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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.

Connection Between Porn & Sex Trafficking Is Undeniable

Sex Trafficking
This is an issue that we need to be addressing within our churches, especially with our young people.

from Walt Mueller 

Since we began researching and talking about the issue of pornography, we’ve seen the value of telling the truth about the connection between pornography and sexual trafficking. This is a truth that our kids need to hear. We must connect the dots for them. Sexual trafficking is an issue that the emerging generations care deeply about. Still, pornography use is pervasive among this very group, shaping them (more accurately misshaping them) in powerful ways. Not only must we seek justice in response to sexual trafficking, but we must seek justice by seeing how pornography use makes us complicit in sexual trafficking. If we seek to fight sexual trafficking yet engage in it ourselves, we are divided, dis-integrated selves. We are doing wrong.

This great little video is something you can use to spark discussion and a thoughtful response to these issues. . .

Teaching Teenagers In A Post-Christian World

Teaching Teenagers

from Rachel Blom:

This brilliant book by Jake Kircher is a game changer for anyone interested in teaching teenagers. We all know that the standard three or even five-point sermons aren’t working anymore. Not only do they fail to hold students’ attention while you’re talking, they can’t remember much afterwards even if they did attempt to listen.

Even students involved in youth ministry often miss a basic understanding of the core of the Gospel and don’t know much about the Bible. Not only that, but many teens who claim to be Christians don’t lead lives that are different from their non-Christian friends. And there’s no need to mention the all-too-familiar problem of students walking away from their faith in college.

Welcome to a post-Christian world.

Read the rest of Rachel's review HERE

Deal With Your Procrastination Like A Band-Aid

broken egg

If you struggle with procrastination (which in fact I do often), then this is good advice worth remembering and applying when you are faced with a task that you just don't want to do (but you have to!).

excerpted from 99u:

The best way to deal with procrastination is to treat it as you would ripping off a band-aid: get it over with as quickly as possible.

While it’s not unusual to procrastinate, it’s worth questioning when our fear of discomfort and resulting procrastination is justified, versus when we’ve assumed it will be worse than it really is. (But even time spent evaluating the reasons we might be procrastinating can be procrastination in itself.)

Instead, it’s best to dive head-first into whatever it is we’re procrastinating on to get the uncomfortable stuff over with as quickly as possible. As Robert Terson, author of Selling Fearlessly, tells us:
Here’s the vital question to ponder: What do you think is the greater agony to deal with…the pain of procrastination that you’re beating yourself up with day in and day out, or the difficulty of the project itself? I mean, why keep torturing yourself about it when you know down deep that you’re going to have to get to it eventually, that you’re never going to let it go, that sooner or later you’re going to have to, as Nike say, do it? Wouldn’t it be far better to tackle it now, get it over with, just to put a stop to the self-flagellation you’re enduring?
Procrastination is like a band-aid we use to cover up what needs to get done. Removing the band-aid can certainly hurt (no matter how many band-aids you’ve removed in your life) but there’s no way around the fact it has to be done. Besides: once the initial pain of ripping the band-aid off subsides, we’re often left wondering why we didn’t do it sooner.

A Simple Hack To Give You Success With Your Goals


Ok, we are a month into 2015, how are those new year goals going? Are you getting more fit? Are you more productive? Eating healthier? Spending more time with your family? Perhaps you are making some headway, but perhaps you have too many goals going at the same time.

The best way to tackle all that you want to do is to "chunk it up". Set your mind on a singular goal for a determined time - don't try to do it all - now.

Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, proposes breaking down your year-long goals into 90-day chunks:
You may have lots of goals, and that’s a good thing. Giving yourself 90 days means you can focus on a few at a time, knowing that there’s another 90-day period coming up soon. Maybe during the first quarter you focus on launching a new product. Then in the second quarter you focus on finding a new and bigger space. At the end of six months, you’ll have the new product and the bigger space, whereas if you aimed to do both at once, you might get overwhelmed and figure out neither. 

(ht: 99u

25 Truths About Preachers From 2 Timothy

Here is a great list from Colin Adams:

The Bible is the best place to learn about preaching. Other books on preaching can be good, of course. But whatever Scripture says on preaching is definitive. Its like drinking from the spring itself.

