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.

How To Know If You've Accomplished Excellence


Just because there is a Starbucks in every place known to exist, you might think that because of their monopoly they wouldn't have to care about the customer.

But I had a very interesting thing happen. I had ordered a Venti Americano and I went to sit down with a friend of mine for our meeting in the corner of the coffee shop. Just when I thought my drink might be ready, I went up to see if it was at the bar, and the barista was just finishing a big order and said that my drink would be right up. I was ok with that. I didn't complain or even make a sour face, I just went back to sit down. A couple of minutes later, my Americano arrived delivered to the table with a special note, apologizing for the inconvenience and welcoming me to a free drink during my next visit.

Wow, what a surprise! Starbucks cares so much about their customers experience that they are willing to do anything to make it right. This was the case even though myself, their customer, wasn't too put out. That didn't matter. They were put out. They measure their excellence not merely by the customer's reaction but rather by their own standards. They are the ultimate gauge of whether they have accomplished excellence -and they care.

As you think about your guest service and first impressions teams on Sunday morning, what are you measuring yourself with? What are your standards of excellence? Chances are you are not going to hear back from your guests whether or not you did a poor job. Therefore you need to establish certain success criteria so you know how you're doing.

Here are some sample criteria:

1. Volunteers - are they motivated? Do they arrive to their stations/responsibilities on Sunday morning on time?

2. You can ask your guests. We have a follow up website where we ask about their experience. We invite our guest's input. (http://bigcreekvisitor.blogspot.com/) If your guests will be honest with you, then you can certainly benefit from their input.

3. Cleanliness - construct a check list for your exterior cleanliness (i.e. trash in the parking lot) and interior (i.e. clean glass doors and windows, swept carpet)

4. Returning guests - as you track your guests, how many return? Of course people return or don't return to your church due to a lot of different reasons, some of them may not have anything to do with their experience. But if you have a low return rate, it should cause you to ask yourself some hard questions, why? What are we doing to contribute to their decision not to come back.

Creativity in the Box


Dan and Chip Heath, authors of Made to Stick (a book that I just recently finished in which I will be posting more about!) recently published an interesting article entitled, "Get Back in the Box: How constraints can free your teams' thinking" in Fast Company (December 2007 / January 2008) p. 74.

The thesis of the article is we actually become more creative when we create constraints in which to be creative. So, an example would be trying to create a bank's lobby that is "hipper and more inviting to young professional customers" as a goal is far less effective than starting with some constraints such as "We want the space to be more lie a Starbucks and less like a post office."

The point of the article is that creativity is not sparked in a vacuum. Parameters and guidelines prompt creativity and brainstorming. As the authors suggest, that yes, "--it constrains freedom,....but it also dramatically improves the chances that your team will hit the target."

(HT: Eric Swanson)

The Exceptional Presenter


I just finished The Exceptional Presenter by Timothy Koegel.

Since much of what I do is public speaking in some form or another, I am always looking for good books about the subject to keep me fresh and to always be learning.

Although this book comes from a business setting, there is much application to the preaching world.

One of the quotes from Dr. Albert Mehrabian, UCLA states that:
7% of our impact is determined by the words we use.

38% of our impact is determined by our voice: how confident and comfortable we sound.

55% of our impact is determined non-verbally: our appearance, posture, gestures, and movement, eye contact and facial expressions.

Presentation is important. Now although for the preacher there is ultimate power in the Word of God and that can't be negated, a preacher's presentation style and skill is just as important as well. Koegel gets to a point about clarity and simplicity when delivering a message that can't be overstated. He says that there are three basic sections in a presentation:
Tell them what you're going to tell them (opening)

Tell them (body)

Tell them what you just told them (close)
Sounds simple enough, I just wish more speakers did this. You got to be clear, clear and clear. Your audience is asking themselves, "why should I listen?" or "how is this relevant to me?". They shouldn't have to guess what your main points are and where you plan on taking them.

Koegel has good, fundamental stuff about posture, gesture, eye contact, audience analysis and vocal variation. He covers all the basics of good presentation.

I was able to get a couple good new nuggets out of this book but mostly is reminded me of much I already knew. I don't say that to brag on myself, but rather I am bragging on the excellent training that I received one summer at the Communication Center in Ft. Collins, CO. For a whole summer, Campus Crusade for Christ trained my wife and I on communication. We learned and we practiced, practiced, and practiced. We were video taped, evaluated and personally coached. We learned everything from researching a talk, to structuring a presentation and how to deliver a talk with power and effectiveness. This was the best training that I ever received, and the lessons learned that summer have shaped me and helped me until now.

But many people have never been through a communications boot camp like that, and therefore I would say, that the Exceptional Presenter is an excellent resource. It is some of the best stuff on paper, but just like the author states, nothing replaces becoming an exceptional presenter other than practice, practice and more practice.

Below are some "money quotes" from the book that I pulled from Brand Autopsy.


Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas...

...from the Reichart family.

The Curse of Knowledge

I am currently reading, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

This book is a business book, but it has been on many church leader's top book lists. When a book receives so many accolades from people I respect, I take notice.

Another motivation to dive into this book is that communication is one of our biggest challenges at Big Creek. I am only half way through the book, but I just finished reading a section on the "Curse of Knowledge" and after reading it, I thought to myself - this is exactly our problem at the church.

From the book, here is an explanation of the Curse of Knowledge:
This is the Curse of Knowledge: Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has "cursed" us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can't readily re-create our listeners' state of mind. (page 20)

I am here at the church all the time. I am in team leader meetings and staff meetings all the throughout the week. Therefore I know exactly what we are thinking and planning at the church. I have been cursed with this knowledge. But for those you who come to Big Creek, mileage varies on how much you actually know about these same things.

