The Internet's Best Practices for Ministry

Welcome to our site. Our mission and dedication is to equip leaders for innovative ministry. Explore. Read. Share.

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.

Free Ebook For Preachers

from Preaching Rocket:

Learn How to Prepare and Deliver Better Messages from Fourteen of the Nation's Best Communicators
In this free eBook, you will learn...
  • How Andy Stanley builds messages that communicate to an unchurched audience.
  • Why Darrin Patrick believes in a teaching team and how he involves other preachers in the process.
  • Why Jon Acuff believs surprise and honesty are two of the most important ingredients in any talk.
  • What Louie Giglio says we should do when we don't have anything to say.
Click HERE to get it!

Why Do Millennials Stay With Church?

from George Barna:

Everyone has an opinion about why Millennials are leaving the church. It's a controversial topic, one that Barna Group's researchers have been examining for a decade.

The topic was reignited this summer when blogger and author Rachel Held Evans wrote a piece about why Millennials leave church. Her editorial struck a nerve, sparking response pieces all across the web and generating more than 100,000 social media reactions in the first week alone.

Yet whatever one’s personal view of the reasons behind Millennials staying or going, one thing is clear: the relationship between Millennials and the Church is shifting. Barna Group’s researchers have been examining Millennials’ faith development since the generation was in its teen years—that is, for about a decade. During that time, the firm has conducted 27,140 interviews with members of the Millennial generation in more than 200 studies.

And while Barna Group’s research has previously highlighted what’s not working to keep Millennials at church, the research also illuminates what is working—and what churches can do to engage these young adults.

See entire report HERE

Does Your Church Website Pass The Blink Test?

The Blink Test refers to the approximately 0.02 seconds it takes for a person to decide if something interests them enough. 

This rule applies to books, shows, movies, and especially to websites and your online experience.

Since the margin to engage every visitor is so small, it is therefore essential that your first impression has to dazzle. You have 0.02 seconds. After that, you have an extra 2.6 seconds to really draw in your visitors and make them stay.  And as you probably already know people will visit your church website before they even dare to walk through your door.

Therefore you got to ask yourself, does your website pass the Blink Test and encourage visitors to not only stay and explore more of your church online...but will your site capture their attention and curiosity enough to encourage them to visit next Sunday morning?

If your church needs a website that will pass the Blink Test, you need to discover Clover Sites, a strategic partner of Ministry Best Practices.


10 Reasons To Avoid Pastoral Ministry

Certainly the blessings of ministry far outweigh the realities below, yet ministry is definitely not easy. That is why pastoral ministry must be a calling and not simply a "job". If you can't reconcile with these 10 difficult realities and challenges concerning pastoral ministry, then perhaps you should avoid it all together.

from the Aquila Report:

If you enter pastoral ministry…

10. Not everyone will like you.

9. You will make people angry regardless how godly you handle yourself; it comes with the position.

8. You will feel like a failure often, and when you do appear to succeed, the fruit that is produced cannot be accredited to you. God alone gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:7). Thus, there is little “sense of accomplishment in ministry” that you may be accustomed to in other vocations.

7. You will fight legalism and liberalism, along with laziness, ignorance, tradition, and opposition. Yet, your greatest enemy will be your own heart (Jer. 17:9).

6. Not everyone will respond positively to your preaching, teaching, or leadership. You will bring people to tears with the same sermon: one in joy, another in anger (I have done this).

5. You will be criticized, rarely to your face, and frequently behind your back. This criticism will come from those that love you, those that obviously do not like you, and pastors and Christians that barely know you.

4. You will think about quitting yearly or monthly, if not weekly or even daily.

3. You will be persecuted for preaching the truth, mostly from your brothers and sisters in the pews. You shouldn’t be surprised by the sight of your own blood. You’re a Christian, after all (Matt. 16:24).

