5 Signs of a Toxic Church Board

Church boards, when they’re healthy they are invaluable to a church, but when they’re unhealthy, they can be down right toxic. Unhealthy church boards have been a thorn in the pastor’s side for centuries. I believe they can be traced all the way back to the Bible. Wasn’t it Paul who said God gave him a thorn in the flesh? I can only imagine he was talking about a church board.

I’m kidding, of course. We all know Paul was talking about a worship leader in skinny jeans.

I’ve experienced both sides, healthy and unhealthy. Although I must admit when our church board was unhealthy, I was just a volunteer.

But that didn’t keep me from feeling the sting of a toxic board more than a couple of times.

What’s tricky about a toxic board is you often don’t realize just how toxic it is until you begin trying to change things.

Change always seems to be the catalyst for toxicity.

If you’re having a hard time identifying whether you’re part of a toxic board, let me give you some characteristics.

  1. They focus on the cost instead of the reward.

One of the most common arguments of a toxic board is the financial cost of change. Yet, they fail to realize the financial cost of not changing.

  1. They highlight the pain of a few over the benefits of many.

Many times change involves moving people from one position to another or replacing them altogether. A toxic board will often let a ministry suffer rather than hurt one person’s feelings.

  1. They exaggerate how good things currently are.

You have to say, bless their heart, because they truly believe things are good. Attendance and giving can be steadily declining, the roof may be leaking, and one of your Sunday School teachers may be sleeping during service, but they will still find a way to spin it into a positive in order to avoid change.

  1. They grab onto the one thing that might go wrong instead of all the things that could go right.

They will never bring up all the things that could go right, and if you try to bring it up they will find a problem with it. They will always focus on the things that could go wrong.

  1. They will try to undercut the credibility, authority, and experience of those leading the change.

If all else fails, don’t be surprised when they turn their attacks on those who are trying to lead change. Often that’s the senior pastor, and often the toxic board will win.

Have you ever been part of a toxic board? What were the symptoms? Leave a comment to let us know, and make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Never Assume Anything

Have you ever heard the saying, “Ministry would be easy if it didn’t involve people?” It’s so true, yet people are the best part of ministry. We couldn’t do ministry without them, but people can be so frustrating, especially when it comes to leadership.

Let me ask you a question, have you ever had to have a conversation with a leader about something that you thought should’ve been obvious? Let me give you an example.

I used to oversee every ministry leader in our church. I was the direct report for every leader in worship, children, and first impressions. I loved the job because honestly I’m a bit of a control freak, but eventually our church got too large for me to continue to do that.

During that time, social media was really starting to blow up. So I made it a priority to friend all of our leaders, volunteers, and anyone else who I knew came to our church. I still do it today.

What amazed me was the conversations I had to have with leaders based on what they posted on social media, things that seemed real obvious to me that you shouldn’t post if you’re leading a kid’s environment. That sort of thing. I’m sure you’ve had to do the same.

But I’m beginning to learn more and more throughout the years that I should never assume anything because assuming tends to make a you-know-what out of you and me.

So, these are four things I never assume anymore.

  1. People Know What I Know

Most of the time, this one is my fault because I haven’t done a good enough job communicating something. Sometimes this happens because I forget, but most of the time this happens because I just thought it was obvious that you shouldn’t play football in the sanctuary. My bad.

  1. People Think Like I Think

People don’t think the same as I do. They haven’t read the same books, they haven’t experienced the same teachings, and they didn’t grow up the same as me. So, if I want them to think like me, I need to expose them to what I’ve been exposed to. This is why reading books together is such a powerful leadership tool.

  1. People Work Like I Work

Hand me a shovel and I’m ready to quit immediately. Hand me a computer and I can work for days on end. People work at different paces and different rhythms. Just because someone doesn’t do something as fast as me doesn’t necessarily mean they’re lazy, they just have different strengths than I do.

