I’m in the American Airlines Admirals Club lounge waiting for my plane after a two day trip to Frisco, Texas to work with Pastor Mike Spitters on launching a restart. What a trip! This church has modeled well what it takes to build a strong foundation for a restart, and I want to share what they did with you just in case you and your congregation are considering a restart. (Did I mention they went from ground zero to a full launch strategy in one day?)
The first thing the congregation did right was calling a pastor they had confidence in. A successful church transformation always starts with a new pastor. Sometimes, as in this case, the new pastor comes from outside. In other cases, though, the new pastor may be an existing pastor who experienced a “transfiguration” moment and was transformed from an average pastor to a leader committed to do whatever it takes to lead the congregation into a faithful, effective, and sustainable future.
The first thing the pastor did right was to quickly build alliances and then get the old constitution and bylaws suspended (actually, in their case, the middle judicatory helped out by providing an attorney who wrote a generic 501c-3-worthy constitution and bylaws that have replaced the old ones). In addition, the congregation agreed to dissolve their board, giving up all their positions, and replace it with a trusted and flexible team who has the authority to do virtually anything except close or encumber the church.
The second thing the pastor did right was to read and digest our book Effective Staffing for Vital Churches before I arrived. After that read, he was ready to tackle almost everything… and he had a good idea of what was going to have to happen and the extent of the changes that would be recommended during my visit. The only way the above can happen is if (1) the church calls a pastor they either trust or are willing to trust; and (2) the church leaders are willing to surrender their power and positions and then empower a small team – in this case a team of two – to be the representative leaders for the larger congregation. Although with Christ all things are possible, a successful church restart is only possible with trust … not just buckets of trust, but trust that’s willing to go “all in.”
Before I arrived onsite, the pastor and the team answered a small host of questions and the pastor completed a priority inventory. Armed with some basic information, I spent one day touring the facilities and the community and interviewing the pastor and his team. By the time we’d finished, I had a handle on their hopes, dreams, aspirations, proclivities, strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. With that, we were ready for a one-day intensive restart bootcamp. I won’t go through all the nuts and bolts or the blood, sweat, and tears we experienced, but at the end of the day, here is what had been accomplished:
- The first step was discerning a workable and faithful mission statement. The one initially created was a good one, but by the end of the day it was tweaked to match the rest of the work we’d done. (I’ll share it later in this post.)
- Next up was developing core values. This was a drawn-out process that included a lot of ping-pong conversation and challenging long-held, deep-seated convictions of “should.” In the end the list included:
- Although discerning vision seems like the next step, creating a measurable vision without knowing the church’s target results in a generic and ineffective vision – regardless of the verbiage. So the next step was designating a target. (Note, a target doesn’t exclude anyone – rather, it provides the foundation for developing ministries, programs, and marketing. Targeting provides the best stewardship for resource allocation.) In the end, the target was chosen based on demographics, passion, and the pastor’s on site, in the community experience. The general target is young families, but the specific target of the church looks like this:
- 30-something man (we ended up dubbing him “Brad” based on a conversation the pastor had had recently with someone in the community who matched the chosen target)
- Married with a family of young children
- Well educated
- Stressed about finances, health, family, and balancing life and career
- Values leisure
- Is “time poor”
- Wants an integrated faith
- Has limited church experience
- Next was the choice of the specific target geography. We didn’t draw specific boundaries, but chose a quadrant based on projected demographics, the target audience, and the current location of the existing facilities (it happens to be a highly visible and easily accessible site).
- Finally, it was time for the vision. The measurable vision became: “By 2019, __________ Church will worship with 1000 men, women, and children; baptize 100 adults into the faith each year; send 500 to reach and serve their neighbors; and involve 500 in life-changing small groups.” Exciting? Not terribly, but measurable and worthy of a faithful church that is committed to both effectiveness and sustainability.
- There’s a second part of the vision – the inspiring part. I call it the “vision heart.” The vision heart must accomplish two things. First, it must communicate what the church is all about. Second, it must inspire those who encounter it. Again, a lot of ping-ponging went into this step. We needed something that not only inspired the church, but that inspired those outside of the church, and specifically “Brad.” We settled for something about a journey to the next level, but at this point it was sort of up in the air as to how the church could best leverage it.
- During the vision heart discussion, we used a thesaurus to find synonyms for “journey” and “pathway” and related words. Reading from a list of them, the word “expedition” was uttered. Eureka! The Spirit seemed to have dropped an early Christmas gift on us. Everything we’d been doing came together and the pastor’s eyes lit up like Roman candles. We now knew the church’s new name: Expedition Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), but it would be known simply as Expedition Church or The Expedition Church. With that in hand, the mission and the vision heart were tweaked.
- The mission of Expedition Church is to invite others to join us on the journey of discipleship with Jesus Christ.
- Vision heart: On an expedition to the next level.
NOTE: Every part of the above is basically a rough draft. The final versions will probably look somewhat (or a lot) different, but I added the details and the drafts so you get an idea of the process.
Following all that, we developed a launch timeline with benchmarks that included (1) Pre-launch benchmarks and strategies for gathering a crowd of excited leaders and participants; (2) Preview worship service benchmarks and strategies; (3) Dress rehearsal worship service benchmarks and strategies; (4) GO! (Grand Opening) benchmarks and strategies. The strategies included a discipleship flowchart that provides a transparent path from pre-visitor to committed Christian as well as discussing the needed teams and processes necessary for a successful launch.
During our time together, we also created a basic site development plan that included expanding the current parking lot, some serious interior remodeling to create space that would accommodate 250-300 in a single worship service, plus space for a quality children’s worship and nursery space.
All that in essentially a one-day church restart blitz. I’ll be Mike’s coach for the next year or more as they work on planning and logistics. It’s an expedition I’m excited to be on.
If your church is ready for either a Restart or Re-Visioning Boot Camp, I can get you information and a proposal (please visit Proposal). Remember – this was an exceptional visit, but it’s not unique.
Question: What would you include in a one-day church restart boot camp? What would your top three priorities be? What would be the three least important things to discuss? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.