How to Become a Leader

Basics - Leadership

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been blogging now for almost two years. In the early days of the blog, I covered some church issues that I deemed The Basics. It was foundational things that I felt every small town pastor should know–things like service times, websites, kid’s ministry, etc. It seemed only fitting that since we’ve been talking so much about leadership development that I do a post on the basics of becoming a leader.

This post is part of a six part series on leadership development, largely taken from my notes on John Maxwell’s book, Developing the Leaders Around You. You can check out the other posts in the series here, here, here, here, and here.

Leadership can be complicated, but becoming a leader doesn’t have to be.

Actually, it’s very simple.

There are really only three things required.

  1. The desire to become a leader. This one seems like the easiest of the requirements, but I’ve been learning this desire is becoming harder and harder to find, at least within my church. The thing is your desire largely determines your leadership potential, and yet desire is the one thing that can’t be taught.
  2. The ability to build relationships. Leadership is all about getting people to go in a direction you set. So, you’d better have good relational skills. For some people this comes easily, for others it’s something they’ll always have to work at. The good news is anyone can get better at it if they desire.
  3. The ability to learn leadership skills and put them into practice. You can learn a lot about leadership through books, blogs, and podcasts, but the best way to learn is through an experienced leader. They will be able to teach you what works best in your environment and, hopefully, help you avoid a lot of the same mistakes they made.

If you’re interested in growing as a leader, I’m looking at doing some coaching for small town pastors beginning this fall. If you’d like more information about that you can leave a comment below or send me an email through my contact page. I’d love to hear about how I can serve you better.

Is Evangelism the Answer?

I guess it depends on the question. If the question is, how can we expose more people to Christianity? Then, yes. If the question is, how can we get more people to attend our church? Then, I would say evangelism isn’t the answer. At least, not the complete answer.

In fact, for some churches, telling your congregation to invite their friends to church may actually be a mistake.

That is, if you want them to come back.

Because you only get one chance at making a great first impression.

My wife sometimes drives me crazy because she wants the house to be spotless if we’re having someone come visit. And I like the idea of a clean house, but I live with a 4 year old and a 7 year old. So, we don’t invite many guests over.

As a pastor, you don’t have that option. You have guests showing up every week, especially if you’re asking your congregation to invite people.

So, your house needs to be in order. If it’s not, you may want to shift your focus away from evangelism and towards home renovation. Not forever, just for a season.

Some renovations give you more bang for your buck, right? So, let me give you a few places to start that I believe give you the most return on your investment.

  1. Friendliness

Is your church friendly? Do people other than the staff or board go out of their way to speak to new people? Do you have greeters? Do you have a parking ministry? When someone visits your church, do they walk away feeling like you were glad they were there? When we’re talking about connecting people to a church, I don’t think there’s a more important factor than this one.

  1. Really Good Kid’s Ministry

In most areas of the church, people will let things slide as long as they are at least average. This is not one of those areas. You have to offer a really good kid’s ministry. People don’t care about your excuses. They don’t care if you have enough volunteers or money to fund it. They just won’t come to your church. Do whatever it takes to make this ministry great. There is lots of very good curriculum available to you, some for free, and some at a cost. Make it happen. If your church is friendly and offers a great kid’s ministry, you will grow.

  1. Not Terrible Worship Music

Your church has to have a very good kid’s ministry, and it has to be friendly. Your worship music on the other hand, just needs to be not terrible. If it’s average or better, good for you, you’re ahead of the curve. Pastors usually aren’t great judges of this, so you may want to ask around. It may be worse than your realize. If it is, let me say this, an iPod and words on the screen is better than a terrible band and terrible singer. Our student ministry at one time had 150-200 students attending, and we never had a live band.

  1. Not Terrible Preaching

I know for all of us preachers this one hurts a little, but it’s true. Have you ever listened to a pastor of a large church and thought he’s not that good of a speaker? I know I have many times. Here’s the truth, if your church does everything else right, you don’t have to be a great preacher. But you can’t be terrible. If you’re doing the above three things right, and still not seeing growth, it may be time to look in the mirror.

Once you get your house in order by doing the four things listed above, then you can start encouraging your congregation to invite. If you do it before then, you run the risk of people showing up and never coming back.

