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My colleague Tim Nations, who is heading up Leadership Network’s “Rapid Growth Churches” Leadership Community shares some insights from the fourth group of quickly growing churches that convened recently in Dallas. Here are the concerns these churches are talking about.  Tim writes: Each church came into the room with a unique set of questions, challenges, and opportunities.  However, the following three shared issues emerged that teams spent time working on together: Staffing and StructureEvery team realized that staffing and structure were key issues to ongoing, sustainable growth.  Some of the questions they wrestled with included:
  • How do we reorganize reporting structures and current responsibilities, and develop staff to minimize multiple hats?
  • How do we staff for need vs. growth, using metrics to operate by principle rather than pressure?
  • When do you move someone? (It’s the leadership’s responsibility to train and develop; point to vision and communicate clearly and honestly; do it with honor)
Assimilation, Spiritual Growth, Leadership DevelopmentIn rapid growth situations, systems that move people from attendee to leader often get broken down.  Each of these churches have a strong desire to ensure newcomers and existing members are cared for, nurtured, and developed.  Key questions included:
  • How do we define discipleship?
  • Groups – managing the tension between rows and circles; it’s a “both and”.
  • What are the onramps to leadership?
Multisite Issues and OpportunitiesNot every church that was present is currently multisite, but all of them are engaged in the conversation as a potential future possibility.  Much of this discussion centered around:
  • What do you centralize/decentralize?
  • How much variety in sites is ok?
  • What are the advantages to video sites vs. live preaching?
  • What is the key issue for site success?  (Staffing!)
// read more here… As your church grows… what are the things that you are dealing with the most right now?  Do they coincide with the list above?
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Here are some recommendations from Kristen Blanford, partner at Hermes Sargent Bates law firm in Dallas for developing your sex offender policy (which, by the way, she thinks every church should have these days):
  1. What are the core beliefs of the organization? Do you support including everyone, or do you specify who is able to attend or become a member of your congregation?
  2. Do you have established ministries for urban communities or walk-in traffic? Do you already have a prison ministry or an urban community outreach program that might attract convicted sex offenders?
  3. What will your congregation tolerate? Will your congregation react positively or negatively to opening your doors to sex offenders?
  4. What are the risks to the congregation? Will allowing the offender to participate in the organization put any current members at risk?
Here’s what a couple of churches are doing: Some congregations welcome sex offenders into regular services by restricting the person to a specific service or by requiring the offender to report in and be accompanied by an escort at all times. If a congregation is not comfortable with sex offenders attending regular services, there are many other options to consider. Some pastors choose to meet regularly, one-on-one, with the offender to provide spiritual support for the person outside of the congregation’s weekly services. Other congregations, such as First Congregational United Church of Christ in Madison, Wis., are introducing adult-only services to help sex offenders who aren’t allowed to be in the presence of children. Rev. Jerry Hancock, director of prison ministries for the Madison-based church, became aware that a number of people were unable to attend religious services with children present for therapeutic or legal reasons. To meet this need, he established a biweekly, adult-only service—which is not just for sex offenders but provides a service where convicted sex offenders are welcome to worship. During the service, there are no children’s activities anywhere on the property. // Read more here… Has YOUR church had to deal with sex offenders in any way?  Does your church have a policy? Share your thoughts below in the comments… Todd

On a quiet corner in northeast Dallas, the elderly members of Gaston Oaks Baptist Church make their way inside and find seats in the sanctuary on a Sunday morning, clutching programs handed out by a 99-year-old usher. Mostly white, with an average age of 83, these church members can only hope to fill about a third of the room — which holds around 300 people — on a good Sunday. Their congregation was once that size, but time and death have taken their toll. Alone, they would watch their numbers continue to dwindle and, eventually, see Gaston Oaks close its doors. For years, the congregation has been sharing its space with fledging congregations, nonprofits and even businesses as a way of bringing in income. But recently, something bigger has begun to unfold. Church leaders are re-imagining Gaston Oaks as a different kind of ministry, one that will use this 22,000-square-foot space for something different — and more lasting — than its original congregation. Eventually, they hope, they will leave a legacy by transforming their church into a kind of incubator for immigrant congregations as well as a home for nonprofit ministries, including a major low-income health center. They intend to create the Gaston Christian Center, with a board that includes all the partners housed in it, and to deed the building to this new entity to ensure that the space continues to be used for Christ’s work in this neighborhood. One of the first big steps in that direction takes place this spring, when an established Dallas health clinic will move into a wing of the building. “The day may come when the original congregation will decide they are no longer able to be a viable congregation. What we’re hoping to do is to have a plan in place that will preserve the use of the building for Christian purposes in perpetuity,” said the Rev. Dr. Gary Cook, who came to Gaston Oaks in 2008 and helped envision a future for it. // Interesting story… read more here. Should this, could this, would this not be a great plan for a healthy church with a nice facility as well? Thoughts? Todd

Current Events, Leadership
In a very large announcement, Mark Driscoll writes today at the Acts 29 Blog: Together, we decided, in light of all the complexity we’re facing, that the best thing for Acts 29 going forward would be for Matt Chandler to assume the presidency, move the network offices to Dallas, and select his Acts 29 staff. In light of this, I want to sincerely thank the people of Mars Hill for investing millions of dollars over the years in Acts 29 and the people of The Village for being willing to house the Acts 29 headquarters. As for myself, I want to humbly serve Jesus and his men in Acts 29 by doing whatever is best for them. Going forward, I will gladly remain on the Acts 29 Board supporting Matt, along with Darrin and whomever else Matt believes best fits the Board. Mars Hill gladly stays in Acts 29 as well. I’ll be spending much of my time going forward serving all of Acts 29, pastoring at Mars Hill, helping the Resurgence, writing books, organizing preaching campaigns, and doing media interviews.  You can read more here… Thoughts? Did anyone see this coming? Todd