Trunk or Treat Your Way to Growth

Today, September 22nd is the first day of fall. Whoever said the years pass by quicker the older you get was absolutely right. It’s hard to believe we will be putting up Christmas decorations soon.

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But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s make sure we take advantage of the season we’re in. The fall is one of the church’s best opportunities for growth.

While you should naturally see a bump in growth as vacations come to an end, kids go back to school, and life returns to normal, you can maximize on this growth by scheduling a big day at church.

Some big days occur naturally such as Easter, Mother’s Day, and Christmas. Others will require a little bit of work, but make no mistake, if you want to see your church grow, you have to capitalize on big days.

One thing we’re doing this fall is “Trunk or Treat.” If you’re not familiar with “Trunk or Treat,” it’s basically a Halloween event in which people decorate the trunks of their cars and hand out candy to kids. Your community may do something similar. If they do, don’t let that keep you from doing your own.

I know some of you may be worried about doing a Halloween type event at church, but the way I look at it is they’re already going to be trick or treating why not take advantage of the opportunity to get them in your church to hear the gospel.

Here’s what that event will look like for us:

  • We will advertise the event on Facebook for three weeks leading up to it. If you’re not familiar with using Facebook ads, check out my step-by-step guide.
  • We will give our kids and adults invite cards to give to their friends and family inviting them to the event, as well as promote it on our website.
  • We will ask our church people to provide a trunk, tailgate, or tent on that day, decorate it, and hand candy out from it. If your church has small groups, this is a great way to get them involved.
  • We will invite our kids from fifth grade and below to dress up on that day and trick-or-treat after service. We also send a note home with parents asking that their child’s costume not be scary or inappropriate. If you’re worried about costumes, put a theme with it. For example, ask everyone to dress as his or her favorite superhero.
  • On that day we will have service just like we always do. Our kid’s ministry will do what they always do. The only difference is that after service we will invite all our kids to trick-or-treat. Pretty simple.
  • You could add to the day by having a cookout, chili cook off, hayride, or petting farm. All of those are great ideas.

If you do this, I can almost guarantee you are going to have new people show up to your church. Don’t forget to get their information. Make sure you have them fill out a connection card so you can invite them back.

For more information on how you can make the most out of “Big Days,” make sure to pick up Nelson Searcy’s book Ignite: How to Spark Immediate Growth in Your Church.

Has your church ever done a “Trunk or Treat” event? I’d love to hear more about it, please leave us a comment below. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

6 Reasons You Should Attend the Small Town Church Conference

Guest Post: Tony Ashmore

The first ever Small Town Church Conference will be October 3-4, 2016 in Villa Rica, Georgia, hosted by LifeGate Church. I love pastoring in a small town and, along with the other Small Town Church lead team members, believe every small town church can have huge impact for the Kingdom. I am excited about this conference and would like to share some reasons I think you should be here too:

