During the COVID-19 crisis, our team gathers to discuss the latest From the Front Lines of Ministry. We are using ChurchOS to stay clear and focused. See how other church leaders around the country are using ChurchOS as they navigate the new normal.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE CALL:

  • Integrating online and physical services
  • Strategies for speaking to current racial issues
  • How to speak with authority
  • Getting ahead of the coming economic challenges
  • Practical strategies for reducing staff

IC TEAM MEMBERS ON THE CALL:

  • Bob Miller – Ministry Leader/Coach – Thomas Road Baptist Church/ServantOne – Lynchburg, VA
  • Tim Winters – Executive Pastor – Shepherd Church – Porter Ranch, CA
  • Matt Wright – Lead Pastor – Willow Creek Community Church – Chicago, IL
  • Bruce Cramer – Pastor of Life Groups – Central Community Church – Wichita, KS
  • Jim Stanley – Coach & Facilitator – Indianapolis, IN
  • Dana Erickson – Executive Pastor – Illuminate Community Church – Scottsdale, AZ
  • Doug Cowburn – Executive Pastor – Elim Gospel Church – Lima, NY

IC Staff:

  • Doug Parks – Co-Founder & CEO
  • Tasha Johnson – Director of Operations
  • Mark Kitts – CTO
  • Kirby Andersen – Church Relations

COVID-19 RESOURCES & PREVIOUS CALLS:
https://intentionalchurches.com/covid19/

CALL TRANSCRIPTION (07.10.20):

Doug Parks:

Hey everyone. Welcome back to the Front Lines call and we took a few weeks off. We just felt like everybody had gotten to their online strategies and everyone was regrouping post Easter. And so we’re calling a little bit of an audible today. And we’re going to do more of a round table discussion.

Doug Parks:

But first, I just want to orient us back to, if you’ve been following these calls, this idea of ChurchOS. It’s the operating system that we run with Intentional Churches. Inside of it we talk about the six domains of church. And this is nothing more than a fly over of all that you, as a church leader and pastor, have to lead in the local church. And we’ve bucketed that up to have some conversations.

Doug Parks:

And we always start with the Great Commission engine. Most of our calls, we’ve opened with that. And really we’re deep diving in the innovations around how we deliver the strategies of the church to accomplish the Great Commission, more and better disciples. And I would say no matter what we talk about today, remember fundamentally, it all comes back to that for us.

Doug Parks:

And then vision would be the next piece you have to lead and manage. And that, for sure, has evolved during COVID, where we used to take a three to five year double vision look. More and more as we’re working with churches, we’re really trying to get in this what we know to be true right now and to plan more in a six to nine month window. Early on in COVID it was probably a 60-day, it not even a 30-day, but really vision.

Doug Parks:
Then action, how do we execute on the most important things for this next season?

Doug Parks:

Activation is really about dashboards which for most churches have been blown up about what you count and why and how we manage strategy around it.But then also routines and meetings and governance and how we make our decisions.

Doug Parks:
Then the operations of the church, its systems and processes.

Doug Parks:

And then finally the leaders, each of us, the people that lead voluntarily, staff members, that we develop them, have a development plan for all them. The values that we espouse.

Doug Parks:

So all these buckets, these six domains, every church leader’s having to manage. And so for today’s discussion, one of the things… It’s more around the Great Commission engine that I wanted to jump into first was I think, Stadia’s done a good job of really getting this conversation going.

Doug Parks:

Most churches we’re interacting with right now have not made the design intent decision about what they’re doing with their online or digital experience. And we put it in three buckets. There are some other varieties out there.

Doug Parks:

But really are you… You really first need to make this decision as a team. Are we implementing a strategy where digital or online is driving to a physical location or campus? I’ve been told Saddleback and Rick Warren has declared this is their strategy. Online is going to be more of a front door driving to a physical campus.

Doug Parks:

The second would be an online or digital campus exclusively, meaning it really is never intended to drive to a physical. And in ChurchOS, Intentional Church’s language your Great Commission engine, you know your worship services, your group or community life, your giving or money and of time, your reaching of your one and your relation to reach them and how we engage people and move them to connection to Jesus to us and to others. Those five component parts, if you’re in the digital bucket, we would say you need to provide a strategy around all those that’s a digital application. It’s not just a digital service. It needs to have all these pieces. This is where many of us have been living when we weren’t able to meet physically.

