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.

10 Sure-Fire Ways You Can Spot A Legalist


from Greg Stier and excerpted from Provocative Church:

Legalists are tricky creatures. They slither in the side doors of churches, sign up to lead Bible studies and fill the minds of once joyous believers with rules and requirements of what it “really means” to become a Christian. Ask them how a person is saved and they’ll say, “By grace of course” and then they’ll roll out a scroll across the floor full of checklists to prove your salvation and prerequisites you must abide by in order to receive this “free gift” of grace.

With this in mind here are 10 ways to spot a legalist in your church:
  1. They cheapen grace by focusing on what we must do rather than on what Christ has done. 
  2. They’ll say nonsensical things like, “Salvation is free but it will cost you everything you have.” 
  3. They are “fruit inspectors” and hypothesize how much spiritual fruit a person must produce in order to truly be saved. 
  4. They focus on things like turning, trying and crying instead of faith alone in Christ alone for salvation. 
  5. Their “gospel” could never be falsely accused of being a license to sin (like Paul’s was in Romans 3:8!) 
  6. They scare others with assertions that, if you preach too much grace, people will run amok. 
  7. They conveniently avoid or mis-exegete large portions of gospel-centric New Testament books like Galatians, Romans and John. 
  8. They blend justification passages with sanctification passages and then try to get us to drink a heresy smoothie. 
  9. They bake the same works-based righteousness cake that Mormons and Muslims do but cover it with evangelical frosting. 
  10. They use the phrase, “You mean to tell me…” a lot. Then they create worst case salvation scenarios of those who claim to be Christians but abuse the grace of God. “You mean to tell me that someone can be saved and still….?”

Teens Bored With Facebook - Now What?

excerpted from AllFacebook:
Research from GlobalWebIndex revealed Tuesday found that the number of teen Facebook users was not decreasing, but the frequency of their visits was. Wednesday, GWI explained why: boredom.

According to GWI:
  • 45 percent of teens are less interested in Facebook than they used to be.
  • 37 percent said they were bored with Facebook.
  • 18 percent said Facebook is no longer as cool as it once was.
For many years, Facebook has been a go-to social media channel of churches in communicating and connecting with their youth. Yet as Facebook activity and interest has been trending down for youth, how do you as a youth minister communicate the most effectively with the youth in your ministry? Or is Facebook still as effective for you as it has always been?

Teen Facebook Infographic

You Are More Than A Consumer

Black Friday
Black Friday.

It's called that for a reason-Black Friday darkens the soul of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving, which is a holiday to remember and reflect on God's blessings is followed by a ritual that turns normal, respectable people into something resembling Lord of the Flies. 

Disgust. Embarrassment. Anger. Disappointment. Sadness.

These are some of the emotions that I experience every year when I see people on the evening news as they  are filmed piling into the stores early Friday morning (now for some stores it has even become Thursday evening!!). All week before Thanksgiving, I see the hype. I can't ignore the television commercials that tell everyone that we need to wake up early Friday morning to take advantage of the unprecedented savings. "Run, don't walk!" is the mantra of every television commercial and newspaper insert. If I hurry, stores will happily open as early as 4am so that I can take advantage of buying their cheap crap now.

What continues to amaze me is that this ritual gets bigger and bigger every year.  Every year the local news camera's get in place to capture all the action. Reporters are sent to the stores. It becomes a big party, the stores stoke a carnival-like atmosphere.

But nothing changes, I see the same thing every year -people pushing, running and screaming. People pushing over their fellow man in order to save $100 on a big screen T.V, or $50 on the latest computer gadget or 1/2 off the latest gaming console.  Sure the savings are good, But at what cost?

Here, I believe, are a couple of the costs:

People sacrifice their time. Thanksgiving is a time for family. It is a time for reflection and giving thanks. Thanksgiving is a time to look beyond one's self and give thanks to God, our wonderful creator and source of all blessings. In contrast, Black Friday is all about self.

Many of these sales demand that if you want to save you have to be there as early as 4am. (or even get there on Thanksgiving!). But, then of course, you need to get there even earlier in order to secure your place in line. People sacrifice their sleep. They take time away from their families and from their homes. Family members split up to divide and conquer in order to maximize the amount of stores they can visit.  Some families approach this shopping day with more planning and preparation than the Allies did for D-Day.

People sacrifice their dignity. Every year I feel the craziness and energy come through the television as I watch people shove and squeeze their way through the small, narrow portal doors of large department stores. People get worked up into a feeding frenzy. All social considerations are thrown out the window. No more is it women and children first, rather it is every man for himself.

Other people are to be seen as important and valuable and to be treated with kindness and consideration. But not on Black Friday. Black Friday says that people are obstacles who are now in my way of getting the $500 HD, 60", flat panel big screen T.V. If you have to trample over someone's fallen body, then DO IT! If you have to throw an elbow in order to grab a Xbox, then DO IT! Do whatever it takes because they don't call this day Black Friday for nothing. Disgusting!

