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One Team

Although the term “team” may not be found in the Bible, the concept is consistently exemplified.

Jesus assembled a team and called them disciples.

Peter assembled a team and called them deacons.

Paul assembled a team and carried the gospel to the corners of the Roman empire.

Every good leader knows that if they want to have maximum effectiveness, they will have to assemble or develop a team. 

In Good to Great, researcher Jim Collins spends an entire chapter discussing leadership. In the very next chapter he discusses assembling the right team.

Ed Stetzer (Comeback Churches) noted the major habits of churches that were able to make a comeback after experiencing plateau or decline. One of the key characteristics identified was they “launched a team-oriented vision; implemented team strategy in everything.” Stetzer went on to say, “The study made it clear—you cannot turn around a church alone. It takes a team effort.”

Whether we are building a church or a ministry, to be effective we need a team.  

This afternoon I watched the men’s final at Wimbledon.
In what seems to be a highly individualistic sporting match, both the winner (Novak Djokovic) and the runner-up
(Kevin Anderson) thanked their teams. No matter what discipline you explore, whether sports, military, corporations or education, you will likely find that success involves more than one particularly gifted leader or intellectual. Sustained effectiveness almost always involves a team.

One of the most impactful events that I’ve ever attended was Tommy Barnett’s “Pastor’s School.” Although Barnett had both the finances and relational connections to bring in any top-tier speakers to inspire participants, he did something quite different. He allowed us to benefit from his ministry team. We were able to hear their stories, benefit from their experience(s), and see their context. I was so inspired at Pastor’s School that I returned three more times, often with my pastoral staff and deacons. Our team grew in vision, passion, and our church grew in ministry effectiveness.

How are you doing as a team leader, member,
or developer? 

This year at Ministers’ Enrichment we are asking our Network ministry team to share inspiration and information that we pray will enhance and enlarge your vision for effective ministry. Although it’s not possible for every team leader to speak, we have asked several of our full-time staff to speak broadly enough to include everyone present, yet specifically enough to represent the focus of ministry which they lead.

Teamwork

Your Team + Our Team = One Team.

That’s not a complicated mathematical equation. You didn’t have to have taken algebra, geometry, calculus, or linear algebra and differential equations to figure out the solution. In the real world 1 + 1 = 2, but not in this case. More + more = one, or is it really twice as much? Perhaps it is exponentially more. None of this really matters. All we have to realize is that if we all work together, more gets done and more gets accomplished. If I’ve learned one thing during the last 13 years as District Director of our ministry, it is that no one person can do it all. It takes a team. Not just a team of individuals with the same personality and talents, but a team with diversity and multiple talents. Take our human body for instance. Each part has a specific function and each helps us to complete various tasks to function properly. Take one or more parts away and we find ourself at a deficit, not functioning as efficiently. Sometimes I often think if I could clone myself I could get so much more done; however, since I have not been blessed with all the God given talents, I doubt that would be very productive or beneficial. We still need the diversity that a team provides. Each of the ministries we are involved in has a specific function and meets a specific need. Add one or more teams together and you get one team with much more diversity and even more potential. Often we are reluctant to join forces because we do things one way and others do things another way, but aren’t we really looking to accomplish the same thing? Building the kingdom of God? A ministry benefits most when everyone is working together and smoothly as a team. To be most efficient the body has to work together as a team and not as separate entities. Collaborating together as we focus on a common team goal helps maximize our effectiveness. Let’s team up and be the best version of a team we can be. The benefits add up to infinity.

Our Team, Not My Team

Every time he saw me, a recently hired 16 year old (Bongiorno Conference Center kitchen employee) he would say, “Hey boss, what’s up?” After a half dozen comments, I told him, “I’m not the boss; I’m the team leader.” The look on his face said it all. His next question was, “What’s a team leader?”

This made me think; we talk team all the time. Team building is the hot topic in business, church, education and sports. Everybody wants to build a great team. But what lies at the core of a team?

If you Google team building you will get hundreds, if not thousands, of sites for books, seminars, trainings, podcasts, YouTube videos and much, much more.

I’ve built several teams in my lifetime; some were super effective and some not so effective—so what’s the difference?

With a team, all members share input as well as all sharing in the outcome. Everyone owns it. Everyone has a vested interest in winning.

How does one develop good team members?

PRAY

I pray for God to send me and surround me with the right people. Jesus said in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

It is rare that God ever sends us plug-and-play, ready-to-go phenomenal team members. I believe He sends us good people and wants us to develop them.

SERVE THEM

I treat people the way I want to be treated. Be kind, generous, and genuine. I determine to go the second mile in serving those God sends me.

ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR STRENGTHS

I look at their strengths (Strengths Finder 2) and try to place them in areas that maximize their strengths. People who serve in their strengths seem to maximize their service.

