The Why and How of Volunteer Central

At the beginning of this year, we turned our largely unsuccessful “Next Steps” room into “Volunteer Central.” I realize it’s only been a few months, but I’ve been very pleased with the results. So much so, that I would say if you don’t have a designated space for volunteers in your church, you should make one.

Here are a few reasons why.

  1. It fosters community.

Before we created a centralized location for volunteers, they largely just showed up and went to their designated areas. They had relationships with those they served with, but that’s about it. By creating a central location, you cross paths with people you wouldn’t have before. This not only creates community, but it also creates unity within your church.

  1. It centralizes communication.

In our volunteer central room, we have copies of every ministry schedule for volunteers to take with them. We also have a board that displays all these schedules. If a volunteer isn’t sure when the next time they serve is, all they have to do is look at the board.

  1. It shows appreciation.

There’s something special about having a room with your name on it, especially a room that has perks, which we’ll talk about it in the how section. If you’re going to keep volunteers motivated, they have to feel appreciated.

Now here are the important pieces of the how.

You need a room.

If you don’t have a room, you at least need a couple of tables in a corner of a room. But a room is certainly preferred. Most churches have rooms they’re not using or rooms they’re not using wisely.

You need a leader.

This piece is really important. You need a leader or leaders that set the tone for church that day. We have an amazing couple that has been doing ministry for years. They’re highly relational, really passionate, and love to serve others. This is what you’re looking for in a leader for this ministry.

You need a way to get people to show up.

A room with a leader and some volunteer schedules gets boring quickly. It’s going to take more than that to get people to keep showing up week after week. So, you’re at least going to need some food. We’ve had everything from granola bars to bacon and pancakes. Nothing gets people to show up like food. In addition to that, we do a monthly drawing for random prizes that are displayed throughout the month. It may cost a couple hundred dollars a month, but your volunteers are worth it.

In addition to retaining the volunteers you already have serving, this is a great way to recruit new volunteers as well. People start smelling bacon frying, and they’ll be waiting at the door to sign up.

Do you have something similar for volunteers at your church? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment and let me know, and 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.

5 Keys to Empowering Leaders

The word empower is deceiving. It sounds real fancy, yet the definition is so simplistic: to give someone the authority or power to do something. Regardless, if you want to grow a church, you are going to have to empower some leaders.

I’ve been an executive pastor for just over six years. During that time the church I serve has doubled in attendance and doubled in locations.

When I started in the position, I oversaw just about every ministry in the church. Now, I personally don’t oversee any ministry. Instead, I oversee a group of leaders both paid and volunteer who oversee each ministry.

It’s been quite the transition for me personally. I miss being closely connected to each ministry, but our church wouldn’t be where it is today had I not empowered some other people to lead.

Through the years I’ve learned some things through my own experience, as well through books, blogs, and others’ experiences as well.

Here’s what I’ve found. Empowerment done well has five key components.

  1. Train Them

Don’t make the mistake of just throwing someone in a position without first training them. I understand there are some things you can’t train, but train them on the core competencies of the position. Far too many leaders have failed because they never got the training they needed.

  1. Trust Them

If you place a leader in a position, you should trust them to fulfill it. You should be their biggest supporter. For their success or failure is not just their responsibility, it’s shared by you. Yes, it requires risk, but it’s a risk worth taking.

  1. Communicate the Expectations

Andy Stanley calls this defining the win. What does a win look like for the student ministry? If you don’t clearly communicate it, don’t be surprised when you and the student pastor aren’t on the same page. Expectations should be set and agreed upon up front.

  1. Give them Authority

This one’s a tough one for me because I don’t always like giving people control. Yet, it’s necessary for people to feel empowered. Just know people are going to make mistakes. When they do, resist the urge to take back the control, and use it as a teachable moment.

  1. Encourage Them

Think back to the first person that gave you a chance to serve in ministry. Maybe it was that first opportunity to preach or that first opportunity to sing. Remember what it felt like for someone to believe in you. That’s the type of support you want to give to those you empower. Help them through their struggles, and celebrate the victories together.

