The Internet's Best Practices for Ministry

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Welcoming Guests and First Impressions

The sermon starts in the parking lot, and the impression you make for your guests on Sunday morning during the first 10 minutes will be indelible.

Technology and The Church

Leveraging technology for ministry can be an incredible blessing. But it can also be fraught with problems and pitfalls. Learn how to use technology well.

Vision and Leadership

Our God longs for leaders to request of Him to do that which they cannot. Faith filled vision, leadership and risk are key ingredients for ministry.

Preaching and Communication

You know and understand how challenging it is to communicate. It is hard to get and capture people's attention. Learn how to communicate effectively.

Creativity and Innovation

Being creative means asking the right questions and making new associations. Discover new and creative ideas for your ministry.

The Comeback of the Holy Kiss

(a parody)

Holy Kiss Leads to Unexpected Result

BISMARCK, ND - With so many churches giving up on the bible either partially or completely, at least one pastor has decided to take a stand. Rev. Harold Geeves, of Nazareth Bible Church, is determined to take the bible literally.

According to Geeves, "We want to live by the whole counsel of God's Word, and we interpret it literally. Because of this, we believe in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. We also believe that only men should be elders and teach within the church. As a church, we have decided that only believers should be baptized. Our women all wear head coverings."

Geeves continued, "We have taken some criticism for these beliefs. Several other local pastors have challenged us on our consistency. They kept asking us if we greeted one another with a "holy kiss," as Paul commanded in Romans 16:16, I Corinthians 16:20, II Corinthians 13:12, and I Thessalonians 5:26. They told us that if Paul commanded it four times, then we should be consistent and do it."

After several months of this, Rev. Geeves called a special meeting with the church deacons. TBNN has learned that the two-hour deacon meeting was animated as men on all sides of the issue spoke passionately about the ramifications of instituting the "holy kiss" at Nazareth.

Deacon Melvin Simmons said, "It got pretty heated in there. As the leaders of the church, we wanted to be united with what we presented to the church body. So after quite a bit of arguing, we decided that consistency was too important to not take a stand on this issue. We voted to begin the Holy Kiss Program at our church."

This simple program was designed to work like this: on Sunday mornings, when members first met other members, they were to greet one another with a small peck on the cheek. That was it. It was certainly not to go any farther than that.

For two weeks everything seemed to be going smoothly. There were a few embarrassing moments when men kissed other men for the first time. Also, the ladies were having to return repeatedly to the restroom to re-apply lipstick. The youth took to the program a little too enthusiastically. However, all-in-all, the Holy Kiss Program was a success.

Then it happened.

Deacon Simmons forgot that the program is for members only. On the first Sunday in August of this year, John and Shelly Winters, first-time visitors to Nazareth, walked in the front door of the church building. According to eye witnesses, Deacon Simmons strolled up to the couple, introduced himself, and then kissed Mr. Winters on the cheek. As Mr. Winters stood there shocked, Deacon Simmons leaned over and pecked the cheek of Mrs. Winters. That's when it got ugly.

Read the rest here.....Holy Kiss Leads to Unexpected Result )

Internet Campus

Seacoast Church Internet Campus

Seacoast has just started an internet campus. It is a cool site that has a lot of neat features. Here is a brief explanation from their website:

First of all, welcome! We are glad you're here. Worship on the Internet is a new way of doing church, so we'll try and make it a great experience for you.

We currently have three worship experiences online; 9:30 am, 11:15 am and 2:00 pm EST each Sunday. Join the experience by going to the internet campus home page. When the service starts, it will automatically show on the page. Please note that the experience runs through Flash player. You can get the latest version here.

Additional features:
Live Chat: to fellowship with others before, after and during services, simply click the "Join Live Chat" button on the menu to the left of the video.

Message Notes: Follow along with the message notes below the video and fill in the blanks online. When finished, you can have them sent straight to your e-mail.

Connect Card: In order for us to get to know you better, fill out our online connect card, also located on the menu to the left of the video!

Technology can do so many cool things. Trust me when I say that I am often the first in line for the latest electronic toy and cool gadget. But technology must be examined critically. Therefore, I think that this kind of church experience has a couple of benefits as well as a couple of pitfalls. Here are just some of my thoughts:

The benefits....