This has the potential to be a controversial post, so if you disagree make sure to let me know by leaving a comment below. Also I’d love it if you would take the time to subscribe to the blog so I can send you tips on church growth, leadership, and more direct to your inbox each week.

How I Prepare to Preach

I could never be a lead pastor. It’s not that I don’t like the idea of leading or rallying people around a vision. I love doing those things. It’s just that I couldn’t handle the stress and pressure of putting together a sermon week after week. Luckily for me, I’m only called on to preach between 8-12 times a year.

Preaching used to scare me to death. We probably all remember those first experiences being some of the most traumatizing of our lives. For most of us, it meant shaky knees, sweaty palms, and a feeling of nausea.

I was relieved to hear that Pastor Craig Groeschel used to puke every week before he took the stage. It’s always good to know you’re not alone.

Thankfully, those days are behind me, and I believe the biggest reason is because of preparation.

I believe ninety percent of nervousness can be eliminated if you are well prepared. The other ten percent is between you and God.

Here’s my process for preparing to preach a sermon. Keep in mind, I’m constantly in prayer throughout the process.

  1. Gather the Big Ideas (2-4 weeks out)

In this step I want to answer three questions.

  1. What is the main thought/idea I want to convey?
  2. What is the main scripture(s) I want to use?
  3. What is the next step I want people to take?

You may also want to include the main points if you’re used to preaching that way. For example, “Three Steps to Discover God’s Purpose for Your Life.” Go ahead and list out the three steps here.

  1. Write a Transcript (1-2 weeks out)

Once you have these questions answered, you can begin writing out your sermon. I write out my entire sermon word for word from the welcome to the closing. This helps me be very intentional with what I want to say, and writing it out helps me to memorize it. I shoot for a word count between 1,800-2,400 words because in my experience this equates to about a 35-40 minute sermon.

  1. Preach the Transcript to Yourself (Monday-Tuesday)

I will then preach through the transcript by myself at least twice, making changes and adjustments as I preach. I also time myself to make sure the sermon is fitting into the 35-40 minute window.

  1. Condense to Notes & More Practice Preaching (Wednesday-Friday)

I will then condense my transcript into the notes I’m going to use to preach from. Once I have my notes, I will use them to preach to myself another two to three times and make any last minute changes.

  1. One Last Look then Preach (Sunday Morning)

I will look through my notes a couple more times, pray one last time, and then take the stage and preach to the congregation.

By the time I take the stage to preach to the congregation, I’ve already preached the message out loud to myself four to six times. This may seem like overkill, and it may be, but this is what it takes for me to be prepared to give my best.

I hope it helps some of you.

What does your sermon prep look like? I’d love to know that I’m not the only crazy one in the bunch, so leave a comment below. Also, if you’re interested in learning more about preaching subscribe to the blog to get my free ebook “8 Steps to More Impactful Preaching.”

Creating a Simple Church Budget

It’s not uncommon for some small churches to operate without a budget because it’s not uncommon for many people to operate without a budget in their personal finances. The church I serve operated for the first few years without a budget. In their minds as long as the incoming was greater than the outgoing then everything was fine.


In my mind, everything wasn’t fine, in my mind that seemed like a terrible way to handle church finances. They needed a budget, and your church does too.

A budget allows you to not only see where the money is going but gives you the ability to plan where the money is going.

The interesting thing was they weren’t opposed to a budget, they just didn’t know how to set one up. You may be in the same situation, so I want to show you how to create a simple church budget.

A budget is made up of income and expenses.

Income is pretty simple. It consists of tithes, offerings, and any other type of special giving. The income in your budget should reflect the average giving in your church over the last few years.

If your church has been growing or declining, it can be wise to look at the trends over multiple years. For example, say your giving in 2014 was $250,000, in 2015 it increased to $300,000, and you’re on track to receive $350,000 in giving in 2016. If this is the case, you may feel comfortable budgeting your income at $400,000 for 2017.

Remember you can always go back and readjust if giving is more or less than you expected.

Now, let’s move on to expenses. The great thing about tracking expenses is that you can see exactly where the money is going. To keep things simple, let’s put our expenses into five categories.

