The Internet's Best Practices for Ministry

Welcome to our site. Our mission and dedication is to equip leaders for innovative ministry. Explore. Read. Share.

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.

Top Ten Reasons Why Volunteers Serve

From Don Simmons about why volunteers serve:
  • Someone asked them (93%) 
  • Compelling need 
  • Personal connection 
  • Gratitude for being served 
  • Spiritual/ religious beliefs 
  • Social needs 
  • Job skill/ resume’ development 
  • Guilt 
  • Boredom 
  • External influences (family members, influential leaders, advertising) 
People serve because of relationship. Come, let's do this together. That motivation outstrips the motivation of "compelling need". Therefore a personal invitation is a lot more effective that an announcement from the platform telling people about the BIG need for volunteers.

Are you inviting people to serve with you. Do your own volunteers see it as their role to be relational connectors to get others to serve?

(ht: L2)



Cliffnotes For Busy Pastors


Are you busy? I don't know too many pastors and ministry leaders who have tons of bandwidth in their schedule- most are busy and time is a premium commodity.

And yet, in our busyness, you know how important it is to digest tons and tons of reading material. It is important that we are well read and informed. Christian Book Summaries are FREE and may be the solution you need.

Christian Book Summaries (CBS)
is a FREE service that provides several page abstracts of both current releases as well as classic Christian writings. All of the summaries are available for download in PDF format.

CBS can be used as a substitute to reading the book or as a companion as you read the book in full. I have used CBS' outlines as a helpful guide in writing companion studies for our Life Groups at the church.

CBS is a great tool, check it out!

Talented People, Your Most Valuable Resource


The Harvard Business Review has a feature story written by the Creative Director of Pixar (Ed Catmull) entitled How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity.

The article begins by a response to a conversation Catmull had with the head of a major motion picture studio, who told him that his problem was not finding good people - it was finding good ideas.

His response, "The view that good ideas are rarer and more valuable that good people is rooted in a misconception of creativity."

Check this quote out!

“We as executives have to resist our natural tendency to avoid or minimize risks, which of course is much easier said than done…this instinct leads executives to choose to copy successes rather than try to create something brand-new…if you want to be original, you have to accept the uncertainty, even when it is uncomfortable, and have the the capability to recover when your organization takes a big risk and fails. Whats the key to being able to recover? Talented people!”

Talented people are your most valuable resource. Therefore you must attempt to try to find the most talented people for your organization as well as create a working environment that fully leverages and cultivates that talent.

Part of that working environment is one that is willing to take risks. In a church, taking risks may be one of the hardest things you do.

Related Posts:
Do you want to create? Then Risk!
How to create that "Doggie-Head-Tilt" Moment.

(ht: Jeff)

Leadership Via John Stott


From my friend, Paul Peterson,

Lately I’ve been reading through the books of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. These books are commonly referred to as the “Pastoral Letters.” They are letters written by an aging pastor (Paul) to two young pastors (Timothy and Titus). Reading these letters is like sitting in on a mentoring session with St. Paul. It’s rich and insightful!

As I read I am also taking advantage of John Stott’s insight on these letters. His commentary on these letters adds helpful insight and perspective to the ancient but timeless counsel of St. Paul.

This morning, Stott shared an insight on leadership worth chronicling:

“Here are five qualities which are needed by Christian leaders in their dealings with others for whom they are responsible:

* Appreciation (affirming outstanding performance)
* Fairness (not listening to unsubstantiated accusations)
* Impartiality (avoiding all favoritism)
* Caution (not reaching hasty decisions)
* Discernment (looking beyond the outward appearance to the heart)
Stott says,

“Whenever these principles are in operation, mistakes will be avoided, the church will be preserved in peace and love, and God’s name will be protected from dishonor.”

(ht: Paul)

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      Pure Praise Book - FREE For A Limited Time Only


      As a contributor to Worship.com's blog, I caught wind of Dwayne Moore's generous offer currently available on his personal blog. For a limited time only, you can download one FREE complete copy of all nine weeks of Moore's soon-to-be-published Pure Praise: A Heart-focused Bible Study on Worship!

      This book contains endorsements by Darlene Zschech (Hillsong), Mark Hall (Casting Crowns), Julie Reid (Worship Leader Magazine), Rick Muchow (Saddleback), Charles Billingsley (Thomas Road), David Edwards (The Worshiper Magazine), Dr. Vernon Whaley (Liberty University), Josh Riley (Worship.com),and others.

      While at the site downloading you can also pre-order the forthcoming book at 40% off suggested retail price , expected to be released by the publisher in December 2008.

      Don't Be An Approval Suck!


      We all like to receive praise and affirmation. And yet what can be used for encouragement, can become an addictive narcotic of the soul, if we are not careful.

      An unhealthy dependence on people for affirmation traps us in a horrible prison. The bible calls this dependence "the fear of man". "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord will be kept safe" (Proverbs 29:25). The apostle Paul speaks of the same trap as "trying to win the approval of men" (Galatians 1:10). Jesus called it loving "praise from men more than praise from God" (John 12:43). In more colloquial terms, my spiritual father, Jack Miller, referred to it as "being an approval suck." Being controlled by the "fear of man" is to make people, rather than God, our delight-our great delight.
      -Scotty Smith, Objects of His Affection, Coming Alive to the Compelling Love of God

      If you are in ministry, being an approval suck and wanting to please people is a tremendous potential pitfall. According to Craig Groeschel, if we’re not careful, we, as ministry leaders and pastors, might find ourselves asking the wrong questions, such as...
      • Did you like my sermon? 
      • Do I have enough funny stories in this message? 
      • Did I do a good job at the funeral? Did they like it? 
      • Do the people think I’m a good pastor?
      The focus of these questions is “me” instead of “God.”

