Thanks for joining us on Season 7 of The Flourishing Culture Podcast, brought to you by The Best Christian Workplaces Institute. You’ll learn how to build a flourishing workplace culture that drives the ministry impact of your organization, your church, or your company brought to you by the Best Christian Workplaces Institute. Now here’s your host, BCWI CEO, Al Lopus.
Is your church growing? What are the current trends impacting church and organizational growth on this side of the pandemic? Well, today we talk with a top researcher on the keys to church growth and leadership development.
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As leaders, we can learn from our peers in other churches and Christian organizations, to understand how they are growing and developing. Also, research into trends and best practices helps all of us on our road to flourishing. Our guest today will help us understand the landscape of this moment in the church and how we can move forward as we follow Jesus and lead with integrity.
I’m delighted to welcome Warren Bird, who is Vice President of Research and Equipping at the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). Warren has a rich understanding of church movements and organizations, including megachurches. He has authored and co-authored numerous books and has a heart for equipping church leaders.
Absolutely nothing prevents a church of any size from being more intentional about trying to up the quality bar of the staff experience and, thus, get that high coveted score back from Best Christian Workplaces Institute.“
In this episode, you’ll hear about:
- What are a few of the best practices that you observe in organizations that are growing and thriving while exhibiting good governance and integrity in their administration? ()2:53)
- “We could spend the whole time talking about that. That’s such a rich area to explore. But for starters, the role of effective teams has increased in ministry through teams and as a team and learning how to get better at it.” (03:15)
- “The role of leadership development has been on the rise for the last 20 years. To use a sports metaphor, the idea is one of strengthening the bench by investing in the development of others.” (03:32)
- “Developing more and better leaders is a tremendously healthy practice for any church, ministry, or organization, and this also relates to succession planning, which is really an aspect of leadership development.” (03:59)
- “During the pandemic and coming out of the pandemic, a greater emphasis on self-care, soul care, if you will, has arisen as an antidote to anxiety, burnout, and the many other mental-health issues that have become more prominent.” (04:22)
- What changes do you think will be here for the long term as leaders guide their local church communities into the future now that we’ve come out of the, and are coming out—we’re not out of it yet fully—but we’re coming out of the pandemic? (05:40)
- “First, for most churches—let’s just focus on churches for a minute—to find a way forward today, they have to think and act like church planters. Our society increasingly views churches as on the margins, no longer at the center as offering answers to important questions or being essential to the well-being of a community. And any church that reverts back to business as usual before the pandemic, simply waiting on spiritually hungry people to come to them, is going to hit big trouble.” (06:45)
- We’ve seen megachurches, multi-site models, and church mergers. What sort of church-leadership and organization structure do you expect to see more in the next five, ten, 15 years? (08:35)
- “Now, that’s in terms of discipleship. But there’s a second level to that, and that’s the multiple expressions or experiences. In other words, long gone is the one big sanctuary where the church gathers once on Sunday morning. That wasn’t even before the pandemic. But the growth in recent years has decidedly shown up by having multiple services, being multi-site, involving mergers.: (10:44)
- You know, many large churches started off with a high-profile leader. They had the ability to attract a following. But churches that have the staying power seem to be developing emerging leaders and leadership teams so that the whole organization isn’t dependent on one personality. And we’ve just, we’ve seen too many one-personality churches crash. So what are some common features that you see in large churches that have helped them successfully move from one generation to the next, when it comes to leadership and transition of these high-profile, senior, often, founder leaders? (12:20)
- Can you share a story with us? Is there an example or two of a church or an organization that you’ve worked with that was struggling and was able to turn around, because of their difficulties, to emerge stronger so that they can really accomplish the mission that they were set out to do? How about a story? (18:48)
- “The turnaround happened by raising the bar of discipleship, cultivating a culture of high expectation of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.” (21:20)
- “In the book Liquid Church, that I coauthored with founding pastor Tim Lucas, we tell the story of a challenge that God used to bless the community, and namely, it was one of the core families had a child with disabilities.” (22:49)
- Thriving teams are an important way for churches and Christian organizations to accomplish their mission. We call them fantastic teams in our book Road to Flourishing. And your research on church leadership and structure, what are some practices that you see that are common to thriving, effective, even fantastic teams? (24:49)
- “Well, let me highlight two. I had a season where I was researching the book that became Teams That Thrive, Ryan Hartwig, the lead author. And they were two that were really a rebuke to me, a surprise. The first is that vast majority of teams are mediocre, and they don’t realize it.”(25:18)
- At BCWI, you know, we do Employee Engagement Surveys for many large churches, medium- and smaller-sized churches as well, and we find that workplace culture is often healthier in these larger churches and even multisite churches than some of the medium and smaller churches. You know, people are engaged with the mission. They’re excited about their contributions to their teams. Their work culture is often better. And we score it on a scale. They’re better than some of these other medium or smaller churches. What are your thoughts? You’ve worked with a lot of churches, large, medium, and small. What are some of your thoughts about why we might see a positive culture in some of these larger churches? And what would these smaller churches learn from that? (2&:37)
- “But absolutely nothing prevents a church of any size from being more intentional about trying to up the quality bar of the staff experience and, thus, get that high coveted score back from Best Christian Workplaces Institute.” (30:48)
- What does discipleship look like in the next generation of Christians who will be leading our churches in the next 10 to 15 years? (31:32)
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