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.

Facebook Wants You To Tell Your Story




Facebook has always appeared to many as a site where people merely share with the world, "This is the cereal I am eating for breakfast this morning!".  But that perception is about to change through a radical new design.  

In a complete overhaul of its ever-evolving profile page, Facebook is introducing Timeline. Facebook is becoming a stream of information about you — the photos you’ve posted, all your status updates, the apps you’ve used, even the places you’ve visited on a world map — that scrolls all the way back to your birth. It encourages you to post more stuff about your past, such as baby pictures, using Facebook as a scrapbook.

Facebook wants to be the place where your story comes alive.  What does this mean for those of us who are in ministry?  I can only speak about my experience, but since I personally use Facebook and connect with those in my ministry through Facebook, seeing and understanding people's "story" becomes an opportunity to experience and know the people I minister to perhaps a little bit better.  I think it takes Facebook out of the realm of merely being a stream of people's minutia to seeing the broad and sweeping panoramic of a person's life.

Below is a great video which will give you an overview of this new Facebook look.

Although it looks like everyone eventually will be migrated to this new page, if you want to be at the front of line when it gets initially rolled out, you can go HERE to sign up.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Timeless Words To Pastors


“A pastor should not complain about their congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and man. When a person becomes alienated from a Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his wish dream that should be shattered by God; and if this be the case, let him thank God for leading him into this predicament. But if not, let him nevertheless guard against ever becoming the accuser of the congregation before God.Let him rather accuse himself for his unbelief. Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in the consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren. Let him do what he is committed to do, and thank God.
Christian community is like the Christian’s sanctification. It is a gift of God which we cannot claim. Only God knows the real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling for his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.”

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

(ht: Sets'nService)
(image from SirColby - found HERE)

Are You Providing A Way For Your Donors To Give Online?

If not you should!

Online donations is the fastest growing means for nonprofits.

(click on image for a larger view)

(ht: Mashable)

Ten Signs You Are Near A Burnout/Meltdown


From Perry Noble:

My counselor shared a statistic with me two years ago that floored me…90% of the people entering ministry DO NOT RETIRE from ministry, they either quit or have some sort of moral/ethical failure that disqualifies them.

I’m not a rocket scientist…but I honestly do not believe that is what Jesus called us to OR what He wants for our lives.

AND yet so many of us (church leaders) struggle/wrestle with this (usually inwardly because if we said out loud that we are dying inside we fear that people may perceive us as weak!)

Here are ten signs that you are near a burnout and/or meltdown…


#1 – You are beginning to despise people and your compassion for them is continually decreasing rather than increasing.

#2 – You OFTEN think about doing something other than ministry…and your biggest desire isn’t to honor God and reach people but to simply find relief from the pressure that seems to be building daily inside of you.

#3 – You cannot remember the last time you simply had fun with family and friends…and joy is something you talk about but are not experiencing for yourself.

#4 – You are disconnected at home…when you get there you do not want to engage with your spouse or your children, you cannot enjoy being around them…you spend more time online than you do with your family…and you find yourself wanting to sleep all of the time.

#5 – You continually tell yourself and those you love that “this is just a really busy season and that you will slow down soon.” (However, the truth is that you have been most likely “singing that same song” for years!)

#6 – You are continually becoming obsessed with what others say about you…and one negative comment from someone who does not like you can put you in an incredibly deep valley and cause you to feel hopeless.

#7 – You begin to make easy decisions rather than the right ones…because the right ones take too much work.

#8 – There is no hope in you…and, you actually despair life. You have actually thought of death…and some have even entertained suicidal thoughts.

#9 – You are experiencing unexplained depression and/or anxiety. You are even having panic attacks and you can’t explain it!

#10 – You are increasingly becoming withdrawn from family and friends.

The Next Christians



The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons. This is our new reality. “We are responsible to launch out in the world … and embody the Good News.”

Hipster Pastor Name Generator


If you're in need of a name more awesome than good old 'pastor' then you've got to check out the Hipster Pastor Name Generator.  The photo above is my new name that the program generated, instead of pastor you can now call me the "Imaginative Communal Leader!"  :-)

Doing Church Communication Well



A new book, called Outspoken, has just come out to help move the church forward toward more effective communication.  Church communication (and doing it well) is one of the biggest challenges that churches face.  I look forward to this new book, which is a compilation of 60+ contributors weighing in and sharing their expertise.

