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.

Is your church in the 21st century?

Protestant churches across the nation are using various forms of emerging technology to influence people’s lives and enliven their church experience. But the pace of technology adoption seems to have slowed in the past two years as some churches focus upon making the most of what they already have, and other churches attempt to get by without incorporating such tools into their ministry mix.

The new study by Barna research explored the presence of eight technologies and applications in Protestant churches. Here are some of the trends concerning those eight technologies that Barna discovered in their research.
  • Two-thirds of Protestant churches (65%) now have a large screen projection system in their church that they use for services and other events.
  • Sending email blasts to large groups of people or to the entire church body is common to a majority of Protestant churches (56%).
  • The ways in which churches are reaching out to people over the Internet are expanding. Back in 2000, just one-third of Protestant churches (34%) had a church website. That exploded to 57% in 2005, and has inched upward since then to 62%. (personal comment: I can't imagine why EVERY church can't put up some kind of website - this should be minimal in this day and age.)
  • One out of every four Protestant churches (26%) now has some presence on one or more social networking sites (such as MySpace).
  • Podcasting has been adopted by one out of every six churches (16%).
  • Blogging is also invading the ministry world. One-eighth of Protestant churches (13%) now have blog sites or pages through which people can interact with the thoughts posted by church leaders.
  • One technology that has not shown any discernible expansion in the past several years is that of satellite broadcasting. In 2000, some 7% of Protestant churches had a satellite dish for receiving programming and training. That number has remained virtually unchanged since then, registering 8% in 2005 and the same 8% in 2007.

How does your church stack up? Are you in the 21st. century? If not, what keeps you from embracing new technologies?


Thoughts on Discipleship that make you go "Hmmm.."

Here are some discipleship truisms from my blogger friend Ron up in New York. At Big Creek Church we are currently attempting to get our arms around discipleship, therefore I found Ron's thoughts good fodder in provoking some of my thinking and as a springboard for my thoughts on discipleship. I hope Ron wouldn't mind me adding a couple of caveats and additions to his thoughts, all of which I have included in bold italics. Here they are:
  • Information doesn't guarantee transformation. Information alone doesn't change people. If it does, what's our excuse? (Never before has the church been so resourced.) There's been a big disconnect between the head and the heart. Very true, discipleship isn't merely about information download. Too often we have treated discipleship like a classroom. But Jesus didn't disciple in a classroom. It was life on life. With life on life spiritual investment comes true, meaningful and real spiritual transformation.
  • Never equate longevity with maturity. It is possible to be in the church a long time but not have increasing evidence of Jesus' indwelling. Any congregation can become a spiritual club, where graytops are merely infants in diapers. I heard a friend say that too many people in the church suffer from the Sponge Bob problem - they just come to church to sit and soak. If that is all people do, they will never grow. Spiritual transformation is never passive.
  • The measurement of discipleship is obedience. Nothing more, nothing less. I would add this qualifier that we don't want obedience stemming from legalism, but rather a person whose heart and life is captured by the love of the gospel. It is true that discipleship isn't merely about "knowing", but we must be "applying", otherwise it falls short.
  • Personal charisma doesn't guarantee transformation. You can be a nice guy and still be a damned nice guy. Having spiritual manners -- even some spiritual sensitivity -- doesn't make you mature. Nice people are adept at fooling others. Of course it is true that external niceness doesn't necessarily indicate internal heart transformation. People can wear masks and be posers. Discipleship demands that we are willing to delve beyond external behavior and manners and get deep into matter of the heart.
  • Disciples aren't made effectively in classes. There's no way around it: time, time, more time. Coffee, coffee, more coffee. One conversation, then another. Classes are components but shouldn't be the main method. Disciples are made within the messiness of real life. There is no substitute for it. People want to see how faith intersects real issues, struggles and challenges in life. You can't teach that in a classroom.

The Top 5 Volunteer No-No's

Volunteers are the life blood of any church or ministry. Without those who generously give of their time, talents and energy - nothing would be able to be accomplished by the church (humanly speaking of course). Here are some volunteer no-no's and pitfalls to avoid when working and communicating with volunteers.

