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.

Seven Things I Learned Writing With Gary Smalley

guest post by Mike Loomis:

I couldn’t believe my ears.

“Would you be interested in helping Gary Smalley on his next book?”
“Um, yeah!” was my reply. As soon as I hung up the phone, mild panic set in…

Dr. Gary Smalley sold tens of millions of books and videos. He was an internationally recognized expert on the topic of relationships. He took a Christian worldview to a mainstream audience. What would writing for him be like?

Last week, I learned that Gary passed away.

As a tribute, here are seven things I learned from the process of writing with him. It was a true honor.

1. You don’t have to be a “gifted” writer to reach millions with your books. Gary was very open about his strengths, and completely comfortable with his non-strengths. In fact, he struggled as a student. Later he realized his “7th-Grade reading level” made his book relatable to more people.

2. You must enjoy the planning process – before one word is put on a page. In fact, he mentioned that the pre-writing meetings were his favorite part of the process. Honestly, we could have met together for a month. And I would have enjoyed every minute.

3. When you live what you teach, writing a book is a natural outflow – not a chore. I had the honor of meeting with some of Gary’s kids and grandkids. We shared meals together. He was the same man in every situation.

4. You must take chances with your writing. Honesty is scary. But honesty helps people.

5. A book should be an experience, not just a “read.” Every page, every sentence, must help the reader think and feel. I remember this charge from Gary in our first meeting. “I hope we can make people laugh and cry in every chapter.” I turned very pale after that statement. Holy cats – Is that even possible?!

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Gary learned to ask questions throughout his career. You don’t have to be “the expert” – you simply have to love people.

7. Start where you are. Most people assume Gary Smalley set out to be an internationally known author and speaker. In fact, he began his career researching relationships while he was leading a small group of college students in Waco, TX. Gary wasn’t enamored with books, he simply saw them as a tool to reach people’s hearts.

Most importantly, as Gary often said, “Life is relationships. The rest is just details.” (Click to Tweet)

LINK for his book:

Mike Loomis helps people launch their dream projects and books. Since starting and selling two businesses, hes strategic partner to bestselling authors, non-profits, publishers as well as startups, and aspiring messengers. He and his wife live in the mountains of Colorado with their pet moose.

Two Communication Keys Can Double Your Organization

guest post by Mike Loomis:

Years ago, after selling my second business, I took some time off, painted our house, and volunteered time at our church.

To my surprise, in three months I was the executive pastor, serving 350 people and about seventy-five volunteers!

Two years later, the church attendance doubled to seven hundred. Volunteer involvement doubled as well, despite being a “mobile” church, with three different venues in those two years, and in a city with lots of churches. There were plenty of other challenges as well.

In hindsight, I credit two important elements in the growth of the church. Add these apply to any organization, business, or nonprofit.

1. Tell People Why the Organization Exists

It might sound elementary, but I challenge you to really examine this point for yourself.

Assuming you’re not the only option in a fifty-mile radius, why should people commit to your organization? What does the leadership believe is most important for this community? Communicate this—clearly and often.

One way of looking at this is to be clear on what your organization is not about. In other words, have the courage to be lovingly unapologetic…

“We hope you love our church (or conference, or restaurant, etc.) but here’s what we’re focusing on, and here’s what we’re not so great at - and we’re okay with it!” Just make sure you communicate the “why."

Once you start trying to please everyone, you’ll please no one. As an added bonus, your joy will decrease and your stress will increase!

2. Make Daily Choices Based on Your “Why”

Lack of follow-through is why many savvy employees and potential customers roll their eyes at “Mission Statements.” Face it, these globs of words get stale on a forgotten web page or poster and rarely are used in daily decision making.

Legendary organizational cultures are built by difficult decisions, based on a clear vision. (Click to Tweet)

Every week you’ll be asked about some new “must-do” idea. Most of these suggestions will be terrific—but that’s also why most new businesses, and churches, self-destruct. They try to be all things to all people.