Employee Compensation

In this category you want to track salaries, but don’t forget about the additional employee expenses such as: housing, bonuses, insurance, retirement, payroll taxes, etc. All of these should be included in this category. The average Protestant church spends around 45% of their total budget in this category.


Facilities include mortgages, leases, utilities, landscaping, and maintenance. We also include expenses like cleaning supplies, paper towels, hand soap, toilet paper, etc. This category should make up 20-25% of the total budget.


For us this category consists of any expense related to the ministries in our church including: kid’s ministry, first impressions, small groups, student ministry, worship ministry, and leadership. This category should be around 10% of the total budget.


Outreach includes foreign and local missions, marketing, and benevolence, as well as other administrative costs. This category makes up 5-10% of the total budget.


This category consists of expenses directly related to the weekend worship experience. A large portion of this budget is related to special events like Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July, and Christmas. It also includes things like coffee, doughnuts, free gifts, and creative elements in the service. This category is around 5% of the budget.

Hopefully, if you’ve done the math correctly, you should have 5-10% of the budget leftover for savings. However, don’t be surprised if unexpected expenses arise that take a portion of this percentage.

If you’ve never had a budget before, you may have to guess on some of the expenses the first year. Don’t let this keep you from doing a budget. What you’ll find is that each year you’ll get better and better at knowing where the money is going, and that’s a very important thing.

Does your church have a budget? If not, I’d love to help you get one set up, just go to my contact page and send me an email. Also, if you haven’t already make sure to subscribe to the blog and get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Is Your Church Average?

I’m a big fan of Tony Morgan. If you’re not familiar with him, Tony is a church consultant and blogger who started a company called The Unstuck Group that is dedicated to helping churches get healthy. Several years ago, we brought Tony into our church and his insight was incredible. I highly recommend it. This week I got an email from him with some interesting statistics.


Did you know the average church has…

  • 59% of people in small groups or studies?
  • 45% of people on volunteer teams?
  • 7% of people baptized each year?
  • $43 given by the average person each week?
  • 1 staff member for every 77 attendees?

It didn’t take long for me to realize that my church isn’t average. Here’s what our numbers look like this year.

  • 30% of people in small groups or studies.

It’s no secret that we’re not great at small groups. We’re working to get better, but the struggle is real.

  • 40% of people on volunteer teams.

We have some incredible volunteers, but it seems to be getting a little harder to get people to start serving. We are putting some plans in place to grow this number going into next year.

  • 10% of people baptized this year.

The number I’m most proud of. We continue to see above average numbers in baptisms each year. A big part of this was offering a creek baptism during the summer. Many people want to be baptized the same way their parents or grandparents were, and that means going down to the creek.

  • $17 given by the average person each week.

Giving has to be the struggle of every small town church. At least I hope it is, or we’re doing something wrong. We continue to look for ways to teach people about finances, budgeting, and the importance of supporting the local church.

  • 1 staff member for every 110 attendees.

When giving is lower, staffing ratios are bound to be higher. We would love to hire another two to three people right now, but the budget just won’t allow it. We need to look for ways to get creative with volunteer staff or unpaid interns.

Tony’s research was based on a survey with over 200 churches. That may seem like a large sample, but when you consider that there are more than 300,000 churches in America that hardly scratches the surface.

Either way my church isn’t average, and I bet yours isn’t either.

How does your church compare? Post your numbers in the comments below, and if you haven’t already make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on leadership, church growth, and more sent to your inbox each week.

Evaluate Each Ministry

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.


One of the areas that is often overlooked in the busyness of church work is the area of evaluation. Sure, many of us may know what is going right or wrong within a ministry in our church, but few of us actually sit down and write out an accurate evaluation.

Part of this is because we don’t feel like we have the time, and another part of this is because we just don’t like to face reality. Sometimes it’s scary dealing with what’s going on in the different ministries within our churches.

Yet, if we’re going to get better and if we want to see our churches continue to grow, we have to be willing to face these problems head on. This means evaluating the ministries within our church on an ongoing basis.

This doesn’t have to be super time consuming. You just need to answer these three simple questions for each ministry you’re evaluating.

  1. What’s going well?

It may not always feel like it, but in almost every instance you should be able to find something that is going well within the ministry. Our natural instinct is to look at the negatives, but I’ve found when you focus on the positives first you’ll often find it’s not as bad as it seems.

