The Internet's Best Practices for Ministry

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Welcoming Guests and First Impressions

The sermon starts in the parking lot, and the impression you make for your guests on Sunday morning during the first 10 minutes will be indelible.

Technology and The Church

Leveraging technology for ministry can be an incredible blessing. But it can also be fraught with problems and pitfalls. Learn how to use technology well.

Vision and Leadership

Our God longs for leaders to request of Him to do that which they cannot. Faith filled vision, leadership and risk are key ingredients for ministry.

Preaching and Communication

You know and understand how challenging it is to communicate. It is hard to get and capture people's attention. Learn how to communicate effectively.

Creativity and Innovation

Being creative means asking the right questions and making new associations. Discover new and creative ideas for your ministry.

How To Leverage Pinterest For Ministry

From the MinistryBestPractices Archives: 

Have you heard of Pinterest yet?

If not you should know something about it, since Pinterest is the popular new social network that allows people to share virtual pinboards of photos and links.

The question though for churches and ministries is, does this new social networking site have any interest or application our group?  Let me suggest that the answer is YES.

Pinterest may be able to do something that other social media sites (ie. Facebook, Twitter) can't do, that is share your ministry's personality (or as I like to say Ethos - The disposition, character, or fundamental values peculiar to a specific person, people, culture, or movement)

Pinterest is based on photos - basically it's a virtual pinboard.

And because it is based entirely on images and the visual, the key with Pinterest is working on creating your ministry's aesthetic.

How could you use Pinterest?  Here are a couple of ideas.

Pinning photos that...
  • Share inspiring quotes
  • Share photos of your people serving, doing ministry or doing life together
  • Share news
  • Highlight books/music
  • Sharing the gospel/evangelism
  • Share sacred art/stations of the cross
  • Scrapbook your church's body life
  • Create themed boards for your church's singles/youth
  • Highlight your events
  • Share pictures that illustrate your sermon series
  • Highlight your ministry's mission
Since Pinterest is especially easy to use, it doesn't require a steep learning curve.  Oh and by the way, the greatest users of Pinterest are women!  - A key demographic that other social sites often lack.


I am myself experimenting with the use of Pinterest for my ministry with CMDA - you can see and follow my Pinterest board HERE.

How is your church or ministry using Pinterest?  Please share you church's or ministry's Pinterest board in the comments section.

Church & Technology

church and technology infographic

The Canadian Church and Technology. Canadian study done at Tyndale University, Toronto in 2011.

Online Giving Grows 13%

Blackbaud recently released its 2011 Online Giving report.

The findings in the report include 24 months of online giving data from 1,895 nonprofit organizations, online major giving data from 2,397 nonprofits, and both online and offline data representing $5.1 billion in total fundraising from 1,560 nonprofits.

One key finding: Online giving is up 13% year-over-year*

According to Chuck Longfield, Blackbaud’s Chief Scientist,
“Total U.S. charitable giving appears to finally be back to its pre-recession levels. Fundraising remains challenging but hopefully the worst is behind us, and nonprofits will continue to see positive growth in 2012.”
Medium-sized organizations, those with annual total fundraising between $1 million and $10 million, grew more than large or small organizations for the first time since Blackbaud began reporting on this trend.

In 2010, these organizations had the slowest growth rate in the sector and were still feeling the effects of the recession. One year later, medium organizations accounted for more than 40 percent of all online giving.

(ht: TechSoup)

*when you exclude large International Affairs organizations.

The Challenge Of Email

Is email evil? No not necessarily, but it is certainly a distraction. And it can become a distraction to the most important and valuable aspects of your ministry, especially if you don't have a strategy. Read this excerpt from an article called, Managing Distraction: How and Why to Ignore Your Inbox:
"Today’s relentless email flood could steer you away from high-value work and even out of work entirely if you don’t learn defensive strategies. That sounds obvious until you hear that a British study found that half of all information workers respond to an e-mail within 60 minutes of receipt. That’s no strategy at all, unless you consider crossing items off your colleagues’ To Do lists to be your highest priority. Taking that approach is so literally mind-numbing that the study further concluded that overdoing email can be as detrimental to your IQ as smoking weed."
(ht: Forbes )

Is Too Much ‘Vision’ Limiting Your Church?

