Move to Two

As in two services, as quickly as possible. Just not too quickly. Move too quick and you may end up with two mediocre services. You want to avoid that. So, you wait until you’re filling up seventy to eighty percent of the chairs in your auditorium before you make the move.

Moveto2

Not only do you need to pay attention to the number of chairs you’re filling up each week, you also need to get buy in from your key leaders and volunteers.

This was something we failed to do early on in our church. We were packing out our Sunday morning service and we, as in the pastor and a few others, knew we had to add a service. There was only one problem, not everyone wanted to go to two services and that included key members of the worship team.

We added a Saturday night service anyway and added a new worship leader for that service. It certainly wasn’t ideal, and the Saturday service suffered because of it. But it did free up seats on Sunday morning, which was the main goal.

When we were able to move from renting a facility to building one, once again the subject of multiple services was brought up. Some people thought that a new facility and more seats would mean we would go back to one service, however that was never the plan.

Multiple services create multiple benefits that are too good to ignore. For example:

  1. More Times = More Options

The more service times you offer, the more likely people are to show up. When you’re moving to two services, I would suggest you offer an early Sunday morning service for those who like waking up early, and a service following that one for those who like to sleep in a little later. Saturday and Sunday nights can work as well, but I’ve found that services are better when offered in pairs, specifically for the next benefit.

  1. More Times = More Opportunities

Multiple services give people multiple opportunities to serve without having to miss a service. Multiple services eliminate one of the most common reasons people give for not wanting to serve in kids’ ministry. With two services, they can serve in one and sit in the other. It essentially doubles the number of volunteer opportunities at your church, which is a very good thing.

  1. More Times = Less About Me

Perhaps the biggest pushback you’ll get when trying to move to two services is this idea that everyone needs to be in the same service. Moving to two services will cause people to not know everyone who attend the church. This is a good thing because it shows your congregation that it’s not about them; it’s about reaching those who don’t know Christ.

Here’s something else about adding a service: it costs you little to nothing, and yet it can double your effectiveness. Some churches would be wise to shrink their sanctuary down, just so they could add another service.

So, what are you waiting for? This fall would be a great time to add a service. Let me know if I can help.

How many services are you currently offering? What is holding you back from adding another service time? Let me know in the comments below, and let me know if I can help you get started.

Insiders or Outsiders

Who's Your Focus

One of the most important decisions we ever made as a church came very early on. It was a decision that would dictate numerous decisions down the road. The decision was to place our focus on reaching those outside the church, instead of focusing on keeping those inside the church.

Outsider

Many churches think you can do both, you can’t.

Many churches think they’re outsider focused, but they aren’t.

And many churches know they’re insider focused and don’t have any plans to change.

We’ve been at least two out of the three above within the short life of our church. Hopefully, we’ve got it figured out now, although we still can get a little insider focused at times.

So, what’s wrong with focusing on insiders? I mean they’re the ones who serve, give, and show up on Sundays. It makes sense to focus on them, doesn’t it?

In a way, yes, we definitely should appreciate them. However, if we only focus on the insider, we lose our chance to reach those outside the church.

I believe a better option is to teach those inside the church why it’s so important that we reach those outside. I believe this is what Jesus was able to accomplish with his disciples, and I believe when church members get this concept your church has the potential to grow rapidly.

So, how can we accomplish this?

With clever mission statements like “Building believers, and serving seekers”? Absolutely not. (*Disclaimer* We had this clever saying on some early t-shirts.)

We accomplish this by running every decision through a filter. How would this connect with someone outside the church?

You use a filter also. Take a look at these examples and see what side your on.

Sunday School

Inside Focused: It would devastate the older adults if we did away with their Sunday School class, so there’s no way we could ever do that.

Outside Focused: Those with little to no church experience don’t attend Sunday School. They are more likely to attend small gathering in homes. Let’s try offering small groups instead of Sunday School.

Giving

Inside Focused: Attendance declines when we do a giving series, so we stopped doing them and try not to talk about money around here.

