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.

The Global Religious Landscape

Worldwide, more than eight-in-ten people identify with a religious group. A comprehensive demographic study of more than 230 countries and territories conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life estimates that there are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84% of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.

The demographic study – based on analysis of more than 2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers – finds 2.2 billion Christians (32% of the world’s population), 1.6 billion Muslims (23%), 1 billion Hindus (15%), nearly 500 million Buddhists (7%) and 14 million Jews (0.2%) around the world as of 2010. In addition, more than 400 million people (6%) practice various folk or traditional religions, including African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions and Australian aboriginal religions. An estimated 58 million people – slightly less than 1% of the global population – belong to other religions, including the Baha’i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism, to mention just a few.1

(ht: Pew Forum)

Is Social Media Robbing You Of Productivity?

Social Media is a double edged sword for those in ministry. Social Media can be and often is a wonderful tool to connect and communicate with those we serve and minister alongside of, yet at the same time - it can become a time and attention suck. Certainly there are some tools and disciplines that help us control and manage social media in our life - but if we are not careful or intentional social media can certainly rob us of productivity and ministry effectiveness.

Social Media At Work

Pastoral Longevity And Church Growth

(excerpt from wesleyconnectonline)

Several years ago a study by the largest Protestant denomination in the country found a startling relationship between the length of time pastors had been in their churches, and the growth or decline of those churches. Their finding? Approximately 3/4 of their growing churches were being led by pastors who had been in their church more than four years, while 2/3 of their declining churches were being led by pastors who had been in their church less than four years. Their conclusion (with which I agree): Long-term pastorates do not guarantee that a church will grow. But short-term pastorates essentially guarantee that a church will not grow.

So, why do pastors leave their churches? Here are the results of one study where pastors were asked that question …

There is an undeniable relationship between pastoral tenure and church growth. While most growing churches have long-term pastorates, and some non-growing churches have long-term pastorates, it is almost unheard of to find a growing church with many short-term pastorates. Frequent change of pastors seems to negate all the other complicated ingredients that go into a church’s growth mix.

(ht: Charles Arn)

Adult Disorders Linked To Childhood Trauma

Pastors - as you counsel or refer those within your church to counseling, you need to be aware of the strong link between the disorders and addictions you are seeing in a person's life to the childhood trama that person may have experienced.

The infographic below gives an overall picture of the connection.

The Impact of Childhood Trauma on Adult Disorders
Via: Rehab International

Why Youth Ministry Must Decentralize - Infographic

Here is the point...the church cannot reach 427 10-19 year olds with simply 1 paid youth worker.

The role and job of a youth worker MUST be decentralized.  The church must invite and give ownership to more adults who already minister to teenagers, and by doing so we will multiply our effectiveness.

ONE PAID person can't (or shouldn't) do it ALL!

(ht: Adam)

The Power Of Visual Storytelling

It is important for ministries to share their story...and one of the most powerful ways to share a story is visually - from pictures to video. From the infographic below you can see how more people are engaged with your ministry and message when you go visual with your story.

(ht: Mashable)

How To Respond When People Leave Your Church

Jennifer LeClaire, news editor at Charisma has some very good reflections and thoughts on how pastors should respond when people leave their church. Here is an excerpt:

Don’t go into attack mode. If you are walking in integrity, treating people with love, providing care to the congregation, and otherwise fulfilling your God-given responsibilities as a pastor, then you have no reason to go on the offense. If you are truly a servant to your members, you don’t have to fear that one influential person leaving will cause a mass exodus.

Pastors, when people leave your church the congregation is watching you. If you attack people who leave—whether it’s directly, through seeded rumors to your leadership, or indirectly through messages from the pulpit, it reflects poorly on your stewardship and your character. It reveals the anger and bitterness in your heart. And you will probably lose more sheep because no one wants an angry, bitter pastor who can’t accept that the Holy Spirit sometimes moves people on.

When someone leaves your church—especially someone who is a leader or in a visible position—it’s time to reflect on your ministry, not attack the person. If possible, speak with the person about why they are leaving. If the exiting member won’t talk to you, it’s likely there is either a problem in their heart or a problem in your church. But you can’t assume it’s the exiting member’s issue alone.

When people start leaving, it’s not time to go on the attack—it’s time to pray and ask God if there’s anything going on in your church that’s causing people to leave. You may be the most loving, caring pastor in the world but you may not see the church cliques or the actions of power-hungry leaders who mistreat the sheep. You may not see the spiritual abuse going on behind the scenes. Again, when people start leaving the church, don’t malign their character—check your own and check your church.

(read the whole post HERE)

Church Visits From Hell

Remember on Sunday mornings you should be preparing for company!  People who are new to your church are bound to find their way into your Sunday worship service and therefore you should always be aware and conscientious on how your church, facilities, and experience looks and is perceived by first time guests.

Thom Rainer shares these worst guest experiences gathered from his years of consulting churches and doing on-site "mystery-shopping" evaluations.  Here are some of the worst of the worst:

I was asked to introduce myself in the worship service. There were probably 150 or so present, so all the members knew I was a guest. I had no choice but to speak up and tell them something about me. I felt so uncomfortable standing up and speaking to everyone present.”

I had to walk fifty yards in the rain. There was no guest parking. No one offered me an umbrella. Apparently the members got there early so they could get the best parking spaces in the inclement weather.”

The preschool area was dirty and not secure. I took my two-year old with me, but I would not leave her in the church’s preschool area. You could tell they didn’t care about the cleanliness and the safety needs of little children. So I took my child to the worship service. That proved to be another headache.”

Everyone talked in code. I had no idea what the preacher and the members were talking about. What in the heck is a WMU? What is a time of intercessory prayer? I figured out the responsive reading thing when I saw people reading from their hymnals.”