People sacrifice their souls. Is this what we are? Is who I am defined as merely being a consumer. Is that my sole identity? Is that my sole purpose? NO, God tells us that we are more than consumers. Our purpose goes well beyond mere consumption. We are to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (Westminster Shorter Catechism question #1)

Look!-let it be known that I like getting a good deal more than anyone. I rarely buy anything full price and will often wait for something to go on sale. But what I am angry about is how many of us are being led around by the nose by these stores and their contrived, manufactured sales.

They create artificial scarcity to build up need and angst. They manufacture hype and buzz. They tell us that we need to be there. They tell us we need to sacrifice everything to get it, our time, dignity and soul. And in return they will sell us stuff, already marked up 400%+, at a token discount, letting us believe that we smartest and luckiest people in the whole world.


I would encourage you to choose not to take part in this ritual.  Sleep in and use the time on Friday to rest and rejuvenate.  Enjoy the time with your family.  Continue, from Thanksgiving day, to remember your blessings.  Your life can feel frantic every other day of the year, why make this day like all the rest.

(this post adapted from a previous post at Provocative Church on Black Friday)

Happy Thanksgiving

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation

Every year, I re-read Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation.  It is a great reminder of the heart of the holiday that we come together to observe and celebrate as a country.

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation that follows is taken from the collection of Lincoln's papers in the Library of America series, Vol II, pp. 520-521.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

Abraham Lincoln

Our Faith Is Tested By Fire For A Purpose


Are you going through a challenging and difficult time? Take comfort that your trial, discomfort and difficulty is not meaningless, there is a purpose and that purpose is being guided by a loving Father.
Our faith is tested by the fire for a purpose—that it may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory (1 Pet. 1: 8). Faith is refined so that at the last day, at the final consummation of the kingdom of Christ, it will be the occasion for praise, honor, and glory. God values your faith more than He values your gold or your present comfort. Peter is moved by the fact that the readers of his epistle love Christ, despite never having seen Him. Our Lord Himself said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” ( John 20:29). After the resurrection when Jesus appeared to the eleven in the upper room, He rebuked them for their unbelief, for their hardheartedness. They had not believed the testimony of the angel and the women who were at the tomb. God places a premium on faith that is the substance of things not seen, as the author of Hebrews indicates (Heb. 11:1).
Inexpressible joy is a reality that human words can never adequately describe. That joy, which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, is ineffable. It defies description. One commentator on this text likened it to the glory of the Son. He said, “A blind man who has been blind from birth cannot understand the noonday sun. No matter how many times you try to explain it to him, he has no reference point by which to understand its magnitude.” The author went on to say that someone who can see may not be able to express adequately the reality of the brightness of the sun to someone who is blind, but the person who can see knows the sun the moment it shines upon him. We perceive the light. We do not have to reason about it; we see it for what it is. So it is with the Word of God. Many people are blind to the truth of God, but when the scales fall from their eyes and the Spirit of God opens their eyes to His Word, they see the truth of it immediately. We certainly have sound, objective reasons to believe the Word of God, but those reasons are about as necessary as arguments for light to people who can see the sun. Our joy is inexpressible. It is a glorious joy, a weighty joy, not a superficial joy.
R.C. Sproul, 1 & 2 Peter: St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, p. 38 (Kindle Edition)

Every Ferguson Will Be Made New

Hearts are heavy and our pain is real, yet the Gospel promises a day when every Ferguson will be made new.
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” - Rev. 21:1-4
That is the hope of the gospel, accomplished to one day set all things right. Yet Christ not only accomplishes something we can look forward to in the future, but He also provides a foretaste of that future justice, breaking-in and manifesting within our world today.
When we look at the whole scope of this story line, we see clearly that Christianity is not only about getting one’s individual sins forgiven so we can go to heaven. That is an important means of God’s salvation, but not the final end or purpose of it. The purpose of Jesus’ coming is to put the whole world right, to renew and restore the creation, not to escape it. It is not just to bring personal forgiveness and peace, but also justice and shalom to the world. God created both body and soul, and the resurrection of Jesus shows that he is going to redeem both body and soul. The work of the Spirit of God is not only to save souls but also to care and cultivate the face of the earth, the material world.
- Tim Keller, The Reason for God

And I offer this prayer of St. Francis of Assisi as a reminder for us as Christ followers to be instruments of His peace amidst a time of trial and turmoil.

