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 Perils Of Multitasking - Infographic

Although too often we believe in the power of multitasking..more evidence has been shown that multitasking doesn't help but rather it hurts.  Here are some highlights of the infographic.
  • 98% of people who multitask do more harm than good.
  • On average, employees at work who use a computer are distracted about every 10 minutes. They lose 2.1 hours a day.
  • Concentrate on one task at a time to get more done faster. Find a distraction free environment, turn off the cell phone, and have a pen and paper to write down those thoughts that pop up and distract your thinking.

Multitasking Infographic

The Importance Of The Hidden Life With God

For those of us doing vocational ministry, heed these important words by Nouwen:

“Hiddenness is an essential quality of the spiritual life. Solitude, silence, ordinary tasks, being with people without great agendas, sleeping, eating, working, playing … all of that without being different from others, that is the life that Jesus lived and the life he asks us to live. It is in hiddenness that we, like Jesus, can increase “in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and with people” (Luke 2:51). It is in hiddenness that we can find a true intimacy with God and a true love for people.

Even during his active ministry, Jesus continued to return to hidden places to be alone with God. If we don’t have a hidden life with God, our public life for God cannot bear fruit.

 - Henri Nouwen

(ht: JR)

5 Ways To Spark Creativity

from the Ministry Best Practices archives:

I have been reading some discussions recently about originality in the church. The question has been raised, is it cool to take ideas from other churches? I think that people who say NO, they perhaps don't understand what creativity and innovation is all about and where ideas come from.

How does a pastor or ministry leader cultivate creativity?

1. Understand that creativity doesn't come from creating something out of nothing. Only God creates "ex-nihilo" something from nothing! :-) Often creativity comes from making NEW ASSOCIATIONS. It is about connecting two independent things in a new and fresh way. Creativity comes from applying ideas from other contexts and finding new ways to associate them into your context. Creativity comes from borrowing. For example, I am always borrowing ideas from culture, and making new associations within our context here at Big Creek. That's what my sermon series MythBusters was all about, you realize of course I stole the idea from a T.V. show? :-)

2. Fill the well. You got to be pouring fresh stuff in your life. I am a gatherer type person. I am always reading and talking to others. We should be willing to borrow from others. Reading blogs through RSS feeds, exposes me to ideas from people around the world. For instance, we are trying to decode how to be missional in our suburban context, and there are men and women who are thinking through the same stuff, and I am learning from their learnings, and being provoked by the questions that they are asking.

3. Cross-training. Learn and read and study other disciplines. Often the best ideas come from adapting ideas from other places and professions. You got to get out of the church ghetto! You need to find ways that ideas in the marketplace translate into the church context. That is why books like Good to Great by Jim Collins have been so highly thought of within the church. I often expand my reading to history, business, biography and current affair books. I also try to tap into the wealth of expertise that our professionals have here at Big Creek. Their professional experience makes them one of the best resources to help us innovate.

4. Don't ask limiting questions. Too often we are asking questions that by the very nature of the question puts parameters around the kind of answer we are going to get. For instance, the question might be, "How can we help students grow deeper in their walk with God at our mid-week Wednesday high school large group"? Within that question is the assumption that we should have a large group of students meeting weekly. And within the question we are assuming that only within the large group can effective growth and life change happen.

Are large youth groups the right avenue to help teenagers to grow in their faith? Should we even have them at all? Listen, I am not here to draw any conclusions. But if you are going to be creative, you have go to be WILLING to ask those questions. Don't let the kind of question you ask, box in your answer!

5. Be willing to risk. You gotta to be willing to risk and risk failing. If your church isn't a risk culture, you are going to be conservative and cautious in what you are willing to create and try. Failures are some of the greatest tutors and learning opportunities. Be willing to risk and risk Big!

When someone asked Spurgeon why within his sermons he preached other's ideas, he quickly retorted. "I am like farmer Smith's cow. I graze in others people's pastures, but just like farmer Smith's cow, you can count on the milk that you get being mine."(1) We need to be willing to graze in all the pastures out there - other churches, the culture, other professions. But at the end of the day, our creative ideas will reflect who we are, who our church is and our unique culture and ministry context.

