The bigger the changes, the bigger the team
I had finally broken through my barrier of pride. I had made the decision to make a decision. If no financial progress had been made by the first week of October, we would have to make cuts.
Now, if you think I was just sitting around counting down the weeks, you are mistaken. We had been praying as a trustee team, leadership team and staff for months. I was personally praying more than I ever had. I changed the way I talked about finances in our service, making some corrections I should have made years ago. We were cutting back expenses and pushing back projects. Yet, October came and our deficit was hovering around $300,000.
The financial slide had stopped. God was working through our efforts. But ground was not being made up. We knew that before 2019 began we needed to find a way to cut $300,000 from next year’s budget. That was not going to be easy. Where was the $300,000 going to come from?
There was no $300,000 optional line item on the budget.
There was no $300,000 program.
There was no $300,000 asset we could sell.
This was going to be painful.
The only way to get to that number was to close a campus.
The first question was, do we close just one or both multisite campuses? Do we still believe in the multisite strategy?
This was settled rather quickly. If we closed both campuses, we would be limiting our mission. Even though we had been in decline, our prime service times in Goodyear, our only permanent location, were between 70% and 80% full. This is a natural barrier for new people. If we wanted to continue our mission of reaching our community with the gospel, we couldn’t completely abandon the multisite strategy.
We decided to close one campus.
After that decision, we quickly moved on to determining which campus would be closed.
Over the past few months, our leadership team spent significant time on each of the campuses. Their reports were troubling because both experiences feltgood. Both campuses were executing our multisite strategy with excellence. Yet, both were struggling. This brought up another question; do we have the right multisite model for our church?
There are many different multisite models out there, as you may know. On end of the spectrum, there is a tightly controlled franchise model. Video of the lead pastor is used for the message each week, and all other aspects of the service are done live…but exactly the same across all campuses. Worship teams sing live to the same songs, in the same order. Children’s ministries do the same curriculum and lessons, often with video teaching being shared. This philosophy filters down through all aspects of the church.
At the other end of the spectrum, each campus shares the same vision and culture, but there is freedom in the execution of the programs. The campus pastor will preach their own sermon based on the same topic that is shared across campuses. The worship teams have freedom to tailor their music to the specific culture and preferences of the church body.
Our approach to multisite was solidly on the control end of the spectrum.
The current leadership team worked through this new direction at the end of October. I presented the changes to our trustee team on October 30th. It was a somber, but hope-filled meeting. This was a time full of grieving as well as a time full of faith.
As I wrestled with the complexity of these decisions—closing a campus, changing the model, reducing staff, redeploying staff—I came to the conclusion that I need more voices speaking into this than I currently had.
I am naturally an introvert, so I take time to process things. All these factors led me to keep my teams small. Agile. Flexible. But this was going to be different. I was making decisions that would dramatically affect the livelihood of families. I was shutting down the campus that I stood before the church and cast vision for. I was getting ready to move staff around and redeploy them, breaking apart teams and changing relationships. I was fundamentally changing the way we did church on the weekend. I needed more Godly people around me speaking into this change.
I needed to expand my leadership team.
God has blessed our church with diversity. It was our prayer from before Palm Valley Church was planted that we would be a multi-ethnic, multi-generational church. We have always been above average in this area, but in the last few years God has really changed the makeup of our congregation. This was reflected in our leadership as well. On my executive team, I have five incredible leaders; two are black, two are white, and one Hispanic. If you count me in the mix, you bump up the Hispanic mix by 25%. We are diverse. But I also recognized we were excluding one of the largest populations in our church body, the women. I don’t have time to unpack all my traditional church baggage here. I am not even going to get into the role of pastors and elders and women. I just knew that I had some incredible women leaders on our team and I needed to hear their voice now more than ever. I wanted their perspective, their wisdom. I added two women to the team: our children’s minister and our finance director.
