10 Reasons I’d Encourage Church Revitalization Instead of Church Planting

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My story is simple. While enjoying starting a church, my established home church was struggling. It caused me to question what would become of all the established churches. That burning question in my heart lined with a church in need of revitalization. I agreed to be their pastor. The rest is my history. We have help start two churches and helped revitalize three others.

Because of my experience, I often encourage want-to-be church planters to consider church revitalization.

I realize church revitalization doesn’t have all the attraction of church planting. But the attraction in church revitalization is the same as church planting. It is the mission. Church revitalization isn’t for everyone. For some it might be just what God has for them.

10 reasons to consider church revitalization:

You love the thought of restoring history. 

Our last two churches were over 100 years old – the last close to 200 years. Wouldn’t it be a shame to see that history come to an end – if we can reverse the decline?

You are ready to go to work now. 

There are far more opportunities in church revitalization. I have heard that near 90% of established churches are in decline or plateaued. There’s work to be done immediately.

You like having an established base of financial support. 

Many established churches have loyal supporters. Sometimes those are the ones that never want any change, but many times those people are just waiting for leadership to take them somewhere better than where they are today.

You love inter-generational ministry. 

In an established church, if you start to reach younger people, you’ll see a blending of generations. That’s a beautiful experience. And personally, I think it’s healthy and a very Biblical model of church.

You like a challenge. 

You will face opposition if you try to change things from where people are comfortable. These are not the same challenges found in a church plant. But you agreed to walk by faith, right? And you’ll have that opportunity in church revitalization.

You won’t run from every conflict.

In church revitalization, you must stay the good course. The mission is too vital.

You enjoy healthy structure. 

Granted, it might not be healthy, but you’ll find structure. And, as long as you’re not doing away with structure completely, you can usually tweak structure to be healthy again.

You are Kingdom-minded. 

Church revitalizers, like church planters, have to see the bigger picture. There are more Kingdom dollars being under-utilized in stagnant churches than may ever be invested in church planting. What are we going to do about it? If you’d like to know the answer – maybe you’re a candidate for revitalization.

You can endure a long-term approach. 

It likely won’t happen immediately. In church planting, we could change things every weekend. That’s not necessarily true in the established church.

Certainly we saw some immediate, very positive changes and the church began to grow quickly. The best changes take time, but they pay off dramatically.

You truly love the local church. 

I didn’t love everything about the church I pastored – or the established church I attended all my life until surrendering to ministry. But I truly love the local church. Enough that I’d be willing to invest energies in trying to save one.

There are many churches who are ready to grow again with the right pastoral leadership. I encourage some of our eager pastors to consider allowing God to use you in revitalizing an established church.

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5 Suggestions if You want People to Listen to You

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership | No Comments

If you are a leader, then it is critically important that the people you are trying to lead hear you. Not just pretend to be listening while you ramble in a meeting, but actually absorb what you are trying to say to them. You want people to listen to you.

How do you do that?

Here are 5 suggestions if you want people to listen to you:

Value the person.

No one follows someone willingly who they don’t believe cares for them. Teddy Roosevelt’s famous line “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is true.

Don’t expect people to want to learn from you until they know you have their best interest at stake and that you care for them personally – not simply what they can do for you or the organization. We listen to leaders we trust.

Paint a great vision.

You have to give people something worth following. It needs to stretch them, while still being attainable by risk, faith and hard work. When they know there’s a glimmer of hope to the finish line, they’ll be more willing to learn what it takes to attain it.

Communicate it frequently.

Even the best vision fades over time. People get bored. Andy Stanley uses the phrase “vision leaks”. If you want to maintain your audience of followers, you have to keep reminding them why you are doing what you are doing.

Tell compelling stories.

People are motivated by example. They want to know that what they are doing makes a difference. People will be more likely to seek your input if they know you are leading them to something of value and importance.

Share in the reward.

