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.

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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).

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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.

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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).

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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

NEED-MEETING & How to design outreach that is founded upon meeting the needs of those who don’t have a personal relationship with Christ.

Excerpted from Bob Whitesel, “Waypoint 16: No Awareness of a Supreme Being” Waypoint 15: Awareness of a Supreme Being, No knowledge of the Good News” and “Waypoint 14: Initial Awareness of the Good News” in Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (2010).

Spiritual Waypoints [cropped top 1:3 65kb]

Waypoint 15

Action 15:1: Research Needs

… How can a church gather first-hand information on the needs of its community?  Let us look at three actions that can produce primary research.

Action A: Live Among Them.  To ascertain community needs it helps to live among them, eating where they eat and shopping where they shop.  In fact, one of 10 major factors in halting church growth is when leaders become distanced from their constituency.   If this occurs church leaders will be only guessing at community needs.

Action B: Meet With Them in Group Settings.  Informal gatherings, focus groups and Town Hall meetings are ways to connect with community residents. Often when people are interviewed one-on-one, they hold back their feelings.  Research into group dynamics tells us that people will often expound more deeply … and expressively in groups.  If the purpose is to ascertain needs, then understanding can be enhanced by group intensity.  However, churches must be very careful to only solicit input and not to politic for the church’s viewpoint.  To do the later will result in immediate distancing and suspicion.  Guidelines for hosting effective focus groups are described in a previous book.

Action C: Don’t Clone Another Church’s Ministry.  Unless necessary, don’t merely reduplicate ministry that other churches are utilizing.  To do so will rob you of a locally developed and contextualized ministry.  However, if your church is too small it can partner to expand its ministry.  Look for other churches that are reaching out at adjacent waypoints and partner with them.  Success often depends upon doctrinal and historical factors.  But, if the needs of a community can be met by collaborating with another ministry, then pursue this option.

Action 15:2: Design Your Ministry from the Bottom Up

As a consultant with church clients of all sizes, I have found that the most helpful ministries are those that emerge from a collaborative effort between church leaders and needy residents.  There are two elements for designing a contextualized ministry.

Action A: Inclusion.  Include non-church goers in the planning and design of your ministry.  <any will reject this offer because they are not yet ready to volunteer, even advice. But those who are emerging out of lower need stages may be entering the Belongingness and Love level.  They will want thus to contribute, and at least give their thoughts.  Yet, a natural inclination of Christian leaders is to reject such offers, feeling that the emerging person needs more time to grow or to gain more secondary knowledge (e.g. book knowledge, theological knowledge or doctrinal knowledge).  But, once a traveler has had their physiological needs and safely needs met, they must be allowed to contribute, even minimally, to the ministry of a faith community.  Churches can help wayfarers by inviting them to participate in the ministry planning process, and this invitation must be extended much earlier and more earnestly that most churches realize.

Action B: Allocate Sufficient Money.  As noted in the first two chapters, churches customarily err on the side of either the Cultural Mandate (social action) or the Evangelistic Mandate. It was also shown that God’s intention for His church is a more holistic approach where a church ministers at many waypoints, rather than just in a narrow range.  Narrow ministry becomes entrenched because churches tend to budget based upon history, rather than forecasts.  A church that understands it should reach out at early waypoints will also understand that it must allocate sufficient funds to do so.  Churches must evaluate what percentages of its budgets are going to support the Evangelistic Mandate and the Cultural Mandate.  And, a plan can be brought about to create a balance, where roughly 50 percent of a church’s budget goes to support the Cultural Mandate and 50 percent goes to support the Evangelistic Mandate.  Regardless of intentions, these mandates will never be brought into parity until finances are allocated with equivalence.

Action 15:3: Connect Your Ministry to the Community.

For a community established to communicate good news, communication is one the weakest skills in most churches. Many congregations design fantastic ministries only to have them marginally attended because residents do not know they are available.  The following are three basic actions for successfully telling the community about ministries that can meet their needs.

Action A: Have a Trial-run. A church should initiate a trial-run with little initial fanfare. This will give the church an opportunity to try out the ministry without being deluged by community needs. To communicate that you are hosting a test-run, use word-of-mouth communication.

  Action B: Use Indigenous Communication Channels.  Church leaders often do not understand how community residents communicate.  In one church’s community, fliers in self-serve laundromats communicated better than online advertising (few needy residents had regular or easy access to the Internet).  Each community has developed different communication channels.  If a church invites residents to participate in the planning process, then residents can share the veiled yet influential ways that news travels in their community.

Action C: Be a Good-doer, not a Do-gooder.  The difference between a do-gooder and a good-doer was revealed to me ten years ago.  Dan was auditioning to be the drummer in a worship team I led.  Though he was more than suitable for the task, I was confused because he looked familiar.  “You visited me last Christmas,” Dan responded noticing my bewilderment.  “Brought a lot of nice things for the kids.”  Each year our church visited needy residents, giving them gifts and singing carols. “You were nice enough to come,” Dan would say to me later.  Dan and I had become friends, and now our team was planning to visit needy households.  “You go, I won’t,” Dan stated.  “I want to be a good-doer, not a do-gooder.”  Further conversations revealed with Dan saw a difference between “do-gooders” and “good-doers.”  On the one hand, Dan saw do-gooders as people who go around doing limited and inconsistent good deeds.  He perceived that they were doing good on a limited scale to relieve their conscience.  Thus their good deeds were perceived as self-serving, insincere and limited.  A church that brings food a couple times a year to a needy family does little to minister to their long-term physiological needs or safety needs.  On the other hand, Dan saw “good-doers” as those who do good in a meaningful, relevant and ongoing manner.  And, he was right.  In hindsight I had been striving to do good, not trying to do good better.  Therefore, a church should connect with its community by offering ongoing ministry and not just holiday help.

Action 15:4: Evaluate the Results

Donald McGavran called the church’s aversion to analysis the “universal fog” that blinds the church to her mission and effectiveness.  And, McGavran preferred the term “effective evangelism” as the best way to describe what we should be measuring.  The term “effective evangelism” has much to commend it.  Evangelism, as we noted in Chapter 1, means “Good News” or a heralding of “unexpected joy.” Thus, if we are embarking as fellow travelers and guides on this journey of Good News, shouldn’t we want to travel that route more effectively?  And if so, how do we measure progress?

