Attending a Church Conference

Pros & Cons

Welcome to the second edition of Pros & Cons. Today we tackle the pros and cons of attending a church conference.

ChurchConference

Our team tries to go to at least one conference a year, and it’s always one of the highlights of our year. Over the years we’ve been to C3, Catalyst, Unleashed, and, most recently, Inside Elevation. While the content of the conference is always great, what we’ve found most valuable is just spending time outside of church with our team. I’ve listed my other pros, as well as some cons, below. Keep in mind this is a candid look, so don’t take it too seriously.

Pro – Long road trips spent talking and laughing with your team.

Con – Getting sick in the back of a 15-passenger van.

Pro – Getting to visit a new city.

Con – Realizing your church is in a terrible location.

Pro – Getting the best seats in the house.

Con –Sitting around someone who speaks his/her every thought, “Wow.”

Pro – All the coffee you care to drink.

Con – Twenty minute waits for the bathroom.

Pro – Getting to hear messages from some of the best speakers in the world.

Con – Your team wondering why they have to listen to you every Sunday.

Pro – Worshipping with thousands of other church leaders.

Con – Elders who ask for earplugs.

Pro – Learning ways to do ministry better.

Con – Returning to church and trying to implement the changes.

If you enjoyed the list, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Make sure to include your own pros and cons as well. I’d love to read them. Also, if you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe to the blog so you never miss a post.

Money Advice from Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan may not have been the very first church consultant, but he seems to have perfected the craft. We brought him in to evaluate our church a few years ago, and it was one of the best things we’ve ever done. He gave us several valuable insights about our church, but none more valuable than telling us to move our offering time.

Money

Before Tony showed up, we had always waited until the end of service to talk about the offering. To make matter worse, we just asked them to drop their offering in some buckets by the back door as they left.

Tony saw what we couldn’t. By waiting until the end of service to take up the offering, we were communicating that it wasn’t that important. We were treating it more as an afterthought.

Our congregation treated it the same way. Some of them gave, but many of them did not. It wasn’t that they necessarily didn’t want to give. We just did a terrible job of asking.

When your church is located in a town where the median household income is $29,000 a year, you can’t afford this type of mistake.

So, we took Tony’s advice, and our offerings tripled. Just kidding but they did get significantly better, and they’ve continued to get better as we’ve become more intentional about how we talk about money and giving.

Currently, these are the four things we’re doing that we believe is making a difference in the finances of our church.

  1. We make giving easy by offering people three different ways to give. They can give through cash or check as we take up the offering each week. They can mail in their offering through a postage paid envelope we have available at our Guest Services desk. Or they can give online. If you don’t offer online giving, you’re making a huge mistake. Get online immediately.
  1. We speak on giving throughout the year. The past couple of years we’ve done a financial series in the fall. These series not only teach people the concepts behind giving but also are designed to teach people better money management.
  1. We make the offering a part of our worship set each week. After the third worship song, someone on staff will come up and talk for two to three minutes on why we give. They’ll sometimes share a personal story, other times it’s a scripture, and other times it’s a story of life change taking place in the church.
  1. We offer classes once or twice a year on financial management. Many people would like to give to the church, but they just aren’t in a spot where they feel they can. So, we try to help them set up a budget, save an emergency fund, and find ways to pay down debt.

Our per person giving is still nowhere near where I’d like it to be, but we continue to make progress. I’m just glad we called Tony when we did. His advice couldn’t have come at a better time.

How’s the giving at your church? What are you currently doing to increase generosity within your congregation? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Fighting Amongst Ourselves

As I scrolled through Facebook on the Friday before Easter, I came across a post from a pastor that was putting another church down for their Facebook ad. The Facebook ad was a picture of a bunny and Easter eggs and was inviting people to the church’s Easter services.

Fighting

The pastor didn’t name the church, but I quickly discerned that he was talking about my church. In his opinion bunnies and eggs are not an acceptable form of advertisement on Good Friday, although based on his church’s post the previous week, it can be used before then.