It allow a perspective guest to experience a worship service from the comfort of their home. Some guests may need an opportunity to kick the tires before even stepping through the doors. This internet campus can provide a "first" first impression.

Sick or traveling out of town, this internet campus provides a great way to experience the service, particularly when you can't be there.

Some pitfalls.....

No one should make it a complete replacement to their worship experience. The virtual experience leaves out an important component of worship, our connection with others. Worship is an incarnational experience. I would agree with you that this idea is a bit of a mystery. God has hard wired us to experience our faith together. And by "together" I don't mean a shared virtual experience or a download of information through a computer portal. God has designed us to experience Him through the flesh on flesh contact with each other. The problem is that is often the hardest kind of community to build. But that is why we should endeavor even harder to cultivate and maintain that kind of connection. (see Dallas Willard's quote here for some further thoughts on the subject)

Also, new technology isn't neutral, it has implications. From a post in Provocative Church, Mike Metzger comments on the implications of technology.

It was the late Daniel Joseph Boorstin, prizewinning author and the historian who had served as librarian of Congress and director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of History and Technology, who argued that new technologies often turn Americans into tourists rather travelers. They keep us seemingly "in touch" while actually making us more "out of touch." The ease of surfing between Darfur and Dunkin' Donuts (or Paris France and Paris Hilton) is closer to voyeurism than voyaging. In times past, we wouldn't know about Darfur without being present and covering our noses to keep the stench of death out of our nostrils. Now we can simply watch through a window in air-conditioned comfort."

Technology changes the way we experience and encounter the world around us. How will an internet church campus change the way we experience God and our faith?

I don't presume to suggest I have the complete answers to these questions, but we must be willing to at least ask them and wrestle with the answers.

Umbrella Greeters

Whenever it rains, Granger Community Church and Element Church both use greeters with umbrellas to escort people from their cars to the church. It’s a great idea - one that every church should use. I wish we, in North Georgia, could implement this ministry more - we really need the rain here.
Double UmbrellaSomething that may interest those churches creating great first impressions with umbrella greeters is Quincy Store’s new double umbrella. What better way to accomodate visitors to your church than with a double umbrella.

Little, special touches like an umbrella greeter can go a long way in making a first impression.

Mystery Guests made easy

This post is from Group Volunteers: Tuesday's Tip (and I am posting it on a Thursday!). These tips can go directly into your inbox, and you can click here to go to their site to receive them.
Mystery Guests

Want to know how guests perceive your ministry? Enlist the help of mystery guests to attend your church and ministry area and provide feedback on their experience.

Ask several families to attend your children's ministry for the first time. Include a variety of families, such as a family with multiple children, a couple with an infant, and single parents. Include families with a variety of backgrounds, such as those who attend a different church regularly, families who attend church only sporadically, and families who've never attended church.

Have these families attend your church over a 4- to 8-week period. Develop questions that relate to specific outcomes such as friendliness, cleanliness, signage, or security. For a sample questionnaire, go to and click on Web Extras.

Provide families with a questionnaire and stamped envelopes for easy return. Ask them to complete quesitonnaires after each visit and mail them back to you the following week. When all your mystery guests have completed their visits, meet with your team and go over the questionnaires to determine areas where your team is succeeding and areas where improvement is needed.

This tip is reprinted from Children's Ministry Professional Edition, the new resource from our ministry partners at Children's Ministry magazine. See for more information about this resource.

Copyright © 2007 Group Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.

10 Ways To Avoid Building Community

I have the position at my church with the title, Pastor of "Doing Life Together". Pretty niffty huh? The reason that I have that title is because the scope of my responsibilities are to help people move from their First Impressions on Sunday to establishing Lasting Connections. In a nutshell, I am committed to helping people connect at Big Creek.

Needless to say, I get torqued when I hear people saying "I don't feel connected". Now of course, one response should be to ask, "What are we doing or not doing at Big Creek that is making it difficult to connect?" It first needs to be a question about our systems and processes. But the flip side of the coin is, "What is that person doing or not doing that it prohibiting their ability to connect?" That question has got to be asked as well.

I can be responsible for what we do at Big Creek, but only an individual at Big Creek can be responsible for their own choices.

With that in mind, consider this "sarcastic" list in order to help evaulaute whether or not you are doing all that it takes to build community and get connected....