(1) I remember hearing this quote attributed to Spurgeon and it has always stuck with me, but for this post - I tried to find it's reference, but I had NO success. Do I have it correct? Did Spurgeon say this?

Why Great Ideas Get Rejected

Regardless of how open-minded people are, they experience a subtle bias against creative ideas when faced with uncertain situations. 
If the implicit bias against creativity is triggered by uncertainty, then crafting your pitch to maximize certainty should improve the odds of the idea being accepted. You can do this in a variety of ways. Reaffirming what the client or your manager knows is true about their project should prime them to be more accepting of novel ideas. Connecting the idea to more familiar ideas, such as previous successful projects or similar works, will also increase the odds that your idea will be seen as practical and desirable. Lastly, try leading clients toward your idea with a series of statements they agree with and then pitching your idea as if it's theirs. Thus, counteracting the bias against creativity with an even more powerful bias – the bias for our own ideas!
The more certainty that you can provide to accompany your creative idea, the more likely it will be accepted.  Here are some additional thoughts of mine to help you do that:
  • Anticipate questions and objections - and be prepared to have thought through answers
  • Have numbers - know exactly what the financial (or human) impact and costs are to implementing the new idea
  • Find connection points between the creative idea and the organization's mission and vision - help them to see that it is merely an extension of what they are currently doing
(ht: 99U)

Surfing For God Book - FREE!

Get ebook FREE today!
  • 68 Million searches for pornography every day!
  • 70% of Christian men report viewing porn in the last year!
Perhaps you've heard and seen statistics like this. Yet too often the advice for men and women struggling with this addiction and false fantasy is just to have more willpower or just have MORE faith. But that advice misses the point!  It usually leaves the person frustrated and still struggling.

According to counselor and ministry leader Michael John Cusick, there is a better answer.  And that answer he explores in his book, Surfing for God.  In his book, Cusick shows how the pursuit of empty pleasure is really a search for our heart's deepest desire and the real key to resistance is discovering the joy we REALLY and TRULY want.  Cusick's book goes to the heart and soul level and is deeply rooted in helping us live in the light of the gospel and the cross.

I highly recommend this book!  This book has been helpful for me and I have and will continue to use this book in my ministry work with others.

For a limited time, Michael John Cusick and the publisher Thomas Nelson is offering 25,000 copies of the electronic version FREE.  Simply go HERE and download.  Get this book, read it and pass it on.

If you are looking for the paperback version, you can simply buy that HERE

7 Signs You May Be Fried

Perry Noble outlines 7 Signs that a ministry leader may be fried:

#1 – Is the pace of life you are currently on sustainable for the long haul? (If you are telling yourself that “things will get better” then I would simply ask you to be honest and ask yourself how long you’ve actually been telling yourself and others that…and, if you are really brave then ask your wife how long you’ve been saying that!)

#2 – Are you more known in the social media world than you are by your own family members and friends?

#3 – Do you feel trapped in your current set of circumstances…and you simply do not see any light at the end of the tunnel?

#4 – Does it seem like the attacks of the enemy have increased lately…either through very condemning thoughts and/or either through attacks from others?

#5 – Do you find yourself having to pretend to be happy when you are in a room full of people…but secretly you wish you were in a place where no one else was around and no one could find you?

#6 – Are you enjoying life…REALLY enjoying life, or do you simply feel like you are merely enduring it?

#7 – Do you feel lonely, isolated and misunderstood?

If you answered “yes” to questions 2,3, 4, 5, and 7 then you have GOT TO pay attention to that!!! One of the BIGGEST problems leaders have is denying things that the Lord is trying to get them to deal with!!! Problems do not go away by us ignoring them!!! We’ve got to hit them head on…especially the ones that seem to try to constantly dominate our own lives!!

(read entire post HERE)

Why Do Kids Leave The Church?

“Why do kids who grow up in the church tend to leave the church?"

Reason 1: They leave for college. This is rather simple, but if you don’t have a major university near by, many high schoolers take off for college, followed by marriage, job, and often a move.

Reason 2: They don’t know Jesus. Each person who grows up in a Christian family must come to faith for himself or herself. It is easier to go along with what your parents want when a child. When one is free to make his own choices, he may do a personal spiritual inventory and determine that there isn’t much devotion to Jesus inside.

