All posts by Bryce Ashlin-Mayo

Five Things For The Church To Focus On This Summer

With the country coming out of lockdown (hopefully) and emerging into a new normal, the following are five things to focus on and plan towards as we enter the summer months.

Congregational Connections

Take the time and intentionally invest in connecting personally with everyone in your church over the summer.  We have done this regularly throughout the pandemic and will do so again over the spring/summer months.  Every household in our church will get a fun delivery (around our theme), a call from our congregational care team, and a call from one of our pastors.  Although this is a big investment of time (obviously done differently depending on your church size and context), it has been key to helping people stay connected, cared for, and has been a huge encouragement to our pastors, callers, and connectors.  In a season without casual in-person conversations, this is vital to keeping your community connected and cared for.

Embrace Fun

As a leader, I sense a strong narrative vacuum entering the summer and intentionally plan to fill that void with something constructive and positive (the problem with vacuums is that something will fill it – good leaders know this and are proactive at shaping and filling them).  In stark contrast to the negative narratives existing in the cultural ether and to build on the growing sense of enthusiasm and excitement of loosening restrictions, I want our church to be organizationally prepared with things exuding fun, excitement, and momentum as we move into the summer.  It takes planning and almost a sixth sense of where we are going to be, so you can be prepared to meet that space with your plans.  I have a strong sense that there will be excitement as we hit the summer and renewed optimism after a long Covid winter.  As a result, we will be cultivating lots of fun in our church.  We have a fun theme, missional activities to help our people connect with their neighbours, fun gathering events (that we can execute regardless of restrictions), and lots of levity planned.

Connected with the above, I also think people are starved for group celebrations.  We have gone over a year without birthday, anniversary, graduation, etc. celebrations.  Lean into celebrating this summer and into the fall.  Budget more for this and do more than you have ever done.  People are starved for it!  Celebrate everything you can think of and have fun doing it.

Evaluation and Planning

Take the summer to evaluate and plan for the fall.  This fall calls for proactive strategic thinking.  You only have so much time and resources.  How you deploy budget, ministry, staff, communication resources and volunteers is crucial.  Take time to think this out with several scenarios (depending on restrictions, etc.).  Additionally, consider your online ministry and its future.  Don’t lose all the gains you have made in this Covid season.  Intentionally grow these areas and do it in a way that works in tandem with your in-person ministry.  This will be key to the future of flourishing churches in our new normal.  To aid in this, I created a free online ministry evaluation guide that you can use with your team.  View/download it here.

Connect with Your Neighbourhood

In the last year, people have moved, readjusted routines, and reconsidered their priorities.  As a result, people are in a unique space to consider church and this aspect of their life.  There may be people who have moved into your community and are now looking for a church, there may be people who are now rethinking the need for God in their life and want to re-engage with a faith community for them and their family, etc.  Invest this summer in communicating to your surrounding community that you exist and care about them.  Embrace a season of invitation both corporately through your communication and advertising strategy but also encourage and empower your people to invite their friends and neighbours (some of which will be new over the last 18 months).


After the most challenging ministry season of our generation, be sure to rest over the summer.  Take all your holidays, slow down, and be sure to care for yourself and have others care for you.  I wrote about this and the unique season ahead in my previous post.  Don’t underestimate the precarious and dangerous season ahead.  Church leadership is hard.  You are often leading on the ledge alone while calling people to a place they don’t want to go.  This is why God gives some the spiritual gift of leadership.  If you have this gift, the church needs you in this next season.  It is time to lead your church into its future with great purpose and persistent hope.

Bring on the summer!

This summer will be unique in the life of your church.  Lean into it, make the best of it, and care for yourself as you do. Bring on the summer!

Beware the Journey Down

An Open Letter to Pastors

Dear Pastor,

You are almost to the end of the pandemic!  Praise God! 

Although we haven’t summited Covid Mountain quite yet, the peak is in sight.  During the weeks and months ahead, we reach the summit and begin the journey down.  As we do, I want to remind you of a lesson that all professional climbers need to be reminded of and one with potentially serious consequences:  Beware the journey down!

For all professional climbers, the allure of the summit is intoxicating.  They train hard, push harder and expend an exorbitant amount of energy to conquer the mountain.  With the expenditure of all remaining energy coupled with a lack of oxygen, climbers are at their most vulnerable during their descent.  This is why many accidents and deaths happen on the journey down.

I believe the same danger and truth exists for every pastor at this stage of the pandemic.  At the start of Covid with shutdowns and restrictions, there was the initial stress of adjusting, changing, preparing and pivoting.  Accompanying the stress was an adrenaline surge that fueled innovation and change.  Like the first phase of any climbing expedition, it was filled with a combination of exhilaration and trepidation.  In addition, like most immediate crisis moments, everyone rallied at the start.  However, as the journey carried on and now that we are close to the summit, everyone is exhausted, tired, and frustrated (even if they don’t know or acknowledge it).  As a result, we are at the most perilous part of the journey.