Some mistakenly perceive that counting attendance is the best way to evaluate effectiveness. Yet, there are four types of church growth mentioned in the Bible, and growth in attendance is cited as God’s task (and not the job of the church).  In two previous books I have looked at measuring these in detail, but let’s briefly examine four types of church growth and a Church Growth Metric that can measure each.

The Context: Acts 2:42-47.  Here we find Luke’s description of the church’s growth that followed Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost.  Luke describes four types of growth.

Growth A: Growth in Maturity.  In verse 42 Luke notes that the followers were growing in a passion for the apostle’s teaching, fellowship and prayer.  Our first metric is to ascertain if, as a result of our need-based ministry, wayfarers are increasing in their participation in Bible study, fellowship and/or the practice of prayer.  One way to measure this is to measure if people are becoming increasingly involved in study groups, fellowship networks (i.e. informal small groups) and/or joining with others for prayer.  If these numbers are calculated as a percentage of overall attendance, growth in maturity may be estimated.

Growth B: Growth in Unity.  Verses 44-45 describe how the church grew in unity and trust.  This is much harder to measure, for it requires subjective evaluation. But, if people open up, much like Doug did about “do-gooders” then these and similar actions can indicate that ministry is creating deeper and more honest levels of communication.  Unity often results from deepening levels of communication.

Growth C: Growth in Favor in the Community.  Luke emphases that the church was increasingly “enjoying the favor of all the people.”  Here is a metric often overlooked, which asks: is the community increasingly appreciative of the ministry the church is offering?  Asking community residents for regular feedback is a way to accomplish this.  One church crafted an online survey and gave away coupons for free coffee at a coffee shop for those that completed the survey. This survey was not designed to augment the church database, but was used only to ascertain if community residents felt the church was doing-good better.  Another church regularly polled socially sensitive community residents such as school principals, public leaders, community organizers, business-people, etc. about how effective the church was in meeting community needs.  The results were that these churches could gauge effective ministry by observing changes in community appreciation.

Growth D: Growth in More Christians.  Luke concludes this paragraph about early church growth by reminding his readers that “…the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Luke was pointing out that because it was a supernatural intersection, it was God’s task to bring people to and through the experience of salvation.  But in the preceding verses Luke emphasized that it was the church’s role to grow people in the other three types of church growth: maturity, unity and favor in the community.

Church Growth Metrics remind us that we are engaged in a task that is not about large cadres of attendees, but about the inner growth of God’s creation into 1) a deepening relationship with Him, 2) more unity among His children, and 3) in such a way that a watching world rejoices…

Action 14:2: The Good News That God Cares

A church also must understand and articulate a theology regarding God’s concern for His creation, if its congregants are going to help people move beyond Waypoint 14.  Yet, a theology of creation must be a holistic theology and include not just God’s creative activity but also humankind’s woeful response. For in response to God’s gracious creation of a paradise on earth, humans chose a selfish route disobeying God’s directives and forfeiting paradise.  Thought there are many elements to a theology of creation, let us look at five points that bear upon our current conversation.

Point 1:  Injustice, poverty, etc. are the result of human activity, God does not desire it for his creation.  When Adam and Eve forfeited the paradise of Eden, they embarked upon a journey of selfish arrogance. The Scriptures tell us their journey led to self-centeredness, injustice and greed (Genesis 3-5). Ron Sider reminds us that this disappoints God, stating “the Bible clearly and repeatedly teaches that God is at work in history casting down the rich and exalting the poor because frequently the rich are wealthy precisely because then have oppressed the poor or have neglected to aid the needy.”

Point 2:  This injustice was not always so.  God provided Adam and Eve an Eden of goodness and wholeness in every aspect of their life.  Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann pointed out that the Hebrew word shalom comes closest to describing this “wholeness in every are of life, where God, creature, and creation enjoy harmonious relationships.”  God had warned that disobeying him would result in a  loss of this life of shalom (Genesis 2:15-17).  But, Adam and Eve picked selfish choices putting to an end this world of  balance, bless … shalom (Genesis 3).

Point 3:  Humankind was put in charge of caring (i.e. stewardship) for God’s creation.  Yet early on in the Genesis story, before the fall of humankind from the era of shalom, God had given humankind a task, to take care of the garden and to be a steward of it (Genesis 1:26-30).  This requires Christians, to be good stewards of God’s earth and life upon it.

Point 4:  Humankind was put in charge of caring (i.e. stewardship) for the needy, oppressed and disfranchised.  Proverbs 19:17 says “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.”  Judah was punished in part because of her mistreatment of the poor, “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.  What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? (Isaiah 10:1-3).  King David said, “I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy” (Psalm 140:12).    And, Howard Snyder reminds us that “God especially has compassion on the poor, and his acts in history confirm this.”

Point 5: God requires his people to sacrifice for this task.  Adam and Eve were put in charge of caring and cultivating the garden (Genesis 1:26-30), and this required sacrificing their own will to taste the forbidden fruit.  From this beginning, serving a loving, creative God required self-sacrifice.  At this sacrifice, Adam and Eve failed.  In doing so they condemned their children and their children’s children to laborious toil, hostility, repression and ultimately death (Genesis 3:16-24). Still God’s desire is that His children serve and sacrifice for others.  Jesus stated, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors…. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:12-14).   This sacrifice for others is exemplified in the sacrificial actions of Godly men and women in the Bible, ultimately culminating in the sacrifice of Jesus for humankind’s disobedience.

When a congregation grasps the five points above, wayfarers will understand that evil, oppression and the like are not God’s doing, but human doing.  And wayfarers such as James can see that God wants Christians to help the oppressed, disenfranchised and neglected.  The church must help travelers at Waypoint 14 see the Good News is that “…the sinfulness of the social order offends thoughtful Christians everywhere.”

Read more by downloading the chapter here (but remember, if you enjoy the input please purchase a copy to support the publisher and the author): BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT Spiritual Waypoints 16, 15, 14

Speaking hashtags: #Kingswood2018

VISION & Creating a Balanced Vision for Your Church by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 12/14/18.

IMG_2087In an attempt to describe organizations involved both locally and globally, a new term was championed by British sociologist Rolland Robertson: glocalwhich combines glo-bal with lo-cal. A host of Christian books have followed suit, using glocal as a descriptor for a congregation that is engaged in local and global ministry.

Therefore, a term more inclusive than glocal is needed. A term is required which reminds us that meeting the needs of non-churchgoers locally and globally also requires sustaining and assisting the health of a congregation of believers. A conglocal church is a congregation that has a balanced three-fold heart for foreign missions, for local missions and for congregants.

