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 One Person In Your Church That Will Derail You

The Nitpicker

from Seth Godin 
“The pedant (that’s what we call someone who is pedantic, a picker of nits, eager to find the little thing that’s wrong or out of place) is afraid. He’s afraid and he’s projecting his fear on you, the person who did something, who shipped something, who stood up and said, “here, I made this.” 
Without a doubt, when the Beatles played Shea Stadium, Paul was a little out of tune. Without a doubt, the Gettysburg Address had one or two word choice issues. Without a doubt, that restaurant down the street isn’t perfect.
That’s okay. They made something.  
Sure, make it better, by all means put in the time to bring us your best work. But no, of course not, no, the pedant is not our audience, nor is he making as much of a difference as he would like to believe.”
Although Seth wasn't directly addressing pastors or ministry leaders - he might as well have been. As a pastor and ministry leader, I am certain that you, all too often, have to contend with "nitpickers" within your church. They may be in your leadership or they may merely be sitting in the pews.

It is easy to identify these people: 
  • They are the ones who are first to write you that email after your sermon. 
  • They are the ones who always offer their opinion, but rarely ever offer to serve.
  • They seem good at identifying problems but never solutions.
  • They love to focus on the minutia, often times missing the big picture.
  • They are the people you cringe at the thought of talking to because they seem to only offer criticism and yet never a praise.
Nitpickers will try to distract, discourage and derail you. But don't be discouraged. Nitpickers will always be there in your church and ministry. You can't satisfy all their concerns or placate their criticisms. All you can do is move forward in love and faithfulness, create, work hard and do your best - and believe in the gospel for your identity and security. Certainly you can find a kernel of truth and help in what a nitpicker may have to offer, but don't get bogged or paralyzed with their nitpicking, fault-finding and criticism.

If you try to please or accommodate the nitpickers, you will end up moving nowhere fast - in your both your life and your ministry.

(thanks to Phil for a heads up on Seth's post)

Living East Of Eden

Dead Tree

One of the biggest challenges I face in leading mission teams around the world, is the part of the experience when the team comes back home.  Re-entry. The trips are a spiritual mountain top experience for many of the team members - even with all of its hard work and effort.  Yet coming home to the mundane, routine and stressful life can feel like a valley to most.

Therefore it is not uncommon that team members may struggle with their re-entry home.  They quickly discover how much they miss the close-knit fellowship and times of continual worship.  They hunger for the sense of purpose and focused mission. Even though the mission experience and the life they encounter back at home can seem in conflict, they are not. How do we reconcile these two experiences?

Below is a written response to a team member's frustration that they expressed upon entering back home.

Your thoughts remind me that you and I in this world are living, East of Eden. John Steinbeck wrote the novel “East of Eden” in the 50’s. The title was taken from Genesis 4:16, “So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden" There is a place called Eden, a paradise, a state of being in which everything is in its right place. A realm where the favor and peace of God rest on everything…and because of the fall, Cain is not there. He’s east of there. And he’s not only east of there, but the he was “building a city.” He is putting down roots…east of where he should be. East of where God intended him to be. The book of Genesis keeps returning to this eastward metaphor insisting that something has gone terribly wrong with humanity, and that from the very beginning, we are moving in the wrong direction. East of how things are meant to be… East of Eden.

What you and I experience in this world is not how it was intended to be...therefore we feel unsettled, not at home...because in fact you and I are living east of Eden. Separated from how God designed it to be. So know that what you are experiencing is real...and is "normal" in the sense that this world should make us feel unsettled. But through Christ there is a new and different reality for those follow the King.

The reality for you and me is that there MORE for us beyond this world and that one day,when Jesus returns, all things will be settled and be set right.  Yet God allows and invites that future reality to break into our present through God's people (you and I) in and through the power and might of the Holy Spirit.

You experienced some of that "inbreaking" of the future during our mission trip this past week- the fellowship and the worship. It is a foretaste of what awaits us.  But also let it be an encouragement that God doesn't just reserve that for mission trips, he wants to (and can) take what you experienced on the mission into your daily life.  He want you to take it into your experience with your family.  Your experience with your patients. Your experience with your neighbors and friends.

But know that even though we may sample a taste of the sweet fellowship with God and His people, or worship of Him - and a greater sense of His purpose for us...we are still not at home...we are living East of Eden.

(republished from Provocative Church)

Do You Wake Up With The Devil Sitting On Your Face?

Morning Coffee Bible
If you are anything like me, you may spell morning a little differently - "m-o-u-r-n-i-n-g".

Mornings are tough. They are a struggle. I am not typically a morning person. It is hard to wake up. But that isn't the only issue, when I do eventually wake up I then find it hard not to get drawn in the busyness and complications of my day. When I wake up I feel the smack across my face of all the things reminding me that they need to be done. The day screams - Urgent! Hurry! Get busy! My heart gets so easily burdened and distracted in the morning. That is why I appreciate these comments from C.J. Mahaney and Jeff Purswell which address those struggles and give us a prescription to help us overcome them:
I never cease to be amazed at how cold my heart is in the morning. And I used to think, “No, if I am really saved then I wouldn’t feel this way in the morning.” 
It encouraged me one time to hear Dr. Piper say, “I feel like I have to get saved every morning. I wake up and the devil is sitting on my face.” (Tweet This) I can relate to that.
...The coldness that I feel just reminds me how badly I need God. Because apart from him I can do nothing. And apart from getting food for my soul this morning, I will be starving.…

...getting (my) soul happy before God. That is what I am after in my devotions. I am not there to learn more data about God (although hopefully I am constantly learning as I read and meditate upon Scripture). I am not there studying (I will study at other times). But I am desperate in those moments not merely to complete a regimen, I am there to, as James put it, to “draw near to God.” I am banking on his promise, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (4:8 ESV)
(ht: Sovereign Grace Blog on Early Morning Spiritual Battles)

13 Resources For Ministry Leaders Who Struggle With Porn

Church Drowning Porn

The culture is drowning in porn and unfortunately the church and it's leaders aren't doing much better. Below are some helpful resources for ministry leaders to help them out of the bondage of porn and onto the pathway of freedom. Please feel free to add in the comments section any resources that have been helpful for you.

from Covenant Eyes:

Internet Pornography: A Ministry Leader’s Handbook —This free e-book, written by pastors and counselors, helps ministers who struggle with pornography understand the importance of confession and accountability. It addresses why pastors are particularly vulnerable to pornographic temptations and what should be done to bring this truth into the light.