Once I have knowledge, it makes it hard to communicate effectively. I know what I know, but I don't know what you don't know. (is that confusing :-) ).

Because of the curse of knowledge at Big Creek we assume too often what we are communicating clearly. Here is an example: If you have had any experience or questions about our end of the year ask these past several weeks, you are perfectly aware that our communication with our ask was as clear as mud.

The leadership knows with the end of the year ask what we we were asking. We were cursed with knowledge. But those of you receiving the letter and the envelope didn't have the privilege or exposure of that knowledge and therefore you were at a disadvantage. There was confusion. But that wasn't your fault, it was ours.

At Big Creek, it becomes our job and responsibility to communicate in a way that presupposes your, the receiver of the communication, point of view.

Key point that we must always remember: Just because it makes sense to us, doesn't mean that it will make sense to you!

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Mixed Messages


Does your church communicate mixed messages?

Do you spend all your money on direct mail pieces that show people in your church laughing and playing and doing life together but when people show up on Sunday morning - all they encounter is a cold-unwelcoming environment?

Advertising and marketing goes only so far.

Too often churches spend tons of money and investment to get people in and through their doors on Sunday morning. But is the same amount of time and energy invested on their experiences and impressions once they arrive?

What happens in the first ten minutes of a person's visit, makes an indelible impression. You only get one chance and opportunity to make that impression. You got to make Sunday mornings count!

Guests who come on Sunday morning are at their highest state of alertness. They are taking everything in, and they are quick to make judgments and draw lasting conclusions.

Here are a couple of questions and issues that you need to resolve on Sunday morning.
  • Have your volunteers been communicated to during the week? Are you certain your people are going to be there? In this information saturated culture, an email doesn't cut it - go 20th century and get on the phone! (see my communication post here!)
  • How are you training your volunteers, once they show up, do they know the vision and purpose of their role and responsibility?
  • What feedback are they receiving? How are they being encouraged and coached?
  • Are people having fun and feel part of a team? If they are there because of mere duty - IT WILL SHOW! Are they jazzed up to be there Sunday morning? People need to serve in community and within friendships.

Creative Approach To The Invitation




From the Church Relevance website:

Seeing is believe. Sure you can point someone to a video tour on your website or you can hand them a church promo DVD. But what about doing something entirely different. Why not give them something that takes them back to their childhood.

To promote their December sermon series called “A New View of Christmas,” Element Church (MO) is equipping church members with invite cards and 3D View-Masters. Youth pastor Jody Earley explains:

"When they go to invite someone to Element Church, they can simply hand them the View-Master and say, “Take a look at this,” and it opens a door to tell them about what’s going on.

As they look inside, with each click they see a graphic promoting what’s take place in the different ministries for our Christmas service, and it’s all done in 3D."

To get View-Masters for your church invitations, visit studio3D.com.

[photo credit: Robert Francis]


The Doors are Always Open

Go ahead, watch this video, and then make sure to do the exact opposite!!

This video isn't an example of how to create a warm and welcoming environment at your church, but you will laugh yourself silly!!




(Thanks Matt!)

Death by Powerpoint

Powerpoint on Sunday morning for many churches is key element of worship. At a minimum, many churches use Powerpoint to project the song lyrics during the music. In addition many preachers use Powerpoint to help illustrate their sermon points in order to help the congregation to cement in their mind what they are communicating.

I use Powerpoint in my sermons. I often use Powerpoint to present additional scriptures in my sermon. This helps the congregation to not be constantly flipping through the Bible and missing what I am saying. Also, I use Powerpoint to project my main outline points in order to give them an additional punch as well as to post quotes (particularly if they are long). But I don’t like too much Powerpoint, because it can be too distracting for me when I preach. I want it to accent my sermon, not take away from it. Powerpoint has some use, but everything in moderation.

There has been a healthy debate within churches on the usefulness and boundaries of Powerpoint and how it either helps or detracts from a preacher's sermon. The key is that Powerpoint can have it's advantages, if it is done right.

Check out this "Powerpoint" called “Death by PowerPoint” by Alexei Kapterev. (Click on the image below to watch it.) He talks about why so many PowerPoint presentations are so bad. More importantly, he teaches you what you can do to make your presentations stand out and worth the investment.




Also,Michael Hyatt has discussed this subject on his blog and recommends two helpful sites on better presentations. The first is Presentation Zen and the other is Beyond Bullets.

For a contrarian view, I came across an interesting article concerning the detriments of Powerpoint. According to some scientists, Powerpoint may not be a very helpful way to communicate.

"Humans just don't like absorbing information verbally and visually at the same time - one or the other is fine but not both simultaneously. Researchers at the University of New South Wales in Australia found the brain is limited in the amount of information it can absorb - and presenting the same information in visual and verbal form - like reading from a typical Powerpoint slide - overloads this part of memory and makes absorbing information more difficult."

In light of all the debate, I do believe that Powerpoint has the potential to be an extremely helpful and powerful tool, if it is used correctly. Slapping together a presentation with Powerpoint doesn't automatically make it more compelling and memorable. Just as it takes time and attention to prepare to speak publicly, it takes the same amount of care and attention to design and prepare Powerpoint.

Make you presentations and sermons count and don't kill your audience using Powerpoint!



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Zappos




Customer service is important. Extraordinary customer service will always be remembered. Here is a story about a woman who received customer service from Zappos (an on-line shoe company) that went well beyond the call of duty.

