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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.
Lead with What Your Church CAN DO with Chris Bell
Welcome back to the unSeminary podcast. Today we’re talking with Chris Bell, from 3Circle Church in the Mobile, Alabama area.
When the pandemic started, all we heard about was new restrictions and what we couldn’t do. Chris was immediately challenged to focus on what the church CAN do each day. Listen in as Chris shares ways that churches can apply this as we minister locally, regionally and globally to complete our God-given mission.
* What can you do right now? // This question was one that 3Circle Church daily asked and it became their north star, particularly in the early days of the pandemic. Locally this looked like reaching out to churches in the area who didn’t have the equipment or knowledge to stream sermons online and helping them record or get set-up on Facebook. Globally it meant providing resources to ministry partners when they couldn’t travel or do mission trips, and offering training materials online instead of in-person. Ask your staff: what can you do right now? Asking themselves that question gave 3Circle Church the guidance they needed in reaching out to the community around them and focusing on providing the help that they could.* Take a local approach. // 3Circle believes all ministry is local and there isn’t a cookie cutter solution to what a community needs. The team at 3Circle is big and through the pandemic they were thankfully able to keep everyone on staff, but it required some positions to be moved around. Where people can’t serve in their normal job function, put them where there is the greatest need. 3Circle had each person on staff contribute towards calling each of the 5000-6000 people in their database to ask how they were doing and pray for them. By interacting with the people in your church family on such a personal level, you will quickly get a pulse on what the needs are locally in different areas and for different families. * Options for connecting. // Even though in-person services are relaunching, 3Circle has learned a lot about online services and is going to continue to pursue excellence in this area. When people attend church online, we don’t have control over the variables such as reliable internet or distractions in the home. These factors mean that the online service needs to be more than just a broadcast of the in-person service. To address this, 3Circle started shooting these messages on location with different video cuts to create a more engaging experience that would hold a family’s attention. Though it was more video work, the result helped them to expand their reach and impact more people consistently. Recognize the online ministry opportunities even when you are returning to meeting in-person. Hire staff to support growth and development in the area of an online campus. * Empower your campuses. // 3Circle Church takes a local approach with ministry when it comes to multisite too. Because each of their campuses is in a very different area, they each have a different feel and different needs, especially during the pandemic. To have local contextualization at your campuses, it’s important to have a great campus pastor and then support and empower them with the right team. The campus pastor role is one that’s a leader, a shepherd and a communicator. When a campus pastor has strengths in one of these areas, surround them with campus staff that will balance their gifts. For example, if the campus pastor is a grower, then make sure there is a strong shepherd at the campus as well to help them care for people in their community.
You can learn more about 3Circle Church at www.3circlechurch.com. You can reach Chris at his website www.chrisbelllive.
5 Mistakes Churches Make Onboarding New Staff
Hiring is the single most expensive decision that most church leaders will make over the course of their ministry.
In many churches, staffing accounts for anywhere between 30 percent and 50 percent of the annual budget.
You want to make sure that, as you hire new team members, you invest what you can at the front end of the process to ensure that the team is set up for success.
Every time we hire someone, it shifts the culture and future of your church. Don’t believe me? Why are you hiring someone if you’re not hoping that it will change the future of your church? If you’re thinking things will just stay the same when you hire this person, you probably shouldn’t hire them!
It’s been said that everything rises and falls on leadership but it’s more specific than that: everything rises on well-onboarded leadership placed within a thriving leadership structure.
It’s important that we take time to ensure that the team we have is ready to serve well. The first 90 days of any new team member’s employment is critically important. Rather than just having the team members show up and assume that they know what to do, it’s our responsibility to define a process by which they go from being external to our culture to being crucial to the mission of our church. That can only happen through a well thought out and structured onboarding process.
When I was younger, I was a part of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. (Yeah, it sounds pretty fancy, but it was really an opportunity to volunteer and take some free gliding lessons.) A glider is an aircraft that is pulled up a few thousand feet in the air and then released. It then glides its way back down to the ground.
One of the things I learned over the years of my glider training was that takeoff and landing are critically important. As new air cadets, we were given the opportunity to control the gliders while in air, but takeoff and landing were always handled by someone with much more experience than we newbies. The same is true with our team members! Takeoff and landings are critically important. Just like takeoff, planning the first steps of a new team member needs to be done with thought and care. You’ve made a huge investment and you’re hoping this team member will make a difference in your church. Setting them up for success with a well thought out onboarding process can be a part of how you ensure that will happen.