      Ben Redmond received this note from a youth pastor friend of his. His friend received this anonymous letter in the mail last week, and Ben had permission to post it on his blog:

      Would you Please resign! Move on!

      The children did not have bible camp this year
      There is not a new membership class.
      The teens can't help pick up trash
      along the highway; because the youth
      director is not smart enough to look
      into this. the teens can't help make apple pies
      because the youth director is not
      smart enough to look into this
      you act and dress like
      you are of the world and not for
      the world. Please look into resigning
      and moving on!


      First of all, an anonymous letter isn't biblical, it violates Matthew 18, this person should have gone directly to the youth pastor, they were a coward.

      Second, it shows the trap of trying to please people. You may try to please people and even succeed at times, but you will never please EVERYONE!

      Resist the temptation to be a people pleaser and live in the power of the Gospel. Jesus tells you that you are accepted and loved not based on what you may do (or not do), not whether you succeed (or if you fail) and not based on what others may think of you (whether good or bad). You are loved and accepted based on what He did for you on the cross!

      Make sure to keep God you great delight.

      Powerpoint Presentations That Will WOW Your Audience!

      Powerpoint presentations are the most overused and over-abused tool of a communicator. Too often powerpoint bogs down the presentation or overwhelms and distracts the audience.

      Here is a great video from Garr Reynolds of how we can learn about great presentation from just looking around in our environment. In this case, IKEA sets the bar high.



      "Presentations are a 'glance media' — more closely related to billboards than other media.... Ask yourself whether your message can be processed effectively within three seconds. The audience should be able to quickly ascertain the meaning before turning their attention back to the presenter." — Nancy Duarte

      (make sure to check out Nancy Duarte's book, Slide:ology)

      If you are going to use powerpoint (or keynote) then use it WELL or don't use it at all.

      Here are Garr's 8 lessons from standing outside an IKEA store which will aptly translate into your next powerpoint presentation:

      (1) Make it visual
      (2) One slide, one point
      (3) Make type big
      (4) Contrast rules
      (5) Don't be afraid to bleed
      (6) Rule of Thirds
      (7) Empty space
      (8) Have a visual theme

      (Read more about these Lesson's from Garr's site, PresentationZen)

      Related Posts:
      Death by Powerpoint
      The Exceptional Presentor
      PresenTired

      (ht: Speak Schmeak)

      Free Book!



      I am a big fan of Thom Rainer, especially his book, Simple Church.

      Therefore I was excited to take advantage of this free offer.

      The publisher is offering you a free electronic copy of Rainer's latest book, essential church? (you just give them your email address which gives them permission to subscribe you to their newsletter, and then you download the book - that seems to me a fair exchange)

      The book addresses the question, "Why do so many young adults (18 to 22) leave the church, and what will it take to bring them back?"

      The book is based on a study of one-thousand so-called "church dropouts" who were interviewed about why they left. Their answers are quite surprising, having less to do with "losing their religion" and more about the desire for a community that isn't made stale by simply maintaining the status quo.

      In turn, the Rainers offer churches four concrete solutions toward making their worship community an essential part these young people's lives again:

      Simplify - develop a clear structure and process for making disciples.

      Deepen - provide strong biblical teaching and preaching.

      Expect - let members know the need for commitment to the congregation.

      Multiply - emphasize evangelism, outward focus, and starting new churches.

      Click HERE to get your FREE book!

      Coming Soon! Free Online Dashboard



      Introducing ChurchMetrics from ChurchMetrics on Vimeo.

      This is a free online app coming soon (no release date has been announced) by the generous and talented folks at LifeChurch.tv

      Go to their website and sign up to be notified when the site goes live.

      Twitter Has Gone Ghetto


      The Christian ghetto I mean.
      Gospelr is a Christian rip off of the popular Twitter application.

      Why do we (the church) feel compelled to take every great idea and copy it? (usually creating a copy that lags behind in quality or innovation)

      Gospelr prides itself on being the world’s first “Ministry Microblogging” tool for those that want to share thoughts, ideas, words of encouragement, prayer requests, daily scripture readings, and oh so much more.

      The company’s founder wants it to be more than a Christian Twitter, though. Beyond being a place where people can chat it up about ol’ JC, the company wants to be the place to-

      “share the Gospel with those that have already heard the Good News (because we all could use a good reminder… daily!) and those that have not.”

      Personally, I see no need in using a Christian version of an already helpful and ubiquitous service like Twitter. A service like Gospelr will only marginalize and create insular conversations among ourselves in the church.

      Twitter is an excellent micro-blogging service that many key ministry leaders are currently using. It provides a light touch of connection for those who choose to follow your Tweets.

      I use Twitter, and would encourage you follow me HERE.

      (ht: Techcrunch)

      You Got BENCHED!

      Check out this video created by Jeff and his friends. It was an opportunity of showing God's love in a practical way to the people of East Atlanta Village.

      At the Vine Community Church, one of the aspects of our small groups are to serve together in order to reach out into the local community. We are called to be a people on mission together.

      When you see a project like this one in the video, you realize that serving the community doesn't have to be complicated and beyond reach. This is a wonderfully simple, yet impactful, way to serve others.


      Benched from Brandon McCormick on Vimeo.

      How are your small groups reaching out to others?

      (ht: Jeff)

      Pastor, Why You Should Be Blogging!