1. Never ask a volunteer to help “YOU.”
  • Ask them to help the church, or help in a classroom. Don’t make it a personal favor to you. Personal favors won't stand up over the test of time.
  • The focus shouldn't be about YOU.
2. Never thank a volunteer for helping “YOU.”
  • Remind them of your overall vision and purpose when saying Thank You.
  • For example, "Thank you for helping us reach all these kids this morning. You’ve been a great help to all of us!” vs. “Thanks for helping me out. I don’t know what I would have done without you!”
  • And... the church name should be prominently displayed on any thank you correspondence. Make it about the Church or organization, not me!
3. Don’t ask the same volunteer to do the same thing over and over.
  • Don’t abuse the willingness of one person to ALWAYS help when needed. Mix it up! Don't go to the same "well" all the time.
  • You want to avoid not giving others in the church the opportunity and privilege to serve.
4. Never show any displeasure with church leadership to Volunteers.
  • Teach the Power of Buy-In! Representing our leader’s choices as our very own. This shows our volunteers that we are a strong team, and are working together for a common goal.
  • Even if it is someone else’s fault, make it our fault (this is where the power of the Gospel comes in - we can own fault when we know that we are SECURE in Christ). If everyone would do this, then rumors and displeasure with leadership would be stopped early and often!
5. Never ask "How did it go today?"
  • “How did it go today, or this morning?” is an unhelpful question. The question is too vague, and you are certain to get merely a one word answer, "fine".
  • Ask questions that are directed toward the specific outcomes you and your volunteers are working toward. When you do this, it will give you and your volunteers a real and concrete sense of how they are doing, and it will provoke with them a real discussion of issues or concerns that perhaps need to be addressed.
(ht: littlepastor)

How to properly set direction and achieve goals

Agile Ministry just completed a great series on planning projects.

"Project planning is important, as it sets the direction and focus of the church to achieve a specific goal or outcome. Some projects may be isolated to a specific group of people or targeted to help a specific team, while others may have far-reaching impact to your church for years to come.

This series will help you develop and improve your skills for any kind of project: from handling an upcoming event to launching a satellite church campus."

Here is a complete list of the posts in chronological order:

Ancient-Future Church Design

As you may know my church Big Creek Church is in a building phase with our church. There fore I found this blog post from Cynthia Ware a fascinating read. When you are either building something from the ground up or simply refurbishing an existing facility - it requires a ton of choices and decisions. Here is Cynthia's post:

"More and more established churches are refurbishing and redesigning their existing facilities. The creation of state-of-the-art worship sanctuaries with media/sound production in mind is booming. Audio acoustics, projection screen placement and lighting considerations are now all part of church design. In fact, digital technology considerations are now in the forefront of design.

For example, Technologies for Worship Magazine currently features an article on the continuing multi-site expansion of The Church on the Way, originating in Van Nuys, Ca. With three campuses, this multi-lingual congregation is still growing. Having attended The Church on the Way in the early 1980's, and having received such life-changing and dynamic ministry there, I was excited to think about how many individuals these new facilities might serve.

But, in contrast, Lifeway Research has just released a newsletter with this article in it: The unchurched prefer cathedrals to contemporary designs. (You've got to subscribe to read the whole newsletter.) According to the study, by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio over any other option, unchurched Americans prefer churches that look more like a medieval cathedral than what most think of as a more contemporary church building. The assumption is that there is a desire to link to the past.

As Christians, we obviously have a strong desire to share our faith with others, but should we design our buildings with them in mind? Or, are our temples primarily for those who name themselves as believers?"

Let me answer Cynthia's question here on my blog. I would say that our buildings are for those outside the church. They should have "outreach" central in their design. Remember, we call our church buildings, "facilities". They are to do just that - "facilitate". They are to facilitate the mission of the church and not merely be country clubs for our comfort and enjoyment.

(ht: Cynthia Ware)

(picture: Neo-Gothic church dedicated to St. Elisabeth of Hungary at Roses' Square (Rózsák tere) in Budapest.)

Facebook for Pastors

“Facebook for Pastors”

Chris Forbes is the founder of Ministry Marketing Coach has just published a new e-book entitled "Facebook for Pastors".

The e-book shows Pastors and those in ministry how to build relationships and connect with people using the most popular social network on the Internet. This 32 page e-book will help Pastors and other ministry leaders make the most of this great networking tool.

* How to make the most of your profile information
* Tips for Networking with People in Facebook
* All about groups, messages, poking, etc
* Brand Your Ministry
* Meet prospects for your church
* Learn more about the members in your church
* Fine tune your communication skills
* Testimonies from Pastors who use FaceBook
* and much more!

Get the e-book HERE

The e-book is in PDF format. Also, yours truly, has a one page testimonial in the publication on how we are using Facebook at Big Creek.

