Some Churches Don’t Need to Change

I gave my life to Christ fifteen years ago in a traditional church in the middle of nowhere. My church experience before that day was limited to say the least. It could be better described as non-existent.

So, I really didn’t know the difference between traditional, contemporary, or modern church. I just knew that I was missing something in my life and that something was Jesus.

Really, at that time the only type of church that existed in my town was the traditional church. And that was fine by me.

They taught me spiritual disciplines, the importance of community, and how to sing the first, second, and fourth stanza of the hymns.

For that, I will be forever grateful.

I visited there recently on a Wednesday night to hear a friend preach. There were around twenty adults there, they didn’t turn all the lights on, and the worship team didn’t bother to show.

My friend did a great job, and I believe God was glorified.

Does this church need to change? Yes and no.

Yes, they need to get better at some of the things they’re already doing.

No, they don’t need to overhaul their entire ministry strategy.

Modern worship and bright lights would hinder this church more than help.

They’re perfectly aligned to reach the people in the community God has placed them in. They just need to improve upon that.

I feel like some of us believe our churches need to do a complete 180 in order to reach our community, when the truth is, we just need to get better at the things we already do.

If you preach, preach with passion and give the audience one thing they can apply to their life each week.

If you sing, sing praises to God and try to keep it in key.

If you serve kids, spend some time praying for those kids each week.

If you’re opening a door for someone, make sure to put a smile on your face and try to remember their name.

Most churches don’t need an overhaul. They just need to be inspired to care.

Did you grow up in church? Has that helped or hindered you in your ministry? Leave a comment and let us know. Also don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

5 Reasons Your Church is Stuck

Statistics have been pretty clear over the years that the percentage of Americans attending church is on the decline. In fact, around 90% of all churches in America are either not growing or declining. Whether these pastors want to admit it or not, they’re stuck.

There are a variety of reasons why this seems to be happening.

Some small town churches have suffered because the people in their communities are moving to bigger cities.

Some of it is because kids activities are now spilling over into Sundays.

Some people are traveling more.

And some people just don’t see the value in attending church anymore.

With all of these reasons, it would be easy to make excuses, and I have been guilty of making some myself.

But the truth is, Pastor, it has a lot more to do with you, and a lot less to do with what’s going on around you.

Here are 5 Reasons Your Church is Stuck.

  1. You Don’t Believe it’s Possible

Again, I have to plead guilty. When you’re doing ministry in a small town, it can be easy to make excuses, but as the saying goes, you can make progress or you can make excuses, but you can’t make both. The truth is if you don’t believe something can happen, you’ll prove it can’t. Many of us have convinced ourselves that growth isn’t possible.

  1. You Refuse to Change Your Structure

Structure is probably the number one reason most churches are stuck. If your church is still allowing everyone to vote on every decision, you’ll never grow past where you are now. Similarly, if you have a board that wants to micromanage instead of oversee the ministry, I hope you’re happy where you are. How you are structured determines how much you can grow.

  1. You’re Keeping People You Should Have Let Go

People who have positions, volunteer or paid, hold influence in your church. The smaller the church, the more influence they will hold. One of the biggest mistakes pastors make is leaving a person in a position they’re not qualified for. You can only extend grace for so long, and then you have to let them go. Otherwise they will poison your church.

  1. You’re Setting the Wrong Type of Goals

Or you’re not setting goals at all, which I think is the case for a lot of churches. The great thing about not having goals is you never fail. The bad thing is you also never win. Goals should be measurable and defined. Also, don’t just concentrate on outcomes like attendance and giving. It’s hard to control those things. Focus on things you can control that will result in the outcomes you’re hoping for.

  1. You Don’t Believe in Yourself

I think all of us lack confidence from time to time. Even the most confident pastors can struggle with anxiety and depression at times. But we should never doubt that Christ is with us and through Him we can do all things. Even those things that seem impossible.

Is your church stuck? If so, what do you think the problem is? Let us know in the comments, and if I can help in anyway please shoot me an email. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get updates on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

The Key to Unlocking Change

Want to know the fastest way to get fired as a pastor? You guessed it, try to change something. Sometimes anything, it could be as simple and silly as changing the carpet, the color of the walls, or how you take up the offering. Initiating change is dangerous, and there will be casualties. Let’s just hope you’re not one of them.

There are lot of pastors and leaders who like to teach on change, but I’ve found there are far fewer who’ve actually lived it.

Until you’ve taken a traditional church and changed everything about it, you don’t truly know the difficulties of change.