I strive to know them and understand them. We look at all of the team’s personality/temperaments (Personality Plus). I hope to help them understand who they are and how they are wired. This helps us know each other better. As a team we begin to understand the strengths and weaknesses of every personality and how we function emotionally, as a parent, at work, as a friend and as a team member. As we begin to know team members, we begin to build trust with one another.

SHARE THE WINS

I try to help each team member understand they are making a difference, and together we make a tremendous difference in the lives of people. When people know their work on a team really counts, they will have a tendency to make their commitment to the team count even more.

HELP THEM SUCCEED

I try to give my team members certain markers they can use to measure their success. They need to know they’re doing a better job today than they did yesterday. There is a sense of engagement when you can measure your success.

WELCOME HEALTHY CONFLICT

As our appreciation of one another grows through knowing and understanding team members, our trust also grows. I welcome healthy conflict. Healthy conflict is not to be taken personally; it’s not about team members, it’s about building a better outcome and team purpose.

True teams share decisions. There is always a team leader who is responsible, but the pressure of leadership is easier to bear when there is a collective of leaders reaching those decisions.

The wisdom of teams:

In a true team, when one wins, we all win. Allow team members to make mistakes without consequences, just don’t let them make the same mistake twice (then they haven’t learned). When team members step it up and fail, I take the blame if they succeed, I give them the credit. I’ve said it before, one is too small of a number to make a great difference. Our team will always accomplish greater feats than I ever could alone. I am indebted to them.

Two Congregations, One Team

HEART LANGUAGE /
IDIOMA DEL CORAZÓN

Many of us have the opportunity to come to church on a weekly basis and worship in our native tongue, English. We are able to worship in our “heart language,” the language that we were spoken to as a child, the language that we pray in, and the language that connects with our soul. But there was a growing Hispanic community around Houston, Pennsylvania, who did not have a place of worship, simply because they were not English-speaking.

Four years ago that changed when Pastor Francisco Teodoro and the leadership of Central Assembly of God teamed up to answer God’s call to minister to the Hispanic community in the Houston area, located outside of Pittsburgh. With a joined mission, Central Assembly of God launched a Parent-Affiliated Church, Iglesia Cristiana Central, that specifically ministered to the Spanish-speaking community.

THE MINISTRY /
EL MINISTERIO

Central AG provides the resources, the building space and support system for Pastor Francisco and Pastor Kurt Jenkins to partner together so the ministry can thrive! Pastor Francisco leads Spanish-speaking worship services on Sunday mornings at “The Rock,” which is the student center. Throughout the week, he also leads a Bible study in a mobile home community, discipleship classes, a weekly prayer service, as well as an alternate Friday service for those who cannot attend on Sunday mornings.

When Pastor Francisco began this ministry, he didn’t wait for the Hispanic community to find the church. He sought them out and formed relationships by visiting the mobile home community and apartment buildings which were largely populated by Hispanics. He posted road signs and banners. He visited local Mexican restaurants and met the owners and workers, offering to pray with them. He went to Walmart and formed relationships with the Hispanic employees. Pastor Francisco simply started making friends for Jesus in the community, and he showed them his “authentic invitation” in his words. He shared, “My purpose, the God-purpose in my life, is that God created me for this time to preach the Gospel. My blessing is changing lives.”

Central AG’s Hispanic ministry extends beyond the walls of their community, and people travel from all over the region to join his congregation. Pastor Francisco leads a weekly online prayer meeting, which is broadcast to Mexico, and usually has about 100 people tuned in for prayer. He also mentors 6 pastors from different parts of the world via skype, pastors from Cuba, Mexico, and his home country, El Salvador.

AN ISLAND FOREVER CHANGED /
UNA ISLA PARA
SIEMPRE CAMBIADA

Long before coming on staff at Central AG, Pastor Francisco ministered from a distance to his home country of El Salvador. He would preach on the radio to a little island called Isla Tasajera with only 1,500 occupants. The island had only dirt and sand roads and three vehicles, but they had a great love for Pastor Francisco and his ministry, so much so that they started inviting him to visit them and preach the Gospel, and even honored him by giving him a piece of property.

When Pastor Francisco came to Central AG, the church adopted the island as a focused project, under the direction of Missions‘ Pastor Vicki Barton, and continued to invest by raising $50,000 to build concrete fish tanks for tilapia harvesting on the property that was originally donated to Pastor Francisco. Through this investment, they are teaching those on the island how to fish and become entrepreneurs! Central AG has also entered a spiritual covenant with the main church on the island, and it was renamed, “Central AG of Isla Tasajera.”

Already this year, Central has made numerous trips to the island to teach spiritual leadership, kingdom lifestyle, business and finances. They also hired an El Salvadorian professional who is training a few church members on a weekly basis about how to care for the fish and tanks.

It is amazing to see how God has used this ministry model to reach the unreached and unite the Spanish- and English-speaking congregations of Central AG! Pastor Kurt emphasized that that they operate as, “two congregations, but one church family,” and this model works because “the leadership of the church really embraced it.”

