Coaching on Church Discipline Issues

Coaching on Church Discipline Issues

If you stay in the coaching game long enough, at some point you will coach leaders on how to deal with controversy, division in the body, and disciplinary issues. It can be a sad state of affairs when these issues hit the fan, but these issues are a part of life. As a coach, you have an opportunity to help leaders rise above the problem and take the higher ground.

Conflict in churches can range between problems with specific people or with specific ideas to clashes in philosophy of ministry to schisms between entire congregations. Some issues will be fairly black and white while many more are complex and nuanced. It is the job of a coach to see through the conflict, the tempers and the pride, to the best path forward. 

As an example: imagine working with a church and a scandal takes place; a volunteer youth leader has been caught having inappropriate relationships with various members of the congregation. The news is already spreading. You receive a call from the lead pastor asking for wisdom handling the situation. The church has already called in a lawyer and has spoken with the volunteer youth leader, but the lead pastor also knows that the volunteer youth leader was beloved by the congregation, and there will be a messy fall-out of people who feel hurt and betrayed and, perhaps, even some that will come to the volunteer youth leader’s defense. 

In this case, the church acted quickly and had a clear procedure to follow, which makes your job easier. However, the lead pastor and the volunteer youth leader have already exchanged a lot of angry words, before involving you, that they cannot take back. Ideally, the lead pastor would have set a boundary, refusing to relay anything but necessary information to the volunteer youth leader, while they searched for a mediator. Now, your client is seeking wisdom to undo damage that has been done, find the most peaceful resolution possible, and help the church handle the blowback. 

This is when you call on your “inner coach” (or the Holy Spirit) to help you remain anchored in Him and share your wisdom through listening and asking questions. A coach does not need to respond to the impulse to give input unless explicitly asked (and only after the client has exhausted all of their resources and are at the end of their tether). 

At the same time, you are invested in the life of this leader. You are empathetic. And you are concerned. What can you do and what should you avoid doing as a coach?

Principles to follow when vetting a church discipline situation:

  • Help your client process their emotional toll booth
  • Help your client gather the facts
  • Help your client stay anchored in Christ
  • Help your client find the truth
  • Help your client create a game plan & clarify next steps
  • Help your client identify people to communicate with 
  • Help your client discern what to communicate
  • Help your client identify who NOT to communicate with
  • Help your client take responsibility
  • Help your client to release control

Key Questions to ask: 

  • What is the nature of the offense?
  • To what degree will this have on the church community?
  • Who needs to know what is happening immediately?
  • What are the potential threats to deal with? 
  • What is the goal? 

Resources to coach on Conflict Resolution:

Conflict Resolution: Skill Builder Booklet

Conflict Management Storyboard

Conflict Management: Coaching Guide with Storyboard

Do you want to take your team on the disciple-making journey together? The Discipleship Collective helps you mobilize other disciple makers. Take the Disciple Maker Quiz to discover the habits in which you are excelling and the growth points on which you need to focus. Then invite other members of your team to join you. It’s FREE and you can use it as often as you like! 

 If you want your team to be better equipped to make disciples consider the DISCIPLESHIP COLLECTIVE.

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Coaching on 4 Church Revitalization Strategies

Coaching on 4 Church Revitalization Strategies

What is the right revitalization strategy for your church?

When you hear the phrase “church revitalization,” different ideas may come to mind. You might imagine new events to bolster church attendance or new programs to reinvigorate the spiritual lives of the congregation. Often, this is what is done when a church is stagnant or in decline. Events and programs are wonderful, and certainly can help reignite passion within a congregation, But they are often band-aid solutions and rarely will save a church that is truly in decline. 

I want to offer four revitalization strategies that provide long-term change. Approximately 80% of congregations in the US are in need of revitalization. These churches will require more energy, are more complex, and demand more time in contrast to events or programs; but in the long run, this will serve the local congregation and its members as they pursue the mission to love God, love neighbor, and make disciples.

Before we look at what these strategies entail, however, it’s important to know where your church is in its life cycle. The life cycle of a church can be identified in 5 stages as follows:

  • Birth: years 1-5
  • Maturity: years 6-15
  • Plateau or Refocus to new birth and growth: years 15-50
  • Decline and Drop Out: years 60-80
  • Death or Restart: years 80+

A church life-cycle assessment you might find helpful is found in the book “Legacy Churches” in Appendix III – CLICK HERE.