I regularly talk with pastors and denominational leaders from across North America and the consistent theme I am hearing is that pastors are exhausted.  Constant pivots, impact on the family, the weight of leading teams, and the responsibility of shepherding congregations from a digital distance have been difficult.  It has taken everything to get to the summit.  As we reach the peak of Covid Mountain I want to offer encouragement and warning as we enter the most dangerous section of the journey.  As you summit, celebrate God’s faithfulness in the ascent, recognized the impact of this last season on you and acknowledge the temptations and challenges ahead for the descent. 

As you prepare for the journey down, take a look and take stock.  Like all summiteers of mountains, look back, taking in the view and give thanks. Praise God for all He has done (in your life and in your church).  Write a list of all God has done in your life and in your church (do this personally and with your team). God has been faithful and has been working. You have learned new skills, your church has tried new things, you have learned key lessons and God has produced much fruit.  Take stock and give thanks!

Next, turn your attention to your descent and prepare yourself for the journey down.

As you descend, be aware of your vulnerability to react rather than respond.  When your energy levels are depleted, you will tend to impulsively react to situations and people rather than thoughtfully respond.  You have probably already seen this in yourself or others.  Be cognizant of this in your life, rest more, offer yourself grace, connect with friends, pray frequently, and press into your relationship with Jesus (the head of the church) in this season ahead.

As you descend, be aware of your increased susceptibility to sin.  The pain, frustration, and exhaustion of this season may lead you to unhealthy self-medicating through distraction and/or destructive actions.  Seasons like this turn flaws into fractures where the evil one finds footholds in our lives.  Recognize your increased susceptibility to this during the descent, keep short accounts, and find a trusted friend or counsellor to share your hurts, frustrations, and pain.

As you descend, be aware of the temptation to look for transition as a solution.  It could be that a change in roles, churches or careers might be the right decision but, in most cases during this season, it is not.  Transition away from something rather than to something is rarely a good decision.  Mountain climbers who experience mental and physical exhaustion on the descent can simply give up rather than find help or hope to carry on.  May you know, in advance, of this potential and choose to persevere and ask for help.

Recognize that this last year has been one of added pressures, making public health decisions for your church, increased critiques of you as a leader, and feeling incompetent at your “pivoted” role.  As a result, it may have led to experiences of anxiety and depression.  Don’t ignore this but seek help.  Find a professional counsellor (Clergy Care Network has great referrals) and work through the feelings, experiences and trauma you have experienced.  Don’t neglect this!  This has been helpful and healing for me at significant moments in my life and I know it will be for you!

As you prepare for the descent, ask yourself how you are really doing and enter the path ahead with an increased awareness that the greatest challenge and risk of this season is ahead and not behind you.  Beware the journey down!

Take a look from the summit to see what God had done but also recognize that the journey down will be precarious.  Watch your step, trust in Jesus, and take it one step at a time.

With you on the journey,

Bryce Ashlin-Mayo

Smashing the Wall of the Covid Leadership Marathon

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV 

If you have been following this blog through the pandemic, you read early about the need to treat this like a marathon rather than a sprint.  What we didn’t know at the time was that it would be an ultramarathon.  If you are like many in this ultramarathon of a pandemic, you are probably begun to feel an overwhelming sense of exhaustion and perhaps you have “hit the wall.”

Long-distance runners know the phenomenon of “hitting the wall.”  Hitting the wall usually occurs at the last portion of a long race when the body has depleted its storied glycogen and it begins (both physically and mentally) to shut down.  The body experiences sudden fatigue and the mind (partially due to a physiological reaction) is filled with negative thoughts, crippling self-doubt, and a strong compulsion to giving up.

Pushing through the wall takes mental fortitude and intentional planning.  I am not a marathon runner, but I know runners do several things to mentally and physically prepare and push through the wall.  As we run the Covid leadership ultramarathon, we are now at the “Hit the Wall” moment and I want to share some thoughts on smashing the Covid leadership wall and successfully completing the race set before us.

Unravel your Entanglements

In this marathon leadership season, you have probably experienced two common entanglements.  First, your flaws may have turned into fractures and sin may have gotten a foothold in your life.  Difficult seasons do this.  As the author of Hebrews reminds us, sin easily entangles and prevents us from running the race.  Sin will prevent you from thriving in this season and it can prevent you from completing the race.  Take time for self-reflection and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any entanglements of sin that have wound themselves around you.  Perhaps you are struggling with jealousy, gossip, pride, pornography, lying, etc.  Whatever it may be, confess it to God and another trusted person.  Seek help if needed from a trusted friend or a professional counsellor.  Untangling ourselves often needs the help of a friend.

