If you are a regular reader of our blog, and listener to our podcast, then you know that every Wednesday we generally have one topic that we cover. Today, though, we broadened our scope a bit and wanted to talk to you about the heart of 200churches and our vision for how we can help pastors and leaders of small churches, especially those who are isolated and in need of community.
Recently, we connected with Jim Powell from the 95 Network and talked with him about his passion for leaders of small churches. We both agreed that as we encourage pastors, we did not want to affirm small churches simply because they're small churches. In other words, we don't want to celebrate smallness for the sake of smallness, but rather encourage pastors who are in small churches doing big things.
We believe that God accomplishes amazing Kingdom things through small churches and small church leaders. We want to encourage and affirm leaders who are in those situations while also challenging pastors and leaders who may be hiding out in small churches because they believe it gives them an opportunity to hide from challenges and just coast.
Our vision at 200churches is to encourage and inspire pastors and leaders to live up to their fullest potential! We want you to feel uplifted and supported by our ministry and we're always happy to hear from you and connect with you.
One of our long term goals is to create a network of pastors that can be a community for one another. Isolated pastors can fall prey to so many struggles. God never intended for men and women to do this job alone!
A few months ago we talked to Ryan Perz about the upsides and challenges of being a solo pastor. The issues he talked about -- ranging from being a self-manager to difficulties finding genuine community -- are issues that every solo pastor faces, and issues we want to help you through here at 200churches. As always, feel free to send us an email or voicemail. We'd love to get to know you better!
It’s amazing that in our connected culture, it might be easier than ever to be isolated as a pastor. I knew a pastor who felt that all his ministry time could be spent in his office. He rarely ventured out of the church facility to visit with church members, let alone community people. His vision dried up. He began spending more time in planning, preparation, study, administrative tasks, and ministry stuff, not realizing that the central focus of true ministry is people. And people necessitate relationships.
In this week’s podcast we talk about what drives us to do what we do with 200churches, the podcast and the blog site. We talk about the nitty gritty of ministry, and in the conversation, we touch on isolation in ministry. I wonder if you are reading this, and realizing that you have become somewhat isolated as a pastor.
Here are five ways to tell if you are isolated in ministry.
If at least three of the above five situations apply to you – YOU are becoming isolated. That’s a bad place to be. You need to talk with someone this week about it. Find someone you trust, someone you can confide in. If you have no one, contact me or Jonny – me, if you’re an older pastor, or Jonny if you’re hip and “with it”! Our email addresses are on the contact page of 200churches.com.
We’ll touch on this in the podcast on Wednesday, then on Friday, we’ll share some ideas to climb out of that isolation. God wants us to connect with the body of Christ, and with the world he so loves. He wants us to do ministry in community. He wants you to get your life back too!
What are some other clues that a pastor might be isolated in ministry?
This week we've been highlighting the benefits of conflict and the upside to encouraging conflict within your leadership team. The reality is, conflict is too often associated with being negative, and part of the reason for that is that too often conflict happens when people are already upset. And upset people have a tendency to scream.
Being a native Midwesterner I am well versed in the art of passive-agression. People around here don't push more buttons than they have to, if they push them at all, and generally someone has to get pretty upset before they'll intentionally enter a disagreement. The sad part is, if conflict were handled in appropriate and timely ways, fewer people would be hurt and conflict would have a much better reputation!
So how can we have conflict without all the screaming and passion? How can we avoid people being hurt and being hurtful and cash in on the benefits of healthy disagreement?
First, encourage people to speak up. One of the worst things that can happen to a leadership team is for people to harbor unspoken, negative feelings. If people feel that they're expected to "play nice" in meetings, they'll hold in their points of disagreement and stew over them rather than voicing them in healthy ways. Whenever you can, encourage people to voice their opinions and disagreements. Conflict at the outset will be much healthier than arguments down the road.
Second, be the first to ask follow up questions. On Wednesday's podcast we said that conflict is all about truth-finding. By asking questions about ideas that are shared in meetings, you'll reveal more details and open up additional areas where that idea can be refined through discussion, and even disagreement. Recently, we decided as a church to expand our college ministry. As more and more questions are being raised about the structure of that ministry, there is more room for conflict between ideas that will ultimately lead to a better picture of what our ministry can and should look like. Always be ready to ask the next question and explore an idea more deeply.
Finally, remind people what the ultimate goal is - remind them of the mission. People can be very attached to their ideas. I know I can be! But as church leaders, our goal is not to have our idea win the day, but to have the best ministry possible to our community. If that happens to be a version of my idea, that's great. If my idea is horrible, I should be happy to find that out before it gets rolled out. If conflict can be focused around the mission of the church, the positive side of it can shine. Remind your teams that their ideas are valuable and important, but not more important than the mission. A good leader will welcome conflict if it refines the ministry.