Maybe It's Time To Challenge Your View Of Millennials

from Mashable:
This argument isn't new: Millennials, or those born between 1980 and the mid-'90s, are lazy, apathetic, entitled, narcissistic — the "Selfie Generation," too obsessed with technology to make lasting, meaningful connections. 
But as most millennials will tell you, those are exceedingly unfair generalizations. Gen Y does care. In fact, 84% of millennials say that knowing they're making a positive difference in the world is more important than any professional recognition. Welzoo, an online charity driving service, and Column Five created a new video campaign, dubbed "The Millennial Rebuttal," to fight these stereotypes.
I would agree with this assessments especially based on experience with my ministry CMDA. Having just gotten back from the Global Mission Health Conference, I saw thousands of millennials, who are within healthcare, show and demonstrate a significant desire to make a positive and meaningful difference in the world through their vocation and calling of medicine.

Watch this video below, and you decide if millennials are all too lazy, apathetic and entitled.

4 Statements That Can Break Open Spiritual Conversations

Spiritual Conversation

excerpted from Gilbert Kingsley:

These are four simple questions/statements that will naturally engage people within your sphere of relationships in spiritual conversations. 


Something as simple as asking a “Sometime” question helps you find out their level of interest and takes the pressure off in the moment.

Questions like
  • “Sometime could I share with you the difference Jesus Christ has made in my life?” 
  • “I would enjoy hearing more about your spiritual journey sometime....would that be possible?” 
make having spiritual conversations more natural.

“I wonder”.

This comes from God Space by Doug Pollock. It recognizes the power of good questions and gives you a place to start a conversation.

“I wonder” is a way to find out what others are interested in and can invite them to search for answers. Some “I wonder” statements include.
  • “That’s interesting. I wonder how you came to that perspective.” 
  • “I wonder what role religion has played in shaping your life.”
“I wonder.” opens up dialogue. It communicates respect and can lead others to self-discovery. You could be helping them wrestle with contradictions within their own belief systems.

Jesus often led with questions. In fact, at times he answered a question with His own question. When you ask good wondering questions you demonstrate that you are listening thoughtfully. Such questions come from a desire to better understand the person.

Open-ended questions are best. They promote further dialogue and have the potential to cause others to reflect, possibly leading to their own questioning.

3 Rules For Thanking Donors That Should Never Be Broken

Thanksgiving holiday is just upon us. And during that time we will give thanks to God for His blessings. But having a heart and posture of thankfulness shouldn't just happen one day out of the year - it should be constant. And that is especially true with our donors.

I often say, before you "bank, thank". Thanking your donors for their generosity is just as important as asking them. We should have just as much energy and focus about how we can make donors feel appreciated and connected as we do about motivating them to give. Here are 3 rules for thanking donors that should never be broken:

  • Send a letter within 48 hours.
  • Personalize your thank you with a specific reference to what they gave and how their gift specifically helped.
  • Pick up the phone to thank them.

(ht: Clarification)

Challenge For The Church - Delayed Marriage

Delayed Marriage

excerpted from an online article from Time.
A new report from Pew Research predicts that more folks under 35 will be single forever. 
The number of Americans who have always been single and will never marry is at a historic high, says a new Pew Research report, partly because they don’t have jobs and partly because marriage is becoming less highly-regarded. Most people think it’s important for couples who intend to stay together to be married, but the number of single Americans who want to get married has dropped significantly even in the last four years.
The report, based on census data and Pew’s surveys, is the latest in a series of indicators that marriage’s stock is on a sharp downward trajectory. Fewer young people are getting married and many are getting married later. About 20% of Americans older than 25 had always been single in 2012, up from 9% in 1960. In the black community, the numbers are even starker: 36% of black Americans older than 25 have never been married, a fourfold increase from 50 years ago. 
Why aren’t people getting married anymore? The three main reasons people give for their singleness are that they haven’t found the right person (30%), aren’t financially stable enough (27%) and are not ready to settle down (22%). Many more young people are eschewing tying the knot, at least for a while, for shacking up. The researchers don’t see that as the new normal yet. “Cohabitation is much less common than marriage and cohabiting relationships are much less stable than marriages,” says Kim Parker, co-author of the report.”It’s hard to imagine marriage being replaced any time soon.”
What does this mean for the church? 

It means that we have to be more intentional ministering and accommodating older single people in the church, and not making them feel like outsiders. The majority of focus, outreach and ministry of the church is focused on couples and their children, we are going to have to expand beyond that narrow focus.

It also means, as a church, that we better be intentional, clear and constructive in helping these older singles navigate a potential life-time of singleness - all the while living morally pure. We can't be silent in helping them honor God with their sexuality and ignore the real challenges and struggles that they are facing.

And lastly, as the church, we need to develop a better apologetic that will encourage singles to consider marriage (that is if they are simply resisting marriage on terms of $ or personal comfort). Marriage is a tremendous means by God to help in our sanctification. Marriage is hard. Yet it is through the testing and trials of marriage that God uses to help make us holy. There is a real spiritual benefit from marriage that needs to be communicated to singles in the church.

What Is The Gospel?


