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.

13 Key Questions To Ask In Making S.M.A.R.T. Resolutions

Happy New Year

One of my favorite writings of Jonathan Edwards are his resolutions. Jonathan Edwards is widely considered the greatest mind that America has ever produced. And yet he wasn't merely a man who had cognitive knowledge, but he also had a deep abiding faith and communion with Jesus. It was during his first year of ministry that Edwards began writing these resolutions.

Here is a sample:
  • Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.
  • Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.
  • Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.
For Edwards these weren't resolutions the way that we think of them, rather they were concrete goals that became habits that were pressed down, in and through his life by the work of the Holy Spirit.

Studies and experts say that less than 8% of all resolutions that are being made now for 2015 will actually be kept. Resolutions are frequently broken and usually abandoned with one misstep or failure. In contrast, concrete goals don’t evaporate in the face of adversity, hardship or laziness.

In our ministry and organization we say that goals should be "S.M.A.R.T." — specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timed. If they aren't "S.M.A.R.T." than they will never materialize or be achieved.

I am looking forward to this 2015 with expectation and faith. But before I look forward and set goals for this coming year, I need to reflect back on this past year.

Here are a couple of questions I am asking myself:
  • What was the best day of the year for me?
  • What was the worst day of the year?
  • What unachieved goals do I have left over from this past year?
  • What one thing I regret from the past year?
  • What one thing would I do different from the year?
  • Am I happy with where I am right now in my life?
And here are some questions that I ask myself as I plan and set goals for this upcoming year:
  • What are the three things I really need to work on in my life this year? I should list (write out!) three S.M.A.R.T. goals under each of these categories:personal development, spiritual, personal health/fitness, finances, and relationships (ie., my marriage, children)
  • Is there currently anything (or any relationship) that I need to cut out of my life in 2015? I just can't add stuff without eliminating too.
  • Where do I want to be in the next five years? And then, what can I do in the next year to get closer to making my five year vision a reality?
And here are an assortment of thought provoking questions:
  • What can I risk this year for God, something that apart from God it would look like foolishness?
  • What hobby can I start in 2015 (I need to develop a healthy diversion)
  • What books would I like to read in 2015?
  • What is my Bible reading plan for 2015? Click here for some options that you may want to consider

Why Your New Year's Resolutions Will Fail

Resolutions

The next few days are some of the most popular for planning and setting intentions for making the next 12 months better than the previous 12.

But there is a danger in this as well.

Most people set New Year's resolutions. Unfortunately, most people fail - and most failures happen pretty quick.
  • 25% of people abandon their resolutions after 1 week 
  • 60% give up after six months 
  • Just 5% those who lose weight keep it off; a high percentage gain back more than they lost 
  • Only 8% of people are successful in achieving their resolution 
With statistics like these, you probably are throwing your hands in the air and asking, "Why even bother!?" Is there any hope to change?

Yes, but finding lasting change is hard.

Author and expert Michael Hyatt has done a great job in breaking down the reasons why. For example, you’re likely to fail if you:
  • make too many goals – more than 7-10 is overwhelming; 
  • don’t write them down – one study by Dr. Gail Matthews shows that doing this alone increases your chances greatly; 
  • don’t make them specific – ‘growing in my relationship with God’ is a great desire, but it’s so ethereal that you’re unlikely to identify next steps or know when you’ve made real progress
How will you enter 2015? Hopefully on a trajectory of hope and promise and not by finding discouragement and failure at two weeks in. I have relied on Michael Hyatt for much advice in the areas of productivity and developing various life-skills. Let me recommend these videos below that will help set the table on a course called "5 Days To Your Best Life Ever" by Michael Hyatt.

This course really has become an incredible resource for helping all kinds of people achieve great things.  Just a quick warning though, this course and material will not be available forever as it is only open for a short window each year.

Watch this video concerning the 4 Secrets for a Breakthrough Year

Watch this video of the 5 Characteristics of People Who Get What They Really Want

Watch this video as Michael Hyatt discusses his Personal Blueprint. 

For more information about Michael Hyatt's


Ministry Best Practices is a promotional partner receiving a commission for any sales of 5 Days To Your Best Year Ever.

Important Lessons Learned About Social Media In 2014

social media
Before we move ahead into 2015 using social media, lets look back into this past year. What has happened in the world of social media? Well a lot actually! See below the infographic that illustrates several of the key trends and stats that have come out of 2014.

But first let me add to these with my own observations of what I've learned.

One of the biggest lessons of 2014 and moving into the future is don't rely too heavily on just one social network. Remember social media networks are leased and rented, you don't own the space, therefore you have to play by their ever changing rules - see this article about the continuing frustration with Facebook. So don't put too much dependance on just one network - spread out your impact among other social media channels, and invest in leveraging email marketing. Emails are something you "own" not merely lease.

Social Media still relies heavily on content and conversation. You need to be having conversation within social media, simply just broadcasting and selling misuses and violates the ethos of social media. Also, good content needs to be behind all you do within social media. Make sure you are sharing long-form blog posts and articles, as well as engaging pictures and videos. Good content is king! Good and compelling content drives social media engagement.

