The Death of Sunday Night Services

Basics - Service Times

Every Monday I post one of The Basics. The Basics are simple steps every church can take to grow. They are the same steps that led my church from 87 people in attendance to over 700. These steps have helped my church see hundreds of people saved and baptized in just a few short years. Most of these steps you can take this week without even having a board meeting. These are The Basics.

sunday-night-service

I’m not sure when Sunday Night service died, but I’m glad it did.

That was my first thought as I woke from my Sunday afternoon nap, but that hasn’t always been the case.

For several years I was on the other side of the debate. Churches that cancelled Sunday evening services were shallow, unholy, and had lost their desire for God.

Now I realize they’re just smarter than the rest of us.

When you don’t do Sunday evenings, you can put all your energy and effort into making Sunday mornings great.

And let’s be honest, how many unchurched people are showing up to your church on Sunday evenings anyway? My guess would be almost none.

Sure, you can use that time to pour into the holy rollers, but aren’t they already getting that during Sunday school or small groups? Do they really need to hear another message?

Is it really worth burning out your pastor and volunteers?

What about an alternative? If you really feel like you need two services on Sunday, why not do them both on Sunday morning?

Instead of offering a 11am and 6pm service, what about a 9:30 and 11am service? Now, that makes a lot of sense.

Because here’s what we know, the most likely time someone is going to show up for a church service is between the hours of 9 and 11am on Sunday morning.

By offering two Sunday morning services you will automatically see an increase in attendance. People like options.

There are some mornings people are going to oversleep, no problem you got them covered. Just come to the later service.

Other times, people want to get church in before the game starts, the 9:30 service is perfect for them.

More service times means more opportunities and less excuses.

Here’s a couple of other benefits:

  • The pastor doesn’t have to prepare two sermons, he can preach the same one two different times. This not only makes him better as a speaker, it takes stress off of him, and prolongs his career.
  • When you have two services your volunteers now can serve one service and sit in another. This means your childcare workers aren’t having to miss service when they serve.

I know what some of you are thinking, we can’t do that it would interfere with Sunday school.

I would suggest you quit Sunday school, and offer small groups during the week, but if you insist on Sunday school, offer it during both service times. Who knows maybe you even see Sunday school attendance increase.

But we’re not running hundreds of people. Let me ask you this, how full is your sanctuary on a typical Sunday morning?

Fifty percent? Sixty? More?

If you’re filling your sanctuary to sixty percent capacity, you’re ready to start a second service. If you’re less than fifty percent, you need to remove some chairs or pews until you can get that number to over fifty percent.

Don’t make the same mistake we did, we waited far too long to begin another service. Do it as soon as possible, just don’t do it on Sunday night.

Is your church offering multiple services? Why or why not?

Multiple Choice Marriage

Staying in Love - Part 4

This November my wife and I began a new small group study based on Andy Stanley’s series Staying in Love. Over the next four weeks we’ll be learning practical lessons that will help strengthen marriages.

We’ve already had a tremendous interest in the group at our church, so I thought it would be a good idea to sum up what we’ve been learning each week and share it with a larger audience. This is part four. You can check out part one, two, and three here.

StayinginLove

Multiple Choice Marriage

Every couple has arguments, what you’ll find is couples that stay in love handle these arguments differently than couples who fall out of love.

You see at the center of most of these arguments is a gap between expectations and behaviors.

A wife may expect her husband to be romantic, but that’s far from his behavior. On the other hand, a husband may expect to get sex every night, but his wife may not cooperate.

There’s a gap between what we expect and how our spouse behaves, and what we fill these gaps with will ultimately determine the longevity of our marriage.

Here’s the good news, you get to make the decision in how you fill those gaps.

You can;

Assume the Worst

By assuming the worst, you get to be right. The more we assume the worst, the more right we get to be. It’s a cycle that feeds itself.

However, when our relationship becomes about winning the argument, we’ll quickly discover that we’re losing our marriage. With each victory, we sacrifice the long-term health of the relationship.

Or

Believe the Best

What studies have found is that couples that stay in love always believe the best about each other. They always rate their spouse higher than their spouse would rate themselves.

By doing this, they experience greater love and intimacy.

We all are constantly making this choice, one way or another. We’re either choosing to assume the worst, or to believe the best.

No one wants to disappoint their spouse, but when you continually assume the worst, your spouse will feel like they’ll never get it right. This pushes them further and further away.

