7 Ways to Stay Sane in Church Revitalization

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The first few years of church revitalization were hard. I’ve told people they were some of the hardest years of my career. I had to learn how to remain sane.

But we survived.

And even thrived. Now I have the opportunity to speak to thousands of pastors attempting revitalization.

I have learned there may be a few secrets to lasting through the hard days of revitalization.

7 secrets to staying sane in church revitilization:

Dogmatically protect your time.

Established churches will eat your calendar if you’re not intentional. I needed to focus my energies in a few key places. There will always be interruptions, but I needed sufficient time to plan, meditate on Scriptures, and prepare for Sunday.

Someone else controls my calendar.

It is easier for someone else to say no. And no was said a lot. In order to be strategic, I had to control my calendar if it wasn’t an emergency and delegate all that I could to other staff members.

(I realize some pastors don’t have staff to rely on like I did, but many of the requests I received could have also been handled by a volunteer.)

Don’t cower to the few bullies.

There are always a few people who will try to derail anything positive taking place. Most people don’t like change, especially if it makes them personally uncomfortable. But you can’t allow a few people to dictate the direction of the church.

Save encouragements.

In my experience, people complain more fluently than they take the time to encourage. So, I have a file to save encouraging notes and emails. This was incredibly helpful in days where there seemed to be more negativity. Reading through this file reminded me there are people who supported us.

Pick battles carefully.

Some things are simply not worth the fight. Plus, I didn’t want to steal the culture from the church in the process of revitalizing it. Not everything needed changing and some things I could live with even if they never did.

Pace myself.

We couldn’t do everything at once. I tried to focus on no more than two or three major objectives at a time. We took up to a year to make most of the major changes. Staying sane in church revitalization requires a long term approach.

Slip away frequently.

I knew going in I wanted to protect my marriage and my heart. During the busiest and most stressful seasons, Cheryl and I took more time away – not less. I was working plenty, but I knew we needed this time. These times refueled me to continue the journey.

Here’s to you staying sane in church revitalization. If I can help you through my coaching or consulting ministry, please let me know.

5 Unique Coaching and Consulting Offerings from Ron Edmondson

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One way my coaching and consulting is unique in that I don’t come to you with a script. I can create a script, but have never found that as helpful when someone does that for me. Therefore, I coach like I lead, which means I let you write the script. 

But I have a few unique offerings.

I’m especially interested in helping you with:

Pastor/Minister Search Teams 

I love the work several friends of mine do at search firms. Still, I know a number of churches prefer to do their own search. This is where I might be able to help. I have worked with several churches now through this process and saved them money as well as time. I know the questions to ask and the right way to conduct a search. (Plus, with my network, I can likely improve the quality and quantity of your candidates.) 

Revitalization Coach 

I have had the honor of leading two successful church revitalization initiatives. Additionally, through my consulting and coaching I have worked with dozens of other churches through the process. Along the way I’ve learned a few things.  

Transitions Coach 

I’ve begun a lot of new positions and hired a lot of people. The way a person begins often determines their success long-term. 

First Impressions 

I have experience looking for churches. And it is hard! If you mess up a first impression you will have a hard time getting people to connect with the church.

Second-Wind Coaching 

People my age (56) – and even younger and older – are trying to figure out how to finish well in ministry. You’re not looking for a succession plan. Instead, you are wondering how best to “ramp up” in your last years. I can help you figure out how to leave your best legacy. 

I’m told often that the best way I help people is to cause them to ask bigger and better questions. Let me know if I can help you. 

Of course, I offer general coaching and consulting in church planting and church revitalization. Again, I don’t come with a script. I base my work around you. If my 35 plus years of leadership experience can help you, your church or organization, I would be honored. 

Send me an email to Ron.Edmondson@gmail.com to start the conversation. 

12 Bible Verses to Encourage Christian Leaders

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The Psalmist said, “I have hidden your word in my heart so I might not sin against you.” God’s Word can be a protection for our heart and soul. It can teach us, convict us, and challenge us.

