Pick a Church

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When I spoke at Exponential on the topic of how to transition a church from small groups to missional communities, the question of attending two churches came up. This happens a lot in church planting circles. It goes like this, “Can I or someone attend a church on Sunday, but then attend a small group or missional community at another church?”

The reasons people do this are many, but the answer to the question is simple.

No.

Many times, someone will attend a larger church on Sunday or a service they like and then attend a group at a smaller church because “it is easier to get connected and cared for at the smaller church.”

This creates a weird tension for people in the group or MC.

At a church like Revolution, where we discuss the sermon, if you don’t hear the sermon you won’t be able to add to the discussion. So, now you are silent attendee. The other aspect that is incredibly important and this is the real reason people do this (even though they would never tell you this). Attending a church and an MC at another church keeps a person from having accountability in their life or having to submit to authority. They are able to skirt it at both churches, get what they want and go home.

No one holds them accountable, gives them pushback for not serving (because they aren’t), not giving (because they usually aren’t because their heart isn’t at either church) and ultimately, they are simply being a consumer at two places and taking it all in instead of giving to anyone through care and serving.

On a larger level, this keeps the church who has the MC they attend from growing their church. The consumer getting the best of both churches is taking up a needed seat for someone to get connected at the church.

I know what you will say, “But they want to be there. They need to be connected. This is uncaring.”

I would say, “It is uncaring to say no to someone who wants to be in an MC at the church they attend that you can’t because we don’t have room because of this person who doesn’t attend our church, doesn’t want to attend our church but wants to be in an MC.” It is uncaring to the person waffling because they are missing the crucial element of accountability that is so important to relationships and community because they go to this place on Sunday and then to our place on Thursday.

You can’t have it all and by trying to have it all (attending a church service and an MC at a different church), you actually end up missing the thing you are trying to get.

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Why Missional Communities Should Take a Summer Break

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Recently, I spoke at the Exponential church planting conference. One day at lunch I was talking with some other leaders about how we do missional communities and what others were learning and I mentioned in passing (because it is so much a part of our culture now) that the MC’s at Revolution change their rhythm in the summer (June and July).

Everything at lunch stopped moving.

One of the problems I have with missional communities is that they never stop meeting. They do this, because they want to live out the identity of being a family, and families never stop meeting together. And, the mission never ends.

Revolution used to be this way. Having our MC’s meet til they multiplied or until Jesus came back.

Then something happened.

Almost three years ago I found myself at two events with a lot of pastors whose churches were organized around missional communities. In total, there were probably 75 pastors at each of these events. At each one, over 50% of the pastors were either on sabbatical, going on sabbatical or just coming off of sabbatical. As I pressed into this, I learned they were all tired. I also started to hear stories of burnout among missional community leaders at churches as a leader approached year 3 of leading an MC.

This was frightening to me as our church had just done the hard work of transitioning from small groups to MC’s.

So, we made a choice.

One that would alter our church and the health and longevity of our leaders.

We instituted a summer break for our MC’s. Required it.

When we brought this change up 3 years ago, many of the MC leaders at Revolution reacted as leaders do when you propose a change to something they love. They pushed back.

Yet, after the first break, every leader who was hesitant about it told me, “That was the best thing we could’ve done.”

Here’s why:

  1. Understanding the city you are in. Tucson is on a year round school calendar, which means one of the main school districts our families come from have a 6 week summer break and the other one has 7. This means, in those 6-7 weeks, people are at camps, on trips, escaping the heat in California, visiting families, etc. It is different if you have a 3 month summer break, but for us we had to understand what the rhythm of our city is, which is what good missionaries do.
  2. Leadership is tiring. The leaders who become MC leaders work tirelessly. They love their MC, serve them, disciple them, develop leaders, host them in their home, lead them in studies, open their lives to them. This is all encompassing and can be exhausting. A break helps leaders stay fresh. I know people will say that MC leaders should take breaks with their MC during the season. I’m not sure how realistic that is. Taking a break is a way we as a church serve our MC leaders and help them stay healthy.
  3. A break gives you a kick off. We launch new MC’s in August and January. We make everyone in our church sign-up again. You have the freedom to switch MC’s if your schedule has changed. This creates a sense of excitement in our church as MC’s launch. New people feel more comfortable joining because everyone is starting on week 1.
  4. A break gives you an end date. Our culture, and men in particular, like end dates. We want to know how long a semester is, how long soccer season is. We want to know this before committing. This is a good thing and one that churches often miss. I think one of the main reasons people aren’t engaged in community in their church is because they don’t know the end date for that group. Many will say this is an idol that we need to confront and that may be true, it also might be true that we are used to things have a start and an end and that is how it works.
  5. A change of pace. During the summer, our MC’s still get together but they spend more time playing together and resting together. They don’t meet every week and each MC is different depending on the needs. One summer my MC didn’t meet at all because almost all of them were college students and they all left Tucson. This is a reminder that life is a series of seasons, our lives were meant to live in those seasons and when we work against them, it leads to burnout and disaster.

