Archive for September, 2014

5 Surprising Side Effects of a Sabbatical

Posted in General Advice on September 24, 2014 by Waypoint Church Partners

Sharing their lives with each otherThis summer I was given a month-long sabbatical by my Board of Directors after a difficult 9-year stretch of ministry.

It was needed. Truth be told, I was out of gas at the seven year mark, but continued to drudge along while too few week-long vacations seemed to barely help, and rushed trips to visit family over the holidays never seemed to adequately recharge my batteries.

Having worked with church planters and ministers for the past couple of decades, I’m starting to recognize a similar, common timeline. Somewhere into a leader’s ministry, usually 5 to 7 or 8 years in, he or she hits a wall spiritually, emotionally and often even physically.

It really should come as no surprise for those of us who claim to know our creator well and teach others about Him. There’s a Divine brilliance to the sabbatical’s rest prescribed by God in His word. He knew. Seven days, seven years, forty nine years. He knew. Even God, after six hard days of work took some needed time off.

We know taking a good sabbatical puts gas back in our tank, the wind back in our sails, and the “mo” back in our mojo. But maybe we didn’t know some of the other surprising side effects that taking a sabbatical can produce:

1. Recognizing Independence
Taking a sabbatical allows other leaders in our church to remember or even recognize for the first time that the church actually can exist and operate without us. That’s not something to fear – it’s a healthy thing.

2. Building Up Leaders
Taking time away allows the younger disciples that we’ve been training to see for the first time that the church can flourish under their leadership and direction. Letting the church see our younger leaders step up and take charge when we’re gone can change the way they see the church in action. It could give legs to your next “every member is a minister” sermon. The church at its best is member driven, not clergy driven by a chaplain who does all the work.

3. Personal Humility
It allows US to remember or even recognize for the first time that the church can exist and operate without us there. That’s an even healthier thing! Like the first time you reluctantly left your toddler overnight with a babysitter or grandparent, you realize life will go on and others can just as capably care for your baby. Leaving your church for several consecutive weeks will force you to the same healthy realization.

4. Changed Perspective
It allows us a glimpse of what we’re missing when we’re focused on ministry all the time. Just as taking a multi-day fast reminds how fixated we’ve become on food, taking a break from ministry allows us to see those other things blurred in the background by our focus on ministry. Things like our hobby (or lack of one), our family (locally and extended), our neighbors, and even our own spiritual health.

5. Growing Relationships
It allows our family to experience us unencumbered by the weight of ministry responsibility. For those of us who’ve been ‘called’ into vocational ministry, we know that we rarely clock out at 5pm. Ministry is a lifestyle, not just a job. Sabbaticals can benefit our families as much as it does us. They get to experience Saturday evenings without the lurking reality that waits for the upcoming mornings.

God was fully aware when He instituted the seven year sabbatical what the side effects would be at levels deeper than can imagine or appreciate. Maybe it’s time you took one? You need it. Your family needs it. Your church needs it.

If you need someone to honestly share with your leaders the benefits of you taking a sabbatical let the VEF know. We’re happy to come alongside you and your church to help create a healthy plan to make it happen.

Tim Cole headshot - circle sm
Tim Cole
Executive Director
tim@vef.cc

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Old Church, New Design

Posted in Church Planting, General Advice on September 17, 2014 by Waypoint Church Partners

openingdayOn September 7th, Forefront Christian Church in Virginia Beach, VA proudly opened the doors to their brand new building. Well, it was at least new to them.

You see, the church building was originally built in 1999 for an Episcopal church. And here’s my favorite part of the story: When Forefront was tearing down the walls to start their reconstruction, they actually found writing inside the walls from volunteers from the community who had helped construct the building originally. Amazingly, they found the names of several volunteers from Forefront Christian Church who had come out to serve the community 15 years ago! Little did those Forefronters know, they were actually helping to build the future home of Forefront itself. And if that doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what will.

When Forefront purchased the property the church was in many ways your typical, run-of-the-mill, outdated eyesore. But Jason Bedell, Lead Pastor, and the rest of the Forefront staff had a vision. Jason recalls, “Our contractor (also a member of Forefront) kept telling me ‘I’m not sure we’re able to do that Jason’ on a number of the design changes. I just kept telling him, ‘Let’s just do it and I promise it will make sense in the end.’

“The day before our open house he and I were sitting there about 2 in the morning, just talking. He said, ‘I didn’t know what you were thinking. I couldn’t see it. But man, this place is really an extension of our heart. You can see it every where you turn. People are going to love this place.’”

