Friday, 30 January 2009

Leading in a Time of Financial Crisis 3

When I arrived at King’s 13 years ago the church had been declining numerically for the previous decade and I knew that to get some growth momentum was going to be a challenge. I fell into a growth strategy which has served us well for the last decade, but the changing economic situation has made me reflect on some aspects of my underlying philosophy of ministry. With the change in world economic circumstances we face a new leadership challenge for the church.

Joseph knew how to lead in the time of plenty and how to prepare for the time of famine; his wise stewardship saved the known world from poverty. Seven years of prosperity was followed by seven years of famine. We need the wisdom of Joseph at this time to get us through what has been forecast to be some very lean years.

The growth strategy we developed at King’s was to staff ahead of the growth curve. Over the years we were able to base our financial planning on past trends which developed into an ability to estimate with some confidence the finance growth trend in the future. Our experience showed us that for each person sitting in the meeting the average giving would be around £1000 a year. So, if we were growing at 100 people a year we knew we would have another £100k to spend in the next financial year - we staffed our church in the light of this information, which further increased our capacity to serve the people of God well, while providing capacity to grow more.

In the last year our Sunday attendance is up by over 150 people, which historically would probably mean we would be looking to increase our staff by at least 3 or 4 full time posts. However we have to adjust to the changing economic situation around us. Rather than reflecting a lack of faith on our part, I prefer to apply faith and good stewardship alongside each other rather than seeing them in competition. Faith is needed both in times of plenty and also in times of famine!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Leading in a Time of Financial Crisis 2

Pastoral Care

The prophetic message is a very important message for our congregations to hear; however, we need to communicate it with much grace. As we prophesy concerning the potential collapse of capitalism as we have known it, we need to be aware of the pastoral implications of such a crash. I can imagine the situation in a church meeting where an excited prophetic type is praising God for bringing down the economy, while next to him stands a man who has just been made redundant for the 3rd time. As he is about to lose his house because he cannot afford the mortgage payments, he follows the first man with a prayer asking God, ‘Please give me a job so I can feed my family’.

These days could be upon us sooner than we think and we will need wisdom in leading our people to agree with the prophetic edge of all that is happening in the nation while standing with those who face the loss of earnings.

Last night I spoke to a single mother who has two jobs to make ends meet, she has just lost one and will not be able to keep up her mortgage payments; this brought into sharp focus the pastoral implications of the days and months ahead.

Practical Teaching

We have regularly taught the church here at Kings about good stewardship. I have taught the 80/10/10 principle for over a decade. Live off 80% of your income, give 10% and save 10%. Avoid debt like the plague. I am trusting that this teaching ‘investment’ will have placed many in the church in a good position. But as some will lose their income I intend to ask those in employment, and especially the rich, to give more. The New Testament teaching of proportional giving may be even more relevant in the coming years. On my next post I will look at the leadership challenge of setting a budget, one of the only times in leadership when we attempt to predict the future, and suffer bad consequences if we get wrong!

Friday, 23 January 2009

Leading in a Time of Financial Crisis 1

In the face of what is being called ‘economic meltdown’, what should the church be saying?

I recently heard Gordon McDonald make the comment to a group of leaders that not many of us have lived through extremely tough times. He was reflecting on his experience as a young boy growing up during the Depression and it was a sobering message – definitely more Jeremiah ‘gloom and doom’ than Jeremiah, the prophet of hope. We are heading into a deep recession; the economic pundits tell us that the worse is yet to come, so
how do we prepare our people in the light of these developments?

In considering this question, I have found using the following framework helpful – to cover prophetic, pastoral and practical elements.

Prophetic Voice

It has been clear for many years that the god of this nation, and of many nations, is Mammon. (Luke 16:13 - You cannot serve both God and money). Man’s greed and the security he has sought in financial gain have resulted in nations turning away from God. Trusting in the acquisition of property, shares, pensions, and in the dream that ‘if I own more I will be happy’ has created a ‘more’ monster in all of us. While I don’t argue for asceticism (these items are not evil in themselves), love of them has led us astray.

In the last few months we have seen events in the financial news that have not been seen in recent history, comments from leading financial communicators describing once in a century events that our parents and grandparents worked hard to ensure that they would not see again. Could it be that God is shaking the nations, who have placed their trust in money? I believe so - in fact, through these times He could be answering our prayers to turn a nation to His ways. We are now provided with a great opportunity to express our faith in a God who provides, whatever our circumstances.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Leading in a Time of Crisis 4

Well, we recovered. We got back to an underlying growth curve of 5% that August. We’ve been up to 10% and made massive adjustments to our team. We decided to invest in 5 or 6 new staff members. A pastoral care worker, a new church administrator, a new facilities manager, two more part-time admin staff and a full-time social action worker came in. We made the decision on our facilities not to relocate but to extend the crèche rooms. And we decided to launch a third Sunday meeting. Hearing Mark Driscoll at Brighton made me glad we had made that decision before the conference.

