Category Archives: Church
I spend a lot of time talking and thinking about church buildings. From older churches trying to rethink their 1960’s built classrooms to new churches trying to fit the nursery into a school hallway. Buildings are important to churches. I wish it weren’t so sometimes. Because they are SO EXPENSIVE! And a church building eats money 7 days per week, when most churches use it 2-3 days per week. Being Portable is a good option to cut cost, but even portable church doesn’t guarantee effective contextualized ministry in a community or the multiplication of disciples. Often times pastors express to me the limitations of the building to ministry and multiplication.
What guidance can we find in the New Testament for the use of buildings for church? Not much. The idea of building a church for worship, etc. had not come into its own yet. We see homes, parties, synagogues (Jewish teaching centers), mountainsides, the Jewish Temple, and lake shores utilized for the ministry of Jesus and the local church. And then one of my favorite spaces mentioned in the Bible is “the Hall of Tyrannus” in Acts 19:8-10:
8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly over a period of three months, arguing and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became hardened and would not believe, slandering the Way in front of the crowd, he withdrew from them, taking the disciples, and conducted discussions every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord.
We don’t know a lot about this lecture hall, but what we do know can give us some principles of thinking Biblically about buildings.
- It was a Public Place – I’ve written about the need for churches to be located in familiar, visible locations HERE. This Hall was evidently in the city center and a well-known place.
- It was a Place for Disciples to Gather – Paul took the disciples from the synagogue, where they were unwelcomed, to this hall where he could train them further in evangelism and life on mission. It was a place for gathering disciples.
- It was a Place to Interact with Unbelievers – Non-believers were invited in and comfortable with this space. Discussions were held that no doubt served to evangelize the lost and equip the saved.
- It was a Place for Disciples to Be Sent Out – All of Asia heard the word of the Lord! Wow! That’s serious multiplication. Who was spreading this word? And without radio, podcast, live streaming? No doubt, those who were being equipped and train by Paul and others at the Hall.
The Hall of Tyrannus was a building that made possible the exponential multiplication of disciples. That should be the goal for every church and the hope of every church building project or meeting space.
What challenges does your current gathering space offer for the multiplication of disciples? Number 1 and 3 are most likely challenges for many churches today.
How can you make your church building more of a public space that is useful to the whole community? A few ideas:
- Starting a Daycare, MOPS, or Mother’s Day Out Program
- Starting a coffee shop or diner
- Opening the building for after school programs
- Holding public forums, training events for the community
- Moving into a public space like a gym or a movie theater or school for worship
How can you make your church building a place to interact with today’s unbelievers? Stained glass and steeples are not the answer that they used to be for people experiencing life. A few ideas:
- Think through service times and styles. Later services are easier for young and unchurched families to attend.
- Offer discussion forums for people with questions about life and God. Check out Life Tree Cafe for starter ideas on how to do this.
- Start compassion ministry that deals with real life issues for unchurched people in your community like addiction, teen addiction, poverty, divorce care, grief care, etc. Get started on exploring needs and resources for compassion ministry here.
What ideas do you have for making church buildings more effective in multiplying disciples? What other takeaways from Paul’s use of the Hall of Tyrannus can you share?
The New Testament calls for unity in the church. We are asked to strive for it (Ephesians 4:1-3). We are taught that God grants it (Romans 15:5). We see Jesus prayed for it (John 17:21). Leaders of all stripes see the great necessity for it. My own human nature and our enemy often provides resistance to it. We also know that when unity is strained, on mission believers can disagree and continue the mission in good faith as with Paul and Barnabas (see Acts 15:36-39).
Unity within our current church has been as strong as any church that I have ever been a part of. However as a church planter, I know that at the current point in our history it is common for unity to wain. We’re not the cool, new thing anymore. Relationships get strained with time. It feels a little more like work. Momentum is up and down. So I’m asking, “How do we lead our church to strive for unity?”
When we fight for unity, we serve as an answer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17:21. If he prayed for it, we probably should to. And we must always remember that it is God who grants unity (Romans 15:5). One of the miracles of the New Testament is the unity that was experienced among people who normally despised and hated one another. Their unity was a great testimony of God’s power. Establishing more prayer rhythms for the church is a must to maintain and build unity.
