No matter how big your church is, if your organization isn’t healthy, you’re likely not going to be around for very long.
You can host hundreds (or even thousands) of people every weekend at your church, but if your staff is burned out, leaders are treating staff and members poorly, or people aren’t being discipled well, people feel that tension—and decline is inevitable.
Thankfully, there are people in the world like Shawn Lovejoy. Shawn is the Founder & CEO of Couragetolead.com, an organization dedicated to helping pastors and ministry leaders foster organizational health in their churches.
Shawn joined us on The Nurtured Church Podcast recently and shared some of his early struggles in church planting. He also shared on the kind of problems churches face when it comes to remaining intentional and how to foster organizational health in ministry. Here are some top takeaways.
Shawn planted Mountain Lake Church in Atlanta in 1999 at the tender age of 28—and wouldn’t recommend it for other leaders. He said, “I always tell young church planters, don’t plant a church at twenty-eight, because you don’t know nearly as much as you think you do.”
By the time he was 40, he finally felt ready to actually pastor a church. But by that time, he was twelve years in and had already learned a lot of things. One thing he’s proud of is the fact that his church never wavered on their vision.
“One of the mistakes I see churches make when it comes to engagement is something I like to call vision schizophrenia.” —Shawn Lovejoy
Among many leaders, when they go out to conferences, they experience what Shawn calls vision schizophrenia where they learn a ton at a seminar and return to their churches. But they’re afraid that implementing something new will cause a radical upheaval in what the church has been doing for some time.
So his church didn’t change much in the time he was there. His team just got better at what they were already doing and that made them more solidified in their vision and more effective over the years.
As Shawn told us, what they were doing wasn’t rocket science. Every Sunday they had music, preaching, a volunteer team, and then small groups throughout the week. They weren’t doing anything extraordinary.
But they knew their “why.”
“One of the reasons churches struggle with engagement in their communities is that they haven’t thought through the “why” behind the “what.” —Shawn Lovejoy
They knew the why behind everything that they were doing. They weren’t doing anything just for the sake of doing it, but every single thing, every program, every group, had a purpose and a mission statement behind it.
Knowing that why helped churches communicate their vision and mission in more compelling and authentic ways—and that’s what helped drive engagement. Language matters. Understanding who you’re communicating with and what they’re interested in matters.
Make sure you’re coherently and consistently communicating your “why.” That’s what’s going to help your church retain its intentionality and fulfill its mission.
But how do you keep your organization healthy?
“I totally believe that you have to be the culture that you want to build.” —Shawn Lovejoy
Successful people make up successful ministries and successful organizations.
Pastors need to help teams be healthy. Unfortunately, a lot of pastors are too busy or think they’re too busy, to meet with their team on a regular basis. They leave that up to the associate pastor, but yet they’re always available to the church as a whole.
But flip through the Bible and look at all of the places where Jesus is trying to get away from people to be with His team—where He’s intentionally saying no to being with the crowds so that He can spend time with His disciples.
As a leader, you reproduce what you are, and you have the most influence on the people around you. Focus on reproducing healthy habits and qualities within your team.
Leadership that develops a consistent and healthy team requires:
1. Mutual devotion
You’ve got to be as committed to your team as your team is committed to you.
Be close to your team. Don’t hold your meetings via email. Be present. Look your team in the eyes. Be with them.
You’ve got to be with them regularly. Not every now and then. All the time.
Leadership is difficult—no doubt about it. As a pastor, you’re constantly being pulled in a thousand different directions. Some of that comes with the job, but in order to keep yourself and your church and your staff healthy, you’ve got to maintain healthy boundaries and a healthy organization.
Your staff will thank you. And your church will thank you too.
To hear this full episode (and many more like it on ways to nurture church communities) click the listen to The Nurtured Church Podcast.
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