We hope that you've been encouraged this week through 200churches.com. We are working in our own ministry toward utilizing conflict for healthy results and we hope you can do the same in yours.
Conflict is not a four letter word. Maybe you read the title of today's podcast and thought "the last thing I want to do is encourage conflict on my team!" Conflict has a bad reputation, especially in the church, but there's another side to conflict, and the benefits are important for 200church pastors to recognize.
This week's podcast is based on an article titled "Managing Conflict for Church Boards and Committees" that highlights upsides of conflict and tries to put away the myth that all conflict is negative. It's a great article and we highly recommend that you check it out. Here are some of the lessons we learned about conflict:
-200church pastors should encourage conflict
The reality is that most growth happens in tension or struggle. If we are constantly peace-mongering and never allowing conflict to arise, we are limiting the growth of people we are serving with. Conflict is necessary if we want to move forward. Churches will always default to the status quo and it requires conflict to push them forward.
-200church pastors should control conflict
The reason conflict gets a bad reputation is because too often it's not controlled. Conflict is ultimately about truth-seeking, and when opposing ideas of truth run into each other, some sparks are guaranteed to fly. Containing these points of conflict to specific meetings and times and basing our conflict on ideas rather than people and personalities, allow the positive effects of conflict to shine while minimizing the inherent dangers.
-200church pastors should expect conflict
If you're creating an environment where conflict is encouraged, don't be surprised when it happens. Too often as pastors we try to keep the peace at all costs and we can begin to be lulled into believing our own fairy tale. Just because you've swept it under the rug for a long time doesn't mean the disagreements are not there, so expect some conflict when you open those doors.So have you been peace-mongering at your church? Limiting conflict and forcing consensus? Its time to set your people free and start the tough work of finding truth through tension.
Several years ago I read a book by Edwin Friedman titled A Failure of Nerve – Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. This is a book on the subject of leadership, and how well a leader differentiates himself from those he or she leads. This book speaks to one of the single most destructive attitudes in leadership – the attitude that says, “I need to be liked and I need you to be happy, with me especially.”
Local churches, 200churches for sure, find themselves with leaders who struggle in this area. Pastors want there to be unity and harmony in the church, at any cost. They do not want to rock the boat or anger anyone, to the end that they fail to move forward with any constructive plans or ideas. You should hear it from Edwin. I want to quote Friedman himself, in his own words:
“In any type of institution whatsoever, when a self-directed, imaginative, energetic, or creative member is being consistently frustrated and sabotaged rather than encouraged and supported, what will turn out to be true one hundred percent of the time, regardless of whether the disrupters are supervisors, subordinates, or peers, is that the person at the very top of that institution is a peace-monger. By that I mean a highly anxious risk-avoider, someone who is more concerned with good feelings than with progress, someone whose life revolves around the axis of consensus, a “middler,” someone who is so incapable of taking well-defined stands that his “disability” seems to be genetic, someone who functions as if she had been filleted of her backbone, someone who treats conflict or anxiety like mustard gas—one whiff, on goes the emotional gas mask, and he flits. Such leaders are often “nice,” if not charming.” (Edwin Friedman - A Failure of Nerve, p.14 Emphasis mine)
I believe that churches are filled with pastors who are peace-mongers! They treat conflict as though it were toxic and actually are nice, and charming. But they get nothing done, and cede leadership to the loudest voice and most obnoxious personality. They are
Do you like to be liked? Need to be liked? At all costs? Is harmony and unity your highest values, even at the expense of the mission, or at the expense of truth? Are you indecisive, not wanting to make the call? Are you just too nice? Is your niceness eviscerating your leadership?
Wednesday’s podcast, episode 28, is all about the positive virtues of conflict, and why you need conflict on your leadership team! You don’t want to miss this podcast. You need to embrace conflict and understand the good it will bring to your leadership team and your leadership.
Friedman’s book would also be a great buy for you. It literally changed my view of pastoral leadership, and caused me to make some calls I had been putting off for years. I am so glad I did!
When was the last time you punted instead of making the call and running the ball? When was the last time you got up the nerve and made the call – and what happened? Tell us in the comments section below.
Finally, join us on Wednesday for episode 28 of the 200churches Podcast. Subscribe to us on iTunes at 200churches Podcast.
Wednesday’s podcast dealt with conflict resolution, and the steps to take when there is an ongoing disagreement. Today we would like to share with you four benefits to taking action. What good things happen as a result of stepping up and dealing with problems head on?
