Simple Shifts (Part 2)
For the last few years, we’ve been mostly operating in reactive crisis mode —and rightfully so. But if you want to embrace what God has for us in this next season, you need to start dreaming about the future again.
In the first part of our Simple Shifts series, we discussed what does not need to change in our churches and leadership in this new normal. But the series is called Simple Shifts for a reason–we do believe there are some things you need to consider changing to regain health and momentum in this season.
(Part 3 – Simple Shifts: Structure is now available!)
FOUNDATIONS: SIMPLE SHIFTS TO OUR MISSION & VISION
These first few shifts are really less about making major overhauls and more about refocusing and renewing our commitment to the mission and vision God has called us to. Amy and I will unpack those shifts this week, addressing:
- How “new” is “new?”
- Refocusing on your mission field
- Addressing the mental, emotional, and spiritual needs in your community
- Unlocking a vision for the future
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Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. For many pastors, the call for significant changes in ministry strategies over the last few years has been overwhelming, demoralizing and in reality, unnecessary for us to accomplish our mission. On this week’s podcast, Tony and Amy unpack some of the simple shifts that churches really should be considering. Before we get to today’s episode, though, if you’re new to the podcast, head over to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast and subscribe to get the show notes. When you do, each week you’ll get an email with resources to go along with that week’s episode, including our leader conversation guide as well as some bonus resources and 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.
Well, last week we started a new series that we’re calling “Simple Shifts,” and we began by talking about what doesn’t need to change right now. And Tony, anything else you wanna catch listeners up on before we dive into today’s topics?
Yeah, again, we are gonna be focusing on simple shifts, and we’re gonna start talking about some of the specific, simple shifts that we need to consider in today’s episode. But just to be clear again, this series is called “Simple Shifts.” It’s not called “big shifts.” It’s not called “monumental changes.” It’s not called “significant pivots.” And if you want to know why we’re calling this “Simple Shifts” and you didn’t hear last week’s episode, you really do need to go back and listen to that. So this call for significant change though, that I’m hearing from a lot different voices, it can become overwhelming. I think it can become demoralizing. And just honestly, I think it’s completely unnecessary in this season, even though we’ve experienced so much change in our society, I think it’s unnecessary for us to accomplish the mission that God’s called us to. I’m just not convinced that is necessary for us to become a different, completely different, church on this side of the pandemic. And so that maybe helps you catch up a little bit from our conversation last week as we prepare for today’s conversation.
Yeah. And presumably, because of the name of this series, “Simple Shifts,” I’m assuming you do sense that some changes actually are necessary for us to continue to accomplish our mission though. Is that right?
Yeah, that’s correct. And that’s because we are, we’re living in a different world than we did just a short time ago. I mentioned in last week’s episode that Emily talked, my wife, talked about the fact that it feels like we’ve experienced more change in the last three years than we’ve experienced in the first five decades of our lives. And I believe it’s very possible that we have. I think she may be right. She’s a wise woman. But if that’s the case, you may be thinking the world around us is just dramatically changing and therefore my church must also be completely different. And again, I’m just asking the question in this series, does it? Does it really need to be a completely different church? I mean, even with all the disruptions and unprecedented change we’re experiencing, I still don’t agree that the changes are necessarily very significant. I mean, yes, we do need to change, but are the changes really that significant? Now before I proceed, it might be helpful to remember we do follow a God who has demonstrated a desire for change in our lives and in the world around us. I mean, there are many instances where he advocated for new. If you look at scripture as some examples, this is from Ecclesiastes 7. “Don’t long for the good old days. This is not wise.” From Isaiah 43. “Forget the former things. Do not dwell on the past. See I’m doing a new thing. Now it springs up. Do you perceive it? I’m making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Here’s one from Psalm 96, “Sing a new song to the Lord. Let the whole earth sing to the Lord.” I like new songs, Amy. Here’s one…
Well, I was thinking your first one there from Ecclesiastes, “Do not long for the good old days.” I think some pastors might be motivated today to go ahead and put that up on their wall. They’re gonna have to preach that message.
