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Published every Thursday the goal of the unSeminary podcast is to be an encouragement to Pastors and Church Leaders with practical help you can apply to your ministry right away.
Loving the Church You Serve with Carl Kuhl
Thanks for joining us for this week’s unSeminary podcast. Today we’re talking with church planter and lead pastor Carl Kuhl from Mosaic Christian Church in Maryland. Mosaic was planted in the fall of 2008, launching first in a movie theater, and has become one of the fastest growing churches in the country.
When planting a new church, many leaders are tempted to copy culture from other churches and then create systems of their own. In reality we need to do just the opposite. Listen in as Carl shares some ways to help your church discover its culture and stay true to it.
* Copy systems and create culture. // There’s nothing wrong with borrowing from other churches that are doing something well, especially when it comes to systems, such as assimilation, discipleship, and so on. When you are planting a new church, don’t be afraid to borrow from books, conferences or other churches for your church’s system development. Culture, on the other hand, can’t be borrowed. Spend your creative energy and focus on developing your own unique culture as a church, which will be greatly influenced by you as the leader, your experiences and personality, as well as the area where you are planting. * Don’t lose your culture. // When Carl planted Mosaic Christian, the goal was to be a church where open brokenness is the thing that’s celebrated above all else. When a church knows what its thing is, it can be really powerful, but you have to stick to it with confidence. Churches can get lost when they try to be something they’re not or when they try to change their culture every few years. Go on a journey as a leader and a team to explore and arrive at this idea of what your church’s culture really is. Then hold on to it and build everything around that idea.* Know where you are called to lead. // When you’re a leader, even of something like a small group, you have to love the thing you lead or you won’t last there. Don’t just believe in it or agree with it. If your heart isn’t drawn to it and doesn’t love it, it may not be the place for you. We need to identify as leaders: What type of church do I want to attend? What kind of community am I drawn to? These types of questions helped direct Carl when it came to creating the culture of Mosaic Christian. * Embrace the culture. // Carl and his wife wanted to create a community that was on mission, but also a place where they’d find deep friendships themselves. Because open brokenness is such a part of Mosaic Christian’s culture, Carl knew he had to model that vulnerability in his own life as well. This meant talking about areas of personal struggle from the stage while preaching so others would see his honesty about his own brokenness. How are you modeling the the aspects of your church’s culture that you are asking others to embrace?* Church planters don’t all look the same. // When Carl began to pursue planting a church, he felt like he didn’t fit the mold of what a church planter “should” be. He realized that most of what we’ve heard about church planting is wrong because we place God’s abilities in a box and limit the possible impact on the kingdom as a result. It inspired Carl to write a book based on his experiences, The Contrarian’s Guide to Church Planting, which is less of a how-to book and more about letting God use the gifts and wiring He’s given you. Don’t be limited by what a spiritual gift test says you should or shouldn’t do. Rather identify the things in you that can be used and pour gas on them. Most of all, be yourself and the unique leader God created you to be.
3 Key Lessons For Your Church From a Study of 20,000 Online Events
Recently, a report entitled The State of Virtual Events 2021 was released, which looked at the experiences of 100 leading brands that ran over 20,000 online events in the last year. This study explores these brands’ thinking around online events as they have made the “great pivot” to utilize this option more and more.
Like your church and mine, we are all trying to figure out how this new online world will impact our organizations moving forward. As I delved into the report, I found there were a number of lessons that we could pull out to apply to our own operations as we look to the future. The report examined 100 leading brands and the lessons they have learned from running online events of various kinds over the last year. The events included webinars, online summits, online conferences, and various virtual sales, marketing, and communication efforts.
The types of brands that were included are household names such as:
* Nestlé: A producer of baby food, medical food, bottled water, breakfast cereals, coffee and tea, confectionery, dairy products, ice cream, frozen food, pet foods, and snacks. 29 of Nestlé’s brands have annual sales of over $1 billion, including Nespresso, Nescafé, Kit Kat, Smarties, Nesquik, Stouffer’s, Vittel, and Maggi. Nestlé has 447 factories, operates in 189 countries, and employs around 339,000 people.* Condé Nast: This company’s media brands attract more than 72 million consumers in print, 394 million in digital and 454 million across social platforms. Titles include Vogue, The New Yorker, GQ, Glamour, Architectural Digest, Vanity Fair, Pitchfork, Wired, and Bon Appetit among many others.* Volkswagen: Who for over 80 years have been putting more volks in wagens! Their brands include zippy cars like Golf, Jetta, Passat, Atlas, and Tiguan. The company is worth $141 billion and has a sprawling operation that includes a huge presence in its largest market: China.
