is so very cut-and-dried that is lacks the emotion and spontaneity that enlivens much Christian giving. Events arise that genuinely inspire giving, but if the church is locked into a rigid one-ask system, the moment is lost. Needs cannot always be anticipated…” (Berkley, 2000, p. 37).

Herein is a key weakness to the pledging approach. The pledging approach works best when a new “project” is about to be launched.  It can be a new program, a new building, a new staff person, etc..  Subsequently (and regrettably) churches often get caught in a cycle of launching new ideas (c.f. a new “building project”) to stimulate giving, because this (rather than the Good News of God’s missio Dei) inspires giving.

A Leadership Exercise:

Describe a time when you witnessed this type of “budgeting by crisis” or “budgeting by vision.”

What were the outcomes?  Give a paragraph to each.

  • Positive outcomes:
  • Negative outcomes:
  • Lessons learned:

Works Cited
Berkley, J. D. (2000). The Dynamics of Church Finance. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.