Guest Post by Jeff Anderson

There's a new champion fundraiser in town. Her name is Vision.

She's not really new. She's been helping congregations raise money since the early church began, and in Old Testament times, too.

Is it just me, or are we seeing increasing reliance on “vision” in our modern church context?

Everywhere you turn, vision seems to be the answer to the problem at hand, especially if it involves finances. Leaders and consultants say that money follows vision. And it’s true.

Craft vision… cast it… celebrate it… and repeat.

Vision is essential. Without it, the people perish. That’s what the Bible says. And without it, a church may perish. Whether it paints a picture of a new building, a multi-site campus, serving the community, planting missionaries, or digging water wells, good vision helps people see the gap between what isn't and what could be - and most importantly, to do something about it.

Tastes Great

Vision inspires people to give when plans are polished and leadership is poised; when needs are clear with price tags attached; when opportunities are abundant and excitement fills the air. Vision is great for these conditions.

Could we have too much of a good thing, though? When it comes to church finances, there's unfortunate fallout from over-emphasis on vision. As vision launches to the forefront, foundational teaching on giving can be pushed aside.

The Fight Against Hypocrisy

Perhaps the greatest dilemma of the pastor – or any Christian leader – is the danger of hypocrisy. By this I mean that, unlike other professionals, we as ministers are expected to proclaim God’s goodness and to provide encouragement at all times. We are always pointing people toward God in one way or another, in order to show them his worth and beauty. That’s the essence of our ministry. But seldom will our hearts be in a condition to say such a thing with complete integrity, since our own hearts are often in need of encouragement, gospel centeredness, and genuine gladness. Thus, we have two choices: either we have to guard our hearts continually in order to practice what we are preaching, or we live bifurcated lives of outward ministry and inward gloominess. 
In this way, the ministry will make you a far better or a far worse Christian than you would have been otherwise. But it will not leave you where you were! And it will put enormous pressure on your integrity and character. The key problem will be preaching the gospel while not believing the gospel. As ministers, we must be willing to admit that ministerial success often becomes the real basis for our joy and significance, much more so than the love and acceptance we have in Jesus Christ. Ministry success often becomes what we look to in order to measure our worth to others and our confidence before God. In other words, we look to ministry success to be for us what only Christ can be. All ministers who know themselves will be fighting this all their lives. It is the reason for jealousy, for comparing ourselves to other ministers, for needing to control people and programs in the church, and for feeling defensive toward criticism. At one level we believe the gospel that we are saved by grace not works, but at a deeper level we don’t believe it much at all. We are still trying to create our own righteousness through spiritual performance, albeit one that is sanctioned by our call to ministry. 

  - Tim Keller

(ht: Keller Quotes)

Churchgoers Embrace Universalism

New research from LifeWay shows churchgoers are more apt to accept universalistic views than their pastors. 

Ed Stetzer reported on his LifeWay Research blog that "84 percent of Protestant pastors disagree that eternal life can be obtained through religions other than Christianity." However, when their congregants were asked the same question, only 48 percent disagreed with that statement and 9 percent disagreed somewhat.

The research will be featured along with the release of an upcoming book, Transformational Discipleship by Eric Geiger, Michael Kelly and Philip Nation.

(ht: Ed Stetzer)

7 Ways To Prepare For Stellar Meetings

It is probably weird to put "stellar" and "meetings" in the same sentence, since most people never associate the two.  But if done correctly, meetings can actually provide value, momentum and productivity to a ministry and organization - if DONE correctly.