Until your life has been threatened by a church board member, you don’t truly know the seriousness of change.

Until you write a blog post that is the subject of an emergency board meeting…well, you get the point.

It’s different hearing it from someone who’s actually gone through it. I’ve gone through it, somehow managed to live to tell about it, and even got a job working at the church after it.

The three steps I’m going to tell you about initiating change I didn’t know about when my church went through it. If I had known about them, I have no doubt that the process would’ve gone smoother. It would’ve taken longer, but it would’ve gone smoother.

The key is to agree. Whoever is in control, whoever makes decisions, whoever has influence, you need them to agree with you in three areas.

  1. Agree on the Goals

If you’re pastoring a church, the main goal should be to see people give their lives to Jesus. That should be pretty easy to agree on, although you may have some people who would argue that the church primarily exists to teach and train those who are already saved. Many insider-focused churches will feel this way. I would disagree. I don’t believe Jesus came so we would know more about the Bible. I believe Jesus came to seek and save those who need a Savior.

  1. Agree on Reality

This can be much more difficult. People will often let their own personal feelings and bias determine reality. This is where you need facts and statistics because facts don’t lie. You may say something like, “You may feel like the church is doing well, but there wasn’t a single salvation last year and we can’t be ok with that.”

  1. Agree on Measurement

Once you agree on what the goals is and what the current reality is, you can now agree on what success looks like for your organization. So, you may say, “Our goal is to see twenty people give their lives to Christ next year.”

Now you have an agreed upon goal that you can measure, and you’ve all agreed that what you’re currently doing isn’t meeting the goal. So, you’ve basically all agreed that something has to change.

In light of our current reality and in light of our goals, we need to do x, y, z in order to meet these goals.

In order for our kids’ ministry to be a place where families want to bring their kids, we need to hire a kids’ pastor.

In order for our student ministry to grow by twenty percent, we need to increase the student ministry budget.

In order for us to better care for our church members who are sick and in the hospital, we need to develop a care team.

The key is to agree because, once you agree on your goals and your reality, you have no choice but to agree that change needs to take place.

What does your church need to agree on this year? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and if you haven’t already make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

6 Ways to Grow as a Leader this Year

Do you have goals for this year? Of course you do, you’re a leader, right? And as a leader one of your top goals should be growing your leadership capacity. But where do you start?

When I began serving in my church ten years ago, I didn’t know anything about leadership. A couple years in, my pastor introduced me to a book called The Creative Leader by Ed Young Jr., and that’s when everything changed. I discovered that I had a gift for church leadership.

Today, there’s a plethora of church leadership resources available, which means that we no longer have an excuse when it comes to growing ourselves as leaders.

Here are 6 Ways to Grow as a Leader this Year.

  1. Read the Bible

The number one source for growing your leadership is often the one most overlooked. The Bible is an incredible resource to learn about leadership. Just think about it, what other book can you learn from incredible leaders like Moses, Joshua, David, Nehemiah, and Esther? The list could go on and on. Ordinary men and women just like you and me who accomplished incredible things. And if that wasn’t enough, you have Jesus, the greatest leader of all time.

  1. Read a Leadership Book

I’ll be honest. I didn’t read as much as I should have last year, so one of my goals this year is to read more. If you’re looking for great leadership material, I would highly suggest picking up a book from John Maxwell, Patrick Lencioni, or Andy Stanley. Looking for more suggestions? You can find them here and here.

  1. Subscribe to some Blogs

This one would be a great place to start, especially if you’re pastoring in a small town. I would also recommend Carey Nieuwhof, Tony Morgan, and Ron Edmondson. Each of these blogs provides great content and give a great opportunity for discussion in the comments section.

  1. Listen to Leadership Podcasts

Are you starting to notice a theme? The amount of content available to grow your leadership is endless. If you’re a better listener than you are a reader, there are some great podcasts available to you. I would start with Andy Stanley’s and Perry Noble’s, and if you’re pastoring in a small town, definitely check out my friend, Jon Sanders.

  1. Hire a Coach

I wasn’t sure about this one until I decided to hire my own executive pastor coach last year. I’m so glad I did. Being able to talk to someone who’s been in your position about ideas, opportunities, and problems is so valuable. If you’re interested in coaching, and you think I could be of help to you, please send me an email through my contact page. I’d love to discuss the opportunity.

