For the past several years, I have posted a review of the most popular articles posted at Rob Paul Ministries | Church Revitalization Resources. This year, I have decided to take a different approach. Rather than posting based on popularity, I want to invite you to take a look back at 2020. It has been quite the journey!
The year 2020 began with great anticipation and expectation for many of us. I know in the church I serve, we launched a renewed vision as we turned the page to our Next Chapter. Little did any of us realize how the pages of that chapter would unfold. Fittingly, my first article at Rob Paul Ministries | Church Revitalization Resources. Here is an opening statement from the article:
Prayer is foundational for any church hoping to experience revitalization. So, whether you are the pastor of a revitalizing church or a member, here are five ways to pray for your church in 2020.
After appearing on the Church Leadership Podcast with my friends Mark Gainey and Andy Frazier in early February, I posted this article about expectations in everything from leadership priorities to realistic goals for the future.
Setting realistic expectations is important for any leader. It is important for any pastor. But setting realistic expectations is absolutely essential for church revitalization. Without them, the potential for confusion and conflict increases.
Change is hard. Change is also resisted by most individuals, and certainly by most churches. I posted this article on March 1st as an encouragement to declining churches. Make change before it's too late!
Change or die is the message that many churches need to hear and heed. As many as 90% of Southern Baptist churches are in need of some level of revitalization. Some are stuck. Others are struggling. And approximately 800 of them are already spiraling towards death within the next twelve months! All of these churches need to experience some level of change in order to avoid the ultimate pain of death.
Within two weeks of posting this article, everything changed. Churches were plunged into the unknown. The rate of death for declining churches increased exponentially.
Still, there was hope. Toward the end of March I suggested that the challenges of the worldwide pandemic would give us opportunities to thrive. As it turned out, the pandemic forced us to change virtually every program and method of ministry.
Today, we find ourselves in unprecedented territory. We have a crisis. A global pandemic. It seems like every day we get a new set of guidelines from our government officials... Yes, this is a crisis. But I also believe it can be and will be our finest hour.
Just two weeks into April, I was still hopeful that the pandemic would be short-lived. And I was already reflecting over what I had learned about church life and ministry over the past four weeks.
The past month has been a whirlwind. We’ve learned new terms like social distancing. We’ve discovered new celebrities who happen to be some really smart physicians and scientists. We have learned how to get along without live sports. Parents have learned that their children’s teachers were telling the truth! And I have made what should have been some not-so-surprising discoveries about the Church.
This article is a hilarious recount of a humiliating attempt to put together a pre-recorded "live" stream for our morning worship service. Thankfully, God allowed me to get a little better at it as time went on, and our membership looked forward to worship on my back porch each Sunday morning.
What do you do when your best doesn’t feel good enough, again? You don’t start over. By this point I was frustrated. And I was resigned to the fact that the finished product wasn’t going to be “good.” So I edited again. But I kept getting the messages. “Memory is running low.” I pressed on. I finished the edit. And uploaded the video to the cloud. I watched it before uploading to YouTube. The video froze about 2/3 of the way in. The same point where the “low memory” message had appeared. It was 9:00 PM, and I had nothing to show for twelve hours of work!
In the early days of the pandemic, most Americans were cooperative. There was a sense that we were all in this together. But as the pandemic continued on, cooperation turned into contention.
Week number eight of physical isolation. We go from stay at home to safer at home in order to beat the coronavirus. My fear is that we are also going from cooperation to contention. As usual, social media is the new battleground. Like almost everyone else, I have had to fight the battle in my own soul regarding jumping into the fray. And I have to admit that I have lost a few of those battles.
With the change from our governor's "stay at home" policy to a "safer at home policy," many of our churches were able to begin the road back to normal.
For nearly three months we have worked from home. We have prerecorded and streamed worship services. We have become innovative, creative and resourceful. I even learned some new skills. Some have called this our new normal. I disagree. New abnormal, maybe. But not the new normal. Many of us have started the road back to normal. Some think we should flip a switch and be back to normal immediately. Others are not even ready to start the journey. I am somewhere in between.
I must have been feeling pretty optimistic during the month of May. In addition to these three articles, I also posted a fourth for Mother's Day based on the Lessons My Mama Taught Me.
SARS-CoVi-2 made us think outside of the box. But at Huffman Baptist Church, we never took our eyes off of the vision to become a family of churches committed to sending transformed people to make Jesus known across the street and around the world. These eleven pandemic practices will help us continue pursuing God’s vision. Maybe they will help your church, too.
Notice the past tense of the opening sentences. Apparently, I naively thought the pandemic was almost over!
Whatever I thought about the hopeful end of the pandemic in May, quickly vanished in June. So I turned my writing attention to leading through the chaos.
On a macro level identifying stressors is fairly simple. We start with a national election year. Add a global pandemic. And throw in racial unrest. Then consider that most of this audience is called to spiritual leadership in the local church. And a good number of us were already leading in challenging circumstances. No wonder I reached a point earlier this week where I declared on my Facebook page, “I am tired. Really, really tired. Please pray for me!”
As promised, I followed up the first article on leading through the chaos with a second, encouraging leaders to take care of themselves.
In this article I want to share some basic ways to practice self-care... The bottom line is that leading through mayhem is virtually impossible without taking care of yourself.
During July and August I took my own advice and practiced some self-care. I stepped away from this ministry for a few weeks in order to focus on myself, my family and the church where God has called me. That time away helped me to find clarity.
I shared with our church a couple of Sundays ago that I am counting Covid as a blessing. Yes, I realize it is a terrible disease. People are dying. My own father-in-law spent a month in the hospital. A week in ICU. And is now recovering in what we hope is a short-term facility. It is a terrible disease. But it has also been a blessing for the church. At least for ours. It has given us clarity.
September 30th would have been my father's 100th birthday! He was born two years after the start of the 1918 influenza pandemic. In this year of Covid, I took some time to reflect on the leadership lessons I learned from my father.
For more than twenty years I had an up-close and very personal view of my father’s leadership. I remember going to work with him when I was a kid. The highlight was getting a bottled Coca Cola out of the drink machine. Buying lunch from the food truck was also special. But mostly, I just enjoyed being with him. Later, I attended the university where he served as the founding president. I earned two diplomas that he handed me as I walked across the stage. After he retired, his successor brought me onto campus as a part of his administrative team, which meant I got to see the results of his leadership.
2020 has been an incredible year. It has been a hard year. An incredibly sad year. Most of us have lost friends and loved ones. Many have endured a bout with the 'Rona. Some have gone through it twice. Our churches have been impacted. So has our leadership. I hope these articles have been helpful.
As we look to 2021, I do not dare make predictions. I hope and pray that the available vaccines will bring an end to the coronavirus' impact on our world. In the coming weeks, I plan to unveil some exciting news regarding ways that I will be working with churches during 2021. Stay tuned...
Rob Paul is a church revitalization strategist with over three decades of experience serving established Southern Baptist churches in pastoral ministry. He has helped churches in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia to experience revival and revitalization by God’s grace and for His glory. He is currently serving as the senior pastor of Huffman Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. To find out more about Rob Paul Ministries and the work of church revitalization, visit https://robpaul.net