If a shoe company is this committed to their customers, how much more should a church show people that they matter to God on Sunday mornings.

Here is this woman's customer service testimony:

"I Heart Zappos

I really do.

One bright, extraordinary note in all of the sad stuff of the last few weeks - in May we had ordered several pairs of shoes from Zappos for my mom. She’d lost a lot of weight, and her old shoes were all too big. She had a whole new wardrobe of clothes in pretty colors, that fit, so I wanted her to have some pretty shoes that fit, too, when I took her up to Oregon to stay where her sister is. Out of seven pairs, only two fit. Not bad considering she’d never been this thin, so I was winging it, and the return shipping is free.

The rest were here waiting to be returned. Because of various circumstances - lost label, my mom being hospitalized and me being away, the shoes were never sent back. There’s a time limit on the return of 15 days. Remember this. When you do a return to them, they pay the shipping, but you have to get the shoes to UPS yourself. Remember this, also.

When I came home this last time, I had an email from Zappos asking about the shoes, since they hadn’t received them. I was just back and not ready to deal with that, so I replied that my mom had died but that I’d send the shoes as soon as I could. They emailed back that they had arranged with UPS to pick up the shoes, so I wouldn’t have to take the time to do it myself. I was so touched. That’s going against corporate policy.

Yesterday, when I came home from town, a florist delivery man was just leaving. It was a beautiful arrangement in a basket with white lilies and roses and carnations. Big and lush and fragrant. I opened the card, and it was from Zappos. I burst into tears. I’m a sucker for kindness, and if that isn’t one of the nicest things I’ve ever had happen to me, I don’t know what is. So…

IF YOU BUY SHOES ONLINE, GET THEM FROM ZAPPOS."

With hearts like theirs, you know they’re good to do business with.
(HT: Writing - Cooking - Life )

Lessons from Disney


For two years my family and I lived in Orlando and we got to visit Disney and all their numerous parks, well over 40 times during that two year period (we certainly made good use out of our yearly pass!). Needless to say, we got to know Disney up close and personal. And one thing we noticed throughout our entire time with Disney was the consistency of the experience. It was always top-drawer and it never failed to please. In fact the experience is so excellent that our recent visit last year to Six Flags in Atlanta felt like a big disappointment (not because Six Flags did anything wrong - but rather it seen in light of the high bar set by Disney).

Read below some good observations from Devin Hudson about First Impressions from a Disney perspective.





1. First Impressions are lasting. If you have been to Disney, you know how well trained their "cast members" (employees) are. They are friendly, helpful, and always seeking to make your experience better. Sure you run into a fair share of employees who are not having a great day but the general tone of the park from the moment you arrive is friendliness and helpfulness.

2. First Impressions do not step once you have arrived. There is always help available. On more than one occasion I noticed a Disney employee approach a bewildered couple staring at a park map to ask of they needed help or directions. They are trained to look for opportunities to serve those at the park.

3. Efficiency and effectiveness are essential. The first time I went to Disney I was about 13 and I rode about 3 rides a day because you stood in line for 2 hours waiting for a 30 second ride. I hated it. If you have been to Disney in recent years, you know they have done everything they can to make their park more efficient which makes for a more effective experience. Fast passes and adding parks and rides has helped make the overall experience more positive. It also helps that we went during one of the slowest weeks of the year and rarely waited more than 5 minutes for a ride. Disney was already an enormous attraction without improving itself but it was not content to survive. Disney knew that to thrive they had to constantly improve their efficiency and effectiveness and that is what they did.

4. Excellence is a must. If you have been to Disney, you know how clean it is. You know how detailed it is. You know the high level with which they operate. Everything they do is done with absolute excellence.

Read the rest here: graceisthepoint: Lessons from Disney


Humor Sparks Creativity




The is an interview with John Morreall from FastCompany.com (HT: Accidental Creative)

Ministry can be hard work. But the best teams are those that can laugh with one another. We just finished our staff meeting this morning and we never laughed so hard during our time together. Did we get stuff done? Of course. But I think John's opinions are right on the money. Humor increases productivity as well as enjoyment within the task.

Why You Should Include a Joker in Every Brainstorming Session
You say that humor increases productivity, reduces conflict, and fosters change. Is this a joke?
Humor is healthy, especially the way it reduces stress. Humor is the opposite of fight-or-flight emotions -- especially fear and anger. I can't be laughing with you and angry or afraid of you at the same time.

How does it encourage creativity?
Humor makes us think more flexibly. People who think funny do better on creativity studies. To put it really simply, humor loosens up your brain to think of more possibilities and be more open to the wild and wacky ones. There is a guy at the State University of New York at Buffalo named Roger Firestien who has a center for the study of creativity. When he teaches brainstorming, he says you should put a joker in the group -- somebody who will come up with preposterous ideas. Very often that will stimulate people to come up with ideas that will work. Let me give you an example. A bunch of paint engineers were moaning and bitching about how hard it is to get paint off a house. One guy says, "Why don't we just put gunpowder in the paint and blow it off the house?" That led people to think, "What could we do that would be the equivalent of gunpowder?" They came up with a chemical they added to the paint and when you wanted to remove the paint you did a light wash with a second chemical over the first one. That didn't blow it off the house, but it allowed it to drop off.


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A Honest Sign


I have posted on bad church signs before. At least this sign is honest but yet still misguided.

