by Carey Nieuwhof: It’s easy to write off a stuck or plateaued church as irrelevant or bound to close, but that’s not what happened when Ron Edmondson became senior pastor of a church of 1000 in Lexington Kentucky. Under Ron’s leadership, Immanuel Baptist grew from 1000 attenders to over 3000 in six years and is firmly positioned for the future.
Ron explains the keys to turning a church around, how to handle critics, and we talk about his new job as CEO of Leadership Network and how the leadership landscape is changing.
Welcome to Episode 280 of the podcast. Listen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.
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3 Insights from Ron
1. When revitalizing a church, look at the last good thing that has happened in the church and start from there
Ron has helped with a lot of church revitalizations. One of the biggest lessons he has learned is that when you begin to bring big changes to a church (or any organization) you have to look back at the last good thing the church did and was excited about, point to it, and say, “We need to do more of that.”
If you can point people to the good things in the past, and say “remember when,” you will get lots of early adopters. They will hop on board with the new vision because they can easily visualize what the new normal can become. This is a huge part of starting a revitalization out on the right foot.
2. How should we think about online attendance?
Online church attendance has begun to take place of regular Sunday morning attendance. A big debate in the church world nowadays is: “Does online church attendance count?” Carey and Ron have both been diving into this conversation and asking hard questions of some of the top leaders in North America.
Ron has begun to see that many people are just as evangelistic and outreach focused if they are attending online. They are sharing the messages with their co-workers, and they truly feel like a member of the church. This is a good sign, but the goal of online attendance should always be to bring people into true discipleship and community in person. That is possible with online church, but it is much more probable if we can get people to begin to come in person.
3. When transitioning an organization, the right fix trumps a quick fix every time
When you step into a new organization, it is really common to want to make quick fixes right away. Ron has had to learn that this is not always the best approach. The quick fix never solves the problem. He has learned that it is best to come in and lead by learning. The longer he can wait, the closer to the right fix he will get.
There are some decisions you have to make quickly. Sometimes everybody knows that there are certain employees that just have to go. You can make those decisions fast, but the bigger strategy decisions, like company values and product releases, take time to nail down. If you wait to gain more context you will be better equipped to create a successful long-term solution.
Quotes from Episode 280
The new challenge that the church is facing is the decline of regular attendance on Sunday. @RonEdmondsonClick To Tweet
3% of the Bay area will be at church on Sunday morning, but 76% will be at work on Monday morning. What you do on Monday is as important as what you do on Sunday. @RonEdmondsonClick To Tweet
Quick is the enemy of right. @cnieuwhofClick To Tweet
Every zip code has a different struggle. @RonEdmondsonClick To Tweet
If you don’t know who you’re trying to minister to, you’ll give them the wrong remedy. @RonEdmondsonClick To Tweet
I’ve never seen decreasing attendance lead to increasing devotion. @cnieuwhofClick To Tweet
Looking for a key quote? More of a reader?
Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode here.
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Next Episode: Heather Zempel
Heather Zempel is a biological engineer who started working as a policy advisor to a US Senator on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. She now works with Mark Batterson doing ministry on Capitol Hill. In a wide ranging interview, Heather describes the culture in DC during the 90s and early 2000s and compares it to how it is today. She talks about reaching young adults in the city, developing young leaders, and why she’s rethinking her groups and teaching strategy as DC becomes more and more post-Christian.
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