UNITY & 12 statements that summarize all that the New Testament says about it. #RickWarren

by Rick Warren, message to Saddleback Community Church, 1/25/21.

… There are 12 statements that summarize all that the New Testament says about unity, and today I’ll give you the first six:

1. My unity with other believers is proof that I’m saved.

2. The Trinity is our model for unity.

3. Jesus’ last prayer was that we’d live in unity.

4. God gives us his glory so that we’ll be unified.

5. Our unity is our greatest witness to unbelievers.

6. Unity removes fear and creates boldness.

If you weren’t able to listen to my message this past weekend, click here to watch the whole service. You can also click here to download your small group discussion questions.

#SundayChurchHacks & Here is why you should let leaders of diverse sub-congregations preach more often to the entire congregation (and on more desirable dates too)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 7/12/20. Pictured below is the pastor of a Spanish-speaking congregation preaching to the entire congregation. This reminds the church of its diversity, plus gives it a opportunity to experience the anointing of diverse leaders within the church.

Yet too often leaders of smaller sub-congregations and venues are afforded the opportunity to preach only on special occasions or during low attendance periods (such as the middle of the summer).

Relegating them to preach sparingly and at low attendance times sends a subtle message of inferiority. This works against reconciliation.

To create reconciliation in a church begins with affording all cultures equal status and affirming their ministry beyond equal opportunity.

“Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore.

Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!

All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins.

God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.”

‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:16-20‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Therefore a Sunday Church Hack can be to let the leaders of various venues and sub-congregations preach on a more regular and desirable basis. If not, cultural chasms develop, not bridges.


UNITY & 5 ways church unity creates a powerful influence in your city

There are many ways to describe the church: a fellowship, a congregation and a community. But, I’ve noticed a refreshing alternative among those who lead young churches. They often find the terms fellowship, community, etc. as too associated with a complex organizational structure. Instead, they often use a word borrowed from the developing world: tribe.

At a church called “The Tribe of Los Angeles,” a young attendee described it this way, “Tribe tells people we are doing something different at church. It means we are close, like a family. And, it also says we are in this together in this, (that) we are small but mobile, that we have a closely held, common task. It’s just like a tribe in the developing world that must work together to survive.”  

I find something refreshing in terms that sum up for younger people a family-like dependence. Now, I am not recommending that churches adopt such terminology to be voguish or appear relevant. But I find that using the term on occasion reminds us all that the church is on a mission and the accomplishment of that mission depends upon the church being a mutually supportive team.

The power of unity

In John 17:20-23 Jesus prayed that all believers, throughout all time, would demonstrate a supernatural unity. And, He stressed that this unity would amaze the world:

The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us….
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me. (MSG)

Such a passionate desire from the Son of God cannot easily be dismissed. But this was more than just a longing. Jesus emphasized a purpose in this unity when He stated, “Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that you’ve sent me and loved them” (v. 23, MSG). Let’s look at a few practical ways that a church can give evidence that God is working through it.

1. Unity supports God’s mission

God’s mission (sometimes called the missio Dei) is that He wants to reunite with His wayward offspring. Jesus made it clear that only through His sacrifice was this reconciliation possible (John 14:6-7, Romans 3:23-24, 5:8, 6:23). And through the Church supports this mission in many ways, there are at least three important ways church unity contributes to reconnecting people with their heavenly Father.

2. Unity influence the community.

Jesus wanted His church to be so loving, forgiving and united that the secular world would take notice. He desired the evidence of this amazement to not be theatrics, but to “give the godless world evidence that You’ve sent me and loved them” (John 17:23 MSG).  And so, when a church is uncommonly united, this contrasts with the disunity found in most worldly organizations. It reminds the watching world that something supernatural is at work in our churches, and it models to the world the undivided nature of God.

3. Unity can impact cross-denominational influence.

I’ve noticed that church leaders often influence other congregations by packaging innovative programs and selling them as growth inducers to other congregations.  But, too often these are only tactical programs, that may work only for a short time. Churches who latch onto such tactical programs often adopt tactical names, such as Seeker-friendly Churches, Cell Churches, Missional Churches, Body-life Churches or Samaritan Churches. But, as seen in Jesus’ prayer, it might be more fitting for networks of churches to be known for their unity more than their innovations.  Congregations that are united can model important attributes of forgiveness, harmony and agreement that the secular world finds hard to muster.

4. Unity influences a congregation.

A united congregation provides an environment where congregants can spend more time and energy focusing on the needs of those outside of the organization, rather than scrutinizing the differences of those within. I have often observed churches so focused on their internal squabbles that they miss (and usually repel) visitors and seekers who God is sending their way. But when churches become more united, they recycle more time and energy into the dire problems of those not yet reunited with their heavenly Father.

