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.

Make the Most of Your Offering Time

I think everyone knows what I mean by offering time, but just in case, I’m speaking about the specific time during service in which you take up tithes and offerings. I realize some churches don’t have an offering time during service because they apparently don’t need the money that bad, but my church isn’t one of those. I bet yours isn’t either.

So, for all of us struggling to meet budget, I want to share a few tips specifically to help you see more people give during this time.

Some of these may seem obvious, but it’s still important to mention them.

For example.

Offering Envelopes

I’m guessing every church has these. If you don’t leave me a comment and let me know why. You want to make sure your offering envelope is easy to fill out, larger-than-expected, and bonus points if it can be mailed in after they get home with no postage necessary.

Timing

If you rush through this time, which many of us are known to do, you will miss out on gifts. Because, people need time to write their checks or count their cash. Many people are not planning ahead for this moment, especially new givers. So, allow two to three minutes for people to prepare.

Giving Talks

What do you do during those two to three minutes? You’re telling people why they should give. Here’s what that can look like, “In a few moments where going to worship God by giving back to Him. While our ushers are getting ready, let me tell you a story,” or “Let me share a scripture with you…” This gives them a heads up on what’s about to happen and gives them time to get ready.

Lighting

The darker the auditorium, the less likely people are to give. For one, they can’t see to write a check or fill out the offering envelope. For two, you lose the motivation that comes from people worrying about other people seeing them not give. If that last statement makes you uncomfortable, then you need to stop trying to guilt people into praying and reading their Bibles.

Timing

Sounds so nice, I had to mention it twice. Not really. I’m talking about when you take up the offering during service. The church I serve used to take up the offering at the end of service using two ushers at the back door holding buckets. This is a terrible way to take up the offering. It feels like an afterthought rather than an important part of the service. Not to mention many of our volunteers would have already left the service before we even took up the offering in order to get in place for the next service. We’ve now placed the offering time smack dab in the middle of our service at the end of the music and before the preaching. It’s made a world of difference.

These are a few simple ways I think you can see significant increase in your giving this year. If you’d like to build on this, I speak more about a complete giving system in this post.

What does your offering time look like? Are you satisfied with the results? Let us know by leaving 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.

You Can Afford to Give, Here’s How

Every Sunday we take up an offering at our church. If you’re a pastor, you probably do as well. If not, you may not be a pastor for very long. The offering goes to pay for the building expenses, salaries, ministry expenses, and so on. All of these things work together to produce life change through Jesus.

I can’t think of anything better to give to. I think most church people would agree, however there is a large percentage of people within our churches that don’t feel like they can afford to give.

But they can, and I’m going to show you and them how.

Quick clarification, I’m not talking about tithing. I certainly believe in tithing, and I think more people should do it. Current estimates show that only around 5% of Christians in the United States tithe. That’s sad, but I can’t fix that in five easy steps.

But everyone can give…something.

And I’m not talking about your time or talent, although I certainly appreciate those who serve. But serving doesn’t take the place of giving in our lives.

I’m talking about taking some of the finances that God has allowed you to have and giving it back to the church to be used to advance God’s kingdom instead of yours.

You see most people who say that can’t afford to give to church have no problem spending money on themselves.

Nevertheless, even those people can afford to give, if they’re willing to make a few small sacrifices in their life.

Here are five easy ones.

  1. Cut your cable/satellite costs.

Do you really need 200 channels? How much TV are you really watching in your busy life? Consider downgrading your package, negotiating a new rate, or cutting your cable completely. With all the streaming options available to us today, there’s no reason the average American should still be paying over a $100 a month for cable or satellite. (Estimated Savings $15+ a month)

  1. Bring your lunch to work.

I like going out to eat. I think we all do. But I’ve discovered that you spend a lot of money going out to eat as opposed to bringing your lunch. You can easily save 50-60% by eating a frozen meal, or bring leftovers and save 100%. You don’t have to cut out all eating out. Cut back to once a week, and see the difference it makes. (Estimated Savings $40+ a month)

  1. Drink water when eating out.

If you do eat out, instead of ordering a soft drink, order water. Soft drinks can range from 99 cents to up to $4. That really adds up, especially when you eat out as a family. I don’t like water, but I’d rather drink it than pay for an overpriced Coke. (Estimated Savings $10+ a month)

  1. Adjust your thermostat.

The United States is one of the few countries where heating and air exist. So if you live in the U.S., you should be thankful, but you should also realize that it’s not necessary for your home to be 65 in the summer and 78 in the winter. Estimates show that you can save around 3% on your electric bill for every degree that you move up in the summer or down in the winter. That means adjusting just 3 degrees can net almost a 10% savings. (Estimated Savings $15+ a month)

  1. Dinner or a Movie.

I admit there are certain things that just go together, bacon & eggs, peanut butter & jelly, dinner & a movie. But what if you chose to do just one or the other? Instead of doing both, eat dinner at home then go to a movie, or go out to eat then come home and watch a movie. It would be a significant savings. (Estimated Savings $25+ a month)

If you add these all up, a person could potentially save over $100 a month, which means they could afford to give $20-$25 a week to their church. That may see like a small amount, but if those not giving in my church would just do this, it would result in over $100,000 more each year.

What would it mean for your church? What would it mean for your community? And why won’t more people choose to give? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment, and make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.