I do have to give him credit. He did take the post down after about an hour. I’m not sure if it was because he felt bad or if it was from unrelenting pressure from the bunny and egg crowd. Either way it saved me from getting into a Facebook feud and making both of us look bad.

But I have to ask, why do Christians do this?

Why do we feel the need to attack others who think differently than us?

Why are we so quick to judge?

Didn’t Jesus warn us about this?

“Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5

I fear that the Christian community has for far too long been obsessed with winning the argument while creating even greater divides to those outside our faith.

What’s the win when we put down another church? Less people attend that church, and less people attend church altogether. Do we really think Jesus is pleased when with this result?

Now certainly there are times when churches need to be called out for teaching false doctrine, but let’s be honest. The majority of our quarrels stem from our preferences.

Traditional versus Contemporary

Sunday School versus Small Groups

King James Version versus Any Other Version

You see, I don’t think Jesus died for our preferences.

The fact is it takes all different kinds of churches to reach all different kinds of people. So, the next time someone does something that you don’t really agree with, remember what Jesus said,

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35

Your love, not your preferences. So let’s stop trying to tear each other down, and start trying to build one another up out of love.

Hey, if you liked today’s post I’d love to hear your comments. Also, if you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe to the blog and get leadership insights and church growth tips delivered to your inbox every week.

When People Leave Your Church

Nothing hurts worse in ministry than when people leave the church. You can’t help but take it personally. It’s almost like having your girlfriend break up with you after going to church camp. “It’s not you, it’s me.”

LeavingChurch

I was attending a funeral this week when the latest break up happened.

“Hey, it feels like I haven’t seen you in forever. I keep missing you at church.”

“Yeah, been meaning to talk to you about that. My girlfriend and I have decided to see other churches.”

“Oh, that’s cool…so, what about this weather?”

Break ups are awkward to begin with. Break ups at a funeral take it to another level.

From my experience it seems that break ups can be either good or bad.

Lady who was always complaining about the music volume: Good breakup.

Man who was a top giver year after year: Bad breakup.

Good break ups take place when it’s obvious to both parties that they’re not right for each other. We had a good break up this week when an elderly couple visited our church for the first time and left before worship was over. We caught them in the parking lot and suggested a couple of churches they should start seeing. No hard feelings, and no one got hurt.

Bad break ups take place when one party can’t see that the other has moved on. Maybe at one time the person or church was right for the other, but they’ve since grown apart. If you’re not careful hurtful words can be said, and bridges can be burned. I’ve been involved in a few of these as well.

The hardest break ups for me are both good and bad. They’re break ups in which good people leave for good reasons. Perhaps, they move away, they get married, or they feel God calling them somewhere new. These are the toughest because they involve the people you truly love and care about the most.

When you love a church, like I love my church, it’s hard to understand why someone would ever want to leave. Yet, they do, and you can either sit back and look for answers or wish them well and look for someone new to love.

What’s the hardest loss you’ve ever had at your church? How did you cope with it? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

The Best & Worst Ways to Recruit Volunteers

You don’t have to be a pastor to realize that a church needs volunteers. Whether it’s to play music, watch kids, or mow the lawn, you have to have volunteers. Most of the time you need a lot of them, but how do you go about finding them?

recruiting

Chances are they’re not going to be lined up outside your office door, so you’re going to need to recruit them. There are several ways to do this. We’ve tried just about everything, and in my experience here are some of the best and worst ways to go about it.

  • Website – Success Rate 0-5%. I don’t believe we’ve ever had anyone sign up to volunteer through our website. We provide a lot of information about volunteering. It just doesn’t translate into people taking that step.
  • Social Media Posts – Success Rate 0-5%. “Hey, if you’d like to start serving at our church, comment below.” This is about as effective as the website, yet I keep trying it from time to time.
  • Stage Announcement – Success Rate 10-15%. Slightly more effective than a social media post, this has diminishing returns meaning the more you do it, the less effective it becomes.
  • Facebook Message – Success Rate 15-20%. This is a direct message to the person you’re asking to volunteer. I’ve used this method several times in the past year with decent results.
  • Face-to-Face (from a staff member or volunteer) – Success Rate 25-40%. Having a staff member or volunteer leader ask a person face-to-face is one of the most effective ways to recruit volunteers, however there is one better way.
  • Face-to-Face (from a friend) – Success Rate 50% or better. Having someone who’s already volunteering invite their friend to volunteer with them is the single most effective way to gain volunteers.