People can sense when an organization is rudderless. How?

They simply look at actions.

In an effort to stay ahead of the competition, my past businesses were always temped to stretch outside our competencies. And the church I helped lead was almost derailed by well-intentioned forays into all kinds of distractions. The amount of effort we expelled, and the amount of pressure we exerted on people, was huge. And fruitless.

And you know what? Few really wanted these programs in the first place, least of all the senior leader.

Say no thanks.

People respect an enterprise that’s clear about their purpose and sticks to their focus. Communities are hungry for dependability and stability. You can’t have positive brand positioning when you’re chasing lots of good ideas at the expense of your great idea.

The best communication is not words anyway, the best communication is action. (Click to Tweet)

People in your organization, and those in your community, will appreciate focused, consistent leadership, where words and actions paint a clear picture.

Why does your organization exist? I challenge you to answer that question, and dare you to stick with the vision on an hourly basis!

Mike Loomis helps people launch their dream projects and books. Since starting and selling two businesses, hes strategic partner to bestselling authors, non-profits, publishers as well as startups, and aspiring messengers. He and his wife live in the mountains of Colorado with their pet moose.

How To Make Meetings Stink Less

Recently Harvard Business School professor Nancy Koehn talked to NPR's Marketplace about ineffective meetings. The estimates she cited include:

- 11 million meetings every day in the U.S.
- That means 4 billion a year.
- Over 50% of people surveyed said that half the meetings they attend are unproductive.
- That’s 2 billion ineffective meetings.

Want more depressing stats? How would you like to throw away $37 billion right in the trash. That's how much unnecessary meetings costs businesses every year according the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. And most meetings, two-thirds of them to be precise, end before decisions are reached.

So how do we make meetings more productive? We are probably never going to eagerly LOVE going to meetings - but there are some things, best practices, we can do to make them stink less. Here are a few:

  • Cancel meetings that you shouldn't have. There are probably a lot of meeting you have scheduled, that don't need to take place. Audit your meetings. Which ones can you stop doing?
  • Start with an agenda. People should never come unprepared or face any surprises when they show up. If there is any preparation that needs to be done, everyone needs to do their homework.
  • Make sure only the people that need to be at the meeting are there. Don't fill the room and meeting with people that have no stake in the issue. Too many meetings are called to just inform people..those are often a waste of time. If people need to be informed, they don't need to be at the meeting, just email them an overview of what was discussed and decided.
  • Start on time/end on time
  • Focus on the topic at hand. Keep the conversations on track. Avoid distractions and diversions.
  • Clear follow-up and action steps are necessary. Everyone must walk out of the room with a clear understanding of who is responsible for what and when does it need to be accomplished. Without clear accountability, any momentum or forward motion from the meeting will be lost. 

How To Get Out From Under The Information Crush

Our lives and ministries are constantly inundated with tons of information, emails, and communication - all finding it's way into multiple, digital inboxes. Communication is coming at us from dozens of different directions. Email inbox. Twitter DMs. LinkedIn Messages. SMS. And the list goes on and on.

Because as ministry leaders we have to face the daily onslaught of information, it is important to remember and apply several key best practices in handling all that information and communication. Here are a couple of thoughts....

First. Try to have all your inboxes flow into to the same place. It is too difficult to keep on top of and always be checking multiple inboxes. Now although I don't always like the idea of having even more email come into my inbox every day, I like the idea, even worse, of having to be on top of multiple inboxes increasing the risk of missing important communication. Therefore, it is nevertheless a good idea to have all your inboxes forward and flow their communication into a single email inbox that you'll be dedicated to checking consistently.

Second. Because you are going to be getting more email, you need to have in place a strict rule and practice to only handle each email once! This is key. You must process and deal with your email instead of letting it loiter and hang around in your inbox. The purpose of your inbox is to be a place to process and deal with email. Email must be acted upon. Here are 6 possible key ACTIONS that each email will fall into.

