The Internet's Best Practices for Ministry

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

Welcoming Guests and First Impressions

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

Technology and The Church

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

Vision and Leadership

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

Preaching and Communication

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

Creativity and Innovation

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

How To Get Maximum Impact In Sharing Your Story Via YouTube

You probably already know the impact a video makes in helping your church or ministry communicate it's message. The visuals that a video provide are powerful. Now, with the help of YouTube, your video will have a lot more BANG!

As a non-profit, church or ministry, you can register your account with YouTube in their nonprofit category. By being in that category organizations up to now have had the privilege of inserting a "Call to Action" overlay on top of the video. Certainly up to now this has been a great way to drive someone to action, whether it be to serve, go, give or to learn more. But now YouTube is offering something different. Something more powerful. You'll first notice the difference when you're editing a video in the video manager - you will now see a new option called "cards"


With cards you have more options to engage your audience. You can use cards to add interactivity to your videos. Cards can point viewers to a specific URL (from a list of eligible sites - this is a site that you must verify ownership over) and show customized images, titles, and calls to action, depending on the card type.

Watch this video, which is an overview of cards - it's use and function.



Also, watch how a non-profit called CMDA Atlanta, uses cards to engage the audience throughout the course of the video.
 

What do you think? Can you see how the power of using cards will be a game-changer for your ministry?

Our Top 20 Posts Of 2015

These are the most visited Ministry Best Practices posts of 2015. Some of these posts didn't necessarily originate in 2015, but they are still the most popular and sought after. The top post on How To Leave Your Church And Do It Well, got over 14k hits this past year and it's a 6 year old post! That fact illustrates just how hot this topic and issue still is and how this issue still resonates with so many people still today.

In case you may have missed any of these, check them out below.

  1. How To Leave Your Church And Do It Well
  2. The Top 4 Benefits of Volunteering
  3. 5 Kinds of Pastors
  4. Top 10 Reasons People Leave Your Church
  5. How Do You Emcee?
  6. Humorous Church Names
  7. 25 Truths About Preachers From 2 Timothy
  8. Want To Be More Happier At Work? Practice Gratitude
  9. 14 Comments That You Should NEVER Say To Your Pastor
  10. 15 Strategic Ways To Avoid Procrastination
  11. How To Invite To Church
  12. 5 Ways To Get More Volunteers
  13. The 50 Best Christian Books Ever Written
  14. 6 Different Styles Of Leadership
  15. 5 Guaranteed Ways To Make Your Kids Hate Church
  16. Why Should Your Church Invest In Social Media?
  17. Who Will Win The Battle Between Email And Social Media?
  18. Top 10 Signs Of A Dying Church
  19. The 5 Most Strategic Ways To Recruit More Volunteers
  20. 10 Church Technology Goals




The Big List Of The Best Prayer Apps



In a follow up from our previous post - The Big List of the Best Bible Apps - here is a list of some of the more popular and useful prayer apps out on the market. Using these apps will encourage and remind you to pray for the many prayer requests that God puts on your heart and in your life.

PrayerMate
iOS | Android

How many times have we told someone we’d pray for them, and then forget to follow through? This Christian app helps you keep track of prayer requests and faithfully pray for the people and causes you care about. (recommended by Tim Challies)

From their website: PrayerMate brings all your prayer points together. Whether it’s your personal prayer points for friends and family, regular updates from some fantastic mission organizations, or the latest PDF prayer letter that just arrived in your inbox, PrayerMate puts it all together in one place and helps you get on and pray.

iOS | Android

This app comes highly recommended by the editor of Ministry Best Practices. It is an app that is clean and simple in design - and simple in function. It keeps track of prayer requests, reminds you to pray and also creates and gives space for the actual act of praying. You need to definitely take a look at this app.

From their website: We believe that prayer is a powerful and effective way for us to connect with God. If you're anything like us, the biggest obstacles that keep you from praying are difficulty organizing or keeping a list of your prayers, then actually remembering to pray for those things when life gets busy. Echo was created to solve these problems, and to give you space to engage with your Creator.

iOS | Android

If you want an app that not just reminds you to pray but also connects you with a praying community, then you may want to check out this app.

From their website: How many times have you told someone you'd pray for them but never did? With Pray With Me you can see the people you're praying for and the people praying for you all in one place. You can even set up reminders to ensure that in the busyness of life you don't forget those most important to you.