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  • I attend too many conferences and seminars that have great content and material but are all too often aimed at churches in large urban or suburban areas. Even though the stuff presented is excellent, it usually requires some ‘translation’ to make it applicable to the unique characteristics and challenges faced by the small town church leader. This conference is planned for the specific dynamics of the small town church and leader.
  • Every presenter is actively leading in a small town. As one of my friends told me, “I thought I had found a conference for the small town church, but none of those presenting were actually leading in small towns. They may have been there at one time, but all of them were now leading in large urban or suburban areas.”  I guarantee you will have the opportunity to connect with someone leading in a situation similar to yours at this conference.
  • Our network is founded on the belief that every small town should have a great and healthy life-giving church. Sometimes all we need to take our church to the next level is one tool or one friend. Whether your town is 500 or 50,000, you will have the opportunity to make new friends and find new tools—new friends who know what it’s like to lead in a small town and new tools that will help you ‘break the code’ for your small town.
  • No church is too small and no church is too large to benefit from this conference. It is focused on helping every small town church, whether it is 50 people or 5000 people, achieve their full Kingdom potential. That potential is different for every church, but the principles that will be shared will help every church and leader identify and achieve their full potential. Many of the churches present at this year’s conference have congregations that exceed 10% of their town’s population and several of them are successfully planting multiple campuses in other small towns.
  • I know attendance numbers are an important measurement, but I believe community influence is a more important measurement. A church of 85 in a town with a population of 500 may have more influence in their community than a church of 5000 in a city of a million. No matter the size of the church you lead or the size of your town, this conference will help you discover ways to increase your influence.
  • There is no one who understands your role as a small town pastor or leader better than another small town pastor or leader. One of the turning points in my life was making friends with Billy Hornsby and some of the others involved in the early days of the Association of Related Churches. Billy became like a father in the ministry to me and Sheryll and his input changed our lives and made our church better and more successful. Our #1 goal for the Small Town Church network and the Small Town Church conference is to create the opportunity for great relationships. Our conference this year is designed in a roundtable format, allowing the participants to have more networking time. I believe there will be friendships forged that, like my friendship with Billy, will take us all closer to realizing the full Kingdom potential in our own leadership and in the churches we lead.

You only have one opportunity to be the first, so register today for the first ever Small Town Church Conference. I look forward to hanging out with you there.

Written by Tony Ashmore.

I am a husband, father, grandfather and pastor of LifeGate Church in Villa Rica, Georgia, with campuses in Bremen and Carrollton, GA. My wife Sheryll and I have planted 5 churches and have a passion for helping small town churches and pastors. We also believe that too many pastors were like us, not having a ‘father or mother in the ministry’, and we are in a season in our lives where we embrace that role. Contact me at tony@mylifegatechurch.com.

The 5 Laws of Stratospheric Success

A Go-Giver Book Review

For those of you who know me or have been following me for a while, you know that I’m a big believer in giving. So, imagine my excitement when I learned that giving was the secret to great success, at least according to authors Bob Burg and John David Mann in their book The Go-Giver.

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The Go-Giver tells the story of a young man who yearns for success but can never find it. The harder he strives the further away his goals seem to be. It’s not until he changes his focus from getting to giving that he starts to actually achieve his dreams.

“Most people just laugh when they hear that the secret to success is giving…Then again, most people are nowhere near as successful as they wish they were.” – Bob Burg

Most of us believe that those who are the biggest givers have the most to give, but the truth is they have the most to give because they’ve always been givers.

You can’t expect a fireplace to produce heat unless you throw on some logs. Success works the same way. The more you give, the more you get.

And according to the book, if you want to have stratospheric success, you need to follow these five laws.

  1. The Law of Value – Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.

Think about your favorite restaurant. The type you go to on special occasions. What draws you there? My guess is great food, great service, and a great experience. You get more than you pay for. That’s how we should live our lives, always look to give more than you get.

  1. The Law of Compensation – Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.

When we think of compensation, we always think of money, but for most of us, we have no control over what we get paid. What we do have control over is how many people we serve and how well we serve them. We let our impact determine our level of success instead of our salary. If you want more success, find a way to serve more people.

  1. The Law of Influence – Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.

When you start looking out for other people and putting their interest first, what you’ll find is that over time you’ll develop a network of people who have your best interest at heart. Most people believe money, position, and accomplishments create influence, but that’s backwards. Influence creates them.

  1. The Law of Authenticity – The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.

For whatever reason, it seems that in the world of pastoring so many people try to be something or someone they’re not. Do yourself a favor, and just be you. You are the most valuable gift you have to offer. Your training and skills matter very little. Your most important asset is your ability to connect with people.

  1. The Law of Receptivity – The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.

It may be more blessed to give than to receive, but that doesn’t mean we should try to close ourselves off to receiving. That wouldn’t make sense. They’re connected just like breathing. You can’t breathe in without breathing out, and vice versa. If you don’t let yourself receive, you shut down the flow.

