Here are some of the best gems from around the web to help resource the local church for excellence in ministry.
7 Reasons Churches that Want to Reach Unchurched People Don’t– by Carey Nieuwhof– In this post Carey lifts up a number of different reasons churches are not reaching the unchurched though they want to do so. From having good intentions to no strategy to becoming all things to all people and being stretched Carey offers insightful reasons for churches who are seeking to reach those not there yet have not been successful.
Rules of Engagement with Andy Stanley– these are notes via Chris Edmondson’s blog regarding North Point’s strategy for engaging those who give their church a try. While every church will need to develop its own rules of engagement, the level of detail and thought given by North Point to engaging guests can serve as a model.
Video Resources for Smaller Churches– via Tony Morgan comes a list of free and fairly inexpensive video resources (and some graphic resources) for smaller churches. Whether you are a new church plant just starting out or an established church with a small contemporary service you will find some good resources here.
Why Didn’t Jesus Do More?– by Geoff Surratt– in this thought provoking piece Geoff Surratt sounds a theme that is becoming more and more common among churches seeking to make disciples of Jesus Christ- simplicity and focus. Jesus, God with us in the flesh, could have done many things, but didn’t. Find out why here.
By and large technology is a gift to the church and the church should redeem technology in every way it can to present the unchanging good news of Jesus Christ to a lost and hungry world. Like most gifts, however, technology can be a double edged sword.
When I played basketball in high school my coach used to say “Live by the jump shot. Die by the jump shot.” What he meant was that when your jump shot was “on” and you were making shots that was great, but when your jump shot was “off” and you were missing shots it would kill you. The same can be said about technology in the church. Technology utilized to present the gospel can enhance such a presentation or it can detract.
A well thought out, planned and selected video can be a great set up for a message or a great illustration within a message. Using a html newsletter can help facilitate communication in the church. Having a Facebook page and regularly updating it can keep people feeling connected to your church. These are all good things.
And then there is the other side. A video that is choppy or stops takes away attention from the message. A website that has not been updated since 1998 and still plays midi files says this church does not care to keep up with the times. Song lyrics projected on a wall through PowerPoint with only a white background with black words says worship is not important enough to prepare for. Terrible!
In my experience there are two major ingredients for redeeming technology for the sake of the missional mandate of the church.
1. Do technology with excellence particularly with the creation and use of technology. Technology is like utilizing drama in the church, if you are not going to do it well don’t do it at all. Do the very best you can creating slides, websites and electronic newsletters. Do the very best you can connecting technology to what you are doing in worship so that it enhances worship as opposed to just putting up a video to be “cool.”
2. A related ingredient to redeeming technology is to prepare well. Run your video through before the service to make sure it’s working right. Look over your slides for silly errors. Make sure items are appearing on your newsletter as they should. Look- Hey Jack!- all who have used technology know that no matter how much you prepare things will go wrong that are beyond our control. That is part of the risk of using technology. But if you can do all in your power to adequately prepare you will minimize those times.
God forbid it that the gift of technology would hamper the presentation of the gospel.
Where have you seen technology used well, or not so well, in the church?
Leadership development is one of the catchy phrases being thrown about the church these days. As well it should be. A healthy and vibrant church needs a system to develop and deploy leaders.
I was recently listing to a podcast from the Exponential Conference. Exponential is a yearly gathering of church planters and church planting leaders from across the world. I have been to the Conference a few times and it is always worth it. In the spirit of generosity those who put on the conference post the audio not only of the main sessions but the breakouts as well. So, if you can’t go to Orlando (or the West Coast now) or you wanted to go to two breakouts at one time now you can.
It was in listing to the breakout entitled “Building a Leadership Development Culture” led by Mac Lake of the Launch Network that Mac Lake described three ways Jesus did leadership development. These three ways included:
- Large Group Leadership Development- such as when Jesus taught the 5,000 before feeding them.
- Smaller Group Leadership Development- such as when Jesus prepared his disciples in the Upper Room or took Peter, James and John up the Mount of Transfiguration.
- One on One Leadership Development- such as when he restored Peter after his resurrection or with Zacchaeus.
While much can be written about all of this and its implications I think the main take away is that leadership development, as our Lord demonstrated, happens in a variety of ways in different sized groups. Most of the time when we think of leadership development we think of a bunch of people in a room receiving an information dump from a presenter. This indeed can be leadership development but perhaps leadership development can also happen in the context of groups and one on one mentoring. Those forms of leadership development do not come to us so easily.
How do you develop leaders in your church? Do you have a system or leave it to chance?
About six months ago I was listening to an associate pastor who was leading a new faith community explain how the leadership team of his church was able to turn around the local church where he served. He talked about his senior pastor changing the culture of that church through his long and effective pastorate. He said this was a key to the church’s revitalization because he said quoting Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
What this pastor and Peter Drucker meant was that a church, business or an organization can have the greatest strategies in the world but if the culture of the church, business or organization is not a healthy one then none of it matters. For example, let us say that a church engages in the hard work of defining its mission, its vision and its values but the culture in the church is one of mistrust and cynicism then it is highly likely that what first had the power to help the church make disciples of Jesus Christ becomes impotent because the culture of mistrust and cynicism eats it up. Again, this is true in the church, in business, in organizations, in families, in society. Culture eats strategy for breakfast.