Outside Focused: We teach on giving throughout the year letting our church know that their giving changes lives. We also teach people to budget and how to get out of debt.

Music

Inside Focused: We like a good blend of contemporary music mixed with traditional hymns.

Outside Focused: We play the most modern worship music and occasionally try to work in a “secular” song that connects to the message.

Events

Inside Focused: We do a potluck dinner every third Sunday, Vacation Bible School every June, and revival in October.

Outside Focused: We get involved with community events throughout the year and look for areas we can serve others.

You get the idea. It’s pretty easy to see what your focus is when you break it down this way. Focusing on outsiders can get messy, and taking your focus off insiders can lead to complaints. It’s easy to see why some churches stay insider focused and get stuck. But healthy churches know you can only grow when you’re able to convert outsiders to insiders. This only happens by staying outsider focused.

Who does your church focus on? Insiders or outsiders? Let us know in the comments below, and make sure to subscribe to the blog for tips on how to grow your small town church in a big way.

7 Ways to Avoid the Summer Slump

Today, June 20th is the first day of summer. I can barely contain my excitement. It may sound like I’m being facetious, but that’s not the case. After enduring a spring that was filled with dogwood, blackberry, and cotton britches winters, I’m ready for some warmer weather.

SummerSlump

But as the weather heats up, we all know church attendance and giving seem to wither. If we’re not careful this may cause us to wither ourselves. It’s healthy to remember that this is a normal thing, and it shouldn’t be a reason to stress.

Yes, on average your attendance is going to decrease ten to fifteen percent as your congregation goes on vacation this summer. Giving will probably do the same, but hopefully you’ve planned for that. If not, make sure to remember to next year.

This post isn’t about how to keep those things from happening, because let’s face it, unless you’re LifeChurch, the attendance and giving slump is almost inevitable.

No, this post is about how you, personally, can avoid the summer slump, and make the most of your summer. Here are seven ways I believe you can do just that.

  1. Take a Family Vacation – Everyone else is, so you might as well get in on the action. The summer is the perfect time to do this. Line someone else up to preach for you on Sunday, and enjoy the week off with your family. Don’t make the mistake of feeling like the church can’t survive one Sunday without you there.
  1. Rest – Don’t mistake your family vacation for rest. If it’s anything like my family vacations, it can be one of the busiest, most stressful weeks of the year. Take a few days off during the summer to rest, relax, and recharge. Your physical body, as well as your church body, will thank you for it as you come back healthier and more energetic.
  1. Have Fun – Four or five times this summer, just go and do something fun. For you this may be a day of fishing, a day on the golf course, or a night out at the drive-in. The goal is just to enjoy life.
  1. Read – Pick up a book or two you can read through this summer. You can keep it fun and light, or read something you could use in a future sermon series. Here are a few of my favorite reads if you need some ideas.
  1. Evaluate – What’s working so far this year? What isn’t? Are you where you’d thought you’d be? What needs to change? What can you do better?
  1. Plan – What do you hope to accomplish in the fall? Now is the time to put a plan in place. What’s the focus? What’s the priority? Write down the action steps that it will take to get there.
  1. Pray – For yourself, your family, and your ministry. Be open and honest with God, telling Him your hopes and dreams for the future. Write down your prayers so that you can look back on them and see all that God has accomplished in your life.

Just because the summer is slumping doesn’t mean you have to be. Summer can be the most productive season of your year if you play your cards right. A summer done well can turn a summer slump into a fall bump. I hope that’s the case for you.

What’s your focus during the summer? Are you fighting the slump or embracing it? Let us know in the comments below, and as always, make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, strategy, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Connecting Men to the Church

Guest Post: Gary Miller

ManSleeping

Over the past 13 years, (8 full-time) I have traveled and spoken to men’s groups throughout much of the nation. I do a ministry called Outdoor Truths. It started through an article that I began writing to newspapers. The article spread and eventually churches started asking me to come and speak at their men’s events. These events were mostly geared to hunters and fishermen and were designed for evangelistic results. I would have never thought that I would have become an evangelist to outdoorsmen. This was so far from what I thought my giftedness was – especially after pastoring one church for over 15 years at that time. Not only did I see results that only God could have brought, but I began to learn something about men that has literally changed my life. And after having garnered a big enough sample size, I begin to be able to help churches design effective evangelistic outdoor events and I was also better able to understand the faithful Christian man and what many of us pastors and churches have done to limit his Christian effectiveness. This also helped me to see why, as David Murrow wrote, “Men hate going to church.”

