Revitalizing an Association

Written by Walker Armstrong, Executive Director of the Pilot Mountain Baptist Association (NC)

The ReFocus process not only helps churches get realigned to the Great Commission, it has enabled our Association to become even more effective in supporting this missional endeavor. Let me provide some background.

Over four years ago, the Pilot Mountain Baptist Association (NC) was at a crossroads. Although we had a new infusion of cash through the sale of our property, fewer and fewer churches were participating in our ministries. When we dug deeper to find the reason for this slow but sure erosion of involvement, we discovered that our number one weakness was a lack of relevance.

It wasn’t that we weren’t busy. We were well-known for doing some good things for our community. The problem was that many of our pastors questioned whether those activities were addressing the deeper needs of congregations. For example, our struggling churches were trying to figure out what was causing their decline; our dying churches were desperate for anything that would help them keep the doors open; and our healthier churches often felt that our ministries and their missional activities were not always aligned.

When we figured this out, we restructured our entire ministry around becoming relevant once again. This meant that since the mission of the church is to make disciples, we would seek to help our churches find new ways to fulfill what God has called them to be and do. This caused us to drop ancillary ministries and double down on what was most important. Our rediscovery of our mission got us back on track.

Part of this rediscovery led us to investigate using ReFocus as our primary strategy for revitalization. After being exposed to this material, I was convinced it was the best I had encountered on the subject. But more than that, going through the three-day intensive helped me to fine-tune our own revitalization journey.

What this meant for us was that now we had a clear, simple, executable strategy to minister to all the basic types of churches in our Association in light of our new mission: “to help member churches make lifelong followers of Jesus Christ.”

Boiled down to its essentials it looked like this:

• Help dying churches replant
• Help declining churches revitalize
• Help dynamic churches reinvest

Over the last three years, this new streamlined strategy has enabled us to assist in planting and replanting six churches; take six churches through the ReFocus process; expand our ministries to the least of these in our communities; and boost our support of pastors and their families. In that same time, our revenue has grown at a healthy clip and we have seen an increase of approximately 30 percent in church involvement.

We still have a long way to go, but the future is looking bright in part to our experience with ReFocus.

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QUESTIONS YOU ARE ASKED – AND ARE ANSWERING – EVERY DAY WITHOUT REALIZING IT

It happens in the parking lot, on the elevator, while walking the halls, after every church service, and even when dining out. You are asked countless questions by countless people. But do you recognize the questions behind their questions?

I believe the barrage of questions posed to pastors are all variations of six essential, directional questions:

  1. What are we doing?
  2. Why do we do it?
  3. How do we do it?
  4. Where do we start?
  5. Where are we going?
  6. How do we know if we are making progress?

1. WHAT ARE WE DOING?
This is the most basic question a pastor is asked. It quietly drives deep into the personal belief system of a leader and strikes to the heart of the mission of the church. Yet, surprisingly, most pastors neither recognize this deeper question, nor know how to answer it.
But knowing your church’s mission, and being able to simply articulate it, lies at the heart of what a church leader must be able to do. Specifically, you need to be able to connect your answer about what the church is doing to the mission, for all areas of ministry. This ability to describe the mission of the church in tangible terms is the most important thing a pastor can do.
If your church doesn’t have a clear mission, I strongly encourage you to embark upon that process. And, as a church discovers and develops its mission, remember that it must find its own distinctive way to fulfill the Great Commission within the culture of their unique community.

2. WHY DO WE DO IT?
This question speaks to our motives for ministry, and in turn, this motivation drives the values

of the church. One of the greatest validations of pastoral leadership is that you recognize, know, and can clearly articulate the values of the church you lead. When you do, church members recognize that you understand who they are as individuals and as a congregation. On the other hand, if you can’t answer this simple question of “why,” the membership will likely wonder if you really know who they are as a church.
The reason that tapping into the “why” is so important, is that it allows leaders to identify the passions of the church, as well as how to ignite and motivate members to press forward into the mission. Churches that do exceptional things for the Gospel know why they do the things they do. They will be willing to pay a great sacrifice and give of their time and talents when their leader can effectively and clearly answer “why,” as evidenced by articulating the church’s core values.

3. HOW DO WE DO IT?
At its core, this question is uncovering whether or not you have a clear strategy for the church to accomplish its mission. Chaos can be avoided and unity can be built if the pastor and church leadership develop a strategy that is consistent and all-encompassing for the entire church. Many churches struggle at this point because they wrestle with macro-strategy and micro-strategy. Macro-strategy is the pattern a church uses and points to from every ministry within the church. Your congregation should know how it can be a part of fulfilling the macro-strategy. There may also be micro-strategies within the individual ministries of the church, but these strategies all promote, adhere to, and submit to the macro-strategy. Nothing helps a pastor build the culture he wants more than developing a clear, comprehensive and intentional strategic plan for how to do ministry.

4. WHERE DO WE START?
Many pastors can answer where the church is going, but most find it difficult to take the first step towards reaching that mission. From where, and in which direction do you start? How do you know if the first step is going to lead you in the direction of your ultimate goal? How do you avoid a false start? How do you make sure the people you are leading take that step with you?
These questions force the church leadership to accurately and honestly assess where the congregation currently is, as you begin to develop the mission and implement it. You must consider setting, your calling, and the resources and assets of the ministry you lead. Ultimately, as you consider all these things, you must prayerfully determine where you believe God is calling you to go as a church. Once you know where you are and where you want to go, you can then consider all the options for what your first step should be. The people you lead are always wanting to know what the church’s next step will be or should be. Identifying and embarking on this first step holds the possibilities of movement, momentum, and vision fulfillment.