For most of us in the church (and in judicatories like the District and Annual Conference) we are much more comfortable developing strategies than dealing with the dysfunctional culture into which we insert those strategies. Maybe before we rush headlong into developing the latest strategy for church health, growth or effectiveness we do well to address the culture of the organization.
Addressing and changing the culture of an organization would take a book or college level class that goes far beyond a blog post but I think we might say that there will be no culture change in the church without prayer. In Virginia, our Bishop, Young Jin Cho, has said there will be no vital churches without vital prayer. While changing the culture involves many things, it starts with the fervent prayer of the people of God.
Have you seen instances where a great strategy was developed only to be swallowed up by a dysfunctional culture?
A few days ago I wrote about some ways to get guests connected in the life of the church. One of the surest ways to do that if you offer small groups (whether they be Sunday School classes or groups that meet during the week on or off campus) is to start new groups.
It is human nature that people do not want to join an existing group, but would rather join a brand new group. If you have a Sunday School and it is not growing then you might want to start some new classes. If your small group ministry has stagnated then start some new groups.
You will of course have to advertise these groups. One of the ways to do this is to hold a Small Group Expo where persons can come to a designated place after worship to gather information about current and new groups. You might also have a description of your groups online with a link to a form to request more information. Among many of the other important facets of small group ministry, it will be important for the leadership to be either leading or participating in group life.
One great way to do groups is to do them on a semester basis. Here you have groups who meet in the fall, winter and spring (and summer if they choose). These groups then have a life cycle and might be encouraged, if a study group, to choose materials that roughly correspond with the 12 weeks or so of a semester. Persons are familiar with the semester concept and it makes sense to them. You might hold your small group expos to coincide with your semester changes.
What ways have you had success in getting persons connected through small groups?
When new persons come once, twice and three times to our churches it is important to help them find ways to connect to the church in a meaningful way. This might happen through a connection with someone they meet or a connection to a volunteer ministry. However someone is connected is not the point, the point is to offer multiple avenues of connection and not just leave it to chance. God has worked to bring this new person to the church and the church has an obligation to welcome and connect this person God has brought.
Here are three ways to help connect the first, second or third time guest.
1. Make it easy for the guest to sign up to be involved in an entry level volunteer ministry or small group. There are a number of volunteer ministry positions persons can get connected to even if they have not been attending for very long. This might be a behind the scenes ministry or if properly trained something like a greeter. Likewise, it is important that the church have a listing of the groups it offers for new people to get connected and an easy way to sign up or get more info. These volunteer ministry opportunities and small groups might be conveyed in a welcome packet or by letter to a third time guest. The point is to offer these connections.
2. Utilize what is called a “connector” in your welcome ministry. The connector serves as a super greeter of sorts and must be adept at spotting new persons and not be afraid to ask them if they are guest. The connector then ensures that the persons know where childcare is and where restrooms are located escorting the guests to childcare if need be. When it is time to for the persons to sit the connector hands off the new guests to a regular attendee who has affinity with the guest. If the guest is a senior citizen they are handed off to an older attendee. If it is a young family they are handed off to another young family. As the hand off occurs the connector introduces the guests to the regular attendees. This of course presumes that the regular attendee who receives the guests will practice great Christian hospitality.
3. Offer some type of newcomers get together. This might be a newcomers or get to know the church class or it might be a coffee or pizza with the pastor event. Whatever it is offer something so the guests can spend time in a smaller group with the pastor.
With multiple opportunities and funnels to connect we help persons take the next step in their journey of faith and in their relationship with the church.
What are others ways you have seen churches connect people who have been attending a few Sundays?
Doctors tell us that we should get a yearly physical to check the condition of our bodies. One of the goals of the doctor when we get a yearly physical is check the systems of our body. Our breathing or respiratory system is checked. Our blood pressure is checked to check our circulatory system. Our stomach might be listened to check how our digestive system is doing. Our bodies are made up of a vast amount of systems that work together to produce a healthy body. When one of these systems is malfunctioning or not working to capacity the whole body suffers and the body becomes unhealthy.
The local church is also made up of a bunch of systems. It is interesting that one of the main metaphors for the church in the New Testament is that of the body. The church is the body of Christ. As our human bodies need system check ups so too does the body of Christ, the local church.
What are some of the systems of the body of Christ? It varies depending on who you ask but they might include…
- Evangelism System- the vision and strategy and process for how the local church reaches out to those not yet a part of the body of Christ.
- Assimilation System- the vision and strategy and process for how the local church welcomes, greets, and follows up with guests to their church.
- Discipleship System- the vision and strategy and process for how the local church helps persons develop a relationship with Christ that manifests in Christian maturity and service to Christ is the world.
- Worship System- the vision and strategy and process for how the local church plans, executes and evaluates its various worship experiences.
