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.

The People Doing the Work – A Leadership Principle

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I have a number of pet peeves in leadership. Leadership is hard. But there are some principles in leadership, which simply need to be adhered to for good leadership.

Let me share a story as an illustration of one of my pet peeves.

Years ago, I had a boss tell me who to place on my team. He told me how to conduct sales meetings with my department. Then he told me what each person’s assignments would be. Finally, he told me how to conduct the meeting – going as far as to write out my agenda.

He wasn’t going to be at the meeting. In fact, he didn’t actually know the people on my team. He was holding me accountable for results in sales, yet he continually gave me a script for how to do my job. I had to turn in reports, which indicated I had followed his agenda.

I hated it. It made me feel so controlled. My team, with whom I was very open and honest, were frustrated. And I can say this now, but when I could, I secretly altered things to script my own way. Maybe it was rebellion – okay, it was rebellion, but I never thought he was practicing good leadership. And I experienced direct results in employee morale. (I eventually quit.)

Here’s the principle, which developed from this experience.

If you aren’t going to be doing the work, don’t script how it’s done.

As a leader, you can share what you want accomplished. That’s vision-casting.

You can set reasonable boundaries. This actually helps fuel creativity.

You can share your thoughts and ideas. It’s helpful. You probably have good ones.

You can monitor progress. This is your responsibility.

You should hold people accountable for progress. It ensures completion.

But the people who are actually doing the work

The ones carrying out the plans – Getting their hands dirty –

Should determine how the actual work gets completed.

8 Things That Kill Motivation and Momentum

By | Church Revitalization, Leadership, Organizational Leadership | 2 Comments

I have found that regardless of how motivated I am, if the people around me are unmotivated, we aren’t going to be very successful as a team.

This is why it is important a leader learns to recognize when a team is decreasing in motivation.

And here’s the greater reason.

Motivation is often a catalyst for momentum.

When a team loses motivation, momentum is certain to suffer loss. It’s far easier to motivate a team, in my opinion, than it is to build momentum in an organization.

So, as leaders, we must learn what destroys motivation.

Here are 8 killers of motivation and, ultimately, momentum:

Routine – When people have to do the same activity repeatedly for too long they eventually lose interest in it. This is especially true in a day where rapid change is all around them. Allowing people to change how they do the work needs to be a built-in part of the organization.

Fear – When people are afraid, they stop taking risks. They fail to give their best effort and stop trying. Fear keeps a team from moving forward. Leaders can remove fear by welcoming mistakes, lessening control and celebrating each step.

Success – A huge win or a period of success can lead to complacency. When the team feels they’ve “arrived” they may no longer feel the pressure to keep learning. When leaders begin to recognize this they should provide new opportunities and introduce greater challenges or risks.

Lack of direction – People need to know what a win looks like – according to the leader. When people are left to wonder, they lose motivation, do nothing or make up their own answers. As leaders, we should continually pause to make sure our team understands what they are being asked to do.

Failure – Some people can’t get past a failure. As leaders, we sometimes fail to accept failure as a part of building success. Failure should be used to build motivation. As a person strives to recover, lessons are learned, which can help the team.

Apathy – A team that loses their passion for the vision will experience a decline in motivation. That’s why leaders must consistently cast vision. Leader, you should be a cheerleader; encouraging others with a high level of enthusiasm for the vision.

Burnout – When a team or team member has no opportunity to rest, they can’t maintain motivation. Good leaders learn when to push to excel and when to push to relax. Everyone needs to pause occasionally to re-energize.

Feeling under-valued – When someone feels their contribution to the organization isn’t viewed as important, they lose the motivation to continually produce. Leaders must learn to be encouraging and appreciative of the people they lead.

If you see any of these at work in your organization, address them now!

The problem with all of these is that we often don’t recognize them when they are killing motivation. In fact, we fail to see them until momentum has begun to suffer. Many times this makes it hard or, at times, too late to fully recover.