Doug Parks:

And then finally, the integrated, which is becoming, I think, more and more teams are thinking about this. The integrated strategy of digital and physical and how it complements one other is really more and more churches we see going there. The problem with number three is most of our staffs were not built that way and so we’re built for physical primarily with an online broadcast of services. We had to do a quick shuffle in March to convert everything to digital. But trying to think about how do we do physical and that together, a real challenge.

Doug Parks:

So last think I’ll say here and then I’m going to turn it over, first to Doug Cowburn to talk about how they’re thinking about it first. So and that is, I said this early on. We would encourage your team… Too many teams are doing this by default instead of having a strategic conversation and making a decision about which of these three buckets to choose. And then… I’ve forgotten what I was going to say. All right, Doug Cowburn. You guys in New York you have some ideas around this. How are you guys currently thinking about your choice about how you’re using digital and online with campus?

Doug Cowburn:

Yeah well, I think like most churches out there, we had a rebroadcast of our physical location. And then COVID-19 happened and then now it’s kind of our primary thing. And we have been hunkered down in this let’s re-org ourselves to get the digital piece to be our primary way that we’re speaking to and reaching people, and we’re still there, but we’re just starting the conversations now. What does it look like to have a primary digital online campus and how will that actually become part of our strategy? What are the staff that we need? And we’re really just trying to figure that part out.

Doug Cowburn:

But we know that, we just had to recognize that the season that we were in was more of a survival mode of, “Hey’s let just redo everything to make sure that we keep the lights on, so to speak.” But what we’re developing our strategy around is true digital campus that complements our physical locations.

Doug Parks:

That’s good, man. And I remembered what I was going to say. And that is, oh no, I forgot it again, man. No, when this all started, really we didn’t know. No one knew. March, April, no one knew what the future was going to hold. There was all kinds of future speculation. But one of the things we know now is a lot more than we knew then.

Doug Parks:

And so what I’ve been arguing… You can jump out and see if you’re banking on a physical regathering, how long is that going to be? And we are making the argument really it’s going to be vaccine dependent. And then beyond the vaccine, distribution of the vaccine, and then an eventually comfort level of people. You combine that with our 99, learning a new way to live life that doesn’t involve coming to a campus, and it has a digital expression. And so we’re saying you and your team should be proactively planning now with a new reality and assumptions that we can kind of go there on out into ’21. If not late spring and summer, we think maybe even now through the fall of next year, so almost a year of trying to experiment around this digital decision that you need to make. And so, Dana, I know you talked about you watched a webinar yesterday. But just talk about your team and how you’re processing this decision about digital and physical, digital only, or a hybrid, what Stadia calls phygital, physical and digital.

Dana Erickson:

Yeah, it’s been interesting for us. I was on a Zoom call yesterday and the whole gist of it was talking about the whole digital first mentality of just really shooting for, doing our best online. And knowing that we will also have people who come to our campus, the physical site. But that for the foreseeable future, we will have more watch us and engage with us online than we will in he room. And so we have been doing a lot of thinking that we even have more watch us on demand after Sunday than we do during the Sunday services themselves. And so we’ve taken that to think people are really starting to enjoy being able to do church on their time, in their time frame.

Dana Erickson:

And so it’s like… So we’ve been thinking about… We were doing programming online, doing the room and reproducing that online. But if we’re really going to reach those people who are watching us, our 99’s, they’re not going to sit through an hour an 15 minute service. They’ll do much better of an engagement with a 45 or 50 minute type of service. So we’re looking at trying to do this both/and of live streaming on a Sunday and then editing it so that it can be then on demand and we can do whatever we want with the content at that point. We can change things around. We know that most people drop off right after the message rather than doing any singing after the message. But yet still in the room, our preacher likes that response song and people being able to do that. But that’s when everybody drops off on the digital side.

Dana Erickson:

So giving us some flexibility with this on demand, knowing it’s almost at a two to one right now for those who watch on demand versus live on the Sunday. And then of course, in the season that we’re in, we haven’t even a fraction of that that attend physically. So that’s kind of where we’ve been thinking. We’ve

got to not only think about the room but we’ve got to think about those who are outside the room. What are they going to want? What can they deal with? Do they need all the announcements and all that? Or can it just be a good old digitally produced on demand type of a service? So that’s kind of where we’re leaning right now.

