What a great 2 days I had in New England with Josh and Jennifer Gagnon, pastors of Next Level Church of New Hampshire (NLC-NH). I flew into Boston, MA on Saturday morning and Josh picked me up at the Airport. From there we went downtown to Fenuiel Hall which has an open air walkway, and a Memorial to the Millions of Holocaust Victims. Wow. What a powerful moment for me to see the “numbers” of the millions of Jews who were killed in the Concentration Camps in Nazi Germany. It was truly overwhelming for me.
We headed to Fenway Park, had some lunch and got to experience all that is Fenway, an historic, monument to America’s pastime. Truly an amazing memory…
And now for Next Level Church – New Hampshire…
Sunday morning was great… Josh and Jen picked me up @ 7:40 am and we made our way over to the Movie Theater where they have church. I can’t even tell you how fun it was to be back in a movie theater. It brought back some amazing memories of the 200 Sundays we did at the Bell Tower theaters. They have 25 to 30 great, faithful set up crew who have great attitudes and love what God is up to at NLC-NH.
After everything is set up, all of the set up crew gather in the main Auditorium for a time of worship and preparing their hearts for about 20 – 25 minutes. It was really cool to just see people disconnecting from set up and getting ready to serve people as they come in.
The service began at 10 am, and they had about 115 people there. Worship was great, with about 11 people on their team, Josh did a few announcements and then we showed our 5 year anniversary Video as part of my introduction.
I spoke from I Samuel 16 about David and Goliath and how I believe that God is raising up a new generation of leaders to take the church of Jesus Christ into the coming decades. You can listen to the message on their website: http://www.NextLevelChurch.net It should be up in a few days or so…
I had a chance to meet with about 18 of their leaders for a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon. It was supposed to be a cookout, but it was rainy, overcast and 53 degrees. I could totally see my breath which was crazy. I was stinkin’ cold, to say the least. So we moved the meeting inside the house.
I shared with them a half dozen principles that I wish I would have known when our church was 5 months old. It was great to interact and field so many of the leaders’ questions.
Sunday evening I met with Josh and Jennifer for 2 ½ hours and gave them about 2 pages of notes and ideas I had on how they could improve their environments and set themselves up to grow big time.
All in all, the leaders at NLC-NH are doing a great job! They have all of the big rocks in place and are now set to tweek their environments and take their church and impact to the Next Level!
Because I know there are alot of young leaders who read this blog, I wanted to share a few of the leadership principles I stressed with them in order to go from 100 to 250 as a church:
1. The size of structure you want to build will determine the foundation you need to lay. If you want to build a backyard shed, you only need a few inches of concrete as a foundation. If you want to build a single story house, you need about 16 inches, to build a skyscraper, you need 50-80 feet of concrete as a foundation. Boston was the perfect illustration of this for us. I encouraged Josh and Jen to focus their time and attention on building the foundation more than “above the surface” results right now.
2. If you don’t have a strong enough foundation, and you try to build something too big, then the structure will eventually fall. The right foundation is key. If you try and put a skyscraper on a single story slab, it won’t stand the test of time. The same is true with a church. In order to see a “big vision” come to pass, you’ve got to have the foundation that can sustain it.
3. Focus on Systems and Leadership Development. At 100 people, the church can and should feel like “One Big Family,” but as it grows to 200 or 250, the church has to begin to take on more of the feel of an actual “Organization.” Families can be “rough around the edges” and we still forgive and smile and say things like, “Oh, that’s just Uncle Roy…” (We all had an Uncle Roy didn’t we?) But as a church grows the expectations for systems and excellence begin to grow and advance as well. Scheduling of workers, volunteers, and set up crews becomes huge at this point, b/c the load will begin to increase as well. The likelihood of burnout becoming an issue is a real deal.
4. It’s not about “Doing things right” as much as it is about learning to become the Right things. I really emphasized the idea that “church growth” doesn’t happen because we “do” the right things as much as it is a by-product of our Becoming the right things, and believing the right things in our hearts, and then letting that change the way we “do” ministry and church, thus giving us diferent outcomes. This is the whole “Beliefs determine Decisions, Decisions determine Outcomes” stuff that Andy Stanley teaches so well. What’s true for individuals is true for churches.
5. Our #1 responsibility as leaders is to “Create Reality” for our people. I gave an illustration to their leaders about a Sunset that I think is so powerful when it comes to creating an effective leadership culture in their church. I said that Josh and Jennifer as the “Senior Leaders” of the church have a vision of what they see God wanting to do in their church. In other words, it’s like they see a beautiful Sunset in their mind. However, the catch of leadership is that all of the people around you have the paintbrushes.
So… our job as the “senior leader” is to try and explain the sunset we see in our mind to the people who have the brushes to paint it into reality. Here’s where it gets tricky. The essence of creating a Life-Giving Culture in a new church is a messy one. Because the people will not paint the picture right every time. The senior leader tries to describe what he sees, then the people try and paint. It’s this tedious and arduous process of paint, erase, repaint. Paint, erase, repaint.
I talked to them at length about creating a culture of grace in their leadership level of their church so that when Josh and Jennifer come to them and want “less purple,” or “more blue” in the painting, it’s not offensive or hurtful, it’s just that they’re the ones who have been given the picture of the sunset in their mind that God wants for them to paint, and the lay leadership are the ones who are called to paint it. (I hope that makes sense)