The same is true for Christian leaders. The best leadership book is the Bible.

Here are 12 great Bible verses for Christian leaders:

Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

How much more successful would our organizations be if all of us approached each other in this way? Leaders, the culture of teams we lead will be greatly shaped by the example we set for them.

Philippians 2:3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.

I’m convinced humility might be the most attractive leadership quality there is these days.

Proverbs 4:23 Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

Leadership is ultimately a product of the heart we have for others and the vision we’ve been called to lead. The heart impacts passion, motivation and tenacity.

Exodus 18:21 You will need to appoint some competent leaders who respect God and are trustworthy and honest. Then put them over groups of 10, 50, 100, and 1,000.

Don’t try to do it all. Surround yourself with capable people of integrity – empower, delegate – and get out of their way and let them lead.

Psalm 78:72 With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.

I love the imagery of a shepherd as leader. My friend, Larry Osborne, wrote a great book about the subject.

Matthew 20:26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant.

Great leaders see it as their main ambition to help others achieve worthy goals they might not achieve on their own. “When you win, I win, and we all win!”

Philippians 2:4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

It can’t only be “my way”. Leaders must be open to listening to the desires of others and incorporating them into the overall goals and objectives of the organization.

Matthew 5:37 Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Genuine honesty and transparency in leadership is rare, but so, so valuable – and effective.

John 3:30 He must become greater; I must become less.

Biblical leaders recognize the ultimately glory belongs to God.

Galatians 6:9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

I have seen many leaders give up on something just before there would have been a turnaround – whether on a project, a passion or a person. Looking back on my leadership career I’ve done this many times.

Isaiah 41:10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

On days you are discouraged, overwhelmed, or feel everything is a loss – remember God is with you. He is walking beside you. Nothing is impossible with God.

1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Leadership is hard. Don’t attempt it alone.

Challenge:

Perhaps you should choose one or two of these – write them down somewhere you’ll see them often, and commit them to memory.

What other verses would you recommend to leaders?

7 Misunderstandings of the Leadership Vacuum

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Many times a leader can be clueless about the real health of the organization they lead.

The best leaders avoid what I call the leadership vacuum.

I once watched as a church crumbled apart while the pastor thought everything was wonderful. He always had an excuse for declining numbers and never welcomed input from others. Eventually the church asked him to leave. It was messy and could have been avoided, in my opinion.

Sadly, this could be the stories of hundreds of churches and organizations.

I call that the leadership vacuum. 

I have heard the term leadership vacuum used to describe the need for more leaders, but I believe the biggest void may be within leaders themselves.

The leader in a vacuum believes:

Everyone on the team understands me. It can be equally as dangerous if the leader believes they understand everyone on the team. Healthy team dynamics require a constant discovery of others, asking questions, exploring who people are and where they are currently in their thought processes.

Everyone on the team thinks like I think. The fact is, especially if it is a healthy team, everyone thinks differently. Remembering this and using it to the advantage of the team is a key to good leadership.

Everyone on the team likes me. Being the leader is not a guarantee of popularity. There is a level of respect which a position of leadership brings, but likability is based on the person – not the job title.

My team is completely healthy. We all like to think so, and we like to think we are healthy as leaders. The truth is health is often a relative term. Teams and leaders go through seasons of good and bad and a constant awareness of where we are at any given time is critical to maintain health long-term.

They couldn’t do it without me. Pride goes before the fall. Humility is not only an attractive character trait in leadership – it’s necessary for sustainability.

We don’t need any changes. Change is a part of life and a part of every organization. Where there is no change there will soon be decline – and gradual death. Good leaders are good change agents.

Nothing can stop us now. The very moment we think we’ve “made it” we are set up for failure.

When the leader is clueless to the real problems and needs in the organization, he or she is living in the leadership vacuum. The best leaders are aware of the vacuum trap and guard against it in their leadership.

