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Faith Leaders Resources 12min read

5 Pastoral Pivots for The New Year

5 Pastoral Pivots for The New Year

As we begin this new year, the word “pivot” has always stuck out but even more recently. No matter who you are or where you live, we made pivots last year. Pivots to help us grow and for some of us to keep us going.

I have had the pleasure of speaking with several Church and business leaders on my podcast Ministry Pivot, and we’ve learned of several pivots that they have made. Here are some of the pivots I believe we will have to make this year related to Churches and Leaders.

Pivot your view on attendance

If any new word or term has become commonplace, it is the word “Phygital” in ministry. We also use hybrid ministry, I wrote an article, you can find that here. However, this term or thought leads us to understand that this year, maybe more than any other year, we will have to see our attendance in our congregations in a different way.

No longer can you look out in the “live” congregation or have your ushers/greeters/first impressions team count the bodies in the building and say this is who was here today. Nope, that season has passed now.

We must pivot our view on attendance to include those in the building but those who are “live” online and even those who will watch and engage with the worship experience because it is an experience later this week. How? Here are some ways and thoughts to consider:

  • If you don’t have the staff to have leaders on each social media platform as they go live with your service, have someone view them after service. You’re looking for those who comment and post in the chat. Some platforms like “YouTube” allow receiving emails when people comment, so you can then reply to each comment and engage those persons.
  • Some churches have seen success and scheduling a separate “parking lot hour” after service or even during the week to engage those online and those who were in-person around the focus of the Sunday worship experience.
  • The last thought and our Church does this, try to prepare ahead of time some “Study Notes” from the sermon and engage those who download the notes with discussion questions to help them grow closer to Christ.

Several tools can be used, but in this season, your attendance is much larger than those you have in the building, and engaging them matters.

Pivot 1: Focus on attendance

Pivot your view on the core

Not only has the attendance view changed this year but, your idea of those who serve as your “core” group of congregants should also pivot.

While it might be uncomfortable, I think this one is one of the best because it allows you to look for and bring new people to your leadership ranks.

Several of my friends in ministry have testified that many of the leaders who were consistent before the pandemic have changed their serving schedule, causing them to make pivots.

Maybe this is the season for some new blood in leadership and perhaps this is also the season to reassess some of the ministry events and activities you have always done to see if they work in this new season of ministry.

This is still a season of opportunities. However, every opportunity won’t begin easy and many of them might start harder than you want.

You know this from those of you who have committed to the gym or some other self-improvement project for the year. At first, it is hard, but as you continue to stay with it, what was hard becomes normal, and soon you will even increase your effort in this new area.

Your core leadership team and its growth are the same way; once you develop and grow these new leaders, I am sure what God will allow you to create will be worth it. Here are a few thoughts:

  • Evaluate the current ministries to ensure they are still as effective and meeting the desired goal (each ministry should be accomplishing a goal)
  • Consider renaming some of the ministries to engage new people and realign existing leaders. (Bishop Thomas spoke about this in one of our Ministry Pivot congregations)
  • Poll or survey your current leaders to see if they have any ideas or thoughts on ways to improve or make their current ministry area better.
  • Lastly, really consider reevaluating those closest to you as you make decisions to see if this group is diverse enough to ensure that you move forward in ministry correctly. What is the age group of those in these groups? Are any of them at least a decade younger than you?

Pivot your view on giving

For years, I have known several churches and leaders who shared my thought on giving; there were certain rules to giving. You know certain times of year that people wouldn’t give or couldn’t give.

Certain times during the worship experience when the giving appeal fits best. Specific ways to encourage people to give or justify why giving to the Church, for this reason, was necessary. While several others and many of these thoughts are valid, this is a season where we should pivot our thoughts on giving and seeing the opportunity.

The first part of the pivot has to do with “how” people give. If this season has taught us anything, while giving a check and cash was the most common a season ago, that isn’t the case now.

People can give through several different means, and as a Church, we have to make sure we make those means and avenues available.

Givelify has developed a great tool and continues to enhance this giving tool to help Churches and organizations receive gifts from people worldwide. Yes, there are other giving tools, and I am a fan of using them all including promoting the check and cash that can be mailed in or dropped off at the Church during the week.

The second part of the pivot has to do with the “why” people give. And this might be the essential pivot to focus on. I believe gone are the days to say that people should give to your church or ministry because it is right.

Let me be clear teaching the Bible and tithing is still important; however, most people know that they are supposed to give according to God’s Word and what is right. This doesn’t change the fact that several people don’t give; it’s even the reason we see terms like generosity being more mainstream.

I am not mad at the word usage, but it does point to why we need a solid why. When you focus on the “why” people should give, you aren’t neglecting the fact that it’s Biblical and they should give, however, you’re re-enforcing the benefits to the Church and community as they give.

