Five Numbers to Watch this Fall

I’m a numbers guy. I’ve always loved them. Math was my best subject in school, and I graduated college with a Business Management degree so I could count more numbers. When I was asked to become the Executive Pastor at the church I serve, counting numbers was the easiest part of the transition. Unfortunately, a lot of pastors don’t share my same love for numbers, but regardless there are a few numbers you need to pay close attention to this fall.

Historically, September through November has always been a season of growth at the church I serve. Summer is over and temperatures start dropping, which means people are spending less time on vacation or at the lake and more time showing up to church. The kids have gone back to school, and parents have gotten back into their regular routine.

It’s not uncommon to see ten to fifteen percent more people showing up to church in the fall than in the summer. More people gives you the chance to build momentum and get more people connected to the mission and vision of your church.

This fall should be a win for your church…if you measure it.

If you don’t measure it, how will you ever know when you’re winning?

Here are the five numbers I’ll be measuring, and I think you should be measuring them as well.

  • Attendance. Every pastor should be measuring weekly attendance. How many people are showing up at your church for weekend services? Once you get this number you need to do something more with it than just put it on a board in the back of your church. You need a way of tracking it over a long period of time. Church Metrics is a free online platform that allows you to do that and a lot more. Once you start tracking these numbers you can go back and compare them in order to give you a better idea of the health of your church.
  • Giving. I’m guessing even if you don’t count the attendance, you probably still count the offering, right? Of course you do, you’d be crazy not to. This fall I’m looking for my weekly giving numbers to be ten to fifteen percent higher than during the summer. How do I check that? You guessed it, Church Metrics.
  • Groups. The fall may be the best time of year to launch new groups. That’s why this fall I want to measure how many total groups the church is offering and how many total people are showing up to them. Groups are difficult in a small town. You can read my thoughts on why, here. But, they are vital to keeping people connected to the church. I’m really excited about our groups this fall, and I haven’t been able to say that in a couple of years. If your church offers Sunday school instead of groups, you can still use the same measurements.
  • Volunteers. The fall is also a great time to recruit new volunteers. The closer we get to Thanksgiving and Christmas it seems the more people get in the serving spirit. Just last month we added 15 new volunteers at one of our campuses. That’s huge in a small town church, but we still need more. So, this fall I’ll continue to measure the number of volunteers we have, as well as the number of new volunteers that have been recruited. If you need help recruiting and retaining volunteers, you can find out more here.
  • First Time Guests. One of the most important numbers I’ll be measuring this fall is the number of first time guests. They’re the key to church growth. I heard someone say once that in order for your church to grow the number of first time guests that visit during a year needs to exceed your average weekly attendance. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but it’s definitely a number we’re striving for. That means if your church averages 75 people on a weekend, then in order to grow you need to have more than 75 first time guests throughout the year.

Of course, we’ll also be measuring salvation and baptism numbers as well. We just don’t see as much change in those numbers during the fall. Again, you can track those using Church Metrics.

I’d love to hear some of your number goals for the fall. Are you trying to break 100 in weekly attendance? Trying to add 10 new volunteers? Trying to serve 50 first time guests? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe. Also, if you’re looking to grow your church this fall in an incredible way strongly consider becoming a part of the first ever Small Town Big Church Coaching Network. You can find more details here.

Four Big Day Ideas to Grow Your Church this Fall

I believe it was Nelson Searcy who originally came up with the idea of growing your church through “Big Days.” A “Big Day” is an all out push toward a single Sunday in order to see a large increase in attendance on that day. He actually wrote an entire book around the idea called Ignite: How to Spark Immediate Growth in Your Church. The idea is that if you can get a large number of people to your church on a single day and create a great experience for them, then there’s a very high likelihood that many of them will stick. So, with that in mind I wanted to share with you a few “Big Day” ideas for this fall.

The Tailgate Party

If you live in the United States, you understand how much people love football. It doesn’t matter if it’s College Football or the NFL. Either will draw millions of viewers each week. The only thing Americans may love more than football is eating. So, what did they do? They decided to combine them into a single event called “Tailgating.” The premise of this idea is simple, you just ask your congregation to tailgate before and after your weekend services. They can bring their own grills, their own tents, and wear their favorite team’s colors. Don’t be afraid to ask your local high school or middle school sports teams to get involved as well. They are often looking for ways to fundraise and an event like this gives you the opportunity to connect with these families. It’s a win for both teams.

