Reset: A New Mindset for A New Season (Part 2)
“The message hasn’t changed even though our church has changed a lot.”
We’re in the middle of our “Reset: A New Mindset for a New Season” series, where Amy and I are interviewing four pastors from churches of different sizes in the U.S. and Canada to hear how they are leaving the past behind and leading forward in 2022.
RESET: COWBOY JUNCTION CHURCH
In Part 1, I sat down with Pastor William Attaway from Southview Community Church to discuss what his church experienced in the last couple years and how they’re shifting their mindset outward again. (Part 3 and Part 4 of this series are now available).
In Part 2, we’re joined by Pastor Ty Bean from Cowboy Junction Church in Hobbs, New Mexico. Pastor Ty shared about the unique challenges Cowboy Junction faced during the pandemic, how his team adopted a digital strategy, and:
- Completing a building project during the pandemic
- Maintaining an outward focus despite the distractions
- The importance of knowing who you’re trying to reach
- Providing clarity in times of uncertainty
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Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. If you’re headed into 2022 feeling dissatisfied with half-full worship services, a lack of volunteers and declining engagement in key ministries, it’s time to consider a reset and shifting to a new strategy for a new season. On today’s podcast, Tony and Amy continue our reset series in a conversation with Ty Bean, lead pastor at Cowboy Junction Church to hear how he’s led his church to shift their programming and adopt a digital strategy all while completing a building project during a pandemic. If you’re new to the podcast, before you listen, head over to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast and subscribe to get the show notes in your email. When you do, you’ll get resources to go along with each week’s episode, including the leader conversation guide and bonus resources, as well as access to our podcast resource archive. Again, that’s theunstuckgroup.com/podcast to subscribe. Now let’s join Tony and Amy for this week’s conversation.
I loved the conversation, Tony, last week with William Attaway from Southview Community Church, but I can tell you’re particularly excited about today’s conversation.
Yeah, I am. So we’re gonna be talking to Ty Bean, who’s the lead pastor of Cowboy Junction Church in Hobbs, New Mexico. And if you’ve ever, I’m assuming no one listening to this podcast, other than the folks that live in Hobbs, New Mexico, have ever tried to travel to Hobbs, New Mexico, but I’ve shared with them and others that it’s one of the hardest places to travel to in order to see some of my absolute favorite people in the world. And, Amy, Cowboy Junction, it’s one of the first churches that The Unstuck Group had a chance to serve. We started working with them about 10 years ago, and through that time, it’s just fun to see the transformation in the ministry through all those years. But I’ll tell you what. What’s been more rewarding for me is just the genuine friendship that has developed with Pastor Ty and the team at Cowboy Junction. In fact, the very first episode, you’d have to go way back in the archives of our podcast, the very first episode was with Ty.
Was it really?
And so it was fun to come back to this conversation with him now, this many years later. Again, like the pastor last week, we worked with Pastor Ty and the team at Cowboy Junction, during the pandemic. And I think you are absolutely going to love their story.
Well, with that, let’s jump right into your conversation with Ty Bean.
Hey, Ty, before we dive into today’s topic, let’s start with the name of your church. It’s Cowboy Junction Church. And I’m familiar with your story, but would you mind telling us a little bit about the history of the ministry and why the church has that particular name?
Well, sure. I have to always explain this for people. My people get it. Okay. That’s the most important thing, but really it boils down to when we were founding the church a long time ago, this was even before me, our sister church had a great illustration of what we were trying to accomplish as a church. And it was in the Matthew 7 parable, and Jesus is talking about the man who’s standing at the crossroads, and one leads to life, one leads to death. And the way that it came across to us, we are Southeastern New Mexico. The man who actually brought it up was in Oklahoma. And so we’re talking about a cowboy culture, this idea of a cowboy standing at a junction, and he’s either gonna choose life or he is gonna choose death, and we are helping people choose life. And that’s why we came up with Cowboy Junction, and it’s kind of fun. Honestly, people always ask, and we’ve just decided it’s just great conversation for us to start off telling our story, because it is really cool if you get to thinking about it. Cowboy Junction, but Cowboy Church is this incredible, I guess, community within the community of people who have a Western heritage and lifestyle that really might not feel comfortable at a typical church, not that they wouldn’t go there, but we’re reaching people in our community that would say, I could go to cowboy church, and we do have church ropings, and we do have church events that would be totally different than at a normal church, but it fits us. It fits great, and we help people choose life around here at Cowboy Junction Church.