As to the financial challenge – in the end we made a £2K loss rather than the £90K predicted and we did that by cuts and by going to the church – we had two Sundays where I did a 10-15 minute exhortation on giving. We had standing order forms available around the auditorium and encouraged people to sign up then and there. This was the first time we had done such an approach and we found that people responded to the situation generously.
We realised that we needed to make giving an easy access thing.

On the diversity challenge we taught through David Anderson’s book called Gracism. We invited Robert Kwami – a Ghanaian pastor now in our church – to join the team for a year.

On the apostolic challenge we sent some of our members to join the Greenwich church plant which continues to prosper. And we stretched even further by going for the third meeting – impelled by the desire to see more people saved. We made the decision on that before we knew the full implications of implementing it. I’m glad that I didn’t know that a third meeting would require another 100 volunteers a month to run!

We have also moved into another new area – an advertising campaign in our locality with one large (huge!) billboard next to Catford station and also posters in bus shelters. We will review this in due course.

So, to summarise the Leadership Lessons:

Remember eternal truths
- A good team knows exactly where it stands
- What is my measure?
- Teach into the situation
- Know when it’s time to reach again

Friday, 16 January 2009

Leading in a Time of Crisis 3

Then another question came to me. I asked myself if I had reached capacity. Maybe the real issue was my measure as a leader, rather than anything else. Have you ever asked that question? If this was it, could I cope with that? Will I be at peace in my soul with the measure that I am? And the answer came – ‘I don’t know!’ When you are younger there always seems to be years ahead in which to achieve all you hope for. ‘Bring it on!’ is the attitude! But actually it’s not about me – or you – it’s about grace apportioned. And I thought – well, we shall find out… and we’re still finding out, by the way!

In the middle of all this I found another Leadership Lesson. I was doing a coaching session for leaders of larger churches within Newfrontiers, trying to explain some of the challenges of growth. I drew a triangle on the board with one side representing ‘Team’, the second ‘Buildings’ and the third ‘Finance’. I’d always thought that to grow a church from 200 to 500 you need to have a team in place, you need facilities that can cope and you need to be able to fund both. If one of them is not there – you’re stuck.
I realised as I spoke that we are still dealing with this Leadership Lesson at the present time at King’s.

The next Leadership Lesson - you need to teach into what’s going on. So, on the first Sunday in January (our Vision Sunday) and conveniently just after my Boxing Day morning revelation, I stood in front of the church and went through all these things.

I had to help my team adjust expectations on what we were looking to achieve in the year to come. Once I was clear on that I needed to communicate it well at all levels. We called the church to pray – being open with them brought a great response in prayer.

So – that was January to February and then something else happened to me – an instinctive thing. I felt it was time to lead and make some decisions! (See the next blog for those decisions!) I had a phone conversation with Steve Nicholson (who oversees church planting in the Vineyard Movement in the USA and who is an old friend of our church) and said to him, ‘Our numbers are down – do you have any advice?’ to which his response was, ‘If you sent 40 people out a year ago and you are now almost back to where you were numerically – you have done well!’ He also reminded me that the 40 who went will be more committed than the new folk who are just coming into the church to ‘replace’ them. This changed my perspective – a useful piece of information that reduced some pressure!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Leading in a Time of Crisis 2

John Maxwell says ‘It’s important that the team members know exactly where the team stands.’ On that Boxing Day I got up and wrote down the things people were saying to me about church (I know, how sad is that? Working on Boxing Day!) – I hadn’t had enough space until then to reflect on what was going on and analyse our situation. At this point, I came up with five major reasons why we were where we were.

1. We were facing a growth challenge – could we cope with more people? Could we recover from sending out a church plant and supporting another smaller one? Could we adjust to new roles as a team? Could we go through the pain of counting the cost of all these changes?

Mark Driscoll says that you need to re-engineer or replant the church every year and the main reasons churches don’t grow is because the elders don’t want to change.

2. We faced the facilities challenge – we were running out of office space and we don’t have enough space for weekday activities or Sunday ministries outside of the main meeting, so we investigated relocating.

3. We faced a financial challenge - £90K short and needing to do something with our buildings.

4. We faced the diversity challenge – the race issue.

5. And we faced an apostolic challenge. Could we recover from planting South Central? Could we help with Greenwich? Could we release Mick Taylor further with training for Newfrontiers?

