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.

Do You Want To Win A War? Try Telling A Story!

This is a great post on the power of telling a story. It uses the contrast of two leaders during the Civil War - Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln, to illustrate the power of story. According to Mike's post, it was "story" that won the day in the war. Story is powerful. Often times in religious and ministry circles, we can have the tendency to communicate in abstractions, but it is story that communicates most effectively.

Here are Mike Metzger's thoughts on this subject. And as usual, he hits a home run.
When you think of the American Civil War, what tipped the scales toward the North? Did they have better generals? Not if the names McDowell, McClellan, Burnside, and Hooker mean anything to you. Did the North display better tactics? Not if you’re familiar with Bull Run, the Seven Days battle, and Fredericksburg. In fact, the South probably enjoyed better soldiers, field commanders and armaments. What tipped the scales toward the North is the same thing that often tips an enemy toward becoming a friend.
In an essay on the reasons for Confederate defeat in the Civil War, southern historian David M. Potter made a striking assertion: “If the Union and Confederacy had exchanged presidents with one another, the Confederacy might have won its independence.” How’s that? Jefferson Davis had received one of the finest educations of his day attending colleges in Kentucky and Mississippi, including Transylvania University, considered one of the best colleges west of the Appalachians. Davis had graduated from West Point and had received excellent training in rhetoric, logic, literature, and science.
Abraham Lincoln on the other hand was a self-taught man who reconnoitered he had about one year of formal schooling under his belt. He had mastered only a handful of books, including his favorites the King James Bible, Aesop’s Fables, Pilgrim’s Progress, and Shakespeare’s plays. How would swapping these two men have tipped the scales?
For all his schooling, Jefferson Davis “seemed to think in abstractions and to speak in platitudes.” Lincoln’s education had been reading stories rich in figurative language and metaphors. He was a storyteller. Davis postulated propositions while Lincoln painted pictures. Davis was analysis; Lincoln was anecdote. Potter says Lincoln’s stories tipped the scales in favor of the north.
The need for stories was never more evident than after the Battle of Gettysburg, the tipping point of the Civil War. The organizing committee for the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg invited the erudite Edward Everett to give the main speech but he told the committee he would be unable to prepare an appropriate oration in such short order and requested postponing the date. The committee agreed and the dedication was reset for November 19. Almost as an afterthought, David Wills, the president of the committee, asked President Abraham Lincoln to make a “few appropriate remarks.” Everett gave a two-hour speech. Lincoln spoke for two minutes but reframed the story of Gettysburg. He used three parallel sets of images that were interwoven. Do you see them? They are past, present, future; continent, nation, battlefield; and birth, death, rebirth. He reframed enemies fighting to the death as a nation being born again.
Jonathan Swift said it is useless to attempt to reason a man out of what he has never reasoned into. Lincoln intuitively knew this. Francis Carpenter, the artist who spent six months at the White House during 1864 painting a picture of Lincoln and his cabinet, noted that the president’s “most powerful thought almost invariably took on the form of a figure of speech, which drove the point home, and clinched it, as few abstract reasoners are able to do.”
Read the rest at Mike's blog.

Also don't forget to check out this previous post on "Don't write a mission statement, but tell a story"

10 Worst Small Group Study Guides

Is your small group getting stale? Has it become the same old, same old? Then crank it up a notch with this list of the worst small group study guides. These guides are for the small group - where it can't get any worst:

Top 10 Worst Small Group Study Guides

10. Leviticus Laws: A 52-Week In-Depth Study

9. How To Become A Bullhorn Preacher In 6 Weeks

8. Everything You Wanted to Know About Hell, Fire, & Brimstone (But Were Afraid To Ask)

7. The Ins and Outs of Biblical Circumcision

6. Simple Questions: A 12-Week Guide To Giving Sunday-School Answers

5. The Black-And-White Guide to Christianity's Grey Issues

4. The Crusades (And Christianity's Other Most Embarrassing Moments)

3. Improving Your Marriage Through Changing The Bad Things About Your Spouse

2. How To Transform Gossip Into Prayer Requests

1. Sinning For Dummies

List taken from CCC Small Groups

Making it Stick!