So you can come to your church, even if you’re not a cowboy though, is that correct?
At first we really thought we were reaching cowboys. And then the next thing you know, came the Tony Morgans of this world.
Your first advice to me, when I came to visit your church, is don’t go out and buy a cowboy hat or cowboy boots.
Well, you said something along the line of do I need to buy boots? No, no, you don’t Tony. No. And that’s been the fun thing. It’s that when people show up, they realize the music sounds very familiar and the atmosphere is very friendly and the message still hasn’t changed even though our church has changed a lot.
Yeah. And to be specific, when did the church start then,Ty?
We started 22 years ago here in Southeastern New Mexico, in Hobbs, New Mexico. Started in a sale barn. And if you don’t know what a sale barn is, it’s where they auction off cattle and livestock. And it’s a perfect scenario, all the stadium seatings in a sale barn. And then we moved from there, purchased a ranch and just added a bit by bit. And here we are, to this day, it’s just a miracle. It’s pretty cool how things come together.
Yeah. So with that in mind, let’s actually go back in time to January 2020. In fact, I think a lot of us would like to go back in time to January 2020.
I’m just ready to move on. I don’t want to go back.
But give us a picture of what the church’s ministry looked like before the pandemic.
So we were running three services on Sunday and one service on Monday, and the Monday service is very special to us. Back then, that is when you would do a cowboy church because everybody was rodeoing on the weekend and they would get home and go be able to go to church on a Monday night. So we kept our Monday night service, but we were able to expand in our Sunday service with three services on Sunday, one on Monday. Our kids’ church, from ages kinder to fifth, were in a tent. We had a tent and then the rest of the kids were in portable buildings, and we were breaking ground on a new building project. So we started this new multimillion dollar building project in 2019. We were trucking along, fully prepared. I had just preached a series in January 2020 on vision 2020. So let’s be crystal clear on where we’re going in 2020. Vision 2020. Boy was I wrong. That was a series I should have put in my back pocket cause I had no clue what was about to happen. We were completely debt free and we had been working with The Unstuck Group since 2015 multiple times, multiple times. Almost as if we consider it a part of our health analysis around here every few years, going back and letting Tony get involved in what we’re doing. So this was what we looked like at the beginning of January 2020.
Yeah. And again, for those that don’t realize the uniqueness of your circumstances, not only the did the pandemic hit, but you’re located in New Mexico. For those that may not be familiar with the oil industry here in the US, this is kind of like one of the locations for the oil industry and, you know, remembering back to the beginning days of the pandemic, there was just kind of this collision of what was happening with oil prices and what you were facing with the pandemic. Can you help us understand that dynamic as well?
Yeah. So first is, is that we were breaking ground on a new building. We didn’t realize how divisive the presidential election was gonna be. At the same time, didn’t really realize the global pandemic was about to take place, and oil for the first time in history, would crash, but go beyond zero into the negativity, which means that if you had oil, you had to pay people to have it. It’s very confusing, but when we talk oil, Southeastern New Mexico is oil. And Texas is known as an oil state, but I’m telling you, we produce so much oil here. And so you wanna talk about four strikes against you right there. And the next time that I go through a global pandemic, a building program, oil crash, and a divisive presidential election, I’ll be a much better pastor to know exactly what to do. Yeah, it was about to be a very interesting year.
All right. So I agree. Let’s try to put that behind us here we are, two years later. A lot about our world has changed, and actually a lot about Cowboy Junction has changed as well. So tell us about where the church is today on this side of the pandemic.
Yeah, so here we are today, and we are in a new building, and it’s a 30,000 square foot building. It’s everything that we prayed for, believed. We spent a lot of time, this wasn’t just a quick building program. We actually canceled a previous building program many years before cause it just wasn’t right. And this was a lot of prayer, a lot of thought, a lot of investigation. You helped us in so many ways, figuring out numbers and building the rooms according to data that we collected. And today we’re in our new building. We’re still continuing navigating through COVID and what to do in that situation. And we’re growing as a church, we really are, and that’s where we’re at.
