I love serving in a portable church.
For almost 15 years I’ve led in churches that set up and tear down each week. Rather than seeing it as a chore, I see it as an honor. It demands a lot from leaders, but I love how it draws in a wide variety of people to make it happen . . . and how it takes church to the people rather than asking them to come to us.
I’ve been thinking recently about what it takes to be the kind of leader who makes portable churches work. Here are some questions we need to ask ourselves on a regular basis to keep our leadership healthy in this ministry context:
- Am I injecting calm into this situation? // The biggest factor for success within a portable church context is a calming leadership disposition. You need to come into the weekend exuding a sense that “it’s going to be okay”—even if everything is going wrong. God has called us to the mission. This vision is bigger than any problem you’ll face on any given weekend.
- Can we make this easier? // You don’t want people to have to be “Hulk-a-maniacs” to serve. Consider the weight of everything when you are purchasing items. Is everything moved around your campus on wheels? People shouldn’t be picking up and carrying anything. Look at how you can get wheels under everything. Can you reduce the “some assembly required” with your items? What can you leave together when it’s packed away, so the team can just take it out of the case on Sundays? Less assembly = easier morning!
- How can we make it safer? // If someone is going to get really hurt at your church, it’s going to be in the set-up and tear-down crew. Over time, these folks become more daring and take larger risks with themselves and the gear. You need to keep your eye on this “creep” and serve as a “chief safety officer” to make sure people stay as safe as possible at all times.
- Where can we improve timing? // Chances are you optimized your system when you first got started, but is there any way you can speed up things even just a little bit? The order in which things are done by your team matters. Look for ways to tweak that order. FedEx doesn’t drive the most direct route to your house . . . they drive the fastest route to the make all the deliveries. Look for efficiencies in your system.
- How are we training more people to help? // Even in the most robust ministry environments this is a high turnover area. We need to train the next crew of team members, even if you feel like everyone is stable. Don’t allow people to “own” just one area. Make sure they are cross-training on a wide variety of areas. Most roadies are visual learners. Provide photos of what the rooms look like when they are set up . . . and how everything packs back into your cases. You’d be amazed how this simple step can make it easier to train new members.
- What can I do to improve the relationship with my venue? // Most portable churches use a rented facility. Usually you are getting more from the venue than is written in the contract . . . whether it’s getting inside a little earlier or being able to store gear on-site. You need to ensure that things are running smoothly with both the management and staff at the venue. Take the staff you work with out for a nice meal a few times a year. Write a thank-you note to the management on the anniversary of your church being in the building. Hand deliver the check a few times a year to put a face to the revenue.