Wherever a church finds itself in the life cycle stage, one constant remains: the longer a church exists, preparing for the next stage is increasingly important. If, for instance, your church is in its “maturing years” you will want to anticipate the inertia of plateaus and stimulate  new ministries to reach more people, or potentially consider launching a new campus or church plant. This is easier said than done! The reality is, the vast majority of congregations have not navigated this transition well, as indicated by the statistic above.

4 Mission Critical Church Revitalization Strategies:

  1. Reverse the Non-Growth trend – the longer the downward trend, the more complicated the solution, and the more courage, grit and perseverance are required. If a church has been in decline for a year, it will be easier to reverse the non-growth trend versus reversing the damage of a church that has been in decline for ten years. Taking action as early as possible is always preferred. 
  2. Replant to Multiply – This is an aggressive mission but offers great hope. A replant is a total overhaul of a church and requires shutting the doors to focus on revitalization before reopening. Changes may require a new pastor or a new building or a change in the way the church has systematically operated in the past.
  3. Legacy – The most difficult part of revitalization is when a church has the honesty and humility to see that their church is in decline and recognizes that it’s time to let go. This is often true with older churches. However, this is an opportunity to gift the remaining assets to a new campus or a new church plant, paying it forward for the next generation.
  4. Interim – This option may be especially necessary if a separation is needed between the founder and the next lead pastor(s), or if the current pastor has been in the role for a decade or more. An interim pastor can greatly assist with church transition, helping the congregation  process the grief that comes with change before looking ahead to find a new lead pastor.

Before launching into a decision of this magnitude, the leadership team would benefit from seeking Christ-inspired wisdom to discern what the Holy Spirit wants them to do.

Three simple steps to understanding which strategy is right for you: 

  1. Invite the key leaders into a time of focused prayer.
  2. Process some of the questions listed below. 
  3. Discern the best option and create an action plan. 

Questions for coaching decision-makers:

  • How long has the church been stagnant or in decline?
  • What do you discern are the contributing factors causing the decline?
  • What do you sense God is preparing to do in this church in the near future?
  • Who else needs to be part of the leadership team to discern the future?
  • What are the risks if nothing is done?

If you are coaching a church that is considering one of the four strategies above you might find the Transition Church Coaching Guide with Storyboard a useful tool – CLICK HERE.

Do you want to take your team on the disciple-making journey together? The Discipleship Collective helps you mobilize other disciple makers. Take the Disciple Maker Quiz to discover the habits in which you are excelling and the growth points on which you need to focus. Then invite other members of your team to join you. It’s FREE and you can use it as often as you like! 

 If you want your team to be better equipped to make disciples consider the DISCIPLESHIP COLLECTIVE.

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Three Steps to Building a Successful Board

Three Steps to Building a Successful Board

If you have ever been in a ministry leadership position, you know the impact that your board has on your mission. The board is who you turn to when decisions need to be made. They are who you rely on when you are in times of crisis or uncertainty. A board is able to provide perspective outside of your own experience. They should challenge you, inspire you, and provide valuable insight into all essential matters. Putting together and leading a board well may be the factor that accelerates or impairs your mission. 

I am so grateful for my InFocus board! The complexion of our board has morphed over the last thirty years; initially, my board was extremely diverse. Over time, it became more culturally homogeneous, and has since evolved once again to be more diverse. I’ve spent a lot of time and care finding the right members for my board based on the specific mission of InFocus and, today, I want to offer some tips to help you do the same. 

  1. Clarify the purpose of your board

For the InFocus board, I have three main purposes:

  • Guard the Vision – I wanted people who knew and understood my vision. I needed them to support and encourage this vision and keep the mission on track. The collaboration of well-chosen people will make the vision stronger. 
  • Wise Counsel – Even the wisest leader will have stumbling blocks and blind spots. We need the wisdom of others who can see what we miss or have experiences and skills we lack. 
  • Financial Oversight – It is always advisable to have other eyes on the finances of a ministry. Finances may not feel like part of the mission/vision, but the mission cannot happen without smart financial decisions–and the smartest decisions happen through collaboration.

Understanding and respecting the purpose of your board will help keep the time you  spend together efficient and productive. Without a clear purpose, the board, and the mission, will lack direction and can easily fall apart. So before forming a board, consider what roles the board will play in the mission.