The designation conglocal reminds a congregation that it must balance its ministry to those inside the congregation, those nearby who are outside of it and those far away as well. In my consulting work, I have noticed that too many churches today spend the majority of their time looking after and meeting the needs of those within the congregation. This arises because the needs of those inside the congregation are heard the loudest and most frequent, due to social proximity.

However, the needs of those who are outside of the congregation pale in comparison with those with the church. One writer starkly reminded us that, “When a person dies without hearing that ‘God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on him should not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16, RSV), it is too late. The best thing that could possibly happen to that person has been denied.”

Conglocalbalance in your financial expenditures

A key element of balanced conglocal ministry is balancing your fiscal expenditures in each category. In one client church, the pastor stood up and boldly proclaimed that the church was now giving 20 percent of its income to local (10 percent) and global (10 percent) ministry. While this is a step in the right direction, the church’s lavish marble atrium reminded visitors that 80 percent of this congregation’s income was still spent upon itself.

If churches are to foster authentic reconciliation between haves and have-nots as well as across physical chasms, then churches must start balancing their spending. The conglocal model provides a visual cue to churches of a church’s three-fold fiscal obligations. In a church with a growing conglocal heart you will find an increasing balance in expenditures toward meeting the needs of not just congregants, but also the local and global communities.

Conglocalbalance in your church life

More than balancing need-meeting in financial expenditures, it is important to balance your fellowship congregationally, locally and globally. Most churches spend a great deal of their time getting to know the needs of those within the congregation. Though there is nothing wrong with this, it can often be out of balance. A congregation must also regularly share life and interaction with those who don’t attend their church as well as those who don’t live nearby.

Research shows that face-to-face encounters help people from different cultures and socio-economic levels accept and support one another. Such face-to-face encounters with local and global people who don’t attend your church is an important tactic to maintain a conglocal balance.

Still, some readers may say that they work 40-plus hours per week with non-churchgoers and shouldn’t this be sufficient? Regrettably, in most of those workplace interactions, there is little sharing of spiritual values. Plus, in many workplaces discussing spiritual beliefs is discouraged. Thus, the conglocal church intentionally creates opportunities for local and global non-churchgoers to graciously discuss their faith journeys.

For example, one church cancelled its Sunday morning service, telling its congregants to go into the community to “find a need and fill it.” The pastor’s intention was to get the congregants out into the community seeking to understand and meet the needs of non-churchgoers. That Sunday hundreds of congregants spread out across the city to meet needs in Jesus’ name.

While sharing this story at a seminar, I noticed the assembled Wesleyan pastors looked uncomfortable. The General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church, Dr. Jo Anne Lyon was actually seated behind me as I spoke (which if you didn’t know Dr. Lyon, could be a disquieting prospect).

At the end of my seminar, she took the podium and addressed my puzzlement over the reaction of the pastors. “I know why some of you were uncomfortable with the idea of canceling church and going out to serve the community,” Dr. Lyon began. “I know it is because if you did, you couldn’t count those people in your monthly attendance totals. Now, I don’t know if I have the authority to do this. But, I’m going to go ahead and say that if you send your people out to serve non-churchgoers on a Sunday, then you can count every person they touch has having been in Jesus’ presence that day.”

Kindhearted smiles swept across the seminar participants, as they recognized that this general superintendent would not let tradition stand in the way of reaching out to those in need.

How will your church find a conglocal vision? Meeting congregational needs will create a foundation of health so the church community can reach others locally and globally. This creates a large and balanced vision for the church—a conglocal vision.

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

Photo source: istock

Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/4-attitudes-to-cultivate-in-a-small-group/

 

SMALLER GROUPS & 4 Attitudes to Cultivate in a Small Group by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 09/12/18.

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Keep these in mind when leading a small group to promote trust and maturity.

1. Trust and candidness 

Patrick Lencioni, a well-known author on business management and leadership, was right. Before any team can thrive, it must at its core be bound together by trust. He defines trust in a specific way, saying, “Trust is the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group.” In other words, Heart Attitude #1 means I trust that I can be vulnerable, open and exposed with the group regarding my fears, hopes and failures.

Regrettably, such vulnerability and trust do not characterize all groups, such as groups that are focused on tasks or administration. But, what if it did? What if most of a church’s small groups could transition into heart-to-heart groups. What if administrative boards, such as trustees who meet together regularly and iron out difficult problems, could begin to develop a trust where “there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group?”

2. Accountability to one another and the mission 

Another important component that Lencioni emphasizes is “the willingness of team members to call their peers on performance or behaviors that might hurt the team.”

However, the Christian has another accountability that is even greater than team accountability. The Christian is held accountable by God for their participation in the mission of God (the missio Dei), i.e., to participate in the loving heavenly Father’s quest to reconnect with His wayward offspring. Therefore, this attitude stresses an accountability not only to one another, but also for increasing our accountability to God’s mission of reconciling humanity to himself.

3. Discussion with conflict resolution

While chitchat is unbridled in many small group settings, it has been my observation that conflict resolution is not. Lencioni bemoans that most people avoid conflict, and “the higher you go up the management chain, the more you find people spending inordinate amounts of time and energy trying to avoid the passionate debates that are essential to any great team.”

He has also observed that healthy small groups encourage open and freewheel discussion with give-and-take, disagreement without disparagement and challenge with compromise.

Scripture, along with John Wesley, reminds us that such interpersonal conflict is part of life:

Proverbs 27:17 observes, “You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another” (MSG).

And, John Wesley said about this passage that a non-churchgoer can be sharpened by “the company or conversion of a friend.”

Scriptures also remind us that unresolved conflict among Christians is not healthy, nor God’s intent. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:2-3, “Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together.”

And the psalmist portrays unity with wonderful poetic imagery:

“How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along! It’s like costly anointing oil flowing down head and beard, Flowing down Aaron’s beard, flowing down the collar of his priestly robes. It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon flowing down the slopes of Zion. Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing, ordains eternal life” (Psalm 133:1-3 MSG).

Amid such depictions and exhortations, unity in the church is still not common and will require the ability to openly discuss and resolve conflict.

4.  Results

If heart-to-heart groups don’t have clearly defined results or outcomes, then the group may drift aimlessly until it degenerates into self-seeking and cliquishness. Lencioni calls this the “ultimate dysfunction of a team.” The reader will be all too familiar with church groups that have deteriorated into self-serving rumor mills and self-preservation societies that are unwelcoming to outsiders. The key to heart-healthy small groups is to define the specific objectives of each group and then to measure it until it has attained them.