Reason 3: They are sowing their wild oats. We may not want to admit this, but many Christian kids want to try out a worldly lifestyle for a while. If they know Jesus, they will eventually crash and burn and the Shepherd will lead them back. In fact, this had been the case of my friend who had asked the question in the first place.

Reason 4: Their parents are hypocrites and come across as “softly-committed-but-seemingly-good-church-folks” for many years. The kids see that there is no real joy, no real integrity to their parents’ faith, so they either a) reject the church and never come to faith, or b) they ditch the church for a while and journey out to find a more authentic expression of their faith.

Reason 5: Church tradition makes the culture unappealing. A young adult might be a true Christian, but is tired of being bored so he takes a break from church for a while, waiting for something that appeals to him. Or he or she will wait till marriage or children to come along, and then decide that they had better get with the program, because it is the right thing to do.

Reason 6: The Church has no desire to raise up young leaders or treat them as adults. This is subtle, unspoken, but real. The deacons or elders are all the same steady individuals they have always been. When they add “new blood,” the minimum age is 45. The thought that someone in his 20’s could lead a ministry or even serve as an elder is never entertained.

Reason 7: Poor Education in God. The Church leaders have taught the young adults from childhood that their God is different from the one the grown ups have. You can see when this happens because having been babysat through Sunday School, entertained through youth group, a young Christian often is launched into the adult world not knowing his Bible with any depth. He then will need to rediscover the joy of Christ through another path. He is immune to hearing from God in his own congregation.

Reason 8: The child’s parents failed to teach their children to cope with the difficulties of life through prayer and application of the Word. Setting the example is 90% of the battle for parents, but the other 10% is entering into the children’s pain throughout the years and teaching them to pray and apply biblical principles. Many Christians just don’t do this. They expect their kids to be Christian and do right and figure out the rest. So, they see a great God and have no practice in breathing obedience in and out when the hard times come.

Reason 9: The church doesn’t introduce Christian kids to a membership process as they mature into adults. Instead, we often assume that they are members because they grew up in the church. (I have been guilty of this in both my pastorates and was amazed that I didn’t see it for years. Working on the remedy now). Perhaps you can add some reasons I don’t have. Next blog? Suggestions for a solution.

(ht: ChristianPost)

Ten Questions To Diagnose Your Church's Evangelistic Health

from Thom Rainer:

  1. Are members more concerned about the lost than their own preferences and comfort? Listen to how church members talk to understand what their true priorities are.
  2. Is the church led to pray for lost persons? Most churches are pretty good about praying for those who have physical needs. But do they pray for those who have the greatest spiritual need, a relationship with Jesus Christ?
  3. Are the members of the church open to reaching people who don’t look or act like them? The gospel breaks all racial, ethnic, and language barriers. Do the members seek to reach others? Do they rejoice when these people become a part of the church?
  4. Do conflicts and critics zap the evangelistic energy of the church? An evangelistic church is a united church. A divided church is rarely evangelistic.
  5. Do small groups and Sunday school classes seek to reach lost persons within their groups? Sunday school was once one of the most effective evangelistic tools in the church. Are the groups in your church evangelistic?
  6. Is the leadership of the church evangelistic? The congregation will follow and emulate the priorities of the church leadership.
  7. Do the sermons regularly communicate the gospel? They may not be evangelistic sermons in the classic sense, but all sermons should point people to Jesus.
  8. Are there ministries in the church that encourage members to be involved in evangelistic outreach and lifestyle? You may be surprised to find how many members become evangelistic with a modest amount of training and equipping.
  9. Have programs become ends in themselves rather than means to reach people? Perhaps a total ministry and program audit is in order.
  10. Is there any process of accountability for members to be more evangelistic? That which is rewarded and expected becomes the priority of the congregation.

Digital Bibles Pop Up In More Pews

from USAToday:

"The printed word is losing its place as the dominant medium for reading." - and the same is true with the Bible.