People only feel valued when they get to celebrate the victory. If all the recognition goes to the leader, the follower feels taken advantage of to some degree. If you want people to keep listening – listen to them – share the credit. Celebrate often

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7 Traits Needed to Effectively Lead Change

By | Change, Church, Church Revitalization, Innovation, Leadership | No Comments

If you want to be in leadership get comfortable with change. The best leaders have the traits to effectively lead change.

Every leader deals with change, but in my experience, some handle it better than others. There are change agent leaders who seem to have an innate gifting at leading through change.

I’ve observed some common traits needed to effectively lead change.

7 traits for effectively lead change:

Flexibility

It doesn’t have to be your design. You simply want progress towards the overall vision. You are never stubborn on matters that seem to have no vision-altering value. Instead, you navigate towards a solution, letting others have “their” way. Everyone walks away feeling as though they have won.

Courage

Effectively leading change means you are willing to receive criticism and still move forward. You know how to filter through what is valid criticism – worth hearing – and what’s simply a venting of personal interest. Because of this you unwaveringly push through the junk which clouds progress.

Relational

You value the opinions of other people and work hard to gain their trust. Knowing that ultimate change can’t happen without human capital, you are constantly investing in relationships. Networking is one of a change agents greatest tools.

Strategic

You realize there are steps to take and carefully choose the timing of when to take them. It is like you have a keen sense of discernment when it comes to knowing when to pull the trigger, when to wait, and when to pull the plug completely.

Creative

You are able to see paths to success others can’t yet see. Change often happens because someone chose to be creative – even when it might not mesh with current structures. Effective change is one of the best forms of art in the field of leadership. This takes creativity.

Intentional

You make change for a specific purpose and never waste a change. Since you know that every change has the potential to make or break a team, you work diligently to bring the best results.

Thorough

You follow through on commitments made and sees the change to fruition. You don’t give up until the post evaluation is complete and the lessons of change have been learned.

Think about your experience. Who are some of the best leaders who could effectively lead change?

Check out our new podcast where we unpack many of these issues – and add real stories to illustrate them.

7 Indicators It’s Not a Good Time for Change

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I’ve never been a proponent of the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Sometimes you need a change and nothing is “broken”. It just isn’t as good as it could be, it’s keeping other things from being better, or it’s soon going to be broke unless you change. But there are indicators of times not to change.

Here are 7 times not to change:

When there isn’t a compelling purpose.

There should always be a why. It might be as simple as if you don’t change you’re going to be bored out of your mind, but have a reason before you introduce change.

When there are no good leaders behind it.

You need people who buy into the change. If a change has value you can usually find supporters. They may be few and may do nothing more than speak up for the change. If no one can get excited about the change except you, you probably need to raise up some supporters before moving forward. (There are rare exceptions to this one, but again, they are rare.)

When you haven’t defined a win.

Changing before you know what success looks like will keep you running in a lot of ineffective directions without much progress.

When the loss is more expensive than the win.

Sometimes the cost just isn’t worth it. You can’t justify the people and resource expense for the potential return.

When the leader isn’t motivated.

There are times to wait if senior leadership can’t get excited or at least support the change if push back develops. Eventually, without their support, you’ll be less likely to experience sustaining, successful change.

When too many other things are changing.

Any organization or group of people can only handle so much change at a time. This requires great discernment on the part of leaders to know when there is too much change occurring and it is best to wait for something new.

When an organization is in crisis mode.

If a ship is sinking, fix the leak or bail some water – before choosing your next destination. When things are in crisis, is not the time to make a ton of changes. Catch your breath first, make sure a core of people is solid behind the vision, and take careful steps to plan intentional, helpful and needed change.

This isn’t intended as a checklist of indicators of times not time for change. I would never want to stop someone from making needed changes. In fact, I love change. I do try to encourage better change and I hope this helps. Check out my leadership podcast where we discuss issues/topics like this in a conversational format.

5 Things To Do When in a Learning Position

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This is a follow up post. Recently I posted “The Tension Between Staying in a Learning Position and Jumping into the Lead Position“. The point was there is a fine line between when a person is ready to be in a senior leadership role and needs to remain in a learning position. The post was to help discern the proper time to make the transition.

