Iron Sharpening Iron
In 2013, Phil Varley and I were having a breakfast meeting with Rich Nathan, who at that time (Rich has since retired) was leading the largest Vineyard church in the USA, in Columbus, Ohio. Rich is a gifted church leader, and we were looking forward to seeing what we could learn from him.
The conversation started well, and I was certain he had been pretty impressed by what we had told him about King’s so far. He then asked us about our planning cycle. When did we set annual goals, and how did we ensure all our staff were on board with these? I confidently replied that in September each year we took the senior staff away for a week to discuss and plan for the year ahead. He immediately questioned this, asking why we took our key staff away at what is effectively the beginning of the church year and our busiest month. I hadn’t really thought about it before, and he definitely had a point. Rich then asked us when our budget year started. He was clearly surprised when I told him it ran from April to March. ‘So,’ he said, ‘your budget cycle is decoupled from your church year and planning cycle.’ Phil and I knew we were out of our depth.
That breakfast meeting with Rich was a humbling experience, but very helpful. Following that morning, we went away and adjusted our planning and financial year to run from September to August. We now take the senior staff team away in May, to seek God and begin to plan for the church year starting in September. In fact we have just returned from this year’s trip, which we spent as usual at the home of Paul and Charlotte Braithwaite (former members of King’s) in rural France. Being away with the team is beneficial in so many ways. It gives us time and space to pray and seek God together. We can have extended discussions, which we aren't always able to do in a normal, busy week. It also has the added benefit of allowing us to enjoy Charlotte’s outstanding cooking! We had a very fruitful few days last week, and I will be sharing more with the church at our Vision Sunday in September.
It is good to meet leaders who are ahead of you. Proverbs 27:17 says, ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.’ I had expected to learn something from Rich Nathan, but hadn’t expected a short breakfast meeting to result in such a radical and beneficial change to how we did things at King’s. I have always enjoyed spending time with people who are more knowledgeable and experienced than I am. I have been in pastoral ministry for over 30 years and am now in my 60s, but I hope I will always retain an openness to learn from others.