Below are five mistakes that I’ve seen churches make time and again when they’re hiring new team members that you should avoid when onboarding new staff at your church.
The Definition of Winning is Foggy
Everyone that works at your church needs a clear understanding of whether they’re winning or losing.
A clear picture of what the win looks like is critically important for the well-being of your team members. Studies show that people feel that they are losing because they don’t know where they stand with their goals.
Having a clear set of goals for new team members in their first 90 days is an important part of the onboarding process. This can be as simple as a list of people that they need to meet with or a series of activities that need to take place. Being crystal clear on exactly what you need people to do as they begin can launch them in the right direction as they start a new role with your church.
Don’t allow the definition of winning to be foggy and unclear to them, but go out of your way to define it with as much granularity as possible.
Helping Your People Add Keystone Habits that Grow Their Spiritual Lives in 2021 with Zach Zehnder
Thanks for listening in to this week’s unSeminary podcast. We have Zach Zehnder with us today, the author and founder of the Red Letter Challenge. RLC began with the simple concept of trying to help people be greater followers of Jesus. It started as a book, leading the reader on a 40-day life-changing discipleship experience with Jesus and evolved into a turnkey teaching series for churches.
With the pandemic and everything else happening across the country over the last year, life has been disrupted in many ways and feels increasingly complex. So Zach had a burden to return to simplicity and find unity around Jesus by zeroing in on the keystone habits Christ practiced during his ministry on earth. Listen in as Zach shares how you can help your church discover or return to these life-giving habits in the new year.
* Spiritual health influences everything. // 2020 was an exceptionally difficult year and there have been high levels of emotional and mental unhealth among Christians. Many followers of Christ have allowed the disruptions caused by the pandemic to let bad habits develop. Unfortunately this has been true for pastors as well. Our mental and emotional health is driven by our spiritual health, and our ministry ultimately comes from the overflow of our relationships with Jesus.* Keystone habits. // Goals and resolutions for the new year come out of a desire to establish the right habits. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg introduces us to keystone habits, which are habits that unintentionally spill over into other areas of our lives – they aren’t any harder to form, but they have greater benefits in all areas of life. They can help lead you to becoming more productive in life, more connected to your family, and more connected spiritually. Spiritual habits are some of the most keystone of all habits because they impact every other area of our lives. So how can we help our people to develop spiritual keystone habits that will help them moving forward?* Look at Christ’s example. // What are the spiritual keystone habits that can carry over into other aspects of your life? Look to Jesus and discover what spiritual keystone habits he practiced, like committing to community, studying scripture, prioritizing prayer, seeking solitude, and choosing church. All of these contributed to his spiritual health and we can implement them in our lives to grow our relationship with God and others, and become healthier emotionally and mentally too.* Connect with each other and Him. // One of the first things Jesus did was enter into community with others. Community is important not only because it was one of the first things that Jesus did, but also as you try to instill keystone habits, it’s important to have a supportive community. People who are in our lives and who we habitually associate with have a profound impact on us. 95% of our success or failure can be attributed to the people we are closest with. We can be stronger with other believers who are also pursuing God. How we commit to community today may be different with the pandemic, but it’s important that we find a way to connect with others and point each other to Jesus.* Spend time with God. // For Jesus, seeking solitude wasn’t just about being alone, it was about being alone with the Father. It’s intentional time with God where we step away from the noise and distractions of our culture and daily life and listen to His voice. In solitude we get our focus and our energy as we listen to what God is saying, and let Him simply love us.* Dive into the spiritual keystone habits. // So how do you grow your relationship with God this year?
Recall: Your Church's 2021 Strategic Communication Focus
You have no doubt heard all the doomsayers saying that what we’ve experienced in the last year is beckoning a new age of disengagement in your church.
You’ve probably heard people say that somewhere around a third of our people have left the church and won’t be returning.
It seems like for decades, we’ve been talking about the fact that we’re losing a generation, and this past year has accelerated that loss. I do think that we are facing some tough days ahead. However, I’m not content to just sit by and let people slip out the back door because of everything that’s happened in the last 12 months.
Your responsibility and mine is to lean in and to do what we can to raise the value of attending our churches, whether that be online or in person.