      There are a lot of reasons why I think those involved in ministry should blog, so let me give you 5 reasons for blogging:

      1. Make your ministry's vision STICK.
      Blogging is not the best venue to communicate the same kind of information that one would find in a bulletin, such as when the next church activity is. That would be a waste of effort. Blogging provides a much better opportunity! Blogging allows you to communicate vision. Blogging allows your readers to get a sense of your heart and passion. You know, vision leaks, therefore you always need to be pouring out the vision to the church. Blogging is a great way to do that.

      2. Communicate, Communicate and continue to Communicate
      As a pastor you can't just rely on the Sunday sermon to be your only mode and method of communication. In order for your congregation to "get" what you want them to "get", they need to "get" it from all the angles. A blog is just one great way to do that. I always say that communication is like buck shot. For instance, you shoot out of your communication barrel a Sermon, a newsletter, an email, a blog, phone conversations, personal conversations, discipleship conversations, adult Sunday school, etc... and just like buck shot, some of it is bound to hit what it was aiming for. Blogging increases you chances of making your communication stick and have impact.

      3. Blogging allows people to interact with the Sunday message
      I have used my blog to not only ramp up and warm up the congregation to my upcoming Sunday message, but also, as I post the message on my personal blog, I invite comments and interaction. Because a sermon doesn't allow for feedback, a blog invites that kind of feedback. And even though getting that type of feedback can be tough (especially if it's critical), isn't it important to know how the Word of God is or isn't connecting with the people in your church (or how you are connecting or not connecting with the people in your church).

      4. Improve writing skills
      This was one of my biggest motivations for blogging. I wanted to learn how to become a better writer. It didn't matter whether or not people were reading, I just needed to continue with the discipline of writing. Therefore, I encourage you to blog in order to learn how to communicate more effectively with the written word.

      5. Network with others in ministry
      I didn't initially anticipate this benefit when I started blogging, but it has been one of the best reasons to blog. Blogging opens you and your ideas to the world, particularly others in ministry. Through this blog and my other blog, Provocative Church, I have met some really cool people, many of whom have taught me a lot. A blog becomes a learning community. You get the opportunity to "share the wealth", learn from each other and become more effective in what God has called you to do.

      If I have convinced you to start blogging, then just simply go to www.blogger.com, sign up and within a few short minutes you can begin to blog.

      Related Post:
      Is your church in the 21st Century?

      The Launch Conference Comes To The ATL


      If you are in the Atlanta area and are interested in church planting or a church planter then you may want to consider Nelson Searcy's

      One Day Launch Conference
      (Church Planting Seminar)
      • Tuesday, September 30
      • Avalon Church
      • McDonough, GA (Atlanta area)
      • 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
      This is the only Launch Conference Nelson Searcy is teaching this fall. This is a powerful conference that has helped hundreds of new churches Launch Large!

      This conference is less than two weeks away.

      Click HERE for all the details

      Right now, the per person investment is only $89 (early bird rate).
      Group rates are also available; just call Cristina at 212.730.8300 x212.

      I have not personally been to this conference, but I have used Nelson's Assimilation Seminar material, and read his Fusion book and attended his webinar on based on the book's material.

      Related Post:
      Fusion by Nelson Searcy

      If You Want To CONNECT, It Won't Be CONVENIENT


      Fellow blogger and pastor Todd writes this thoughtful and candid post,
      Melanie and I were on a walk last night and we were talking for a bit about the challenge of being in community in our suburban environment. With all of our good intentions, its been hard to find a way gather with those who live around us to read scripture, pray together and just plain old be together.

      There are a lot of factors that go into this. Children are a big key. We have two young children and we try and have them in bed by 8:00 each night so they don’t kill each other the next day. To do some kind of small group / bible study during the week is tough. Not impossible, but really, really hard to pull off.

      Another issue is our busy schedules and the fact that while each of the families in our area have holes in the schedules, they rarely coincide. So, while we are free on Tuesday evenings, another family isn’t and they are free on Thursday evenings, another family isn’t, etc.
      My point is, its just not cut and dry. As we talked, we are committed to finding a better way forward and figuring this thing out. But, its not easy and its not convenient. If convenience were our goal, we’d probably just keep on going like we are. (read the rest HERE)
      So many families in North Atlanta feel and experience Todd and Melanie's frustration. The answers are easy, in fact they are challenging and they are going to be different for everyone. There are no cookie cutter solutions. But here is the common thread from Todd's thoughts and what I experience in my suburban context - whatever is decided - it won't be EASY, it won't be CONVENIENT. Once that premise is excepted, then we won't get so frustrated when it doesn't just easily fall into place.

      What A Difference A Day Makes!

      One night of HTML coding and design and BAM! Ministry Best Practices just got an extreme home makeover.

      Why change the look? Look is only one part of a good blog. But that said, of course I want my blog to look aesthetically pleasing and professional. It is that goal that I trust this new look achieves. Besides appearance, there were other factors that contributed to the need to change.


      Functionality - The old blog design was very minimalistic and therefore a lot of useful information was hidden on the front page. I have learned that readers aren't going to be searching for stuff unless it hits them SMACK in the face!

      Navigable - when you went to an individual post or did a search, you lost all the navigation sidebars with the old site. The sidebars were where all the important information lived, losing that was a big disadvantage.

      Branding - From the beginning I designed Ministry Best Practices with two branding elements. A stand alone logo - the red chair and a tag line - equipping leaders for innovative ministry. Because those two thing don't change, I can change the look and design of the blog and still retain consistency and recognizably. Because when you hear the tag line or see the red chair, you'll know that you landed at Ministry Best Practices.