How do you make a message or an idea memorable? How do you help your church or group remember what you say? For our church, communication is one of the most challenging aspects of ministry. In a culture with thousands of messages a day, it is important for the church to be able to cut through that static and make their message stick. The messages you need to communicate are varied. They come from the pulpit, are in the bulletin, travel word of mouth, and are distributed via email.

In order to more effectively communicate you got to read Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. Made to Stick is one of the best books that I have read on communication.

In order to whet your appetite, here are the basic principles of the book:

To make an idea "sticky" you got to keep it....

1. Simple: Find the Core. Determine the single most important thing. What do you want to communicate? And then keep the message basic and simple. People can't absorb or remember dozens of messages.

2. Unexpected: Get Attention. Surprise people. Break a pattern! Break people's guessing machine. Create a mystery.

3. Concrete: Help people understand and remember. Make abstraction concrete. Create mental hooks to help people grab your idea.

4. Credible: Help people believe. Use convincing details.

5. Emotional: Make people care. Appeal to their self-interest. Address the question -so what?

6. Stories: Get people to act. Stories not only tell and show people how to act, they also inspire people to act.

This book should be on your must read list for the year!

Buy this book HERE

Ten Internet 'best practices' for e-ministry

Today I got a call from a prospective guest that was looking at our website before her visit. She had some additional questions but before we talked she had spent a good deal of time looking at our website and kicking the tires of the church before she was ready to make her first visit.

The phone call was a good reminder of how important a good web presence is for the church. Of course the importance of our website goes well beyond just being for our guests. Our website and e-ministry is also essential in how we more effectively communicate and do ministry with those who are our staff, team leaders, members and regular attenders.

It is a no-brainer that the web and e-ministry is essential for churches in the 21st century. It is unavoidable. The issue really then becomes doing it well. (here are some samples of not-so-well) Therefore what are the "best practices" of e-ministry that distinguish between consistent success and constant failure? Here are the top 10 "best practices" for e-ministry by Terrell Sanders.

1. Think newspaper, not brochure.
Successful Web sites draw repeat traffic and provide ongoing communications to your members and visitors. If your Web site is just a static brochure, you're missing the greater value. Design your site to provide new, valuable information every week – every day is even better! Think of your site as a daily or weekly newspaper, not as a brochure that should be reviewed once per year.

2. Content is managed by the source.
A centralized Webmaster, who posts and maintains all content, sounds like an efficient way to manage a large Web site. In reality, it's usually a disaster. The Webmaster becomes overworked, doesn't always understand all the content he or she is responsible for, and rarely gets content posted fast enough for the program leaders. Truly effective Web sites allow each program area to be responsible for posting and maintaining content in their individual sections. This makes data more accurate, timelier, and generally reduces aggravation for all parties involved.

3. Print from the Web.
In the perfect Web-enabled organization nothing would be printed in the office. All handouts, announcements, lessons, news, and flyers would be posted directly to the Web site. A member who wants a printed newsletter could print one directly from the Web site. Office staff needing documents could print them from the Web. All "master" schedules and documents would be available on the Web.

4. Never "scoop" the Web site.
In the press corps, the term "scoop" refers to publishing a hot news story before a competitor does. In a Web-enabled organization, "scooping" the Web site means making information available through handouts or public announcements that are not already published on the Web site. Churches with a successful e-ministry train their audiences to go to the Web first for the most current information. Scooping the site teaches people that there is really nothing new on the site. For churches, this means try posting new content on Friday, not Monday.

5. The magic words are "details on the Web."
Following the strategy of number 3 and 4 on this list, the magic words on all printed handouts and public announcements are "details on the Web." Don't waste paper printing detailed handouts to be lost or trashed. Print minimal announcements on handouts and put all details on the Web. Those who need the details will be able to find them. Those who don't are saving you time and money.

6. Communicate more often, but with less content.
As you move to Web-based communications, you have to learn new habits. In the physical world you have considerable labor and material costs to print news. Therefore, you tend to publish in batches to minimize cost. For example, you may put together an eight-page newsletter once a month, rather than one article per day. With e-news you can publish with no hard costs. Successful Web-enabled organizations tend to publish news more often (keeping it current), but with less content. You might see a youth group publish e-news twice a week – but only with two or three items in each issue.

Here are the highlights of the last 4 best practices for e-ministry:
7. Replace processes, don't duplicate.
8. Have a "Plan P."
9. Do not have "under construction" pages.
10. Do your best, then post it.