It’s always been our responsibility to ensure that the people who are connected with our ministries find what we’re doing to be valuable. It’s our responsibility to communicate with them in such a way as to draw them from the crowd and ultimately get them connected to the core.
Of course, we’ve had significant disruption in the last year, and we need to be laser-focused as we look on how we communicate in this coming year. Your church has an opportunity to recall people and bring them back again, whether that be to in-person services or to engaging online.
I really do believe that the church shines brightest in the darkness.
There’s no doubt that we are in a dark time in many communities across the country. We need your church to shine brightly in order to see the message of Christ connected with people who have been disconnected for a while.
Have you noticed how good your dentist is at recalling you?
Is it just me, or have you noticed that dentists have really stepped up their game on recalling people over the last few years?
I’m not a huge dentist fan. In fact, is anyone really? Is the thought of having someone else’s fingers digging around inside your mouth and scraping whatever has been building up there for the last six months a pleasant idea?
The dentist can teach us a lesson in a recall communications strategy. They do a good job reaching out through texts, email, and other methods to get you to come back on an annual or semi-annual basis. The difficulty they’re faced with is that people resist going to the dentist, and their livelihoods are largely based on getting people to add that as a regular rhythm two or three times a year. Your church and mine need to learn from people & organizations like your dentist, who go out of their way to recall people.
The problem with the “snap back” or “pent-up demand” myth.
Have you noticed that leaders in lots of industries are looking for a “snap back” to normalcy? Or maybe you’ve seen how leaders are referring to the fact that there is a “pent-up demand” for their products and services that will cause people to flood back to them in the future.
Both of those myths are magical thinking. Humans are creatures of habits. The best predictive behavior of tomorrow is what people did yesterday.
People will not simply “snap back” to your church once vaccines are widespread or the government lifts all restrictions. If you are waiting for “pent up demand” to drive people to engage with your church you will lose people.
We have always needed to raise the value of engaging with our church in the minds of our people. It’s our responsibility to own that and not wait for some mythical external forces to align to encourage people to c...
Inspiring Reflections on 2020 from Chicago with Mark Jobe
Thanks for tuning in to this week’s unSeminary podcast. Today we’re talking to Mark Jobe, senior pastor at New Life Community Church (NLCC) in Chicago area and president of Moody Bible institute. New Life Community Church meets primarily in the city and has 28 locations with 40+ worship services. It’s a very multi-ethnic church with 60-70% of the attendees non-white, and most being first generation Christians.
Within cities the stress of this year has been more intense than anywhere else. The pandemic, racial tensions, social unrest, and the polarizing election created a very violent summer in terms of homicides and crime in Chicago. In the midst of everything, however, there have been amazing opportunities to minister to hurting people in the city. Mark is with us to share about how God is moving and how you can take advantage of these windows of opportunity in your area when a crisis hits.
* Dreams are fulfilled in unlikely ways. // When God gives a church a dream or a vision for something, we can’t know what He will use to bring about its fulfillment. God gives Joseph a dream, but he doesn’t know how to handle the dream. And when Joseph is sold as a slave to Egypt and eventually throne in prison, it seems like his God-given dream is put on hold, or has disappeared entirely. But in reality, God leads Joseph into crisis to prepare him for the fulfillment of that dream. The same can be true for us. Ask God what the crises of this year could be preparing your church for.* Identify the biggest need. // When the pandemic hit, New Life Community Church wanted to do more than have online services because of the need they saw in their community. In Chicago the biggest need was that people were food-deprived and without jobs, particularly in Mexican immigrant communities. This led to seven of the NLCC locations connecting with a secular organization to distribute food. At the height of the pandemic in the spring, they were distributing food to 25,000-30,000 people a week – about 1% of the city of Chicago! In the middle of COVID through their facility parking lots, NLCC was actually serving double the number of people that they would normally be ministering to on a Sunday morning. And the great majority of those people were unchurched. Think about the greatest needs in your community. How can your church touch people in a way that doesn’t involve your regular Sunday service?* Don’t miss the window of opportunity. // National and local crises will come around again and again over the course of your lifetime. Whatever crisis your community might be facing now or in the future, there is a window of opportunity where people will be hurting. Once that experience of pain plateaus, people will get back to life as normal. Pay attention to the season where people are more open to spiritual things because their lives are shaken. When crisis comes our orientation as leaders should be: How can we help? What can we do?* Build partnerships. // In order to be able to pivot and respond to crisis opportunities, churches need to partner with organizations where they could be mutual benefits. During the pandemic, the need for food has been so great that New Life Community Church approached the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD) to offer their help. GCFD had food but didn’t know how to get it to people. Meanwhile New Life had a wealth of volunteers to offer. The partnership allowed GCFD to change their whole approach to distributing food in Chicago. See how you can reach out to secular organizations and city officials in your area to create mutually beneficial partnerships. Be clear that you are an organization of faith, but recognize that what you have in common with secular organizations is desiring the good of your community.* Use crisis and disruption. // Crisis and disruption can be an incredible gift.