Great branding should be invisible

Legendary film director John Huston said something to the effect, “Great movie directing should be invisible. If someone in the audience ever tells you how great a particular shot is, then you’ve failed, because you’ve distracted them from the story.” Huston knew great shooting was there to enhance the film story, never to call attention to itself.

The same way is true about "branding".

In Phil Cooke's book Branding Faith, he shares that branding and identity are tools to help a product, person, or organization connect with an audience. An effective brand story is a way to cut through the media clutter and get your message heard. The ultimate point of course is to sell more products, get your message out there, or create name recognition.

Our church is currently in a branding process. Of course we are not so much concerned about "selling products" but we are interesting in getting our message and identity clearly out. We are working through our church name, logo and look to make sure we connect and communicate with the community and people that have contact with our church.

Branding isn't about spin. It isn't about communicating something your aren't. But rather branding marks out and identifies clearly who you are. That is the process our church is currently moving through. It is a process, and it takes a while. But we are staying faithful to it and seeing where it is going to taking us.

(If you are looking for a good branding and design firm, I would highly recommend ours- MetaLeap)

Communication Bad Habits

I am currently on vacation. Therefore I have automatically scheduled posts throughout the week that are the "Best of...". These are the posts in the last 90 days that, according to Google, have been read the most on the blog.

If you are new to the blog, I hope you will enjoy some of these posts from the past. If you have been a long time reader of the blog, I trust you'll appreciate seeing again some of your favorite posts.

The more you speak and communicate the better you can get at doing it. But on the flip side, the more ingrained bad habits of communication can become. If you speak for a living, which I do (larger crowds, small groups and one to one), you need to always be working on your speaking skills. Maybe you video tape yourself to watch it, or record yourself to listen to, but a good communicator is always looking to improve.

Here are 5 of the biggest bad habits that a communicator can have. These aren't the only habits, but these are the most egregious.


Meetings that Kill

I am currently on vacation. Therefore I have automatically scheduled posts throughout the week that are the "Best of...". These are the posts in the last 90 days that, according to Google, have been read the most on the blog.

If you are new to the blog, I hope you will enjoy some of these posts from the past. If you have been a long time reader of the blog, I trust you'll appreciate seeing again some of your favorite posts.

Churches are notorious for meetings. We actually have meetings in order to plan meetings!

I am sure this can be true in just about every professional setting. Meetings can be a problematic. Too many meetings. Unproductive meetings. Boring meetings.

People, as busy enough as they are, don't want to go to meetings just for the sake of going to meetings. And since, in the church, most of the people we work with are volunteers, as a leader, you have to work extra hard on making meetings worthwhile when you have them. Because since you don't pay volunteers you can't order them to come to the next meeting you call.

Here are some helpful thoughts and tips that I have discovered to help avoid, "Death by Meetings".


Buckets for Capturing Ideas

I am currently on vacation. Therefore I have automatically scheduled posts throughout the week that are the "Best of...". These are the posts in the last 90 days that, according to Google, have been read the most on the blog.

If you are new to the blog, I hope you will enjoy some of these posts from the past. If you have been a long time reader of the blog, I trust you'll appreciate seeing again some of your favorite posts.

How do you capture ideas when you get them? What are the buckets that you are using?

If you are anything like me, you have a mind like a steel sieve and therefore I need quick and easy ways to capture a to-do, an appointment, file an important resource or make a reminder.

I am not asserting that these tools are the "best", but I have tried and used many tools over the years, and I have settled on these few that are working for me.


How to Avoid Poor Communication

I am currently on vacation. Therefore I have automatically scheduled posts throughout the week that are the "Best of...". These are the posts in the last 90 days that, according to Google, have been read the most on the blog.

If you are new to the blog, I hope you will enjoy some of these posts from the past. If you have been a long time reader of the blog, I trust you'll appreciate seeing again some of your favorite posts.

7 Poor Communication Skills to Avoid


Name Tag Placement - you mean there is a guide for that?

I am currently on vacation. Therefore I have automatically scheduled posts throughout the week that are the "Best of...". These are the posts in the last 90 days that, according to Google, have been read the most on the blog.

If you are new to the blog, I hope you will enjoy some of these posts from the past. If you have been a long time reader of the blog, I trust you'll appreciate seeing again some of your favorite posts.

I just read this mildly humorous, yet truly helpful post at Productivity Cafe about Name Badge Placement. The reason that it struck me as funny was the fact that we would even talk about the "science" of name badge placement. But nevertheless, there are some good lessons to learn here. Here is this post:

Name Badge Placement - “You mean there is a guide for that?"