10 Ways to Avoid Building Community Within Your Church

1. Keep conversations short.
Just like the old Dragnet character, Joe Friday, "Just the facts..." Don't get into details. Don't share anything with an emotional element to it. Make conversations short and sweet. You are busy, you have a lot to deal with in your life, if you talk to someone you might get close to them and that takes time and energy that you don’t have. Just keep it short and sweet, don’t bother talking about anything more than the weather. The key is if you don’t know a person is hurting, then you don’t have to do anything about it.

2. Always sit in your “assigned” seat
By always sitting in the same seat you always sit around the same people. These folks know the deal, and stick to the appropriate 30 second conversations: weather, sports, how the new preacher is doing, etc. Also, this keeps you from having to venture out, meet new people, and possibly sit next to someone you aren’t familiar with. Also, if you catch someone sitting in your assigned seat, make sure to stare them down and feel uncomfortable. That will teach them and perhaps they won't come back your church again.

3. Avoid new people
If possible come to church through the back door. It’s one thing to deal with all the people that you already know at church, but it’s another to actually meet new people. Seriously, you aren’t good with names, you don’t have the time, or the energy, so just walk right past anyone you don’t know. After all, they won’t notice that you totally avoided them.

4. Come late to church
Don’t overlook the beauty of this one. By coming in late you totally avoid even the 30 second conversations. And (bonus), you avoid the new people! It just makes life easier.

5. Leave immediately after the service (or early)
You got to get out quickly in order to get a seat at the local restaurant. This strategy has the same benefits as coming in late. If you add this method with the coming in late method you could go to a church for years and never meet anyone.

6. Be physically present but mentally absent
When talking to someone, pretend to listen by nodding your head and saying “uh huh” while you are really thinking about what football game comes on TV later that afternoon. Basically, this strategy allows you to engage people on the superficial level. After all, you’re just there to put in your “time” and then get on with your life.

7. Don’t share a meal
If you goal is to avoid community, this step is of the utmost importance, don’t ask people to lunch! Especially don't invite people over your house for a meal, that would be doubly stupid. Sharing a meal is an intimate thing that creates deeper relationships. So, when someone asks you to lunch fake a stomach ulcer or something, just get out of it.

8. Stay very, very busy
This strategy is used by practically everyone on in North Atlanta. The busier you are, especially on a Sunday, the less time you have to “deal” with people. In fact, attempt to be so busy that when speaking to someone you never even stop walking past them as you say hello. Also use the old Seinfeld trick of walking quickly and look annoyed. Everyone will think you are busy and won't bother talking to you.

9. Make your default response “everything is great” or "fine"
People will always ask how you are doing. Make sure that you have your “default” answer ready so that when they ask you are ready to say, “everything is great!” or "fine". This must be your default response, otherwise you might actually let on that your life is not perfect, or worse, that you are struggling and actually human. If you make the mistake and share anything more it could lead to deeper conversation and deeper relationship. If you are going to really avoid community while in church, this is probably your best weapon.

10. Don’t show up
This is definitively your best method of avoiding community overall because there is no community where there are no people.


Treat Visitors As If They Were Coming To Your Home

Vince Antonucci has this very important principle listed on his blog the other day. When guests come to your church, treat them coming to your home. (Gary McIntosh in his book, Beyond the First Visit, draws out this application in his book as well.) Here is an excerpt of Vince's post here:
Visitors in Your Home We’re looking at principles we apply at our church so that our services reach truly lost, un- or anti-churched people. Today, principle #3: Treat visitors at church like you would visitors who come to your home for dinner.

Your home is for you. It belongs to your family. You have certain ways of conducting yourself with your family, certain rituals and traditions you adhere to, certain things you do together. But when you have first-time visitors to your house for dinner, things change a little. There are some things that you won’t do because you have guests. Maybe you typically walk around in your underwear. Your family understands this, has never reported you to the police, and loves you anyway.

But you won’t walk around in your undies with guests over. Or perhaps you normally listen to country music during dinner, but know your guests don’t appreciate songs about broken hearts, broken pickup trucks, and broken basset hounds. So what will you do? You won’t play it. Or if your plan was to go over your family budget at meal time, but you suddenly discovered new friends would be joining you, you would elect to not talk about your personal finances. Why? You know it would bore, and perhaps even embarrass, them.

