Unsung Heroes

by Brad Dupray 

Every organization has those people who stand out.  We think of them as the shoulders upon which we stand – and we do.  At CDF Capital, those are names like Ralph Dornette, Jim Campbell, Al Mills, Jackie Charnell, and others.  But every organization also has the people behind the scenes who receive little of the glory but are crucial to its success.  When I think back through my own ministry history, both at CDF and elsewhere, one of those unsung names is Harold Purdom.
 
When I was a young minister, Harold was the Chairman of the Board of the church where I served, Lawndale Christian Church (Lawndale, CA; now Restoration Life Christian Church).  Harold was also on the Board of Directors of CDF at the time, thus dedicating his life to two ministries in his off hours.  Harold took me under his wing and mentored me in the ways of life and ministry.  He was really like a second father to me.
 
Harold had worked his way up through the ranks to the executive level at Continental Airlines and after a thirty-plus year career, he retired, thinking his working days were over.  But no, they were just getting started.  Soon after he cashed it in with Continental, he had a moment that Bob Buford would later define in his book, Halftime, as moving from success to significance.  Ralph Dornette asked Harold to cast retirement aside and come to work at CDF, and that’s when Harold found his real calling.  Rebecca Lyons defines calling as “where your talents and your burdens collide.”  Harold had a magnificent collision.
 
For over a decade Harold worked alongside Ralph to build CDF into the dynamic ministry that it would become.  Harold worked tireless hours, meeting with churches, raising investments, and most importantly, providing paternal leadership to a staff that was growing and experiencing a changing of the guard from those who built the structure to those who would reform it, shape it, and mold it for the future.
 
When I was that young minister, Harold would often take me to lunch to talk about life, ministry, and family; he poured his life into a young man who was trying to make his way, trying to find his own calling.  I can remember the restaurant table I was sitting at when Harold asked if I would be interested in working at CDF.  It was one of the most transformational days of my life.
 
I have friends who remember Harold, but most of them are in their twilight years.  And there are a few of my co-workers who can hearken back to things like Harold’s “change game” where he would shake the change in his pocket and if you guessed correctly within a certain range he would hand it over to you; it was the game of a loving father figure.
 
The real change game for Harold, however, occurred when he came out of retirement and blessed a ministry with his leadership and helped lay the foundation to help churches grow long after he passed from this life to join his heavenly Father.  He told me how he looked forward to that day.
 
Like the unsung heroes of the New Testament who helped lay the foundation for the future of the church (think Priscilla, Aquila, Epaphroditus, Onesimus, Nicodemus, etc.) people like Harold Purdom didn’t seek the spotlight.  He was one of the many quiet heroes who gave his only life for the benefit of countless others.  God bless you, Harold Purdom, and the unsung heroes all around us.  You are the real shoulders upon which we stand.

Tools for the Times

by Jeff Faull 

Chances are, you saw the same stuff I’d read.  Dust storms all the way from the Sahara are the latest threat to our safety.  One person humorously responded to the news like this:

“Always wondered what it would be like to live during the times of the Civil War, the Spanish flu, the Great depression, the civil rights movement, Watergate and the dustbowl.”

And, I might add, murder hornets, giant asteroids, Cyclospora food-borne illness and the list goes on…  Seems that threats are multiplied.  We definitely live in a V.U.C.A. world: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous.

So how do we live on this planet in these chaotic times?  How do we respond to 2020?  And what can elders do to understand the times and help believers navigate this increasingly insane culture?

We who are shepherds can start by identifying some tools for God’s people to have in their discipleship toolbox to face uncertain times.  We can’t merely tell them what they are supposed to think, but we can provide biblical tools to help them learn to think and use the tools well.

At Mt. Gilead, where I serve, we are highlighting and demonstrating some of these tools and how to use them in our next sermon series, 2020 Tools for the Times.

We are building our toolbox and developing our skills with things like…

  • Courage and Conviction
  • Discernment and Wisdom
  • Spiritual Awareness
  • Active and Prayerful fasting
  • Good Theology and Hermeneutics
  • Uncommon Decency
  • Healthy Community
  • Righteous Justice
  • Honest History
  • Enduring Effort

Our responsibility as leaders and elders is to equip our people, including our children, with these essential cultural tools to use in an increasingly confusing and unsettling future.  

We can do this.  

Indeed, we must.

No Strangers Here

by Jeff Stone 

All leaders have had that awkward moment when encountering someone we’ve met, but find ourselves struggling to remember his/her name.  Remembering names is a leadership tool we all can develop that pays large Kingdom dividends.
 
Dale Carnegie, in his best-selling business classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People, observed, “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.”  Making the effort to learn, remember, and call people by name, is a path to make a genuine connection and have spiritual influence on their lives. 
 
Jesus thought it was important enough to mention in John 10 that the Good Shepherd “calls his own sheep by name” (v. 3).  A moment later He also said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…” (v. 14).
 
As shepherds of the flock, taking a personal interest in people makes a profound difference as we lead the flock.
 
I’ve often had people tell me, “At first when I visited the church, I felt a bit intimidated because it was larger than our previous church, but when you called us by name on our return visit, it made us feel ‘at home’ and that the church wasn’t too large for us to matter here.”
 
Remember that “people want to know and be known.”
 
Here are some practical tips to help us do a better job of learning people’s names:

  1. When meeting someone new, make a conscious effort to remember the name.  Often, we fail to concentrate or are distracted when being introduced, then later when we can’t recall the name, we realize that we weren’t focused when we met.
  2. Repeat the name when you meet.  “Don, it’s good to meet you.  I’m really glad you chose to worship with us today, Don.”  That will ensure you heard the name correctly and the repetition will reinforce the name, better engraving it in your memory. 
  3. Write it down as soon as possible for later reference.  After meeting, when you walk away, jot in down on your bulletin or in the flyleaf of your Bible the name of the guests you just met for future reference.  It’s also OK to say when meeting, “Could you spell your name for me, please?  I’d like to write it down to help me learn it and be better able to remember your name.”  Few people object to someone making an extra effort to take a personal interest in them.  Also, the exercise of writing it improves our retention since we remember 10% of what we hear, 20% of what we see and hear, and 40% of what we see, hear, and write down.
  4. Review your list on Sundays before arriving at worship.  Study the names of new guests who have recently visited your church and pray for them on following weekends that God will bring them back to your services that day.  Refreshing yourself on their names will help you call them by name when you see them.  That’s done not to impress them with your recall, but to impress on them that God knows them, loves them, is interested in their struggles, and wants to enter their lives on a personal level.  He demonstrates His love through each of us.

