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.

Why Does God Allow Suffering?

Justin Taylor outlines the ten reason's of why God allows suffering from Jared Wilson's book, Gospel Deeps.

In Jared's book he writes that “while we may not be satisfied with what God has revealed about his purposes in suffering, we cannot justifiably say he has not revealed anything about his purposes in suffering. We may not have the answer we are laboring for, but we do have a wealth of answers that lie in the same field.”

Here’s an outline of the reasons Jared identifies from God’s Word:
  • To remind us that the world is broken and groans for redemption [Rom. 8:20-23].
  • To do justice in response to Adam’s (and our) sin.
  • To remind us of the severity of the impact of Adam’s (and our) sin.
  • To keep us dependent on God [Heb. 12:6-7].
  • So that we will long more for heaven and less for the world.
  • To make us more like Christ, the suffering servant [Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 1:5, 4:11].
  • To awaken the lost to their need for God [Ps. 119:67, 71].
  • To make the bliss of heaven more sweet [Rom. 8:18; 1 Pet. 4:13; Ps. 126:5; Isa. 61:3].
  • So that Christ will get the glory in being our strength [John 9:3; 2 Cor. 4:7].
  • And so that, thereby, others see that he is our treasure, and not ourselves [2 Cor. 4:8-9].
(ht: Justin)

5 Keys To Effective Sermon Prep

excerpted from Chad Brooks

I remember when I first started preaching. There was no rhyme or reason to how I prepared. I just started typing with an empty document and hoped for the best. Later, I took a few notes from my Bible and started at least working with a basic idea in mind.

Over the last several years I have put a pretty good rhythm into place. These are five essential practices that I believe will help anyone’s sermon preparation.

1. Read. That’s it. You have to be reading. Read many different types of writing; articles, magazines, the newpaper and online. Read books related or unrelated to ministry. You will be surprised how much material you begin building up in your head.

2. Have a holding tank. Find a way to capture this information. I use Evernote and a Field Notes notebook. Between the two, I always have something with me. I organize Evernote with three folders to keep me moving forward and specific notebooks and folders for sermons I am researching/writing and preparing. 

3. Have a preaching calendar. This is the best way to stay ahead and make sure you are preaching the whole counsel of God. It also is a huge help to the folks who assist in worship.

4. Ask others. Asking other people what they need to hear from church and letting them in on the preparation and visioning part of sermon work will not only be a help to you, but teach others about the holy act of preaching and preparation.

5. Find/build and stick to a preparation rhythm. This is one of the hardest, but most rewarding practices. Learning to get this built into your weekly schedule will transform your sermon preparation. It will keep you on task and getting done early in the week (no one likes to write a sermon on Saturday).

The Reality Of Seminary Life - Infographic

from Greg Henson:

During the 2011-2012 academic year (the most recently completed academic year), 6,900 incoming students at 161 different schools within ATS completed the Entering Student Questionnaire.  Some of the results are reflected in this infographic provided below.

(ht: Greg Henson)

How To Care For Those We Lead

excerpted from Gilbert Kingsley:

I was sitting in an elders’ meeting recently listening to two counselors, also elders, share about caring for our people. They said, “The vast majority of peoples’ needs can be met by someone who cares.”

In other words, people that we may think need a counselor simply need to be in a caring community. They called this “soul care” and they described it this way using the acrostic LOVE.

L- Love
  • Go to where they are.
  • Are you curious about where those feelings come from?
  • Feelings reveal reality. Explore feelings.
  • Feelings are driven by perspective. Perspective is driven by beliefs.

O- Offer yourself
  • It’s easy to identify people by sin. But the New Testament refers to people as saints.
  • Requires vulnerability on our part.
  • Helping self-disclosure is healthy.

V- Validate
  • Most of us want to vindicate.
  • We need to be about valuing others.
  • People need to feel safe.
  • Asking questions. “Tell me more about…”
  • Do we want to fix them more than we want to know them?

E- Encourage
  • When we know the good, the bad and the ugly and still love them, that’s very encouraging to them.
How do you engage and care for those in your church community?

Snapchat Continues To Be Popular Among Millennials

Snapchat is now more popular than Twitter among U.S. millennials. A report, from comScore, finds that 32.9% of Americans aged 18-34 had installed the Snapchat app on their phones in June 2014, trailing only Facebook (75.6%) and Instagram (43.1%).

