Jordan is the youth pastor at a well-established church in the South. He started working at the church right out of college and has now been there five years. He loves his job and he sings (although poorly) in his car on the way to and from the church. Jordan’s heart is for the Gospel; ministering to young people and reaching out to lost, broken, and insecure teenagers with the healing power of Jesus Christ is his passion. He is blessed by the opportunity to change the trajectory of kids’ lives as his vocation. As with any gig, there are things that could be better. For Jordan, he feels like his thoughts aren’t valued by his church’s leadership and that he is often branded as a ‘typical youth pastor’. He isn’t the type to rock the boat just to give people motion sickness, but he has ideas that he feels could benefit the church go unheard.
A year and a half ago, the leadership made the choice to purchase a new church management software (ChMS). Jordan was particularly excited about this decision and had big plans for how this tool could benefit his ministry. The shine eventually wore off and, now, the staff basically uses the software as a glorified rolodex. Jordan has struggled with three things that give him serious heartburn:
Parents of new kids in his youth group struggle to get involved and belong.
Small groups have shoddy communication regarding announcements, service projects, attendance, etc. and don’t feel connected.
Volunteers are a nightmare. It’s always a struggle to get enough help. When they do, they either burn out or flake, and there doesn’t seem to be much healthy middle ground.
Jordan feels as though the church purchased a vacation home in the Florida Keys but are perfectly content with the neighborhood swimming pool, which doesn’t have a diving board. He can see the eternal impact that efficient, effective ministry processes can have. The renewal date for their contract is coming up and the brass is assessing whether or not to write another big check for software that never had the impact they were hoping it would. Jordan decided it was about time he shared his thoughts.
That next Monday, Jordan met with Pete, the associate pastor. He shared his concern about under-utilizing their software. He cast his vision for what it could be in the short and long term. He showed Pete how using specific tools could impact his small group ministry. Pete’s initial feeling was one of resistance, knowing what this kind of shift would mean for the staff, the lay leaders, and the entire congregation. He knew from experience that change is always difficult and never clean. As Jordan shared his thoughts, his resistance began melting into sympathy for Jordan’s heart for the church.
Pete took a while to weigh the costs and benefits, then said, “You’re going to need buy-in from Dean.”
Dean is the 60-something senior pastor who has led the church for over 30 years. Everyone on the staff knows that when Dean believes in something, it’s going to happen. Not so coincidentally, it wasn’t Dean’s idea to purchase the software.
“If we can get him on board, we will have a team working toward a goal rather than individuals with ambitions. Quarterbacks are only as good as this year’s offensive line,” Pete added. “Be sure you go into that meeting ready.”
“What do you mean ready?” Jordan asked.
“Grab a pen, Jordan.... Share your vision first. Start with why. Talk about what this could do for the church long term. Give him the best case scenario for what this software could do for us. Talk to him about how this is going to make his job more efficient and effective. Tie in our mission and vision and how this is going to help us get there. Then give him something concrete. Talk to him about real dollars, man hours, and return on investment. Give him some very tangible reasons for why we need to change. Don’t just notice problems; suggest solutions. Have suggestions ready for how we are going to learn and teach people to use the software. Do it like this and Dean will hear you.
”Also,” Pete concluded, “know that I’ve got your back.”
Jordan left Pete’s office encouraged and optimistic. He felt the same excitement that he felt when the church first bought the software. His job might be about to get a little better, a little more fulfilling.
“So let me get this straight, son.” Dean slowly questioned each of Jordan’s points. “You’re telling me that if we start doing things using this software, we’ll get more of our guests to return, members will be more engaged, we’ll be able to recruit, train, and place volunteers better, and we’ll make it easy for people to give, do I have all that right?”
Dean gave Jordan a long, suspicious look that had too-good-to-be-true written all over it.
Jordan slowly leaned forward in his chair with his hands folded in front of him. With a meek confidence he replied, “With your active, ongoing leadership, we can accomplish these things as a team. It’s going to be a change in our culture and that will be a challenge for some. To make a real impact, everyone will need to understand how and, more importantly, why we are changing things. And this has to start with you. If you aren’t ‘all-in’, then we are likely to fail, and I don’t see any reason that we should renew our contract. Lord knows we can use that money in a lot of other places. Accomplishing these goals won’t happen overnight, but I do believe they are attainable.”
Dean’s realism was slowly trumped by a newfound, modest respect for the fortitude and professionalism of his young youth pastor.
“Can you show me how we could do all this?”
Maybe you can relate with Jordan. So many of our church partners have made the decision to partner with us only to find that somewhere along the way, their church turned into an elephant — stuck and going nowhere fast. Perhaps your church’s leadership doesn’t play as a team. This article was written for you. We care and want to come alongside you as a leader and guide you to a better how. We believe that you can be an instigator of change for all the right reasons. Change will not happen overnight. It will almost certainly not be fun or easy. We want to challenge you to start the conversation with that person in the executive leadership of your church.
Ultimately, it’s up to you...
If you can relate with Jordan (or if you are Jordan), tell us your story. We’d love to hear it.