Category Archives: Ministry

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.

Time Management and Church Planting

CalendarBibleThe number one answer to the question, “What is the current greatest challenge in your life and ministry?” on our Louisiana church planting growth reports is some version of Time Management. Everyone seems to struggle with time these days, but church planters deal with the added pressures of usually a second or third job, young children at home, clock ticking on outside funding, little to no administrative assistance, continuing education demands, etc., etc. A few thoughts from my failures of time management as a church planter and small church leader:

1. Learn the discipline of turning it off and going home.

The last two church plants I’ve been a part of, centered ministry around our home. The church office, the church phone, the church leadership meetings, the church supplies were all based at my address for the first 12-18 months. This made it extremely hard for me to ever turn off work. Coupled with the fact that it is never all done in ministry. Two ideas I had to get used to: 1) I will not get it all done everyday. 2) To be effective tomorrow, I need to turn it off and do something else today. The quicker you’re OK with these two ideas, the better off you and your family will be.

2. Develop a weekly schedule and stick to it.

Young pastors and church planters get in trouble with time management issues many times because we fail to create the accountability of a weekly rhythm and schedule. THIS STRUGGLE IS REAL!!! A friend of mine in ministry likes to say, “Winging it is not a good strategy.” But many of us wing it when it comes to our weekly rhythms. Your schedule should have flexibility in it because much great ministry happens in the interruptions and spontaneous opportunities, but creating a basic framework for time spent is a necessity. If you start this early, as you add staff and expectations of a growing congregation, you will be better prepared to say no and yes to added responsibilities and interruptions. It will also be beneficial for staff and congregation to know when they can expect to find an open door to your office and when they can call you without interrupting something important. A schedule will also help you make sure you are balancing your time with planting / pastoring priorities – i.e. Evangelism, Discipleship, Leadership Development, Community Engagement, etc.

3. Develop a system for To Do’s, Daily Scheduling, and Keeping up with Contacts.

Whether its Outlook, iCal, Google Cal, Google Docs, an old school Planner system, develop some tools that you can use in keeping the to do’s, appointments, and contacts handy at all times. And the technology out there is amazing in regards to personal productivity. Develop something that works for you and utilize it.

I’ve started accounts with so many different task management and scheduling services online that I’ve lost count. I finally developed my own tool that I print out and fill out each morning or the night before and return to throughout the day. Check it out HERE.

To Do_s Editable Google DocsIt’s to do’s, appointments on one page. On the back I list contacts throughout the day, with the goal of 20 contacts everyday, which is important to my work and a challenge for my introverted self. This helps me stay organized and focused and goal oriented throughout the day. (An editable Google Doc is HERE. Or Download a Word Doc Here – To Do_s – Editable – to create your own).

 

What do you use to keep organized and focused? What works well for you in time management? What tips and lessons learned can you share?

Next week I’ll share some lessons learned on managing preaching as a bivocational planter.

Church Planting and Pastor Appreciation Month

For Church Planters, Pastor Appreciation Month can be awkward. Here’s why:

coolestpastor1. New believers don’t know that they’re supposed to appreciate the pastor. They don’t know there are religious trinkets like eagles wings paper weights or books by Paul Tripp or coffee cups with Max Lucado quotes that they should buy the pastor. The vast majority of the church has probably never been inside of Lifeway or Family Christian Stores. They probably don’t even listen to Christian radio yet. So they miss all the hints to appreciate the guy that makes the coffee, sets up the chairs, shakes all the hands, and teaches from the Bible on Sunday’s.

2. In the early years of a church plant, the Planter is often setting the calendar, agenda, and order of worship for everything. So it’s a little hard to say – “In October, IT’S ALL ABOUT ME.” Or “at this point in the service, you all are going to surprise me with coffee cups and gift cards.” He hopes someone might have gotten the hint, but planters may see October come and go without appreciation.

3. New believers in the church plant are probably still trying to figure out whether they appreciate the pastor/church planter or not. “He’s challenged me to change my lifestyle and to give a portion of my income to God. It sounds right and I’m listening, but buy this guy a gift? Yea right!”

Pastors, we shouldn’t take this too seriously. Receive the encouragement of any Pastor Appreciation love, but remember our reward is in heaven. To receive it here may even be a loss for us in eternity (Matthew 6:2-4). And our reward here should be the privilege to serve and see the people grow in faith & knowledge of the Lord (Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). Pastors should be ENCOURAGED, not ENTITLED.