3 Things to Know About The Future of Church Staffing

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(This is a guest post written by my friend Matt Lombardi. Matt has launched a new company called Shaar that I believe has great potential to help churches and ministers, by providing freelancers for every area of ministry. Check them out HERE.)

If you’re a pastor, I’m positive you’ve been bombarded with more articles and resources about reopening than you can read in the next 5 years. Your services are infinitely more complicated, but you’re still being pressured to maintain an online presence. And there are also millions of articles on that, if you’re interested.

If you feel like you are working double time, you are. You are effectively running two Churches.

We are all still in ministry for the same reasons: Spread the Good News. Make disciples. While the “Why” of the Church has not changed, the “How” certainly has. 

So how is the Church going to function in the future?

Here are 3 things to consider to help you put that into perspective. 

1. The future is online.

If you haven’t given much thought to how you stream your services, use social media or create content to be viewed online, you should probably start. These things are likely going to expand. This is an opportunity for the Church. 

People can engage with our Church from all over the world. They can interact with the Church on a daily basis. People can connect with the message of Christ in a variety of ways. 

You might find your employees online or find freelance work online. There may even be interviews online via video before people ever come into your Church. You might look up your candidate’s LinkedIn profile instead of their resume. 

2. The future is distributed. 

Distributed means that your team may not all work from the same place. Some or all of your team might be remote.

Distributed means that the Church receptionist may take calls for the Church while she’s home with her kids. Remote meetings might happen on a video conference instead of in person. Much of the work that people did sitting at a desk in the Church, they will do from their home office or the kitchen table or the park. 

Distributed means that the Church can fully function and fulfill its mission without meeting in person. That’s not to say the Church won’t meet in person. It means that someone who would not be able to attend your physical meetings could find your Church online and be fed without needing to step into the building. 

3. The future is project-based.

This may sound like a weird one.

Things like websites, graphics, social media posts, videos, podcasts and written content are being used to accomplish the mission of the Church. Preparation for a video is different than when you just show up to preach a sermon. There is an extra workflow that needs to happen to complete that project. 

While Churches will always need pastors and support leadership, they may not be able to afford someone on staff to deal with the project needs of the Church. That’s where the gig economy comes to the Church’s rescue with freelance solutions. When you have a project, you outsource it to get exactly what you need done by a professional in that field.

Recently our team at Shaar launched a huge study into the Future of Church Staffing. We’re looking at trends in how the church will “go to work” in the days ahead. Shaar is diving deeper into topics like remote work, how churches look to staff up in the digital space, and how churches prioritize tech-driven skill sets. By the way, we are randomly giving away Amazon gift cards to participants.

To participate in the study, follow THIS LINK.

The Fine Print of Ministry Leadership – What they CAN’T Teach in Seminary

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“The secret things belong to the Lord our God…” Deuteronomy 29:29

Make your plans.

Work your plans.

That’s good leadership.

I’m an advocate of strategic leadership. I don’t believe the church should run from leadership. We need it, just as does any other organization of people. God uses men and women to lead His people. You can see it throughout the Bible.

Without a vision, the people perish. (Proverbs 29:18)

In his heart a man plans his course. (Proverbs 16:9)

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost“? (Luke 14:28)

“Aaron and Moses were from this tribe. And they are the men the Lord spoke to and said, “Lead my people out of Israel in groups.” (Exodus 6:26)

With the best you know how to hear from God, make plans accordingly. God really does use the minds He created for His glory.

But make all the great plans you want and if you’re a leader you should know the “secret things belong to God“.

I’ve always loved the Deuteronomy verse because it comes at the end of God renewing His covenant with His people. He promises to be with them, bless them and carry them safely forward as they obey Him.

At the end of His encouragement, we find this verse. The secret things belong to God.

Isn’t that true in your life?