  1. People Act Like I Act

I’m always early and never late. If I see something that needs to be done, I want to jump in and help. These things come naturally to me but not to everyone. Sometimes someone seeing you do it will inspire them to do it, but sometimes you need to take a leader aside and tell them what’s expected of them.

I’m learning in life and ministry, my assumptions often get me in trouble. So, instead of blaming someone else, I’m realizing that often the problem starts with me.

What’s your experience with assumptions in ministry? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

5 Reasons We Made the Switch from CCB to PCO

If you have no idea what CCB stands for or PCO, don’t worry I’ve been where you are. It wasn’t until we brought in an outside consultant who introduced us to the idea of a Church Management System. A ChMS is used to communicate, connect, and engage with members of your congregation. Before then we had mostly been tracking members, volunteers, guests, etc. through a very elaborate Excel spreadsheet.

After meeting with our consultant, we decided to give Church Community Builder (CCB) a try. While we enjoyed having all of our info in one central place that anyone could access, we just didn’t feel like it was worth the money, and so we decided to look at other options.

We ultimately decided on Planning Center Online (PCO), and here are a few reasons why.

  1. Cost

If you pastor a small town church, you know the pressure money puts on the ministry. You just never feel like you have enough. So, while researching the options, I took note that PCO was 25-30% cheaper than CCB. That’s a significant savings when you consider that most church management systems cost at least a few thousand dollars a year. CCB also makes you sign a yearlong contract, while PCO allows you to pay month to month and cancel at anytime without a penalty.

  1. Pay for Only What You Use

PCO has the added advantage of allowing you to pay only for what you need. If you need a check-in system for your kids, they have you covered. If you need a contribution management system, they have that too. Groups, volunteers, worship, the list goes on and on, but you can choose what you use. CCB doesn’t give you that option. You pay for everything regardless if you need it or not.

  1. Planning Center Services

Our worship team was already using Planning Center Services. Services allows you to plan your worship experience, schedule volunteers, transpose chord charts and mp3s, import music from SongSelect and PraiseCharts, and allows your team to listen to the music within the program. It makes a worship pastor’s job so much easier and saves a ton of time.

  1. They Have an App for That

PCO is so far ahead of CCB in this department it’s not even close. PCO has apps for Services, Music Stand, People, Check-In, and Projector. The apps are free, easy to use, and look great. CCB has an app for Groups.

  1. Planning Center People is Free

Planning Center People allows you to store contact data, personal information like birthdays and anniversaries, and add pictures and social profiles. It also allows you to create workflows to follow up with guests, new volunteers, and more. Did I mention it’s free to everyone no matter how big or small your church is?

We’re just getting started with Planning Center so I’m sure we’ll discover a lot more reasons why we love it, but this is just a few to get us started.

Do you currently use a Church Management System? If so, which one and how do you like it? Let us know by leaving a comment below and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

The Pursuit of More

Let’s be honest, we live in a culture of more. We all want more, and churches aren’t immune to this. In our churches we want more salvations, more baptisms, more people, more volunteers, more money, and in order to get more, we believe we have to be more.

So, we set our sights on being more:

More innovative than Apple.

More creative than Disney.

More passionate than Steven Furtick.

More relevant than Andy Stanley.

More missional than the Apostle Paul.

We’re going to offer more programs.

We’re going to offer more family time.

We’re going to offer more hymns.

We’re going to offer more groups.

We’re going to send more mailers.

We’re going to have more greeters.

We’re going to read more.

We’re going to pray more.

We’re going to fast more.

Because we have this idea that if we could just offer a little bit more, then surely God will bless us.

Yet in our pursuit for more, so many of us end up burnt out, stressed out, divorced, broke down, and certainly not feeling blessed.

So, why not consolidate our pursuit of more into one thing? One thing that will make more impact than all the others put together.

This year let’s try to love more.

Everyone else will be trying hard to outthink the competition. Very few will make the decision to out love.