Those are just a few examples of some of the systems in the church. Other systems might include the Leadership Development System, Missional Living System, Strategy System and more.
Whatever you call the systems it is important to recognize that the local church is made up of these systems and it takes all of them running at optimal performance to produce a healthy body (i.e. a vital congregation). It stands to reason then that local churches should evaluate their systems on a regular basis and be intentional about nurturing healthy systems.
At ChurchIngenuity.Com we offer a system check up for local churches. This is a one or two day consultation to help the local church identify, diagnose and treat systems in the local church to ensure healthy functioning of the body of Christ. Contact us today to schedule your church check up.
Here are some of the best resources (articles, blog posts, etc.) from around the web this past week.
3 Ways to Fuel Momentum– by Ron Edmondson the Big Mo- once you get it how do you keep it? Once you lose it, how do you get it back? Ron Edmondson writes about three ways to help keep it or bring it back. Innovation, creativity and change are the three fuels of momentum.
Why Most Church Mission Statements Aren’t Effective– by Bill Tenny-Brittian. Bill gives the hard truth about many churches’ mission statements. Bill writes, “Too many mission statements, including the one above, presumes that the church exists to be a nice, safe, do-good-things kind of organization. But that’s hardly the picture Jesus painted of “his church” (Matthew 16:18). Ultimately the church does not exist to do good things. That’s United Way’s mission. The difference between the church and United Way is that the church’s mission is to make disciples … and every good thing the church does is meant to point directly in that direction (Matthew 5:16).” There you have it!
Five Different Ways Leaders Respond to Anonymous Critical Letters– Thom Rainer, in an informal Twitter poll of his followers Dr. Rainer asked pastors how they responded to such letters. He received some interesting responses. Be sure to read the comments on this one too for some great insights. The best responses I like were throw them away or read them from the pulpit and use it as a teaching opportunity to teach a biblical way for handling conflict.
5 Things I Have Learned 5 Years Out– from the United Methodist Path 1 blog comes this guest post from Adam Weber, church planter at Embrace Church. This is a great perspective from someone who has been in the trenches of church planting for five years. Well worth the read, especially for new church and want to be church planters.
I never heard the term divine appointments until I began a new church some ten years ago. It was in training to plant a church that I was introduced to the concept of praying for divine appointments.
What are divine appointments? Divine appointments are those people that God brings into our lives during our day to day activities. These are not necessarily the people on our calendars we have appointments with but they are the ones we happen to run into at the grocery store, or receive an unexpected call from, or come across at the PTA or ball game. They are the people God brings across your path. They are the people God might be nudging you to share an invitation to church with, or to speak a comforting word of grace and hope, or just begin to build a relationship with that goes beyond one meeting.
If we think back in our memory each of us can certainly remember times in our lives when God has done this whether we have prayed for divine appointments or not. But, what if we prayed every day that God would bring divine appointments into our lives so that we could be light to them? What if we prayed that God would help us to be aware and open our eyes to those God has brought to us? What if we could pray for such spiritual awareness? Then, we could then sit back and watch what God does and delight in how God works in other people’s lives and in our own lives to bring people together. With such an awareness we would be ready to step through the door of engaging persons as the light of Christ. What an awesome thing, what an awesome privilege and what an awesome God!
Do you pray for divine appointments? If so, how has God moved to bring persons into your path?
If you are in any kind of leadership position in the church you will at some point find yourself confronted with some type of hot button issue. It might be that someone levels some criticism at you for a decision you made or some words you spoke. It might be that someone sends a letter to you about all the reasons they are leaving the church. It may be that someone calls and leaves a five minute message on the voice mail decrying the decision by the Church Council to move forward with the building project. There are plenty of confrontations, criticisms, and hot button issues to go around in the church to which church leaders must respond.
In my time in parish ministry, I found it best if at all possible to wait at least twenty four hours before I responded to any of it. There are three benefits to waiting to respond to controversies, criticisms and the like.
- Waiting 24 hours gives you perspective. Oftentimes the confrontations, criticisms, and hot button issues get us worked up. We may get angry at unfair criticism. We might be incredulous at the letter or email. We might be saddened by the message left in the voice mail. Our emotions are at their height when faced with controversy, criticism and hot button issues. Waiting 24 hours allows us sleep on it. And by God’s grace, we gain some perspective and our emotions are not running so high.
- Waiting 24 hours allows us time to pray. Asking God to be part of the equation of our response is always a good idea. You might also ask God to help you see things from the other person’s perspective. You might ask God to help you find any nuggets of truth in what the other person has said. You might ask God to help you in your response to be as wise as the serpent and gentle as the dove.
- Waiting 24 hours sets an important leadership precedent. When you as a leader do not respond right away it lets the other person implicitly know that you are not going to be a person who rushes to respond to them every time they have a complaint, a concern or a question. I am not saying not to respond. I am saying when you wait to respond you are sending the message that you will not be responding immediately and they should not expect such a response the next time.
Do you have any practices that help you to respond to confrontation, criticism, and hot button issues?