Very rarely does a sign bring a person to church. Certainly a person may be new to an area and be looking for a particular kind of church (denomination) or maybe slightly provoked and curious by a church sign and therefore may visit that church. But my experience is that people come to a new church because someone invited them. They come because they know someone. And through that person, they have heard and picked up on an excitement and passion for the church.

Signs don't bring people to church. People bring people to church.

(HT: Smart Pastor.com)

Consulting








Ministry Best Practices Consulting




With over 20 years of ministry experience, Ministry Best Practices Consulting is dedicated to helping churches, pastors and ministry leaders become equipped for innovative and effective ministry.

How Can Ministry Best Practices Consulting Assist You and Your Church?


  • Communication Coaching
  • Creative Thinking and Planning
  • Developing Vision and Mission Statements
  • Develop Discipleship culture within Church
  • Elder and Deacon Training
  • Fund Development
  • Leadership Assessment
  • Leadership Training
  • New Christian Assimilation and Follow-up
  • Small Group Ministry Development
  • Strategic Planning
  • Teacher Training
  • Team Building
  • Technology Consulting and Website Design
  • Visitor Assimilation and Follow-up
  • Volunteer Recruitment and Development
You can contact me via email to discuss how I may assist you.

You can find my resume, recommendations and portfolio at Linkedin and VisualCV:







Bill Reichart's VisualCV

Bill Reichart as been featured in...

The New York Times
Facebook for Pastors ebook
The Orlando Sentinel 

Cedar Rapids Gazette 
FaithHighway's Ezine
Beliefnet.com

And on RedRiver Public Radio




What people are saying...


Kathy Drewien, Director of Marketing & Communications, Mt. Zion United Methodist Church.

"Curious about Twitter? Toying with the idea of incorporating Facebook
in your marketing plan? We were. Bill's presentation on social media
was informative, and more importantly, created aha moments which
spurred action. In other words, Bill helped us 'get it.'"
Diane Campbell, Team Leader, First Impressions at The Vine Community Church




“Being at the Vine Community Church for just over a year I have worked directly with Bill in the area of First Impressions....Bill did everything to empower me to become the leader of this ministry as we know it today....I found Bill to be a very creative thinker, great listener, technically savvy, and one who was open to new ideas and ways to implement policies and procedures to bring the greatest results.”
Stuart Williams, Director, Payment Services, Fiserv


“Bill is a gifted communicator, whether by written word or in front of people. Not only can he be persuasive he is also a great at encouraging those around him to reach beyond their current horizons. I would expect any organization that would include Bill would see immediate impact and the potential for the future to be much broader.”
Ray Deck III, Staff Writer, MinistryLIVE


"Bill is an exceptional communicator. His two blogs (Provocative Church & Ministry Best Practices) are representative of his ability in written communication. His ministry skills are broad, but he specializes in small group, discipleship-based ministry. Bill understands the nuances of small group ministry in theory and practice."
Nathan Shattuck, Pastoral Counselor, Spiritual Director and Owner, Soul Care Christian Counseling


“Bill is an excellent pastor in the true sense of the title - someone who passionately and personally leads and shepherds God's flock. He has created a welcoming environment at Big Creek Church, a church where God is moving in significant ways in the lives of the pastors, staff and congregation - something I've learned is far more rare than it should be.”

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How To Lead Your Volunteers

I have been thinking a lot about volunteers recently, particularly since everyone in my ministry downline happens to to be volunteer. In churches, the work of ministry happens because of volunteers. Since volunteers make up 95% of the ministry workforce, the question that we need to grapple with is, how do we lead and recruit volunteers? Here are just a couple of my thoughts...feel free to comment and add your own.

1. Vision is their paycheck. A volunteer isn't motivated and driven by a paycheck (hence the label volunteer :-) ), so what gets a volunteer to step up to the plate? Vision. Vision, that is compelling and communicated often, is key for volunteers. They want to know how their service in their corner of the church fits into the overarching mosaic of the church's vision, mission and purpose. Vision not only keeps volunteers motivated but it is the essence of recruiting volunteers. You want people to join your ministry team? Share the vision. People respond more to communicating "vision" rather than just merely sharing "need".

2. You need to give people volunteering on-ramps. How do people connect with volunteering opportunities in your church? What is the process? Is it simple? Is it clear? At CMDA Atlanta we are working on clear and simply on-ramps giving people the opportunity to serve. Very often people want to serve - they just need to know how.

3. Volunteers need to be celebrated. It is true that most people volunteer because they want to use their gifts and make a difference. They are not overtly looking for praise and recognition, but that doesn't mean that they don't deserve it. Whether it be big, huge volunteer appreciation gatherings or simply walking in the nursery and thanking the lady who is holding a crying baby - volunteers did to be celebrated.

4. Volunteers often times will only rise to the level of your expectations. There are some volunteers who will go well beyond the call of duty, but most volunteers will serve up to the bar that you set. So set the bar high. Too often we are afraid to ask a lot from our volunteers - that is a mistake. Ask boldly, ask big! You will be surprised how motivated volunteers are willing to serve.

5. Volunteers will only work under leaders. People that are serving in your church need clear direction. You need to lead them. Make sure that you do your due diligence in planning and preparation as a leader. At the same time, don't worry if your don't have all the answers. As a leader you should concentrate about being clear with your volunteers even if you are not certain about every detail (via Andy Stanley)

6. Volunteers recruit other volunteers. One of the biggest issues for leaders is recruitment. As a leader, you have tapped into our sphere of relationships and may now feel tapped out. As a leader, you don't and shouldn't be the key recruiter. Encourage your volunteers to recruit their friends. People love to serve with their friends and they have a circle of friends and relationships that you probably don't have.