Don't measure friends/followers, but rather engagement. Who cares how many people are following you on Twitter or liking your page on Facebook! The big question is, are people retweeting, liking, commenting and sharing your content - those are the keys to measuring success. We've seen too often how easily it is to gain fake followers. The real success of your social media presence is their engagement and participation.

Now, here below is the infographic demonstration some additional trends and lessons of what we've learned in social media in 2014:

social media infographic

(ht: MobileMarketingWatch)

15 Strategic Ways To Avoid Procrastination

I trust that many of us struggle with procrastination, at some level. Given that we are heading into the new year, I trust many of you are thinking about how you can procrastinate less and be be more productive. Have a look at this infographic below, by writing services firm Essay.Expert, for 15 ways to fight your tendency to procrastinate. Which one of two techniques really jump out at you and that you would want to apply?


(ht: Entrepreneur)

How To Avoid The Christmas Hangover

Holiday Hangover

Christmas is over. The floor is covered in wrapping paper. Everyone is stuffed to their eyeballs with cookies and treats. Perhaps you are standing in line, the day after Christmas, at the store to return many of the gifts you had looked forward to receiving. Family and house guests have left and now...Christmas is finished....and you are left with a Christmas Hangover!

What is a Christmas Hangover? It is the feeling that comes as a result of unmet expectations. You think that Christmas is going to deliver all that it promises, but at the end of the day, you are feeling as empty as the opened and discarded boxes being carted off to the trash. There is so much build up to Christmas that it never meets up to all the expectations.

One day in 365 can never meet them all. Like the rest of life, nothing can satisfy all our expectations. In life, things will occasionally go wrong. Your kids will get dirty, make messes and make noise. On Christmas day, you will forget to buy batteries, thaw the turkey, or the oven may choose to break as you are preparing for your evening meal. Planes will be delayed, relatives will get tied up with other responsibilities, and dogs will jump on your favorite suit or Christmas dress with their muddy paws.

Not only will circumstances disappoint but also people can as well. Family will never meet all your expectations. Your family is a real family, not a TV family. There will be arguments and rivalries among siblings. Perhaps that perfect picture moment got ruined because the children squabbled and fought over their toys. People will smile and thank you for their gift, while you can detect their disappointment in their eyes. If your mom or mother-in-law has always criticized you, she still will.

Also, tis the season for stress. We run ourselves ragged with all the preparations and planning then after Christmas we deflate. We decompress.

What are we chasing after? What do we think and hope Christmas will bring?
And as all the stress, that brought us up until Christmas lingers, we now have to pay off, throughout the year, all the purchases we made for this ONE day.

We get drunk with our spending. The average American spends around $861 on Christmas gifts. The credit card debt generated around the holidays is not paid off until the following July, and 25% of American consumers report that it takes them until October to finally pay off the Christmas debt. Christmas has become one giant consuming orgy and once it is done, we get a hangover.

I grabbed this excerpt from the book, Unplug the Christmas Machine by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli. This book urges readers to escape the commercialism of the holiday season, to make it a “joyful, stress-free” time for the family. In a chapter entitled “The Four Things Children Really Want for Christmas”, the authors write:
One concern voiced by most parents is that of shielding their children from the excesses of holiday commercialism. While adults can mute the TV when the ads get annoying, children are defenseless against the onslaught of ads. As early as the age of four or five, they can lose the ability to be delighted by the sights and sounds of Christmas, only to gain a two-month-long obsession with brand-name toys. Suddenly, all they seem to care about is how many presents they will be getting and how many days are left until they unwrap them.
The authors go on to recommend four things that children "really" want for Christmas:

1. A relaxed and loving time with the family.

2. Realistic expectations about gifts.

3. An evenly paced holiday season.
4. Reliable family traditions.

And although these principles discuss what children really want, I believe ultimately it is what even adults really want.

Christmas should be a time of joy and reflection. We should take more advantage of the advent season and give ourselves over to reflect on the arrival and implications of Christ's birth. Advent has been a tradition in our home since our children were young and it allows us create and cultivate conversation with our children about the significance and importance of Christmas. Christmas is special because it ultimately points us elsewhere. It points us to the cross. It is often said that "Jesus is the reason for the season". I believe that sentiment is misplaced.

"You" are the reason for the season. Jesus came because He was on a mission. A mission to seek and save the lost. Guard yourself from the Christmas Hangover next year by allowing yourself and your family to slow down, be simple, reflect and enjoy the celebration of our savior's birth.

P.S. Watch this routine by Jerry Seinfeld about the real value and destination of the things we buy and get.

Christmas Love - 1 Corinthians 13

Christmas Love
Christmas Love
(paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13)

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child. Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the spouse.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way.

Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can't.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of love will endure.

Let's not first forget to allow ourselves to be captured by the Love of Christ during Christmas and to let that love spill over and out toward our family and those around us.

Christmas In The Dark Places - Video

This can be a very difficult season for many people - loneliness, hurt and pain. We think and assume that Christmas is a season of joy for everyone, yet for many people it is a place of darkness and depression. There is hope. Real Christmas can shine in the darkest places.

Watch the video below, Christmas in Dark Places by RevivalMedia - and make sure to read the video's accompanying transcript also available.