Doug Parks:

That’s good, that’s good. And we’re not going to cover it on this call. I’m not sure when to jump in. But we… I do want to highlight, we’ve been saying this all along. The relational reach zone and how we reach our ones in our community. Bart and I both believe that this moment in time, people are going to be super open to the Gospel in a way they have probably never been in their life. But that the church also has the danger of turning more inward. And so now we’re finally starting to see some innovation and creativity around digital tools to be able to deliver value, if you will, where 99’s can invest and invite into their ones. Not necessarily to a service at first, but just trying to help them.

Doug Parks:

This is a rule of thumb I’ve been saying to teams. Think about everything you and your spouse and your kids are stressed about right now and every 99 and one feels the same thing, maybe even exponentially because they have other things in the mix that you may not, like addictions and other issues, behaviors, in the mix. And so my challenge has been, what are we as church leaders doing to respond, to equip our 99’s and help them through that as well as their ones? Because there’s real opportunity here, I believe, or the church to step in this gap and be the answer, as we all know Jesus is.

Doug Parks:

Hey, shifting gears, I think we’ve talked a little about this as a team before. The modern church of today, the real issue of divisiveness in the church and in the Gospel is really around social issues and political issues of today. You know we joke that we all remember, some of us who are older, the music wars where the style of music was what divided churches. And those days seem to be long gone and we’re in this era now of social issues. And then obviously the raising of racism and systematic injustice and all the tragic things we’ve seen over the last month to six weeks. And as church leaders, trying to stand in this gap and respond, not politically, but respond with the Gospel. And before I ask a couple guys to speak here on this, I do want to say first off, as you can all see, there’s all white faces here. So I think the response… We need to heed our own advice and invite into the conversation more and more beyond us. But I just wanted to ask you guys, specifically Matt, do you want to talk about your guys’ posture and how you’ve been approaching things, especially in the recent days of racism and how you’re leading people to respond right now as a church?

Matt Wright:

Yeah. The reality is exactly what you said. You look around this circle and you see white faces. You look around the circle of large evangelical churches and you see white faces, particularly white men and you don’t see a lot of non-white men around those circles. And I’m learning. I had a good friend who described it to me this way. He’s like, “Matt, you don’t really know what it’s like to be a white man. For you to try to describe what it’s like to be a white man, it’s like trying to describe to a fish what it’s like to be wet. You just don’t know any different. This is just what you’ve always experienced.” And so what I am trying to do and what we’re encouraging others to do is to have as many conversations where you are in a posture of listening and learning as you can, just as many of those listening and learning postured conversations.

Matt Wright:

So we’re doing learning conversations with pastors that are of predominantly African American churches or pastors of multi-cultural churches and just learning what is it like. What is it like to be a minority in a white majority culture? What is it like to be a minority when everything from the way that worship looks to the people and the faces that you see on stage may or may not look like you? And how can we learn? I don’t think I have any conscious racist biases in me. I would like to think that I don’t. But if you look around and you see the majority of my friends and the majority of the things that I interact with, you would say, “Well, hey, what’s going on? Because your life isn’t showing a huge amount of diversity.” And so I’m trying to dig deep. And we’re encouraging others to do the same. To say, “What unconscious biases might you hold? What unconscious things might there be that are going on right now?”F

Matt Wright:

We’re doing prayer vigils as well for our brothers and sisters of color. Trying to do everything that we can to stand alongside, to listen, to hear. And I’ve got to say this. Eventually the conversations aren’t enough. Eventually there has to be action. And so we have to figure out what does kingdom look like right now? Diversity is a kingdom issue. God could’ve made us all to be the same color, but He didn’t. And I think He didn’t for a very specific reason. And I believe He didn’t because diversity honors God more than mono-culturalism honors God. Multi-culturalism honors Him. The world can be mono- cultural. There’s nothing shocking about a mono-cultural church. But there’s something shocking about a multi-cultural church. There’s something shocking that only God can do, that only Jesus can take care of in a multi-cultural church.

Matt Wright:

So eventually, we’ve got to start off with listening and learning, yeah. But eventually we’ve got to move to action and figure out how do we better reflect the kingdom of God here? How do we better have diversity among our ranks from ethnic and gender diversity? How do we work hard to be kingdom- minded in this? I’m going to get off my soap box now.

