This is Part 1 of the Revite Pastor Spotlight: Pastor Steve Bradshaw
Healthy disciples create a healthy church, and that is something that impacts the community around it.
What were the conditions/circumstances when you arrived?
Tired. The church had been without a pastor for 14 months, no staff, everything managed by volunteers with a guest speaker each week. The facility was clean and cared for…just significantly dated and functionally challenged. Attendance was around 70, no kid/nursery check-in procedures in place, with about 20-30 attending evening services.
What did you do first?
Preach, assess, and outreach. We dove into understanding the way things were and why…so we could understand the people, the church, and what adjustments needed to be made. We canvassed and hosted a fall fest outreach within our first month. First steps (about 6 months in) involved new exterior lighting…our building and parking were terribly dark, which is not good in our area of Independence/Kansas City.
Do you remember what was going through your mind as you began this journey?
I recall the overwhelming list and trying to juggle that order, while simply accomplishing basic ministry systems and services.
What were your initial road blocks?
Manpower. The same small crew of volunteers did everything from teaching, to nursery, to cleaning, to maintenance, etc.…and had been doing them for a long time. Some never went to the main service because they were the only ones willing to work with the kids. Some stepped out when they got a pastor, handing the reigns over…which added to the struggle. Finances were on the mend, but we were “part-time” and it seemed like too many things needed funding. We did have some cash in hand, but no real evidence of cash flow moving forward.
When you accepted this assignment, what did you envision happening as a result of your ministry here?
Health. Ultimately we are seeking to make disciples that make disciples. Healthy, living things grow and reproduce…and we expect the same from the church. Healthy disciples create a healthy church, and that is something that impacts the community around it.
What was/is your most significant challenge in your time here?
The juggling act of visionary leadership and practical tasks. I have to be way out in front, with long-term, big-scale plans, goals, vision, and direction. But I also have to do tasks that I would ideally delegate, but there is nobody around to delegate to. It was like a church plant, without the team and without the excitement and energy. It was a 55-year-old church plant in the wrong part of town with dysfunctional facilities, fatigued volunteers, and leaders, unbalanced demographic that didn’t resemble its surroundings, that needed just about everything…right then.
What would you say was the key to seeing things turn around?
Support. The one factor that I could say had the most impact so far was a group of believers that were willing to support us in every decision we made. I felt fully supported by the board, the treasurer, and key families as we began to make changes and move in certain directions. Their willingness to follow and accept our leadership has given us a unity that many turnaround churches have struggled to experience.
Did you ever feel like quitting?
I can’t say that I have…the closest thing I can say is wondering how long would we be here.
Why didn’t you?
I believe in long term ministry. You can hardly measure impact in a couple years. You haven’t established relationships, learned your setting and history and community, identified patterns, instilled values, and culture…it’s too soon to say this can’t work.
What kept you going?
Not having ridiculous battles over things goes a long way to hanging in there…the support we have had so far has been energizing. Some of that credit goes directly to the families and leaders that buy in to what we are trying to accomplish. I also know that we took careful and calculated steps to bring people to the decision-making table rather than just barking directives from my holy mountain. So to speak. When I had ideas or plans, I would bring options to the table and ask for input, rather than decide and pass down my edict.
What have you learned about yourself in this process?
I can see how God has prepared us through mentors, through previous roles/situations, for this current role. He is leveraging all our skills and abilities and experiences to flourish in this season. I am learning more about what makes me tick, what really matters, and how significant seasons of life are.
What have you learned about your church through this process?
I am trying to learn everything about this church…to better understand and relate. Their history and experience have tremendous overlap with my personal experience…but it also has drastic differences. I feel like I can see their side of things much easier than they can collectively see what I am shooting for. They have not seen and experienced different settings of ministry that I have, so it is challenging to communicate what could and should be.
What did you learn about ministry?
People and relationships are key. We all know that, but I can only go so far on title and position…relationship and personal connection opens the door. Logging miles and sharing life make every part of ministry more productive…and rewarding!
What do you wish you would have known before coming here? (or while you were going through this)
I honestly think that there were things that we were better off NOT knowing before coming in. Some passwords and ID issues would have been nice to have instead of playing detective or starting all over on some things.
What part did core values/vision and mission strategy and planning play into your success here?
Our mission statement is nothing new (Connect, Grow, Serve) but it did help us to refocus the church on its purpose. Small churches struggle to invest significant funds and energies into outreach and growth…sadly, that keeps them small.
If you could give another pastor a piece of advice as they consider taking on a plateaued/declining church…as they are pastoring a plateaued/declining church…what would it be?
Rediscover the purpose of the church. Services demand tons of time and attention but ultimately they are not what we are called to produce. We are called to equip the saints for the work of the ministry and not just during services. That happens outside the church, in between Sundays, in ways that God has gifted them.
Steve and Brooke Bradshaw have been ministering to the community of Independence, Missouri as the lead pastors of Central Assembly. If you would like to learn more about their ministry, check out their Facebook page, or their website.