5. WHERE ARE WE GOING?
Vision is one of the most tangible assets a pastor has. Creating a picture in the minds of the people of where they are going lies at the heart of a pastor’s calling. Unfortunately, many pastors have not been trained in the skill set necessary to craft and cast a new vision. Further, most struggle to understand the life-cycle of a vision, and when they need to cast the next stage of the vision. But it is vital to recognize the power of vision. To understand how vision unifies. How it makes people willing to sacrifice. How vision provides what people need to commit to the church and its mission.

6. HOW DO WE KNOW IF WE ARE MAKING PROGRESS?
If vision gives direction, progress builds momentum. If you’ve ever had momentum as a
church, you know how powerful it can be. It can overcome obstacles. It can propel beyond growth barriers. It can create forgiveness of mistakes. It can make ministry exciting like nothing else can. Momentum is the place where the Spirit of God supernaturally blesses what a church does.

You probably didn’t realize that all of those casual conversations and questions had so many
implications. They do! There is hidden leadership potential in every elevator ride, every stroll
through the parking lot, and every conversation between services.

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The Corpus team understands the power of being able to answer these six directional
questions. At the heart of ReFocus process is the The Pyramid. This four-sided pyramid
focuses pastors to be able to answer these questions in depth and in detail. If you need a
simple process, a partner to walk you through defining your vision, or want to learn more, visit
www.corpusvitae.org

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Do You Need Help ReFocusing?

The power of focus is incredible. Knowing when to focus, what to focus on and how to focus is essential if you are to become – and remain – an effective leader.

In fact, a few years ago, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett sat down with Bill Gates’ parents and discussed their success. Each was asked to write down one word that identified the single-most important factor in their success. When each revealed their word, the two men had both written: FOCUS

Ministry is no different from the business world. Maintaining – and regaining – focus is vital.

The ReFocus process is intentionally designed as a universal, biblical process that helps pastors, churches and lay leaders focus on where they are, what they need to do, and how God wants them to get to where He is leading them as a ministry. A certified Pathfinder leads a church leadership team through a six-step process:

  • The Discovery
  • The Convergence
  • The Pyramid
  • The Path
  • The Ladder
  • The Toolkit

The Discovery

The Discovery is a seven-exercise session, during which the Pathfinder guides the team through a series of careful examinations of the church in its current form. Following the pattern of Nehemiah examining the walls of Jerusalem, and Jesus examining the seven churches of Revelation, the ReFocus Pathfinder helps the leadership team look into the church’s ministry from seven different vantage points. Patterns emerge through this process, and, once all the discoveries are recorded, the Pathfinder helps the team synthesize the information, and leads them to make some Core Discoveries about the church or ministry.

The Convergence

The Convergence is a Good to Great exercise. Both Thom Rainer and Will Mancini have taught the value of considering where to position a church’s ministry using the Good to Great approach. The heart of this process is to individually consider the leader, the church and the community, and then identify the converging places where the church can flourish and also contribute to the flourishing of the community. This step provides a key concept upon which the vision, mission and strategy of The Pyramid will later be built. The Convergence exercises ensure that the new vision is not just a grasp at the future, but that it is both a desirable and achievable future.

The Pyramid

During the The Pyramid, which spans to sessions, the church team addresses six essential directional questions about the church. These directional questions are ones that church members, leaders and even staff regularly ask, often without knowing they are even asking them:

  • What are we doing?
  • Why are we doing it?
  • How do we do it?
  • Where do we start?
  • Where are we going?
  • How do we know if we are getting there?

These questions are asked in many forms and forums. A pastor must be able to recognize when they are being asked and how they are being asked, and he must know how to answer them clearly and concisely. The pastor must also equip the staff and lay leadership to answer these six questions with exactly the same answer that he would give. If the leadership cannot answer these questions quickly, concisely and consistently, then vision dilution and vision drift will occur.

The Path

Making disciples lies at the heart of the mission of the church. In all four Gospels, Jesus concludes His ministry on earth by instructing His Apostles to make disciples (i.e. Matt 28.16-18). Most churches recognize the Great Commission as their responsibility, but too many do not take the time to develop a local church plan for doing what Jesus so specifically and dramatically emphasized. Through The Path, teams build out a macro-strategy for making disciples that answers the question, “How do we do things at this church?” During this step in the ReFocus process, a basic strategy is developed, and the team then builds out a full plan for disciple-making.

The Ladder

Latent within every church is immense potential. When you think of all the spiritual gifts and natural abilities that God has entrusted to a local church, it is mind boggling. Yet it is also a great challenge for a pastor to harness all of this potential. The Ladder session helps pastors understand and develop a customized strategy for developing leaders at all levels of their church. The size and scope of the church’s ministry will help determine how many levels of leadership are necessary, and the nature of these levels are determined by the structure and philosophy of the church. Once a team identifies each ladder level, they then work through the content and philosophy of each level in order to train leaders at each stage of development. As a team works through this process, our Pathfinders help them to think in terms of character, competency, chemistry, and concern for the mission.

The Toolkit

The final step of the ReFocus process is The Toolkit. This resource-rich step helps pastors create a customized plan that will facilitate the process of helping church members become aware of the vision, understand the vision, and ultimately appreciate and embrace the vision.

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Our Corpus team would love to come alongside you as you seek to refocus and revitalize your ministry. Feel free to take an online assessment to score your church’s need for ReFocusing at: www.corpusvitae.org/assessment

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