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.

Battle Of The Church Signs

Enjoy this parody of how two churches choose to handle their differences, by battling with their church signs. (I doubt these are real because the backgrounds never change such as the parked cars, in fact someone pointed out that the signs came from a sign generator.)

Unfortunately too many of us really communicate like this with each other. We don't talk face to face or on the phone concerning hard issues, rather we take the easy way and simply shoot back and forth toxic emails.

If you got something hard or difficult to say, handle it biblically, with courage and in person, face to face (or over the phone if that's your only option).

And another ancillary point to be made from these signs- one of the common praises and affirmation we receive from people who come through our membership class is how impressed they are that we pray for other churches during our worship service. We pray for others because we want to have a Kingdom mentality and want God to bless others. And, unlike this parody of two churches feuding, we are not in competition with other churches. Consider praying specifically for a different church each week during your worship service.

Ok, let the battle begin (and have a good laugh in the meantime)!

The Teamwork Of Geese

If you are like me and enjoy an evening of Animal Planet or Discovery, you know that there are so many things we can learn from studying and observing nature.

After reading this article about the "team and communal nature' of geese I realized that these lessons from geese could easily be applied to the Christian community. For instance...

1) As each goose flaps its wings it creates an "uplift" for others that follow. As a result, the whole flock adds 71 percent more flying range in V-formation than when flying alone.
What is the lesson for us as Christians? We can and should assist each other along. We can do more when we do it together. (Eccl. 4:12). We need each other. That is how God created us. Therefore it is important to belong to a community of faith. We aren't designed to be "loner" Christians.

2) When a goose gets out of the flying formation, it encounters more drag from the wind.
But when it returns to the formation it can take advantage of the uplift of others. The lesson? We need the mutual encouragement and accountability of one another. The body of Christ is supposed to share life together, serve and help one another (Acts 2:42-47) and bear one another's burdens (Gal. 6:2)

3) In the v-formation of geese, when the lead goose gets tired it falls back into the formation and another goose leads. The lesson? The church is not only a staging area where the saints are equipped and sent out, it also serves as a hospital. Sometimes a person needs to fall back into the church community and let others lead while they get recharged and find healing.

4) Geese honk while in flight to encourage those in front to keep up speed. The lesson? Make sure you honk at people in the church parking lot to hurry up so that everyone can get to Perkins on time for the after church brunch! Just kidding...rather we need to speak to one another with encouraging words. Way to go! Encourage each other's giftedness. (1 Cor 12) We need to speak words of encouragement and affirmation to another. (Col. 3:15-17)

5) When a goose gets sick or wounded and falls, two geese stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. The lesson? We need to take care of the sick, the widows and orphans. (James 1:27) We are called to stand by each other in hard times as well as good times. There are people who come to our church that need extra support, patience and grace. Christ's church is suppose to be the place for the hurting and the wounded.

The Most Important Thing To Do!

Over at my personal blog Provocative Church, I posted an update and some reflections from a spiritual retreat that my wife and I took this past week in Asheville, NC.

The BEST -"best practice" in ministry that you, as a pastor or ministry leader, can do is to make sure that you are tending to and caring for your soul and spiritual health. Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself:

-When was the last time you took some extended time with the Lord just to listen and spend time with Him?
-If you are married, are you taking time to get away with your spouse for both personal and spiritual getaways?

It is important to break out of your ministry routine, spend extended time away with the Lord and learn to listen and hear His voice. There is always a reason not to do this - Busyness. So unless you plan it, put it in your schedule and tell others about it - most likely it won't happen.

Leading up to these times, it is often hard to walk away from my schedule, email and my ever growing to-do list. But afterward, I am always glad that I spent the time with my heavenly Papa and I wouldn't trade it in for anything in the world.

Vision Is ALWAYS Speaking!

Got this from Bob Franquiz's site

Do you know that you are always sharing Vision?

You are always communicating vision in your church. It's not just the day you decide to do a "Vision Talk". I contend that everything you do in your church is speaking about what the vision of your church is. Here are a couple of examples:

- You communicate vision with the language in your bulletin
- You communicate vision with your appearance
- You communicate vision with your style of teaching
- You communicate vision with your signage
- You communicate vision with your follow up processes
- You communicate vision with how often you present the Gospel
- You communicate vision with your worship style
- You communicate vision a hundred other ways.