BENEFIT #1 – Resolution! Something that had been nagging on you for a while is now resolved. The problem is no longer a problem. You can breathe easier. Like unpaid bills, unanswered email, or unreturned phone calls, unresolved interpersonal problems, whether they are disagreements or full on conflicts, just zap your energy and your positivity. When they are finally resolved, and successfully, it just feels so good!
BENEFIT #2 – Relationships restored! Often when there is disagreement, there is a strain on a relationship. The free-flowing joy of community wanders away and there is a tension in the air. Especially if it is another staff member or leader that you see often, it takes more energy to converse and work together when there is “a thing” between you.
If you walk into the tunnel of chaos, there is a restored relationship on the other end. Referencing something Bill Hybels wrote about, Pastor John Miller, from Abundant Life Church in Stephen’s City VA, in this blog post, said:
According to Bill Hybels in his book, "Axiom", real community can’t take place until you face your fear and deal with the unspoken issues. Chances are the other person or people are just as uncomfortable faking it. But until someone has the guts to say that “this isn’t working; what went wrong?” then nothing will change. Hybels calls this entering the tunnel of chaos, because working through issues between two people can be scary, messy, and downright ugly. But when both parties are committed to working it out, the end result is a stronger, truer relationship. We come out on the other end of the tunnel to brand new light.
That “committed to working it out” piece is an important one. If the commitment is there, then enter the tunnel and have at it – it’s wonderful on the other end!
BENEFIT #3 – Personal growth! When we stretch ourselves and go where we are uncomfortable, there is going to be growth. Growth occurs in the tension, never in the slack. We don’t get stronger in the living room, we get stronger in the weight room. Here are three areas where you will see personal increase and growth:
Increased faith and trust in God – We step out and risk, and see God come through for us.
Increased confidence – We did it! We are likely to do it again and again, thus succeeding.
Increased interpersonal skills – We learn things in the exchange, and get better with people.
BENEFIT #4 – Growth in others. When we engage in resolution of disagreements and conflicts, others grow too. They grow from realizing they are cared for enough that you would risk rejection to engage them and restore your relationship. If you do a good job communicating, they grow by understanding you, themselves, and the situation better.
People just grow when others are concerned about them, when others do difficult things in order to make things right with them, and when others simply take the time to care. Too many people leave conflicts and disagreements unresolved, and people feel ignored and undervalued.
Are there disagreements or conflicts that you need to address? Why wait? Get started. Begin to work through the ten steps we outlined in this week’s podcast. There is joy on the other end!
Next week we talk about why we as leaders should encourage conflict on our leadership teams and how to create “safe conflict zones” in our ministries. We hope that you are challenged in these posts and podcasts to step out with courage in your 200church to lead and care for the people God has given you.
Remember, your leadership is what? What is it? That’s right… HUGE – in the kingdom of God!
Finally, what other benefits can you think of from engaging problems and disagreements head on?
Last week’s podcast was on the topic of boldness. This week, we are talking about how to resolve an ongoing disagreement or conflict that is negatively impacting your ministry. We share ten steps to resolve any disagreement in ministry, and as usual, the podcast contains a lot of information, but here are the ten steps for later reference.
Ten steps to resolve any disagreement in Ministry
Tell us about the last time you successfully resolved a disagreement in your 200church...
This is a special, unusual, Tuesday post! Steve Spear, the RunAcrossAmerica Man, is still running! He is literally running across America to raise 1.5 million dollars to provide clean water for life to a community of 30,000 people in Kenya, Africa.
The women and girls in these communities walk miles to draw contaminated water for themselves and their families - they actually walk miles and miles, just to get contaminated water. Steve is working to eliminate this hopelessness for 30,000 people. Check out a recent road report below from Steve.
Jonny and I interviewed Steve in Episode 22 of the 200churches Podcast - take a listen to that here, and check out links for more information and videos from Steve, and how you can support him here.
Have you ever heard these famous last words – “We’re just not going to go there!”? In a tense conversation between two people, “the issue” happens to come up, and one of the two blurts that out. “We’re just not going to go there!” Because, going there would result in a larger and longer conversation, (argument) that neither of the two want to engage in at the moment. So what happens? The issue gets tabled, swept under the rug, dismissed, until the next time it comes up, because it’s never gotten resolved.
What issues are there in your ministry that you are not addressing? Are there disagreements that you ignore, or worse, deny? Are there issues in your 200church that have been put on the “do not talk about” list? You know, they have not gone away, you’ve just hidden them. And like unpaid balances, the longer you wait to pay them off, the more they will end up costing you.
What we are talking about this week at 200churches.com is disagreement among ministry leaders. In your 200church, you may be the only paid staff member, but you have ministry leaders, deacons, elders, volunteers, etc. What happens when one person wants to do it one way, and another person wants to do it another way? How does a situation like that get resolved?