I would encourage everyone to put these laws into practice in your life, but remember it’s not about what you do or what you accomplish, it’s about becoming a Go-Giver. Good luck.

Have you ever read The Go-Giver? What do you think of the 5 Laws of Success? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on success, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

3 Reasons to Go All The Way

I’ve been fortunate in my ministry career in that I haven’t had a whole lot of regrets. Hopefully you can say the same. Of the few regrets I have almost all of them are because we didn’t get exactly what we wanted because we were afraid to go all the way.

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Let me give you an example. A few years ago, we decided to add several thousand square feet of kids’ space to our existing building. We were growing like crazy, and our original building just wasn’t adequate anymore.

So we hired a top-level architect who had designed facilities for megachurches like CrossPoint Church in Nashville, NewSpring Church in South Carolina, and Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. This guy is one of the best.

He designed an incredible building, we paid him a lot of money, but when it came time to hire a contractor, we picked the cheapest one we could find.

The result was a building that was a little cheaper on the budget but lacked many of the design features we originally fell in love with. Don’t get me wrong, we still love our building and are thankful for it, but it’s really only about ninety percent of what we had hoped for.

That ten percent we left off seemed small and insignificant at the time, but in hindsight I’m kicking myself for not going all the way with it.

As most of you have probably already learned, this idea doesn’t just apply to buildings, but it applies to multiple areas of our lives and ministries.

If you want to lose weight and get in shape, you have to give 100% effort. You can’t achieve your goals if you’re still drinking cokes every day.

If you want to save money, you have to live by a budget 100% of the time. You can’t overspend 10% of the time and still meet your goals.

If you’re looking to hire someone, you don’t want someone who gives 90% effort. You want them to give 100%, even if you do have to pay them a little bit more.

So, if you’re in a spot where you need to make a hard decision, let me give you three reasons why I think you should go all the way.

  1. It will cost you more in the long run.

I’m all for budgets. I’m a money guy. I know the Bible tells us we should count the cost, so I’m not saying throw caution to the wind. What I would ask you to do is think long term. Here I am in a building that I would like to make some changes to, and it’s going to cost more to do it now than it would’ve cost to do it in the first place.

  1. You’ll end up regretting it.

If there’s something you know you need to do and you don’t end up doing it or you don’t do it to the full extent, I guarantee you that you’ll end up regretting it. You will always wonder what if. What if we had made that hire? What if we had sent that promotional piece? Don’t live your life with what ifs.

  1. You never know.

As much as I love crunching numbers and making plans, there’s got to be an element of faith in our decision making. There are certain times in ministry when I believe you just have to take a chance. You never know what God can do until you try. If you fail, at least you learned something, right?

Let’s face it, most of our regrets are about things we didn’t do instead of things we did wrong. When faced with the choice of playing it safe or going all the way, I hope you’ll choose to go for it.

What’s your biggest regret in ministry? Make sure to share with us in the comments below, and don’t forget to sign up for the blog to get tips on leadership, church growth, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Build Your Fantasy Church Team

Tonight, September 8th, 2016 the NFL season begins with the defending Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos taking on the Carolina Panthers. But for millions of us, a much more important season begins. No, I’m not talking about the fall. I’m talking about Fantasy Football Season.

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For those of you who may not be familiar with Fantasy Football, let me explain how it works. You join a league made up of a number of your friends or complete strangers. Each one of you has a team, and you are responsible for picking players for your team.

Each team normally has a quarterback, a running back or two, a few wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker, a defense, and a number of bench players. Each week the players on your team score points based on how they perform in the actual game. For example, if your quarterback throws a touch down pass in his game, then he would get six points for your team.

Each week you’re matched up against someone else in your league, and the team with the most points at the end of the week is the winner. It’s almost like playing actual football only you never have to get off the couch.

The better you are at picking players, the better your chances of winning.

When you think about it, it’s not much different from church leadership. The better team you have around you, the more likely your church is going to have success accomplishing its mission.