From the introduction:
This book is a collection of thoughts, ideas and principles that are shaping and inspiring the way some outspoken church communications leaders are leading communication in their churches, from churches of 25 to 25,000, from Des Moines, Iowa, to Sydney, Australia. Throughout these pages you’ll be challenged to think through how your church is communicating and consider new ways of thinking.
The end goal of this book is to engage you in an ongoing conversation about the role of communication in the church. It is our prayer that these thoughts will frustrate, educate and motivate you and your church to communicate, with uncompromising clarity, the
truth of Jesus.
Want to see more? Then check out the Outspoken website, and download a sample of the book

How To Measure Your Church's Evangelism Heartbeat


FLATLINE

Some churches have a loud, high drone and a flatline on their heart monitor. There is no love for God, nor is there a relentless love for the lost. These churches are closed off to visitors, their community, and the world. They don’t reach out or train their members to share Jesus’ love.Prayer for their community is nonexistent. There was a heartbeat at some time in the distant past, but today the church is flatlining.

WEAK PULSE

Sometimes when a doctor checks for a pulse, he’ll say, “I have a pulse, but it’s weak.” There is still life in the body, but action needs to be taken quickly to sustain it.

Many churches have a pulse and there is life, but it’s faint. There is love for God and for people, but it is waning.

If this is a picture of your church, be honest and admit it. You might have a map on a wall somewhere with several pins showing where you send money to support missionaries. You might do an event or two each year that “spiritual seekers” are welcome to attend. You might even try to be friendly if a guest or visitor happens to wander into your church on a Sunday morning.

But honestly, your passion for outreach is gone.

Your church lacks a desperate love for God that will drive you into the world with His good news. You are nice to people who visit your church, but you don’t go out of your way to reach those who are far from God. You send money overseas, but you don’t engage the mission field right next door.

RAPID HEARTBEAT

Sometimes, a heart races wildly. This can be very dangerous, because if a person’s heart pumps too fast for too long, it can lead to cardiac arrest and eventually death.

Some churches’ monitors show that their hearts are beating two or three times faster than a healthy heart. Because these churches love God and want to be faithful to His love for lost people, they launch outreach program after outreach program and initiative after initiative. Church members grow tired and exhausted as the congregation jumps into the latest evangelistic fads.

Outreach is not organic in a church like this. Instead, it feels fabricated and inauthentic. While the motives are right, the practice of outreach is so forced that it fails to bear much fruit. Churches like this often experience frustration when they try lots of programs but never find something that works. They invest lots of money and time, and they genuinely love God, but lost people rarely come to know and embrace Jesus.

GETTING BACK TO YOUR FIRST LOVE

The first and most critical step a church needs to take to move toward healthy outreach is to develop a growing love for God. In the book of Revelation, Jesus says to the church of Ephesus, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” Whenever our love for God ceases to be first place in our hearts, our vision for reaching out wanes.

Jesus made this clear when He taught his disciples that the first and most important of all the commandments is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” This is not just our calling as individual followers of Christ; it is also our calling as a church. If we forget our first love, our collective heart will grow cold, and nothing that we do will have the impact we desire.

Loving God does not begin with our own efforts. It is based on the awareness that God was passionately seeking us long before we ever sought Him. In the letter of First John, we find a powerful tutorial on the love of God. We learn, first and foremost, that God is love. Because of His love for us, we can become children of God. The depth of the Father’s love was revealed when He sent His only Son to this Earth to die in our place on the cross for our sins. As we are grounded in God’s love for us and as we learn to walk in this love, we will continue to grow in our love for people and for God.

If your church is struggling to invest in reaching your community and the world, ask yourself this question: are we a church that is on fire with a passion for God? If reaching out to others has been pushed to the back burner (or off the stove entirely), it probably won’t help to add some spice to the meal. You need to start by turning up the heat.

Maybe your church has lost its first love.

Remember, God so loved the world that He gave.

Love gives. And when a congregation’s heart pounds hard for God, we give of ourselves—our time, our resources, our lives—to love others.

(read the entire post HERE)

This article adapted from Organic Outreach for Churches.

(ht: Church Leaders)

Build Your Team By Breaking Bread


Roughly speaking, you have about 240 chances a year to eat lunch with your staff. That’s not a lot, so don’t squander a day of it!

There is incredible power when we share a meal together with others.  During those times when we break bread with one another, we get to know more about that person than if we were simply in other staff meeting together. We let down our guard when we eat. We share our innovative ideas, our observations; we dish about our kids and what we did over the weekend; we laugh together and real relationship is built and developed. Soak that up!  


Make sure you take the time to grab lunch with your staff during the week.

Quit Your Jibber Jabber



This is an old video from a now defunct show...but as always Mr. T. gets it right - in the simplest terms possible.