So, with statistics like this, why do some many churches rely on stage announcements to recruit volunteers? I think I’ve figured out the answer.

There’s no chance of rejection with a stage announcement. Sure, maybe no one signs up, but you don’t really feel the rejection, not like a face-to-face conversation.

A no face-to-face stings a little. A no face-to-face can get awkward. But face-to face-conversations have the best chance of getting a yes, and here’s why.

As worried as you are about them saying no, they’re just as worried about disappointing you. The closer you are to a person, the more they don’t want to disappoint you.

This is one of the reasons why a face-to-face between friends has the best success rate. Neither wants to disappoint the other.

So, the next time you need to recruit some volunteers, I hope you’ll do it face-to-face.

What would you add to the list? Do the percentages seem accurate for your church? Let me know in the comments below.

Start an Email Newsletter

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.

mailchimp-newsletters

Despite the rise in social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, email remains the best online tool for communicating with a larger audience.

Now, I’m assuming all of you reading this know how to use email, but does your church have an email newsletter? If not, you should, and here are a few reasons why.

  1. It saves time and looks more professional than regular email.
  2. It can encourage people to take next steps, such as reading their Bible, praying with their kids, or signing up to begin serving.
  3. It can increase traffic to your church website or social media accounts.
  4. It can increase church attendance by giving a preview of what’s to come the following week.
  5. It’s free and easy to get started.

There are several different email newsletter services you can use including AWeber, Constant Contact, and Mailchimp, just to name a few.

I highly recommend Mailchimp. It’s easy to use and free up to 2,000 subscribers. Here’s what you’ll need to do to get started.

Step One

Go online to mailchimp.com, and click “Sign Up Free.” Type in your email, choose a username and password, and click “Create My Account.” It takes less than 30 seconds.

Step Two

Check your inbox for an email from Mailchimp. Open the email and click “Activate Account.” Confirm you’re not a robot, and you’re ready to go. On the next page, you’ll need to enter all the information about yourself and your organization.

Pay careful attention to the question, “Do you have a list of emails to import into Mailchimp?” Hopefully, you’ve been using a connection card on Sunday mornings, so you already have a list of emails ready to import. If not, start using a connection card as soon as possible so you can collect this type of information.

Don’t forget to check the box beside, “Subscribe to Mailchimp Getting Started Emails.” Those emails will come in handy. Ok, you should be ready to click “Save and Get Started.

Step Three

Real quick, go back to your inbox and look for the Welcome to Mailchimp email. This email will walk you through importing your list, creating campaigns, running reports and more.

Alright, at this point, you should be good to go. All you need to do is decide on your content. You can use your newsletters to tell your congregation about upcoming series, send them devotionals, or spotlight a volunteer. The opportunities are endless. I can’t wait to hear about how you connect.

If you have any questions about setting up Mailchimp or just have a comment, please let me know. I’d love to serve you better.

Study, Engage, Embrace

Guest Post: Dustin Thompson

In 2011, my family and I moved into the heart of the Ozarks to serve at a church while we prepared to plant a church. Not knowing anyone, I made a decision that has since affected my life and ministry. I wore a Cardinals baseball hat a friend gave me. That cap started conversations, made friends and got me connected. It also landed me in a room with a bunch of people laughing, drinking, and celebrating when the Cardinals won the World Series. It was that night that a valuable ministry lesson was cemented in my life. A lesson that changed my tenure in Missouri and a lesson that is foundational to the church we would leave there to plant.

APTOPIX World Series Rangers Cardinals Baseball

We are missionaries.

That may not sound profound to you, or maybe its overly obvious, but I’m learning that it is often a leadership principle not lived out, at least not in our local ministries. Oversees missions do this very well. They send candidates to schools for local language, history and culture training so that they may understand the people they are trying to reach. Just as they prepare to acclimate into a culture, so should we.