Missions is not just overseas; sometimes it’s reaching out to the immigrants, the undocumented, the non-English speakers in our communities and creating a space for people to grow in their faith and in their heart language, whether that is Korean, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic or Vietnamese. Although launching a ministry in a second language and dealing with language barriers and cultural differences is not always an easy feat, because of this Hispanic ministry, now a church in western Pennsylvania has had a profound impact on a tiny island in El Salvador! Now that is a picture of God’s mission for the world.

One Team, One Vision

Imagine a baseball team where the players don’t share a unified vision of winning games. They don’t listen to the coach and each individual thinks he knows best what will win the game. That’s probably not going to be the best strategy. A strong, successful team is a team with one unified vision, and the coach is the one who needs to inspire the players to share that vision. Church leaders often function in a coaching role for the staff and volunteers that they lead by inspiring a shared vision that keeps everyone working together in the same direction. If a clear vision isn’t articulated, you will find that there can be many visions often competing for time, energy and attention.

In order to inspire a shared vision, there are two critical components – inspiration and vision. To inspire means to guide or affect by divine influence, to fill someone with the urge or ability to do or feel something, to breathe into. I pray that as leaders, we are being inspired by the Holy Spirit on a daily basis. We also need to be inspiring others and there are several ways that we can do that:

Through our words: the words of a leader are powerful, whether for good or bad.

Through our stories: getting to know each other.

Through our attitude and enthusiasm: this applies to all
personality types; even quieter people can be inspiring.

Through our actions: people will watch what you do more than listen to what you say.

Vision is the ability to think about or plan the future with wisdom, a mental image of what the future will or could be like. We need to be seeking God’s wisdom and allow Him to direct our plans and thoughts when it comes to the future of our churches. But even if you have the greatest of visions for your church, you won’t get too far if you aren’t clearly casting that vision to those you lead. Casting vision is a lot like fishing. You have to watch that the line doesn’t get tangled when you cast; you have to have clear and straightforward communication when sharing vision with people. You also have to do it over and over again. Vision leaks over time and people need to be reminded of the future they are working towards. Even if you think you’re over-communicating, do it more!

We also need to make sure that the vision we are casting is an inspiring one. What makes an inspiring vision? It should paint an exciting and clear picture of the future, compel and motivate people to get on board, move people to action, engage the heart, tell the story of impact, and be forward looking with a sense of direction. Most importantly, it needs to be based on
the Bible.

Habakkuk 2:2-3 says, “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.” The Lord also used tablets for sharing the Ten Commandments – clear communication that shared the vision He had for His people. To truly be one team, we need to have one vision, clearly communicated and inspiring us to action.

Interview with Jeff Marshall

An interview with Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Marshall

What do you think has prepared you the most for this new step?

I think it’s been a combination of my ministry experience of thirty-four years, which included planting New Day Assembly of God. Previous to that I was a school administrator for twelve years, and served as presbyter of the Southwest Metro section in Pittsburgh.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I’ve always believed in being a servant leader, recognizing what needs done and doing it, whatever the task, nothing is too small or too big. I like to work as a team. I believe in working with people instead of over people.

What are your core values?

My core values? First, my personal relationship with Christ.

Family is so very important to me. I love being a husband, a father and especially a grandfather. I am a husband to Cathy, the father of four children (Katie, Micah, Eden and Shuyler) and a grandfather to Selah and Gideon. “And if I would have known being a grandfather was so much fun, I woulda’ did it first.” That’s actually a quote from Robert Owen, but I use it all the time.

What are you looking forward to the most with your new position?

Supporting Pastor Don in his leadership and being available to pastors and churches to help as much as I can with credentials and transitions. When I was a presbyter that’s one thing that I always enjoyed…working with pastors. That’s what I’m looking forward to the most.

What is a message that you hope to inspire leaders and churches with?

I’m Pentecostal – that’s my DNA and I believe in it. I trust in the Spirit of God to lead me and guide me. I believe that if you look in the New Testament, the reason the church grew was because of the power of the Holy Spirit; that’s what’s going to make the church grow again.

Interview with Don Immel

An interview with District Superintendent Don Immel

What do you think has prepared you the most for this next step?

I see it as a lifetime of saying yes. Denny Sproull asked me to be the CE rep for our section. I was pastoring a very small church at that time, and I said, “Yes.”

A couple of years later I said, “Yes” to being on the sectional committee. This was a role reversal, because at one time the sectional committee was my board. Now I had the opportunity to serve and help home missions’ churches. That was followed by a “Yes” to being secretary of the section.

So, what’s prepared me the most? Serving as a presbyter prepared me to serve as Secretary-Treasurer, and serving as Secretary-Treasurer combined with Presbytery, along with pastoring churches, have all helped to prepare me for what God has called me to today.

Tell us about your family.