I also needed all key stakeholders in the room as we were making these massive changes. I wanted to include a voice from each of our primary ministry areas. So I expanded the team from six to nine.
I didn’t know how it was going to work. I didn’t know if this large of a team would be unmanageable. So I put a timeframe on it and gave it a new name. This was now my Strategic Team and it would exist in this format for six months as we make these changes and lead through the transition.
It would be the task of this team to accomplish four major objectives:
- Close down our Glendale Campus.
- Implement a new multisite strategy.
- Reduce staffing and operation costs by $300,000 annually.
- Re-deploy the staff in new roles based on gifting of the individual and needs of the church.
These objectives could not be accomplished sequentially. They all had to happen at once. And guess what? They all had to happen quickly.
This could not have happened with the previous makeup of the team. I understand that more voices often lead to more opinions and more problems. However, a focused team, unified around a common goal with an urgent mission, can get through those barriers.
If you have ever made sweeping changes to any organization, you know that there is usually a domino effect to every change. This was so true with the changes we were making.
Each decision we made had several impacts down the line. I can tell you right now that without those additional three voices on the team, I would have missed some of these impacts and caused unnecessary pain and confusion to staff members, their families and the church body.
I began our first Strategic Team meeting, on November 6th, by laying out where I believed God was leading me with the new strategy for multisite. This was the domino that started it all. I was moving us from the control side of the spectrum and shifting us closer to the autonomous side. Control was not working for us. We have a heart for evangelism and the gift of mercy. We reach hurting people far from God. We are big into recovery ministry. We routinely deal in the mess of everyday life and do not require people to clean up their act before they walk through our doors. Our motto is that Palm Valley Church is a place where people matter. There was a definite disconnect for us between what we believed about doing ministry and having video teaching 90% of the time on our Buckeye and Glendale campuses. Not only could we feel the tension, but so could our people who were struggling to invite their friends, and the community at large.
The biggest change was to move from 10% live teaching to around 80% live teaching. We gave the worship team more freedom to modify the worship set, while still keeping the Palm Valley feel and vision for worship.
This is where the dominos began to fall.
The teams currently in place were strategically chosen for their ability to carry out the old strategy. A new strategy would require new team members.
By the time we were done, most staff members had a new role. We transitioned a large portion of our central staff—those who developed material for multiple campuses—to a campus role. They would continue developing, writing and planning for all campuses, but they would also be responsible for the execution of the plan on a campus as well.
But let’s not get ahead of the story here. All these changes are yet to come. We knew the direction. We settled on the model. We had a skeleton of a structure we were headed towards, but we needed to develop a timeline. Once we determined when to shut down the campus, we would work the timeline back from there.
The campus needed to be closed by the end of the year.
Christmas Eve is not a viable final service for a campus. Traditionally having a lot of first time guests attending Christmas services, that would be a horrible first impression. It would also turn an evening of celebration into mourning. No, it definitely had to be before Christmas Eve.
Unfortunately, we needed to back it up further. Once our Christmas series started, every weekend after that builds towards Christmas Eve. It would be problematic on multiple levels to start the series, knowing there would be no completion.
Within the first two hours of our first meeting we realized what we were up against. The last public service at this campus would need to be on November 18th. We had a lot to do.
When making drastic changes in life, our natural tendency is to push people away, especially ones who might have a different viewpoint. I mean, change is stressful enough already. I didn’t need other opinions making it more difficult.
A career change
A big move
A large purchase
Leaving a church
Who do you surround yourself with when making these types of decisions? What’s their track record? What new perspective do they have to offer?
These aren’t just leadership lessons learned along the way. This is a Biblical principle.
Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.
Yes, it does take a little longer… initially.
More opinions to talk through.
But ultimately, you want to avoid having to go back and make additional changes because you missed something or didn’t anticipate how your change would affect other aspects of your life and the lives of those around you. This saves you countless hours and energy, both physical and emotional.
Coming Soon – Part 3: Communicating Change