Transitioning a Church to Be More Outwardly Focused with Jack Warren
Welcome to this week’s unSeminary podcast. We have a great conversation today with Jack Warren, the executive pastor at Chase Oaks Church in the Dallas area. Chase Oaks has five campuses, including one with only Hispanic services. The church started traditionally and as it grew it became known as a strong bible-teaching church with a robust global missions ministry, but when it came to local outreach there wasn’t a lot happening.
Jack is with us today to talk about how Chase Oaks shifted to develop strong local connections while remaining internally healthy.
- “Come as you are. Be transformed. Make a difference.” // Chase Oaks was a healthy church with lots of activity happening on the inside, from various bible studies to small groups, but all were internally-focused. Wanting to shift their focus to become more externally-oriented to engage their community, they went to the drawing board and began to evaluate what needed to be cut from their programming. They found that people were so busy with church activities, it prevented them from having space in their lives to engage with those outside the church. Their goal was for the staff and congregation to connect with their neighbors, local organizations, and just have time to engage with people their kids played sports with. So Chase Oaks went through a realignment process to streamline the pathway around their new strategy of “Come as you are. Be transformed. Make a difference.”
- Start slowly. // The elders read a book called The Externally Focused Church by Eric Swanson, and they invited Eric to come spend some time with them and the other leaders, walking them through both the book and the transition. They then eased into the transition rather than overwhelm everyone all at once. The first year, the elders and the staff focused on their own lives. The next year they developed strategies for how to make space within the church and changed the structure of the small groups.
- Assign an externally focused leader. // Now every small group in the church has a person whose only role is to mobilize their small group to be externally-focused. They identify a partnership in the community, or identify a cause, and then systemically put that into the schedule for their group. Incorporating this new structure was the big tipping point—the groups went from only building community with each other to having the resources and means to serve the local community together as a group.
- Identify a need and a way to solve it. // Rather than reinvent the wheel, Chase Oaks set out to identify those organizations and businesses that were already helping groups in need and figured out what it meant to form a partnership with them. For example, every one of Chase Oaks’ campuses partners with at least one school. At first, the schools were resistant to partnering with them because of separation of church and state, so Chase Oaks started out by just working on the schools’ landscaping. It took five years to build trust to show they are there to help out with school supplies and other things rather than shove religion in students’ faces. It takes time, but it’s worth it to build that trust and those relationships.
- Make external work the prime focus. // For some churches, working outside in the community can easily become a one-time thing or a once a year thing. But Chase Oaks makes external work their primary focus. Part of it is building that initial relationship, but the next step is finding out what are other things they need help with or initiatives they need people or money for. Then a life group stays in partnership with that organization and the leader stays in communication with the organization to know their needs.
- Open groups to allow freedom to follow calling. // It used to be that team members served with the organizations based on what their life group leaders chose. Now Chase Oaks is going through a shift where members can partner with other team leaders to serve where their passions are. They may be a member of one life group that partners to help single moms, but their true passion may be to help homeless vets. So they can work with the leader of another life group that is working with an organization to help homeless vets instead while remaining on their original life group internally. This gives people the freedom to work with their own strengths and passions.
You can learn more about Chase Oaks at www.chaseoaks.org.
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