My silence the last month here at cheval glass is not reflective of a boring summer...to say the least. The last couple of months have been filled with chapters closing, new ones opening, and great opportunities for the future.
Our Lead Pastor, Jeff Cranston, and our Elders came to a unanimous decision with Todd's support about the future of the Hilton Head Island Campus. After the growth of the last four years, our financial stability on our own since May 2010, and the amazing Miracle Offering that was given in May from our Campus toward our new facility, it was announced that the Island Campus where Todd and I have been serving the past four years will become its own independent church on Sunday, September 11, 2011. I have been serving as the Worship Arts Director over both of our campuses - Bluffton and Hilton Head Island - for the past 18 months. With this transition, I will be returning to the Island and overseeing Environments and serving as the Worship Leader for the new church, Hilton Head Island Community Church.
CLICK HERE to read the amazing letter from Pastor Jeff and to hear Todd's announcement. They did such an incredible job sharing this with our church!
This morning, Todd and I led the service at our Bluffton Campus and were able to share with our "mother" congregation about the transition and to express our gratitude for their prayers, support, encouragement, and generosity these past four years. I have loved getting to know our Bluffton Worship Arts Team over the past 18 months and they have been such a blessing to me this past year, especially in establishing our Worship Community - a.k.a. - Worship choir. Eric Abney, who I hired in March to work alongside me, has become the new Worship Arts Director at LCC and I know he will do an AMAZING job in this role. We will continue to share resources between our teams as sister churches and we have linked our PCO accounts so we can share volunteers and resources more easily. Eric and I will also rotate leading worship between our churches periodically.
I look forward to sharing here at cheval glass about our journey in this new chapter as we see what God has for us. We are going to change the tone of 9-11 this year...it's going to be about celebrating a new day and new opportunities for the Kingdom of God on Hilton Head Island...here we go!
The verses that keep coming to mind as we walk this unbelieveable path of faith are ones that confirm God's promises to to provide.
"Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this." - Psalm 37:5 (NIV)
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart...in all your ways acknowledge Him and HE will make your paths straight." - Proverbs 3:5 a,6 (NIV)
My faith as a Christ-follower has increased in ways I have never experienced. I truly believe God is guiding and leading in ways that only HE can make a way. It will not be in any human strength. His power alone...and this is a GREAT place to be!
In 2004, I got pregnant with our 1st child, Sydney. I was working full-time at NorthStar Church as the Programming Director and had grown with that ministry since it's first few months of existence in 1996-97. By then, I had been blessed with a great volunteer team of worship leaders (2 of the 6 were paid - I was one of them) and a great staff (part-time media director and a full-time administrator). But the true test was coming. I would take my maternity leave and I really didn't know how this was going to go with being gone for 6-8 weeks and then moving back into that role as a new mom. I prepared my team, delegated, planned, and then Sydney came 4 weeks earlier than she was due. I will never forget what a volunteer in my ministry told me when I returned. "Have you really been gone for six weeks? I don't want to hurt your feelings, Cynthia, but it didn't even seem like you were gone." It was the greatest complement that I could have ever received as a leader. In the early days of church planting, there is a lot YOU have to do. It has taken me two years with this church plant to be ready to hand off big things with a qualified team. I handed off a huge programming piece to my programming leadership team last week. What exactly? Every aspect of the programming elements of our student program on Wednesday nights called VIBE . Todd came home last night and said, (because he knows it makes me feel good) "Your team did great. You weren't even missed." I'm just a musician in the band on Wednesdays now (as needed). You may be thinking., "I don't know where to start to give leadership away?" Here are some thoughts that have worked for me. If you are not a leader who likes other people being able to do your job, you should stop reading this now.
1. Everything in your job could be done by someone else. If you are the only one that can do your job at your organization, you are crippling the future of your ministry and the overall organization.
2. There is a HUGE difference between empowering a leader and abandoning a leader. Empowering means that you walk the ropes with them. You do it together for awhile. You discuss the 40,000 foot view of why, how, when, and where of all of it. You give them the opportunity to do it with you, but you are still there. You let them ask every dumb question. You are patient. You let them make choices different than what you would have done and you stand by their choices. Abandoning a leader? well, it's the opposite of everything I just mentioned.
3. Affirm, affirm, affirm. They need to know that you approve. Debrief after big things. Ask them how they felt it went. What went well? What didn't go well? What do they need from me moving forward? Are you having a good time?
4. Be ready when they quit or can't do the job. Not every leader is able to rise to the occasion after the baton has been passed. It's ok. Love them through it and help them refocus. They feel worse about it than you could ever imagine.
5. Other people won't like it that you are not leading everything. Every time I hand off something to a another team or leader, people assume something is wrong. I've had perfectly wonderful church members tell me that they didn't give their tithe money to hear "other people" sing. They came to hear me. Yeah, I had to count to 10 to respond to that one.