What Your Church Website Says About You


Has your church allowed your website to get out of date, and OLD!?  If so, it is probably a symptom of greater problems within your church or organization.

If your website has gotten out of date, old and stale, your church probably:
  • Doesn’t have a full-time or even a part-time person devoted to communications and/or website maintenance.
  • Doesn’t know how valuable it is to keep your website updated, especially when the majority of new visitors check the church’s website before even stepping foot in the door for the first time.
  • Doesn't realize that if the lead pastor doesn't value or is ambivalent toward the church's digital presence, then chances are that most of the staff and church won't care much either.  The lead pastor must lead in this area!
  • Doesn’t realize that digital communication about your church should really be at the top of everyone’s list, not at the bottom, or perhaps not even on the list.
  • Doesn’t have a church communications director, manager, or even a volunteer to help with the Facebook page and the various communication channels.
(ht: Lauren Hunter)

How To Motivate Those That Serve


Yes it's true that most of those who serve within the church or ministries wouldn't be doing so if they weren't already motivated to a certain degree.  But ministry can be hard and demanding, and everyone needs once in a while encouragement and incentive to keep motivated and going.

As leaders we need to recognize and reward those that serve alongside us and for us. Reward for the big things. And the medium things. And even the itty-bitty little things. We all like praise.  If we are honest, we appreciate recognition.  And those that serve with you and for you...whether they be paid staff or volunteers, will welcome those small (and even large) acts of kindness and appreciation.  Here are a couple ways you can motive others:
  • Say ‘thank you’ often, and mean it
  • Send birthday cards. Send a card at Christmas 
  • Provide a clear role description for every staff person and volunteer
  • Make sure new staff and volunteers are welcomed warmly
  • Highlight the impact that the volunteer contribution is having on the organization
  • Show an interest in staff and volunteers’ personal interests and their outside life
  • Tell your staff and volunteers they have done a good job
  • Give volunteers a real voice within the organization
  • Provide meaningful and enjoyable work for your staff
  • Always have work for your volunteers to do and never waste their time
  • Send ‘thank you’ notes and letters when appropriate
  • Smile when you see them!
  • Say something positive about their personal qualities
  • Involve volunteers in decision-making processes
  • Give a certificate to commemorate anniversaries of involvement
  • Do 360 evaluations with your staff and volunteers, giving them a chance to evaluate you as well
  • Do not impose new policies and procedures without a degree of staff input - especially when those changes effect them
  • Walk into places your volunteers serve and publicly thank them for their service, while they are serving
  • Celebrate the year’s work together
  • Also praise your staff, not just to them, but to others
  • Give the volunteer a title which reflects the work they do (not just ‘volunteer’)
  • Consider providing, or paying for, child care for volunteers who are parents
  • Count up how many hours volunteers contribute and publicize this
  • Always be appreciative of staff and volunteers’ contributions
  • Provide excellent training and coaching
  • Reimburse out-of-pocket expenses for your volunteers
  • Conduct an exit interview when a volunteer leaves
  • Provide constructive appraisal
  • Present an occasional inexpensive gift - i.e. gift card to their favorite store
  • Send a card or flowers if staff and volunteers are ill or bereaved
  • Empower staff and volunteers to make decisions without micro-management

Do People Laugh At Your Vision?

“The best way to make children good is to make them happy”

Pastor, do people laugh at your vision?

Do you cast a vision that is so enormous that it WILL hopelessly fail if God doesn't show up? If not, you should!

Our God longs for leaders to request of Him to do that which they cannot.

Why does He long for this type of faith? So all the glory will be His . . .He wants to amaze us and have us spellbound and breathless over His wondrous works.

Question: What are you accomplishing in your ministry presently that does not require God to pull it off? Whatever it is, please stop.

God has not called us to a natural ministry, but to a supernatural ministry which requires us to cast vision and lead in such a way that only our Super God can accomplish it.


Marinate on that.

From Pastor Dervin Gray - A former National Football League player (1993-1998), Pastor Derwin L. Gray has planted two multi-ethnic, missional churches since his transition from itinerate evangelist to pastoring. He is the founding and Lead Pastor of Transformation Church (www.tc521.org) in Indian Land, South Carolina.

How To Get Rid Of Your Pastor


I offer you this tongue-in-cheek and thoughtful post by John Roberts in it's entirety:

Some time back, I heard about a church that had been trying to "get rid" of their pastor. Sadly, this is something that happens a lot in the American church scene. We get unhappy with the pastor or with something the church is doing; and then, instead of doing the biblical thing and prayerfully seeking to work out the differences, we choose up sides. Then, if there are enough votes to dismiss or enough people to make things really unpleasant, out the pastor goes.