Our pursuit for more is really just a pursuit for love and acceptance.

When you start really loving people, you will find the more you’re looking for.

On a scale of 1-10, how loving is your church? Why did you give that rating? Let us know by leaving a comment, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get updates on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Marriage, Ministry, & Valentine’s Day

Guest Post: Tim & Heather Key

We, as ministry professionals, spend our lives serving the needs of others.  This person is lost and needs Jesus, that family is having a crisis and needs counsel, and yet another brother or sister in Christ has gone to be with the Lord.  Who has time for romance when serving the almighty God?

With Valentine’s Day upon us, perhaps it’s time to reflect for a moment on our relationship with our spouse.  This may be the one day of the year that your spouse looks forward to more than any other to gain your undivided attention.  That special card, their favorite flower, or perhaps their favorite box of chocolates.  Those things are wonderful.  But what if Valentine’s Day could come more than once a year?  What if these special memories could become part of your daily walk?  Is that even possible?  Here are two things that we have learned in our 26 years of marriage:

1) You don’t need a holiday to celebrate your love

We have decided that our entire year can be a celebration of our love for each other.  Gifts come and go at random intervals.  We seek to engage each other through date nights and other activities on a regular basis.

This is perhaps something that everyone can do, even with small children.  It does require some planning because you will need a babysitter a few evenings per month.  One of the best ideas that we’ve seen is to find another couple with children and trade babysitting for date nights.  This can be the most economical method.  Even if you must hire a sitter for a few hours, the time away from the kids can be just enough breathing room to recharge your love tank for each other.

You don’t even have to go out to a restaurant.  The goal is to ensure that you are spending quality alone time with your spouse and without interruption.  There were a lot of times that we just weren’t able to afford eating out or doing anything that cost additional money.  We would work out something for the kids to do with a sitter, friend, or family member for a few hours and just stay home, watch a movie, and whatever else might happen.  Sometimes we just took a nap together because we were exhausted.

One of Heather’s favorite things to do was going to the lake, sitting on the levy, and talking.  In order for me to get her undivided attention, I had to remove her from the home.  All she sees at home are things that she needs to be doing around the house.  It can be difficult for some people to just unplug from the mommy role and switch to the loving wife role.  It helps to understand how your spouse operates and plan accordingly.

2) Take a vacation together without the children

We also plan to have at least one quality vacation together without the distractions of life and children.  We just recently had our first 2-week vacation ever.  We spent a few days in Florida acting like youths riding all the roller coasters at Universal Studios Orlando and SeaWorld.  We then ventured off on a 7-night cruise to the Western Caribbean.  The memories that we made and the time that we spend together cannot be measured.  There is nothing in the world like having this kind of dedicated time to spend and share with the one that you love most.

We realize that a 2-week vacation without the children can be quite impossible when you have children at home.  Our youngest daughter moved out on her own in 2016 leaving us empty-nesters.  The way we managed to take vacations alone looked very different over the years.  Here are some suggestions from what worked for us:

  • One Night with You – this works well if you have children under 5 years old.  Just focus on taking one night away to keep your fires burning. Try and do it more often, at least once per quarter.
  • Weekend Getaway – We did simple weekend escapes as the kids began to age a little more.  Nothing fancy at all.  Reasonable hotel in a city not too far from home for connection, focus, and rest.  We tended to walk around shops and have reasonable meals or catch a movie.
  • Extended Getaway – We only took a single week long vacation alone before our kids were old enough to take care of themselves.  In 1999, we took a trip to Niagra Falls.  The girls were 8 and 6 at the time and it was way too stressful for them and us.  As our oldest reached her mid-teen years and matured, we were able to take these longer vacations to the mountains or other places.  It was much more enjoyable when you didn’t have to worry about them so much and could really relax together.  The kids will not be happy with you for not taking them along but the time away from them to focus on your relationship will make you both better parents.