  1. Buy a Leader Lunch or Coffee

Maybe you don’t have the budget to hire a coach, but is there someone in your area you could learn from? Offer to take them out for lunch or coffee and pick their brains. You’ll be surprised by how many people would love to share their wisdom with you if you would just ask.

What other ways can you grow your leadership this year? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Top Books of 2016

Each year I release my favorite books that I’ve read. The only problem was this year, I didn’t read enough to have a good list. Feel free to publicly shame me. Leaders are readers, and this year I didn’t read as much as I should have.

Luckily God has blessed me with a network of pastors and leaders who did read this year. So, I asked them to share some of their favorites.

What were your favorite reads of 2016? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church leadership, growth, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Top Posts of 2016

2016 was an incredible year for me. My church launched a second campus, my wife and I celebrated ten years of marriage, and I went to Africa. So forgive me if I’m not quite ready to move onto 2017 just yet.

Before we move forward, let’s take a look back at the Top 10 Posts of 2016.

  1. 4 Types of Pastoral Leadership – What type of pastor are you? Are you a shepherd, teacher, entrepreneur, or administrator?
  1. Talent Isn’t Enough – But if you combine talent with knowledge, work ethic, and character, you have something special.
  1. Confessions of an Adulterous Pastor – An incredible guest post from my friend Jon Sanders, every pastor needs to read.
  1. Planning a Church Service – The basics of what my church service looks like. This is the same plan that grew my church from 70 to 700.
  1. Small Town Church Growth – The post that started it all continues to be one of the top read posts each year.
  1. A Christmas Conundrum – Do you have church on Christmas Sunday? If you cancel does it mean you hate baby Jesus?
  1. 4 Ways to Say I Love My Church – My favorite post I’ve ever written. I’m convinced if Christians would just do these four things our world would be a much better place.
  1. 5 Shots to Revitalize a Dying Church – Is your church stagnant or in decline? This post will give you some ideas on how to turn it around.
  1. The Best and Worst Ways to Recruit Volunteers – Having a hard time recruiting volunteers? We have too, here’s some ideas that my help.
  1. 5 Stages of Church Growth – Conception, baby, child, adult, and senior adult, what stage is your church in?

What was your favorite post of 2016? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church leadership, growth, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Merry Christmas 2016

I just wanted to take a moment to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas. Thank you so much for reading the blog. Each one of you are a gift to me.

I’ll be taking the week after Christmas off to spend some time with the family and work on some new material for 2017, so Happy New Year, and I’ll be back soon.

My 2016 Year in Review

Today, December 22nd, 2016 I turn 36 years old. You don’t have to worry about sending me a card. You can just leave me a comment at the end of this post. Facebook wished me a happy birthday this morning, and they also reminded me to post my Year in Review.

Your Facebook Year in Review is a photo slideshow of different things you have experienced throughout the year. Although they say a picture is a worth a thousand words, I think sometimes it’s just better to write things down. So, I present to you my 2016 Year in Review.

  1. I read through the Bible this year. It wasn’t the first time I’ve done this, but it was the first time in a long time.
  1. I had the opportunity to preach at three great churches: Strong Tower Church, Generation Church, and Refuge Church.
  1. I started praying with my daughters before bed. This was one of the best things I’ve ever done. If you have young children, I highly encourage you to start doing this.
  1. I helped launch a second Strong Tower Church location in Lafayette, Tennessee.
  1. I met Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church, one of my favorite preachers and authors.
  1. I ate my first elk burger on my first trip to Indianapolis, Indiana, while visiting Justin Davis who just launched Hope City Church.
  1. I watched the entire Star Wars Saga for the very first time. I haven’t seen the newest movie yet, but I plan on it.
  1. I went on a family vacation to Santa Rosa Beach, Florida that included my wife’s brothers and sister and their kids.
  1. I went jet skiing for the first time while on a church planters retreat in Savannah, Georgia.
  1. I took my wife to an all-inclusive resort in Cancun, Mexico to celebrate our ten-year anniversary.
  1. I saw two of my favorite artists in concert, Dave Barnes and NeedtoBreathe.
  1. I went on a vision trip to Kenya with Compassion International and started sponsoring my first Compassion child.
  1. I went on my first African Safari where I saw elephants, zebras, giraffes, hippos, crocodiles, lions, and more.
  1. I took dance lessons to celebrate my wife’s 30th
  1. I ran a 5k…ok walked most of it, but still I’m getting older.
  1. I wrote over 100 blog posts.

Looking back over this list I have to say, 2016 has to be one of my best years ever. To say I’ve been blessed is an understatement.

