I’ve been praying and thinking over our recent conversations and some of the struggles and wrestlings you’ve expressed. I wanted to get my thoughts together and send you what I hope is a combination of direction and encouragement. I seem to communicate more clearly in written form as I have time to think and articulate more precisely about complex issues. I think you also receive written communication better, as you can comb through it and process it piece-by-piece over time. So, I hope this helps! If so, I’ll try and get my thoughts together and communicate more frequently with you like this.
When we responded to God leading us to the Greenhouse model (and to you in particular), it was with the understanding that we (and me more than any other individual) provide you with a platform for learning, growth, further developing a sense and understanding of your calling, and experimental leadership in a safe environment. Much like a Greenhouse provides a safe environment for a plant to grow and mature until it can be planted on its own, that has been my goal for the nature of ABC’s relationship to you. So, all long, this is how I’ve tried to structure and shape the environment for you.
In light of our recent conversations, I thought it would be beneficial for us both if I could lay out again some of my thought processes. With six months of “saddle time” behind us, I thought it would also be a good re-calibration as we prepare for the future 18-24 months together. As I’ve mentioned, I really believe that having regular meetings with the elders to focus specifically on church planting will be needed and good. That way, you are hearing these same things from them and not just me. And, as we all hear from you, it can help continually shape and re-shape the environment here as needed to fit with your unique needs and timeline. So, here is just some of what I think would be good for you to hear again from me now, and the elders, too, as we meet together this year. These are some of the “big things” I’ve been aiming to give you since you’ve been here, and what I feel our strengths as a church are in helping you prepare for your future as a church planter.
Being an integral part of a church team while considering how you want to shape your own team.
I know that one of your major needs as a church planter is a team. While ABC may or may not have a “team” in the sense of individuals who will physically go with you to plant a church, we do have a team that is ministering together currently. I believe one of our biggest contributions to you is giving you experience on our team. You get to work with others and get your own sense (and feedback from your team members) on what your major strengths and contributions are, and where you may need more experience or help from others. There is a sense in which the experience itself is a major benefit to you, but there is another sense in which you get to pray, think, and plan on what your team should look like. There is no expectation that our team will be your team when you plant, but conceptualizing a team for yourself - based, in some degree, upon your experience with our team - before you launch is a major blessing.
So, while you’re on our team, please make plenty of observations and ask plenty of questions about team composition and dynamics: Why is something this way? How would you think about this? What if my team were to look and function like this instead of that? Can you help me pray through this and figure this out? With the safe environment of a Greenhouse, I believe one of the greatest benefits to you is using this experience to help shape your own team rather than feeling like you need to re-shape this team.
An additional benefit, I’m sure, will be gauging how to work within an imperfect and incomplete team. We all have ideals, but God gives us a certain lot to change the world with and they never match the ideal. What do you do then? I believe this Greenhouse environment is great for wrestling with those types of questions, and me and the elders can and want to help you pray, think, and plan through them together.
Get experience leading and managing volunteers while considering how you want to lead your own.
In many ways, I think our “team” will look much like your church planting team and environment: everyone is either bi-vocational, part-time, or a volunteer. You have a teaching job, I have a job with the Army that demands time every week, Viandra is part-time, and everyone else is a volunteer. For a church planter, a team like this would be as good as it gets. It’s much more likely that it’s all volunteer for you when you launch.
Our Greenhouse environment is perfect for considering these real-life leadership challenges. For example, when working with volunteers at ABC, consider questions like these:
Like I said before, our volunteers won’t necessarily be your volunteers, but your volunteers will have the same life issues and time constraints that ours do. I believe that talking through these issues with me and our elders before you launch on your own is a major blessing for you. We’re creating time to have these conversations, and I just want to encourage you to make as many observations and ask as many questions as you can as you encounter these issues here. In my case, I never had the responsibility of leading volunteers until I got to my first church. There was such a steep learning curve, and it would have been amazing to have a Greenhouse-type environment to learn in. I wrote out that “Volunteer Philosophy” document last year based solely on learning what not to do based on my own false assumptions and mistakes. I see this as a huge benefit to you in our Greenhouse environment.