We have not always had this level of balance in our marriage.  We wrote about the tragic marriage that we had in the early years of our ministry work on our blog.  The good news is that we found a balance in our lives to have a rich marriage, stable children, and remain consistent servants to our calling in the ministry.

So many of our brothers and sisters who serve the cross struggle in their marriage and family relationships.  We are living proof that it doesn’t have to be that way.  This doesn’t mean that we always agree on everything or that we like to do the same things.  In fact, the opposite is true.  We don’t usually enjoy the same types of entertainment and our ideas of quality and relaxation time can be quite polar sometimes.  But what we have gotten correct in our relationship is that we enjoy spending time with each other.

We recognize that our differences in life are okay.  God made us different as a compliment to each other.  Areas that I am weak, Heather is usually stronger and vice-versa.  If we were both just alike, one of us wouldn’t be needed…  Think about that.  Embrace the difference and enjoy each other’s strengths.

My wife and I committed our lives together and God blessed our union with two wonderful daughters.  They came from our passion and love.  He didn’t call us to be unstable, miserable, and destructive in our behavior in a way that destroys our family.  No, He established us as a reflection of Christ’s relationship with His Church.  To raise our daughters to know who He is and how to establish their own godly marriages and families.

So, give your relationship with your spouse a priority in your life.

  • God never intended for us to sacrifice our marriages and families on the altar of the church.  Though the work we do for our church and community is important, our responsibility to our spouse and families are greater.  Don’t allow your work, even in ministry, to rob your family.
  • Be a father or mother who is deeply engaged in the home and raising of the children.
  • Establish good boundaries so that you give to your spouse due benevolence.  Don’t just give your life mate the leftovers and scraps.  Serve your best every day and make your relationship a reflection of the true love that God intended it to be.

Your children, your friends, and your ministry followers will then see a true servant of God who has the peace of God displayed before them.

It is our prayer that your marriage is blessed beyond measure.

Tim and Heather Key are the founders of LifeTravelers.us Marriage Blog. They have been married for over 26 years, have two daughters and are expecting their first grandson. Their passion is for helping couples overcome the struggles of marriage.

I’m Saved, Now What?

Do you recall the moment you surrendered your life to Christ? Maybe you can’t remember the exact moment, but I’m sure you can recall the feeling of immense relief knowing Christ had forgave you of all your sins. Then shortly thereafter, maybe you had the same thought I did, what do I do now?

It’s a question many people ask, especially those who are just starting on their faith journey.

But it’s not always limited to new Christians. You will find many people who have been coming to church for years who are still wondering, where do I start?

I would suggest this simple framework for anyone asking the question, now what?

  1. Study It.

I mean the Bible, of course. Early followers of Jesus were just that, followers who literally followed Him around, experienced His teaching, and tried to apply it to their lives. We, unfortunately, don’t have a “physical” Jesus to follow around, so God gave us the next best thing, a narrative of His life and teachings. We would be wise to study it on a daily basis.

  1. Pray It.

I haven’t always been the best at this discipline. I used to always fall asleep in the middle of my nightly prayers. Now, I pray out loud with my girls each night, harder to fall asleep that way, and I pray each morning on my drive in to work. We may not have a “physical” Jesus we can speak to, but I take great comfort in knowing that Jesus hears my prayers.

  1. Live It.

I believe it was James who said, “Faith without works is dead.” You should be living out your faith. What Would Jesus Do? wasn’t just a clever Christian catchphrase, it’s really something we should be asking ourselves. If you’re not finding ways to love and serve your neighbor, you’re not following the example Jesus set for us. Volunteering at your church would be a great place to get started.

  1. Share It

Faith is like a hug, it’s better shared with someone else. Oh sure, you can hug yourself, but it’s a bit awkward. Start by finding a friend or family member to share your story with. Then look for ways you can share what God has done in your life with others.

This is certainly not meant to be an exhaustive list, but it is a great place to start.