Someone told me I was sitting where their family sits. That really ticked me off. I didn’t see a reserved sign there. If I was not getting paid to do this, I would have said a few words to them and walked out of the service before it ever began.”

No one spoke to me. They certainly spoke to people they apparently knew, but I was not a part of their cliques. I felt badly just being there. I wanted to get up and leave on the spot.”

The preacher screamed the whole time. He had one tone and one volume: loud! Why do these preachers think their voices and their decibels have to change when they begin preaching? It seems so inauthentic. To top it off, I had a terrible headache after enduring 45 minutes of his screaming.”

They had a business meeting during the worship service. Now that was awkward. I really got uncomfortable when some of the members began disagreeing. It was tense. I will never, ever, ever go back there again.”

Who Are The "Nones"?

As Protestants decline, people with no religion, "Nones,"are rising in number. Protestants are less than half of Americans, while Nones are one in five.

For decades, if not centuries, America's top religious brand has been "Protestant." No more.

In the 1960s, two in three Americans called themselves Protestant. Now the Protestant group -- both evangelical and mainline -- has slid below the statistical waters, down to 48%, from 53% in 2007

Where did they go? Nowhere, actually. They didn't switch to a new religious brand, they just let go of any faith affiliation or label.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released an analytic study today titled, Nones on the Rise, now that one in five Americans (19.6%) claim no religious identity.

This group, called "Nones," is now the nation's second-largest category only to Catholics, and outnumbers the top Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptists. The shift is a significant cultural, religious and even political change.

- read the rest at USA Today

Teaching Children To Give

by Jeff Anderson, Acceptable

Parents want their children to be generous.

Among the first words we teach them are "momma", "dadda", "yes" and "no."

Somehow they learn "mine." Then we teach them "share."

It pleases us when we see them give. And it pains us when they are selfish with their stuff. As they grow, they will encounter the same challenges we do as adults – generous living does not come naturally to us.

As father to four children ages 5 to 16, below are some ways we strive to pass along biblical generosity in the Anderson home.

Set their giving standard
As soon as our children are old enough to count their own money, we teach them to divide it into thirds: a third for saving, a third for spending and a third for giving. We are currently beginning this process with our five-year old, Autumn.

Whenever our kids receive money - from chores, birthdays, gifts, etc. - they set aside a third and put it in their “giving” envelope. Separating into thirds is easy. And by giving a third of their money to God, they learn that giving is as important as saving and spending. As children, they have no taxes to pay or clothes to buy. There's room in their budgets to give this way. After all, as parents, we provide their needs.

By separating their money into thirds, we give them a bigger vision for their giving. But to them, it won't seem like a "big" giving standard. It will simply be all they know.

They are amazed how quickly their giving envelope will grow. You will be too. If one of my sons is saving for a $50 or $100 purchase, it's not uncommon for them to have an equal amount in their giving envelope. Even at a very young age, our children quickly learn the feeling of giving away an amount that really matters to them.

Provide direction
We don’t teach our children that we must tithe 10% to the church. But we do stress the biblical command to “share financially where we are being fed spiritually.” Because the local church is our family’s most regular and familiar point of contact for worship and learning about God, a healthy share of our giving goes in that direction. For our children, I'm not sure if its 10% or not – my hunch is that it's much more.

Turn them loose
As our children grow older, we relax the structure. We teach our children that 33% is not a biblical standard, and that the Bible teaches that each of us is responsible for setting our own standards. At a certain point, allow your children to determine their gifts amounts. It's healthy for them to wrestle with these decisions.

When Austin was 14, he made quite a haul shoveling driveways during an extraordinary snowstorm. With nearly $200 cash in his hands, he struggled with his giving formula. When he had much less and his purchasing ability was smaller, it was easier for him to give abundantly. But when he had more idle cash, and more things on his mind to buy, he found it more challenging to give increasingly so.

It was a great lesson for him – at a young age he learned about the same healthy tension that we wrestle with as adults. This tension mirrors the giving patterns of the world today. Statistics show that the wealthy give less, as a percentage of income, than the middle and lower class who depend on more limited incomes.

You can experiment with the right age for helping your children explore these financial freedoms. Keep in mind, there are no rules.

Encourage them to read about givers
Cade just turned 12 years old. Next summer I will offer him the book reading deal like I did with Austin several years ago. This is when I pay my children to read an assortment of books about various faith heroes - and legendary givers, too. I make the offer a lucrative one. They like to read, but an incentive helps. A little cash does wonders for their enthusiasm.

Among this list includes books such as The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn, Stanley Tam's Incredible Adventures with God by Stanley Tam, and The Autobiography of George Muller. These books can spark good conversation. More importantly, they get the juices flowing in their hearts as they begin to experience giving situations of their own.

I also recommend a classic, The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason. Although not a faith-based message, it does present some timeless financial truths my children will learn later in life. This book also allows me to discuss with them the difference between the world’s perspective and God’s perspective of money. I explain to them that sometimes we may give at the expense of what the world calls financial security. I explain that when biblical wisdom runs counter to worldly wisdom, faith enters into the equation.

Engage them in your giving
Of course one of the best ways to teach your children to give is for them to see it played out in real life.

The doorbell rang one afternoon and Austin followed me to the door. He was 11 years old at the time. Greeting us at the door was a young lady in a motorized wheelchair, a quadriplegic. Her name was Melissa, and she was raising money for a mission trip to Germany. It was one of those unusual but divine encounters in which I sensed that we would do something.

After listening to her appeal (she needed $900), Austin and I stepped back inside. I shared with him the situation. I explained that we could do nothing… or that we could give all that she needed. I wanted him to understand the full scope of options.

We said a short prayer and then I looked up and asked him, "what if we give $250?"

Austin quickly said, "I was thinking $450 - that would be half."

I was impressed with his thinking. And I trusted his instincts. So that's what we did.