There is also great value in Pastor’s Appreciation day for our churches, as they learn to obey verse like Hebrews 13:17:

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” 

And 1 Timothy 5:17:

“The elders who are good leaders should be considered worthy of an ample honorarium, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” 

And 1 Thessalonians 5:12:

“Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you” 

So, here’s some ideas for helping the church plant learn to appreciate their Planter/Pastor:

  • If you’re a sponsor church, encourage your church to remember your planter(s) on Pastor’s Appreciation Month. Maybe lead them to all sign a card for Planters in the area. Send it with a date night gift card to a planter family (I promise they need it desperately).
  • If you’re a sponsor church, send a staff member to one of the gatherings of your church plant in October, and take a moment to share about Pastor’s Appreciation Month and lead the plant to give a round of applause for their hard working planter then pass a card to the planter and his spouse. This simple act will probably plant seeds in the congregation for the rest of the month or for next year.
  • If you’re a Pastor, take the initiative to show appreciation to a Church Planter by taking them to lunch or coffee during the month of October. Or inviting them to join your staff for lunch. Tell them thanks for the big risk they’ve taken and offer your insights on the community.
  • If your church has a large staff, adopt a planter for prayer and encouragement during the month of October to extend the Appreciation that your church extends to you.
  • Invite a Planter to share at your Wednesday night or Sunday night gathering during October & let your congregation appreciate them for the hard work they are doing.

This is a starter list. Imagine taking a big risk to start something from scratch, working long hours, having a lot of difficult conversations, maybe working a second or third job, and seeing slow developing fruit for a few years. These guys need and deserve our thanks and appreciation.

Next Steps: 

  • Find and connect with Planters working all over Louisiana HERE.
  • Find and show love to planters working in the North American Mission Board’s 32 Send Cities HERE. Pick a city and click the link for Planter Profiles.
  • Check out a few Planter Appreciation ideas from our New Orleans Send City Missionary George Ross.

Things I Wish I’d Counted

Looking back at church plants that I’ve been a part of & thinking of things I wished I’d done a better job keeping up with. Like:

  • Number of volunteer hours spent in the community. We’re trying to keep up with that now with Bridge Church with a goal of 10,000 per year. What if you could say, “In the 3 – 5- 10 years of our church’s history, we’ve mobilized ____ volunteers who have served ___ hours in our community.” 
  • Number of total individual who have attended. Most churches track average attendance each week & each month, but few track total individuals that attend. We’ve started tracking total individuals over the course of a month, because fewer people attend weekly than ever before. What if you could say, “Since the beginning of our church plant, ____ people have attended a gathering.” 
  • Number of individuals that came on Volunteer Mission Trips to serve through our church plant. Each of our plants were blessed with a lot of great partners who spent weeks in our community serving. All I can say is, it was a lot! Didn’t keep good track of how many with each team. What if you could say, “Since the beginning of our church plant, ____ people have come from out of town & volunteered in our community.” Add on how many hours of service for this group as well.
  • How many pounds of food we’ve given away. Our church has had a food closet & different food related ministries. Wish we knew how many pounds we’ve given away over the life of that ministry & other opportunities. Other similar ministries of the church could be counted for their total impact over the years.

Church Planter – Pastor – Missions Leader, keep good records & find ways to communicate the impact of your ministry over the years.

Church, Let’s Keep It Going!

I am a Christ follower today because of God’s grace and because in hopes that I and others would receive God’s grace other Christians…

>> prepared and taught kids sunday school lessons
>> prepared worship services and sermons
>> got to church early to turn the lights on, make the coffee, get things ready for me and others
>> in relationship ask about my spiritual life
>> opened their home for Bible Studies
>> picked me up when I didn’t have a ride
>> organized youth camps and took a week off to go with me to youth camp
>> gave money sacrificially to their church
>> made Christ like decisions that challenged me and showed me what it means to be a Christian in the daily
>> prepared mission trips and on mission experiences
>> took me to breakfast and lunch and talked to me about what it means to be a Christian man
>> called me when I went through difficult times in my life
>> took a chance and ask me to serve on a church team
>> took a chance and ask me to teach a lesson
>> didn’t laugh when I flopped and failed
>> encouraged me not to quit
>> hugged me and patted me on the back regularly
>> prayed for me when I got discouraged
>> and so much more

Lord, please don’t let it end with me. I don’t want to be a cul-de-sac on the highway of God’s grace. Church, let’s keep it going!

You are… You Have…

Dear Church Member,

You are…

  • God’s plan to display his glory to the nations.
  • God’s plan to show your kids how to follow Christ.
  • God’s plan to reach your neighbors & show them what it means to know Christ.
  • God’s plan to expand his kingdom in your town, city, state.
  • God’s plan to show His wisdom to the world through pooling your gifts with other believers in a local church.
  • Loved. Chosen. Favored. Saved. Filled. Forgiven. And so much more.