That’s your assignment the next time you see a new face.  Go out of your way to welcome and authentically connect with that new person.  Remember what Will Rogers said: “A stranger is just a friend I haven’t met.”
 
We want to always be willing to enlarge the circle and include the next new person whom God sends our way.

Do youth ministers make you nervous?

by Andy Hansen 

Do young youth ministers, especially those fresh out of Bible College, make you nervous … especially if you are an Elder?

Well, I was that guy as a 20-year-old long blonde-haired recent graduate. As a matter of fact, when the church hired me, I hadn’t even graduated yet. I did grow up in a church, attended local Christian camp & CIY faithfully, and served as a weekend youth minister for a couple of years. However, “seasoned” did not apply to me! One of my saving graces was my sweet wife Marcia – everyone wanted to have her on stage to sing special music for Sunday services!

As one who wasn’t even sure youth ministry was his calling, this was definitely a grand experiment! Gratefully, it turned into an incredible 10-year experience of calling youth to Jesus and building a youth ministry system within the church. As a young church plant, I guess you could say we grew up together.

Honestly, though, I never would have made it except that I had a Senior Minister who was in my corner, other people twice my age who signed on to serve as youth coaches, parents who were encouraging, and an Eldership which was clearly supportive. In fact, three elders served in the youth ministry all the years I partnered with them to teach and model God’s word to the children and teens in the church.

Thirty-five years later, I can still tell you the names of Elders whose walk with Jesus influenced me. Yes, I could realistically also tell you some of their flaws (as they certainly could tell stories about mine), but overall they left a positive spiritual mark on my life.

One specific Elder was Ted Hammond. He was an exceptional businessman and salesman who created a major company from scratch though he never went to college and, for a while, sold shoes door to door. He had a big grin and a twinkle in his eye, and a soft spot for an optimistic yet green youth minister (he often asked me how many times I used the word “exciting” or “excited” each day ).

He allowed me to drive his new deluxe station wagon with six young people and a sponsor to a Bible Bowl tournament back in the day. I really did pay attention and drove fairly conservatively. However, when a car suddenly stopped in front of us, even though I really hit the brakes, there was this sickening feeling as the car (loaded with 8 bodies) just kept moving forward until there was a little contact with the other car.

After examining both vehicles, we saw a small crease in the very nose of the Hammond station wagon. I just felt sick. It was a miserable tournament as I knew later that evening I would have to show my Elder what had happened to his vehicle.

To my great relief, he really didn’t react much at all, was glad we were safe, etc. The next day, on Sunday, he did call me out to the parking lot after the service with a stern look on his face. I really thought, “This is it! He’s going to let me have it! I’m going to lose my job!” At that moment Ted whirled around and pointed to the crease in the nose of his station wagon – which now had an oversized band aid applied to it! Ted immediately doubled over in laughter and came up gasping and with tears in his eyes! I was dumbfounded, forgiven, and made fun of for a while (though he did allow me to drive the car again).

A couple of years later, our church sponsored what we called a “State-Wide Rally.” There were only half a dozen Christian Church youth ministers in the state of Michigan, but the little regional youth rallies

were dying out. So, we programmed a weekend event and invited all the churches in the state to come. To our shock, over 400 attended and packed out our church facility. To get to the next level and rent a high school facility, promote and build the program, bring in special talented guests, etc., would take capital that our youth budget couldn’t sustain. We were stuck. We could stay the same, fade away, or find some other way.

That led to lunch with Ted Hammond. As his sparkling eyes focused in on me with a slight grin, it’s as if he knew why I wanted this lunch (and to this day I believe he really did)! Mumbling and bumbling about the dream for this event and how we just didn’t have the capital to move forward, he graciously spoke up during a pause and said, “Just tell me what you need.” I explained the need for a loan of $5,000 to get us to the next level, and how with the projected numbers of attendance we could pay him back in two years.

Ted not only supplied the loan, he helped me craft a “business plan” (I had never heard of this in Bible College) and allowed me to use one of his business numbers for free to call all the Christian Churches in the state to promote the event. Within a couple of years, the Michigan State Wide Rally was running over 1,200 and located in the nicest high school in Western Michigan. This rally even continues today! And by the way, Ted donated the payment check for the loan back to the ministry.

What actions do you observe, what gifts of expression did Ted Hammond as an Elder provide to this young youth minister?

Words that come to mind to me: grace, encouragement, forgiveness, relationship, laughter, belief, training, generosity, coming along side to take a ministry risk, accountability, mentorship, friendship.

Does your Eldership have such contact and interaction with the staff at your church?

I know our mantra is “Staff Led, Elder Oversight” … but I wonder if we have too easily faded the influence of the Elders of the church out of the lives and ministry of her staff?

I asked a number of youth ministers to respond to several questions concerning their Eldership, and here are their responses with a few observations.

Feel free to highlight key words or concepts and discuss your observations with your fellow elders.

  1. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE ELDER AND WHY?
  • Rod is involved in serving as a greeter at church and in the community of our campus. He invites his neighbors to church. Rod is a huge encourager and we respect and look up to him.
  • Keith serves in our youth ministry as a driver, cook, small group leader and helps with anything.
  • Geoffrey was with me in youth ministry for seven years as his kids went through the ministry. He randomly calls to check in and pray for me and my family.
  • Micah is wise beyond his years. He is good at waiting to make a big decision and is not afraid to be honest.
  • Geoffrey spends time investing in me, checking in on me and my family, and has pushed me to invest in student ministry.
  • Nick sees the need to move in new directions for the sake of the church. He supports our ideas/vision and gives us full trust.
  • Rick uses his spare time to visit members of the church and cares for people. He seeks people out. I go to him for advice because he is wise and understanding. Trust is so huge for the relationship between youth minister and elder.
  • I really trust Craig’s judgment. He’s a quiet guy and a good listener. He advocates for all of our staff.
  • Sam regularly checks up on me. He spends time talking to me abut my hopes and dreams.
  • Jon is so committed to the mission and vision of the church, and very transparent. He spiritually provides conversation, leadership and support.
  • Greg is an optimist that believes God is going to do even bigger things in the church! He is always encouraging and uplifting. Greg celebrates even the smallest wins!
  • Richard is so approachable, and full of wisdom and love.
  • Jon intentionally encourages us by sending cards, randomly stopping by the office to chat – asking how we are doing and listens for what he can pray for.
  • Rick has his own company, but when a family in our church experienced tragedy while he was out of town for business, he drove 11 hours round trip in one day to be there to minister to the family.
  • Jim is a great listener – he cares about the mental health of the staff. He also is willing to take challenging and uncomfortable steps to move the church forward.