5. Unity influences non-churchgoers.

The secular realm can be a bastion of antagonism, rancor and factions. Little wonder that weary souls worn down by this often search for an environment where divisiveness is minimal. Many hope to find in Christ’s Church this harbor. If they instead encounter false-compassion and hypocritical jockeying for influence, they can easily conclude that the church is hypocritical: promising solace but offering rancor. As Paul noted, a united, loving and forgiving church means “no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd” (Ephesians 4:17 MSG).

The church should strive, with God’s help, to be increasingly united. The goal is not perfectunity, but more unity. Two colleagues of mine label this “dissonant harmony.” By this, they mean that a church can never attain perfect harmony, but it can attain a degree of harmony (though not perfect) that is increasingly harmonious but acknowledges some dissonance and dissension.

Christ’s prayer is not that churches fabricate mindless slaves to corporate vision. Rather Jesus emphasized that Church unity was to be a earthly reflection of the miraculous oneness amid diversity of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And so, striving to be more unified has benefits and caveats that still make the effort worth it.

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

Photo source: istock 

Read more at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/5-ways-church-unity-creates-a-powerful-influence/

UNITY & 7 Ideas That Create Unity Among Multiple Worship Services

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D. and the 2017 Missional Coaches Cohort, 2/1/17.

  • Hold unified worship services, not just around holidays & special days.
    • Hold a combined service around the 4th of July and meet offsite at a lake or
      community pool for baptisms. Hold a combined fall fest service around Halloween or Thanksgiving, and make sure it has creative elements that express thanks and gratitude.
    • Hold a combined service after the new year, and speak to the ‘state of
      the church’ or the ministry focus for the year to come.
    • Make sure to celebrate ministries that have gone well in the previous year.
    • KEY > This is not about convenience (i.e. to compensate for a low-attendance Sunday).  Rather, it is about showcasing how God is moving through each of the worship expressions by:
      • Sharing testimonies
      • Sharing music
      • Sharing prayers
      • etc.
  • Swap Sanctuaries.
    • Have the different services / congregations switch their worship space for a
      week. Speak vision for the congregation to understand why they are doing it.
    • Consider mixing up the music just a little, and have some unique service
      elements – video, live testimony, special reading, etc.
  • Swap Serving Teams.
    • Not ready to swap sanctuaries? Okay, then how about swapping serving teams?
    • Greeters, Ushers, Hospitality Teams – send them to the opposite end of the
      building once a month to serve the other congregation. A hassle? Perhaps.
    • But the interaction might add some new life or increase the perspective or
      appreciation for what’s happening at the other end of the building.
  • Recruit prayer partners for multiple services.
    • Have designated prayer partners visit the other service and pray for the service, the families, the ministry effectiveness of that unique service.
    • Think about the impact of older folks praying for the younger families in their service, while seeing younger folks praying for the older folks who have prayed and given and sacrificed to build a church of great witness and reach in the community?
  • Hold a combined marriage retreat (or any similar type of retreat).
    • February or March are optimal. Be sure to highlight older couples in the church who are modeling good marriages for those who are just starting out.
    • Partner up older and younger couples for the weekend, and have public moments of prayer and words of encouragement to each other.
  • Hold combined prayer walks.
    • What would it look like to gather 2-3 times a year as one congregation and walk around the church’s neighborhood and pray for the people living in all those homes.
    • Make sure to read up on holding prayer walks; this isn’t a demonstration.
    • But what a great opportunity to expand the bandwidth of everyone’s prayer
      concern for the neighborhoods around the church!
  • Hold a combined mission emphasis weekend / go on trips together.
    • What local, regional, national, or global ministries do you support?
    • Get everyone from both services for a night or weekend to eat food from another country, hear stories of missionaries / ministry representatives. Schedule trips where various groups can interact and serve together.

© Bob Whitesel DMin PhD & MissionalCoaches.com #PowellChurch



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 🙂

UNITY & How a “Wall of Wonder” Can Unite a Church Undergoing Change

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Bruno Dyck and Fredrick Stark at the University of Manitoba (Administrative Science Quarterly) found in their research that when a church undergoes change it can remain united if during the change it remembers and celebrates times when it endured change and remained united in the past. This “4th Trigger” in their process model demonstrated that celebrating times of unity from the past is critical for effective congregational change to take place. Here is an idea from the United Methodist News Service about one tool that can bring that about.

Comfort in changing times
By Heather Hahn, 12/1/15, United Methodist News Service.

(The) United Methodist Commission on Archives and History… housed at United Methodist-related Drew University, offers materials — like that letter — that connect church members with their Wesleyan heritage.

“We’re the family album of The United Methodist Church,” said the Rev. Alfred T. Day III, the top executive of Archives and History since 2014…

Is your local congregation undergoing a time of change or struggle? In times of difficulty or uncertainty, church records can be a comfort.

Day suggests that churches not wait for major anniversaries to display the photographs and other artifacts that tell the story of their ministry. Instead, he recommends that congregations assemble he calls a “Wall of Wonder” when times are tough.

