Leadership in a Time of Crisis

Leadership in a Time of Crisis

A Conversation about Coronavirus, Crisis, and Relaunching Church

At Station 19 Architects, we value teamwork. We want to partner with churches, listen to their needs, and help them move in the right direction. It's not about what we want to do; it's about what's best in their exact situation. Jared Carlson, the senior pastor at GracePoint Church in New Brighton, MN, and his team partnered with Station 19 Architects several months ago to help them begin to navigate the facility planning and construction process. As their project began to build momentum, a shelter-in-place order put a stop to everything. We caught up with Jared to ask him about what this process has been like for him, his team, and his church.

How do you keep your passion for leading in the midst of this?

I continue to keep my eyes upward as much as possible. I lean heavily into the scriptures and remind myself that God is sovereign and His ways are much higher than my ways. I also do my best to remember that this isn’t about me. Whatever we accomplish at GracePoint – from new building designs to a soul being saved – is always and only a work of the Spirit. But in addition to all of this, I firmly believe that every opportunity is a chance to learn, grow, and even further our faith. So, do I get weary when things don’t go ‘as planned?’ I certainly do. But only when I keep my eyes on Jesus, and realize His good and perfect ways, do I find the strength to keep moving forward.

How have you helped keep your team motivated and re-direct attention from a larger project or master plan to something different?

Our church was literally at the starting line of our building project when this crisis hit. We had just launched our capital campaign a few weeks before churches were shut down. We created good momentum, achieved a unifying vision to synthesize our space with the direction of our ministry, settled on a construction and design plan with Station 19 Architects, and began the steady, exciting, and hopeful journey toward our building project.

Obviously, everything is different now. Currently, we are considering several different options for when we may restart the capital campaign. The change in trajectory and shift in momentum for us has meant a renewed commitment to following God’s leading for our community. We are currently looking at our design and flow - or “low hanging fruit.“ We’re thinking about adjusting our existing space and investing in design concepts that will bring our gathering spaces to life and keep us connected with each other and with God.

What shifts have your team been planning for?

Our primary focus is on creating a ministry space for our online ‘digital’ community. We have discovered over these past 3 months that we have expanded our community, and while we will eventually gather together regularly in a real, physical space, many of our new attendees will still be online. We’re attempting to create improved dynamics to our aesthetic and video production, as well as considering what ministry – like small groups – looks like on an exclusively online platform.

How are you planning to return to on-site gatherings, and will you continue to offer your online option?

As we return to on-site gatherings, we will continue with our online options. Not only will we continue to live stream our Sunday services, but we even hope to maintain our online devotions…perhaps even expand to offer other online teaching opportunities. It’s a fun new ‘world’ to be working in.

How have you been staying connected as a church body?

We had always talked about making ourselves more accessible online, more connected in the digital space and more intentional in our efforts to be “relevant” in the digital world. It was always just a matter of timing, budgets, and priority. The three of those rarely align. But then urgency dictated our next steps.

But in addition to our improved online platform, we also took steps to stay connected to our community through social media platforms – like Facebook and Instagram. We also gathered a team of volunteers to call through our entire directory. We did two full rounds of calls which allowed us to stay in touch, see how everyone was doing, and what ways we could come alongside of them during this unique season of time. We also had our Children’s Ministry provide online content to families; and our children participated in a ‘pen pal’ program where kids would write notes to our seniors living in closed-in care facilities. My own daughter wrote multiple times to the same lady – and I know this was a huge bright spot during this time.

What is the feedback you’ve received about gathering again? – Do people want to? Are you hearing anxiety? Both?

Definitely both. This crisis has revealed that even within our close-knit church community, and even within the much more concentrated group of our leadership team, we are full of differences of opinion. There is no shortage of ideas about what’s best, what’s wise, what’s in the best interest of our people and our community. As we prepare to gather together and whatever it looks like over the coming weeks and months, we are working through a series of major decisions (and plenty of mundane ones) to try to make our space and our programs work in this new reality. Some say it’s too soon. Some say it’s not. In all of it, we’re trying to navigate forward with the same dependence on Jesus that we've had up until this moment of this season of ministry.

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Jared Carlson serves as the Senior Pastor of GracePoint Church in New Brighton, Minnesota. He has  been in JaredCarlsonministry for 20 years, serving in multiple roles through the years at GracePoint, and as  their senior pastor for the last 9 years. He also is the vice president of Christian Ministries  International, where he speaks and teaches on a variety of worldview, apologetic, and evangelism-focused topics. His ministry opportunities have taken him to 19 countries on four continents, speaking at mission and pastors' conferences, as well as churches and camp retreats. He is a graduate of Bethel University and Bethel Seminary. 

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