Review your “highlights” and discuss the top five key words or concepts you discovered with your fellow Elders!

What two or three attitudes or actions can you consistently demonstrate to the staff as an Elder?

Personal Thought Question: What staff member would list you as their favorite Elder?

In today’s growing churches, it can be hard to minister to every staff member, and there is much focus on management and prayer with the executive leadership. However, could an Elder or two focus on the Children and Youth Ministers of the church as a focused portion of their responsibility?

  1. HOW OFTEN DO YOU MEET WITH THE ELDERS FORMALLY?
  • I meet with our Youth Elder once a month. I don’t really meet with the other Elders.
  • Never formally, informally, probably every other week (calls/texts/prayer/meals/disk golf).
  • Never formally, informally, probably once or twice a year.
  • Never formally. Two or three times I went to eat with an Elder in the last three years just to check in with me.
  • I meet with my Elder liaison for lunch often. Other Elders get a coffee and check in. Other than giving approval for events and prayer, the current elders don’t have a big role in person with the ministry … at all, really. One elder out of 20 is involved in my ministry.
  • Never formally. Once a week [I meet] with one elder. He lives in my neighborhood.
  • Unfortunately, this has not been a part of my experience as a minister. I have gone to lunch with an elder one time in fifteen years.
  • It is rare for me to formally meet with the elders. Our Senior Pastor and Executive team meet on Wednesday night. Informally, I see them at church and in the community and at the staff Christmas party. I do have a first name relationship with most of them.
  • We used to meet as a staff monthly with the elders, but now just the Senior Minister meets with them. There is an elder assigned to my family and he takes me out to eat once and a while.
  • A couple times formally and maybe 10 times informally a year.
  • Never formally, once or twice a year informally.
  • Never formally. I attend an Elders Meeting once a year to update them on children and youth ministry. The Elders do check in with us during church meeting times, rarely over a lunch or designated time.
  • I’m on the Leadership Team so I meet with them once a month.
  • When the Elders have a question they reach out to me.
  • Just on Sundays when we see each other.
  • I attend Elders meetings once every three months and send a youth report every month. One Elder takes me out twice a year to talk about student ministry.
  • I had a formal meeting with an Elder one time, over lunch. Informally, two are youth coaches and I call and talk with them regularly.
  • I’m in elder’s meetings every month formally. Informally I meet with several of them.
  • At the Staff and Elders Christmas party, and maybe a couple of other times a year.

What are the common denominators you perceive after reviewing the above? How do you believe your Youth / Children’s Minister(s) would respond? Should elders be more involved in the staff? When I was in youth ministry in the 70s & 80s, I often was involved in elder meetings and my wife and I were often in elders’ homes. I had at least two or three elders who were youth coaches whom I met with and bounced off ideas, vision, direction for the youth ministry. Before I ever made a proposal for a new youth ministry concept or need, it was elder tested!

Times have changed. Larger churches have supervisors, team leaders, etc., and the elders have high, over-arching oversight. Pros? Cons?

  1. HOW DO THE ELDERS ACTIVELY SUPPORT, AND HOW COULD THEY DO A BETTER JOB?

Support answers:

  • Prayer
  • Encouraging Texts
  • Notes of Encouragement
  • Serve at Large Youth Events
  • Supportive Budget (scholarship fund to allow students to also earn enough to attend CIY)
  • Willing to Try New Things
  • Give me space to run the ministry without micromanagement.
  • It is obvious they value my opinions and like to be around me when they can.
  • Serve as Trip Leaders, Small Group Leaders
  • Often check in on me and my family.
  • They let me know they are praying for me and the ministry and ask for specific prayer needs.
  • I receive phone calls from elders just to pray for me.
  • Elders ask to attend our youth team meetings occasionally, ask us to share stories of what God is doing and pray with us.
  • One elder is involved in our youth program and he says he is also there to help with encounters from what he affectionately calls “crazy parents.”
  • This is a crazy statement but in almost 15 years at the church I have never been told “no” on any trip or event, perhaps because I haven’t done anything outlandish. Reaching youth is the church’s #1 priority.
  • The elders financially support our summer camps and mission trips where life change takes place.
  • Not sure. The Leadership team and elders for our church are a bit of a closed loop.
  • Allow me to represent and share an overview of youth ministry with all the elders once a year receive feedback, ask questions, etc.
  • Full health care for our family and other benefits.

Review the above list line by line. Which ones could you identify as currently taking place through your eldership? Which ones need to begin … and by whom?

How might elders do a better job?:

  • Show up at events to support and see what is happening. Appreciate they trust us and let us lead, but [they could] be a little more present.
  • Be more aware.
  • It would be huge if one had the passion and gift to actively serve in our student ministry. Perhaps the elders, if not gifted with youth, should add an elder (or groom a potential elder who has children in the youth ministry) who does have that passion. It makes it hard to cast vision to leadership when they are not around to see the implementation of that vision. I’d love to receive more feedback on how to hone my skills. I appreciate the encouraging texts, but showing up is entirely different.
  • I would certainly have benefitted in my early years of youth ministry with direct elder involvement on a regular basis in our high school youth ministry.
  • Ask me what I am reading in the Bible and what is challenging me from Scripture, and share the same with me. Personal spiritual encouragement and guidance are better than technical advice.
  • Have intentional conversations concerning the plans for future youth ministry, what vision we can have as a church for youth ministry.
  • I don’t get to meet much with the elders so I feel a little out of touch as to what the elders are thinking and what they desire to see from the youth ministry. It is good to have the freedom to run the program, but it would be nice to know what you are doing is valued as well.
  • Have a genuine care for me as a person instead of me as an employee of the church.