2. You will feel very lonely on a consistent basis, feeling like no one truly knows you or cares how you feel, because you do not want to burden your family, and trust-worthy peers are few and far in-between. Because of the ”super-Christian” myth accredited to pastors literally, you will find it extremely difficult to disclose your deep thoughts and feelings to others. Thus, you will struggle with loneliness.

1. You will probably pastor a church that is barely growing (if at all), is opposed to change, doesn’t pay well, has seen pastors come and go, doesn’t respect the position as Biblically as they should, doesn’t understand what the Bible says a pastor’s or a church’s jobs are, and will only follow you when they agree with you (thus, they’ll really only follow themselves).

Does MegaChurch Equal MegaBusiness?

Churches across America are shutting down at a rate of 1% while megachurches are growing at rate of 8%. Many have criticized them for using corporate techniques to create economic empires. All the while, smaller churches watch their flock migrate towards a religious experience that's a little more... MEGA.

THE MEGACHURCH (2000+ attendance/week) - 1970: 10 mega-churches
- 1990: 250 mega-churches
- 2000: 600 mega-churches
- 2003: 740 mega-churches
- 2005: 1200 mega-churches
- 2011: 1,611 mega-churches

- 314,000 protestant churches (56 million worshipers/week)
- 1638 mega-churches (6 million/week)10.7% of church population & 2% of the US population
- 100 giga churches (1.3 million/week)
- Megachurches are tax exempt | they made $7.2 billion dollars/year in 2005
- Megachurches typically have a charismatic, authoritative, celebrity-like leader.
- Some meagachurches are like mini-cities with gyms, shopping, arcades, and even Starbucks.
- Most megachurches are evangelical (growth dependent), suburban, white, and southern.

Megachurch Megabusiness

Image compliments of Online Christian Colleges

How To Cultivate New Ideas

Let's first start with this great quote from the book Great Work by David Sturt:

"...Research studies show that we routinely talk to a very small group of the same people over and over again. Most of us feel that we converse with about a dozen people on a regular basis, and that’s true (studies say that the number is somewhere between 7 and 15). But our true inner circle—the group we talk with the most—is even smaller. The fact is, we talk to the same 5 or 10 trusted confidants, allies, and buddies about 80 percent of the time.

That means that close to 13,000 of our 16,000 daily words (that we typically use daily) are directed at a very small group of friends and confidants. These closest coworkers, team members, family members, and friends make up our true inner circle. And this is a comfortable place to start having conversations about great work, because these people think like us, care about us, and believe in us. But talking to your inner circle alone can also become a disadvantage—because these people think like us, care about us, and believe in us."

The thrust of this quote is that conversations with people we don't usually talk to lead to ideas we wouldn't think of on our own.  If you want to be drawn toward new ideas that will assist you in achieving great work than you need to have conversations with people outside of your inner circle.

Therefore as church & ministry leaders, we need to be having conversations with people:
  • Outside of our denominational/theological tribe
  • Who are not directly associated with our church or ministry
  • With skill sets and experiences different than ours
  • Who don't speak our nomenclature 
So how are you cultivating those conversations and relationships?

Attention Leader - It's OK To FAIL

Leaders Fail! Leaders who attempt to innovate and create don't often succeed the first time, usually their eventual success is built upon a tower of past failures.  But it is from failures that leaders grow and learn. Learning to respond to failure properly and move on from the failure are the marks of a great leader. 

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."  - Thomas A. Edison

Allow your failures to inform.

Chances are the goals you are trying to achieve or the problems that you are trying to solve are worthy endeavors - it just may take time to discover how to "crack the code" and find success.  Persevere and keep on trying.

10 Things You Should NEVER Say When Speaking

from The Next Web:

Often people make the same mistakes, give the same excuses or deliver the same basic errors when they get on stage to speak to a live audience.

The easiest way to lose an audience is to make a mistake in the first minute, and that is exactly where most mistakes are made. 