It's tragic, not only because of what it does to that pastor, but because of the broken relationships and the slow-healing wounds left behind, which often remain long after the pastor departs. Frankly, there are simpler ways. If you ever want to get rid of your pastor, instead of looking for votes or choosing up sides, try one of these five ideas.

Idea No. 1: During the Sunday morning message, listen closely and take notes. Look your pastor straight in the eye, and occasionally nod your head and say, "Amen!" Begin to make serious efforts to apply the life lessons you learn from the sermons. In six months, he'll preach himself to death.

Idea No. 2: Pat your pastor on the back and brag on his good points two or three times a month. Make a bunch of phone calls to your friends and neighbors and tell them all the good things about your pastor. In a little while, so many more people will start coming to your church, you'll have to hire an associate pastor, and your senior pastor will be free to leave.

Idea No. 3: Next Sunday, in response to the sermon, go forward to the altar and rededicate your life to Christ. Then make an appointment with the pastor sometime next week. Ask him to give you some job you could do for the church, preferably some lost people you could go visit with a view to winning them to Christ. He'll likely die of heart failure on the spot.

Idea No. 4: Organize a ministry to call on the shut-ins and elderly members of the church, and encourage the pastor, as the early church did (see Acts 6:1-7), to devote more of his time to prayer, the study of God's Word and sermon preparation. Tell him you'll take care of the widows if he'll take care of the preaching. He'll think the whole congregation has gone completely crazy and start looking for another church immediately.

Idea No. 5: Get a whole bunch of the church members to unite in earnest intercessory prayer for the pastor, his ministry and his family. Organize prayer meetings in which you pray for the growth of the church and the blessing of the pastor. The pastor may become so effective in ministry that some larger church will gladly take him off your hands.

One note of caution, however: if you try one of these methods, you may find that you don't want to get rid of your pastor after all.

by John Roberts is the longtime pastor of First Baptist Church - find original post HERE

Today We Remember


Click HERE to watch this remembrance video produced by NorthPoint Church

Going Beyond The Labels

"If people don't know their pastor, it's easy to put the pastor on a pedestal and depersonalize him or her. It's also easy for pastors, who don't know their congregations, simply to classify congregants as saved or unsaved, involved or not involved, tithers or non-tithers. These impersonal designations allow you to treat people not as they are, but as sociological or psychological categories."
- Eugene Peterson, addressing. the modern temptation to depersonalize ministry. Excerpted from "Pastor in the Present Tense" in the Summer 2011 issue of the Leadership Journal.

Too often it is easy to just slap a label on someone or pour into them our own expectations -rather than getting to know the real them.  Getting to know one another, the real person with all of their foibles, flaws and failures is essential if the church is going to do "real" life and ministry together.

Your Job As A Leader


Repeat after me (and say this to your staff, ministry leaders, volunteers): “My job is to make your job easier.”

Of course your job as a leader of your people isn't how encouraging them to be lazy, that is not the point.  Rather your job is to help them succeed.  It is to serve your staff and volunteers - it is not for them to serve you.  Too many leaders miss this point.  

Your main job as a leader is to remove impediments to your people's success.  Make sure they have the resources they need to do their work.  Make sure your people are empowered to make decisions and accomplish their ministry goals.

That is your job!

Your Communication's Shelf-Life


If you have been actively involved in any organization long enough, especially if it's been in a church or ministry, you understand how challenging it is to communicate.  It is hard to get people's attention.  Just because you send an email, tweet or Facebook post to your congregation, doesn't mean people have read it. The messages you send, don't last forever.  Their impact and the chance that they will be seen and read diminishes quickly after only a couple of hours after it is sent.

Below is an interesting study by the URL shortening service bit.ly on how long a link is "alive” before people stop engaging with it and whether it matters what kind of content it is or through what channel it was shared.

By calculating what bitly is calling the link's 'half life' (the time it takes a link to receive half the clicks it will ever receive after it’s reached its peak), bitly evaluated the persistence of 1,000 popular bitly links, and found some strikingly similar results.

Half Life Research Results:
The mean half life of a link on Twitter is 2.8 hours.
The mean half life of a link on Facebook is 3.2 hours.
The mean half life of a link via ‘direct’ sources such as email or instant messaging clients is 3.4 hours.
The mean half life of a link on YouTube is 7.4 hours.