      If you reading this post via email or in a RSS feed reader like Bloglines or Google Reader, then first of all - THANK YOU! Thanks for being a subscriber. But do me a favor and click through to the site and kick the tires a bit, and let me know what you think.

      Welcome to the NEW Ministry Best Practices.
      (btw, check out Chris Brogan's article: 50 Ways to Take Your Blog to the Next Level. His insights gave me a lot of food for thought and motivation to make the change)

      Why change the look? Look is only one part of a good blog. But that said, of course I want my blog to look aesthetically pleasing and professional. It is that goal that I trust this new look achieves. Besides appearance, there were other factors that contributed to the need to change.

      Coffee Is Good

      Why change the look? Look is only one part of a good blog. But that said, of course I want my blog to look aesthetically pleasing and professional. It is that goal that I trust this new look achieves. Besides appearance, there were other factors that contributed to the need to change.

       

      It is no secret that coffee houses have created a "third place" in our culture where people go to connect. In an effort to merge two "third places" together, many churches are running their own coffee houses. But typically I haven't liked what churches have done with their coffee house. Either they treat the coffee house purely as a business model or merely as a goods and service for their own flock (with no sense of outreach).

      But a friend of mine pointed me to this church coffee house and I like the sound, look and feel of what this church is attempting to accomplish with their coffee house.

      For instance - "100% of our profits go towards our serving and helping those in our city who need it most."

      Check it out!Why change the look? Look is only one part of a good blog. But that said, of course I want my blog to look aesthetically pleasing and professional. It is that goal that I trust this new look achieves. Besides appearance, there were other factors that contributed to the need to change.

      Change In The American Megachurch

      What we call Megachurches in the U.S. are really becoming Mini-denominations.
      “Megachurches are creating around them structures and especially functions that once were done by the denominations. They are creating alternative ways for churches and for religious people to get resources to do ministry, to do missions, to connect with other churches. All the things that were typically done by a denominational form are being done at a local church level—if you can call a megachurch a local church.”
       —Scott Thumma, co-author of “Changes in American Megachurches” and Beyond Megachurch Myths


      (ht: christianpost.com, 9/13/08)

      Sticky Church



      John McGee from Watermark Community Church listened to the Leadership Network tele-seminar with Larry Osborne concerning his new book Sticky Church.

      As a result, John listed a couple of nuggets that came out of that time. Here are a few:

      • Member retention is not so much about church growth as much as it is about having people stick around long enough to disciple them.

      • For a church to double from 250 to 500 over a 10 year period with a 30% retention rate it takes 834 new members.

      • For a church to double from 250 to 500 over a 10 year period with a 70% retention rate it takes 357 new members.

      • People tend to come to a church because of its children and youth programs. These youth go off to college get married and don’t come back until they have children which repeats the cycle.

      • We measure the wrong thing . For example new members and growth instead of retention.

      • Most small group models are broken and we retool them every 3-7 years. NC has a “very relational model” base on the word (sermon) that hasn’t changed in the last 22 years.

      • NC has 80% of Sunday morning attendance number in small groups.

      • People are like legos. Once their connectors are full they become friendly but don’t connect. Often time churches aren’t “clickish” their connectors are just filled. Create new groups for new people.

      You can read the rest of John's list HERE


      (ht: John)

      Paying People To Go To Your Church?


      I have heard stories about churches giving out money at the door for visiting families, but I think that this idea would be a foreign thought for churches aiming for longevity: Pay young families to move into your community and attend your church. Although this isn't happening with Christian churches, that’s exactly the approach the Blumberg Family Relocation Fund is taking in offering Jewish families as much as $50,000 to relocate to smaller, Christian-dominated towns in the Southeast.

      In an effort to prevent the ongoing trend of small-town synagogues from closing down, the Blumberg program has advertised in Boston, Miami, Providence, Rhode Island, and Washington and will continue to expand its marketing pitch. If Jewish families become involved in a local temple and stay at least five years, they can keep the entire amount. “I think it’s important that we try to find young people that we could use in our religious school, our Sunday school and help in the way of trying to create more of a family-type atmosphere in our temple,” chairman Larry Blumberg said.

      (ht: AP, 9/9/08)

      Singing From The First Christian Hymnal


      Are you looking for a different worship music option? Then you want to look at the Odes of Solomon? I just heard about this from my previous church back in Orlando.

      From their FAQ sheet

      1. What are the Odes of Solomon?
      The Odes of Solomon is a collection of hymns from the earliest Christian community written sometime before 125 ca. They reflect the joyful thanksgiving and praise of the early Jewish-Christians . Originally they were composed in Syriac--a Semitic language closely related to the Aramaic spoken in the time of Jesus. They are the praises, not of the Western church, but of the Eastern church, a church still very close to the Semitic roots of Christianity.

      2. What is the origin of the Odes?
      The 42 Odes seem to originate from one person, and this individual most likely was a Jew who became a follower of Jesus Christ. That means that some odes may be originally Jewish and others Christian. Some experts on the Odes believe that the author, before he became a Christian, was an Essene or part of a similar Jewish sect. Discerning the date of the Odes has provoked considerable interest. Some scholars contend that they originate as late as the third century. Others place them in the later half of the second century. Most, however, date them at some time around the middle of the second century. A date long after 100 CE is unlikely.

      3. Why were these hymns named, "The Odes of Solomon"?
      "The Odes of Solomon" could also be called "The Psalms of Solomon." King Solomon is a pseudonym or "pen name" used by the author in place of his own name. The practice of writing under an assumed name was common during this period when the writers frequently made use of well-known names from the Old Testament. (Solomon, Enoch, Moses, etc.).