Even though I still do this ministry, I am also the pastor of a little church plant that is just over one year old. Our average attendance since January is 160 people. PTL! We are terrible at most things. I am the most reluctant pastor they could have for lots of reasons. I look up to and want to learn from you who are having so many successes. I hope to be there one day. I am however thankful for the men at my church. Many of them are young adults with children who had either stepped away from church or had never gone before.

With this in mind, let me give you some things I have learned and humbly suggest for a pastor who wants to connect with men.

  1. Be a man in the pulpit.

That doesn’t mean that you have to like to hunt or fish, but it does mean that you like to beat other people at golf or tennis or basketball, and talk trash while you do it. It’s just what we do and it’s okay.

  1. Be real

Men want a friend not a pastor. Don’t try to be hip or relevant. You will be if you are real. They want to see your humanity. Whatever you dress like on a regular weekday, do so on Sunday.

  1. Sometimes on Sunday talk directly to the men.

Say things like “Ladies, you can check Facebook a minute while I talk to the men.” That way if you want to say “kill a deer” or talk about NASCAR, you can.

  1. Stay away from “churchy” words as much as possible.

Unchurched men don’t know any of them and your churched men never use them around their unchurched friends. Any time you can use a common word to replace a church word, do it.

  1. Don’t emasculate men by telling them to be safe and predictable.

If you do they will be confused when you ask them later to step out in faith to build a building you have no money for.

  1. Don’t beg men. It embarrasses them.

My neighbor is 29 years old and is unchurched. He has had four tours in Iraq in the Army. His superiors have never begged him to do anything and he has never begged another man to do something as well. That means when you sing 64 verses of Just as I Am, and beg him to come to the altar, he feels that you are less than a man.

  1. Don’t challenge men. It insults their intelligence.

Your locker room speech says to them that you think you can stir them to action by some emotional tirade. As you know, most men are not very emotional. Passionate, yes! Emotional, no. Instead talk to them from the heart about what it means to walk by faith. They will resonate with that because that is how God made men. Faith is risky and adventurous. It doesn’t scream success, it screams failure. It reminds us of terrible odds and unlikely victories. Men thrive when the odds are against them.

  1. Make Sunday look like Saturday.

Recently I was in one town getting ready to speak on a Saturday night. I was standing in the back of a full auditorium. I noticed the men who were there. They sat in the same pews that others would sit in that next morning; except this night they were sitting there dressed in blue jeans and wearing their favorite hat. They were perfectly comfortable. Many times pastors are confused as to why they can get men to their event on Saturday night but not on a Sunday morning. I think one answer is this. When Sunday morning looks like Saturday night, men will come.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about being crude, rude, or ill-mannered. I can’t stand a man who is not kind, considerate, and humble. I am also not talking about forgetting about the women. What I am talking about is bringing the balance back that we have lost over the years.

Gary pastored one church in a small town in Tennessee for over 18 years. It grew from a small, very traditional church to a contemporary congregation with several hundred in attendance each week. For the past 13 years he has led Outdoor Truths Ministries. Through that ministry he writes for approximately 70 publications each week, speaks at wild-game dinners, and men’s conferences. For just over one year he has been the lead pastor of a new church plant in Kentucky, Locus Church. He holds a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies from Liberty University and a Master’s Degree in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Gary is married to Teresa and they have 3 children and 3 grandchildren.

Ten Traits of Great Team Members

Over the past five years, I’ve been able to work with an incredible church staff, the majority of whom I’ve hired. I wish I could say I have a knack for picking quality talent, but truth be told, it’s probably more luck than skill.