For example, I know some youth pastors who will some day be senior pastors. When’s the right time to make the jump and when should they stay in their current position? I know some entry-level managers in large organizations who could move to a higher position in a smaller organization. When should they jump? That was the idea behind the post.

Whenever I talk about this issue it stirs a discussion offline.

One repeated question:

How does one manage the tension well while in a learning position until the transition to a leading position takes place?

I would first say make sure there is a tension. These suggestions are intended for those who sense they are being called to a senior leadership position – someday – but haven’t made the jump for whatever reason. They are living in the “tension”. The advice is hopefully good at any stage of life, but this was my specific intent of the original post and this one.

But also know that you’re asking the right question. You should never waste a wait. God is doing something where you are right now. He’s working behind the scenes in ways you cannot see. So, you do your part. It’s good if you’re in a waiting position to be asking these type questions.

Here are 5 suggestions when in a learning position:

Recruit a mentor.

Everyone needs a mentor – at every stage of life – but especially if you want to move upward in positional authority. Find someone who is in a position of responsibility at the next level you hope to eventually be and ask them to meet with you on a semi-regular basis. Don’t expect it to be often. They’re likely busy people. I’ve had mentors I met with only every few months. Others were more frequent.

Consider also, the mentor doesn’t always have to be in the same field you are in, just with similar level of responsibility as the next level on your radar. The same would be ideal, but not always available.

When you arrive at the meeting, don’t waste their time. Do the hard work of preparing for the meeting. Have questions prepared in advance. And make sure you take notes. It’s helpful for review later and demonstrates how serious you are taking the advice.

Set a tentative timeline in your mind for transition.

How long do you realistically think you should attempt to be at the next level of leadership? Ask yourself probing questions, such as, “If I knew I was going to be here 3 more years – without any changes in my level of responsibility – am I going to get frustrated?”

A realistic timeline is probably not 2 months, but a year certainly could be. And so could five years be. Much of that depends on your current heart for what you’re doing now, how much you’re thinking about where you need to be next, and how much tension there is between those two. No one can answer this but you. You’ll have to soul search.

Set a realistic timeline, but then don’t bind yourself to it either – that’s dangerous. Life happens and ultimately God is in control, but this gives you a sense of hope and perspective. If you think you’re three years out from a transition, then you know you have three years to grow where you’re at currently. It’s not the time to be looking actively, but time to excel in what you’re doing. If you know in a year you’re going to be bored to death, then you know how fast you have to respond to seek another position.

Discerning this timeline is a good talk through with a mentor or other people who know you well and believe in you.

Prepare for what’s next.

You should always be doing this. Even if you never moved to a position with more authority you should prepare for what’s next. The needs within our jobs are always changing because the people and cultures we encounter are always changing.

You should always see yourself in a learning position, so learn all you can. Take notes as you observe other leaders. Read books. Attend conferences. Build your network. Don’t waste the wait.

Stay very loyal and faithful to the job you have now.

Please don’t accept any of my other suggestions without doing this one.

Do your best work every single day in the job you are currently doing. Respect the leadership where you are now. Learn what you can from them too – even what you would do differently some day. Finish well. This is what you’d hope for from people you will one day lead. It is the right thing to do.

Staying loyal is only fair to the opportunity you’ve been given, but it also protects your resume. Never ruin a relationship where you are – it will only come back to hurt you later. Plus, staying faithful as you wait says a lot about your character.

Keep your eyes and ears open.

In my experience, if you’re asking these type questions in a learning position, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be looking to make the transition to a lead position. It could be years, so don’t live in the future when the present needs your attention, but opportunities are often closer than you think.

In my most recent transition, Cheryl and I sensed for several months that God was doing something new in our life. We didn’t know what or where, but entertained several opportunities. Both of us listened and had conversations. We didn’t jump until it was clearer. But when an opportunity was presented which lined with our hearts it was much easier to discern the move. (I should say it was nothing like we thought it would look, but we knew God was in it.) Had we not been watching and listening, we might have missed a God-sized open door.

Check out my podcast where we unpack issues like this even more. I’d love for you to share it, subscribe and offer a kind review.

