COVID 19: Leading with Vision Clarity

Updated: Apr 8, 2020

Will Mancini from Auxano dives into the tools he uses to guide congregations to lead with vision clarity, and what churches can be doing to make that vision clearer during COVID-19.

"It's demanding [and] scary time, but the future will be seized most dramatically by those who take enough margin to reinvent, to innovate. . . into the future."

Resources Mentioned:

Auxano Consulting

Book: Church Unique

Book: Younique

Book: Innovating Discipleship

Zoom Video Communications


Tommy Rosson:

All right. Will is on the call with us. So I want to go ahead and give him as much time as humanly possible. We are very blessed, to have will here with us. And I know that Will has been providing daily updates, and has, is just an in conversations with so many pastors across the nation that he coaches, and even denominations that he works with. So, like I said, I've known Will for over 20 years. He wrote Church Unique, Younique, as well as many other books. He is a just a leader in helping to clarify vision and how that can, help really, expand your ministry. Expand. Well I'm just butchering this. I'll let Will say a little bit about Will and just kind of just gives a brief introduction role.

Will Mancini:

Yeah. Thanks so much Tommy. Well, I want to say, first of all, you guys are the hero class for me because I get to work on ideas as behind the scenes all the time and a kind of coaching in the non urgent places of, you know, ministry. And this is the exact opposite of a Houston Responds. Kinda just dirt under the fingernails being out there, serving and the compassion, kind of movement is where the real heroic action is. So I, I love, I love that I bind, but thank you for the work that you all are doing here day in and day out. I have, I I'll share a little bit about, I've been in Houston for, ever since 98 and came, met Tommy cause we were both at Clear Creek Community Church, back in those days.

Will Mancini:

And both, have done some different things and kinda church consulting and similar spaces at this moment. In terms of the church broadly and collaborations specifically locally, my, my role is to help in some ways. I'd say my most important role right now is to help, and Tommy, you can kind of help me kind of understand how to best insert this and do this particular group. But the, I'm helping pastors moved from adjustment and response in the sense of the quick things you have to do as a ministry leader to get your services online. That kind of thing to a posture of how do we actually take more ground for the mission of Jesus, you know, in this time. So how do we actually shift to a posture of advancing and innovating, not just adjusting and responding, sort of moving from being back on your heels all day long to actually getting back on your toes and playing, offence.

And there are several, you know, big ideas I could share around those themes, Tommy that maybe will get us rolling. But one thing I want to be that I want to be careful of in my ministry right now, and this is where I need the dialogue with you, is I don't ever want to be tone deaf. You know, as if meeting the urgent needs that are around us, that could be changing each day. You know, if someone's got a desk for need, I need to go help. That's not a moment of innovation. It's a, it's a moment of mercy. It's a moment of urgent helping. So, we have to live in two times zones. We have to be fully present and compassionate well by moment, but we also have the opportunity to recognize this is the once in a lifetime opportunity to reinvent ourselves from the mission of Jesus.

So I would say cultural Christianity took a hit two weeks ago, but the mission of Jesus did not. The mission of Jesus is not thwarted. It's not slowed down in any way whatsoever. And, so forth. So I, I, so with that said, Tommy, I could share a few initial thoughts on how to, how to move toward that posture of proactivity. But I want to make sure that's not a tone deaf message right now in terms of just this community and, and the sheer, wait and, and call a response that we're dealing with. You're muted, Tom.

Tommy Rosson:

I was trying to be good. I'm in the midst of it. Being in Houston, we're very aware of what it's like to, to be in the midst of a disaster and needing to respond for weeks and months on end, but yet also still needing to direct the body and lead the body and, and grow. And so I think everybody's wearing two hats right now. And to be honest with you, I think this is the opposite of, of what a hurricane or a tornado or something like that causes where and that moment the needs of the community are so screaming at you. We can put the church part on hold and go meet the needs. But right now what we're seeing is kind of the opposite. We've got to figure out how to, you know, be the church or be the local house of worship.