What are some of your thoughts about leading volunteers in your ministry context?

The Comeback of the Holy Kiss


(a parody)

Holy Kiss Leads to Unexpected Result

BISMARCK, ND - With so many churches giving up on the bible either partially or completely, at least one pastor has decided to take a stand. Rev. Harold Geeves, of Nazareth Bible Church, is determined to take the bible literally.

According to Geeves, "We want to live by the whole counsel of God's Word, and we interpret it literally. Because of this, we believe in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. We also believe that only men should be elders and teach within the church. As a church, we have decided that only believers should be baptized. Our women all wear head coverings."

Geeves continued, "We have taken some criticism for these beliefs. Several other local pastors have challenged us on our consistency. They kept asking us if we greeted one another with a "holy kiss," as Paul commanded in Romans 16:16, I Corinthians 16:20, II Corinthians 13:12, and I Thessalonians 5:26. They told us that if Paul commanded it four times, then we should be consistent and do it."

After several months of this, Rev. Geeves called a special meeting with the church deacons. TBNN has learned that the two-hour deacon meeting was animated as men on all sides of the issue spoke passionately about the ramifications of instituting the "holy kiss" at Nazareth.

Deacon Melvin Simmons said, "It got pretty heated in there. As the leaders of the church, we wanted to be united with what we presented to the church body. So after quite a bit of arguing, we decided that consistency was too important to not take a stand on this issue. We voted to begin the Holy Kiss Program at our church."

This simple program was designed to work like this: on Sunday mornings, when members first met other members, they were to greet one another with a small peck on the cheek. That was it. It was certainly not to go any farther than that.

For two weeks everything seemed to be going smoothly. There were a few embarrassing moments when men kissed other men for the first time. Also, the ladies were having to return repeatedly to the restroom to re-apply lipstick. The youth took to the program a little too enthusiastically. However, all-in-all, the Holy Kiss Program was a success.

Then it happened.

Deacon Simmons forgot that the program is for members only. On the first Sunday in August of this year, John and Shelly Winters, first-time visitors to Nazareth, walked in the front door of the church building. According to eye witnesses, Deacon Simmons strolled up to the couple, introduced himself, and then kissed Mr. Winters on the cheek. As Mr. Winters stood there shocked, Deacon Simmons leaned over and pecked the cheek of Mrs. Winters. That's when it got ugly.

Read the rest here.....Holy Kiss Leads to Unexpected Result )

Internet Campus


Seacoast Church Internet Campus

Seacoast has just started an internet campus. It is a cool site that has a lot of neat features. Here is a brief explanation from their website:

First of all, welcome! We are glad you're here. Worship on the Internet is a new way of doing church, so we'll try and make it a great experience for you.

We currently have three worship experiences online; 9:30 am, 11:15 am and 2:00 pm EST each Sunday. Join the experience by going to the internet campus home page. When the service starts, it will automatically show on the page. Please note that the experience runs through Flash player. You can get the latest version here.

Additional features:
Live Chat: to fellowship with others before, after and during services, simply click the "Join Live Chat" button on the menu to the left of the video.

Message Notes: Follow along with the message notes below the video and fill in the blanks online. When finished, you can have them sent straight to your e-mail.

Connect Card: In order for us to get to know you better, fill out our online connect card, also located on the menu to the left of the video!

Technology can do so many cool things. Trust me when I say that I am often the first in line for the latest electronic toy and cool gadget. But technology must be examined critically. Therefore, I think that this kind of church experience has a couple of benefits as well as a couple of pitfalls. Here are just some of my thoughts:

The benefits....

It allow a perspective guest to experience a worship service from the comfort of their home. Some guests may need an opportunity to kick the tires before even stepping through the doors. This internet campus can provide a "first" first impression.

Sick or traveling out of town, this internet campus provides a great way to experience the service, particularly when you can't be there.

Some pitfalls.....

No one should make it a complete replacement to their worship experience. The virtual experience leaves out an important component of worship, our connection with others. Worship is an incarnational experience. I would agree with you that this idea is a bit of a mystery. God has hard wired us to experience our faith together. And by "together" I don't mean a shared virtual experience or a download of information through a computer portal. God has designed us to experience Him through the flesh on flesh contact with each other. The problem is that is often the hardest kind of community to build. But that is why we should endeavor even harder to cultivate and maintain that kind of connection. (see Dallas Willard's quote here for some further thoughts on the subject)

Also, new technology isn't neutral, it has implications. From a post in Provocative Church, Mike Metzger comments on the implications of technology.

"
It was the late Daniel Joseph Boorstin, prizewinning author and the historian who had served as librarian of Congress and director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of History and Technology, who argued that new technologies often turn Americans into tourists rather travelers. They keep us seemingly "in touch" while actually making us more "out of touch." The ease of surfing between Darfur and Dunkin' Donuts (or Paris France and Paris Hilton) is closer to voyeurism than voyaging. In times past, we wouldn't know about Darfur without being present and covering our noses to keep the stench of death out of our nostrils. Now we can simply watch through a window in air-conditioned comfort."

Technology changes the way we experience and encounter the world around us. How will an internet church campus change the way we experience God and our faith?

I don't presume to suggest I have the complete answers to these questions, but we must be willing to at least ask them and wrestle with the answers.

