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Posted on October 6, 2020 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Leadership
Changes in church size require adjustments for church leaders. The chairman of deacons of a once-large church in another state sought my input on his new plan. The church used to run 900+ and was now doing good to have 250 in AM Worship. His plan was very formal and freed up the pastor for vision-casting just as they had always done. Things had changed in this church, but would the chairman’s plan still be relevant in a much-smaller church?
 
Timothy Keller wrote a paper titled, “Leadership and Church Size Dynamics: How Strategy Changes Growth.” “There is a ‘size culture’ that profoundly affects how decisions are made, how relationships flow, how effectiveness is evaluated, and what ministers, staff, and lay leaders do,” Keller said. “A large church is not simply a bigger version of a small church.” His point was that churches have to attract and keep different types of people who take on or are given roles, largely because of their church size.
 
In reading Keller’s ideas, in short, it was obvious to me that the deacon chairman seeking my counsel was using an outdated church size paradigm. He still acted like just because the worship center could seat 1,200, that the church was still a big church. His plan literally separated his pastor from the very people he needed to touch in order to have closer relationships.
 
Church leaders need to be aware of their changing church dynamics and foster the right outcomes for their churches. Understanding church growth changes a church’s character, how it grows, and barriers to overcome for growth as the Lord leads. 
 
--Mark Snowden is the director for missional leadership, Cincinnati Area Baptist Association
Posted on September 29, 2020 8:00 AM by Jason McKinney
You are not a failure.
 
There’s plenty telling you otherwise. You’ve fought a temptation to feel like you’re a failure. Someone might have even offered proofs that you’re one, not
that you can’t offer even better proofs.
 
First, you were called to follow Jesus. You’re a follower. Visions of grand leadership aside, you’re not the head guy. It’s not on you. You can’t fail God if He’s
not counting on your success.
 
Second, you were called to be a fisher of people. Regardless of the rise or fall of whatever great programs in 2020, your role is unchanged. You’re His follower and fisher; you’re His new creation and His ambassador. Forget failure. Our win is to abide in the Spirit and to make Him known to others. So don’t carry the burden of fighting for success, and don’t cast it on those around you. Instead, embrace the identity in Mark 1:17.
 
Living and leading thus freed, enable others likewise. They too may experience the same identity to abide and make disciples. Pastors and elders are to equip them in doing so, right?
 
Our upcoming cohort will wrestle with the implications of such an identity for ourselves as leaders and our approaches to generational disciple-making. 
 
--Jason McKinney is CABA's church planting coach. He also pastors One Church Cincinnati. 
Posted on September 15, 2020 8:00 AM by Doug Sibcy
Categories: Leadership
When I was 5-9 years old, I played baseball for the little league program in my hometown. However, there was a problem, I was not very good, and by some standards, I was not very good at all. I had average hand-to-eye coordination, so fielding and hitting the ball was an issue. I could not hit very well and rarely caught the ball. I played right field on occasion and typically batted at the bottom of the order.
 
Not to fault the other coaches I had, they were using a common standard of measurement. However, then came Mr. Fox. Coach Fox would work with me, but he just watched for the first few practices and games. He noticed that I was the first one out of the dugout with my gear, the first one to the dugout after the inning was over, and when I was walked, or, actually got a hit, he noticed that I could run like the wind. Soon, he sat me down talked with me about a position that I was unfamiliar with, the pinch-runner. Before I knew it, a player who could hit, but was much slower, would get on base, and Coach Fox would put me in. I still had to play right field sometimes, and eventually became a back-up catcher, but I got to run! He taught me that a walk was as good as a hit. Stealing bases was my specialty.
 
Locating my strengths and weaknesses in baseball was essential to me having fun. I have found the same thing in ministry.
 