Going on Vacation

Beginning today and for an entire week I will be on vacation. I have automatically scheduled posts throughout the week that are the "Best of..". These are the posts in the last 90 days that, according to Google, have been read the most on the blog.

If you are new to the blog, I hope you will enjoy some of these posts from the past. If you have been a long time reader of the blog, I trust you'll appreciate seeing again some of your favorite posts.

Small group members decide to stop feigning interest in each other

OWENSBORO, Ky. — A small group from Rolling Hills Christian Church arrived at a place of unprecedented honesty with each other last Tuesday when they discovered that nobody in the group actually liked anyone else.

"We all realized, ‘You know what? I don’t care for any of you, and I find your kids annoying,’" says one man who was present.

The moment of openness came while they planned their annual small group camping trip. Some disagreed over dates and camping locations, until one man finally said, "To be honest, I don’t relish spending any extra time with any of you, especially not a week-long trip." Others voiced their agreement and several people applauded.

"It hurt so good," said one participant. "I felt huge relief at not having to pretend to like these people anymore."

The discussion progressed as people revealed what they disliked about the others. Marty, a middle-aged umarried woman, was singled out for being too socially needy and bringing up the same prayer requests she’s had for the past five years. The group was also tired of praying for her "unspoken request" which everyone knew was to find a husband.

The Perez family was blasted for allowing their children to run around the house unchecked and eat the adult desserts before the adults had a chance to eat them.

"I made the loveliest pumpkin cupcakes one time and the kids inhaled them in about thirty seconds," says one woman. "From that point on, I just brought store-bought snacks." Everyone voiced annoyance at the homeschooling family but couldn’t find a specific reason to, given that the daughter sits quietly in the corner reading Little House on the Prairie books. "I guess she’s mousy. That’s about the worst I can say," said one member.

The outpouring of truthfulness came five years after the group was created by a church secretary who is now employed elsewhere. At the time, the secretary was responsible for placing all church members into small groups by geographic proximity, age and "sometimes the sounds of their names," she says.

But this group struggled to gel.

"I always looked for reasons to like everyone, but I just couldn’t find them," says one woman. "I’m just put off by each person." Another man says he worked hard "to enjoy their company and find common interests, but I just couldn’t do it." Now, he says, "I’m tired of wasting one night a week on them. I’m even tired of the smell of their houses."

The group agreed to have what they call a "Paul-Barnabas split" in which they part company willingly, with hopes that the others flourish in some other environment, away from the rest.

To the surprise of many, the experience has given them a common bond. "I like these people a lot more since we all admitted we don’t really like each other," says one man. "I still don’t want to meet with them every week, but at least we have a real relationship now."

(ht: Lark News)

Greenhouse Small Groups

At Big Creek church our small groups are called LIFE groups. I appreciate David Rudd's analogy here on how LIFE groups are to grow. Comparing it more to a greenhouse as opposed to a garage or a meadow. I will let David expand on this analogy more. Here is his post over at Creative Community:

LIFE groups can be best described through the metaphor of the greenhouse. However, to understand the greenhouse, you must first take a moment to consider the garage and the meadow.

Imagine a typical garage. Likely it is a highly organized place. Most garages have shelves, cabinets, and other storage areas. A garage is a place where a lot of different things can happen because it is well organized. In addition to housing cars, most garages also serve as work spaces. Often they are a place for auto repairs or woodworking. A properly functioning garage provides plenty of space to efficiently accomplish several tasks.

Most garages look the same. They typically have a square or rectangular shape, concrete floors, unfinished walls, and a large door. Because they are designed to be functional, not artistic, little variety exists from garage to garage.

Garages are a place to accomplish tasks, not to grow things. If something is growing in your garage, you likely have a problem.

Now imagine a meadow. Nothing in a meadow is organized. This lack of control allows anything and everything to grow in a meadow. Meadows are completely random and completely disorganized. A meadow is not a place where tasks are accomplished. A meadow is a place you go when you have nothing to do.

Meadows are inviting places because of the incredible variety of growing plants. Even weeds contribute to the appeal of a meadow. The lack of organization and efficiency in the meadow help contribute to the wide variety of growth. The primary thing that happens in a meadow is growth. No systems exist, there are no processes; just wild, uncontrolled growth.

Small group programs at many churches resemble garages. Some small group programs resemble meadows.