One of the things that jumped out at me in this report was that 51% of the respondents reported that they had hosted their first virtual event in the last 12 months. [ref] This made me lean in, because so many churches across the country have made their pivot to church online for the very first time since the pandemic rolled out in March 2020. The entire world is figuring out how to work more online, and while some of us have been leading churches online for ten plus years, many churches are experiencing this new online reality for the first time.
58% of the people surveyed in this report believe that they will invest more in online events as they look to 2021 and beyond. [ref] That is probably due to the fact that 91% of respondents say that these experiences were successful. These two statistics together led me to conclude that we need to extract lessons from the marketplace to apply to what our churches are doing online.
As we continue to work out what it means to be a “hybrid church”, which many of us are leaning towards in this current culture, it really does feel like we have all made the pivot to online; but now we are asking ourselves, what next?
In those few days in March 2020, we jumped in and implemented a tremendous amount of infrastructure to work out how to present church online. Many churches started by adding midweek content, communication, and connection events, but have since dropped those or have experimented with new things.
Helping Leaders Slow Down with Christa Hesselink
Thanks for tuning in for this week’s unSeminary podcast. We’re talking with Christa Hesselink, founder of the organization SoulPlay. SoulPlay offers creative experiences, curated resources, and personal support to help individuals and groups dig deeper, listen well, and journey towards loving themselves, others, God, and our world, well.
The last twelve months have been incredibly demanding for church leaders and more than ever we are learning that we can’t ignore what’s going on in our inner lives. In fact the busier we are, the quieter we need to become because success isn’t found in achieving and doing. Listen in as Christa shares how slowing down and re-centering ourselves on God helps us to love well in our ministries and lives.
* Pay attention to your inner life. // From her own experience in ministry and taking a sabbatical, Christa knew that people needed to learn to slow down and ground themselves in God. But since the pandemic, church and ministry leaders are also learning just how much is inside them that they can no longer ignore. Slowing down can bring up a lot of insecurities, and leaders are sometimes afraid of feeling vulnerable and facing the problems they encounter in their work and life. It’s much easier to achieve and do, but these aren’t true measures of success. Rather our primary work needs to be slowing down and centering ourselves in God. Only from that standpoint can we observe the habits of our thinking and emotional terrain which need renewal.* Show don’t tell. // Since the start of the pandemic, 20% of those who previously identified themselves as regular church attenders never returned in any way (online or in-person) to church. People are longing for a format that transforms and want an experience with their life in God rather than simply mental instruction. 70% of the population filters the world through their senses so we need to think about experiences that show how to believe, not just what to believe. SoulPlay specializes in offering creative experiences to connect people to God. Think about how you can incorporate experiences like these at your church.* More than thoughts and emotions. // Leaders struggle with slowing down because they don’t know how much they need it. Western Protestant faith tends to be left-brained in nature, influencing people to wrongly believe that just acquiring more knowledge will make us more like Jesus. We can be so disconnected from more right-brained activities, like worship or listening prayer, that we don’t know how to quiet ourselves and work on the inner landscape of our lives. Spiritual formation takes a look at what is the soul and what is the connection between the mind, heart, and body.* Direct your attention to God. // As we do the inner work needed in our lives, there is not a cookie cutter plan that works for every person. However, curiosity and courage are required to move ahead into new spaces no matter who we are. Christa offers spiritual direction and coaching in which she does a lot of listening to her clients, helping them to direct their own attention to God. SoulPlay is like an outfitter for the spiritual life, offering retreats and workshops as a way to introduce people to slowing down and giving them the opportunity to turn inward. * Personal Pandemic Evaluation. // Christa has given us a free tool to help in slowing down and paying attention to our inner lives during this season. It is a set of questions called the Personal Pandemic Evaluation and provides a list of questions to use alone or with your family or staff. Through a time of reflection this tool will help you process the last twelve months as well as its losses and gains, how they are connected,
How to Help People Who are Burned, Bruised, or Wounded in Your Church with Steve Grusendorf
Welcome to this week’s episode of the unSeminary podcast. Today we’re talking with Steve Grusendorf who is a part of the denominal leadership at the Christian and Missionary Alliance. He started as a local pastor at a CMA church, always serving in leadership development, and a few years ago became involved in this aspect at a denominational level, now serving as Director for Ministry Studies.
