My Christmas Wish List

Andy Williams calls it the most wonderful time of the year. I call it budget season. The time of the year when you can start thinking about all the things you can buy with next year’s budget. So, with that in mind, I wanted to share with you a few of the items that I have found to be well worth the investment.

Kids Ministry. Your kids ministry should be a place where kids learn about Jesus on their level in a fun and safe environment. Here are some items that can help create that environment.

Dell All in One PC. This computer will allow you to implement a check in station for your ministry. This is vitally important for parents. They want to know that they’ll be the only ones who can check their child in and out of a room. You’ll also need a printer to print those labels. We use the Dymo Labelwriter 450.

KidSpring CurriculumOne of the best moves we’ve ever made as a church is switching to the KidSpring Curriculum from Newspring Church. It takes a few more volunteers to pull off, but it’s well worth it. The best thing is, the curriculum is absolutely free. You can’t beat that.

Baby Playpen Safety Play Center. Something simple like this play center can really improve the look of a room, and it’s fun for the little ones. I also love using playhouses like this Walk-In Kitchen for older kids.

Foam Floor Tiles. Foam floor tiles are always a great addition to a space with little ones. These can provide fun colors to a room, as well as some cushion for all those falls and trips.

Changing Station. The absence of baby changing stations in bathrooms is a huge pet peeve for a lot of parents. Especially when it’s such an easy fix.

First Impressions/Guest Services. You rarely get a second chance at making a first impression. Studies have shown that most first-time guests who attend your church will decide whether they will ever come back within the first seven minutes.

Outdoor Flags. I’m not talking about the Red, White, and Blue even though I love that flag. I’m talking about flags that market your church by gaining the attention of everyone who drives by. They’re not exactly cheap, but they’re worth it.

Guest Parking SignsYou should have parking spaces clearly marked for visitors close to your entrance. This communicates your expecting them, you care about them, and it helps you identify them.

Coffee. If you’re not serving coffee, you need to be. It wakes people up, and it fosters conversations. For years we used Standard Coffee to provide all of our supplies. You may just want to brew several pots of coffee and keep them warm in a Curtis thermal dispenser. Do whatever works best for you.

UmbrellasOur parking team’s motto is, “When it rains we shine.” Feel free to steal it. We get a lot of rain in Tennessee, which means we get a lot of opportunities to shine. You got a single mom with three kids trying to get to a door during a rainstorm, you better believe it makes a great impression when someone escorts her to the door with an umbrella.

Worship/Media Ministry. The key to keeping us looking and sounding good. It used to be that only megachurches could afford to create an incredible worship experience, but that’s not the case anymore.

Sound Board – The Behringer X32 has really changed the game for a lot of churches. It’s an affordable digital console, which just didn’t exist a few years ago. We loved ours so much that when we got ready to start a portable campus we bought the compact version and haven’t had any regrets.

Microphones – We use Shure SM58 microphones. They sound great as long as I’m not the one singing into them.

Projector – A couple of years ago we moved from two screens on the sides of our auditorium to one screen behind the middle of the stage. This has helped with crowd engagement. At the time we purchased the Hitachi CP-WX8265 and it has held up well.

Camera – Earlier this year we purchased the MEVO Plus to use to Facebook Live our services. It has it’s issues, but for $499 it gets the job done.

Student Ministry. I’m an executive pastor who has recently become a student pastor as well. It’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever attempted, but also one of the most rewarding. Here’s a couple things that have helped.

Grow Curriculum. I would be in a world of trouble if it wasn’t for this curriculum. It has saved me so much time. I go much more in depth about it in this post. If you’re a student pastor, I highly recommend this.

Books. When I became student pastor I did lots of research and joined lots of groups. The two books that were recommended over and over again were Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry and Sustainable Youth Ministry. After reading them, I know why. They’re fantastic.

DownloadYouthMinistry.com. I’ll be honest, I haven’t spent much time on this site yet, but I plan to. It’s on my wish list for 2018. But I know lots of people who have, and they consider it the best youth ministry resource around.

Office/Admin. This list wouldn’t be complete without some administrative items. Here are a few of my favs.

PlanningCenter. I absolutely love Planning Center. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a church management database that makes my life so much simpler. It helps me track contributions, volunteers, group attendance, and lots of other stuff. I wrote more about in this post about my switch from Church Community Builder to Planning Center.

Apple iMac. The first big purchase I made as a pastor seven years ago was an iMac. For someone who had always used PC’s it took a minute to get used to, but I would never go back. I upgraded to a newer version a couple years ago, and I’m thinking 2018 may be the year I upgrade again.

HP Laserjet Printer. We’ve used a version of this printer for years now. If you print your own bulletins, this printer is a great option. It prints fast, and the quality is great. It’s a great option for the money.

Vistaprint. The items we can’t print on our own printer we now outsource to Vistaprint. We use them for connection cards, invite cards, and thank you cards. They do quality work, and you can always find a promo code that will save you money.