Here are 7 ways to prepare for more effective meetings from Ron Edmondson's blog:

Ask the big question – The big question to ask before any meeting is scheduled is, “Do we need to meet?” For me personally, most meetings feel as if they are an interruption, even though I realize the importance of them. If the issue can be handled, without meeting, most will not argue. Unnecessary meetings cause frustration and slow progress. If people agree a meeting is necessary, they are more likely to come prepared to accomplish something.

Determine a win – The meeting will be more successful if before the meeting begins the purpose is clear. Ask the question, “What do we need to accomplish in the meeting for it to be successful?” Working towards a defined win will help keep the meeting headed in the right direction.

Invite the right people – Not every meeting needs to involve every person on the team. Decide who needs to be at the table and invite the appropriate people. Those without a defined purpose will tend to drag the meeting away from its purpose and leaves them frustrated. As a leader, I usually ask people on my team, “Do I need to be there?” when I learned of a meeting, before I place it on my calendar.

Decide on a time limit and frequency

Craft an agenda

Give adequate notice

Plan to start and end on time

(Read the whole post over at Ron's Blog)

Church Giving - Infographic

York Street Anglican have put together some nicely designed infographics to communicate details of church giving – who gives, what giving is used for, and the need to give more.

Using infographics can be a powerful and effective way to communicate hard to dissect financial spreadsheets for the congregation.  A cool idea!

Why Every Leader Should Take A Vacation

Hey ministry leader, the summer will be here soon...have you planned to take the time to invest in some R&R? Here are some reasons, from Patty Azzarello, why every leader should take a vacation.

1. Going on a vacation shows you are competent at your job because you can manage and plan enough to free up some time in your schedule, and not leave a festering mess in your absence. Not being able to take a vacation for years shows that your work and your team are so out of control that you can’t even be gone for a week.

2. No one is impressed that you have not had a vacation If you think your company, or your team appreciates your extra-work ethic, they don’t.

3. Your team is motivated from seeing that you support and allow people to have a life — as long as you don’t send them email every day! Set the expectation you will be generally out of touch. Arrange 1-2 check-in points if you can’t stand to let go entirely, but don’t just go somewhere else and keep working.

4. Your team gets more productive when you go away. You give them a break from worrying about all the things you throw in their way when they are trying to get their work done. After about 2 weeks they will miss you and need you again, but in the mean time their productivity will actually go up.

5. Being unavailable is an effective technique for developing people. It forces them to step up. Just be careful not to un-do everything they did in your absence just because it was different than the way you would have done it.

6. If something comes up in your work that you can’t avoid and you need to cancel your vacation, reschedule another one while you are canceling. This will minimize resentment and disappointment, give you something to look forward to… and ensure you don’t go too long without a vacation.

7. You will be more productive at work, if you step away from it and give your back-of-mind processes a chance to chew on things while you are otherwise in a good (or at least different!) mood.

Read the rest HERE

Warning Signs That Your Church Is Sinking

From the MinistryBestPractices Archives: 

Thom Rainer shares five warning signs that the health of your church may be deteriorating. Do any of the below signs apply to your church?

1. The church has few outwardly focused ministries. Most of the budget dollars in the church are spent on the desires and comforts of church members. The ministry staff spends most of its time taking care of members, with little time to reach out and minister to the community the church is supposed to serve.

2. The dropout rate is increasing. Members are leaving for other churches in the community, or they are leaving the local church completely. A common exit interview theme we heard was a lack of deep biblical teaching and preaching in the church.

3. The church is experiencing conflict over issues of budgets and building. When the focus of church members becomes how the facilities and money can meet their preferences, church health is clearly on the wane.

4. Corporate prayer is minimized. If the church makes prayer a low priority, it makes God a low priority.

5. The pastor has become a chaplain. The church members view the pastor as their personal chaplain, expecting him to be on call for their needs and preferences. When he doesn't make a visit at the expected time, or when he doesn't show up for the Bible class fellowship, he receives criticism. In not a few cases, the pastor has lost his job at that church because he was not omnipresent for the church members.

