Category Archives: Church
“They devoted themselves to vision clarity, organizational alignment, clarity of vision, great preaching, monster outreach events, massive marketing campaigns, world class children’s ministry, the best music in town, leadership development, new sites, and the latest growth strategy to break the next growth barrier. Some of the believers came together weekly for an excellent Sunday morning show; others opted for overbooked schedules of travel sports and long work hours to pay increasing debt, leaving no margin for living in common. With divorce, addiction, and crime rates similar to society at large, outsiders mocked the church, wondering why they should be part of something so judgmental, hypocritical, and irrelevant. Rather than praising God for the abundance of blessing and being the fullness of Christ in everything and in every way, church members spent their time praying for deliverance from the same crazy, empty lives as their outsider friends. When numbers were not added daily, they looked for the next silver bullet to catalyze growth and make the church more relevant. They desperately sought to do church without being the church.”
Instead, let’s try… Acts 2:42-47
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Sounds a lot simpler and a lot more fun. Proved to be fairly effective at changing the world as well. Which one are you and your church pursuing?
via Todd Wilson in his excellent book called More: Find Your Personal Calling and Live Life to Your Fullest Measure.
If the elements of God’s mission can be compared to a football game, we might say that the focus has become the huddle instead of the line of scrimmage. The line of scrimmage is where the action happens. We have prioritized huddling over playing our part on the line of scrimmage by purchasing fancier uniforms for the huddle, composing cooler songs for the huddle, writing more speeches to inspire the huddle, positioning every person in the perfect spot for the huddle, holding conferences on how to build a better huddle, even getting the perfect brew to pass around the huddle.
But Jesus’ commission for the church was about going, not huddling. The huddle is vital, but it’s only a brief moment to receive the playing directions from the quarterback. If you stay in the huddle too long, you get penalized and moved backward. The church is getting shoved backward on the mission field… the problem is an overemphasis on the huddle. The church must be mobilized, it must be sent to the scrimmage line.
Margin is defined as an amount by which a thing is won or falls short. And margin creates opportunities.
In sports – “We’re winning by a 25 point margin, so we can allow our substitute players to get playing time.”
In business – “Our sales have created a substantial margin this month, so we can afford to take a few advertising risks if we want.”
In church, margin can be more than enough money, more than enough volunteers, more than enough space to take risk and expand into a new area of ministry.
Multiplication requires margin. That’s the problem. Most churches today have little margin. We have too little or just enough money, volunteers, and space in the calendar, leaving very little for risk or new mission and ministry ventures.
It has gotten harder to create margin. Building and staff expenses have increased. People are harder to reach today than ever before. People are giving less to churches than ever before. People have less time, or believe that they do, than ever before. Churches must work harder and get creative in building, protecting, and strategically utilizing the margins for the growth of God’s kingdom.
“I just don’t have enough _____ to get involved in church planting right now.” He’s right. The margin for the multiplication of ministry is diminished for most churches.
How can we create margin?
- Assess ministries to determine their effectiveness and work to eliminate those that are no longer fruitful. This could create some margin and momentum for other areas.
- Look for margin that may be unrecognized. Can you duplicate a ministry that your are preparing already into another sphere. Example: One church does VBS at their location, then at local private daycare’s. That’s multiplication, that took little extra prep by volunteers.
- Take an assessment of the amount of time people spend on ministry inside the church. If its more than 12-15 hours, its probably cutting into the time they have for ministry in the neighborhood, marketplace, or community. People work 40 hours per week and probably have another 10-12 to volunteer. Explore ways to help people put ministry and volunteer hours toward the unchurched around them. This is the least common denominator of kingdom growth. This is the path to margin for our churches.
- Assess empty space around you. Most communities have lots of empty space that can be used for ministry. Instead of always thinking about building new (which almost always robs us of margin, or will in the future), consider ministries that may can fit empty space around you. Example: I visited one church that turned neighboring empty buildings into ministry space, saving the church a ton of money in new construction costs and building good will in the community by sparing potential blighted property.
- Margins are created by healthy growth, facilitated by healthy systems. Consider working on strengthening the systems of your church. Check out this Systems Analysis Tool to get started.
If multiplication is desired, margin should be on your mind as a ministry leader.
What other ways can we create margin for ministry, missions, and multiplication?
- Is your church creating margin through healthy growth of disciples?
- What are you planning for future margins?
- What is the thing keeping you from having margin for multiplication and ministry right now?
- What are of your ministry has the most margin right now? How can you multiply it?
- Do people have enough margin in their life to perform the least common denominator of kingdom growth – Gospel Sharing with Friends and neighbors?
Our churches have powerful music, powerful equipment, powerful social media reach, powerful preaching, powerful history, etc., etc. All of this is nothing with the power of God. It’s God’s power that turns hearts and opens the eyes of unbelievers. It’s God’s power that opens doors into our communities. It’s God’s power that multiplies the gifts of people for radical service and generosity. This weekend our church prayed through five areas in church life where we need God’s power and that make us powerful together. Pray these for your church:
1. UNITY OF MISSION AND PURPOSE – “that they all be one…” This was Jesus’ prayer for the church in John 17:21. And he tied it to the mission and power of the church when he said “so that the world may believe.” Powerful churches are united in purpose and mission. Pray for Unity among believers and unity of mind and purpose in your local body.
2. MATURITY AND SPIRITUAL GROWTH – “I pray that… he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” In this prayer in Ephesians 3:16-18, Paul linked power and spiritual growth as he prayed for the church. A church is known by God and will be known by the community by the lives of its growing disciples. Pray for maturity and spiritual growth among believers in your church.
3. PASSION FOR THE LOST – A powerful church will have a passion for the lost. Paul makes this statement regarding the lost in his community – “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God concerning them is for their salvation” Romans 10:1. He went on to say that he would be willing to forfeit his own salvation if they may be saved. This is the kind of passion that lit the fire of evangelism that changed the world. Pray that your church will have a passion, burden for the lost.
4. LEADERS AND LABORERS – Jesus asked us to join him in praying for laborers in Matthew 9:38 and Luke 10:2. In many of our churches, the 80-20 principle (20% of the people, do 80% of the work) has given way to the 90-10 or 95-5 principle. And with still millions of people without access to the gospel, we desperately need to pray with Jesus for laborers for the harvest.
5. ONE ANOTHER – One of the 44 commands that include the phrase “one another” in the New Testament is the command to “pray for one another” James 5:16. A powerful church is a praying church. Our prayer list and our prayer meetings should be filled with prayer for those around us. As we pray for each other we feel invested in the growth and health of each others lives. This helps us grow deeper in our love and concern for each other. And as we see God work in answer to our prayers, we grow more convinced of God’s power and that others need to experience what we’ve found in Christ and in the fellowship of believers.
A powerful church is a praying church that is unified, maturing, passionate for the lost, developing leaders, and putting the needs of others first.
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 trained 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.