Prayer Notebook
iOS | Android

If you’re looking for an iOS app that will help you keep your prayer life organized, then this app will definitely do the trick. The Prayer Notebook app is a well organized, easy to use, and is nicely designed. 

From their website: Have you ever told someone you would pray for them and forgot? Us too, that's why we made Prayer Notebook. Use it to organize your prayer life and remind you to pray. Prayer Notebook is designed to be your personal prayer assistant.

Prayer Calendar by Voice of the Martyrs
iOS | Android

This app helps Christians remember their persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world, and alerts users to specific requests daily.

From their website: Christians around the world have one primary request: “Please pray for us!” Support the body of Christ through daily prayer for the persecuted Christian church. This free iOS or Android application will help focus your prayer requests and remind you to pray each day.

Praying God’s Word
iOS

This Christian devotional app is the accompaniment to Beth Moore’s bestselling book of the same name.

From the app page: This app includes 30 prayers on the topic of Overcoming Unbelief that accompanies Beth Moore’s best selling book, Praying God’s Word. [. . .] Every Scripture reference is linked to an online edition of the Holman Christian Standard Bible so you may read the referenced verses in context. You can save favorites, email prayers, and tweet or post to Twitter and Facebook.

Every Day Pray
iOS

This app, although a general prayer app, has a unique family/child focus, as it helps remind you and gives you Bible verses and encouragement as you pray for your family and children.

From the app page: You know the power of prayer, and so do we! Every Day Pray is an app designed to help you stay in constant communication with your heavenly Father. The app includes your own prayer journal with the ability to set scheduled prayer reminders

Pray!
iOS

The Pray! app lets you set reminders to notify you of prayer requests. This is a great app if you want to set reminders to pray for someone during their surgery, interview, or at any specific time of day.

From their website: Pray! has been developed by one person to address the need for more efficient management of prayer requests. Despite a love for fountain pens and paper, keeping track of prayer requests on a phone seemed more useful and efficient. Pray! is the result of that thought process.

iOS

If you are one to get distracted or lose focus while praying, Prayer Prompter is the application for you. It prompts topics to pray about (worship, adoration, for your spouse, for yourself, etc.). It gives you passage suggestions to read through and pray back to God. This app is great when you don’t know how to pray. 

From their website: Prayer Prompter has been designed to enrich your prayer time by providing an easy way to read and reflect on key passages of Scripture and return to them on a regular basis. The first few folders in the top drawer are organized according to the popularACTS method of prayer. The letters, A-C-T-S, stand forAdoration or Worship and Praise, Confession which includes Repentance and Forgiveness, Thanksgiving or the expression of Gratitude to God, and Supplication which means Petition, Intercession or Requests.

iOS

Using this app will require you to create an account but it will give you an opportunity to pray for people you follow, global requests, or group requests. This is a very interactive app. When a request comes up, you can select “PRAY” to notify that person that you prayed. You can also send them a message of encouragement. The best feature of this app is the “GROUP” setting. You can create your own private group to share with your small group, church, or family and share prayers and updates instantly.

From the app page: Ask for prayers, love and support safely! Help and encourage others! Connect with trusted and genuine people! Pray in small, private groups or with the whole world! Engage in meaningful conversations, follow users that you care for or join groups that are of interest to you.
Join Instapray today and help us make the world a better place!

Windows

From the app page: The Prayer Journal is a great companion for starting your day out each morning. You will see an inspirational piece of scripture displayed against a stunning background. Your prayer list is saved and can be pulled up at a moment's notice.

Windows

From the app page: If you attend a small group there’s always a time at the end where they gather prayer requests. Or your friend will mention a prayer request. Or there are things going on in your life that you need to pray for. What do you do with these. Normally we just try to remember or they end up on loose pieces of paper that despite our best efforts get lost or forgotten. This app gives you a place to record the prayer requests and answers to prayer.

Merry Christmas - The Story Told In Video And Graphics

Merry Christmas from Ministry Best Practices. As we celebrate this day with our families, we wanted to share with you a video and some graphics that may be a blessing to you and to your friends and family.

Below is another great video from Dan Stevers that communicates all you need to know about Christmas "in a nutshell".