In too many churches, people try to keep the peace, so they shove it under the rug and forget about it. They agree to… nothing. They just avoid the issue because it might cause conflict, and that is not good in a church setting. (more on that next week!) But those disagreements ferment. They spoil. They strain relationships, squelch creativity, and foment discord. If left under the rug for too long, people walk on opposite ends of the rug and division is created.
People may not resolve their disagreements because they are afraid or insecure. Often, however, it’s because they don’t know how. They've not seen it modeled in their homes, businesses, communities, or churches. So they punt.
In Episode 27 of the 200churches Podcast this week, we talk about Ten Steps To Resolve Any Disagreement In Your Ministry. These are steps to take to pull the disagreement out from under the rug, and finally deal with it. Between today and Wednesday, would you do two things?
Our Vision Team had spent a couple months working on the focus of our church. We knew that the Great Commandment and the Great Commission were what all churches should be about. What would make our church any different from all the others? What would it be about our church in our town that would set us apart? What was the itch in our community that no other church in town was scratching, or at least focusing on?
We finally came up with it! Through prayer, discussion, and time (months!) – we came up with the focus, the one thing that we all realized was lacking in our community, and that many of our churches were just weak on. After sifting and sorting our focus to have crystal clarity on what we were all talking about, we came up with what we thought was, as Andy Stanley puts it, “the phrase that pays.”
Sharing The Message
We then worked on how to communicate that to our people. We worked on symbols, word pictures, posters, and clear communication. We got our heads and hearts around it, then worked its message through our lips and fingertips until we all understood it, and better, believed it to the depth of our beings.
The night finally came when our group would share it with our church leadership. We gathered about 25 men in a conference room and brought the whole message forward, with signs, symbols, and handouts. We began to share our hearts and the cumulative results of months of blood, sweat, and tears – that is, I began to share our hearts, and our cumulative results of months of blood, sweat, and tears.
I had invited all of our leadership and even one or two that did not have to be invited, but I was gracious, and invited them in. It would be an understatement to say that when they all assembled in the room, the eight of us who made up the Vision Team were excited and passionate to share our message with them. And then it happened.
One of the men I had invited, and welcomed in when I did not have to, asked a question. This question was filled with premises that did not reflect at all on the substance of our message. I tried to answer both comprehensively and quickly, and I ended up doing neither.
After his question turned into three questions, all amazingly directly challenging everything we brought forward – one of the other board members expressed dislike for some of the word pictures and symbols we used to communicate our message, our vision. Soon the discussion devolved to talk of colors and symbols, what were proper, appropriate, and serious symbols and pictures to utilize when communicating great biblical truths, and what were not.
Before I knew it, the environment of the room was filled with skepticism, surprise, doubt, and tension. I flew the plane weakly, and called for an emergency landing on too small a runway, and ended up with broken wheels and a smoking fuselage in the end. To say the meeting was less than stellar would also be an understatement. The Vision Team was discouraged and confused, and I, unfortunately, walked back on our commitment to share this vision message with our church. I essentially allowed two people to torpedo our vision.
If the Vision Team was looking for bold leadership from me, they got none. All they received was a weak attempt to retreat, repackage, and replay a watered down retread of our original vision. I failed the team as a leader.
We used that phrase, you know, “the phrase that pays” one, here and there in the coming years. We never used all the props and illustrations we had prepared. Our vision kind of died and the team over the next year eventually dissolved into the background. Honestly, my leadership during that time, to put it in the current generation’s vernacular – sucked!
How’s that for a biographical promo for 200churches?! Yeah, I just shared with you what I think is my biggest leadership blunder of my current ministry. Are there others? Sure there are, but I’ll never tell!
Perseverance & Hope
The important conclusion is that I did not give up. I persevered, and learned from my failure. As John Maxwell says, eventually, I “failed forward.” I used my failure as a time of learning, growing, and strengthening. Thankfully, our church is living that vision today, in a very huge way – praise God!
If you have not always been BOLD in your leadership, take heart, every single leader will have his or her failure story. Just don't let it be your last story!
Am I today a visionary leader, casting epic vision in unforgettable and moving rhetoric, leading boldly where no pastor has gone before?! Well, um, not really. Am I better than eight years ago? You bet! And, Lord willing, I will get better yet.
So pick yourself back up, dust yourself off, learn from your failure, and FAIL FORWARD. Keep going. Trust God. Be stronger. Don’t lose hope. Remember that old saying…
You can’t go back and start again, but you can begin today, my friend, to make a brand new end!
What have you learned from an epic failure? Do you have any hope to share? Tell your story in the comments below...
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