At least once a week a pastor contacts me about church revitalization. I always tell them I’m still learning, but we have seen God do some pretty amazing things in our church. Through this blog I’m trying to share some of the things I’m learning.
The primary question I receive is where I spend my time. What am I doing to lead the church to grow again?
And, I understand the question. It’s the question I’m asking other church leaders also.
One of the things I’ve learned is that there are some things I have to micromanage.
It’s important to know I’m not a micro-management leader. It goes against everything I stand for in leadership and even how I’m wired personally. I have written extensively about the need for delegation in leadership. I’m not good with details. I have a problem focusing minutely, So, I really do control very little that happens on our team. Plus, I love the team process. I don’t like the word “I” as much as the word “we”. (Even though I’ll use “I” more than “we in this post.)
In church revitalization I’ve micromanaged a few things a bit closer than I normally would. We are leading a church to survive it’s second hundred years. That’s not easy. It’s not easy work and it’s not easy for a church to continue to thrive that long. And, I knew that — not as well as I do now — before I entered this pastoral position.
I began with a keen sense that some things were vital to our success long-term. I view it as one of my roles to see the bigger picture and make sure all of us are going in the same direction. Therefore, I have micromanaged some things. I’ve not necessarily made the decisions, but I’ve made sure I had a strong voice in the process. (Actually, some of these were just as true in my years of church planting.)
Here are 5 things I’ve micromanaged in church revitalization:
Who we add to our team. Even people I don’t directly supervise. Now, I haven’t always made the final call — I don’t do all the interviewing — but I’ve been part of recruiting, part of discerning and part of the decision process. We are shaping a culture. It’s one of change and adaptability. It’s one where everyone takes ownership. It’s one where people enjoy their work and pull together as a team. That requires a certain “fit” and staff culture. Who we add to the team from this point forward says a lot about who we will be as a staff and how well we will work together. I want to make sure everyone we add is on that same page.
How we cast vision. We knew that having a common voice as a staff was vitally important — especially in the earlier days of change — but really always. We purposely developed some common language that would serve as rallying points for the church. We had a few key areas of focus. We said the same things repeatedly. I didn’t come up with those exclusively — we developed them as a team — but I led the charge and micromanaged to keep us on that track until it began to stick as our common vision.
Where we place our greatest energies. Many times in revitalization efforts we can get distracted chasing after too many ideas. We are trying to grow again and often churches (and other organizations) will frantically move from one bad idea to another trying to find one that works. We needed some common goals and ideas and a limited focus. Again, this was especially true in the early days until we could gain trust with the people and gain buy-in for larger changes. I knew one of my roles would be to say no to some new initiatives and to slow the pace of change in some areas, while fueling that pace in other areas.
Organizational structure. As an established church, we had over 100 years of structure. Bureaucracy and process we know well. We had rules for everything. Over time, the church doesn’t stop to analyze what’s working and what isn’t. Typically we just add new layers of structure. Some of our structure, quite frankly, had become extremely burdensome and stood in the way of making progress. Some things we had on paper as “rules” we didn’t even follow. (I don’t like that either.) And, some rules we follow were simply archaic. They didn’t work or weren’t necessary. They slowed us down filling out paperwork no one was even going to read. We had duplicated processes and systems. I knew in the early days I would be a fresh set of eyes on our structure and would need to micromanage quickly before I “settled in” and became just another participant in the established process. (After we do something long enough it becomes habit and we can’t even see that it needs to be changed.)
New expenditures. As with most churches in need of revitalization, our finances had been struggling for several years. Thankfully we had good people in charges of our finances and they had held the church together through very difficult times. But, I knew to be successful long-term we had to be in the best financial condition possible. And, I knew that as the senior staff leader I had to be the primary voice for this on a day-to-day basis. Even though changes were needed (and are needed) that can be expensive, we have been extremely careful to make sure our basic financial condition is stabilized first. I don’t make economic decisions alone — and shouldn’t — but I’ve been a key driver in that process. And, we have done remarkably well financially (again thanks to tremendous finance committee and staff efforts), but we still have a ways to go.
I’ve not worried about a lot of things in church revitalization. What color carpets or wall coverings don’t excite me very much. I’ve given a few song suggestions, but I’ve not been too involved in that process. Apart from my normal responsibilities of preaching and being a pastor, these are the things I’ve concerned myself with most and that have received my best energies.