Also, below is a collection of graphics and illustrations that communicate in creative ways the message of Christmas, particularly the message that Jesus came for a mission...to be our redeemer by dying on the cross for our sins and giving us new life through His resurrection.







Jesus Is The True And Better



This is a video that's been out there for a couple of years, but just saw it recently as it was played at a Christmas concert at my church. Seeing it again reminded me, especially during this Christmas season, of how Jesus' coming is the perfect culmination and fulfillment of all that has come before.

from Dan Stevers:

In 2013 I heard a talk from Tim Keller that changed the way I read the Bible, specifically the Old Testament, and I knew I had to share it. The idea of seeing Christ throughout the Old Testament was a revelation for me that changed the way I view the Bible's stories and characters.

After months of working on this project with some truly talented people I am thrilled to present "True and Better". May it help you to see Christ throughout the entire Bible and may it change your life like it has mine.

 

The Big List Of The Best Bible Apps



Looking for some apps and tools to study the scriptures...check out this roundup of some of the more helpful tools available.

The Bible App by YouVersion
iOS | Android | Web | Desktop

This is one of the most popular of the Bible apps. YouVersion’s app has been downloaded well over 100 million times. It’s quick, free, and probably the Bible app your friends use.

From their website: Our focus remains on relevancy as we consistently strive to demonstrate and teach people how God’s Word relates to everyone, no matter where they are in life. [. . .] We aren’t just building a tool to impact the world using innovative technology, more importantly, we are engaging people into relationships with God as they discover the relevance the Bible has for their lives.

Web | Desktop

STEP stands for Scripture Tools for Every Person. STEP is a project from Tyndale House in the UK. The STEP Bible study tool has a full resource of Bible and language tools and allow for in depth study across a wide variety of different Bible translations.

From their website: STEP Bible is packed full of features to help people study the Bible text, from reading and comparing different versions of the Bible to grappling with original language words, through using word clouds to track themes as they unfold in a book, STEP Bible can assist.

Bible.is
iOS | Android | Web

This family of Christian apps feature text, audio, and video Bibles in 1600+ languages (including multiple international sign languages). According to their site, Bible.is has the world’s largest Bible language library.

From their website: Together with the ministry of Faith Comes By Hearing, Bible.is provides a vast library of Bible translations to bring God’s church together making disciples from every nation, tribe, language, and people with the tools and technology of today.

Bible Gateway
iOS | Android | Web

If you Google any Bible reference, there’s a good chance Bible Gateway is your #1 result. But they’re more than an online Bible reader: they have mobile apps and lots of supplementary resources.

From their website: Bible Gateway is your rich social and personal connection to freely read, research, and reference Scripture on your desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone . . . anywhere; in more than 70 languages and more than 180 versions! Its simple yet advanced searching capabilities allow you to quickly find and compare particular passages in multiple Bible translations based on the keywords, phrases, topics, or Scripture references you have in mind.

Olive Tree
iOS | Android | Web | Desktop

The Bible Study App by Olive Tree is a widely-used tool for Christians who like to dig around while they’re reading the Bible. Plus, John Piper has said it’s his go-to Bible app.

From their app page: Over 4 million people on 6 continents use ‘The Bible Study App’ to read and study God’s Word! This Bible app is more than just an e-reader, ‘The Bible Study App’ links your Bible reading with outstanding commentaries, maps, and dictionaries for an in-depth study experience. You can take notes, highlight verses, bookmark passages, and sync all of these things between different devices. Install now to explore over 100 free downloadable resources that make ‘The Bible Study App’ a must have.

Logos Bible Software
iOS | Android | Web | Desktop

Logos Bible Software has been a powerful research library for preachers and seminarians (though they’re becoming more lay-friendly). Their intricate tagging system makes Logos an invaluable tool for hardcore Bible geeks.

From their website: With easy‐to‐use tools and a massive theological library, Logos 6 delivers insight. Pinpoint answers in seconds, study the Word in its cultural context, uncover meaning in the original languages, and answer questions with confidence.

Accordance
iOS | Desktop

Accordance is the elegant Bible scholarship software for savvy readers and ministers. It focuses on speed, ease of use, and building a specialized library of relevant resources for Christians.