Doug Parks:

Nah, that’s good man, that’s good. And then Dana, you guys are, you’re just starting in to a book. What’s the book and who’s the author and who all’s doing that? Can you just talk us through the strategy of how you’re…

Dana Erickson:

Yeah, it’s been really on the heart of our lead pastor just trying to figure this whole thing out. He made an intentional effort to reach out to the African American families in our church and got ahold of every one of them. Had a good solid conversation and said, “Hey, help teach me on this. You know we care for you. You know we love you. But obviously we don’t got it right.” And he found it just really interesting that even amongst the African American families in our church, there was a difference in the way they felt that they should approach it, which made it even that much more difficult. There wasn’t even a united front amongst even key leaders in the church, some on a whole variety of the spectrum. So again, we just went forward in trying to love and learn and get in the posture of trying to learn.

Dana Erickson:

And one of the ways that we decided to do this was to all get on a common page. Use common language. And so he’s asking us to read The Third Option, Miles McPherson’s book. And we’re going to

talk about that, not only as a staff but then a couple of our community groups are going to go through that and see whether or not that’s something that a book, or one like that, that would be good for our elders to go through, some of our other community groups leaders, just to start the conversation. And there’s all kinds of should white males be leading a group like that? We can’t truly understand it. I mean, there’s lots of stuff that’s still unanswered. But we can’t let the lack of having all the questions keep us from having the conversation. So that’s kind of what we’re doing. We’re going to go through that book. I just ordered it on Kindle and Audible so I can get it in my half-hour drive to Scottsdale and get all through and start to learn.

Doug Parks:

Yeah, that’s good. And speaking of books, Bob, you talked about a Tony Evans book. Would you just share what that is and why you think it’s helpful? You’re… Unmute, please.

Bob Miller:

It’s a few years old but Tony Evans wrote a book called Oneness Embraced. And he looks at, he really gives a good explanation of black culture, Biblically, historically, and even relationally. And he tells so many of his own stories of some of the issues that he had to go through to build his church in Dallas. So excellent read. I’m probably about halfway through it. Again, for us on the call who have a lighter complexion, he gives a very good Biblical basis for, as Matt was saying, the beauty of diversity. Even looking at the lineage of people in scripture that we hold high. And diversity was quite prevalent throughout Biblical history. So great book.

Doug Parks:

Good. Thank you, guys. Thank you. And we may come back to this conversation again. I know some of you other guys had some thoughts around it. But Dough Cowburn, I’m going to ask you to kind of wrap because I think what I’ve heard you saying is we’ve just got to get back to the main thing. You want to tell us how you’re thinking about it here?

Doug Cowburn:

Yeah, we’re thinking about it very carefully. But here’s what I’m seeing is that the political landscape in the United States is a hotbed and it doesn’t really matter what the issue is. There seems to be a politicizing on both sides, many sides of every issue. And this current issue of us being, needing to be aware of racism is certainly one of those issues that has created a lot of reactions in our church on both sides, all sides of this issue. And it’s something that can be very easy to step into and then not be able to step out of and have it blow up on you.

Doug Cowburn:

But what we are realizing is that we are able to speak to spiritual issues. We have spiritual authority to speak to spiritual issues. And one of those things is that we’re noticing is that a lot of our ideology becomes our idols. And whether that is something as divisive as racism in the United States or as benign or seemingly benign as who we want to be the next President or whatever that might be, it’s all over the place. And our ideologies can take the place of us having a God-centered world view, a kingdom view. And so we’re really trying to lead on speaking to the spiritual issues that we can, which is about having a God-first, Jesus-first kingdom view.

Doug Cowburn:

We’re definitely also looking at how do we respond to systemic racism amongst ourselves, the church at large, society at large, all those things? We’re also going through a book and you know, there’s no… No one has all the right answers. But we’re just keeping our ears open. We’re keeping our eyes open, keeping our heart open so that we can hear better, listen better, and also have the right actions too. So it’s complicated but we’re trying to be able to keep the main thing the main thing which is speak to spiritual issues wherever we can.

Doug Parks:

Yeah and I think The Third Option book by Miles McPherson that Dana mentioned it really hits to the core of what you’re saying. We need to all start at Jesus and work our conversation from there. I just appreciate you guys sharing. I know many pastors, no matter what ethnicity in the United States right now, are just broken over this. And I just appreciate you guys’ words and care to try to help move this forward.