1. The herald proclaims a message that holds out the promise of life (2 Tim 1:1).

2. The preacher’s gift comes from God (2 Tim 1:6).

3. The gift of a herald must be fanned into flame (2 Tim 1:6): that is, stirred up by constant use.

4. The preaching gift must be exercised with love, power and self-discipline (2 Tim 1:7).

5. A gospel minister must not be ashamed to testify about the Lord (2 Tim 1:8).

6. The gospel must not simply be preached, but suffered for if necessary (2 Tim 1:9).

7. What they proclaim is a gospel of salvation, holiness, grace and life (2 Tim 1:9-10).

8. The gospel can be, and must be, both heralded and taught (2 Tim 1:11).

9. There is a pattern of sound teaching against which every sermon can be measured (2 Tim 1:13).

10. We are not just to preach the truth; we are to preach ‘with faith and love’ (2 Tim 1:13).

6 Simple Rules To Make Your Next Presentation Memorable

Giving a presentation in front of an audience is difficult enough, giving it accompanied with an awful powerpoint - well that makes your presentation simply deadly. Powerpoint is the most misunderstood, misapplied and misused presentation tool today. And even with all the books, blogs and videos that teach and instruct on how to use powerpoint well, many people still abuse it. Follow these 6 simple rules and your powerpoint presentation will go from "sucks" to "stellar".

  1. Include Only One Key Point per Slide - To many presentations crowd the slides with too much information.
  2. Pay Attention to the 3-Second Rule - According to graphic designer and presentation guru Nancy Duarte, you should look at each slide and ask: "Will the audience understand what I'm trying to communicate in 3 seconds?" If your honest answer is no, then whittle it down.
  3. Have a Bold Opening Slide to Grab the Audience's Interest Early And To Make a Wow Impression
  4. Make Sure You Pick an Easy-to-Read Font - This means that you should use nothing smaller than 24 pt.
  5. Create a Coherent and Consistent Look and Feel - Every slide should feel like it's part of the same story. Keep a consistent template and color scheme throughout.
  6. Use Images to Visualize and Explain - Images make content 55 percent more memorable than words therefore use them generously.

The 5 Most Helpful Ways To Avoid Youth Ministry Burnout

We talk about ministry burnout a lot here at Ministry Best Practices. It seems that ministry burnout and the damage it does (with all of it's different forms and implications) is a rising tide within the church and ministries. No one is exempt, especially those who focus and work with youth.

excerpted from YouthMinistry360 and Heather Bishop

A few months into my first ministry job, I found myself in an interesting position. Because I am a type-A, people-pleaser (recovering), I wanted to "be all things for all people" and said "yes" to any and every opportunity to serve. I loved my job and wanted to work my hardest to minister to the middle school girls in our youth group. However, I found myself easily exhausted. Thankfully, and with the help of others, I learned the following few tips to help me keep from spreading myself too thin:

1. Depend on your fellow youth workers.
Thankfully I work on a staff that encourages me to set some boundaries and utilize the gifted people all around me. Because I've seen ministry burnout first hand within my family, I put my driven personality aside and listened to my fellow staffer's encouragement. I was determined to learn how to maximize my ministry, rely on God's strength and the strength of the people He put in my life.

2. God does the saving, not me.
There is some bit of release in working hard, but knowing that God is in control of the outcome. Ministry is a healthy balance of encouraging and building up the weak and hurting, while also empowering them to rely on the Lord's help.

3. Serve from the overflow.
Though ministry requires sacrifice and service, a wise woman once advised me to "serve from the overflow in my life." The Lord continues to teach me the fairly obvious truth that we must be poured into before we can pour out. If I'm not taking time to spend with the Lord each day, if I'm not sitting under older and wiser women that can teach and encourage, then my personal resources are slim and will deplete quickly.

4. Parents are vital.
I have worked for ministries in the past that felt parents are too antiquated to "relate" to students. I strongly disagree. The Lord has entrusted these precious students to their parents' discipleship. The student ministry I am currently a part of is working fervently to equip parents to better disciple their children. Developing a partnership with parents is integral to effective student discipleship. These men and women are further along in their faith journey than I am. A clear partnership and encouraging relationship between parents and youth workers help transform ministry exhaustion into JOY and PEACE.

5. Humility is key.
Once I humbled myself before the Lord, relied on his strength, and realized I am not in this alone—ministry became a fun, exciting, and fruitful experience. I am better, healthier, and stronger because of the staff members. Mentors, and God has put in my life.

Top Twitter Tweets Of The Past Week

Twitter church
Here are the most popular Twitter posts from the past week. Don't forget you can get more helpful, engaging, inspiring and fun content by joining Ministry Best Practices' social media communities on Twitter and Facebook.