Read the rest of the article HERE


Fusion by Nelson Searcy

If you are a pastor of a church and/or you are doing assimilation ministry than you definitely want to get a hold of this small, but information-rich little book. Nelson Searcy from Journey Church in NYC has been equipping churches on the subject of Assimilation Ministry for some time now. They do Assimilation Seminars all around the country (in fact, Travis Johnson just attended an Assimilation Seminar, check out the notes from the seminar)
They also sell the CD's from those seminars, which I purchased a couple of years ago. It was then that I became a big fan of their process and best practices.

Now Searcy has taken much of that information and put it in an easy to read, helpful book.

Searcy walks you through the entire assimilation process. Searcy guides you through the very first step of the process, which is making that stellar first impression with guests. This is done by making sure they are Greeted, Directed, Treated and Seated. (for a more detailed examination of creating WOW first impressions I would highly recommend Mark Waltz's book: First Impressions: Creating Wow Experiences in Your Church)

Searcy also deals with how to effectively gather information from your guests through the use of the Communication Card and the "Free Gift".

After a guest's visit, Searcy clearly explains and details the next steps. For Searcy and Journey Church it is all about being Fast, Friendly and Functional.

But the follow up work isn't merely accomplished by a couple of notes and emails. Searcy is correct when he asserts that if a new person doesn't find relationships and responsibilities, they are most likely to be gone in 6 months. Therefore the work of assimilation dovetails strategically with your church's small group ministry as well as working with all your ministry team leaders in mobilizing volunteers for their teams.

Searcy makes the point clear that the work of assimilation isn't completed until that person moves into membership. For our church, this is a no brainer. Searcy is preaching to the choir on this point. Membership is very crucial to the life of our church and especially within our denomination's ecclesiology. (I am a pastor of a Presbyterian Church - PCA)

Included throughout the book are helpful examples of the notes and emails that Journey sends, their website survey that they offer, and communication card that everyone fills out on Sunday morning.

Searcy's book is a must read and will provide a much needed template and process for effectively assimilating and connecting people within your church.

You can purchase Fusion by Nelson Searcy HERE

3/28 - added: For a bunch of free fusion resources you can go to:

The Power of Pause

Pausing is a communication skill!

Have you ever heard the term, a "pregnant pause"? Pauses in speaking aren't just dead air, they have value.

Here are some very helpful points about the power of pause from Bert Dekker:

We have found that there are five great benefits of learning to use the pause as a conscious skill:

  1. Getting rid of the distracting non-words.
  2. Allows you time to think of what to say next. (I personally find this the most valuable 'power of the pause.'
  3. Relieves tension, by allowing you to breathe.
  4. Reference your notes.
  5. Dramatize.
(HT: Bert Decker)

Always remember, you will always be more self conscience than your audience when there is silence. It may seem like an eternity to you, but it never feels that way to your audience.

I'm NOT Connected!

I live and minister in one of the busiest communities in the United States. North Atlanta is a rat race. Everyone is going on with their life at nearly 120 miles per hour with their hair on fire. People's schedules are super packed. Everyone seems to be pushed to the limit with time, energy and resources. People's lives are isolated, walled-off and lonely.

In light of that, I am not surprised that the biggest cry I hear in the church is "I'm not Connected".

If you are in church ministry, most likely you have heard that refrain. Here are a couple of rhetorical questions that I have asked myself. As you listen to these questions I think you will see more clearly what are the real "issues" are behind the perceived "issue" - "I'm not Connected!"

First, when are you realistically able to get connected? Wanting to get connected won't simply make it so. You need to make some margin in your life. You won't get connected if your schedule has no additional bandwidth. You need to slow down and cut some stuff out. In trying to do it all, something is going to get left out - most of the time it is relationships. Relationships take time, work and energy. They won't come easily and they won't happen unless you are INTENTIONAL in making them happen.

Second, why are you tell me? Why do people look at me and say, "I am NOT Connected!" What do people expect me to do about it? I know that this paragraph is going to get me into trouble, but it is important to deliver some honesty here. Because I am in charge of small groups some people therefore expect that I can work magic and get people connected. Let me burst your bubble, I can't. I cannot connect you. All I can do is help create and cultivate opportunities of connection and then point you in the right direction. But I can't make you connect. Connection and relationships are ultimately your responsibility and it will require all the necessary work and effort I mentioned in my first point.