This season has probably raised the awareness of the common entanglement in church leadership.  The entanglement of one’s ministry, vocational role, and personal life.  Being a pastor is a unique job and career.  As a pastor, your friends, work, and church are all the same group of people and one’s work and life can become so intertwined that it is hard to distinguish one sphere from the other.  Marathon seasons can pull the cord that entangles these spheres tighter, making it very difficult to unravel our identity from our ministry and vocation.  Take time in the coming days to intentionally embrace your foundational identity as a child of God, find something and someone outside of your entangled sphere to help you unwind from the pressure it can cause and the confusion it creates. 

Feed Lots and Keep Hydrated

Runners know the importance of feeding your body before and during the race.  There is truth for pastors and church leaders here.  If you sense the wall is approaching and you are feeling depleted, eat and fuel your body, mind, and soul!  Intentionally consume energy-rich nutrients…even if do you don’t feel like it.  Feed your soul in ways that work for you: read the Scriptures, read books, connect with friends, go for walks, embrace a hobby, laugh often, do puzzles, play an instrument, etc.  Feed your soul and drink deep the love of God for the journey ahead.

Pace Yourself

Marathon runners will tell you the importance of pacing yourself.  If you are like most leaders, the beginning of the pandemic was powered by adrenaline and you probably pushed hard.  Really hard!  Granted, you didn’t know how long this would go on for and, thus, you probably didn’t pace yourself.  If you are feeling like you have no gas in the tank for the final stretch, I would urge you to slow down, and, if needed, even take a break.  It is better to complete the race walking than to end the race in injury or burned out in exhaustion.  As we approach the summer, there is wisdom in keeping the ministry momentum going for your church, but it is also vital to slow down and rest for the final stretch as you hit the Fall.  Pace yourself!

Rediscover Your Why and Persevere

One of the things that high-performance athletes do is visualize the race/event/game/match and the act of winning.  In many ways, they are both preparing their mind for the decisions that will need to be made but also reminding themselves of the why (crossing the finish line and experiencing the feeling of victory and accomplishment).  When runners hit the wall, their bodies begin to shut down and send signals to the brain to give up.  As a result, breaking through the wall is not just a physical feat but a mental one.  It takes mental fortitude to temporarily ignore the impulse to quit. 

The key to persevering and pushing through the wall is to remember the why (or in our case, it is also the who – Jesus – by fixing our eyes on Him) and to temporarily ignore the voice that says to give up now, it is too difficult, and it isn’t worth doing.  Amid the intense and ongoing pressure, you may feel the impulse to quit and give up.  There is wisdom in temporarily ignoring that impulse and push through the wall.  If needed, tell yourself that you will listen to this voice after you have processed this Covid season but, for now, you are intentionally deciding to not give in and to persevere.   Perhaps God is calling you on to do something else.  He may well be.  But there is wisdom in waiting until we are done the race to determine this and discern if this is truly God’s desire.  Until then, press on and smash the wall!

Run the Race

My encouragement to you as a colleague in ministry is to run the race set before you and smash the Covid leadership wall.  Don’t listen to the voice that may be calling at you to prematurely quit.  Rather, fix your eyes on Jesus, unravel your entanglements, fuel up, pace yourself and rediscover your why. 

Digital (Online) Ministry Evaluation Guide

As Spring approaches and the 2020/21 ministry year comes to an end, it may be tempting to turn the page on this unique Covid ministry year and not look back.  Yet, in the midst of this unique year, there are countless important lessons to learn, new competencies to cultivate and fresh opportunities to explore. 

Whether the Fall of 2021 will be a post-Covid new normal or whether we will still be under increased restrictions (due to new variants or some unforeseen wrinkle in the vaccine distribution), it is vital to stop, take stock, give thanks and evaluate the past ministry year with both a wide and long lens into the future.

We need to look into the future with a wide lens. 

Digital ministry is not just about streaming your weekly in-person worship services!  Its implications are much wider and it’s potential much greater (especially for expressions of community and opportunities for outreach). Most churches moved online in the pandemic in a bit of an understandable panic and didn’t really consider the uniqueness of digital culture.  As a result, our methodologies and missiologies were not well-formed and effectiveness suffered.  As you begin planning forward, recognize the world has forever been reshaped (we took 10 years of inevitable change and crammed it into a year) and we need to adapt accordingly.  As you continue to serve your church and community, it is vital that you consider the “why” and the “how” of online ministry rather than simply adding a camera and live streaming your in-person ministry activity.

We need to look at the future with a long lens.