We explained to Melissa that we were in for $450. She was stunned (she had just a few dollars and some change in large tub in her lap). We explained that when she raised the other half, we would give the rest. Sure enough, she raised the money and one week later Austin accompanied me to deliver the check to her trip sponsor.

When you have opportunity, engage your children in your family giving. They will likely draw on these experiences some day in their own giving journeys.

Connect their giving to God's blessings – that's God's smile
One of the reasons I want my children to give generously is because I want them to experience God's blessings. 

One weekend Austin took the time to get caught up on his bookkeeping. After many weeks of just stashing cash in his notebook, Austin finally took the time to organize his money envelopes. After squaring away his “giving” envelope, he asked me if I would drive him downtown to give the money to the homeless shelter. It was Saturday and I did not want to make a downtown trip. But we did anyway.

The next week Austin was given an opportunity to work at a basketball tournament over multiple weekends. I’ll never forget his email to me from school. "Thank you dad for taking me downtown to give my gift - God has blessed me because of it."

Help your children connect their giving to the work of God's hand in their lives. Like Austin, they will likely recognize it themselves first. Remind them that God notices their gifts and is pleased when His children bring gifts to Him. The Christian journey is a faith walk. We don’t see God with our eyes or hear Him with our ears. Instead we believe in something and someone we cannot see. That is why it's called faith.

When children give acceptable gifts and experience the blessings of God, that's God's smile. And when God smiles, His children will smile… and as parents raising children to know and please God, you will smile too.

Jeff Anderson has worked with churches for nearly two decades, as elder in his own church, and as Vice President, Generosity Initiatives with Crown Financial Ministries, and currently as leader of

Jeff continues to consult and speak, and is the author of Plastic Donuts, A Fresh Perspective on Gifts.


10 Simple Things That Good Pastors Say

1. Please forgive me.

Better than "I'm sorry," which can often be followed with an "if" or a "but," these words indicate a humble heart. Bad pastors hide their faults behind the cloak of their authority, practice self-defense against all charges, and basically pretend. Good pastors know they're sinners and admit it.

2. You're right.

Good pastors know they're not always (not usually?) the smartest, most "spiritual" person in the room. They are zealous to give credit and acknowledge achievement and intelligence, not just because it's the right thing to do, but because it encourages and empowers others.

3. You're wrong.

Bad pastors chicken out when it comes to calling people on sin or biblical ignorance. Good pastors brave potential conflict and hurt feelings and say "You're wrong" in gentle but firm ways when necessary.

4. Jesus loves you.

Why did we stop saying this? I think because it became cliche. I'd love to see a recovery of the art of "Jesus loves you." Strategically said at times of others' admissions of failure, sin, or trouble, "Jesus loves you" is a fantastic way to speak the gospel into people's lives.

5. I love you.

I think one reason we stopped saying "Jesus loves you" to people is because we don't really love them ourselves. Might as well save the hypocrisy, eh? But good pastors lay their lives down for the sheep. Telling people you love them is a reminder to them and to you that sacrificial love is your calling.

6. Me too.

7. Any time.

8. Thank you.

9. Grace is true.

10. You're approved.

(read the full post at Jared's blog)

Ministers Don't Explode - They Implode!

from Thom Rainer:

We've all been there. A friend calls with news of another pastor who has been caught in an ethical or moral situation and forced to resign. Or worse, we read the news in the morning paper. We sigh and wonder what happened, but honestly, every one of us knows what happened. The demands of ministry don't let up. 

The pressure is relentless and constant. There is always one more phone call to make, one more hospital visit to make and the sermon always needs more work. Running on empty, a pastor makes the fatal decision that he's so tired…just this once…fill in blank here (have an affair, take a little money from the church to make it to payday, pick a drug of choice—pornography, alcohol—to ease the pain a little)…and a ministry is lost.

Ministers don't explode. You never hear of a pastor grabbing an Uzi and shooting up a congregation. Ministers implode. That is, the pressure on the outside becomes greater than the pressure on the inside and we're crushed like an empty soda can. Ministry, however you express it, is giving yourself away. Unless we are intentional to refill our souls, we'll soon get to the place where we have nothing to give.

So, what do we do? Perhaps the ministry of Jesus would offer some helpful lessons. What kind of patterns do we see in the life of Jesus?

Several come to mind. First, Jesus made a habit of prayer. Several times we're told Jesus disappeared to pray all night. Jesus knew the Scriptures. How many times do we see Jesus quoting Scripture from memory? For the minister, a disciplined life or prayer and Bible study is absolutely non-negotiable. This is NOT studying for the sermon, but studying out of our pure love for God's Word. When we become overcommitted, we think we can skip pray and study, and run off to do our ministry. But remember this: the one thing our people count us to bring to them is the evidence that we have been with Jesus — recently!

Second, Jesus kept Sabbath. Jesus reminded us God created the Sabbath for us. Sabbath speaks to our need for rest. There are obvious implications. First, make sure you're getting enough sleep. Most of us are sleep deprived. No one works well when they're fatigued. Second, take a day off. No, Sunday is not a day off. Find one day where you can focus on yourself and your primary relationships. And one more thing, take your vacations. Our ministry deserves our best energy. That means we have to be intentional about recharging our souls.

Third, Jesus had friends. 

read the rest HERE

Removing "Church" From The Property

Of course it's been a trend for years to have churches remove denominational labels from their identity and church signs. But now Granger Community Church has chosen to remove the word "church" from their property. There building will  now be called the Granger Commons. This decision comes as a result of a vision and strategy to help their people see their building as merely a "tool" for ministry rather than being the actual "church" itself.  They want people to know and live out being a people on mission together, and not have their identity as the church be tied to simply a building.

Watch one of Granger’s pastors talk about this change:

What are your thoughts?  Will this move help Granger's people see themselves as a missional people?  Or do you think Granger's decision misses the point and will cause confusion?