Yet - there is pushback with this new digital trend: The Rev. Michael Nabors, pastor of New Calvary Baptist Church in Detroit, has at least 20 hardcover Bibles in the office of his church. He recently began using an iPad during Bible study, but sticks to a hardcover version in the pulpit. He doesn't think many of his older members would appreciate him using his iPad.

"What if he's up there preaching and the battery dies or something like that? I hope he has a real Bible next to him, so he can look up what he needs to look up," said Isabella Howard, 62, of Detroit, a longtime member.

She wouldn't trade her hardbound Bible for any e-version.

"I feel closer to God with this," she said referring to her Bible. "I don't have to plug up anything. All I have to do is open it up and read it."

For others, there are more liturgical reasons to shun e-Bibles during worship.

A representative of the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit said it would be impractical for a priest to use an e-reader during mass because the Holy Book is held high, carried down the aisle and placed for display on the altar as part of the opening of the service.

"It would be really strange to process an iPad down the aisle and place it on the altar," said Dan McAfee, director of Christian Worship for the archdiocese.

"E-Bibles are great for personal study, but they can't be used for liturgical books," he said. "The Bible is a sacred book -- a one of a kind -- not just a file among many files in an iPad."

What do you think? Is there is difference between the printed Word and the digital? 

5 Ways To Kill A Message

1. Failure to adequately prepare. You and I will never have enough time, so we have to get ahead of time. How effective would your message be if you could get 5 days ahead or even 3 weeks ahead? Set aside a non-negotiable planning day or morning to write the message 5 days ahead or 3 weeks ahead of time. We make it too easy to cancel meetings with ourselves.

2. The message goes too long. Often our messages go too long because we are not prepared and find ourselves rambling trying to make our point. Often we take so long because we don’t understand ourselves the point of our message well enough.

3. Too many good ideas. Don’t let the information in your message water down or confuse your main idea.
What would be the tweet describing your message? If you cannot summarize your message in 140 characters, you have more work to do.

4. Too few stories. Jesus was a master storyteller. Great content without a story does not communicate as effectively. Stories are important for the following reasons:
  • Stories hold our attention. A brain gets tired of listening after 10 minutes, and a story helps the listener re-engage.
  • Stir our emotions.
  • Help us remember.
5. No clear action step. People ask themselves: ‘that’s true, so what?’ What do I want the listener to do? Make the action step clear.

(ht: Jeff Henderson)

Compelling Preaching

Preaching is compelling to young secular adults not if preachers use video clips from their favorite movies and dress informally and sound sophisticated, but if the preachers understand their hearts and culture so well that listeners feel the force of the sermon’s reasoning, even if in the end they don’t agree with it.

 - Tim Keller

(ht: Keller Quotes)

New Poll: Atheism On The Rise

from the Washington Post:
Religiosity is on the decline in the U.S. and atheism is on the rise, according to a new worldwide poll. 
The poll, called “The Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism,” found that the number of Americans who say they are “religious” dropped from 73 percent in 2005 (the last time the poll was conducted) to 60 percent. 
At the same time, the number of Americans who say they are atheists rose, from 1 percent to 5 percent. 
The poll was conducted by WIN-Gallup International and is based on interviews with 50,000 people from 57 countries and five continents. Participants were asked, “Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say you are a religious person, not a religious person, or a convinced atheist?”

Get Fired In the Interview

from Denny Burk:
When I was in college and aspiring to ministry, I was greatly influenced by a pastor in Denton, Texas named Tommy Nelson. Among the many nuggets of wisdom that I gleaned from him was this: “Get fired in the interview.” 
What was he talking about? He was telling all of us young aspiring preachers exactly what we should be doing when candidating for a pastorate. It was sage advice for me then, and I reckon it is sage advice for any aspiring pastor who may be reading this now. When the pastor-search committee interviews you, don’t hold anything back in terms of your beliefs or philosophy of ministry. If there’s a deal-breaker between you and the church, it’s better for that to come out in the interview stage than after they’ve already hired you. Lay all your cards out on the table, and let the chips fall where they may.
This is good advice, although for many it may be hard to execute.  Why?  Because too often we want the opportunity to work out and whether it's consciously or unconsciously we are willing to soft-pedal, overlook or downplay areas of disagreement while merely accentuating agreement - so we play it safe.  But too often doing so is merely kicking the can down the road, only to have those "hot-button" issues surface during the pastor's tenure.  And when they do, they cause conflict, contention and confusion for both the pastor and the church.