Ultimately, this is a choice for health. Health for the church, MC’s and the leaders. Recently a new guy at Revolution who has attended church most of his life told me this when he heard we change our rhythm in the summer, “I’ve never heard of a church caring about their leaders and volunteers not burning out.”

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How to Transition a Church from Small Groups to Missional Communities

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Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve shared 7 things that I and my church has learned since we transitioned our church from small groups to missional communities. At the time, things were going great. We had over 85% of our adults in a small group, but it wasn’t producing the change, discipleship and leaders we hoped it would. So, we made the change to missional communities. Below are 7 things we learned in the process:

  1. Always Start with Why
  2. Get Essential Leaders on Board
  3. How to Handle Someone who is not on Board
  4. Leaders Lead by Example
  5. Remove Barriers to What is Most Important
  6. Prepare for Losses
  7. Celebrate Small Wins
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Celebrate Small Wins

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Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at Exponential on the topic of transitioning a church with small groups to a church with Missional Communities. A few asked for some notes on it and thought I’d do a few blog posts on it.

The first step in this process is to start with why and the win of this transition. The second step is to get essential leaders on board. Next you need to handle leaders who do not get on board in a loving way, how leaders lead by example in showing a church what is most important and how a leaders shoots themselves in the foot by having too many options. Finally, when making any change a leader must learn how to grieve losses personally and help others grieve losses.

The last thing to keep a transition moving is to celebrate wins, no matter how small.

You may be great at celebrating things, but most pastors I meet, they are terrible at celebrating things. Part of it is personality, part of it is that they are trained to look for things that are broken and fix them, so they tend to focus on the negative. Many of them are big picture thinkers so they struggle to see how small things add up to big things, they are only looking for the life changing, new church, huge growth instead of the small, everyday life change.

If you don’t learn how to celebrate small wins, you will burnout and miss what God is doing. Your church will also wonder if it is winning.

One of the benefits to using the umbrella of discipleship as the win for your church and MC’s is that almost anything can be a win. That is a good thing. I also think that is how God wants the church to be. Baptism, people taking the step of following Jesus are win’s. But so is someone joining an MC, giving for the first time, reading their bible for the first time, sharing their story at MC, letting someone serve them when they have a need, serving someone when they have a need. All of those are wins because all of those steps are people taking steps to be more like Jesus.

To make any successful change, celebrate any win possible. To keep your church moving forward, having momentum, look for anything to celebrate and share it. Always point out to your people, we are winning, we are moving forward.

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How to Prepare for Losses in Leadership

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Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at Exponential on the topic of transitioning a church with small groups to a church with Missional Communities. A few asked for some notes on it and thought I’d do a few blog posts on it.

The first step in this process is to start with why and the win of this transition. The second step is to get essential leaders on board. Next you need to handle leaders who do not get on board in a loving way, how leaders lead by example in showing a church what is most important and how a leaders shoots themselves in the foot by having too many options.

What I wasn’t prepared for as our church transitioned to MC’s and what I think many leaders are not prepared for when a change occurs is the losses that come with that change.

This isn’t just about losing people, although any change is such that not everyone will go with you, but also as a church grows and MC’s multiply, there is excitement and pain associated with that, which is often not discussed in church circles.

First, to lead any change, a leader must be prepared for not everyone to go with them. Some leaders will feel this more personally than others. Some will feel paralyzed with the fear of people leaving, others will try to move past it “for the sake of the vision.” Regardless of your personality, you will feel this personally. Every person who leaves Revolution Church hurts personally on some level to me. I want everyone to be a part of what we are doing, but know they can’t.

Leaders do not grieve well. When someone leaves your church, regardless of the reason, grieve it. Allow yourself to feel it before moving on. Too many pastors try to move on quickly and then as losses pile up they eventually snap. If God has called you to what you are doing, then losses will occur, they will hurt, but you will be able to move forward.