(ht: Tony)

Free Zondervan Small Group Bible Study Sessions

Check out the Free Zondervan Small Group Bible Study Sessions on YouTube. Become spiritually interactive. Over 100 free Bible study sessions now on YouTube.

Discover, experience, and participate with John Ortberg, Lysa TerKeurst, Mark Batterson, Timothy Keller, Max Lucado, Andy Stanley, Rick Warren, and many more. There are videos relevant to everyone - women's ministry, men's studies, marriage studies, children's curriculum, teen studies, general small group studies, and much more.


 Go HERE to check them out!

5 Ways To Lead Like Jesus

1. Jesus prayed and fasted all night asking God who He should bring on His team.

2. Jesus chose the “uneducated and untrained.” He didn’t choose leaders, He built His own.

3. Jesus trained His followers by example, and then empowered them to do the same.

4. Jesus expected those that were with Him, would do greater things than He did.

5. Jesus gave His life to and for those that were with Him.

(ht: Artie)

How To Invite To Church

via Shawn:

ONE of the mistakes I think we Pastors make as much as any other is telling people WHAT to do on the weekends without showing them HOW to do it. For instance, so many pastors every weekend tell the members of their congregations to "go share Jesus with the lost". However, I am convinced that most of the time, people don't know HOW to share Jesus with the lost! That's so broad! As Pastors, we've got to do a better job, not just telling people WHAT to do, but showing them HOW to do it. IN honor of this truth, I wanted to share THE TOP 10 WAYS TO INVITE SOMEONE TO CHURCH WITHOUT GETTING PUMMELED:

1. Send a co-worker an e-invite from our church website, with a note that says: "Just thought you might connect with what our church is going to be talking about this weekend."

2. Send a link to one of our church's online sermons with a note that says: "When I heard this message, I thought about what you've been going through..."

3. Take a worship guide in to work with the message series title on it and say: "When I heard this message title, I thought of you."

4. Have a BBQ and invite some co-workers or friends over to eat. Here's the only criteria for the INVITATION list: They can't be going to church anywhere.

5. Invite someone to lunch on Sunday (or dinner on Saturday) and then say: "Hey, would you guys be interested at all in meeting us at our church beforehand, and THEN going to eat?

6. Think of someone who had a tough year this past year, drop them an enail or a phone call and simply say: "when I was listening to my pastor;s message this past week, I thought about you and prayed for you (IF you actually prayed for them)."

7. Invite a family friend's child over to spend the night with our children on Saturday Night and then ask the family's permission to take their child on to church with you and drop them off afterward. If our Children's Ministry rocks, this child will be one of Jesus' biggest advertisers afterward!

8. Just say: "Hey, man, what would I have to do to talk you into giving God and the church one more shot this week?"

9. Just say: "Hey, are you going to church anywhere right now? Why don't you come hang out with me this weekend at our church?"

10. Say: "You would not believe what my church is going to be doing this next weekend..."

Not just WHAT, but HOW...DOES THIS HELP AT ALL??? 

 (ht: shawnlovejoy)

How To Stay Fresh And Creative

via LifeHack

Keep Topping my Tank. "Creativity needs raw material: it needs continual exposure to more knowledge and other peoples’ thinking to allow it to appear."

Seek Out As Many New Experiences As I Can. "The more you cling to your comfort-zones, the less likely you are to be able to see beyond them, let alone stimulate your mind to produce new ideas."

Keep Challenging Myself. "Creative people are constantly putting themselves into situations that challenge them in some significant way: intellectually, practically, or in terms of understanding. They take risks that less creative people shy away from."

Ignore Automatic Criticism-especially My Own. "Many peoples’ creativity is stifled at birth by self-judgmental impulses. Indeed, that’s likely the greatest reason why the majority of people fail to use the creativity they have: any new idea is squashed instantly by negative thoughts in their own minds. They never risk being rated a fool by others because they dismiss themselves as foolish first."

Humor Can Spark Creativity

The is an interview with John Morreall from and from the Ministry Best Practices archives:

Ministry can be hard work. But the best teams are those that can laugh with one another. We just finished our staff meeting this morning and we never laughed so hard during our time together. Did we get stuff done? Of course. But I think John's opinions are right on the money. Humor increases productivity as well as enjoyment within the task.

Why You Should Include a Joker in Every Brainstorming Session

You say that humor increases productivity, reduces conflict, and fosters change. Is this a joke?
Humor is healthy, especially the way it reduces stress. Humor is the opposite of fight-or-flight emotions -- especially fear and anger. I can't be laughing with you and angry or afraid of you at the same time.

How does it encourage creativity?
Humor makes us think more flexibly. People who think funny do better on creativity studies. To put it really simply, humor loosens up your brain to think of more possibilities and be more open to the wild and wacky ones. There is a guy at the State University of New York at Buffalo named Roger Firestien who has a center for the study of creativity. When he teaches brainstorming, he says you should put a joker in the group -- somebody who will come up with preposterous ideas. Very often that will stimulate people to come up with ideas that will work. Let me give you an example. A bunch of paint engineers were moaning and bitching about how hard it is to get paint off a house. One guy says, "Why don't we just put gunpowder in the paint and blow it off the house?" That led people to think, "What could we do that would be the equivalent of gunpowder?" They came up with a chemical they added to the paint and when you wanted to remove the paint you did a light wash with a second chemical over the first one. That didn't blow it off the house, but it allowed it to drop off.

Social Media The Distraction Monster - Infographic

Technology such as smartphones, tablets and social media are tremendous tools and assets for ministry leaders - but just like many good things - they can have a significant downside if left unchecked or not used in moderation.  For instance, on the positive side: Social Media has the potential to help us connect, collaborate and communicate with people all around the world.  Yet on the negative side: It can be a awful time suck!  Filled with distraction, reducing productivity and encouraging procrastination.  Use Social Media with caution, it can be a MONSTER!

by NowSourcing. Browse more infographics.