Fighting Tension – Stay in a Supporting Leadership Role – or Jump into the Lead Role

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There is a fighting tension among many young leadership. The tension is whether to stay in a supporting leadership role – or jump into the lead role.

Young leaders I work with ask this question a lot – are they ready to be in a lead position?

I want to be helpful. Most of these people are leaders now – usually leading some area of ministry, but they aren’t in the senior leadership position. But they believe they want to be someday.

I wish I knew the magical answer of when to make the transition, but I don’t. You can jump too soon. And you can wait too long.

You can jump before you’re ready. I’ve seen some leaders make the switch to senior leader only to find out they wish they had prepared a little longer. Some then go back under another senior leader. And, sadly, I’ve seen some completely crash and burn – and take years to recover. Some never go back to the lead position.

I’ve seen others wait long after they were ready. They missed opportunities in leadership and, in the process, they frustrated everyone, including themselves, because they didn’t make the move. Staying anywhere too long can cause frustration to a team – and the one who stays.

It’s a fine line – or a quadrant of the circle – as the case may be in our diagram.

So, my advice, for the leader wondering when to make the jump to senior leadership is pretty simple.

When you’ve lived in the fighting tension too long – it’s time to jump.

What’s the tension? Well, I believe you’ll know it when you’re living it. It is probably why you would read a post like this, but let me give some symptoms.

7 ways to tell the tension has gone long enough:

When the urge to try is greater than the fear of jumping.

When you’ve maxed out where you currently are in growth opportunities. And it frustrates you nearly everyday.

When you find yourself questioning senior leadership – all senior leadership – good or bad leadership – because you think you could do it better. (This is always a good sign.)

When you think more about what could be if you were in the leading position than what could be if you stay in the learning position. (Be sure to take notes during this season.)

When you believe in your heart you’ve been called to lead at the senior level. (It needs to be a calling.)

When those who know you best think you’re ready. (Don’t be afraid to ask.)

When senior leadership positions continue to make themselves available or come to your attention. (Is someone trying to tell you something?)

This post is intended to help process a question I’m frequently asked.

Please understand, these are just my thoughts. Also, when you are in the season of sensing you are ready, never be arrogant, flippant or act like you know it all, because you don’t. You will have to trust me with this one. I will write more about what to do in this season in my next post.

We should always learn all we can, but the fact is, you may not know until you try. Most of what you learn will come when you are actually doing the job. When you are finally ready, and you make the jump to senior leadership, that’s when the learning really begins to take place. On-the-job training is the best kind.

But preparing for the big jump is critically important also. Don’t rush the next step because of impatience. Just as you can’t go back to high school or that first attempt at college – it will never be quite the same after you make the jump.

This is why it’s a fine line – hence the fighting tension. Check out my leadership podcast where we discuss issues like this regularly.

10 Suggestions for the Bi-Vocational Pastor

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I spent my first few years of ministry as a bi-vocational pastor. For those who may not know the term, in order to fully support my family I had to seek other work to supplement my income I received as a pastor.

I still have a heart for those who hold down two jobs – sometimes both of them approaching full-time. And I think more pastors may have to consider bi-vocational ministry in the years ahead. I don’t think that is completely bad. My years in the secular world greatly helped me in ministry. That is our mission field.

But I love assisting pastors and especially want to help these dedicated servants. They work harder than many pastors receiving a full-time income from the church.

Let me share a few things I learned and have observed from working with other bi-vocational pastors. I’m going to share 5 suggestions of things I believe you should do, followed by 5 suggestions of things I would suggest you should not.

Things you should do

Be accountable – As a bi-vocational pastor you need to allow people to speak into your life. You may feel more independent if you’re not completely dependent on the church for your income, but you still need accountability – like we all do.

Be disciplined – You have to stay healthy in all areas of your life. We all do, but you have more pressure on the bi-vocational pastor to do so.

Be organized – Have someone help you if needed, but develop systems to do everything you have to do in a week. I find the busier I am and the more I am doing, the more structure I need to provide myself. There will always be interruptions, but you’re better prepared for them when you start your week with a plan.