Empowering people means you believe in them. Just like so many people believed in you and me all those years ago. Empowerment is a beautiful thing when it’s done right. So, what are you waiting for?

Who was the first person to empower you? I’d love to hear that story. Share it in the comments below and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog for tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

The Ideal Team Player

According to Patrick Lencioni

I discovered Patrick Lencioni a couple of years ago when I picked up his book The Advantage. It was the best book I read that year and still remains one of the best books I’ve ever read on organizational health and leadership. Every pastor should read it. I recently came across his newest book The Ideal Team Player and wanted to share the main premise with you.

People are the most important part of your church. That goes without saying, but you have to remember they can either make your church or break your church.

Every successful church is successful because of the people in it.

Every church that has failed has failed because of the people in it.

I’m not trying to take God out of the equation. God is constant. The people are the variable.

So, you have to get the people part of this thing right, especially the people on your team.

Patrick Lencioni says there are three virtues that make up the ideal team player.

  1. They are humble.

People with big egos don’t perform well in a team setting. If they’re more concerned with their success than the team’s, you have a problem. A person who is humble will always look for ways to compliment someone else on their performance and will be slow to seek attention for their own. An arrogant person who makes everything about him will destroy a team by creating resentment and division. Humility is the single greatest and most indispensable attribute of a team player.

  1. They are hungry.

Hungry people just want more. More to do, more to learn, and more responsibility. They are self-motivated. They are constantly thinking about what’s next. Hunger misdirected or taken too far can be a negative. Healthy hunger is a commitment to doing a job well and a willingness to go above and beyond when necessary. Lots of people will project a sense of hunger to try to get a job or position. That’s why it’s always best to look at their past patterns to discern if it’s real.

  1. They are smart.

They may not be the most intelligent person, but they possess a common sense about people that makes them invaluable. They are relationally smart. They know how you talk to one person may not be the best way to talk to another. They learn the team. They ask good questions and spend time listening to what others say. They understand the impact of their words and actions, so they don’t say or do things without thinking about the likely responses of their teammates.

If just one of these virtues is missing in a person, they become significantly more difficult to have on the team. It requires all three. So, when you find a person who possesses all of these qualities, you would be wise to get them on your team as quick as possible.

What do you think about these virtues? What would you add? Leave a comment and let us know, and while you’re here don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

More Logs, Less Kindling

The Secret to Sustained Success

I’m not much of an outdoorsman. I don’t own a grill, and I’ve never made a fire. Although I would like to believe I’ve watched enough reality TV that if I was ever put in a situation where I needed to make a fire, I could. I know you start with the little stuff that burns easily, and then you add your bigger sticks and logs. The problem I see in many churches today is too much focus on kindling and not enough on logs.

Let me explain. Kindling is the dry twigs and branches used to start a fire. It’s extremely valuable. You would have a hard time starting a fire without it.

But it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to only use kindling on your fire. It would burn up way too quickly. That’s why you need logs.

In ministry we get really excited about kindling. It may be a mailer we’re sending out, a new series we’re starting, or an outreach event.

These things can produce a lot of excitement and momentum, but it’s very short lived. They can start a fire, but they won’t keep the fire burning.

You need something with more substance for that. You need logs.

Churches fall into the trap of always wanting to create a spark, so they will keep on adding kindling all the while wondering why the fire never stays lit for very long.

Don’t make this mistake. Focus on these three logs instead.

  1. Get the Right People in the Right Places

It doesn’t matter if it’s paid staff or volunteers. You have to have the right people in the right place. That means no grumpy door greeters, no creepy kid’s workers, and no out of tune worship singers. I wrote an entire post about this here.

  1. Get the Right Systems in Place

Andy Stanley says, “Your systems are perfectly designed to give the results you’re getting.” If you’re not happy with your results, it’s more than likely a systems issue. What’s your system for getting guests to come back? What’s your system to get people to serve? What’s your system to get people to give? Without the right systems in place, your church will always struggle to grow.