  • Deter. If the email is unimportant but it keeps finding its way into your inbox, unsubscribe, mark it as spam, or add it to a block list. 
  • Discard. If the email is unimportant and needs no action, go ahead and delete it, just get it out of your inbox. Since most email clients have almost limitless email storage and fantastic search capabilities, it is unlikely you need to discard, but rather the next option will suffice.
  • Drawer. If it’s important information but needs no action, archive it or file it. 
  • Delegate. If it’s important but the email requires the action to be done by someone else, forward it to them. Yet it is important to put the email, delegated task, and open loop in a place that you are able to track and follow up on. I recommend the Active Inbox plug-in for Gmail which does this really well.
  • Do. If it’s important and you can do it in a few minutes, just act on it. Get it done and out of your inbox.
  • Date. If it’s important but you can’t do it now, add it to your calendar. Always add important things to your calendar, not just to a unspecific to-do list.
As you use these 6 D's for processing your inbox, it should help you get out from under the information crush that we all find ourselves fighting against every day.

Everything You Need To Know About The Bible [Infographic]

Studying Jonah? Revelation? Colossians? New Spring Church has a great collection of infographics as part of their Bible Need To Know series. These infographics will help you understand and give you a basic overview of a particular book of the Bible. They don't have an overview of every book in the Bible, but so far they have a pretty good collection. You can check them all out HERE

"Losing Money For Jesus" And Other Bad Ideas

guest post by Aimee Minnich:

I’m blunt and sometimes I want to tell people straight up that I think they have a really bad idea. Mostly I’m able to contain this urge and can find a more polite way to suggest they rethink their plans. But blogging is sort of anonymous and doesn’t require the same sort of delicate communication. So today I will share two bad ideas I’ve heard during this journey with Impact Investing Foundation.

1. “Losing Money for Jesus”

A few months ago, we visited a Christian business leader who had grown tired of supporting various missionary businesses. These missionaries were trained in theology, ministry, and evangelism, not management or finance. They sought the cover of business to gain access to countries unfriendly to Christianity. These groups kept coming back for donation after donation and their enterprises never reached sustainability.

This donor expressed concern that his philanthropy hadn’t accomplished much. He couldn’t point to measurable impact and the constant requests for funding left him feeling a bit used. Worse, he felt a bit insulted that these well-meaning evangelists were abusing the term “business” which to him connotes excellence, discipline, and the pursuit of profit for the sake of fueling generosity.

He declared, “I’m done with this whole “losing money for Jesus” idea.”

Indeed, Impact Investing and Ministry Enterprise (for a refresher on what those terms mean, see this post) must represent the very best of business. The pursuit of social and Kingdom impact cannot be excuses.

Industry-leading strategy, execution, integrity, transparency—these must be the hallmarks of any venture that attempts to impact the world for Christ. No more losing money for Jesus.

2. Assuming passion or vision can atone for a flawed business model

Similar to the first point, if a business model wouldn’t work in a ‘normal’ context, it won’t work just because someone attaches purpose to it. To put it another way, without profit, there will be no impact.

A recent case study in Stanford Social Innovation Review looked at the demise of a philanthro-pub and makes this point very well. The entire article is worth the read, but if you’re short on time, here’s a short excerpt to summarize the important points:

“The biggest misstep that Vilelle and Ratwani [the founders] made was to assume that their mission would sustain them. In fact, they made this assumption explicit in that closing Facebook message: “We knew going in that it was a very difficult industry, but we hoped that the mission behind CAUSE would help carry us to success.”13 Today, the founders of Cause readily note the limitations of that perspective. “You’ve got to put the warm-and-fuzzy side away and make sure that the nuts and bolts are in place, or else you’ll just never achieve the impact that you’re going for,” Vilelle says.”

Great business model with execution + purpose = financial return and accelerated impact

Flawed business model + purpose = going out of business

The lesson for investors: follow the same principles when vetting an impact investment as you would apply to a similarly situated traditional business. Put the potential impact aside and consider the financial merits alone. Is the deal structured well? Can the CEO execute? You get the idea.