Be intentional – It’s hard work, but you have to keep both business and church worlds running well – and still be a good family man. It will require intentionality on your part.

Be diligent – In all areas of your life, you must do your best. Your witness is at stake.

Things you shouldn’t do

Complain to the church – It’s tempting, because the work is hard. They should know you do – and hopefully they will give you consideration for it. But it’s not fair to them to hear you complain about it all the time.

Lose sight of vision – The reason you are a bi-vocational pastor is to complete the call God has on your life. And what you do is valuable. Life-changing. Eternal.

Let yourself burnout – Stay healthy physically, relationally, and emotionally. Again, let people speak into your life who recognize when you are stretching yourself too far. You may have to say no to some things so you can do other things. (Some will need to read that last sentence again.)

Allow one world to outshine the other – This is the hard part, but you have to be good in all your worlds if you’re going to continue. You’ll need God’s strength, but again, it’s your witness.

Neglect your family – Here’s another hard one, but they are your first commitment. They will be there after either vocation.

One key to your success long-term will be to continually improve personally, so you can do more professionally. Ask God to help you with that. And I’m pulling for you.

Have you ever had to balance dual careers? What advice would you give?

Check out my new leadership podcast on the Lifeway Leadership Podcast Network. It’s a short, helpful conversation about issues you will deal with everyday. I’d love if you would subscribe, review and share it to spread the word.

5 Hidden Objections to Change

By | Change, Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership | 2 Comments

I’ve learned there are some common – often hidden – objections to change. These are secret objections.

No one admits to these, but they are real. In fact, they may be the biggest obstacles you’ll have to face in implementing change.

Show me an objection to change and you’re almost guaranteed to find one of these hidden in the crowd somewhere. And you’ll probably find multiples of them.

These are often hard to admit, but they are true. Understanding them can help you better lead change.

5 hidden objections to change:

Selfishness

Let’s face it – we want what we want. What’s comfortable requires less sacrifice on our part.

Pride

We like our ideas and don’t believe we can enjoy the ideas of others, as much as our own. The way I want to do things is best, isn’t it?

Fear

We are afraid of what could happen if we change. Change might launch a whole series of change. That’s scary.

Power

We want to make the decisions for our life and resist when others are making them for us. The reality is most of us have a very real and sometimes hidden desire for control.

Satisfaction

We are satisfied with current status. Things are being done the way they’ve always been done. This is the way things are supposed to be. And we like it this way.

To be clear, I don’t believe we can continue to grow most of the time without change. Change is all around us. Therefore, failing to embrace change only leads to more severe problems later. But that doesn’t mean change is easy.

Sometimes understanding the hidden reasons behind the objection helps the leader better address the situation.

What hidden objections to change have you seen?

Check out my new leadership podcast on the Lifeway Podcast Network or wherever you listen to podcasts. In an upcoming episode, we will address these hidden objections and ways to address them.

7 Common Connectors for People

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One thing which has always come naturally to me and I love doing is connecting people with similar interests. This skill has served me well as a pastor.

I believe one of the best ways within the Body of Christ for “iron to sharpen iron” is to help find common connectors for people.

From a strategic, discipleship standpoint, I know people are more likely to be connected to the church if they are connected to other people at deeper levels than simply attending the same church. If they can identify with people who understand them or embrace something they embrace, they feel more a part of things.

Connection is huge if we want to be effective at discipleship.

Connecting people with similarities is one of the more effective ways I’ve seen to do this. When two people have similar interests other barriers seem to diminish.

So, I’m always looking for ways to connect people to other people through commonalities.

Let me give you some examples of similar interests I look for in connecting people.

7 common connectors for people:

Common pain – For example, one of the hardest losses in the church is the loss of a child. This is a pain I can’t fully understand the way someone who has experienced it does. Sadly, we always have a number of parents who have experienced this in our church. I’m regularly connecting them as I learn of their struggles.

No one can walk through pain better with you than someone who knows the exact pain you feel. And there are lots of other common pains in the church – infertility, personal failure, and divorce – just to name a few.