7 Suggestions for 50+ Year-Old Leaders to Find a Second Wind

By | Church, Church Revitalization, Leadership, Life Plan | 9 Comments

Here’s a reality I came to a year of so ago. We have placed so much energy investing in the next generation of leaders that we’ve left a ton of leaders my age wondering how to remain relevant and useful. 

Several experiences led to this discovery. Here’s one example. 

Personal.

I am 56 years old and hope to work at least another 15 years. And I said “at least”. If I’m going strong I hope to go even longer. 

A chance encounter.

I was at a conference representing Leadership Network. We were doing good stuff working with the next generation of leaders. We had just announced a new initiative with a super-sharp millennial group. I believed in it and was excited about it.

After a session, I was stopped by a pastor about my age. He posed a serious question. He commented on the new millennial group and then asked, “What about me? I’m 55. Who’s going to help me figure out the next phase of my life? I’m not ready to talk about transition. Do I need to get some skinny jeans or what?” 

Wow! His question stung a little. He was only semi-joking.

It stung in two ways. First, because we are the same age. Second, he was right. Most of our energy as an organization – and really Kingdom-wide – was/is on the next generation of leaders. Again, I believe in it, but many pastors and leaders our age and older still have an incredible amount to offer. 

We could expect them to be mentors now – simply give back – and while they certainly should all of us need people pouring into us – at every age. (And, likewise, we all need to be pouring into others.)

So, I told him to get some skinny jeans. Just kidding. Please don’t.

But that conversation started a new ministry in my mind. I began calling it “Second Wind Ministry“. I actually own a domain by that name.

I’ve helped lots of churches find their “second wind” through church revitalization. Could I actually help some leaders do the same? 

Here’s the deal. Many people my age – and older – aren’t looking at transition yet. They aren’t thinking succession yet. We probably should be, but we are thinking more about how to finish strong.  

Like my pastor friend, I want to ramp up not slow down.

I was sharing these thoughts with a 70 year-old man in ministry and he said, “Heck, I’m 70 and I think I feel I’m just getting started.” That’s who I want to be in 14 more years. 

I’m still getting started with this second wind ministry idea, but let me share some initial thoughts. 

Here are 7 suggestions for finding your second wind: 

Admit the need.

You’re not as “relevant” as you used to be. That’s okay. In actuality, you’re likely relevant in some ways you can’t even imagine. You have things to offer the world you didn’t have 20 years ago. Don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know.

Know who you are.

Don’t try to be anyone other than you. This is a season where you have tested a few things. You’ve had failure and success. What were you good at doing? Where did you stink? Hone your best skills. You were uniquely designed for a definite purpose. You’ve likely taught that principle to others. Discover and live it for yourself.

Keep learning new things.

Always be teachable and always be learning. Even more than ever before, if you’re not reinventing yourself every few years you’re behind. Commit to learn something new. 

Personally, I hope to be a life-long learner. I have two masters degrees and am hoping to finally finish my doctoral dissertation in the next year. Then I want to learn to speak another language. Stretch your mind. 

Become a people-builder.

You have something to give back. Invest what you’ve learned in others. Celebrate other people’s success. The fact is the more you share what you know with others the more valuable you become to all of us. It truly is your “best life”. 

Plan your legacy.

How will you be remembered? More importantly, how do you want to remembered? How close are those answers to each other? If they’re not close enough what changes do you need to make now to bring them closer?

My father made some mistakes in life. He spent the last couple of years of his life intentionally trying to make right all his close relationships. That tremendously improved his legacy in my mind. 

Take some new risks.

I said earlier we all need mentors. One of mine is 82 years old. He is still going strong. When he was 80 he was talking about a new business he wanted to start. He’s still “working on it” today. He sat with me recently and asked what we could do radically different to impact the Kingdom. That’s who I want to be when I grow up someday. 

Leave when it’s time.

This is the hardest one to write, but sometimes we stay too long. I can’t tell you how many stories I know of pastors and leaders who think they should have left a few years earlier. 

By the way, that doesn’t mean they should do nothing. It could mean they do something their whole life has prepared them to do. They couldn’t have done it without the years of experience – success and failures – that have shaped them into who they are today. 