When we assume the worst relationships die, but by believing the best relationships thrive.

That’s why the apostle Paul tells us, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Does that describe the love in your relationship? If not, make the decision to change that.

Have you ever been guilty of assuming the worst? What can we do to start believing the best?

The Advantages of Being Narrow-Minded

Why your Church Needs to Become More Laser Focused

Contrary to what you’ve always believed, your church needs to do less not more.

LaserFocused

Rick Warren in The Purpose-Driven Church wrote about a scenario in which a radio station played music to appeal to everyone’s taste. They would play a classical song, then country, then rap, then heavy metal. You get the idea. He came to the same conclusion that I’m sure you did, no one would ever listen to that station.

And yet, that is how so many churches choose to operate.

Churches that try to please everyone, end up pleasing no one.

Why, because their vision is too broad. I realize you want to reach the world, but you have a much better chance of reaching a specific segment of your community. And if each church would focus their strategy and resources on reaching the segment God has called them to reach, the Church could reach the world.

So, where should we start?

  • Narrow your focus. Determine the segment God has called you to reach. For the church I serve, that segment is young families. For you it may be young adults, or elderly, or empty nesters. Look at the community God has placed you in. What demographic is not being reached? How can you align everything you do around reaching this segment of the community?
  • Cut to the core. Determine five things that will be essential to reaching your segment and cut everything else. If you’re trying to reach young families or adults, cut the senior ministry. Likewise if you’re trying to reach the elderly, cut the modern rock worship. You will discover that doing a few things great is way better than doing a lot of things poorly.
  • Raise up leaders. Look for hard workers and strategic thinkers to start investing your time in. As your church grows, you’ll need more leaders to sustain that growth. As you grow leaders you can add more programs and ideas to better accomplish your vision of reaching the segment God has called you to.

Changing how you do church is difficult, and it’s going to take time, so don’t get in a hurry. Focus on the small battles first. Get some wins underneath you and some people alongside you before moving on to bigger battles.

A word of warning, when you begin narrowing your focus, people will leave your church. It will hurt, but it may be a sign that you’re headed in the right direction.

What segment has God called your church to reach? Are you currently doing anything that needs to be cut?

Clean Up Your Act

Basics - Cleanliness

Every Monday I post one of The Basics. The Basics are simple steps every church can take to grow. They are the same steps that led my church from 87 people in attendance to over 700. These steps have helped my church see hundreds of people saved and baptized in just a few short years. Most of these steps you can take this week without even having a board meeting. These are The Basics.

Spring-Cleaning

Whenever my wife and I have guests over to our house, there’s a mad dash to clean up. I take out the trash, my wife vacuums and dusts, and we have the kids pick up all their toys. Why? Because we want to show our guests value.

It should be no different at your church. Each week guests walk through the doors of your church, and whether we want to believe it or not, the cleanliness of your church plays a huge part in determining whether they return.

So, what have you done to prepare for their arrival?

Here are 15 areas I suggest looking at as you prepare for guests each week at your church.

  1. Make sure the parking lot is clear of debris and clutter. Sweep leaves, rocks, dirt, etc.
  2. During the winter, make sure snow and ice are cleared from walking paths and sidewalks. Apply salt and sand as necessary to keep these areas from being hazardous to vehicles and pedestrians.
  3. Keep landscape up to date. Make sure grass is mowed, weeds are pulled, and dead flowers or shrubs are removed on a regular basis.
  4. Discard of any dead animals on property. This summer we had a bird try to fly through a window, which led to its death. This stuff happens.
  5. If your church is in a more secluded wooded area, make sure these wooded areas are trimmed so they don’t appear “overgrown”.
  6. If you have any water features such as fountains or ponds on your property, make sure they’re operating properly and not filled with stagnant water.
  7. Change light bulbs when they go out, not when you get around to it.
  8. Carpets should be vacuumed every week.
  9. Tile & vinyl floors should be swept and mopped.
  10. Every bathroom should be cleaned and neat. Make sure plenty of toilet paper is available, plungers and mops as well, in case of emergencies.
  11. Clean up any dead bugs or animals inside the building. Mouse and bug traps should never be visible to a guest.
  12. Clean all windows, handrails, and mirrors.
  13. Have children’s rooms clean and neat. Each toy should be disinfected. Carpets should be clean and have a pleasant odor.
  14. Clean any stains on chairs, pews, and carpets.
  15. All trash should be disposed of prior to guests arriving for services.