“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God

“The gospel is not a doctrine of the tongue, but of life. It cannot be grasped by reason and memory only, but it is fully understood when it possesses the whole soul and penetrates to the inner recesses of the heart.” 

John Calvin, Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life

“Never be content with your current grasp of the gospel. The gospel is the life-permeating, world-altering, universe-changing truth. It has more facets than a diamond. It's depths man will never exhaust.” 

C.J. Mahaney

“The Gospel is not a mere message of deliverance, but a canon of conduct; it is not a theology to be accepted, but it is ethics to be lived. It is not to be believed only, but it is to be taken into life as a guide. ” 

Alexander MacLaren

5 Criteria For A Good Worship Song


With all of the contention, confusion and conflict over worship music, it is therefore very helpful for a church and it's members to know what constitutes a good worship song. Here are five criteria: 

  1. It’s singable. The average person should be able to learn it after hearing it a few times. 
  2. It’s culturally relevant. The song should represent a music style that is familiar to most of the people. 
  3. It’s theologically sound. The song should reflect good biblical theology. 
  4. It’s playable. Church musicians should be able to play and lead the song with excellence (assuming they have practiced and prepared). 
  5. It’s understandable. The message of the song should be clear and unambiguous. 
(ht: Artists Suitcase)

How Pornography Addiction Affects The Teenage Brain

Brain Under Construction
There is a rising problem of pornographic addiction in teens. This poses a significant problem and challenge for those working with youth and teens, including teens within the church (they are by no means exempt from this issue). The negative effects of pornography addiction is even greater in teens as their brains are more susceptible to the chemical overload effects that come with continued viewing.

Here is an infographic below from the people at Help Your Teen Now which illustrates the scope and enormity of this problem.

How Pornography Addiction Affects the Teenage Brain – InfographicLearn How Pornography Addiction Affects the Teenage Brain – Infographic

The Top Ministry Tweets Of The Week

Twitter Church

Here are the most popular tweets from the past couple of weeks. Don't forget you can get more helpful, engaging, inspiring and fun content by joining Ministry Best Practices' social media communities. 

Twitter - @BestMinistry 
Facebook - MinistryBestPractices 

Crows Will Always Remember Who Wronged Them

reprinted from Provocative Church:

I always thought the way crows seem to examine humans was a little creepy. As it turns out, I was right; they’re looking at you so they can tell if you have wronged them in the past.

A study has revealed that crows memorize the faces of people who have wronged them and they may even bring in mobs of other crows to attack the person if they see them later on. The crows in the mobs will also remember the person’s face, so even if you never harmed that specific crow, it may still organize a mob against you. The bottom line is: don’t mess with crows.

But unfortunately this can be true of other people too - or even us.  We hold on to grudges.  We remember those who have offended us - whether intentionally or not. And unfortunately we hold on to that offensive and forgiveness is not offered.

But the gospel demands forgiveness. Paul writes in Colossians 3:13 - Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 

When we live in light of the gospel, we can forgive others, because we remember dearly how richly we've been forgiven by our holy Father.

“In our sin, we are worse off than we know, but in God's grace we are more loved than we can ever imagine.” — Tim Keller

A Pastor Is In Danger If They Only Teach The Word To Others

Bible Reading

Bad things happen when maturity is more defined by knowing than it is by being. Danger is afloat when you come to love the ideas more than the God whom they represent and the people they are meant to free......

....The ultimate purpose of the Word of God is not theological information but heart and life transformation. (Tweet This)
- Paul Tripp, Dangerous Calling

It might appear odd to suggest that pastors are somehow misusing the Word of God. The Word is the pastor’s major tool in their toolbox. Most pastors go to school (seminary) just to study a single book, getting to know it backwards and forwards. As pastors we understand just how essential it is to be a faithful and diligent workman with the Scriptures and to correctly handle, teach, train and preach the Word of God.

So if all of that is suppose to be true, why is it such a danger that the pastor may be ignoring the Word?

This point goes to the crux of Paul Tripp’s comments at the beginning of this post - there is a difference between knowing and being. It is the danger of simply having head knowledge at the expense of ignoring the heart.

The pastor can’t stand outside and above the Word of God simply treating it as an academic exercise only interested in teaching and preaching it to others. No, the pastor must, just like the congregations they teach, have his heart in a surrendered posture, ready to have the word transform him.

The pastor is in severe danger if he simply approaches the Word in a clinical manner. The pastor cannot approach the Word merely as an academician, but rather he must approach it as a student, a pilgrim, one who is on a spiritual journey - continuing to learn and grow. He must approach the Word with deep affection and expectancy. Eager to hear from the Lord and to respond to His voice with faithful obedience. The pastor must be yielded to the power and work of the Holy Spirit, allowing the Spirit to apply the truth of the Word to his heart and life.

The pastor can’t be simply someone who teaches the Word, but they must be willing to be taught by it as well.