None of this is possible if you as a leader are so consumed in the fact that you have earned the right to do this. I take what I do very seriously, but I know that it is God's grace that I have the privilege to be leading anything. Great leaders in my life (who were probably a little crazy) thought it was worth their time and frustration to let a 13-year-old lead a vocal group, a 19-year-old lead a entire rhythm section, and a 26-year-old lead an entire Worship Ministry at a church of 1500 people. Working myself out of my job is my goal. I love being a part of a team and giving away opportunity to others so they can do things they never dreamed they could do. So tell me you don't miss me when I'm not around...that makes me really happy.
I like to live full throttle. Keep going till you just drop dead of exhaustion. I enjoy the rush of a deadline, pulling an all-niter to record music or edit a video, and all the coffee that goes with doing these things. Todd and I were married for 9 years before we had our 1st child. It was our choice. We married very young and wanted to enjoy our 20's as a couple. I love to work. I am a strange woman, I know. Having a job is such a fulfilling thing to me. I have been blessed to be able to do such creative stuff in my 15 years of ministry thus far. I am energized by the "What if we did..." Then STOP THE TRAIN!!!! We had our 1st child. I was ready to to be a mom...SO ready. It was SO worth the wait! Sydney was the text book perfect child...good sleeper, good eater, good napper... SO go with the flow! I worked from home, still full time, the first 15 months of her life. We didn't really miss a beat. Then we moved to NYC. We talked about a 2nd child, but we had just moved to NYC and I was working part-time now. Then I got pregnant... and miscarried a month later. That was tough and we had only been in NYC for about 4 months when that happened. We really knew that we wanted another child and God blessed us with another pregnancy and our son, Sean David. HELLO! Welcome to having 2 kids and a new word entered our lives...MARGINS. I don't care if you are planting a church, starting a business, or just living your life... without margins, it will kill you...oh, yes it will. Without margins, you will go insane. Todd and I have never done anything have-way or "that's good enough." We are OCD about things being done well. We are both first-born and very driven. I realized very quickly that in order for us to maintain any sanity, raise our children the way we wanted to raise them, and to plant this church, we were going to have to have some SERIOUS margins in every area of our lives. We plan the work and work the plan. If we get off and decide to have a "non-margin" week, we feel the stress and our family doesn't function. I know my kids, my husband, and myself very well. So, I am now "officially" the MARGIN MASTER. I take the temperature of our family on a regular basis and draw the margins when I see one of us (including myself) going outside the lines. You have to have this person in a family. This has not been easy for me as I already mentioned. I like to go full steam all the time. This is a huge learning experience and spiritual discipline that I am enjoying. I'm not perfect at it, and I get frustrated when I get outside the lines, but the responsibility that I know I have as a Christ-follower, the wife, the mom, and the staff member is ever before me. If you are feeling stress, my guess is that the margins are not clear. You will never get everything done at your job. You will never get everything done if you are a church planter. You will never get everything done at home. The margins are the only thing that keep you sane and allow you to enjoy the 5 minutes that I just spent blowing bubbles with my 2 year old. Find the margins and grip them with all you've got.
Now that my brain is REALLY thinking on a school year calendar, I was giving some thought to what this year holds for me. I was praying for our church and for my hubby as we approach our 2nd Year Anniversary as a church campus. I just simply asked God,"What do you want me to focus on this year? What is my role in this amazing thing that is LCC - Hilton Head Island?" I have to ask these questions because I can get REALLY busy doing a lot of good things, but not even crack the service of what is the BEST thing - or rather - the God-designed thing I should be doing. Over the last couple of days, God has brought clarity to that for me. PRAY and TELL THE STORIES. Now, the prayer thing...we all need to pray. That is not what He was saying to me. I really feel like God is leading me to pray in a way that requires so much more intentionality on my part as well as for me as a church leader to GIVE opportunity for our people to pray. He also spoke to me about being much more intentional in telling the stories of our people. In every church that I have served, this was a HUGE part of our DNA. We shared them in staff meeting, we shared them on Sundays, we shared them all the time. We have shared some stories, but I want to make this THE THING that I focus on with our church campus this year. Our tagline here at LCC is "Lives are Changing." Well, let's talk about that and let people hear about it ALL THE TIME! So, that is my plan this year. Has God given you some specifics this year for your personal life or ministry? I would love to hear them...