Do you identify with the ways that Elders are supporting the youth ministry staff and activities? What are a couple of new ideas that you need to implement? How could your elder group do a better job?

  1. IF YOU COULD SHARE SOME ADVICE TO OVER 1,000 ELDERS IN CHURCHES ACROSS THE COUNTRY, WHAT KEY CONCEPTS WOULD YOU SHARE?
  • Be Available. We need accountability and we need support. It has been HUGE for me to have an elder as a safe person to whom I can ask questions, seek advice from, who can hear our thoughts and help us receive direction.
  • Be Prayerful. For the youth ministry, the youth ministers, their families, the youth ministry volunteers, and pray with them for their goals and dreams.
  • Be Financially Supportive. Make youth ministry a priority of the church.
  • Be Celebratory! Find ways to celebrate what is taking place in the youth ministry in front of the church body. Celebrate youth ministry with spoken word and occasional fun gifts when special occasions, accomplishments take place.
  • Be Involved. Lead a small group, drive a vehicle, help cook for a weekend retreat, serve as a sponsor at camp, drop in regularly. “Get your hands dirty and your heart involved so you can attest to what the church (youth ministry) is doing.” Could at least one elder be dedicated to investing their gifts in youth ministry? This way the elders would have the perspective of student ministry from an insider on their team.
  • Be Perceptive. Youth ministries are basically a church operating inside the big church with needs and challenges. Youth ministry changes methodology (not tradition for tradition’s sake), but the message of Christ and the call to Kingdom work should not.
  • Be Present! Stop and chat with us in the hallway, show up to events, drop by the office, have an occasional coffee time, etc. Just a little of this would be helpful for relationship.
  • Be Encouraging but not Micromanaging. Trust the staff you hired, but lovingly give occasional guidance and suggestions.
  • Be Transparent. How are you growing spiritually? What are you struggling with? I need a spiritual leader who is like this in my life whom I can trust to share Scripture with, prayer concepts, seasons of fasting and times of fun, who can speak into my growth and my actions as a parent and spouse.
  • Be Leaders. “Speed of the Leader, Speed of the Team” is also true for the growth and vision of the church. Ask us about our vision and passion for the church, and share with us the direction the leadership envisions. Let us pray for your leadership!
  • Build Unity! This was one of Jesus’ highest passions in His prayers. So much can be accomplished as well as endured if there is a content spirit of unity in the leadership.

I am so grateful I had personal contact and life involvement with the elders when I was a youth minister!

It made youth ministry better, and it for sure molded me and made me a better candidate for long term ministry! Is that taking place in your church? Can that happen today? How could it creatively take place or be improved?

Traveling a Rough Road

by Gary & Jared Johnson

All of us have driven on rough roads from time to time.  Whether the road was poorly constructed, hadn’t been maintained in a long time, or a detour took us onto some rough pavement, every mile was difficult.  We quickly wanted to get back on smooth pavement so that we could move along at a good clip.

As elders, we may feel that way about life in the present.  Soon into the new year, we discovered 2020 to be one of the roughest roads of life on which we have traveled.  A new and deadly virus began sweeping the globe, and before that crisis had passed we found ourselves surrounded by protests, sweeping across our country, against systemic racism.  Like it or not, we find ourselves on a rough road and we are going to be traveling on this route for a while.  Since a quick transition to smooth pavement is “miles” off into the future, elders need to provide practical help and genuine hope to the local church they serve.  How can we do just that?

Practical Help

First and foremost, pray.  When we hit a baseball, we always run to first base; and life is no different.  With the dawn of every day, always run to God.  Life in America is indescribably broken and as elders, we must pray.  Pray bold prayers.  In the full hearing of the people, Joshua prayed aloud, boldly, for the sun and moon to stand still – and the earth stopped turning (Josh. 10:12)!

Not only should we pray for God’s healing from COVID-19, but also from the deadly disease of racism.  Specifically, we must pray prayers of repentance on behalf of the church we lead.  As a God-follower, Nehemiah recognized the deplorable state of God’s people: “When I heard [about Jerusalem’s trouble], I sat down and wept.  In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.”  (Neh. 1:4).  From exile, the prophet Daniel did the same: “O Lord, you are a great and awesome God!  You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands.  But we have sinned and done wrong…” (Dan. 9:4-5).  Individual repentance for corporate wrong is entirely warranted in the face of such pervasive, society-wide sin.  The text is clear: when society is broken and sinful, we all own it.

Second, we need to act on those prayers.  Paul preached that we “must repent of [our] sins and turn to God – and prove [we] have changed by the good things [we] do” (Acts 26:20); and as elders, we must lead by example (1 Cor. 11:1).  In a time of so much tension, when people have already experienced great loss due to COVID, elders must provide compassion-driven kindness and outrageous generosity.  Greek-speaking widows – an ethnic group – “were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food” (Acts 6:1-7).  When they were threatened by starvation and this problem was brought to the attention of the apostles, they took initiative, acted immediately, and solved the problem.

After centuries of racial inequality, elders must take the initiative and be intentional peacemakers in times of conflict.

  • Paul took the initiative to begin healing the broken relationship between Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2).
  • Barnabas encouraged, comforted, and mentored young John Mark when Paul had rejected him as a part of the ministry team (Acts 15:39).
  • Paul took the initiative to heal the relationship between Onesimus and Philemon (Phlm. vv 10-20).

Paul told the Corinthian Christians outright that when a small part of the body suffers, we are all suffering with it (1 Cor 12:26), and in those moments, “we weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).  When were we last driven to literal tears by someone else’s pain – COVID, racism, or otherwise?  Look for opportunities to lead the local church, proactively, both individually and corporately, by example.  Later in Nehemiah’s story, public, corporate repentance played a major role (chapters 9-10).  The practical help you, as an elder, can offer will strengthen your brothers and sisters to stay the course when the road of life is difficult and rough.