We have 3 children – Benjamin, Rebecca and Donnie. Ben and Emily live in Pittsburgh and work for UPMC; Ben in the IT security area and Emily as an OB nurse. Becca, who is due to have a baby in August, and Nathan, a dentist, live in Fort Worth, Texas. Donnie and Kylie, along with Kaedence our first grandchild, live in Monroeville, PA, where Donnie is a youth pastor and Kylie has a photography business.

Our empty nest is not what we thought it would be. We knew that one day our kids would be well-functioning adults. They are, but we miss them terribly and pine for the connectedness of having our family close by.

What are you looking forward to the most with your new position?

First is mentoring young ministers and helping them to achieve their dreams of kingdom effectiveness. That is something that I am anxious to engage in with them.

On the other end, it is caring in a pastoral sense for our credential holders. The ministry can be, and often is, traumatic. I’m absolutely sure that post-traumatic stress (not disorder, but post-traumatic stress) is part of our reality and it has largely gone unaddressed. We want to care for our ministers and their families as well as our churches.

Four Ways to Connect

What makes a good team? What allows many unique individuals to work well together to achieve a common goal? What would you say is the most important part of building a truly successful team? How about investing in relationships? There are a lot of components that allow a team to thrive, but one of the most important aspects is connecting with each other and investing in each valuable member. Here are four simple ways to connect with others through an easy to remember acronym: T.E.A.M.:

Time Well Spent

Encouraging Others

Acts of Service

Motivational Gifts

So, what do each of these mean, and how can you apply them in the workplace with your team members? As you can guess, not everyone is made to be exactly alike; we have all been created by God to be unique, to fulfill different roles, to accomplish different goals, and yet somehow, we are all made for community, to be connected to others. So how can we achieve working on a team in harmony with people who are so different from us? It helps to know what makes people feel most appreciated and cared about. Similarly to the 5 Love Languages, the four points of T.E.A.M. work to seek out what makes people feel most valued, and how we can use that knowledge to invest in the relationships of our team.

Time Well Spent

For team members who need quality time to feel valued, activities like one-on-one get-togethers or meetings can be a very successful way to connect. Knowing that you are available to them in this way will benefit their work on your team! Make sure that when you set aside time for people who need quality time, you don’t become distracted as this may lead to hurting that person.

Encouraging Others

For your teammates who need to be encouraged to feel appreciated, words can go a long way. Making a point to shoot a word of praise over to a member who thrives on encouragement will help that person to feel confident that they are doing a good job. When you need to confront this type of team member, make sure that criticism is constructive and approached gently, as it may be perceived as an insults or personal attack.

Acts of Service

This is a tough one! As a leader of a team, it is often your job to delegate tasks to your members, giving them each different responsibilities. It can be challenging to come alongside everyone who needs acts of service to feel valued by taking on their responsibilities – so find a way to serve your team members outside of the workplace, furthering the relationship in that respect. As a teammate, connecting with people who love acts of service by helping them with a busy workload can be an effective way to grow your relationship. Make sure that if you commit to help someone who feels cared about by acts of service, you follow through on that commitment; if you don’t, it can be quite offensive.

Motivational Gifts

Most people who appreciate and connect by receiving gifts aren’t looking for a wad of cash! A token of appreciation like paid time off, or a small, meaningful gift can be an effective way to motivate your team member and show your appreciation. These types of members thrive on tangible, meaningful things to know they are doing a good job, and that their work is valued. Be sure to give credit where credit is due to these team members; if passed over for a responsibility or role they may feel they earned or deserved, it could cause some hurt feelings.

All-in-all, we know that everyone is different, and appreciates different ways of affirmation. Not all of your team members may fit into this mold of T.E.A.M. but it doesn’t hurt to try connecting in these intentional ways. So let us know how you’ve impacted your team members, or, how someone has made you feel valued and appreciated!

Dare to DREAM Big Together

Sixteen years ago the Lord put a dream in my heart for the waters of His Spirit to rise across our Network so that all ships would rise together as He worked among us.

We often think of this as our dream, but in truth this is God’s desire – His dream. A part of that dream is the sense of unity we experience when we see ourselves as a part of the team God has raised up to impact Pennsylvania and Delaware with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, none of us can change the world through our own efforts, but it is truly incredible what can occur when we join hearts and efforts to reach those God has placed around us. We experience what it means to be “Better Together.”

Marjie and I have been honored to serve you as your Superintendent these past years. Your love and support for us has created an atmosphere where God’s presence has been felt and His favor experienced. As we look to the future, it is our prayer that our future leadership will experience the same prayer, support, encouragement and love that you have afforded us. We thank you for your care for us and trust you will commit to follow those who will lead into the future.

Our gratitude goes out to our excellent staff, both departmental leaders and support personnel at the Ministry Center and the Conference Center. Their excellence, passion and loyalty have established a context where unity is evident. Our presbyters have led with great integrity and passion for your sections and churches. Their commitment to God, you and our fellowship has been a source of great encouragement to me. Our ministers, churches and followers of Jesus across our Network made serving in this capacity a joy that provides significance for all we do. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your prayers, love and passion to be people of the Spirit and of the Word as we have labored together for His Kingdom. May God continue to grace us with His presence until He comes again.

The Belle Vernon Dream

As a church rooted and planted in Fayette County, Faith Assembly has sensed a call to be a county-wide church that is aware of and addressing the major issues of our area. Through prayer and conversation with other Fayette County churches, four specific areas have been identified as strongholds over our community. Those specific strongholds are poverty, dysfunctional homes, spirit of religion and empty wells of addiction. In 2016, there was a strong desire to move beyond prayer for the stronghold of addiction and to begin “getting our hands dirty” in the matter.  As a church, we began to ask God for a piece of property that would become a home to a ministry and to a small group of men who would become discipled and changed by the Spirit of God.

When it comes to the drug epidemic in Fayette County, our desire is to see broken lives restored. The plan is to begin a discipleship home first and then establish a church in the same community. In the Recovery Phase, we would open a home to men who are willing to commit to a six-month program that would integrate discipleship classes, a work program and support group. The work program would include a cleaning service that is made available to area churches for financial support. In the Church Phase, the church would launch as an extension of Faith Assembly with a campus pastor serving on-site.

In a miraculous answer to prayer, Presbyter Tim Bunney and the Southwest Suburban Home Missions Committee offered us a recently donated property that includes a church, apartments and classrooms. We are grateful for this generous gift. Our next step is to begin the renovation on the property. We ask for your help in seeing the Dream become a Reality in Belle Vernon!

Philly Dream Center

 

As Urban Missionaries, we feel a strong call to one of the neediest parts of the city, North Philadelphia and Kensington. Here are some of the ministries that have been launched in our first year of ministry in these communities:

S.H.I.N.E (Spreading Hope In Neighborhoods Everywhere)  is reaching children with a sidewalk Sunday School. One of the locations is nicknamed “Needle Park” because of the notorious fame for a park where drug dealers and addicts congregate. In the midst of this, there are many unattended children playing at the park. On a weekly basis, we reach these children, as well as some guardians, with this outreach.

Mobile Food Pantry distributes free groceries to needy families and seniors. Philadelphia is the poorest “big city” in the nation. Nearly 25% of children go many mornings and nights without a proper meal. This is why we purchased a large truck to distribute much needed food throughout the most needy neighborhoods of Philadelphia.

Midnight Angels is a ministry that Shirrie leads with a team of women who reach women in high human trafficking areas including strip clubs. The team drops off gift baskets, prays for the women, and invites them to a Bible study.

We need your help… We have reached a point where we are in need of purchasing or leasing a facility where our church can move forward with the dream that God has given us… launching community worship services, offering a School of Urban Missions cohort, hosting Philadelphia short term mission trips and internships, and developing micro industries (Philly needs “Double J”- Jesus and Jobs).

Turnaround Kids’ Ministry

I receive several calls and emails asking, “How can I turn around our church’s children’s ministry?” This request comes from the leadership of all size churches. Many are looking for someone, volunteer or part time, to make it happen for the church. Often that one person ends up burning out too soon, so first and foremost, pray for a team. Ask the Lord of the harvest for workers, not a solitary worker. Remember one is usually too small of a number to make a significant difference.

Here are some steps that can help turn children’s ministry in the right direction.

  1. Communicate the need. When the congregation understands the urgency and importance of a solid and engaging children’s ministry, they begin to adopt the awareness of what is important to the life of the church. When the pastor preaches on the importance of children, it soon becomes important to the listener. Share a simple, but clear vision for what your church’s kid’s ministry can become. Start off with a simple, easy to grasp future; include what your church values in their ministry to kids. This will help the congregation envision what will be the most important concepts for kids’ ministry.
  2. The BIG ask. People respond to a vision from the pulpit that has been highlighted as important and valuable, especially if it’s a team concept. Many will be overwhelmed and decline if they feel it all falls on them. Ask people to be a part of this most valuable team. Team ministry lightens the load and eases the pressure to volunteer.

  3. Equip and appreciate the team. Help team members do what they do best. If they are teachers, train them. If they are running a game night, resource them. Make their ministry easy. My famous saying to my team, “What do you need from me?” Then, appreciate the team in as many ways as possible; I’m still working on this.

  4. Share the win. Do everything you can to show that great ministry has been accomplished. Feature children and kids’ leaders publicly as often as possible. Mention something weekly to the congregation. Remember, that people want to be a part of a winning team. When team members know their ministry matters, they will continue to serve with passion.

  5. Evaluate everything in a positive light. Help the team measure their success in ministry. An easy to understand vision and values will be the goal and guide. Help the team to understand it is never about the individual, it’s about creating a better children’s ministry.

