Thoughts on life, leadership and the movement called the church by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Experiment of 4 Pastors

For the past 3 Sundays, I have rotated around with 3 other pastors of innovative churches (and 3 of my closest friends). I was at Atlee in Mechanicsville, then Mountain View in Culpeper, and in Virginia Beach at Coastal yesterday. All of these churches have some things in common:
  • Our Sunday morning experiences resemble each other. We all have good bands, play upbeat music, use audio and visual technologies, do dramas, and have casual atmospheres.
  • All of our churches are intentional about reaching people who are far from God.
  • All of our churches have similar leadership structures.
But we also have some differences.
  • Some have their own facility, others meet in rented locations.
  • Some of these churches lean towards more worship music, others more towards presentation music.
  • Some have longer, teaching-style presentations, others leaned into the experience or narrative-styled teaching.
  • Some have 60 minute services, others 70 or 75.
  • Some use dramas almost every week, others had very skilled video crews that produces high quality videos every week.
  • 3 of the 4 churches are multi-site, but we do them very differently.
  • And, of course, our teams are different, our processes are different, and our philosophies are different.
The point of this experiment was to learn and grow. As a pastor, I feel like I have just completed an intense, 400-level graduate course on "The Sunday Morning Experience"!

I have learned so much about how other churches operate and about my own delivery, study and preparation and leadership. All of this informs and shapes what I do, and it will make me better. But if it stops there, we won't have capitalized on the experiment and received the maximum return on the investment. It isn't only about the 4 of us, but about our teams.

Our teams have learned a lot, too. They've learned about how the other pastors work, what they do differently, and they've collaborated together. Getting them together into some kind of dialogue about the experience is serious goal for me. It's difficult - our churches span a distance of 200 miles, and getting a large group from 4 churches spread out that far together is difficult. But it's something I'm trying to do.

I hope you have found this exchange to be a rich experience. I'm sure there were things you liked and things you didn't, but, if I can be frank, that wasn't the point. The point was to help our churches (including our pastors) learn what we can do better, adopt the best practices, and raise the bar.

And I believe that is exactly what is happening.

The 4 of us will get together in Virginia Beach on September 9 for the day to talk about what we learned, what we saw in each other's churches and the experience as a whole. There is a high level of trust there, so we are able to speak the truth in love about each other and our teams. It would not be helpful if all we did was to say the great things we experienced (and there were LOTS of great things!). There are other things that only an outsider would notice that can be improved or noted at each church. We will share these things with each other, too, and in that way we will help make each other better.

Finally, I have a thousand questions to ask these guys. For example, Coastal has a Saturday night service that is identical to their Sunday morning services, but they use a different band. I want to explore that with them, why they went that route, and the pros and cons they've encountered (because we are toying with a Saturday evening service at PCC). I want to ask Mark some questions about their worship style that I thought really worked for them, and Jeff some things about his powerhouse tech group, and about their camera setup. These are just examples of scores of questions I have.

So, please pray for us as we continue to seek out God in this - because I am convinced that we are better when we are learning from each other and not operating in a vacuum.

All that said, I am really looking forward to being back at PCC on Sunday. I've really missed our church.

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