Thus, the final key to helping groups transition into heart-to-heart groups is to ensure that each and every group creates specific objectives and then at least yearly checks to see if they attained them.

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

Photo source: istock

Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/4-attitudes-to-cultivate-in-a-small-group/

 

SMALL GROUPS & How Small Groups Help Any Church Survive by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 09/12/18.

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“You can tell we hate to leave,” began Margaret. “It’s just that this sanctuary is such a comfortable place.”

“It wasn’t always like this,” interjected Mark. “Dark, dank … smelly. The sanctuary had the smell of death about it.”

As I looked around I marveled at how different the sanctuary of Armstrong Chapel Church looked today. Dark red padded pews, newly restored stained-glass windows, and polished woodwork. To this generation, most in their 70s, the beauty and care of the sanctuary represented a desire to honor God. And while younger generations might disagree, who was I to say that God was not honored by their loving care of their house of worship?

“Come this way,” beckoned Gerry. “Some still like to go out the back, but I prefer the side doors into the fellowship hall.  It reminds me what God can do through a small Sunday school class.” As I passed through the double doors, I was greeted by a large and bright atrium with a glass roof. Here were milling about over 700 people, some lounging on comfortable sofas and others chatting cheerfully on lounge chairs scattered across the room. Still others laughed across café tables while sipping coffee from the church’s café.

“The two other services got out a bit earlier than us today,” continued Gerry. “But that is okay. There is still plenty of time to fellowship. Get a cup of coffee and I’ll find my daughter and grandkids.  I want you to meet them.” And with that Gerry disappeared into the a crowd of laughter, merriment and smiles.

“Amazing, isn’t it?” came Margaret’s voice from behind. “To think, we were a church barely alive. Just over 15 of us in a Sunday school class and most of us serving on church committees too. Only about 30 total in church on Sundays.”

“This is a testimony to your church,” I began.

“Not quite,” interrupted Margaret. “It was the bonds of that Sunday School class that lead to this growth. We banded together and worked hard through the series of pastors the district sent us. We relied on each other in that Sunday School, and slowly the church began to grow. It has been 11 years and now we have three sanctuaries, almost all full.

“But, I still prefer our old sanctuary,” added Gerry, returning with two grandkids in tow. “We kept the old sanctuary just the way it was. But I’m glad we offer other worship options too. They connect with a lot of different ages.”

“How did you come up with your strategy: books, programs or what other churches used?” I asked.

“Partly,” came Margaret’s reply. “Our growth plan really came out of the environment of our Sunday School. It was a weekly place for us leaders to fellowship, dream, pray and plan. I can honestly say that our weekly Sunday school meetings were the place where we supported each other to grow this church. Oops, its almost time for Sunday school. Couldn’t miss it, for I still need it.”

More than a small group: A leadership laboratory

The story above illustrates how a group can bond so remarkably and deeply that they can survive deadly attacks upon a church’s heart. But not all small groups attain this inter-reliance and perseverance.

I learned from members of that Sunday school class, that their small group had bonded after many tough years where a succession of inexperienced pastors had almost killed the congregation. “Our Sunday school was the place we worked out what to do next,” remembered Margaret. “And it was the place where we sought God, insight from His word and advice from one another,” added Gerry.

For them, this was not just a Sunday School class but also a place for them to mull over the week’s challenges, seek biblical insights and learn from one another. In many ways, this Sunday school was their leadership laboratory.

This was a remarkable type of small group and one which more churches would benefit from utilizing.

Small groups customarily include less than 20 people, meet on a semi-regular basis and have participants who:

• Recognize their group as a sub-group within a larger organization.

• Have an informal or formal structure, such as a regular meeting time or place, a schedule, etc.

• Share a sense of inter-reliance and mutual dependence

• Communicate more intimately than they would in a larger group.

• Dream, plan and innovate in a supportive environment.

• Influence one another and stick together.

• Feel that their most intimate needs can be met through the group’s help.

What is a heart-to-heart group?

A “heart-to-heart group” is a good way to describe groups that meet some or most of the above seven criteria. Participants are sharing at a deep emotional and heart level. And, this intimacy and inter-reliance makes them the idea venue for spiritual questioning, maturity and creativity.

As we saw in the story, heart-to-heart groups play an important role in helping people stay connected to a church and plan for its future even when the church is undergoing conflict, challenges and discord. Here are some of the benefits of small groups:

Benefits of heart-to-heart groups

1. It was in small intimate group settings that Jesus:

  • Answered His disciples’ questions about theology, history and the future (Matthew 24:1-3).
  • Modeled for them healing and how to pray for those in need (Matthew 10:5-10).
  • Rebuked the disciples’ willful attitudes and ideas (Luke 16:13).

2. Researchers have found that in healthy churches:

  • 77 percent of church attendees say their small group participation is very important for them (Stetzer and Rainer).
  • 64 percent say new members are immediately taught about the importance of small groups (Stetzer and Rainer).
  • “A member is almost guaranteed to leave the church or become inactive in the church if he or she does not get involved in an ongoing small group” (Rainer).

3. Secular researchers have found that in healthy organizations:

  • “The small group is the unit of transformation” (P. Block Katzenbach and Smith).
  • “(Small groups) will remain the basic unit of both performance and change because of their proven capacity to accomplish what other units cannot” (P. Block Katzenbach and Smith).
  • “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” (M. Mead).

Because small groups are so effective in helping people support one another and develop closer relationships, they have been a reoccurring theme in church history. In actuality, any small group of people that meets together on a semi-regular basis is a candidate for becoming a heart-to-heart group— Bible groups, prayer groups, Sunday school classes, Bible studies, worship teams, sports teams, administrative committees, etc. Consider how you may implement these types of group in the settings where you lead.

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

Photo source: istock

Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/how-small-groups-help-a-church-survive/

 

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/

FACILITIES & right-size sanctuaries: converting part into classrooms, welcome centers & prayer spaces can create intimacy in the once larger space. Look for ways to earn income from facilities… lease out portions of your facilities, create local business hubs, develop shared working spaces, etc.

What Kinds of Churches Will Survive the Pandemic?

Which churches will thrive, which will struggle, and what is the way forward?