Yeah, no doubt. That’s a good one. Here’s from Mark 2. This will be familiar to most of you, and “No one puts new wine into old wine skins, for the new wine would burst the wine skins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wine skins.” And lastly, this is what God’s doing in us. 2 Corinthians 5. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone. A new life has begun.” I mean, there’s just lots of trading old for new in these words, and there’s no doubt out about it. We can hold fast to the things God promises will not change. We talked about that, again, in last week’s episode. However, God also promises new. But how new is the new? I think is the question right now, right? Or how much change really needs to change. It’s a great question. And in practice, I actually think the changes that churches need to embrace, they’re really not as significant as we might think. In other words, a lot of the new that’s needed for this new normal, it just involves some simple shifts that don’t require us to become a completely different church. And maybe more importantly, for those of you who are listening today, a lot of the new doesn’t require you to become a completely different leader or a completely different pastor than you were before.
That’s a great word. All right, well, so let’s get to some specific examples of the simple shifts that churches need to consider and embrace. So where do you wanna start today, Tony?
Yeah. So today the focus is gonna be on the simple shifts that are more foundational. They’re more about our mission. They’re more about our vision. And then in the next couple of weeks, we’re gonna talk about some simple shifts related to weekend services, discipleship strategy, next gen ministry, online ministry, and maybe even a few other topics. And by the way, as we go through all of these, the assumption isn’t that you have to engage all of these simple shifts. What we wanna do is we want to give you some examples of what simple shifts maybe necessary for you, your leadership, your ministry, just as examples for you to begin to talk about, to begin to process through, to begin to pray through with your team. And then maybe it’s just one or two of these that you’re picking and you’re moving forward within the coming days. But let’s start with our mission. As an example, you might be thinking our church is located in the same mission field, but the needs of the people we’re hoping to reach, those needs are changing. I mean, we do. We need to become more aware of the fact that our mission field is across the street rather than across the world. And because of that, people across the street, they’re dealing with many new challenges in today’s world. And some of that is based on the growing diversity of the world around us. Some of it’s because the people in our mission field have been impacted by the same disruptions that our churches have experienced, only magnified at an individual level, but here’s the good news. The church was designed for such a time as this. This is really our moment. We know how to love others well. We know how to lead with kindness, and the world around us, they need that type of disruption right now. So here’s maybe the first simple shift we need to consider. It’s this. We need to get refocused on the people that we’re trying to reach in our mission field. Now, what might that look like? Well, let me suggest these basic, initial steps for you to consider. If you’ve not done this in a while, now would be a good time to revisit some of the demographic information that’s available for your community so that you can get a better sense of who is in your mission field. Then try to figure out among all those people in your mission field, who are we focused, as a church, on reaching? You don’t have to try to reach everybody in your mission field, just figure out who are you best positioned to reach. Then talk about what’s most important to that person that you’re trying to reach. What’s important to them? What are their needs? What are the challenges that they’re facing in their lives? And then consider how can our ministry respond to the needs of the people that we’re trying to reach. And maybe even more specifically for the pastors that are listening, how can your teaching, or how can your content strategy, speak to those needs? And Amy, this may be a shift that churches need to embrace, but I don’t think it’s that big of a shift. I actually think this is a good example of a simple shift. We’ve always wanted to reach people for Jesus. The simple shift that we’re talking about is that we need to refocus on who we’re trying to reach and what’s important to that person. And again, it’s a simple shift, and I think we can do this. I think this is something that we really can do.
I do think it’s a simple shift, but I think we also have to recognize, Tony, that many church leaders, especially right when the pandemic hit, turned towards those who were already connected to the church. And that was a good thing. We all needed some care at that point. And we still do, but it’s always been a challenge for the “Big C” church historically to turn their eyes in attention to those who are not yet connected to faith. It’s aspirational for sure, for most leaders, we say we wanna reach the people in our community, but to actually determine and understand those things that you just mentioned about where God’s placed our church and who’s around it, to learn about who’s in your mission field and make the changes necessary to reach them. That has always been our struggle as churches. So it is simple, but it will take energy and it will take courage to take those next steps.
That’s right. That’s a good word, Amy. I mean, what you’re describing is we really need to become missionaries in our own community again.