 
It used to be summer when Christmas came round,
Neath tall southern skies, over sun-scorched ground,
With the backyard cricket, the barbies, the beach,
And munching on mangoes to watch the Queen's Speech.
The slatherings of sunscreen, the glorious glare
And toasting the glow in the warm evening air. 
It used to be summer... when I was young.
A golden age in a land far flung.
But there came a point, I crossed a divide,
Went up in the world and summer had died.
December is dark now, the nights close in,
So we huddle together as kith and as kin.

It's winter now when Christmas rolls round,
We celebrate still though with different surrounds.
We mull the wine and strike the matches,
Light the fires, batten the hatches,
Gather around the warming beam
Of family love or a TV screen.
So safe inside, no place to go,
We toast marshmallows and let it snow.

Our summer's gone, if you've been around,
you've felt the fall: life's run aground.
We've gone up in the world, seen summer die.
So what's our hope? The dark defy?
Stoke the hearth? Retreat indoors?
Rug up warm with you and yours?
The shadow reaches even here,
But THIS is the place for Christmas cheer.

It's dark, in the bible, when Christmas is spoken.
Always a bolt from the blue for the broken.
It's the valley of shadow, the land of the dead,
It's, "No place in the inn," so He stoops to the shed.
He's born to the shameful, bends to the weak,
becomes the lowly: the God who can't speak!
And yet, what a Word, this Saviour who comes,
Our dismal, abysmal depths He plumbs.
Through crib and then cross, to compass our life.
To carry and conquer. Our Brother in strife.
He became what we are: our failures He shouldered,
To bring us to His life: forever enfolded.
He took on our frailty, He took on all-comers,
To turn all our winters to glorious summers.

It's Christmas now... whatever the weather,
Some soak in the sun, some huddle together.
But fair days or foul, our plight He embraces.
Real Christmas can shine in the darkest of places.

One Easy Way You Can Boost Church Attendance


excerpted from ChurchMag:

Have you ever thought about sending sending emails to the entire congregation on Saturday? Would it have an effect on Sunday morning church attendance?

That’s what the unSeminary Premium private Facebook group got to thinking, as to whether or not “email is a predictable driver of attendance at churches.”

After surveying 81 churches, here’s what they found:


This research is fantastic! 

Email is one area of church communication that has been overlooked. It isn’t nearly as sexy and popular as social media, but proves itself to be just as effective if not more so.

Read entire post HERE

3 Necessary Keys To Remembering A Person's Name

forgetting
What is the dearest word to every individual? Their name of course. Even though we know it is important to remember other people's names, too often we find it our biggest challenge Yet, we lose a lot of credibility when we don’t remember a person’s name. It says to the person (implicitly), that we don’t care enough about them to remember. Remembering people’s names is essential.

Here are three keys to help you remember a person’s name.

Be Motivated - you need be be motivated in wanting to improve remembering people’s name. Remembering people’s names is work. It will take practice. Also, be careful of negative self-talk. If you are always telling yourself that you aren’t good at remembering names - it will be cemented as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Be Present - you must be present in the conversation. Don’t be thinking of what you want to say next while that person is talking. Don’t be looking over their shoulder figuring out who you are going to network next.

Be Intentional - Use their name in your greeting and use their name when you part ways. Visualize a picture associated with their name that will help you remember. If their name is Mike…you may think of a person holding a mic. If their name is Nancy...you may bring to mind your childhood friend Nancy with her bright red hair. Certain tricks like these will help anchor their name in your memory.


9 Signs That As A Leader You're Burning Out

excerpted from Carey Nieuwhof

So how do you know if you’re heading for burnout?
Here are 9 things I personally experienced as I burned out. I hope they can help you see the edge before you careen past it:

1. Your motivation has faded. The passion that fueled you is gone, and your motivation has either vaporized or become self-centered.

2. Your main emotion is ‘numbness’ – you no longer feel the highs or the lows. 

3. People drain you. Of course there are draining people on the best of days. But not everybody, every time. Burnout often means few to no people energize you anymore.

4. Little things make you disproportionately angry. When you start losing your cool over small things, it’s a sign something deeper is very wrong.

5. You’re becoming cynical. Many leaders fight this one, but cynicism rarely finds a home in a healthy heart.

6. Your productivity is dropping. You might be working long hours, but you’re producing little of value. Or what used to take you 5 minutes just took you 45. That’s a warning bell.

7. You’re self-medicating. Your coping mechanism has gone underground or dark. Whether that’s overeating, overworking, drinking, impulsive spending or even drugs, you’ve chosen a path of self-medication over self-care. Ironically, my self-medication was actually more work, which just spirals things downward.

8. You don’t laugh anymore. Nothing seems fun or funny, and, at its worst, you begin to resent people who enjoy life.

9. Sleep and time off no longer refuel you. Sometimes you’re not burnt out; you’re just tired. A good night’s sleep or a week or two off will help most healthy people bounce back with fresh energy. But you could have a month off when you’re burnt out and not feel any difference. Not being refueled when you take time off is a major warning sign you’re burning out.