So, Pastor, ask yourself this question, “If you were to build a team around you from scratch, what type of people would you pick? What characteristics would they have?”

Here are five qualities I would look for:

  1. Passionate

I feel like a broken record when I talk about passion, but it’s just so important and so rare. If you find someone who loves Jesus and loves to serve people, you have found a treasure. This person will show up early and stay late. This person won’t complain about having to serve but will look for ways to serve more often.

  1. Self-Motivated

This characteristic goes right along with passion. I don’t want to have to jump start someone’s motor. I want it to be running when they get out of bed in the morning. This person is always looking for ways to make the church better. They are reading blogs, listening to podcasts, and reading books based around their area of serving.

  1. Relational

Ministry is highly relational. In fact, there is no ministry without people, so this person is good at building relationships. You’ll find this person hanging out in the lobby between services looking for someone to connect with. They’ve never met a stranger, and they love pointing people toward next steps to grow in their faith.

  1. Self-Aware

This person knows their strengths, as well as their weaknesses. They are willing to admit when they make mistakes, and they know how to handle constructive criticism.

  1. Team Player

This person realizes there is no “I” in team. They have no problem putting the good of the church before their individual ministry. They look for ways to add value to other areas of ministry and never utter the words “that’s not my job.”

I hope you will take the time to develop your own list of team values. Tony Morgan wrote an article recently saying team values are more important than core values for churches.

Once you get the right people on your team, your church’s culture will start to change, and before you know it, you’ll be winning more than you ever have before. Good luck.

What would your five team values be? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, fantasy football, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

How to Increase Giving Year Round

Most pastors don’t like talking about money. I believe they fear they’ll be labeled as caring too much about money and not enough about souls. Others may feel that if they talk about giving people will leave the church. Sometimes people will leave, but I would argue that you do your congregation a great disservice when you don’t talk about giving.

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I wish I had a great giving story. You know one of those I was on the verge of bankruptcy but then I gave my last twenty dollars to God and everything began to fall into place.

Unfortunately, my giving story is rather boring. I just read what the Bible and Jesus had to say about being generous and decided I should be a generous person.

What qualifies as generous? Is it ten percent? The Bible seems to make a pretty good argument for it, but to simplify it I just asked myself, if I were to go out to dinner and leave a generous tip, what would that number be? Ten percent seems to be a good starting point.

Why am I trying to convince you? Most of you are pastors or church leaders. I’m sure you understand the concept of tithing, and you understand that for your church to survive, the people within your church have to give.

So, how can you make sure that happens? How can you make sure to increase giving all year long? Here are a few things you can do.

Daily

Practice generous giving in your daily life. Don’t expect your congregation to do something that you’re not willing to do yourself.

Pray for your congregation, not for them just to give but for the financial struggles and stresses many of them face on a week-to-week basis.

Weekly

Treat your offering time as a part of worship and not just an afterthought. Share scriptures, stories, and statistics on how giving is impacting your congregation, community, and world.

Send thank you cards to every first-time giver and those who give large gifts. If you’re worried about seeing what someone gives, have someone else give you the names and addresses without the amounts.

Monthly

Send a monthly newsletter to givers letting them know how their giving is impacting lives each week. Get started here.

Take a giver out for coffee or lunch. Show them you care about more than just their checkbook. You’ll be amazed at what you will learn in these conversations.

Quarterly

You are only required to send giving statements once a year, but many churches experience an increase in giving when they send quarterly statements.

Don’t just send the statement though. Make sure you attach a letter letting them know how their giving is making a difference. Do you see a theme emerging here?

Yearly

Throw a big end of year party and only invite those who give to your church. This is the perfect opportunity to let them know stats on salvations, baptisms, and, of course, tell stories.

Oh, and don’t forget to mail those end of year statements.

What did I forget? I’d love to hear your best giving tips, make sure to leave a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips each week on leadership, church growth, and more.