Lessons From Casting Vision & Pushing Forward During the Pandemic with Drew Sherman
Thanks for joining us for this week’s unSeminary podcast. Today we’re talking with Drew Sherman, lead pastor of Compass Christian Church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Compass has four physical locations as well as an online campus and is one of the fastest growing churches in the country.
The most fruitful seasons of our lives are usually not the easiest seasons. For many people 2020 may have been one of the hardest years they experienced, but it may also be the year they learned the most. Listen in as Drew Sherman shares how to take hold of teachable moments for your congregation, move forward to thrive, and cast vision for the future.
* Foster connection. // Churches today must be a “both/and” church, not “either/or.” Online services aren’t any less important than in-person services and the church needs to invest heavily in both. Connect with the online crowd too and bring attendees from both types of services together into one congregation through programs and events, such as outreach in your community. * Cast vision for the future. // Compass Christian Church currently has a generosity initiative underway called “Unstoppable”. This initiative was planned before the pandemic and they knew they couldn’t let the coronavirus stop it from moving forward! Right now is the time to cast vision for the future. People are stuck in neutral, just trying to survive, so it’s important to give them a vision for what your church is going to be doing next. Even if some activities may be on hold right now, you don’t have to pause everything. Keep moving forward and your church can thrive.* Grow in the hard times. // Generally the most fruitful seasons of a person’s life are not the easiest seasons. 2020 was the hardest year of many people’s lives, but in some ways it might be the year they learn the most. Don’t let the pain of this season be wasted. What is your church, staff, and congregation learning during this time? Rather than looking at 2020 as a throwaway year, think about the many teachable moments for your people and lean into them.* Pay attention to your team. // Some of your staff may be better than ever during this season while others may be drained and need coaching and counseling. A lot of this depletion can point back to how over the years we’ve ignored the value of soul-care. Provide pastoral care for your staff, listen to them, and teach and encourage them to care for their souls. Remember that hurry and love are not compatible.* Reevaluate and shift. // There’s never been a better time to reevaluate staff and programs and do some shifting. You may have the right people on the bus, but they need to be moved to different seats. If you had a ministry, strategy or event that wasn’t working well prior to COVID, don’t restart it. It’s time to kill those sacred cows. Transition to more of a simple church model that is focused on mission. Eliminate things that don’t support your mission and remember that complexity is the enemy of clarity.* Enhance online services. // Don’t become overly focused on getting your pre-COVID in-person congregation back. A certain percentage of people may never return and if you have a solid online ministry, others may stay online. Rather than fighting this trend, explore creating house churches or micro-sites. Ask what a digital disciple looks like. Can you become a fully devoted follower if you’re just committed to online church? Don’t just broadcast your in-person service to serve people online, but create an online experience. Lastly, remember that all the oppression, trials, and obstacles in the book of Acts led to the early church growing and enlarging their circle. Churches today need to think similarly.
You can learn more about Compass Christian Church at a href="http://www.
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Add this one to your weekly listening routine. You’ll be encouraged and glad you did. Tremendous guests. Excellent insight in ministry leadership. I love the detailed show notes.
Thank you Mr. Birch for your podcast. I came across your work about a week before Covid-19 impacted the Houston area and signed up to Unseminary. I’ve been the lead pastor at The Life Church-Baytown going on 3 months, I look forward to your emails, podcast, and resources... thank you and your staff for you’re commitment, especially in these times.
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The unSeminary podcast is packed with practical and insightful content that keeps me listening. I enjoy both the interviews and the solo content from Rich. Keep up the great work!