Second wind ministry.

I know there’s a need. If my coaching/consulting can help you think through finding your second wind – at your church or personally – please let me know. 

A Secret Learned in Church Revitalization – (This is HUGE)

By | Church, Church Revitalization, Leadership | 2 Comments

Some of the most vocal opponents to changes we made in church revitalization were simply rule-followers. That’s huge insight. Don’t miss this. 

These people liked to know we were obeying the written and approved structure of the church. When we didn’t follow them exactly they objected. Sometimes loudly. Often in ALL CAPS.

Let me give you one example. (I’m changing a couple of minor details just to protect identities, but the story is true and principles the same.)

I once wanted to hire a staff member. Personally, I believe the senior pastor should be able to build a team. I realize rules don’t always accommodate that, but this was a church in need of serious revitalization. The only way I could see forward was to have some new faces on the team.

The “rules” of the church (some of them unwritten) said I had to form a committee, begin a search process, take the final candidate to the personnel committee, then deacons, then set up interviews with the church, and then get a church vote. (I’m exhausted just typing all that – and we’ve likely lost a good candidate at this point.) 

This job required unique skills. I knew from experience it would not be an easy position to fill and time was of the essence. Plus, I had someone very qualified I was ready to hire. 

I convinced leadership to move forward and we hired the person. 

And that is when we discovered the objectors. Granted, it was from a few people, but they were very vocal. The most frequent complaint was the ole familiar, “We’ve never done things like that before.” They didn’t think we were following the written (or sometimes unwritten) rules. 

That’s when I discovered the secret. 

Here’s the story to explain how: 

I had one guy who carried the policy manual for hiring procedures in his suit coat pocket on Sunday mornings. (It was thick, so it was hard to hide.) One day, after several tense encounters about the hire we had made, I had a revelation. He kept mentioning those policies. So, I asked him, “George (not his real name), are you upset because of who we hired or because of the way we hired him?” 

He then told me he was upset because we hadn’t followed the rules. I then asked him, “George, so if we changed the rules to the way we just did this hire and then hired someone else you’d be okay?” He said, “Yes, because that would be the rules.” 

Then it hit me. This is the HUGE secret. 

Many times the objectors to change aren’t objecting to the change. They are simply objecting to the fact that you aren’t following the rules.

Often if you change the rules and – and follow them – they’ll support you.

Maybe you don’t need to complain about the rules you have – or try to go around them – perhaps you simply need to write better rules. 

And when you do – people may better support the change. 

Granted, this won’t be the case every time, but since this occasion I’ve found it to be so a number of times. It’s certainly worth considering.

A Huge Reason We Can Expect Smaller Crowds Upon Church Reentry

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership | 3 Comments

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. 

5 Common Derailments in Church Revitalization

By | Church, Church Revitalization, Leadership | 2 Comments

I’ve been working in and around church revitalization for close to 20 years. The first church where I served as pastor, after entering vocational ministry, was a small, rural church that needed revitalization. I’m currently serving as an interim in another church needing some revitalization. 

I have noticed a few things that seem to get in the way of a church making the turn. When these are present it becomes very difficult, in my opinion, for the church to ever recover and grow again.

Five common derailments in church revitalization:

Arrogance of the pastor.

I share this in love and respect for pastors, and believe it is sometimes done in enthusiasm more than in contempt, but when a pastor assumes nothing good has ever been done in the church, people rebel. It’s like pushing people into a corner to defend themselves. Most likely the church has tried things before. Certainly there have been good seasons in the past or the church wouldn’t still be open. Some of the people the pastor is attempting to lead have likely been leading for years. The more a pastor listens and learns, the more open people are to follow their leadership. 

Power struggles and tired structures.

When the governance or structure gets in the way of moving the church forward it needs to be considered to help the church grow again. Changes needed in church revitalization often expose needless bureaucracy and power brokers. This often means shifting power away from some and giving power to others. This is not necessarily the pastor – or even the staff – but it does mean empowering others to lead. 