… Look at ways to right-size sanctuaries. Converting part of the sanctuary into classrooms, welcome centers and prayer spaces can create intimacy in the once larger space. And look for ways to monetize facilities. My co-author Mark DeYmaz suggests ways churches can lease out portions of their facilities, create local business hubs, develop shared working spaces, etc. to increase income from aging buildings. – @BobWhitesel via @OutreachMag

Read the full article here … https://outreachmagazine.com/resources/54174-what-kinds-of-churches-will-survive-the-pandemic.html

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/

LEADERSHIP & “St. Paul’s Guide to Leading Remotely” by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine

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Look at Paul … 

Some degree of social distancing will most likely be part of future leadership practices. This will require church leaders to develop new skills and embrace new leadership methods. But for many church staffs, volunteers and ministers leading remotely may feel awkward and unnatural. However, leading remotely is a skill found in the New Testament and the early Church. St. Paul himself provides a fascinating example about how to lead remotely through the letters he wrote to congregations he guided. Here are 12 principles drawn from his writings.

Paul’s Guide …

Be personable. Paul greeted leaders personally. This created a human connection to Paul’s remote location (and sometimes his imprisonment). Whether at the beginning of his letters (Philippians 1, etc.) or the end (Romans 16:1-16, etc.), Paul recounted his personal connection with his readers. When critique was called for, Paul even prefaced it with personal histories. In Romans 16 he spends several paragraphs thanking God for those who helped him, but then warns about those who divide the flock. In verses 17-18 he instructs, “Keep a sharp eye out for those who take bits and pieces of the teaching that you learned and then use them to make trouble. Give these people a wide berth. They have no intention of living for our Master Christ. They’re only in this for what they can get out of it, and aren’t above using pious sweet talk to dupe unsuspecting innocents” (MSG). Paul’s greetings not only provided personal salutations to exemplary followers, but also examples of ones to avoid. 

Reputation is based upon God’s work in a life. Distance, whether physical or created by electronic mediums, can undermine credibility. When necessary, Paul defended his credentials. But he based his credibility upon how God has changed (and is changing) him, stating, “Do you think I speak this strongly in order to manipulate crowds? Or curry favor with God? Or get popular applause? If my goal was popularity, I wouldn’t bother being Christ’s slave… I’m sure that you’ve heard the story of my earlier life when I lived in the Jewish way. In those days I went all out in persecuting God’s church. I was systematically destroying it. I was so enthusiastic about the traditions of my ancestors that I advanced head and shoulders above my peers in my career. Even then God had designs on me. Why, when I was still in my mother’s womb he chose and called me out of sheer generosity! Now he has intervened and revealed his Son to me so that I might joyfully tell non-Jews about him.” (Gal. 1:10-16). Be ready to tactfully (2 Cor. 5:20) but directly (1 Tim. 1:3) point to God’s work in your life if your credibility is questioned.

Accept change, yet acknowledge how God is behind the change. Don’t shy away from accepting change, but also acknowledge how God is changing you. Paul embraced his change, recalling in Gal. 2: 7-10 (MSG), “It was soon evident that God had entrusted me with the same message to the non-Jews as Peter had been preaching to the Jews. Recognizing that my calling had been given by God, James, Peter, and John—the pillars of the church—shook hands with me and Barnabas, assigning us to a ministry to the non-Jews, while they continued to be responsible for reaching out to the Jews. The only additional thing they asked was that we remember the poor, and I was already eager to do that.”

Go deep theologically, but give them something to do with it. Don’t be afraid to give those you lead remotely something on which to theologically chew. But also make sure it’s something they can readily apply. Pauline scholar Herman Ridderbos stresses the general character of Paul’s preaching was the kingship of Jesus (1997:48). And, as a result Paul urged his readers to exemplify lifestyles that attested to living in a new realm. And knowing it might be some time before they would hear from him again, Paul literally gave them something to do. He told them to act upon what they heard, saying, “It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—‘Jesus is my Master’—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: ‘God has set everything right between him and me!’” (Romans 10:9-10, MSG).

Use stories, to help others endure the unendurable. The early church experienced an increasing loss of civil and human rights because of mounting opposition by the Roman regime. To this predicament Paul encouraged his listeners to embrace perseverance, steadfastness and in the more modern term championed by Angela Duckworth, “grit.” Paul wrote to the church at Colossae, “As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us” (Col. 1:10-12, MSG). And in Gal. 6:9, Paul famously intones, “So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit” (MSG).

Learning how God works, brings strength to endure the seemingly unendurable.

When you must correct, do so with a parent’s firm but loving touch. Paul sometimes had to pen a painful response to his critics. In 1 Cor. 4:14-16 he admonished, “I’m not writing all this as a neighborhood scold just to make you feel rotten. I’m writing as a father to you, my children. I love you and want you to grow up well, not spoiled. There are a lot of people around who can’t wait to tell you what you’ve done wrong, but there aren’t many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up. It was as Jesus helped me proclaim God’s Message to you that I became your father. I’m not, you know, asking you to do anything I’m not already doing myself…” (MSG). As we saw earlier, Paul’s critiques sometimes begin with positive salutations. But here Paul prefaces his critique by reminding his hearers of the nature of their leadership relationship, not as a boss to a hireling but as a father to a child. 

Face-to-face leadership is sometimes still required. Continuing the 1 Cor. 4 passage above Paul warns, “I know there are some among you who are so full of themselves they never listen to anyone, let alone me. They don’t think I’ll ever show up in person. But I’ll be there sooner than you think, God willing, and then we’ll see if they’re full of anything but hot air. God’s Way is not a matter of mere talk; it’s an empowered life” (1 Cor. 4:18-20, MSG). A key to critiquing remotely is to lay out clearly your intentions if remote leadership is ineffective. Face-to-face leadership may still be necessary and should be understood as an option by all parties. 

Be authentic & humble. Paul regularly acknowledged his status, as one Christ appeared to lately, but genuinely. In I Cor. 15:8-9 he recalled, “…He (Jesus) finally presented himself alive to me. It was fitting that I bring up the rear. I don’t deserve to be included in that inner circle, as you well know, having spent all those early years trying my best to stamp God’s church right out of existence” (MSG). And in Ephesians 3:7-8, he said, “This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details. When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God’s way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities” (MSG)

Put others first, as exemplified by Christ. Paul knew that each leader who read or heard his letters would need to make a myriad of subsequent decisions. To guide decision-making, Paul emphasized that the arrival of Christ’s kingdom meant putting others before oneself. Paul summed this up in Phil. 2:1-7, “If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!” (MSG).

