Sometimes the biggest shift that happens in a church begins within the leader. That's what happened for Jason Allison, Lead Pastor ofTerra Nova Community Church in Delaware, OH, this past year.
We love to share the stories of the churches we partner with, and Jason has been an incredible example of a leader who has taken what he's learned and run with it. Here's our conversation:
As a leader, what would you say has been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge has been building systems and structures that help us move toward the vision God has given us. Too often I get caught up just accomplishing tasks instead of raising up leaders around me. While it is easier, in the short term, to just get things done, in the long-run it usually inhibits growth.
The ironic part of all this is that my personality is geared toward networking and connecting people but, when it comes to leading the church, I often end up wearing myself out doing everything instead of inviting other people into the task. This is where my “people-pleasing” dark side can undermine my ministry.
Terra Nova has started to make some big shifts this past year. What's changed and where are you headed?
The biggest shift is in me. After working with Dale and 95Network, I’ve been able to separate my identity from the success (or failure) of our church. I am now free to see where God is leading without all the feelings of being overwhelmed or afraid of failure. Instead, I am learning how to clarify the vision and invite others to join me in owning it, not just helping me accomplish it.
As a church, the biggest shifts we are making is that I am laying out the vision for the church in a very clear way. I am also inviting everyone to have ownership in that vision. Honestly, it feels a bit like we're relaunching the church. Even though the vision is actually the same vision I started with 13 years ago, it feels brand new.
Our mission is to help people find new ground (that’s what “terra nova” means) on their spiritual journey. Our vision is to build a thriving community of people who love God and love people. I’ve spent the first part of this year painting a picture for our congregation of what a “thriving community” looks like and challenging them to join me in moving toward this vision.
In doing this, I have also recognized the need for more leaders, so I've focused on adding two leaders to our Elder Team who will concentrate on developing more ministry leaders throughout the ministry. I’m working to get out of the way of the ministry to stop being a bottleneck!
We partnered with you through grant funds. What role did those resources play in your ability to get help?
I don’t think I could have gotten this help without the grant funds that 95Network made available. Their partnership allowed me to get coaching through The Unstuck Group in a way that was manageable for our budget and financial circumstances.
What led you to pursue an outside perspective?
We are affiliated with Converge Worldwide (formerly called Baptist General Conference). Within my district, I have been developing a coaching program for pastors. Through my training, I saw the profound impact a coach could have on a pastor. Since then, I have been creating the coaching system for our district and training other coaches.
As I watched pastors respond to coaching, I couldn’t help but think about how much I could use the same type of help. I honestly had reached a point where I had no vision and was really discouraged. I was helping other pastors, but I was ready to give up. Ultimately, seeking an outside perspective seemed to be the best possible way to gain some clarity.
How would you encourage other pastors of small and mid-size churches?
The size of your church has nothing to do with how much God loves you or how “spiritual” you are. Obviously, be aware of things in your life that might be working against your ability to minister to your congregation and your community, but remember that God judges the heart, not the external appearances.
I would also encourage pastors to stay connected with a few other pastors who will encourage you and provide a different perspective on things. One of the best decisions I made when I was ready to give up was reach out to a couple of pastors in town and ask them to come pray with me. I told them about my lack of vision and feelings of disconnect with God. They spoke blessing into my life and told me to lean on their faith and their vision until I was able to find mine. Without sounding too dramatic, I think they kept me from giving up.
I highly encourage you to also find a group of leaders in your community that can encourage you, support you, and keep you accountable.
Want to help a church like Terra Nova Community Church?Our team has a big vision: to bring positive change to the small church in America. We want to equip small churches who recognize that things need to change and are hungry to have the greatest impact for Jesus they possibly can, but are limited by finances.
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Austin is the Managing Director here at 95Network. 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. Austin and his wife, Larisa, reside near Peoria, IL.