Leading Turnaround Churches (Part 1)

Over the next few posts, I want to hit broadly the idea of leading turnaround churches, or ‘Comeback Churches‘ as Ed Stetzer put it in his excellent book on this subject.  From statistics I have seen, the American church is on a path that is not good.  Each year in American, between 3500-4000 churches will close their doors.  Half of the churches currently established will not report a single conversion in a year’s time. I am very passionate about planting churches and still feel it is the best means of evangelism, but we have thousands and thousands of churches already established.

What if these churches caught fire and started reaching their communities again?  What if the churches already established rivaled church plants for their innovation and creativity in reaching segments of people no one is reaching? Imagine what could happen!

With that idea in mind, let’s dive in to this idea of ‘Leading Turnaround Churches’.  To take a church from a path of death, to one of vibrant life the leadership must first identify what the end goal is for that specific church. What is that church’s win?  Yes, that is of course reaching the lost, but what does that mean for this specific church?

For one of our church plants, Element Church, this means providing a church experience with an edge in a rock concert venue to reach young adults and serve a hurting community.  What does it mean for your church?  Here are a few probing questions the lead pastor and key leaders can process to help discover what this end goal might be:

  • What is the burden & vision God has given the lead pastor for this community?  How do the leaders connect with this?
  • Why has God placed this church at this place at this time in history?
  • What unique doors for ministry has God opened that can be leveraged to reach more people for Christ?
  • Are there things the church is doing that would be missed by the community if the church wasn’t there?

To take this one step further, once the leadership identifies what the end goal is to be for this specific church, it needs to be written and communicated in a memorable way. Andy Stanley is one of the best at this idea of creating a memorable vision.  He says, “…if your vision is going to stick in people’s minds, it must be memorable.” (Making Vision Stick, 19)

To make it memorable, write the end goal, or vision out in a short, easy to remember sentence.  This may start as a paragraph, but people will not remember a paragraph.  This sentence does not need to be all-inclusive, but should grasp the spirit of what that end goal is.  Another one of our church plants, BridgePoint Church, states their purpose for existence this way: “Connecting Real People to a Real God.” It’s simple, memorable and easy to repeat.

So the first step to leading a turnaround church is identify the reason this specific church is in existence.  What is the end goal?

Don’t Set Goals This Year

Yeah that’s right – don’t set goals this year. I know setting goals is the proper thing to do this time of the year, but we were created to do more then just accomplish goals.  When we are striving for a goal, oftentimes we are working out of obligation to that goal.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could work out of passion and not obligation?

I recently listened to this podcast by Andy Stanley and he made a valuable point. Rather then setting goals it is more productive to identify problems. Once you’ve discovered the problems you feel compelled to solve, then identify the solutions and work toward those. With this approach, you will see more passion in the process of solving problems as opposed to simply accomplishing goals.

What problems do you feel compelled to solve this year?

Catalyst Recap

There’s no way to explain what the Catalyst Conference is like in one short post, but I’ll just say it is two days of non-stop creativity, incredible worship and hearing from some of the top leaders in our nation.  With that said, here are some of my favorite quotes of the conference:

  • Andy Stanley, “The power of moral authority is alignment between what you say and do.”
  • William Paul Young, “God is in the midst of our ‘shack’ and He wants to heal us – not because He wants to use us, but because He loves us.”
  • Jim Collins, “Greatness is not a function of the cards we’re dealt.  It is first and foremost a result of our conscious decisions and discipline.”
  • Steven Furtick, “God’s preparing you for what He’s preparing for you.”
  • Seth Godin, “I want to challenge you all to be heretics.  Heretics challenge religion and promote faith.”
    • Props to Seth Godin for giving away a copy of his yet-to-be-released book, Tribes, to everyone at Catalyst – this had to have been a huge expense for him.
  • Craig Groeschel, “When you don’t have It you have to do something drastic to get It back. ”
    • “We need God to stretch us, but before He can stretch us He needs to heal us…And before He can heal us, He has to ruin us.”
  • Tim Sanders, “If not you, then who?  If not now, then when?”
  • Dave Ramsey, “A successful leader develops and maintains a culture in which negatives are handed up and positives are handed down and laterally.”
  • Franklin Graham, “It’s not your gospel, it’s God’s gospel.  It’s not your invitation, it’s God’s invitation.”
  • Matt Chandler, “If you contextualize too far…you’re just a rotary club.”
  • Andy Stanley, “Become preoccupied with thos you haven’t reached as opposed to those you are trying to keep.”

If you’ve never gone to Catalyst, I would highly recommend it!  So much wisdom, creativity and opportunity to meet some great, young leaders!!

Exponential: Andy Stanley – Plenary Session 2, “Apostolic Vision”

Making Vision Stick

* “Vision is a mental picture of what could be, fueled by passion that this should be.”

* Vision always begins as a burden.

* 5 Things That Help Make Vision Stick

1. State It Simply

§ Memorable is portable.

§ If you’re going to have vision that sticks it has to be portable and memorable.

§ People in our church aren’t asking stupid questions, they’re just telling us that we’re doing a poor job communicating our vision.

§ What is the vision of your church?

§ If you’re vision is going to stick, it has to be really, really, really portable & memorable.

§ What’s the one sentence job description for everyone in your organization?

2. Cast It Convincingly

§ Components of Good Vision (Nehemiah 2)

1. Define the problem.

2. Offer a solution.

3. Explain Why & Why now?

§ Your vision needs to be the solution to a problem.

1. What must be done in the environment you find yourself in?

2. What would go undone if your organization ceased to exist?

3. Smart businesses have crafted themselves as a solution to a problem.

§ Explain Why & Why Now?

1. What makes this the time to do something new in that community?

2. The ‘Why’ & the ‘Why Now?’ is where the passion comes in.

3. Repeat It Regularly

§ Look at the rhythm/cycles of your organization.

1. Spend the time when the most people are there to vision cast.

2. Discover those moments that are most important to cast vision and build it into your regular systems.

§ Vision doesn’t stick, vision leaks.

4. Celebrate It Systematically

§ When you catch somebody living out the vision the way you anticipated, you need to celebrate them – Celebrate the Win.

§ Stories do more to clarify & illustrate vision than anything else.

§ Are you missing opportunities to showcase the wins in your church?

5. Embrace It Personally & Publicly

§ Anytime you can illustrate personally your vision, you need to do it because your people need to see that you are embracing the vision personally.

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