If this year has taught us anything as leaders it is that we can’t prepare for every thing that will happen in our leadership. Seminary (or graduate school) couldn’t adequately prepare us for this. Every day is a new opportunity for something unusual to happen.

I’m working my plans – the best I know how – and seemingly out of no where God allows a surprise to come my way. I didn’t see it coming.

I must adapt accordingly. It’s scary. Uncomfortable. It stretches me.

But, after the dust settles and I’m allowed to lift my head long enough, I see where He was always working. It has been in those secret moments where God has always seemed to do some if His best work in my life. I am reminded again that His strength is perfect in my weakness.

Christian leader, always be attentive to the still small voice and give God room to interrupt your plans. Always. Don’t be afraid of the fine print of the Christian life. Some of God’s best work for us is found there.

A Huge Reason We Can Expect Smaller Crowds Upon Church Reentry

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One reason we can expect smaller crowds upon church reentry is not the virus. That’s part of it for sure. It makes sense. Especially if you’re high-risk you should consider sheltering in place until it’s safe to return. 

But many parts of the country are opening. I’m seeing lots of traffic on the streets. Restaurants are buys again. I haven’t been to a mall or department store, but I hear they have traffic again. 

Many churches have opened for in-person services or are considering when that will be. Still, I would expect to open with a smaller percent of your average. And not because of the fear issue. 

There is one reason we can expect smaller crowds upon church reentry. 

It could even become the bigger reason. 

One reason: HABIT

People have gotten used to worshiping in their pajamas. They like “not” being “late” for church. It’s been easy to “get the kids ready”. Bad hair days are not a problem. You can “worship” from anywhere. I’ve seen the trend in meetings where people could have been in person, yet chose to “zoom” in for convenience. I get it. 

There will be a natural inclination among some to worship from home.

I’m not suggesting we ignore attempts to gather people together again. I am of the mindset that in-person church is Biblical. I don’t think the size of the gathering is mandated, but corporate worship, study and fellowship is a part of discipleship. As well as in-person caring and serving others. 

But I think church leaders will need to begin to recognize this is a part of “new normal”. Prior to this pandemic, some church leaders had been discussing how to engage disengaged people. We need to continue those conversations and take them to a whole new level to our online communities. 

We are discussing this as a church. I don’t have all the answers yet – if you do please share them.

But some questions I’m processing in my mind and with others:

What have we been called to do as a church? (I know that may seem an obvious question, but seasons like this should cause us to ask vision-directive questions perhaps even more than procedural type questions. The answers to the vision questions should drive the procedural questions.) 

Does one large corporate worship service have to occur every Sunday? If not, could two (or more) churches share a building and only try to have one or two larger events per month? 

What are we offering of “value” to people they cannot get online? In fairness, I think for a time there will be a greater appreciation among some for genuine human interaction.

How can we offer “value” online? How do we continue to create something for people to engage online who may not feel comfortable returning to church – or may choose to even more irregularly than before? 

Most of us believe that only attending a worship service is not enough to disciples someone. So, we offer small group Bible studies and serving/mission opportunities. How do we encourage that to people who mainly remain a part of online church? 

What do people need? What do they want? How do we deliver it? 

What’s the best use of my time and our staff/volunteers time? Are we adequately allocated for efficiency, effectiveness, and longevity in this changing landscape? 

I’m open to your input – learning as you are. 

Crisis Leadership: 5 Things To Do AFTER the Crisis

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I have been writing about the times of crisis, especially from the viewpoint of leadership. I’ve written these posts previously, but like most crises, none of us saw this current one coming. I pray God brings each of us through this time quickly.

You’ll want to read the first two posts HERE and HERE. They deal with things to do and things not to do when leading in a crisis.

It’s equally important to know what to do AFTER the time of crisis has passed. Many of us miss these important steps.