      4. Why are the Odes attributed to Solomon?
      Solomon was known to have written 1005 songs (1 Kgs 4.32). Since the writer of the Odes of Solomon was most likely a Jewish believer, he would have been very familiar with the Solomon hymns. Just as Solomon, the son of David, continued the doxological service of his father by writing the Song of Solomon, so the early Christians continued the doxological service of the Son of David, anointed by the Spirit, by writing and singing Christian psalms.

      5. Why do you call these songs the "First Christian Hymnal"?
      Quite simply because they are the only sizable collection of Christian hymns which has come down to us from the earliest centuries of the church.

      6. Did the first Christians understand their hymns to be inspired holy scripture like the Psalms?
      Probably not, which is the likely reason that nearly all early Christian hymns have disappeared. The New Testament never included a collection of Christian psalms to go with the Gospels and Epistles. The Odes of Solomon are not Scripture as Evangelical Christians understand holy writ. They are "inspired" in the sense that their writer loved God and wrote poetry that reflected insights, ideas and pictures that the Holy Spirit seems to have placed in his heart. They are neither scriptural nor apocryphal (belonging to a collection of disputed scriptures). They are simply ancient poems of worship and praise.

      The most prominent feature of the Odes is an expression of joy in the presence of eternal life and love. Salvation is achieved by Christ, through the incarnation. The spirit of New Testament worship is found in these hymns with an amazing freshness and vitality. Jesus has set us free and our response is a song of joy. Even if their language comes from the ancient Orient, they seem to have a classic Evangelical quality about them. Recognizing their importance, the Billy Graham Association's Decision Magazine called the Odes of Solomon, "Masterpieces of Christian Devotion"

      7. What is the relationship between the Odes of Solomon and the Gospels?
      There is a very close relationship between the writings of the Odes' author and the Gospel of John. This connection has been noted by scholars since the Odes' rediscovery in 1909. Dr. Charlesworth states, "I have been persuaded that the Odist eventually lived within the Johannine community, which most likely included not only Samaritans but also Essenes who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. These are my own views which have taken shape since the mid-sixties...."

      8. Are there other early church hymn documents not embedded in New Testament Scripture?
      Certainly, but none were written as early as the Odes of Solomon. Not too long after the close of the New Testament period the Church began to create its own hymns and psalms as its preferred expression of Christian praise.

      In the Eastern churches the writing of Christian hymns enjoyed some popularity, while in the West the Church sang psalms and canticles almost exclusively until the time of Ambrose of Milan (ca. 339-97) toward the end of the fourth century.

      9. Why are the Odes of Solomon important today?
      They provide a deeply moving portrayal of Christian worship in the 1st and early 2nd centuries , and an important window and template for the substance of Christian hymn writing today. The Odes allow us to experience the almost inebriated excitement of the Jews who felt such indescribable joy in their belief that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah: "For a great day has shined upon us, And wonderful is he who has given to us of his glory (Ode 41.3-4)."

      10. What is "The Odes Project"?
      The mission of "The Odes Project" is to adapt the Odes of Solomon for use in worship today, bringing the past to the present. It is hoped that by doing so, a greater understanding of the nature and function of Christian hymns will be understood by Christian artists who are learning the principles and practices of Christian worship.

      Related Post:
      Finding Good Hymns

      Rethinking our church's stewardship

      Around the country, there is growing concern with diminishing giving because of the state of our economy. People are giving less because they are earning less, and because they’re having to pay more for things like gas. But this trend may prove to be good in the long run, especially if it teaches us to better manage church resources.


      Read the REST of this article by Dave Gibbons over a the Leadership Journal blog.

      What do you think? Do you agree with Dave?

      What happens when Small Group announcements go BAD!

      Almost every Sunday, I give this kind of announcement about connection, I just hope I never make this guy's mistake (knowing me, I probably will have my own unique gaffe though).



      (ht: David)

      Web Evangelism Bulletin

      Check out the latest edition of the Web Evangelism Bulletin


      Are You A Welcoming Church?


      What does that question mean? And can we be the one's to define it for ourselves. I think that everyone would answer the question YES about their own church.  Most of us would say that our church is welcoming and friendly.  But most often that opinion may be informed less by reality and more because we are merely comfortable in our relationships with one another.

      Try to enter into the experience of a guest on Sunday morning.  Ask God to give you fresh eyes on the Sunday morning experience.

      How do think that a guest may feel when they enter your church?

      Do you think they may feel like they are intruding on a private affair when they show up on Sunday? 

      Are people at your church able and prepared to go beyond "Hi, what's your name? Where do you live?" in a conversation with a guest? 

      Are people at your church willing to stop being driven by the TASKs on Sunday morning and stop long enough to have a conversation? 

      Do people smile at guests when speaking? 

      Do people make eye contact with them? 

      When someone is hurting, are you and others at your church willing to go beyond the "I'll pray for you" and actually stop and pray for that person?

      Are you and others will to accept and approach people who are different from you?

      Are you truly a welcoming church?

      Should You Put Small Groups Out Of Their Misery?



      an excerpt from Brian Jones: A few years ago I brought in a nationally recognized pastor to do some consulting for our church. One of the things I remember the most about my time with him was a side conversation we had about small groups.

      I haven’t really figured out the small group thing,” I confessed to him.

      “Well, Brian, that’s because they don’t work.

      Small groups are things that trick us into believing we’re serious about making disciples.

      The problem is 90% of small groups never produce one single disciple, ever. They help Christians make shallow friendships for sure. They’re great at helping Christians feel a tenuous connection to their local church. And they do a bang-up job of teaching Christians how to act like other Christians in the evangelical Christian subculture. But when it comes to creating the kind of holistic disciples Jesus envisioned, the jury’s decision came back a long time ago – small groups just aren't working.”

