Category Archives: Church

Trends in Church Technology

I was able to teach a session on Trends in Church Technology at the 2017 Total Church Life Conference on August 19th in Baton Rouge. Here are notes from the session: 

churchtechWhy Technology Matters to churches?

  • Systems Matter – technology provides us with great systems that run beneath the surface and save time, energy, and resources. 
  • Deliver the Gospel to more people, more regularly – technology can help us with our main mission of delivering the gospel to everyone in our communities and world. 
  • Relevance – The language of the next generation is found in technology and social media. When we allow them to engage their faith in that language, we serve them well. 

“The technological revolution we’ve seen in churches over the past 30 years is staggering. What’s even more remarkable is the speed at which technology in the church continues to improve.” – Jonathan Howe (Read Jonathan’s great article on Church and Technology Trends HERE). 

Technologies Every Church Can and Should Consider:

1. Digital Communication Options – Connecting your church through texting and social media is essential. Examples: 

  • Email services like Mailchimp allows your emails to have a wider reach.
  • Facebook pages for publicity and closed groups for coordinating and inspiring leaders. 
  • Texting is the preferred way for many to receive communication these days. Check out Textinchurch.com or subscriber services like Remind.

2. Cloud Based Church Management Systems – The church directory is now in your hand. Cloud based means the management of the churches directory, giving, and even bookkeeping is no longer on one computer in the church office, but can be a collaborative tool throughout the leadership community. Check out this article from ChurchTechToday.com that compares the 20 Top Management Systems. Our church has used Church Office Online and now Planning Center for great functionality in volunteer management. 

3. Digital Giving Options – Online giving and now text giving can increase your churches giving by 25%. Multiple ways to give are necessary to reach new generations of givers who don’t know what a checkbook is and carry little cash. Check out our churches letter 5 Ways to Give at Bridge Church that is sent out with Quarterly Contribution statement and imagine the possibilities. Most church management systems have digital giving connections or clients that they work with. I’ve also heard good things about Tithely. Here’s a good article sponsored by them about trends in giving today

4. Computerized Child Check-In – Being on top of child safety makes you more relevant to today’s parents. It was once assumed that the church was a safe place for kids, but not anymore. Child safety is something every church must think about and plan for. Again, most church management systems have digital check in connections or clients that they work with. Here’s a good roundup of possibilities. I’ve also heard good things about Kid Check. 

5. Online Leadership Training – Years ago I heard that there were three reasons that people don’t volunteer at your church or why volunteers quit: 1) I don’t have time. 2) I didn’t feel appreciated. 3) I don’t know how. Today, instead of calling another meeting, leadership training is a few clicks away through services like MinistryGrid.com, Trainedup.org, and Rightnow Media. You can still direct and lead people’s training experience through selecting the right videos and clips for your church or making your own training videos and posting them on the above mentioned sites. 

6. Live Streaming – Lights, Camera, Outreach! Live streaming can help people who travel out of town stay in touch with your church, as well as spread the message to more people in the community. No need for expensive equipment anymore. You can even live stream from an Ipad or Iphone. Using free streaming services like Facebook Live, Periscope, or pay for services like Live Stream or U-Stream. Here’s a good Beginner’s Guide to Streaming

7. Video Announcements – Control announcement times and make them memorable and relevant to new generations, as well as make them longer lasting throughout the week as they are shared via social media, web, and email. All you need is a iphone or other camera, creative people, and editing software. Our church plant early on even created an Announcement character that helped capture attention. Check out one of E-Van, the announcement specialists videos. Imagine the possibilities. There is also whispers of services that will offer this to churches in the future. 

See Jonathan Howe’s article for other future trends. Follow ChurchTechToday.com for other new technology developments helpful to the mission of the Church. Let me know if you’ve got something else up your sleeve in this regard.

