Home > change, church, conferences, evangelism, outreach > The Sticks Recap, Day Two

The Sticks Recap, Day Two

November 15, 2008

blog_header4Continuing my report on the Sticks conference at New Hope Community Church in Loudonville, OH.  Day two was a good mix of inspiration, exhortation, and nuts-and-bolts practicality.  Kudos to Pastor Charles Hill and the staff and volunteers at New Hope.  Hopefully they recover sufficiently to consider doing another Sticks!

Tim Stevens, Executive pastor, Granger Community Church, Granger IN

Pastor, author, cultural guru.  Impressive that a leader from a much bigger church would come to this conference, not just to present, but as a participant – he brought some other staff members with him, too. His style is simple, direct, and thought-provoking.

Granger has had struggles… Cancelled or proclaimed “dead” more ministry efforts than they’ve ever launched.  Some message series never took off.  Waited 22 years for “the BIG gift” – hasn’t happened yet.  They’ve cut budget 5 times in two years and frozen salaries.

Biggest contributors to growth…  (from 350 to 3500 in 14 years)  {Prayer, preaching the gospel are basic assumptions – they are happening}

  • Keep changing stuff up.  Change is good, but can be hard. The “veterans” will struggle with it, but new people will readily adapt…  Change attracts attention, generates conversation, moves focus outward, generates and sustains momentum… A simple remodel or change of order, adding services, etc.  GCC showed a plateau of growth during a 3 year period when NOTHING changed.
  • Tackle alignment issues.  Deal swiftly, decisively with people who are “out of alignment” with the mission, vision, values, strategy.  
  • Make it easy for people to serve.  Life transformation is the point.  Most people experience it through relationships and community.  80% of people who take a step into GCC do it through serving.  Can someone who is not a Christian serve at your church? – are there easy points of entry to service? Is it easy for people to begin serving at your church?  Specifically and intentionally provide service opportunities.
  • Say “thanks” as often as you can.  Find creative ways to express appreciation to ministry leaders and volunteers.
  • Stick with it.  The thing that separates churches that grow from those that don’t is just not giving up.  Take the next right step. 


Shannon Odell, pastor, Brand New Church, Mountain Home, AR

Called about two years ago to a small, struggling Baptist church in north central Arkansas.  Pioneered a relaunch as “Brand New Church.”  Grown from one small church with one campus to 5 campuses throughout the state.  Yet another very outgoing and accessible speaker, also a participant in the conference.

Greatest mission field on earth is rural America – more churched/more unchurched there than any place in the world.

We have remade Hollywood in our churches – we believe “the bigger they are” the better they are.  But God works in obscurity.  If we are interested in growing a congregation rather than growing congregants, we have lost God’s heart for the church.  When God is working, it’s not glamorous but it is contagious.

Rural ministry is greatest opportunity and the biggest hell on earth…  Make sure you’re called to it.

Somewhere along the line as a Christ follower we learn to rob God of complete obedience, and feel good about it. (Scott says: Wow, the conviction of the Holy Spirit was all over the room – and me – when Shannon said that…)

Rural America needs a vision, a revelation of God, not a “new restaurant mentality” – people will leave the new restaurant when they get bad service.

Speaking from Galatians 2:1ff

  • “Seem to be leaders” can cripple a church.  Bondage and slavery common in rural churches – we’re afraid to be offensive, afraid to change anything, afraid to reach out.
  • People were PO’d by the recent media/image/personality driven political campaign – but we’re doing the same thing in the church.
  • Whatever God is calling you to do – Go big. 

6 most difficult decisions of a rural pastor –

  • Church structure – can only grow to the extent of the skeletal system.  Implement systems that allow your church to go to the next level. 
  • Volunteers are subject to same role expectations, standards as paid staff.  Get rid of those who are out of alignment and unproductive.  Give warnings, re-train, but hold them accountable. (Raising up staff from within – frees from limitations of institutional thinking.) 
  • Protect your family.  You kids will get some criticism for ministry you are doing.
  • Re-examine your calling to your rural area.  Are you truly called to the ministry you are in?  Make certain.  Pastor is to lead, cast vision – not placate church members who’ve done nothing productive for the last 25 years.
  • Dedicate yourself to a red-hot marriage.  If you’re a pastor and your marriage is NOT red hot, your relationship with God isn’t either.  Our marriage is an earthly picture of our spiritual marriage – a picture of our salvation/connection to Jesus Christ.  
  • Be willing to be hated.  It will not be the lost people who hate you – it will be other Christians, other pastors, etc., and people who leave your church.

Too many pastors do not believe that God can change the church.  All things are possible with God.


Dwight Mason, pastor, NewPointe Community Church, Dover, OH

24 years ago, became pastor of a 75 member Free Methodist Church in a small town in Ohio.  Transitioned this little congregation into a flourishing church that now reaches 2200 in attendance weekly. In 2005 they changed their name to NewPointe Community Church and in 2006 they moved into a 105,000 sq.ft. building.  Has a heart for men, pastors, and leaders.  Very open and transparent about their journey.  I enjoyed a couple of conversations with him about transitioning and vision casting. 

Nothing happens without leadership.  There are a whole lot of things we know but don’t do – leading is one of them.  What we learn here won’t work unless we lead.  Most problems in the church can be traced to incompetent leadership. 

Jesus said, “Follow me…”  Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”  Are you comfortable exhorting people to follow you and do what you are doing?

Leadership is about relationships.  We impress people from far away, but we impact people from up close. (Scott says, Dang, THAT was worth the price of admission!)  “We teach what we know but we reproduce who we are.”  – John Maxwell.  Your church will take on your personality.  You set the standard, in forgiveness, work ethic, acceptance, etc. 

The DNA of leadership

  • Calling.  You can change the world from right where you are. Calling will get you past/around critics and cynicism.
  • Character. We tend to view other people as the problem – but we all have character issues. Our character is tied up in who we are in Jesus Christ.

We need significance – apart from God, we seek it through performance. We are afraid of failure, and thus don’t take risks.  We need acceptance – apart from God, we seek it through pleasing others. We are afraid of rejection, and thus we are uncomfortable leading.   We need security – apart from God, we seek it through control, We are afraid of uncertainty, and thus we don’t seek opportunity or revelation.

People will follow you if you are real and authentic.  Jesus could wash the disciple’s feet because he had nothing to prove, nothing to lose, and nothing to hide.

  • Clarity.  Be clear on: who God is… who You are (Romans 12:3)… your purpose…
  • Courage.  To risk, to speak the truth, to fail, to admit mistakes, to confront. Will always have conflict.
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