Jesus tied unity to the mission of the world knowing the Gospel in John 17:21. As Christians, we are most unified when the mission of Jesus is our focus. Agreeing on the mission and purpose of Jesus for our church and aligning all our ministries under that purpose will help us stay unified. Our church’s stated purpose is to “Connect People to Christ and His Mission.” It’s a purpose that’s rooted in the Great Commission. It’s a purpose that is bigger than ourselves. It’s a purpose that is of eternal value. Believers must find a church unto which they can devote their lives, resources, and gifts to fulfilling its established purpose. Pursuing and believing in an eternal purpose makes the temporal challenges to unity stay small and seem beneath our commitment. That leads us to the third necessity for unity.
Unity is a commitment and a promise that believers make to each other within a church. Churches should lead people to commit / make a promise of their lives to prayer and the purpose God has given to the church. What does it look like? Compassion, kindness, humility, patience, forgiveness, and love (Colossians 3:12-14). Unity is always at risk in human relationships because we bring different backgrounds, emotions, ideas, and experiences to whatever table we’re around. I’ve learned that change in circumstances or venues usually doesn’t make a huge difference. Relationships and unity eventually experience challenges wherever you are. Best course of action: find a church with a purpose you can devote your all to; commit to be a faithful friend who demonstrates humble patience and forgiveness in relationships; and pray for God to grant the miracle of unity for the sake of the mission of Jesus. We learn and grow in unity and faithfulness through the challenges to strive for it. A beautiful thing emerges when prayer + purpose + a promise is given time to do the work of unifying the body. It’s the thing Jesus prayed and longs for. It’s what the world is looking for. It’s worth our every effort!
For a church to break growth barriers, systems must be created to help maximize the giftedness of the people for the good of the community and the church. One of the areas that often becomes an issue as a church begins to grow and age is Pastoral Care. How does this happen?
- May be that the pastor takes all the weight upon himself and starts down the road to burnout stifling his leadership and the growth of the church,
- May be resentment and criticism began to divide because of the elusive ENOUGH – “the church isn’t doing enough for me.”
- May be there’s an Acts 6 moment where the church realizes that needs are being unmet, like those of the Helenistic Jewish widows in the story of the first New Testament church (Act 6:1-7).
Eventually, the need to systematize and scale pastoral care will become apparent in a congregation.
The Question is: Who is Responsible for Pastoral Care in the Church?
Here’s how my church has answered this important question:
1. The Body of Christ
We are actually all responsible to care for one another – See Philippians 2:3-4, Galatians 6:1-2. We are to be looking out for the needs of each other as members of a church. Churches should seek to have a culture of compassion and care that leads people to look beyond themselves to the needs of others.
I asked a pastor of a fast-growing church, how he scales pastoral care. He said, almost every week, I tell people to turn to the person next to them and say, “It’s not about me.”
2. Small Groups
Small Groups are a great place to foster compassion and care. The Small Group ministry is a household to household ministry. In smaller groups, the needs of individuals can be more easily identified than on Sunday mornings. Churches should teach small group leaders that they are shepherd/pastors to their group and the first place for care.
3. Pastors / Elders
The Bible also calls godly pastors / elders to the task of pastoral care – 1 Peter 5:2, Acts 20:28. Their care was to be more oversight though. It was these that appointed Stephen to care for the individual needs of widows. Their pastoral care role should be more in the refuting, holding accountable, prayer, and teaching/preaching. Most pastors want to be involved in every pastoral care case, but they can’t always in growing churches. Churches must recognize their equipping role and not set the expectation that they be the sole proprietor of care for everyone.
4. The Cares Team
A best practice in growing churches is to equip a team to be a part of pastoral care in the church. This is a recognition that the pastor can’t do it all and that God is equipping members of His body to be shepherds along side the pastor of the church. Much of the task of pastoral care is administrative. Others can and should take on some of the roles of setting up meals, scheduling visits, visiting the hospitals, ordering flowers, even sharing at funerals, praying with people, etc., etc. Find a way to identify and equip the churches shepherds for the work of ministry.
