Revival is Christian for Momentum

REVIVAL AND MOMENTUM 

Revival Momentum TeamI grew up in a Charismatic/Pentecostal church in the 80’s and 90’s, when revival was a buzz-word.  Church today is just not comparable to the way it was.  Creative ministry has radically changed in the last twenty years and become so much better.  We had the flag baton twirlers, the hand-held banners with the Hebrew names of God appliquéd on them, ladies who would prance around waving quilting circles with ribbons attached to them, dubbed the “glory hoop.”  We sang the imitation Jewish songs in the minor keys with no break between them.  We laughed in piles on the floor through the Charismatic Renewal of the 90’s, and started crawling our way into contemporary worship with Ron Kenoly and “Ancient of Days.”  It wasn’t snake-handling weird, but it got pretty rowdy. It wasn’t white steeples, hymnbooks, and wooden pews sedate Christianity.

Church was deeply experiential, with a focus on the idea that God isn’t distant and disengaged, but the reverse.  As we put our attention on Jesus, our awareness of just how close and how interested God is in us is heightened to the point that we could actually sense the divine in our services.  During some of our most spiritual moments in church, leaders used to come forward and prophesy that revival was coming.  It was a theme we revisited several times a year, and we were deeply passionate about it.  From my childish perspective, revival was that magical moment when people, prompted by the Holy Spirit, would spontaneously begin to flood the church, getting saved en masse.  I understood this to be something divine, a movement of people totally manufactured by God.  We were waiting for God to do something huge.

In many ways, I don’t think that much has changed in church life.  We still value the same things; it’s just the creative expression that has changed.  Churches like Elevation or Hillsong New York, which have seen rapid, massive growth are celebrated and respected.  Most people don’t label this as revival, but it’s the same concept: lots of hurting people meeting Jesus, coming to church services, finding wholeness again.

I question whether this happened as a result of a spontaneous divine movement.  I’m not even sure that this kind of revival is a real thing.  Sure, I know about the Great Awakenings, and moments in history when society moved back toward God.  I just think that there is more to it than the Holy Spirit suddenly deciding to move.  Does he love our generation any less because we haven’t seen the kind of revival that Jonathan Edwards saw?  The obvious answer is no, so there must be another explanation.

Jesus told us to go and make disciples for him.  There is nothing passive about his final instruction.  There’s nothing in there that can be interpreted as waiting in church services for people to spontaneously show up.  It’s active language—go, make.  We do all we can do, and God does what only he can do.  We go get them, give them the message of truth; and God wakes up their spirit inside them, stamps them with the Holy Spirit.  We train them, and we love them; include them in our community.

Perhaps because Christianity is based on mysterious, spiritual concepts, we tend to approach our church services the same way.  We have tricked ourselves into believing that the most spiritual moments happen in the moment, and that understanding the processes that create revival makes it somehow less spiritual.  When you boil it down, however, churches that are growing fast do certain things well.

RIDING THE MOMENTUM WAVESRevival Momentum

Growing churches know how to use momentum.  Momentum is the residual force created by the effort of the past, still working in the present.  Momentum is not magical, and it’s not supernatural, but it can multiply the effectiveness of the work we do.  God will breathe on what we do, with or without momentum.  It’s just that with momentum, we are able to speed up the pace of growth.

Force has to be continually applied to keep momentum going.  Momentum is never self-sustaining.  Even the strongest momentum will eventually fade.  We have to continually push, but momentum has the ability to exponentially increase the force we are pushing with.  With positive momentum, the same efforts will produce stronger results.  Negative momentum will limit the effects of our efforts, producing less effective results than starting from a standstill.  Positive momentum makes you look better than you are, and negative momentum makes you look worse than you are.

Momentum is not as mysterious as you might think.  We can manage the ebb and flow.  Smart leaders learn when to push momentum forward, and when to glide on top of the momentum they have created, allowing their team to breathe.  Intuitive leaders are tuned into their teams, and can sense how hard and how fast the team can push without reaching exhaustion.  On the other end, when we are riding the wave, leaders have to read momentum’s slow down and mark the right place to start pushing again.  Pushing from a standstill is much harder than pushing with the assistance of the wave of momentum.

