A Detour From Regular Routines

Quincy Brown


A Detour From Regular Routines

On Memorial Day, my middle niece Jazmine graduates from high school! It’s hard to believe it’s her time to graduate. Where did the time go? It seems like it was just yesterday that I held her in the maternity ward on Christmas Day in 2000. As the first of two nieces born on Christmas Day (Gracelyn is 16), Jazz's graduation forces me to admit that I'm officially old finally.
It’s interesting that it took my niece’s graduation to make me finally acknowledge that I’m getting old and not my upcoming fiftieth birthday on December 23!

Other than being stubborn, I mean laser-focused, perhaps this new awareness hints at a higher spiritual truth: Change always causes denial and resistance, and someone or something outside of us has to help us to face a new reality.
Jazz’s upcoming graduation has forced me into seeing a reality that I’ve resisted. And if I’m honest, it has also forced me to acknowledge a sobering thought: She’s entering a new chapter in life that requires an unlearning of the old and learning new things.  It'll be a double whammy of detours from both our regular routines.
I’m not alone. For many families, May is the month of starting new chapters. Kindergarten, high school, college, and graduate school graduations demand our attention throughout the month. Whether it’s reading about it on social media, and sending congratulations emojis or being detoured by graduation traffic from our driving routines, May signals a change for many people. Ok, so maybe there will not be a billionaire philanthropist ready to pay off a student’s debt, but it’s still an exciting and sobering time.
Officially graduation is called commencement, which ironically means “to begin,” and not to end. It seems odd to name a ceremony “beginning,” when it’s clear that students are completing their time on campus. Ending and beginnings are not just for students.  
Though we don’t like to admit it, endings are a necessity as there’s a season to everything. Taken from the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, the message is clear: In life, there's a season for things to begin and end.  Understanding the season for endings and beginnings is another way of talking about the gap between time: those “cross over” moments of change in life that causes a detour in our routine.

When I am in a hurry to go somewhere, I come across a detour, and it derails my entire plan. It may have happened to you as well. Detours are part of life. I discovered the painful truth about detours more profoundly four years ago when I had an unexpected detour in my routine.

I was an aspiring church planter who had left my position as a college senior-level administrator two years prior. I had done the exhausting work that leads up to launching a new church. I saw early successes in attendance, building a brand, and slowly making an impact in the local community. But all of this was before the detour. Like the months of detours caused by the 92 foot-section of I-85 collapsing from an intense fire, I had to find alternative routes.

On the Monday after Mother's Day, I met with my District Superintendent and the Conference Church Development Director to determine the sustainability of the church plant. During the meeting, it became clear to me, that I was headed towards a crash and needed to take an unwanted detour. Following a holy hunch, I decided to “pull the plug” to end the church before it got momentum. I was following a detour where there wasn’t an alternative route immediately mapped out. I had to “drive” my way through without a GPS on unknown roads.

It was hard to navigate the balancing act of physical dashboard measures for a new church (i.e., adding to your team, meeting and following up with adults about the vision of the church, and fundraising) and trying to let go your “baby” and travel into uncharted territory. Even hosting preview worship and service experiences that attracted 132 adults weren't enough to erase the handwriting on the wall.
In hindsight, I believe that there are some key indicators that factor that contributes to closing a church plant that can also be helpful when we're forced to detour from our routine.

  1. Context. Every situation is different. The ability to "read the tea leaves" to understand the situation is imperative to become familiar with the culture of the community and the ability to attract leaders. We through that in a city of several transplants moving into the area, that this wouldn't matter.  We were wrong
  1. Connect.  You need time to connect with new people, develop relationships, and build trust, especially f you're trying to reach disconnected people far from God and church. If you cannot attract new people within three months of your launch process, even if its a new worship experience, then reevaluate and don't continue to ignore the data. 
  1. Facilities/Funding. Location. Location. Location. Several church plants in our area were beginning in schools. Our challenge was that only two schools were on the main road in the city. We had to find a space to meet and settled on the movie theater in the popular shopping center. This facility was slightly more expensive than the schools. Buildings are essential, but shouldn't be so cost prohibited that it stresses us. There's a balance between facilities and funding since for some people in our churches, and the physical building is the church what connects them to the people.
  1. Adaptability. It would be best if you tapped into a wide range of your experiences, both personal and professional transferable skills to help you be flexible. The rate of technological and cultural change dictates that what worked yesterday, will not work today. Note: There was a time in our churches where all that was required to get people to attend was to open the doors on Sundays. Wednesday night suppers were a standard as most businesses in small towns closed at noon, and eating out was a luxury. Now, people eat out so much that there's a growing generation who uses the microwave the way our grandparents used the oven.
  1. Aligned Decision-Making. You need be able to make the hard decisions that narrow your focus. Mission and not preferences drive everything. This factor is probably one of the most difficult for pastors/leaders to embody, but without it, you will suffer from so many "pet projects" of trying to do everything without doing anything well.
Not passing all five of these factors caused me to detour from my routine. In whiplash-like fashion, I closed the church a little before the full-time launch and immediately appointed to another church. Like the time that passed from my niece's birth to graduation, things happened so quickly that I didn't have time to discern “what’s next?”
It took me the first eighteen months in the new church appointment to grieve the detour from my routine. I didn't have the luxury of taking time off, and the demands of a large church were consuming. When I was finally able to navigate this detour,  the Bishop asked me to take my current appointment as District Superintendent.
Once again, I was entering a detour from my routine as my way of life as an executive pastor was ending, and something new was beginning. With the help of several pastors and churches from the District, I'm in the process of navigating this new detour. May is the month of detours from our routines. Where's your detour taking you?
On the Journey,


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