You can read the rest of Thom's thoughts HERE.

One of the best books that I've read that would serve as an antidote against a church "going under" is Jack Miller's book, "Outgrowing the Ingrown Church" - this book is a must read.

Video Clips Communicate Weak Preaching

The following is an edited transcript of the audio from John Piper.

What are your thoughts on drama, movie clips, and the like in a church service?

I'll start with the freedom that we have in Christ, and then I'll move to the position that I operate in.

The New Testament isn't explicit on forbidding using a screen to put the lyrics up, or to put the scene of a waterfall behind it, or to make the waterfall actually move behind it, or to show a picture of your fishing trip to illustrate the big fish that you caught and how your people should now go out and be "fishers of men." The Bible doesn't forbid it.

I'll be gone in a few years and you can do whatever you want to do, but I believe profoundly in the power and the till-Jesus-comes-validity of preaching. And by that I mean the spirit-anointed exposition of the Scripture through clear explanations and applications of what's there. There's something God-appointed about that.

I think the use of video and drama largely is a token of unbelief in the power of preaching. And I think that, to the degree that pastors begin to supplement their preaching with this entertaining spice to help people stay with them and be moved and get helped, it's going to backfire. It's going to backfire.

It's going to communicate that preaching is weak, preaching doesn't save, preaching doesn't hold, but entertainment does. And we'll just go further and further. So we don't do video clips during the sermon. We don't do skits.

I went to a drama at our church four days ago. I believe in drama. I believe in the power of drama. But let drama be drama! And let preaching be preaching! Let's have the arts in our churches, but don't try to squash it all into Sunday morning. So I get worked up about these things.

That's where I am on that. Free. Nobody is going to go to hell because of this, in the short run.

Your thoughts? Agree/Disagree?

5 Ways To Make Your Kids Hate Church

1. Make sure your faith is only something you live out in public
Go to church... at least most of the time. Make sure you agree with what you hear the preacher say, and affirm on the way home what was said especially when it has to do with your kids obeying, but let it stop there. Don’t read your bible at home. The pastor will say everything you need to hear on Sundays. Don’t engage your children in questions they have concerning Jesus and God. Live like you want to live during the week so that your kids can see that duplicity is ok.

2. Pray only in front of people
The only times you need to pray are when your family is over, Holiday meals, when someone is sick, and when you want something. Besides that, don’t bother. Your kids will see you pray when other people are watching, no need to do it with them in private.

3. Focus on your morals
Make sure you insist your kids be honest with you. Let them know it is the right thing for them to do, but then feel free to lie in your own life and disregard the need to tell them and others the truth. Get very angry with your children when they say words that are “naughty” and “bad”, but post, read, watch, and say whatever you want on TV, Facebook, and Twitter. Make sure you focus on being a good person. Be ambiguous about what this means.

4. Give financially as long as it doesn't impede your needs
Make a big deal out of giving at church. Stress the need to your children the value of tithing, while not giving sacrificially yourself. Allow them to see you spend a ton of money on what you want, while negating your command from scripture to give sacrificially.

5. Make church community a priority. As long as there is nothing else you want to do
Hey, you are a church going family, right? I mean, that’s what you tell your friends and family anyways. Make sure you attend on Sundays. As long as you didn’t stay up too late Saturday night. Or your family isn’t having a big bar-b-que. Or the big game isn’t on. Or this week you just don’t feel like it. Or... I mean, you are church going family so what’s the big deal?