The Pumpkin Patch

What’s the most anticipated product this fall? Not the new iPhone. It’s the return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks. People go crazy for anything pumpkin around this time of year. I’ve heard families will actually pay good money to go out into a field and pick their own pumpkins during the month of October. I may have been guilty of doing it myself. So, why not create your own pumpkin patch at church and give away the pumpkins to kids? It may be a little late to start planting pumpkins, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a farm to buy them from. For a few hundred dollars you can create a big day and make a lot of little kids very happy, not to mention the farmer you bought them from.

The Petting Farm

The only thing kids may enjoy more during the fall than picking out their favorite pumpkin is petting their favorite farm animals. Most of the time, you can find someone who operates mobile petting zoos that will bring the animals to you for a few hundred dollars. But, if you don’t have access to one or your just looking to save some money, how about asking one of the local farmers in your community? You don’t need to have an entire zoo. A few goats, a couple of rabbits, and the Thanksgiving turkey would suffice.

Trunk or Treat

Trunk or Treat is the perfect event for the Sunday before Halloween. If you’re not familiar with Trunk or Treat, you basically ask people to decorate the trunks of their cars for Halloween and hand out candy. Lots of communities have them, but by tagging it on to your weekend service, you can see a lot of new families come to your church. If you’re worried about celebrating Halloween, you can post guidelines for what’s acceptable decorations or even theme your Trunk or Treat. For example, you could have a superheroes and princesses theme. Nothing scary about that.

If marketed well, these four events will definitely get more people to your church.

Just keep in mind, the experience the guest has while they are there will determine whether they ever come back again.

So, before you do any of these events, you need to make sure your Sunday experience is a good one.

If you need help in that area, don’t miss out on your chance to be a part of the first ever Small Town Big Church Coaching Network. It’s six months of coaching designed to help your small town church go big. Find out more by going to my coaching and consulting page, and as always don’t forget to subscribe to this blog so you never miss tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Small Town Big Church Coaching Network

How’s your church doing? Is it growing or has it plateaued and begun to decline? Do you feel like there are questions you don’t have the answers to? You’ve gone to the conferences and you’ve read the books, but none of the information seems to translate to your small town context.

We get it. That’s why we started the Small Town Big Church Network, to help small town pastors like you, see big time growth and impact in their churches.

And this fall we’re excited to announce the very first Small Town Big Church Coaching Network designed to help small town pastors go further faster.

During this six-month program, we will cover the essentials of leading a growing church in 12 live video coaching sessions. Sessions will include:

  • Developing Mission and Casting Vision
  • Doing Ministry with Excellence on a Small Town Budget
  • How to Assimilate First Time Guests into Growing Disciples
  • Creating First Impressions that Bring Guests Back
  • Creating a Kids’ Ministry that Kids and Parents Love
  • How to Talk about Giving and Grow Your Budget
  • How to Recruit, Train, and Lead Volunteers
  • How to Develop Leaders that Help Carry the Load
  • How to Preach Better Sermons
  • How to do Marketing in a Small Town Church
  • How to Start, Build, and Grow a Small Groups Ministry
  • How to do Worship with Excellence in a Small Town

Each live video session will include a 15-minute introduction to the topic followed by 45 minutes of question and answer time.

Along with the two live video coaching sessions, you will also have a one-on-one 30-minute phone call with your coach to discuss any topic in further detail each month, as well as 24/7 email access, access to a private Facebook group, and access to any and all resources we currently have or develop.

We understand that many small town churches don’t have a large budget for leadership development. That’s why we’ve made our coaching network as affordable as possible, while keeping in mind the value of our experiences and resources.

The cost for the 6-month coaching network is $200 a month, or $1,000 if paid up front. We believe this network will more than pay for itself, but if you’re not satisfied you can request a full refund within the first three months with no questions asked.

In order to provide the most value to our participants, we are limiting registration to 12 small town pastors. We also ask that you either be the Senior Pastor, Executive Pastor, or Associate Pastor of a church in order to participate.

The Small Town Big Church Coaching Network starts soon, so leave a comment below, shoot us an email, or visit the contact page if you’re interested in being a part.

Small Town Big Church Coaching Network Coaches

Jon Sanders

Lead Pastor of The Rescue Church, a small town multisite church with locations in South Dakota, Illinois, and Jamaica. Jon has a heart for helping pastors in rural communities realize their full potential. Learn more at jonsanders.org.

Travis Stephens

Executive Pastor of Strong Tower Church, a small town multisite church with two locations in northern middle Tennessee. Since coming on staff at Strong Tower Church six years ago, the church has tripled in attendance, expanded its facilities, and launched a second campus. Travis has a desire to help small town churches go big and writes about church growth and leadership on his personal blog.