What areas have I forgotten? What would you add to this list?

Feelin’ It

Staying in Love - Part 3

This November my wife and I began a new small group study based on Andy Stanley’s series Staying in Love . Over the course of four weeks we’ll be learning practical lessons that will help strengthen marriages.

We’ve already had a tremendous interest in the group at our church, so I thought it would be a good idea to sum up what we’ve been learning each week and share it with a larger audience. This is part three. You can catch up on part one, and part two here.

StayinginLove

Feelin’ It

Isn’t it interesting that two people can stand at an altar and be so in love that they will commit to love each other “till death do us part” – and then just a few years later be standing in a court room getting a divorce?

How is it that two people who are madly in love can end up falling out of love?

Many times it can be traced back to our heart.

Solomon tells us this, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it”. Proverbs 4:23

The truth is every one of us bring baggage into our relationships, and this baggage has a way of spilling out over time.

Since we have a hard time recognizing our own baggage, we often find ourselves blaming our spouse, when really the issue is us.

We think to ourselves if only he did this, I would be happy. Or if she didn’t do that, I wouldn’t feel so jealous.

We let our spouse’s behavior become the monitor for our emotional satisfaction, and we fail to realize how much the condition of our own hearts determines that satisfaction.

So, how can we fix that? Andy suggests four simple steps to apply before you react.

  1. Before you speak, think about what you’re actually feeling. 
  1. Identify this emotion or reaction by name (anger, embarrassed, jealous, lonely, afraid, etc)
  1. Once you’ve identified it, say the name aloud.
  1. If and when appropriate, tell your partner how you feel.

This exercise may seem silly, but if you apply it, what you begin to realize is that a lot of your “marriage problems” are actually problems in your own hearts.

Once you identify where these negative emotions are actually coming from, it’s a whole lot easier to work through them together.

Why do we have such a hard time identifying the emotional baggage we carry in our lives? How can we get past this?

Three Types of Sermon Series

One of the biggest sources of stress for a pastor is deciding what to preach each week. If you’re preaching stand-alone sermons each week, I would ask that you prayerfully consider switching to a sermon series format for your preaching. I believe there are tremendous benefits to this switch, four of which I outline here.

SermonSeries3

But you still have to decide what sermon series you’ll be preaching throughout the year. Don’t stress, here’s the three types of sermon series we use.

  • Attractional – The main purpose of an Attractional series is to bring new people into your church. To do this, your sermon series should address a topic people are already talking about in their daily lives.

The three topics we’ve always seen attract a large number of guests deal with marriage, family, and money. So, we make sure to work this into our preaching calendar each year.

We’ve also seen success with series like:

At The Movies– We take a movie and design a message around it. We serve popcorn, cokes, and give away free movie tickets to our first time guests.

Redneck– This works particular well if you live in the south, especially with the success of a show like Duck Dynasty. We used this I Am Second video to set up one of the weeks, which worked really well.

Walking Dead– We did this series for Easter a few years back when the show Walking Dead was just starting to blow up. It was one of our biggest Easters ever. We talked about how we’re all dead in our sins until we allow Jesus to breathe new life into us.

Some people say Attractional series are too shallow. I say you wouldn’t throw someone who can’t swim into the deep end of the pool, so why do you want to do it with unbelievers? Give them a chance to get their feet wet first. It works much better.

  • Growth – The main purpose of a Growth series is to help your congregation take steps to grow them closer to Christ. In our church these series focus on spiritual disciplines, serving, small groups, giving, and evangelism.

We are very strategic about when we do these series to maximize impact. For example, we will do a short series on evangelism every year right before Easter. At the beginning of the year, we may focus on spiritual disciplines. After the start of school in the fall, we will do a small group push.

Some examples of Growth Series we’ve done in the past include: I Love My Church, You Got Served, Go & Tell, and Red Letter Prayers.

  • Balanced – The main purpose of a Balanced series is to fill in the gaps that your Attractional and Growth series missed. These series focus on the topics or felt needs of your congregation that you haven’t had the opportunity to touch on yet.

Some of the topics we’ve used in the past include how to deal with stress, how to deal with disappointments or loss, how to have more hope in your life, etc.

We’ve also used Balanced series to concentrate on a single book or person in the Bible. We’ve preached sermon series around the book of Job, the book of James, and Paul’s letter to the Phillipians, among others.

Hopefully this gives you an idea on how you can start setting up your preaching calendar for next year. We typically do three to five of each type of series throughout the year, but feel free to adjust to the needs of your church.

