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Leading with Clarity in Uncertainty

by Ministry Solutions, on June 2020

This article was created from a webinar interview between Jenni Catron, CEO of The 4 Sight Group, and Nathan Artt, Principal of Ministry Solutions. Watch the full interview here. 

How is this similar or different from the Recession of 2008?

There are four major defining characteristics of financial crises: a sudden drop in commodities, a sudden and unexpected crisis, uncertainty in the market, and a mass over-leverage of debt. What marked the 2008 Great Recession was being vastly over-leveraged in side deals and bad debt. Our current crisis has so much more to do with the unexpected crisis of COVID-19. In fact, what we see in the market today is intelligent debt. This is responsible and highly-rated debt from stable companies.

Surprisingly, COVID hasn’t really changed anything in the markets; rather, it has accelerated a timeline that was already put into motion. Churches and organizations need to be positioning themselves right now to take advantage of this shift in our culture.

How will buildings and real estate change in the future?

People are getting accustomed to the idea of being able to access something without being told when and where to be there. This means that the future of church buildings is going to be a larger number of smaller campuses. These smaller buildings must be relevant as much as they are reverent. 

What creates relevance in a community? It starts with church leaders asking, ‘what would it look like to ask the community what it needs and to facilitate a space around that?’ This would bring people on-site during the week and could even provide revenue for the church.

What are we seeing in churches who are innovating?

Right now, we’re seeing churches who were averaging 10,000 on a weekend who are now seeing 50-60,000 tuning in online. There are two factors at play here:

  1. Accessibility - Church membership has never been more accessible. 
  2. Room size - Church room size is now unlimited.

What does this mean for corporate worship? To start, high tech will never be able to replace high touch. This season has been a hybrid of both. One way to manage that looking ahead is creating buildings that will facilitate community on a weekly basis.

When you walk into a 3,500-seat room, you feel like a product of a story. When you walk into a 500-seat room and you recognize people, you feel like you’re a part of the story. We have seen that there are higher levels of giving, service participation, and engagement in smaller rooms. The smaller the room gets, the more engagement you will see. 

With the status of the market today, what should churches be prepared for?

We’re going to see many large former retail buildings pop up on the market for churches to use. Additionally, the contractors who were previously backlogged are now freed up for more jobs, driving down their price as well. 

We’re also seeing a reduction of territorial restrictions in order for organizations to reach people. The “main campus” is now online. Lastly, as some churches struggle to stay afloat in the midst of this season, there will also be a substantial opportunity for church mergers in the future. 

Part of the clarity is awareness of market conditions, preparing ourselves of the opportunities we have ahead. How do we capitalize on the opportunities ahead once things begin to open up?

  1. Budget to the bottom line.
  2. Be aware of how low the cost of money is.
  3. Remember that cash is king.
  4. Think through the new consumer behavior and how you can facilitate it in the future.

What are some of the things that leaders in the church need to be thinking about right now?

In this season, we’ve largely been operating in triage mode. We’ve been reacting and responding to the urgent demands that this crisis has required. Moving forward, it’s time to shift out of triage and get some altitude by thinking ahead. Just like we encourage you to think ahead for your real estate solutions, strategy and staffing will also need to be planned for ahead of time. 

There are three main building blocks of organizational success. This is a sequential way we can think about our organizational health. 

  1. Purpose: The Why
  2. Culture: The Who
  3. Strategy: The How

Through the past few months, the strategy piece has been obliterated. Church leaders have had to react and pivot in a way that they have never done before. In addition, our staff cultures are also struggling under the newfound pressures of pivoting and remote work, which many were not equipped to be able to handle before this crisis. 

These central pieces are changing, but the purpose has not changed. Church leaders should be leaning into this every day. The mission of your church has stayed the same, but the vision (how you will get there) must have to shift in order to prepare for the future. 

How do we shift the vision for our team?

The main priority is to reset the target. When a church knows its ‘why’, it is possible to refocus on a new target in order to get there. In a time when things are seemingly changing by the day, this refocusing must be a constant conversation. Targets can be set in shorter increments, just as long as there is a vision to look ahead to. This is what drives your team and gives it purpose. Team engagement is waning because they need a vision of what to look ahead to, and it is up to organizational leaders to be setting that target. 

It is important to understand that teams are being put under a lot of pressure in this season. Now more than ever, leaders need to have organizational self-awareness. A question to ask is, ‘what stage were we in pre-COVID?’ If leaders are not honest about where their churches are, pressure could push those churches further down whatever side they were on. If a church were already declining, it may begin to fall further into decline unless its leaders are aware of it and know how to resist and push against it. 

What is this crisis doing to team culture? 

Our cultures are being eroded because of the extra pressure that has come from the quick changes. Even the most agile churches are struggling through this pressure.

Our communication with our team has become more transactional. We may schedule a zoom call, but we miss the relational nature of cultures and teams. It is much harder to facilitate this aspect over a virtual team than in-person. Additionally, your strong team members are standing out more than ever, but so are your weaker team members. Under pressure, our healthiest and our weakest aspects become even more clear.

Most likely, COVID has amplified some decisions that you were going to have to eventually make for your team. This crisis is creating some clarity around who is creating the culture, on board with the vision, and has the ability to respond quickly to changing tides. 

We need to get ahead of this to make sure that we have a healthy team on the other side of COVID. 

What do you see teams looking like after COVID?

Our teams are going to have to be stronger, yet leaner. People’s confidence in giving to organizations is based on their belief that the leaders are being as wise with their resources as possible. Leaders need to demonstrate how intentional they are about teams being strong but lean.

Try to keep your team intact as much as possible. Every organization will have to reevaluate its structure on the other side of this. Strategy has shifted, so the organizational structure needs to also shift to best suit the new strategy. For example, digital roles will need more emphasis as well as connection and relational roles. 

Remote work is here to stay. People have gotten used to remote work and will have a higher expectation of that option in the future. With that, leaders must get better at communication, accountability, and knowing how to manage and lead their teams to enable their cultures to be effective. 

Actionable next steps:

  1. We need to be better as leaders. Our communication and accountability needs to be empowering people more than ever.
  2. Define the values that will move your team forward.
  3. Reevaluate your organizational chart.
Topics:Financial StrategyFacility StrategyChurch GrowthChurch DebtLeadership

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