You're always communicating vision. Here's my question: What's your vision speaking?

(ht: Bob)

Don't Leave The Creativity To The Professionals

Often times the best ideas come from the most unlikely sources and unlikely occasions. New and fresh ideas may come from your children. Or they may come while thinking in the shower.

Above are a couple of pics of creative ads from "students". They aren't from the ad agency professionals, but rather they are from students who offered a young, fresh and creative angle.

Ideas often time don't come through the "institutional" and professional ways. If you want to create new and fresh ideas at your church instead of sitting in a staff meeting brainstorming, why don't you...

Ask someone who just started coming to your church?
Ask your neighbor?
Ask those in your small group?
Ask your children?
Ask your spouse?

Related Posts:
Where can you think?
How to Turn Ideas into Reality
Just Do it a Little Different

(ht: advertnews)

Discipleship Toolbox

At the Vine Community Church, we are taking an intentional, yet relational approach to discipleship. We believe that discipleship is essential to helping people within the church to become fully devoted followers of Christ.

In order to properly equip those in discipleship and to give them certain tracks, we have developed an on-line Discipleship Toolbox.

Check it out.

The toolbox is not static but constantly changing and dynamic as we add more and more helpful resources to it.

Featured Blog: Monday Morning Insight

Todd Rhoades and his blog Monday Morning Insight doesn't need any more exposure from little ole' me. It is a widely read blog. And I am one of his many readers.

Todd has an uncanny knack of pulling together all the best stuff from around the blogosphere and making interesting connections between divergent material.

Todd's posts at times are humorous. Many of his posts are insightful. MMI is a must read.

Make sure you check it out!

(occasionally Ministry Best Practices will feature outstanding and helpful sites and blogs that prove to be a tremendous resource for you and your ministry.)

Pick Good People And Get Out Of The Way!

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
-Theodore Roosevelt

Coaches Make Good Leaders

I asked him (my dad who was a coach) the other day what makes a good coach. Here were his responses:

1. First and foremost, they have to be great leaders. Players and other coaches want to follow them. They will make the tough decisions, and also have no problem surrounding themselves with other coaches who are more talented than they are.

2. Ability to motivate- they have enthusiasm, and are able to pull the best out of kids. They also create great camaraderie among their staff.

3. Create a great program- great coaches carry with them a certain aura; they are incredibly competent, but also have the “IT” factor. People want to be around them. Kids want to do their best for them, parents want their kids playing for them, the school embraces
them, and the community loves them. They create a winning tradition and other schools don’t like to play them.

4. Competent

5. Teacher at their core

(Read the complete post HERE)

(ht: Brad)

Twitter Tools

I don't know if you are using twitter, but if not -you should be.

You can see my previous post HERE to read why I think that. But if you are using Twitter, you want to check out this post about all the awesome Twitter tools that will take your twittering to the next level.

Twitter is becoming a nearly ubiquitous and powerful networking and communication tool, with all kinds of ministry applications (see our Missions Twitter page HERE on how we have used it for ministry)

Also, if you are not following me on Twitter, go to my Twitter page, and of course my "tweets" are always posted and updated on the sidebar.....

...and make sure you visit: Twitter Tools for Communication

(ht: ysmarko)

Common Cause Groups

One of the types of small groups that we focus on at The Vine are what we call "Common Cause" groups. These are small groups in which people come around a common need or cause.

Some examples of this are our Marketplace group which connects people who want to be encourage to live and bring their faith at work. Another example is starting Celebrate Recovery, which brings people together with deep hurts and addictions. Another example of a common cause group is a marriage enrichment group, and we have been talking recently about starting a group on Finances and Money (maybe a Crown Ministry or Dave Ramsey group)

How do you start common cause groups at your church?

One of the first things you want to do is look around and see who's in your church and start praying for God to reveal the hurts and needs. Here are some questions to ask as you get started:

  • What are the people talking about?
  • What's going on in their lives?
  • What do they need?
  • What are their shared experiences?
  • What opportunities do you see to help people?
  • What needs are shared between the people of God and those outside of the church?