(ht: Take Your Vitamin Z)

4 Big Ways Satan Attacks Leaders

  • Illness 
  • Pain or physical suffering 
  • Death of people we love 
  • Ministry disasters (the wheels falling off right before an event, etc). 
  • Financial calamity 

  • Satan will seek to use disasters for the very fact that that they can become distractions. 
  • "putting out fires..." 
  • exchanging busyness for effectiveness 

Draining people
  • Know what persecution is? People giving us a hard time because of what we believe and do! 
  • "Extra grace required" people 
  • "High maintenance" people 
  • Negative people 

Destructive attitudes & behaviors
  • Negativity 
  • Inappropriate thoughts 
  • Inappropriate habits 
  • Inappropriate relationships 
(ht: Shawn Lovejoy)

5 Reasons Why Your Small Church Doesn't Grow Big

1. Unresolved Conflict- Conflicted churches don’t grow. It’s never “fun” to deal with conflict, but in a smaller church there seems to be so much more at stake. The loss of a family or a whole family system in a medium sized church is unpleasant. In a small church, though, that same loss may mean half or more of the worshipping participants walking out. And so, rather than dealing with conflict effectively, the leaders and the congregation as a whole will choose to ignore the conflict. Of course, this can kill the church just as dead … it just takes longer.

2. Lack of Hospitality- First-time visitors decide whether or not they’ll return to your congregation within the first 10 minutes of their visit – and some experts suggest the decision is made within the first three minutes.

3. Inward Focused- Although it’s true of non-growing churches of every size, it’s especially hard to miss when a small church is more concerned with answering the question “What about us?” rather than “How can we be the tangible touch of Jesus for our neighbors?” When maintaining status quo outweighs faithful effectiveness, church growth is impossible.

4. Leaders Don’t Support the Growth- The leadership isn't really onboard with the growth. Sure, they nodded at what seemed the appropriate moments, but when SUBCONSCIOUSLY realized they could be outvoted at an upcoming board meeting, that there really were new people who might actually become a committee chair, or worse the board chair, tensions naturally surface. Note, I’ve yet to work with a church where a church leader intentionally started a fight in order to sabotage growth … but it just happens … almost every time. Unless the church leadership is really on board, sustained growth isn’t going to happen.

5. The Church has Become the Walking Dead- (read the whole post HERE)

How Church Size Impacts Recruiting Volunteers

“The larger the church, the harder it is to recruit volunteers and thus a more well-organized volunteer recruitment process is required. Why is this so? First, the larger the church, the more likely it is that someone you don’t know well will try to recruit you. It is much easier to say no to someone you do not know than to someone you know well. Second, it is easier to feel less personally responsible for the ministries of a large church: “They have lots of people here—they don’t need me.” Therefore, the larger the church, the more well-organized and formal the recruitment of volunteers must be.”
-Tim Keller

Get the FREE PDF on Leadership and Church Size Dynamics

How Porn Is Harming Our Churches

Ministry leader, I hope that I don't have to tell you that pornography is prevalent everywhere today.

In fact, one in eight online searches is for pornography. Because pornography thrives in secrecy, many members of your congregation may be trapped in a cycle of sin and shame, thinking that they’re the only ones facing the temptation.

Download this FREE e-book, Porn-Free Church: Raising up gospel communities to destroy secret sins, to find out how you can help your congregation find freedom from porn in the Gospel. You’ll learn:
  • How pornography is harming our churches.
  • How to talk about pornography to people in your church.
  • What the Bible says about accountability.
  • How to counsel men struggling with pornography.
  • How to move past large events and pancake breakfasts to create a culture of accountability in your church.

Does Our Politics Turn Youth Away From The Church?

Young people are turning away from churches because they associate Christianity with Republican politics, a study reveals.

Political science Professors David Campbell (University of Notre Dame) and Robert Putnam (Harvard University) published their findings, "God and Caesar in America: Why Mixing Religion and Politics Is Bad for Both," in the March/April edition of Foreign Affairs.

One of the most surprising findings from the data they collected, Campbell said in a March 13 interview with The Christian Post, was that people are driven away or toward religious involvement because of their political leanings. In particular, those who are politically conservative, or Republican, are more likely to become churchgoers and those that are politically liberal, or Democratic, are more likely to turn away from religion.

(read the rest HERE)

Your thoughts?