Genuine Hope

As elders, we not only provide practical help, but we point people to God, who provides us with genuine hope.  First and foremost, “the LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed” (Ps. 34:18) in these difficult days.  God’s presence is real.  It’s His nature to be with His people – from the opening pages of Scripture when He walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:8) to the closing pages of Revelation when God makes His dwelling with us on the new earth (Rev. 21:3).

While on this rough road, it is essential that we grieve; something that we as Americans do not do well.  Our culture likes to “move on.”  COVID has caused many people much loss: jobs, retirements, graduations, weddings, and lives.  Centuries of racism has caused much loss: lives, human dignity and worth, equal opportunities, freedom from fear, livelihoods and more.  We must grieve our losses.  We must sit in lament because in those moments God’s presence is felt and known.  He is faithful and will never leave us or forsake us.  God promised to be with us in times of trouble; rescuing, protecting, and delivering us in those moments (Ps. 91:14-16).

We can also experience genuine hope in God’s power.  With Israel’s impending destruction by Babylon, Isaiah reminded the people of God of His hope-filled power.  The prophet reminds us that God does not grow tired or weary, that He gives strength to the weary.  When we anchor our hope in the Lord, He renews our strength to press on from day-to-day (Isaiah 40:28-31).

As elders, let’s keep “our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.  Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.  Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up” (Heb. 12:2-3).

When the road we are on becomes a detour of rough pavement, we are tempted to use Google Maps to find an alternate route – one with smooth pavement.  Though the road of life on which we find ourselves now is more than difficult, stay on it.  God has a purpose for us.  By His grace, serve the church, leading her over this rough road in a God-honoring way.

LINK TO ALL THE SCRIPTURES REFERENCED

Elders Know…

by Bob Hightchew 

As Senior Minister at South Fork, there are three things that I love about the Elders I serve with: they know the Word of God, they know our congregation, and they know me personally.  I believe these three factors led to the success of our ministry together and I believe these three things will lead to a successful ministry in any church.  Let me explain what I mean.

Know the Word2nd Timothy 2:15  
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

I love the ministry with all my heart.  I really do.  But as any minister will say, there is nothing more exhausting than being the only 22resident Bible “expert” in your church.  People desire to go to someone they know is studied for the answers to the questions they have.  This allows them to grow.  When it is only the minister they can go to, there is a bottleneck in the system.  I love that my elders are not only studied, but the congregation knows they are.  When elders become studiers, the whole church will follow their example. 

Know the Congregation1st Peter 5:1-3
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing…  

Our elders have their finger on the pulse of the church.  They work to know every family and as many individuals of that family that they can.  It would be a lie to say that they knew every person, but I will say it is not for lack of trying.  If you remember the song from the show Cheers years ago, there was a line in the theme song: “You want to be where everybody knows your name.”  That is true.  When people know that their elders know who they are, it makes a world of difference when they come in.  There is also an accountability that comes with being known.

Know the Preacher1st Timothy 5:7
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.  

Often times, there is a division between the elders and the minister.  I feel sorry for the brothers I know in ministry who talk about how terrible it is when they meet with their elders.  I am so blessed when it comes to this.  The elders I work with are like my brothers.  I really mean that.  When I go to them with church issues, they carry the load as well.  I never feel like I have the weight of the church on my shoulders alone.  My elders will often pull me aside just to see how me and my family are doing.  They ask if there is anything I need.  I cannot tell you how cared for that makes me feel.  They know me personally and they care about the needs of my family and myself.

These items above can be done by an elder at any size church.  I often hear, “Well, that may work at a big church, but not one our size.”  These three steps work no matter what size church.  Try them and see.  I bet you will be very happy with the results. 

Provision During Pandemic

by Gary Johnson 

I have lived in Indianapolis for 31 years.  The month of May here is all about the Indy 500: a festival, a mini-marathon, parades, celebrations of all kinds, practice sessions and Carb Day, all culminating in 33 cars vying for the world-famous checkered flag on Race Day.  This year, race officials looked ahead, through the impact of the COVID pandemic, and rescheduled the race to August 23rd.  Looking ahead, they took necessary steps to make the race happen.  

Are we doing the same in our local church?  Are we, as elders, looking ahead and making plans for the steps necessary in light of all that has been happening?  Are we working with the church staff to determine how we are going to address our summer schedule, change our ministry methods, and more?  Let’s consider three essentials in taking our next steps.  This is part of strategic planning – a skill that elders must cultivate in leading the local church.  Below, we have included a link to our e2 Talk on Strategic Planning.  It’s free for the time being on our YouTube channel and may be a benefit to you. 

In the news cycle’s dominance by COVID-19, one story came and went quickly, but still caught my attention.  It told of how teens had completed driver’s education, but because of social distancing, were given waivers on their road tests. 
 
That story brought back memories of my driving test.  After pulling out of the parking lot and going through all the paces, the examiner had me pull onto the expressway.  It was both exciting and unsettling.  I remember glancing in the rear-view mirror to see who I left behind as I sped off. 
 
Teens are not the only ones who have learned to drive during this pandemic. 
 
As elders, many of us have had to put the proverbial pedal to the metal.  We were forced to the on ramp of leading ministry in ways never experienced and for which we were not prepared.  It was unsettling for many of us to merge onto the virtual church expressway.  We worried and were greatly unsettled about who we were leaving behind while racing down this new ministry path.
 
We suddenly found ourselves bumper-to-bumper with every fellow American church on the digital highway.  We learned to drive virtual worship gatherings, hold leadership meetings and life groups, pursue student ministry, etc., all on screens.  We have now spent more than two months barreling down this virtual highway, often simply hoping that we would not run out of gas.  We urged people to help refuel the church by giving digitally, and fortunately, many chose to do so. 
 
After being forced to drive the virtual expressway, did we look in the rearview mirror, trying to catch a glimpse of where we had been prior to COVID-19?  Did we look back and wish we could do a U-turn to pre-COVID days?  If we hope to navigate this new road well, we cannot keep looking back.  With steeled determination and Spirit-given courage, we must drive the Church forward – and to do so, we must think forward. 
 