Do you use a preaching calendar? What are some series that you’ve found have worked well in your church?

Four Reasons Sermon Series Work

Basics - Sermon Series

Every Monday I post one of The Basics. The Basics are simple steps every church can take to grow. They are the same steps that led my church from 87 people in attendance to over 700. These steps have helped my church see hundreds of people saved and baptized in just a few short years. Most of these steps you can take this week without even having a board meeting. These are The Basics.

SermonSeries1

Many people ask me what change had the biggest impact on our church growth. While I believe it wasn’t one change, but a series of changes tied to a vision to reach the unchurched in our community, perhaps the change with the biggest impact was switching from stand-alone sermons to sermon series.

For the first nine months of our church launch, we did stand-alone sermons. It was what everyone else in our community did. It was all we really knew. But after seeing our church go from 87 people in attendance on our first Sunday service to averaging 86 in attendance in our first year, we decided to make some changes.

So, why sermon series? I can think of four very good reasons to switch.

  1. Time to Prepare – I know far too many pastors who wait until Saturday night to start preparing their message for Sunday. My pastor was one of them. When we changed to a sermon series based model, it forced us to be better prepared, which in turn led to less stress each week. Now we’re planning four to six week series, months in advance. These series have a big idea, and each message in the series compliments that idea.
  1. Big Ideas Generate Big Interest – It’s hard to market or advertise a message you’re just coming up with on Saturday night. But when you plan a series in advance, you have time to advertise them, which in turn garners interest from those inside and outside your church. Every year we do at least one marriage series, and we usually place it around Valentine’s Day. We let our congregation know a couple weeks in advance so they can invite friends and family. By doing this, we have some of our biggest crowds of the year.
  1. Time to Get Creative – One of the best parts of planning sermon series is your ability to get creative with them. Because you’re planning them in advance, you and your team now have time to think of creative ideas that will enhance the message or series. Creative elements are so important in helping your congregation retain the message. Many years ago we had a toilet up on stage for a sermon titled “Toilet Water”. It was all about what couples allow themselves to consume and the harmful effects it can have on a marriage. Needless to say, people still bring up this sermon years later.
  1. People Remember Series not Sermons – If you ask anyone in our congregation the first sermon they heard at my church, very few could answer. But if you ask what series we were in, almost all of them could remember. Why? For one, they normally have a visual of the logo. We remember pictures better than words. Two, we spend weeks covering the same topic, and what gets repeated gets remembered. Isn’t that part of the goal? I mean we spend all this time preparing sermons, and don’t you want the congregation to remember what you spoke about? If you do, commit to doing sermon series.

What are some other benefits of doing sermon series? What are some drawbacks? I’d love to hear your opinions, just leave a comment below.

Re-Modeling

Staying in Love - Part Two

This November my wife and I began a new small group study based on Andy Stanley’s series Staying in Love. Over the next four weeks we’ll be learning practical lessons that will help strengthen marriages.

We’ve already had a tremendous interest in the group at our church, so I thought it would be a good idea to sum up what we’ve been learning each week and share it with a larger audience. This is part two. You can check out part one here.

StayinginLove

Re-Modeling

What, if any, sacrifices do you make for your spouse? Do you ever surprise them by coming home early from work? How often do you thank them for cooking a good meal? What about giving the kids a bath?

How often do you put your spouse’s needs and interests before your own?

If you’re like me, the answer is not nearly enough. Yet, in the Bible Paul tells us, “In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had”. Philippians 2:3

So, what attitude did Jesus have towards others? One of selflessness, one of humility, and one of serving others.

In every situation, Jesus valued others more than himself, even though in every situation He was the most valuable person in the room.

How often do you value your spouse above yourself? Because according to Paul this is how we should approach our relationships.

We should treat our spouse like they’re the most important person in the room. We are to focus our attention on their interests, even if it holds no interest for us. That means letting them control the remote, going to the movie they want to see, and eating at the restaurant they picked.

That’s easier said than done, and I’m guilty of getting my way far too often because I have a wife who has embraced this concept. She is constantly emptying herself by serving me, our kids, and others.

The danger comes when I’m not pouring myself back into her. If I’m not taking the time to serve her, to put her needs before mine, to take interest in what interest her, she ends up always feeling empty.

This is where marriages fall apart. You have to consistently be pouring into one another. When two people do this, it’s a beautiful thing, and it’s the key to staying in love.