We do. My job always, in my ministry role, was to make sure our front doors were always wide open and expecting people. And we were so laser focused, but I’ll tell you what, we hit seasons too, where those doors were closing. And we just had to really work again to get ’em open. Well, that’s the first simple shift. It involves refocusing on the people that we’re trying to reach in our mission field. Tony, what’s another simple shift we need to consider?
Yeah, here’s another one that’s related to refocusing on the people in our mission field. And as an example, specifically, you may be thinking there are many people in our community that they’re dealing with the consequences of the pandemic. And that includes some people who are overcoming physical health challenges, but it may also include many people, many more people, that are dealing with emotional health challenges. I mean, haven’t we all dealt with overwhelming stress over the last couple years? Some of us dealing with depression, some of us dealing with anxiety, and the consequences of these emotional health challenges are impacting relationships all around us as well. I mean, people are hurting emotionally, but thankfully many people also believe there’s a spiritual gap that’s at the root of their pain. And so here’s the second simple shift that we need to consider. We need to be more intentional about our compassion for people around us. And so let me give you some practical examples here again. If these are the challenges that people are facing in their lives, especially around emotional health challenges, maybe we need to make sure in our upcoming Sunday messages that teaching on these topics, and related to that, let me recommend a couple of specific resources that you can check out. A couple of my friends, Chris Hodges, pastor at Church of the Highlands in Alabama, he has a new book out. It’s called “Out of the Cave: Stepping into the Light when Depression Darkens What you See.” Another one of my friends, Craig Groeschel, he has a new book that’s out. It’s called “Winning the War in your Mind.” It’s all about changing your thinking to change your life. And specifically that book addresses some of the anxiety challenges that some of us wrestle with in our lives. Both of these though are good examples of resources, trusted pastors, that the content from this could form a message series that you’re teaching. You could use these books as opportunities to create discussion guides for your Bible studies and for your home groups to go through at the same time that you’re going through these teaching series. You may want to offer the book for people in your congregations to purchase so that they can read along as you’re teaching through this content. I’ve seen some churches at times actually buy books for everybody in their congregation to be able to read along when they’re doing a series like that. So those are some ways. Let me also offer, this is a great time to somewhere on your website link to some recommended counselors or organizations in your community that can help people, provide direct help to people that are facing emotional health challenges in their life. One church that we’ve worked with, they, once a week, open their church up during the evening and they invite counselors in from their community to serve people at the church building, both folks in their congregation and people in the community that are looking for counseling. Another way is just to be, I mean, remember that emotional health challenges. We need other people in our lives when we’re facing that. And so this is a great opportunity if people are coming to you with these types of challenges in their life, to encourage them to begin to connect with other people. And my goodness, I’m hoping you have some great opportunities either through home groups or serving teams. These are places for us to help people get around other people to encourage us as we’re taking our next steps toward Christ and trying to overcome some of these challenges that we’re facing as well. And Amy, again, my hope is that being compassionate as churches, this is not a new big pivot for us, but being more intentional, I think, about helping hurting people in our congregations and also in our community is an appropriate, simple shift that we really need to be embracing in this season.
Tony, I love that. I think it’s another way that we can communicate that we are for people rather than people knowing what the church is against. And I think we have time. So how about one more simple shift that we can consider before we wrap up today’s conversation?
