From Mike Hickerson, Lead Pastor at Mission Church
I would love to tell you we knew exactly what we were doing when we started Mission Church…we didn’t. I would love to tell you we had values and strategy clearly marked out…we didn’t. I would love to tell you we knew what it was going to look like in three years…we didn’t.
What we didn’t know in the beginning seemed to significantly outweigh what we did. So we began to clarify what really mattered to us - the things we wanted to be true about us - and started sketching a list on the white board in our office. Someone would say something profound in a meeting, and we’d say, “Oh…that’s good. Write it on the board.”
These became the values currently shaping our staff and volunteer culture.
What can’t a volunteer do?
This has been an extremely challenging question for us: “With enough time, character, capacity, and giftedness, what can’t a volunteer do?” Jesus left the future of the Church to unschooled, ordinary men. How can we not do the same?
Usually, we leaders get in the way of releasing volunteers. Sometimes it’s because of pride. We think, “They can’t do it like I do it,” or, “If I don’t, then it won’t.” This is flawed thinking and usually exposes striving and self-importance. Sometimes, it’s because of procrastination; we are constantly just working on the next thing and we aren’t making time to invite people into the bigger picture. Sometimes it’s because of passivity. We assume people are too busy, or wouldn’t want to be invited in. We say “no” for them before we let them answer for themselves. When we do this, we rob volunteers of being a part of the same story we believe is worth our entire lives.
This simple question has massively impacted our culture at Mission. Currently, we have non-paid staff volunteers in these roles: Student Ministry Director, Communications Director, Chief Party Thrower, Teaching Pastor(s), Connections Director, Creative Content Contributor, Kids Administrator, and Groups Coordinator.
As a church plant, we could have never hired these positions. We would have waited years before we could pay these positions as staff, but the impact we’ve been able to have because of them is immeasurable. Invite people in!
You can’t delegate what you can’t define.
Two of my strengths are Ideation (coming up with ideas) and Arranger (helping get people and systems to operate more effectively). Add that to my ENTP personality, and you get a leader that has lots of ideas, but someone who can’t always get what’s in their head out for everyone to see.
This value has helped us achieve clarity in the “what” and the “how” when we are handing off ministry roles, tasks, and responsibilities. We’ve adapted a line from Jim Collins book Good to Great, “Right people on the bus, seats later…” We’ve added, “but seats eventually!” We have to constantly ask questions like, “What is the role? What are the expectations? What is success? How many hours? Which days? Who is the direct report? When will we meet?
This helps us all head the same direction with the same vision, with clarity and common language about what’s expected and where we’re going.
Don’t start something without a clearly defined leader.
Every team needs a leader or coordinator. In the past, I have made the mistake of putting a group of talented people on a project without identifying a leader. It always leads to chaos, conflict, and clean up!
This has also helped us when people try to “should” on the church. You see “shoulding” in phrases like “the church should…” or, “you guys should…” or, “when will we have ___?” It is very freeing to say, “We wont start anything without a leader who can sustain it.” And it’s very freeing to not start anything without a leader who can sustain it. When you feel the energy and see the need for starting something new, trust that God will bring the right person at the right time to lead it to the right place. Wait to start it until He does.
The team you are on is greater than the team you lead.
This value has helped us avoid ministry team turf wars. We don’t want a team full of people at a table who only have their ministry in mind when we are making decisions that impact the whole church. It will hinder our ability to make the best decisions.
I’m on our Management Team, and I lead our Executive Team—which is most important? The Management Team, every time! Kelly is on our Executive Team and leads our Connection Team—which is most important? Executive Team, every time! Kayanna, leads the Pre-school Team, but is on the Mission Kids Leadership Team—which is most important? Mission Kids, every time!
It takes intentionality and effort to put the overall mission above our individual ones, but it’s vital for the church to thrive. Every ministry needs to be on the same page. When the team you’re on is greater than the team you lead, every team wins.
Marry the Mission, Date the Model.
The why we are doing what we are doing is way more important than how we do it! We are always willing to change the how if we find a better way. As a team, we are committed to the mission of helping people find and follow Christ, but we hold loosely the models we use.
We believe WHY you do it > WHO is doing it > WHAT is being done > HOW it is being done. Our mission will not change, but the way we accomplish it will. In fact, it should change! We should be innovative and free to challenge and fail, reevaluate and try, doing whatever we can to help people find and follow Christ.
At Mission Church, we are very much a work in progress, but we are committed to being the healthiest staff culture we could possibly be. And these five values have helped shape us to this point. We still don’t know exactly what we’re doing, but I’m grateful for all the things God has done in spite of us, and looking forward to learning all the things He wants to teach us in the years to come.
Mike Hickerson is the Lead Pastor of Mission Church, a three-year-old church plant in Ventura, CA. What began as three couples moving to start a church now averages 700 people! Mike describes himself as a lucky husband, an outnumbered dad (with three daughters), an Oklahoma Sooner fan and struggling surfer.
Mike recently led our podcast with three other church planters on hiring and staffing a new church. You can listen to that here.