Ignoring the past.

This includes the good and the bad. Some needs to be re-energized and some needs to be repented from, but until the past is acknowledged and either honored or dealt with appropriately momentum may never occur. 

Making changes without changing the way changes are made.

This is when the church makes changes, often good and needed changes, but the structure of how decisions like this are made remain the same. If you have to battle the system or structure every time you make a change there will be very little long-term success. Do the hard work to write better rules and the church will be able to make needed changes in a timely and efficient manner – with less conflict. 

Attempting too much too soon.

Change fatigue, the exhaustion that comes from excessive change, is one of the most common derailments of revitalization. People can only accept so much change at a time. Granted, you can also move too slowly, but as a rule we need to change a few things at a time, celebrate, then change some more. There’s a healthy rhythm to effective change management. 

Those are few that I’ve observed. I’d love to hear from you if you have seen others. 

7 Things I Know About (Almost) Every Pastor Right Now

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In my desire to care for pastors, I’ve observed a few things about pastors during this pandemic. In fact, I can predict some things about you right now, pastor. Or at least most of you. 

Five things I know about (almost) every pastor right now:

Pastors are overloaded with information. There are more articles, blog posts, webinars, podcasts, surveys and forwarded emails and Facebook posts than ever. It is simply impossible to keep up with all of them. Most pastors are on information overload. 

(Frankly, I reduced the number of my blog posts because I don’t always know what to say.  I’m sharing from my experience when I have something to share. We are “building this plane as we fly it“. )

Pastors are hearing differing opinions. They range from we should have never closed our buildings to we should keep our buildings closed until Jesus returns. We must require people to wear masks and masks are going to make us sicker. We shouldn’t sing and we have to sing or it isn’t “church”. Lots of varying opinions and everyone is an expert or read just the right article from one.

Pastors are stretched beyond capacity. One consistent thing I hear from pastors is that they are tired. They are producing far more content than they usually do. The needs of the people we love haven’t decreased. They’ve increased. The burden we feel to care for people is greater now than ever in my ministry.

Pastors are trying to make good decisions. I can’t imagine any pastor intentionally making bad decisions or ones that hurt the church. We’ve never done most of what we are doing these days. Everything is opinion-based. Pastors are “experimenting”. At times, it will be proven a good decision and other times not. 

Pastors are in a unique setting. Each church is different. Every pastor is uniquely wired by God. Churches have different buildings, different people, and different local governing suggestions/requirements. Therefore, it will be difficult for any church to adopt one cookie-cutter approach. 

How much did I get right about you, pastor? 

Listen, I’m here with you. Currently serving in a lead pastor (intentional interim) position, I am overloaded with information, hearing lots of differing opinions, stretched, trying to make wise decisions, and in a very unique setting. We are in this together – even if we are facing different individual issues. 

I do have a few suggestions. (And they are simply opinions too.)

Surround yourself with wise people. Now is not the time to isolate yourself. You may need voices outside your church, but hopefully there are some wise people in your church as well. It might be that you need to glean from people who are not necessarily in a leadership position in your church.

Stay local in your sources as much as possible. While I love hearing from those who are trying to help us with national ministries – and I am listening to them some, our best answers are likely going to come from people closest to our setting. Other pastors in our area and local and state leaders will better understand our unique contexts. 

Don’t be afraid to lead. You will make mistakes, but you might discover the next great you or the next great thing for your church. People are going to have opinions – like they always have. Be open to input from others, seek wise counsel, pray continually, but lead the best you can. Churches need real leadership these days. 

Take care of yourself. You must protect yourself. Put your own mask on (and I’m talking metaphorically not literally) before attempting to help others. Exercise. Rest in between the sprints. Care for your family. (You may want/need to wear a physical mask. I’ll leave that decision to you.)

One thing I’m sure about. We need pastors at their best during times of crisis. And before and after they occur.

(If it helps, I did write 5 Voices Pastors Need to be Listening to Now.) 

Crisis Leadership: 5 Things To Do AFTER the Crisis

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

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.