I’m not crazy about getting older, but if I keep having years like this one, I won’t mind nearly as much.

How was your 2016? What were some of the highlights? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. And don’t forget to subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss any of the tips on church growth, leadership, and more I’ll be delivering to your inbox in 2017.

Santa’s Elves

4 Characteristics Santa's Looking For

In the spirit of Christmas, I thought we’d have a little fun on the blog today and ask ourselves what Santa is looking for when he hires an elf. Now, I’m not sure if elves actually go through a hiring process or what they get paid or if they get insurance. All I know is that if you’re making and delivering gifts for every child in the world, you better have some elves you can depend on.

Who knows, maybe there’s even a correlation between what Santa’s looking for when he’s hiring an elf to what other leaders should be looking for when they bring someone onto their team.

After all, Santa’s got a pretty important mission, and so do you. So, you want to make sure you get the right people on your team.

4 Characteristics Santa’s Looking for in an Elf

  1. Passion

Santa needs elves that are passionate about their role. If Herbie doesn’t like to make toys, then Herbie has to go. The mission is too important to assign it to someone who isn’t excited about the work that needs to be done. Santa is looking for elves that bring joy to their workplace and not negativity.

  1. Competent

Passion is great, but it has to be paired with an elf that knows what he or she is doing. It doesn’t matter how excited you are about your job if you stink at it. Santa knows the mission is too critical to give the job to someone who isn’t unqualified. It’s a lesson too many churches have yet to figure out.

  1. Character

Not only does Santa keep a naughty or nice list for every child in the world, I believe he keeps one for each elf. If he has an elf who is coming in to work late, showing up at the mall drunk, or flirting with Santa’s secretary, then that elf has to go.

  1. Fun

When you work at the North Pole, you’re going to be working in close proximity with the other elves, so it helps if you’re fun to be around. No one likes a Negative-Ned, a Complaining-Carol, or a Gossiping-Greg. If you’re fun, people will want to be around you, and the best elves work in teams.

Santa can’t do his job alone, and neither can you. Make sure you’re placing the right people on your team in order to accomplish the mission God has given you.

If you have some people on your team who don’t have these characteristics, this may need to be the year that they get coal in their stocking, if you know what I mean.

What do you think the best part of Santa’s job would be? Is it flying the sleigh? All the free cookies and milk? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below, and make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

2 Simple Steps to Regain Momentum

According to the latest social media posts, 100% of churches are doing great. At least that’s how it can seem. Everyone else’s church is growing, and yours, well, let’s just say it’s a spiritual growth season. All of us, myself included, hate to admit that our church is struggling or that our church has lost momentum. So, too often we go months or even years ignoring the signs that things may be falling apart.

The good news is 99% of the time whatever is going on can be fixed. The bad news is before it can be fixed you have to admit it’s broken.

It could be a system. It could be a ministry. It could be the entire church has just lost the momentum it once had, and you can’t figure out how to get it back.

Hopefully, I can give you some steps to help you regain momentum. But before I do that, let me address where many of you are because I’ve been there.

Many of you are tired and broken. You wouldn’t want to admit it, but many of you have already given up. You’ve resigned yourself to the fact that this is just how it’s always going to be, so what’s the use in trying?

I’m here to tell you, that’s not the case. It can be fixed. It can be everything God intends for it to be, but it’s not going to be a quick fix, and it’s not going to be easy.

So, when you’re done having your pity party, and you’re ready to give it everything you’ve got, I’d love to share with you…

2 Simple Steps to Regain Momentum

  1. Admit You’ve Lost It

What’s the first step in fixing any problem? Admitting you have one, and this is especially tough for pastors and leaders. But as tough as it is, you have to admit it to move forward. Maybe it was caused by a secret sin in your life. Maybe you neglected the simple things like prayer and reading your Bible. Maybe someone you trusted hurt you. Whatever it was, confess it, and move ahead.

  1. Go Back to the Source

Too often the last place we go should have been the place we started. If you’re struggling to find momentum, you need to start by seeking God.

But I have this against you that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Revelation 2:4-5

Forget about church strategy for a while. Forget about the numbers. Forget about all that stuff, and go back to focusing on your relationship with God. He is the source of your passion and purpose, and only He can restore the momentum you once had.

Your relationship with God is only as good as you want it to be, and if you’ve lost momentum, now you know where to find it.

Has there ever been a time in ministry you lost momentum? How did you get it back? I’d love to hear about it, so leave a comment below, and if you haven’t already make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.