      “Finally,” I said, “I’ve met someone who’s got the guts to euthanize this small group sacred cow.”

      I have been leading, participating in, championing, and applauding the efforts of small groups for the last 20 years of my ministry.

      But now I’m done.

      In my opinion they just don’t work.

      And I’d like to talk about why. And why we pastors keep pushing them, as well as some thoughts as to what we could possibly replace them with.

      I believe in creating disciples

      …And I believe that this is what the church is called to do

      …But in most instances disciples are created in spite of the small groups people participate in, not because of them

      …And the problem is NOT the incredible staff members like Frank who lead
      them in churches, or the sacrificial and godly people who serve as individual small group leaders, or the willing and committed people who participate in them, but the “wineskin” itself…an outdated structure who time has come to die

      So I’d like to spark a conversation about how we can collectively address this problem.

      And we would love it if you’d join in with us.

      Read the rest HERE

      my thoughts...

      We have come to a similar conclusion here at The Vine Community Church. Small groups don't develop disciples. But we are still committed to them because we have altered our expectations. Small groups do have value.

      Small groups are a doorway into connection and relationship within the church.

      Small groups are a catalyst for service into the community.

      Also Small groups become one of the fishing ponds that discipleship can be birthed from.

      Currently we are going after discipleship with much intention. And the think that we tell the disciplers is that small groups provide a springboard for discipleship to take place. Of course the definition of small groups are broad. Home groups, men's groups, women's groups, serving groups, common cause groups - etc...

      So we still have small groups, but we don't sell it as the tonic that will cure everything that ails you. Rather intentional and relationship driven discipleship must be happening throughout the DNA of the church in order for people to grow.



      (ht: Brian Jones)

      Finding Good Hymns


      Let the worship wars begin! Just kidding. I don't know what music styles you may use at your church, but perhaps you sing hymns on Sunday mornings. My church, The Vine Community Church has an "ancient-future" style of worship that uses hymnody occasionally during our service.
      So if you are looking for the right hymns to use either on a Sunday morning, or even during your own personal devotions, where do you start?
      1. Ask other pastors. This might seem obvious, but there is a treasure trove out there. If you have relationships with other pastors, pick their brains.
      2. Ask new people in your church. Find out if there were any great songs that they sang in their old church that might be helpful.
      3. Keep an eye out as you read. Lots of authors (Packer, Grudem, Piper...) quote old hymns in their writings. Make a note, look them up, and sing them!
      4. Collect hymnals. You may use the The Trinity Hymnal, The Baptist Hymnal (1991), and Praise! to name a few. It can be helpful to search them using Scripture references or look for certain authors. You'll find gems that you never knew.
      5. Other good resources:
      a. Sovereign Grace Music -- Lots of great theological content in a contemporary style.
      b. RUF Hymnbook-- RUF is the Reformed University Fellowship a ministry of the Presbyterian Church in America.  RUF has awesome old hymns with updated tunes. This is a great resource because there are so many old hymns with rich, Christ-exalting words but yet have terrible tunes. Some favorites from their collection are: "The Love of Christ is Rich and Free", "The Sands of Time Are Sinking", "Jesus I Come", and "Sometimes a Light Surprises".

      c. Reformed Praise -- Good site with lots of resources.

      d. CyberHymnal -- Tons and tons of hymns. You can listen to tunes, see alternate tunes, search by topic or Scripture.
      Any resources that you use that I may have neglected to mention?

      (ht: 9marks)

      Become A Church "Of" Small Groups


      excerpt by Lance Witt from Pastors.com

      Becoming a church of small groups is a popular topic in some church circles these days. But what exactly does that mean?

      I define it three ways. First, a church of small groups can’t accomplish its mission without groups. Groups are so central to your church’s vision that you couldn’t accomplish it without them. It’s not just a complimentary part of your vision; it’s essential.
      Second, small groups are seen as a primary delivery system of the church mission.When the church looks at what God wants to do through it in the community, a church of small groups asks, “How can we do it through small groups?”
      Third, small groups are in the DNA of your church’s philosophy of ministry. Your church must have a biblical conviction that groups – and building community – are important.

      How to Microwave Your Small Group Connection


      Most of the community Life Groups at The Vine Community Church meet every other week.  If you have groups that meet every other week for a couple of hours, it could take months before people become really comfortable with each other. 

      In order to push that process forward, faster, why not microwave the process so that the valuable time you do spend together as a group, is as meaningful as possible? 

      Go ahead and try a one of these microwavers!

      Our Top 5 Microwavers:

      5. Throw a Party at a Restaurant for the Next Birthday in the Group

      4. Go See A Braves Game Together

      3. Chill out with a Backyard Barbeque

      2. Go Bowling Together

      1. Saturday Morning Breakfast and Service Project

      On a personal note, my Life Group has done several of these selections during it's first year together.  Perhaps the most meaningful was when we got together for a Saturday breakfast and then served together in the community later that morning.  There is real power when a group is on "mission" together.  Not only is serving the community a worthwhile and valuable endeavor, but it also microwaves connection within the group in a very special and meaningful way.

      Loving it When the Vision Clicks!


      Today our lead pastor received an email from a family that has been attending our church for little over a month.  The email was such a blessing and encouragement, as it stated how loved and connected they felt since attending.

      As I have said in earlier posts, when you get an email or note such as that, you definitely want to relish it and bottle it up for later.  Ministry can be hard, and so it is great when God lets you receive those encouragements. 