While in the corporate world, I discovered a book that changed the way I saw myself, and it transcended into every area of my life: StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath. Understanding my strengths allowed me to discover a bit more about how I am made up, function, and what drives me. There is an assessment that accompanies the book that ranks 33 traits that everyone has. Here are my top 5:
 
  1. Futuristic-Inspired by the future and what could be. Inspires others with their visions of the future.
  2. Focus-Takes direction follows through and makes the corrections necessary to stay on track. Prioritizes, then acts.
  3. Significance-Wants to be seen as impactful in the eyes of others.
  4. Restorative-Adept at dealing with problems. Good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it.
  5. Competition-Measures progress and performance. Strives to win and revels in contests. Setting goals and achieving are critical.
 
Do you have a coach? What are you being measured by? Are the standard, rather than customized measurement tools used, maximize your strengths, or are you, and others, focused on your weaknesses? Maybe a bigger question is, do you even know your strengths?
 
I have learned to focus on my strengths, surround myself with people who have strengths that compliment my weaknesses, and understand that I am not good at everything that God needs for my church to be triumphant. God knows my strengths. If you would like someone to sit down with you, listen, and watch for strengths, give one of the coaches at CABA a call.
 
The first two Pastors to shoot me a note at dsibcy@gmail.com, will receive a free copy of StrengthsFinder 2.0. The only catch is that I would like you to email me a copy of your list.
 
--Doug Sibcy is a church coach for CABA. He also pastors G3 Community Church in Lebanon, Oh.
Posted on September 1, 2020 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Leadership
Have you ever experienced success? Did you try to do the same thing hoping for success the next time, too? While visiting Las Vegas, I learned that one of the predictors of a gambling addiction was an early win. Gamblers will keep looking for that thrill even though it never happens again and they lose their shirt. What began as a pastime became a new lifestyle. 

The year 2020 is leaving us reeling because of the pandemic, business closures, racial unrest, just to name a few. In our churches we now have services regularly on Facebook Live and small groups meeting via Zoom. Some of what we knew we shouldn’t be doing we did anyway. At least two church services had to go back online since members tested positive. It’s easy to focus on just one week at a time. 

Tod Bolsinger, author of Canoeing the Mountains, said that when he was out jogging, he violated every rule when he encountered a black bear near his home in California. He didn’t stand his ground, talk loudly, and wave his arms. Instead, he ran screaming down a hillside back to his cabin. When he shared the story with a tour guide in Alaska, he expected her to a approve of his escape technique. Instead, she said, “Jeez. You were really lucky. If you do that up here, a bear will kill you.” Tod, who is the vice president and chief of leadership formation at Fuller Theological Seminary went on to say, “Most of us trying to bring change in a post-Christendom world are attempting to use lessons we learned in one situation that are keeping us from adapting to a new spiritual terrain. But perhaps a humble stance of curiosity, awareness and attention, as well as healthy skepticism at our own success, may indeed be the first lessons we need to learn, especially when our egos are on the line.”

CABA planned 2020 around church revitalization. What we could not have predicted is that almost all of our churches now face the need for revitalization. Some pastors are telling me that their attendance is really low, but their financial giving is up. Other pastors are slacking off planning for a post-Covid situation, figuring on returning to normal. But they were saying that in April looking to June. In June, they were saying that about August when school resumed. And now we’re looking hopefully at November after the election. Meanwhile, the church paradigm is shifting. As the Steve Miller Band used to sing, time keeps on slipping into the future. The Barna Group’s surveys from mid-July found that one out of three church members have stopped in-person church attendance and 14% have already switched to a new church. 

CABA is providing new learning opportunities for pastors and church leaders based on a new emerging reality in the Cincinnati Area. It’s more than about coping, but infusing new skill sets that address deep church revitalization. After all, you can’t outrun a grizzly bear. 

--Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association. He enjoys hiking, but has never been near a grizzly!
Posted on July 14, 2020 7:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Leadership
When I was at the Kentucky Baptist Convention, our evangelism director entered my office. He wanted to apologize. He told me that he had criticized me for installing a great big satellite dish next to the Baptist building, when his budget couldn’t afford ballpoint pens. Then he said, “That satellite dish isn’t for you, is it? You’re downloading training tools for our whole staff.” I smiled and agreed that it was to help everyone.  
 