Here are a list of 10 things you shouldn’t say during presentations:

1: I’m very jet-lagged/tired/hungover
Not sure where this comes from but one in five presentations at any conference will start with an excuse. ‘They only invited me yesterday’, ‘I’m really tired from my trip’ or another lame excuse that the audience really doesn’t want to hear. We, the audience, just want to see you give it your best. If you feel like shit and can’t give it your best than maybe you should’ve cancelled. Take a pill, drink an espresso and kill it!

2: I’ll get back to that later
If you happen to stumble upon an audience that is eager to learn and interact you should always grab that chance and enjoy it. If someone has a question that you will address in a later slide just skip to it right away! If someone is brave enough to raise their hand and ask you a question you should compliment them and invite the rest of the audience to do the same. Don’t delay anything.

3: Can you hear me? Yes you can!
This is how a lot of people start their talk. They will tap a microphone three times, shout ‘can you all hear me in the back’ and then smile apologetic when it becomes clear that, yes, everybody can hear you but nobody raises their hands.

It isn’t your responsibility to check the audio. There will be people for that. If you speak into the microphone and you get the impression that it’s not working, just relax, count to three, and try again. If you still think the sound isn’t working just calmly walk to the edge of the stage and discreetly ask the moderator to check for you. Smile at the audience and look confident. Assume it all works until the opposite has been proven, then stay calm and wait for a fix.

4: I can’t see you because the lights are too bright
Yes, when you are on stage the lights are bright and hot and it will be difficult to see the audience. But they don’t have to know about all that. Just stare into the dark, smile often and act like you feel right at home on there. Feel free to walk into the audience if you want to see them up close. Don’t cover your eyes to see people but politely ask the lights people to turn on the lights in the room if you plan to count hands or ask the audience a question. Even better, talk to the lights people in advance so they are prepared when you are going to ask them.

5: Can you read this?
The common rule is to make the font size on your slides twice the size of the average age of the audience. Yes, that means that if you expect the audience to be 40 on average you are stuck with a font size of 80 points. You won’t be able to fit a lot of text on the slide that way, which is a good thing, and brings us to the next point.

6: Let me read this out loud for you
Never ever, ever, ever in a million years add so much text on a slide that people will spend time reading it. And if you do, make damn sure you don’t read it out loud for them! The best way to lose your audiences attention is to add text to a slide. Here’s what will happen when you have more than four words on a slide; people will start reading it. And what happens when they read it? They will stop listening to you!

Only use short titles on your presentations and memorize the texts you want them to read. Or, if you MUST include an awesome three-sentence quote, announce that everybody should read the quote, then shut up for six seconds so they can actually read it.

7: Shut off your phone/laptop/tablet
8: No need to write anything down or take photos, the presentation will be online later
9: Let me answer that question right away

10: I’ll keep it short
This is a promise nobody ever keeps. But a lot of presentations are started that way! The audience really doesn’t care if you keep it short or not. They’ve invested their time and just want to be informed and inspired. Tell them “This presentation is going to change your life” or “This presentation is scheduled to take 30 minutes, but I’ll do it in 25 minutes so you can go out and have a coffee earlier than expected.”

Read entire post HERE

Are You Crazy Busy?

Do you feel crazy busy and stressed? Unfortunately many Americans do and that means many in your congregation and ministry are under the weight of significant busyness and pressure. Below are 8 things you may not know about busyness in the U.S.

For more info about America’s busyness problem and what you can do to fight it, check out

Create WOW Forms For Your Ministry

from Lifehacker:

If you need to poll a big group of people, Typeform offers an intuitive interface and a ton of options, all for free. 
The de facto free choice for creating web forms and surveys has been Google Docs, but Typeform has a much nicer interface, and a few more options. The survey creator lets you drag and drop 20 different question types, each of which has a ton of options like requiring responses or adding multimedia. Once you're done, just share the link to your survey, and watch the results roll in on an easy-to-read analysis page. 
Typeform is in open beta, and only lets you create three forms with 20 questions and 5,000 responses at first. Sharing a few words about it on a social network though will remove the restrictions.
I just created a form for my ministry - you can view it HERE.