Once you know what the needs are, you need to identify potential leaders.

There's a lot going on in the lives of people in your congregation. When you step back and ask God to show you the opportunities, you'll see many ways to care for people, bring them together in small groups, and to allow God to start healing and transforming their lives.

Mystery Worshiping

My wife and I have a hobby that allows us to enjoy restaurants, shopping, entertainment and travel for free. It is called Mystery Shopping. For instance we may go into a restaurant and pose as an average customer. During our visit, we evaluate the facilities, food and service and report our results back to the company.

This kind of feedback gives the restaurant an objective and unbiased report on "how they're doing".

What would happen if your church initiated something like a Mystery Shopper, perhaps a Mystery Worshiper?

Read the following article posted in the WSJ about how churches are leveraging this service in order to get objective feedback on how they're doing and how they can improve?

Read the article HERE!

Related Posts:
Recap of great series of posts of Church from a Visitor's Perspective.
Mystery Guests Made Easy

Get Rid Of Your Announcements!

Get Rid of Them! Boy would I like to do that on Sunday morning. Announcements are one of the more challenging things that we have to do during our Sunday morning worship.


The announcements go toooo looooong!!!
They are delivered to bore people.
Nobody knows where in the service to appropriately put them.

Take a look at this sample video...

Granger Community Church does a 90 second video weekly segment is called The Feed,(something similar to the segment from Attack of the Show on G4) and is hosted each week by a different volunteer or staff leader who has spunk and a video-face.

What do you think of this idea? Do you think it would keep announcements crisp, precise and interesting?

Lasting Impressions

I am encouraged to hear from Tim Stevens, that Mark Waltz, has finished his latest book. It will be on the shelves this December, and I will be getting my copy of this book!

This is the book that picks up where First Impressions: Creating Wow Experiences In Your Church, his first book, leaves off. His book on First Impression has been central to creating and training our First Impressions team.

You can
pre-order this from MBP right now!

Related Posts:
Mr. Over-Zealous Greeter Guy
Are you a Welcoming Church?
Fusion by Nelson Searcy

Sometimes It's Hard To Hide Failure

Many times when we fail in ministry- the mistakes are little and people don't notice, because they don't know what it's suppose to look like. This is a lesson I learned in theater doing plays. I may make a mistake on stage, miss my mark or flub a line...but most of the time the audience isn't going to pick up on that mistake.

But what do you do when you do blow it royally, and your mistake is out there for all to see?

This happened to me when I made a mistake with my leadership that cost our church a couple of thousand dollars (you can't hide that kind of money!). The mistake tore me up and I had to deal with some raw emotions and come face to face with Jesus and the cross.

What do you do when you make a mistake or fail in ministry?

1. Don't hide - As a leader, you must choose to live transparently. It will be tempting to hide and cover up a mistake because we are embarrassed. But hiding never deals with it, it only pushes it off to be dealt with in the future. God calls us to live in the light (1 John 1:7), so hiding isn't an option.

2. Don't blame - You may not be the direct source of the mistake or perhaps others in your down-line dropped the ball, but that doesn't matter. Whether or not you are in part or whole to blame for the mistake, don't try to shift the blame toward others. Others in your ministry or church won't follow you if you are always throwing them under the bus. If you need to correct and instruct someone in your down-line because of a mistake, then do so with grace, truth and love - privately. Don't ever blame someone else publicly in order to protect your own reputation.

3. Remember the Gospel - Number 1 and 2 can't be accomplished unless you are remembering the gospel. The gospel reminds you that you are accepted based on, not what you've done or haven't done (your successes or failures), but rather what Christ has done for you.

When you remind yourself that you are found fully acceptable in Christ, then you don't have to worry about what other people think - and therefore you don't have to hide.

When you remind yourself that your acceptance and Christ's love for you will never change, then you don't have to worry about your reputation - and therefore you don't have to blame others.

As a leader, I had to remind myself of these these lessons. And if you are leader, a time will come when you will have to apply them as well.