Yeah. And you know, not every church, honestly, that we engage with are we advocating for building projects. But the reality is, you mentioned it earlier, you, as a church, acquired a ranch a number of years ago and really for the last decade or more, right? You’ve been meeting in, what has essentially been a converted barn? Is that correct?
We changed a barn into a church. We sure did. Yeah.
And so between having church in a barn and kids ministry in portable buildings and tents and so on. It was absolutely the right decision for you to move forward with the building project, even in the midst of all of the challenges that we’ve faced the last couple years. But on that topic, as you look back on the last couple years, Ty, what would you say was the biggest challenge you had to overcome over these last couple of years?
Well, first one that comes to mind is surviving COVID. That was a pretty big deal for me. I spent many days in the hospital. It didn’t look good.
Yeah. Just take us on that journey, just for a moment because you, I mean, if you could see Ty, some of you hopefully will get to see a clip of this. I mean, very physically fit. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with your health before this, but you were one of those rare cases where someone caught it and it really impacted you.
I went on a fishing trip with a bunch of pastors and, we all got COVID, every one of us. And everybody got better, and I didn’t, and I got worse, and I kept getting worse, and I got so bad that breathing was extremely difficult. Even in the hospital, they were preparing me to give me the machine that helps you breathe. And these are the things we navigated through. It wasn’t just all the other things we talked about. They lost their pastor for a season, and we had a rough 2020. Miraculously, I got better, came back. There was absolutely no reason whatsoever why I should have got COVID that bad, but I did. And so getting COVID was a real difficult thing for me, but to the church too. Heather couldn’t lead because she was worried about me. The staff had to step up in so many areas plus lead a, you know, construction project and series and discipleship, go down the list, and I’m in the hospital, and it was a month and this was a long period of time. So not only getting COVID, but probably the biggest challenges was waiting for the new building to be built. That takes way longer than they say it’s gonna take. And I guess also realizing that we thought that by going to an online campus, local pastors in our neighborhood would say, Hey, we’re going online too. We’re going online too. In our entire community, a hundred mile radius, we were the only church that went to an online campus. And that was difficult. You can only imagine if every church is staying in their normal meeting times and you go online, and it’s for obvious reasons, it’s for reasons that we’ve prayed about, and we lose people. And it wasn’t fun being the only church within a hundred mile radius who went to an online campus. That was very difficult. But, you know, one of the things that we just decided to be aggressive at is while we were on our online campus, we were gonna be aggressive in feeding people, taking care of their electricity, finding out where the needs were. We not only have a beef project here at Cowboy Junction Church, but we stepped in and we would buy beans and rice in huge bulk. And we just figured if we were gonna go online, we’re gonna get aggressive in other areas. And one of the areas that we got aggressive in is just helping people and taking care of their needs. And that was a whole new experience on that level for us. So these are just some of the challenges: losing people, of course, everybody has experienced that, Navigating giving, navigating discipleship, navigating what does it look like when your pastor’s in the hospital? All of these things are what we looked at as being the challenges.
Yeah. And then on the other side of this, after going through all of those things and being the only church that was online for a season in a hundred mile radius, on the other side of this now, Cowboy Junction, we were talking earlier. I mean, based on the churches I’m communicating with, Ty, you’re one of the few churches that is actually larger in attendance now than you were pre-pandemic. And so that’s just, I mean, God’s hand sounds like was all over, not only your ministry, your life, but also the life of your church.
This is the stuff I like talking about. This is the fun stuff for me to see what happened. So I’m ready to dive into that. That’s the fun stuff.
Yeah. Well, why don’t you dive into that? Why don’t you share a little bit what you’re thinking around that Pastor Ty?