Adapted from the article: Six Steps to Revitalizing Your Children’s Ministry, by Jeremy White, Influence Magazine, September 8, 2017

UNTIL ALL KNOW

As pastors, we have to evaluate the direction we are going and encourage those who are going with us. We must instill biblical values, inspire dreams, and then measure the results. Pastor Jim and Wendy Paisley are youth pastors who are leading a turnaround youth ministry in missions. When they arrived at Faith AG in Hazleton, PA they were met by students that never gave a thought about missions or missions giving. Their giving to Speed The Light was marginal.    

It is universally considered that to “turn something around” is to reverse the previously poor performance of something and make it successful. But, how do you do this? Pastor Jim was faced with the obstacles of:

Changing a mindset

Changing culture

Having no goal

Pastor Jim revealed his secrets and overcame these obstacles by:

Consistently speaking toward the mission

Actively involving students in a fundraiser

Mentoring through personal giving

Now their youth ministry consistently raises over $10K each year for Speed The Light, with a record high giving of $21,751. Jim said, “What excites me most is that many students have graduated from high school and are still giving to either Speed The Light or our church’s missions fund. We have also seen a difference in our community because we are raising up a generation that has a desire to reach the lost both near and far. We believe that we are helping equip missionaries with the essential means to reach people with the Gospel all over the world! Our students’ heartbeat is to go and to send!”

 

Doug Sayers

Youth Ministries

717.795.5921

dyd@penndel.org

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

The Turnaround

Devin and I came to Abundant Life Church in Birdsboro in the beginning of 2014. The church had been in existence for about twelve years, but was now struggling in a number of ways. Attendance was very low (around 40), the building was in desperate need of updating, and many of the once thriving ministries had lost their steam. Now four years later, because of God’s grace, consistent prayer, strong leadership, a faithful core of laborers, and wise financial restructuring, our small church has been revitalized. Four years ago, our church wasn’t very involved in the community, but now there are so many ways people can get involved and serve, and really make a local impact physically and spiritually.

Loving Loud in the
Community

When we arrived in Birdsboro, one of the first things God led us to pray for was unity with other churches, and He has answered that prayer while teaching us how to reach out and make valuable connections with other local churches! A major aspect of our community impact is our partnership with other churches in the area that share the same Gospel-driven mission; I don’t think there is any one outreach that our church does 100% exclusively. Our weekly children and youth ministries impact many unchurched families. A handful of those families have started attending our church, and many of them are still building a relationship with us through their children. We host an annual community VBS, and again, a handful of the volunteers are from other local churches.

Our church also serves a few times each year at our town’s “Community Table” which provides a free sit-down meal for anyone in need. We provide the dinner, serve the people, and have opportunities to sit and listen to their stories. We partner with our local fire department and hold an annual community egg hunt which has grown to become a very large well-attended community event. Each Christmas, we support the town’s Christmas celebration by providing the live music and giving out free concessions.

We partnered with three other churches and held a one day event in the park last summer called, “Love Loud.” Close to 1,000 people benefited from free haircuts, health screenings, groceries, lunch, family portraits, and much more! We hope to make this an annual event because the families in our community really need this kind of love and support! We have also helped to start a “Celebrate Recovery” ministry, again partnering with other local pastors and lay leaders to meet a major need of those with addictions.

Turnaround Lives

After being at Abundant Life for about a year, we launched a “Rebuild Project” to update our building. Devin set a goal of about $70,000 to raise for the renovations, however, we would need volunteers to do a lot of the labor. During this time, a young man started visiting the church. This young man was a plumber, and when he heard that we needed new toilets installed, he volunteered to help. It was during those late nights of bathroom renovations, working side by side with Devin, that this young man had the opportunity to really share his story. Because he felt needed and was given opportunity to connect with other Christians, he began to realize God’s purpose and calling on his life. He began to be involved in discipleship opportunities, and he and his wife invited God’s healing power into their lives and marriage. Both of them have since gone through our discipleship “growth track” and are actively serving in ministry. They both went on their first mission trip this past summer and are continuing to grow in their walk with Jesus!

Our Turnaround Steps

  • A weekly prayer meeting with a handful of faithful members
    • We consistently sought God for wisdom each week and asked in faith for big things. It didn’t matter that there were only about ten people coming out to pray each week. What mattered was that we were faithful, and we prayed with faith.
  • A small core of faithful laborers
    • We invested in a core of volunteers who had a heart to serve and who were supportive of the new leadership.
  • Patience to learn and strengthen the existing church culture
    • We did not make any major changes in the first six months, instead we focused on preaching God’s Word, seeking God for vision, and building relationships with the people.
  • Financial restructuring
    • Devin’s accounting background was an asset as he was able to make some major changes to spending so the church could steward their money in a much wiser way. Devin has been bi-vocational as an accountant and just recently went full-time at the church.
  • Casting fresh vision
    • Sharing a new vision and new goals with the church helped people know where we were headed and that they were needed for the journey! In our case, our building remodel project greatly contributed to the growth and involvement of attendees.
  • Wise counsel from others
    • We asked for advice and guidance from many wise leaders outside of our church. One of the best pieces of wisdom we received in regard to the revitalization process was, “It’s a marathon, NOT a sprint.”