But then also eventually, as these needs continue to grow, we're going to see the flip side of that too. We're going to have to go out and figure out how to meet these needs as this continues to grow. So it's a little bit opposite, which is kind of interesting. But no, I don't think this is tone deaf at all. Now's the time for us to really think about, because it's not only, this is not only a chef for a multiple, you know, for a few weeks or a few months. This is something that we might have to live into multiple times. This is something that's going to change very much the DNA of how America does church. And it's really fascinating. I'm hearing that from a lot of leaders.

Will Mancini:

Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Well good, good. Well, I'll share, I share a few initial thoughts. I do. I think, from a ministry, I would say this is the greatest opportunity of ministry innovation that we will have in our lifetime. This is that hundred year event. And, as we, you know, as we get our bearing and we kind of stabilize, you've got an unprecedented opportunity and I'll unpack that a little bit more. One way to approach the opportunity I would suggest is, through good asking good questions. So the quality of your life is determined by the quality of the questions that you ask. The quality of your ministry through this crisis is the quality of the questions that you're asking yourself right now and daily. Let me illustrate that. Well, and I just, I tend to think of questions I want to keep adding questions.

I want to ask better questions. One of the questions that's been my favorite for the last 72 hours is if the church experienced increased giving right now, what kind of church would that look like? Which is a way of saying what does great value look like to the, to the scattered people of God that are living in this very unique time of uncertainty, but that are in relationships in different ways. Maybe you get six feet, but they're standing six feet across from neighbors with new time and availability. They're in constant contact with different people. Same people in new ways, different people in new ways. What does that mean for the mission? So, you know, that's a great question. Another question to ask right now that actually is even a little bit more disruptive is, Hey, what happened? What would happen? What would happen in this Sunday if right now the internet broke?

And the reason I like that question is it helps you think about what I've committed my life to, which is clarity. You know, who's on mission, who my leadership team have? We do, we does our leadership team now, right now, know what a woman looks like. And if I was actually shut down from even internet connectivity, what would happen to Sunday? What are, you know, what, whatever part of the ministry that I'm leading and responsible for, what, what would happen to it? And that just raises the bar on leadership development, raises the bar on clarity, those kinds of things. So, the quality of your life and the quality of your ministry will be determined by the quality of the questions that you're asking me right now. Another helpful metaphor that's not original to me in the Andy Crouch and some others developed it as the single most helpful, article that I've read in terms of thinking about this in terms of the duration.

So I want to give you this metaphor to guide your communication thinking and it's, again, you guys would teach me a lot about response and crisis management, but the metaphor is that we have a, what we're experiencing right now is a long blizzard. It's an event. We know that blizzard is going to turn to a winter and we'll have a three to four month, you know, season here. And what Andy Crouch and others are talking about is how we are, we go from a winter to a little, well, what they're calling a little ice age. So you want to be thinking about, planning for winter, but preparing for a little ice age. What are those irreversible ways that church attendance will be different or nonprofit leadership or not? You know, the way people relate to nonprofits will be different and we want to be attentive to that.

As we lead again, that just means we've got to fight every day. We're fully present to God and to others. We're, also thinking about leading beyond the blizzard engaging winter and leading, leading beyond the winter and to the little ice age. If you'd allow me to speak from my sweet spot to the local church and pastors for a moment, I do believe what we're experiencing is an act of grace in a similar way to being banished from the garden was an act of grace. The flow in terms of the big picture of God's redemptive plan. He waited till the last human was still righteous, and then he preserved that threat of righteousness for all humanity. But the private, the easiest or most helpful act of grace to reference right now is a, is babble.

And so you have, the Genesis one mandate to God's people was to fill the earth, you know, multiply, and spread out. And so, you know, by the time we get to Genesis 11, everyone's reversed that they're coming together. There's hubris. It's the anti great. It's the anti Genesis one great commission. We're all gathered together trying to reach up to God. And God says, well, I love you enough. I want to help you stay on mission. So to help you stay on mission, I'm going to confuse your languages. And it was, it was an act of grace so that they would actually get about it would, they would be about doing what God had designed them to do and made them to do. And so when we think about an act of grace for the church, the organized, the church in North America, this is a gracious, a shot across the bow of cultural Christianity.