When Ministry Is A Mistress

from Dave Kraft:

Ministry idolatry is becoming increasingly widespread, reaching epidemic proportions. It is showcased at network and denominational gatherings, where the focus and conversation is often not about Jesus, but about us and what we are accomplishing and achieving. Leaders discuss the latest poster children for ministry success and their methods so we can all emulate them, buy their books, and attend their “how we did it” seminars and conferences.

“Idolatry creep” sneaks up on you because you can easily and quickly justify it by saying that everything you do is for the Lord, believing your motives are pure. We recognize this in businessmen who work obscene hours while insisting they do it all to benefit the family, when in reality it’s all about them.

Leaders must guard against ministry becoming a mistress.

(ht: Vitamin Z)

It's NOT All About You!

Too often many of us approach church like we're a consumer or a guest - that our purpose is simply there to have a good experience, we think that church is all about US!  But rather than behaving like a guest perhaps we should consider the posture of being a host, there to provide that experience for other people - especially those who may be visiting our church for the first time.

In his book The Welcoming Congregation,  author Rev. Brinton writes:
Whether congregations build coffee shops or offer ESL classes, it is critical that church members begin to think of themselves as hosts. This is an enormous step for any of us, but it is the key to making good decisions about creating appropriate sites for hospitality. Unfortunately, we often go to church with the attitude of a guest, not a host—we are concerned more about ourselves than about those who visit with us. Consider this mindset: as guests, we are focused primarily on having a good time. We enter the church, and look for our friends. We pass personal judgment on the furniture, decor, and feel of the place. We sit where we want to sit, with little regard to making room for others. We listen to the church’s music, and decide whether we enjoy it or not. As guests, we are basically consumers, concerned about our personal comfort. The experience is all about us. 
How different it is to be a host. In this role, we are focused primarily on serving others. We greet our guests at the door, and look to connect them with people they would enjoy. We make sure that the church is set up in a welcoming way—decorated appropriately, well-lighted, and conducive to people getting to know one another. We sit in places that will leave room for others, and help them to feel comfortable. We pick church music that our guests would like, even if it is not our favorite. As hosts, we are concerned about the comfort of others. The experience is all about them.
How would this perspective not only positively alter our own experience Sunday morning, but also that of those who visit our church for the first time?

Study: Most Churchgoers Don't Read Bible Daily

from the Baptist Press

While the majority of churchgoers desire to honor Christ with their lives and even profess to think on biblical truths, a recent study found few actually engage in personal reading and study of the Scriptures.

"Bible engagement" is one of the eight attributes of discipleship identified in the Transformational Discipleship study conducted by LifeWay Research. The study produced the Transformational Discipleship Assessment, which measures an individual's spiritual growth in each of these areas of development.

The survey found 90 percent of churchgoers agree that "I desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do," and 59 percent agree with the statement: "Throughout the day I find myself thinking about biblical truths." While the majority agree with both statements, there is a significant difference in the strength of agreement. Nearly two-thirds of churchgoers (64 percent) strongly agree with the first statement, but only 20 percent strongly agree with the second.

However, when asked how often they personally (not as part of a church worship service) read the Bible:

-- 19 percent respond "every day."

-- 26 percent say a few times a week.

-- 14 percent say they read the Bible "once a week."

-- 22 percent say "once a month" or "a few times a month."

-- 18 percent say "rarely/never."

(read whole study HERE)

Multisite Church Movement Continues To Build Momentum - Infographic

The new official statistic is that there are more than 5,000 multisite churches in North America. That’s more than 5,000 different churches, each of which has two or more different geographic campuses – one church in two or more locations. This finding was extrapolated from a national survey of churches of all sizes, and validated by Leadership Network’s constantly growing database of multisite churches....(more HERE)

Data from that Leadership Network report are captured in this infographic below, created by KillerChurch.

(ht: KillerChurch)

True Confidentiality Is Rare

For many of us our lives are out there, to be seen and examined by everyone.  We tweet and update our Facebook statuses, knowing that others will see them (yet I am always still surprised the foolish things people say and post forgetting that people are going to read it!). Yet even though we are aware of the public nature of social media, we can't forget that even our 'private' email communication with a single person can be exposed to others.

From the book Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul. The author, Howard Schultz, writes about a confidential email that was forwarded to a Starbucks gossip site. He writes:
Staring at the screen, I was speechless. Not because my criticisms were now public. What upset me, what felt like a blow to my gut, was the leak. I could not imagine who would do such a thing. It was nothing less than a betrayal.
One of the lessons: Never assume that something you write in an email will stay confidential. Assume it will get out there, and write accordingly. As the book says, 'Nothing is confidential.'

As ministry leaders, we must always be aware and prayerful when writing and sending out sensitive communication   We should ask ourselves these questions when writing potentially sensitive and difficult emails.
  • Should what I am communicating be better said in a conversation and/or face to face? (sometimes emails aren't the right medium to communicate difficult issues)
  • Have I thought through, prayed and re-read this email before I hit the send button? (never be quick to write and send a sensitive or difficult email)
  • What emotional state am I in upon writing this email? Am I angry, tired or frustrated? (if so wait before writing - make sure your thoughts are clear and lucid)
  • Would what I have to say in an email be the same thing that I would feel comfortable saying publicly? (in other words you wouldn't be ashamed or embarrassed if your email was made public)

Why It's Important To Pay Attention

via Inside North Point

“First impressions can greatly impact the emotion consumers feel for a brand. What are first impressions like for your customers?” - The Disney Institute via Twitter

First impressions of your church and Sunday worship are important to guests. Therefore it is so important that you get your head out of the clouds and pay attention to the right things. You want to be able to look at them with fresh eyes. Here are some things to consider that will help you answer the question: What are first impressions like for your guests?