Third, do you REALLY understand what you are asking for? Do you REALLY want to be connected? Do you understand what BEING connected means? Most likely you want all the fuzzy warm feeling that come with connecting (i.e. fun, friends, laughs, and memories) without the real challenges (serving, regularity, vulnerability, conflict, participation, and honesty). Connecting with other people is messy. When you dive into real relationships it will come with a cost.

Fourth, why are you ultimately making the point? Most of the time when I hear someone raise that concern, (of not connecting), it is often too late. Often when a person laments of having had no real connections they do so with another agenda in mind. They are usually ready and determined to leave the church and they merely want to justify their own decision by proclaiming, "I am NOT Connected!" The truth is, you must say something to someone when it really matters. You must speak up when we can help do something about it - and help YOU do something about it. If it is a real concern than you won't let months and years go by sitting silent.

My heart and concern is to help people within the church enter into life-giving, enriching, authentic and lasting relationships. I pray that if you are not connected, you will allow your schedule to accommodate relationships, that you will take the initiative and not wait any longer by remaining silent.

(adapted from a post from my sister-blog over at Provocative Church)

How to slay the clutter dragon

I have never seen your office, but if it is anything like mine - you are constantly fighting against the clutter.

Crown Financial Ministries has some thoughts on the high cost of clutter. Here are some highlights:

National studies have shown that the typical executive spends four and one-half hours a week looking for lost papers. At a salary of $30,000, the cost of searching for important papers, measured in lost time, is $3,376 per year. At $60,000, the cost is $6,752 per year. At $100,000, the annual cost jumps to $11,250.

As staggering as these costs are, the majority of managers and business owners with whom I've worked report that they lose even more. I have found that the cost often jumps to 15 percent of their yearly income.

Just think—at this rate, nearly two years of each life is lost looking through clutter.

Penelope Trunk thinks that simply having a messy desk alone can undermine your career.

Clutter isn't just paper. It is also electronic. The History Channel show "Modern Marvels" recently aired a show about 90s technology that proved this startling statistic:

In 2007, over 170 billion email messages were sent per day. That's almost 2 million messages every second. 70% of them were spam and viruses.

Our lives are filled with clutter and information overload!

I don't presume to have this issue fixed and settled, but here are some ways that I help reduce clutter:

Limit paper - I tell everybody, don't send me paper. I don't want to have to file it and then try to find it later. I am pushing most of my information online. Google Docs and Google Notebook are my big "go-tos". It is easier to store and find my documents on Google Docs rather than search email attachments or my hard drive. Also, with Google Notebook I clip and save any interesting fact or illustration for a future sermon/save online receipts/store important information etc. I believe that Google Notebook is one of the more underrated tools within the Google stable of online apps.

Use a good email client - Gmail is the king. I use labels and filters to make sure only the email I need to read reaches me. Also they have an awesome spam filter that significantly reduces the clutter in my life..


Be the real and true "next"

Do you dream about your ministry being the "next" big thing? Do you read those "Top/Most Influential/Most Innovative" church lists that seem to come out every week? What do you RUN after?

Although this post from 37 Signals relates specifically to the Web2.0 and technology world, I believe that it has implications for your church and ministry. Read this excerpt and think of how it may apply to you and your church.
"There is stupidity of trying to cast promising start-ups as The Next Google, The Next Microsoft, or The Next Whatever.

The true giants, like IBM, Microsoft, and Google, come to life so rarely that the chances of random company X being one of them is slim to the point that we might as well try to guess who’s going to be struck by lightning tomorrow or win the lottery.

But even more importantly, the real nexts are never repeats of the last next. That’s what makes them nexts! Thus the comparison is irrelevant.

Nobody is likely going to be the next Microsoft in much of anything that makes Microsoft the company it is: the Windows/Office power-punch. Google has been billed as such many times, but its entire being has nothing to do with the defining characteristics of Microsoft."

(HT: 37 Signals)

The same temptation is true in the church world. When Willow Creek was the "it" church, everyone wanted to be the next Willow Creek. When Saddleback was the "it" church, everyone RAN to be the "next" Purpose Driven Saddleback Church. Maybe your "it" church is Northpoint, Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC, Mars Hill or whatever.