(ht: Carey

Four Mission Trends To Be Thankful For

missionaries
excerpted from Radical.net

1. Disasters and Crises – This may seem like an odd way to begin a list of things we’re thankful for. We certainly aren’t suggesting that these situations are good or that there is no need for further help, but in all the bad, we have great reason for praise. In what seems to be an increasingly tumultuous world, God is working in amazing ways. The displacement of people in the Middle East is forging bridges between peoples that have long been opposed to one another. The Lord is using such moves toward unity to spread his gospel across ethnic divides.

2. Chinese Church Explosion – This is not a new storyline, but its steady continuation ought to give us even more reason for praising God. The church in China is rapidly growing. Many now believe that there are more Christians in China than registered communists (87 million), and based on current growth rates, there could be “250 million Christians by around 2030, making China’s Christian population the largest in the world.” Keep in mind that this is happening in a country governed by the Chinese communist party – the world’s largest atheist organization. The party is now being forced to adapt and/or change its strategy for “controlling” Christianity.

3. Globalization and Business Initiatives – Fresh research on the migration of people groups has made individuals aware of unreached peoples next door. This is, in part, the result of increasing globalization. Also a result of globalization, growing foreign markets and overlapping international economies have given rise to a desire in Christians to reach the nations through global business opportunities.

4. Latin American Shift Toward Protestantism – Pew Research released a study this month showing a monumental shift in religious identity for a vast region of the world that has historically been majority Catholic. Latin Americans are converting to Protestantism at an unprecedented rate. Their number one reason: “seeking a more personal connection with God.”

Want to learn and discover more about how to make an impact in your world? We recommend checking out and attending the upcoming MOVE conference !

Why It's Important To Embrace The Imperfect

I am a recovering perfectionist. Which means that I’m in process and am constantly struggling with demanding that everything be perfect. I imagine that you are one too.

Yet, if you are going to be an effective leader, you will need to give yourself permission for the imperfect.

When you give yourself permission to allow the imperfect in your life, you will then release yourself to greater productivity and leadership. Practically speaking, when you embrace the imperfect….

You will be released to delegate. Yes, it’s true, no one will be able to do what you do, the way you do it. When you delegate to others, there is a good chance their deliverables wont be perfect. Yet if you are paralyzed by the need and demand for the perfect, you will miss out on the opportunity to delegate. The truth is, leaders delegate. Delegation done right, multiplies your time and allows you to do only the things you can do, as a leader. Release the need for perfection and lean into delegation.

You will be able to act and move forward. Too often we don’t get a project out the door and “ready to ship” because we don’t think it’s ready. We dawdle. We stall. We procrastinate. All because we are waiting for the project, product or program to be perfect. We want all the bugs to be worked out. Yet that will never be possible. Waiting for the perfect, only leads to procrastination and often times missing the moment to seize opportunity. Don’t strive toward perfection, get that project or program out the door. And as you do, you will be able to create a learning spiral, in which you will learn from your mistakes or missteps, you then can adapt, change or tweak, and then continue to re-release and press forward. Perfection will never be discovered in the laboratory, it will only be found when your project hits the streets.

You will find freedom. Perfection is an illusion. Believing that we can achieve it stems from our need to control and be in control. And when we are honest with ourselves, we know that in life, there is very little that we have control over. All we can do is be faithful to work hard, do our part and to do our best.

Embrace the imperfect and find freedom.

Making A Joyful Noise Unto The Lord - Infographic

Whether accompanied by organ, handbells or electric guitar, or not accompanied by an instrument at all, Christians have used songs and music to worship God throughout history. In the infographic below take a look at musical instruments in the Bible, the history of music and worship and how different denominations of Christianity use music today.

Christian Music
Source: ChristianUniversitiesOnline.org/

5 Strategic Ways To Effectively Empower Your Team

Empower
As a leader, you want to help your team members become leaders themselves. That should be one of your top goals - to reproduce yourself and to leave a legacy. A good leader is outward focused - looking to see how they can build and develop others. In order to do this you have to empower your team members so that they can exercise those leadership opportunities.

Here are 5 ways you can empower those around you.

Tell them what you want (in terms of outcomes), not how to get there (avoid micro-managing the process). You will empower people by giving them clear and concise outcomes but not instructing them in every detail. They must bring their own unique gifts, creativity, energy and experience to the project’s success.

Give them the information and resources they need. Don’t withhold the resources needed for them to do the job well. That may entail giving them the necessary people, money, facilities, or information.

Let them know that failures are not fatal. Avoid creating a culture of fear or a culture that is risk adverse. Let them know that the issue isn’t about failure, it is about failing well. Which means that they learn and grow from their failure.

Over time move them from delegation to ownership. - You want to be intentionally moving your team members to a point where they have ownership over a responsibility or project rather than merely receiving it as a delegated assignment. When a person has ownership it means that they start being intentional. They begin anticipating and planning toward the future and their next steps. When they own it, they are captured by the vision and mission of the project. Giving them ownership is essential.

Praise them publicly - Give them credit and do it publicly. Praise them in front of others, and be specific about why you appreciate them and the job they’ve done.


