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. ( 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

[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!)