We are a week away from launching our Student Ministry (middle and high school) on the Island Campus. I've neglected my own personal blog this last week as I have been setting up twitter, facebook, and texting services for it (in the words of Doug Fields, "Email is for old people"). At this point, my job on launch night is to run audio. I am really looking forward to being behind the scenes with this ministry. Since I have been sharing church planting thoughts lately, my activities this past week have made me realize a great lesson in church planting...timing is everything. I would love to tell you that everything with lauching this ministry was perfectly planned and thought through and precise...yeah, right. It has been a 100 percent, God- infused, here's-the-people-right-in-your-lap-to do-it launch. God decided it was time to do this...seriously. We tried to do this in the first six month...didn't work. The key there? WE TRIED to do it. It wasn't the right time...it wasn't God's time. We have been praying for this to happen and God has brought the right people with the right gifts with servant hearts to do it. We do not have a staff member over this area...all volunteers. What did we do? Pray... we prayed and asked other to pray with us. Over the last 6 months, parents began stepping up and talking about getting involved. Students musicians began to come out of the shadows. Randy and Maria said they would handle the elements in the student service. The final "Oh my gosh" moment? 3 weeks ago, a young guy right out of college named Luke showed up at our church with gifts in leading worship...yeah, our student worship leader. I almost had a real fit when I met Luke and he auditioned! Could it be that when we actually pray for something specific (I prayed for a young guy to lead worship...honestly!) that God answers our prayers? Why am I so shocked? But I am...every time. As a church planter, we want to do everything the day we open the doors. I have been a part of church plants where we were able to do that for the most part. But this time, we have not had the staff, resources, or personnel to do that. Above all that? It wasn't God's plan for this church campus plant. This was exactly when he wanted us to do this...not a minute before. I know that now. So I encourage you to pray for His timing, not yours. Just sit back and watch...you are in for the time of your life.
I read Seth Godin's blog everyday. This week, he did a post called "Welcome to Island Marketing" that set-up pretty well one of the things I wanted to share about church planting. You need to read it. And since I live on an Island, it was very fitting. Here's an excerpt below. I inserted ministry terms...
"If you run a business (church ) on a small island, every interaction matters and every person is precious. There's a finite number of people you're going to be able to sell (minister) to, and every person you interact with knows everyone else, so you always have to be on your best behavior. You can't say, "tough" and then go on to the next person. You can't run ads that churn and burn through an endless supply of naive prospects. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and on the island, that impression matters..."
Introducing yourself to your community is a big deal - on or off an island. You get one shot. Sure, you can tweak here and there and change formats and stuff, but the OVERALL impression starts with the 1st thing you do.
As I said earlier, I have been a part of various types of church plants. The church we are a part of now is a church campus plant. Our core campus is 25 minutes away off the Island in Bluffton. They originally started on the Island and then moved off the Island toward the new growth that was happening in Bluffton, and re-branded themselves with a new name -LowCountry Community Church. The DNA of LCC was there and established, but it was our responsibility to transfer that DNA to a different community and new people.
We cooked breakfast at our local middle school for the teachers BEFORE we even had our 1st service. We invited everyone we could to "Meet and Greet" opportunities throughout the summer BEFORE we had our 1st service for people to get to know one another and to share our vision. We did not do a mass mailer to our community. We wanted people to hear of our church through the way we served the community and from people inviting their friends. We wanted our overall first impression to be true to the DNA of LowCountry Community Church - community-focused and people-driven.
You may be planting a church with no help from another church. I have been there. Your resources DO NOT set the bar on the quality of your 1st impression. You can argue with me about that if you want. If you have to chose, do you spend money to do a breakfast for teachers or to mail postcards to invite people to services? Both ideas are awesome and needed, but if resources are limited, what is your DNA? How do you want to brand yourself? I'm not saying one is more important than the other. I have served at churches that would have chosen the mail piece over the breakfast and that fit our DNA. The point is this: you must know your DNA and make sure your first impression reflects it. OK, your turn.
I'm beginning a series of posts here at cheval glass about church planting over the next few months. As I begin this dialogue, I want to give some perspective to what you will hear from me on this subject. I am the daughter of a church planter. I have been a part of 3 other church plants as a staff member. I have also served in 3 established churches. All 4 of the church plants were different from each other in the way they were launched. All 4 churches are still serving their communities. With 80 percent of new plants failing in the 1st year (CLICK HEAR to read about it), I consider it an amazing privilege to have experienced what I have. I will hit all the highs and lows of the experiences, but before I begin, I want to share this statement. Church planting is not a higher or better calling than any other. You are not less of leader, Christian, or servant of God because you have not done this or been a part of it. Sometimes as church planters, we can be a litle full of ourselves about our "stepping out in faith" to do a new work. I've been there. I have a lot of respect and have learned so much from those ministry friends in my life who have been faithful to "bloom where they are planted." As we begin this dialogue, hear my heart. I want to encourage church planters, empower "soon-to-be" planters, and affirm all who are doing this great work called local church ministry.