How To Make Any Church Hip And Relevant

cool church

Need to make your church hip and relevant? Need to bring the crowds into your church this Christmas? Then perhaps this strategy maybe an option for your next church promo. (enjoy a little humor today)

(video link)

One Issue That Is Keeping You From A "Grace" Church

Tithe



guest post by Jeff Anderson

Pastor, do you call yours a "grace" church when it's really not? Do you tell you people that the bible does not require anything of them, but you still give them a high bar to clear in the area of giving?

Do you tell your folks that Christ is about relationships and not regulations, yet you still give them one last rule? Do you tell them that Jesus loves them no matter what, yet remind them every week of the one thing that might change God's treatment of them?

I'm talking about the tithe.
This post isn't a tithe rant. I deal with the subject more thoroughly elsewhere (see my 2,000 Gifts E-Paper). But what I am talking about is being straight with your people. You can't have your cake, and eat it too.

You can't boast that you're a church that avoids religion, while holding onto religious traditions. You can't tell people you're different than other churches because you've abandoned church rules, but then tell them they must tithe a tenth of their incomes. It's hypocrisy to cuddle up to folks with your grace words and then hold the tithe standard over their heads like it's somehow tied to God's happy smile.

It's time that churches start talking straight on this matter.
If the tithe is the only rule standing in your church, then let’s hear it - Folks, we have abandoned all the rules in the bible except one. And here's why.

Or if you truly believe in the all-grace message and wish to rethink your tithe posture, lets hear that - Folks, we're afraid we've been holding a certain standard over your heads while trying to preach a grace message. It's time we revisit this matter and all get on the same page.

You'll find just how supportive and understanding your folks will be. They appreciate honesty and humility. They're tired of the bait and switch with mixed messages - especially when it involves money!

When you tell people that there are no biblical rules, then you surprise them with the one-size-fits-all, ten percent clause, it's confusing. When you preach a heavy message of grace then make them feel guilty if they don't tithe, it just flies smack in the face of this idea that grace abounds with regard to our spiritual choices.

If you're a grace church, teach what the bible says about giving and put them in position to act on the grace. Or if you absolutely believe the tithe is the golden giving standard for everyone, then make sure you use the "grace" word selectively and appropriately.

You may think I'm hammering the tithe-teachers, but I'm not. I understand the tithe topic is a doozy and not everyone agrees about it the same way. I don't plan to settle that debate. All I want to do is encourage teachers, leaders, pastors to be thoughtful and clear with their words and messaging…and to show their true colors.

If you're on the read team, wear red uniforms. If the blue team, wear blue. Don't pretend to be on one team but wear another team's colors.

JEFF ANDERSON speaks and writes about walking with God, with an approach to discipleship that combines scripture and story. He’s the author of two books, Plastic Donuts and Divine Applause (January 2015).

Jeff began his career working as a CPA for a Big Six accounting firm, then became a day trader in the stock market. Following that, he joined Crown Financial Ministries as vice-president for North America Generosity Initiatives. He now speaks, writes, and consults with churches and ministries. Jeff and his wife, Stephanie have four children.www.DivineApplause.com

An Advent Reflection - The Power Of Hope

“On this side of eternity, Christmas is still a promise. Yes, the Savior has come, and with him peace on earth, but the story is not finished. Yes, there is peace in our hearts, but we long for peace in our world. 
Every Christmas is still ‘a turning of the page’ until Jesus returns. Every December 25 marks another year that draws us closer to the fulfillment of the ages, that draws us closer to . . . home. 
When we realize that Jesus is the answer to our deepest longing, even Christmas longings, each Advent brings us closer to his glorious return to earth. When we see him as he is, King of kings and Lord of lords, that will be ‘Christmas’ indeed!”
- Joni Eareckson Tada, “A Christmas Longing”

I love this thought by Joni Eareckson Tada. It reminds me of the wonderful hope found in Christmas. Just as the season of Advent reminds us of the expectancy that the nation of Israel had of the promised Messiah, we, as the Church, have an expectancy as well.

It is an expectancy that Christ will come again and set all things right. The first time Christ came, He came as a Lamb, yet when Jesus comes again, He will come as a Lion. Knowing that Christ will come again as conquering King to rule, bringing with Him justice and peace, gives us tremendous hope.

Christ's return gives us hope, that despite our current circumstances, this is not the end of the story. You may be going through tough circumstances right now. Perhaps it's a job transition or maybe it is a health concern or even a troubled marriage. Even as tough as it is right now, there is HOPE.

Hope is a powerful thing. It sustains us. It moves us forward. It helps us to persevere.

May God fill you with His love and give you hope this Christmas

Communicate Well And Don't Put People To Sleep

MacBook
A couple of days ago we discussed "7 Simple Yet Powerful Ways To Improve Your Presentation". As a follow up to that post, especially concerning the statement on avoiding, "Death by Powerpoint", here is a great infographic to further illustrate. Follow these simple rules, and you will be guaranteed to have powerpoint presentations that will be set apart from most - and your audience will call you blessed.