The real "next" churches are never repeats of the last church or movement. They are unique movements of God. Don't try to be chasing after the phantom of the "next" but rather be the unique church God has called you to be within your unique community and cultural context.

If you have any doubts that this is true, read:

Blue Ocean Strategy or the The Long Tail

Top 10 Worst Ice Breakers EVER

Do you want the people at your next meeting to connect? Do you want to help cultivate conversation among people that barely know one another? If you do then read this list, AND THEN DO THE OPPOSITE!!

Here are the Top 10 WORST ICE BREAKERS EVER:

10. Share the worst sin you’ve ever committed.

9. If you were God, who would you punish first?

8. Which person in this group do you think needs to find Jesus the most?

7. Which people at your church do you wish would find a different church, and why?

6. If you could erase any verse out of the Bible, which one would it be?

5. Share the juiciest piece of gossip you know so we can pray about it.

4. If you could have anything from your neighbor’s house, what would it be?

3. What’s your favorite of The 10 Commandments to break?

2. If you could change anything about your spouse, what would it be?

1. If you could commit any sin and get away with it, what would it be?

List taken from CCC Small Groups

Fire Your Volunteers

Here is an excerpt from Todd's blog, Monday Morning Insights, about "Firing Volunteers"

Peter Hamm writes: "I think it's possible that the hardest thing we have to do in ministry is letting a volunteer go. Sometimes it's because they do something they shouldn't (this happens a lot in Youth Ministry... Go figure), sometimes it's because it's a bad fit for them and their giftedness, sometimes it's because they just can't do the job. For instance, what if your welcome team has someone on it who never smiles and insults people as they come in?...

An extreme example, I know, but what happens when you have to let this person know you need to re-direct them into something else. Or say it’s a person who serves in Children’s ministry who just can’t connect with the kids, or even frightens them. Or perhaps it’s someone who just doesn’t get what your church’s mission and vision are, and they do more grumbling than serving.

The most difficult thing for me is creative artistic people, especially singers/worship leaders. (I’ve had some recent experience with this, as we re-aligned our worship teams, and I’m still wading through the fallout on this.) This is the one ministry in our church where easily three times as many people want to participate regularly than I can handle, and some of those people just can’t do it in the way that we have, with God’s guidance, concluded it should be done in our environment (This is a small number, I’d estimate less than one-third of those interested). Others are competent and dedicated, but just not up to the level of some others, who need to be used in this area of their giftedness.

Add to that that artists and singers and creative types tend more than others to integrate their whole value as a person with the thing they do (sing, play, act, draw, paint...) and you have a recipe for ministry nightmares.


Too often in the church we are trying to merely put warm bodies in open slots, because of the ministry needs. But when we do that, it doesn't serve the church well. Not only that, it also doesn't help the person who is serving in that position.

In order for a person to serve effectively all of these ingredients must be in place. If any of these are missing, then it isn't a good fit for that person.

Passion - Are they passionate or are they merely serving out of obligation?

Giftedness - Are they operating out of their spiritual gift mix.

Abilities - Do they have the necessary competencies. This is an issue that relates to experience. Some responsibilities can be trained. But with some other responsibilities, you need them to walk in with a certain amount of core compentecies.

Do your best to make sure you are placing people in positions and with serving opportunities that are good fits, otherwise you doing not only your ministry a disservice but your volunteers a disservice as well. Fire your volunteers if they are not serving in the right place...but then help them to find a place to serve where they will blossom, grow and be blessed.

How To Ask Small Group Questions That Don't STINK

Leading small group discussions can be one of the more challenging things you face as a leader. How do you ask questions that get people to talk and participate? How do you get some people to stop talking and stop dominating the conversation? How do you ask questions that allow the members to discover truth for themselves rather than you just simply spoon feeding them?

To get some help with this, watch this slide show that David Rudd posted on his website and then you can view and download the "Asking Good Questions" resource below.

Asking Good Questions

10 Ways To Stop Me From Discovering Your Church...

Does your church erect invisible barriers toward people getting connected with your church? Is it easier to find the Lost Ark rather than your church on a Sunday morning?

