<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=2300026853549930&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
Skip to content
Staff Health

2023 Word of the Year

2022 was a year of exposing weaknesses in the foundations of many of our institutions.

New Year
Over the last several years, it has become trendy to have a theme word when entering the new year. I am nothing if not trendy, so I figure that I should play along as well. As I look ahead to 2023, my word of the year will be "foundation."

Let me explain. I believe that 2022 was a year of exposing weaknesses in the foundations of many of our institutions:
  • Southwest Airlines: A formerly formidable and much-loved company experienced an utter meltdown in the waning days of 2022. As the layers were peeled back, it became clear that the culprit was years of neglecting the foundational systems needed to run an airline properly.
  • Jackson, Mississippi: After years of delayed maintenance and underfunding, the city of Jackson, Mississippi, experienced a flood that caused a meltdown in its water system. While it is easy to blame the flood, this was simply the trigger event needed to bring down the whole system as its foundation was rotting away. We have seen more and more of these issues over the last few years, so if this one isn't your cup of tea, we can look at the Texas power grid failure, the collapse of the Surfside towers in south Florida, or any of a number of recent bridge collapses. 
  • George Santos: Let's set aside party preferences for a minute and just admit that this was a spectacular failure on the part of Santos's party to properly vet their candidate, the opposition party to dig into the background of their opponent, and the ability of our local media to investigate political candidates. Add to this a culture that encourages people to pursue a platform instead of character, and we have seen a version of this story repeatedly. Don't like Santos for this? How about Sam Bankman-Fried or Elizabeth Holmes?
Now, I may be oversimplifying things a bit, but I am convinced that in each of these situations, there was a failure in the very foundations of our systems that caused the problem. Upgrades and maintenance are costly, unpopular, and not very sexy... so they get delayed. Background checks and detailed investigations are expensive and may not result in anything of interest... so they are done halfway, if at all. And in the end, disaster strikes.

And while we may not like to admit it, we've experienced much of this in the church of late.

Let's be honest, the last few years have been about survival, haven't they? 2020 can best be described as a dumpster fire on a train wreck. We weathered multiple storms where we were wrong on every decision we made (at least in the mind of the very vocal minority). We made unpopular decisions on opening or closing, vaccines or no vaccines, racial unrest, and a contentious election. 2021 saw a ton of pastors leaving the ministry. The political infighting continued, and churches struggled through a new reality of significantly declining attendance and a lack of volunteer engagement. We witnessed a bunch of exhaustion and some moral failures. It was a tough year. 2022 saw the beginnings of a return to health in our pastors, but a contentious election season combined with a Church-wide decline in giving put us all on edge.

That brings us to January of 2023. The year of foundations.

We have spent the last few years holding on for dear life, innovating on the fly, and riding out storm after storm. Now it is time to step back and reflect on what we have learned, what systems have served us well, and what we need to let go of. It is time to take a serious look at the foundations of our church and our own souls. And start working to shore them up.

In many ways, this will be quiet, costly, and unglamorous work... but it is essential for us as we minister in this new landscape.

As I apply this to the work we do at Chemistry, it means that we are doubling down on our core values of loving the local church, championing church leaders, leading with generosity, and putting the Kingdom first. 
  • It means that we will continue to provide industry-leading candidate care while strengthening the way that we serve those who are in transition.
  • It means that we continue to find the best fit for our churches while improving our process for finding the right candidates.
  •  It means that the needs of the Kingdom dictate our business priorities and that we renew our commitment to being a company with a triple bottom line where we seek to better the lives of our candidates and strengthen churches while we make a profit. 

As I apply this at the church where I serve, our focus has become to instill five things into the lives of those who call our church home:
  • A non-anxious presence.
  • Classically orthodox theology.
  • Faith that is integrated into every aspect of their lives.
  • A desire to place the needs of the community above personal wants.
  • Generosity.
We believe that this is a return to what we are called to at our church. And while we will still do crazy stuff with our youth and work to create an environment that is welcoming to those who don't yet know Jesus, we are committed to doing the quiet work of discipleship that instills those five things into the life of our congregation.

As I apply this to myself, I realize that it is time for me to devote time to my own foundation:
  • Re-engage a healthy rhythm of work, play, and sabbath. 
  • Be strategic about how I use my calendar so that I can focus more on matters that are important but not urgent.
  • Be more intentional about pausing to listen to God, to Theresa, to my friends, and to Nellie (our greyhound). 
As we all lean into the year before us, I pray that this will be a year of growth, health, and setting healthy boundaries for each of us. I pray that you will set aside the time to inspect your foundations, shore them up, and do the hard and unglamorous work that is so required to do sustainable ministry in the days to come. 

I'm grateful for the work that you do, for your sacrifices, and for your commitment to the gospel.


Matt Steen

Matt Steen

Matt has served the local church for over two decades as a youth pastor, church planter, and executive pastor. Originally from Baltimore, Matt currently lives in Orlando, with his wife Theresa, and has a B.S. in Youth Ministry from Nyack College and an M.Div. and MBA from Baylor University. Certified as an Urban Church Planter Coach by Redeemer City to City and as a StratOp facilitator by the Paterson Center, Matt has made a career of helping churches thrive through intentionality, clarity, and creating healthy cultures. He is convinced that a healthy church is led by a healthy team with great chemistry, and loves partnering with Chemistry’s churches to do great things for the Kingdom.

Latest Resources

Trapped, Burned Out, and No Time Off: Finding Hope When Ministry Feels Hopeless

Trapped, Burned Out, and No Time Off: Finding Hope When Ministry Feels Hopeless

Struggling with feeling trapped or burned out in your ministry role? Discover how to acknowledge your feelings, seek support, and explore n...

Apply Now! Senior Pastor in Stoughton, MA

Apply Now! Senior Pastor in Stoughton, MA

Faith Baptist Church of Stoughton, MA is in search of a Senior Pastor to lead a diverse congregation towards spiritual growth and service.

The Last Word: Lessons from the Deathbed for Living a Life of Love and Forgiveness

The Last Word: Lessons from the Deathbed for Living a Life of Love and Forgiveness

Explore the profound impact of expressing love and forgiveness in our final words, uncovering insights that will inspire you to prioritize ...