Our Provider
Through all of this, God has been, and will be, our faithful Provider.  One of His many gifts to us is the ability to think.  Being “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14), we can think and reason, having been given “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). 
 
To what degree are we using these minds God has provided?  Are we taking time to simply think?  Dr. Thomas Edison would sit for hours at the end of his dock in Fort Myers, Florida.  The good doctor did not like people bothering him while he fished; so much so, that he often did not bait the hook.  He simply wanted to sit and think, with absolutely nothing to bother him – not even the fish!  
 
The COVID crisis has intensified our need to think critically and strategically.  God expects us to ask Him for His wisdom (James 1:5).  There are at least three ways this challenges us and for which we need God-given wisdom. 

A New Perspective
COVID-19 has forced us to adjust our ministry worldviews.  We have all merged onto the expressway of virtual church.  While many of us were not early adopters of “streaming church,” here we are now.  Remember, the sons of Issachar had “minds to understand the times and they knew what Israel should do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).  We must understand our culture and know how to respond; what next step to take.  Have we been seeing obstacles or opportunities these last couple months?  How you and I answer that question has much to say about our perspective. 
 
Thinking – and asking – the question “what’s next?” is a discipline of leadership.  Elders must develop this as a regular practice.  Thinking forward moves the church forward.  If we fail to think about the future strategically, the church is in ‘park’ or ‘neutral’ while we simply rev the engine – making a bunch of ministry noise and spending resources to capture the attention of people, but making little or no measurable progress.  Thinking “what’s next” helps us develop and implement a strategic plan for the church.  God provides us with minds to cultivate this perspective.
 
A New Platform
The coronavirus shut down the traffic in Lane A, forcing everyone to merge into Lane B, where everyone did ministry on a digital platform.  With Lane A reopened or soon to be, do not go back!  Merge, instead, into Lane C, where we do ministry in a “both-and” world.  We can be an embodied, gathered church, and a church with global, virtual reach. 
 
God provides us with minds to understand that technology is the way the world works.  We even have wearable technology that syncs to our other devices.  We must make use of digital platforms to preach and teach the Word, to disciple others, to conduct meetings, plan events, receive donations, and more.  The list of possibilities is endless.  Church is not relegated to Sunday only in a specific building.  Our digital platform opens wide the door of the church 24/7.  God provides us with His wisdom to leverage this platform in myriad ways for each unique congregation.
 
A New Place
Gathering physically for church will never be outdated, but cyber church is also here to stay.  Retail stores with a strong internet presence move people from clicks to bricks; from their websites into their store sites.  We can do the same.  What will it take for us to move people from just viewing to actually visiting the church?  Will we invest in our virtual campus, hiring staff, buying necessary equipment and more?  Think with me.  People from all five living generations are online, from websites to Facebook to TikTok. We must meet them there with the Good News.  
 
Before, during and after the crisis, God was, is, and will be faithful.  He provided for all that we needed and more.  Being that God doesn’t change, He has been, and will always be, our Provider.

O.P.E.N. – 4 Things Elders Must Do

by Gary Johnson 

Believe it or not, this Sunday, May 3, has been declared “ReOpen Church Sunday” by Liberty Counsel, an organization that defends the rights of churches.  Though we may have the legal right to do so, elders must determine if now is the right time for their local congregation. 
 
Throughout America, we hear of many states and communities reopening businesses, parks, offices, stores, malls and more.  Some churches have already reopened.  Last Sunday, churches in Montana were permitted by their governor to resume gathering.  It appears churches may be opening sooner than later.  But what about the church you lead?  Your elder team must determine what is best for your church. 
 
When people are stopped at a red light, individuals respond differently when the light turns green.  For example, when the light goes green, some people look to their left and right one last time to be certain no one is speeding into the intersection, and then they proceed with caution.  Yet, if you are like me, I put the pedal to the metal and I am off and running!  Similarly, when your governor gives your state the green light to reopen, your elder team must determine how your church will respond.  Think O.P.E.N.
 
OVERSEE
At e2, we have coached over 7,000 elders and church staff to practice elder governance as found in Acts, and one responsibility of elders is to on-board policy.  A policy will be needed to reopen the local church.  President Harry Truman is well remembered for having a sign on his desk declaring “The buck stops here.” Truman did not think that he had ultimate authority in the country, but that he had ultimate responsibility for leading the country.  As shepherds of the church (1 Peter 5:2-4), we are responsible for the wellbeing of the congregation and must oversee when and how the church reopens. 
 
PLAN
Long before the light goes green, your church needs a plan to follow for its reopening.  This doesn’t mean that the elders dot every “i” and cross every “t” of the plan, but you must give thought to major components of the plan and then trust the church staff to develop and execute the details.  For example, elders must decide if the church will practice social distancing or not, and if so, the staff then determines how to implement that decision.  Elders must decide if the church will be a “touch-free” environment, and if so, the staff determines how to observe communion without passing plates, etc.  Elders must decide if children’s ministry will open right away, and if not, the staff need to design family-driven worship services. 
 
ENGAGE
Elders need to engage the congregation with essential communication.  Once the plan is completed, it must be communicated to the congregation before they arrive for their first Sunday back on campus.  People need to know what to expect when they pull into the parking lot for the first time.  Use the website, email, video, even snail-mail to creatively and thoroughly communicate specific information with the entire congregation about your reopening.  And be sure to communicate the WHY behind your well-thought out plan, which is simply to create as safe an environment as possible for everyone to appreciate. 
 
NEW NORMAL
All of us are moving into a new normal.  We will never be “back to business as usual” on the other side of COVID-19.  The word bittersweet best describes the day we are back in church.  It will be sweet to worship the Lord with one another.  Yet, there is a bitter aspect in that many people will be grieving loss.  In addition to the loss of life, untold numbers of people have lost jobs, retirement savings, businesses, memories of canceled commencement and wedding ceremonies, and much more.  The new normal demands that we acknowledge these losses and help people cope with grief and fear.  Joshua led God’s people into a land where they had never been, and we will be leading the local church into a new social environment where we have not yet been.  Just as He said to Joshua, God calls us to be “strong and courageous”.  After all, God will be with us every step of the way (Joshua 1:9).  Welcome to the new normal.
 