The Lost Vision Of Pastoral Ministry

Pastor Shepherd

Has the church growth paradigm within American culture shifted focus away from the intended calling of most pastors? As a result of large, big and corporate megachurches, have we redefined who a pastor is, and what they are Biblically called to do?

Here is a quote from Mark Galli which raises the issue:
...We find that American churches exalt and isolate their leaders almost by design. Our ambitious churches lust after size—American churches don't feel good about themselves unless they are growing. We justify church growth with spiritual language—concern for the lost and so forth. But much of the time, it's American institutional self-esteem that is on the line. This is an audacious and unprovable statement, I grant, but given human nature (the way motives become terribly mixed in that desperately wicked human heart) and personal experience, I will stick to it.
With this addiction to growth comes a host of behavioral tics, such as a fascination with numbers. The larger the church, the more those who attend become stats, "attenders" to be counted and measured against previous weeks. Pastoral leaders are judged mostly on their ability to enlarge their ministries. It's not long before we have to rely on "systems" to track and follow newcomers. It is the rare church now that can depend on members naturally noticing newcomers, or on their reaching out to them with simple hospitality. That has become the job of a committee, which is overseen by a staff member. With increasing size comes an increasing temptation to confuse evangelism with marketing, the remarkably efficient and effective if impersonal science of getting people in the doors.
With the longing for size comes a commitment to efficiency. No longer is it a good use of the head pastor's time to visit the sick or give spiritual counsel to individuals. Better for him to make use of his "gift mix," which usually has little to do with the word pastor—or shepherd, the biblical word for this position. Instead, he has been hired for his ability to manage the workings of large and complex institutions. The bigger the church, the less he works with common members and mostly with staff and the church board. To successfully manage a large church, one must be on top of all the details of that institution. This doesn't necessarily mean directly micromanaging things, but it certainly means to do so indirectly. The large church pastor may not personally tell the nursery volunteers to repaint the 2–3 year-old room, but when he notices a spot of peeling paint as he passes by, the pastor will tell someone who will tell someone, and it will get done in short order.
What do you think? Does the megachurch, multisite church movement call the pastor away from their Biblical calling as a shepherd? 

One Thing To Do That Will Guarantee Fundraising Failure

direct from Jeff Brooks:

Must-listen piece from NPR: Why Your Brain Wants To Help One Child In Need -- But Not Millions.

It reminds us why we should regard facts, statistics, and large numbers as fundraising poison:
  • People give when you tell stories about individuals.
  • They don't give when you pepper them with facts about the size of the problem.
  • If you tell a story of an individual, and then throw in some stats to back up your case, you kill response.
Here's the main point from the reporter:

... people decline to do what they can do because they feel bad about what they can't do.
Whether you're raising funds to fight Ebola, or to keep the arts strong in your community, give your donors small problems they can imagine solving. Not big problems that emphasize how small they are.

What do you think? Do you agree? Do you think focusing on the enormity of the problem stymies fundraising? 

BTW, if you aren't subscribing and reading Jeff Brooks blog, you need to do so today...always great gems and insights!

Has A Youth Worker's Influence Shrunk?

Youth Ministry

excerpted from YouthMinistry360:

In conversation after conversation with youth workers, I hear one theme repeated over and over. It's articulated differently, but at its heart, the message is the same:

Many youth workers seem to feel their ability to influence teenagers may be lessening.
I don't have any data here. It's simply an observation I have come to based on the many (and awesome) encounters we get to have with youth workers. And I need to be very clear: I am NOT saying that the youth workers whom I encounter are less capable of influence. On the contrary, I am routinely blessed by the amazing people who devote their lives, or at least large parts of their lives, to journeying with teenagers as they deepen their faith. This is not about a failure on the part of youth workers. It seems the factors I hear over and over again are more environmental.

What are these factors leading to this perceived shrinking of influence? As I have tried to look for trends in the conversations we have, I think it boils down to a few things:

Time: Teenagers are busier now than ever before. With athletics (not only school but travel-teams), the increased demands of school, clubs and other extra-curricular activities, jobs, and so on, youth workers actually have less face-to-face time to influence students through relationships. 

Noise: What I mean by noise is a competition for attention. In his book You Lost Me, David Kinnaman calls this "Access." Our teenagers are constantly connected (nearly 60% of US teenagers have a smart phone) and therefore are constantly exposed to a landslide of voices, messaging, and opinions. The youth worker of a generation ago was a main source of truth and wisdom. While the youth worker of today is no less wise, there is unbelievable competition for teenagers' attention.

Culture: I am no alarmist, but let's face it: the culture our teenagers are growing up in is not exactly an environment that is conducive to absolute truth, monotheism, and so on. So, by nature of this cultural affect on students, they may be predisposed to give less weight to a voice that is in conflict what much of what they experience in their worlds.

I'm sure we could come up with more factors. The point is that it seems to me that many youth workers are experiencing a drop off in opportunities for face-to-face, relational influence, and that when they get these opportunities, they're finding it's more difficult to break through.

If this is the case, what can we do about it?

Read the rest of the post HERE

Growing Your Congregation With Digital Technologies

Digital Church

guest post by Alan Riley
Christian Millennials represent a growing group of faith followers who are looking online to find spiritual engagement in video. A recent report from the Barna Group says that technology is significantly impacting the way today’s Christian Millennials obtain religious content and connect with their churches. Its findings show that 7 out of 10 Christian Millennials read scripture on a screen, and 6 out of 10 practicing Christians search for spiritual content online.

These numbers are important because they present an opportunity for pastors and houses of worship to expand their audiences by applying a myriad of digital technologies that are available today. Through live streaming, video on demand, mobile, smart television apps and 24/7 broadcast channels, churches can deepen their connection to people, reach a broader audience, and expand their mission online. This is the promise of a “Digital Church.”

At Piksel Faith, we have conducted our own research on this topic by surveying 500 self-identified Christians about their digital and “traditional” church-related activities and content consumption. We’ve found that more than half of all the respondents to the survey said they are searching for spiritual content online, and of those doing so, the majority is doing the searching on a smartphone. Respondents were eight times more likely to say digital content made them feel more connected to the church than they were to say it made them feel less connected, and almost half are reading scripture online or using social media to bolster their connection with God. According to these findings, going digital is crucial to a church.

If you want to truly become a digital church, here are some tips:

Always be “on”. For churches to become truly digital, they need to give their members regular access to what’s happening within their congregations. The best way to do this is to employ a 24/7 video network. This allows the “doors” of a church to always be open - with continual access to sermons, speakers, scriptures, and other relevant church topics. By having a 24/network, a church will have the ability to deepen its relationship with the congregation.

Employ digital signage. More churches are incorporating digital signage into their congregations and for good reason - digital signage is a primary way for churches to share important information. It delivers several distinct advantages, including flexibility with announcements and uniting the community. Plus, if you have a convenient solution, it can be easy to create and update content.

Encourage members to keep their mobile phones ON. With the widespread use of mobile technology to stay connected, today’s more progressive churches are encouraging the congregation to keep mobile phones turned on during sermons as a way to share messages that move them, via social media and live chat apps.

Embrace Social Media. Social media is a critical tool for message amplification, and one that should be fully embraced by ministries. Today’s technologies let pastors syndicate their videos directly to social media networks such as Facebook (and others) at the same time their videos are being made available to their 24/7 networks.

If you are a pastor, you can reach anyone, anywhere, anytime with a genuine embrace and understanding of today’s technologies. You have an invaluable opportunity to grow your congregation by forging effective digital strategies and chart more secure digital futures in a world that is increasingly online oriented, especially among Christian Millennials. It is an opportunity not to be missed.

Alan Riley is the VP of Sales at Piksel Faith, committed to working with church leaders to master new digital mediums. A self-confessed nerd, photographer, writer and guitarist, Alan is also an active part of the worship ministry at GracePointe Marietta Church. Connect with him on Twitter @AlanRiley or @PikselFaith.

5 Simple Yet Effective Ways To Improve A Guest Experience

Often times there is content within Ministry Best Practices that is worth repeating, today we would like to re-share with you a post that reminds you to always be preparing and to be on alert for "company" coming on Sunday mornings. Guests will be visiting and coming to your church, yet are you ready, alert and prepared for them?

from the Ministry Best Practices archives

Don't allow your church website to become out-of-date and be hard to navigate. Make sure important facts such as service times/location & directions/what to expect are clear and easy to find.

Make sure you have enough parking lot volunteers to show people where to park and where to enter the church. It is often said that the "sermon" starts in the parking lot - and it is true that the first impression and assistance given in the parking lot will help set the tone for the visitor's experience.

Have adequate exterior signage that identifies buildings and points a visitor in the right direction. It is ok to make your church look like the bat cave...can't have enough signage.

Make sure your indoor signage is clear and not confusing in which it uses ministry names that a visitor won't understand. Avoid jargon and clever ministry names without explaining what they are/who they are for. For example, don't just post signs for "Discovery Cove" without posting more info about what age group that ministry is for.

Smile, Say Hello & Talk to Visitors! This is everyone's responsibility - not just staff and certain volunteers.

And a Bonus!

Make sure you have clear, concise and compelling information about the church to give to visitors before they leave. Make a point to put that info in their hands. But don't make the mistake by feeling compelled to give them every piece of information about every program about every facet of the church. Keep it simple! Just give them enough information to tell them who you are, what you believe, about your mission, and to point them toward the direction of what's next in their journey to become a part of your community.

That Is The Grace - Video

“The marker of those who understand the gospel of Jesus Christ is that, when they stumble and fall, when they screw up, they run to God and not from him, because they clearly understand that their acceptance before God is not predicated upon their behavior but on the righteous life of Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death.” ― Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel

My Journey Away From Contemporary Worship Music

Contemporary Worship
Dan Michael Cogan has a good read on his blog about his journey toward more traditional hymns and away from contemporary music, "Hymns have begun to take precedent in my song selection".

excerpted from Daniel Michael Cogan:

I have been what many would call a “worship leader” for close to two decades. When I first became involved in “worship ministry” in an Assemblies of God youth group we sang such songs as The Name of the Lord Is a Strong Tower, As the Deer, Lord I Lift Your Name on High, and others of the era of the 1980s and 90s. Ours was considered a stylistically progressive church since we used almost exclusively contemporary songs.

First, hymns have been sung by the giants of the faith who have gone on before us over the last two millennia.

Second, the content of hymns is almost always vastly more theologically rich. When I say rich, I don’t necessarily mean every hymn recounts the Gospel in it’s entirety, or that all hymns clearly teach the Five Points of Calvinism. Rather, the theology in the hymns is typically more sound or healthy than much of contemporary worship music.

What are your thoughts? Do you and your church pursue more contemporary music selections at the expense of neglecting hymns and more traditional music? When church music for your worship services, does your church focus more on the style of music rather than the substance of the words being sung?

Love to hear your thoughts on Dan Michael Cogan's piece.

Sin Is A Parasite

Rusty Cars

Paul Marshall in his book Heaven is Not My Home
Sin is not the story, it is the blight on the story. Sin distorts everything, perverts everything, corrupts everything. It is not sin that makes us bear children, but it is sin that makes childbearing painful. It is not sin that attracts men and women, but it is sin that fills our relationships with control and suspicion. It is not sin that makes music, but it is sin that fills our music with vanity and lust. It is not sin that makes us construct cities and towers, but it is sin that makes those towers symbols of pride and power. It is not sin that calls human beings to live and love, to make music and art, to work and create, to plant and harvest, to play and dance. But it is sin that undercuts and perverts them all. Sin does not create things. It has no originality, no creativity, no being in itself.  
Sin lives off that which is good. It is a parasite, feeding greedily on the goodness of what God has made. No relation is of itself sinful, but sin corrupts every relation. No area of life is in itself out of the will of God, but we defy God's will in every area of life.
Sin only exists as a corruption of good. The best analogy that I know that can explain this is that sin and evil are like "rust". Rust only exists as a corruption of metal, it can't exist by itself. And that is the same with sin.

How God Uses Pain And Trials In Our Life

“We confess before Thee that if life were all smooth, there would be no patience; were it all easy, no courage, no sacrifice, no depth of character. We acknowledge before Thee that what is most admirable is the child of adversity and of courageous souls unafraid to face it.”
-Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick

One of the basic truths that I cling to when I am going through difficult and challenging times is that God ultimately wants to use that time and circumstance to move me closer toward Jesus.

It is those crucibles that God uses to bend my heart and will to His. He wants to drive me to the cross and to be surrendered in utter and complete dependence.

C.S. Lewis said that God uses pain and trials as a megaphone to get our attention and speak to us. (Tweet This)

One of the ways that God uses trials and difficulties is to continually expose the idols of my heart. I often respond to God like the older brother in the parable of the Lost Son in Luke 15. During difficult times I'll respond to the Father, just like the older brother, with anger, fear and frustration. Because, like the older brother, I am saying to God- "I've obeyed you!...I've done what you've asked!...God you owe me!...I don't deserve this!"

What foolishness and arrogance. I am often brought to my knees in repentance that I would treat God like a giant vending machine. That kind of "older-brother" thinking suggests that if I put in a dollar's worth of piety, obedience and holiness then God, who simply serves as the divine vending machine, needs to then cough up the product, service or demand that I paid for.

What foolishness!! God can't be controlled, rather He is to be loved. Our relationship with God is a relationship built and bound in love. I pray that during times of difficulty and trials my love and affection for God would go deeper even still.

"We love because He first loved us" -1 John 4:19

Success Is Never A Perfect Straight Line

innovation Success

Many church and ministry leaders are often too fearful of failure. We can be so paralyzed by it, that we fail to even act. And when we eventually do act, we end up discovering that we've waited too long.

Author Anne Lamott, in her encouragement to authors, advises to write a "crappy first draft". Anne's point is that the key to successful writing is to first just get your thoughts on the paper and avoid trying to edit them while you are in the middle of writing them (something I am trying to avoid right now as I write this).

You won't find success and perfection on your "first draft". Doing something well and finding success will never be a perfect straight line. It will always be fraught with speed bumps, adjustments and restarts. It is a process. Therefore as leader, don't wait to move ahead until you've achieved perfection- just simply take the next step. Below are some thoughts that I have collected from 99u on the subject.

via 99u:

LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman famously said, “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” (Tweet This)

Reid HoffmanFailure isn’t fatal, yet many creatives get caught up trying achieve perfection, often at the expense of innovation.