10 Stories of Pastors in the StruggleRead, watch, and listen to the stories of pastors who have struggled deeply with porn and sex addiction and how God set them free. — Jeff and Marsha Fisher were church planters until Jeff’s porn addiction came to light. After he was removed from church leadership and found help in overcoming his sin, he started, a website for anyone trapped in sexual temptations.

Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle, by Michael John Cusick — Michael was sexually abused and exposed to pornography as a child. Later in life, serving as both a youth pastor and a counselor at a Christian university, his sexual struggles only became more acute with porn and prostitutes. This book talks about what he learned in the midst of recovery

Ashamed No More: A Pastor’s Journey Through Sex Addiction, by T.C. Ryan — Pastor Ryan had a lifelong struggle with sexual addiction and secrecy. This book shares his story of learning to let the gospel of Christ transform him into a man who can be open, honest, and unashamed before God and his Christian family.

Breaking the Silence: A Pastor Goes Public About His Battle with Pornography, by Bernie Anderson — Bernie Anderson battled behind closed doors with pornography for years. In this book, Anderson tells his personal story of struggle and how God changed his life, giving practical tips to protect yourself and your family.

My Struggle, Your Struggle, by David Erik Jones — Pastor Jones struggled with porn as a pastor. This book is his personal story of porn addiction that lasted 20 years and how he found freedom while serving in the ministry.

Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn’t Good Enough, by Justin and Trisha Davis — Justin didn’t just struggle with porn. As a pastor, he also began an affair with another church staff member. This book shares Justin and Trisha’s story and how their marriage recovered.

The Pornography Trap, by Dr. Mark Laaser and Ralph Earl, Jr. This book addresses what should be done when ministry leaders (pastors, deacons, choir directors, Sunday school teachers, etc.) struggle with Internet pornography. The authors share the core issues related to sexual sin and how to develop a biblical view of healthy sexuality.

Restoring the Soul of a Church, edited by Dr. Mark Laaser This book from the The Interfaith Sexual Trauma Institute describes the devastation that can happen to a church congregation when a pastor sexually sins and is removed from the church. It gives insight about the neglected secondary victims of abuse: the congregation, the wider community, other clergy, the wider church, the offender’s family, and the pastor who takes over.

Stone Gate ResourcesDr. Harry Schaumburg has been counseling Christian men and women about sexual and relational brokenness for years—with a special emphasis on caring for pastors and ministry leaders caught in sexual sin. His intensive counseling is known around the world as one of the best for sexual addiction. — This is a ministry of Focus on the Family for pastors, including a pastoral care line for ministers who need to speak with a trained counselor. - This site is part of the Ministry Best Practices network. On the site are valuable resources and articles to combat and address pornography within the church.

excerpted from Covenant Eyes

Please feel free to add in the comments section any resources that have been helpful for you.

Top Ministry Tweets From The Past Weeks

Tweeting Choir
The Ministry Best Practices community is bigger than simply a blog and website. We share a lot of great inspiring and entertaining content and have thoughtful conversations at our social media sites. Make sure to "Like" us on Facebook and to "Follow" us on Twitter so that you won't miss a thing. Here are the top tweets posted by @BestMinistry

5 Reasons Why Volunteering Will Make You A Better Pastor

Raised Hands

from Michael Bayne

Volunteering is good for the soul! Here are five reasons pastors should take time to volunteer …
  • We’re all called to live sacrificial lives. I know you may get paid to serve in your church, but you are called to live sacrificially. Volunteering helps us go beyond our job descriptions and give away our influence and time for God.
  • We need to remember what it’s like to volunteer so we can lead volunteers better. If you want to know how volunteers feel when they serve and what they need from you, then take time to volunteer yourself and you will learn some powerful lessons.
  • We need to set the example for those we lead. As a ministry leader, you set the tone for the sacrificial heart of your church. Lead the way in serving!
  • We need to get to know people in our community. When you volunteer, you will always get to know people better in your church and in your community. Volunteer at your local school, serve on a board, coach a sport and get to know people in your city.
  • We need to remember it’s all about advancing God’s mission. When we volunteer to help a ministry out that might not be in our job description, we are building the Kingdom. We are pushing forward God’s plan and not our own."

10 Bad Reasons To Be A Pastor

Bad Reasons
excerpted from Resurgence

Over the years, I have heard men give compelling reasons to be a pastor. I have also heard a few ridiculous reasons. But most often, I have heard reasons that just aren’t sufficient on their own to justify becoming a pastor. Here are 10 of them.

This a very good thing. You should be really encouraged by this desire. According to Jesus, the clearest evidence of being a Christian is loving other Christians (John 13:35). And to love other Christians requires spending time with them.

But being a pastor requires you to spend considerable time alone in study and prayer. You will also give of yourself in knowing and serving non-Christians. Too many people mistake pastoral ministry for a never-ending summer youth camp. In reality, the two have very little in common.

Again, this is a really good thing to like. All Christians should love to study the Bible in order to better know Jesus. A pastor must study the Bible. Preaching should be his highest priority and the foundation of influential preaching is focused study. But almost every pastor I know wishes he had more time to spend studying. It’s absolutely important and completely impossible to give yourself to it exclusively.

