July 18, 2020

The First Five | July 20, 2020

by Lee Coate in The First Five

Church 2.0 is Here.
Stop Waiting. Start Working.

As we fumble through re-gathering and wonder about re-booting, the next 6 months may be the greatest challenge of your leadership life.  We are all familiar with the story of Gideon and his reluctance to step up when leadership beckoned. He was an unlikely leader, hiding in a winepress protecting what little food he had remaining when the call came to step up and step out. That call came with a lot of relevant questions from Gideon, but ultimately God answered with five powerful words, “I WILL BE WITH YOU.”  Enough said. 

With that promise as our fuel and a strong conviction that our leadership is important and our church’s presence is essential during this difficult time, here are five key conversations leaders should be having right now toward developing a 2.0 strategy for your church.

Remember: “The church that has learned to gather ‘daily’ will not stress about their inability to meet weekly”

1. Take a long, hard look at the values that your church has lived by or has been lacking.

Leaders tend to always default to VISION to find momentum and point their teams forward.  VISION is extremely important. It paints a picture of our desired future and drives us towards a better tomorrow. 

However, in this Covid season, an organization’s VALUES or lack thereof have been exposed.  The lack of clear, unifying Values creates confusion for many teams in the midst of this crisis. 

This is a time for VALUES to steer STRATEGY.  

Be warned: VALUES are not for the faint of heart. It’s like aiming a mirror at your organization and team. With so many LOUD voices and so much FEAR-BASED uncertainty, now is the time to take that deep, long look. Values are a guide for all the action and work that happens inside an organization, a constant reality check. 

Leaders… Pause this week. Take a good long look in the values mirror with your team. Have a collaborative conversation that begins to prioritize your organization’s unique values. Don’t skip it. This will then guide the correct implementation of strategy. 

(Hint: this is true of our personal lives as well. Check your values. Make decisions based on the non-negotiable, not on the “noise” and distractions of others.)

Church 2.0 Question to Ask:
What are the unique, non-negotiable aspects of our church that now will become the “value” filter for our decisions and strategies moving forward? 

2. Guard against false expectations driving key decisions and strategic planning.

In this challenging season, leaders should be careful to not focus on and strategize toward expectations people no longer have. 

It’s a waste of energy and time. 

Are there many people who are hungry, eager and anticipating the re-gathering of your church? Of course. But as the early data is showing, the numbers of those actually returning is far less than 50% and the consistency is even lower. Is that frightening and frustrating for leaders? Perhaps. But it should tell us that what we normally EMPHASIZE and massively RESOURCE needs to pivot towards what is actually NEEDED

Rethink where people are. 
What are their pains and gains?
What are their hopes and hurts?  

Refocus your efforts on those pressing, personal needs and watch your impact exceed expectations.

Leaders we are likely to make mistakes right now if we misinterpret the expectations of people while forming our strategy to move forward. 

We are also going to make strategic mistakes as leaders if we are not honest about our own personal expectations and agendas that may be massively skewing our perspective and decision making. 

Be honest about expectations. Yours and those you lead. 

Church 2.0 Question to Ask:
What are the shifting primary felt needs of our primary target?

3. Embrace and plan for a long, slow physical re-gathering process.

We originally stopped our large weekend gatherings by announcing we would be pausing for two weeks. That was over 20 weeks ago. We were a bit off in that projection. As we lean into the second half of the year that largely wasn’t (2020), church leaders are beginning to realize that rooms packed with people, music pumping, hands and voices raised within physical campuses teeming with activity are much further away than we might hope.

Even as some churches re-gather and re-open their physical doors, the percentage of previous attendees returning has largely hovered in the 30% range of pre-Covid numbers.  This may gradually creep upward, but that crawl will be slow and incremental. In fact, some areas are now experiencing a “W” return (up and down) to physical gatherings as they are forced to close their physical doors once again. 

It’s time to begin asking this question: 
What would our church experience look like if we have limited or no physical gatherings for the next 6-9 months? (Now – Easter 2021).  

Be honest with your team and with yourself. Step back. Pull yourself up above the fray of Covid conversations and do what the most effective leaders do: Assess exactly where you are, be honest about the context of new normal you are headed into, and then find a way to accomplish something significant in the midst of it.  

Church 2.0 Question to Ask: 
What progress, impact and influence can have for the remainder of 2020 if nothing changes?

4. Beware of major distractions that keep you from true traction. 

Right now, we are vividly aware of the major distractions that lurk everywhere in this time of uncertainty. Navigating a cultural pandemic of change alongside a covid pandemic has left many leaders frazzled.  At the moment where we most need focus and creativity, it can be lacking. Forge forward with a plan. 

Take the plan forward in 6-8 week intervals. Right now, quick pivots and regular refresh is appropriate and important. But no direction and no vision is a momentum killer at exactly the wrong time. Traction is possible. But this traction may be in areas you have typically led less aggressively and now need to be first and foremost with your team and your church. 

Church 2.0 Question to Ask: 
What strategies can we commit to that are “covid proof” regardless of circumstances?

5. Discover and develop specific strategic language for this next season. 

Language creates culture. Teams and organizations are hungry right now for clarity and that always begins with language that is well-formed and easily transmitted.

Here’s an example of specific language that can drive strategic conversations down through a team and allow for focused execution to accomplish the desired vision in Church 2.0:

Challenging Messaging
Messaging and communication will be needed that hits people right where they are in their current context. Everything must be relevant to the moment as individuals pivot and rebuild their lives. This is BOTH through our services on the weekends, but also through storytelling and leveraging our other content delivery platforms either in existence or needing development. 

Compassionate Mindset
Taking a wholisitic approach to AUTHENTIC pastoring that is specifically focused on intentional care of people as they navigate the challenges of the new normal. More intentionality will be need here in both strategy and re-purposing staff.  It is a time for a Proactive vs. Reactive approach to pastoral care. 

Connect Meaningfully
Focus on intentionally building widespread community while connecting relationally to those who are disconnected. This strategy would include a heavy emphasis on the INVESTING aspects of an invest and invite value. This also means discovering other creative and unique strategies toward engaging and connecting our “one”.

Compelling Mission
During this next season, a deeper leaning into serving and helping efforts throughout our community will be necessary and essential. This will include highlighting and resources through finances, people, and stories initiatives that re-emphasize the church is more than just a building. Stories will play an integral role in raising awareness and action.  

Each leader, alongside their team, should be forging their keys to the next 4-6 months and building language around it. Without language, the culture and the context we are leading in will pull us away from where we need to be headed.

Church 2.0 Question to Ask: 
Is there restructuring and re-purposing of our team that needs to happen in order for the better version of our organization to become reality?

This is a time for bold leaders to do just that…lead courageously.

What if we decided to have courage to do the difficult thing in the moment where it would be simpler to choose easy? And courage is not something God simply GIVES you. God PLACES you in situations and opportunities that require courage.  And then it is up to you and I take walk boldly into these bold leadership challenges that lie ahead. 

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