So what are some takeaways for the church from this study?
  • Communication must be repetitive.  It is never "one and done".
  • It is important to change up sending your communications on different times and different days in order to capture people's attention.  
  • You must communicate along a variety of different channels - communicating the same message, via email, twitter, facebook, in print, on the platform Sunday morning, texting (SMS), etc... 
  • Also remembering the axiom, just become someone has been communicated AT, doesn't mean they've been communicated TO.  You can never assume just because an email was sent, or a Facebook wall posted that your audience has received, and read your message.

(ht: HubSpot)

People Want A Pastor


Keep It Simple But With Excellence


Make every detail perfect and limit the number of details to perfect.
- Jack Dorsey


A great quote which illustrated the need to keep it simple.  Too often we add lots of complexity to our churches and ministries.  Rather we need to do just a few things, but do them really well!



(ht: Startup Quote)

Do You Have A Transition Plan?


What happens to a church when a pastor suddenly resigns or even dies?  Many churches are not prepared for such an unexpected circumstance.  This question particularly came to light in regards to the death of Pastor Zachery Tims of New Destiny Christian Center.  The article in the Orlando Sentinel raises the question of what's next for a church, that was ill prepared to replace their charismatic pastor and leader.

Here is an excerpt from the OrlandoSentinel.com:

How the Apopka mega church responds will depend largely on whom the church picks to carry on the vision of Tims. Replacing a beloved pastor is difficult, made harder by the size of the church, and compounded by the circumstances of Tims' sudden death, said Phil Cooke, a California-based church-leadership consultant.

"The single biggest reason most of these mega churches grow so quickly is because the leader is a powerful and compelling personality. People naturally want to follow a visionary leader," Cooke said. "In the case of New Destiny, the intense focus on Pastor Tims during his life, and the questions surrounding his death, all indicate that finding a successor during a time of questions and uncertainty will be extraordinarily difficult."

Kevin Dougherty, a Baylor University sociologist, said what New Destiny is going through is what's ahead for the two-thirds of the 1,600 American mega-churches headed by the founder, who is often a dynamic and charismatic leader.

"This is something these churches around the country and the world are confronted with," said Dougherty, who specializes in researching mega-churches.

Tims, who was found dead in a New York hotel room at age 42, did not appear to leave behind a clear line of succession. His congregation, with an estimated 7,500 members, was a nondenominational church of his own creation started in 1996. It has no experience in picking a new pastor and, like many other churches, probably never anticipated it would need to do so, said Sheila Strobel Smith, an author and expert on leadership transition in mega-churches.

In older, mainline churches there are often a number of assistant pastors who have been groomed by the senior pastor to eventually take over. New Destiny doesn't seem to have that structure in place. The fact that Paula White — whom Tims considered his "spiritual mother" — preached the first sermon after his death is an indication that nobody inside the church had the stature or preparation to take over, Smith said.

"There was literally one pastor. For a congregation that size, that is very unusual," Smith said.

White told the congregation that Tims left instructions that after his death his church should take 30 days to recover, but on the 31st day be prepared to resume his work. Smith said it is likely to take much longer for the church to find Tims' replacement — a year or more. Cooke said it often takes five to seven years for a church to find the right replacement.

New Destiny owes much of its success to one man: Zachery Tims. Other mega-ministries became too synonymous with one man to survive his death.  (read the whole article HERE)

If you are looking for a good book from a pastor who not only thought about his transition, but put a plan in place to help navigate the church through it, you need to read Pastor Bob Russell's book, Transition Plan.

The Personal Life Of A Preacher

Would You Be Lost Without Your Phone?


Apparently teenagers would be.  

A recent survey by Best Enemies Education in Australia reveals 80% of teen girls actually sleep with their cell phones, and 50% tuck their phones under their pillows and set them to vibrate. Chief executive of Best Enemies, Ross Bark, said students were so obsessed with Facebook and texting they were checking messages until very late.

Australian girls aren’t unique in this. 84% of American teens with cell phones sleep with the phone on or near the bed. On average, teens send or receive 3,339 texts per month: that’s more than 6 texts per hour they are awake. Nearly a third of texting teens who take their phones to school send text messages every day during class time. In general, among U.S. mobile subscribers, almost 60% of time spent on mobile Internet is for social networking sites like Facebook.

If you are a youth minister, these stats provide a great discussion with your teens.  Here are a few conversation starters:
  • Do you notice a general obsession among your peers to always be “connected” through their mobile devices?
  • Would you or your friends ever think something like, “I would be totally lost without my cell phone”?
  • Why do you think some people feel like they can’t be away from their mobile device?
  • What would happen if you or your friends decided to go on a “mobile fast” for a week?