I have heard many reasons that just aren’t sufficient on their own to justify becoming a pastor.

Pastors must be able to clearly communicate the Bible. Most will preach anywhere from fifty to over a hundred different sermons in a single year. But speaking in public and preaching are two different things. The medium is the same, but the responsibility is not.

Making a compelling presentation to your co-workers and preaching the Bible are as different as a paintball competition and real combat. Both involve guns and helmets, but that is about all. Projects, products, and dollars can’t compare in worth to the souls and eternal destinies of human beings. And that is exactly what is at stake every time the pastor enters the pulpit. Being responsible to relay a message from God to people who desperately need him is an enormous task.

Being a pastor requires you to spend considerable time alone in study and prayer.

Connecting unbelievers to Jesus is one of the greatest thrills a Christian can know, and those who are fruitful in personal evangelism are a gift to a church. But a pastor has a responsibility to both evangelize and equip the church to share their faith with those who don’t yet know Jesus. It’s the role of equipping that makes the role of a pastor more like a player/coach than just a player. Be sure you want to coach before you retire from playing.

Maybe the most ironic aspect of pastoral ministry is how challenging it can be to prioritize your time with Jesus. I am not alone in feeling that my devotional life became far more challenging the day I began full-time vocational ministry. It is the number-one struggle for most pastors I know and have known. I think it has much to do with the constant demands and distractions intrinsic to ministry. That leads me to bad reason number six.

Almost every pastor I know wishes he had more time to spend studying.






Read the whole post HERE

9 Marks Of True Repentance

Repent Sign
How do we respond after we sin? Are we being truly repentant? This chart below illustrates the difference between remorse and biblical repentance.  Remorse and repentance can have similar external expressions, but at their core they are fundamentally different.

Repentance is significantly different than remorse. Repentance is a change of direction: a confession of sin, followed by the desire to make restitution, rebuild relationships and, in general, make everything right. The evidences of repentance will be:
  • acknowledging his sin honestly (Ps 51:2-3; 1 Jn 1:9);
  • discontinuing the sinful behavior which initiated the discipline (James 5:19-20);
  • seeking biblical counsel, if needed, to gain victory over sinful patterns of behavior (Acts 26:20);
  • making financial restitution, if necessary (Luke 19:8);
  • initiating confession and asking forgiveness from all parties involved (Matt 5:23-24);
  • exhibiting a spirit of humility and brokenness, revealing a true work of God’s Spirit (Ps 51:17).

How MegaChurches Spend Their Money?

from Christianity Today:

Two organizations that know megachurches well have released a new study they describe as “by far the biggest-scale, cross-denominational response anyone has ever collected about church finances.”

Leadership Network and Vanderbloemen Search Group surveyed 727 of America's largest churches regarding their finances earlier this year. Though the researchers acknowledge their examination of church financial trends is not "randomly based nor is it statistically accurate for all larger churches," they explain the findings "do indicate many general trends, and is likely the most comprehensive financial perspective available on large churches."

infographic church

infographic church
(ht: Christianity Today)

All Is Grace

Brennan Manning

Today I reflect on one of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning. Through his writings, Brennan reminded me and the world that there is safety in brokenness and grace for the wayward - for everyone of us.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from his writings that I hope will be a blessing to you today.

"My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it." - Brennan Manning (The Ragamuffin Gospel) (Tweet This)

"There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are." - Brennan Manning

"How glorious the splendor of a human heart that trusts that it is loved!" - Brennan Manning (Tweet This)

Self-condemnation and gloom block God's way to us, Manning says. "The key is to let yourself be loved in your brokenness. Let the focus of your inner life rest on one truth, the staggering, mind-blowing truth that God loves you unconditionally as you are and not as you should be. Because nobody is as they should be." - Brennan Manning

"I believe that the real difference in the American church is not between conservatives and liberals, fundamentalists and charismatics, nor between Republicans and Democrats. The real difference is between the aware and the unaware. When somebody is aware of that love-the same love that the Father has for Jesus-that person is just spontaneously grateful. Cries of thankfulness become the dominant characteristic of the interior life, and the byproduct of gratitude is joy. We're not joyful and then become grateful-we're grateful, and that makes us joyful." -Brennan Manning

"The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable." - Brennan Manning

"With what strength I have left, I want to grab the chains and pull, one last time. My hope, as always, is to point to the God too good to be true, my Abba. I’ve no delusions of heroically bringing down the house of fear that imprisons so many. My desire is to witness, nothing else. My message, unchanged for more than fifty years, is this: God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be. It is the message of grace, the life-shattering gift my heart experienced in February 1956. It is the life-sustaining gift I remain broken by now in February 2011. Some have labeled my message as one of “cheap grace.” In my younger days, their accusations were a gauntlet thrown down, a challenge. But I’m an old man now and I don’t care." -Brennan Manning,  All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Menoir

The Best Giving Advice For Tough Economic Times

Giving Money

In light of the difficult economic times most of us are facing, these words from C.S. Lewis are an important reminder and lesson for God's people on how much we ought to give:
“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusement, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our giving does not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say it is too small.  (Tweet This) There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot because our commitment to giving excludes them.” 
- C.S. Lewis

Notice that Lewis doesn't address an amount or percentage, rather he address the heart of the matter, the idols of our heart - comfort & personal peace.

Do You Know What Is The Most Popular Book Of All Time?

Library Books

The most popular book of all time may not surprise you, it is of course - The Bible. The Bible has an interesting history. With thousands of translations, over forty original authors, and a two millennium history, let’s take a look below in the infographic at the trails, tribulations, changes, and status of the world’s most popular book.