From their website: Your time is valuable, so Bible study software shouldn’t be cumbersome or complicated. Accordance Bible Software places all the tools you need right at your fingertips in one easy to use, lightning-fast interface. And with a host of amazing new features in Accordance 11, going deeper in the study of the scriptures has never been simpler.

e-Sword
iOS | Desktop

It’s the iconic, barebones free Bible study tool. The e-Sword app lets you search and compare various Bible translations, plus some quick original-language lookups (using Strong’s numbers). It’s well past 25 million downloads.

WORDSearch Bible Software
iOS | Android | Desktop

It’s a Bible app that helps Christians search the Word. You can also build out a library of Bibles, commentaries, lessons, maps, and more resources from their store.

From their website: WORDsearch Bible Software, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources, has been a provider of premium Bible study software since 1987. WORDsearch is recognized as the leading Bible software “serving those who preach and teach to change lives.” WORDsearch offers preachers and teachers over 4,500 Bibles and books that make Bible study faster, easier and more enjoyable. The QuickVerse brand is also a part of the WORDsearch family of Bible software.

Bible Web App
Web

This sleek Web app lets you read Bibles, commentaries, and even Greek and Hebrew texts side-by-side. It’s free to access, and its search result graphics are a delightful treat for Christians.

From their website: Online Bible study application with bonus study features for studying Greek and Hebrew. Developed by Digital Bible Society with major contributions from John Dyer and Michael Johnson.

Blue Letter Bible
Web

The Blue Letter Bible has been making the Bible and other reference works free on the Web since 1995. They took the name “Blue Letter Bible” from the fact that way back then, most hyperlinks were blue. Their vision was to link every word of the Bible to supplementary reference works—which would make for a lot of blue letters!

From their website: Blue Letter Bible provides powerful tools for an in-depth study of God’s Word through our free online reference library, with study tools that are grounded in the historical, conservative Christian faith.

An addendum: If you are Windows Phone user, a reader pointed out that there a couple of good options for you as well.

Bible NIV
Daily Bible




Tools For Finding And Creating Illustrated Bible Verses

As a church communicator perhaps you've discovered, as many others have, that a powerful way to make a Bible verse and it's truth memorable is to in fact illustrate it. And now it's easy to find and even create illustrated Bible verses. In the online Bible study tool, Biblia, it will, when applicable show you illustrated depictions of the Bible verse you may have looked up and are studying, such as these examples below. (if you are viewing this in an email and the embedded verses don't display, click to view on the web)





If you want to create your own, there is the  YouVersion app which will allow you to create a verse image straight from the app and even enable you to easily share it with your friends.



Explore and try these options above. They will help you make these and many other verses of Scripture memorable and visually compelling for you and your audience.

#GivingTuesday 2015 Was The Most Successful Yet - Infographic

Giving Hands

Every year on the Tuesday following the Thanksgiving-Cyber Monday shopping period, many people are interested in giving back. To focus on that objective, #GivingTuesday was founded in 2012, and it has grown more popular each year.

This year, participants managed to raise almost triple the amount of money raised last year, bringing in more than $116.7 million, with more than 1.08 million donations from 698,961 donors.

Did you ministry participate in #GivingTuesday? Why or why not? Did you receive a good response from donors?

BTW, if you haven't had a chance to give - go to Ministry Best Practices' #GivingTuesday partner - CMDA Atlanta and give a gift of hope and healing today - GIVE HOPE & HEALING


The Shocking Truth On How Churches Communicate

Big Church
How churches communicate based on their size may surprise you. You may be thinking the larger the better, but is that notion really true?

The Unstuck Group dug a little deeper to find the differences of church communication between small and large churches. Small churches being those with 1-499 and large churches being those with over 500.

Look at the infographic below and see if any of the winners in the side by side comparisons surprise you? How does your church stack up?

Can We Really Trust That This Common Productivity Hack Works?








“You can do two things at once, but you can't focus effectively on two things at once.”

“Juggling is an illusion. ... In reality, the balls are being independently caught and thrown in rapid succession. ... It is actually task switching.”

- Gary Keller - The One Thing

I just finished was Gary Keller's book called The One Thing - a must read book for any leader.  This book, as well as other experts and proven research have put to rest the myth that multi-tasking works - yet there are still too many people who are bragging that they do it, and believe that it actually helps them.