What one thing can you do this week as a genuine expression of your decision to treat your spouse as more important than yourself?

Never Ask For Help

This may seem crazy, but asking for help is one of the best ways to make sure no one signs up to help. Yet, over and over again I see churches make this mistake when recruiting volunteers.

HelpWanted

When you ask for help, you communicate a lot more than you realize. Here’s just a few things asking for help communicates:

  • We’re Desperate – We have such a hard time finding people to volunteer at our church that we’ll take anyone.
  • We don’t have a compelling vision – We’ve never taken time to find what God has called us to do. We’re just trying to fill holes.
  • We don’t mind guilting you into serving – If someone doesn’t volunteer in kids’ ministry, then little Johnny may never hear about Jesus.

It should come as no surprise that this strategy doesn’t work. Sure, it may work on a few people, those people that have a high sense of guilt, those who always sign up for everything. They’ll serve for a while, but eventually they end up frustrated and burned out. Then it’s back to square one.

Let me offer a better strategy. This is a strategy that we’ve seen work in our church over the past several years.

Instead of asking for help, offer opportunities. What type of opportunities?

  • Opportunities To Use Your Gifts – We don’t want you to fill a hole. We want you to find your passion.
  • Opportunities To Grow Yourself – We don’t want you to just become a volunteer. We want you to become more like Jesus.
  • Opportunities To Impact Lives – When you share the love of Christ with others, you get the chance to see others fall in love with Christ.

Just by changing the language you use, you will see an instant increase in the number of people who sign up to serve at your church. Then, if you teach your current volunteers to invite others to serve alongside them using this same language, your volunteer ministry can multiply even faster.

What are some ways you recruit volunteers at your church? What strategy has worked and what hasn’t?

Three Keys to Every Great Childrens’ Ministry

Basics - Childrens' Ministry

Every Monday I post one of The Basics. The Basics are simple steps every church can take to grow. They are the same steps that led my church from 87 people in attendance to over 700. These steps have helped my church see hundreds of people saved and baptized in just a few short years. Most of these steps you can take this week without even having a board meeting. These are The Basics.

kids

Children’s ministry may be the most important ministry in church today, and yet I see so many churches treat it as an afterthought.

Offering a Sunday School class for children is not enough. You have to be more intentional about providing an environment where kids can learn about Jesus on their level.

Nearly eighty percent of people in the church today decided to follow Jesus before the age of 18. Fifty percent decided before the age of 12. So, the best time to teach people about Jesus is when they are children.

By committing to provide an incredible experience for kids and parents, not only will you see more people come to Christ, you will see young families flock to your church. Your childrens’ ministry can be the greatest catalyst for growth in your church.

Here’s the thing, providing a great kids’ ministry doesn’t have to be that difficult or that expensive. Any church can do it. You just need to focus on these three key elements of a great kids’ ministry.

  1. Safety – Safety has to be your number one priority because it’s a parent’s number one priority.

I recommend that every one of your volunteers serving in kids’ ministry undergo a background check. It’s not that expensive, and in this day and age, it’s become a necessity.

In addition, I recommend that you have security personnel monitor all kids’ areas. This doesn’t have to be a police officer. This can be a volunteer whose purpose is to look for anyone or anything suspicious.

And last, I recommend you implement a check-in system for your kids’ ministry that ensures your children can only be checked out of class by those who checked them in. There are lots of options out there. We use a program called Excellerate.

  1. Creative Bible Teaching – The Bible is the most amazing book ever written, so we want to convey that to our kids in fun and interesting ways.

We strive to bring Bible stories to life by using songs, videos, live acting, small group discussions, and activities that keep the children engaged.

The best thing is, you don’t have to come up with this yourself. There are tons of great options available. Check out curriculum from Orange, NewSpring, and Elevate to get your started.

  1. Fun, Fun, Fun – Your kids’ ministry has to be fun. It has to be a place kids want to come back to week after week. Every week we have kids dragging their parents to church because they don’t want to miss kids’ church.

So, make sure the adults you have volunteer in kids’ ministry not only love kids, but they also know how to have fun. Don’t just settle for anyone. Make sure you get the right people in the room.

And that’s it. Kids’ ministry needs to be safe, fun, and a place kids can learn about Jesus on their level. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and it isn’t that expensive.

You can do it. When you do, you’ll be overwhelmed by the blessings it produces.

How would you describe your kids’ ministry? How could you make it better?