The lesson for Ministry Enterprise: Make sure you have operators in place who know how to run the venture. Don’t assume that success running a charity will translate into success running a Ministry Enterprise. Get the education you need or bring in additional team members who can fill in the gaps. See The Profitable Charity for more help on this topic.

Aimee Minnich is a founder of Impact Foundation, facilitating charitable investments in Ministry Enterprises and other impact companies. She was formerly President and General Counsel of National Christian Foundation – Heartland. He’s the author of 'The Profitable Charity.' She and her husband, Marshall have three adorable, high-energy kids.

25 Proven Steps To Beat Porn Addiction

Porn addiction is running rampant - not just in our culture but also throughout the church. And yet too often the church is afraid or relunctant to talk about the issue and problem candidly. Our silence though is helping to breed shame, guilt and creating deeper addiction. There a lot of things we need to consider in helping to address and break porn addiction. Yet one of the first steps in moving forward toward freedom from porn is having intentionality and a plan.

Stop Procrastinating carried out a groundbreaking survey of 2000 men who beat their porn addiction to find out what techniques and strategies really worked. Then they detailed the answers in this infographic below. The survey found that more than 75% of men who adopt a plan will reduce or break their addiction to porn.

So make sure you check out our instructive infographic below. It can really help you to combat your use of porn – it’s backed by evidence and science.

Courtesy of Stop Procrastinating – Guide to beating porn addiction.

What Is Killing Pastors May Surprise You?

Pastors and ministry leaders are under attack. The problem is that it isn't just from angry or abusive people in the pews or from an increasingly hostile culture. Rather the attacks are from their own body and their physical health - and it's killing them.  As it was reported in a recent article by Christianity Today's Leadership Journal - "too many pastors are neglecting their physical health—and it's killing them." This is an epidemic problem stretching across denominational boundaries throughout the country.

For those of us, either in vocational ministry or who volunteer or serve within the church - we pour our lives into ministry and service too often at the neglect and expense of our physical health. I personally struggle with the temptations of vocational ministry in eating everything that's put in front of me (because every ministry meeting, of course, has FOOD and it's typically not healthy!) or getting so busy that I don't think that I have time to exercise.

Ministry Best Practices wants to introduce you to a personal friend of mine, Dr. J. Scott Ries - who is not only a doctor but also a ministry leader within the Christian Medical & Dental Associations. In about a week, he will be opening access to his popular iFactor Health course, but before he does, I want you hear from him about the issue of weight loss and how you can get off the up and down weight rollercoaster and stop investing in the latest fad diet.

Listen to what Dr. J. Scott Ries has to say about the importance and the impact of what he calls the iFACTOR. This is important information for not just ministry leaders, but everyone who wants a healthier future.

(click the picture to watch)

The Necessity Of Pastors Visiting Their Flock


from Martin Holdt:

“I have noted with alarm that in recent years younger ministers do not deem it an essential part of their ministry to visit people in their homes in order to share the Word of God with them, catechise them, talk with them and pray for them.

It seems as if the thought is that the pastor’s principal responsibility of preaching and teaching invalidates the need for visiting the people.

The Lord’s indictment against the shepherds of Israel clearly points to a situation where the people of God were not sought after and visited where they lived: ‘The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them’ (Ezekiel 34:4).

In an average congregation, all the people, members and adherents, may easily be visited over a space of time, and every pastor needs to pursue this objective energetically, heartily and lovingly.”

Your thoughts? Agree? Disagree with Martin's comments?
(ht: Blog of Dan)

Your Website Is Still The Best Way To Communicate [Infographic]

Are you curious how your nonprofit, church or ministry's marketing and outreach compares against other organizations? Which marketing and social media channels are most important to those in the non-profit sector? Do you share the same challenges faced by other organizations?