Reconciliation and transformation are pivotal in the community of the king. Christ’s death and resurrection signified the arrival of his kingdom. A new community emerged which Paul calls, the saints, the elect, the beloved, the called. Over and over he would remind his readers they must decide if they will take up God’s offer for personal kingdom life, reconciliation and letting the Holy Spirit transform them. And so, Paul’s emphasis upon conversion was not just a theoretical concept, but also a noticeable change in people. Paul famously intoned, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:16-20, MSG).

Be thankful & prayerful for those you are entrusted to lead. Paul believed thankfulness must characterize every step in a Christian’s journey, saying: “And cultivate thankfulness… Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way” (Colossians 3:15-17, MSG). In addition, Paul’s mentees were never far from his prayers. In Phil. 1:3-6 (MSG) he recalls that “Every time I think of you, I thank my God. And whenever I mention you in my prayers, it makes me happy. This is because you have taken part with me in spreading the good news from the first day you heard about it. God is the one who began this good work in you, and I am certain that he won’t stop before it is complete on the day that Christ Jesus returns.”

Regardless of difficulties, pestilence and/or persecution Paul’s leadership is a guide to how to lead God’s people in difficult, even remote, times.

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Read more at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/st-pauls-guide-to-leading-remotely/

TURNAROUND CHURCH & The starting point for church revitalization is not prayer… it is focusing in the needs of others. Here’s why…  

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, 3/1/20.8A3F2F62-0056-4157-8F4E-F7A52D034015.jpeg

The first inclination when writing on the starting place for church revitalization will be to focus on prayer. That is most likely (and rightly so) because we want to remind ourselves that we can’t do it without Christ’s help.

I’m not suggesting that prayer is not important for church growth or even that it should be postponed. It is!  But I’m suggesting we first must understand what we’re praying for. 

Therefore, the first question that must be asked before chruch revitalization is, “Whose needs is a revitalization effort intended to meet?” In fact, in church revitalizations there are three needs that often come into play. And after 30 years of consulting chruch revitalizations, I have come to believe if you pick one of them you’ll succeed. But, if you pick one of the others, you will usually experience failure.

Reason 1) Meeting the needs of a church’s congregation.

Often church revitalizations are launched because a church wants to survive. Members remember its illustrious history, the close bonds of friendships that were forged there and the many good things accomplished in their past. And they want to want to preserve these legacies for future generations. I’ve often heard leaders say, “We want to ensure this church lives on by younger generations coming to it.” And while this is laudable, this will be in adequate to successfully revitalize a church. That is because of two reasons. 

Reason A: Younger generations quickly pick up on a church’s desperation to survive. They’ve experienced and rejected churches that are not interested in meeting their needs, but rather interested in preserving the church’s aesthetics and culture, to which the younger generations may not relate.

Reason B: A church’s desire to retain a legacy, even a good legacy, can overshadowed the real purpose of revitalization: to introduce more people to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (Luke 10:1-16).

Reason 2) The second misguided, but common, starting point for church revitalization is to focus on meeting the needs of the revitalizer.

The revitalizer may feel that they want to start anew with a new type of church. This is similar to what motivates many church planters, i.e. the leader wants to grow an organization that they can form over in the vision they reimagine. They want an organization that they believe will be easier to lead, more like they want and filled with people like them. But this focus will also usually fail. That is because revitalizing a church, like church planting, is a missional effort that usually requires us to be challenged and uncomfortable.  James states, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way” (2:1-4 MSG).

We must expect and be satisfied with the pressures and pains that come from serving Christ in missional activities. Regrettably some people today don’t look upon leadership as a missionary might. Missionaries know that they are going to sacrifice what is comfortable and familiar, in order to bring the Good News to people in need of it. Missionaries I know are leading threadbare, uncomfortable lives in service. Yet, when it comes to a church revitalization, we often want the most comfortable and potentially successful neighborhood in which to revitalize a church or plant one. Rather we should be looking at those with the greatest needs, putting their needs first and putting ourself last.

Reason 3: Meeting the needs of non-churchgoers.

This is the reason that leads to successful revitalization.  A revitalization effort by its very name focuses on revitalizing an organization. But perhaps instead we call it re-focusing an organization. We all know that it doesn’t take long after a church is planted or even revitalized, that it begins to focus inward and mainly on its own needs. When that happens the church increasingly becomes focused on programming, staffing and churchgoer activities that make its congregational life more comfortable.

But, a church that is revitalized must first become refocused. That happens when the focus is to turn our eyes to the harvest and seeing its need.  My father grew up on a farm. He knew that when the harvest was ripe you stopped everything else you were doing, even going to school, and went into the field until the harvest was complete. Jesus talking to a similar agricultural society, prepared them to endure hardships in mission by utilizing an agricultural metaphor:

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’  If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.  Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you.  Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’  But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say,  ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’  I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. (Luke 10:1-12, MSG).

Thus, I’ve found that a church revitalization starts by a profound and persistent refocus on whose needs are you called to meet. Then your prayers can be focused.

Read the original article here … https://issuu.com/renovate-conference/docs/cr_mag_march_april_2020IMG_3147.jpeg

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BUILDINGS & A church building craze exploded in the ‘70s and ‘80s and led to many sanctuaries that are outsized for their current congregation… But the cost of oversized facilities and their upkeep may mean that that even these churches have little resources available for unexpected expenses or low offerings. – @BobWhitesel via @OutreachMag buff.ly/2UTWevK

A church building craze exploded in the ‘70s and ‘80s and led to many sanctuaries that are outsized for their current congregation… But the cost of oversized facilities and their upkeep may mean that that even these churches have little resources available for unexpected expenses or low offerings. – @BobWhitesel via @OutreachMag

Read more here … buff.ly/2UTWevK

GIVING & Why it changes during a crisis (and how to crisis-proof your budget).

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., April 28, 2020.