      Even though I was encouraged to read how this family had gotten connected and felt loved, that wasn't the most exciting part of the note for me.  In the email, they mentioned how they heard over and over again our church's vision of loving God, loving each other and loving the community.

      Wow! Within one short month, they got it.  They understand what we are all about.  They know it so well that they can recite it from memory.  That's what got me stoked!

      At least, for this family, we have been clear about our vision.  They know what it is.  There is no mystery.  And by clearly knowing who we are, they are now so very excited to become a part of it.


      Celebrating ONE YEAR Anniversary


      Even though I have several posts that pre-date September 2007, it was September 2007 that Ministry Best Practices was launched in it's current incarnation.

      It has only been a year from, what originally started as a once a month (or so) blog/newsletter to my First Impressions team to becoming in September 2007 a full blown website for all kinds of Best Practices within Ministry.

      My intention for creating this website was not only to share from my own 20 years of ministry experience but mostly to create a forum to learn from others. As many of you already know, the internet is a great learning community. I wanted to benefit from that - I know that I still have much to learn.

      To celebrate all that God has done, I hope you will indulge me with a little self -congratulations by mentioning several significant benchmarks that have happened within the year:

      Within the year, Ministry Best Practices has 141 subscribers (stat via Feedburner) If you are not already a subscriber, go HERE and become one as well.

      Within the year, Ministry Best Practices set up a Facebook fan page which now has 100+ fans. The Facebook page has been an awesome way to connect ministry leaders with one another. If you are not currently a FAN of Ministry Best Practices, go HERE to sign up.

      Within the year, I have learned some hard lessons about blogging and have been personally challenged on how to best use this site and forum. Go HERE and HERE to see what I mean.

      Within the year, Ministry Best Practices was added to Alltop's list of top Church websites. Go HERE for the details.

      Within the year, I have made some great internet friends, learned a lot from others and made some great ministry connections. For example, see HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE (forgive me if I didn't mention you directly)

      Thank you to all who read and subscribe to Ministry Best Practices. I appreciate all of you who comment and contribute to this site and who challenge me as a ministry leader.

      Thanks!

      Bill

      The Quench Project


      What is The Quench Project?

      Buy some quality Media, and do Good.

      The Quench Project is a collective effort among Christian filmmakers to save lives by building clean water wells in Africa. These filmmakers have each donated one (or more) of their finest media pieces to the formation of a compilation DVD. This DVD is currently being sold to local churches for use in their worship services. 100% of all sales will be donated monthly to Living Water International, a non-profit organization that has been building clean water wells for seventeen years (www.water.cc).

      What’s on the DVD?

      11 Best-Selling Mini-Movies
      26 Stills
      22 Motions
      1 Living Water International Promo Video
      1 Vibe video
      1 Christmas Series video trailer

      Worship Films: “How Good”, motions, and stills
      eleven72: “This Year” and “Jesus Is”
      Igniter Media: “The March of the Unqualified”
      eight20eight: “That’s My Money”
      Beamer Films: “Evangelism: Here I Am Lord. Send Me”
      The Work of the People: “Shine Your Light”, and “LWI Promo”
      Restoration Videos: “This Hand”, motions
      FortyOne Twenty: “It is Finished”, motions, and stills
      Visual Reality: “Alex”, motions, and stills
      Organic Videos: Motions and stills
      Highway Videos: “Sin” vibe video
      Midnight Oil: “Follow the Star” Christmas Series video trailer
      Floodgate Productions: “The Gift of Worship”, and stills


      Check out The Quench Project

      Email Is So "Old-School"


      That is certainly the opinion of the younger generation.  If you want to communicate with a young person, you don't email them.  You either communicate with them through Facebook or you send them a TEXT.

      Text Messages is a powerful communication tool whether toward the young or even the old.  I think Obama's latest strategy of texting the masses with his Vice-Presidential pick illustrated clearly the power of texting.

      So how do you Text large groups of people such as your small group, youth group or church?


      With Tatango, you can send one text message and broadcast it to a group of people's phones. (those willing to receive the message must opt-in initially.  This is done to prevent spammers) 

      With Tatango, sending a text can be done easily through either your computer or your phone.

      Give Tatango a try and let the readers of Ministry Best Practices know what you think?

      Facebook Primer


      Do you have a Facebook? No?! You should. Isn't Facebook just for kids? Why do I need another distraction in my life? Those are legitimate questions, but I would encourage you to reconsider because I believe entering in Facebook will carry with it more benefits than you may imagine.

      Here is a little history of Facebook. Facebook, a competitor of Myspace, was originally targeted at college students. However, now it is open for anyone to join. Facebook has become a great platform for connecting with people and it is not littered with all of the garbage that you can get bombarded with on other sites.

      How can Facebook help you in your ministry?

      It connects you to friends and family: Once your profile is setup you can add others as friends. They might be family, friends or people from your church or from friends from the past. Once you are friends you can connect by sharing photos, sites, and personal information. (only your friends, those you allow can see that information - Facebook does not expose you to the entire internet) Facebook isn't a replacement for real flesh to flesh relationships. Rather Facebook provides a light touch with relationships, especially those relationships you don't have the time to invest a lot of time in. In fact, just today, I saw on my front page a person from my church had a birthday, so I gave him a call. That is the power of Facebook.

      Groups or Fan Pages: In Facebook there are separate pages you can setup for groups or organizations. If your church has a ministry that wants to have a page on Facebook, it can. It is very simple to do. The Vine Community Church as a Facebook group for the whole church as well as having a group page for the Uth group. (Since starting our Facebook Fan page for the church a couple of weeks ago, we have had 80+ people, both young and old, signed up.) People can make themselves friends of the group and recieve updates from the group and view pictures, videos and post messages. A Facebook group provides another layer of communication and connection to your church or ministry.