Archives and History can augment such exhibits with a corresponding timeline for the denomination and its predecessors.

“In seeing that timeline of a congregation’s life, you see as the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ says, ‘Through many dangers, toils and snares, we have already come,’” he said.

Simply put, such mementos help people of faith see God at work over the long haul.

It’s a perspective John Wesley would appreciate. His devout wish to end legalized slavery in North America took almost a century to come to fruition.

The British Empire did not outlaw the slave trade until 1807, 16 years after Wesley’s death. The fight over slavery actually split Wesley’s movement in the United States in 1844. The United States finally officially abolished slavery with the ratification of the Constitution’s 13th Amendment on Dec. 6, 1865.

Even that did not settle the dispute among Wesley’s followers, but the Methodist Church ultimately reunited in 1939.

“I think what history helps us to do is to take a longer view,” Day said. “Look at what we’ve come through in the past. Why should we think that God’s grace isn’t going to lead us into the future?”

Read more at … http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/for-churchgoers-treasures-from-the-family-album.

UNITY & How Unity Events Keep Multi-generational Churches From Splitting Up

by Bob Whitesel D.min., Ph.D., 11/12/15.

“…if we do not offer culturally different worship encounters, then those other cultures will go elsewhere, and we’ll be separated anyway: this time not by feet or yard, but my miles.”

A student once shared an online article where a person criticized the Multi-generational church as dividing up the church.  That article writer said, “(Multigenerational Church?
Bryan Elliott – Contributing Author) Okay family, everyone synchronize your watches, we’re almost at church.  Now when your watch reads high noon meet at the front foyer…..readddddyyyy, break!”  Sounds more like a military campaign morphed into a football game.  Sad to say, it’s the American family headed to church.  You see, Billy goes to the 5 year old class as Sandy runs off to the junior high worship, not to mention big brother Blake attending the high school “blow out” worship as mom and dad sit peacefully with all the other adults in the sanctuary (That is if mom or dad doesn’t have to run one of the programs).  Then at the end of it all the family convenes at the entrance of the foyer and heads off to lunch.  Wow, wasn’t church exciting, wasn’t it unifying! I thought the family was a high priority to the church.  It appears everyone is segregated and entertained then thrown back together.  Dad has no idea what the kids have learned.  The kids have no idea what mom and dad have studied.  Not only has Sandy not had the opportunity to watch Mom worship her Lord and Savior, but the boys also weren’t able to witness Dad’s seriousness in the Word and communion.  Is there an advantage to all this?  Sure, you’re able to engage each member of the family on their level, it appeals to them for the time being, but what have you accomplished?  What message have you conveyed?

Here is my response.  I thought it might be of interest.


The author of this article is right, that is what happens if you do not have unity events!  But, the other option, of blending everything robs us of evangelistic power.  The way I read Matthew 28:19ff, God says there is as primacy for the Great Commission.

This is why (for ourselves and our critics) that unity events are so important.  St. Thomas’ Church of Sheffield England has a unity worship gathering every Sunday night (they have to, they have nine different celebrations). These unity events are “come who may” and while St. Tom’s has about 2,500 total attendance at nine celebrations, they have 1,000 people every Sunday evening. These people on Sunday evenings are rubbing shoulders with other Christians of different cultures.  But, on Sunday mornings, when most non-churchgoing people are still most likely to go to church, they offer different culturally-sensitive worship expressions to reach those who are non-churchgoers.

Thus, the author is pointing out a hole in most multi-generational (i.e. multi-cultural) strategies.  In fact, I’ve been to churches that have several services and haven’t had a unity event in years!  They are thus giving credence to this author’s critique.

And, as you know I advocate that the same message be delivered in each venue.  People should be getting the Good News in not only their own vernacular, but also the same content. This can be done by video (harder) or by having the different preachers at each venue to agree on take-away lessons and Biblical content.  It’s not that hard.  Hundreds of churches do it.

And, the author forgot one more thing.  And that is that if we do not offer culturally different worship encounters, then those other cultures will go elsewhere, and we’ll be separated anyway: this time not by feet or yard, but my miles.

BLENDED WORSHIP & Why You Should Use Both Blended Music & Heart Music

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/5/15.

Linked below is an insightful article by James Ward, an accomplished and popular Christian musician about the challenges, yet benefits, of blending cross-cultural worship. In my view, we should have such cross-cultural worship expressions. Yet I also emphasize that we need culturally diverse worship expressions too, in order to connect with what Ward calls “the heart language” (pp. 44-45) of more people among today’s increasingly diverse cultures.

And so, this is a helpful article, written by a musician/scholar who a Caucasian pastor once asked, “I want to have a parish church, uniquely positioned to meet the needs of our immediate community. How do begin to do that in our worship if our neighbors are black?” (Ward, 2012, p. 40) James Ward’s answer became the basis for this article: http://globalworship.tumblr.com/post/8744200959/strategies-for-cross-cultural-music-worship-by

Leadership Exercise:

Take a look at this article and then answer with colleagues, one of the first two questions and then also the third.