Men, this is an opportunity to shepherd your wife. She will feel the loss of people more than you do. When people leave a church over something the pastor does, he is able to shrug it off, get back to work or chalk it up to “they weren’t on board.” Your wife can’t do that. She will often think about it. She isn’t able to compartmentalize it and get back to work. She can’t write a sermon about divisive people and take out her frustration (although I wouldn’t recommend doing that when people leave your church).

The last loss I was not prepared for when it comes to MC’s is the loss that comes from multiplying MC’s. The reason is, no one talks about this pain. The focus is on the mission, the excitement, the moving forward, new leaders developed, new spaces for people to get connected, disciples are being made, people are following Jesus. This is all exciting and should be the focus. But multiplying hurts. Friendships change. People who you used to be with, you no longer see. We’ve been doing MC’s for 3 years now and have launched 4 MC’s out of ours in that time. It is exciting and it hurts. If your MC multiplies, you must create relationships outside of your MC that won’t change regardless of how many times your MC does. This has also caused me to be slower about pushing leaders to start MC’s.

A leader must also prepare other leaders for this. Multiplying is the goal and is exciting, but can also hurt. A strong, healthy MC should multiply out a new one once ever 12-18 months. I think this is a good ratio because it doubles your MC’s each year, but also keeps your leaders sane and relationships close.

I realize unlike the other posts in this series, this one ends on a downer, but stay tuned. The next post is how to celebrate what God is doing in MC’s.

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Leaders Lead by Example

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Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at Exponential on the topic of transitioning a church with small groups to a church with Missional Communities. A few asked for some notes on it and thought I’d do a few blog posts on it.

The first step in this process is to start with why and the win of this transition. The second step is to get essential leaders on board. At this point, step 3 happens (though it is often skipped or a leader pushes through it) and that is to handle leaders who do not get on board in a loving way.

Consider this conversation I have on a regular basis as to why this step is important. The pastor or leader in charge of small groups or MC’s will call me and say, “I can’t get people in my church to get into a group or an MC.” They share their frustration and how hard they have worked and all the ways they have tried to motivate their church and nothing happens. The question I ask them after they share their story is one I know the answer to or else they wouldn’t be calling me.

It is this: is your lead pastor and elders leading an MC or in one?

The answer is always no.

This is a requirement for us at Revolution: an elder or pastor must be leading a missional community.

This doesn’t have to be the case at every church, but if you want people in your church to know something is a priority, leaders lead by example.

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How to Handle Someone who is Not on Board with a Change

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Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at Exponential on the topic of transitioning a church with small groups to a church with Missional Communities. A few asked for some notes on it and thought I’d do a few blog posts on it.

The first step in this process is to start with why and the win of this transition. The second step is to get essential leaders on board.

The moment you begin to get essential leaders on board with any change or transition is the point of no return for a leader, they have now gone public.

I would say this is one of the most crucial moments of a change because of this. It is also when leaders derail themselves without realizing it and it is because they don’t handle someone who is not on board correctly. 

Think of this scenario: a leader has spent weeks, months and some times years thinking about a vision or a dream, a way forward. They begin sharing this dream with leaders and decision makers. Most people are excited because they love the leader or the direction or both.

Then, something happens: they meet someone who is not excited.

They ask questions, give pushback and generally do not seem excited about what the leader is proposing. The leader, because they are the leader starts to get defensive, pushes back even harder and both people sit across the table and dig their heels in.

Who is right in this situation?

Possibly both people.

Leaders will look at this person, whether they met in person or heard through the grapevine that someone isn’t on board and they will see a person who is being divisive or not submitting to authority.

Leaders forget that they have had the opportunity to process a change of direction or new initiative or ministry for a long time, this person just heard about it and has not had as long. It isn’t that they aren’t supportive, wanting to be on mission or not submitting, they are just reacting to a change and almost always are first reaction to a change is to be defensive.

If the leader fails here, most changes get derailed. For the simple reason that the person who seems unsupportive usually wields greater influence than the leader.

As a leader, here are some ways to handle this person:

  1. Stay humble. Do you need this person to make this change? Who knows. But God has placed you as the leader to shepherd this person through this change, so care for them. Stay humble, otherwise, God will oppose you and that will be worse than this person opposing you.
  2. Ask questions. Ask what their fears are, why aren’t they excited about this. Often, it is the loss of something that makes us defensive about a change, not because we don’t love the possibilities of something new, it is that we are mourning what we are losing.
  3. Listen. Don’t get defensive or seek to win. 
  4. Have resources for them to listen to or read. Have something to give them. Pick the thing that pushed you over the edge, the most influential piece to give to them and say, “This helped me. Before you decide, would you listen to this or read this and consider the possibilities?”
  5. Ask them to pray about it. They may or may not actually pray about it, but ask them to. If they do, give the Holy Spirit the opportunity to do what only the Holy Spirit can do, change them.