Many churches are experiencing a downturn in giving during the recent quarantine.  And what they are seeing is not a typical. Here are some thoughts I’ve gleaned over the years and from clients.
During an “external crisis” (meaning job layoffs in the community, people leaving the area for a different town or quarantine due to a pandemic) the following occur. In addition, below are actions that can help crisis-proof a church’s budget.
1. Giving is down roughly 25 to 40% for churches that have not strongly emphasized online giving before the external crisis. Those that have emphasized online giving beforehand still drop but only about 20 to 25%. The lesson here is to robustly embrace online giving going forward.
2. During an external crisis there is usually a loss of long-time givers. This is because the external crisis exacerbates some frustration they have. However research by Bruno Dyck and Frederick Stark at the University of Manitoba (“The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model,” Administrative Science Quarterly 44)  found that if people who stop giving are personally visited and listened to, the frustration can often be diffused. This is hard to do during a quarantine, but it’s something to consider as restrictions loosen.
3. New givers will usually appear during one of these external crises. This is because people see the need for the church and the good things it’s doing. And they want to support it. However new givers typically do not give as much as long-time givers. Therefore if you are replacing them one for one, it’s usually not enough to make up the difference.
4. An important strategy is to track the quarterly ebb and flow of giving. Every church has a giving cycle. e.g. certain times during the year when giving decreases. It’s important to know when these coincide with an external crisis, so that you don’t over react to a downturn fueled by two concurrent forces: seasonal and external.
5. Some of my church clients who are younger congregations put a freeze on “new spending” when they saw the external crisis on the horizon. This doesn’t help you too much when you are in the middle of a downturn, but it is a good strategy for the future.
6. During this time another prescription is to make online giving convenient and to communicate it as an important option. Allowing giving to take place online allows the giver more time to pray over and consider their support.
7. It’s critically important to teach the reason for giving. Giving not just to keep the church going, but to increase ministry during this time when more people have needs. Therefore emphasize the good you were doing, why people give and how people’s spiritual journey includes meeting the needs of others.

TRANSITION & 5 Things Every Leader Should Do Now to Prepare for Transition by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 11/16/19.

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Warren Buffett has a famous rule he calls the Noah Rule: “Predicting the rain doesn’t count, building an ark does.”

Because most leaders in today’s fluid job market will transition to a new position sooner than later, leaders should be preparing for transitions. Currently I am writing a doctoral-level course on “interim and transitional ministry,” and in doing so I have been reminded by multiple authors about the importance of creating a transition plan before you need one. Here are five lessons to consider.

1.  Don’t call it an exit plan, because it should be a transition plan. If the leader looks selfishly at the transition, they will usually see it as a way to exit a situation. But looking at it this way will usually leave the organization in the lurch. Rather leaders should be preparing a transition plan that helps both organization and individual. Jesus had many hard conversations with his disciples about his impending crucifixion and resurrection (Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:22; Mark 8:31). What if Jesus had said, “I have an exit plan.” That would be self-centered and inauthentic of Him.  Rather Jesus spoke of “the new covenant (promise)m written in my blood” (Luke 22:20, Message Bible).  So create a transition plan that takes into consideration the the church, as well as the leader’s, needs.

2. A transition plan allows the leader to find and nurture mentees. As I conduct research on transitions, I find that one of the most damaging aspects of leadership transitions is when the leader has been a hands-on, do it all themselves person. This leaves a huge gap when the leader leaves, that often cannot be filled quickly. As a result the organization often declines during the transition. Again Jesus‘ example of selecting his disciples years before his ascension, reminds us of the time needed for delegation and experimentation to foster a smooth transition (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-34; Luke 5:1-11).

3. Letting others know about your plans will not necessarily push you out sooner, but can actually give you time for a transition. One of the first consultations I conducted 30 years ago was for a pastor who the board was forcing out because he wouldn’t embrace contemporary worship. He explained to me that he was ready to move on to a church that practiced mostly traditional worship, but they were hard to find and he would need 12 to 18 month to find one in his denomination. I encouraged him to meet with the leaders of the church and discuss his heart’s desire in worship style. I told him to explain that he was not against contemporary worship, rather it was not for him. He replied, “That’s not the way it’s done in our denomination. Once you tell them you’re thinking about leaving, they push you out.” 

I reminded him they were already subtly trying to push him out, so it really didn’t matter if he told them. And I reminded him that if he told them now it would be a sign of candor and honesty. “If they appreciate your many years of loyal service,” I replied, as I believe they did, “They will work with you if you demonstrate that you want a transition that is good for the church and is good for your family too.”

He did as I suggested and offered to spend 18 months helping the church make a transition to a new pastor. The church leaders agreed, because they too did not want to be without a pastor without sufficient notice. Today that Pastor is “pastor emeritus” of the congregation. He is invited back to preach several times a year and for all church milestones. “I was skeptical,” he said to me many years later, “But being open and honest resulted in a long-term relationship I am thankful for every day.”

4. A transition plan takes more detailed planning than most people think. A transition plan isn’t just transitioning from one leader to another, but it is also usually a time of transitioning the organization and even sometimes the staff. Therefore the change is not just about a person, but it’s about two more things: a) the people who are friends or work alongside the leader and b) the future personality of the church. 

a) Some churches require that staff members resign when the lead pastor resigns. This can be good in some situations, especially if there is a toxic leadership culture.  But at other times this is a denominational or church tradition. Yet in almost all situations it puts hardships upon the paid staff who must resign. Putting together a transition plan in advance allows these people to prepare as well as look for other positions. When the leader keeps to themselves the information that he or she is going to leave, they often rob the other staff members of the ability to plan for their professional livelihoods. Without planning staff members are often unfairly upended and their families bear the pain. Church leaders who say they want to build a family church, must consider the families of those who will leave or be forced to leave when the leader transitions.

b) Also when a church’s personality needs to change, it will take some time to figure out what this new personality will be. Set up meetings with key stakeholders in the church to discuss and compromise on where the church is headed. We see this at the Council of Jerusalem, when James brought together all parties to discuss and foster a compromise that would allow the Great Commission to expand while respecting differences in cultures (Acts 15).

5. Finally making a transition plan in advance allows you to modify your transition plan as the leader and the church’s circumstances change. Planning a transition and giving it time to develop allows the church time to plan for the transition and figure out what it wants to be. And, the leader might find that the type of position she or he or she desired has now changed. As Proverbs 16:1 (Message Bible) says, “Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word.”

In 30 years of consulting I have observed that time and planning allow for prayer, dialogue, experimentation and the Holy Spirit to guide a transition that does not thwart a church’s health or growth, but enhances it.

Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/5-things-every-leader-should-do-now-to-prepare-for-transition/

REBOUND & RENEW TOOLS: 8 nationally published articles on how to grow a healthy church after a crisis (resource page w/ tools)

Screen Shot 2020-04-13 at 11.25.46 AM.pngCommentary by Dr. Whitesel:  During a shutdown, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, churches have an opportunity to prepare for rebounding and renewing into  healthier churches.  Here are articles I’ve written about how to accomplish this (published by magazines with national platforms, i.e. Outreach Magazine and Biblical Leadership Magazine).  Check back as more articles are being published weekly.