So, the question is, when was the last time you outlined for those giving how their tithe and offering impact the community and the world because of the giving? How were their gifts used to update the children’s area or fix the roof or add a streaming platform to reach those in other areas?

I am suggesting that a compelling and clear “why” with giving can be key in this season of pivoting.

The last pivot in giving is the “where and when” people give. Again, if this season has taught us anything, we don’t know a lot about the giving or giving ability of our people. Many of our churches were closed for months across the world, and people gave online from where they were.

They gave online from where they were; they also gave whenever it came to their mind. For years we locked giving into one day a week and a few hours during that day; however, now we see and know that giving can occur any day of the week, and it can also happen whether people are in the building or on vacation.

The key here is to acknowledge this and not allow ourselves to push it back to normal. Encourage those in the building to give before Church and encourage those online to give on Sunday or Thursday night when they remember. Either is fine, and all of it works. However, please don’t forget the key of being clear on “why” their giving makes a difference.

Pivot your view on giving

Pivot your view on teaching

Many of our churches before this season held teaching through Bible Study, Church School, or Small Groups once or twice during the week. Of course, teaching and preaching happen on Sunday during the primary worship experience, but for this pivot, I am speaking about the “study” moments we offer through the Church.

For some churches, the number of members engaged in these study opportunities was less than that of members attending worship.

However, during this season, I hope we have seen and learned that people are getting comfortable with teaching and studying. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Bible Study in-person or small groups in-person can still work and do still work, but I also believe that you can engage more people with series being done online at their own pace during this season.

You can use platforms such as Thinkific, Kajabi, Teachable, or others to load your lessons and then have people go through them, answer questions, take tests, and more. I have seen several people use these resources to grow in their spiritual lives, and people like Dr. Tony Evans have even expanded these tools with their own platforms as an example.

If you want a free option that will only cost you the time of creating the resource, you can use YouTube. Create a YouTube page or channel for your teaching, develop the teaching and then release it for free.

In the notes of each teaching, you can add the link to a free google document with the notes for the teaching and allow the comment section to be the chat section for engagement. You can also take these same steps on Facebook by creating a group and inviting people to join your group and engage with the created content.

If you decide to do it, I am encouraging you in this pivot to look at how you teach and disciple those in your Church and community. This season has unlocked several new opportunities for us to teach, whether in-person or online, to develop new and different fruit.

Pivot your view on students

Student ministry and how in relates to and engages students during this season might be one of the least spoken-about topics. This season has been interesting, to say the least, with Covid and spacing, plus schools making different decisions. However, I believe the pivot in student ministry is the one we should have made decades ago.

While you still need teaching and worship opportunities for students at the Church, I will explain this soon; we need now more than ever to engage parents and guardians.

Parents and guardians have always been the ones that should lead student ministry, but in practice, our student ministries turned into more of a “drive-thru” service. “Drive-thru,” meaning parents or guardians selected what they wanted their student to attend (which service or which series) they dropped them off and picked them up.

I still believe that students need focused time with their peers in worship and a relative word for them. This is why I support ministries like ours that create weekly teachings on YouTube for all age groups and have different worship experiences during the weekend for each age group.

I also believe the most significant pivot is the engagement and expectation that parents have an active role in the discipleship of their students. What does this look like? Here are some thoughts:

  • Once a month or once a quarter have a meeting that outlines for parents what books or resources the student ministry is planning on using to teach.
  • During this same time, ask the parents if there are any topics or issues they would like to have covered or any questions they might have.
  • Sending home activities for parents to use in their “weekly” study time as a family. Yes, we should encourage a “weekly” time of study as a family with scriptures and questions for them to use as they grow together.
  • Providing opportunities for parents to talk with each other about the student ministry and their students to see if there are other ideas and tools to help the entire ministry.

These are just some thoughts on engaging parents and guardians as you pivot your view of student ministry, but I also want to suggest that student ministry is also “students leading the ministry.”

I wrote a whole book on this — After the Music Stops —but the key point here is student ministry should also be involved in the life of the church from the parking lot to the pulpit and everywhere in between. And when I say pulpit, I mean the choir and the preaching and teaching. If they don’t learn and have opportunities now to lead in this way, when will they?

Pivot your view on students

What about you?

How else can you or have you made pivots for this year? Which pivots stand out the most?

About the Author

Russell St. Bernard is the director for ministry operations at Kingdom Fellowship AME Church in Maryland, and the founder of After the Music Stops, a full-service youth ministry company as well as founder of Ministry Pivot, a company dedicated to assisting leaders and churches seize opportunities for growth.

Russell St. Bernard