You have…

  • God’s power within to help you overcome the daily & the deadly.
  • God’s word to guide you in the way to believe & behave.
  • God’s gifts to build others up & help grow his kingdom.
  • God’s resources to be managed in a way that honors him & shows others that He is better than this world.
  • God’s promise that He will be with you & he will use you & he will empower you.
  • God’s people around you to encourage & build you up.
  • Power. Wisdom. Grace. Eternal Life. Peace. And so much more.

YOU ARE, much more than just a volunteer. YOU ARE a leader in God’s kingdom & YOU HAVE everything you need to make a difference. No excuses. No delay. No looking at others. Be who YOU ARE meant to be. Use what YOU HAVE.

What’s stopping you? “I’m not…” or “I don’t have…” or “I can’t…” Really?

Planning for an Evangelistic Culture

wheatNew churches tend to be more evangelistic. As a matter of fact, data has shown that established Southern Baptist churches baptize 3.4 people per 100 members, and new SBC churches baptize 11.7 people per 100 members. Why? I believe, one simple reason is in the way we plan. As the pastor of a local church, I started my week with this mindset – “They’re coming, how do I get ready?” That is, the members will be coming to church on Wednesday & Sunday, so get ready for them. The insiders. How’s the sermon? How’s the building? How do I make the insiders happy?

When I became a church planter, that changed subtly to “They’re NOT coming, how do I get ready?” That motivated me to different means. How will I invite people & let them know about the gathering? How will I communicate so they will understand what church is about? How will I present the gospel? How will I GO into the world? How can I get this message out?

Creating and evangelistic culture is about living for those who are NOT there yet. And helping get ready for those who are NOT coming. When we can get every person, every ministry, every sermon, the longing of every heart in the church geared toward THEM, an evangelistic culture is beginning to blossom.

I want to live by, “They’re NOT coming, how do we get ready?” and get out & do all we can to invite, share, invest, & serve, so that they’ll do much more than just come to our church, but so they’ll be part of that great throng surrounding Jesus in worship for all eternity.

And folks, the reality is, THEY’RE NOT COMING. Evangelical church attendance is around 10% of the population or less across Louisiana. The assumption that most people go to church somewhere is just false.

So how are you planning this week?

8 Things You’ll Never Hear an On Mission Christian Say

There’s a marked difference between living the Christian life ON MISSION, & just going to church on Sunday’s. You can tell which side of this equation you’re living on by what comes out of your mouth (Matthew 12:34). Here’s some things I’ve said & heard others say when NOT on mission for God as a Christian:

Adventure1. “Christianity is boring.” Anybody that says Christianity is boring has never done a backyard bible club in a dangerous neighborhood, gave away food to someone in desperate need, watched a disabled person use a handicap ramp you just built for the first time, led someone to put their faith in Christ, ate something they weren’t sure of b/c to not do so would offend their foreign host, prayed with a coworker experiencing a storm in their life, etc., etc., etc. Life on mission is an adventure.

2. “I don’t know my spiritual gifts.” The On Mission Christian has either through trial & error or careful study & prayer discovered what God has gifted & called them to do. They do this b/c they understand that God has gifted & empowered every believer to do something. And to do nothing is not an option when we see the needs of the world & the great sacrifice of Christ.

3. “I would love to help, but nobody invited me.” Not that we shouldn’t make sure that everyone feels invited, but On Mission Christians tend to find a way to get in the middle of meeting needs for the good of others & glory of God. They’re not waiting around for an invitation.

4. “I would love to help, but I don’t know any people in need.” Being On Mission is a way of seeing the world. An On Mission Christian lives with a constant awareness of the needs around him/her. Wherever they are, they will find needs to be concerned about or met. The harder thing may be saying no to needs because it’s physically impossible to meet every one.

5. “I don’t feel like I’m being stretched in my faith.” If you live life on mission, you will regularly come to the end of yourself. That’s why Jesus promised His presence (Matthew 28:19-20) & power (Acts 1:8-10) to those who will take up his mission. Being on mission will take you out of your comfort zone & out of the limitations of your own ability. Hello FAITH, hello HOLY SPIRIT, hello SUPERNATURAL LIFE.

6. “You didn’t hear me say this but…” Gossip is one thing that threatens the mission of the church. The On Mission Christian is usually both too concerned about others & the unity of their church to engage in it, or just too busy to waste time with it. As one person said, “Those rowing the boat, do not have time to rock it.”

7. “The carpet/chairs/coffee/preacher/singing is too…” Little time or energy for criticism when you’re on mission either. The On Mission Christian will struggle to be concerned about small issues of esthetics around the building when there are people in need.