It is better to get all areas on the table at the beginning...rather than assuming things will be different once you're in the role of pastor..because it won't.

Top Ten Ways You Can Draw Me To Your Church

You want me to come and stay at your church? Then...

10. Show me Jesus

9. Smile

8. Serve me

7. Help me to get involved and connected

6. Look me in the eye

5. Ask my opinion

4. Be clear and anticipate my questions

3. Remember my name

2. Call me (without asking me for something)

1. Be yourself

All of these together boil down to one simple message: Show That You Care.

9 Questions Leaders Should Ask When People Leave

  1. Do we have some mechanism for personally knowing our "sheep", if so - is it working? 
  2. Do we have some way of knowing when people are not showing up at church? 
  3. Are the pathways to connecting in our church clear and easy to navigate? 
  4. Are we confronting cliquishness in our church? 
  5. Are we burning out those in the church by allowing or causing them to over-serve or serve outside their gifting? 
  6. Are we effectively and clearly communicating with our congregation? 
  7. Is it at least possible that we are more at fault than we think? 
  8. Have we contributed to their frustration by having made promises we didn’t deliver on? 
  9. Are these critics who are negative toward the church generally critical and impossible to please?
(read entire post by Kevin DeYoung)

7 Reasons Why People Aren't Giving

  1. You don’t have a compelling vision. 
  2. You don’t teach people to give. 
  3. You don’t give them opportunities to give. 
  4. You don’t make it meaningful. 
  5. You don’t appreciate it when they do give. 
  6. You’ve always got a crisis. 
  7. They don’t see the fruit.
(ht: Michael)

Saying No Like Steve Jobs

"How many churches and people are struggling and suffering because they're trying to do too much?

When Steve Jobs was asked about Apple’s culture of innovation, he said: - “It comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much.”

We've got to practice saying NO!

Tony Morgan explains what this looks like:
“Many times you have to say no to adding a new ministry. Many times you have to say no to doing another special event. Many times you have to say no to communicating something to your entire audience. Many times you have to say no to good people with good ideas. Big churches get that. They understand that saying no helps the organization maintain alignment and creates opportunities to say yes to the things that will make a bigger impact.”
Perhaps churches and ministry leaders need to keep a "stop doing list" or write out a ‘things we don’t do’ list, to clarify exactly what activities they won’t get involved in, even good things.  Because in ministry there are a lot of "good" things to do...but the issue is saying no to "good" things and opportunities so that you can focus and choose the "best" thing.

A good book I would recommend with keeping church and ministry simple is Simple Church.

(ht: Communicate Jesus

Church And Social Media

Here is an interesting infographic outlining several trends in regards to church's usage of social media.  How does your church or ministry compare to these statistics?

(ht:: Mashable)

Preach Christ - Not Moralism

In nearly every text of Scripture a moral principle can be found, shown through the character of God or Christ, displayed in the good or bad examples of characters in the text, or provided as explicit commands, promises, and warnings. This moral principle is important and must be distilled clearly. But then a crisis is created in the hearers as they understand that this moral principle creates insurmountable problems. I describe in my sermons how this practical and moral obligation is impossible to meet. The hearers are led to a seemingly dead end, but then a hidden door opens and light comes in. Our sermons must show how the person and work of Jesus Christ bears on the subject. First we show how our inability to live as we ought stems from our forgetting or rejecting the work of Christ. Then we show that only by repenting and rejoicing in Christ can we then live, as we know we ought.
-Tim Keller

(ht: Keller Quotes)

MailChimp For Churches

MailChimp is my ministry's preferred solution for creating and sending compelling email communications. I have recommended MailChimp to my ministry associates, leaders and many others. Why? Because it is easy to use, powerful and cheap!  In fact, if your church or ministry has less than 2,000 people (subscribers), it’s free.

MailChimp put together a useful guide for churches (and ministries) – it’s calledMailChimp for Churches‘. 

Now called Mailchimp for NonProfits!

If you are not using really may want to consider doing so today.