The Forefront staff was in charge of the entire redesign, with Jason at the helm of the overall concept. He designed the main building, and Becky, the Children’s Director, did the design for the children’s modular rooms. It wasn’t easy. Jason says, “The challenge was trying to do everything we wanted to do on a budget. We changed things dozens of times to make sure it all happened. If we had to spend more in one area, we’d make another area work with less. We knew money wasn’t going to stop us from having a place for people to feel immersed in God’s love and grace. We haggled with carpet people, price matched EVERYWHERE, and spent a ton of time finding who could do it the best, and trying to get a fair price for the work. We couldn’t have completed it without our volunteers. Everything outside was done with volunteers. Staging the spaces, everything audio/visual, assembling TONS of IKEA furniture… volunteers.”

The entire process, from purchase to opening day, took about 3 months. During that time they knocked out walls, built new ones, painted almost EVERYTHING, ordered furniture, designed wall art, landscaped, expanded parking, and the results are pretty incredible. The building feels fresh and modern without going overboard. They were intentional about adding natural elements to the space, which Jason explains, “There are things we (our generation) loved about older churches. The architecture, wood work, open feel, warm, etc. Many new places skip the plants, wood, and what not for a club like feel.” They intentionally added a huge wall with wood panelling. The feature cost them an extra $800 in materials, but they all agree it was well worth it.

Actually, in a way, it feels like they’ve finally come home.

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The colors have been a part of Forefront’s DNA for years, and were the obvious choice for tying the decor together. They color matched their branding with Benjamin Moore’s paint selections and came up with the following palette: Snow Cone Green (2026-30), Electric Orange (2015-10), Gunmetal (1602), Shaker Gray (1594), and Pebble Beach (1597). The outside of the building was painted the darker Shaker Gray, with the inside walls in the lighter Pebble Beach. Pops of color were added throughout the space in green and orange. To add a modern ambiance, they painted the ceilings and wings of the sanctuary in Gunmetal black.

10592712_10152692261668361_2042993035209650444_nOne money saving tip? Jason reveals the secret to that awesome, huge wall art: “All signs other than the big hanging ones in the lobby were done on corrugated plastic. Designed in house and printed by Bizport. A 24×36 sign is $20 delivered to our door. They have a place here and in Richmond area.” So if you live in the Richmond or Virginia Beach area (or don’t mind driving to pick them up), there you go!

The initial response to the new building has been phenomenal, and the numbers reflect the excitement surrounding the change. Before moving, Forefront had settled to around 300-325 guests on Sundays. Opening Sunday, they doubled that number! This past Sunday, they think they had around 550, but there are so many people that it’s hard to get an accurate count. They are anticipating adding a third service soon.

All the same, while having a new building (or drastically revamping an old one) is really great, it’s not the point. The point is sharing the gospel. Forefront has lived the past 20+ years in rented space, setting up and tearing down completely each Sunday. They have had amazing volunteers who were committed to the vision and served faithfully in that area, but having a dedicated space will save a lot of time, allowing those volunteers to serve in other areas. Ultimately, they are hoping this building is an open door (literally and figuratively) to members of their community who haven’t been to church in a while. Their real passion is sharing the gospel with people who are hurting, lost, broken, and wounded, and this building is a tool they are using to help accomplish just that.

Here’s one last word from Jason: “From day one we’ve repeated, almost like a broken record ‘We are the church. It’s not some place you go, it’s a group you’re a part of.’ The building is just a place. While it will be a place to find healing, learn about love, experience grace… it’s still just a place. So, we want to have a place that 24/7 can be used for the mission. To be People Helping People, Find & Follow Jesus. That can happen anywhere, but this every day exposure helps to show the community we aren’t going anywhere. We’re here with you and for you.

“One of things we saw a lot of these past two weeks on connection cards was, ‘This is my first time. Was driving by and wanted to check it out. I’ll be back.’ We didn’t have that in rented facilities. We couldn’t put signage up all week. So, the benefits of having a space allow us to mold the environments and experiences people enter in to when they are learning about God. If we can take away the distractions and make people understand we thought about them before they ever walked through the door, we have a better chance of them being open to learning about God’s love and grace.”

And just because we know you’re dying to see it, here are the before and after photos:

Still want to learn more? E-mail questions to jason@forefront.org
Or contact Tim Cole at tim@vef.cc to see how the VEF can help you with your own church redesign.

Rachel Woolard headshot - circle sm
Rachel Woolard
Director of Media
rachel@vef.cc