And it's a gracious shot across the bow to prepare us for 5, 10 years down the road. I literally think in three weeks we just woke up and it's now 20, 30, uh, we were already experiencing a kind of a loss of value between the organized church and believers. In 2015, the number one blog post I did was why your most committed people are going to attend church less and less. It's not a commentary on people's commitment per se. It's a commentary on how the church is bringing value through what it does. For example, if you're, if Sunday morning is really about providing content, you know, if it's, if it's a great concert, you know, praise the Lord and we have great one-way content, that's just becoming more and more of a commodity. So I tell the pastors, I'll, you know, I've been telling pastors for years, if, you know, why would a person get out of bed and come to your worship service if they can get on an iPad and in 30 seconds and hear better content?

In other words, what the local church isn't fundamentally about getting content. We need to preach, we need to proclaim God's word. We certainly need to do all that, but the church is so much more. And so this is a shot across the bow to say, okay, to the extent that you are a community of disciple making disciples, like nothing that happened in the last couple of weeks is slowing you down. But to the extent that you are doing program church, you know, we're gonna have some very hard, hard times here. So it's a, it's a great purging. It's a great cleansing, if you will, of what the mission of Jesus really has been all the time.

Functional great commission that we have in the church is go into all the world and make more worship attenders, baptizing them in the name of small groups and teaching them to volunteer a few hours a month and Jesus didn't die for that mission. And that's not the real mission of the church. So what that, what this does is it just helps us rethink and raise our sights, keeping the main thing, the main thing. Another way to talk about it with regard to my work with clarity is that scarcity brings clarity. Peter Drucker said at the end of his life as he became more involved in nonprofits and faith-based work, he said most churches, he would say this of most nonprofits, he said, can and should stop half of what they're doing, not because it's not good, but because it's not essential to the mission. And when I think of that 50% stop doing, I think of, in the last, travel almost weekly for the last 20 years. And there's twice I've been in an airport where I had to get on the airplane without some serious,

too late to check two bags that I had, which meant my only goal, my only way to get on the airplane was to open up two suitcases on the concrete sidewalk in the hustle and bustle of an airport and actually repack only one bag. I have to leave 50% of what I wanted to take with me behind. And the reality is when you're forced to do that, there's always an answer. You actually can make it happen. And that scarcity brings great clarity. It's unbelievable how fast you can cut 50% of what you're bringing on your trip. And none of us ever want to like really be in that position, right? But when you're in that position, scarcity brings clarity. What is the main thing? What are the essentials to have? What are we really called to do? The irony is that actually becomes a beautiful opportunity to cleanse, to reset, to waken what is most important to us.

And I think that's a helpful thing. I think that's a helpful thing for any level of ministry that you might be involved in. So let's, you know, it's a tough time. It's demanding time to scary time, but the future, will be seized most dramatically by those who, who take enough margin to reinvent, to innovate into, into, play off fence into the, into the future. By the way, Tom, I will mention this, I did write about 10 years ago, I wrote a book called Innovating Discipleship's a little book. You can read about an hour, maybe 75 minutes, 10,000 words. I've made this book available for free. I woke up this last Sunday and I realized this book actually, was written for such a time as this, you've been forced to innovate whether you thought of yourself as an innovator, whether you've, were prepared to innovate, you're now innovating.

And so, you know, we can, if you go to my blog, there's a banner at the top and you can download that book for free and that has some good questions and will help you think through some of the innovation stuff. Right. All right. Now, a few other thoughts. There is, in terms of how helping you lean toward innovation, one of them is that, what I'm in, I've been thinking through the question in this season where it's so easy to be distracted. It's always to feel overwhelmed. How do I help an everyday disciple and every serve Jesus become a more proactive innovator? And so I want to share a few ideas that I have on that. One thing I think that's most important is to choose one or choose to see the world even in midst the crisis as a beautiful place.