How To Have Great Coaching Conversations With Staff

Coaching Conversations Church Ministry Staff

guest post by Dr. Nathan Baxter

Do you know how to have a coaching conversation with your key players? It’s scary to think about the amount the time we spend talking to staff members and key volunteers on any given week.

How many of those conversations help your leaders become better leaders?

One of the biggest expenditures of most church budgets is devoted to paying their key players. But most churches do not have a workable system that provides bonuses to their staff based on their improved performance for hitting certain measurable goals.

Have you considered the possibility of improving the effectiveness of your key players through the use of strategic coaching conversations?

Imagine being able to increase the output, energy, and effectiveness of your top ten leaders by 30% in 2014 through the use of coaching conversations. How would this increase the effectiveness and impact of your church?

Consider the findings of notable researcher, Dr. Dennis Kinlaw, who, after studying thousands of coaching conversations between managers and their team members, concluded that it was actually possible to increase employee performance without an incentive program.

How? Through the use of coaching conversations.

If you want to up your game in the coaching department, I would recommend you include the following when talking with a leader:

Be Clear That They Are Clear
Ask your team member if they are clear about the following:
  • Their top three ministry functions/responsibilities 
  • The most important expectations you have for them 
  • What needs to be done and when 
If you are relying on their job description to tell them what to do, you are in trouble! 
Remember, job descriptions are stagnant; many times they are never referred to after the hiring process or, at best, during an annual review. Keep conversations fresh regarding expectations, key functions, and responsibilities. Also, be sure to share your answers to the same questions with the person you are coaching towards greater effectiveness. 
Is that clear? 
Compliment Before Correcting
Everyone needs correcting on occasion but everyone needs sincere compliments on a regular basis. Ministry is difficult. Leadership is unfair. Church work has a built-in spiritual enemy who rebels against all leadership efforts to advance the gospel.

One of my favorite exercises in helping church teams improve is having them share the top three compliments they have received regarding their current ministry assignment. Then I ask them if they regularly get enough affirmation; 90% share that most of the time they feel greatly unappreciated.

Giving a sincere compliment costs you nothing more than a few minutes reflecting on the qualities or actions that you admire. “Thank You” goes a long way.

Connect the Dots
If you want to watch your key leaders excel, often remind them that what they do matters. Give specifics to show exactly how their leadership or their ministry strategically helps advance the mission of the church. We all need to be needed and we want to know that our work week is actually contributing to the mission, and bottom line, of the organization.

  • What do they really need to hear? 
  • Where do they need to grow as a leader? 
  • What impresses you most about them? 
  • What is the best way to correct them in an encouraging way? 
Key players are key. Therefore, view them as one of the most strategic resources to invest in. Do this thoughtfully and wisely. 
Leaders who develop their coaching conversation skills enjoy the rewards of watching their key ministry players continually excel in effectiveness. This little investment generates a tremendous payoff over time. 
Have you ever thought about taking ten minutes in the morning to think through your coaching conversations you plan to have with your key players?

Dr. Nathan Baxter, founder of Lead Self Lead Others, has been leading teams and helping people move their stories forward for over twenty years. Nathan earned his Masters of Divinity Degree with Biblical Languages from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry and Leadership Degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. Before starting his Executive Coaching career, he served for 28 years in full time ministry, filling the roles of Youth Pastor, Senior Pastor, and Executive Pastor.

3 Reasons Why Financial Giving Culture Has Changed

Carrot Stick Motivation
guest post by Jeff Anderson:

Church giving culture is drastically different than it was decades ago. While it didn’t change overnight, this culture shift has accelerated just in the past five years. I won't bore you with the common suspect reasons you've likely heard.

I won't share how denominational tithers are dying off (which they are). And I won't remind you that churches don't talk enough about giving (we’re all sick of hearing that, and it’s not completely true anyway). And I won't share how people are materialistic, greedy and swimming in debt (that’s nothing new either).

As I look at giving trends today, there are three unique reasons why the church giving culture is becoming increasingly different… and dysfunctional.

1. Vision casting has replaced doctrinal teaching. Instead of teaching Christians to give to please God, they're being taught to give to meet a need - build buildings, feed orphans, dig wells, etc. Part of this trend is due to competition with non-profits. As the number of non-profit (para-church) ministries grows, so do the choices people have to give.

To compete with non-profits, churches have applied best fund-raising practices to raise money. This means videos, brochures, projections, targets, and of course...celebration Sunday! And after the campaign comes ribbon cutting ceremonies, ROI reports, metric discussions. Meanwhile the doctrine of giving takes a back seat…or for some churches, fades away entirely.

2. People want to see their gifts make a difference. This second reason is closely related to the first. Vision casting has trained congregants to be customers. Instead of giving because it's the right thing to do (a response of worship, submission and adoration to God), they give because of an impact they expect to see realized.

That's why when a church does a special offering, they have no problem raising the funds. Nobody wants to send Pastor Gonzalez back to Mexico without the cash to build the orphanage. But when it comes to funding weekly budget, churches struggle. People can't "see" insurance, light bills, and payroll taxes. But they can see hungry children, water, brick and mortar, med clinics.

People want to see their gifts have impact. That’s how they’re being trained.

3. The doctrine of tithing has been downgraded. People no longer trust the tithing doctrine.

However, this poses a problem for churches that have historically relied on the tithe as the gold giving standard.

So what happens when Christians raise questions about tithing? It depends. If the church does not have a valid replacement theology, they'll turn to more vision casting… you know, showing people how their gifts can make a difference.

You see the cycle we're caught in, don’t you?
Not either or, but both

Vision casting is not bad. It's good actually. Churches need to aim for meaningful goals. And church leaders need to be accountable for showing ministry impact from their work. But these ideas must not replace the need to teach solid doctrine for why we should give to God.