I hope this list helps, and I’d love for you to share the one thing you would add to your list. Let us know by leaving a comment and a link below. Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Family Matters

This week we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving in the United States, which is a holiday that involves spending lots of time with family, eating enough turkey to put us into a mini coma, and watching the Detroit Lions lose at football. It doesn’t have the commercial appeal of Christmas or even Halloween. There’s no candy or gifts handed out. It’s just a time to pause and be thankful for what we have around us. Something we don’t do near enough of.

The most valuable thing we have around us is our family. It’s our most important ministry.

I think we would all agree, but for whatever reason it’s easy to get distracted and lose sight of this.

Far too many pastors have lost their families in the name of ministry.

Don’t make this mistake. Take the steps necessary to make sure your family never feels like they’re competing with the church.

I’m a young father, and I’m sure many of you have far more knowledge on this subject than me, but I’d love to share with you a few things I’ve tried to do to make sure I’m appreciating my family.

  1. Limit the time I spend at work. I could easily work 60 hours a week. There’s always things that need to be done. I choose not to. I work around 45 hours a week. What doesn’t get done this week will be waiting on me next week. I’m gone one evening a week for student ministry and on rare occasions I’ll lead an evening small group. The rest of my nights are spent at home with my family. When my kids grow up, I’m sure I’ll work more, but for right now being at home is more important than anything I could be doing away from it.
  2. Be smart with money. I do my best to live on a budget and avoid going into debt. This means I live in a smaller house and don’t buy new cars. My 1999 Toyota 4Runner currently gets me to where I need to go. Saying no to a few wants here and there has allowed my wife to work part-time for most of our marriage and is now allowing her to be a stay at home mom. That means more to me than any purchase I could make.
  3. Prioritize my marriage. I’ve tried my best to have a monthly date night, although it hasn’t been as consistent as I’d like. Babysitters are sometimes hard to come by. The past four years we’ve taken a mini vacation by ourselves. We’ve been to Las Vegas, Cancun, and New York City. Each year we also make sure to be a part of at least one couples small group at our church.
  4. Create Special Moments. Thanksgiving for us can be hectic as we travel to spend time with different sides of the family throughout the weekend. So, I started a tradition of staying at a large resort hotel on Thanksgiving night with just my wife and girls. It’s a special moment for just us. We also try to take big vacations. We’ve been to Disney World three times in the past five years, and although my kids may not always remember it, my wife and I will.

In no way am I trying to say I’m a perfect husband or father. Please don’t think that. I don’t have it all figured out, and there are times my family would probably like to replace me. But I’d like to think I’ve made some wise decisions along the way, and hopefully some of them will help you as well.

If your family was rating you as a father or mother, what do you think they would say? Are there areas you need to work on? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and don’t forget while you’re here make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

The Three Most Important Pieces to the Kids’ Ministry Puzzle

If kids’ ministry is an afterthought at your church, you are never going to grow. It is the single most important ministry of a church right now, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Parents are no longer dragging their kids to church, but if you have a great kids’ ministry, the kids will start dragging their parents.

Let me say this to all my small town pastors out there who prefer to have kids in the adult service instead of having a kids’ ministry, you are making a huge mistake.

Yes, there may be a small benefit in kids seeing mom and dad worship, but it pales in comparison to having a kids’ ministry that is fun and exciting and teaches kids about Jesus on their level.

If this is you, I would beg you to reconsider. The future of your church depends on it.

For the rest of us, it’s not enough to just have a kids’ ministry. Your kids’ ministry needs to be great.

In order for that to happen, we need to focus on these three pieces of the puzzle.

  1. Volunteers. Don’t make the mistake of putting just anyone into kids’ ministry. I know it can be tempting, but unless they are excited and passionate about working with kids, they can do more harm than good. Kids’ ministry should get your best. Kids also thrive on consistency, so keeping them around the same volunteers is ideal. This means I prefer kids’ ministry volunteers serve at least every other week, if not every week. And it should go without saying by now that every kids’ volunteer should be background checked. We use a company called Clear Investigative Advantage, but there are several out there. Just do your research and make sure they’re legit.
  1. Curriculum. Flannel graphs and coloring pages don’t cut it anymore. We’re not just babysitting kids. We’re pointing them to Jesus. This means we need curriculum that keeps their attention and helps them learn. We use a combination of KidSpring and Elevate Kids. KidSpring is completely free. It uses a combination of videos and live acting. You just need to have volunteers who are willing to act out the scripts. Our kids love the KidSpring series, and we would use them exclusively if we had more actors. Elevate Kids is a video based curriculum that is also very good but can be expensive for smaller churches.
  1. Parents. You better care about what parents think of your kids’ ministry because more than likely it will determine if they ever come back to your church. They want to know their child is safe, so it’s a great idea to have a check-in system that only allows the parent to take them out of the room. It’s also important to have policies regarding allergies, sickness, etc. After the service a parent will likely ask their child these two questions about the experience. Did you have fun? What did you learn? If their child gives positive answers, chances are they’re coming back. If not, you probably won’t see them again.

Subpar or non-existent kids’ ministries are one of the top reasons small town churches don’t grow. You can fix this by making kids’ ministry a top priority.

What does the kids’ ministry look like in your church? Do you think it’s attracting families or pushing them away? I’d love to hear about it, so leave a comment below. While you’re here make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.