And let yourself imagine. Let yourself enjoy the little things. Take a moment to smell the roses as it, as it were. I remember EG Peterson wrote an essay that I feel like saved my life years ago as a pastor. It's the essay. Teach us to care and not to care. He pulled up a line from a Ts Elliot, and in that, in that essay he says, you know, we got to remember that needs are not sovereign in the universe. God is sovereign. You know, this virus is not sovereign. God is doing something beautiful and let's not lose our wonder and sense of connectivity to that

A little bit on, Philippians 1:12, it was a, in seminary, I was randomly assigned a Bible verse to preach. It was, I thought it was a bummer of a Bible verse in Philippians 1:12, because it's Paul in prison saying, you know, Hey, I've been in prison and I've learned that my imprisonment has led to the greater progress of the gospel. So in our confinement, in our limitation, God is gonna going to create new opportunities better than we could have ever dreamed of in that. It's a great Philippians 1:12-14 is really a nice text right now. So don't let, let's not lose the wonder and let's keep wondering how we can be better, faster at what God's called us to do right now. The second thing, I think of just protecting, two times in your life.

I, you really can't innovate unless you're coming from a place of, clarity, clarity of identity, certainty of you're standing with God. And I want to encourage you to go back to your own salvation story. Go back to your own call of ministry. Take a moment to rehearse those God moments in your little, since I just divine it, you know, revelation from the Holy spirit at times in my life that have guided and these are the days to kind of like relish those again and just let that create some breathing room in your life so you can innovate and you can serve others from a place of strength and replenishment. The other thing I'm reminded and I, you know, I'm the strategic guy here. I can kind of get all, take myself too seriously. And you know, you get all, you know, get all into our plans. And I kinda, when I started a ministry years ago caught Asana, I used a Greek word that Luke uses in the, in the, in the gospels. That means to

the idea that I want to help ministries and churches grow, but what God put a little protective thing in there because the word Oxon know the idea of cost to grow in the text of scripture. The power source of the growth is always the word of God. And so ultimately, the power of the gospel, the power of the word of God is the only power source. We kind of know that theologically. I need to re remind myself of that emotionally so that when I say protect two times, I want to encourage you, protect the time, those folklore, the stories that you retell yourself of God's deep work in your life, like retail those and live love deep into those, the other top protect time to protect his time in the word of God, like the power source for your ministry in your life right now.

I know that you're preaching that all the time. I just want to encourage you, a pastor to pastor, a minister to minister. The power of what God will do in Houston will not be separated from his word. How can we get the word out there as we serve and speak the word and bless people as we serve them, as we, as we attend to physical needs and all the different variety of ways that we do. One the third thing I want to say on innovation, embrace the opportunity. Here's a few just quick reminders. One is I've already shared these. Scarcity brings clarity. The other thing is urgency accelerates decision-making. Like urgency actually totally accelerates unanimity. Where do you have boards that you, you know, three weeks ago you needed a six month approval processor, you know, at least, you needed to call a core on three or four tie.

Like now you don't like now it's like we can, we can move fast. Where do we need to clean our cluttered closet? Where do we need to innovate? Like let's just take advantage of the speed with which we can move right now. Where you are in your life in ministry, the, the catastrophe broadly, this kind of dry tsunami that we have that's interesting as Tommy, cause it's giving us some breathing room to plan and prepare for different waves. Like how do we, how do we utilize this to reset the deep patterns of our life? Everyone could, the catastrophe is going to reset our patterns. There's going to be irreversible, irrevocable things in our lives. So how do we leverage that and innovate into that? It's kind of quirky ideas, but we all live as human beings with patterns, with paradigms, the way you made your cup of coffee this morning, or the way you drove to work, you know, three weeks ago.

You don't want to have to rethink about that all the time. So we get set in our patterns and these patterns over time, right? Become ruts. And so guess what we get to, we get to jump start out of all the ruts of our lives right now and that, and everyone does. So where in your ministry do we need to set new patterns? You know, we are right now experiencing potentially different ways to have daily connectivity between pastors and people, between church leaders and church followers and between the people of God. So we're dislocated in our typical brick and mortar gatherings, but how can we unleash daily kinds of interaction, daily kinds of encouragement, challenged care, comfort, disciple-making. So that's just another part of this. It's the idea that catastrophe resets entirely catastrophe resets, ubiquitously everyone is going to be resetting.