  1. Get the Right Culture in Place

It used to be that systems and people were everything. That’s no longer the case. People have quickly realized the culture of your church sets the tone for everything else. When a guest walks into your church, do they feel loved? Do they feel welcomed? Do volunteers feel appreciated? Is there a level of excitement when you meet?

You can waste a lot of time and money going through kindling, so I would urge you to spend the time to get the right logs on the fire.

Have you seen this to be true in your church? 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.

Easter Follow Up

Easter is right around the corner and for most churches that means their biggest attendance of the year. In the church I serve, it’s not uncommon for our attendance to double on Easter weekend. That means lots of new faces and lots of excitement. It also means you have a great opportunity to see new people get connected to your church.

But it doesn’t happen by accident.

If you really want to see new people come back after Easter, you have to be intentional with everything you do.

Here are a few areas in which you can capitalize.

Parking

No matter what size your church is, I believe you can see huge benefits by having volunteers in the parking lot. At the church I serve, we have special parking just for first time guests. This does two things: it makes them feel appreciated, and it also helps us identify those who are new. Our parking volunteers greet them and then walk them to our host tent.

Host Tent

You may call this the guest tent, VIP tent, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even have to be a tent. The important thing is you have a specific area for first time guests to go, where you gather their information, answer any questions they may have, and offer to show them around the church. You gain bonus points if you also offer them a gift. Something as simple as a coffee mug or t-shirt goes a long way in making people feel special.

Stage Announcement

Churches make a huge mistake when they ask guests to stand up or raise their hand. This make them feel uncomfortable, but on the flip side of that, you also don’t want to ignore them. So, make sure you welcome them from the stage. It can be as simple as, “I want to welcome all of our guests today and say thank you for being here. Make sure to stop by the host tent to pick up your free gift before you leave.”

Letter

Once guests leave the church property, most churches don’t really think about them anymore. But that shouldn’t be the case for you. You’re going to write each one of these guests a handwritten note thanking them for spending Easter at your church, and reminding them about the series/message you will be beginning the next Sunday.

Email

Hopefully, if you’ve been savvy enough at the host tent, you’re not only going to have their mailing address but also their email. Email addresses are extremely valuable because they are an open door to communication. So, not only are you sending a letter, you’re also sending them an email thanking them again, and letting them know what’s coming up at your church that they may be interested in.

I know not every guest is going to return to my church or yours, but it would be foolish of us not to try everything in our power to make them feel welcome and invite them back.

What would you add to this list? I’d love to hear what’s been working for you. Leave 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 Space Between the Gates

Session Three - Inside Elevation

In March, I was able to attend the Inside Elevation conference hosted by Elevation Church. It was a great experience for our entire team, and as always, the main sessions led by Steven Furtick were the highlight for me. Steven Furtick is an incredible leader and has great insights for churches of any size. If you weren’t able to be there this year, no worries, I’ve got you covered. If you missed Session One or Two notes, you can find them here and here.

It was told Joab, “Behold, the king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people, for the people heard that day, “The king is grieving for his son.” And the people stole into the city that day as people steal in who are ashamed when they flee in battle. The king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, “O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!” Then Joab came into the house to the king and said, “You have today covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who have this day saved your life and the lives of your sons and your daughters and the lives of your wives and your concubines, because you love those who hate you and hate those who love you. For you have made it clear today that commanders and servants are nothing to you, for today I know that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased. Now therefore arise, go out and speak kindly to your servants, for I swear by the Lord, if you do not go, not a man will stay with you this night, and this will be worse for you than all the evil that has come upon you from your youth until now.” Then the king arose and took his seat in the gate. And the people were all told, “Behold, the king is sitting in the gate.” And all the people came before the king. 2 Samuel 19:1-8

The Space Between the Gates

In this session Pastor Steven talked about how many of us have been hurt in ministry and have become passive, letting things go on that we shouldn’t. It’s time for us to get back in our seat at the gate.

  1. Check your Gratitude

Are you still grateful that God called you? We are to enter His gates with thanksgiving. Gratitude is the gateway drug. You can’t be grateful and give a bare minimum effort.