Theology should always trump trends. Biblical doctrine should always be stronger than a best practices manual. The word of God should shout louder than the wisdom of campaign consultants.
Paul pleaded for the Corinthian church to give. He offered a few words of vision (famine-ridden Judeans), but he used primarily a heavy dose of doctrine to encourage Christians to give.

If you're a church leader, I encourage you to evaluate the giving trends in your church - ask yourself the question.

What do your people hear the loudest - the doctrine of giving? Or something else?

JEFF ANDERSON speaks and writes about walking with God, with an approach to discipleship that combines scripture and story. He’s the author of two books, Plastic Donuts and Divine Applause (January 2015).

Jeff began his career working as a CPA for a Big Six accounting firm, then became a day trader in the stock market. Following that, he joined Crown Financial Ministries as vice-president for North America Generosity Initiatives. He now speaks, writes, and consults with churches and ministries. Jeff and his wife, Stephanie have four children.

3 Things That Must Sync Together Or Ministry Will #FAIL

Heart Passion God
Out of balance. Missing the mark. A lost element. Those are phrases that can often describe our ministry and churches. Our church or ministry may be strong in one area of focus, but woefully lacking in another. Sometimes as a church we can emphasize and be strong in one area, at the expense of putting importance on other important facets.

For a church to be complete it must hold true to three important elements. Like three legs of a stool, there can be no strength or integrity if any one of these elements is missing.  Here are the three:

Orthodoxy - Right belief. The Bible is the Word of God. God breathed. Useful of teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16). Are we faithful to believe all that it teaches. Also are we faithful to guard our doctrine and hold the Scriptures up as our final authority in all matters of faith and practice?

Orthopraxy - Right practice. It isn't just important to believe the right things, but it must inform and shape how then we live. It must shape how we live among one another within the church and how we act toward the world around us. Is our life morally consistent as a person whose life has been freed from the power of sin? The people of God must be living in such a manner that is characteristically different than the world around us.

Orthopathos  - Right passion. Our hearts must be moved by the things that moved Jesus (i.e. God's glory, The lost). Our faith and our churches must be earmarked as a people who are cultivating a deep intimacy with Jesus. And our lives must be marked by a love, not only for God, but for others.

Do you and your church have all these ingredients and elements?

APP Of The Week - WordLens

WordLens App Week

If you are in ministry, you perhaps travel - perhaps on mission trips and other ministry endeavors. I do travel a lot, and one of the apps that I have grown to love, appreciate and depend upon is WordLens. WordLens allows you to translate the written word through the use of your camera, in real time without an internet connection and it's FREE!

Listen to Lifehacker describe it:
WordLens is the brainchild of the folks at Quest Visual, recently acquired by Google, so expect to see some of its features rolled into Google Translate any time now. WordLens made waves back in 2010 because its iPhone and Android apps were some of the first to offer real-time, camera-based translations—where you just hold your device up to an unfamiliar language, and have it re-rendered in your native language right in front of your eyes. When it was new, it was the first time anyone had seen anything like it, and the apps still work remarkably well. They're not perfect of course, but they can be useful for reading street signs, menus, and other printed documents that you need to muddle through. As a result of being acquired by Google, WordLens is now free, and anyone can download the apps for Androidfor iOS, or even for Google Glass for free. It still only supports a few languages, but it's completely free, works well enough, and in a way works magic in front of your eyes.
Consider adding WordLens to your arsenal of apps.

The Hope That Is The Mission Of The Church

Mission Church

"Mission of the church is nothing more or less than the outworking, in the power of the Spirit, of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. It is the anticipation of the time when God will fill the earth with his glory, transform the old heavens and earth into the new, and raise his children from the dead to populate and rule over the redeemed world he has made”
- N.T. Wright 

The 5 Most Crucial Questions To Ask Of The Bible

Asking Questions Bible

Pastor Timothy Keller from Redeemer Church said these are five questions he asks of a biblical text as he reads it for himself.
  • How can I praise him?
  • How can I confess my sins on the basis of this text?
  • If this is really true, what wrong behavior  what harmful emotions or false attitudes result in me when I forget this? Every problem is because you have forgotten something. What problems are you facing?
  • What should I be aspiring to on the basis of this text?
  • What are you telling me this today.

This Problem And Difficulty For Pastors May Surprise You

Student Debt Crisis

When you think of a pastor's ministry challenges a lot of issues perhaps come to mind. Perhaps you think of:

  • Dealing with difficult congregations
  • Worship wars
  • Leadership challenges
  • Family/Ministry balance
  • Spiritual exhaustion and compassion fatigue
  • Sermon prep and preaching
  • Many others....
But do you think of debt, seminary debt? The debt that comes from preparing the pastor for ministry. This kind of debt is growing and is saddling and burdening many men and women in ministry - becoming a problem that is undermining their effectiveness and ability to carry out the ministry God has called them to. Reformed Theological Seminary, my alma mater, has some very compelling comments and facts below that address this issue:

from RTS:

Why is seminary debt such a big problem? Seminary debt is a problem because “the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). It’s all too easy for men and women who are called to serve the Lord to become trapped in educational debt, unable to follow their calling. Many missions agencies won’t accept applicants who have outstanding debts. Smaller churches, including those in rural or inner-city areas, often struggle to afford the larger salaries that student loan repayment demands. This is especially true when seminary debt is combined with debt from an undergraduate degree (a very real problem which is beyond the scope of this study). Student debt robs the kingdom of God of the workers most needed to fulfill the great commission. (Tweet This)

Pastor Debt Infographic

9 Not-To-Be-Missed Steps To A Powerful "Thank You"

Thank You Note Encouragement

When a donor gives to your ministry, it is essential to express gratitude with a thoughtful and timely thank you note. As it has been said, "Before you bank, thank". (Tweet This) But not all thank you notes and attempts to express gratitude are created equal. Below are some helpful steps to creating a powerful thank you.

excerpted from Get Fully Funded, at 9 Steps to a Powerful Thank You Letter:

Make sure you are getting the most from your Thank You letter efforts with these ideas.