In the end, if God wants whatever change you are making to come to pass, it will. The person who seems the most against something at the beginning can often be the biggest supporter of it by the end if they are led well.

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How to Get Essential Leaders on Board with Change

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Last week, I had the opportunity to speak at Exponential on the topic of transitioning a church with small groups to a church with Missional Communities. A few asked for some notes on it and thought I’d do a few blog posts on it.

The first step in this process is to start with why and the win of this transition. The second step is to get essential leaders on board. This is simple change theory and applies to any change a leader is thinking about making, but it is incredibly important as we talk about transitioning a church from small groups to missional communities.

The reason is: groups and MC’s are so different that it will change everything about your church. It is not simply adding “missional” to your church, but changes everything. 

When you make any change or transition you need to be able to answer these questions: Who needs to know? When do they need to know it?

A few other things to ask: What leaders will be the most crucial to making this transition happen? Who are the people in this church (leadership by title or leadership by influence) who can keep this transition from happening that I need to get on board early?

Too many leaders when they make a change think they can bulldoze through it because “they’ve heard from God” or “are the leader.”

When we transitioned from groups to MC’s, we made a list of everyone we thought who could be an MC leader and I met with them to cast the vision, invite them into the process and join in being a part of this. By the time we announced the change to our church, almost 30% of our church knew about the change, why we were making it and were on board with it.

This is the moment the change becomes real because you invite people into it. 

Up until this moment, the change or transition is simply a dream, a hope, a prayer in your mind. This moment is when you put the flag in the ground and bring others into it.

To get the leaders on board that you need, you will have to make sure the change is clear, thought out and you can answer questions.

In short: be as clear as possible. 

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Always Start with Why

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Last week, I had the opportunity to speak at Exponential on the topic of transitioning a church with small groups to a church with Missional Communities. A few asked for some notes on it and thought I’d do a few blog posts on it.

The first step to transitioning a church from small groups to MC’s is why do it. I’m a big fan of Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why. In it, he makes the case that any church, organization or movement can answer why they do something.

If you are going to make any changes, you must be able to answer:

  1. Why are we making this change?
  2. What will we get by making this change?
  3. Why do we have to make this change?

In the church world, MC’s are the thing to do. They are hip and cool and the new church planters are doing it. All the mega-churches are transitioning to them. It is what you do if you are a smart pastor.

I met several people at Exponential who told me that was why they were doing MC’s.

That isn’t compelling. No one in your church cares about MC’s, unless you tell them why. And hearing about it at a conference or reading a book isn’t good enough.

When we started MC’s at Revolution, they were very focused on mission and social justice. Discipleship was not the goal of them. As we’ve grown in our knowledge of what God has called us to, discipleship is the obvious goal of the church and Christians (Matthew 28:18 – 20). Mission, serving together, community, praying together, eating together, walking with each other through hard times and celebrations is all part of discipleship.

Discipleship is the umbrella of missional communities, it is what everything points to.

Once this is clear it helps to answer everything else about missional communities and are church. Things like: what do MC’s do when they meet, what is the point of serving, eating together, how do we evaluate the health of an MC or MC leader?

While an MC lives out the identities of a servant, leader, family and missionary, those are all fuel for discipleship. Discipleship happens while we do those things.

Until this is clear, until the why is clear, until the win is clear, a church and missional communities will struggle to stay focused. They will easily become a family that never allows anyone else to join or they will serve and focus solely on social justice and reaching out to those in need without ever sharing the gospel with them.

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Help Me Write my Exponential Talk

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I’m speaking at Exponential East in a couple weeks on the topic: Transitioning your church from small groups to missional communities

The goal of my talk is to share the story of Revolution and our transition and help churches understand:

  1. Why they should transition from small groups to missional communities.
  2. How to make this transition (or any leadership transition).
  3. What are the steps in this transition that must be made.
  4. And help them have a plan on what to expect personally from this transition.

If you were sitting in this seminar or have questions about it, what would they be? If you’ve made this transition or are in this transition, what would you tell leaders thinking about making this transition?

Leave me a comment here, on twitter or facebook or shoot me an email. I’d love your feedback.

 

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