  1. Check your Acceptance

What have you been tolerating in your church that you know you shouldn’t? What tough conversation have you been avoiding? Your leaders take their cue from you, so if you’re letting things slide so are they.

  1. Check your Trust

Have you lost trust in people? Is it easier to just do it yourself? When you lose faith in people, it’s easy to think this way, but you were never supposed to put your trust in people. You put your trust in God.

  1. Check your Empowerment

There’s no way you can do everything God has called you to by yourself. You have to trust the team around you and empower them to do the ministry. That means you have to stop micromanaging, and you may not always know everything that is going on in your church. Secure leaders empower.

I think everyone in ministry has gone through seasons in which they’ve left the gate. The longer you stay away, the harder it will be when you come back, so take a deep breath and get back in there. What would you add to this session? Let us know by leaving a comment, and make sure to subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss out on church leadership tips delivered to your inbox each week.

Going Pro

Inside Elevation - Session Two

In March, I was able to attend the Inside Elevation conference hosted by Elevation Church. It was a great experience for our entire team, and as always, the main sessions led by Steven Furtick were the highlight for me. Steven Furtick is an incredible leader and has great insights for churches of any size. If you weren’t able to be there this year, no worries, I’ve got you covered. If you missed Session One notes, you can find them here.

Going Pro

Whether you’re a volunteer or a full time staff member at a church, you can still act like a pro.

In this session Pastor Steven unpacked the differences between pros and amateurs.

  1. Pros give themselves to the process. Amateurs are always looking for the promotion.

If you will plow, God will promote. You have to crucify your need for credit. Pros don’t confuse credit with contribution. I can enjoy the win, even if I don’t get the credit. Do you want to be a part of a winning team, or do you have to be the star? Process reveals potential.

  1. Pros produce. Amateurs project.

Pros get the job done no matter what obstacles are in the way. Amateurs always have excuses. Well, I would’ve had that done, but so and so didn’t show up so it didn’t happen. Amateurs always project the blame onto someone or something else other than themselves.

  1. Pros view correction as an investment. Amateurs make you pay for correcting them.

Pros view correction as a compliment because they want to get better. Amateurs hate correction because nothing is ever their fault. Some of the greatest athletes in the world have trainers and coaches. When someone stops correcting you, that’s when you should be worried because that means they’ve given up on you.

  1. Pros submit their personality to their purpose. Amateurs submit their purpose to their personality.

Stop saying, that’s just the way I am. We don’t give anyone else a pass like that. That may be the way you are, but you should want to get better. I’m an introvert but not on Sunday mornings. You may have a temper, but that doesn’t mean you get to be a jerk to everyone. Get better!

  1. Pros know parameters and work within them. Amateurs are always asking permission.

Pros save you a lot of time because they know how you think and what you like. Amateurs take up your time because they can’t be trusted to think for themselves. You can tell a pro a broad idea and they’ll run with it, but you have to give an amateur step-by-step instruction.

Be on the lookout for my notes from Session Three next week, but in the meantime, what would you add to this session? Let us know by leaving a comment, and make sure to subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss out on church leadership tips delivered to your inbox each week.

7 C’s of a Championship Team

Inside Elevation - Session One

In March, I was able to attend the Inside Elevation conference hosted by Elevation Church. It was a great experience for our entire team, and as always, the main sessions led by Steven Furtick were the highlight for me. Steven Furtick is an incredible leader and has great insights for churches of any size. If you weren’t able to be there this year, no worries, I’ve got you covered.

14 Now when Elisha had fallen sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash king of Israel went down to him and wept before him, crying, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” 15 And Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and arrows.” So he took a bow and arrows. 16 Then he said to the king of Israel, “Draw the bow,” and he drew it. And Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands. 17 And he said, “Open the window eastward,” and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot,” and he shot. And he said, “The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Syria! For you shall fight the Syrians in Aphek until you have made an end of them.” 18 And he said, “Take the arrows,” and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground with them.” And he struck three times and stopped. 19 Then the man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times.” 2 Kings 13:14-19

Victory is a Decision

Seven C’s of a Championship Team

  1. Choose Where You Want to Win

It’s impossible to be great at everything, so you need to narrow your focus. This also means you need to choose where you’re willing to lose. For us, this means we don’t do men’s ministry, women’s ministry, food pantries, and a dozen other things. There’s nothing wrong with any of them, but that’s not our focus.

