Do You Trust Your Mirrors?

Guest Post: Cody Hogden

Being a bi-vocational pastor brings challenges and opportunities for the pastor as well as the church. Being successful isn’t easy…unless you have your mirrors set right. Leading a church of any size, either as a fully or partially funded pastor, is much like driving a car. There are many parts and pieces all working together with one purpose (and no…the challenge of backseat drivers is not the topic of this post :D).

One of the biggest struggles in driving and ministry is not having your mirrors adjusted correctly. Did you know that your vehicle is designed to give you a 360 degree view with only slight head movement? Yet, because we’ve never been taught how to adjust our mirrors properly or simply ignored it, we are now adding equipment (blind spot indicators) to compensate. And we rely on the blind spot indicators instead of the mirrors. Here are three (or four) driving tips for all you bi-vo (and fully funded) pastors out there.

  1. Setting your mirrors right.

This is not a Church Polity blog either…but the Bible gives us a lot of wisdom when it comes to the leadership, staff, and workers of the ministry. Part of setting your mirrors correctly is understanding your role and the role of others. We can get a glimpse of how this looks with just a couple of verses.

“Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.” Acts 6:3.

Whether you use teams or committees…call them elders or pastors…God is clear that you can’t do it alone. Remember the wisdom of Jethro? No, no…not Jethro Bodine! Jethro, Moses’s father-in-law. Here was his advice:

“The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.” Exodus 18.

God will give you leaders to handle your administrative tasks, digital media tasks, building maintenance tasks, etc. If He doesn’t, maybe that task can wait. When we get bogged down doing things we shouldn’t be, we run a great risk. Stats can be deceiving, but there is a lot of alarming information out there.

This looks differently for each Body of Christ. Which road is God leading you and the Body to travel? What type of vehicle has he equipped you with? Or you can put it like this…what’s the vision? Knowing where you’re going gives you a better understanding of how to set your mirrors. And just like our cars…they need to be adjusted at times. Like when there’s growth. Adjust. When there’s more passengers. Adjust. Evaluating where you’re headed and the road conditions should be a part of your overall routine.

2.  Trust your mirrors.

I know…it’s hard. We’ve gotten so used to turning our heads to check those blind spots. Remember, they were made to enable you to see all around the vehicle with just a quick glance. That’s how we should treat our leaders. Trust them. Let them do their job. Sure, check every once in a while to see if they’re still in the right spot and don’t need to be adjusted. But you should trust your mirrors.

3.  Don’t trick out your car and stay in your lane as a leader.

Believe me, I know how much stuff there is to do. And I get overwhelmed with trying to do it. But it’s not what you’re called to do. Here are a couple more verses to remind us of our role.

“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:4.

Oh yeah…that’s my role. How about Ephesians 4

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”

That’s right, we equip the saints for the work of the ministry NOT do all the work of the ministry. This is the most difficult for me to practice.

Just a quick word for any saints (members) that snuck in to read about bi-vocational (or vocational) pastoring, you have a huge part to play. Get in the game. Volunteer. Don’t hide from the work…run to the work.

A famous coach was once asked, “How does college football contribute to the national physical fitness level?”

“Nothing!” He replied. “The way I see it, you have 22 men down on the field desperately needing a rest and 40,000 in the stands desperately needing some exercise!”

A similar situation exists in many churches today. A small group of workers “down on the field” while most are more like spectators.

Cody Hogden is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Orangefield, Texas. He’s been married to his wife Ginger for 24 years, and they have a 23 year old daughter named Brooklyn. He is also the founder of Twenty TwentyFour Ministries. 

Marriage, Ministry, & Valentine’s Day

Guest Post: Tim & Heather Key

We, as ministry professionals, spend our lives serving the needs of others.  This person is lost and needs Jesus, that family is having a crisis and needs counsel, and yet another brother or sister in Christ has gone to be with the Lord.  Who has time for romance when serving the almighty God?