Before you pick up a copy of Keller's book, here are some key insights from the book
  • Extraordinary results are determined by how narrow you can make your focus
  • Do fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects
  • Small dominos can topple much larger dominos; stack them right
  • Success is built sequentially
  • The six lies between you and success: Everything matters equally, multitasking, a disciplined life, willpower is always on will-call, a balanced life, and big is bad
  • Multi-tasking is a lie
  • It takes 66 days to create a habit
  • Become a person of powerful habits
  • How we phrase questions we ask ourselves determines the answers that eventually become our life
  • Connecting purpose, priority, and productivity determines how high above the rest successful individuals and profitable businesses rise
  • Purpose without priority is powerless
  • Resting is as important as working
Below is an helpful infographic that doubles down on the futility of multi-tasking.

Here are three key points from the infographic below to help you stop multitasking and be more effective:
  • People don’t multitask, they switch tasks, which with the starting and stopping, make it 4x longer for your work and can have 40% more mental blocks. Therefore much work time is actually lost! 
  • The best way to be more effective is to reduce the attempts at multitasking. Decide what is most important and do it first. 
  • According to the infographic, when you have better prioritization, you can have lead status (insert here: time with congregants), more revenue (insert here: time for better tithing options) more conversion rates (insert here: time responding to emails and contacting community members).















































































































(ht: Churchmag)

10 Facts About The Great Commission

The Great Commission
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. 
(Matthew 28:19–20)
We hear the Great Commission from the gospel of Matthew mentioned quite often, yet for most the main takeaway is to "GO". But this conversation between Jesus and his disciples is jam-packed with other interesting and important things to know. Here are the 10 facts I wish everyone knew about the Great Commission.



(ht: Churchmag)

Are You Leveraging The Power Of Online Giving?

Online Giving
If you have been paying attention these last couple of years, you've probably noticed that online giving has seen phenomenal growth.

 Is your church or ministry offering online giving? Is online giving easy and seamless to your constituents? Are you offering more than just a "donate button" but also providing text to give and mobile app options too?

In the infographic below is a closer look at both the how and why of online giving growth.



(ht: ChurchMag)

How Not To Make Disciples


Want to know how NOT to make disciples? In this humorous and insightful 2 minute video clip from the Verge Conference, Francis Chan begins to answer the question, “How can we make true disciples of Jesus?”


(ht: Verge)

Explore The Narrative Of The Bible Through Video

Bible project
Are you familiar with the Bible Project? If not, you need to be, they are doing some great work. They are a group of people committed to creating free videos and resources that explore the narrative of the bible. There videos are not just a great resources for your own personal study, but would be great for any Sunday School or Bible Study group too. Check out the video below, and more from them on their website.
 

Give The Gift Of Hope And Healing

Ministry Best Practices is proud to be a part of #GivingTuesday today and to support Christian Medical and Dental Associations of Atlanta (CMDA Atlanta).

CMDA Atlanta is a movement and ministry dedicated to seeing people's lives transformed through providing needed medical care alongside the hope of the gospel. CMDA Atlanta is impacting the world with the gospel through the care and compassion of medicine.

Please watch the video and see the infographic below - both illustrate the need we are meeting and the scope and impact that CMDA Atlanta is having. It also shows how you can help and be a part of this life changing work and ministry. If everyone just gave something, whatever they were able, we could, through this movement and ministry, easily reach the need in making a significant impact in transforming lives with the power of the Gospel through medicine.  Thanks for your prayerful consideration for this ministry during #GivingTuesday

Go to www.CMDAatlanta.org/donate to learn more.


This infographic below also illustrates the impact you can make through this ministry.


The Blessing Of The Advent Season

Season of Advent


Tomorrow is the first Sunday in Advent and the beginning of the advent season. Perhaps you are not that familiar with Advent, let me have pastor and theologian 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.

Great readings for your celebration of Advent:

Five Critical Keys To Casting A Clear Vision

Casting Clear Vision
excerpted from Mike Riggins and Support Raising Solutions:

How clear is your ministry vision? Is it 20:20? Or is it closer to 20:200?! The most important piece of our support raising is the crystal clear sharing of our ministry vision with our prospective donors. Here are five keys that will bring much needed clarity to your primary role in support raising—that of being a vision caster:

Results, not strategies, speak to people’s hearts! It is easy to talk about all our grand ministry schemes and ideas, but lose sight of actual results. Changed lives are what really matter to our prospective partners! Yes, vision casting is about painting a picture of a preferred future, but make sure you also include the stories of lives already touched for the sake of eternity. Remember—you don’t take God anywhere. He is already at work touching lives and drawing them to Himself long before you ever arrive on the scene! So make sure you are telling about the work the Lord is already doing. It will validate your vision when you can show your prospective partners it is God Himself who is at work.