And let me just say, that I am incredibly impressed! The interface to build the form was super easy, the design and functionality is superb and the options to deliver the form, either through link, embed in website or pop-up, are fantastic.

This is going to be my new go-to form option! 

4 Things Pastors Wrongly Fear

“How many of us would have to confess that there are moments when we are more ruled by fear of ________ than fear of God?”

What things do pastors wrongly fear?
from Paul Tripp:

Fear of me: “There are few things that will reveal to you the full range of your sin, immaturity, weakness, and failure like ministry will. There are few things that will expose your weaknesses to others as consistently as ministry does. There are few endeavors that will put you under public scrutiny like ministry does. There are few things that are as personally humbling as ministry is. There are few endeavors that have the power to produce in you such deep feelings of inadequacy as ministry does.”

Fear of others: “Most of the people you serve will love and appreciate you and will encourage you as they are able, but not all of them. Some will love you and have a wonderful plan for your life! Some will assign themselves to be the critics of your preaching and/or leadership. Some will be loyal and supportive, and some will do things that undermine your pastoral leadership. Some will give themselves to the ministry in sacrificial acts of service, and some will complain about the way they are being served… Some you will connect with easily, and with others you will find relationships much more difficult.”

Fear of Circumstances: “There is a constant unpredictability to life and ministry.”

Fear of the future: “You always live and minister in the hardship of not knowing. In both life and ministry you are called to trust and obey and believe that God will guide and provide.”

- Paul Tripp (Dangerous Calling)

(ht: Blog of Dan)

The Challenge Of Email Communication

Email is a part of our life.  We use it for everyday church and ministry communication. Yet using it properly is still a challenge for many.

Here is a light hearted video which illustrates some of the challenges we still face as we attempt to communicate through email.

5 Prayers God Always Answers

excerpt from post by Joel Hunter

Here are five prayers that God always answers:

1:"Lord, get me out of this temptation!" Believe it or not, when we earnestly pray this prayer, we have to climb over God's impediments to sin!

Not only does He promise a way out (see 1 Cor. 10:13), He also gives us disincentives.

2: "Lord, amaze me with a glimpse of the supernatural." As shallow as this sounds, this isn't the same as a generation always looking for signs.

This prayer is a request to see God's hand in our lives and appreciate His nearness. He loves to reveal Himself above all rational explanation, but we do not usually ask or look.

3:"Lord, show me better ways to love and serve." Most guys are bored with their own routines and are frustrated with their own lack of creativity. Why not ask God to break you out of your rut?

A word of caution: If you pray this prayer, you will discover that people are yelling at you for a reason. It is God's ventriloquism trying to get you to see a new perspective.

4: "Lord, use me for Your purpose in this situation." The great adequacy of God is that He can use us when we do not know what to say or do or even think! Many times we are reluctant to enter into a potential place of ministry because we think we surely would mess it up.

5: "Lord, glorify Your name." There are many times when I have no idea what God wants me to pray. I can see the good and bad in each alternative.

(read entire post HERE)

Anatomy Of A Church Conflict

Over at the 9Marks blog Michael McKinley has a great piece on the anatomy of a church conflict from Mike Minter‘s seminar he attended. Here’s the breakdown:
  1. An offense occurs. 
  2. A biased view of the offense is shared with friends. 
  3. Friends take up the offense. 
  4. Sides begin to form. 
  5. Suspicion on both sides develop. 
  6. Each side looks for evidence to confirm their suspicion. You can be sure they will find it. 
  7. Exaggerated statements are made. 
  8. In the heat of conflict those involved hear things that were never said and say things they wish they had never said. 
  9. Third parties, no matter how well intentioned, can never accurately transfer information from one offended party to the other. 
  10. Past offenses unrelated to the original offense surface. 
  11. Integrity is challenged. 
  12. People call each other liars. 
  13. Those who try to solve the problem (e.g., church leadership) are blamed for not following the proper procedure and become the new focus. 
  14. Many are hurt. 
Have you ever been involved in serious church conflict? Were you able to pull it out of it's tailspin and bring reconciliation and healing? 