Certainly there may be many legitimate reasons why someone may not come to your church (personal preferences, driving distances etc..). Those are issues that you can't control. But there are plenty of other issues that you can. So, if you are determined, for people to not come to your church or get connected then,

Here are 10 ways to Stop Me (or anyone else )from Discovering Your Church

1. Don’t have a website: This is the information age, even 107 year old women have blogs, but not your church. No website, no blogs, nothing, nada, zero. In order to feel more comfortable before I visit, I want to see something about the the church. I want to be able to kick the tires before I show up on Sunday. And even if you must have a website, make sure it is poorly designed, lacking in information, hard to navigate, lots of rainbow and dove graphics, and definitely out of date.

2. Be completely inactive in the community: If you’re not doing anything in the community then no one will talk about your church. That makes it a lot harder for me to accidentally find out anything useful. So don’t serve the community or partner with other churches or non-profits. In fact it’s really just best if you stay completely inward-focused and don’t do anything missional in your town or city.

3. Don’t answer your phone: Regardless of what time I call (weekday, weekend, morning, afternoon, evening) don’t answer the phone and don’t have an answering machine or voice mail for me to leave a message or prayer request. If you do have voice mail, don’t include your website address, service times or directions to your church on your message, and don’t ever answer the phone on Sunday mornings. That way when I’m lost en route to service, I’ll have no choice but to drive around aimlessly until I give up and go home.

4. Allow misinformation: When contact information changes about your church, make sure you don't update websites, online directories and phone books. It is important to make sure you keep me on my toes and misdirected every chance possible.

5. Lack clear signage: Even if I’m determined to visit your church, you have several on site options to discourage me. The first is to play hide and seek. Is your church in a nondescript building or on a street with several other churches? Have absolutely no signage; none, whatsoever. Except maybe on the mailbox, where you abbreviate things beyond comprehension.

6. Have insufficient parking/seating: Other discouraging on-site options are lack of adequate parking and seating. Does your church seat 200? Only have 30 parking spaces and make sure that all the church volunteers are using them. Been running at capacity for weeks or months? Don’t start another service, so that there will be standing room only. Have visitors’ parking? Put it in the corner of the lot away from the entrance. Have adequate parking? Don’t stripe the lot or have parking attendants; chaos is best. Have adequate seating? Make it as uncomfortable as possible.

7. Ignore Visitors: Despite your best efforts to discourage me, you think that you have won -but I have found and attended your church. In fact, I even filled out a visitor’s card requesting more information. Don’t acknowledge my visit in any way. Don’t call me, don’t send me a thank you card, don’t answer any of my questions or give me any information about how to become involved or learn more about Jesus. Also don’t have any literature available for me to take home and don’t train your volunteers to be courteous or helpful in anyway.

8. Respond half-heartedly to inquiries: If responding to information requests at all, do so extremely slowly and only partially. Wait 1 week or more to return emails or phone calls and if I ask several questions, don’t answer them all. Instead just tell me I should come to a service to find out more. That saves you a couple minutes of response time and makes you look very busy and important. Whatever you do, do not start a dialogue with me.

9. Be evasive about your beliefs: When I ask a direct question about the church’s beliefs, ignore the question or act like you don’t understand and then start telling me about your denomination or church programs. For “What We Believe”, only include the Nicene Creed on your website or literature. If I’m adamant about wanting positional clarity, instead tell me about the love of Jesus and how Christianity isn’t about division. For those times you do answer my questions, act offended that I would even ask, then try and make me feel stupid or sinful for questioning you.

10. Continue to be difficult: You might just get a few months of attendance out of me before I just give up out of frustration. Don't help me get into a small group. Don't help me find ways to volunteer and use my gifts. If you keep making the process of involvement and connectedness difficult and unclear, you will eventually wear me down and I will go elsewhere.

(adapted from a post at Church Redone)

Don't Write A Mission Statement - Tell A Story!

One of my favorite weekly reads is Mike Metzger's Clapham Commentary. In this commentary Mike talks about the pitfalls of the mission statement. If you've been in leadership, whether in the church or in the marketplace, you've probably written a mission statement. But is the "mission statement" the best way to capture people's hearts and imaginations?