As of this week, the CDC reported 91% of fatalities to COVID-19 are Americans 55-years of age and older.  People in that age group are well represented in congregations as regular church attenders.  If we fail to develop a plan for as safe an environment as possible, we will put far too many people at risk of infection.  As shepherds, we must work to keep the flock together and safe.  Elders must determine the when and the how of reopening the church. 
 
You can watch a video discussing these four essentials by clicking the button below. 
 
Also, we asked 16 leaders what ONE CHALLENGE each of them would give to elders to pursue on the other side of the coronavirus.  These #LifeAfterCOVID mini-podcasts are also available on our YouTube channel through the button below.

What to do After Things Go Wrong

by Mark Houpt 

companion post: DOES GOD STILL HEAL (an essay by e2 Exec Dir Dr Johnson)

Last week our blog discussed what to do before things go wrong. We discussed determining your Mission Essential Functions and preparing for the inability to access those in need and having church services outside of the church building. I am sure that many of you reading that article were thinking that those recommendations were only necessary for a localized worst-case scenario, if even that. Surely, with our advanced science and technology, this type of catastrophe could never happen at this scale in our modern world.

Here we are, seven days later, and things have indeed gone wrong across the globe according to earthly definition. Despite the fact that we are in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, God is still in control. This is a crisis that is seeing earthly wealth wiped off of the balance sheets, jobs lost and businesses closed or curtailed by government decree. Churches are also physically closed and scrambling to adjust to this new way of life that is going to be with us for at least a few weeks, if not months. In today’s blog, we will take an honest, practical look at what earthly things we should do in response to manage the event in our churches.

Respond vs. React

First and foremost, God calls us as followers and the church to respond rather than react to the events that are around us and done to us. Many people do not understand the difference between response and reaction. A reaction is mostly an emotional action, many times involuntary and uncalculated; what one does in retort to something done to them. Most of us have been in the doctor’s office with our legs hanging over the side of the examination table when the doctor uses his little triangle hammer and taps our knees. Our lower leg kicks out in what we call a knee jerk reaction to that tap. It is largely involuntary and done in haste. Reactions that occur between people or people groups frequently escalated tensions and devolve into conflict. A reaction to a slap in the face is a slap back to that assailant. Reaction, in short, is nearly always our “flesh.” Contrast that with a response where a slap in the face leads to turning the other cheek. Typically, a response is a calculated, thoughtful reply. Frequently, responses elicit cooperation, compassion, and caring.

Both a reaction and response is demonstrated for us in the Garden of Gethsemane in Luke 26:50-51. We see that Peter reacts to the mob arresting Jesus by swinging his sword in anger and cutting off the ear of the servant of the high priest. Jesus then responds to this by calming the situation and healing that ear.

As Elders, we must respond rather than react to this crisis that is before us. If our congregants see our reactions in frustration to being ordered to shutter our churches, ceasing meeting in groups larger than ten, or potentially even helping the sick and dying, they will also react in the same manner. Congregants will lash out and potentially rise up in civil disobedience if we as leaders are not thoughtfully responsive. If our sheep see us responding calmly, leading the flock through the stormy waters, showing them how we can still meet and serve, then our flock will also remain calm and be more effective.  

Set up a Command Structure and War Room

In times of chaos, people need leaders and need to know who is in charge so that they can be confident that they are taken care of. In my business, when we are being attacked by a cyber threat, we establish three things – a command structure, an on-call rotation, and a command location called a war room.

A command structure is vitally important so that people know to whom to turn when they are in need. The command structure must include a person that has the authority to speak on behalf of the organization and make decisions as well as other volunteers that can carry out what the leader needs accomplished. A group of Elders could use this function to ensure that church staff can get vital questions answered, and the church congregant that may be hurting can get the help they need. The command structure is vital to smooth, clear, and concise communications.

A rotation of people to staff the command structure is of paramount importance. You do not want your people to get burned out due to being called upon at all hours of the day and night for days or weeks on end. The rotation allows people to rest their physical selves as well as their minds. Failure to have an on-call rotation will result in people getting sick due to weariness and could result in harmed relationships by reacting rather than clearly and adequately responding to situations the church needs to address in these trying times.

A war room is a location where the command structure resides. This is likely a virtual technology space like Zoom or Skype considering our social distancing requirements at this moment. However, as things change, and we are allowed to come back together, do not hesitate to make this a physical office space. The war room is where your on-call personnel will congregate, items and notes are on boards, pass down between on-call teams occurs and will be a place those in need of your assistance will know they can come to be attended to.

Over-Communicate to Address the FUD factor

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt – the FUD factor – is strong in our nation and our churches right now. Address this head-on with frequent and transparent communications. We are all weary of “spin.” This health crisis is and will continue to be a marathon, not a sprint. We will be in this uncertain, ever-changing state for weeks if not months as our world struggles to right the ship and get back on our feet. Inspire confidence in your flock. The more accurate information a person has, the more likely they are to stay engaged and be confident. Over-communication and transparency develops a trust and relationship that makes people believe that we are in this together.

Plan for Giving Disruption

In any major disaster, a church should plan for disruption of giving and having to use the savings fund, if there is one. In this current situation, the church should be looking towards a 90% or more reduction in giving, if you do not act now. There are three key things you need to do this week to counter this threat.

  1. Establish online giving options if you have not already. A number of resources are available for processing online giving through banks or software providers such as Square and Paypal, PushPay and more. Square and PayPal are familiar to people and are great options for a quick response. I would also recommend contacting your church accountant for recommendations or conducting a Google search for church online giving options.
  2. Extend giving options. Many times banks can take automated transfers or allow persons to setup automated checking withdrawals. In the church I attend, we currently have five methods of giving: traditional cash/check, through the website, through an app, text to give, and electronic banking.
  3. Teach or Instruct your people that giving is still important. Unfortunately, many people will believe that because they are not in the building, giving is not necessary. As an Elder, we need to teach our people that giving is not determined by whether you are in the building on Sunday or not. I would recommend that your elder team record a short, five-minute video that addresses the biblical importance of giving, instructs your flock to give, and teaches how to use the methods of giving.