photo from Ben

7 Lines Pastors Don't Want To Cross

Too often I read online about another pastor who have been exposed and caught up in an illicit sexual encounter. That pastor didn't wake up one day and out of the blue say to themselves, "I am going to engage in this sexual encounter.". Most often, it was a subtle slide comprised of small and compromising choices along the way. That is why it is important to be vigilant with the small choices made today, because they will impact the decisions you make in the future. With that in mind, here are 7 lines pastors do not want to cross.

1) Do not use cologne (or use it sparingly). This may seem silly, but women are sensitive to fragrances, my wife says, which is why they wear them in the first place. When a man wears them, he may send out a subtle signal, the type no wise minister needs to be emitting.

2) Do not hug women. One pastor said he hugs no one between the ages of 6 and 66. To the minister who argues that “Well, I am a toucher and people need to be hugged,” I reply: a) Granted, but let women hug women and men hug men, if necessary and appropriate. b) In most cases, your “touching” indicates some physical or emotional need in yourself, and is not what healthy ministers do.

Even if your intentions are pure, you make yourself vulnerable to charges of inappropriate touching. And–do not miss this–in the minds of many, to be charged is to be convicted. Best to guard against these dangers.

3) Do not be in your office with a woman alone. A pastor of a large church told some of us why he does not counsel in his office. “All she has to do is run out of the office screaming and your ministry is over.” When someone catches him following a worship service with “Pastor, could I come by and talk with you about a problem?” he answers, “Let’s sit in a pew right over here and talk now!” Their visit is in public, but far enough removed from people so that no one hears their conversation.

4) Do not be in the church alone with a woman. This is more difficult for small churches that have no one on staff but the pastor. In my first post-seminary church, the secretary worked half-days. Often she and I were in the building alone all morning. In those cases, you do the best you can at keeping your distance, making sure the doors are unlocked and drop-ins are welcome, and when possible, have others in the office too.

A pastor I used to serve with would sometimes ask me to remain after hours because he was counseling a woman, and wanted to make sure someone else was in the building.

5) Do not make pastoral visits alone. If you knock on a door and find that a woman is home alone, do not go inside but visit briefly at the door. Many pastors take a deacon or their wife with them on such calls.

6) Do not compliment a young woman on her appearance. My wife says with women middle-aged and older, you can say, “You’re looking nice today.” But do not compliment a woman on her dress, her figure, tell her that her diet’s really working, and such. You are stepping over an invisible line.

7) Do not fantasize about women. Most sins of a sexual nature had their beginnings long before as the individual imagined certain situations with some individual. Then, when the opportunity presented itself, he was ready since he had been over that ground a hundred times before.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable unto Thee, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

(ht: Christian Post)

What do you think? Are these reasonable expectations? Any of these too extreme or unnecessary?

cross posted from

4 Dangerous Measurements Of Ministry Significance

These are four things that pastors should not measure their spiritual maturity by:

Ministry knowledge: “It is not an oxymoron to say that there are loads of theologically knowledgeable pastors who, in the way they live and minister, are spiritually immature.”

Ministry experience: “There is a critical difference between the street-level wisdom gained from experience and spiritual maturity. You can know what is going to happen next, because you’ve been around the block a few times, but you may not deal well with what is going to happen next, because you lack maturity.”

Ministry success: “We have no ability to advance God’s kingdom. So ministry success always says more about the Lord we serve that it does about us.”