1. Send it QUICK. The faster you get your Thank You letters out the door, the better. Donors want to be sure that you received their gift and a Thank You letter is the best way to let them know it arrived safely. Shoot for 48 hours from the time you receive a gift until the time you put the Thank You letter in the mail. If it takes you a little longer and that’s the best you can do, work with it. Figure out what will work for your organization and put a priority on getting the letters out the door.

2. Make it match. Instead of sending out a generic letter, customize your Thank You letter to the specific ask that was used to generate the gift. If a gift comes to you from an appeal you sent out, then make sure your Thank You letter refers back to the story or the text in the appeal. You may need to write several different letters that can be used for whatever you have going on. For instance, you may want to write one letter for a special event you are working on, another one for monthly givers, and another one for donors who respond to your newsletter. Relating the Thank You letter back to the ask is a way to let your donors know you are paying attention and that you are organized enough to use be trustworthy.

3. Share your plans for their money. This is critical. Make sure the donor knows how you plan to use the donation he or she just sent you. Text like “Your gift will help send 15 children to summer camp for one week” makes the process of donating more real and tangible to the donor. They can envision 15 kids going to camp for a week and it helps create a bigger feeling of satisfaction for the donor.

4. Use a real signature. Digital signatures are easy and eliminate hand signing a stack of letters. But savvy donors know the difference between a digital signature and a live one. Have your President or Executive Director sign the letters, or ask a volunteer to sign them on his or her behalf. And use a blue pen so that donors can clearly tell it is a real signature.

5. Add personal notes to the letters. Have your Executive Director or President go through the letters and add personal notes. This can bring big rewards in terms of stewarding donors! Taking a few minutes of a busy day to go through a stack of letters may seem like a chore to your boss, but donors who get a Thank You letter with a personal note will be thrilled that the head staff person took the time to personally acknowledge his or her gift.

6. Include cumulative giving data. Hopefully you have this information in your donor tracking software and can get to it easily. Sometimes donors forget when they last gave. Including year-to-date information can be a gentle reminder for them of their giving.

7. Make it clear if the letter is also a receipt. Don’t you hate getting boring Thank You letters that drone on and never clearly spell out the gift you made? (By the way, if you aren’t giving to other organizations, you need to. It’s a great way to put yourself in the donor’s shoes and also lets you see how other organizations handle the thank you process.) If you have to, draw a line on the page below the thank you text and put “Gift Receipt” about the actual gift information. This will make things crystal clear for the donor and eliminate confusion. It will also reduce the number of calls and emails you get from donors saying they never got a receipt.

8. Include an offer for a tour. 
9. Give the donor a contact.

(Read the entire post HERE)

The Power Of Tech To Communicate With Your Followers

Communicate Phone Text News Email

Technology is rapidly changing and its constant improvements are extremely beneficial for churches across the country. In the not-so-distant past, churches would have to rely on phone trees as their main source of communication with congregation members. Advances in technology have made keeping in contact with hundreds or even thousands of church members an extremely simple task.

Rather then having to rely on individual church members in a phone tree to deliver an important message to the entire congregation, automated church calls can make what most would consider a daunting task quick and easy. Sending out a message through a phone tree could take hours to reach a handful of people - an automated church calling system could accomplish this task in a matter of minutes.

What type of messages can be sent out using this type of automated technology? Churches and religious leaders can send out messages regarding weekly services, upcoming events, prayer requests, and/or donation notifications.

Church leaders can sign up for a church calling system such as and make their lives a lot easier. Once an account is set up, all congregation member contact information is entered into the web-based service. Upon adding every church, the pastor can then record a personalized message to send out. What would once take hours with a traditional phone tree can now be accomplished with the click of a button.

Pastors should not be frightened by new technology and should embrace a new automated method of communication. Keeping all of your religious followers up-to-date with current information is a key ingredient to maintaining a successful church.

Author Bio: Tim S. is an avid writer and loves to share new and exciting technology with the world. He currently works as the media and support manager at

Disclaimer - is a proud sponsor of Ministry Best Practices.

7 Easy Steps To Create Painless Decision-Making Meetings

Brainstorming Meetings

excerpt from 99U:

Brainstorming meetings can be disastrous, often eating up time and leading to poor decisions. Google Ventures has a way to avoid the pain of traditional meetings with a seven step method.

Over at Fast Company, Jake Knapp explains:
The next time you need to make a decision or come up with a new idea in a group, call timeout and give the note-and-vote a try.

1. Note: Distribute paper and pens to each person. Set a timer for five to 10 minutes. Everyone writes down as many ideas as they can…

2. Self-edit: Set the timer for two minutes. Each person reviews his or her own list and picks one or two favorites…

3. Share and capture: One at a time, each person shares his or her top idea(s). No sales pitch. Just say what you wrote and move on…

4. Vote: Set the timer for five minutes. Each person chooses a favorite from the ideas on the whiteboard…

5. Share and capture: One at a time, each person says their vote…

6. Decide: Who is the decider? She [or he] should make the final call—not the group…

7. Rejoice: That only took 15 minutes!

The “Note and Vote” technique works by circumventing the usual suspects that cause brainstorming meetings to go awry: personal feelings, fear of being unheard, and building ideas off one another rather than focusing on originality.

(ht: 99U)

Top Ministry Tweets This Past Week

Facebook Twitter Social Media
The Ministry Best Practices community is bigger than simply a blog and website. We share a lot of great inspiring and entertaining content and have thoughtful conversations at our social media sites. Make sure to "Like" us on Facebook and to "Follow" us on Twitter so that you won't miss a thing.