TeamMembers

I have learned some things along the way though, specifically the traits I’d look for when making my next hire. I’ve narrowed them down to my top ten.

  1. Passion – I want them to be passionate about God, their family, and their church. If passion doesn’t exist in any one of those areas of their life, I don’t need them on my team.
  1. Positive Attitude – There’s enough negative people in the world, why would I want to add one to my team? Things aren’t always going to be rainbows and unicorns, so I need someone who can see the positive in people and situations.
  1. People Skills – The church isn’t a building. It’s a group of people. Your success level will largely depend on how well you can draw people to you and develop them for service.
  1. Character – Probably the most important trait on this list. I need people who not only can talk the talk, but they can walk the walk. Those who lack integrity need not apply.
  1. Leadership Ability – If you’re going to be on my team, I need you to have influence. Can you develop a following? Have you led a group? Are you leading a ministry?
  1. High Energy – I’m not looking for the type of person who rolls in on a Sunday morning wiping sleep out of their eyes. I’m looking for the person who is there thirty minutes early and looks like they just chugged a pot of coffee.
  1. Self-discipline – Do you have your priorities straight? Are you reading your Bible? Are you willing to pay the price to continue to grow yourself?
  1. Teachable – Nothing is more frustrating than someone with an incredible amount of talent who refuses to be teachable. Are you willing to learn from others, or do you think you have all the answers?
  1. Vision – I’m looking for someone who can dream up possibilities then put a plan in place to make those dreams reality.
  1. Fun – In my organization we work hard, but we have fun while we’re doing it. A sense of humor is needed because sometimes in ministry you have to laugh to keep from crying.

That’s it– that’s my top ten list for Great Team Members. I’d love to know what you would add or take away from the list. Let us know in the comments below, and if you haven’t already make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered straight to your inbox.

Finish Your Sermon Early

One Thing Series

This post is a part of the “One Thing” series. Often we feel like we have to take drastic steps in our life or church to see significant change, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes the small things create the biggest impact. In this series, we’ll focus on “One Thing” you can do that will get you and your church moving in the right direction.

sermon-prep

Some pastors are notorious for not finishing their message until Saturday night or even Sunday morning. My pastor was no exception. Luckily over the years he has gotten much better at finishing his sermon earlier in the week.

This has provided a number of benefits, not only for him, but for the team as well. If you’re waiting till the last minute to finish your sermon, I highly encourage you to change that. Here are a few of the benefits of finishing by Thursday.

  1. The media team, or whoever is inputting what goes on the screen on Sunday mornings, hate getting your notes at the last minute. If you’re also throwing in last minute pictures or videos, they may actually loathe you. Here’s why, inputting those things take time, more than you realize. When you’re getting your notes to them late, it’s stressing them out. There’s a good chance they could be dealing with lighting or sound issues all at the same time. Getting them your notes early allows them to input them in advance.
  1. Setting your message aside for a few days before you preach it gives it time to soak in. It’s like marinating a steak. The longer you let the steak marinade, the more flavor it’s going to have. Doing this allows you to retain the message better, and it also allows new ideas to form that you can add into your message. By doing this, you almost always end up with a better product than you started with.
  1. It frees up your weekends to focus on what’s most important; your family. How many times have you snapped at your kids on the weekend because you’re working on your message and they’re being loud? How many date nights have been cancelled or ruined because you’re stressing about an unfinished sermon? Your family is too important to ruin it because you waited to the last minute to finish something you should’ve got done that week.

I realize this is much harder for bi-vocational pastors, but for those full time pastors out there, you have no excuse. Lock yourself in your office at the beginning of the week and don’t come out until you have a finished product. Your wife, your kids, and your team will thank you.

When are you typically finishing your sermon? What benefits have you seen from finishing early? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below. Also, make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips just like this delivered to your inbox each week.

Surviving the Dip

In 2007, Seth Godin wrote a little book called The Dip. Upon reading it last year, it quickly became one of my favorites. It’s self-described as the little book that teaches you when to quit and when to stick.

seth-godin-the-dip

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book.

“Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.”

“Extraordinary benefits accrue to the tiny minority of people who are able to push just a tiny bit longer than most.”

“They quit in their quest to be the best in the world because the cost just seemed too high.”

And those are found within the first ten pages. We haven’t even talked about what The Dip is.

Seth Godin describes it as this, “The Dip is the long slog between starting and mastery. A long slog that’s actually a shortcut, because it gets you where you want to go faster than any other path.”

The Dip is difficult, it’s painful, and it will tempt you to give up. In fact most people give up in The Dip.

If you’ve been a pastor for very long, I bet you’ve experienced The Dip. Chances are many of you are currently in a Dip.

I’m not talking about within your attendance or giving numbers, though that might be the case. I’m talking about a long and difficult season where nothing seems to be going right, and it’s becoming difficult to take another step.

The temptation to quit is huge, because it’s human nature to quit when it hurts. But quitting when you hit the Dip is a bad idea. If being a pastor was worth it in the beginning, then quitting when you hit the Dip just wastes the time you already invested.

Think about anyone you’ve ever looked up to or admired, what you’ll discover is that every one of them have had their fair share of Dips.

Now, think about your favorite person in the Bible. They went through a Dip, didn’t they?

How do I know? Because everyone who has ever done anything great or significant has had to experience the Dip. No one is exempt from it.

And if you want God to do something great in you and your church, you have no choice but to push through the Dip. Getting started is easy, but it’s not until you get through the Dip that your efforts begin to pay off.

In what ways have you experienced The Dip? How did you get out of it? Let us know in the comments below, and if you haven’t already make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered straight to your inbox.

One Leadership Development Formula

Despite my best efforts of scouring the web and networking with some of the greatest church minds around, I’ve yet to find the perfect formula for developing amazing church leaders. If anyone ever does figure out the perfect formula, they wouldn’t have to work another day in their life.

Formula-_-scientist

I have, however, developed a system I really like, although it’s hardly a system. It’s really just being intentional about spending time with the right people.

We call it Second Sunday. As in the second Sunday of each month, we gather all of our leaders together to basically hang out. Here are the specifics in case you want to borrow the idea.

  1. Greet / Eat / Play (40 minutes)

The majority of the night we spend eating, laughing, and playing games. Fun is a prerequisite of being on our team. If you don’t like having fun, you’re not going to like hanging out with us. I’ll let you in on a little secret: if you’ll make your meetings fun, more people will show up to them. So, we play really fun games, laugh a lot, give away prizes, and work on our team building. There’s food normally involved as well because everyone loves food. I could’ve easily called this section fun, food, and fellowship, but it sounded too churchy.

  1. Leadership Talk (30 minutes)

Once we’ve had our fun, it’s time to learn something. One of our other pastors or myself will give a short leadership talk to stir the hearts and minds of our leaders. If we’re feeling really brave, we’ll follow it up with some question and answer time. There are tons of topics to teach on. If you’re struggling to come up with something each month, just pick up John Maxwell’s book The Twenty One Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and teach through it.

  1. Worship (10 minutes)

After the leadership talk, we like to sing one or two worship songs in thankfulness and celebration of all that God has done for us. You can do this before the talk if you want, however we’ve found that it’s easier to eat and listen than to eat and sing. And a lot of times our people are still eating during the talk.

  1. Need to Know / Volunteer of the Month (10 minutes)

The last ten minutes of the night are spent on announcements that need to be made including upcoming events, dates, or something we need to work on. For example, we might say we’re in need of more kids’ ministry volunteers, so let’s be on the lookout for someone we can ask to start serving. Then, the last part of the night is announcing our volunteer of the month and celebrating them. Remember, what gets celebrated gets replicated.

That’s it. Pretty simple. It’s basically just hanging out with each other. And if you think about it, isn’t that what Jesus did? He basically rounded up a group of people and hung out with them for a few years. And in the end they became incredible leaders. We’re just trying to do the same.