While the data says nothing about actual usage of social media apps, it does indicate that Snapchat's reach among young adults is remarkably high, especially when compared to a multi-billion dollar company such as Twitter.

Infographic: Snapchat More Popular Than Twitter Among Millennials | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista

This trend is a significant challenge to those of us in youth, college and young adult ministry. How do you address and confront the popularity of this App among your youth and those in your church?  Do you even believe you should? I and manny others (see Adam McLane) would claim this is a dangerous App. In fact, it is an App that needs to be deleted from every phone.

Why? Because it's not an innocent App. It is built on the objective and promise that images can be sent without the fear of consequences - images just simply disappear. This promise opens people up to sending inappropriate and sexually explicit pics among each other.

But the truth is - those pics don't disappear. There are consequences from sending sexually explicit pictures and comments. There is no "real privacy" and anonymity with an App such as Snapchat.

How do you address Snapchat in your ministry context?

4 Tips For Memorizing God's Word

As followers of Christ, we need to hide God's Word in our heart - here are some great tips to help integrate memorization of the Word within our daily life.

excerpted from Gloria Furman and Crossway

1. Pray It
Are you faced with a situation that grieves you? Circumstances that frustrate you to no end? Things that make you feel like there’s no point to life? Seize the opportunity to pray through the Scripture that you have memorized. Pray the words that the Spirit divinely authored. You never know when those verses you have memorized will lead you to prayer, comfort you as you pray, and instruct you in your prayers as the Lord intended them to do.

2. Announce It
How many times have you had an opportunity to share the gospel and felt frustrated by a loss for words? When we memorize verses about the gospel, we will become better prepared to announce the gospel. Since faith comes through hearing and hearing through the word of Christ, we can take seemingly outlandish confidence that the verses we have memorized explicitly concerning the Good News (and other verses!) will be of unparalleled benefit to our hearers. Taking opportunities to announce the gospel as the Spirit leads also drives God’s Word deeper into our own hearts.

3. Sing It
Do you need to hear something that is “music to your soul”? There are hundreds of verses in the Bible that were written so God’s people could sing them. Some modern musicians have even put lots of other verses to music in really enjoyable arrangements. On one memorable day this year, God steadied my heart as I sang with my kids in the car, “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name” (Ps. 86:11). Singing Scripture on different occasions is one more way that our circumstances can serve our Scripture memory.

4. Teach It
Scripture doesn’t “come alive” when it is skillfully taught because it already is “living and active” (Heb. 4:12). God’s Word is what makes us come alive! Dive deep into the study of the Bible and talk about what you’re learning with other women, and see how the God’s Word gets stamped indelibly on your own heart. When we take the passages we’ve memorized and explain them to others, defend them to skeptics, and talk about how we are applying them to our lives, the Word not only edifies those who listen, but it also works in us.

(ht: Crossway)

How To Increase Spiritual Fruit In A Digital World

Here is a presentation I highly recommend you watch.

excerpted from Kent Shaffer

In June 2014, I spoke at Biola Digital Conference about how can we increase spiritual fruit in a digital world. Biola University has been kind enough to make this video free for you. View it and my notes below.

How do we increase spiritual fruit in a digital world?

Now we could talk about…
  • The importance of branding, design, and first impressions.
  • Digital atmospherics and how to nudge users in the direction you want them to go.
  • Emerging technologies and what these shifts mean for the future of ministry.
  • Or even results-based strategy.
I’ve taught about that, but it guarantees nothing! And there are plenty of books and blogs and lectures that can teach you today’s leading strategies and best practices.

I’ve spent the past decade studying the ministry models and best practices of global Christianity. Reality is I could spend 50 more years and still hardly grasp the depth and complexity of 43,000 denominations spread across 196 countries.

But what I do know – what I am confident of is that there is one model – there is one approach – that is essential to increasing your spiritual fruit.
Abide in Christ. Pursue God’s wisdom. And obey.
I used to say there is no golden formula, but I disagree now. For years I watched mighty moves of God in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. And I marveled, what is it? What is it that makes them thrive? It is not their ministry models. It’s not their denominations. It is not their theologies. These movements transcend all of that. And then one day I realized it is their hunger and obedience!