Common struggle – Different from pain, these are people who share a common issue they frequently are wrestling with or are currently. One example is someone who is looking for work. Another is someone struggling with a wayward child. The whole success of Alcoholics Anonymous is built on this principle.

Of course, there are safeguards you need to consider with this one. You want to make sure the people you’re connecting are going to actually help each other and not be a bigger temptation to them in the struggle, but there can also be great strength in people bonding together during common struggles.

Common passion – One of the issues of struggle in our society today is human trafficking. The statistics are astounding and all of us – especially believers – should be concerned about the issue.

I’ve seen, however, some people have formed a passion for doing something about it. Whole ministries have started with this passion. If I run into two people who share this passion it makes sense for me to introduce them. And I have many times in our church. This is just one example. It could be a cause, or a cure, or a dream which is driving a person. If I know someone else shares this passion I want to connect them.

Common vocation – This is one of the easiest connecting pieces for people. Teachers understand the unique issues other teachers face daily. So do policeman. As do bankers, attorneys, the self-employed and engineers.

With so much of our life revolving around what we do vocationally this makes such a natural place to connect people with a similar interest.

Common hobby – I’m no longer a golfer. I used to be, but just haven’t found the time the last decade. I love to meet a golfer though, because I almost always know another golfer. The same is true with people who fish, hunt, crochet, play cards or are amateur chefs.

Common seasons –  If you are a parent of older children, do you remember the days of endless diapers and sleepless nights? We do, but not as well as someone experiencing it today does. I love connecting new parents together. Of course, we do some of this through the programs and Bible studies of the church, but this is also a way to connect people who haven’t yet “connected” to the church. Widows and widowers of the church are in a different season of life.

One specific season where I’ve connected people is new empty-nesters. I’m familiar with this one and it is hard adjusting to this season, which makes it a great connecting point.

Common goals – This is where two or more people have a specific goal in mind they want to achieve. It could be to run a marathon, to write a book, or to learn to fly a plane.

Recently, I connected two women who were both trying to memorize the book of Philippians. (I’m so impressed by people who can do this.) One was a young mother and one was a grandmother. I knew they needed to know each other, and I didn’t think it a coincidence I had just heard each of them express this goal at separate times within the span of a few days. They began meeting together regularly and formed a wonderful bond and love for one another.

Of course, huge in making this happen is getting to know people – asking questions – listening for the things which are important to them and remembering some of those details. And this has to be developed with discipline and time. It’s one way I remember people, even in a large church, is by the things I learn about them.

Pastors and ministry leaders, I cannot tell you how powerful and rewarding this has been for my ministry. To see people form lasting friendships and grow in their walk with Christ – knowing the connection I made helped it happen – is such an honor and blessing.

And, again, while you are looking for common connectors, this is actually a way to build diversity into your church. People may have differing backgrounds or demographics, but they share something else in common.

I highly recommend the intentionality – and it does take intentionality!

What are other similar common connectors have you seen where you can connect people?

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RELP – Episode 4 – Things I Try to Control as a Leader

By | Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership, Podcast | 2 Comments

In this episode of The Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast, Ron and Nate discuss the things that a leader should try to control.

Ron is blessed to have successfully led in the planting of two churches and leading in three revitalization efforts in established churches. Because of this experience, Ron is frequently asked what things he tries to control and which he releases to others.

Ron says, “I love that question, because I think its one all leaders need to ask themselves – frequently.”

You create a leadership lid in whatever areas you choose to control.

So, a leader shouldn’t try to control much. But there are things a leader should try to control.

Join in as Ron and Nate talk about those things.

A favor to ask:

Would you take time to write a review (a nice one preferred), share this podcast with others, and subscribe? Launching anything new greatly depends on the support of a few people. In this case, these are people who help get the word out about the podcast, therefore I appreciate you being one of those people.

This podcast is part of the Lifeway Leadership Podcast Network. We are excited to be a part of such a rich platform. Check out all the great resources provided by Lifeway Leadership.