      Events: Once you have a group setup you can send messages to all members about events that are coming up. Even better you can set up an event. The event will be set up with graphics, date and time, and any other information you need to add. Friends and anyone you invite can RSVP if they are attending, not attending, or may attend. This is a great way to get the word out about events, but also give you a head count if needed. Recently, I attended a Church2.0 forum. The event was only advertised through Facebook. The power of Facebook was incredible as people caught wind of the event only through the viral nature of "social networking". Another example of the power of Facebook!

      Messages and chat:
      Facebook provides another vehicle to directly contact my friends. I can send a message to everybody in my friends list, within my group pages and I can also set up custom message lists. Facebook just added a chat feature and it is great. It lets you know when anyone on your friends list is online and you can chat with them live.

      In my opinion, Facebook is a networking site all churches need to be utilizing to streamline how they do things and to help people connect. Connected people = more effective ministry

      Here is some additional information:

      Go to Facebook for Pastors and get this Free e-book which is a wonderful resource for using Facebook within the church.

      Also, become a Facebook Fan of Ministry Best Practices. Becoming a Fan allows you to network with me and others who have a shared interest in leadership within the church and moving forward best practices within ministry.

      Get Published


      I just came across this website called Issuu. I like what I've seen so far of this site. Issuu allows you to upload and publish your document, magazine or newsletter.

      The interface is really cool and slick. It sure beats just opening up a mere PDF. The reader can view it either as a magazine, presentation or paper view. Print and bookmark the pages that you want. Also, Issuu leverages social networking tools, but I haven't yet gotten into that aspect of the app yet.

      What I really like is the way a person can embed the publication into their blog or website. You can see an example below from an issue of Tabletalk that is on Issuu.

      Imagine using this program to embed your church's or ministry's newsletter into your website. Or send them a link to your church's newsletter that they can view online rather than having to send an email attachment. I think that there are all kids of benefits of using Issuu as a electronic means of communication.

      Check out Issuu and tell me what you think.

      Have you tried Google's latest offering?

      Google has just released it's own internet browser called Google Chrome. Why? Is it because Google wants to take over the world? Perhaps. :-)  But Google's motivation seems to be to create a better browser by doing so from the ground up.  Also, it wants to create and provide seemless integration between the the world of the web and your computer.

      You can download it (in Beta form) at www.google.com/chrome. Along with it’s release, Google has also created a number of different videos explaining the various features of Google Chrome. You can find those videos here:  Learn about Google Chrome.

      If you unsure about this new browser, check out Ray Deck's video preview from MinistryLive:


      Google Chrome Preview from Ray Deck III on Vimeo.

      Out Of The Office??



      You know the "I'm out of the office until blah, blah" automatic response emails that you can set up in Outlook, Gmail, Apple Mail, or other email programs when you're traveling or on vacation?

      According to Phil Cooke, his advice: Don't use it.

      If you can't afford an assistant - or at least a Blackberry to track your emails when you're traveling, then don't use anything at all. The auto response was designed way back when very few people could afford laptops or PDA's to check email on the road. But today, when it comes to perception, it's an out of date technique that reveals you either:

      1) Don't have a staff or assistant
      or

      2) Can't afford a PDA, Blackberry, iPhone, or laptop to check your emails on the road.
      or

      3) Are so anti-technology that you don't care about your business or personal relationships that much.
      or

      4) All of the above.
      Either way - very few people use them anymore, because it doesn't make you look very professional... Not to mention that people get annoyed when they receive them. A much better approach is to condition your associates, family, friends, or business relationships, that email isn't an "instant" communication method. If they need something ASAP, either text or call. Then you can stop sending the auto responses.

      My only concern about Phil's point is how do you condition the "world" not to expect an instant reply when they send an email. For instance, when I am on vacation, I want people to know, that even though you can send me an email, don't expect an instant response, because I am ON VACATION. Now I think Phil's point is valid if you are simply traveling. In this day and age, we should have the means to track and respond to email while on the road.

      What do you think? How do you handle your email while traveling? Or while on vacation?

      (ht: Phil Cooke)


      A Bulls-Eye On Their Back!


      It's not easy being a pastor!

      Here are some stats why:
      • 50% of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce
      • 80% of seminary graduates will leave ministry in the first 5 years
      • 70% of pastors are grossly underpaid (compared to the amount of work they do)
      • 80% of pastors’ spouses believe their spouse is overworked
      • 50% of pastors feel unable to meet the needs of the job
      • 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their family
      • 56% of pastors’ spouses have no close friends
      • 80% of pastors’ kids seek professional help for depression
      • 80% of pastors feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors
      Here are some more stats:

      • 50% of pastors are so discouraged they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
      • 85% of pastors said their greatest problem is they are sick and tired of dealing with problem people.
      • 90% of pastors said the hardest thing about ministry is dealing with uncooperative people
      • 95% of pastors do not regularly pray with their spouses
      • 70% of pastors do not have a close friend, confidant or mentor
      • 66% of pastors and their families feel pressure to model the ideal family to their congregations and communities
      • 5 years - the average tenure of a pastor at a church
      • 1500 pastors leave ministry each month due to moral failure, burnout or contention in their churches
      • Pastors who work fewer than 50 hours a week are 35% more likely to be terminated
      • The average church member expects the pastor to be able to juggle 16 major tasks
      • Approximately 4,000 new churches begin each year while more than 7,000 churches close down each year.
      I guess we should be praying for our pastors then!


      Sources: