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.

Seven Things I Learned Writing With Gary Smalley

guest post by Mike Loomis:

I couldn’t believe my ears.

“Would you be interested in helping Gary Smalley on his next book?”
“Um, yeah!” was my reply. As soon as I hung up the phone, mild panic set in…

Dr. Gary Smalley sold tens of millions of books and videos. He was an internationally recognized expert on the topic of relationships. He took a Christian worldview to a mainstream audience. What would writing for him be like?

Last week, I learned that Gary passed away.

As a tribute, here are seven things I learned from the process of writing with him. It was a true honor.

1. You don’t have to be a “gifted” writer to reach millions with your books. Gary was very open about his strengths, and completely comfortable with his non-strengths. In fact, he struggled as a student. Later he realized his “7th-Grade reading level” made his book relatable to more people.

2. You must enjoy the planning process – before one word is put on a page. In fact, he mentioned that the pre-writing meetings were his favorite part of the process. Honestly, we could have met together for a month. And I would have enjoyed every minute.

3. When you live what you teach, writing a book is a natural outflow – not a chore. I had the honor of meeting with some of Gary’s kids and grandkids. We shared meals together. He was the same man in every situation.

4. You must take chances with your writing. Honesty is scary. But honesty helps people.

5. A book should be an experience, not just a “read.” Every page, every sentence, must help the reader think and feel. I remember this charge from Gary in our first meeting. “I hope we can make people laugh and cry in every chapter.” I turned very pale after that statement. Holy cats – Is that even possible?!

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Gary learned to ask questions throughout his career. You don’t have to be “the expert” – you simply have to love people.

7. Start where you are. Most people assume Gary Smalley set out to be an internationally known author and speaker. In fact, he began his career researching relationships while he was leading a small group of college students in Waco, TX. Gary wasn’t enamored with books, he simply saw them as a tool to reach people’s hearts.

Most importantly, as Gary often said, “Life is relationships. The rest is just details.” (Click to Tweet)

LINK for his book:

Mike Loomis helps people launch their dream projects and books. Since starting and selling two businesses, hes strategic partner to bestselling authors, non-profits, publishers as well as startups, and aspiring messengers. He and his wife live in the mountains of Colorado with their pet moose.

Two Communication Keys Can Double Your Organization

guest post by Mike Loomis:

Years ago, after selling my second business, I took some time off, painted our house, and volunteered time at our church.

To my surprise, in three months I was the executive pastor, serving 350 people and about seventy-five volunteers!

Two years later, the church attendance doubled to seven hundred. Volunteer involvement doubled as well, despite being a “mobile” church, with three different venues in those two years, and in a city with lots of churches. There were plenty of other challenges as well.

In hindsight, I credit two important elements in the growth of the church. Add these apply to any organization, business, or nonprofit.

1. Tell People Why the Organization Exists

It might sound elementary, but I challenge you to really examine this point for yourself.

Assuming you’re not the only option in a fifty-mile radius, why should people commit to your organization? What does the leadership believe is most important for this community? Communicate this—clearly and often.

One way of looking at this is to be clear on what your organization is not about. In other words, have the courage to be lovingly unapologetic…

“We hope you love our church (or conference, or restaurant, etc.) but here’s what we’re focusing on, and here’s what we’re not so great at - and we’re okay with it!” Just make sure you communicate the “why."

Once you start trying to please everyone, you’ll please no one. As an added bonus, your joy will decrease and your stress will increase!

2. Make Daily Choices Based on Your “Why”

Lack of follow-through is why many savvy employees and potential customers roll their eyes at “Mission Statements.” Face it, these globs of words get stale on a forgotten web page or poster and rarely are used in daily decision making.

Legendary organizational cultures are built by difficult decisions, based on a clear vision. (Click to Tweet)

Every week you’ll be asked about some new “must-do” idea. Most of these suggestions will be terrific—but that’s also why most new businesses, and churches, self-destruct. They try to be all things to all people.

People can sense when an organization is rudderless. How?

They simply look at actions.

In an effort to stay ahead of the competition, my past businesses were always temped to stretch outside our competencies. And the church I helped lead was almost derailed by well-intentioned forays into all kinds of distractions. The amount of effort we expelled, and the amount of pressure we exerted on people, was huge. And fruitless.

And you know what? Few really wanted these programs in the first place, least of all the senior leader.

Say no thanks.

People respect an enterprise that’s clear about their purpose and sticks to their focus. Communities are hungry for dependability and stability. You can’t have positive brand positioning when you’re chasing lots of good ideas at the expense of your great idea.

The best communication is not words anyway, the best communication is action. (Click to Tweet)

People in your organization, and those in your community, will appreciate focused, consistent leadership, where words and actions paint a clear picture.

Why does your organization exist? I challenge you to answer that question, and dare you to stick with the vision on an hourly basis!

Mike Loomis helps people launch their dream projects and books. Since starting and selling two businesses, hes strategic partner to bestselling authors, non-profits, publishers as well as startups, and aspiring messengers. He and his wife live in the mountains of Colorado with their pet moose.

How To Make Meetings Stink Less

Recently Harvard Business School professor Nancy Koehn talked to NPR's Marketplace about ineffective meetings. The estimates she cited include:

- 11 million meetings every day in the U.S.
- That means 4 billion a year.
- Over 50% of people surveyed said that half the meetings they attend are unproductive.
- That’s 2 billion ineffective meetings.

Want more depressing stats? How would you like to throw away $37 billion right in the trash. That's how much unnecessary meetings costs businesses every year according the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. And most meetings, two-thirds of them to be precise, end before decisions are reached.

So how do we make meetings more productive? We are probably never going to eagerly LOVE going to meetings - but there are some things, best practices, we can do to make them stink less. Here are a few:

  • Cancel meetings that you shouldn't have. There are probably a lot of meeting you have scheduled, that don't need to take place. Audit your meetings. Which ones can you stop doing?
  • Start with an agenda. People should never come unprepared or face any surprises when they show up. If there is any preparation that needs to be done, everyone needs to do their homework.
  • Make sure only the people that need to be at the meeting are there. Don't fill the room and meeting with people that have no stake in the issue. Too many meetings are called to just inform people..those are often a waste of time. If people need to be informed, they don't need to be at the meeting, just email them an overview of what was discussed and decided.
  • Start on time/end on time
  • Focus on the topic at hand. Keep the conversations on track. Avoid distractions and diversions.
  • Clear follow-up and action steps are necessary. Everyone must walk out of the room with a clear understanding of who is responsible for what and when does it need to be accomplished. Without clear accountability, any momentum or forward motion from the meeting will be lost. 

How To Get Out From Under The Information Crush

Our lives and ministries are constantly inundated with tons of information, emails, and communication - all finding it's way into multiple, digital inboxes. Communication is coming at us from dozens of different directions. Email inbox. Twitter DMs. LinkedIn Messages. SMS. And the list goes on and on.

Because as ministry leaders we have to face the daily onslaught of information, it is important to remember and apply several key best practices in handling all that information and communication. Here are a couple of thoughts....

First. Try to have all your inboxes flow into to the same place. It is too difficult to keep on top of and always be checking multiple inboxes. Now although I don't always like the idea of having even more email come into my inbox every day, I like the idea, even worse, of having to be on top of multiple inboxes increasing the risk of missing important communication. Therefore, it is nevertheless a good idea to have all your inboxes forward and flow their communication into a single email inbox that you'll be dedicated to checking consistently.

Second. Because you are going to be getting more email, you need to have in place a strict rule and practice to only handle each email once! This is key. You must process and deal with your email instead of letting it loiter and hang around in your inbox. The purpose of your inbox is to be a place to process and deal with email. Email must be acted upon. Here are 6 possible key ACTIONS that each email will fall into.

  • Deter. If the email is unimportant but it keeps finding its way into your inbox, unsubscribe, mark it as spam, or add it to a block list. 
  • Discard. If the email is unimportant and needs no action, go ahead and delete it, just get it out of your inbox. Since most email clients have almost limitless email storage and fantastic search capabilities, it is unlikely you need to discard, but rather the next option will suffice.
  • Drawer. If it’s important information but needs no action, archive it or file it. 
  • Delegate. If it’s important but the email requires the action to be done by someone else, forward it to them. Yet it is important to put the email, delegated task, and open loop in a place that you are able to track and follow up on. I recommend the Active Inbox plug-in for Gmail which does this really well.
  • Do. If it’s important and you can do it in a few minutes, just act on it. Get it done and out of your inbox.
  • Date. If it’s important but you can’t do it now, add it to your calendar. Always add important things to your calendar, not just to a unspecific to-do list.
As you use these 6 D's for processing your inbox, it should help you get out from under the information crush that we all find ourselves fighting against every day.

Everything You Need To Know About The Bible [Infographic]

Studying Jonah? Revelation? Colossians? New Spring Church has a great collection of infographics as part of their Bible Need To Know series. These infographics will help you understand and give you a basic overview of a particular book of the Bible. They don't have an overview of every book in the Bible, but so far they have a pretty good collection. You can check them all out HERE

"Losing Money For Jesus" And Other Bad Ideas

guest post by Aimee Minnich:

I’m blunt and sometimes I want to tell people straight up that I think they have a really bad idea. Mostly I’m able to contain this urge and can find a more polite way to suggest they rethink their plans. But blogging is sort of anonymous and doesn’t require the same sort of delicate communication. So today I will share two bad ideas I’ve heard during this journey with Impact Investing Foundation.

1. “Losing Money for Jesus”

A few months ago, we visited a Christian business leader who had grown tired of supporting various missionary businesses. These missionaries were trained in theology, ministry, and evangelism, not management or finance. They sought the cover of business to gain access to countries unfriendly to Christianity. These groups kept coming back for donation after donation and their enterprises never reached sustainability.

This donor expressed concern that his philanthropy hadn’t accomplished much. He couldn’t point to measurable impact and the constant requests for funding left him feeling a bit used. Worse, he felt a bit insulted that these well-meaning evangelists were abusing the term “business” which to him connotes excellence, discipline, and the pursuit of profit for the sake of fueling generosity.

He declared, “I’m done with this whole “losing money for Jesus” idea.”

Indeed, Impact Investing and Ministry Enterprise (for a refresher on what those terms mean, see this post) must represent the very best of business. The pursuit of social and Kingdom impact cannot be excuses.

Industry-leading strategy, execution, integrity, transparency—these must be the hallmarks of any venture that attempts to impact the world for Christ. No more losing money for Jesus.

2. Assuming passion or vision can atone for a flawed business model

Similar to the first point, if a business model wouldn’t work in a ‘normal’ context, it won’t work just because someone attaches purpose to it. To put it another way, without profit, there will be no impact.

A recent case study in Stanford Social Innovation Review looked at the demise of a philanthro-pub and makes this point very well. The entire article is worth the read, but if you’re short on time, here’s a short excerpt to summarize the important points:

“The biggest misstep that Vilelle and Ratwani [the founders] made was to assume that their mission would sustain them. In fact, they made this assumption explicit in that closing Facebook message: “We knew going in that it was a very difficult industry, but we hoped that the mission behind CAUSE would help carry us to success.”13 Today, the founders of Cause readily note the limitations of that perspective. “You’ve got to put the warm-and-fuzzy side away and make sure that the nuts and bolts are in place, or else you’ll just never achieve the impact that you’re going for,” Vilelle says.”

Great business model with execution + purpose = financial return and accelerated impact

Flawed business model + purpose = going out of business

The lesson for investors: follow the same principles when vetting an impact investment as you would apply to a similarly situated traditional business. Put the potential impact aside and consider the financial merits alone. Is the deal structured well? Can the CEO execute? You get the idea.

The lesson for Ministry Enterprise: Make sure you have operators in place who know how to run the venture. Don’t assume that success running a charity will translate into success running a Ministry Enterprise. Get the education you need or bring in additional team members who can fill in the gaps. See The Profitable Charity for more help on this topic.

Aimee Minnich is a founder of Impact Foundation, facilitating charitable investments in Ministry Enterprises and other impact companies. She was formerly President and General Counsel of National Christian Foundation – Heartland. He’s the author of 'The Profitable Charity.' She and her husband, Marshall have three adorable, high-energy kids.