Leading a congregation through crisis—whether it’s a moral failure, a sudden transition, or something else—is a unique challenge that leaders may not always feel equipped to handle. It can be easy for us to miss the wounded that may already be invested in our church, especially when they’ve been wounded by the church. Listen in as Steve shares how we can get better at spotting and loving the spiritually wounded right within the shadow of the church.
* Don’t let awareness fade. // We try to prepare ourselves to help wounded people when they are drawn into the church for the first time, but sometimes we miss those who are hurting and already within our church. We can’t assume that everyone who regularly attends our church and is involved on some level is ok, or is even a believer. * Avoid the perfection trap. // Within the church, we know we aren’t perfect, but no one talks about it. There is a difference between the living church and the local church. The living church is all believers and you have to be a genuine follower of Jesus. But the local church is a wide open place to come for healing. It can be filled with believers, skeptics, seekers, and even people who may have less than positive motivations for being there. The local church needs to be the place where people come to be redeemed.* Tell your story. // As a leader, if we only focus on telling our current stories (after following Jesus) we can come off as being perfect. We can’t forget to tell the story of our lives before Jesus. Communicate that the local church is not a place for perfect people, but rather a place for broken and hurting people who want to find healing and redemption. Share the story of how you were one of those people.* Serve, forgive, and pursue. // We may know these three things, but don’t always communicate them from the platforms God gives us. Service has to trump power all the time, and it has to start with the leadership. Leaders, we need to find a place where we are participating in our churches without leading. Be careful about putting power above service.* Aftermath: A book for the spiritually wounded. // Steve wrote his book, Aftermath, for people who are spiritually wounded and also for church leaders who want to get better at spotting and loving the spiritually wounded right within the shadow of the church. Steve saw there was a pattern where people in the church are often unheard and stuck in their pain, and as a result may walk away from the church or God entirely. As leaders, be willing to make yourself available in a variety of ways, and process with others the painful things that are happening in the nationwide and global church.* Watch for wolves. // As leaders we are taught about how to care for the sheep, but not always how to deal with the wolves. We need to be aware that sometimes these people can come from the inside and prey on others. Stay vigilant and look for these three red flags: Firstly, a person who desires leadership without participation in discipleship. Discipleship is more important. Second, a person who desires leadership without demonstration of good follower-ship. To be good leaders we first must be good followers. And third, a person who desires leadership but expects to skip steps to get there.
You can learn more about Steve and his book at www.intheaftermath.com.
Pandemic to Endemic: Five Questions Your Church May Still Need to Answer About COVID-19
The cultural and economic impact of COVID-19 is one of the greatest influences on the local church in at least a generation.
Over the last year, we’ve seen COVID-19 impact our ministries in innumerable ways.
In some respects, COVID-19 has accelerated positive change in the local church. The shift to equipping the majority of churches with the means to minister online will no doubt pay dividends for years. People who wouldn’t normally darken the door of a church will have access to the good things that happen there, not to mention we’ll extend our churches’ abilities to serve people outside of the traditional boxes we inhabit. We’ve also seen an incredible push in the last year of churches working in their local communities by partnering with social service agencies and other local organizations to distribute food and care for those in need, which has made a tangible difference on an unprecedented scale!
However, we’ve also seen some negative impacts from COVID-19. There is evidence that 20% of the people that were attending our churches before the pandemic haven’t returned in any form, whether that be in person or online. [ref] It may take us years to figure out how to reengage the people who were with us just over 12 months ago. There’s no doubt that kids’ ministries within most churches across the country have also taken a serious hit during this time. This is particularly troubling when we know that the majority of people who make a decision to follow Jesus do so before the age of 18.
However, on the horizon is a new set of questions that many churches are going to need to face as the COVID-19 pandemic shifts into a new mode of what scientists call an endemic.
In epidemiology, an infection is said to be endemic in a population when that infection is constantly maintained at a baseline level in a geographic area without external inputs. For example, chickenpox is endemic in the United States, but malaria is not.
While we are encouraged by the vaccine rollout that’s happening across the U.S. and in many other countries around the world, there is increasing evidence that COVID-19 will shift from being something that we can potentially put in the rearview mirror to something that we’re going to have to live with in the coming years.
