As we work with small and mid-size churches across the country, we love to share the stories of those we partner with. We recently caught up with Michael Moore, Lead Pastor of City Church in Albany, NY. They're at a pretty unique spot in their ministry, and he had some great (and encouraging) thoughts. Here's our conversation:
If you had to think of one word to describe your experience in ministry, what would it be and why?
Dedication. When we started City Church, we didn’t know the difficulties that surround church planting. We honestly thought we’d just have a service and people would show up.
More than that, we didn’t know the Barna Group stats around Albany. At the time, Albany was the least biblically-minded, most post-Christian, and most unchurched city in America. Still today, less than 3% of the population considers themselves an evangelical Christian.
I truly believe that you have to love the city that you’re pastoring. We all need to remember that it’s a calling, not a job. God has to place a burning in our hearts. If it wasn’t for the dedication towards what God has placed in my heart, I would have given up a long time ago. Thankfully, God gives us the grace to walk through the tough seasons.
We partnered with you through grant funds. What role did those resources play in your ability to get help?
Without the help of 95Network, we wouldn’t have been able to bring in The Unstuck Group. Bottom line, we didn’t have the cash flow to pay for it. Having 95Network partner with us allowed us to get the outside perspective we needed and make payments that were much more manageable.
What prompted you to pursue an outside perspective? What challenges was the church facing?
Our church experienced a lot of growth in the previous 18 months before we reached out for help. Things were going well on the outside, but on the inside there was a lot of confusion and no clear steps with communication or decision-making. Our volunteers were also getting tired with our overloaded calendar.
Even though we were experiencing growth, we weren’t retaining a lot of the people coming through the doors and couldn’t break the 200 barrier. After much consideration, we decided to get an outside assessment of where we were, how we were doing, and what needed to be changed.
Where is City Church headed? What's next?
After the Strategic Planning Weekend, we had a very clear direction of who our target audience was, what our problems were, and some clear next steps to fix those problems. Because of The Unstuck Group, we moved from our portable location back to a smaller, more manageable space. We went back to offering multiple service times and focused on simplifying next steps, assimilation, communication, a giving strategy, leadership development, and our mission and vision.
Since that weekend, we have simplified our calendar and removed the clutter as an organization. We have also launched our first multisite campus with proper planning and leaders. The launch of our Rensselaer Campus has been amazing. There are strong leaders and a solid launch team, and they have been experiencing growth every week.
We've additionally been able to give more to our community because we are running a tighter, smarter budget and putting the money towards things that fit into our mission and vision. Currently, the church is in the best financial position it has ever been and our teams have the adequate funds to do ministry.
Many pastors feel like they simply can't gain traction in ministry. How would you encourage those pastors?
Stick with it. I wanted to give up at least a dozen times. If you stick to what God has called you to do, allow other leaders to speak into your life, and are crystal clear with your vision, you will see things turn around. It doesn’t happen overnight and you will experience growing pains. But that’s what God is all about: growing us in the painful seasons so that we can do what He has called and gifted us to do.
I believe that small churches are the hope of the world. You matter and your ministry matters. But we must be diligent about the calling that God has given us and executing it with wisdom through the lens of the Gospel. Planning is your friend. Outside input is your friend. Building a team is your friend.
A pastor once told me, “the moment you stop learning as a leader is the moment you have capped out in your leadership”. Don’t stop learning; you always have areas to improve. As the leader gets better, the whole church will get better.
Trying to identify a next step for your church? Our vision is to help 5,000 churches in 15 years. Take a look athow we help and send us a note -- we'd love to partner with your church.
From Normal, IL, Austin gets that ministry can sometimes feel anything but “normal.” He grew up leading in the small church his dad pastored, and has since served on the launch teams for two church plants. He holds a Communications degree from Moody Bible Institute and is passionate about seeing churches grow healthier and make a difference in their communities.