CABA has entered into a way of helping everyone. We have been invited into a coaching relationship with Denominee as part of the Future Team of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio. Denominee was developed by Will Mancini and the North American Mission Board for coaching state conventions and associations. Over the next two to three years, the strategy-development process is to focus firmly on helping each church go to their next level. This requires a customized coaching approach for each pastor as they lead their church.
 
By my count, there have been 16 CABA pastors who have engaged in CABA’s coaching process since January 2018 and 275 church members trained in disciple-making through No Place Left in the past two years. The Denominee process should help not just CABA, but all pastors. Some pastors will want to lead their church to have a robust missionary focus. Others will want members to be engaged in community transformation through disciple-making. Others will want to shake off the status quo to be constantly innovating in ministry. What is your church’s next hurdle? Pastors can help their churches go to the next level up as the Lord leads.
 
CABA still prioritizes addressing lostness. For some pastors, it’s as simple as whispering “over here” and they’re off and running. For others, CABA’s coaching and networking function as a silent partner with pastors who want to lead or be equipped in specific areas. Many pastors can name one thing that they can pass along to equip other pastors and church leaders. Look for five ways that your association can help equip by:
   (a) convening learning events
   (b) collaborating with other pastors on similar needs
   (c) intentionally diffusing innovations
   (d) welcoming church coaching
   (e) conveying break-thru learning perhaps through triads and direct mentoring.
 
The Denominee Process is similar to the satellite dish at the KBC. CABA wants to equip your church with unique tools that help you go next level up to the glory of God.
 
-- Mark Snowden serves as the Director of Missional Leadership, Cincinnati Area Baptist Association
Posted on July 3, 2020 7:00 AM by Kirk Kirkland
Categories: Leadership
   Three years ago I led our multi-ethnic, urban church plant to join the convention. At the time, it was one of the most difficult decisions I could make as a young pastor. I questioned the idea of being connected to a denomination that was formed over the issue of slavery. Of course all of that happened in the past but the connotation of the name “Southern” Baptist was very present.
 
   Though it was extremely uncomfortable, I decided the best option was to face the issue head-on. I called a town hall meeting and we laid it all out for everyone to know, criticize, and decide. When it came time to vote it was an unanimous one. So here we are!
 
I know how divisive and difficult talks about race & racism can be. My natural tendency as a non-confrontational person fights against it even now. But I am persuaded that there is a higher calling that compels me to push to the front and point the way to Biblical truth.
 
If we bury our heads in the sand of status quo or popular opinion the next generation of disciple makers may leave us there to die, wandering in that wilderness. Now is the time to take your stand so let’s stand together! Let’s face it head-on for the glory the God and for the love of neighbor!
 
-- Kirk Kirkland pastors Revive City, Cincinnati and is also NAMB's Send City Missionary for the Dayton, Oh., area.
Posted on July 1, 2020 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Leadership
   Followers of Jesus and their churches can take the initiative to change their relationships with those in the Cincinnati Area. To do so aligns with biblical principles. A culture of repentance, awareness, and generosity in our churches must be cultivated.
   I am convinced that CABA churches do want to invest in people and activities that are used of the Lord to bring spiritual transformation. Churches can aid those who have needs, especially in the African-American community. Here are some suggestions inspired by Jemar Tisby’s book The Color of Compromise (Zondervan 2019):
•    Underwrite the salary of a Black bi-vocational pastor so he can minister fulltime.
•    Fund church planting efforts in predominately Black neighborhoods so that disciple-making is local and not preached from infrequent outsiders.
•    Provide a scholarship for a Black youth to attend college so that educational attainment becomes a reality.
•    Learn from a pastor who is different from you who is leading a seminar so that the pastor is honored, shown respect, and relationships are built.
•    Attend community gatherings as a learner. Open council meetings and prayer events provide opportunities to understand and cry out to God for justice.  
•    Focus prayer, meet spiritual needs, and pay utility bills for a year of a struggling predominately Black evangelical church so that it becomes a vibrant witness.
•    Open your church or help a church in a needy area to sponsor after-school activities to develop leadership among Black teenagers, tomorrow’s leaders.
•    Teach biblical activism for church members so that reforms are Bible-based.
•    Ensure SBC seminaries include Black histories so that every student understands and appreciates contributions made to kingdom advance.
•    Use Black History Month to celebrate Black leaders who were followers of Jesus so that your church has positive role models to celebrate.
•    Remove flags, monuments, plaques, and other Confederate symbols from the Civil War that still exist on your church property to remove stumbling blocks to church health.
•    Invest in education by sponsoring predominately Black public schools needing books, technology, and teachers so that relationships can be formed and communities spiritually transformed through relationships with believers and churches.
•    Change the color of leadership in your church, especially when it’s in a community undergoing racial change in order to better relate and serve.
 