Here is an excerpt:

Good stories are like Post-It Notes – they make things like mission statements sticky. “Ethnologists have shown that culture is transmitted mainly through stories – anecdotes, jokes – but not in formal doctrines or theories,” writes Stephen Denning. When CEO Howard Schultz was asked about Starbucks' growth, he reframed his answer as a story: “We’re not about filling stomachs but filling souls.” This story is a metaphor for Starbucks’ mission of creating a “third place.” You’ll remember Schultz’ story more than Starbucks’ mission. I’ll prove it.

Take this mission statement of a well known company (from Gary Yukl’s Leadership in Organizations): “We will create an empowered organization to unleash our creativity and focus our energies in cooperative effort; it will enable us to develop and build the best personal vehicles in the world, vehicles that people will treasure owning because they are fun to use, they are reliable, they keep people comfortable and safe, and they enable people to have freedom of movement in their environment without harming it.” OK, close your eyes right now and answer this question: how much of the nun story do you remember? How much of this mission statement can you repeat?

We’re famous for piling on tired cliches of management jargon - “empowered organization,” “unleash our creativity,” “principle-centered leadership,” and “passionate people” - that really mean very little to anyone. They’re not compelling because they don’t tell a story. “Stories are 'more true' than facts because stories are multi-dimensional,” writes Annette Simmons. “Truth with a capital 'T' has many layers. Facts need the context of when, who, and where to become Truths.”

When churches and other Christian institutions start writing mission statements, it is almost always a sign that they’ve already lost their mission, says James Burtchaell in The Dying of the Light. His study of how Christian colleges and universities abandon their religious identity over time uncovers the myth about mission statements. Of course Christians are called to a mission in the world. But highlighting the statement often indicates it’s become nothing more than a slogan. It’s an icon but isn’t sticking in our imagination. Only stories do that. ‘Thou shalt not’ might reach the head, but it takes 'Once upon a time’ to reach the heart, writes Bill Pullman, author of His Dark Materials.

If you don’t buy the mission statement myth, ask yourself why you don’t have one hanging on a wall at home. Families transmit their culture through stories. My family wasn’t particularly good at storytelling yet one Thanksgiving weekend I remember my dad describing growing up in Chicago. He was born in 1929 – the year of the Great Depression. In high school he’d get up at three in the morning to fire up a coal burning oven for a storefront bakery. Have you been up at three on a February morning in Chicago? His story told me why working hard was part of our family culture.

When we tell stories about growing up, ancestors, vacations or places we’ve visited, we’re transmitting culture. The best doctors listen to patients’ stories as well as run tests. A rapid heartbeat can be caused by many things. Yet when a patient describes their hysterical fear of needles and hospitals, the culprit may have already been found.

(HT: Clapham Commentary)

Certainly the Bible has mission statements in it, i.e. Matthew 28:18-20. But the thrust of the scripture is about telling a story. It is God's story, and it is a story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration. If you can choose between writing a mission statement or telling a story, tell a story!

Let Your Guests Evaluate Their Experience

After a guest visits Big Creek Church, one of our follow up pieces is a thank you email. In that email we invite them to visit a special website in order to receive their feedback and to receive more information about the church.

Our goals for this website are to:
  • Thank them again for their visit
  • Communicate a posture of humility - we want to learn from their experience
  • Continue to plant the vision of Big Creek Church, even after their visit, by offering a video and access to more information about the church.
Visit the website HERE

Putting up a site like this is easy to do and it doesn't cost a dime. How do you follow-up with your guests?

How To Make A Lasting Impression

What are the crucial minutes for a guest? Before the service and as guests enter your church? Perhaps yes, but maybe not.

Perhaps the most crucial time for guests is actually the first ten minutes after the service. It is at that time that guests are thinking, "Will the same people who greeted me so warmly before the service be as cordial when we're all done?"

When the last song has played and the pastor has said "Amen," it's easy and common for people to leave church as fast as possible. Everybody has to rush out to be first in line at the local Denny's. But when that happens, who reaches out to the guests? What they experience on the way out is the last impression in their minds. Let's make sure we make a lasting impression.

(HT: Assimilation)

What are your thoughts? Do you agree?

