Merry Christmas 2016

I just wanted to take a moment to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas. Thank you so much for reading the blog. Each one of you are a gift to me.

I’ll be taking the week after Christmas off to spend some time with the family and work on some new material for 2017, so Happy New Year, and I’ll be back soon.

My 2016 Year in Review

Today, December 22nd, 2016 I turn 36 years old. You don’t have to worry about sending me a card. You can just leave me a comment at the end of this post. Facebook wished me a happy birthday this morning, and they also reminded me to post my Year in Review.

Your Facebook Year in Review is a photo slideshow of different things you have experienced throughout the year. Although they say a picture is a worth a thousand words, I think sometimes it’s just better to write things down. So, I present to you my 2016 Year in Review.

  1. I read through the Bible this year. It wasn’t the first time I’ve done this, but it was the first time in a long time.
  1. I had the opportunity to preach at three great churches: Strong Tower Church, Generation Church, and Refuge Church.
  1. I started praying with my daughters before bed. This was one of the best things I’ve ever done. If you have young children, I highly encourage you to start doing this.
  1. I helped launch a second Strong Tower Church location in Lafayette, Tennessee.
  1. I met Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church, one of my favorite preachers and authors.
  1. I ate my first elk burger on my first trip to Indianapolis, Indiana, while visiting Justin Davis who just launched Hope City Church.
  1. I watched the entire Star Wars Saga for the very first time. I haven’t seen the newest movie yet, but I plan on it.
  1. I went on a family vacation to Santa Rosa Beach, Florida that included my wife’s brothers and sister and their kids.
  1. I went jet skiing for the first time while on a church planters retreat in Savannah, Georgia.
  1. I took my wife to an all-inclusive resort in Cancun, Mexico to celebrate our ten-year anniversary.
  1. I saw two of my favorite artists in concert, Dave Barnes and NeedtoBreathe.
  1. I went on a vision trip to Kenya with Compassion International and started sponsoring my first Compassion child.
  1. I went on my first African Safari where I saw elephants, zebras, giraffes, hippos, crocodiles, lions, and more.
  1. I took dance lessons to celebrate my wife’s 30th
  1. I ran a 5k…ok walked most of it, but still I’m getting older.
  1. I wrote over 100 blog posts.

Looking back over this list I have to say, 2016 has to be one of my best years ever. To say I’ve been blessed is an understatement.

I’m not crazy about getting older, but if I keep having years like this one, I won’t mind nearly as much.

How was your 2016? What were some of the highlights? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. And don’t forget to subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss any of the tips on church growth, leadership, and more I’ll be delivering to your inbox in 2017.

Santa’s Elves

4 Characteristics Santa's Looking For

In the spirit of Christmas, I thought we’d have a little fun on the blog today and ask ourselves what Santa is looking for when he hires an elf. Now, I’m not sure if elves actually go through a hiring process or what they get paid or if they get insurance. All I know is that if you’re making and delivering gifts for every child in the world, you better have some elves you can depend on.

Who knows, maybe there’s even a correlation between what Santa’s looking for when he’s hiring an elf to what other leaders should be looking for when they bring someone onto their team.

After all, Santa’s got a pretty important mission, and so do you. So, you want to make sure you get the right people on your team.

4 Characteristics Santa’s Looking for in an Elf

  1. Passion

Santa needs elves that are passionate about their role. If Herbie doesn’t like to make toys, then Herbie has to go. The mission is too important to assign it to someone who isn’t excited about the work that needs to be done. Santa is looking for elves that bring joy to their workplace and not negativity.

  1. Competent

Passion is great, but it has to be paired with an elf that knows what he or she is doing. It doesn’t matter how excited you are about your job if you stink at it. Santa knows the mission is too critical to give the job to someone who isn’t unqualified. It’s a lesson too many churches have yet to figure out.

  1. Character

Not only does Santa keep a naughty or nice list for every child in the world, I believe he keeps one for each elf. If he has an elf who is coming in to work late, showing up at the mall drunk, or flirting with Santa’s secretary, then that elf has to go.

  1. Fun

When you work at the North Pole, you’re going to be working in close proximity with the other elves, so it helps if you’re fun to be around. No one likes a Negative-Ned, a Complaining-Carol, or a Gossiping-Greg. If you’re fun, people will want to be around you, and the best elves work in teams.

Santa can’t do his job alone, and neither can you. Make sure you’re placing the right people on your team in order to accomplish the mission God has given you.

If you have some people on your team who don’t have these characteristics, this may need to be the year that they get coal in their stocking, if you know what I mean.

What do you think the best part of Santa’s job would be? Is it flying the sleigh? All the free cookies and milk? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below, and make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

2 Simple Steps to Regain Momentum

According to the latest social media posts, 100% of churches are doing great. At least that’s how it can seem. Everyone else’s church is growing, and yours, well, let’s just say it’s a spiritual growth season. All of us, myself included, hate to admit that our church is struggling or that our church has lost momentum. So, too often we go months or even years ignoring the signs that things may be falling apart.