There is an essential formula and it echoes throughout Scripture. There is an essential formula that should serve as the foundation of what we do.
Abide in Christ. Pursue God’s wisdom. And obey.
Abide in Christ, and you will flourish.
And out of the overflow of your relationship with Jesus, pursue the foolish wisdom of God.
And then simply obey His guidance to the best of your abilities.
Now this doesn’t throw talent and intelligence out the window. It is in that last step of obedience. We need to use our brains and our bodies for the Kingdom, too. But a relationship with Christ is a filter that removes our self-reliance, that removes the wisdom of the world, and leaves us with the wisdom of God if we’re willing to listen.

Read the entire notes from Church Relevance HERE

Are Teens Addicted To The Internet?

Here are some highlights from the infographic:

  • The average teen spends between 14 and 19 hours / week online. (those numbers may be on the low side)
  • 50% of students have 3 devices that can access the internet. 10% have five. Usually that breaks down to a family computer, a personal laptop, a smartphone, a tablet, and the TV / Gaming system. 
  • 62% of teens say that they need the internet to function on a daily basis.
Although it is almost impossible to avoid any degree of computer and internet use these days, the key for parents and youth leaders is to assess when normal usage has moved into addiction. Some things and signs to keep an eye out for that may signal addiction are...

Does you teen sleep with their smartphone? Or take their phone to the bathroom with them?

Is their internet use affecting or changing their mood? (usually in a detrimental way...depression, anxiety etc..)

Do they become anxious, angry or irritable when they are removed or don't have access to the internet? (or when they loose or misplace their smartphone)

Is their performance at school and grades suffering?

Is Online Giving Safe?

Given the ubiquitous nature of smartphones and devices, mobile and online giving must be an essential ingredient for any church and ministry in our day and age. In fact a company that we at MBP work closely with is PushPay. They are a great example of an online giving platform that allows donors a virtually frictionless mobile and web experience for giving.

Yet the question that many people may still have is security? Is it safe? Will my data and privacy be protected? The infographic below doesn't necessarily paint an optimistic picture, given the recent rash of data breaches and that 75% of people have had or will have in their lifetime their data compromised.

The security of your data (particularly online donations) has often times less to do with the companies that you and I entrust it to, but rather with the practices and safeguards that you and I choose to do (i.e. using complex and never recycled passwords).


Friends Are Free Gifts From God

God uses people in our life, such as friends, as signposts to showing us God's love for us. I love this quote by Henri Nouwen illustrating the importance and gift of have friends.
We need friends. Friends guide us, care for us, confront us in love, console us in times of pain. Although we speak of “making friends,” friends cannot be made. Friends are free gifts from God. But God gives us the friends we need when we need them if we fully trust in God’s love. 
Friends cannot replace God. They have limitations and weaknesses like we have. Their love is never faultless, never complete. But in their limitations they can be signposts on our journey towards the unlimited and unconditional love of God. Let’s enjoy the friends whom God has sent on our way.
- Henri Nouwen

Why Real Christians Are So Odd

from A. W. Tozer:

A real Christian is an odd number, anyway.
He feels supreme love for One whom he has never seen;
talks familiarly everyday to someone he cannot see;
expects to go to heaven on the virtue of another;
empties himself in order to be full;
admits he is wrong so he can be declared right;
goes down in order to get up;
is strongest when he is weakest;
richest when he is poorest;
happiest when he feels the worst.
He dies so he can live;
forsakes in order to have;
gives away so he can keep;
sees the invisible;
hears the inaudible;
and knows that which passeth knowledge.

The Church, Our Purpose And Our Mission

Here are a couple of choice excerpts from John Piper's book, Let the Nations Be Glad! This is a classic book on the role of mission within the church. A must read.
The most exhilarating thought in the world is that God’s inexorable purpose is to display His glory in the mission of the church is virtually the same as His purpose to give His people infinite delight. p. 33-4.
He (Paul) was gripped by the OT purpose of God to bless all the nations of the earth (Gal. 3:8) and the be praised by all the peoples (Rom. 15:11), and to send salvation to the end of the earth (Acts 13:47), and to make Abraham the father of many nations (Ro. 4:17), and to be understood in every group where He is not known (Ro. 15:21). . . . His aim was not to reach as many Gentile individuals as he could but to reach as many unreached peoples as he could. This was Paul’s specific missionary vision. p. 195.
God’s focus: the gospel proclaimed to all the people groups of the world. This focus “undercuts ethnocentric pride and puts all peoples back upon his free grace rather than any distinctive of their own” p. 217.
It’s a humbling thing to discover that God does not choose our people group because of any distinctives of worth, but rather that we might double our joy in him by being a means of bringing all the other groups into the same joy. Humility is the flip side of giving God all of the glory. Humility means reveling in his grace, not our goodness. In pressing us on to all the peoples God is pressing us further into the humblest and deepest experience of his grace, and weaning us more and more from our ingrained pride. In doing this he is preparing for himself a people - from all the peoples - who will be able to worship him with free and white-hot admiration. p. 218