The author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, Dorie Clark, urges us to stop believing that we have to be perfect:
Innovation of any sort entails risk and trying new things — and that mandates failure. A 100% success rate implies you’re not doing anything new at all… It’s not so much that you’re creating something (such as a product or service) that failed; it’s that you’re steadily improving a series of drafts.
Bestselling author Robert Greene recommends that the best time to move forward (and upward) is precisely when we do feel unprepared:
“Move before you are ready…Most people wait too long to go into action, generally out of fear. They want more money or better circumstances. you must go the opposite direction and move before you think you are ready. It is as if you are making it a little more difficult for yourself, deliberately creating obstacles in your path. But it is a law of power that your energy will always rise to the appropriate level. When you feel that you must work harder to get to your goal because you are not quite prepared, you are more alert and inventive. This venture has to succeed and so it will.”
Recognize that innovation requires failure. As paradoxical as it may seem: if you’re failing, you’re doing something right.

Should You Put The Kibosh On The Church Stand & Greet?

Church Greeters
Thom Rainer recently hit a nerve. He recently discovered that many people just don't like the church stand and greet on Sunday mornings. Apparently the opinions were pretty strong. This is what he discovered.

from Thom Rainer:

So what is it about this stand and greet time that many guests don’t like? Here are the seven most common responses, again listed in order of frequency.

  1. Many guests are introverts. “I would rather have a root canal than be subjected to a stand and greet time.”
  2. Some guests perceive that the members are not sincere during the time of greeting. “In most of the churches it should be called a stand and fake it time. The members weren’t friendly at all except for ninety seconds.”
  3. Many guests don’t like the lack of hygiene that takes place during this time. “Look, I’m not a germaphobe, but that guy wiped his nose right before he shook my hand.”
  4. Many times the members only greet other members. “I went to one church where no one spoke to me the entire time of greeting. I could tell they were speaking to people they already knew.”
  5. Both members and guests at some churches perceive the entire exercise is awkward. “Nowhere except churches do we have times that are so awkward and artificial. If members are going to be friendly, they would be friendly at other times as well. They’re not.”
  6. In some churches, the people in the congregation are told to say something silly to one another. “So the pastor told us to tell someone near us that they are good looking. I couldn’t find anyone who fit that description, so I left and didn’t go back.”
  7. Not only do some guests dread the stand and greet time, so do some members. “I visited the church and went through the ritual of standing and greeting, but many of the members looked just as uncomfortable as I was. We were all doing a required activity that none of us liked.”
(ht: Thom Rainer)

What do you think? Should we put the kibosh on the church stand and greet?

Build The Right Church By Using The Wrong People

In Jesus’ simple command to ‘make disciples,’ he has invited every one of his followers to share the life of Christ with others in a sacrificial, intentional, global effort to multiply the gospel of Christ through others. He never intended to limit this invitation to the most effective communicators, the most brilliant organizers, or the most talented leaders and artists — all the allegedly right people that you and I are prone to exalt in the church. Instead, the Spirit of God has empowered every follower of Christ to accomplish the purpose of God for the glory of God in the world. This includes the so-called wrong people: those who are least effective, least brilliant, or least talented in the church.
Building the right church, then, is dependent on using all the wrong people. (Tweet This)
— David Platt -Radical Together

Your thoughts?

What do you think of Platt's quote? How would you apply this exhortation within your own life and ministry?

The Top 10 Regrets In Life By Those About To Die

Dying Old
Earlier in the year, I posted about the top 5 regrets people had as they were dying. In summary, here they are:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

For those of us in ministry, death is all around us. We are called to bring gospel comfort to those who are dying. We cry, weep and bring comfort with those who have lost someone in death. 

Death is not easy. And yet, as Christians, we want to live our lives in such us way that glorifies God in obedience and faithfulness and minimizes our regrets. We all certainly will move through life having accumulated regrets and disappointments along the way, but yet at the end of our life, when we stand before the Lord in glory - we yearn to ear the words from our Savior - "Well done, good and faithful servant." - Matt. 25:21

Below is an infographic that I discovered that unpacks those regrets - and even more by adding 5 more to the list.

Dying Infographic

How Our Prayers Mirror The Gospel

“The gospel, God’s free gift of grace in Jesus, only works when we realize we don’t have it all together. The same is true for prayer. The very thing we are allergic to—our helplessness—is what makes prayer work. It works because we are helpless. We can’t do life on our own.

Prayer mirrors the gospel. In the gospel, the Father takes us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of salvation. In prayer, the Father receives us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of help. We look at the inadequacy of our praying and give up, thinking something is wrong with us. God looks as the adequacy of his Son and delights in our sloppy, meandering prayers.”

— Paul Miller, A Praying Life

(ht: Provocative Church)