Twitter - @BestMinistry

Facebook - MinistryBestPractices

And of course don't forget to subscribe to Ministry Best Practices via email to get your daily dose of actionable and awesome content delivered daily right to your inbox.

Want To Know What Most Interests Us? Google Knows

google search

In 2014, Americans looked to Google for information on Ebola, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and the actor Robin Williams’s suicide—all of which ranked among the hottest search terms of that year.

Google has announced the results of its “14th Annual Year in Search,” an inventory of the year’s most-searched-for keywords and phrases. 

The inventory is set up by category so you can browse through the different areas and drill down to more specifics. For a pastor and ministry leader, there is an enormous amount of information here for articles, blog posts, sermons, and essays. Seeing what we (Americans) were curious and interested about will help to give you some perspective and a pulse of the audience you minister to.

Scientific American also posted some interesting insights as well as trending subjects that were searched on Google. 

(ht: Phil Cooke)

How The Most Creative People In History Lived Their Day

creative thinking
Turns out great minds don’t think alike. Discover how some of the world’s most original artists, writers and musicians structured their day, based on ‘Daily Rituals’ by Mason Currey. Filter the different categories by toggling on or off, and hover over the colored bars to learn more about the daily (click HERE for the interactive graph)

The above info doesn't characterize the entire life of each person but a specific period of time as recorded in diaries, letters and other documentation.

How To Get Stuff Done When You Don't Feel Like It

Head in the sand

A recent post on the Nectar Collective offers a few suggestions for how creatives can find the inspiration to get work done in situations where time is of the essence but motivation is not, this is simple yet great advice for anyone, especially ministry leaders:
Use the 20-second rule. Want to get stuff done? Make it 20 seconds easier to do. In The Happiness Advantage, author Shawn Achor describes a simple strategy for… doing things even when we don’t feel motivated. Achor says, “Lower the activation energy for habits you want to adopt, and raise it for habits you want to avoid. The more we can lower or even eliminate the activation energy for our desired actions, the more we enhance our ability to jump-start positive change.” 
Recognize when you’re at the top of your game. Figure out when you feel and work your best and then do all of the things that take the most brain power during those times. 
Create rewards. Tell yourself that once you finish X, you can have/do Y. Another alternative is to reward yourself with something (like a small piece of candy) whenever you knock an item off your to-do list. 
Organize. Spend 15 minutes organizing your work area and cleaning up… When your work space is clear, your mind is clear.
How to you find motivation to start those projects on your schedule every week?

(ht: 99u)

Good Reads From The Week

Here are some good and challenging reads that Ministry Best Practices recommends from the past week on topics of ministry, faith, parenting and the church.

7 Essentials for Effective Sermon Preparation by Wayne McDill

Good sermon preparation is hard work. There are no easy ways or gimmicks that will eliminate that work. It is, however, possible to develop systems of preparation that will make most effective use of your time. Necessary to everything we are describing here will be a serious commitment to put in the effort for good preaching.

Biblical Help for the Angry Person: Understanding Anger by Dave Dunham

At its heart anger is a problem of the heart. We often look at our circumstances as those things which generate our outbursts, annoyance, and rage, but the Bible speaks of the source and origin of anger as something more internal. To properly address anger, then, we must look at our hearts.

4 Ways the Modern Church Looks Nothing Like the Early Church by Preston Sprinkle

I often hear Christians say that we should be more like the early church. And I must admit, I’ve been one of those Christians. But if we linger on how this would look, I wonder how many of us would rather stay put in our 21st century churches. After all, first century Christians clung to a set of values that differs quite radically from most Christians today.

5 Things I Plan to Tell My Teenage Sons About the Nude Photos of Kim Kardashian by Brian Orme

Tonight, I plan to sit my teenage boys down on the couch and ask them a pretty awkward question. It’s a question I never thought I’d ask and I’m a little angry that I even need to ask it. What is the question? Have you seen Kim Kardashian naked? Why would I ask this?

The Biggest Barrier to Students Going to the Mission Field by Kim Ransleben

My husband and I sat with a couple dozen college students one night to listen to a missions’ mobilizer answer their questions about going overseas after college. The first question was one we’ve heard many times: How do you go about raising money when you’re just about to graduate from college? I know the young man probably got a little confused when his question was met with a smile and a shaking head. The mobilizer told them that money wouldn’t be their problem, and instead he asked the students to guess the primary barrier to them going to the mission field after college.

The Rise Of The Churchless

empty pew

Based on two decades of Barna Group interviews with thousands of churchless men and women, the new book Churchless by Barna and Kinnaman outlines a profile of the unchurched and the cultural context that has led to the trend away from church.