  1. Create a Win

What’s a win at your church? What’s a win in student ministry? Have you defined it? Take time to define the win in every ministry in your church.

  1. Communicate the Win

Once you’ve defined what a win is, you need to communicate it when it happens. For my church, a person serving is a win, but I haven’t been intentional about highlighting our volunteers. A Sunday shouldn’t go by without me posting to social media bragging on our volunteers. People are willing to work if you show them they’re winning.

  1. Contextualize the Win

One of my biggest struggles, if you’re a church in a small town, stop comparing yourself to the megachurch in a big city. Context matters. Don’t compare the other way either. Don’t think more highly of yourself by comparing yourself to someone who has a lot less to work with than you.

  1. Capitalize on the Win

When a win takes place, talk about it until you get sick of talking about it. Find ways to multiply it. When you start talking about wins, you’ll be surprised by other people coming forward and share wins of their own.

  1. Commit to the Win

The battle is won or loss before you fight it. If you go into anything thinking you’re going to fail, you set yourself up for failure. Use all the arrows you have and commit to victory before the battle even begins.

  1. Celebrate Victory

Be on the lookout for my notes from Session Two and Three in the next few days, but in the meantime what would you add to this session? Let us know by leaving a comment, and make sure to subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss out on church leadership tips delivered to your inbox each week.

Five Ways to Ruin Your Sermon

How’s everyone doing today? That’s a terrible way to begin a blog post. It’s also a terrible way to begin a sermon, but many of us are guilty of it or some variation of it. We normally get a weak response, and so we ask everyone the same question again until we’re satisfied.

When you begin your sermon this way, here’s what happens, you let the audience control the energy in the room, which is almost always a terrible idea. Once you lose energy, it’s very hard to regain it.

I learned that tip from the comedian, Roseanne. She didn’t say it to me personally. She was on television giving another comedian advice, but it made so much sense.

So, I started thinking about other things preachers do to kill their presentation.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

  • Weak Openings

We’ve already talked about, “How are you doing?” You also shouldn’t open with, “How about this weather?” If you’re going to open with a question, make sure it creates some tension around what you’re about to talk about. There’s no need for small talk. You have a short period of time to grab their attention, and if you don’t get it on the front end, chances are slim that you will win them back.

  • Weak Closings

Long, drawn-out closings are the worst, especially if you’re already preaching more than 35-40 minutes. People’s attention spans are getting shorter all the time. If you take too long to close, you’ll lose them. A good closing should summarize your talk while also giving an applicable next step. That’s it.

  • Too Much Information

The more focused your sermon, the better. Ten Ways to Become a Better Christ Follower may sound like a great sermon idea, but there’s no way anyone will ever remember them all. The best sermons focus on one single memorable idea or thought. If you have more you want to say than will fit into a single sermon, consider making it a series.

  • Too Boring

This can happen for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it can be the tone and cadence of your voice. Other times it can be that your subject matter doesn’t appeal to people. Pastors are notorious for preaching on topics that the average person cares nothing about. People are struggling with addictions, how to raise kids in the changing culture, and how to love their spouse. They don’t care that you know the difference between the Latin and Greek.

  • Too Distracting

This can also be caused by a variety of reasons. A lot of small town churches love having children be a part of the worship service. While I understand the sentiment, I also know that many people will be distracted because of this. Are you ok with that? Other distractions can be caused by repetitive hand gestures, sloppy dress, profuse sweating, you get the idea.

The good news is all of these issues can be fixed, except maybe the profuse sweating. You just have to be willing to listen to constructive criticism, or even better, film yourself and watch it.

I know it can be painful, but you know what they say, “No pain, no gain”.

What would you add to this list? Let us know by leaving a comment below and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get updates 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.