The good news is 99% of the time whatever is going on can be fixed. The bad news is before it can be fixed you have to admit it’s broken.

It could be a system. It could be a ministry. It could be the entire church has just lost the momentum it once had, and you can’t figure out how to get it back.

Hopefully, I can give you some steps to help you regain momentum. But before I do that, let me address where many of you are because I’ve been there.

Many of you are tired and broken. You wouldn’t want to admit it, but many of you have already given up. You’ve resigned yourself to the fact that this is just how it’s always going to be, so what’s the use in trying?

I’m here to tell you, that’s not the case. It can be fixed. It can be everything God intends for it to be, but it’s not going to be a quick fix, and it’s not going to be easy.

So, when you’re done having your pity party, and you’re ready to give it everything you’ve got, I’d love to share with you…

2 Simple Steps to Regain Momentum

  1. Admit You’ve Lost It

What’s the first step in fixing any problem? Admitting you have one, and this is especially tough for pastors and leaders. But as tough as it is, you have to admit it to move forward. Maybe it was caused by a secret sin in your life. Maybe you neglected the simple things like prayer and reading your Bible. Maybe someone you trusted hurt you. Whatever it was, confess it, and move ahead.

  1. Go Back to the Source

Too often the last place we go should have been the place we started. If you’re struggling to find momentum, you need to start by seeking God.

But I have this against you that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Revelation 2:4-5

Forget about church strategy for a while. Forget about the numbers. Forget about all that stuff, and go back to focusing on your relationship with God. He is the source of your passion and purpose, and only He can restore the momentum you once had.

Your relationship with God is only as good as you want it to be, and if you’ve lost momentum, now you know where to find it.

Has there ever been a time in ministry you lost momentum? How did you get it back? I’d love to hear about it, so leave a comment below, and if you haven’t already make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

The #1 Church Growth Strategy

I’ve been a church strategy junkie for going on ten years now. I read books on church strategy, listen to podcasts on church strategy, and write blogs on church strategy. I’ve even gone so far as to plan vacations around churches I want to learn from. So far I’ve visited Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Point Community Church in Atlanta, and Hillsong Church in New York City.

After ten years of research, I think I’ve finally figured out the absolute best church growth strategy.

Here it is…Love God, and love people.

Be honest, how many of you were disappointed when you read that? It seems too simple? Too generic? You’ve probably heard it before, right?

Yet, that’s the beauty of it. It’s so simple, so generic that any church can do it.

You don’t need a new strategy or a new gimmick. You just need to do what Jesus said.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:36-39

So, ask yourself this question, do you love God and love people?

Because it begins with you. The people in your congregation, on your team, or in your group will follow your lead.

How often are you praying? How often are you reading your Bible outside of sermon prep time? How often are you raising your arms in worship? How often are you inviting people to church? How often are you being generous to someone?

If you’re not doing it, chances are they’re not going to do it either.

Once you’ve examined yourself, then you can ask the question, does my church love God and love people?

The loving God part is pretty easy. It’s the loving people part that some churches seem to struggle with, and it’s not always easy to see, especially if you’re on the inside.

So, let me help you out. These are a few signs that your church may not love people.

  • If the church has ever turned someone away because of what they were wearing.
  • If the church has ever made someone confess a sin in front of the church.
  • If the church has ever made a negative comment about another church trying to reach the community.
  • If there are “assigned” seats in the church.
  • If the church facility isn’t kept clean.
  • If the church doesn’t have someone at the door greeting people when they come in.
  • If the church isn’t concerned with growing their attendance.

The list could go on and on, but you get the idea.

Churches that grow love God and love people. Churches in decline, probably love God, but they struggle to love people.

What do you think of this strategy? How can your church do a better job of showing love to people? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and while you here make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Increase the Talent Around You

Who’s the best football coach in the nation? If I were taking a survey, I bet two names would be at the top of the list: Bill Belichick and Nick Saban. I personally don’t like either of them being a Titans and Vols fan, but there’s no denying that they both are great coaches.

belichick

Nick Saban wins by recruiting great players and coaching them up, and Bill Belichick wins by making good players look great through his coaching. There’s a big difference, and that’s why, in my mind, Bill Belichick is hands down the best football coach out there today.

Don’t get me wrong Belichick has had great players. Tom Brady may be the best quarterback to ever play the game, and Rob Gronkowski is a beast at tight end. But when you look at their roster year after year, you don’t see a lot of big names. Add that with the fact that Gronkowski and Brady have both missed significant time over their careers, and yet they’ve continued to pile up the wins without them.

Belichick has this incredible ability to get more out of his players than anyone else. He has a way of taking a players talent and multiplying it.

The incredible thing is that we see other coaches who have the exact opposite effect. They can take a highly talented player and diminish their talents.