--Mark Snowden serves as Director of Missional Leadership, Cincinnati Area Baptist Association
Posted on June 10, 2020 8:00 AM by David Frasure
Categories: Leadership
In average towns along the eastern shoreline there once was a great fear of an unusual shark.  Somehow it had made its way across the ocean to terrorize people up and down the seacoast.  There was little doubt that people were being attacked and some were dying from the many sharks that had migrated west.  The evidence of the sharks’ attacks was clear for anyone to see.

Lifeguards in every town were put on high alert by various officials.  Most lifeguards decided it was best to keep people out of the water, safely on the beach.  A few thought that the likelihood of the sharks attacking on their little stretch of beach was so small, that there was no need to keep people out of the water.  The decision weighed heavy on the lifeguards.  They really weren’t prepared for such unusual circumstances.  The shark problem was unprecedented.  
 
Some of the beaches saw no attacks at all and declared that they were not afraid of a silly shark from overseas.  After all, there are always sharks lurking here and there and that didn’t stop them before, so why should it stop them now?  Many of these lifeguards had put up some specialized fencing that would likely protect people while they were swimming, but others just decided to take the risk since the odds were so low that their smaller beach would have an attack.  
 
In other places, however, there were shark attacks—most were minor scares with only a bump or bruise, but others were devastating bites—some attacks were deadly.  These lifeguards lived with great regret because of their decision to allow people into the water too soon.  The alarm had sounded in these places, but the concern was minimized by the officials and beachgoers alike.  The lifeguards felt certain they had nothing to fear, but the results were truly tragic.
 
The shark attacks began to lessen as the sharks began to move further offshore, deeper into the ocean in their seasonal patterns, but there was still an occasional attack in some places.  It caused many lifeguards to breathe a sigh of relief, however, when officials began to loosen restrictions and they began to carefully allow people into the ocean again.  Various safeguards were put in place to assure the public safety as the people returned to the water.  The lifeguards had to take the threat of attack seriously.  Conspiracy theories had floated freely in various places, yet it did not make sense to risk lives when danger was clearly present and perhaps even lurking nearby.  It seemed best to err on the side of caution in spite of the desire to see people enjoying the ocean.
 
As people began to return to the water, there was great joy.  Some even shouted and cried uncharacteristically, realizing they had taken their time at the beach for granted in the past.  Others still wanted to play it safe around the water, but no one blamed them for their lingering concerns.  They all eventually returned with a sincere desire to make the most of every moment they had with family and friends.  It was such a wonderful time of celebration and reunion.  
 
Some still say the Corona Shark is a myth.  Others know by experience that the sharks were real.  But one thing the people all agreed upon was that it was good to get back into normal flow of their lives.  There is nothing quite like enjoying a time of Sunday fellowship with people you know and love in those gracious, cleansing waves of love the ocean provides.  
 
The lifeguards are still keeping a close eye on the horizon, but they also have a heart of gratitude for the joyful faces they see smiling in the sun.  They also wonder how many inland folks are missing out on this peace and love.  The water is going to be warm and satisfying this summer.   
 