Doug Parks:

So I’m going to switch gears here just for our last conversation around just how we’re thinking about the coming storm, economically. And I know everybody’s in a different part of the country and we’re kind of all over the place. I’ll just tell you, in Vegas, 30% unemployment. The unemployment insurance is about to expire here. The casinos, for the most part, are open but even tonight at midnight bars are shutting down again. They’re pulling back on bars and we’re opening with casinos at a fraction of occupancy of what they were. And so our church, I’m learning, is out in front, good or bad.

Doug Parks:

And believe that there’s going to be a lot of, a lot more emotional damage here, anxiety, depression, a lot more. We’re already seeing very escalated domestic abuse here in Las Vegas, whether it’s with spouses or children. Addictions, unfortunately we’re setting record cannabis sales. The foreclosures… A partner we have, they’re anticipating a mass of foreclosures here as some of these things expire. And I’m not trying to be doom and gloom here, but our church is just trying to get out in front of this and really step in the gap and help people.

Doug Parks:

And so that’s led to people leaving staff and re-org and trying to realign to the strategies around digital, physical integrated church strategy. And yeah, so I thought I’d just ask, first off, Bruce, talk about the dilemma you guys have right now. Because right now, if you’d just describe first, just describe where you guys are at financially, how you’re thinking. But you have an issue with the preschool. And just talk us through how you’re thinking about that right now.

Bruce Cramer:

Yeah, so we’ve had some changes with staff and digital. And we were fortunate to have lot of digital folks on our staff already to move forward with that. And frankly, our senior pastor’s been great at just saying every week, “Here’s where we’re at financially. If you can help more, great. If you need financial help, let us know.” And so that’s been very beneficial for us.

Bruce Cramer:

But our preschool, we have a very large preschool. It’s very prominent in our community. We do draw families from that. And we’ve used this CARES money to help with all of that but now we’re facing, what

do we do? Do we lay them off? So right now we’re starting to job share. So we gave all of them hours and rotate them around. But we’re just at a place where very very soon we’re going to have to make some hard decisions on that. And we have parents asking us and pressuring us. And we have our own board and then we have our people and yet we want to have compassion. So where does that all play out? We’re still trying to figure that out.

Doug Parks:

Yeah, man. And in California, have you guys established… We just voted. Our school board voted last night here. But they’re saying that may not even be how school is re-opened in the fall. Has California even declared how school is going to open this fall?

Bruce Cramer:

No. Our local school district is looking at three options right now. And they’ll probably give people three options of coming in class, a hybrid model, or all online. So that’s what they’re looking at for fall, at least locally in our school district that we’ve talked to.

Doug Parks:

Yeah. And then, Doug Cowburn, you want to talk about how you guys kind of prepped and saved up and how you’re thinking about all the financial ripples right now?

Doug Cowburn:

Yeah, we were able to be super wise and also bring in some controls so that we didn’t really have to bleed off a lot of the money that we’re able to receive through the PPE loans. So it’s extending us into the fall as far as our strategy. But we’re looking beyond the bend and we know we need to develop some good strategies and look at some hard decisions. And some of these things that we’re talking about like digital strategy, online campuses, all these things are coming into play in how we’re going to build around that. And we want to hear from some of these other guys here on how they’re approaching those kind of hard decisions. It’s super helpful because we see it coming up really soon.

Doug Parks:

Yeah, thank you. And then, Matt, I’m going to ask you to go last here because you, like my home church, are down the road. And just how are you guys thinking about it? What have you been doing that’s appropriate to talk about, of course, that would help somebody else who’s tackling this right now?

Matt Wright:

Sure. Yeah, I think if you are a church that you’re in a place where you’re saying, “Okay, we’ve been able to hang on for a while. We haven’t had to transition any staff. But we’ve got a handful of staff that may not be able to do their job right now. And we see that the conversations are going to be coming.” I think my encouragement would be to put a system and a process around this thing and get back to the basics.