It’s the same in any type of leadership. Good leaders have the ability to get more from their team, while poor leaders diminish the talents their team already has.

So, how can you tell which type leader you are?

Who’s a multiplier? Multipliers encourage, empower, coach, challenge, trust, and inspire their teams. Working for a multiplier is exhausting but still manages to be fun. Multipliers get the most out of their team, while still caring for each one’s health.

Who’s a diminisher? Diminishers criticize, belittle, micromanage, mistrust, and punish their teams. Working for a diminisher is exhausting and frustrating. Diminishers believe that their team can’t figure anything out without their help, so they have to be the center of attention.

The big difference between the two revolves around control. The multiplier wants to give it away, while the diminisher wants to hold on to it.

You can read more about the differences by checking out Liz Wiseman’s book Multipliers.

Name someone who has been a multiplier in your life. Tell us how they shaped your life in the comments below. Also, make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on leadership, church growth, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

What to Do When Plans Fail

We should’ve seen it coming. They would never give us a lease longer than six months, so when it came time to renew for next year, they turned us down. Our new campus would have to find a new home for 2017.

plansfail

I thought we would be in the school for three to five years. This would give us time to grow our congregation and put back the necessary funds to buy land and eventually build.

That was no longer the case. We needed to find a new home, and we had a very limited time to do it in.

So, what do you do when plans fail? What do you do when everything you thought would happen was wrong? Here are a few things I’m learning.

  1. Don’t Panic!!!

Everything within you will be screaming panic, but don’t. It doesn’t help anything, and it causes undue stress on you and those around you. If you must have a moment of panic, make sure to do that by yourself behind closed doors.

  1. Don’t Complain.

It would be easy for us to blame the school board for not renewing our lease, but that doesn’t help anyone. They allowed us to use one of their schools for a year, and we’re going to be grateful for that. Our goal is to bless the communities we’re in, and you don’t do that by complaining.

  1. Trust God.

I heard Perry Noble once say, “If God tells you to do it, He will see you through it.” God knows what He’s doing. If one door gets shut, He can open another. Spend time in prayer searching for that next door.

  1. Weigh Your Options.

There are always more options. They may not be good options, but there are always options out there. Take some time to look at the pros and cons of each. For us, we needed a lot of space on a very small budget. It looked impossible, but we serve a God who makes the impossible, possible.

  1. Create a New Plan.

Once you make a decision, start putting a new plan in place to make it happen. I always like to prioritize what exactly needs to be done, so I can work on the most important things first. Also, remember to involve your team as much as possible.

  1. Celebrate and Rest.

I have the tendency to skip this step, but it’s becoming more and more apparent that you can’t afford to skip this one. You have to take time to celebrate big accomplishments, and you also need to take time to rest after intense periods of work. Don’t skip this step. If you do, you’ll be headed for burn out.

I hate when plans fail, but what I love is that when plans fail, it’s always because God has something better planned for you.

Have you ever gone through something like this? What did you learn from it? I’d love to hear about it, so scroll down and leave a comment. Also, make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

A Christmas Conundrum

Ah, December, what a great month to do ministry. People are more cheerful, they’re more giving, and they’re more likely to invite their friends and family to church, especially for Christmas. But what do you do when Christmas day happens to fall on a Sunday like it does this year?

christmasservice

The simple answer would be to go ahead with service as usual. I mean Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’s birth.

But it’s not that simple because you and I both know that a large percentage of people will not show up to church on Christmas day.

So, what’s the answer? I think you have four different options this Christmas.

  • Celebrate on Christmas Sunday.

It makes sense to go ahead with church on Sunday. You’d be hard pressed to find a better day to worship Jesus. You realize your crowd is going to be down, but it will be an incredible blessing for the people who are there.

  • Celebrate on Christmas Eve.

More and more churches are moving to Christmas Eve services, and some would argue that Christmas Eve can be a bigger day for your church than Easter. That hasn’t been the case at the church I serve, but I can see how this makes sense for some churches.

  • Celebrate on Another Day of the Week.

We’ve decided to hold our Christmas Services on December 23rd the past few years. This gives our staff, volunteers, and congregation the 24th and 25th off from church to spend as they wish. We believe we get a higher attendance this way because people don’t have to decide between church and family obligations.

  • Celebrate the Sunday Before.

Some churches elect to cancel services for Christmas weekend, and celebrate Christmas the weekend before. This does give your staff and congregation time off, but you also lose a week’s offering by doing this.

Some churches can afford to do this. We’ve never been one of those churches.

I don’t think any of these options are better or worse than the other. The important thing is finding out what works best for your congregation.

Christmas is a great time of the year, and I hope your church makes the most of it, whichever day you choose to celebrate it.

So, I’d love to know, what day are you celebrating Christmas? What have you found that works best for your congregation? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and if make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox every week.