Mama Said Knock You Out Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

Last September I began this blog by saying, “Don’t call it a comeback,” and here we are one year later. Over the past year, I’ve written a crazy amount of posts, got to interview some pretty incredible people, and have networked with some amazing pastors all in the name of helping small town churches go big.

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Now, while I’m not ready to call myself the LL Cool J of blogging, I have had a little bit of success. For instance in the past year:

  • The blog has been visited by over 7,000 people representing 115 countries. That’s crazy to think about, even if most of them just stumbled upon it by mistake.
  • I’m most popular in North America, Great Britain, Canada, Brazil, and the Philippines. Kenya is ranked #17, but hopefully that number improves after I go visit next month.
  • And last but not least, the blog has received over 1,000 comments, of which over 90% has been spam.

So, to celebrate the one year anniversary I’ve decided to give away a $25 gift card to my favorite store, Amazon.com.

There are three different ways you can be entered to win. One, leave a comment below with your name and your favorite blog post I’ve written. Two, share this post on Facebook or Twitter, and remember to tag me in the post. Or three, subscribe to the blog if you haven’t already. Do all three, and you have three chances to win. Make sure to do this between now and noon (Central Standard Time) on Monday, September 5th to be entered. Good luck to everyone.

P.S. In order to produce the best content possible and to keep my sanity, I’m moving from posting three days a week to two. So, be on the lookout every Tuesday and Thursday from here on out for new content. Or get smart, like over 200 other people have already done, and subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Living Life in the Rearview

Is it just me, or does your best thinking happen in the shower? I’m not sure if it’s the scalding hot water opening up my pores or the ten minutes alone without a child screaming, “Daddy!” Either way, I try to make the most of it. For me, that means dreaming about the future and trying not to live in the past.

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Not that there’s anything wrong with the past. The past has been very good to me. Sure, I have a few regrets, but overall life has been great.

I just never want to get to a place where I think my best days are behind me. I never want to live life in the rearview.

Do you know why they make windshields so big, and rearview mirrors so small?

It’s because what’s in front of you is way more important than what’s behind you.

Spend too much time looking in the rearview and you’re bound to crash. On the other hand, never look in the rearview and you may be doomed to repeat your past mistakes.

So, what’s a good solution? Keep both in the proper perspective.

Windshields should be big. Don’t lose sight of what’s in front of you. God has promised to give you a hope and a future. Don’t take your eyes off of it.

Rearviews should be small. Not matter how great or bad your past was, it’s the past. Don’t get stuck there, but also don’t forget the lessons you learned along the way.

So many churches are living life in the rearview. They love talking about the good old days but have no plans to improve the days they’re currently living in.

And let’s not forget the other mirror in your car, the vanity mirror. You know the one hiding behind the sun visor? Because every once in awhile you need to take a good look at yourself.

Are you still doing ministry for the right reasons?

Are you frustrated with where your church is?

Are you taking too much credit or too much blame?

I once heard a pastor say, “If you blame yourself for every decrease, you’ll credit yourself for every increase.”

Where’s your focus? Are you looking forward, or are you looking back?

Don’t live your life in the rearview.

Which mirror are you most focused on? Why? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and make sure to subscribe to the blog for tips on leadership, church growth, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

4 Traits of Pastors that Persevere

Have you ever noticed how resilient little children are? For example, my three year old daughter just got a Barbie Dream House. Not for her birthday, not for Christmas, just because she demanded it. Now, I didn’t get it for her because I’m just as resilient as she is. I told her no over and over again. So what did she do? She talked her grandparents into getting it for her. She then proceeded to play with it for about three days before moving on to her next demand.

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I’m not even mad about it. First, it didn’t cost me anything, and second I’m impressed by her persistence. She knew exactly what she wanted, and she wouldn’t back down until she got it. That will come in handy later on in life, although I’m not looking forward to her becoming a teenager.

As pastors and leaders, I believe we can learn a great deal about perseverance through our children. Many of us, myself included, love coming up with new ideas and plans, but we stink at following through on them.