Matt Wright:

So for us, what that looks like is… We also do this every time we budget as well… But you go back to the Great Commission engine. Structure has got to follow strategy. And strategy, Great Commission engine’s a great picture of the strategy of what we do. But you come back to the Great Commission engine. And you say, “If this is the fundamental strategy, the fundamental purpose of our church, what’s the people

structure around that?” Then you can go team by team. And I like to pull in the team leaders of each one of those teams and say, “Okay, here is the Great Commission engine. This is where you fall within the Great Commission engine. What is your fundamental strategy?” Draw it out on the white board. What’s your people structure? Draw that out. And there may be places where you realize that just because of COVID, it’s not because of bad people. It’s not because of bad performers. It’s just simply we can’t do what we want to do right now. We just simply can’t do it.

Matt Wright:

And whenever you do strategy to people structure, it gets more clear. You’re able to just see like, “Oh, I’ve got this wing of this person and we can’t really do the things to get our strategy done.” And I want to keep on going back to the Great Commission engine because digital, online, or in person, we’re still responsible for that Great Commission engine. And we can still do it. So that’s kind of a process. And we can talk deeper some day about that how you determine who you might need to move on from a strategic standpoint, not just from a, “Well, I like this person,” or “I like that person,” or whatever.

Matt Wright:

Then you move into the hard conversations about executing it well. And so how do you execute furloughs? How do you execute layoffs? General principles that sadly, I’ve had to do this a few times in my career. I’ve experienced both really poor and not so poor. None of them are going to feel good. I mean it’s hard. This is hard. So if you’re hoping for some solution that’s just going to be painless, that’s probably not going to… Somebody else knows that one. It’s not me.

Matt Wright:

What I have found, though, that has been helpful is when you realize you’re going to need to do some of these moves, I like to tell the whole staff team a couple weeks, at least, before the moves are going to be made and let them know the process. So what that means is I like to tell the staff team, “Hey, this is the reality of our financial situation. This is the reality of what’s happening with COVID. Over the next two weeks, we’re going to be meeting with every one of the team leaders, maybe it’s next week. Meeting with every one of the team leaders and through a very very prayerful process determining this list. We will let you know on this particular day on the calendar. That’s when we can talk about it.” You’re trying to, as much as you can, decrease the amount of ambiguity for a staff team member. So they’re not just nervous for the next three weeks and they don’t know when it’s going to come. They know it’s going to be on this particular day.

Matt Wright:

Then, for each team, if you can, you can tell them, “Hey, any adjustments for your team will happen between let’s say nine and 10 on that day, or between one and three o’clock on that day.” And then a couple of hours before that window, have that team leader send a notification to the person that says, “Hey, we’ve got a meeting scheduled with you and the HR person.” I never do one-on-one. I always want at least three people in the room, and the person being affected. Again, that way, you’re letting them know what’s coming.

Matt Wright:

Once you’re in the meeting, a couple of things that I have found. Number one, the tendency is for us to be nervous delivering this kind of bad news. That’s not kind. Get to the point. The kind thing is to get to the point as quickly as you can. I’ve actually found that writing out, scripting my first three sentences

and then memorizing it. I don’t want to read anything. But people will remember those words that you say. And they will try to repeat those words to their spouse or to their friends or whatever it might be. So just be so intentional, guys, on the words that you’re saying to the person.

Matt Wright:

For us, what I have found, are words like, “Hey, this has nothing to do with who you are. We’re having to furlough this position.” Or, “We’re having to layoff this position. It’s not because you’re bad. It’s not because you’re a poor performer.” Don’t lie. Be truthful about it. Be very very clear, though. So get to the point. I think they should know about this hard part of the conversation and how they’re being affected within 90 seconds. And just be very gentle and allowing them to have their time afterwards.

Matt Wright:

Then after you’ve done those furlough conversations, if you can, within the next, short amount of time, couple of hours, I like to do a meeting with the team afterwards and let them know those who were affected by the furloughs or by the layoffs. So all of this is around trying to decrease the tension as much as you can. You’re trying to make the pain in as short of a window as possible and act with love in the way that you’re managing them throughout it all.

Matt Wright:

Let HR or whoever it is that’s helping you with the people stuff make sure that you get all the details and the I’s and the T’s crossed and dotted. Is that helpful, Doug?

Doug Parks:

Yeah. One last thing, just talk for a moment about your… Because let’s be really frank and honest. None of us were ever trained on any of this in seminary. Right?

Matt Wright: Ha, no.

