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Systems Theory, Leadership Anxiety & Your Church with Steve Cuss

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Welcome back to another episode of the unSeminary podcast. We have Steve Cuss, the lead pastor of Discovery Christian Church in Colorado, joining us today.

Discovery Christian Church is located halfway between Denver and Boulder and its people reflect the diversity found in those two cities. Though Discovery was planted before Steve’s time, he has been with the church for 15 years. Over time it’s grown, moving from portable to its own building 6 years ago and reaching 1000 people. Discovery is also very outreach- and city-focused, giving about 50% of their resources to people in need, such as 50% of their land to the needs of the city.

Steve is with us today to talk about managing leadership anxiety and solving problems when you feel stuck.

  • Change in pressure. // Moving from an associate role at another church to a lead role at Discovery Christian Church exponentially increased the pressure Steve felt. It was a process not to take personally the success of the ministry, and learning to lead older church members required a lot of humility. Very early on Steve learned to take on the posture of student, and as the church learned together and struggled together, people extended grace to each other and grew close.
  • Getting unstuck. // Discovery Christian Church has a residency program for college students and one of the requirements they give the students is to go from “stuck” to “unstuck” in an area. Steve is a firm believer that if you as a church leader can figure out why you’re stuck as an individual, or why your organization is, you can literally lead anything.
  • Second Order Change. // Early in his career as a young hospital chaplain Steve learned a psychological theory called Family Systems Theory and a related science called Second Order Change. Second Order Change is all about how a problem forms, how a problem then gets entrenched or stuck, and how a leader resolves it. Following the Second Order Change framework can be used to dissolve chronic patterns and problems that have been going on in a church for months or years.
  • Observe, identify, solve. // The first step in Second Order Change is to start observing and identify the problem. For example, in a meeting pay less attention to the agenda and more attention to recurring patterns between people. Next step is to identify the attempted solution. The wrong solution can make the problem worse and cause it to become entrenched. The third step is to name the motivator change agents (who wants the situation to be different?), and name your own complicity in the problem (how are you contributing?). Step four offers three different techniques to bring second order change and solve the problem: reversal, prescribe the problem, and absurdity.
  • Manage Leadership Anxiety. // Steve has written a book called Managing Leadership Anxiety: Yours and Theirs. Steve’s own experiences as a hospital chaplain in high-pressure, emergency situations led him on a deep journey of noticing the triggers in his life that kept him focused on his own anxiety rather than being present to the people he was helping, and present to God. Groups always catch anxiety from each other the way you catch a cold. One of the reasons a team gets stuck in a recurring pattern is because the individuals in this group are just pouring their anxiety into the system. Steve’s book is one that can help staff teams work together in identifying these triggers and ultimately build healthy culture.

You can learn more about Discovery Christian Church at discovery-church.org and Steve and his book at www.stevecusswords.com. You can also find Steve on Twitter at stevecusswords.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.