What’s Next?

This Thursday, September 7th, 2017 marks the two-year anniversary of this blog. It’s hard to believe it’s already been two years. In those two years, I’ve written 200+ posts, interviewed names like Bob Goff, Tim Stevens, and Chris Surratt and developed relationships with small town pastors all around the world. It’s been an incredible journey, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me next.

My goal has always been to help small town pastors grow the churches they serve. The blog was the beginning, but I always knew I wanted to offer coaching and consulting some day.

I’m excited to say that day has finally come.

Early into this journey, I met a pastor named Jon Sanders, who leads a multisite church with locations in South Dakota, Illinois, and Jamaica. We share the same passion for helping small town pastors.

This fall we are teaming together to launch the first ever Small Town Big Church Coaching Network.

I’ll be posting all the details this Thursday. Trust me, if you’re a small town pastor who wants to take your church to the next level, you want to be a part of this network.

We’re taking everything we’ve learned in the past 10+ years about growing churches in small towns and sharing it with you over a six-month period. We’ll be answering your questions, we’ll be giving you resources, and we will help you grow your church.

Because we want to value you and your time, space is limited to just 12 participants. That means if you want to be a part, you need to let us know as soon as possible.

Full details on Thursday. Let’s take the next step in this journey together.

Don’t miss Thursday’s post or any other. Take just a few seconds to subscribe today. And if you know you want to be a part of this coaching network, please visit my contact page and send me a message or message me on Facebook.

Two Year Anniversary Stats & Giveaway

Two years ago I set out on a journey to help small town pastors see their churches go big. While the journey is far from finished, I definitely feel like we’ve made some progress. Whether you’ve been here from the beginning, or you’ve joined us somewhere along the way, I want to say thank you. Thank you for serving the communities you’re in, and thank you for allowing me to serve you.

Next week I’ll be sharing a huge announcement about the next step in this journey, but for today, let’s take a look back at where we’ve been so far.

  • The blog has been visited by over 13,000 people representing 143 different countries. Up from 115 countries last year. I’m not ready to say I’m a global sensation, but I’m making strides.
  • I’m most popular in North America, Great Britain, Canada, France, and Australia. Good day mate! If you’re reading this post in a country outside of the US, leave me a comment and let me know where you’re from.
  • Those 13,000 people viewed over 25,000 pages of content. The top pages include, 4 Types of Pastoral Leadership, Confessions of an Adulterous Pastor, Small Town Church Growth, Planning a Church Service, and Talent Isn’t Enough.
  • And last but not least, the blog has received over 5,000 comments, of which over 95% have been spam. Is that normal?

To celebrate the two year anniversary I’ve decided to give away a collection of three of my favorite books: The Unstuck Church by Tony Morgan, Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley, and Greater by Steven Furtick.

There’s a couple different ways you can be entered to win. One, leave a comment below with your name and your favorite blog post I’ve written. Or two, share this post on Facebook or Twitter and remember to tag me in the post. Make sure to does this between now and noon (Central Standard Time) on Friday, September 8th to be entered. Good luck to everyone.

P.S. Over the past year I’ve focused mainly on producing content and less on marketing the blog. After the big announcement next week I plan on posting a new blog each Monday morning and marketing it throughout the week. If you’ve found this blog helpful would you do me a favor and share it with someone who could benefit from it as well. This journey’s not finished, it’s just getting started…

Creating Team Alignment

A few years ago our team read a book called The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni. The book was on everyone’s must read list that year and still remains one of the best leadership books I’ve ever read. The main idea of the book is organizational health is what differentiates great organizations from mediocre ones.

For an organization to be healthy, everyone needs to be on the same page.

Which doesn’t always happen in churches. In fact, it rarely happens.

Most of the time, there are multiple people with their own agendas pulling in totally different directions. This leads to confusion, jealousy, turf wars, and church splits.

Luckily, there’s a way you can prevent this. You just need to get everyone working from the same playbook.

Your playbook should answer these six questions.

  1. Why do we exist? What is our mission and vision? What’s our purpose?
  2. How do we behave? What are we going to need to value in order to accomplish our mission?
  3. What do we do? A simple, direct explanation of our church or organization. For example, “We share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
  4. How will we succeed? What’s our strategy? Who’s our target? How will we reach them?
  5. What is most important, right now? This question helps us define our priorities. We may have a core strategy as a church, but what do we need to add to that in this season to take us to the next level?
  6. Who must do what? What role is everyone playing, and who is responsible for what?

