In the second installment of our North Point Ministries blog series, we explore how the largest church ministry in North America made the difficult decision to suspend large in-person gatherings throughout the end of the year. In our exclusive interview with lead pastor Clay Scroggins, he discusses the tough decision, its implications, and how technology is crucial.
North Point’s decision to close for the remainder of 2020 was a big decision. One that affected thousands of people–from leadership, support staff, and volunteers to the families and individuals who gather at their various campuses to worship. The impact on their people was top of mind when North Point Ministries’ leadership team met to discuss what to do.
The process was thoughtful and data-driven. North Point utilized technology in a number of ways: to gather information before deciding what to do, to communicate the decision, and to implement a whole new, 21st-century way of doing church.
Here are some tips and advice from Clay Scroggins and North Point Ministries–wisdom that you can take and utilize, on how to make tough decisions within your church.
Tip #1: Lean on data. (Quantitative and Qualitative)
Clay Scroggins, Lead Pastor at Buckhead Church of North Point Ministries offered a surprising perspective, in our exclusive interview, on where to find the answers to difficult questions, in times like these. Crediting a church member with a powerful insight, which casts the role of the leader in a stunningly humble light, she reminded Clay and the other North Point Ministries leaders that they do not (nor does any leader) have all the answers to what we’re dealing with, in regard to the current crisis. However, she then encouraged them to listen to the voice of the people they serve. That’s where they’ll find the answers to the question of what to do.
The encouragement is to seek the voice and to seek the input of the people being served at North Point (or at your church). What do the thousands of people who worship there every week feel and know and think? (What do your people have to say?)
How do you accomplish such a monumental task? Data tells a story. Clay and his colleagues utilized technology to organize focus groups and facilitate surveys in order to get a read on what their people felt about the current crisis and what they expected an appropriate response to look like from North Point.
The data focused both on qualitative questions- what their people were dealing with emotionally and spiritually, what would it take to create an environment in which people felt safe to return; and quantitative questions- how many people would actually return to such an environment?
The story their data told was that people weren’t ready to come back. North Point decided rather than spending their energy and resources in altering the physical space, they would focus on what’s essential.
Tip #2: Focus on what is essential.
The best way to love their community, the people they serve, was to focus on what is most important. The move away from the physical building as a central gathering place doesn’t have to mean a move away from the central message and ministry of the Church. Technology is the key to bridging the gap.
Clay’s new vision for North Point is clear: “We want to leverage 21st-century technology to return to a first-century model of the church. And that’s what we’re using to drive what we’re doing.” Utilizing technology to equip their members to continue doing church, in the context of their homes, families, and neighborhoods.
North Point realized that their buildings had been the primary place of spiritual growth, but that changed suddenly, and without warning. Now, “our homes and neighborhoods… we have to look to those two places as the primary place of spiritual growth,” says Pastor Clay Scroggins.
In homes, North Point Ministries is using technology to provide ministry resources to their people so they can learn, grow, and deepen their faith on their own, or with their families and small groups. The channels of technology have allowed North Point to continue to do ministry, regardless of having no large, weekly, in-person gatherings.
On average, North Point has experienced more than a 100% increase in campus app downloads during COVID. In addition, app launches are up about 30% overall.
Within neighborhoods, Pastor Clay and his team have been mobilizing people to create opportunities for ministry in their backyard. Utilizing technology and adapting to their circumstances has allowed North Point members to achieve a new level of outreach and community connection. Not only are the people of North Point focusing on their own spiritual growth, but in the wake of the pandemic, they’ve been empowered to help facilitate the spiritual growth of their neighbors as well. They’re hosting livestream watch parties, leading devotionals using materials distributed by North Point Ministries, and creating Small Groups with their neighbors.
Tip #3: Work with your team.
Pastor Clay Scroggins encourages leaders to employ the strengths of each and every member of their teams. Don’t try and simulate another voice or perspective. Focus on what you bring to the table, and lean into your strengths. Where you need help, look to your team, and to the people you serve.
Be united. In moments of tough decisions, you need to make sure you’re all on the same page. It’s crucial that you and your team all understand the ‘what’ and the ‘why.” Once your team is resolved, the message to your people must be conveyed clearly and with confidence:
“When you make a decision like this, you cannot waffle on it. You can listen to people, you can hear people, you can be empathetic and understand people—but when you make a significant decision like this, you have to communicate (with) confidence.” -Clay Scroggins
Paint the target. Though the destination isn’t clear at the onset, having a goal and a target to aim at will give your message clarity and give your people hope. And, when it comes time to deliver that message, utilize technology to communicate it. North Point used a variety of media: messages, email, video updates, and more. First, with their team. Then, with the church.
Pastor Clay and the North Point leadership are constantly reminding themselves (as should you) of what matters most: the people you serve, and the God you worship.
The tough decision to suspend in-person gatherings until 2021 wasn’t one that anyone at North Point could have predicted. But, their humility and thoughtfulness, paired with a data-driven, technology-fueled approach, resulted in a well-communicated plan that allowed North Point Ministries to maintain their focus on the mission of the church, while keeping their people safe.
Take these tips, take this wisdom, and use them whenever you are faced with making tough decisions within your church.
In the next installment of this blog series, learn how North Point Ministries is managing their end-of-year giving season. Hear how they are utilizing Pushpay to equip their church members with a streamlined way to give. Not only that, but also to unite them around the central message behind, and deeper reasons for generosity. To hear more about the North Point’s pandemic response, watch our exclusive video interview with Clay Scroggins.