1. Pay attention to your physical environments:
  • architectural design
  • landscaping
  • lighting
  • color
  • signage
  • design on carpet
  • texture of surfaces
  • focal points and directional signs
  • music/ambient noise
  • smells
  • furniture
  • floor plan
2. Pay attention to your volunteers:
  • Where are they?
  • How easily identifiable are they?
  • What do they have permission to do and say?
  • Are they sensitive to guests?
  • Do they know how to spot a first-time guest?
  • What are they wearing?
3. Pay attention to your systems.

Systems are how you do things or how you ask people to do things. In churches, systems are things like . . . how someone registers for camp, how a new volunteer signs up to serve, how someone signs up for online-giving, how parents enroll their children into a class, how someone joins a small group, etc. 

Make sure your systems are…
  • clear – This is what I do.
  • easy – This is simple to do.
  • results – This gets me where I want to go.
(ht: Inside North Point)

5 Reasons To Quit Your Small Group

Small groups can have value and may provide a loving, growing and caring missional community.  But too often small groups just become another "program" that merely fills our time and takes our energy.

There may be reasons that you may want to consider quitting your small group...

1. If your group isn't serving together

2. If you don't connect with others in the group when you're not "officially" meeting

3. If the small group isn't developing growing disciples

4. If the group merely stays superficial

5. If it seems more like a chore rather than a delight.

How Teens View Their Digital Lives - Infographic

For those of you doing youth ministry, these stastistics may not come as a big surprise - or on the other hand, perhaps they will.  Some of these facts and information were new to me.

Exactly how linked up and connected are today's teens to their technology?  Have they become victims of information overload? Here are a couple of stats from the infographic below
  • Over half of teens feel that social media helps their relationships with friends and a third with family while less than 5% see it hurting those relationships.
  • Their favorite medium of communication is in person (49%) and texting (33%)
  • Girls are more apt to using digital forms of communication (though it is for sure that boys use gaming systems much more than girls)
(ht:  CommonSense Media)

The Perils Of Multitasking - Infographic

Although too often we believe in the power of multitasking..more evidence has been shown that multitasking doesn't help but rather it hurts.  Here are some highlights of the infographic.
  • 98% of people who multitask do more harm than good.
  • On average, employees at work who use a computer are distracted about every 10 minutes. They lose 2.1 hours a day.
  • Concentrate on one task at a time to get more done faster. Find a distraction free environment, turn off the cell phone, and have a pen and paper to write down those thoughts that pop up and distract your thinking.

Multitasking Infographic

The Importance Of The Hidden Life With God

For those of us doing vocational ministry, heed these important words by Nouwen:

“Hiddenness is an essential quality of the spiritual life. Solitude, silence, ordinary tasks, being with people without great agendas, sleeping, eating, working, playing … all of that without being different from others, that is the life that Jesus lived and the life he asks us to live. It is in hiddenness that we, like Jesus, can increase “in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and with people” (Luke 2:51). It is in hiddenness that we can find a true intimacy with God and a true love for people.

Even during his active ministry, Jesus continued to return to hidden places to be alone with God. If we don’t have a hidden life with God, our public life for God cannot bear fruit.

 - Henri Nouwen

(ht: JR)

5 Ways To Spark Creativity

from the Ministry Best Practices archives:

I have been reading some discussions recently about originality in the church. The question has been raised, is it cool to take ideas from other churches? I think that people who say NO, they perhaps don't understand what creativity and innovation is all about and where ideas come from.

How does a pastor or ministry leader cultivate creativity?

1. Understand that creativity doesn't come from creating something out of nothing. Only God creates "ex-nihilo" something from nothing! :-) Often creativity comes from making NEW ASSOCIATIONS. It is about connecting two independent things in a new and fresh way. Creativity comes from applying ideas from other contexts and finding new ways to associate them into your context. Creativity comes from borrowing. For example, I am always borrowing ideas from culture, and making new associations within our context here at Big Creek. That's what my sermon series MythBusters was all about, you realize of course I stole the idea from a T.V. show? :-)

2. Fill the well. You got to be pouring fresh stuff in your life. I am a gatherer type person. I am always reading and talking to others. We should be willing to borrow from others. Reading blogs through RSS feeds, exposes me to ideas from people around the world. For instance, we are trying to decode how to be missional in our suburban context, and there are men and women who are thinking through the same stuff, and I am learning from their learnings, and being provoked by the questions that they are asking.

3. Cross-training. Learn and read and study other disciplines. Often the best ideas come from adapting ideas from other places and professions. You got to get out of the church ghetto! You need to find ways that ideas in the marketplace translate into the church context. That is why books like Good to Great by Jim Collins have been so highly thought of within the church. I often expand my reading to history, business, biography and current affair books. I also try to tap into the wealth of expertise that our professionals have here at Big Creek. Their professional experience makes them one of the best resources to help us innovate.

4. Don't ask limiting questions. Too often we are asking questions that by the very nature of the question puts parameters around the kind of answer we are going to get. For instance, the question might be, "How can we help students grow deeper in their walk with God at our mid-week Wednesday high school large group"? Within that question is the assumption that we should have a large group of students meeting weekly. And within the question we are assuming that only within the large group can effective growth and life change happen.

Are large youth groups the right avenue to help teenagers to grow in their faith? Should we even have them at all? Listen, I am not here to draw any conclusions. But if you are going to be creative, you have go to be WILLING to ask those questions. Don't let the kind of question you ask, box in your answer!

5. Be willing to risk. You gotta to be willing to risk and risk failing. If your church isn't a risk culture, you are going to be conservative and cautious in what you are willing to create and try. Failures are some of the greatest tutors and learning opportunities. Be willing to risk and risk Big!