Reflection questions to narrow your focus:

  • What is the function or role the board will play? 
  • What are your primary goals for the board right now? 
  • What long-term goals do you have for the organization?
  • What is your role in relation to the board? 
  • What kind of people do you want on your board? 
  1. Observe another leader interact with the sort of board you aspire to lead

This step is super important! By observing other leaders with their boards, you will notice things you want to adopt, other things you want to avoid, and questions you will need to answer. I remember observing a friend I shared office space with lead his board. It was such an impressive, organized, and effective board meeting. I left that meeting thinking that I needed to implement what I saw. However, when I got back to my ministry it was noticeable how differently we were structured. He had a working board that met monthly so that they could help him deliver regular training events, which kept each of the 12 board members engaged and active. I tried this for a season but quickly realized the rhythms and expectations I had for my board members were different – not better or worse, just different!  This was a helpful exercise to discern what I wanted my board to do and what the board was not expected to do.

  1. Find the right people for your board

Now that you know the purpose of your board, what sort of people will help achieve your goals and stay true to your vision? What skills and experiences are needed? Some leaders may want a board to offer support and encouragement; they might seek like-minded thinkers. Others might thrive on being challenged by people they respect and will look for people who will push back and offer different opinions. I have found that the most effective board for InFocus has diversity.

When looking for diversity in your board, here are some things to consider: 

  • Age, background and culture – My current board now consists of men and women ranging in age, ethnicity and cultural background: Dr. S has diverse professional background in technology and ministry and speaks four languages; Traco Matthews is a social justice activist; and Willita Sanguma is the Founder and Executive Director for The Lobiko Initiative, a nonprofit organization that identifies, invests, and partners with individuals and grassroots organizations in economically marginalized communities. If you want to learn more about the InFocus Board – CLICK HERE
  • Theological orientation – This will depend on the purpose of the board and the goals of the mission. If you are creating a board for the ministry in the community in which you serve, it makes sense to have a board representative of that demographic. Are you working in a community with diverse ideologies? You may want to recruit a board from multiple denominations and philosophies to speak for the people of this community. However, if you are strictly working with a single denominational group, you will probably want a majority of your board members who belong to this denomination. 
  • Skill sets / Experience – I have had so many incredible people on my board that have offered unique skills. Just a few examples: Linda Miller has experience coaching in the corporate world; Jeff Spout is a school superintendent; Steve Hart is an accountant by training. All of these people have brought their specific skills to help support and grow InFocus into what it is today. 
  • Personality types – When creating a board, it is helpful to understand how each individual operates and what they offer personally. Are they a peace-maker or a challenger? Are they open-minded or close-minded? Are they an idealist or a pragmatist? Do they think in terms of the big picture or are they detail-oriented? A board filled with stubborn challengers will struggle to accomplish anything when they disagree. Conversely, a board may become stagnant without anyone to challenge ideas. 
  • Expertise – One of the areas I wanted to grow in my leadership was to initiate and grow an affiliate status with like-minded leaders who wanted to grow their coaching and training platforms. With that in mind, I approached a previous client who had done this in a previous ministry. David McDaniel is the founder of the Northpoint Partnership Group and helped me create InFocus Affiliates in a way that honors the mission of the organization while serving the affiliate. David had unique experience that I gleaned and helped me advance the vision I had for affiliates. 

Deciding on the Degree of Board Involvement 

This is perhaps the most important decision you need to make about your board.  Among the five board types below, which does your board align with most along a continuum of least to most involved?  

  • Passive Board
  • Certifying Board
  • Engaged Board
  • Intervening Board
  • Operating Board

An ambitious board-building process, devised and endorsed both by directors and by management, can potentially turn a good board into a great one.

Do you want to take your team on the disciple-making journey together? The Discipleship Collective helps you mobilize other disciple makers. Take the Disciple Maker Quiz to discover the habits in which you are excelling and the growth points on which you need to focus. Then invite other members of your team to join you. It’s FREE and you can use it as often as you like! 

 If you want your team to be better equipped to make disciples consider the DISCIPLESHIP COLLECTIVE.

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Coaching the Megachurch

Coaching the Megachurch

First posted at Christian Coaching Tools

There will always be voices that rise above the din in Christianity and those voices will attract large congregations. The larger the influence the more likely a coach is involved. 

A current opinion in American Christian circles is that the age of the megachurch is waning or even over. With the platform growing beyond the pulpit and onto streaming and social media, the truth is there will always be a megachurch and chances are it will go global. 

Should ‘Megachurch’ be the goal? No. The work of making disciples is personal. For every Mega Pastor there are thousands of men and women in the trenches making huge contributions to the Kingdom on a seemingly small stage. 