In a church context, the push that creates positive momentum has basically three essential parts.  All three of these elements have to happen concurrently.  We build anticipation for our services, make great services happen, and then build expectation off of great services toward what is coming next. Momentum is built from event to event, from weekend to weekend, from series to series.

Church Marketing: Building Anticipation

* Advance planning for church services.  You can’t promote what you don’t know.  The best planning happens as a team, without the pressure of time, in a creative environment.  Your planning shapes what you will advertise about upcoming services.

* Advertising.  Advertise to your church attenders and to your community.  Make it a regular part of your budget, not just when you have a big event.  Advertise your Sunday service—it’s the main event!

* Branding.  You attract people like you.  You won’t attract anyone if you don’t know who you are.  Make it look good, keep it simple, and make it easy for anyone to understand.

Making Magic: In the Moment

* Leverage your talent.  Everyone is not the same; everyone is not equal.  Don’t pretend like they are.  Everyone has something they are good at, and it’s up to leaders to make sure people are able to win by doing what they do best most of the time.

* Be great. Never settle for okay.  Keep pushing for great without getting nasty.  Pay attention to the peripherals.

* Connect, both on and off the platform.  Make it feel personal, not general, even in large audiences.  Keep thinking about what makes a service experience great for your attenders.

* Be memorable.  Deliberately design memorable moments in your service.  Think about what can become a talking point for church attenders, something that might spark a conversation later.

Make Trends: Building Expectation

* Use series.  People look forward to the next installment.  It’s why the literary trilogies and film trilogies work well.  If the first one was good, we come back for number two and number three!

* Maximize the afterglow.  There is a reason Hollywood after parties are a big deal.  This happens through highlight videos on Youtube, social media feedback, hash tags for pic posting.  Celebrating what happened makes people feel good, but it also keeps people talking about it.

* Consistently be inviting.  Don’t have an event/service without inviting people to what’s next, with dates, and why it’s unmissable.

* Follow up.  Close the revolving door through repetitive, consistent, thorough, relational follow-up.  You don’t have to stalk people for it to be good follow-up.

This process may seem a little clinical or business-like because it’s straightforward, but don’t let that turn you off.  Girls especially like church life to be very relational and organic.  I’m all for that, but left to our own devices, we tend to keep to our own small circles of relationship, so we have to do practical things that intentionally broaden our potential circle of friends.

BE THE ENGINE

In most churches, multiple different teams look after all these things.  Even though we may be directly responsible for just one area, it’s better to have a sense of ownership of the whole.  If every team just focuses inwardly toward their own responsibilities, gaps happen between the teams. Tiny little details are forgotten in no-mans land, not directly assigned to anyone.  The stuff that falls through those cracks is usually the difference between good and great.

I was in a church recently that deliberately cross-supports from team to team.  Every team supplies something to another team, and is also dependent on another team to do something for them.  No team is fully self-sufficient, so they can’t isolate.  Forcing collaboration across teams means that church is far less likely to miss important details.  This interesting model has built great team relationships and collaboration.

Thinking broader can feel overwhelming if you haven’t done it before. If you are barely handling your present to-do list, then the thought of adding everyone else’s to your own can make you edgy.  God stretches us so that we can help carry the weight for more and more.  That’s one of our leadership journeys.  Some people are incredibly detailed and can manage the complex workings of this process with ease, but not everyone can.  Usually we have to work together to keep this process moving forward.

Most of us girls are not the final say in our churches.  If you aren’t the pastor, it can be easy to throw your hands up and say, “Sounds great, but I can’t make this happen; I don’t have the authority.”  I understand that feeling.  I do believe, however, that if every idea has to come from the pastor, and nothing can happen unless the pastor says so, then a church is incredibly limited.  We are all gifted uniquely.  We are God-designed to complement each other, and each one of us has something unique to bring to the body of Christ.

Team Momentum RevivalI would a thousand times rather have a team member that I have to reign in than someone I have to push.  The most high-functioning teams don’t wait on anyone.  Their leader is like a horse and carriage driver.  The team is the power that carries the leader forward, but he sets the course, making small corrections to keep everyone moving together toward the same target. Low functioning team leaders are more like donkey herders.  The leader isn’t getting carried anywhere, but is pulling the team along, trying to herd everyone toward the same target. In the best teams, the engine, the drive forward, comes from the team, not from the leader.  The direction comes from the leader.