If you can answer the questions above and get everyone on board, you can accomplish a goal.

When my church worked through this process, we said our goal was for our church to become an evangelism juggernaut, so that we have no choice but to add more services or more locations.

We knew there were some things we did well that were our core strategy. For example, we had relevant preaching, great kids’ ministry, a heart for serving, and passionate worship.

We also knew there were some things we needed to add or do better. For example, increase group leaders and participation, developing leaders, creating wow experiences, and providing invite cards.

Looking back now, I see that we didn’t follow through as well as we should have in a lot of these areas, and we didn’t see the growth that we would’ve liked.

Looks like its time for me, and maybe you, to develop a new playbook.

Do you have a playbook for your church? What about a goal for the next season? I’d love to hear more about it, so don’t forget to leave a comment below. And if you’re interested in working through this together, I’d love to talk to you more about that. Just shoot me an email through my contact page, and I’ll be in touch soon.

Love Does

An Interview with Bob Goff

It’s been almost two years since I started this blog. Some really cool things have happened along the way, but none as cool as talking to New York Times Bestselling author Bob Goff.

Bob wrote one of my favorite books of all time Love Does, and he purposely put his personal phone number in the back of the book. If you call that number, you don’t get an assistant, you don’t get a voice mail, you get Bob Goff.

When I think of the abundant live Jesus was talking about in John 10:10, I think about Bob Goff. I think he’s figured it out. I hope I get there one day.

In all honesty, this interview is not great and the audio is terrible. It was recorded early on in my blog journey and I didn’t think it was good enough to post. But now that I’m almost two years in, I think it’s too important not to post.

So, if you have a moment take a listen. I hope you enjoy.

 

Help! I’m a Student Pastor

I recently got a new job title, Student Pastor. It wasn’t one I applied for. It just kind of dropped into my lap. Now, I’m not leaving the church I serve as Executive Pastor. I’m just expanding what I do. For those of you who serve in small town churches, you probably can relate. You’re rarely just the Groups Pastor or Worship Pastor or whatever. Most of the time you wear multiple hats, and the hat I’m putting on is a flat bill hat tilted slightly off center.

The good news is I’ve been a part of our Student Ministry for the better part of ten years. The bad news is Student Ministry is changing at a rapid pace, and I have a lot of responsibilities to juggle.

Time is not on my side.

And if you’re a Student Pastor who is wearing multiple hats or you happen to be bi-vocational, you realize time isn’t on your side either.

Thankfully, I think I’ve found a solution, or at least a lot of help when it comes to planning and preparing for student ministry.

It’s called Grow Curriculum, and from what I’ve seen and used of it, it’s pretty awesome.

Here’s what it includes:

Curriculum – 52 weeks of teaching in 13 sermon series. You get the logo, the video openers, the customizable messages, and the small group materials that go with each message. This alone will save you hours upon hours of work.

Discipleship – 4 activities, one per quarter, that will grow your students in the spiritual disciplines of serving, evangelism, community, and personal time with God.

Games – 50 fun and interactive game ideas that tell you exactly what you need to get your students smiling and laughing.

Events – 7 done for you event guides so you can easily put together weekend retreats, summer camps, and mission experiences.

Volunteers – Everything you need to connect and build relationships with your ministry volunteers throughout the year. Discussion guides, conversation starters, meetings, celebrations, and more.

Parents – A one-year parent investment strategy that again includes emails, events, open houses, and more.

It includes everything you need to have a successful student ministry, and it will save you a ton of time.

There are also a couple other big bonuses that come with it.

The Grow App – The app includes all the small group materials for your small group leaders to use. Why is this a big deal? Because you don’t have to spend time thinking up and printing off group questions each week. You can just tell your leaders to download the app.

The Message Builder – One of the coolest pieces to this whole curriculum is their drag and drop message builder. I used it for the first time this past week and loved it. It’s kind of hard to explain, so make sure you check out this video for all the details.

If I didn’t stumble upon this curriculum, I can honestly say, I would be in a world of hurt because I just don’t have the time needed to do student ministry at the level it deserves to be done. This is going to be a game changer for me, and I think it would be for some of you as well.

Now it’s not free, and I didn’t expect it to be. A ton of work has gone into this. A yearly plan that includes everything I’ve listed above is $997. I think it’s worth it. If you can’t swing that, then you can get just the curriculum, the discipleship piece, and the games for $497. I think it’s worth the extra $500 to get all of it, but I understand student ministry budgets are often really tight.