Perspective on Global Church Growth

The top 10 largest churches globally range from 65,000 in worship attendance and peak at 480,000 (Yoido Full Gospel Church in South Korea).  It is fascinating that with all the sophistication of the American church, not one is located in the US.  The top 10 largest congregations are located in Nigeria, India, Indonesia, Korea, and the Philippines.  

For perspective, the largest church in America is North Point at 35,000 in Apharetta, GA.

What do you know about really large churches in America?

  • 0.5% – While almost 10% of Protestant church goers attend a megachurch (2,000+ in weekly worship attendance), these churches represent only about half of one percent of the roughly 320,000 Protestant churches that exist in the United States.

Why do American churches hit a lower attendance ceiling?

This is obviously a loaded question.  The answer would involve a grocery list of complex issues.  However, one issue stands out that negatively impacts the health of the church in America.  Based on research from Natural Church Development America, the #1 health restricting area is Empowering Leadership.

How many leadership books do you have on your bookshelf?  It is ironic that we have so much information and knowledge on leadership yet the American church trails the rest of the world in church growth.  We can justify this with very reasonable explanations but the fact remains – our largest churches are a fraction of the size when compared to the global landscape.

Considerations when coaching really large church pastors:

When coaching a large church lead pastor there are some unique considerations that are worth investing time and energy into if you are motivated to coach clients in this arena.

  1. Know yourself

This might seem obvious.  You have a certain comfort level.  If you are comfortable working with clients who lead 500-member churches and you are content; keep working with leaders of this caliber.  If you aspire to work with larger churches then you might want to consider the following.  

Consider the type of church leader you gravitate towards.  The leaders might be of a certain theological persuasion, a particular context, or style.  The clearer you are on who you are uniquely gifted to coach the more aware you will be when you encounter leaders of your tribe.  

Key Question:

What are the common denominators that cause you to gravitate towards certain leaders?

  1. Become a subject expert

What are the common needs really large churches share?  Based on the NCD research, Empowering Leadership is an issue that creates a ceiling for the majority of congregations in the US.  The question then for you is, how can you increase your ability to coach leaders in this area?

Consider doing a deep dive on an aspect of leadership development.  For really large churches, hiring the right staff member is mission critical.  So much is on the line – time, money, opportunity.  One resource that helps in the hiring process is the Harrison Assessment.  You probably have your own “go-to” resources.  Become well-versed in that area and be ready to offer your services in your area of expertise.  

Key Question:

What leadership topics do large churches face that you resonate with and have expertise?

Specializations for coaching really large churches:

  • Leadership Development
  • Staffing
  • Supervision
  • Change Management
  • Succession planning
  1. FInd opportunities to connect

Really large church pastors flock together.  Like the statistics reveal, the median church in the U.S. has 75 regular participants in worship.  Currently there are 1,750 megachurches in the United States, according to church lists compiled by Leadership Network.  

Therefore, the leader of a church of 2,000 or more in weekly worship attendance is a unicorn in the American church landscape.  

“Excellence, choices, openness to change, low pressure seeker environments, being multicultural, creating a full-service family support system, church planting, faith-based holistic ministries and providing R&D to the broader church” are distinctives that draw like-minded leaders of very large churches together and forge bonds.  

It makes sense and is a not-well-kept secret that large church pastors network with other large church pastors.

Key Question:

How and where do lead pastors of really large churches gather? 

10 myths to debunk about very large churches:

  • Bigger is Better 
  • Driven by the lead pastor’s ego
  • Hyper-focused on numbers
  • Building-centric
  • Should be the goal of every leader
  • Autonomous to a fault
  • Water-down the gospel
  • Run like a corporation
  • Get’s all the attention
  • Big dog!

Reflection questions to grow your ability to coach very large church pastors

  1. How can you build your track record to gain credibility?
  2. How are you growing in your knowledge of large church culture?
  3. Who do you know that coaches pastors of very large churches?
  4. How can you connect with the kind of leaders you want to coach?
  5. Historically, what size church are you comfortable coaching?
  6. Which phase of the growth cycle are you most authentically effective?
  7. What is holding you back?

Do you want to take your team on the disciple-making journey together? The Discipleship Collective helps you mobilize other disciple makers. Take the Disciple Maker Quiz to discover the habits in which you are excelling and the growth points on which you need to focus. Then invite other members of your team to join you. It’s FREE and you can use it as often as you like! 

 If you want your team to be better equipped to make disciples consider the DISCIPLESHIP COLLECTIVE.

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