1. How can cross-cultural worship break down pejorative stereotypes?

2. How can cross-cultural worship fit into a church that is, like the example mentioned by the Caucasian pastor, seeking to reach out to a changing demographic in the neighborhood?

3. Finally if you can only answer one of these questions, answer this one. Ward says, “As wonderful as it may sound, cross-cultural worship seems not to be for everyone” (p. 46). Thus, how do you balance in a church “heart language” worship with “cross-cultural” worship?

I think Ward has some good thoughts about “heart music” which he defines in ethnomusicological nomenclature as “a musical context leaned in childhood that most fully expresses one’s emotions” (pp. 44-45).

UNITY & How to Maintain A Church’s Unity as It Multiplies & Diversifies

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 10-24/15.

A student once shared a very common dilemma.  I’ve attached my response to help students, colleagues and clients struggling with diversifying a church while maintaining unity (and to explain how unity does not trump multiplication).

Here is what the student wrote:

As I helped the church see the need for change to reach younger generations we began to reach a younger crowd. Young people who had left the church were returning. At first it was just my presence of being a younger person myself. As we grew we had to make some difficult decisions about were we were intentionally headed. We didn’t want to neglect the older folks nor the younger folks either. We ended up making a decision to have two services that would meet each of their needs but some of the older more established people didn’t like the idea. Some comments were, “we’re dividing the flock” and “shouldn’t the young people (new people or unchurched) come at 8:00 a.m. instead of the traditional people.” We were running 135 people and could only sit 150 while our parking lot held less. Unfortunately 30 people left the church. I was crushed that so called mature Christians couldn’t sacrifice to see more people reached for Christ and grow in Him. We already had Wed. nights that was traditional, and Sunday nights that was traditional, and Sunday morning was traditional. I guess for some giving the younger folks 1/4 of the ministry focus was asking too much.

Here is my response:

Thanks for sharing a powerful, but unfortunately all too typical story when you said, “as we grew we had to make some difficult decisions about were we were intentionally headed. We didn’t want to neglect the older folks nor the younger folks either. We ended up making a decision to have two services that would meet each of their needs but some of the older more established people didn’t like the idea. Some comments were, “we’re dividing the flock” and “shouldn’t the young people (new people or unchurched) come at 8:00 a.m. instead of the traditional people.” “We were running 135 people and could only sit 150 while our parking lot held less. Unfortunately 30 people left the church. I was crushed that so called mature Christians couldn’t sacrifice to see more people reached for Christ and grow in Him. We already had Wed. nights that was traditional, and Sunday nights that was traditional, and Sunday morning was traditional. I guess for some giving the younger folks 1/4 of the ministry focus was asking too much.”

I don’t think the entire fault lies with those who left, but in the way we “grew” these older generations to understand today’s cultural differences.  Many of these older Builder Generation people grew up in a less diverse, more uni-cultural world.  Thus, they feel like their way of life is ending (it is) by this generational diversity.  We must show them that the message of Christ is, as Charles Kraft says, “supra-cultural,” meaning Christ’s message is not a culture, but is above culture (Christianity in Culture, 1979).

The key to keeping the older generation is to help them see they are a “culture” and that young people are a “culture” too (e.g. the “youth culture,” “counter-culture,” etc.).  Too often Builder-aged people can’t see why young people need things differently, unless we help them see that it is like learning a foreign culture.  If you don’t learn about the foreign uncomfortable for them.

Thus, step one is creating mutual respect.  But, you have to explain it to them in terms of a “culture,” or else they won’t get it.

And, then you just do like a missionary does.  A missionary comes to our churches, shows pictures of the people and their customs, and shares testimonies from these people.  This helps those of alien cultures (USA for example) to understand better the culture of the Two-thirds World.  So, have regular testimonials etc. from the youth culture at your Builder service (you must begin to do this, or risk losing even more).

Secondly, we must have quarterly unity services.  Not services where services are combined because of a low-attendance Sunday, but where we join together to celebrate our diversity.  These unity services must happen at least once a quarter.  Again, pattern this after a missionary service, where the missionary may bring a youth choir to sing in the cultural language and dress.  Remind the Builder Generation that to expect this culture to become like them is analogous to Colonialism, where empires tried to make people like themselves.  We fought wars against Colonialism, including the Revolutionary War and World War II (against Japanese and German Colonialism).

With these two steps, cultural-acclimation and unity-gatherings, you can keep a church diverse, yet united.  If we don’t we will wind up with a church divided and uni-cultural.