Here are 5 things to do AFTER a time of crisis:

Rejoice. Be thankful the crisis is over and a time of peace has come. I have many times prayed fervently during the hard times, but forsaken my “God-time” when everything is going well. Don’t follow my example in this. Let’s remain as desperate for God as we’ve been the last few months.

Share. The Bible is clear we are to allow struggles to help others in theirs. I love how this seems to have brought churches together. Pastors are learning from each other again. That’s a good thing.

Prepare. If you have lived long enough you know that seasons of crisis come many times in life. During the quiet times — when all is going reasonably well — is when we should be preparing for harder times.

Rest. To borrow from the Cheers theme song, “Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.” Many people never enjoy the peaceful times because they are too paranoid about the next crisis that may or may not even occur. We should prepare for times of trouble, but we should never live in a state of worry. Worry is a sin. And it’s never helpful. After a crisis, and even with mini-breaks in between, rest. Recover. Rejuvenate.

Grow. I have grown spiritually more during the hard times than in the easy times of my life. Crisis-mode teaches us valuable insight into the character and heart of God. Use the down times to evaluate your relationship with God, your life, and see how the two connect. Work on the places you are out of sync with God’s will for your life. Work on your skills as a leader. Become a better person. Some of the strongest character is developed only through times of crisis. Evaluate post-crisis.

It would be nice if you never needed these posts. But crisis leadership is a part of leading. It’s what we do.

Crisis Leadership: 5 Things TO DO

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In my last post, I shared 5 things not to do in times of crisis. I am writing this with the leader in mind, but I suspect they may be life applicable regardless of the crisis.

As stated, I began with the negative, because in my experience that’s where most people begin when crisis occurs. (Read: 5 Things NOT To Do In Times of Crisis) We often tend to run in the opposite direction from where we should run. Some of the worst decisions I have observed people make (including me) are during the crisis-mode times of life.

Obviously knowing what to do in these times is equally important. How you respond and what you do will greatly determine future realities after the crisis has subsided.

Here are 5 things TO DO in times of crisis:

Stay. I love Seth Godin’s book “The Dip” where he explains how important it is to know when to quit and that time may come. At the beginning of the crisis is not the time. Until you have been able to evaluate the crisis from every angle and you clearly know there is no way out, stay the course. Godin’s book also talks about how those who succeed learn to push through the hard times. Stay in it long enough to know which time it is for you. I share this from very hard personal experience. We sold a business — walking away simply to start over — and looking back we may have recovered had we suffered through it a little longer.

Stand. Stick to your moral convictions and the vision you have for your life. Don’t allow the crisis to keep you from doing the right things, even if those choices seem to be the quickest solutions. Stand with the moral and personal convictions you had before the crisis began. You’ll be glad you did when the crisis is no longer a crisis.

Glean. Learn from others who have gone through similar crises. Someone else’s past situation may not be identical to yours, but the emotional and decision-making process they went through probably will be. Most people after a crisis can tell you things they wish they had done differently. And, most leaders who have led for any significant period of time have either endured through a crisis or, even if they failed miserably, learned valuable lessons they would do for the next crisis.

Examine. I said in my last post not to do this immediately. We tend as leaders to quickly want to blame someone — mostly ourselves. This is never a helpful process initially, but at some point you’ll need to ascertain how you got in the crisis in the first place. If it was a matter of bad decisions, how can you keep from making those same mistakes again? If you keep finding yourself in the same crisis, shouldn’t that tell you something? Sometimes the answer will simply be because we live in a messed-up world or things were out of our control. Don’t be afraid of that answer, but don’t default to it either. We all make mistakes and we have to own them.

Learn. Allow every crisis to teach you something about God, yourself and others. If you have this ambition and mindset you will be surprised how different your approach to suffering through it and dealing with it emotionally will be. God is always willing to use the hard times to teach us important principles about life, ourselves, and ultimately about Him.

I’ve got one more list to come about the times of crisis. And, It’s the one all of us in crisis want to get to eventually. Next post I will share 5 things to do after a crisis.