  1. What’s going wrong?

In similar fashion, ministries that are doing well are often not doing as good as they seem. In almost every case there’s some minor tweaks that can make the ministry better. Then, for some ministries the list of things that are going wrong may far outnumber the things that are going right. In these cases you may be tempted to do away with the ministry altogether.

  1. What needs to change?

This is the most important question you need to ask because without changes, the problems don’t go away. It’s great to diagnose the problem, but you have to be willing to take the medicine. Sometimes this can be painful, but it’s necessary to get the ministry well.

Answering these three questions should give you clarity to make your next move. This may mean replacing a leader, having a hard conversation with a volunteer, or doing away with an ineffective ministry.

Evaluation is not always a fun process, but I’ve found it to be a key to growth.

How often are you evaluating your ministries? What changes have you made because of it? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below. Also, make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips just like this delivered to your inbox each week.

Conduct a Facility Inspection

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.


While all of these are major factors to consider, the one thing that seems to hold most churches back is vision.

No, not the kind of vision you’re probably thinking. I’m talking about the vision provided by your eyes. Most facility issues never get dealt with because they’re never really noticed, at least not by you, because you’re used to it.

However, new visitors notice them because they’re laying a fresh set of eyes on a new place. So, they notice the cobwebs in the corners, the stains in the ceiling tiles, and the weird smell coming from the bathroom.

If they notice enough of these issues, they make the decision not to come back. It doesn’t matter how well they’re greeted, how much fun their kids had, or how much they enjoyed the message. If you’re facility is a mess, you’re losing visitors.

Thankfully, there’s a simple solution, and it can be accomplished with a pen and a piece of paper in as little as thirty minutes a month. It’s called a Facility Inspection. This is an intentional walkthrough of your facility, paying careful attention to any areas that need to be addressed.

Here’s a simple example:

Outside / Parking Lot

  • Entrances to campus clearly marked with signage.
  • Parking lot clean and clear of debris such as dirt, leaves, and trash.
  • Guest parking and handicap parking areas clearly labeled.
  • Grass mowed and weeds pulled from flowerbeds.
  • Water features on property clean and working properly.
  • All outside lights in working order.


  • All signage and print material clearly visible and up to date.
  • No burned out light bulbs.
  • Carpets vacuumed, and tile, vinyl, or concrete floors clean.
  • No dead bugs or rodents inside building. (Traps should not be visible.)
  • No cobwebs, dust, or dirt on any surface.
  • All rooms, especially bathrooms, clean, neat, and disinfected.
  • No ceiling tiles stained by water leaks.
  • All thermostat and HVAC units functioning in every room.

This is a very simple checklist, and no doubt you’ll want to customize your own.

Keep in mind your initial walkthrough may take a little longer, but once you start doing this monthly, it should go much quicker.

Also, you still have to deal with the issues that come from the inspection. A lot of it you should be able to handle yourself. Or to save yourself time, find someone handy within your church, and let him or her do the work. You could even give them a cool title like Facility Manager.

How often are you doing a Facility Inspection? What would you add to my checklist? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below. Also, make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips just like this delivered to your inbox each week.

Finish Your Sermon Early

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.


Some pastors are notorious for not finishing their message until Saturday night or even Sunday morning. My pastor was no exception. Luckily over the years he has gotten much better at finishing his sermon earlier in the week.

This has provided a number of benefits, not only for him, but for the team as well. If you’re waiting till the last minute to finish your sermon, I highly encourage you to change that. Here are a few of the benefits of finishing by Thursday.

  1. The media team, or whoever is inputting what goes on the screen on Sunday mornings, hate getting your notes at the last minute. If you’re also throwing in last minute pictures or videos, they may actually loathe you. Here’s why, inputting those things take time, more than you realize. When you’re getting your notes to them late, it’s stressing them out. There’s a good chance they could be dealing with lighting or sound issues all at the same time. Getting them your notes early allows them to input them in advance.
  1. Setting your message aside for a few days before you preach it gives it time to soak in. It’s like marinating a steak. The longer you let the steak marinade, the more flavor it’s going to have. Doing this allows you to retain the message better, and it also allows new ideas to form that you can add into your message. By doing this, you almost always end up with a better product than you started with.
  1. It frees up your weekends to focus on what’s most important; your family. How many times have you snapped at your kids on the weekend because you’re working on your message and they’re being loud? How many date nights have been cancelled or ruined because you’re stressing about an unfinished sermon? Your family is too important to ruin it because you waited to the last minute to finish something you should’ve got done that week.