Guest Contributor

Jess Blankenbiller

Abundant Life Church

Birdsboro, PA

50th Pow Wow

For 50 years the PennDel District Royal Rangers, formerly known as the Eastern District until 1984, has been holding an annual Pow Wow/Campout where hundreds of men and boys have come together to share in fun, fellowship, activities, competitions, camping, devotions, Sunday School and evening worship services. Since our 1st Pow Wow in 1968 (patch shown here) thousands upon thousands of men and boys have ventured to this exciting event where it is estimated that over 3,000 boys have received salvation. This event is the highlight each year for outposts throughout the district and always promises to create memories that will be everlasting and life changing for all those that attend. It has been more than just a camping event; it has been an opportunity to help shape boys into godly husbands, fathers and community leaders.

Our 50th Pow Wow will be held at our own Camp Berry in Honey Grove, PA, on June 22-24, and promises to be a sensational event to celebrate the heritage of the Royal Ranger ministry in our district. There will be dynamic speakers, an awesome worship band, and exciting events for everyone who attends. A special commemorative patch and coin will be given to all those who register, along with other giveaways. You won’t want to miss this exciting event. All outposts are encouraged to attend and invite their pastors and all Royal Ranger alumni. You don’t have to be a Royal Ranger to attend. Come out for the whole weekend or just for the day on Saturday, June 23, and participate or just watch all the exciting activities. This will be one Pow Wow you won’t want to miss. Contact our Royal Ranger district commander at gscott@pdrangers.org or visit our website at www.pdrangers.org/penn-del-district-powwow for more information.

TURNAROUND LEADERS – DAE MCNATT

When we came to Wrightsville AG over four years ago, there were two children in the children’s ministry. We now have a thriving Kids’ Public School Church with over 40 elementary school aged children. We also host a Released Time program of around one hundred 3rd-5th graders every Thursday during the school year.

Remodel of our Kid’s space helped the turnaround. We brought energy and technology into services, showing kids that having a relationship with Jesus is fun! We now have a tender-hearted team that invests weekly into the lives of our kids. It excites us to watch our kids go after God during our worship time, hear them pray for each other, and see them grow in their faith as they learn God’s word.

Dae McNatt

Wrightsville AG

sonshinydae@yahoo.com

REPAIRING WHAT’S BROKEN

Can you relate your fragmented women’s ministry to the walls of Jerusalem lying in ruins as described in the book of Nehemiah? The Jewish people had rebuilt the temple after fifty years in exile, but they were never able to finish the wall around the temple due to the opposition they faced each time they attempted to complete it.

Nehemiah understood the complexity of the task before him, the necessity for the repair and the lack of enthusiasm to get the job done. Nehemiah utilized several key leadership principles to get the job done and inspire others to support the vision through personal commitment and enthusiastic promotion.

SEE THE NEED. The neglected wall symbolized a lack of hope, strength and direction for God’s people. Many women in our churches feel alone, discouraged and lack purpose. When one part of the body is hurting, it affects the entire body. It can’t be neglected!

SEEK OUT SUPPORT. You can’t do this alone! Nehemiah requested the King’s permission, leadership investment and recruited laborers. You are in a place of influence and able to develop spiritual gifts and growth in those who join your team.

SUMMON GOD’S DIRECTION. Nehemiah prayed for months before he began his mission to rebuild. Whatever we do and how we do it must be directed by the heart of God and have His approval before we proceed. Others will sense God’s hand on your leadership and feel confident to follow if they know He is leading.

SUBMIT A PLAN. The Jerusalem wall was rebuilt following a clearly defined plan and was executed with guidance. If you are going to get others onboard and excited to join you, know where you are going, how you are getting there and what it will accomplish. Women will work hard if they believe in the goal and see it as valuable and eternal.

SEE THE POTENTIAl. Because Nehemiah was passionate about the problem, a vision of hope for the future was born. Once we recognize the problem, we need God to reveal the possibilities of a vibrant ministry to women and teen gals that will bring hope, meet relevant needs and unite women in a spiritual sisterhood changing lives for eternity.

Inspiration and ideas taken from The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership by Jenni Catron – a great leadership resource.

TURNAROUND LEADERS – BARRY BROWN

It’s amazing to watch our church get healthy! We have vibrant Spirit-filled worship, more people using their gifts in ministry and a higher attendance in our Sunday night prayer meetings. We are building bridges and relationships through our outreaches. Where we provide food, clothing and the gospel.

During one of these outreaches, we connect with a new family. The wife and children would come to service, but the husband wouldn’t even enter the sanctuary because he “doesn’t do church.” Every Sunday myself and others would greet him with a smile and handshake. He slowly started coming into the worship service. He soon gave his heart to Christ and was discipled by one of my deacons. He joined the worship team and was recently baptized with his wife.