The single biggest question that I think that I think is important for ministries is on September 15th of 2020, how do you want to re-emerge from this winter as a new organization, as a new person, what are the, how will my church be different? How am I ministry be different? What is the one most important way? Church, our ministry can be different on September 15th and I would take a typical one goal a year. You know, what's the most important thing to conscience here? I would shorten that to six months to the season of winter. September 15th is six months from March 15th, which is the first Sunday. We did not meet most of us across Houston in our churches. So, and then we go into a weekly action planning sequence, the planning. I'm going a little bit, I'll pause here for a minute, Tommy.

The planning tools I've created, we always have what we call an our executional playbook. One big goal at a time and four different action initiatives that were, that are subordinate to that goal. So what I'm encouraging churches to do is, is to have one goal or aspiration or dream. What's the single most important way or our ministry, what will be different on September 15th and then we're, we're locking in for action initiatives, community cause communication and cash. And we're just asking, we're saying every week you get to really ask that question, how are we doing to keep people in community? How, what are we doing to keep people? As you know, by the way, this is so important for Houston Responds to help people jumpstart out of feeling sorry for themselves, to jumpstart out of the distraction of watching more news. We know this, you do this every day, but we need to help.

We need to help connect them to the cause of Jesus right now in ways they can serve others that's so important to their own formation and perspective. Communication. How are we thinking, rethinking communication and in cash. How are we rethinking cash? And I'm just saying to every church leader, we need to think about these four things every week and we need to have one big September 15th aspiration. If I can be a value, I have a colleague, we're doing Tommy, a weekly open gathering, national staff meeting at noon eastern 11 central. If you want to come to that, we'd love to have you. And we have a planning tool that we're just walking through weekly with churches and ministries to help them move from adjustment to investment into, into this a season of quote winter, on there. So, those are some initial ideas on leveraging this opportunity of a lifetime, on that, Tommy lot more I could share but wanna maybe give an opportunity to pause if there's any questions or Q&A you might want to have.

Tommy Rosson:

One quick question. Just free to expand on. So many churches, so many, even nonprofits in this space are, they're in the midst of this chaos from an internal perspective, getting things up and running. You know, what does this look like? And many of them have not really gone through the process of really defining clarity. They ha they, you know, yes, they know the mission. The greater mission. They know the mission of their, of their church, but they haven't really defined it, uh, as well as probably as needed during the season because, I had an interview with Jim Barrington, the first, sorry butcher's name, but the pastor First Presbyterian here in Houston. And he talked about, you know, there's never been a time more in their churches life that they've been as focused on the essentials of the ministry. That right now what is the essentials of church and that there's never been a season for them that they've had to focus on that more. So if, if they, if what is there some, is there some expedition, is there some way to expedite or how would you advise congregations that are going through this and have to go through this rapidly? Um, to really clarify, you know, what this looks like for them.

Will Mancini:

Let me unmute there. Yeah, that's a great, a great question. I don't know if it's okay, Tom. I might share screen on something and just show, show everyone one way that we're trying to help from a church standpoint. And I would use this as part of our part of what we're doing weekly here me, pull this up, make sure I've got the right one. Can you guys see that, innovating discipleship planning grid? Is that, is that up Tommy? Is that working okay on the screen? Yes. You can see this is the, that community cause communication and cash. And what we're saying is March 15th, March 22nd, we've been in adjustment mode and we call that, you know, battle for the mind. We initially pattern this off of eight weeks and certainly that's going to be an accordion here.