How does your church handle leadership development? Do you think it’s working? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below, and if you haven’t already make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered straight to your inbox.

3 Attributes of a Great XP

Guest Post: Chad Hunt

Earlier this year I made the transition from lead pastor to executive pastor. This transition gave me more flexibility to work as a ministry consultant with The Unstuck Group, who help churches get unstuck through strategic planning and coaching.

Executive-Pastor

After being the lead guy for nearly seventeen years, being the #2 guy was a breath of fresh air. While I enjoy teaching and preaching on the weekends, my true passion is coaching pastors and leaders to help churches grow.

As an XP, I have several responsibilities that pertain to the daily operations of the church. However, my most important tasks surround the lead pastor and staff.  When health and vitality surround the visionary and his or her team, vision execution happens well. Here’s three attributes that should be visible in an executive pastor:

Encourage: No one knows the pain that comes with being the lead guy (unless you’ve been one). While a stage and microphone may look appealing to some, it also comes with a price. Leading people can be both a burden and a blessing. Low attendance, disgruntled families leaving the church or financial strain are just a few things that can bring frustration and anxiety to a pastor. I remember countless Sundays, driving home feeling discouraged and ready to quit. Actually, all pastors feel this way at different times, they just don’t share it. A heartening email, text message or a phone call goes a long way, as does a listening ear.

Equip: A lead pastor is only as effective as their team. Equipping the team is a vital role for an executive pastor. Creating a place for team development expands the opportunities to dream and achieve bigger vision. There are many ways to provide growth opportunities for your team. For example, have your team read different leadership books throughout the year. Afterwards, (as a group) ask three questions:

  • What are your three takeaways from the reading?
  • How can you apply the takeaways to yourself?
  • How can you apply the takeaways to the church and/or your position?

While this may seem elementary, consistent equipping of your team is vital to the success of your mission.

Empower: Lastly, as an executive pastor, I want to bring empowerment to my pastor and team through a healthy environment of accountability and rhythm. This means I must be willing to ask the right questions (and sometimes the hard questions). It also means I must be intentional about helping the team find (and keep) a rhythm for work, play and rest. Working hard, playing hard and finding rest is critical to team health and performance.

Chad served as a lead pastor for over sixteen years. Chad is now a ministry consultant with the Unstuck Group and serves as the executive pastor at Eagle Heights Church in Somerset, KY. He leads strategic planning sessions and coaching networks for rural pastors at the Center of Rural Church Advancement at the Nebraska Christian College in Omaha.

Replacing our Buts

“This was their report to Moses: ‘We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. BUT the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak!’” Numbers 13:27-28

ReplaceYourBut

God had just rescued the children of Israel from the hand of the Egyptians, and now He was getting ready to bring them into the land that He had promised them long ago. Only one thing stood in their way…a big BUT.

That one BUT would keep everyone of them, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua, from receiving what God had promised.

I wonder how many promises we miss out on because of that same word.

I need to read my Bible, BUT I’m too tired.

I want to get healthy, BUT I lack self-control.

I want to stop yelling at my kids, BUT they’re so frustrating.

I want my church to grow, BUT they don’t want to change.

If we are going to be followers of Jesus, we have to start putting our faith into action. That starts with replacing our BUTS with another BUT found in the book of Ephesians.

BUT GOD is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” Ephesians 2:4-5

Here’s what that looks like:

I may be tired, BUT GOD is so rich in mercy and He loves me so much, I’m going to read my Bible anyway.

I may lack self-control, BUT GOD is so rich in mercy and He loves me so much, I’m going to get healthy.

My kids may frustrate me, BUT GOD is so rich in mercy and He loves me so much, I’m going to love my kids the same.

The people in my church may not want change, BUT GOD is so rich in mercy and He loves people so much, I’m going to do whatever it takes to reach them.

Don’t let your BUT keep you from the promises of God.

What BUTS have you been placing on and in your life? What promises have you missed out on because of it? Let us know in the comments below, and if you haven’t already make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered straight to your inbox.