HOLACRACY & You Don’t Need to Adopt Holacracy to Get Some of Its Benefits

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Holacracy explains the long-term cohesiveness created by emphasizing small teams or small groups within an organization. But this article also explains why diversity (silos) and cohesiveness (silos remaining under one organizational umbrella) creates a healthier organization. Read this important article on the organizational behavior of holacracy with diversity amid unity.

by Greg Satell, Harvard Business Review, AUGUST 28, 2015.

When Alfred Sloan conceived the modern corporation at General Motors, he based it on hierarchical military organizations. Companies were split into divisions, each with their own leadership. Authority flowed downwards and your rank determined your responsibility.

Today, a few organizations – like Medium, David Allen Consultants, and Zappos – are adopting a radically different, approach to management: holacracy. Even as someone who has studied alternative management movements, I’ve been skeptical about holacracy, which eschews the standard “org chart” for a system of interlocking “circles.” To understand it better, I recently sat down with Brian Robertson, author of the new book Holacracy, to figure out how he’s gotten hundreds of firms to sign on.

For all of the sturm und drang surrounding the idea, as we talked I realized a lot of holacracy is just codifying many of the informal elements of good management. By getting beyond the particulars of adopting holacracy and taking a deeper look at the issues it addresses, we can see that problem isn’t that hierarchies have somehow become illegitimate, but that they are slow and the world has become fast. Instead of making the leap to an entirely new form of organization — a radical change not without its pitfalls — perhaps we should think more seriously about the problem of agility itself…

How do you balance cohesion and diversity? It’s become fashionable in management circles to talk about “breaking down silos” in order to improve how information flows around the enterprise. Yet we need silos, which are cohesive units that are optimized for specific tasks. What’s more, the reorganization efforts that are supposed to break down silos invariably recreate them in different places.

What’s really important is to balance cohesion and diversity. Without cohesion, there is no common purpose, but without diversity groupthink will set in and eventually that purpose will lose relevance. So you need a healthy amount of both in order to be able to both operate efficiently and adapt to new information in the marketplace.

A study of Broadway plays shows this in action. Researchers found that if no one in the cast or crew had worked together before, then results were poor. However, if there were too many existing relationships, then performance suffered as well. Traditional organizations often inspire far too much conformity — but I suspect holacracy and models like it will only exacerbate the problem because, ironically, its reliance on informal ties rather than dictates make conformity that much more insidious.. In hierarchical organizations — whatever their failings — leaders can change direction and combat groupthink. It’s not clear to me how that kind of change would happen in holacracy, which is driven by informal relationships to a much greater extent…

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2015/08/you-dont-need-to-adopt-holacracy-to-get-some-of-its-benefits

VENUES & Are We Dividing the Church With Separate Celebrations? Maybe so, but for a mission.

by Bob Whitesel, 6/3/15.

Sometimes my students wonder if we are further dividing the church by offering separate worship celebrations based upon culture and/or aesthetics.  Let me answer this question.

Sociologists tell us that people naturally break into groups of 12-20 (the small group dynamic) and 20-150 (this latter is called the Dunbar number after the sociologist that discovered it – see this interesting article about how an analysis of Twitter even confirms this: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0022656 and you can also click here to search for Dunbar’s articles on this wiki: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/?s=dunbar).

It may be the same in the same church. Thus, we are not breaking up people further, but managing the groups that oftentimes already exist but we ignore or don’t see.

GBA_Sm2And in addition to unity events (picnics, unity services, outreach ministry, service ministry, etc. etc.) fellowship areas in the church facility are needed. That is why in the chapter, “Missteps With Facilities” in my book Growth By Accident, Death by Planning: How NOT To Kill a Growing Congregation (2004) I talk about having large gathering spaces (community rooms) where all worship celebrations could congregate together.

A problem arises when we don’t realize that church services are not about fellowship with each other (the seats face the wrong way for this), but about fellowship with God. We should be providing separate areas (and aesthetics) for fellowship with God, and unified spaces (community rooms, unity events, etc.) for fellowship with each other. The church has for too long equated the two, that we have stifled growth … and fellowship.

I ask my students if some of them can share ideas about how you keep the worship service focused on God (and not fellowship) and how you foster fellowship at other times.

Let me give an example to start you thinking.  One pastor I know in Iowa has a large foyer, two times bigger than the auditoriums, to foster fellowship after church.  He also doesn’t allow sharing of prayer requests or questions from the floor of the sanctuary, preferring to keep it a place of worship.  Thus, he encourages the fellowship in the foyer which they call the great room or community gathering room.

So think about this.  And, if you are a student in one of my courses reading this, can you share how you keep (or wish you had kept) fellowship separate from worship environments?