This was my analysis. Any one of these challenges is big enough for a church. Put all five in the mix and we could get stuck, by which I mean stop growing.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

London Calling!

A number of years ago we used to produce something called ‘London News’, the purpose of which was to communicate the latest info on our London churches. I intend, through this leadership blog, to keep London churches informed of developments across the whole city – this is the first of what will be a regular feature, which I hope you enjoy!

Both Stef Liston (Camden) with attendance approaching 100, and Stu Gibbs (Greenwich) at around 50 regular attenders, are already making fine progress in establishing the church plants in their localities. I have recently asked Owen Hylton to move from Kings, Catford, to head up Beacon Church (central South London) while Andy Floyd has rejoined the team here at King’s. I am encouraged that each of these recent church plants is doing so well.

Following the launch of the London training base over three years ago, both the 'FP Impact' and 'Leadership Foundations' courses continue to be packed. I am delighted to announce we will be launching and piloting a new 'Leadership Advanced' course in London from Sept 2009. The new course will take all the strengths of the existing course, with its theological reflection and teaching, and add modules on leadership and preaching and a residential weekend on marriage. I believe this is a very exciting development as we look to train our elders and pastors for effective ministry in today’s world. Mick Taylor, who directs the London Training Base, will head up both of these courses.

The ‘Together’ weekend at Butlins is now only a couple of weeks away, with over 3660 people booked in and a number having been turned away who now regret that they didn’t book in earlier! My estimation is that 50 % of those attending come from the London churches – the uptake has been considerable, as a result of which we are considering providing two such weekends in 2010.

Dave Stroud continues to see Christchurch, London flourish and grow with over 500 attending regularly - quite remarkable as it was only planted 3 years ago. Here at King’s, Catford we are growing faster then ever and are in sight of 1000 regular attenders. We are beginning to plan for a 4th Sunday meeting to cope with such growth.

Overall, the Newfrontiers churches in London show signs of greater strength than at any time since I came to London and following the successful planting of 8 churches in the last 8 years, we are now intentionally looking at locations for the next 5 church plants. Our vision of establishing 50 churches with 10,000 people is becoming more attainable.

Let’s keep praying! We have a great city to reach!

Friday, 9 January 2009

Leading in a Time of Crisis 1

Last year was the most demanding leadership year that I’ve had in 6 or 7 years. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. September 07 began very well but then from October until January 08 we entered what I called ‘the perplexed season’.

Firstly our church administrator – an excellent guy – confirmed that he wanted to move on due to the special circumstances following the birth of their first child. Then, a friend and co-pastor here was diagnosed with severe burnout in October. In a church of this size pastoral care is a huge load and now we had an Acts 6 moment. Our growth over the years finally caught up with us in that our infrastructure hadn’t adjusted enough to cope with the numbers of people. We were overrun pastorally and administratively.

It was manic. October and November are my busiest times for Newfrontiers and also the time when I speak most at Kings. At the same time we were in discussions about relocating to a new site (which we were told would cost us £12 million). In mid-November I was informed that we were £90K short in the budget. And then, for the first time in ten years our Sunday attendance was lower than it was the previous year. It’s probably fair to say that the team were under more stress than I had ever seen.

For the first time since I began to lead King’s (the only church I’ve ever led) I didn’t know where we were going – an uncomfortable place to be in and very difficult to lead from such a place. There were still great things going on! We were still seeing people saved every week. We had 1700 attend our Christmas Carol Services. But - I was so overrun that I lost my bearings.

1 Corinthians 4:16 says, ‘therefore we do not lose heart, though outwardly we are wasting away… For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that outweighs them all.’

First lesson learnt: Eternal truths do not change, circumstances do – this is foundational. I found an ability through this period to lean into God and His love for me as an individual rather than finding value in the indicators of progress and growth in the church. It pressed me into prayer more. (This is so basic that I am almost embarrassed to mention it!) Grace under pressure!

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Who's in Front?

I managed to get an evening with an old friend of ours while on my recent trip to the USA. An evening meal with Steve Nicholson was extremely enjoyable! Steve has been very helpful with advice at critical growth points in the life of Kings – his role in heading up church planting for the Vineyard movement in the USA means he has experience and insight which can be relied on, the church he leads in Chicago is now gathering over 1000 on a Sunday. I do hope I will be able to get him over to the UK in 2010!

Steve gave me his insights and advice on staff development – very helpful! The key leadership lesson is to visit places which are ahead of you – ask questions, watch what they do and learn from their experience.