Leave the ministry language at home! Most of us hold tightly to our ministry lingo, like: “Unengaged People Groups,” “Missio Dei,” or “Urban Plunge.” Not only do these cool phrases take a lot of time to explain in your support appointments, but they can leave your prospective partner feeling like an alien on another planet, an outsider that just can’t quite connect. Do the difficult work of making your presentation easy to understand and embrace. Vision casting is simply building a verbal bridge that spans from where they live life to where God has you.

Leave room in the vision for them!Make it clear there is need and space for the involvement of others in your ministry. For your prospective partner to truly engage with you, you must mentally and emotionally help them cross the bridge you create for them. Your vision can either give them a clear incentive to make that journey or it can leave them feeling stranded as a spectator on the other side. Invite them in a clear and compelling way to be a part of fulfilling your vision in more ways than just their checkbook.

Don’t talk as if your thing is the only thing!Because of the strength of our calling and the passion God has given us for it, sometimes it is easy to talk as if our vision is the only thing God is doing and the only thing people should be giving to. Shane Bennett, editor of the Mission Catalyst, writes that some missionaries arrogantly describe their ministry as if “God has given up on alternatives and that their thing is it!” He encourages workers to instead communicate that their ministry is “a good one on a table full of good ones.” The Lord is working through others just like you all across the planet to bring people from every tongue and tribe to Himself. Passionately cast a compelling vision for your work in such a way that invites the participation of others, but make sure you don’t convey that the hand of God is solely on you and your ministry!

The focus shouldn’t be on you! The central figure in your vision should be God and his redemptive activity, not you! A natural tendency is to see ourselves right in the middle of everything involved with the vision we are casting. Recently, during my commute home, I had a person tailgating me and I was constantly keeping a view on him in my rear-view mirror. Not only did they stay right on my tail, they were swerving back and forth too. Thus, I had to keep adjusting my viewing angle back and forth to see them. But as I strained to keep them in view, all I saw in my mirror at times…was my fat face! Casting our vision to others can be just like that. We must be careful or we end up seeing too much of ourselves and what we’re doing in the picture and not enough focus on what God is doing to fulfill the vision. Keep in mind it is His ministry and He has graciously invited you to participate—not the other way around!

(ht: Support Raising Solutions)

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

Jordan's Song



We wanted to bless you today with beautiful and moving song composed and performed by 92 Keys called Jordan's Song. Jordan’s Song is in memory of Jordan Zappia who died unexpectedly at 16 months and is dedicated to all families who have lost a child. Jordan’s Song is an original composition created by 92 Keys and filmed in Boise, Idaho. You can read more about the song, story and project HERE on their website.

How Do Pastors Feel About Their Job?


excerpted from Christianity Today:

Though pastors are stressed by overwhelming ministry demands and low salaries, only one percent abandon the pulpit each year.

In a first-of-its-kind study, LifeWay Research surveyed 1,500 pastors of evangelical and historically black churches and found an estimated 13 percent of senior pastors in 2005 had left the pastorate 10 years later for reasons other than death or retirement.

"Pastors are not leaving the ministry in droves," said vice president Scott McConnell.

Still, pastors say the role can be tough:
  • 84 percent say they're on call 24 hours a day.
  • 80 percent expect conflict in their church.
  • 54 percent find the role of pastor frequently overwhelming.
  • 53 percent are often concerned about their family's financial security.
  • 48 percent often feel the demands of ministry are more than they can handle.
  • 21 percent say their church has unrealistic expectations of them.

"This is a brutal job," McConnell said. "The problem isn't that pastors are quitting—the problem is that pastors have a challenging work environment.

"Churches ought to be concerned, and they ought to be doing what they can."

Here are some fascinating infographics and statistics from that report. 





Read the entire report overview HERE

Christian Universities In America - Infographic



The United States has a long history with Christian universities. Let’s take a closer look at the history behind and the current state of private, Christian colleges in the U.S.