When someone asked Spurgeon why within his sermons he preached other's ideas, he quickly retorted. "I am like farmer Smith's cow. I graze in others people's pastures, but just like farmer Smith's cow, you can count on the milk that you get being mine."(1) We need to be willing to graze in all the pastures out there - other churches, the culture, other professions. But at the end of the day, our creative ideas will reflect who we are, who our church is and our unique culture and ministry context.

(1) I remember hearing this quote attributed to Spurgeon and it has always stuck with me, but for this post - I tried to find it's reference, but I had NO success. Do I have it correct? Did Spurgeon say this?

Why Great Ideas Get Rejected

Regardless of how open-minded people are, they experience a subtle bias against creative ideas when faced with uncertain situations. 
If the implicit bias against creativity is triggered by uncertainty, then crafting your pitch to maximize certainty should improve the odds of the idea being accepted. You can do this in a variety of ways. Reaffirming what the client or your manager knows is true about their project should prime them to be more accepting of novel ideas. Connecting the idea to more familiar ideas, such as previous successful projects or similar works, will also increase the odds that your idea will be seen as practical and desirable. Lastly, try leading clients toward your idea with a series of statements they agree with and then pitching your idea as if it's theirs. Thus, counteracting the bias against creativity with an even more powerful bias – the bias for our own ideas!
The more certainty that you can provide to accompany your creative idea, the more likely it will be accepted.  Here are some additional thoughts of mine to help you do that:
  • Anticipate questions and objections - and be prepared to have thought through answers
  • Have numbers - know exactly what the financial (or human) impact and costs are to implementing the new idea
  • Find connection points between the creative idea and the organization's mission and vision - help them to see that it is merely an extension of what they are currently doing
(ht: 99U)

Surfing For God Book - FREE!

Get ebook FREE today!
  • 68 Million searches for pornography every day!
  • 70% of Christian men report viewing porn in the last year!
Perhaps you've heard and seen statistics like this. Yet too often the advice for men and women struggling with this addiction and false fantasy is just to have more willpower or just have MORE faith. But that advice misses the point!  It usually leaves the person frustrated and still struggling.

According to counselor and ministry leader Michael John Cusick, there is a better answer.  And that answer he explores in his book, Surfing for God.  In his book, Cusick shows how the pursuit of empty pleasure is really a search for our heart's deepest desire and the real key to resistance is discovering the joy we REALLY and TRULY want.  Cusick's book goes to the heart and soul level and is deeply rooted in helping us live in the light of the gospel and the cross.

I highly recommend this book!  This book has been helpful for me and I have and will continue to use this book in my ministry work with others.

For a limited time, Michael John Cusick and the publisher Thomas Nelson is offering 25,000 copies of the electronic version FREE.  Simply go HERE and download.  Get this book, read it and pass it on.

If you are looking for the paperback version, you can simply buy that HERE

7 Signs You May Be Fried

Perry Noble outlines 7 Signs that a ministry leader may be fried:

#1 – Is the pace of life you are currently on sustainable for the long haul? (If you are telling yourself that “things will get better” then I would simply ask you to be honest and ask yourself how long you’ve actually been telling yourself and others that…and, if you are really brave then ask your wife how long you’ve been saying that!)

#2 – Are you more known in the social media world than you are by your own family members and friends?

#3 – Do you feel trapped in your current set of circumstances…and you simply do not see any light at the end of the tunnel?

#4 – Does it seem like the attacks of the enemy have increased lately…either through very condemning thoughts and/or either through attacks from others?

#5 – Do you find yourself having to pretend to be happy when you are in a room full of people…but secretly you wish you were in a place where no one else was around and no one could find you?

#6 – Are you enjoying life…REALLY enjoying life, or do you simply feel like you are merely enduring it?

#7 – Do you feel lonely, isolated and misunderstood?

If you answered “yes” to questions 2,3, 4, 5, and 7 then you have GOT TO pay attention to that!!! One of the BIGGEST problems leaders have is denying things that the Lord is trying to get them to deal with!!! Problems do not go away by us ignoring them!!! We’ve got to hit them head on…especially the ones that seem to try to constantly dominate our own lives!!

(read entire post HERE)

Why Do Kids Leave The Church?

“Why do kids who grow up in the church tend to leave the church?"

Reason 1: They leave for college. This is rather simple, but if you don’t have a major university near by, many high schoolers take off for college, followed by marriage, job, and often a move.

Reason 2: They don’t know Jesus. Each person who grows up in a Christian family must come to faith for himself or herself. It is easier to go along with what your parents want when a child. When one is free to make his own choices, he may do a personal spiritual inventory and determine that there isn’t much devotion to Jesus inside.

Reason 3: They are sowing their wild oats. We may not want to admit this, but many Christian kids want to try out a worldly lifestyle for a while. If they know Jesus, they will eventually crash and burn and the Shepherd will lead them back. In fact, this had been the case of my friend who had asked the question in the first place.

Reason 4: Their parents are hypocrites and come across as “softly-committed-but-seemingly-good-church-folks” for many years. The kids see that there is no real joy, no real integrity to their parents’ faith, so they either a) reject the church and never come to faith, or b) they ditch the church for a while and journey out to find a more authentic expression of their faith.

Reason 5: Church tradition makes the culture unappealing. A young adult might be a true Christian, but is tired of being bored so he takes a break from church for a while, waiting for something that appeals to him. Or he or she will wait till marriage or children to come along, and then decide that they had better get with the program, because it is the right thing to do.

Reason 6: The Church has no desire to raise up young leaders or treat them as adults. This is subtle, unspoken, but real. The deacons or elders are all the same steady individuals they have always been. When they add “new blood,” the minimum age is 45. The thought that someone in his 20’s could lead a ministry or even serve as an elder is never entertained.

Reason 7: Poor Education in God. The Church leaders have taught the young adults from childhood that their God is different from the one the grown ups have. You can see when this happens because having been babysat through Sunday School, entertained through youth group, a young Christian often is launched into the adult world not knowing his Bible with any depth. He then will need to rediscover the joy of Christ through another path. He is immune to hearing from God in his own congregation.