When you understand your value to the church, it’s much easier to take initiative.  It’s exhausting for senior pastors to always have to be the first to think of everything, the first to call a meeting, or to design a campaign.  What would it look like if instead of coming to your pastor with a list of questions that need answering, or problems that need his attention, that you came with options, or solutions he can choose from.  Don’t wait for him to ask for it, just provide it like he already did.  Be the engine; make things happen.  Learn to lead up as well as you lead down.

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Building Teams Not Tasks

Helping HandsSPRING CLEANING VERSUS CHORES

Some people are impeccable housekeepers.  They sweep and mop their kitchen floor every day, vacuum every other day, whether they see any dirt or not.  I’m more of a clean-the-dirt-when-I-see-it-on-the-floor kind of housekeeper.  When the job clearly needs doing, I step up.  I’m more of the spring-cleaning kind of gal.

I’m not unusual.  People will rally once around a major job that needs doing.  We can call an all-church cleanup day on a Saturday and get a pretty good turnout of helpers.  Repeat that again the next week, and participation drops off considerably.  By week three, you will probably just have a handful of people.  Why is that?  People will not regularly rally around a task.  The idea that a whole bunch of work needs doing, and we need your help doing it inspires no one.  We can appeal to people’s sense of duty, but they will only go as far as their internal duty obligation extends.

I chat with leaders all the time that need help getting their responsibilities done.  It’s repetitive work that has to be done all over again every week.  Some Christians have an innate sense of responsibility toward the work of the church and step up.  Many people, however, just don’t have that, and leaders struggle to get them to involved.  Appealing to a non-existent sense of duty will only get you resented.  If we rally people just to do tasks every week, they will wind up feeling used.

If our “team” consists of a to-do list on Sundays, we don’t actually have a team.  A team has specific dynamics that synergizes it.  There are certain elements that glue teams together.  Without this glue, we aren’t a team; we are individuals with joint to-do lists.  A disconnected team member tends to get an attitude like a teenager looking at a list of chores on a Saturday morning at 7am.  It can be a little ugly.  So what do people come out for again and again?  What makes people feel like they are part of a team?

THE CHURCH SOFTBALL LEAGUETeamGraph1

Our church used to have a softball team that participated in a local church league.  Every Monday night, the team would get together and play a casual game against some other church.  My husband played on that team, and I spend a number of Monday nights cheering on this mediocre effort of athleticism with a handful of other wives in the bleacher.  The team didn’t win often, but that wasn’t really a big deal, because the guys just liked to play for fun.  It was a hobby.

Teams that don’t care about winning, that get together only for the enjoyment of playing the game are made up of hobbyists.  These guys enjoy getting outside and tossing a ball around a field, but they are not serious about the game.  They usually just show up on game day, but they aren’t putting in time sharpening their skills, getting in shape, or practicing their skills.  They will never be professional players.  If you want to win, you have to practice.  I think most of us get that.  Hobby teams will never attract great players.  Great players want to win.  They are willing to put in the hard hours of practice in order to win, because to them, winning is the only reason to play the game.

I can’t begin to count the number of times I have heard the phrase, “they are just volunteers; we can’t ask much from them.”  This idea is one of the most sabotaging mindsets on church teams.  It keeps us asking the bare minimum from team members—just show up on game day (Sunday), and help us out for an hour or two.  We will not build great teams if we buy into this thinking.

People will say yes to a team that wins, even if it means they are signing up for a bigger commitment.  Parents and kids say yes to long hours in practice and on ball fields for teams they think will win.  They will pay for uniforms and dues and the trips to get to out of state games—with pleasure.  This is not because watching twelve year olds play ball is so riveting.  It’s because they want to be connected to something that wins.

I have seen highly functioning teams give amazing amounts of time, resources, and energy.  Why?  Because gifted and passionate volunteers will give just about anything when their team is winning.  In the context of church, winning is far bigger than a team getting their assignment done.  If completing a task is the big win, people will only give us what their sense of duty affords.  They will give us their leftover time, not their scheduled time. Highly functional teams are built around causes that are bigger than just the jobs that we need people to do on Sunday.