Being a part of the administrative processes of a church while considering what you want your processes to look like.
I never got to be a part of the team that plans and executes the budget, or plans and manages the calendar until I was on my own. What a painful learning curve that was! Sitting in on our admin meetings is a major blessing of our Greenhouse environment. Seeing how agendas are developed, meetings are run, and money is organized and budgeted is an experience that is huge to have before you launch out on your own. Again, please make observations and ask questions as you pray and consider your own admin team and processes. For example, you may very well note that how I chair meetings is the exact opposite of how you would want to chair meetings. What an invaluable experience to see what not to do.
So, again, please don’t feel any pressure to “contribute” in any particular way to our admin processes and team. That’s not to say that I/we wouldn’t welcome such contributions, but I see the greatest benefit for you as observing and learning from us how you want to shape your own team and processes. Use this Greenhouse environment as an iterative learning process. And, as you’re observing and learning here, please utilize me and our elders as much as possible to help you shape your own admin team, processes, and budget.
Leading ministries (like community groups) not as a function of your role as an ABC pastor, but as a template for leading your own.
I could be wrong, but I sense that you feel some amount of pressure to “measure up” (for lack of a better phrase) to your role as a staff member at ABC. Please know that I/we don’t have any expectations for that. I don’t see the main function and/or benefit of your role as Outreach Pastor as leading events or multiplying our community groups and I don’t want you to, either. All of your roles are under the “Greenhouse” umbrella and are intended to simply provide you a template for leading your own groups, events, and church in the future.
For example, learning how to lead a community group of volunteers into ownership of outreach is a far more valuable skill than executing 4 outreach events in a year. I know that doesn’t translate to quantitative data on a report sheet, but I believe our Greenhouse environment to be well-situated to help you develop those skills as a church planter and pastor. I also believe those skills are much more indispensable for you than learning how to plan and coordinate an outreach event.
So, again, please don’t feel any pressure to “perform” in any way here. As time goes on, you (and/or Eddie) may feel that other skills are more valuable than what you are currently getting at ABC (like networking or fundraising, for example) and that you need to focus on those skills. If that’s the case, we are more than happy to pray, think, and plan those things with you in a way that suits what you need. That’s precisely what these monthly conversations with the elders will be for.
Providing you the space and dialogue to experiment, whether that leads to success or failure, without fear of consequences.
I believe that one of the greatest blessings to folks is giving them the ability to succeed or fail in an endeavor without fear of consequences. After you plant a church, the stakes increase exponentially for you. But here, you can experiment to find what works and doesn’t work for you without any fear of consequences. I see this as the single greatest blessing of our Greenhouse environment. Preach the worst sermon in human history? It’s ok! Have an outreach event that completely bombs? No problem! Communicate in a way that causes more confusion than clarity? All is well. I want you to feel safe and comfortable experimenting here and leaning into your relationships and dialogue with me and the elders to learn and grow from your experimenting (whether success or failure) when it happens rather than being timid or fearful of making a mistake.
The way I see it, our Greenhouse environment is one where you can maximize your learning and grow exponentially in a short period of time because it is a training environment. Both the ability to try it and to talk about it are massive blessings for you. As I’ve said before, I don’t want you to have any fear of consequences from ministry mistakes. We are for you, brother, and this is a wonderful environment for you to grow in!
These are just some of the thoughts I’ve been thinking and praying over for you and us. When we get together on the 7th, I’d like to start the meeting talking about what I see as our greatest Greenhouse assets for you and then let you hear from the other elders, too. From there, we will walk prayerfully alongside you every month, helping you develop and build the foundation you (and Eddie) believe is necessary for your future church plant.
Grateful to be with you in this journey,
Just a man trying to save his thoughts and correspondence