“When leading in a time of change and uncertainty when everyone is trying to understand what the new reality is, it’s important to draw people’s attention to what is not changing.”
LESSONS FROM 2020
No one would argue with the assertion that this has been a year of unprecedented challenge for the church. Outreach magazine wanted to learn directly from leaders on the front lines about how their churches have been innovating, meeting people’s needs and serving as a force for healing.
Here, Kevin Geer, lead pastor of Canvas Church (Fastest-Growing 79, Largest 80) in Kalispell, Montana, relates his thoughts on the global pandemic, the recent and ongoing racial tensions and how leading the church is changing.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we allowed community leaders to leverage our platform for their benefit. Every Wednesday evening we would broadcast on social media conversations with local leaders, including the health department director, mayor, school superintendent, state senator, hospital CEO and several others. It was a win to us if they felt like it was a win for them. This resulted in being part of the fabric of our community at a needed time.
Canvas encouraged watch parties where people gathered in their homes and other venues to watch our worship experience. Many wins came from this: Spouses who would never attend church in a building participated every week, people who were casual friends became life friends, and so many opportunities were created for people to experience Jesus in a life-changing way. At our largest campus where we have five gatherings, we moved our two Sunday gatherings to video venue. This moved many of our church people to Saturday and opened up seating at prime times to reach unchurched people who really don’t care if it is live or video teaching.
The week after racial tensions once again became national news, we shifted our current message series to one that talked about how to listen, lament, learn and leverage our life for the benefit of others. This opened the door for many conversations in our community.
Canvas is taking time in our meetings among our staff to model and have these conversations. It must start with us, and then we create opportunities with others outside of our team to help them learn and grow. In our weekly emails we send out links to resources that foster conversation and educate people on the reality of racism and the unity that comes when we take advantage of opportunities to broaden our perspective and help others.
We are consistent and simple. You know what to expect at the gatherings week after week, which makes people feel comfortable inviting their friends. By simple, I mean three things we focus on: heartfelt worship, relevant Bible teaching and safe and fun kids ministry.
This year we had two locations, one in Montana and one in Canada, that started streaming our gathering at their church building. We had no idea about this until the Canadian church started sending a monthly offering. The church in Montana started growing and reaching people as they began to stream our gatherings.
When leading in a time of change and uncertainty when everyone is trying to understand what the new reality is, it’s important to draw people’s attention to what is not changing—God’s Word and the fact that Jesus brings peace, hope and love to all who believe.
Jesus was so good at being incarnational—getting right into people’s lives. The discussion does not happen on social media or often from a platform, but in a home or coffee shop. Give people an opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns and process in a safe place. Simply listen. To listen doesn’t mean you agree, but it does mean you care. This often opens the door for healing and understanding.