I’m not a scientist, nor do I play one on the internet, but I would encourage you to read up on and explore this topic for yourself. We’re going to wrestle with a few questions that I believe our churches may have to face as we shift from pandemic to endemic. First, here are a few articles from reputable sources to begin your journey of learning about COVID-19’s potential pivot from pandemic to endemic:
* Health.com: “What Is an Endemic Virus? WHO Warns COVID-19 ‘May Never Go Away‘” // This article covers a recent press conference with the World Health Organization’s Dr. Michael Ryan, the Executive Director of the Health Emergencies program, where he said, “It’s important for us to put this on the table. This virus may become just like another endemic virus in our communities and this virus may never go away. Based on the shifting variants of concern and vaccine rollout, many communities across the world may simply just need to deal with the impact of COVID-19 for years, if not decades, to come.”* Nature | Journal of Science: “a href="https://www.nature.
Working at Health while Facilitating for Growth with Renaut van der Riet
Welcome to this week’s episode of the unSeminary podcast. We’re talking with Renaut van der Riet from Mosaic Church in the Orlando, Florida area. Passionate about making the gospel beautiful however they can, Mosaic is continually pursuing how they can serve each other and how they can serve their community. This heart has led to tremendous growth in seasons, which also has exposed areas where the church needs to work on its health.
As church leaders, we run into trouble when we become obsessed with measuring the health of our churches by the size of our churches, as our culture pressures us to do. But fruitfulness is the biblical measurement for what indicates health. Listen in as Renaut shares how to stay healthy as a leader and a church while you are growing.
* Stop growth for the sake of health. // Stopping growth momentum or slowing it down for a season can be a huge fear for churches. We may feel that we have to keep it going no matter what, even if it’s negatively affecting the broader health of the church and staff. Ultimately, growth without health will not be sustainable. Many large churches will grow and grow and grow only to then crash and burn, or have a major staff turnover. During one of Mosaic’s growth spurts where they doubled in size in a season, they found their DNA became diluted and they needed to pull back to work on their health and culture.* Regular commitment to exposure. // When the pace of growth is going fast, things can look great in public so we assume that it is also going well behind the scenes. The reality is, when things are growing fast some things will fall through the cracks or not get the attention they need. That eventually erodes health without our even noticing it. Combat this drift by having regular evaluations of both your leadership and infrastructure so you can bring issues into the light and address them before they get out of control.* Show your truth. // Secrets and shadows should be our greatest fear as ministry leaders. Just as we need to bring issues in our ministry into the light, we need to be honest about the state of our souls. As Renaut notes, the sooner we share our deficits, the sooner we’re free because then there’s nothing for people to find out! Whether you’re on stage in front of your church, or working with your staff, be honest about your shortcomings. Pastors’ lives are as messy and imperfect as anyone else’s. Let in the light on your life to protect yourself from making really big mistakes down the road.* More fruitful, more health. // The bible doesn’t say: the bigger the church, the healthier the church. Rather fruitfulness is an indicator of health. We have created this belief that if you pastor a big church, you are a better leader. But that’s simply not true. Leading a church is a bit like gardening where each of us are given a plant to care for, and each individual plant is very different from other kinds. Each plant has unique challenges in its care and also gifts to offer. Be thankful that each different church can learn from each other and has something different to contribute to God’s mission. * Cultivate healthy intimacy. // As church leaders, if we become obsessed with our positions, then church becomes an idol. As a result we won’t want our souls to be exposed to the light and an obsession with growth will override our church’s health, eventually causing things to fall flat. When church leaders fail, we see that intimacy with God, their spouse and biblical community has been eroded over time. It’s important to learn how to continually cultivate these areas of intimacy to stay in the light. * Find What is Missing. // To help with these challenges, Jimmy Dodd of PastorServe and Renaut authored a book,
Customer ReviewsSee All
Meaty. Useful! Podcast and even the Episode Notes!
E.g., Increasing Your Church’s Generosity Culture with Steve Stroope. The Episode Notes alone were very wise, to include an initial foundational Biblical practice. Good interview questions from a leader’s perspective (ex. from the podcast: speak to a pastor who doesn’t want to know what individual giving amounts are). The responses gave biblical and pastoral guidance.
Overall: Excellent. Personable but an absence of fluff and hype.