Powerpoint Infographic

(ht: Youth Ministry Media)

The Daily Benefits Of The Gospel

“God did not give us His gospel just so we could embrace it and be converted. Actually, He offers it to us every day as a gift that keeps on giving to us everything we need for life and godliness.
The wise believer learns this truth early and becomes proficient in extracting available benefits from the gospel each day. We extract these benefits by being absorbed in the gospel, speaking it to ourselves when necessary, and by daring to reckon it true in all we do.”
— Milton Vincent

7 Simple Yet Powerful Ways To Improve Your Presentation

speaking


You have a task before you. You've been asked to give a presentation at a conference or at a professional meeting in front of your many colleagues. You now have to craft and prepare an informative yet compelling presentation. One thing you are certain of, you know and are confident with the material. That is not the problem.

The problem and issue is "HOW" to share it. How to package the presentation in such a way that is compelling and engaging for your audience? Here are some tips that might help.
  1. Share real and authentic stories. Avoid just sharing facts and information. Share inspiration. Stories compel and captivate your audience. They are more likely to remember your story than facts and figures.
  2. Entertain as much as inform. Have fun and use humor with your presentation. If you are enjoying your presentation it is likely your audience will too. 
  3. Avoid "death by powerpoint". You can see these posts HERE and HERE that discuss in more depth the issue of using powerpoint properly. But suffice it to say, don't fill up powerpoint slides with wordy text and outlines that you end up reading to the audience. 
  4. Set expectations at the beginning. Forecast for your audience what you are going to cover and your presentation's expected outcomes. 
  5. Don't abuse the time. Don't go over your designated time. People will stop listening to you once you go long and abuse the time you have.
  6. Provide your audience with at least one tangible takeaway. You must answer the question for your audience, "So What?" In other words, what difference or improvement will what they just heard make in their life. 
  7. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repetition is the key for your audience to learn. Repetition makes what you said, STICKY!

How To Create Shallow Small Groups In Your Church

Shallow Small Group
These videos are a classic and been around for a few years, yet after watching them again I think that they are still very relevant and make a salient point - that too many of our small groups are simply shallow - they aren't intentionally helping to make and equip disciples of Jesus Christ.

The best small groups that I have discovered for my walk with Christ have revolved more around serving together than meeting around onion dip and chips in someone's living room.

How do you experience small groups? Has it been frustrating or rewarding?

Video #1


Video #2 

A Sonship Which Comes Only By Promise

Sonship

And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6)

We are not the sons of God by nature in the sense here meant. We are in a sense “the offspring God” by nature, but this is very different from the sonship here described, which is the peculiar privilege of those who are born again. The Jews claimed to be of the family of God, but as their privileges came to them by the way of their fleshly birth, they are likened to Ishmael, who was born after the flesh, but who was cast out as the son of the bondwoman, and compelled to give way to the son of the promise.

We have a sonship which does not come to us by nature, for we are “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Our sonship comes by promise, by the operation of God as a special gift to a peculiar seed, set apart unto the Lord by his own sovereign grace, as Isaac was. This honour and privilege come to us, according to the connection of our text, by faith. Note well the twenty-sixth verse of the preceding chapter (Gal. 3:26): “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”

As unbelievers we know nothing of adoption. While we are under the law as self-righteous we know something of servitude, but we know nothing of sonship. It is only after that faith has come that we cease to be under the schoolmaster, and rise out of our minority to take the privileges of the sons of God.

Adapted from Charles Spurgeon, “Adoption—The Spirit and the Cry,” as published in The Sermons of Charles Spurgeon: Sermons 1-200 (Vol 1 of 4)

Salvation Impossible Through Us


We are now in the second week of Advent, here are some thoughts during this Advent Season:

Mark 10: 26, 27The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

From all appearances, salvation seems impossible when one thinks of a holy and perfect God being united and reconciled to sinful man. And the truth of the matter is, that is impossible. Because of our sinful condition we stand separated from God. If left to our own resources, we are doomed, with no hope or solution. Salvation is impossible through us. Yet God did the impossible. God helped bring about reconciliation by uniting himself with man through the incarnation of Jesus. The incarnation is Emmanuel, God with Us. That is what the prophets of old anticipated, the promise of the coming Messiah. The incarnation is what we celebrate during this Advent Season.

Jesus, being fully God and fully man accomplished what no person could. Because Jesus is God, holy and perfect, living a perfect, sinless life, He didn’t have His own sins to pay for. Therefore Jesus could pay for your sins on the cross. Yet also because Jesus was eternal God, He could go beyond just payment of sins for a single person, rather His death could pay the penalty for the sins of the world. (John 3:16)

Prayer: Jesus thank you that you accomplished the impossible and willing came to earth, became man and dwelt among us. Thank you that you lived the perfect life, that I was unable to live and willingly went to the cross - to the pay the death penalty that I justly deserved.

(pictured above...Jesus and the rich young ruler)

Quotes To Encourage And Inspire


Wanted to share with you some quotes that have been inspiring and encouraging to me. Enjoy these today.

If you're breathing and you know Jesus, you're a missionary.
- Alvin Reid

No amount of activity in the King’s service will make up for neglect of the King Himself.
Robert Murray M’Cheyene

My deepest awareness of myself is that I'm deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.
Brennan Manning

Christ is not valued at all, unless he is valued above all.
- Saint Augustine

Regret looks back. Worry looks around.  Faith looks up.
- John Mason

Removing all risks from your life renders faith unnecessary. Faith requires risks!
- Ken Mahaynes

Don’t mistake movement for achievement. It’s easy to get faked out by being busy. The question is: Busy doing what?
-  Jim Rohn

Rescued From Our Brokenness

We see the evidence of our broken and hurting world everywhere. The images that confront us and we see of that broken world are powerful. Yet even more powerful than any brokenness, hurt or pain, is the rescue and hope that comes through Jesus Christ. I trust this video will bless you today.