All of these questions are answered in the Nonprofit Marketing Guides’ 2016 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report. Here are some highlights from the report and the infographic below:
  • Your church and ministry's website is still the most important communications channel. 
  • Facebook, Twitter and YouTube remain the top three social media sites for nonprofits.
  • Your peers in other ministries are posting to Facebook at least once a day.

Overwhelmed By All The Social Media Choices? Here's Some Help!

Perhaps you and your church/ministry are overwhelmed by all the social media choices out there. Where do you start? What is the best use of your time and energy? Certainly not all social media channels are the same. Here are some distinctions and highlights of the big 5 social media platforms.

1. Facebook
Facebook was launched on February 4, 2004, by Mark Zuckerberg. As many are probably aptly aware, Facebook is one of, if not the most, recognizable social networking platform in the world. With over 1.4 billion users around the world, just about everyone you’ve ever known, or will ever know has a profile on this platform.

These Facebook Statistics will blow your mind. Did you know?:
  • People share 1.3 million pieces of content every minute
  • 350 million photos are uploaded each day
  • Facebook adds 8 new users per second, or 7,246 people every 15 minutes
2. Twitter
What started as a microblogging site has now become one of the largest social media platforms. It all started back in March of 2006.

Since then, the site has garnered some impressive numbers:
  • 300 billion tweets have been sent since the site’s beginning
  • Average number of followers is 208
  • Tweets including images have 5 times the engagement
3. Pinterest
This social media platform took off like a rocket, literally almost overnight. Despite behemoths like Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest became the third largest network in the U.S. within two short years!

Check out these Pinterest statistics:
  • Despite the thinking that most Pinterest users are women, 33.3% of all sign-ups are actually men.
  • 75% of time spent on Pinterest is done with a mobile device
  • There are over 100 million active users
4. YouTube
Yes, not everyone always thinks of YouTube in terms of social media, but it certainly is. YouTube began as an idea drummed up by three PayPal employees who wanted a website where they could upload, share, and watch videos. The domain became active in 2005. It’s incredible how far the site has come since then, behind Google, YouTube is the second largest "search engine".

These YouTube numbers are mind-blowing:
  • There are over one billion users on the site.
  • 80% of YouTube’s traffic comes from outside the U.S.
  • YouTube has paid over $1 billion to partners in revenue
5. Instagram
What started as an iOS exclusive app has since become a mobile and internet icon for sharing images (and now video). It’s a relatively young platform with roots dating back to 2010, but it’s already built up some serious statistics:
  • There are 400 million active users per month
  • 51% of users are male, 49% are female
  • 75% of Instagram users are outside the U.S.
Here are some tips on how to integrate social media into the life and fabric of your church and ministry.

1. Consider where you constituents and audience are present and engaged before you decide what social media channels you choose to add. If most of your audience are engaged with Facebook then it makes perfect sense to be active and participate there. Do you work with youth? Then perhaps Instagram is the place to be since it's demographic skews younger. If hardly anyone in your ministry is on Twitter, perhaps it's best to avoid that platform for the time being. It doesn't do you any good to spend a lot of time and energy talking within a certain social media channel if no one you want to be there and listen is NOT there.

2. Consider your objectives and what you desire to accomplish before you dive in. If you are looking to connect and communicate within your own community, Facebook may be just the right platform to connect with your group and tribe. But, if you are looking to network with other ministry and thought leaders, then you'll probably want to consider Twitter, given that it is a powerful place in which to accomplish that goal. 

3. Use tools to strategically help and assist you. There are all kinds of tools to help you manage multiple social media channels such as Buffer and Hootsuite. These tools aggregate all your social media work in one place. And through these tools, you can schedule posts, monitor the conversations and receive great feedback on how others are interacting and sharing your content.

4. Make sure you ask the question, "How does using this particular social media channel improve the quality of ministry and help move the church's objectives forward?" I believe there need to be 3 ROI Quality Goals and Objectives for Social Media in place before you start. You can read more about that in my earlier post HERE

Mission Trips And The Zika Virus

If you lead mission trips and travel for your church or ministry, it is very likely you've already gotten a bunch of questions, and even concern about the Zika Virus. It is important to know how to answer those questions and to answer them with informed and accurate information.

