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 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



Should the church be like Target?


Here is a interesting post from Church Marketing Sucks...

What if Church was Fast, Fun &Friendly?
Brenton Balvin recently went to work for Target and noted that Target strives to be a 'fast, fun and friendly place to work and shop' and maybe churches need to be fast, fun and friendly.

In the light of our current series on church visitors these are great concepts to keep in mind:

* Fast - You'll probably accuse me of being too consumerist, but how many visitors can sit through a 45-minute sermon? I know I can't.

* Fun - Has church ever been fun? And would an outsider consider it fun?

* Friendly - We all think we're incredibly warm and friendly, but that's because you know everybody.

(HT: Church Marketing Sucks)

Should these be characteristics of a Sunday morning worship experience? I appreciate CMS' thoughts on this subject, but I am not sure I agree with the parallels and applications between Target and a church visitor's experience.

Fast - We are already a fast and hectic culture, especially in North Atlanta. Sunday morning worship shouldn't be intentionally rushed. Sunday worship is a time to worship and reflect. In saying this, I am not necessarily advocating 45 minute sermons, but if we are only concerned about time, we may neglect and overlook important and meaningful elements of the worship experience (i.e. we take the extra time to have communion every Sunday).

Fun - I am not sure fun is the best criteria to measure a guest's experience. I think other measurements have more value. Were guests inspired by the worship? Were guests compelled and challenged by the Word of God? Did guests feel as if they were ushered into the throne room of God during the worship? I think that Sunday worship should be a rich, enjoyable and meaningful experience - but I don't feel comfortable measuring worship using the word, "fun".

Friendly - I don't have too much problem with this criteria. Of course, we should be friendly. We should take a genuine interest and initiative toward our guests on Sunday morning. No argument here.

These are my two cents here, what do you think?

New Series From Church Marketing Sucks


Church from a Visitor's Perspective

by David Zimmerman


....Consequently, some churches make some very basic mistakes when they welcome a visitor. If they welcomed you to a dinner party like they welcome a visitor to their church you would never want to come over for dinner again. They are so glad to see you that they make an embarrassing scene. After shaking your hand they ignore you, leaving you to fend for yourself. They exclude you by talking about things you’ve never heard of. They even slip into the common jargon of their friends, leaving you out of the conversation altogether. On top of these faux pas, they forget that you are a little nervous to be there in the first place. Who would want to be at that party? Who would put themselves through that a second time?

I hope to be part of the solution. As a pastor who has been visiting a lot of churches over the last couple of years, I would like to share with you some of my experiences in being welcomed (or not). I hope some of my experiences can help you avoid the common mistakes churches make--and prevent me from making them myself, now that I am the pastor of a church again. (read the whole post here)

(HT: Church Marketing Sucks)

Good Stuff Around The Blogosphere


I just want to tune you into some good stuff posted with the last week. These are sites that I have subscribed to because they regularly have good and thought provoking stuff. Take a look for yourself:

Oak Leaf Church (Behind the Leaf blog) - letter to first givers. They have a sample letter ready for download. This is a wonderful idea to encourage and affirm those who are new to the church with their giving.

Mark Waltz - Mark has a good discussion on how to broach giving with those new to the church in mind. You may choose to do it differently than Granger does it, but it is a good idea to work through your church's expectations and how you communicate to your guests during the offering.

Image Forth - Jeff has a great post concerning Apple's approach to customer service. They just lowered their iPhone price $200 and now they are explaining themselves to their customers that bought it a couple of months ago. According to Jeff, Apple's approach to customer service begs a couple of questions:
"Hum…maybe the church could learn something from Apple here?"
  • Create an experience that people will want to come back to
  • Have ample ’sales’ staff to greet and help the newcomers
  • Provide an experience that would attract early adopters
  • Keep up with the newest technologies, not resting on our traditions and what worked in the past
  • Provide a clean, bright, welcoming experience
  • Support the product you sell
  • Evaluate and respond to your critics appropriately




Serve Coffee That Makes a Difference

(This post was originally posted at Provocative Church on March 8th, 2007. Serving coffee is an important part, for most churches, of creating a warm and friendly first impression. Consider not just serving coffee, but rather coffee that is helping to bring justice, economic prosperity to those who are under-resourced and hope to a part of the world that has suffered greatly - Rwanda. That is a message that every church would want to proclaim.)



A couple of weeks ago we purchased a new coffee to serve on Sunday morning. Up till now, we had been serving Equal Exchange, a fair trade coffee. And we had no concerns with Equal Exchange, but we, through a personal contact, developed a relationship with The Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee. They are a local distributor of Rwandan coffee, and because of the relationship, but more particularly because of the Rwandan story, we wanted to be partners with this wonderful work.