Ministry celebrity: “You must take their congratulatory words as well meant but lacking in accuracy and, therefore, spiritual helpfulness. They haven’t seen you in your private domain, they do not know your heart, and they have not interviewed those who live nearest to you.”

- Paul Tripp (Dangerous Calling)

Why It's Difficult For Pastors To Leave The Ministry

When you read the latest stats concerning the pressures of pastoral ministry it would be no surprise if a lot of pastors are ready to throw in the towel and walk away.  But many don't - here’s why:

  1. money: Like any other career change, it is very frightening to let your salary go. Even if it might be an insufficient one, it is still difficult to let go of your guaranteed income. Most pastors have no idea how they will provide support for themselves and their families if they leave. 
  2. family: Especially if your family is Christian, they had so much pride in the fact that you were “serving the Lord“. Pastors will anticipate a great deal of disappointment from their families when they walk away from this very special calling that so many people took such delight in.  
  3. self: When pastors get ordained, they, like me, vow that they will never, ever give up. They swear that they will serve the Lord and the church until death. To even think about surrendering this induces an incredible amount of personal shame. 
  4. theology: I always took great comfort from scriptures such as, “Run the race. Fight the good fight.” These passages helped me in the worst of times to persevere. To quit the ministry evokes enormous feelings of spiritual failure. 
  5. vocation: Almost all the pastors I have known are very specially trained. They have focused their whole lives and educations on theology and ministry to others. It is feared that to walk away from the only job that employs these skills is to expose oneself to a completely unmarketable and unemployable position. Usually it requires retraining, which in itself is too daunting to face. 
  6. congregation: To leave the ministry is to walk away from the congregation that the pastor has served. It can feel like abandoning your family. In fact, some might accuse the pastor of being a false shepherd who abandons the sheep. To anticipate this painful separation is excruciating. 
  7. enemies: Those who have questioned, ridiculed or even opposed the pastor’s ministry will suddenly have all the ammunition they need to say, “I told you so!” I’ve heard many times that leaving the ministry was proof that I shouldn’t have been a pastor to begin with. It feels like throwing in the towel, and there are people who love to cheer that demonstration of surrender. 
  8. meaning: To leave most jobs doesn’t bear the weightiness that leaving the ministry does. Leaving the ministry carries an existential significance that shoots a resigning pastor into the darkest of nights because, as most pastors sense, their job wasn’t just a job, but an extension of their spiritual selves. Ministry is the expression of their convictions, and to leave the job appears to be the desertion of these core convictions. 
  9. waste: All pastors are taught and believe that they are planting seeds. They toil year after year with faith that one day their labor will bear fruit. To consider leaving the ministry is to consider relinquishing the garden and to leave it untended or under the care of another who doesn’t share the same commitments. All that work is gone to waste without any chance of sharing in the harvest, if it ever comes. 
  10. friends: When pastors leave the ministry, they leave friends. For one, they are walking away from their peers in ministry. They are quitting that team. But they are also walking away from people they’ve served through their births, baptisms, marriages, divorces, deaths, tragedies and spiritual pilgrimages. They are saying farewell to people they have loved in very significant ways, intuitively knowing that walking away from the community network will also endanger their chances of that ever happening again. 
What do you think? How does a pastor reconcile these tensions and pressures? 

(ht: Patheos)

Pastor You Have NOT Yet Arrived

“If you are a pastor or ministry leader, you are at the same time a person in the middle of your own sanctification.

You are not yet free of sin and all its attendant dangers.

You still carry around moral susceptibility.

You are capable of giving way to disastrous things.

You are capable of losing your way.

You are capable of ungodly attitudes and dark desires.

You have not been completely delivered from pride, greed, lust, anger, and bitterness.”

- Paul Tripp (Dangerous Calling)

What To Communicate To Prospective Church Members

Church membership is an important component to the life of the church,

Before people take those membership vows and make those commitments, you should take the time over the course of several weeks (6-8) outlining several components of their membership.