So when you have visitors over you will change the way you dress, the style of music you listen to, and what you’ll talk or not talk about all in an effort to help your friends feel comfortable. There would be other things that you would still do, but you’d explain them to your guests to make sure they understood and felt comfortable with what you’re doing. If you always pray before your meal but your guests weren’t Christians, you might say, “Hey, we always pray before we eat. I hope that’s okay.” You’d make sure they understood anything that might be foreign to them so that they don’t feel completely out of place. At Forefront we know we always have some newcomers on Sunday mornings, so we approach it in exactly that same way. For instance:

* Very early in the service we usually have someone come out and welcome everyone, and that person will usually introduce themselves (“Hey, welcome to Forefront. My name is Chuck…”). Why? Because if you have someone over for dinner, you welcome them when they come in. And if they don’t know your name, you tell them.

* We never start with worship. (Almost every church I visit opens their service with their band leading worship songs – to me this is a major no – no.) Why don’t we start with worship? Because for the new person, worship is weird! A bunch of people standing up and singing, in an auditorium, in the morning? Weird! And if you’re new and not a Christian, you have no idea what to do with yourself. You just feel uncomfortable and out of place. It creates a first impression of, “This is for us. We’re not sure why you’re here. We hope you can follow along. Good luck.”

The Most Favorite Sound In The World

Remembering names is one of the most important things you can do when you are meeting guests on Sunday morning. I remember reading in college, Dale Carnegie's book, How to Win friends and Influence people ( a pretty manipulative title, I know!) and it had one point that I will never forget - A person's favorite sound is hearing their own name. Using a person's name provides a point of connection. It communicates care and that they matter. We shouldn't just remember names for self-serving reasons, but because every person we meet is special, they matter to God.

But on a Sunday morning, if you are anything like me by meeting a lot of new people, it can be difficult remmebering all the people you meet.

The key to remembering names isn't all that revolutionary. Paper and pen.

A Chinese proverb says that the faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory.

You can't rely on your memory. You got to keep a piece of paper, or small pad of paper, and a pen with you at all times. Just applying this simple rule, saved me at church yesterday.

Read Bob Hyatt's thoughts here about how he intentionally remembers visitors names.

(ht: PastorHacks):
Anyway, yesterday, we had an abundance of first-time visitors at our Sunday morning gathering...I'm really, really bad with names. I mean, really bad.
I usually have to ask people to remind me of their names 8 or 9 times...
But yesterday, I had a stroke of brilliance, a flash of ingenuity...I just wrote them down.
We had 7 first time visitors yesterday (not including some 4 or 5 relatives just visiting in town- I usually like to say "Hi" to them, by try not to spend too much time talking with out-of-towners). So, directly afterwards, when I got 2 seconds (all the time it took) I just wrote down their names.
In looking at the list now, I can clearly picture who each were. I'll look at it again later, but I have a feeling I now KNOW their names. This morning I even wrote a little note by each ("Came with Sean and Betsy","Went to lunch with Shawn and Laura", etc).
I'm telling you, the relief I feel at having something of a system to help remember names is incredible...Try it and tell me how it works for you! Or do any of you have other ideas for remembering visitor names?

Aesthetics And First Impressions

Winston Churchill famously observed that "We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us."

Too often we ignore aesthetic beauty and defer design and beauty to the goal of functionality. As a result, churches look like boxes and sanctuaries feel like warehouses. Beauty and design are important. We must acknowledge the God-ordained importance of design in creation, and our role as stewards of creation.

Our environments should inspire wonder and amazement. They should be environments of warmth and beauty. First impressions go beyond just a warm smile and a handshake. The look, feel and design of your church, both the exterior and interior will make a lasting first impression.

Here is a heads up from Ben Arment on the latest Fast Company mag's feature on design.
Fast Company Magazine features an issue on design. They say that neither marketing nor engineering drives sales as much as design. The shape of the Coke bottle, the contour of a soap dispenser, the beauty of a vacuum cleaner... Application to the church is creating irresistible environments. How we design our worship space matters to people far from God. And if we think God doesn't care about it, just read Exodus.
(HT: History in the Making)

picture is the interior of Church of St. Anne, Krakow Poland
Church of St. Anne is considered to be a leading example of Baroque ecclesiastical architecture in Poland with its beautiful ornate interior with Italian architect and sculptor Baldassare Fantana contributing the decoration and most of the furnishings.