Strange Glory - A Life Of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of the most fascinating and engaging person of faith from the 20th century. Not only is his life and story intriguing, but his theological writings are compelling as well  (Life Together, The Cost of Discipleship). Bonhoeffer left a tremendous legacy behind, that the church and His people, including myself, are still benefiting and being blessed by today.

If is for those reasons that I was so excited to be able to read Charles Marsh's biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Strange Glory. Marsh is a professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia and and director of the Project on Lived Theology.

Of course as I read Marsh's book - I couldn't help but have in the forefront of my mind one of my favorite books, Eric Metaxas' account of the life of Bonhoeffer. Yet due to Marsh's strong research skills and attention to details, he does a great job in distinguishing his account of Bonhoeffer's life from other well known biographies. 

In Strange Glory, Marsh takes the time to engage and explain the complex theological issues that shaped Bonhoeffer and the issues that he confronted. Also Marsh's portrayal of Bonhoeffer is not a flat and two dimensional account, rather Marsh is willing to illustrate and paint a vivid picture of Bonhoeffer's emotional complexity. Another positive and enduring feature of Strange Glory is also Marsh's willingness to go into detail concerning the dissidence and conflict that Bonhoeffer faced between his pacifism and his actions to kill Hitler.

Marsh's book is definitely a worthy account of a man that was - and continues to remain - a giant of Christian faith and thought.

Disclaimer, I received a promotional copy of Strange Glory in exchange for writing an objective review of the book.


4 Reasons You Need To Re-think Your Coffee Consumption




It’s complicated.

No, not my relationship status. I’ve been (very) happily married for 17 years.

With coffee. Or, more accurately, caffeine.

On the one hand, I love coffee. The different varieties and their subtle differences. The taste. I even roast my own and love geeking out on all the best equipment. (That I can afford, anyway). Nothing wrong with all that.

On the other hand, sometimes I’m not sure who’s in charge. I’ve had headaches and gotten grouchy when I don’t get my morning joe. I’ve been late to meetings - and even church - in an effort to fit it in.

Maybe your relationship with coffee is complicated, too. Let’s talk about 4 reasons why it’s critical for us, especially as ministry leaders, to consume our coffee (or anything caffeinated) thoughtfully and responsibly.

[I’ve included some simple ways to break free from our caffeine addiction - without giving up coffee - in this short (and free) download].

What’s At Stake

As disciples of Christ, our entire lives belong to him. Our bodies and coffee included. So there’s more at stake than you might think.

1. Your health is at stake. I’m not cracking down so much on the amount of caffeine you consume. Experts seem to think that adults can safely enjoy up to 400 milligrams each day, roughly equivalent to 4 brewed (8 ounce) cups of coffee. The bigger concern here is that, as busy ministry leaders, we can push and push. And push. We can skimp on the 7-8 hours of sleep we need every night, do too much, and use caffeine to top off our (empty) tanks.

2. Your credibility is at stake. The people we serve rightly expect us to live lives of greater integrity than the average Christian. Paul said, for example, that ‘every athlete exercises self-control in all things… but I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified’. (1 Corinthians 9:27) If he didn’t exercise self-control, he couldn’t ask others to listen to what he taught. Neither can you. If caffeine owns us, how can we encourage others to be owned by God?

3. Your fruitfulness in ministry is at stake. If you’re like me, you got into ministry because you wanted to change the world for God. The results are up to God, but we should expect to see some fruitfulness from our efforts, right? John the Baptist told his listeners, for example, to ‘bear fruit in keeping with repentance… every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire’. (John 3:8,10) But if people don't respect us, they won't listen to us, and the fruit of our ministry is in jeopardy.

4. Your relationship with God is at stake. I know, I know - it sounds like I’m being dramatic. I’m not… suggesting that your salvation is at stake. God’s got that, regardless of how much we fail (see Romans 8:28).

But the quality of our relationship with God is related to the choices we make, just load in any relationship. If we’re routinely missing out on sleep in an effort to accomplish more, for example, that’s a deeply spiritual, gospel issue.

As ministry leaders, we can be a lot like much of professional, corporate America, relying on what we do to find our value. Instead of what God has done once and forever in Christ on our behalf. ‘He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior’ (Titus 3:5-6).

This is the heart of the Christian life. If there’s one thing we - and the people we serve - need to get and grow into - it’s this. With God’s help, we’ve got to lead out here. And not just in theory (I believe this), but in practice (I believe this and show it by the way I live it out, however imperfectly).