Umbrella Greeters

Whenever it rains, Granger Community Church and Element Church both use greeters with umbrellas to escort people from their cars to the church. It’s a great idea - one that every church should use. I wish we, in North Georgia, could implement this ministry more - we really need the rain here.
Double UmbrellaSomething that may interest those churches creating great first impressions with umbrella greeters is Quincy Store’s new double umbrella. What better way to accomodate visitors to your church than with a double umbrella.

Little, special touches like an umbrella greeter can go a long way in making a first impression.

Mystery Guests made easy



This post is from Group Volunteers: Tuesday's Tip (and I am posting it on a Thursday!). These tips can go directly into your inbox, and you can click here to go to their site to receive them.
Mystery Guests

Want to know how guests perceive your ministry? Enlist the help of mystery guests to attend your church and ministry area and provide feedback on their experience.

Ask several families to attend your children's ministry for the first time. Include a variety of families, such as a family with multiple children, a couple with an infant, and single parents. Include families with a variety of backgrounds, such as those who attend a different church regularly, families who attend church only sporadically, and families who've never attended church.

Have these families attend your church over a 4- to 8-week period. Develop questions that relate to specific outcomes such as friendliness, cleanliness, signage, or security. For a sample questionnaire, go to www.childrensministry.com and click on Web Extras.

Provide families with a questionnaire and stamped envelopes for easy return. Ask them to complete quesitonnaires after each visit and mail them back to you the following week. When all your mystery guests have completed their visits, meet with your team and go over the questionnaires to determine areas where your team is succeeding and areas where improvement is needed.

This tip is reprinted from Children's Ministry Professional Edition, the new resource from our ministry partners at Children's Ministry magazine. See childrensministry.com/leaders for more information about this resource.

Copyright © 2007 Group Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.

10 Ways To Avoid Building Community


I have the position at my church with the title, Pastor of "Doing Life Together". Pretty niffty huh? The reason that I have that title is because the scope of my responsibilities are to help people move from their First Impressions on Sunday to establishing Lasting Connections. In a nutshell, I am committed to helping people connect at Big Creek.

Needless to say, I get torqued when I hear people saying "I don't feel connected". Now of course, one response should be to ask, "What are we doing or not doing at Big Creek that is making it difficult to connect?" It first needs to be a question about our systems and processes. But the flip side of the coin is, "What is that person doing or not doing that it prohibiting their ability to connect?" That question has got to be asked as well.

I can be responsible for what we do at Big Creek, but only an individual at Big Creek can be responsible for their own choices.

With that in mind, consider this "sarcastic" list in order to help evaulaute whether or not you are doing all that it takes to build community and get connected....

10 Ways to Avoid Building Community Within Your Church

1. Keep conversations short.
Just like the old Dragnet character, Joe Friday, "Just the facts..." Don't get into details. Don't share anything with an emotional element to it. Make conversations short and sweet. You are busy, you have a lot to deal with in your life, if you talk to someone you might get close to them and that takes time and energy that you don’t have. Just keep it short and sweet, don’t bother talking about anything more than the weather. The key is if you don’t know a person is hurting, then you don’t have to do anything about it.

2. Always sit in your “assigned” seat
By always sitting in the same seat you always sit around the same people. These folks know the deal, and stick to the appropriate 30 second conversations: weather, sports, how the new preacher is doing, etc. Also, this keeps you from having to venture out, meet new people, and possibly sit next to someone you aren’t familiar with. Also, if you catch someone sitting in your assigned seat, make sure to stare them down and feel uncomfortable. That will teach them and perhaps they won't come back your church again.

3. Avoid new people
If possible come to church through the back door. It’s one thing to deal with all the people that you already know at church, but it’s another to actually meet new people. Seriously, you aren’t good with names, you don’t have the time, or the energy, so just walk right past anyone you don’t know. After all, they won’t notice that you totally avoided them.

4. Come late to church
Don’t overlook the beauty of this one. By coming in late you totally avoid even the 30 second conversations. And (bonus), you avoid the new people! It just makes life easier.

5. Leave immediately after the service (or early)
You got to get out quickly in order to get a seat at the local restaurant. This strategy has the same benefits as coming in late. If you add this method with the coming in late method you could go to a church for years and never meet anyone.

6. Be physically present but mentally absent
When talking to someone, pretend to listen by nodding your head and saying “uh huh” while you are really thinking about what football game comes on TV later that afternoon. Basically, this strategy allows you to engage people on the superficial level. After all, you’re just there to put in your “time” and then get on with your life.

7. Don’t share a meal
If you goal is to avoid community, this step is of the utmost importance, don’t ask people to lunch! Especially don't invite people over your house for a meal, that would be doubly stupid. Sharing a meal is an intimate thing that creates deeper relationships. So, when someone asks you to lunch fake a stomach ulcer or something, just get out of it.

8. Stay very, very busy
This strategy is used by practically everyone on in North Atlanta. The busier you are, especially on a Sunday, the less time you have to “deal” with people. In fact, attempt to be so busy that when speaking to someone you never even stop walking past them as you say hello. Also use the old Seinfeld trick of walking quickly and look annoyed. Everyone will think you are busy and won't bother talking to you.

9. Make your default response “everything is great” or "fine"
People will always ask how you are doing. Make sure that you have your “default” answer ready so that when they ask you are ready to say, “everything is great!” or "fine". This must be your default response, otherwise you might actually let on that your life is not perfect, or worse, that you are struggling and actually human. If you make the mistake and share anything more it could lead to deeper conversation and deeper relationship. If you are going to really avoid community while in church, this is probably your best weapon.

10. Don’t show up
This is definitively your best method of avoiding community overall because there is no community where there are no people.