Doug Parks:

So it’s an emotional thing. Many of us have shepherded our staff through difficult life situations and so there’s deeply engaged emotions on every side here when you have to go here. And I know numbers, numbers of churches that have had to do this. So I just think your words here are super helpful. But talk about… Because this is an emotional thing right here… Talk about the difference of benevolence versus work a little and how you think about that.

Matt Wright:
Yeah, this is hard, yeah. Go on, I’m sorry.

Doug Parks: No, have at it.

Matt Wright:

This is really hard. And I cannot stress enough, this is cliché right now but I’ll say it anyway. If you’re having to be in these conversations, you need to be deep in scripture in your personal spiritual

discipline. You need to be deep in connection with God. You need the Holy Spirit. You need very, nothing in the way between you and God and hearing His voice in this one. Because it’s going to be really really hard. It’s just emotional. And the tendency is to either try to compartmentalize it like a good soldier. And I’m just not going to think about it. Or to just not address it at all, just to avoid it and figure out ways that you can avoid the issue. This is really tough.

Matt Wright:

But at some point, if you have a group of staff who is unable to do their job and you decide to continue to pay them, you’re really doing benevolence in that moment. You’re not doing ministry. You’re doing benevolence in that moment. And if that’s your intention, okay, just say, “We’re doing benevolence. And what we’re choosing to use our benevolence dollars for is to pay full time salaries or part time salaries to these staff members who aren’t able to do their jobs because we’re worried about their livelihood.” The hard fundamental concept that you have to wrestle through that, though, is those tithe dollars… Should that much of your tithe dollars be going toward benevolence or should it be going toward proactive ministry?

Matt Wright:

And I don’t have an answer. I’m not offering a solution. That’s not said with any sort of agenda. I just think it’s a question that you, as a leader, need to wrestle through. If you’re going to do benevolence, put it in a benevolence bucket. I think hiring out of benevolence is typically very unwise. You want to hire for ministry and you care through benevolence. Is that what you’re looking for, Doug?

Doug Parks:

Yeah, that’s super helpful, man. That was a very pragmatic five to eight minutes and hopefully it helps some teams out there.

Doug Cowburn:

I hope it helps, man. Anybody, seriously, anybody out there needs to just have a sounding board to talk through with these people issues, this stuff is hard and I would love to help, just be a friend.

Doug Parks:

That’s good. Well thank you guys, again, for giving your time and for everybody who jumped in. Kirby, you’re still on, so I’m going to ask you… You got any words of encouragement for our pastorate in America right now?

Kirby Andersen:

It’s obvious Matt was saying it’s cliché, but it’s cliché for a reason. This did not take God by surprise and the church has always sustained these things. Doug Cowburn eluded to it earlier. We need to stick with those areas, the spiritual issues. Speak to that with the authority of His Word, with the love that has been placed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who’s been given to us, and continue to love people during this time and be a shock absorber during tough times. This is the opportunity for us to walk in faith like never before and that’s what these uncertain times are called to. It didn’t take Him by surprise, the Greater One who lives on the inside of us.

Kirby Andersen:

And as we continue to do what Matt just encouraged us to do, make sure that we stay connected with our heavenly Father and just be able to keep taking steps one at a time, drawing encouragement from each other. Appreciated your encouragement, Matt. We should all be so good as to offer what we can and to be shock absorbers, encouragers, to those within our lives. I don’t think it’s any more complicated than that. And we keep taking one step at a time, trusting in Him.

Doug Parks:

That’s good, Kirby. Mark Kitts, I’m going to ask you to pray quickly for us as we finish. But first, I just want to remind everybody, if you stay til the end, don’t forget the amount of openness to the Gospel right now is off the charts in our communities. And sometimes in the muck of everything we’re leading right now, that gets lost. And people, man, they need Jesus more than ever right now. Amen? All right, Mark, will you pray us out?

Mark Kitts:

God, I just thank you so much for the opportunity to talk through issues with like minded people. And I’m just so grateful that we know how this story ends. You are in control no matter what happens, no matter how bad things get. You love us. You have things worked out, ultimately. And we just trust that. We lean into that. And we draw comfort and courage and power to act today, knowing that, how the story ends. God, I just pray you would encourage the hearts of every church leader out there as they daily try to work through very very difficult complex issues. Just fill them with your Holy Spirit. Fill them with the power and tenacity and the boldness that comes with that. God, we love you and we thank you for Jesus who makes all things possible. In His name we pray, amen.

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