Modeling Users’ Activity on Twitter Networks: Validation of Dunbar’s Number, Bruno Gonçalves, Nicola Perra and Alessandro Vespignani, PLOS, August 3, 2011, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022656  Abstract:  Microblogging and mobile devices appear to augment human social capabilities, which raises the question whether they remove cognitive or biological constraints on human communication. In this paper we analyze a dataset of Twitter conversations collected across six months involving 1.7 million individuals and test the theoretical cognitive limit on the number of stable social relationships known as Dunbar’s number. We find that the data are in agreement with Dunbar’s result; users can entertain a maximum of 100–200 stable relationships. Thus, the ‘economy of attention’ is limited in the online world by cognitive and biological constraints as predicted by Dunbar’s theory. We propose a simple model for users’ behavior that includes finite priority queuing and time resources that reproduces the observed social behavior.

MULTIPLICATION CASE STUDY & A Multi-site “Alliance” Model … That Creates Unity in Diversity!

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  One of my students found an excellent example of a church that employs:

1)   multiple worship venues for evangelistic diversity in worship,

2)   while at the same time offering a common foyer area that promotes intercultural interaction before and after worship.

Multi Venue One Foyer 2This floor plan is an example of a “one type” of multicultural church called the “Multicultural Alliance Church” (see “Five Models of Multicultural Churches” in Whitesel, The Healthy Church, pp. 62-76).  It is an “alliance” of several culturally different congregations (Builder Generation, Boomer Generation, Gen. X-Millennial Generation, etc.) that worship differently but share the same building to pool their assets.

Because the purpose of worship is to draw close to God, not a time for fellowship between humans … such floor plans make theological and evangelistic sense.  According to the Hebrew word shachah, worship is “a close encounter with a king which fosters in reverence, respect and praise” (Whitesel, ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011., p. 96).

This is from their website: “At the Little Rock campus, we have three venues from which you can choose – Worship Center, the Warehouse or Chapel. Each of these venues offers a different worship style but has the same teaching. The Worship Center is our largest venue and provides a rich blend of hymns and contemporary worship and most often hosts the live teaching. The Warehouse worship experience incorporates many contemporary elements and takes place in our Warehouse. The Chapel is our most traditional worship experience, which has hymns, communion and other elements that engage the more traditional worshipper.” Fellowship Bible Church, Little Rock, AR (http://www.fellowshiponline.com/get-connected/locations/detail/little-rock/).  You can download a copy here: Campus Overview.2333917034_463d798f2d

Take a look at these floor plans. They can inspire you to create multiple venues in one congregation or location that will not only multiply evangelistic relevance … but unity among diversity too.

MULTIPLICATION & Why Unity Celebrations Are a Critical in a Good Multiplication Strategy

The more we talk about multiple worship options (multi-site, -venue and -campus) the more important unity services become. In fact, I have found that unity services can be an important tool in every size of church, but in the largeer church hosting them becomes exponentially challenging.

Finding a facility for a unity celebration is the first big hurdle. For a large church one idea is that perhaps a city auditorium or even a tent is the answer.  I know Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa CA grew to over 10,000 in a tent (in sunny So. Cal. 🙂  For medium to smaller churches, it might be a local theatre, community room, or school auditorium.

The second issue might be timing.  St. Thomas’ Church in Sheffield England had nine different Sunday worship encounters, each focused on reaching a different culture (Connect = a sub-congregation for young adults, Encompass = several sub-congregations for specific neighborhoods,  Expression = a sub-congregation for college students, Radiate = a sub-congregation for young professional adults, Forge = a sub-congregation for inner city poor, etc. – see Whitesel, Inside the Organic Church, 2006, p.6).  But, to unite these nine different worship celebrations, St. Tom’s has a united worship expression each Sunday evening at 7 PM.  And, each week a different sub-congregation leads the unity service.

The third issue is what is the “goal” or “purpose” of a unity service.  Too often unity celebrations seem self-serving, i.e. “Hey, look at our size!”  Rather, they should be opportunities for you to accomplish a goal (one church held a unity service to “pray” for 9/11, when it would have been easier to just meet at their various venues).  If you can establish a goal that a combined group can address better than smaller individual ones (such as taking a stand on a social issue, etc) then a unity service will make more sense and be better attended.

Next, publicity has to be handled right.  The attendees should understand upfront that great hassles will be encountered in a unity gathering due to the combined size factor, the convenience factor (non-convenient times), and the locale factor (not the usual venue).

And finally, a unity service must have success in developing unity among the attendees. Thus this is the time to:

  • give your strategic long-term plans,
  • to celebrate the mosaic of cultures you have in your church
  • and to give people a glimpse of the future.

Usually in such scenarios unity results (after all that’s why we call it a unity service).  Remember, as we prepare to measure four types of church growth, one of those types has to do with “growing in unity” (Acts 2:45). The unity service may not be feasible nor desirable everywhere, and it is certainly a challenge to bring off; but if you are measuring your Unity Growth and it is not increasing, then a unity service may be a missing part of your church health puzzle.

IHealthy Church Cover smn fact, in my book The Healthy Church (2013) I dedicated a whole chapter on ways to turn yearly events into “unity building” events. In fact some of the examples were given by my colleagues and students from around the nation.

