“I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.” – Ecclesiastes 9:11 (NLT).
I wrote this book with Senior Pastors in mind. You are giving your best. You want to see your church grow. As a leader, you are aware that essential connections are getting missed. New people who visit your church are getting lost in a newcomer/assimilation pathway. You know something needs to change.
Let me provide an early disclaimer. As an Executive Pastor, I believe leaders can use technology as a tool for kingdom purposes. I am going to use words like customer, business, strategy, phygital marketing, optimization, and automation in this book. I am aware that some Pastors are uncomfortable with the use of business terms. In my book, Jesus: The Ultimate Management Guru, I wrote:
“Jesus employed illustrative figures of speech such as parables, similes, and puns… Jesus colored his claims with familiar scenery, referencing the carpenter’s shop, kitchen, fishing business, tax office, birds, cornfields, flowers, travelers, salt, table lamps, contractors, sparrows, bridesmaids, and businessman… He compared abstract principles, such as faith and grace, to moving mountains, pushing a camel through the eye of a needle, and offering bread to dogs… Jesus possessed extraordinary insight about money. Second, to the Kingdom of God, it was his most prevalent topic of conversation. One out of every six verses in the Gospels and sixteen of the thirty-eight parables discuss the issue.”
During the first and second centuries, the church was not an organization. The church was not thinking of legal compliances and regulations affecting charities. The church was not managing accounting, audit, annual returns, and managing properties. The IRS, in the USA, automatically recognizes churches as 501(c)(3) charitable organizations. The CRA, in Canada, looks at a church as a religious charity that needs to file an annual T3010.
Pastors are not wrong in calling the church a ministry. Yet, the reality is that the church is also a business. A Senior Pastor is more than a spiritual leader and chief visionary. A Senior Pastor has to manage governance with the church board.
Church leaders are also facing a shift in church attendance. People no longer attend church every Sunday.
The billionaire owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban, was asked what aspects of American life he expected to see changed due to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Mark said, “Everything.”
In 2020, it was projected that 20% of the churches would close down forever. Throughout the pandemic, church leaders became increasingly burned out. Church leaders were overwhelmed by the speed of change. Overnight, church staff were expected to be video producers, social media experts, social justice advocates, community leaders, and medical experts. Nothing church leaders did was right anymore. If a church leader decided to keep the church doors open, they were criticized for taking unnecessary risks or worrying too much about a loss in revenue. If a church leader closed the church building, they were considered lacking in faith. Regular church attendees started ranting on social media. Communicators felt the pressure to preach on a topic that people wanted to hear. Church leaders were busier than ever, yet less was getting done. Buildings became empty, and fear set in as church leaders wondered who will come back to church. Everyone experienced “Zoom fatigue.” Church leaders soon realized that relationship skills needed for online communication were different than interpersonal skills. It was a new normal of leadership.
Not everyone was reading the emails that leaders sent. Someone signed up to volunteer, yet no one on staff responded to that person. And gone were the days when a Greeter at the church entrance translated to a frictionless experience. Church leaders became unhappy with the disjointed communication.
Meanwhile, the pace of technology has not slowed down. Technology is fast changing. The church needs to move from traditional to digital to thrive in this new normal. Church leaders need to learn how to ride the waves of innovation facing North American churches.