I bet right now you can think of at least one good idea you’ve had that you never followed through on. Go ahead, write it down, and make sure to come back to it later. Or maybe you tried it, and it didn’t work the first time so you gave up on it.

Go through this enough and it won’t be long before you give up on trying anything at all. For some of you that’s your story. You’ve given up when God has called you to persevere.

I want to see that change. I want to see you persevere. Here’s how you can get started:

  1. You own it.

No more excuses. No more blaming others. No more waiting around for someone to tell you what to do. From this day forward, you take control of your life and how you react to problems and adversity.

  1. You gather the right people around you.

Being a pastor can be one of the loneliest positions you can have. I’m telling you that you’re not meant to do this alone. Find a friend that you can confide in. If you can’t find one in your church, find one online because every pastor needs a sidekick.

  1. You find the silver lining.

It takes absolutely no effort to find problems. Those who persevere learn how to see the positives. Maybe no one showed up to our event, but our volunteers did a great job setting things up. The offering was really low this week, but we had five first-time guests. Always look for the positive.

  1. You focus on what you can change.

There are some things you’re just never going to be able to change. You have to learn to let them go and focus on what you can change. There are some people who will never change. Quit stressing about it, and let God handle it. Put your energy into the things you can change, and don’t waste your time with the rest.

Being a pastor is hard. I’ve written about it before. Unless you begin taking the right steps, your chances of surviving ministry are slim. I hope we can change that. I hope you’ll choose to persevere.

What’s one great idea you’ve had but have never put into practice? I’d love to hear about so leave a comment below. Plus if you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on leadership, church growth, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Three Lessons on Explosive Growth

Guest Post: Vince Daniel

I am not writing this as a professional church planter or church growth specialist. I haven’t written any books on the topic of “Church Growth in a Rural Community.” We have just seen some really amazing things happen in the last nine months in our church. I want to share three of the lessons we’ve learned as God has taken Real Life Church from 350 in weekly attendance to over 900 in weekly attendance in a short amount of time.

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  1. Know Yourself

Before I pastored Real Life, I had never pastored a church larger than about 100 people. There have been moments that I have thought, “What is God doing? I am not qualified to do this.” And then God would send 100 more people to the church just to show that His quantity is never based off my qualifications. I believe God keeps me in that tension so that I never get to the place of thinking that I am the sustainer. The moment I start to think “Oh I’ve got this,” He sends more folks to remind me those are His words not mine. So I do my best to stay teachable, constantly learning what the next level is like, just in case God decides to take us there.

  1. Know your Culture

Our community is unique, so is yours, and so is the church’s down the street or two towns over. It took us a while to wrap our minds around this. I wanted to build a trendy new facility that had all the bells and whistles, but I have come to realize if the product is authentic and done with quality, the packaging matters little in our community. We currently meet in a renovated horse barn, and our people love it. Before you make an assumption…we are not a Cowboy church. We are a community that appreciates authenticity and humility. So be approachable and gracious. We are in a community that appreciates quality. So whatever your facility is create an environment that is excellent. I promise if any horse walked into our barn now they would say, “Whoa!” (You see what I did there…Horse joke…whoa).

  1. Know God

If God truly places His hand of favor on you and your church, you cannot manage, contain or manufacture it. You can only hope to live in it as long as He sees fit. In the last nine months, we have had to change our facility three different times, our children’s check-in system at least twice, and our organizational structure has resembled a game of Jenga. And all of this has been awesome! Our teams freak out a little bit, but we survive. We look back wondering why God would ever allow us to be a part of this movement called the local church. We look forward in wonder of what He will do next. It is my prayer that you will still be in awe of what God is capable of doing in your church. Stop trying to figure out what’s not working and go back to what always has, loving people with the Gospel of Jesus.

Vince is a Jesus follower, church planter, husband and dad. He is the senior pastor of Real Life Church in Mountain Home, Arkansas which will be celebrating their 5 year anniversary in September.