In fact, here is that chapter (not for public distribution, so if it helps then consider buying the book).  Take a look at some ideas in the attachment.

MULTICULTURAL & We don’t want ecumenical cooks to throw all cultural traditions … into one bowl & stir them to a hash of indeterminate colour #Quote

We do not want the westernization of the universal Church. On the other hand we don’t want the ecumenical cooks to throw all the cultural traditions on which they can lay their hands into one bowl and stir them to a hash of indeterminate colour. – John V. Taylor, statesman, Africanist and Bishop of Winchester.

Quote by John V. Taylor, “Cultural Ecumenism,” Church Missionary Society Newsletter, Nov. 1974, p. 3, see also John V. Taylor, The Theological Basis of Interfaith Dialogue, in Faith Meets Faith, ed. Gerald M. Anderson and Thomas F. Stansky, Mission Trends, no. 5 (New York: Paulist Press, 1981), pp. 93ff.

SMALL GROUPS & Should They Be Homogeneous or Heterogeneous?

by Bob Whitesel, April 7, 2009.

The following are questions tendered by a previous student and my responses.  They reflect some of innovative ways we can expand our small group systems today.

  • The student said: “You mentioned when a group gets over 15 or 16 people that it may be getting too big.  Is there a size that is too small to function well?”

Usually a group can be as small as two or three. Wesley called these “band meetings” and they usually had 4-7 people, while the class meetings had 8-16.  The smaller group is really more of an accountability group, and it was here that Wesley suggested they ask some very personal questions, such as “What known sins have you committed since our last meeting?” (see Henderson, M. [1997] John Wesley’s class meetings: A model for making disciples. Springfield, MO: Evangel Publishing House, pp. 118-119)

  • The student said, “Is there a way to decide when a new group should be birthed?  Is it based on size or other factors – Spirit leading, change of interests, etc. “

The Holy Spirit’s leading is always critical, but size can confirm this.  Usually, people will start feeling the dynamics of the group have changed due to size and they just sort of “sense” it is time to birth another group.  To me it seems the Holy Spirit is leading this.

  • Student commented further: “What about diversity in a small group – often I heard people talk of how having a bunch of different unique individuals and different levels of Christian maturity are good for a group, but seems I’ve also heard that the group should be assembled based on similar ‘culture’?”

First, let us define two terms.  A small group of several cultures would be called a “heterogeneous.”  While a small group made up of multiple cultures would be called “homogenous.”  Churches too can be either heterogeneous or homogeneous. Using these terms, let me explain how I answered the student’s question.

Small groups create more intimacy if they are comprised of people who have much in common. Therefore, small groups develop more intimacy and accountability if they are homogenous (people of the same culture who have a lot in common and thus create more intimacy).

However, since I believe strongly that the church should be multi-cultural (or in other words heterogeneous) then a church should create many opportunities to bring together dissimilar groups.  These unity activities can happen by “linking” or “partnering” groups of different cultures to do common activities together, such as service to the needy.

But, there is a caveat here.  While intimacy and accountability are created within homogenous groups, prejudice can also inadvertently arise unless all groups “purposely and regularly” fellowship with different cultural groups.  This is why I am a big advocate of having a church made up of many different cultural sub-congregations.  It forces these different cultural sub-congregations to work together in running the church, learning how to forge partnerships, compromise as well as about the different cultures.  If you push out different cultures (e.g. youth cultures, Latino/Latina cultures, etc.) to go down the street and start their own church, there is going to be very little interacting between the cultures.  But, if you stay together with both cultures remaining in the same church building and running one non-profit organization together, you foster a lot of inter-cultural sharing, compromise and learning.

I call this the “alliance model” of a church, for it is an “alliance” of multiple sub-congregations who work together to run a church and by doing so break down cultural walls.  I devote a whole chapter to this model (and other models) of multicultural churches in The Healthy Church (2013, pp. 55-79).  I have a diagram in that chapter that shows why the “alliance model” is the best way for a church to get healthy and grow.

Plus, I can’t emphasize the reconciliation power of this “alliance model” enough.  Church leaders often think they have a healthy small group network because they have an expansive and robust small group ministry. But you must ALSO (not shouting, just for emphasis) have an expansive and robust “unity strategy” between your small groups.

This is because in our increasingly divided world we need more intercultural interaction to break down cultural walls.  Remember, for all of a small group’s power to create intimacy and discipleship, if you don’t have a strong unity strategy you will just have a hodge-podge of disconnected groups.  One of my mottoes is: “no small groups without regular partnerships between dissimilar groups!”