Although mileage may vary in regards to the exact details, structure and format a church will conduct those sessions, here are a couple of parameters

1.  Give them information - you want people to enter into your church with their eyes wide open and a chance to address their questions or concerns.  Here is some information that you should cover.
  • Basic theology/doctrine/creeds/confessions relevant to the church
  • Short history of the church
  • The church's vision/mission/values
  • Structures of the church - offices/leadership/staff & overview of ministries within the church
2.  Give them expectations - becoming a member of a church isn't just about consuming goods & services that the church has to offer - it is about contributing, participating and using their unique gifts for the body.  Here are some issues that you may want to cover:

Give each new member a clear opportunity and on-ramp to SERVE and CONNECT.  It should be spelled out clearly that serving and connecting aren't optional, rather they are essential to the membership commitments that they are about to undertake.

Help them to serve, assess their gifts. Conduct a Spiritual gifts survey/inventory. Have them afterwards meet with a church representative/counselor to help them connect their gifts with tangible opportunities within the church.

Help them to connect, make sure they find a place to connect relationally with others in the church. Since people are getting to know one another during the membership instruction, perhaps you may make the membership class and sessions a small group that continues on beyond it's initial purpose.

9 Marks Of An Abusive Church

taken from Ronald M. Enroth’s book: Churches that Abuse

(1) Control-oriented style of leadership - Pat Zukeran explains: “The leader in an abusive church is dogmatic, self- confident, arrogant, and the spiritual focal point in the lives of his followers. The leader assumes he is more spiritually in tune with God than anyone else…. To members of this type of church or group, questioning the leader is the equivalent of questioning God. Although the leader may not come out and state this fact, this attitude is clearly seen by the treatment of those who dare to question or challenge the leader…. In the hierarchy of such a church, the leader is, or tends to be, accountable to no one. Even if there is an elder board, it is usually made up of men who are loyal to, and will never disagree with, the leader. This style of leadership is not one endorsed in the Bible (emphasis mine).”

(2) Spiritual elitism - Abusive churches see themselves as special. In his book, Enroth explains that abusive churches have an “elitist orientation that is so pervasive in authoritarian-church movements. It alone has the Truth, and to question its teachings and practices is to invite rebuke.”

(3) Manipulation of members - “Spiritually abusive groups routinely use guilt, fear, and intimidation as effective means for controlling their members. In my opinion, the leaders consciously foster an unhealthy form of dependency, spiritually and interpersonally, by focusing on themes of submission, loyalty, and obedience to those in authority,” explains Dr. Enroth on page 103 of Churches That Abuse.

(4) Perceived persecution - To explain this identifying mark, Zukeran writes: “Because abusive churches see themselves as elite, they expect persecution in the world and even feed on it. Criticism and exposure by the media are seen as proof that they are the true church being persecuted by Satan. However, the persecution received by abusive churches is different from the persecution received by Jesus and the Apostles.

Jesus and the Apostles were persecuted for preaching the truth. Abusive churches bring on much of their negative press because of their own actions. Yet, any criticism received, no matter what the source–whether Christian or secular–is always viewed as an attack from Satan, even if the criticisms are based on the Bible.”

(5) Lifestyle rigidity - Zukeran explains this mark as “a rigid, legalistic lifestyle of their members. This rigidity is a natural result of the leadership style. Abusive churches require unwavering devotion to the church from their followers. Allegiance to the church has priority over allegiance to God, family, or anything else. There are also guidelines for dress, dating, finances, and so on. Such details are held to be of major importance in these churches.

(6) Suppression of dissent - Abusive churches discourage questions and will not allow any input from members. The “anointed” leaders are in charge, PERIOD! Enroth explains in his book that: “Unwavering obedience to religious leadership and unquestioning loyalty to the group would be less easily achieved if analysis and feedback were available to members from the outside. It is not without reason that leaders of abusive groups react so strongly and so defensively to any media criticism of their organizations.” (p. 162)

(7) Harsh discipline of members - “Virtually all authoritarian groups that I have studied impose discipline, in one form or another, on members. A common theme that I encountered during interviews with ex-members of these groups was that the discipline was often carried out in public — and involved ridicule and humiliation,” writes Dr. Enroth (p. 152).