We can’t communicate culture, vision, training, or build community on Sunday while we are working.  It has to start by rallying our team around a weekly team meeting that happens outside of Sunday services.  It’s pretty typical for teams that aren’t already doing this to question whether this is even possible.  After all, if you can’t get people to show up on Sunday, then why would they show up on an extra night?  As counter-intuitive as it might seem, teams that meet outside of Sunday service actually have better show up rates on Sunday.  When we are inviting people to join us in reaching for the eternal souls of humanity and easing their present suffering, no more compelling cause exists.  They will come to a meeting if they see the value in what we are working toward, their time respected, and their efforts paying off.

We don’t have to worry about managing people’s obligations.  They will do that just fine themselves.  They will tell us when they have to work, and when their family needs them.  They will freely say no.  No one is forced to do anything.  Church volunteers aren’t slave labor.  People can say no whenever they want to.  If we never ask, however, we rob them of the chance to say yes to this great cause.

TeamGraphic2TEAM BUILDING

People will keep showing up when they believe that they are working toward a noble cause.

In church life, every task, no matter how basic or menial, has a connection to the cause of Christ.  People cleaning toilets are creating a fresh, appealing, inviting environment for seekers to come to and connect with the church and connect to Christ.  People copying of children’s curriculum are investing in the next generation, training young leaders and Christians.  If leaders will keep pointing their team members back to the larger cause, then simple tasks become far less of a mind-numbing bummer.  It’s our job as leaders to show people what part they play in the body of Christ, and how their work matters to what we are doing.  The cause of Christ is simple—to seek and to save the lost.  If we will regularly remind people of the why, they are far less prone to burning out.  Good church leaders see potential in Christians before they see it in themselves, and help them connect their love for Jesus with a practical work of service.

People will keep showing up when they feel like they belong.  

Leaders can’t hand out a sense of belonging.  I can give you a membership card, a nametag, a uniform, or a sash with merit badges, but I can’t make you feel like you belong.  We can’t make people feel anything, but we can create environments that help our teams connect.  People feel like they belong when they are having fun.  Nothing makes me feel more connected to a person as when we have had a good laugh together.  When real work needs doing, however, this is hard to remember for most task-driven, middle-level managers, me included.  We feel this compulsion to keep everyone focused on the work at hand.  People feel connected when they are having conversations about real issues they face, or the real issues I face.

People will keep showing up when they know their own value to the team.

It’s easy to get frustrated with under-performing team members.  When someone doesn’t show up, or doesn’t do what they committed to do, it means that the leader has to pick that back up.  It’s easy for us to begin to treat people who do this with a little distain or irritation.  Even when people are failing their team by not showing up, it’s possible to communicate their value.  We can be smart with our verbiage, using phrases like, “we missed you,” or “you matter to this team; Sunday wasn’t as strong without you.”  I’ve said both that a no-show is not okay and that you are valued on our team.  If we just fill in their place on the team and move on without comment, they never know how much we were relying on them.  We aren’t just letting them off the hook; we are actually devaluing them.

People will keep showing up when they know that we know where we are going.TeamGraphic3

Volunteers who serve because they like their job will be committed to that one role, but they aren’t going to think beyond those responsibilities that they prefer.  Teams that catch a larger vision for what the whole church is doing will fill any gap that needs filling, even unasked.  They will help other team members, doing whatever needs to be done to make sure that the whole team accomplishes its mission.  Sharing vision is time consuming, but incredibly worthwhile.  Our teams aren’t going to catch the vision from listening to our pastor talk about it once a year on vision Sunday.  Every meeting should communicate vision at some level.  Vision helps define our strategies, helps us measure what is working and what isn’t.  Vision should make the decisions about our annual calendar.

Building a team does not happen overnight.  Team building happens one conversation at a time, and one individual at a time.  Leaders who are committed to building a great team over a long period of time wind up accomplishing great things for God.  Get ready for a slow pace. Team building is always going to be a little bit messy, and that’s both okay and healthy.  People get radically saved, but people don’t get radically discipled or trained.  It never happens overnight.  There is a reason it takes twelve years to become a doctor.  Building something that is quality takes time. Our impatience with that process only creates unnecessary pressure that puts people off, so chill out.  Chilling out doesn’t mean we sit back and wait for something to happen, it means that while we are working hard to connect, train, and build people, we do it with the fruit of the Holy Spirit—peace, joy, patience, and the list goes on.  God is doing something great and he has an eternal time frame, so hang on, my friend!