8. “My church isn’t meeting my needs.” The assumption here is that church & Christianity is about “my needs.” We do receive so much personal reward & benefit from being a Christian & the church should certainly consider the needs of people as it strategizes & plans its ministries. But the On Mission Christian does not live with these assumptions at the forefront of their lives. Paul was clear in Philippians 2:3-8. The Christian life, patterned after Jesus, is about the needs of others & sacrificing ourselves for the need of others.

If your Christian life is boring, faithless, about you, filled with criticism of others, etc. Let me challenge you to get involved in the next ministry or mission opportunity you hear about & get to know true Christianity which is about life on mission with God in the world.

What else would you add to this list?

“The size of a church does not determine its health, but…”

Small churches don’t get a lot of airtime, even though they are the rule & not the exception across the globe (90% of churches have less than 100 adults in attendance on any given weekend), so I enjoyed Outreach Magazine‘s annual trek into Small Church America in their July/August 2014 issue. Check out a few of my big takeaways that may surprise or encourage you. And make you think.

  • “The size of a church does not determine its health, but a church’s health can determine its size.” – Ed Stetzer, Lifeway Research, EdStetzer.com.
  • “A small church measures success by how faithful they have been with what God has given them.” Dave Jacobs, SmallChurchPastor.com.
  • “The average church attracts fewer than 90 adults on a typical weekend. 60% of protestant churches have 100 or adults on a typical weekend. Just 2% of churches attract more than 1,000 adults on a typical weekend.” – Barna
  • “We need to be content with who we are, but never content with staying where we are.” Karl Vaters in the Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking that Divides Us (New Small Church, 2012).
  • “Bloom where you’re planted. Instead of trying to be what you are not, know what you do well and do it well.” – Jim Thomas, SmallChurch.com.
  • “What drives us? Spotlight and recognition? Influence over 1,000’s? Power that comes with a title? Or would we be content with a downward movement of faithful servanthood, even if it meant obscurity?” – JR Briggs in Fail: Finding Hope & Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure, IVP, 2014.
  • “Churches of 200 or less are four times more likely to plant a daughter church than churches of 1,000 or more. The smaller the size of the church the more fertile they are in planting churches.” – Lifeway
  • “The number of evangelicals has not boomed. We have just become more centralized in fewer, larger churches that produce better Sunday performances.” – John S. Dickerson in The Great Evangelical Recession, Baker Books, 2013.
  • “Since the Day of Pentecost, innovative small churches have been the way the majority of Christians have done church.” – Karl Vater, NewSmallChurch.com.
  • “local engagement – the engagement with our local neighborhoods, villages, towns is harder and harder the bigger and bigger you get.” – David Fitch
  • “The growth rate of churches decreased with increasing size…” – Christian Schwartz in Natural Church Development.

Biggest takeaway –  “No matter the size, age or denomination of our churches, there’s one question we should all be asking… Where do we grow from here?” Bobby Gruenwald.

I personally believe that small church or big church should not be our motive or goal or badge of honor. God’s glory & the soul’s of men should be the goal. Be encouraged where you are & work hard for God’s glory & the souls of men.

The Recipe for On Mission Living

Heart + Eyes + Imagination + Action

IMG_2100

 

Heart – Desire for God & Others

We are on mission for something. Often it’s for ourselves. Getting our heart set on God’s purposes is always the first step in life on mission. Get started with 1 Peter 3:10-12.

What issues of the heart are keeping you from being on mission for God & others?

Eyes – Awareness of the Needs Around Us

The Bible says Jesus “saw the crowds” & then “felt compassion” Matthew 9:36. Are you aware of the many needs around you? If you think you have to travel to a distant place to find human need, then your eyes are not open. Look around.

Imagination – Ideas to Engage the Needs Around Us

Many of our failures in mission as churches are failures of imagination. We can’t imagine ourselves being a solution for our communities. I pray for the innovation & courage of the men who so wanted their crippled friend to see Jesus, that they climbed on top of the roof, ripped a hole in the roof, & lowered him down at Jesus’ feet. Mark 2:1-12.

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” May we not be bound by weak excuses & lack of imagination in reaching our communities.

Action – Implement & Execute Outreach Strategies

Many have a heart for God, are aware of the needs, even have the ideas, but never launch & take action to reach out. Take out your calendar & write down the next date you intend on inviting a neighbor for dinner or coffee. When is your church’s next outreach event? When is your unchurched friend having surgery? Who is in transition that you can bless? Mission needs a calendar & a plan of action!

Write down these symbols in a prominent place & use them to pursue life on mission, for others.

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