Blog Action Day - Proverty

When we are not afraid to confess our own poverty, we will be able to be with other people in theirs. The Christ who lives in our own poverty recognizes the Christ who lives in other people's. Just as we are inclined to ignore our own poverty, we are inclined to ignore others'. We prefer not to see people who are destitute, we do not like to look at people who are deformed or disabled, we avoid talking about people's pains and sorrows, we stay away from brokenness, helplessness, and neediness.

By this avoidance we might lose touch with the people through whom God is manifested to us. But when we have discovered God in our own poverty we will lose our fear of the poor and go to them to meet God.
- Henri Nouwen

I am joining other blogs and bloggers today to post on and bring awareness to the issue of poverty. One of the biggest challenges for churches this coming year is how to respond to the economic downturn and uncertainty with their resources.

Leadership Network's biannual survey on church salaries reveals that many larger churches are still considering major fund drives in the coming year. The survey covered 105 churches from 30 states that ranged from 1,400 attendants to 10,000, according to the study's authors, Warren Bird and Dave Travis....

...Also 25 percent of all responding churches said they will do a fund drive for the poor or needy in their community,
and 23 percent plan to plant multiple new congregations.
(ht: Christian Post, 10-1-08)

Even though it is encouraging that some churches are still committed to raise the necessary resources to help the poor amidst an economic downturn, unfortunately many other churches will cut funding and resources to help the poor and needy during this time.

And yet even with all the financial challenges we are Christ's church and we are called to reach out and help the least, the last and the lost. We are called to clothe and feed the poor. We are compelled to go and be among those most in need and embrace them with God's love.

It is the Gospel that will keep us engaged to help the poor even when our balance sheets say otherwise. It is the Gospel that reminds us, as Nouwen said, of our own poverty and need and how God's marvelous grace met us in that need.

Catalyst Is OVER

Catalyst is OVER and it was an AWESOME time.

Make sure to check out my Catalyst Live Blogging Site for recaps of all the speakers

(photos by Scott Fillmer)

Catalyst Labs Today

Catalyst Labs was today.

The Labs are small 45 minute breakouts throughout the afternoon. The Labs are often times my favorite part of the Catalyst experience. There are more speakers and topics available than one person can absorb. Therefore as a sample here are summaries of the Labs that I attended.

Tim Elmore - EPIC Leadership

Tim used Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz as a metaphor for the many leadership styles.

First he defined E.P.I.C. ( a term coined by Leonard Sweet) in describing next generation leadership as:
Experiential - they don't want the sage on the stage, but rather the guide on the side
Participatory - young leaders are interested in being a part of the outcomes
Image - we live in a image rich culture
Connected - young leaders are the most connected, relationally and technologically

From the Wizard of Oz there are three leadership styles represented.
1. Wicked Witch - led through manipulation
2. Wizard of Oz - led through intimidation
3. Dorothy - led through encouragement, teamwork and her strength was her weakness

The Dorothy way is the new way (or style of Leadership) for today.

Tim talked through the different era's and how leadership style differed through them.

In the 50's it was a Military style - top down and demanded loyalty.
In the 60-70's it was the CEO - leading with vision and valued productivity
In the 80's it was the Entrepreneur - desiring to be "cutting edge" and valuing innovation
In the 90's it was the Coach - deploy the talent of players and valuing teamwork
NOW - is the Dorothy Way...a leadership style called Poet/Gardner

This Leadership style leads in an age of complexity and doesn't pretend to have all the answers. They are learning, reading and synthesizing information in order to lead (that is the Poet part) and they are most interested in growing people under their care (that is the Gardner part). This style is a leader that asks questions and listens.

Other aspects of this Leadership style is a leader who:
Empowers others well
Interprets Culture
Embraces Role of Mentor
Listens and Fosters self-discovery
Driven by service not ego

Also a couple of closing pts:
Our situation determines what style we must employ.
Our style determines who we attract.
Our style often comes from the era we learned to lead
Your style must reflect the maturity of your followers.

Sally Morgenthaler - Leaders Losing Soul

This was the most compelling Lab of the afternoon!

What is our Soul? Not talking about our eternal soul but rather our emotions, the sense of being present in our own life.