Quick Disclaimer – If you purchase Grow Curriculum through one of the links on my site, I will receive a commission on that purchase. But, everything I said above I would’ve said if I didn’t get paid. It really is a great product that I’m currently using and one I believe can make a difference in your student ministry. If you purchase it, let me know how you like it by leaving a comment below.

How to Become a Leader

Basics - Leadership

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been blogging now for almost two years. In the early days of the blog, I covered some church issues that I deemed The Basics. It was foundational things that I felt every small town pastor should know–things like service times, websites, kid’s ministry, etc. It seemed only fitting that since we’ve been talking so much about leadership development that I do a post on the basics of becoming a leader.

This post is part of a six part series on leadership development, largely taken from my notes on John Maxwell’s book, Developing the Leaders Around You. You can check out the other posts in the series here, here, here, here, and here.

Leadership can be complicated, but becoming a leader doesn’t have to be.

Actually, it’s very simple.

There are really only three things required.

  1. The desire to become a leader. This one seems like the easiest of the requirements, but I’ve been learning this desire is becoming harder and harder to find, at least within my church. The thing is your desire largely determines your leadership potential, and yet desire is the one thing that can’t be taught.
  2. The ability to build relationships. Leadership is all about getting people to go in a direction you set. So, you’d better have good relational skills. For some people this comes easily, for others it’s something they’ll always have to work at. The good news is anyone can get better at it if they desire.
  3. The ability to learn leadership skills and put them into practice. You can learn a lot about leadership through books, blogs, and podcasts, but the best way to learn is through an experienced leader. They will be able to teach you what works best in your environment and, hopefully, help you avoid a lot of the same mistakes they made.

If you’re interested in growing as a leader, I’m looking at doing some coaching for small town pastors beginning this fall. If you’d like more information about that you can leave a comment below or send me an email through my contact page. I’d love to hear about how I can serve you better.

7 Traits of a Successful Coach

In my last post, we discussed what it looks like to be a part of a winning team. They care for one another, they communicate well, and they put the team’s needs before their own. All of those things are great, but we all know, if a team is going to be successful, they have to have a great coach. So, how do we know if we’re doing a good job coaching our team?

This post is part of a six part series on leadership development, largely taken from my notes on John Maxwell’s book, Developing the Leaders Around You. You can check out the other posts in the series here, here, here, and here.

If you look at great leaders and coaches, whether they’re serving on the football field, basketball court, or leading a church, they all have similar traits that I believe make them successful.

  1. They choose their players well. This doesn’t mean they always choose the most talented players, but they always choose the best players that fit within their team. They’re great at identifying strengths and weaknesses and filling those gaps.
  2. They’re great at communication. They know in order for their team to execute the game plan, they have to be great at communicating it. They also have to be great at inspiring their team. If you can’t get your team excited, you’re going to have a hard time winning. Great coaches are great communicators.
  3. They’re not afraid to make adjustments. The Atlanta Falcons held a 21-3 lead over the New England Patriots in the 2017 Super Bowl and ended up losing the game. Why? Half-time adjustments from a great coach. How often are you evaluating what’s working and not working in your church? Great coaches are willing to make the adjustments that will give them the best chance to win.
  4. They’re problem solvers. If you’re pastoring a church, you’re going to have problems. Some will come from people on your team, some will come from people in your church, and some will even come from people outside your church. Your ability to make the right decisions at the right time will go a long way in determining your success.
  5. They provide support and encouragement. When’s the last time you sent a thank you letter to someone on your team? If it’s been more than a week, you need to stop reading and start writing. Your team needs to know you care about them and you’re there for them.
  6. They earn the players respect. If you’re lazy, the team is not going to respect you. If you’re not trustworthy, the team is not going to respect you. If you’re not willing to make hard decisions, the team is not going to respect you. Don’t think because you have a title you deserve respect. Respect always has to be earned.
  7. They know how to delegate. John Maxwell says, “Learning how to delegate effectively is the most powerful tool any coach has.” Your time and expertise is limited, which means you’ll need to bring other people around you to help accomplish your vision. The best coaches know they can’t do it by themselves.

Take a minute and look back over this list and evaluate yourself. How would you rate yourself as a coach? Are there areas you need to work on?

Sometimes the best thing we can do is get coaching ourselves. I plan on doing some coaching for small town pastors in the near future. If you’d like more information on that, please leave a comment or send me a message through my contact page and I’ll keep you updated.