 “It’s critical to recognize these trends have a huge impact on how our churches and faith organizations work,” says David Kinnaman in a joint interview with George Barna. “It is harder today—based on this data—to go out and say ‘invite your friends to church.’ So recognizing the context in which these trends play out is very important for church leaders, and for us as researchers.”

According to the Churchless data, in the 1990s, 30% of the American population was unchurched. Today, two decades later, that percentage has risen to more than four in 10 Americans (43%). (Tweet This)

“If we want to turn that trend around,” says George Barna, “we’ve got to understand what these people are thinking, what they’re doing, why they are making these particular choices, what we could do to actually serve them better, to understand them, to love them, to do everything we can to help them get closer to God. . . . Armed with this kind of information, it’s a lot more likely that you’ll come up with a strategy that enables you to have positive impact on the lives of such people.”

Kinnaman agrees, “Jesus asks us to be faithful wherever we are, in whatever context we are. So good information helps us to learn how to be faithful.” Watch the full interview with George Barna and David Kinnaman below, and find out more about today’s unchurched population in their new book, Churchless.

Mobile Can No Longer Be An Afterthought!

iphone anxiety
If you ever had any doubt that our culture has grown highly dependent on our smartphones, then you'll need to read this:

excerpted from Digital Trends:
If you feel a dark, heavy cloud over your head preventing you from being a fully functional human being whenever you forget to take your smartphone with you, you’re not alone. In fact, there’s now a study that declares smartphone separation anxiety is a real affliction that has psychological and physiological effects. 
Researchers at the University of Missouri conducted a study observing what happens to iPhone users when they’re unable to answer their phones while they work on word search puzzles. Participants were told to sit at a computer in a lab and that the experiment was about testing a new wireless blood pressure cuff.
“Our findings suggest that iPhone separation can negatively impact performance on mental tasks,” said Russell Clayton, a doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri School of Journalism and lead author of the study. “Additionally, the results from our study suggest that iPhones are capable of becoming an extension of our selves such that when separated, we experience a lessening of ‘self’ and a negative physiological state.”
Putting aside the real psychological effects of being apart from our smartphones, this study reinforces yet another issue - that people are never too far from their phones. They are always with us and we are connecting through them. Which means that if you are not thinking and working toward reaching your church, constituents, community and culture through their phone then you are missing it.

More and more people in your church and ministry are connecting through their phones. They are reading news and information from their phone, giving through their phone, communicating through their phone and watching media through their phone. Every email you send, every website you create, every call to action you require must be seen through the lens of how it accomplish it through mobile. Mobile can no longer be an afterthought for you and your church and ministry!

Why You Should Consider Shutting Down Your VoiceMail

from a recent Bloomberg post:
Forget about leaving a voice mail at Coca-Cola's Atlanta headquarters. Send a text instead. 
Office voice mail at the world’s largest soft-drink maker was shut down “to simplify the way we work and increase productivity,” according to an internal memo from Chief Information Officer Ed Steinike. The change went into effect this month, and a standard outgoing message now throws up an electronic stiff arm, telling callers to try later or use “an alternative method” to contact the person.
And it makes sense that companies would want to get rid of voicemail, because people are. In 2012, Vonage reported its year-over-year voicemail volumes dropped 8%. More revealing, the number of people bothering to retrieve those messages plummeted 14%. Very few people now want to take the time to listen through a 90 second voicemail. And those that do check it, do so mostly out of obligation, because it is still a communication bucket out there that needs to be checked and processed.

With so many ubiquitous and more productive methods - such as texting, email and instant message to communicate - voicemail seems to an anachronistic technology holdout like the fax.

As a leader, what do you do with voicemail? To you use and rely on it much? Would you ever consider dumping it?

You're Not Going To Believe This About Churches Online!

Just read in Christian Web Trends news that surprised me a bit.

Here is a quote from their post:
2012 Duke University National Congregations Study that showed a shocking low percentage of U.S. congregations. How low? 55.7% 
Granted, the study was conducted in 2012, so it’s 2-3 years old. However, considering the fact that the percentage of churches with websites only grew 11% in previous 5 years (from 44.3% in 2007), we can extrapolate that the current percentage isn’t likely to be more than 60-65%
Wow...those stats are incredible! Yet even though those statistics say that about 65% of churches have a web presence, it of course says nothing about the nature or condition of those websites. Are they current? Are they updated? Are they aesthetically appealing? 