Yeah. So the first two were more about our mission and our mission field. Well, let’s also consider our vision for the future because you might be thinking we’re still living out of a vision for our ministry that we embraced pre-pandemic. And that seems outdated and a little bit irrelevant on this side of the pandemic. And that’s okay. Remember our mission, again, is why we exist. That mission is rarely ever going to change, but our vision on the other hand, that vision needs to be refreshed. And I would argue every three to five years that vision needs to be refreshed. In other words, it’s to be expected that the vision that you had back in 2019 may not feel appropriate for where the church is in 2022, especially given all of the disruptions we have faced. So here’s the third simple shift to consider. We need to hold tightly to our mission, but we need to be more open handed with the vision that God has given our ministry for the future. And so again, let me offer some specific next steps that you can consider here. First, I think it would be wise to set aside of couple days, and I would bring together a team of eight to 12 staff or lay leaders from your church to begin to pray and dream and talk about what God has next for your ministry. And I talk about a team here because what we’ve seen, pastors, you don’t need to do this alone. There’s just a lot of great encouragement, and I think God brings a lot of clarity, when we do this with another team of leaders around us. When you do come together, picture what you want, not what you think you can do based on your current reality. And by current reality, I’m thinking, you know, it’s not just the finances you have currently, the people you have currently, your current roles. In other words, don’t think about the obstacles, ask yourself what you would attempt if you knew you could not fail. When you come together, be bold, think big. It might start as a completely crazy idea, but incremental change, it’s just probably not going to inspire your team. And it’s probably not going to inspire your congregation. So free up your mind a little bit to explore what God might accomplish through your ministry. Here’s another thought: put yourself five years into the future. Try to imagine what your future is going to look like. What does it feel like? What do you hear? What do you see? And don’t get stuck on how all of this is going to come to fruition. How you will accomplish this future direction will be defined after you agree on those bold moves that you’re considering together as a team. So put that how question aside for now, and then also put down the past. When you’re dreaming of what could be, don’t let the past or past methods hinder your creativity. Begin to think like a church planter. You have a clean slate. It’s brand new. And by the way, on this side of the COVID, I think there’s a lot of grace. I mean, people understand we need to start fresh again. So you don’t have any history to overcome as you’re considering your future vision. And then maybe lastly, this is not a mission or vision statement. This is not about the things that you value, like your Biblical foundation or being a multi-generational church in the future. This is not about strategies that you’re going to implement. Instead with your team, try to discover that next mountain that God wants you to take and actually name that mountain. And Amy, I just went through it and experienced like this with a great church couple weeks ago. And I mean, a large church, too, several locations, healthy church. If you were to look at all the factors, and here we are two years into COVID, and they’re starting to see growth again. So a lot of good is happening, but this church also recognized the vision that they were pursuing back before the pandemic. It just, it felt a little like it needed to be refreshed. And it was just so fun to engage this conversation with this team. First of all, great team. Love Jesus. Love the mission they’re on together and just fun to hang out with, but it was just great. As we were starting to talk about future vision for everybody around the table. And again, I would say, especially for the senior pastor, it was just like, this was just bringing new, fresh energy to everyone that they hadn’t experienced in a long, long time. And so the time is ripe. We’ve been operating in reactive crisis mode in many ways over the last couple years, but we can start dreaming about the future again. And when you do that, I think you’ll be surprised at how much this does energize the team around you. It helps to bring alignment. It helps to unify the team, and you as the pastor, as the church leader in your ministry too, you are going to be refreshed and renewed with this fresh vision of what God might have for your church going forward.
Yeah. I never miss that when we get to engage with a church, what happens when we get off the treadmill of doing church, doing ministry, and get these wonderful people gathered in a room for these strategic vision-minded, let’s dream together conversations. It’s like wind in their sails.
So much fun. So much fun.
Yep. Well, Tony, any final thoughts before we wrap up today’s conversation?
Yeah. We talked about three simple shifts today, including refocusing on our mission field, being more intentional about our compassion for people and being open handed with God’s vision for the future. And I hope you agree, these aren’t big pivots, but we may need to embrace one or more of these simple shifts to fulfill the mission that God’s called us to. And The Unstuck Group helps churches in all three of these shifts that we’ve talked about today. You don’t have to go at it alone. If you want to learn more about how we can come alongside you and your team to embrace these simple shifts, please reach out to us at theunstuckgroup.com.
Well, thanks for joining us for this week’s podcast. At The Unstuck Group, our goal is to help pastors grow healthy churches by guiding them to align vision, strategy, team and action. In everything that we do, our priority is to help churches help people meet and follow Jesus. If there’s a way that we can serve you and your church, reach out to us today at theunstuckgroup.com. If you like what you heard on this podcast today, and it’s been helpful to you in some way, we’d love your help in getting the content out. And you can do that by subscribing on your favorite podcasting platform, giving us a review and telling somebody else about the podcast. Next week, we’re back with another episode. Until then, have a great week.