With Valentine’s Day upon us, perhaps it’s time to reflect for a moment on our relationship with our spouse.  This may be the one day of the year that your spouse looks forward to more than any other to gain your undivided attention.  That special card, their favorite flower, or perhaps their favorite box of chocolates.  Those things are wonderful.  But what if Valentine’s Day could come more than once a year?  What if these special memories could become part of your daily walk?  Is that even possible?  Here are two things that we have learned in our 26 years of marriage:

1) You don’t need a holiday to celebrate your love

We have decided that our entire year can be a celebration of our love for each other.  Gifts come and go at random intervals.  We seek to engage each other through date nights and other activities on a regular basis.

This is perhaps something that everyone can do, even with small children.  It does require some planning because you will need a babysitter a few evenings per month.  One of the best ideas that we’ve seen is to find another couple with children and trade babysitting for date nights.  This can be the most economical method.  Even if you must hire a sitter for a few hours, the time away from the kids can be just enough breathing room to recharge your love tank for each other.

You don’t even have to go out to a restaurant.  The goal is to ensure that you are spending quality alone time with your spouse and without interruption.  There were a lot of times that we just weren’t able to afford eating out or doing anything that cost additional money.  We would work out something for the kids to do with a sitter, friend, or family member for a few hours and just stay home, watch a movie, and whatever else might happen.  Sometimes we just took a nap together because we were exhausted.

One of Heather’s favorite things to do was going to the lake, sitting on the levy, and talking.  In order for me to get her undivided attention, I had to remove her from the home.  All she sees at home are things that she needs to be doing around the house.  It can be difficult for some people to just unplug from the mommy role and switch to the loving wife role.  It helps to understand how your spouse operates and plan accordingly.

2) Take a vacation together without the children

We also plan to have at least one quality vacation together without the distractions of life and children.  We just recently had our first 2-week vacation ever.  We spent a few days in Florida acting like youths riding all the roller coasters at Universal Studios Orlando and SeaWorld.  We then ventured off on a 7-night cruise to the Western Caribbean.  The memories that we made and the time that we spend together cannot be measured.  There is nothing in the world like having this kind of dedicated time to spend and share with the one that you love most.

We realize that a 2-week vacation without the children can be quite impossible when you have children at home.  Our youngest daughter moved out on her own in 2016 leaving us empty-nesters.  The way we managed to take vacations alone looked very different over the years.  Here are some suggestions from what worked for us:

  • One Night with You – this works well if you have children under 5 years old.  Just focus on taking one night away to keep your fires burning. Try and do it more often, at least once per quarter.
  • Weekend Getaway – We did simple weekend escapes as the kids began to age a little more.  Nothing fancy at all.  Reasonable hotel in a city not too far from home for connection, focus, and rest.  We tended to walk around shops and have reasonable meals or catch a movie.
  • Extended Getaway – We only took a single week long vacation alone before our kids were old enough to take care of themselves.  In 1999, we took a trip to Niagra Falls.  The girls were 8 and 6 at the time and it was way too stressful for them and us.  As our oldest reached her mid-teen years and matured, we were able to take these longer vacations to the mountains or other places.  It was much more enjoyable when you didn’t have to worry about them so much and could really relax together.  The kids will not be happy with you for not taking them along but the time away from them to focus on your relationship will make you both better parents.

We have not always had this level of balance in our marriage.  We wrote about the tragic marriage that we had in the early years of our ministry work on our blog.  The good news is that we found a balance in our lives to have a rich marriage, stable children, and remain consistent servants to our calling in the ministry.

So many of our brothers and sisters who serve the cross struggle in their marriage and family relationships.  We are living proof that it doesn’t have to be that way.  This doesn’t mean that we always agree on everything or that we like to do the same things.  In fact, the opposite is true.  We don’t usually enjoy the same types of entertainment and our ideas of quality and relaxation time can be quite polar sometimes.  But what we have gotten correct in our relationship is that we enjoy spending time with each other.

We recognize that our differences in life are okay.  God made us different as a compliment to each other.  Areas that I am weak, Heather is usually stronger and vice-versa.  If we were both just alike, one of us wouldn’t be needed…  Think about that.  Embrace the difference and enjoy each other’s strengths.