We have to study our cultures.

If you want to reach a people group you have to know a people group. When I wore my Cardinals hat, I quickly learned the players and history of “my” team. When we moved to Cookeville to plant Refuge Church, I got a map to memorize as many roads as I could and read the local newspaper. Currently, it’s why I watch SportsCenter, subscribe to Entertainment Weekly, and observe others every time we go into town. As missionaries, we have to intentionally learn about the people and place God has called us to reach.

However, as usual, knowledge without application is useless. You can know and understand people but that’s not enough to make a difference or to actually reach others. Like the foreign missionaries who have gone through training so that they can live abroad, we have to do more than just learn our culture.

We have to engage our culture.

Though SportsCenter’s Top 10 and the Entertainment Weekly’s Bullseye can be very entertaining, that is not why I expose myself to them. It is so I can have conversations. To the person who likes football I can talk about the Rams relocation. To the person who likes Batman I can discuss how Ben Affleck will never top Christian Bale’s performance. I can even discuss why 1989 may just be the greatest record ever produced, even though everyone knows it is Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York. I emerge myself so I can engage others in conversation and build relationships.

Paul worded it this way, “I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:22b-23 NLT)

If we really want to reach people, we must be willing to meet them where they are, in the shallow, broken and hurting places that they find themselves in. We must be willing to do what Jesus did.

We have to embrace our culture.

For too long we have trained foreign missionaries to embrace their culture yet we have looked down on others for doing that at home. Many of us have stood on a “holier than thou” platform claiming we are “not to be of the world” while completely forgetting that Jesus said to be “in the world”.

“Just as you (God) sent me (Jesus) into the world, I am sending them (his disciples) into the world”. (John 17:18 NLT)

Jesus sends us into a culture, with a specific mission; to go and make disciples. Not to make friends or acclimate for the sake of acclimation. We immerse ourselves in peoples lives so that when trials and tragedies occur they have a known, trusted place to go to. Just as Jesus did. He left a culture, to be sent into a culture, so that he could reach a culture. And thats what it’s all about; reaching people.

That Game 7 night in October I got to do that very thing. In a room with others, I was with them, like them, becoming them; so that Jesus could be seen in me. And many times since, in my city and the church we birthed, I have been blending in so that Jesus may stand out.

Dustin Thompson is a Tennessee native with a heart for God’s church. He has served at various roles in church plants in Tennessee and Missouri. Currently he is the lead and planting pastor of Refuge Church in Cookeville, TN. He also serves churches through freelance graphic design and with organizational consultations. Dustin is married to Melissa, has two kids, Avail and Archer, and is an avid Cardinals fan. For more information you can reach out to him via foundrefuge.org or find him on Facebook.

Do You Want to Get Well?

It seems like a question with an easy answer, especially for a man who knows everything, so why did Jesus choose to ask it?

GetWellSoon

Lost? Let me back up a bit. Take a look at the story in John 5:

Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches… 5 One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”

Of course the guy wants to get well. Who wouldn’t? I mean he’s been sick for thirty-eight years. He’s hanging by the pool hoping to be healed. It seems like an obvious yes, right? Maybe not.

Jesus realizes that just because someone is sick doesn’t necessarily mean they want to get well.

We all know people who have different struggles that keep them from experiencing God’s best for their life. In many cases we are those people.

It’s like someone who chooses to smoke. They know it’s bad for them and chances are it will end up killing them, but there’s always an excuse as to why they can’t stop.

“Would you like to get well?” “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”

For many of us, Jesus offers healing, but all we offer is excuses.

Would you like to save your marriage? Well, you just don’t know what it’s like to live with her.

Would you like to be debt free? Well, I don’t make enough money.

Would you like to be set free from that addiction? Well, you don’t know how rough my childhood was.

Yet, despite the excuses, Jesus offers healing…with a catch.

8 Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking!… 14 Afterward Jesus told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.”

For many of us, if we’re honest, we want to be healed, but we’re not willing to give up what’s making us sick.