Top 10 Reasons People Leave Your Church

Here are the top ten reasons LifeWay Research found why people switch churches:

1. The church was not helping me to develop spiritually. (28%)
2. I did not feel engaged or involved in meaningful church work (20%)
3. Church members were judgmental of others (18%)
4. pastor was not a good preacher (16%)
5. Too many changes (16%)
6. Members seemed hypocritical (15%)
7. Church didn’t seem to be a place where God was at work (14%)
8. Church was run by a clique that discouraged involvement (14%)
9. Pastor was judgmental of others (14%)
10. Pastor seemed hypocritical (13%)

SOURCE: The Biblical Recorder… Read more here.

People leaving your church is a double edged sword.

On one hand it can be a healthy thing. Perry Noble say that because the church is a body, and every good body has a back door (I think you know what I mean here!) - it is important for the church not to be constipated. It can be healthy for a people to leave a church. If they are not aligned to the vision or if they are being contentious, then we should allow them to leave.

But on the other hand, depending on why and how people are leaving, it could be a symptom of a troubling systemic issue within the church.

One of the best practices we try to implement at Big Creek Church are exit interviews. When people are in a position and willing to give us honest feedback, we want to take advantage of that opportunity to learn from their departure.

Here are some points about the exit interview:
  • They are usually done over the phone and last only 5-10 minutes.
  • Make sure to listen - don't be defensive or try to excuse - use it as an opportunity to learn.
  • An exit interview allows closure for the church and for that person.
  • Use the interview as an opportunity to bless them -pray for them over the phone as you conclude.

How To Pray During Your Meetings

You finally get your team together and you need to get down to business. Of course it is important to pray and commit your plans and time to Lord.

You know that God must go before us in our plans and that they must be from Him.

Psalm 127:1,

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.

So we pray and commit our plans to the Lord.

The problem often times is that prayer becomes either a perfunctory prayer at the beginning of the meeting or a rushed or hurried prayer at the end.

How can we effectively weave together both prayer and planning?

Aim for 50/50. You can have the balance of 50% prayer and 50% planning in your meetings.

You may not alway hit the mark, but that should be the goal. The key, though, is on how to effectively implement it.

Don't do it in one chunk!

Rather, start and stop.

When a care is shared, a ministry challenge is expressed or a concern about a particular issue is discussed - stop the discussion and pray.

Ask the person who owns that issue to pray about it.

When you weave prayer throughout the fabric of the meeting, it will allow you and your team to experience prayer in a whole new way. Prayer and Planning won't just remain two disjointed parts but rather they will be intimately wed together as the important whole they are meant to be.

5 Ways To Get More Volunteers

It doesn't matter if you are a church of 50, 500 or 50000, - encouraging and mobilizing volunteers seems to be the perennial challenge in ministry. At my church we are constantly wrestling through this issue. I don't presume to have the final word on this, but here have been some of my thoughts and teachings about how to more effectively get more volunteers.

1. Develop leaders first. Volunteers will only work under competent leaders. Therefore it is your job to develop, to coach and to pour into leaders. Emerging leadership is one of your most important assets. Make sure you have good leadership first and then from that volunteers will grow.

2. Stop fishing from the same pond- You can only know so many people. Malcolm Gladwell says that most people connect within only small and intimate circles of relationships. Therefore the key to recruiting is to be able to get into other relational circles. In order to do that, you need to ask your key volunteers to intentionally tap into their circles. Ask your volunteers to recruit their own team themselves because chances are they know people you don't even know.

3. Equip your volunteers - people are not merely tools in order to accomplish your ministry goals and objectives. But unfortunately, too often, we treat them that way. You need to value your volunteers. Train, equip and develop your volunteers. Make sure they know that they are going to walk away with an added value for volunteering, in other words, a free prize inside. In other words, it isn't so much about "getting" from your volunteers, but rather "giving" to them.

4. Simply ask. Most of the time, the people you need to serve in your ministry area are simply sitting in your church doing nothing. The reason for this is because all they hear are asks, pleas and challenges from the platform. And suffice it say, "Everyone's challenge" is too often "No one's challenge". Not everybody will respond to a corporate challenge (also read my post about Communication from the Platform). Sometimes all you need to do is to take the initiative and ask.

5. Communicate Vision, not Need. To often when churches communicate the need for volunteers it sounds like begging. "We need to fill spots!" "We need your help!" Most people don't respond to that kind of plea. People will respond to vision and outcomes. People want to know that their serving will have purpose and gives them a real opportunity to impact the Kingdom of God.

What say you? How do you get more volunteers to serve?