You know, we learned a lot about leadership, and the leadership that we learned really couldn’t be found in books. We had to really look at what is, you can’t do everything, so what are we gonna focus on? And which means we had to really be really good at our no’s. And we had to be really God-finite with our yeses. And I think we did that really well. At the same time, we did some fun stuff as a staff where we really pulled together, and those kind of things were for us. But really honestly, we had to learn a lot about service production. We had to learn a lot about system and structure. We had to build new ministry teams, and your guest experience was a completely different thing. And all of these things, if you didn’t talk about them on a weekly basis, and sometimes on an every other day basis, the world was passing you by so fast. If you weren’t having constant conversations about the new look, how are we gonna do it in a new way, and I felt like that was right in our wheelhouse. It really was. I think, if it wasn’t me, any staff member on our team could have been handed the reins over to them and said, okay, listen, you’ve just gotta figure out to make kids church work. And we rallied around you as a church. I think that was one of the secret sauce of what we were doing is we really rallied around each other. Churches that didn’t, I saw the wheels get muddy and I saw the bog begin to take place. You had to take quick steps. And it was something I think we did well.
Yeah. So, Ty, tell me, as you’re kind of expressing how your leadership, as a team, evolved through these last couple of years. How about you personally? How has your leadership been shaped by what you’ve experienced last couple of years? Anything come to mind?
Well, I’m a lot more dialed into the voice of God than I’ve ever been before. I don’t mean that in arrogant way. What I mean by that is I thought I had a great relationship with the father, but 2020 really forced me to lean in and know exactly what he wanted me to do. At the same time, the staff had to do the very same thing. I couldn’t be the guy who made decisions for everybody. People had to make decisions, sometimes on the fly. If we got it wrong, there was gonna be grace. Okay. But I had so much confidence in this staff that even if they got it wrong, we could talk about it. It might get tense, but we were gonna learn from it. And we were gonna realize, what do we need to do? And so you had to trust people, you really did. And even if they had to work from home for a season, you had to trust they were doing what they needed to do to get their job done. One of the things that we did at the very beginning is we re-looked at each job description and what was being expected out of everyone. If it was unclear what was expected out of someone, there was room for us to get really bogged down. And so we had to go to each department and we had to reinvestigate if they knew what their job description was and how to do it. Those were some exciting things for me. I had to look at my job description cause I couldn’t do everything. So I had to do what I was supposed to do.
That’s good. That’s good. All right. This whole series that we’re doing, we’re focusing on how the church needs to reset on this side of the pandemic. So what do you think that reset looks like for Cowboy Junction Church and maybe the church more broadly too?
Yeah. So, like I said, a minute ago, I think one of the things that churches need to think about in their resetting is what is your service production? And specifically, who are you trying to reach? For us, we have five target audiences, and we had to reinvestigate this, and what we found out, and it was through conversations with you. If we were trying to reach everybody, we weren’t reaching anybody. And that’s a hard conversation to have with churches because we all wanna reach everybody. But the reality is is that if we can narrow this down to exactly who it is, you’re called to reach, you’re gonna be more specific. But then through 2020, we even had to look deeper into how do we do service production, both online campus and when we kick this thing back off in a live service, what does service production look like? We had to have some hiring. We had to let some people go. It wasn’t bad let go. Some people started businesses. Other people stepped in and said, I wanna do this. Heck a great example is my 18 year old son who he couldn’t go to high school anymore. So he decided to take college classes. And so he was taking high school and college classes at the same time. And Brady, he’s just a great testimony of a kid who stepped in and he’s taking video and production classes at the college here, which come on, that’s like every pastor’s dream for your kid to take those classes.
Yeah, I know.