Here are the top tweets posted by @BestMinistry

The Biggest Reason Why Donors Give May Surprise You

Donors Giving Fundraising

(This is an excerpt from Jeff Brooks’ latest book,”The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand: Motivating Donors to Give, Give Happily, and Keep on Giving.” For information, click here.)

Stating abstract ideals is not fundraising. No matter how elevated those ideals are. Donors give to make specific things happen, not to identify with ideals. (Tweet This) Our job as fundraisers is not to ennoble a boring old shoe with a glowing ideal. Our job is almost the opposite of that: We connect a donor’s ideals with a gritty and specific reality, so she can change the world.

Branding doesn’t always kill fundraising. It can even do some good for organizations that follow these disciplines:
  • They have the calls to action that both donors understand — and that can’t be obliterated by a fog of abstraction.
  • They can make what they do clear and obvious visually and emotionally because they’ve learned what motivates donors to action.
  • They connect with donors. Real donors whose preferences they know from real-life behavior.
Our comments:

Simply using and relying on words like change, hope and transform aren't enough as you engage and connect with your donors. You must offer them clear and measurable objectives and impact. You must tell them how you and your ministry are changing actual lives. You must offer them stories and statistics as to how their investment within your ministry is making a real and tangible difference.

Here is an example for you of my ministry does it with our ministry brief - Click HERE to view

(ht: Fundraising Success)

10 Sure-Fire Ways To Have Your Church Always Like You

Church Liking Pastor
excerpted from Ron Edmondson:

Here are 10 ways to remain favorite pastor:
  1. Never turn down a social invitation - Sacrifice your family time. It’ll ruin your family dynamic but keep the church happy.
  2. Don’t talk about money – Jesus never did, right? Don’t be meddling.
  3. Never mention sex – Good Christians don’t. They just don’t. They don’t even think about it.
  4. Stick to the sins everyone else is doing – Don’t mention things like gossip or gluttony. Those are too personal.
  5. No challenges please – We don’t want our toes stepped on and definitely don’t want to leave with homework. Or at least give us some homework passes. Please.
  6. Preach “feel good” messages – That hard stuff to hear…who needs it?
  7. Wear the right clothes – Like Jesus did, right?
  8. Don’t buck tradition – Especially the ones that were started by pastor so and so. You know the ones.
  9. Play everyone’s favorite music – Every Sunday. (You miracle worker.)
  10. Don’t lead…just preach - Give us your “best” message every Sunday, but don’t take us anywhere new.
(ht: Ron Edmondson)

5 Big Questions You Need To Ask Before Joining Ministry

Church Ministry Pastor Calling
excerpted from Jeff Medders post:

Wherever you are on the “call to ministry” spectrum, here are five questions you need to answer.

1. Do I Want to Make Disciples and Make Much of Jesus?
You might have a library-load of reasons why you think should be in vocational ministry—but if you don’t have the right reason, you are treading on unholy ground.

A lot of people join the ministry for all the wrong reasons. You don’t become a pastor to make friends. You don’t become a foreign missionary to ease your conscience. And you don’t plant a church for the praise of self. Ministry happens for one two-pronged reason: I want to make disciples and make much of Jesus of Nazareth. Pats on the back are fleeting. Disciple making is eternal. Don’t join the ministry to make Mama and Daddy proud. Do it for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Real ministry is all about Jesus, and making disciples of Jesus. Gospel ministry is a self-explanatory term—it’s all about preaching the gospel and making disciples (Acts 14:21). Student Ministry, Kids Ministry, etc., must be about making disciples and making much of our Galilean King of Kings. If not—it’s no longer Christian. Ask why you want to be in ministry.

Desiring ministry is good thing (1 Timothy 3:1), as long as your aim is the fame of Jesus Christ—which, you know, is the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18–20). Rest assured, Jesus isn’t commissioning you for anything different.

2. Am I Called?
Back in my college ministry days, a guy came up to me and said he felt called to preach. I asked him, “Is anyone calling you to preach?” Cue the crickets. “Are you teaching anywhere right now?” The crickets began to preach.

The calling question is a vital element. You might feel called to vocational ministry, but, believe it or not, you could be wrong. One way to reinforce your calling is by seeing if anyone is calling you. Is your church asking you to teach? Are they asking you to serve more and more? Are God’s people already asking you to serve? Your feelings don’t matter. Feelings are fickle. And a call to ministry is like a burning bush.

Moses knew his calling was sure because God called him, he had a mission, and he had a people to serve. If the Holy Spirit is calling you out (Acts 20:28), what is your mission, and who is it for?

Church Sheep Pastoring

3. What Are My Gifts?
Someone who is good at entertaining middle schoolers doesn’t equal a student minister. A golden smile, a firm handshake, and a preacher voice cooked in a seminary oven won’t yield a pastor. The Holy Spirit of our risen Christ, his power and the gifts he gives, is what makes a minister.

There is no doubt that the Lord can (and does) use our natural brain power and people skills, but if we are going up against the dark powers of the age—and I don’t mean cable television—we need supernatural, make-a-nuke-jealous power: The Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).

If you are in Christ, his Spirit is rumbling inside of you, gifting you, ready to exalt the name of Jesus. So, how has Jesus gifted you to exalt his name? That’s what spiritual gifts do. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen”(1 Peter 4:10–11 ESV).

A great way to discover your spiritual gifts is by serving in many different ways. (Tweet This) Serve in varied ways, see where fruit pops up, and ask others about your gifting. Timothy’s gifting, even at a young age, was obvious to those around him, so much that Paul called him to join his church planting team (Acts 16:1–5, 1 Timothy 4:14–15).