My wife and I committed our lives together and God blessed our union with two wonderful daughters.  They came from our passion and love.  He didn’t call us to be unstable, miserable, and destructive in our behavior in a way that destroys our family.  No, He established us as a reflection of Christ’s relationship with His Church.  To raise our daughters to know who He is and how to establish their own godly marriages and families.

So, give your relationship with your spouse a priority in your life.

  • God never intended for us to sacrifice our marriages and families on the altar of the church.  Though the work we do for our church and community is important, our responsibility to our spouse and families are greater.  Don’t allow your work, even in ministry, to rob your family.
  • Be a father or mother who is deeply engaged in the home and raising of the children.
  • Establish good boundaries so that you give to your spouse due benevolence.  Don’t just give your life mate the leftovers and scraps.  Serve your best every day and make your relationship a reflection of the true love that God intended it to be.

Your children, your friends, and your ministry followers will then see a true servant of God who has the peace of God displayed before them.

It is our prayer that your marriage is blessed beyond measure.

Tim and Heather Key are the founders of LifeTravelers.us Marriage Blog. They have been married for over 26 years, have two daughters and are expecting their first grandson. Their passion is for helping couples overcome the struggles of marriage.

Don’t Quit

Guest Post: Patrick Casey

1 Thessalonians 5:21 Examine everything and HOLD ON…

1 Peter 5:9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.

Acts 11:23 He encouraged them with all purpose of heart that they should continue with the Lord.

At the risk of seeming a little proof texty, the above are three gleaming examples of the encouragement to “NOT QUIT.” These passages represent three different writers, three different readers, and yet strikingly similar exhortations.

In the last scripture, we have a small, new launch, infant, beginning church, and when Barnabas sees its love, its enthusiasm, its fire, its purity, and its devotion to just wanting to make a difference and introduce people to Jesus, his primary encouragement to them, perhaps knowing what difficulty they would face, was that they “NOT QUIT.”

French Arrington’s record of that church indicates it survived nearly 5 times longer than the average life span of historical Christian churches. Could it be Barnabas’ directive to them fanned a flame?

Maybe you’re more emotionally stable than me, BUT I need encouragement, sometimes often. We probably all had some minor delusion of “changing the world” unrestrained and uninhibited. We had thoughts that people would just come because we loved them, and a million-dollar real estate mogul’s son would get saved in a service and he in turn would finance a huge campus debt-free, and we would get paid to read the Bible and pray, AND the Glory of God would swirl around us like Donald Trump’s hair in a New York City wind.

Then enters stage right that pesky struggle between the ideal and the real. We are expected to clean the church, cut the grass, visit, open doors, lock doors, adjust thermostats, fight with boards, wrestle with leaders, fire staff, hire staff, be an insurance agent, tax professional, attorney, counselor, finance manager, real estate guru, leader, worshipper, preacher, writer… is it Friday yet?!?

The truth is, it’s not as glamorous or as easy as Furtick and Houston make it look. There have been many days I felt like quitting, like what I do doesn’t matter, maybe you can identify, but I’m pleading with you today, HANG IN THERE.

Around 1870, when New York City had one of the most hotly contested mayor’s races in its history, the incumbent was Mayor John Tweed. Boss Tweed’s political machine began to roll and was corrupt to the core. There were a number of committed citizens who decided to fight. In the beginning, they seemed to be making a difference, but as the campaign dragged on, the cost of the commitment of time and energy became more than most people were willing to pay. Many of the good people, who initially believed in the importance of what they were doing, began to drop out. In the end, Boss Tweed had been reelected. The next day, the New York Times ran an editorial and analyzed what had happened. The article summed up the situation with these words: “The good people quit being good before the bad people quit being bad.”

Here are three things I pray that will blow some strong, fresh wind in your sails and push you a little farther on your journey.

  1. DON’T QUIT

Life will give plenty of leaky roofs, flat tires, and stupid people to navigate around. We can’t afford to let the circumstances dictate our commitments.