Wade Into The Gospel Pool


I love this description of the gospel.
The Gospel has been described as a pool in which a toddler can wade and yet an elephant can swim. It is both simple enough to tell to a child and profound enough for the greatest minds to explore.
 -Tim Keller

A perfect truth of the gospel is that it is accessible to the simplest of minds and yet causes angels to gaze at it’s infinite complexities. That is the DNA of the gospel!

Most Popular Facebook Posts This Past Month

Facebook Church

Here are the most popular Facebook posts from the past couple of weeks. Don't forget you can get more helpful, engaging, inspiring and fun content by joining Ministry Best Practices' social media communities on Twitter and Facebook.

Twitter - @BestMinistry
Facebook - MinistryBestPractices

And of course don't forget to subscribe to Ministry Best Practices via email to get your daily dose of actionable and awesome content delivered daily right to your inbox.












#GivingTuesday


Shoppers and retailers have their Black Friday and Cyber Monday - but as Winston Churchill said, "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give". (Tweet This)

#GivingTuesday is a day set apart to break us away from the self-absorption of constant consuming, and turn our hearts toward radical generosity.

With that intention, Ministry Best Practices is participating in #GivingTuesday on all of our social media channels and partnership sites.

Our highlighted charity during #GivingTuesday is Christian Medical and Dental Associations of Atlanta - www.CMDAatlanta.org

Consider giving to CMDA Atlanta or your favorite charity today!

Giving a gift of $20 will help bring needed medical care, in the name of Jesus, to children around the world. You can visit - www.CMDAdonate.org to give.

Thank you for participating in #GivingTuesday.

CMDA Atlanta medical providers serving the homeless

To learn more about our work and mission, you may want to take an opportunity to view this video below which highlights our work and medical outreach in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

The Importance Of Advent


Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent and the beginning of the advent season. Perhaps you are not that familiar with Advent, let me have Mark Roberts explain:
The time before Christmas is Advent, a season of preparation for Christmas. Christians prepare for celebrating the birth of Jesus by remembering the longing of the Jews for a Messiah. In Advent, we’re reminded of how much we ourselves also need a Savior, and we look forward to our Savior’s second coming even as we prepare to celebrate his first coming at Christmas. The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word advent us, which means “coming” or “visit.” In the season with this name, we keep in mind both “advents” of Christ, the first in Bethlehem and the second yet to come. 
Advent reminds us of our need for a Savior, or as Dietrich Bonhoeffer emphasizes, the message of Advent becomes an urgent sermon of repentance to the world.
So the whole of the message of Advent becomes an urgent sermon, calling men and women to repentance. Before Jesus came John the Baptist, and we must not over him. For the whole of the early Christians, Advent was a time for repentance, not for rejoicing. All the hymns that we have sung speak of this and it seems to me that it is right that we should have sung with repentant hearts. But now it is true that in three days, Christmas will come once again. The great transformation will once again happen. God would have it so. Out of the waiting, hoping, longing world will come in which the promise is given. All crying will be stilled. No tears shall flow. No lonely sorrow shall afflict us any more, or threaten. The One who helps us is there. He, who never leaves us alone, is there
As we begin this Advent season, I offer you this Advent Prayer for your devotion and worship:

Gracious God,
Send us your grace this Advent Season,
so that we can prepare for your coming.

Touch our hearts with longing,
so that we can better love and serve you and each other.
Fill us with hope that we can be transformed by your Spirit,
and so help transform the world.

Give us the peace of knowing that you came to share,
our human life and redeem us for the sake of love.
We ask these things in the name of Jesus,
whose kingdom we seek. Amen.

10 Sure-Fire Ways You Can Spot A Legalist

glaring

from Greg Stier and excerpted from Provocative Church:

Legalists are tricky creatures. They slither in the side doors of churches, sign up to lead Bible studies and fill the minds of once joyous believers with rules and requirements of what it “really means” to become a Christian. Ask them how a person is saved and they’ll say, “By grace of course” and then they’ll roll out a scroll across the floor full of checklists to prove your salvation and prerequisites you must abide by in order to receive this “free gift” of grace.

With this in mind here are 10 ways to spot a legalist in your church:
  1. They cheapen grace by focusing on what we must do rather than on what Christ has done. 
  2. They’ll say nonsensical things like, “Salvation is free but it will cost you everything you have.” 
  3. They are “fruit inspectors” and hypothesize how much spiritual fruit a person must produce in order to truly be saved. 
  4. They focus on things like turning, trying and crying instead of faith alone in Christ alone for salvation. 
  5. Their “gospel” could never be falsely accused of being a license to sin (like Paul’s was in Romans 3:8!) 
  6. They scare others with assertions that, if you preach too much grace, people will run amok. 
  7. They conveniently avoid or mis-exegete large portions of gospel-centric New Testament books like Galatians, Romans and John. 
  8. They blend justification passages with sanctification passages and then try to get us to drink a heresy smoothie. 
  9. They bake the same works-based righteousness cake that Mormons and Muslims do but cover it with evangelical frosting. 
  10. They use the phrase, “You mean to tell me…” a lot. Then they create worst case salvation scenarios of those who claim to be Christians but abuse the grace of God. “You mean to tell me that someone can be saved and still….?”

