Breaking 200

We recently broke the 200-attendance barrier at our second campus. I’ve been lucky to be there over the last couple of weeks, and you can feel the excitement and energy in the place. You may not care about trivial things like the number of people who show up to hear you preach each week, and you also may be a liar. You’d be crazy not to care about the attendance.

Author Carl F. George, says in his book How to Break Growth Barriers, “Churches have more in common by their size than by their denomination, tradition, location, age, or any other single, isolatable factor.”

Most churches in America average around 75-80 people in weekly attendance, which surprises me a little.

But most churches rely on their pastor to do the ministry while the congregation sits back and watches.

Many pastors are ok with this because they’re making a living, they kind of like being the center of attention, or they just don’t know any better.

For the rest of you who may be struggling to break that 200 number in weekly attendance, I have some ideas on how you can get there.

  1. Talk about it…a lot.

Your desire to see your church grow shouldn’t be a secret. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, you should be talking about it every chance you get. People love to be challenged, and so as you’re talking about reaching 200, people start thinking about who they can invite to help hit that goal.

  1. Do what works.

If your church is currently growing, identify the factors that are playing a part in that. Then, keep doing them. In contrast, identify the things that aren’t working, and stop doing them. Focus on what works.

  1. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Go back and read my “You’re the Growth Barrier” post, and make sure you’re not making any of the mistakes that will hold your church back. You may have to let go of some things that you enjoy so your church can go to the next level.

  1. Deal with the doubters.

Focusing on growth will ruffle the feathers of those with a small church mentality, and that mentality is especially prevalent in small towns. You may have to remove those doubters from any leadership roles they may have if you can’t get them on board with the vision. Sometimes addition comes through subtraction.

  1. Delegate the care.

The pastor being the person who cares for everyone in the church is the biggest obstacle to growing beyond 100. You have to delegate out the care if you want the church to grow. Small groups or Sunday school classes are a great place to start. Volunteer teams work well also. The church is at its best when the attenders care for one another.

What is your church’s average weekly attendance? Are you satisfied with it? I’d love to hear your thoughts so leave a comment below. Also don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church leadership, growth, 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.

4 Important Vision Questions

Leadership and vision go hand in hand. You can’t be good at one without the other. If you don’t have a vision for where you want to go, you won’t really be leading anyone anywhere. Likewise, you can have a vision for where you want to go but not have the leadership skills to get you there.

When the church I serve was planted over a decade ago, it had very little vision.

It was an ever so slightly more contemporary copy of the other churches in the community.

Their pastors wore suits and ties; our pastor dropped the suit. Their churches played hymns; our church played a blend. If they were church version 1.0, we were version 1.1.

After the first year, our church attendance had grown by a negative one. No one was looking for church version 1.1. They were looking for version 2.0.

Luckily, our pastor discovered this and got a fresh vision from God for our church moving forward.

Moving from version 1.1 to 2.0 wasn’t without its difficulties. We’ve seen several people leave along the way, but it was still the best thing we’ve ever done.

Before you install a fresh vision into your church, you need to clarify these four questions.

  1. What is God calling us to?

What is God’s unique calling for your church? Who does He want you to reach? The popular answer is young families, but that may not be the case for your church. Look at the churches in your community. Is there a segment of the population that is being overlooked? Look at the gifts of the people in your church. Is there something you can offer that no other church in your community is offering? Clarify your calling.

  1. How are we going to accomplish it?

God didn’t just tell Joshua to take the city of Jericho. He showed him how it was to be done. It didn’t make sense at the time, but it worked out pretty well. Spend some time writing down exactly what you believe it’s going to take to accomplish this calling. You may have to remodel your church. You may have to make a hire that you don’t have the money for. You may need to remove some people from leadership. These are tough decisions that many pastors aren’t willing to make.

  1. Who needs to be involved?

One thing I’ve learned for certain is that it’s impossible to accomplish your calling without involving others. Gather a team around you to start talking about this new vision, get their ideas and support, and then you get their influence. Then work your way through the leadership of the church, to the volunteers, and eventually to the congregation.

  1. When should you begin?

You can have a great idea derailed by terrible timing. You may be looking to move to two services. Don’t try to start it during the summer. Be strategic about your timing. Make sure your church is experiencing momentum and capitalize on it. And whatever you do, don’t begin until you’ve answered the first three questions.

Implementing God’s vision for your church is going to be scary. It takes risk, it takes faith, and it takes perseverance. But if you’ll take the time to think through these four questions, I believe you’ll be much better prepared going forward. Good luck.

Name one big vision you’ve implemented at your church in the comments below. I’d love to hear about it. 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.

Is Church Membership Necessary?

That was the question the leaders of my church started asking themselves several years ago. After studying what the scriptures had to say about it, we concluded church membership was not mandatory, and we did away with it in our church. If it’s working for your church, great, but it just wasn’t working for us.

My guess is if you’ve found your way to this post, church membership isn’t really working for you either, but you think it would be wrong to do away with it.

I would disagree with that, but there are a lot of people much smarter than I am who would argue church membership isn’t a matter of preference but one of biblical obedience.

Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church and really smart guy, is one of those people. If you happen to be searching for an answer to the church membership question, you will no doubt find his post aptly titled, Is Church Membership Biblical?

In that post he asks three questions based upon certain scriptures to support his argument. I’d like to take a look at those and just share some of my thoughts.

  1. If there is no understanding of local church membership, then who are we to submit to and obey?

I believe ultimately we should submit to and obey the teachings of Jesus. Hopefully, we find a church that does the same. I’m not sure how having your name on a membership roll changes any of that.

  1. If there is no understanding of local church membership, who should the pastor and elders be held accountable for?

I believe we’re accountable for what we teach and what we allow to be taught within our church. We’re accountable for those who are attending, listening, and engaging. We have responsibilities in regards to how we spend God’s money. Again, I’m not sure how having names on a roll changes any of that. Do we care less for those who aren’t members?

  1. What about church discipline?

For some this seems to be the primary reason for membership. Yet, in my mind this whole system in fundamentally flawed. Chandler uses the example shown in 1 Corinthians 5:1-12, where Paul tells the church to kick this person out of the church because they’re celebrating sin and show no signs of repentance.

A few thoughts on this. If you want to kick someone out of your church or discipline someone for his behavior, what does it matter if he is a member? Shouldn’t the only requirement be that he is a Christian? If you baptize someone this week and they come in to church next week drunk, are you going to check to see if they’re a member before you have a conversation with them?

Secondly, what about the members who are sinning privately? We had a policy that said you couldn’t become a member if you were living with someone of the opposite sex that you weren’t married to. Yet, we probably had members that got drunk, smoked pot, and treated their spouses like dirt throughout the week. We just didn’t know about it. It was a double standard.

And if we really want to get biblical about it, in this same scripture that Chandler speaks about, it says to not associate with the sexual immoral, the drunkard, the swindler, or the greedy. If we just kicked out the greedy people in our churches, our attendance would plummet. When’s the last time you kicked someone off your church roll because they weren’t giving?

I think we have to be really careful about saying something is a biblical requirement. Just because the New Testament church did it doesn’t make it a requirement.

It may be a good idea for some, but for others it may not.

Think of it like foot washing. At your church it may be one of the most impactful services you have all year. At my church it would freak everyone out and they’d never come back.

Do what works for you.

Does your church have members? Do you think that’s a good thing? Why or why not? Let me know by leaving a comment and make sure to subscribe to the blog to get updates on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

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.