The best part of turnaround churches is seeing turnaround lives.

 

Barry Brown

Evangel AG, Glenolden

barrybrown725@gmail.com

TURNAROUND CHURCHES

Although the term “church revitalization” has not commonly been in use for more than a few decades, the concept of churches needing to reverse their course and do a turnaround is as old as the New Testament scriptures. Jesus conducted a church health assessment of the churches in Asia in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. In five of the seven churches addressed, Jesus issues warnings that indicate they must take corrective action or risk the consequence of discipline or closure. Stanley M. Horton observes:

Each letter begins with a revelation of Jesus and a commendation, usually followed by a warning and a challenge. However, Jesus commends the churches’ virtues even more than He warns them of their faults. He knows exactly what is going on in each church. He knows their successes, their failures, their victories, their problems, their difficulties. More than that, He knows exactly what each one needs.

Another important observation in the letters to the seven churches is to whom they are directed. Each letter starts out with the same addressee: “To the angel of the church in…” The Greek word “angel” (angelos) is defined as a messenger, and is commonly interpreted to mean the pastor or leader of that church. Horton comments, “Like a watchman walking among them, He subjects them to rigid inspection. His purpose, however, is to encourage, preserve, and challenge them.”

Research indicates that approximately 80 percent of churches in America are either plateaued or in decline. Thom Rainer of the Rainer Research Group states, “Eight out of ten of the approximately 400,000 churches in the United States are declining or have plateaued. Of the churches for which we have data, 84 percent are declining or experiencing a growth rate below the population growth rate for their communities. The latter is defined as a plateaued church.” Although the Rainer Research Group gives a cross-denominational perspective, the same general trends are reported within the Assemblies of God. According to Alton Garrison, Assemblies of God General Assistant Superintendent and Director of the Acts 2 Journey revitalization initiative, 25.6 percent of Assemblies of God churches have plateaued, and 43.1 percent are in decline. Garrison notes that the rate of declining churches is at its highest in almost twenty years.

Despite the sobering statistics, here are four reasons for hope and optimism!

  1. First, the church belongs to Jesus Christ. We are His, and He takes special interest in His bride’s success and future. Jesus makes it clear: “I will build my church…” (Matthew 16:16) Jesus is determined to see His church move forward and has given us the necessary gifts and empowerment to enter into an effective partnership with Him in His mission.
  2. Secondly, there is a plethora of resources available to assist pastors and leadership teams to change their course from plateau or decline to growth and greater effectiveness. The Acts 2 Journey has seen measurable success in our Network and throughout the nation. Thom Rainer’s book on “Breakout Churches” and Ed Stetzer’s book entitled “Comeback Churches” are two must-reads for the pastor who is determined and committed to coming off a plateau or reversing the spiral of decline.
  3. A third reason for optimism is increased effectiveness that can be derived using a coach or mentor. Both Gene Woods and Thom Rainer identify that having outside input can be a significant benefit in leading a turnaround church. In his intensive study of thirteen “breakout” churches, Rainer states “at least eleven of the thirteen breakout churches had leaders who indicated the impact of ‘Positive Outside Influences’ in the turnaround in their churches.” Trained, certified coaches are now prepared, and a financial pathway is available to utilize this resource through a plan of underwriting and cost sharing through the PennDel Ministry Network for credentialed ministers (contact Tom Rees for more information at Tom@penndel.org).
  4. A final reason to be optimistic is optimism itself. Research identifies that when optimism was embraced, a willingness to change, consider future realities and prospects rather than idealizing the past, and openness to new methodology was also experienced in congregations. As Paul said, “Hope does not disappoint [us]” (Romans 5:5).

At some point, every church or ministry will face the prospect of plateau or decline. If this happens to be your context, please know that you are not alone, and you do not have to navigate these challenges by yourself. God most certainly cares, and we most certainly care. As a Network we are available and continue to explore, develop, and offer assistance to helping your church or ministry experience a turnaround.

TURNAROUND LEADERS – ADAM BARNES

We pastor in North Central Pennsylvania. The church was primarily a small, older congregation but we have utilized resources offered through PennDel such as the Acts 2 Journey and Coaching and have partnered with ministries like One18 Movement; these helped our church grow in both organizational structure, in connecting with our community, and so much more!

At our last Easter Egg hunt held at a nearby elementary school in Lairdsville (population 72), we had over 700 people attend. There I connected with a middle-aged man named Mike. A few months later, after connecting with a few people from our congregation, he attended one of our services. There he communicated that he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and after more than 30 years away from the Lord, he wanted to recommit his life to God. Later his wife, son, and other family members gave their hearts to the Lord and have joined the church. They continue to invite friends and relatives to church and share the difference that Christ has made in their lives.

 

Adam Barnes

Radiant Light AG, Muncy

pastoradamag@gmail.com

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