I realize this is much harder for bi-vocational pastors, but for those full time pastors out there, you have no excuse. Lock yourself in your office at the beginning of the week and don’t come out until you have a finished product. Your wife, your kids, and your team will thank you.

When are you typically finishing your sermon? What benefits have you seen from finishing early? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below. Also, make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips just like this delivered to your inbox each week.

Church Ideas You Can Use

Basics - Resources

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.


Ministry can be overwhelming, especially if you’re the only person on staff at a church or you’re bi-vocational. You quickly learn there are not enough hours in the week to accomplish everything that needs to get done.

You would love to see your church grow, but you just don’t have the time or energy it would take to make it happen. You may even find yourself thinking, “If I just had the money to hire one person, it would make a world of difference.”

If you feel like that, I have good news for you. The amount of ministry resources available to you today is incredible. If you have access to the internet, you have access to an unlimited amount of church staff, and in most cases, you don’t even have to pay them. You just need to know where to look.

Start Here – Sermon Series, Kids Ministry, and Small Group curriculum – Sermon Series, Student Ministry, Kids Ministry, Worship Ministry, Volunteer Ministry, Small Group curriculum, and more. – Sermon Series, Kids Ministry, Student Ministry, Worship Ministry, Small Group curriculum, Creative Arts, Missions, and more. – Sermon Series, Kids Ministry, Worship Ministry, Student Ministry, Production, Drama, and more. – Sermon Series, Graphics, Loops, Videos, and more. – Administration, Kids Ministry, Student Ministry, Group Ministry, Missions, Care, and more. – Sermon Series for adults and students. – Stage design ideas and how-tos for your church. You’d be amazed at how cheap you can do great stage design. – Church graphics, videos, etc.

I’ve used all of these resources at one time or another, and I can honestly say they’ve saved me hours of work. My hope is they can do the same for you.

Do you know of a site providing free church resources? Please link to it in the comment section.

Small Town Preaching

Basics - A Relevant Message

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.


Over the past few months, I’ve been sharing a few of the basic steps any church can take to see their church begin to grow. While I believe the steps I’ve shared have tremendous potential to impact your church, none of it matters if each Sunday you (pastor) get up and preach a message no one can understand.

If you’re still preaching from the King James Version of the Bible or any other version that takes a Bible scholar to interpret, you should stop it.

What does it matter how literal or accurate your translation is if no one can understand what you’re talking about?

Let me tell you a secret, the people in your community aren’t struggling with the differentiation between the Hebrew and Greek. They’re struggling with loving their spouse, their children, and their neighbors as themselves.

They’re not debating between the 1611 and 1769 versions of the King James Bible. They’re debating between going to church with their family or going hunting with their buddies.

Every time you get up on stage and preach a message only you and a few of your pastor friends can understand you’re wasting your breath.

I apologize if this is coming off as harsh, but I get aggravated. For years the church has had the greatest message in the world, and it communicates it in a way that no one wants to hear.

Lives are at stake, and we’re too caught up in our traditions to notice.

So, let me offer a solution.

  1. Preach from a version of the Bible a middle school student could understand. There are a lot of good ones out there: New Living Translation, New International Version, and the English Standard Version just to name a few.
  1. Preach in a way that your audience can take one thing from the message each week and apply it to their lives. If you can’t pick out one thing from your message they can use, scrap the message and start over.
  1. Preach on the topics every day people are dealing with such as marriage, family, money management, depression, anxiety, hope, discipline, etc.
  1. Preach the Gospel. We were all dead in our sins, and God sent a Savior. He lived a perfect life, was crucified for our sins, and rose again three days later so we might have life and life more abundant.

We have been given the greatest message in the world in a time when the world needs the message the greatest. Let’s make the most of it.

Which King James Version is your favorite? Does the Textus Receptus sound like an iPhone app to you?