Below you will find …

  • How to use these difficult times as a springboard for churches to rebound and renew,
  • With greater long-term health and more powerful Good News impact.
  • Click on the pictures (below) to access the articles published by Outreach Magazine and Biblical Leadership Magazine.

ARTICLE ©BobWhitesel Most Churches Are Not Doing Screen Shot

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Now that banning gatherings is becoming commonplace, the faith community will be temporarily forced to morph into something new (or maybe something old, read on). During this time and afterward some churches will thrive, but others may struggle. Having coached churches for 30 years, trained hundreds of church leaders and earned two doctorates in the field, here is my forecast with survival options for those churches at risk.

Click to read the article in Outreach Magazine here.


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Read this article in Outreach Magazine by clicking here.

BALANCE & How to Balance Ministry & Personal Life by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine. #JohnWesley #EnthusiastBook

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feelings for Sophy, she made clear her intention was to remain single. However, she was engaged to a reportedly mean and violent man. When John asked Sophy about this, she replied, “I am every way unhappy. I won’t have Tommy, for he is a bad man. And I can have none else.” Facing such a marital and spiritual predicament, Sophy asked John to tutor her in spirituality. An affectionate relationship began to take shape.

John fell in love with Sophy, writing in his journal how he was charmed by “her words, her eyes, her air, her every motion and gesture.” But such emotions seemed to draw him away from his singular fixation on ministry. He felt his affection for Sophy was dividing his attention for ministry, and, in addition, she was betrothed to another. Thus began John’s struggle. John sketched out reasons not to marry Sophy: (a) she was already engaged, (b) he was absorbed in a demanding ministry to Native Americans, and (c) she had declared her desire never to marry but to serve Christ alone. John’s methodological mind devised rules, resolutions, and reasons that built a wall between him and the woman he loved. 

John told Sophy that he had decided not to make any decision until he had established a ministry to the Native Americans. Her response was cool, to say the least. Shortly after, she ended the tutoring. Then Sophy informed John that she had consented to a marriage proposal from a ham-fisted and irreligious Mr. Williamson, “unless you [John] have anything to object.” John wrote in his journal, “to see her no more, that thought was as the piercings of a sword.” But he felt he must choose ministry over marriage. 

Since his first encounter with Sophy, when she nursed him back to health, John sensed that her spirituality and tenderness were part of the support he needed to pursue ministry in the New World. Yet by seeing these two relationships as competitive rather than complementary, Wesley made a ministry error common among young leaders. Focusing solely on the needs of others precluded him from seeing his need for a supportive soul mate. 

Lesson One 

Ministry and family are not competitive forces but complementary ones.

John’s task was so daunting that he rarely took time away from his work, which created strain and ill health, and led to poor choices. The first lesson from his experience is that God provides friends and spouses as a support network for ministry. Just as God would revive the dry bones of Israel, God had provided support to John, he just didn’t utilize it.  Trying to do ministry without the assistance of others, regardless how important the ministry may be, will lead to impaired results.

Lesson Two 

Methodology can become a cage if not tempered by a sensitive heart.

When John found himself thinking of Sophy too often, he set up rules, resolutions, and lists of reasons not to take a wife. His heart was divided, and it destroyed his sense of peace, which eventually affected his judgment. But God promises to create in us new hearts, able to balance laws and love. To the Israelites, infatuated with their rules, God stated, “I will give them a single heart, and I will put a new spirit in them. I will remove the stony hearts from their bodies and give them hearts of flesh, so that they may follow my regulations and carefully observe my case laws” (Ezekiel 11:19).

Application

For personal devotion, read the questions and meditate upon each, and write down your responses. For group discussion, share, as appropriate, your answers with your group and then discuss the application.

Whom do you look to as a support for your ministry? Name them, and write down the last time you were with them. Did you seek their prayers, encouragement, and a listening ear? After his vision of the dry bones, God reminded Ezekiel that God would unite a nation that hitherto had been estranged (see Ezekiel 37:15–22).

Draw up a plan for regular times of prayer, Bible study, and encouragement with a support network. Create one from scratch if you must. Add to this plan an ongoing schedule to ensure that you do not neglect those that support you.

Ask yourself, “Do I depend on rules and regulations to keep me focused? What part does my love of God and the love I receive from others play in this? Do these requirements I put upon myself sometimes steal my time away from accountability by family and friends?” 

Accountability requires more than good methods; it must include people too. What part of your support network is also your accountability network? Again, write down a schedule for being in contact with your accountability network to ensure that you are held accountable.

Excerpted with permission from Enthusiast! Finding a Faith That Fills, ©BobWhitesel, Wesleyan Publishing House, 2018, pp. 63-67.

Recently picked “Resources of the Year” in the church category for @OutreachMag. So many good books! But here are my picks.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 3/2/2020.

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This year’s winner in the “Church Category” is …

Taking it to the streets: Lessons from a life of urban ministry by Harry Louis Williams II, aka OG Rev., a street term for “respected veteran of the block” (InterVarsity Press, 2019). This veteran minister and budding academic weaves together stories from the inner city with biblical narratives to demonstrate what every chruch, suburban, rural, micro- or mega-, can do to missionally heal the divisions in society. He covers it all, commuter churches, aging churches, wealthy churches, church planting, gentrification, prosperity gospel, racism, slavery, radicalism and reconciliation. To each problem he suggests practical and biblical steps almost any church can undertake to rethink urban partnerships and begin to heal American’s divisions. To understand a culture, you need a guide. And OG Rev is one of the best I’ve encountered. If you are not from an urban culture and before you launch a ministry to it, absorb the stories contained in this book.

Additional Recommendations:  

Why church? A basic introduction by Scott W. Sunquist (InterVarsity Press, 2019). To the question, “Is the church losing its relevance?” the author offers a well-thought-out critique, believing the church has lost its focus on its “only two purposes”: worship & witness, and suggesting a practical five-step solution.

The church of US versus them: Freedom from a faith that feeds on making enemies, David E. Fitch (Brazos Press, 2019). While OG Rev approaches America’s divisions from his street-level view, David Fitch uses his well-honed skills as a theologian to address the divisions in America from a clear and biblical theological perspective.

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Read more at … https://outreachmagazine.com/resources/books/church-books/52777-harry-louis-williams-ii-taking-it-to-the-streets.html