Teens Bored With Facebook - Now What?

Bored
excerpted from AllFacebook:
Research from GlobalWebIndex revealed Tuesday found that the number of teen Facebook users was not decreasing, but the frequency of their visits was. Wednesday, GWI explained why: boredom.

According to GWI:
  • 45 percent of teens are less interested in Facebook than they used to be.
  • 37 percent said they were bored with Facebook.
  • 18 percent said Facebook is no longer as cool as it once was.
For many years, Facebook has been a go-to social media channel of churches in communicating and connecting with their youth. Yet as Facebook activity and interest has been trending down for youth, how do you as a youth minister communicate the most effectively with the youth in your ministry? Or is Facebook still as effective for you as it has always been?

Teen Facebook Infographic

You Are More Than A Consumer

Black Friday
Black Friday.

It's called that for a reason-Black Friday darkens the soul of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving, which is a holiday to remember and reflect on God's blessings is followed by a ritual that turns normal, respectable people into something resembling Lord of the Flies. 

Disgust. Embarrassment. Anger. Disappointment. Sadness.

These are some of the emotions that I experience every year when I see people on the evening news as they  are filmed piling into the stores early Friday morning (now for some stores it has even become Thursday evening!!). All week before Thanksgiving, I see the hype. I can't ignore the television commercials that tell everyone that we need to wake up early Friday morning to take advantage of the unprecedented savings. "Run, don't walk!" is the mantra of every television commercial and newspaper insert. If I hurry, stores will happily open as early as 4am so that I can take advantage of buying their cheap crap now.

What continues to amaze me is that this ritual gets bigger and bigger every year.  Every year the local news camera's get in place to capture all the action. Reporters are sent to the stores. It becomes a big party, the stores stoke a carnival-like atmosphere.

But nothing changes, I see the same thing every year -people pushing, running and screaming. People pushing over their fellow man in order to save $100 on a big screen T.V, or $50 on the latest computer gadget or 1/2 off the latest gaming console.  Sure the savings are good, But at what cost?

Here, I believe, are a couple of the costs:

People sacrifice their time. Thanksgiving is a time for family. It is a time for reflection and giving thanks. Thanksgiving is a time to look beyond one's self and give thanks to God, our wonderful creator and source of all blessings. In contrast, Black Friday is all about self.

Many of these sales demand that if you want to save you have to be there as early as 4am. (or even get there on Thanksgiving!). But, then of course, you need to get there even earlier in order to secure your place in line. People sacrifice their sleep. They take time away from their families and from their homes. Family members split up to divide and conquer in order to maximize the amount of stores they can visit.  Some families approach this shopping day with more planning and preparation than the Allies did for D-Day.

People sacrifice their dignity. Every year I feel the craziness and energy come through the television as I watch people shove and squeeze their way through the small, narrow portal doors of large department stores. People get worked up into a feeding frenzy. All social considerations are thrown out the window. No more is it women and children first, rather it is every man for himself.

Other people are to be seen as important and valuable and to be treated with kindness and consideration. But not on Black Friday. Black Friday says that people are obstacles who are now in my way of getting the $500 HD, 60", flat panel big screen T.V. If you have to trample over someone's fallen body, then DO IT! If you have to throw an elbow in order to grab a Xbox, then DO IT! Do whatever it takes because they don't call this day Black Friday for nothing. Disgusting!

People sacrifice their souls. Is this what we are? Is who I am defined as merely being a consumer. Is that my sole identity? Is that my sole purpose? NO, God tells us that we are more than consumers. Our purpose goes well beyond mere consumption. We are to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (Westminster Shorter Catechism question #1)

Look!-let it be known that I like getting a good deal more than anyone. I rarely buy anything full price and will often wait for something to go on sale. But what I am angry about is how many of us are being led around by the nose by these stores and their contrived, manufactured sales.

They create artificial scarcity to build up need and angst. They manufacture hype and buzz. They tell us that we need to be there. They tell us we need to sacrifice everything to get it, our time, dignity and soul. And in return they will sell us stuff, already marked up 400%+, at a token discount, letting us believe that we smartest and luckiest people in the whole world.

STOP THE MADNESS!!!

I would encourage you to choose not to take part in this ritual.  Sleep in and use the time on Friday to rest and rejuvenate.  Enjoy the time with your family.  Continue, from Thanksgiving day, to remember your blessings.  Your life can feel frantic every other day of the year, why make this day like all the rest.


(this post adapted from a previous post at Provocative Church on Black Friday)

Happy Thanksgiving

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation

Every year, I re-read Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation.  It is a great reminder of the heart of the holiday that we come together to observe and celebrate as a country.

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation that follows is taken from the collection of Lincoln's papers in the Library of America series, Vol II, pp. 520-521.


The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

Abraham Lincoln