(ht: askingY.com)

Treat Visitors As If They Were Coming To Your Home


Vince Antonucci has this very important principle listed on his blog the other day. When guests come to your church, treat them coming to your home. (Gary McIntosh in his book, Beyond the First Visit, draws out this application in his book as well.) Here is an excerpt of Vince's post here:
Visitors in Your Home We’re looking at principles we apply at our church so that our services reach truly lost, un- or anti-churched people. Today, principle #3: Treat visitors at church like you would visitors who come to your home for dinner.

Your home is for you. It belongs to your family. You have certain ways of conducting yourself with your family, certain rituals and traditions you adhere to, certain things you do together. But when you have first-time visitors to your house for dinner, things change a little. There are some things that you won’t do because you have guests. Maybe you typically walk around in your underwear. Your family understands this, has never reported you to the police, and loves you anyway.

But you won’t walk around in your undies with guests over. Or perhaps you normally listen to country music during dinner, but know your guests don’t appreciate songs about broken hearts, broken pickup trucks, and broken basset hounds. So what will you do? You won’t play it. Or if your plan was to go over your family budget at meal time, but you suddenly discovered new friends would be joining you, you would elect to not talk about your personal finances. Why? You know it would bore, and perhaps even embarrass, them.

So when you have visitors over you will change the way you dress, the style of music you listen to, and what you’ll talk or not talk about all in an effort to help your friends feel comfortable. There would be other things that you would still do, but you’d explain them to your guests to make sure they understood and felt comfortable with what you’re doing. If you always pray before your meal but your guests weren’t Christians, you might say, “Hey, we always pray before we eat. I hope that’s okay.” You’d make sure they understood anything that might be foreign to them so that they don’t feel completely out of place. At Forefront we know we always have some newcomers on Sunday mornings, so we approach it in exactly that same way. For instance:

* Very early in the service we usually have someone come out and welcome everyone, and that person will usually introduce themselves (“Hey, welcome to Forefront. My name is Chuck…”). Why? Because if you have someone over for dinner, you welcome them when they come in. And if they don’t know your name, you tell them.

* We never start with worship. (Almost every church I visit opens their service with their band leading worship songs – to me this is a major no – no.) Why don’t we start with worship? Because for the new person, worship is weird! A bunch of people standing up and singing, in an auditorium, in the morning? Weird! And if you’re new and not a Christian, you have no idea what to do with yourself. You just feel uncomfortable and out of place. It creates a first impression of, “This is for us. We’re not sure why you’re here. We hope you can follow along. Good luck.”

The Most Favorite Sound In The World



Remembering names is one of the most important things you can do when you are meeting guests on Sunday morning. I remember reading in college, Dale Carnegie's book, How to Win friends and Influence people ( a pretty manipulative title, I know!) and it had one point that I will never forget - A person's favorite sound is hearing their own name. Using a person's name provides a point of connection. It communicates care and that they matter. We shouldn't just remember names for self-serving reasons, but because every person we meet is special, they matter to God.

But on a Sunday morning, if you are anything like me by meeting a lot of new people, it can be difficult remmebering all the people you meet.

The key to remembering names isn't all that revolutionary. Paper and pen.

A Chinese proverb says that the faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory.

You can't rely on your memory. You got to keep a piece of paper, or small pad of paper, and a pen with you at all times. Just applying this simple rule, saved me at church yesterday.

Read Bob Hyatt's thoughts here about how he intentionally remembers visitors names.

(ht: PastorHacks):
Anyway, yesterday, we had an abundance of first-time visitors at our Sunday morning gathering...I'm really, really bad with names. I mean, really bad.
I usually have to ask people to remind me of their names 8 or 9 times...
But yesterday, I had a stroke of brilliance, a flash of ingenuity...I just wrote them down.
We had 7 first time visitors yesterday (not including some 4 or 5 relatives just visiting in town- I usually like to say "Hi" to them, by try not to spend too much time talking with out-of-towners). So, directly afterwards, when I got 2 seconds (all the time it took) I just wrote down their names.
In looking at the list now, I can clearly picture who each were. I'll look at it again later, but I have a feeling I now KNOW their names. This morning I even wrote a little note by each ("Came with Sean and Betsy","Went to lunch with Shawn and Laura", etc).
I'm telling you, the relief I feel at having something of a system to help remember names is incredible...Try it and tell me how it works for you! Or do any of you have other ideas for remembering visitor names?

Aesthetics And First Impressions


Winston Churchill famously observed that "We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us."

Too often we ignore aesthetic beauty and defer design and beauty to the goal of functionality. As a result, churches look like boxes and sanctuaries feel like warehouses. Beauty and design are important. We must acknowledge the God-ordained importance of design in creation, and our role as stewards of creation.

Our environments should inspire wonder and amazement. They should be environments of warmth and beauty. First impressions go beyond just a warm smile and a handshake. The look, feel and design of your church, both the exterior and interior will make a lasting first impression.

Here is a heads up from Ben Arment on the latest Fast Company mag's feature on design.
Fast Company Magazine features an issue on design. They say that neither marketing nor engineering drives sales as much as design. The shape of the Coke bottle, the contour of a soap dispenser, the beauty of a vacuum cleaner... Application to the church is creating irresistible environments. How we design our worship space matters to people far from God. And if we think God doesn't care about it, just read Exodus.
(HT: History in the Making)

picture is the interior of Church of St. Anne, Krakow Poland
Church of St. Anne is considered to be a leading example of Baroque ecclesiastical architecture in Poland with its beautiful ornate interior with Italian architect and sculptor Baldassare Fantana contributing the decoration and most of the furnishings.