There are a lot of ugly and broken websites out there! And truthfully I wonder if having an ugly, dated, and inactive website is any better than no website at all. (btw you don't have to settle for this...there are great website builders like Clover Sites and others that can give your church and ministry an attractive web presence.)

Don't forget your church and ministry website is your storefront. It will be, for many, the first thing they see or experience about your church before they even step through the front door on Sunday morning. Your church and ministry is creating a significant divide and disadvantage if you are not online.

The Wonderful Power Of Doubt

guest post by Jeff Anderson

I wonder how many Christians will be apologizing to Thomas in heaven. He inherited quite a reputation as a doubter.

(How would you like to have your life summarized by your moment of doubt?)

In my opinion, “Doubting Thomas” got a bad rap. He’s not even called by that nickname in scripture. And I don’t want to be among those who trash his name. Maybe it’s because I am a lot like Thomas.

When Thomas found out from friends that they had seen Jesus, he wasn’t so convinced. “Look, if you saw Jesus, that’s great. But I won’t believe until I see Him with my own eyes. I want to see and feel His scars.” (My paraphrase of John20:25)

If I were in Thomas’s position, being told they talked with Jesus, after I saw him crucified, I probably would have reacted the same way.

Someone else’s experience is not enough for me. I want my own signature moments with God.

Sometimes our faith needs something more

The faith journey is a test of endurance. We come to a life of faith with nothing…but faith. And faith alone is enough.

But at some point, your faith needs some substance. And I’m not talking about substance from you. I’m talking about substance from God. That’s right – when our faith is tested, we need God to step up!


What I mean is, God offers proof for those who want it. He offers further assurance for those who need a boost for their faith.

Throughout scripture, faith heroes called out to God for “more.” Gideon wanted proof that His angel encounter was for real; God gave Him the proof he wanted (multiple times actually).

Moses wanted proof that God was pleased with Him; God gave Him a special encounter on the mountain.

And Thomas wanted something more too. After all, he was a personal friend, a disciple, to Jesus. He wanted more than just a second hand account of Jesus’ aliveness.

God knows when your faith needs a kick- start

Seasons of doubt are to be expected. Life on earth is long. And our faith… gets tired. God knows we need faith boosters along the way. After all, He’s a good Father, right?

Jesus knew that Thomas needed his own moment with God. When Jesus took the hands of Thomas and placed them over his scars, Thomas encountered the fresh wounds of the risen Christ. Can you imagine that moment for Thomas – rubbing his fingers over the nail-scarred flesh of the risen God?

“My Lord and my God,” Thomas cried out. Yes, he had seen God. And his unbelief was once again defeated.

Often we tell the story of Thomas as one of disappointment and failure. But I see it differently. I see the privilege Thomas had of a personal revelation with God. And I see someone who had the guts to ask for more.

I often have doubts about God’s involvement in certain areas of my life. It’s not that I doubt God presence or existence. But I do tend to shrink back in fear at times, and desire more assurance of the things unseen.

Something tells me you have these moments too.

It could be doubt about a particular call on your life – maybe I don’t belong here in seminary. It could be doubt about your marriage – maybe we’ll never be able to reconcile. It could be doubt about a wayward child – maybe my child has abandoned God, and maybe God has abandoned him, too.

It could even be doubt at the very inner core of your faith – maybe God is not even real!

If you are struggling with feelings of doubt – your first step is an honest call-out to God. “Help my unbelief!” (Mark9:24).

In the case of Thomas, he said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).

Sure enough, Jesus showed up and gave Thomas the proof he needed.

Divine Applause moments
It’s comforting to know that these God encounters are available to us. I call these encounters divine applause moments - when God connects with us in noticeable ways.

Being steadfast in faith does not mean that you’ll never have weak moments. Instead it means your weak moments can be met with fresh experiences, divine applause moments to strengthen you for the journey ahead.

“Doubt”, in search of more from God, is good!

Maybe Thomas’ nickname should be “Thomas who wanted more.”

What’s your nickname?

JEFF ANDERSON speaks and writes about walking with God, with an approach to discipleship that combines scripture and story. He’s the author of two books, Plastic Donuts and Divine Applause (January 2015 RandomHouse/Waterbrook). Jeff and his wife, Stephanie have four children.

22 Expert Tips On Fundraising - Infographic

See below in the infographic by Jenn Fortner the top tips and advice on fundraising by the experts. She asked 22 fully-funded missionaries to anonymously answer the question: "If you could tell a new itinerating missionary one thing about raising fund, what would it be?" The infographic below pulls together the responses she received.

(ht: Jenn Fortner)