Making Plans for a Big Easter

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Easter 2015 at Celebration St. Bernard

Celebration Church’s St. Bernard Campus has grown from 110 in 2009 to 485 in 2016 in weekly average attendance. Easter Sunday attendance has grown from 206 to 1,380 in that time frame, serving as a great catalyst for overall growth. Patrick Eagan, Celebration St. Bernard’s Campus Pastor, recently spent some time coaching church planters in the Baton Rouge area on how to make the most out of Easter. Get Patrick’s Notes HERE. This can serve as a great playbook for planning Easter or other Big Attendance weekends at your church. Patrick said, “Most of us will not be able to double our weekend attendance by simply praying harder and trying harder.” We need a plan! Here are a few great starter questions for planning from Patrick’s presentation:

  1. What would it look like at your church if the fullness of the power of God met the fullness of the efforts of man?
  2. If you successfully doubled your weekend attendance, would there be room for everyone?
  3. Is it possible to add worship services to your usual line up?
  4. What is the long-term growth vision for your church?
  5. What is the challenging but reasonable goal for your end of year attendance?
  6. How will you identify and follow-up with guests on Easter Sunday?
  7. What specific elements of the worship service will encourage guests to come back?
  8. What post-Easter events can we leverage guests toward?

Get the whole doc and do what you can to get ready for a big weekend of planting seeds and growing God’s kingdom. Always grateful for Celebration Church and their generosity of lessons learned and best practices.

Church Growth = Growing Friends + Growing Family

I’ve been a part of a couple of growing churches. The fun of it is having a growing number of people to call friends and then a growing number of people to call family. This is essentially a good, simple church growth strategy. Hey, let’s make more friends and let’s stick with them long enough that they become family. Scaling this to grow a church larger and larger requires intentional strategy. Nothing wrong with a small group of friends and small families. But most churches want to grow. Many pastors and most church planters want their churches to be self-sustaining and be around for future generations. So how do we grow friends and family?

1. Design systems to discover and track the number of friends your church has.

A friend is anyone that may be connected with your church or with a member of your church family. Do you know how many friends you have? In the past, we’ve called these prospects. I prefer to think of them as friends. Do you have a list of prospects / friends? Here’s some ways to discover them:

  • Have a connection card on Sunday’s that people fill out. All first time guests are added to our Friends list, so that we can pray for them, and stay in touch with them.
  • Ask people in your church to make a list of friends that don’t have a church family. List them, pray for them among the leadership, visit them, invite them.
  • Have regular events that are just designed to make new friends. Easter Egg Hunts, Fall Festivals, Movie Nights in the park, etc. Let the community know that this is a safe place to know and be known.
  • Our church uses a list we call Crowd – Congregation – Core to track where people are spiritually within our family.

2. Cast a vision and provide resources to help people in your church to make new friends.

Tim Keller said,  “In the first two centuries, mission work was informal, conversational, and largely through friendship.” I think our world could use a lot of this kind of mission work as well. What if people got a vision for expanding the kingdom through friendship and caring for those around them. Here’s some ways a church may encourage this:

  • Teach people the importance of initiating new relationships in the process of evangelism.
  • Provide resources for people to celebrate and party well within the community. Like a block party trailer with inflatables, tents, and outdoor sound equipment. Like a big BBQ pit that can be loaned out to families on the weekends for Birthday parties and neighborhood gatherings.
  • Have special friend days, designed just for people to invite new friends to church that promises a meaningful message with them in mind.

3. Design systems to lead to deeper family-like connections and commitments.

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One of the growing small groups at our church, does an annual camp out. Friendship written all over this pic. Love it!

We become family-like by sticking with each other through difficult times and awkward moments. Having systems in your church that provides meaningful connections for friends going through transitions and crisis – like moving, bringing home a new baby, experiencing loss, etc. helps develop sticky family-like connections. How do we do that?

  • Have a small group ministry where people can develop great connections where they can know and be known through good and bad seasons.
  • Have a team in your church that looks for opportunities to serve people in transition of some kind. For our church it’s the Family Support Team and the individual small groups. Care and concern make relationships sticky and family-like.