How To Get People To Read And Respond To Your Email


In light of a previous post on communication (here) to your ministry leaders, email has certain limits to it's effectiveness. Email, by nature, doesn't DEMAND a response. People can easily ignore your email and unless they respond, you never know if and when they have actually read it. Yet this post by Michael Hyatt offers some helpful tips on how to get a faster response to your email
  1. Put the person’s name in the TO field. The CC field won’t cut it. If you expect someone to respond, make sure you have addressed the e-mail to them. I get so many e-mails now that I have set up an e-mail rule to filter out messages on which I am only CC’d. I automatically assume that these are “for information only.” This automated rule moves messages to my “CC” folder and marks them as read, so they don’t continue to distract me. I only go through this folder once a week or so.
  1. Limit your message to one subject. Good managers practice David Allen’s “two-minute rule” when it comes to processing e-mail. This rule says, “if you can do the action requested in the e-mail in two minutes or less, do it now. If not, put it on your task list for later.” The key then is to make it easy for the recipient to respond now. If you clutter up your e-mail message with several subjects, it makes it easier for the recipient to procrastinate. So it is preferable to send multiple e-mails, each with a discrete subject, than send one e-mail with multiple subjects.

  2. Tell them what you need in the first sentence. Don’t make the recipient wade through a long e-mail to get to the request. Put it at the top of the message and then let them decide if they need more information. For example, the other day, I got an interview request. The sender went on and on about their magazine—the company’s history, the market demographics, the circulation, etc. I had no idea why this information was relevant to me and almost deleted it. Then, after two pages of information, they asked me for the interview. Don’t make this mistake. Get to the point.

  3. Keep the message short. Again, remember the two-minute rule. If it takes longer than two minutes for the recipient to read your message, it will likely get set aside. In fact, they may never get back to it! So, keep it short. I like the advice some people are now giving: keep your message to five sentences or less. If it takes more than this, you should seriously consider another method of communication (e.g. a phone call, meeting, formal report, etc.)

  4. Tell them if your request is urgent or time-sensitive. People need help prioritizing. Most people want to be helpful. If you tell them it is urgent, they will try to comply. But—and be warned—if you do this too often, they will start ignoring you. If a request is time-sensitive but not urgent (e.g., I don’t need it now, but I do need it by the end of the week), I state exactly when I need it. I then track the request in my task management system, so I can be sure to follow-up.
(HT: From Where I sit)

Forgetting the Big Little Things


Todd Rhoades, has just posted an interesting article about the University of Central Florida's new football stadium. This is a state of the art stadium, but it was missing just one, essential thing...water fountains!

You can read more about it here....

How can a university and stadium planners be so short sighted? Yes, I know that they want to force everyone to buy the $3 water at the concession stands, but Florida is hot, I know I lived in Orlando for 2 years. Water fountains are as essential as toilets for any public place.

This got me thinking, what are the essential things that WE NEED in PLACE and not forget to prepare for the guests when they come to our church.

Here are a couple of thoughts...

1. Good signage. You know where the bathrooms are and where the children go, Guests don't

2. Accessible and clear information. What does the church believe? Ministries and staff contact information etc...

3. How do I connect? People want to know that this is a group of people that they can get to know. We need to have a clear and easy process to make that happen.

4. How do I serve? People wanat to know that is is a group of people that they can make a difference with. As with connecting, our churches need an easy and clear process to get people serving and using their gifts.


Do you have anything to add to this list?

Crummy Church Signs


One of the biggest first impressions a person makes about a church is from just driving by the church. I don't know about you, except for announcing service times and identifying the name of the church, church signs shouldn't be used for more than that.

What is particularly bad is when the church tries to be cute with little sayings, cliches and puns...

They always make me groan.

Want to know what I am talking about go see....

Crummy Church Signs

Have your church rated


Want to receive "real' feedback from a guest's Sunday morning experience?

Then you may want to check out:

ChurchRater

You can request someone to rate your church, or you can even volunteer to rate a church yourself.

Here is an example of a review you may find at the site:






Lawndale
3827 West Ogden Avenue
Chicago, IL 60623
http://www.lawndalechurch.org
Senior Pastor: Wayne "Coach" Gordon
Denomination: Non-Denominational
Overall:
Friendliness:
Singing:
Preaching:
The Church of Good Deeds
Lawndale puts the "community" in "community church." It sits on a busy street in a battered Chicago neighborhood. You can easily miss the church driving by. But you can't possibly miss its impact.

There's the Lawndale Health Center, Lawndale's Hope House, Lou Malnati's Lawndale Pizzeria, all of which serve to improve the state of the neighborhood and the fate of its people: their health, recovery, and re-entry into the workforce, respectively. (And all slightly--and smartly--branded to the church.)

The service itself was a blast: great music, people sharing their personal stories, and a decent sermon by Lawndale's de facto leader, Coach Gordon, who sat not on a big stage under giant spotlights, but on a small wooden platform in the center of a room that could hold maybe 400 people max.

Yes, I'm biased: I like seeing bands play their own music in small venues rather than watching American Idol; I like movies that emphasize good dialog over special effects; I like almost anything where substance trumps style.

That's why I like Lawndale. As far as I can tell Jesus' message was not "build large churches... get into politics... go on TV... get rich." But "do I as do... love God... love your brother."

And, again, as far as I can tell, those weren't opinions Jesus had: they were commands for all who follow him. And Lawndale seems to be heeding those commands.

Matt Casper
April 15, 2007, 4:09pm