What are those around you noticing? Ask them. They might see your gifting before you do. And they might even encourage you in the midst of discouragement.

4. Am I committed to a local church?
The Apostle Paul’s vision for ministry is one that builds up the body of Christ. Jesus gives us spiritual gifts for the good of his church. “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11–13 ESV).

A calling to ministry should fly in tandem with a love for Christ’s church. (Tweet This) You won’t be preaching to a blob of people—that’s Christ’s bride, and you are there to build her up.
Like Paul and Barnabas, you want identification and affirmation from the leaders of your local church (Acts 13:1–3).

5. Am I ready to wait?
(read the rest of the post HERE)

How God Uses Our Spiritual Dryness In Our Life

Spiritual Dryness and Desert
Sometimes we experience a terrible dryness in our spiritual life. We feel no desire to pray, don’t experience God’s presence, get bored with worship services, and even think that everything we ever believed about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is little more than a childhood fairy tale. 
Then it is important to realize that most of these feelings and thoughts are just feelings and thoughts, and that the Spirit of God dwells beyond our feelings and thoughts. It is a great grace to be able to experience God’s presence in our feelings and thoughts, but when we don’t, it does not mean that God is absent. It often means that God is calling us to a greater faithfulness. It is precisely in times of spiritual dryness that we must hold on to our spiritual discipline so that we can grow into new intimacy with God.
- Henri Nouwen

How do you move and press on through those seasons of spiritual dryness? 

I know that as a ministry leader or pastor it is much tougher to experience those times, because we are often expected by those we serve and minster among to always and perpetually be hearing from and drawing near to God. Yet we will also experience periods and occasions of spiritual dryness.

So how do we work through those seasons of spiritual dryness? What should spiritual dryness teach us? Firstly, spiritual dryness should drive us to desire and seek God.  It should push us deeper to the Lord. Also, it should prompt us to ask, God - what are you wanting to teach me? Spiritual dryness should be seen as a means, tool and instrument of God to help us examine our lives more closely. 

Isaiah 50:10 - "let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God."

How To Reconcile The Tension Between Safety & Serving

Safety Serving Bravery Mountain Climbing

Because of the years of work with medical missions and international travel I've been in situations where I've served in the midst of political unrest, in the wake of natural disasters and human suffering. In every place I've served, there has always been the necessary discussion and consideration of the balance between safety and serving.  These thoughts by Gary Haugen of the organization International Justice Mission - a group that addresses the plight of human trafficking, are of tremendous encouragement in helping to negotiate that tension between Safety & Serving.

excerpted from Church Relevance:

When did it begin to occur to the twelve disciples that following Jesus was going to be dangerous?

When did it occur to you that following Jesus is going to be dangerous?

There are two ways to respond to fear: (1) seek to be safer or (2) seek to be braver.

Jesus is in the business of making people who are braver. Jesus is not in the business of making situations safer because he uses unsafe situations to make people braver.

You must make a choice between being safe or brave. Jesus tells us we will suffer for him. (Tweet This)

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. - 1 Peter 4:19 (NIV)

There are two things that are always God’s will and dangerous:
  • Telling the truth.
  • Loving people in need.
  • If my life in following Jesus, doesn’t feel dangerous I might want to check if I’m actually following Jesus. 1 John tells us that if we see people in need but do not help them then the love of God isn’t even in us.
Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. - Isaiah 1:17

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. - Micah 6:8

God is calling all of us to the work of justice, but it is not safe. Do you want to experience your power safely? Or do you want to experience God’s power dangerously? (Tweet This)

The Bible says God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind.

(ht: ChurchRelevance)

4 Simple But Yet Crucial Reminders For Every Leader

String Finger Reminder

As a leader it can be easy to forgot certain simple, yet profound, truths that will help and keep you grounded and thriving as a leader within your organization, church or ministry. You must constantly revisit and "preach to yourself" these reminders to yourself every day.

excerpted from Michael

I don’t know everything. The best thing I can do as a leader is to strive to be a learner. (Tweet This) I need to ask questions. I need to empower those smarter than me. I need to allow others to get the credit!

I’m not good at everything. There are some things I don’t even need to pretend I am good at. There are some things I just don’t need to do or be involved in. Every time I try to do something I am not good at I rob another leader of the chance to shine.

I can’t do everything. I have to be willing to say no. When I say no to one thing I am saying yes to something else. No empowers me to say yes to what matters most. I don’t need to fuel the idea that I can meet every need!

I’m not the secret to this organization’s success. I can be replaced. I am not the secret ingredient to whatever good is happening. I have to remember that I will be the leader where I am at for a season and one day I will pass that role to another. God can use who he wants to lead, it’s an honor to be a small part of what He is doing. (Tweet This)

(ht: Michael Bayne)

4 Unexpected Ways You Can Be A Fundraising Guru

Do you want to be a fundraising guru? Do you want your ministry to succeed with donors? I am sure that your answers will be YES. Therefore here's an overview from a helpful post from the Bloomerang blog: 4 Signs Your Nonprofit Is On The Right Track:
  • Focusing on donor retention 
  • Making the second gift a priority 
  • Having a top-notch communication strategy 
  • Harnessing technology in their fundraising efforts
Also below are some nuggets that will amplify some of those points. In terms of the importance of a donor's second gift, new donor retention rates average 22.9%. However, if you can get the second gift, that percentage jumps all the way up to 60.8%.

Also according to one of Adrian Sargeant’s studies, here are the most common reasons why donors stop giving.:

5% – thought charity did not need them
8% – no info on how monies were used
9% – no memory of supporting
13% – never got thanked for donating
16% – death
18% – poor service or communication
36% – others more deserving
54% – could no longer afford

Therefore it is important for your ministry and organization to have a top-notch communication strategy.

What have you found to be the best fundraising advice and best practice that you've discovered?