When we have a loss of our soul, we know it. We experience,

Emptiness, Disillusionment, Hunger, Numbness, Become Zombies for Christ, Going through the Motions.

We can't "fix" our soul. When we try to do so, we end up,
Living in Denial, Simply Do More of What I've been Doing, Hide, Become Religiously Pious.

When was the last time you (I) let myself Wonder, Grieve, Experience Anger?

All we are doing to answer this is provide a Christianity of Moralism in our churches, which only becomes Shame.

Loss of Soul, makes us less human, means not speaking the secrets.

When we Repair our Soul, the goal is not to achieve a final victory or to put an end to suffering. Rather, it addresses whether or not we are going to be present in IT.

We must not abort the process that God wants to do in our life.

Quote by Dallas Willard from Divine Conspiracy "God doesn't love us without "liking" us as well" (paraphrase)
By the way, these are two good articles from Sally in Leadership Journal that give you some background of her story and an echo of what she shared today.

Reggie McNeal - Get a Life!
(no notes - just listening to Reggie deliver his heart and his stream of consciousness which was very funny and entertaining)

Mark Foreman - Wholly Jesus

A couple of points - Salvation is more than just saving souls and it about the Kingdom of God. Salvation is also more than just justification but also transformation (becoming more and more like Jesus)

Mark's points were echoes of other men I have digested over the years such as N.T. Wright and Tim Keller.



I was visiting a couple of websites of churches that I used to have local partnerships with while with Campus Crusade. I wanted to see how their website design was going because I knew that they were in the middle of redesigning their sites.

What I found within seconds told me everything I needed to know about the church. And it wasn't positive!

All I found were Pictures of the Building on the Front Page (and throughout the site as well).

There were no pictures of the people in the church or of the community.

The pictures you use on your website tell me what you value.

When you use pictures of your building or church signs on your webpage...
  • You are telling me that you think the church is merely a building and not the people.
  • You are telling me that you value programs more than people.
  • You are telling me that the focus of the ministry is people coming to the building rather than God's people going out into the community.
You may not be intending to send those messages, but to me and many others you are. And this fact is unfortunate, because I know these churches that were using building pictures on their websites, and they are generous churches with a big heart for ministry. But unfortunately their website doesn't communicate that!

Put pictures of your people on your website, and make sure they are good pictures. Make sure the pictures are face shots and are candid photos (not posed). If you don't have those types of photos than use stock photography, but anything is better than a picture of your church building.

Three Tests Of A Good Vision

Here are three tests of a good vision from Eric Swanson and Reggie McNeal:

1. Passion. Do you wake up thinking about this? Is it what you think about as you drift off to sleep? Does the vision pepper your conversations throughout the day?

2. Attraction. When other folks hear the vision, the response is, “Wow! Don’t leave me out! What role can I play. The attraction test fits very well with the idea that everyone wants to change the world but few people are given the opportunity to do so. A compelling vision invites others–even outside the church to take part. The leaders of every domain of a community could see how they could play a part.

3. Direction...(read the rest HERE)

(ht: Leadership Network)

Catalyst Live Blogging

I am going to Catalyst (and the Labs) from this Wednesday through Friday. I will be blogging and twittering from the event and so will a lot of other bloggers.

I have set up a Catalyst Live Blogging site HERE. This site will be an aggregation of blogger's posts LIVE from the event.

You can subscribe to it's feed or continually check in to read up to the minute updates from the conference.

For those of you who can't attend, this can be the next best thing.

Turbo Groups

I am brainstorming the idea of Turbo Groups to be used in our church's assimilation process. Here is a powerpoint that I made to help communicate the idea to some of our key leaders.

I used a new online program for the presentation

The program is called SlideRocket

This is an excellent app, it is easy to use and has a ton of great features. It is way, way better than Google's presentation app. You use any browser to design your presentation and it features all of the collaborative and social application capabilities.

Also, you can download an offline presentation viewer (that used Adobe Air) which is a wonderful and extremely helpful feature.

You gotta check out SlideRocket!

Related Posts:
Powerpoint Presentations that will WOW your audience!