Orienting Off The Map

Jul 8, 2020

“In uncharted territory, adaption is everything. Adaptive challenges require learning, facing loss and negotiating the gaps of our values and actions. The central leadership practice for uncharted territory: start with conviction, stay calm, stay connected, and stay the course.” Tod Bolsinger, Canoeing the Mountains

The plan was coming together. We were anticipating a move to multi-site for years and the time was right. We set aside funds and developed an initial timeline. We had a map and we had guides. We read books. We went to conferences. We consulted experienced multi-site leaders and churches.

In February 2020, Donnie Williams and Toney Salva came to Zanesville, OH and spent time leading a multi-site intensive session with the leaders of North Terrace Church of Christ. Through meetings with elders and extended time with our staff leaders we learned principles and models of multi-site that we could adapt to our context in a city of 30,000 and a semi-rural setting. The experience and wisdom of these Stadia leaders shaped our thinking, prepared our hearts, and coached us in practical ways. We received a rich catalogue of resources to organize and plan a multi-site launch and strategy. We were on our way to our first additional campus in the fall of 2021.

A few weeks later we took our team to Exponential and focused on the multi-site track along with training in multiplication strategies. We were filling the tank of ideas and resources and getting ready to set fully in motion a plan to reach ONE MORE by multiplying our gathering into surrounding communities.

Then came the coronavirus. In days our plans were outdated and our focus became stabilization and survival. Vision went from looking months and even years ahead to one week at a time. Energy was budgeted for the immediate and crucial need. We were off the map of what we knew and were walking in a pioneer season.

But we didn’t lose sight of the goal. To reach ONE MORE.

And we began to ponder what God might be doing in this new context rich with unforeseen opportunities. Key conversations in our previous preparation took on new significance as we prayed and considered what could be possible. What if God was taking our simple and manageable plan and inviting us into something only He could do if we would join Him?

Toney and Donnie continued to share the journey with us as voices of wisdom and connected us to other leaders experiencing the same challenges and opportunities. Through ZOOM calls with other leaders and lots of online communication we have been able to see more clearly what is possible and how to lead our North Terrace church family into a new chapter of pursuing God’s ONE MORE.

Our initial multi-site planning with the Stadia consultants gave us the tools and strategies to multiply the gathering and work of the Zanesville community of North Terrace and we are now preparing to launch two additional gatherings in the coming weeks and possible two more as opportunity arises and leadership is ready. How great is our God that He has taken a dream of one additional campus and now we could be three or more? We’re already celebrating what is happening and are anticipating many ONE MORE’s coming to know Jesus!

In the season of not being able to gather each week we’ve discovered and learned new ways to lead and disciple our people. The Stadia Phygital Learning Community meets weekly with Stadia leaders facilitating ongoing learning from national leaders who speak from hard earned experience.  Then cohorts of Church leaders process and apply what was shared and is working in their contexts.

We’re learning how to use digital tools and strategies to support and enhance our plan to multiply our gatherings. While ideas we’re using: watch parties, micro-churches, and online campus are not new, they are new to us. Stadia has connected us to people experienced in using these methods to share the hope of God’s kingdom with the world and have saved us from making critical mistakes and coached us to make good choices.

I am grateful for Stadia’s leadership during this season of disruption. They sprang into action to support Church leaders and began to answer the important questions with us as we each worked to accomplish God’s mission. From encouragement and support for our souls and spiritual health to tactical and practical strategies the Stadia team has been a vital resources for our church and many others.

Stadia is helping us live out the reality of Abraham Lincoln’s message to congress in December of 1862 in the midst of the Civil War: “Still the question recurs “can we do better?” The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty , and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.”

Chris Steele serves as Lead Minister at North Terrace Church of Christ in Zanesville, OH. He is celebrating 25 years of marriage to Tonya and has two sons, Jonah and Levi. Chris has partnered with Stadia with a church plant in Columbia, served on a management team for a new church plant in Fort Wayne, IN and participated in multiple Stadia trips and gatherings through the years.

Chris Steele

Lead Minister, North Terrace Church of Christ - Zanesville, OH