--Dave Frasure pastors First Baptist Church, South Lebanon, Oh.
Posted on May 19, 2020 7:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Leadership
Each of the eight errors listed here is associated with eight phases that have the potential to help your church realize change:

1.    Establish a sense of urgency.
2.    Create a guiding coalition.
3.    Develop a vision and strategy.
4.    Communicate the change vision.
5.    Empower a lot of people to take action.
6.    Generate short-term wins.
7.    Consolidate wins and make even more wins.
8.    Institutionalize changes in the church culture.

Steps 1-4 have the potential to thaw the status quo. Steps 5-8 are new practices.

Where are the errors? Leaders too quickly skip Steps 1-4. And most leaders don’t stick with the sequence. A solid base quickly deteriorates and gets left behind. Momentum never gets going enough to overcome inertia and the effort fizzles out.

However, settle down and work these eight phases WELL and you’ll enjoy lasting change.

--Mark Snowden serves CABA as Director of Associational Leadership. This blog was adapted from John P. Kotter, Leading Change, Harvard Business Press, 2012, pp. 22-27
Posted on May 5, 2020 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Leadership
David Garrison, author of Church Planting Movements, introduced me to the idea of being a lizard. A lizard stays on the hunt looking for food, unlike a frog who sits around on a lily pad waiting for his food to come flying by.

Over the years, when I’ve done missionary training, I’ve given out little plastic lizards. On my birthday, I often hear from some of those I’ve trained and they all say they still have their lizards. In fact, I have three sitting on my computer as I write this. Something about being a lizard attracts us. And I’m not talking about that gecko on TV.

Missionary thinking demands identifying the resources needed to get the job done–time, talents, and treasures. These resources are in the harvest, but need to be discovered. Waiting around for someone to stumble upon your need is unnecessary and potentially harmful.

1.    Lizards stay on the hunt. They are extremely quick and are very determined. They know food is out there waiting to be found. Jesus said that we must count the cost before starting (Luke 14:28). Missouri Baptists are not in competition. We are known for cooperation and we’re in a new day of powerful partnering. During Workers in the Harvest missionary training, a learning exercise challenges participants to share their resources. It has rarely happened. We tend to protect our own and share nothing. When Jesus sent out His followers on mission, He said, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay” (Matthew 10:8 ESV).

2.    Lizards can be almost anywhere. “The lizard you can take in your hands, yet it is in kings’ palaces” (Proverbs 30:28 ESV). Access to people is possible with a bit of courtesy, patience, and tenacity. At times, this means humbling yourself to seek resources among the haves, but also walking among the have-nots. There’s no excuse to impose limitations when God knows our needs. We trust that He is already at work among those with resources to carry out His will; the unfinished task of evangelization.

3.    Lizards are cold-blooded and need warmth from the sun. Apart from the Son of God, “you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Lizards seek out the sun on a regular basis, and we must seek out the Son, too. During life’s cold snaps, we might need to spend more time with Him than in other seasons of life. The theme of the State Evangelism Conference is “Desperate for Jesus.” Register to attend at www.mobaptist.org/sec.

4.    Lizards vary in size and shape. First, they’re reptiles, not amphibians. According to the Reptile Database, there are 6,145 species of lizards (Aug. 2015). There are 13 species in Missouri. Some lizards are chameleons that can shift their color to match their environment. Some are three inches long while others are ten or more feet long. Only two species are poisonous. God made us all unique. When the Holy Spirit entered us as a guarantee of our salvation, He also uniquely gifted us. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Psalms 133:1 NASB). As we live for the Lord, we are invited to join Him in His mission.

5.    Lizards live in communities. Networking and resourcing go hand-in-hand. They know where to get needed help. They are usually seen alone, but they have mates that give them responsibilities beyond their own needs. They develop a healthy appreciation for those around them, learn from them, and can be alerted to danger or alert others through body language. The point is that they are skilled communicators.
You can take an analogy only so far, so I’ll claim what Garrison liked to add, “When a lizard gets his tail chewed off, he can grow a new one.”
 
That’ll hunt!
 
--Mark Snowden, Director of Missional Leadership, Cincinnnati Area Baptist Association
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