This is their story...
Most people will not associate the Republic of Rwanda with coffee, but it is in fact considered to be one of the finest in the world - after all, Africa is where the coffee bean originated. With volcanic soils, abundant rainfall and high altitude mountains, Rwanda has some of the best coffee-growing conditions in the world. But given this nation's recent history, this bag of aromatic coffee beans comes with many a bittersweet story to go with it.
Here is one such real-life story: Thirty thousand independent coffee growers climb the hills, tend the soil, and carry the beans on their shoulders down to cooperative village wash stations. The two best varieties of beans are separated, washed and meticulously tested for export. The destination is miles away in America. The villages are scarred by one of history's worst cases of genocide. 800,000 people were slaughtered ten years ago, but the pride of the dedicated and determined Rwandans has made a miracle happen. There is optimism in the air, and forgiveness and reconciliation can be felt throughout the land. Leaders in reconciliation are Anglican Bishop John Rucyahana and his wife Mrs. Harriet Rucyahana. They bring together widows from the Twa, Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups. Known as Inyakurama or Trinity, over 150 of these widows are working hard to restore their lives emotionally, spiritually and economically. Their hard work allows them to receive Microfinance loans to start small businesses, which in many cases mean the difference between a sustainable life and death. As you drink Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee, please keep in mind that you are investing 30% of your purchase in Rwanda. Drink a Cup and Do Good!

Coffee may seem life an inconsequential thing, but our partnership with The Land of A Thousand Hills gives a people and a nation an opportunity to begin to restore their lives and bring about economic justice. Consider serving this coffee at your church on Sunday mornings, "Drink a Cup and Do Good".

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How to Recruit and Communicate More Effectively

In the afterword to The Tipping Point in paperback, Malcolm Gladwell predicts that people will become immune to email over time: “the more email we get, the shorter and more selective and more delayed our responses become. These are the symptoms of immunity.”

One the biggest challenges for our team here at Big Creek Church has been communication, especially in the areas of recruiting. Recruiting volunteers and letting those in our congregation know about events and opportunities has been a constant challenge. In light of that, one of the things that I have been trying to emphasize at Big Creek is limitation of email. Email has a purpose, but that purpose is not to recruit volunteers. Email doesn't demand a call to action or require a response. People can forget and ignore email and you never know if the email has been read.

As a way to address our communication for our staff, I came up with this information entitled the Five Levels of Communication

I know that this information isn't rocket science, it actually isn't very novel. But putting this list in front of our staff has reminded them that if they want better and more consistent results, they need to engage in level 4 or 5 communication. When we first talked about this information at our staff meeting, it called out the elephant in the room. That elephant was that our staff wanted and expected ministry success by only communicating either via email or the website. Greater success in recruiting and communication was going to require more effort and a need for them to be more intentional. Also, this list has given us a shorthand of talking. When someone says at staff meeting, "I couldn't get any volunteers sign-up for ____". We can ask them, how did you ask for volunteers, was it level 4 and 5? Or not?

Here are the five levels...

Five Levels of Communication

1- Broadcast - not to anyone specific/general group of people (ie. Big Creek Blast - our e-newsletter, Bulletin, Print Newsletter, Website)

Benefits: Sow broadly, ease of communication, speed of communication

Disadvantages: Message is sown broadly; to people it doesn't apply to. The old adage, "Everyone’s challenge is nobody’s challenge"

2 - Email - to specific person/group of people

Benefits: Ease of communication, speed of communication

Disadvantages: Just because sent, doesn't guarantee it was read, people are inundated with a lot of email, more impersonal. Also, with email it hard to communicate emotion and urgency.

3 - Pinger- to specific person/group of people (www.pinger.com - this is like a calling post, but to people's cell phones)

Benefits: Ease of communication, speed of communication, power of using voice, more apt to get people's attention

Disadvantages: No two-way communication/feedback isn't real-time, no guarantee it is listened to.

4- Phone call - to a specific person

Benefits: Real time two-way communication and feedback, a call gets their attention and more potential to get immediate results

Disadvantages: Time and energy intensive, people can screen calls, may not get them in - therefore playing phone tag. Can only communicate with one person at a time. [Leaving a voice mail does not count as making a phone call!]

5 - Face to Face Communication - to a specific person (or to a group of people)

Benefits: Real time two-way communication and feedback (verbal and non-verbal). Highest guarantee of desired results.

Disadvantages: Effort to find and get time with a person. Must work at getting physical proximity in order to communicate. Usually can only communicate effectively with fewer numbers of people.

These five levels of Communication are on a scale of effectiveness. As you recruit members on your team, don't forget that the best results will come from Level 4 or 5 Communication. But you and I need to be engaged in all levels of communication to be most effective.

The Sermon Starts In The Parking Lot


This is not a very guest friendly sign! It doesn't show and communicate the need for putting our guests first. Every Sunday morning, we make sure that all the staff and Sunday morning volunteers park the furthest from the church. We want as many parking spots available for our guests, especially those closest to the church.

Andy Stanley says that "your sermon starts in the parking lot." The parking lot is the first, first impression a guest takes aways with them on Sunday morning.

Here are couple of questions that you need to ask yourself concerning your parking.

Is there someone at the church entrance greeting people, giving them the first wave and smile Sunday morning?

Is there someone out there directing traffic?

Is someone available to help people find parking spaces?

Do you have pre-determined and marked guest parking spots?