FELLOWSHIP & Why Is Robin Dunbar Killing My Church!? #DunbarNumber

by Bob Whitesel, 4/4/14

One thing Donald McGavran emphasized is that we should not be shy about applying the sciences to our study of church health and growth. And the Dunbar Number can explain why many churches plateau in size.  Here Is how I explained the Dunbar Number at the request of a colleague of mine Dr. Gary McIntosh at Biola University:

The Dunbar number is a sociological theory (based in physiology) that people can best relate to an extended group of about 150 individuals. By keeping this in mind, factories have been created with under 150 employees where unity and self-identity are higher. This of course has ramifications for the church, and explains in my mind the cohesiveness of these church-style Dunbar groups:

> missional communities (3dm ministries and Mike Breen)

> sub-congregations, such as venues, multiple sites, campuses, Whitesel and Hunter in A House Divided (2001).

> clusters (St. Tom’s Church of Sheffield, see Whitesel “From Gathered to Scattered: St. Tom’s Church,” a chapter in Ryan K. Bolger, Gospel After Christendom, Baker Academic Books, 2010 (http://www.amazon.com/The-Gospel-after-Christendom-Expressions/dp/0801039436).  The proliferation of Dunbar-sized “clusters” seems to be an explanation for St. Tom’s rapid growth after losing their large venue, The Roxy in Sheffield, UK.

Thus, church growth may be helped by the the multiplication of Dunbar groups within a congregation.  Wikipedia has a good article on the Dunbar Number

Also, read this good overview in an article on the “Dunbar Number” by National Public Radio, titled: “Don’t Believe Facebook, You Only Have 150 Friends.”

Here are some quotes:  “MARTIN: The factories were capped at 150 people, and Bill Gore found things worked better. People knew each other. They worked better together. DUNBAR: Everybody had the same label on their jacket that said GORE-TEX Associate, and that was that. Everybody knew who was who – who was the manager, who was the accountant, who made the sandwiches for lunch. ”

A student of mine once responded:  “I can see how having multiple services to create community for groups of 150 people is necessary.  What I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around is how you avoid tensions and problems between the different community groups within the church.  In the example above the GORE-TEX associates knew who the manager was and the accountant was and so on…I wonder and I’m just guessing here, do problems arise because the multiple services leads to multiple ‘managers’ which leads to conflicting ideas and different needs that need to be met?”

Here is my response:

Hello (name); Yes, you are right, there is tension. But, by keeping people as part of the same church organizational structure you work out our differences.  The problem in most of today’s churches is when conflict arises we don’t address it, we just bless them and send them out to start a new church to their liking. This creates conflict-avoidance. Thus, churches become enclaves of unified, but uni-cultural people.  And as thus, many people can’t relate to our fractured nature.

The key is to have diversity, within one organization which then creates unity or E pluribus unum.  To obtain this, see the “Exercises for Unity” in The Healthy Church (2012)

GROUP EXIT & Preventing Group Exit During Change

FIGURE Staying Power Process Model p. 177The 6-Stages & 5-Triggers That Prevent Group Exit

by Bob Whitesel, excerpted from Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change What You Can Do About It (Abingdon Press, 2003).

Stage 1: Church is relatively harmonious

Trigger 1: A new idea is introduced by members who think it will help the church.

Stage 2: The idea spreads through like minded change proponents in the church.

Here the routes diverge toward either group exit (route “A”) or group retention (route “B”) based upon if the leader makes Trigger 2 a negative legitimizing event or a positive one.

Trigger 2 (hint – do the positive one):

  • Negative Legitimizing Event.  The leader says…
    • “good idea” or something similarly innocent,
    • but the change proponents push too fast and don’t dialogue with the status quo.
  • Positive Legitimizing Event. This action will keep the groups intact:
    • Instead the leader slows down the change proponents,
    • Telling them they must go through the proper channels and seek permission from the right committees.
    • The leader then gets the change proponents to talk directly to the people who might be affected by the new idea and get their input before the change begins.  We will call them the “status quo.”
    • This helps the status quo feel they are part of the process and their concerns have been heard.

PreparingChange_Reaction_MdStage-3 Change to Stage-4 Resistance still occur, but group exit is avoided when the leader handles correctly one more trigger:

  • Trigger-4, Harmonizing Event: Though the inevitable Alarm Event occurs, the leader on route “B” towards harmony creates a “Harmonizing Event.”
    • This is an event where the leader gives everyone in the church a sense that they can do more together, than apart.
    • The church is seen as a “partnership of groups” where different groups partner for the good of the whole.
    • The overall church’s identity is emphasized and the sub-groups are downplayed.

For more see these books and articles:

This research is based on the work of management scholars Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, who, as laymen themselves, investigated how churches polarize over change. Their groundbreaking research uncovered  six stages and five triggers of church change. See Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, “The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model,” Administrative Science Quarterly (1999), 44:792–822.

In addition, I have written a book that illustrates the six stages and five triggers of Dyck and Starke with accounts of actual churches: Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change and What You Can Do About It (Nashville: Abingdon, 2003).

(The two last paragraphs are footnotes from Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change to Your Church, by Bob Whitesel 2010.  And the figure above is from Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change What You Can Do About It, Abingdon Press, 2003, p. 177).

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