Dr. J. Scott Ries has a great article about the Zika Virus and those considering serving on a mission trip with their church or organization in 2016.

Here is an excerpt:

Do you have plans to go on a mission trip to Central or South America this year?
Me too.

In just a couple of weeks, I will be leading a medical missions team into the heart of Zika infested Central America.

For almost 20 years, I have been working with national partners in several countries, preparing the way for teams to serve and minister to the needs of the poorest of the poor.

But this year, something is different. A new concern has arisen, and mosquito-borne anxiety is sweeping the world.

By some estimates, nearly 2 million Americans are planning to serve on a missions trip of some form this year. If you are one of them, and plan to head to Zika-land this year, you would be wise to stay well informed.

What’s the Big Deal?

Read the rest from Dr. Ries' website HERE

The State Of Spiritual Growth In The Pews


from the Barna Group:

Two thousand years ago, Jesus approached twelve seemingly unsuspecting Galileans and bid them: “Come, follow me.” For the next three years, they walked alongside him as he discipled them. Toward the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus commissioned his disciples to go and do the same—to take the Gospel message to the world and make disciples in all the nations.

The Great Commission is an audacious undertaking, all the more so given the fast and sweeping changes taking place in the broader culture. People are lonelier, more distracted and more tethered to their screens, and searching for meaningful lives. As Christians bring the unchanging message of the Gospel to the world, effective approaches to discipleship become more important, especially in a world that is increasingly polarized around spiritual issues.

So what is the current state of discipleship in the U.S.?
Is the church effective in its efforts? Are churchgoers involved in discipleship activities, and if so, which models do they prefer? And perhaps most importantly, do investments in discipleship actually affect spiritual growth? To answer these questions, Barna Group, commissioned by The Navigators and NavPress, conducted a comprehensive, multi-phase research study among Christian adults, church leaders, exemplar discipleship ministries and Christian educators. Here’s what the research uncovered.

Read the entire report and see the results HERE

Three Types Of Feedback That Leaders Must Offer

There are 3 types of feedback that are important for leaders to give to those in their downline and to their direct reports (these kinds of feedback are also important for the leader to receive as well from those they report to - it works both ways). The 3 types of feedback are:
  • coaching - feedback to help you to improve 
  • evaluative - feedback necessary to determine standing
  • praise - feedback to encourage 
Each type of feedback looks different in how it is offered. Each type of feedback has a specifically desired impact and purpose for those receiving it. In addition, all types of feedback are important and necessary - your feedback communication strategy must be a balanced diet. If all you give is feedback that is filled with praise yet nothing evaluative is ever said, then you aren't truly helping out your direct report, rather you are hiding from them very important information and are stunting their professional and personal growth.

Also, it is important that the sender and receiver both understand what kind of feedback is being given. If there is a feedback communication misunderstanding it can have deleterious implications. For instance, you may think you are giving coaching feedback - yet if the receiver believes they are receiving evaluative feedback they are going to think "am I going to get fired!?". That kind of miscommunication doesn't help.

How Often Should Your Ministry Communicate?

Perhaps as you plan around all your communication channels, your ministry and organization are constantly asking - to what frequency should we be communicating? Of course, the right answer for your organization depends on many factors, your audience, the relationship you have with the people, their expectations, etc...

Yet perhaps you need some averages to use as benchmarks and to start the discussion? Here are the most popular communications frequencies, according to the 2016 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report.

Twitter Updates: Multiple times a day

Facebook Updates: At least once a day

Email Appeals: Quarterly

Email Newsletters: Monthly

Direct Mail Appeals: Twice a Year

Direct Mail Newsletters: Quarterly, assuming you send one. A third of nonprofits won’t send one at all.

(ht: Kivi's Nonprofit Communication Guide)