So Brady steps into a staff role at 18 years old. And we were just finding people with giftings and talents and putting them into spots that we’re growing faster than we ever thought we ever could. Service production was a huge conversation. System and structures. How do we do what we do? Trusting people and designating, releasing responsibilities, the more responsibilities we release to people and allow them to try their ministry feed out, the more we began to find that some people didn’t have it. And most people did. This was exciting. This was exciting time. For some, it made ’em really uncomfortable, but gosh, I just figured no one else had ever done it before. So how can they know if I’m messing it up? You know? And expectations is a huge one. We had to know what the expectations were, because if we had no expectations, we were just gonna fail. And we were constantly having meetings about what are our expectations for every department? Where are we successful? We measured a lot, and that’s something that I’ve appreciated over the years. How do we know we’re being successful in that area? We asked you a lot of questions about how do you measure an online audience? How do you know if you’re successful? One of my favorite quotes you gave is you said this, “Even if you count wrong, be consistent.” That was one of my favorite Tony Morgan quotes is like, listen, when it comes to online presence, count, however it is you want to count, but at least be consistent counting that way. That’s right. And we were able to narrow it down to figure out what is the peak time that we can take a measurement on our online audience and then measure that same way every time. And the reason why that conversation is poignant, I think more churches need to do this. I can just imagine churches not doing this. How do you know if you’re winning on your online presence? Or are you going off of someone who says, Hey, we had 3000 people attend our online campus, and your church only runs 150. And you know, you have to be at a place where, you know where your expectations are, you know how to measure ’em, and then you can tell if you’re being successful. We did that on a daily basis around here. And I think that’s one of the things that really, we had to reset on, you know. I tell you what, Tony, our online presence and engagement, it was a really big one, both giving and attending. And we had to have some really intense sometimes conversations about get me the data that tells me if we’re winning in this area. One of the great things I like about sports is the scoreboard. And I don’t think enough churches have scoreboards, and we gotta be careful with that. I hope everyone understands what I’m saying. We’re not keeping score, but if we don’t know if we’re winning or not, it’s really hard to play for that team.
That’s a good word. All right, Ty, any final thoughts? Particularly for the other senior pastors that are listening into today’s conversation.
Well, you know, you asked me to do this, and I was, I would, I wanted to share a story. And the story starts back in 2018 right in the middle of August. And I’m having my 20 year anniversary being the senior pastor at Cowboy Junction, and the crew really put a real thought out gift for me. And the gift is right behind me. You can see this, it’s my bronze. And one of my favorite artists, Curtis Ford, carved this bronze. It’s the only one of its kind. It’s one of one. And it’s simply called riding point. Now this is a cowboy story. So everybody out there is like I don’t understand. I’ll make it simple for you. Okay. It’s a guy on horseback, and he’s looking over his right shoulder. And the reason he is looking over is cause the guy who’s riding point is leading the herd of cattle, and the cowboys are pushing the cattle. But this is the guy that rides out front. Not only are the cowboys following him, but the cattle are too. The whole operation is riding on this guy to go the right way. Well, they gave me this for my 20th anniversary, and it is their way of saying, we trust you. We trust you as our pastor. We trust you as our leader. Well, this was in 2018. The reason why I wanted to bring it out is because if there was anything that really broke my heart a little bit is there were a lot of churches who didn’t trust their pastors, whether it be youth pastors, junior high pastors, worship leaders, senior pastors, associates, for any reason, didn’t trust their pastor. And I understand I get it. I get it. I really do. It’s hard to trust. But one of the things that I would do is I would just turn to the crew and say, guys, I’m gonna get away. And I’d jump in the truck and I would just go drive. Sometimes I was back within 24 hours. Sometimes I was back in three days, but I just prayed and I prayed and I prayed. Now, here was the thing about our staff. You would assume that since we were so tight and since we trusted each other so much, that we were all focused on what we needed to do, and that wasn’t the case. Half wanted to do this, half wanted to do this. And the other half didn’t know what to do. Okay. But after I would come back, I would sit down. I would say, this is the direction I think we need to go. And there was never one time that they pushed back. Do they have different opinions? Absolutely. But there was something awesome about the unity that we experienced, and our church saw the growth because when they asked me to be the point man, they were asking me to be the one that made the decisions. And I heard everybody’s opinion but at the end of the day, I had to make the decision. And so number one, I just wanna speak to every church member out there, church leader, board member, whoever it may be. And can I tell you that if your pastor is seeking direction from the Father, I can tell you right now, it’s okay to trust. And I think you could have done things completely different than other churches, like we did. We were the only one in our community that went to an online campus for a season, but it was the right thing to do for our church. And everybody trusted me. And the second thing is for every senior pastor out there. Can I just tell you I’m rooting for you? I’m rooting for you because you’re the point man. And you may be the point girl, but the reality is, is that I believe you have the ability to hear our father’s voice, to give you the wisdom you need to do what it is he’s called you to do. And we’re all riding point. And there’s people who trust us. Will Rogers once said this. He says, it’s okay to ride point as long as you turn around every now and then to see if anybody’s following you. That’s the scary thing about riding point. But honestly, if we’ve got a good crew and we’ve built up enough credit and they can trust us, there’s no reason why we have to doubt that we’re doing what God’s called us to do, may not be what every is supposed to do, but we’re doing what God wants us to do. And I think that’s a good lesson that we learned. And I appreciate that about Cowboy Junction staff. They trusted me.