4. Move people to Commit to God’s family by Connecting them with Christ.

Our ultimate goal is not to have family-like relationships. We can do that through other organizations and relationships. We want to move people to become real spiritual family members and we do that through connecting them with the person and work of Christ.

  • Share the story of Christ at every gathering.
  • Teach people to share their story of connecting with Christ as they build friendship in the community.
  • Offer a Family Connections Class or Workshop or New Members Class that teaches people how to become real spiritual family through Christ.

Don’t focus on what you can’t do as a church. Make it simple. Friendship + Family. Every church can make new friends in their community and stick with them long enough to become family.  

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Grateful for these friends in our small group that our family is blessed to walk through life with through our church. Great stories around this table.

The Impact of Churches Under 100

61% of Louisiana Baptist churches that reported attendance in 2015, reported 100 or below (that’s 984 out of 1,624 churches). I hope every church grows larger this year, but I appreciated Dan Reiland’s recent article on The Great Value of Churches Under 100.

1) Large churches don’t appeal to everyone.
2) Some towns and cities can’t support a big church.
3) Small churches can move and respond quickly.
4) Small churches can have a big impact from specialized ministries.
5) Small churches can offer a personalized touch.

 

This got me thinking about the impact these churches have as a group, so I looked up some numbers for 2015 (2016 data is still being collected).

The 984 Southern Baptist churches in Louisiana that reported between 1 and 100 in worship attendance in 2015:

  • Represent 48,059 Worshippers
  • Baptized 3,403 souls
  • Gave $3.7 million to the Cooperative Program
  • Gave $1.7 million to their local Baptist Associations
  • Gave $1.5 million to SBC Special Missions Offerings ($639k to Lottie Moon, $468k to Annie Armstrong, $420k to Georgia Barnette).

Not insignificant numbers. And this is not just in Louisiana. 82% of churches across the country are less than 125.

Take Aways:

  • Don’t be satisfied with 100, but celebrate what the small church can offer to the community.
  • Don’t just communicate about resources that are helpful to big churches. Let’s remember the big church tends to be the exception across America.

Celebrating Small Group Life

Round tabled with our Bridge Church Small Group Leaders this week for a seasonal troubleshooting and celebrating session. Proud moment for the church planter, when you realize that what started as one small group in 2011, has now grown to 10 groups! We celebrated new groups and first time group engagements. We trouble shot consistency, communication, pastoral care issues. A few of the highlights and developing strategies from our journey to effective group ministry:

  • Seasonal Rhythm.  We’ve adopted three seasons as opportunities to start new groups, for groups to take natural breaks, and to emphasize new connections. This includes a Small Group Leader round table, one month prior to each new seasons kickoff. A rhythm is a system that can give natural start and stops for groups.
  • Geaux Projects for Groups.  Each group is encouraged to organize around the strategy Gather-Grow-Geaux. How are we going to gather this season (where, how often, how long, etc.)? How are we going to grow this season (track with sermon series, marriage study, financial study, etc.)? How are we going to geaux this season (how will we serve and make a difference in our community together)? This seasons Geaux Projects have included projects for local widows, helping flood victims, serving local children’s home, shared date nights for couples, neighborhood block parties, etc.
  • Putting our Money Where our Mouth Is. A few years ago it hit me that we talk about how important groups are but our budget doesn’t back that up. So now, each group gets $1,000 per year to make magic happen with group life. This is turned into incredible impact through the opportunity for groups to be responsive to the needs around them and creatively serve one another and their communities. This year, we were able to do that twice. Love hearing the stories of how this money is spent.

Capacity for making disciples is best expanded at the group level. Churches that grow must find ways to multiply gatherings (rows), groups (circles), and teams (strengths).

If you go to a church, but are not involved in a group, get involved ASAP. We like to say,

“Life change happens best in circles, not rows.”

Getting involved in a group that forms in a circle is different than sitting in a church with rows.