Investments. We caught it a battle for time. How are you engaging your people at church? And all this is doing is saying, how do we, we've got what we call the air war and ground war and this invest phase, which is talking about what are you saying organizationally or what are you saying to leaders and what are you doing relationally? So there, I won't unpack this completely, but what I would say, Tommy, the most important thing is a posture of helping us move from the adjust zone to the invest zone. It would be so easy to spend the next 12 weeks in adjustment mode, tweaking our online services, watching news. And so I just want to scream like we have got to be a judge. We got to be an adjustment mode. I get that, I get that.

But, but wow, don't miss the once in a lifetime opportunity to invest in stuff. It, so, but, but we've got to take this a day at a time and we got to take us a week at a time so we can't get ahead of ourselves. So this is a, so I'm just going weekly and giving principles and practices of what we need, what we need to be thinking about. And, we accelerated 10 years in two weeks. So we've got to deal with this purging and this scarcity brings clarity. So those are some of the perspectives that we're leading with right now. But, but just as a, you know, maybe as a helpful for church leaders, this is a church in Atlanta that is I'm close with on their community. They're doing, we're doing Zoom community groups, and they're doing them, they're having popups, spontaneous pop-up groups.

So at 12:00 PM and at 8:00 PM at Tuesday or Thursday or Sunday after their online services, everyone's getting into a giant room and they're using the Zoom breakouts and everyone's getting in groups of, you know, eight to 10, and they're doing groups that way and that's their adjustment phase. They're not saying we're going to do it that way forever. You're saying this is what we've done immediately and now they, they're trying to give themselves time to rethink, okay, what, what is going to be the right way to move into the investment phase of this crisis? Their cause, they're saying, Hey, we want to do two things we're doing, I love this particular church, Grace Family in Atlanta, they've initiated a prayer walking cause everybody can be a part of prayer walking. And what they're doing is they've got a goal of how many thousand miles that their entire community can log by adding up all the miles that they're prayer walking.

And immediately you have an entire, this is like an air war kind of groundwork thing. Like the whole church is saying, let's just all prayer, walk as much as we can. And then they're saying, we're going to give 10% of everything that comes into our church right now, right back to our community in new ways. And that's their benevolence push. And so that's, it's fun to be able to go bold and that they're not saying they're going to do that forever. We, okay in our adjustment phase, this is what we're doing and we're going to update the people a week by week and their communication and the adjustment phase, it's their pastors name is John. He's doing a daily 7:00 AM video that pushes out and they, they've created their updating a website as a central source of information. And then with their cash they are doing obviously an online giving push.

And then we've, we're creating recommendations of what to do. You know, in the nonprofit and ministry space, this is not my strength by the way. So I need people around me. So I'm just reporting what I'm learning out there. But we're saying you have a war, have a war room team as a pasture or ministry leader, meaning have a group of three, four, or five only. This is not your entire leadership team. Have a smaller group that you vet every decision that you're making in this high, highly variable, you know, decision-making window. And what we're saying and what this church is doing is saying, we need to, we need to look at what happens when our budget comes in. At 80% that's a code yellow. If our budget comes in at 60% that's a code red. If our budget comes in at 40% it's a code Brown.

Like this is now at viability. And this is not the fun stuff to talk about right now, but we want to be able to set some Gates for how we will continue advancing our mission. Should we have less resources to work with, you know, in coming months. But that's just, Hey, this is getting our heads in wits about us in the next, in the next two weeks right now in. And that would be an example of how we're helping churches plan and then eventually move into this injustice phase. You can see there, there's a, there's a blue phase, which is when we come out of winter and we say, we're not battling for the mind or battling for time. We're not battling for the future. How will we be different as we, as we reengage in new normal?

Tommy Rosson:

Thanks will for, joining us. And, I know that, I've gotten lots of messages about people wanting to watch this video and I knew, I talked to a couple pastors a day who said they were looking forward to the video. So I think, we're going to get, make sure this is edited and posted and put up. So I greatly appreciate your time.

Will Mancini:

Thanks. Thanks guys. Appreciate you guys. Thanks again for being the heroes on the front line. And, it's my joy to just serve in the, in the back room here with a tools and process idea so you can leave with clarity every day.

Additional COVID-19 resources for congregations available here.

SUBSCRIBE to our e-news for updates, resources and more.