Reason 8: The child’s parents failed to teach their children to cope with the difficulties of life through prayer and application of the Word. Setting the example is 90% of the battle for parents, but the other 10% is entering into the children’s pain throughout the years and teaching them to pray and apply biblical principles. Many Christians just don’t do this. They expect their kids to be Christian and do right and figure out the rest. So, they see a great God and have no practice in breathing obedience in and out when the hard times come.

Reason 9: The church doesn’t introduce Christian kids to a membership process as they mature into adults. Instead, we often assume that they are members because they grew up in the church. (I have been guilty of this in both my pastorates and was amazed that I didn’t see it for years. Working on the remedy now). Perhaps you can add some reasons I don’t have. Next blog? Suggestions for a solution.

(ht: ChristianPost)

Ten Questions To Diagnose Your Church's Evangelistic Health

from Thom Rainer:

  1. Are members more concerned about the lost than their own preferences and comfort? Listen to how church members talk to understand what their true priorities are.
  2. Is the church led to pray for lost persons? Most churches are pretty good about praying for those who have physical needs. But do they pray for those who have the greatest spiritual need, a relationship with Jesus Christ?
  3. Are the members of the church open to reaching people who don’t look or act like them? The gospel breaks all racial, ethnic, and language barriers. Do the members seek to reach others? Do they rejoice when these people become a part of the church?
  4. Do conflicts and critics zap the evangelistic energy of the church? An evangelistic church is a united church. A divided church is rarely evangelistic.
  5. Do small groups and Sunday school classes seek to reach lost persons within their groups? Sunday school was once one of the most effective evangelistic tools in the church. Are the groups in your church evangelistic?
  6. Is the leadership of the church evangelistic? The congregation will follow and emulate the priorities of the church leadership.
  7. Do the sermons regularly communicate the gospel? They may not be evangelistic sermons in the classic sense, but all sermons should point people to Jesus.
  8. Are there ministries in the church that encourage members to be involved in evangelistic outreach and lifestyle? You may be surprised to find how many members become evangelistic with a modest amount of training and equipping.
  9. Have programs become ends in themselves rather than means to reach people? Perhaps a total ministry and program audit is in order.
  10. Is there any process of accountability for members to be more evangelistic? That which is rewarded and expected becomes the priority of the congregation.

Digital Bibles Pop Up In More Pews

from USAToday:

"The printed word is losing its place as the dominant medium for reading." - and the same is true with the Bible.

Yet - there is pushback with this new digital trend: The Rev. Michael Nabors, pastor of New Calvary Baptist Church in Detroit, has at least 20 hardcover Bibles in the office of his church. He recently began using an iPad during Bible study, but sticks to a hardcover version in the pulpit. He doesn't think many of his older members would appreciate him using his iPad.

"What if he's up there preaching and the battery dies or something like that? I hope he has a real Bible next to him, so he can look up what he needs to look up," said Isabella Howard, 62, of Detroit, a longtime member.

She wouldn't trade her hardbound Bible for any e-version.

"I feel closer to God with this," she said referring to her Bible. "I don't have to plug up anything. All I have to do is open it up and read it."

For others, there are more liturgical reasons to shun e-Bibles during worship.

A representative of the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit said it would be impractical for a priest to use an e-reader during mass because the Holy Book is held high, carried down the aisle and placed for display on the altar as part of the opening of the service.

"It would be really strange to process an iPad down the aisle and place it on the altar," said Dan McAfee, director of Christian Worship for the archdiocese.

"E-Bibles are great for personal study, but they can't be used for liturgical books," he said. "The Bible is a sacred book -- a one of a kind -- not just a file among many files in an iPad."

What do you think? Is there is difference between the printed Word and the digital? 

5 Ways To Kill A Message

1. Failure to adequately prepare. You and I will never have enough time, so we have to get ahead of time. How effective would your message be if you could get 5 days ahead or even 3 weeks ahead? Set aside a non-negotiable planning day or morning to write the message 5 days ahead or 3 weeks ahead of time. We make it too easy to cancel meetings with ourselves.

2. The message goes too long. Often our messages go too long because we are not prepared and find ourselves rambling trying to make our point. Often we take so long because we don’t understand ourselves the point of our message well enough.

3. Too many good ideas. Don’t let the information in your message water down or confuse your main idea.
What would be the tweet describing your message? If you cannot summarize your message in 140 characters, you have more work to do.

4. Too few stories. Jesus was a master storyteller. Great content without a story does not communicate as effectively. Stories are important for the following reasons:
  • Stories hold our attention. A brain gets tired of listening after 10 minutes, and a story helps the listener re-engage.
  • Stir our emotions.
  • Help us remember.
5. No clear action step. People ask themselves: ‘that’s true, so what?’ What do I want the listener to do? Make the action step clear.

(ht: Jeff Henderson)

Compelling Preaching

Preaching is compelling to young secular adults not if preachers use video clips from their favorite movies and dress informally and sound sophisticated, but if the preachers understand their hearts and culture so well that listeners feel the force of the sermon’s reasoning, even if in the end they don’t agree with it.

 - Tim Keller

(ht: Keller Quotes)

New Poll: Atheism On The Rise

from the Washington Post:
Religiosity is on the decline in the U.S. and atheism is on the rise, according to a new worldwide poll. 
The poll, called “The Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism,” found that the number of Americans who say they are “religious” dropped from 73 percent in 2005 (the last time the poll was conducted) to 60 percent. 
At the same time, the number of Americans who say they are atheists rose, from 1 percent to 5 percent. 
The poll was conducted by WIN-Gallup International and is based on interviews with 50,000 people from 57 countries and five continents. Participants were asked, “Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say you are a religious person, not a religious person, or a convinced atheist?”