– In a circle you look someone in the face.
– In a circle there is dialogue & conversation.
– In a circle, you let down your defenses & engage.

These are critical elements of the kinds of relationships that bring life change.

If you’re in West St. Tammany Parish, and want to connect with one of our Bridge groups, sign up here.

 

 

 

Rules of Thumb & Questions for Church Calendar Planning

Some Rules of Thumb for Church Calendar Planning:
  1. “God is looking for people through whom he can do the impossible – what a pity that we plan only the things that we can do by ourselves.” – A.W. Tozer
  2. The end result of every event should be people moving closer to Christ.Everything must be filtered through the Great Commission of Making Disciples.
  3. Define how each thing we do CULTIVATES, PLANTS Seeds, or Brings in a HARVEST. Everything must be filtered through the urgency of evangelism.
  4. Are there any events that we need to kill?
  5. Are there any events from the past that we wish we hadn’t killed?
  6. Are there any events that need to be moved?
  7. Is there an opportunity we’re missing on our calendar? (Have you said, “Aw man, we should have done _____!)
  8. Rule: Only one Special Event (all church) per month
  9. Special Events should include every demographic in our church at least once per year – Men, Women, Teens, Kids, Married Couples, Singles, Older adults

What rules and questions guide your churches calendar planning?

The Impact of the Church

Recently I got to sit down with Minister of Missions from ten different Louisiana churches, ranging in size from 75 to 1,800 attenders. The purpose of the meeting was to communicate with them a bit about church planting in our state, but I was really curious about what it would be like to get these missions leaders together and talking about their missions engagements around the world. I was not disappointed! Just these 10 churches reported:

  • 15 new churches currently sponsored
  • 26 overseas missions engagements in at least 12 different countries
  • 4 national missions engagements
  • 9 state missions engagements
  • 9 local missions engagements
  • 4 unreached people groups adopted
  • 5 multi-site campus developments

And remember, this is just 10 churches!!! It speaks to me about the impact that Christ followers working through their churches can have on our world. We recently reported that Louisiana church based compassion ministries had given out 635 tons of food to people in need so far in 2016. And we can only track probably less than 1/3 of the churches doing this type of ministry in our state. If we could see the full impact of the tens of thousands of churches on our world, we would see THE THING that’s holding back darkness, famine, devastation from this earth. And we would see heaven being populated from every tribe and tongue. Take away the church and this world is a dark, dark place.

Thanking God today for His work through His people in our world.

A few highlights:

  • First Baptist West Monroe has send out nine missionaries from their church over the past 10 years.
  • Cedar Crest Baptist Church in West Monroe sponsors a national pastors conference for pastors in Bulgaria! They also paid to translate, print, & distribute Experiencing God in Bulgarian.
  • First Baptist Hornbeck hosts a Youth Camp in the summers for Jr. High & High School students from all over their area.
  • Istrouma Baptist in Baton Rouge hosts an English as a Second Language ministry (ESL) that includes people from six nations.

 

Church = Relevant Biblical Community

  • RELEVANT- Speaking the local language & to the local needs
  • BIBLICAL – Impacting souls through the message about Jesus Christ
  • COMMUNITY – Connecting real people to God & others through Jesus Christ.

missional-church-21A local church speaks God’s Word in the local language & to local needs in a way that impacts souls & connects real people to God & each other through Jesus Christ.

Do Something TODAY About Declining Baptism Numbers!

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Christ’s Community Church in Denham Springs baptized 135 last year utilizing intentional strategy.

Annual pre-convention report on Southern Baptist Church life is out and again show baptisms in decline. I can’t (or won’t) speak to how to change the decline in the Southern Baptist Convention (plenty of other smarter people than I can & will do that), but I can think about how to address this decline in MY church. As a mentor of mine says, “The Southern Baptist Convention never baptized anyone. LOCAL CHURCHES baptize its converts.” And it takes intentionality! So here’s the To-do list of one small town, bi-vocational pastor of an average size (150 attenders) SBC church:

Question: Do we have a list of potential candidates?