Risk Analysis:

As Gary introduced me last week, I am a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) in a large, nationwide data center provider. I deal with risk analysis day in and day out, even under normal conditions. Typically, the risk analysis that I conduct is related to cyber attacks against computer infrastructure and systems. Risk analysis is also used in many of your jobs in the financial sector, general business, and elsewhere. So why are we not using it in the church to guide our decisions?

Risk analysis comes in two forms: qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative risk analysis is more of a subjective process while quantitative analysis is very much fact-based. Typically, a qualitative analysis will lead to a quantitative analysis when it can. Both are formulas. One takes a threat such as a pandemic, determines the vulnerability that the organization has to the threat, and gains a risk (Threat x Vulnerability = Risk). To that, you can add what you believe the impact would be to the church.

In our current situation, I would recommend that you consider qualitative risk analysis to determine a multitude of impacts to your church and when to start recovering or coming back to traditional in-person meeting and corporate worship. A quantitative risk analysis should be conducted against financial loss due to the possible loss of giving or inability to pay bills due to that loss. Both methods are essential for elders to understand the health of the church, and to make well-informed decisions.

Conclusion:

The next few weeks and months are going to try us and stretch us. Our spiritually weaker and/or spiritually younger members of the flock will be prone to wander. Some physically vulnerable members may not be with us at the end of this. Through all of that, Praise Him Through the Storm (Casting Crowns 2005). Remember, God is in control, and through Him, we can do all things. There will be painful moments because we live in a fallen world. But our hope is not here; it is eternally with Jesus in His glory. As elders and leaders, it is our job to guide our flock to that eternal glory.

Go forth and be the church!

What to do Before Things go Wrong

by Mark Houpt 

companion post: CRISIS RESPONSE (an excerpt from our Playbook)

The news and other media resources are awash in stories of the world-wide crisis due to the COVID-19 virus, better known as the Novel Coronavirus.  Every day, numbers of infected and the numbers of deceased scroll like sports scores or financial market tickers across the screens of our televisions and computer monitors.  As businesses and other organizations across the globe assess what to do in reaction to such an event, it is not inappropriate, in fact, it should be mandatory, for Elders and church leaders to discuss how we would maintain our own operations in the event this impacts our home areas.  We can address this in what is commonly known as “Continuity of Operations.” 

Continuity of Operations Planning (CoOP) is a concept that defines a plan of action an organization will take to ensure that Mission Essential Functions (MEF) continue during an event, incident, or emergency.  As a church, we are not immune from needing these plans that define our Mission Essential Functions and how we will continue to serve when a crisis or disaster occurs.  

The CoOP should encompass a five-stage process:
Phase I                  Preparedness
Phase II                 Activation and Initial Response
Phase III               Full Operations of MEFs
Phase IV               Return to Normal Operations
Phase V                After-Action Evaluation 

Preparedness is the key to a smooth CoOP.  Preparedness, by definition, occurs long before any event or incident is a possibility.  It includes your documented plan, training, testing of the plan, and maintaining the plan.  It is a continual cycle.  A CoOP document template can be found here at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website.

In the Preparedness phase, one of the key functions is to determine what the Mission-Essential Functions (MEF) are for your church.  While the CoOP may appear to be the function of the operations aspect of the church, Elders should not overlook their need to be deeply involved.  Elders need to define how the church accomplishes her primary mission when the doors are locked, when quarantines or isolation events are declared, or for that matter, when fear, uncertainty, and doubt reign in the community.  Some possible MEFs Elders should consider are visiting the sick in their homes and hospitals, and continuing to teach and preach the Word.  You also need to ask what functions cease or change for a season; for example, children’s and youth ministries may cease while daily office operations continue in a remote work scenario (i.e. work from home).  Elders should also consider whether some people should be asked to stay away for a season.  For example, I am aware of one church where a large group went on a cruise in the past week.  In the middle of the COVID-19 situation, those having been on cruises are high-risk.  It may be prudent to ask these people to stay at home and attend online or home services for the 14-day period recommended by the CDC.  Another group of people to consider asking to stay home, or better yet, giving permission to stay at home, are the elderly and infirm.  They are the highest risk for mortality and catching the virus.  Many elderly feel it is their duty to be at church when the doors are open.  An Elder giving them permission to not attend may be a key to their health and continued life.  All of these are legitimate questions that only an Elder can answer through prayer and seeking the guidance of the Spirit. 

A key consideration for Elders to address in your MEF definition is who responds to and determines doctrinal questions and statements.  Previous major events such as 9/11, the Gulf War, the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, etc., have shown that there will be questions whether these are “signs of the end times” or “punishments brought on by God.”  Historically, the church could have been better prepared to answer these questions.  Elders are the key to sound communication in advance, or in the midst, of an event. 

How might you determine the MEFs?  For an initial list of MEFs, perhaps consider the description of the tasks and qualifications of an Elder such as the ability to teach and preach (1 Tim. 5:17), care for the spiritual needs of the flock (Jas. 5:14), make judgments on situations such as rebuking those that are conducting false preaching or teaching, challenging those who are taking advantage of the fear in the community (Heb. 13:17, 1 Tim. 5:17 and Tit. 1:9-13).  The second layer of listing MEFs will involve seeking input from church leadership and other staff positions on what they view as essential. 

Phases II calls for activation of the plan.  It is important that the church knows who has the authority to execute and command during the plan’s activation.  In a time of crisis, without clear leadership, leadership will emerge.  A CoOP with defined leaders will prevent the power vacuum and resulting confusion that occurs when definition is lacking. 

Phase III and IV is stabilization and return to normal operations.  Stabilization is key but, because we are discussing crisis , “stabilization”  is always fluid and will be impacted by the changing situation.  Be prepared to react in this phase.  Ensure that your plan addresses the return to normal operations. 

Too many times, the plan is enacted, and no one considers what went right and what went wrong with the plan.  Phase V deals with this.  Do not skip this phase.  Without evaluation, the plan will never get better and it will fail you in the future. 

Continuity of Operations Planning is essential to your duties as Elders and leaders.  It is essential to shepherding the flock and meeting the spiritual needs of people in a crisis situation.  A CoOP is designed to ensure that the Bride of Christ is protected, maintained, and relevant in the midst of a crisis.