We want a better marriage, but we’re not willing to stop watching porn.

We want more money in our pockets, but we’re not willing to live by a budget.

We want to draw closer to God, but we’re not willing to wake up early in the morning to read His word.

We want to get well but not if it takes work. Not if it means giving up something we enjoy. Not if it costs us something. Many of us choose to stay sick despite Jesus’s offer to heal us.

So, I ask again, do you want to get well?

What’s been holding you back in life? What do you need to let go of? I’d love to hear your comments.

Talent Isn’t Enough

In elementary school I won first place in the 4-H baking contest. The judges couldn’t resist my mom’s Jiffy cornbread. I actually had no part in the actual making of the cornbread, but regardless I still received the coveted blue ribbon.

Talent

I’m not positive, but there’s a good chance that today, in the “everyone gets a trophy” era, 4-H doesn’t even give out ribbons anymore. Or if they do, every child gets a participation ribbon.

We would hate for our kids to learn that one had more talent than the other.

The truth is each of us has different levels of talent, but more important than the amount of talent we’ve been given is how we use it.

I have found that talent alone isn’t enough. Take for example Jesus’ parable of the talents found in Matthew 25:14-30. Each servant was given a certain amount of talent, but each one did not use it wisely. This resulted in one servant’s talent being given to another.

When this happens today, we say that someone has squandered his or her talent. They were given a gift, in some cases incredible gifts, but they wasted it.

We know of other people who had what appeared to be very little talent, but they made the most of it and accomplished things we would have never thought possible.

So, what’s the difference between someone who squanders their talents and someone who multiplies their talent? I believe it comes down to knowledge, work ethic, and character.

  • Knowledge – When you combine your talent with knowledge it multiplies. The first servant made an investment that doubled his talents. I have some great news for you, it’s never been easier to gain knowledge. Read a book, read a blog, or listen to a podcast. The options are endless. The more knowledge you have, the more valuable you are.
  • Work Ethic – How many of you know someone who has incredible talent but a terrible work ethic? If they’re on your team, get rid of them. They are setting a terrible example for those they influence. In the parable it says that one servant went to work and doubled his talent. What’s your work ethic like? Are you the first one there and the last one to leave, or are you always showing up late and leaving early? When Jesus called out the one servant who hid his talent, he called him out for being lazy. Don’t let that be you.
  • Character – He also called him out for being wicked. He had character issues. You can be smart, talented, and have a great work ethic and still fall on your face because of poor character. I’m talking to you, Johnny Manziel. Are you trustworthy? Are you honest? Are you kind? Are you dependable? How’s your character?

We serve a gracious God who has given each of us a measure of talent. But talent alone isn’t enough. It has to be combined with knowledge, work ethic, and character, and when you put it all together, God can multiply that talent to accomplish something extraordinary.

Would you say you’re making the most of your talent? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below.

Being a Small Town Pastor

Pros and Cons

I thought we would have a little fun on the blog and add a new segment called “Pros & Cons.” Today we tackle the pros and cons of being a small town pastor.

pros-cons

I think being a small town pastor is the best job in the world. I’m sure most of you would agree, but it also has very unique challenges as well. I hope you’ll appreciate this very candid list of the pros and cons of being a small town pastor.

Pro – Living in a small town where everyone knows your name.

Con – Being asked to perform every wedding, funeral, and exorcism.

Pro – Potluck dinners every third Sunday of the month.

Con – Having to add a new hole to your belt every third month of the year.

Pro – The ability to work from home.

Con – Deacons stopping by to discuss last month’s budget numbers.

Pro – Free coffee at the local meat and three.

Con – Free prostate checks at the local health clinic.

Pro – Getting the opportunity to bring God’s word to the world.

Con – Spending each Sunday preaching to a half empty room.

Pro – Cell phone provided by the church.

Con – Phone calls at 2am to pray for someone’s sick goat.

Pro – Taking a summer sabbatical.

Con – Without pay.

If you enjoyed the list, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Make sure to include your own pros and cons as well. I’d love to read them. Also, if you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe to the blog so you never miss a post.