1. Look over our church directory & circle the names of people that I know have not been baptized or that I’m not sure have been baptized.

2. Make appointments with at least one of these each day, until everyone circled has been challenged to consider where they are in their journey toward Christ.

3. Plan a sermon on Baptism where everyone will be challenged to follow and obey Christ with the opportunity to respond.

Question: Are we making Evangelistic Contacts?

4. Pray for open doors to share the gospel.

5. Plan a time today & at least three times each week, to intentionally interact with people that are far from God.

6. Put at least three outreach events on the calendar between now and the end of the year that are sure to engage people who are far from God. Get names, pray, follow up.

Question: Are we developing an Evangelistic Culture in our Church?

7. Plan at least one evangelism training for the entire church between now and the end of the year.

8. Put on the calendar at least one monthly special prayer time for lost and unchurched people in our community.

9. Challenge our church leaders by email and in person to right down the names of five people that they know who need Christ. If they don’t know five people, challenge them to get to know five people who need Christ.

Question: When’s the Next Baptism?

10. Put on the calendar at least 3 Sunday’s that the church will have baptism services and begin to announce those in every church communication.

11. Print up a brochure or pamphlet that answers questions about baptism & display it prominently throughout the church and in communications.

 

In Louisiana, Baptisms are actually slightly up over the last three years, but are down from an all-time high of 14,193 in 1994. 2016 is a VERY different world than 1994. 1994, was pre-netflix, pre-facebook, pre-email world where Billy Graham could still be seen on TV regularly. Intentionality, cultivation, consistent & deliberate action is needed to evangelize our communities.

You CAN do something today!

 

How to Be Satisfied By Church

If you ask people about their church today, you might get a “BUT.”

  • “The music is great, BUT…”
  • “The pastor’s teaching is good, but…”
  • “I like my Sunday School, class, BUT…”

A lot of dissatisfaction out there about church. A product of our consumer culture I guess. We’re taught to critique anything we buy & we know we have other choices if we’re not satisfied. Unfortunately, that’s what church has become, simply another service vying for our time & attention & in our culture, we have choices!

Well, I’m not trying to sell you anything, but I believe that you can be SATISFIED by YOUR CHURCH or any Biblically sound church with some attitude changes. Here’s three Biblical attitudes that will bring much satisfaction to your life at church:

1. “My church is incomplete without me.”

See yourself as a part of the whole body, & the church as incomplete without you. See Ephesians 4:7 & 1 Corinthians 12:8-12.

he has given each one of us a special gift[a] through the generosity of Christ.

And 1 Corinthians 12:12

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.

2. “I’m a player, not a spectator.”

Be a player, not a spectator. We’re actually all playing for an audience of one. Our leaders are there, not to entertain us, but to EQUIP US FOR THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY. See Ephesians 4:11-12

Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church

3. “What can I give today?”

Don’t focus on what you can “get out of it.” It’s not what you “get out of it” but what you give to others that makes you & the church grow AND (watch this) determines if you GET SOMETHING out of it or not. See Ephesians 4:16.

He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work

In the Old Testament book of Exodus – chapter 18, Moses found himself leading a very large group of dissatisfied people. They had many needs & they looked to Moses to meet them all. Moses’ father-in-law came to town & gave Moses a different plan. Empower the people to use their gifts & abilities to solve the problems of the community. And I love what he told Moses about this plan in Exodus 18:23.

“If you do this, and God so directs you, you will be able to endure, and also all these people will be able to go home SATISFIED.”

When we all come together TO GIVE of what God’s given us, take OWNERSHIP of the mission, & drop the “but’s” no matter where you are, we’ll get the most out of our experience in & with the body of Christ.

Learn more about Getting something out of church by grabbing the audio for last weeks message at Bridge Church in Madisonville where we talked about the On Ramp of Ministry & Mission as a vital component of our Spiritual Growth.

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