Does your church offer a class for new believers? What does it look like? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and if you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe to the blog for tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

7 Ways Churches Should be Using Facebook

Unless your church has been living under a rock for the past ten years, your church should already have a Facebook page. For those still living under a rock, you can find out how to set one up here.

Facebook gets a bad rep from time to time because some people feel like it’s full of gossip, political arguments, and ultimately just a waste of time.

While much of that is true, you can’t deny that the majority of your community spends a lot of time there. So, trying to fight against Facebook is about as successful as spitting in the wind.

Instead of fighting against it, what if you got involved in it? Maybe you could make the Facebook world a better place.

If you’ll choose to embrace Facebook, you’ll discover that it can be really beneficial to your church.

Just off the top of my head, I can think of seven ways you should be using it.

  1. Posts – The basics of Facebook. You could be posting scriptures, quotes, pictures, and videos. It’s the easiest way to give your community a glimpse into the heart of your church.
  1. Events – Have something coming up that you’d like to invite the community to? Set up a Facebook event. It’s free, and you can learn how here.
  1. Ads – If you want to reach even more people, you can set up a Facebook ad. This costs money, but if you have the budget, it’s a great use of your marketing dollars. I wrote a detailed how to here.
  1. Check InsCausely says Facebook Check Ins are the most valuable form of exposure a church community could ask for. And it’s completely free.
  1. Facebook Live – It used to cost thousands of dollars to live stream your church service. Now you can do it free through Facebook. Find out more in this post from Thom Rainer.
  1. Facebook Messenger – It’s like texting but through Facebook. It’s a great way to communicate with your members and volunteers. I’ve even recruited several volunteers by sending them a Facebook message.
  1. Facebook Groups – Perhaps the most underutilized tool Facebook offers is their Groups. Groups allow you to communicate, you guessed it, just within that group. These are great for volunteer teams, or think outside the box and create a prayer request group for your church. Find out how to create a group here.

What did I forget? How is your church using Facebook? Leave us a comment and let us know, 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.

Don’t Quit

Guest Post: Patrick Casey

1 Thessalonians 5:21 Examine everything and HOLD ON…

1 Peter 5:9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.

Acts 11:23 He encouraged them with all purpose of heart that they should continue with the Lord.

At the risk of seeming a little proof texty, the above are three gleaming examples of the encouragement to “NOT QUIT.” These passages represent three different writers, three different readers, and yet strikingly similar exhortations.

In the last scripture, we have a small, new launch, infant, beginning church, and when Barnabas sees its love, its enthusiasm, its fire, its purity, and its devotion to just wanting to make a difference and introduce people to Jesus, his primary encouragement to them, perhaps knowing what difficulty they would face, was that they “NOT QUIT.”

French Arrington’s record of that church indicates it survived nearly 5 times longer than the average life span of historical Christian churches. Could it be Barnabas’ directive to them fanned a flame?

Maybe you’re more emotionally stable than me, BUT I need encouragement, sometimes often. We probably all had some minor delusion of “changing the world” unrestrained and uninhibited. We had thoughts that people would just come because we loved them, and a million-dollar real estate mogul’s son would get saved in a service and he in turn would finance a huge campus debt-free, and we would get paid to read the Bible and pray, AND the Glory of God would swirl around us like Donald Trump’s hair in a New York City wind.

Then enters stage right that pesky struggle between the ideal and the real. We are expected to clean the church, cut the grass, visit, open doors, lock doors, adjust thermostats, fight with boards, wrestle with leaders, fire staff, hire staff, be an insurance agent, tax professional, attorney, counselor, finance manager, real estate guru, leader, worshipper, preacher, writer… is it Friday yet?!?

The truth is, it’s not as glamorous or as easy as Furtick and Houston make it look. There have been many days I felt like quitting, like what I do doesn’t matter, maybe you can identify, but I’m pleading with you today, HANG IN THERE.