If digital ministry last year was largely motivated by a crisis, its future must be carefully considered for long-term impact and effective implementation.  We are in the midst of the digital revolution and although many things we did in-person are going to have an understandable resurgence, it will level out to a new hybrid-normal for most things in society.  In the same way that people will learn and work in more hybrid ways, they will also engage that way in church. Thus, it is vital to recognize that digital (online) ministry was not just a pandemic necessity but will become a long-term reality in part or in whole. 

Digital (Online) Ministry Evaluation

To aid in this evaluative process, I created the Digital (Online) Ministry Evaluation Guide to help you do just that.  It is designed to help you reflect on the effectiveness of your digital ministry, what you need to stop doing, what you need to keep doing and how to make what you continue to do more effective in the future.

Some of the content in the evaluation form is based on the content of my book “Digital Mission: A Practical Guide for Ministry Online” and the  Both of these resources will help you and your church, ministry or organization think and adapt to the digital future.

To facilitate your evaluation, use the free pdf download as a guide for individual reflection or for an upcoming staff meeting/retreat as a way to spark conversation and ignite change.  Don’t let this last year go by in vain but rather use it as a catalyst for ministry/mission advancement.

Download the FREE evaluation guide here:

Taming Your Problems; Saddling Your Challenges

A Season of Stampeding Problems

This is a season of stampeding problems that can seem like they are charging us on every side.  In a season of intense pressure, it is important to consider how to effectively process problems, so they don’t trample you.

Like many people, I have been binge-watching several TV series.  One of my recent favourites is Yellowstone.  Yellowstone stars Kevin Costner and is a cross between Bonanza and Sons of Anarchy.  In addition to its anti-hero protagonist and cliff-hanger episode endings, it has you secretly wanting to build a cabin and train horses (this is, literally, the life of my dad).

One of the narrative devices, metaphors, and subplots of the show is the process of taking a wild horse and breaking it, so that it is able to be ridden and, in the hands of an expert equestrian, do astonishing things.

This image is well suited for seasons of immense and relentless pressures.

What does it look like to tame our problems and saddle our challenges with a tenacious hope in God and the empowering of the Holy Spirit?

Confining the Problem

Like wild horses, the first step in taming problems is to corral them.  In a season of stampeding problems, this can seem harrowing but it vital.  If you are feeling overwhelmed with people issues, conflict situations, regathering protocols and family matters, it is important to separate them.  Problems, like wild horses, stampede together.  Take time to list (corral) them by naming them. Problems, like a herd of wild horses, are less overwhelming and dangerous when they are separated and corralled.

One of the benefits of corralling your problems is that it is easier to separate them with fences in your mind.  If you find yourself being stalked by your problems while you are trying to sleep or being present with your family, corral them on paper.  Once you have listed and separated your problems, create appointments with them.  This way you know when you will pick them up again. 

Challenges are Tamed Problems

Now that you have corralled your problems, it is time to tame them into opportunities.  Like breaking a wild horse, it can be risky, but it can also be rewarding. Persistence and perseverance are fundamental in this process.  You have to face your problems to break them.  It is vital to face each problem individually and find a way to reframe it into a challenge.  One of the main differences between problems and challenges is how you see them ending.  For each of your problems, face them head-on.  List what you are afraid of, what all the possible outcomes are and what the risks are.  Then, intentionally, reframe each of them into a challenge by prayerfully seeing what God could do in each.  A challenge is just a problem tamed with hope.  Tame your problems into challenges by pulling yourself into the future with a persistent hope in Jesus.

Opportunities are Saddled Challenges

Now that you have tamed your problems into challenges, it is time to saddle them into opportunities.  Consider how each challenge can be an opportunity for God to work in your life, someone else’s life, your ministry/church, etc. and begin to act your way into them with this perspective.  Our hope is not in the removal of the problem but in God’s work through them.  Consequently, don’t see problems as obstacles to be avoided but as opportunities to explore.  Saddle your challenges into opportunities by praying your way through them with a persistent hope in what God can do.

The Journey Ahead

On occasion, I have had the privilege to go horseback riding in the mountains.  It is an amazing experience.  Not only is the settling amazing but the fact that you are journeying on the back of a once untamed horse is a marvel.  Riding a horse on a trail near a cliff edge is a poignant image of someone who has learned to corral their problems and saddle their challenges. They know that there will always be problems and, as a result, there will always be opportunities. Thus, the wisdom here is not to make all the problems go away (avoid them or ignoring them) but learn how to tame and saddle them as they take you into the wide frontier ahead!

In an unprecedented season of problems, may we learn with God’s help to corral, tame, saddle, and ride them into the future with a tenacious hope in Jesus.  The frontier is calling, and Jesus is leading us on.