(8) Denunciation of other churches - According to Zukeran’s article on Enroth’s book, “abusive churches usually denounce all other Christian churches. They see themselves as spiritually elite. They feel that they alone have the truth and all other churches are corrupt…. There is a sense of pride in abusive churches because members feel they have a special relationship with God and His movement in the world. In his book Churches That Abuse, Dr. Ron Enroth quotes a former member of one such group who states, “Although we didn’t come right out and say it, in our innermost hearts we really felt that there was no place in the world like our assembly. We thought the rest of Christianity was out to lunch….A church which believes itself to be elite and does not associate with other Christian churches is not motivated by the spirit of God but by divisive pride.”

(9) Painful exit process - Finally, Zukeran explains that abusive churches have “a painful and difficult exit process. Members in many such churches are afraid to leave because of intimidation, pressure, and threats of divine judgment. Sometimes members who exit are harassed and pursued by church leaders. The majority of the time, former members are publicly ridiculed and humiliated before the church, and members are told not to associate in any way with any former members. This practice is called shunning.

(ht: & Wartburg Watch)

Are You A Catalytic Leader?

Helpful leadership article here from J.D. Greear. He writes:

What leaders should strive for is the Catalytic Leader. This person gives away opportunity, but still retains responsibility. This can be dangerous. Empowering people to pursue opportunities sometimes means that you have to take the heat when things blows up. And the Catalytic Leader never gets things done as quickly as the Micromanager or the Genius With 1,000 Helpers. But “getting things done quickly” is not our target. 

Catalytic Leaders understand the “80% Quality Rule” – if someone can do it 80% as well as I can, then I let them do it. 80% is just an estimate, but it illustrates the principle: there is value in empowering someone else, even if I can do the job better. These sorts of leaders know that this is a tradeoff, but it is a tradeoff they are willing to make because it creates a leadership culture. 

Farther to the right of the Catalytic Leader is Mr. Hands-Off. Mr. Hands-Off often looks a lot like the Catalytic Leader, but has actually backed out of the leadership picture altogether. This is an absentee leader who doesn’t actually care enough to engage, influence, or guide others. More often than not, Mr. Hands-Off is simply lazy. 

At our church, we strive to be a leadership team of Catalytic Leaders. There is no executive level of people doing all of the strategy served by a cadre of minions who simply execute. We would much rather steer stallions than dictate to servants. But the question is always, How do we become Catalytic Leaders? Here are five ways (a non-comprehensive list): 

1. Ruthlessly foster a servant attitude in your heart. You have to see yourself as the one who washes feet. I am reminded of the situation in Acts 6, when the apostles had to appoint people to care for feeding the widows and orphans. What is often overlooked is that prior to Acts 6 the apostles were doing this service themselves. No one should see himself as beyond the role of servant. 

2. Give away praise as fast as possible. Be the biggest cheerleader for people on your staff. Don’t worry about your own praise. Being stingy with compliments won’t earn you more praise; being generous with it will. 

3. Perfect the art of salesmanship. Commanders don’t have to sell vision; leaders do. This is why every year I read a book on selling. The overlap between sales and influence is larger than most people think. 

4. Bring others into the discussions . . . early. You may find this surprising, but other people will have insight that you don’t. Sometimes you know they are repositories of wisdom; other times they surprise you. Give them the chance to surprise you with what they bring to the table. 

5. Be patient. Being a Catalytic Leader means sacrificing efficiency and speed, and most leaders find it uncomfortably slow. But empowering is worth it, because people are worth it.

Read the rest.

(ht: Vitamin Z)

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