Around 1870, when New York City had one of the most hotly contested mayor’s races in its history, the incumbent was Mayor John Tweed. Boss Tweed’s political machine began to roll and was corrupt to the core. There were a number of committed citizens who decided to fight. In the beginning, they seemed to be making a difference, but as the campaign dragged on, the cost of the commitment of time and energy became more than most people were willing to pay. Many of the good people, who initially believed in the importance of what they were doing, began to drop out. In the end, Boss Tweed had been reelected. The next day, the New York Times ran an editorial and analyzed what had happened. The article summed up the situation with these words: “The good people quit being good before the bad people quit being bad.”

Here are three things I pray that will blow some strong, fresh wind in your sails and push you a little farther on your journey.

  1. DON’T QUIT

Life will give plenty of leaky roofs, flat tires, and stupid people to navigate around. We can’t afford to let the circumstances dictate our commitments.

Every great success story is the story of a struggle- in the garden, the early history of Israel, and the early church, YET here we are. WHY? They didn’t quit. Adam “died” because of his sin, but called Eve “the mother of all living,” because he refused to quit. After 40 years in the wilderness, an 85-year-old Caleb says, “I am just as able now to claim it as I was then,” and a Paul couldn’t be killed because he was already dead, “for me to live is Christ…”

THERE WILL COME a day when the “honeymoon” is over and it seems all of hell will vent its hottest rage against your life. People will leave you, hurt you, and reject you, BUT in that moment around you, don’t doubt what God has put in you!

PASTORS, don’t let vicious people wreck your vision, don’t let the jaded steal your joy, DON’T let thieves and parasites keep you from the mission. You’ll have plenty of reasons per day to quit, BUT don’t you do it. YOUR purpose is greater than your pain!

  1. DON’T QUIT

The idea in allowing spiritual opposition isn’t without purpose, it’s that you’ll prevail. LISTEN, God doesn’t want the abrasion of life to wear you down BUT polish you up. I wish we could go from the PROMISE to the PALACE without the PIT, but we can’t always.

What a left handed compliment to be found worthy of demonic attacks! At the risk of sounding uber-cliché, if he’s a “good” devil and you’re a threat at all, you’re worth attacking.

Satan’s greatest attacks are the assault on your mind. I can’t tell you how many times that I have thought I was losing my mind. IF you haven’t learned it by now, the enemy isn’t stupid; he’s a schemer. He will tell you you’re unworthy, you don’t matter, your wife and kids think you’re a flop, you’ll think you can’t preach, you’ll go to conferences and feel worse because you’re not as talented. THOSE things weigh on our mind and speak loud in our ears, BUT 2 Corinthians 10:4 “THE WEAPONS of our warfare…bringing into captivity EVERY THOUGHT to the obedience of Christ…”

LUKE 10:19 Behold I give you “POWER” (EXOUSIA) OVER ALL the POWER (DUNAMIS) of the ENEMY. Literally translated- CHRIST grants us authority above all the devils ability, DON’T QUIT, you have all you need!

  1. DON’T QUIT

I recently spent a week in Africa and was privileged to see cheetahs, the fastest animal on the planet, in the wild on a game reserve. Though fast, if they don’t catch their prey very quickly, they’ll give up, IN PART, because they have a very small heart. What a metaphor for today! People run after God, but quickly lose heart when things don’t go their way, and they quit. I understand; I have felt the same way. In the early years of planting a church with seven people, the struggles seemed insurmountable, BUT GOD has brought us into a great place of prosperity and I often wonder where I’d be had I quit.

Keep grinding it out week after week, keep reaching, keep pressing, and keep pursuing. YOU, my friends, are a pixel in this beautiful picture of God’s church, DON’T QUIT.

Patrick Casey is the Lead Pastor of Christian Life Church in Mobile, Alabama. He is passionate about, not only pastoring his community, but also encouraging his fellow pastors. Patrick and his wife, Kim, live in the Mobile area with their two children, J. and Lauryn.