Honest talk on the turning points, ministry success metrics and essential work habits from Chris Bell, the lead pastor of 3Circle Church in Fairhope, Ala., a 2013 Outreach 100 church.
TURNING POINTS: I became the new pastor of Church on the Eastern Shore [renamed 3Circle Church in August 2013] about the time this last [Outreach 100] reporting period would have begun. This church had been through a lot—a really tough transition. We were able to assemble a team and just hit the ground running. I would say the turning point for the church was not my leadership. It’s actually just that we were able to clarify the vision. I think clarity is one of the best things. We were able to really clarify where we were going as a church, and that’ll both repel and attract. I think the clearer you are about where you’re headed, the more it tells people, Yeah, I want to be a part of this or No, I don’t. In our case, it really helped us grow, because I think people could see we were really headed somewhere. So I think that’s the turning point. I would say we also created an invite culture. We really created a culture where it’s an expectation at our church to invite your friends, and I think that’s more powerful than any marketing you could do. I think if the church is focused more on creating a culture of inviting rather than just marketing, then it’s a pretty powerful tool.
MEASURING SUCCESS: To me, our No. 1 metric is, Are we fulfilling the mission Jesus gave us? So are people coming to Christ, and are they being discipled? Are people taking their next step, whether they’re a lost person coming to Christ, or whether they’re a found person who has taken their next step of growth? Our whole thing is, Are we making disciples? We really want to be a disciple-making church that reaches people far from God. We keep up with everything. That’s where numbers come in. Numbers help you, and not just attendance. I think you really can’t account for anything you don’t measure, so we know how many people come to Christ, or at least how many people will tell us that, and we’re able to know how many of them got baptized, because that would be their next step. And then how many of those people began attending small groups. So we look at our weekly attendance. How many people are in small groups? We have a path. Our path really is salvation, baptism, joining the church, serving, becoming a volunteer and being in a small group. That’s kind of our movement, and we’re clearly able to see it. If a new person fills out a card, we’re able to track that and say, Okay, did they take that next step? And then we’re able to say, OK, if they’re not taking their next step, why aren’t we clear enough? Have we made the path clear? Have we made it accessible to them?
GETTING DOWN TO WORK: A work ethic is huge. Like any other thing, you have to work hard at church. For me, as a communicator, I have to put in the time. I need to be prepared, with my study time and those kinds of things. I feel like my main job is to feed the flock and lead the staff. So I’m feeding and leading. I have a great team that takes care of a lot of the other things for me, but I’m focused on feeding, communicating, and just like Jesus had about 12 people he poured into constantly, that’s my staff. I’m pouring into our staff, and I want to make sure we are developing and learning as leaders, that my whole team is getting better at what they do, and that they’re growing in Christ. Because I really do believe that if the team’s not growing, the church won’t. I think that most of the time, the lid on the church is its leadership. Very seldom do I think it’s anything else.
My biggest work habits are to stay focused on those areas that are my No. 1 priorities. It’s just my own walk with God, too. I don’t want to be a part-time Christian, full-time pastor, so I really work hard at that. I want to have a personal walk with God that overflows into my ministry.