5. Outside Support
What happens when pastoral care needs are beyond the scope of the churches care? Churches should recognize the support they have outside of their own body. Other churches may have ministries that could help. There are solid Christian counselors in every community that would love to be available to individuals or the church at large.
How does your church scale pastoral care? What would you add to this list?
“Communication: Without It You Travel Alone” – John Maxwell.
Working with a few churches this week, including mine, to clean up communication. These three questions seem to have risen to the top as the most essential.
How do people hear about our church?
How do people know where to go when they get to our church?
How do people stay connected to our church throughout the week?
Let’s take these three one by one:
How do people hear about our church?
Remember, it’s not their job to find us, but our job to take our message to them. How will you intentionally take the gospel of Jesus Christ and good news happening at your church to the community? Ideas:
- Website. Lots of great sources for high quality websites today. Our church uses The Creative Place. Great partners. Ask around for local sources. Check out ChurchTechToday.com for reviews of church website template services.
- Social Media Pages. Everyone that uses Facebook Ads, etc. says they have people respond with attendance. Our Church uses SundaySocial.tv to help with high quality graphics for social media pages.
- Invite Cards at Outreach Events. Do you have outreach events? Hopefully. When you do, hand everyone an invite to the next thing.
- Direct Mail Plan. Check out the Mapping Center for Evangelism where you can get addresses with an annual subscription plus other good outreach strategy tools as low as $480 per year.
- Signage. In front of the building. Yard Signs around town. In some cities, billboards can be an effective tool as well.
- Radio Spots. Many stations offer a free community board for church events. If not free, they are usually very affordable, depending on the station.
- What else have you used to let people know about your church?
How do people know where to go when they get to our church?
The curse of knowledge plagues us as regular church members. The curse of knowledge is knowing where to go, we forget what it is like to not know and assume everyone must also know. Assume the opposite to become a more welcoming church. Ideas:
- Signs for visitor parking in the parking lot.
- Signs on outside of building giving directions.
- Signs inside of the building giving directions. Especially if you’re portable.
- Greeters at the entrances and if possible in the parking lot.
- Sign for Sign-up Opportunities.
- What else do you do to help people know where to go and what to do when they get to your church?
How do people stay connected to our church throughout the week?
Some people will naturally stay interested and know how to jump in and get involved in the life of the church, but that number is shrinking. We must be intentional to make relationships sticky in today’s culture. Ideas:
- Sunday Bulletin. I know it seems like it doesn’t get read, but it’s still worth doing. Can be done for very cheap with templates from Outreach.com and others.
- Social Media
- Letters / Snail Mail – people still love to get mail in the mailbox with their name on it.
- Email – FREE
- Montly or Weekly E-Newsletter – FREE
- Text Messaging – There are several great text messaging services for churches that range from FREE to around $35 per month. ChurchTechToday.com provides some helpful reviews.
- Personal contact through Small Groups
- What else do you do to help people stay connected to your church during the week?
What’s missing from this communication strategy list?
Download a FREE Strategic and Dynamic Communication Checklist to assess your churches communication strategy: Church Communication Checklist.
I get a lot of help and inspiration from these Church Communication Leaders:
- Rich Birch and Unseminary.com
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:
Why 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.
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:
- What would it look like at your church if the fullness of the power of God met the fullness of the efforts of man?
- If you successfully doubled your weekend attendance, would there be room for everyone?
- Is it possible to add worship services to your usual line up?
- What is the long-term growth vision for your church?
- What is the challenging but reasonable goal for your end of year attendance?
- How will you identify and follow-up with guests on Easter Sunday?
- What specific elements of the worship service will encourage guests to come back?
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- “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
- The end result of every event should be people moving closer to Christ.Everything must be filtered through the Great Commission of Making Disciples.
- Define how each thing we do CULTIVATES, PLANTS Seeds, or Brings in a HARVEST. Everything must be filtered through the urgency of evangelism.
- Are there any events that we need to kill?
- Are there any events from the past that we wish we hadn’t killed?
- Are there any events that need to be moved?
- Is there an opportunity we’re missing on our calendar? (Have you said, “Aw man, we should have done _____!)
- Rule: Only one Special Event (all church) per month
- 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?