"Garage Churches" organize their small groups from the top-down. Most decisions are made by staff. A great deal of what happens in groups and ministries happens via dictation. Systems and policies are put in place to ensure high efficiency. Usually, every group follows the same specific plan. The church developes a pattern, and every group is expected to squeeze into the pattern. Little or not room exists for creativity. Typically, organizational productivity takes precedent over personal growth. Victories are usually measured by accomplishment of the church goals and increased attendance or giving, rather than by personal life change.

"Meadow Churches" allow everyone to do what is right in their own eyes. Most decisions are made by individuals with little or no consideration as to how they might impact others. No one makes an effort to give direction or oversee any groups or ministries. No "big picture" plans or goals exist. Different groups regularly engage in "turf wars" because no one has a shared vision for the direction of the church. Every group makes their own plan. Each group is given the freedom to evaluate itself, make plans, and study material which is effective for the current needs of the group. Personal growth is given precedent over organizational productivity. The larger goals of the group take backseat to the growth and development of each person and group. Numbers and statistics are not nearly as important as personal and group stories.

Both the garage church and the meadow church have aspects that are desirable. However, both models also have clear weaknesses. We are trying to develop a ministry model at Calvary that builds on the strengths of both models and minimizes the weaknesses of each model. We call this hybrid the "greenhouse" model. Our primary objective is to "provide the minimum structure necessary to allow for maximum growth."


(ht: David Rudd)

How To Mobilize And Connect Volunteers Into Your Community

A resource-packed Web site recently launched a campaign to equip churches for national volunteer month in April and for volunteer week later this month.

The site,, offers a searchable directory of nearly 3,000 volunteer opportunities in 1,800 organizations aimed at equipping churches to volunteer in their communities.’s partners include big-name Christian ministries such as the Salvation Army, World Vision, Gospel Communications, the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, Campus Crusade’s Here’s Life Inner City, Christian Community Development Association, and the Urban Youth Worker’s Institute. According to the website:
“The purpose of this campaign is to get more volunteers from churches serving out in the community with the goal placing over 1 million volunteers in the next ten years,”
The campaign highlighted the discrepancy between faith-based volunteer activities within church walls and volunteer work in the community.

According to the United States Department of Labor, faith-based volunteers are the largest pool of volunteers, representing over 34.8 percent of volunteers. The value of the time donated by faith-based volunteers is $51.8 billion each year in the United States alone, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Department of Labor.

But very little of this volunteering occurs outside the church. (this fact is a travesty!) Only 7 to 15 percent of volunteering through churches help the larger community, according to Lester Salamon of the Institute for Policy Studies of Johns Hopkins University.

In response, the Web site provides resources to encourage churches to launch a community volunteer program.

Pastors can find ideas for sermons on service and justice in the sermon outline directory. They can also have their church small groups conduct Bible studies on the importance of service and justice, and then have the small groups use the Web site to find local volunteer opportunities.

The site provides the following toolkit:
  • Directory of over 40 sermon outlines, bible studies and small group materials on the importance of service and Christian social justice
  • Group volunteer opportunity search for churches and small groups that want to volunteer together
  • Church volunteer toolkit and Wiki encyclopedia on church volunteering
  • Webcast presentations to train volunteers and volunteer coordinators
  • Multimedia directory of thousands of sermons, workshops, videos and MP3s on justice topics
  • Short term missions directory with opportunities across the world
Mark your calendars, National Volunteer Month is April and National Volunteer Week is April 27 to May 3

(ht: Don Brock)

Do we need or want greeters on Sunday morning?

This is the latest poll from the readers of CMS. The poll is concerning greeters on Sunday morning. Some people hate to love them; other people love to hate them; still others could care less.

27% of you absolutely love church greeters. Maybe you admire them, are grateful for them or love being one yourself. Either way, it's a Sunday highlight for you to be door-greeted by a smiling face.

48% of you aren't totally sold on greeters, and you judge on a greeter-by-greeter basis.

A final 25% of you don't really get greeting. You think it's a bad idea to have people who are set aside to be professional smile, wave and hand-shakers.

At Big Creek Church, we have greeters. It is important to be intentional with our guests on Sunday morning. But it goes well beyond merely a smile and giving someone a bulletin. Our greeters are prompted and trained to recognize guests on Sunday. And then it is their job to seamlessly help our guests to the get to the next place in their Sunday morning experience - whether it be check their children into nursery or Kidmo, or directing them to get a cup of coffee or getting them more information about the church by directing them to the information desk.

It is true that it is EVERYONE'S responsibility at Big Creek to make people feel welcomed. But that doesn't take away from the strategic role and responsibility of Sunday morning greeters.

What do you think about this poll and having church greeters?

(ht: Church Marking Sucks)