With God’s help, we can. There's way too much at stake to let coffee get in the way.

Let’s live it out: Describe your relationship with caffeine. If ‘it’s complicated’, in what ways could it be more healthy?

Bryan Stoudt is a pastor in Philadelphia, and blogs about learning to follow Jesus in a noisy, broken world at bryanstoudt.com. He is absolutely crazy about all things coffee. If you want 8 simple tips about reconsidering your relationship with caffeine, you can get them with this short (and free) download bonus.

Photo Credit: Noelle Buske via Compfight cc

A Must Read For Those In Ministry

Dangerous Calling
There are few books that I would insist are must reads for those in - or going into  - vocational ministry - but Dangerous Calling is one such book.

Here are some reviews:

“Few would regard a pastor’s role as a dangerous calling, but few people are as qualified and insightful as Paul Tripp to penetrate the snares and potential pitfalls associated with pastoral ministry. Fewer still would prescribe such gospel based and local church rooted remedies. This excellent volume should be read, re-read & applied.”
—Terry Virgo, founder, Newfrontiers

“Dangerous Calling is a dangerous book to read. It is also a book every person in ministry should read. It will cut you to the heart and bring massive conviction if you read it with a humility and ask God to expose sins deeply hidden in your soul. It cuts, but it also provides biblical remedies for healing. I would love to put this book in the hand of every seminarian who walks on my campus.”
—Daniel L. Akin, President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary


You can read a sample chapter HERE

You can buy the book HERE

5 Barriers To Your Church's Growth

Here is a list of the classic growth barriers every church will or is currently facing.  Under each is a quick summary of Nelson Searcy’s thoughts on each.

Space
  • When a room reaches 70% of its seating capacity, it’s full.
  • Most churches face growth barriers when attendance reaches 65, 125, 250, 500, and 1,000.
  • It is better to grow to 300 or 400 before starting a second service.
Self-Development
  • If the church leaders have stopped maturing spiritually and progressing personally, the congregation is not far behind.
  • Warning signs include stale sermons, the congregation’s passion waning, and the halt of staff and church growth.
Sharing
  • Churches stop growing when they become inwardly (instead of outwardly) focused.
  • Healthy churches should have a 5:100 ratio of first-time guests.
Weekly Worship Service
  • To keep your service strong, always try to look like a church twice your size.
Staff
  • Hiring staff is truly a faith issue. Many pastors want to put off staff hires until they have the money in place to support the positions. Sounds like a practical plan, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work. You will never have enough money in advance to hire the staff you need.
Read the entire article HERE

4 Facts About Seminary Debt

Student Debt
Being called into vocational ministry and going to seminary to prepare for that call can be a wonderful blessing. I have fond memories of my time in seminary. Yet there is another side to the coin - the cost of seminary and the mountain of debt that a student can incur to finish seminary. If you are a student considering seminary (or know someone who is) here are 4 important facts to be aware of.

1. A majority of seminary students will take on debt
2. Seminary students already bring lots of debt with them from the undergraduate education
3. There is a lot of regret with seminary grads in regard to their debt and what they didn't know
4. Ministry jobs don't pay enough to adequately repay that debt

None of these facts alone should dissuade you from going to seminary, but you should at least be aware of the financial issues and count the cost (literally!)





(ht: Seminary Scholarships)

Want To Create Awesome Visual Content For Social Media?

Visual Content
You probably are well aware that using eye-popping visual content for your church/ministry on social media channels increases engagement with your audience tremendously. If you have any doubts, look at these statistics below. According to HubSpot:

  • Facebook posts that feature photos account for 87% of interactions on the site. (Source: eMarketer)
  • Tweets with images receive 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites, and 150% more retweets than those without. (Source: Buffer)
  • Even tweets that only have a link to a photo or video receive a boost in retweets averaging 35% and 28%, respectively. (Source: Twitter)
  • In 2014, 70% of marketers planned to increase their use of original visual assets like infographics and memes. Visual content also ranked first among content types marketers want to learn more about. (Source: Social Media Examiner)
Of course the key to designing and sharing great visual content is knowing the appropriate dimensions necessary for each individual social media site (btw, Canva.com does a great job in helping you keep to the necessary image sizes)

Below is a helpful infographic which outlines the various social media image sizes.

(ht: Canva.com)