The Science Of Stage Fright

from TED Ed:

Heart racing, palms sweating, labored breathing? No, you’re not having a heart attack -- it’s stage fright! If speaking in public makes you feel like you're fighting for your life, you're not alone. But the better you understand your body's reaction, the more likely you are to overcome it. Mikael Cho advises how to trick your brain and steal the show.

(ht: TED Ed)

4 Ways Church Discipline Demonstrates Love

from Jonathan Leeman’s book, Church Discipline: How the Church Protects the Name of Jesus 

Here are 4 ways church discipline demonstrates love:

  1. Church discipline shows love for the individual, that he or she might be warned and brought to repentance.
  2. Church discipline shows love for the church, that weaker sheep might be protected.
  3. Church discipline shows love for the watching world, that it might see Christ’s transforming power.
  4. Church discipline shows love for Christ, that churches might uphold his holy name and obey him.

How To Turn First Impressions Into Lasting Connections

As we are on vacation during these next couple of days, Ministry Best Practices will be posting the "Best of" articles on different topics that have been some of the more popular posts over the years.

Today we look at creating memorable and "WOW" first impressions at your church. It has been said that the sermon begins in the parking lot. In other words what happens to a visitor (for better or for worse) before they even hear the sermon will make a lasting impression. An impression that will most likely determine whether they return or not.

Just the other day friends told me that during a visit to a new church, no one spoke to them during their entire visit. Truth is that they are unlikely to return, regardless of how great the sermon or the music was. This truth has far reaching implications. It means that what a guest sees (i.e. your website or goofy church sign) for the first time matters. It means that whether or not you are a welcoming church will really matter! The little and big details of how you treat and respond to visitors matters!

Enjoy a sampling of some of the best articles from Ministry Best Practices on how to best create "WOW" first impressions for your church every Sunday morning.

How To Create A Great First Impression

Remember This ONE Simple Thing!

5 Ways Your Church Can Improve A Visitor's Welcome

Don't Make Promises You Can't Keep

It's NOT All About You!

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. - Hebrews 13:2

Why It's Important To Laugh

As we are on vacation during these next couple of days, Ministry Best Practices will be posting the "Best of" articles on different topics that have been some of the more popular posts over the years.

Today we want to look at humor. Humor is an effective tool and device that can help you make or illustrate an important point. Also humor can provide the needed spoonful of sugar to help difficult medicine go down. To be able to laugh is a gift. At Ministry Best Practices we will often use humor, satire or parody to communicate. Here are some of the very best humorous posts from Ministry Best Practices.

Requests For Every Worship Pastor

When Churches Lie - REAL Church Postcards

Even More (Honest) Church Postcards

When I Forget To Tell My Wife That She Is In The Sermon

Hipster Pastor Name Generator

Humorous Church Names

Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.
- Bill Cosby

How To Speak With Passion & Purpose

As we are on vacation during these next couple of days, Ministry Best Practices will be posting the "Best of" articles on different topics that have been some of the more popular posts over the years.

Today we will be looking at how we communicate. Being able to communicate well is one of the most important skills within ministry. We are constantly communicating - particularly speaking. So how do you move past simply being a mediocre speaker to one that communicates well? Do you want to learn how to speak with clarity, purpose and passion? We trust these articles below from Ministry Best Practices will help you in the quest.

There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.- Dale Carnegie

How To Thrive Through The Weariness Of Ministry

As we are on vacation during these next couple of days, Ministry Best Practices will be posting the "Best of" articles on different topics that have been some of the more popular posts over the years.

Today we are going to look at the spiritual and emotional health of those in ministry. Why do so many pastors burnout out? How does the gospel and preaching it to our heart every day contribute to the spiritual health of those in ministry? May these articles and videos below encourage and bless your hungry and thirsty soul.

“Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.” - NY Times