Well, that was fun. What stood out to you from that conversation?
Well, I think number one, we all need to move to Hobbs, New Mexico, so we can be part of a great church like that. There are a number of things and there always are every conversation I have with Ty. This first, I mean, this is the way he said it, the message hasn’t changed even though our church has changed a lot. And I think that is just, it’s kind of the reminder that as pastors, as church leaders, we need to hear right now. In fact, Amy, I mean, this is one of those things I’ve actually researched in previous years, even before the pandemic. What I saw is that one of the characteristics of healthy churches was their willingness to embrace change. And I think sometimes intuitively we assume the opposite that if a church is healthy, if they have momentum, if they’re reaching new people for Jesus, if they’re actually accomplishing a great mission in their community, maybe we assume that whatever they’re doing, they don’t wanna change it because they don’t wanna lose that momentum. But actually the reverse is true. What we have found, just like with Cowboy Junction, the message doesn’t change. It’s still the good news, but the ministry strategies that they use to carry out that mission, they absolutely have to change. And the stories that Pastor Ty shared certainly confirmed that.
Another thing that jumped out to me was, throughout the pandemic, Cowboy Junction has been very committed to their mission, their vision for the future. That didn’t stop because of all the disruptions that Pastor Ty talked about, including impact on his personal health. Through all of that, the church’s ministry continued to move forward. And with that, they’ve continued to focus on reaching new people. I mean, they’re still growing as a church, even through all that they have experienced, but did it stand out to you? Because it stood out to me. Amongst all of the ups and downs that the church has been through over the last couple years, one of the biggest takeaways that came out for me in this conversation with Ty is that he said this way, I have to be more dialed into the voice of God.
And I thought, goodness, we all need to hear that. But especially those of us who’ve been entrusted to lead God’s church. We need to be more dialed into the voice of God.
Well, Pastor Ty leads a church that’s a little bit larger than the church we talked with last week. And for pastors of slightly larger churches, what’s one next step these churches need to consider as they reset in the new year?
Yeah, you’re right. Amy. Cowboy Junction, actually before the pandemic, they were just starting to push about a thousand people in attendance. And so because of that, I mean, it’s a large church, and especially in Hobbs, New Mexico, it’s a large church. But on the other hand, Cowboy Junction, like maybe your church, doesn’t have all the resources that much larger churches have. And so they’ve remained very scrappy through the years. I mean, for many years actually doing ministry in a converted barn, doing ministry in portable buildings. And even though they’re in a new building now, they still remain very scrappy. And I think part of it is because of the commitment they have to the mission that God’s called them to. And the way that Pastor Ty articulates their mission is like this. We love God and we love people with no limits. And it’s that last phrase “with no limits” because when we have the power of God on our side, we don’t have any limitations to what God could be doing through us and through our ministries. And let me just tell you, that’s definitely Ty’s personality, and now it’s the personality of the church. And because of that, they won’t let the circumstances around them deter them from the mission God has called them to. So if you’re one of these slightly larger churches, here’s the one next step that I would offer. Just like Cowboy Junction, we need to be willing to embrace change in this season. So does that mean a change in your vision for the future? If so, we need to embrace that change. Does that mean our ministry strategy needs to change in some way? If so, we need to embrace that change. Does our leadership need to change in some way? If so, now’s when we need to embrace that change. So don’t wait for things to return to normal so that we can get back to doing church like we used to do church in 2019. It’s time to move forward with no limits.
Well, Tony, any final thoughts before we wrap up today’s conversation?
Yeah. Again, Cowboy Junction is just one example of close to 200 churches we’ve served over the last couple of years during the pandemic. And if you’re trying to clarify where you’re going as a church in this season, a season that still has so many unanswered questions, we’d like to help you find that clarity about your future vision and the strategies that you’re embracing. So it’s a new year and many of us are getting a fresh start, and your church may be looking for that as well. And if so, we’d love to come alongside you, and you can learn more about how the unstuck group can serve your leadership and your ministry at theunstuckgroup.com.
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