Every great success story is the story of a struggle- in the garden, the early history of Israel, and the early church, YET here we are. WHY? They didn’t quit. Adam “died” because of his sin, but called Eve “the mother of all living,” because he refused to quit. After 40 years in the wilderness, an 85-year-old Caleb says, “I am just as able now to claim it as I was then,” and a Paul couldn’t be killed because he was already dead, “for me to live is Christ…”

THERE WILL COME a day when the “honeymoon” is over and it seems all of hell will vent its hottest rage against your life. People will leave you, hurt you, and reject you, BUT in that moment around you, don’t doubt what God has put in you!

PASTORS, don’t let vicious people wreck your vision, don’t let the jaded steal your joy, DON’T let thieves and parasites keep you from the mission. You’ll have plenty of reasons per day to quit, BUT don’t you do it. YOUR purpose is greater than your pain!

  1. DON’T QUIT

The idea in allowing spiritual opposition isn’t without purpose, it’s that you’ll prevail. LISTEN, God doesn’t want the abrasion of life to wear you down BUT polish you up. I wish we could go from the PROMISE to the PALACE without the PIT, but we can’t always.

What a left handed compliment to be found worthy of demonic attacks! At the risk of sounding uber-cliché, if he’s a “good” devil and you’re a threat at all, you’re worth attacking.

Satan’s greatest attacks are the assault on your mind. I can’t tell you how many times that I have thought I was losing my mind. IF you haven’t learned it by now, the enemy isn’t stupid; he’s a schemer. He will tell you you’re unworthy, you don’t matter, your wife and kids think you’re a flop, you’ll think you can’t preach, you’ll go to conferences and feel worse because you’re not as talented. THOSE things weigh on our mind and speak loud in our ears, BUT 2 Corinthians 10:4 “THE WEAPONS of our warfare…bringing into captivity EVERY THOUGHT to the obedience of Christ…”

LUKE 10:19 Behold I give you “POWER” (EXOUSIA) OVER ALL the POWER (DUNAMIS) of the ENEMY. Literally translated- CHRIST grants us authority above all the devils ability, DON’T QUIT, you have all you need!

  1. DON’T QUIT

I recently spent a week in Africa and was privileged to see cheetahs, the fastest animal on the planet, in the wild on a game reserve. Though fast, if they don’t catch their prey very quickly, they’ll give up, IN PART, because they have a very small heart. What a metaphor for today! People run after God, but quickly lose heart when things don’t go their way, and they quit. I understand; I have felt the same way. In the early years of planting a church with seven people, the struggles seemed insurmountable, BUT GOD has brought us into a great place of prosperity and I often wonder where I’d be had I quit.

Keep grinding it out week after week, keep reaching, keep pressing, and keep pursuing. YOU, my friends, are a pixel in this beautiful picture of God’s church, DON’T QUIT.

Patrick Casey is the Lead Pastor of Christian Life Church in Mobile, Alabama. He is passionate about, not only pastoring his community, but also encouraging his fellow pastors. Patrick and his wife, Kim, live in the Mobile area with their two children, J. and Lauryn.

Multi-Site on a Budget

Guest Post: Sam Pickard

I am super-excited about the future!  In fact, I’m always eager to move forward.  Often I’m so eager to move forward that I forget to take a minute and celebrate what God has already done.  Recently, I have been looking back on how God has allowed a church in a small rural Midwest community to impact multiple communities, even outside of the US.

multisitemap1

In 2009, God gave our Lead Pastor a vision to reach thousands of people for Christ in rural communities through a multi-site strategy.  He began sharing that vision. In early 2012, the first campus outside of our original campus was launched, and God did it with our very limited resources.  Five years later we have five campuses, including one in Jamaica.  We have also launched our iCampus (what we call our online campus).  God has done and is doing amazing things!

Sometimes, we can be tempted to look at the mega-churches with the big budgets and think that they are the only ones that can do big things.  That’s just not true!  We have very limited resources, and I want to share seven things that have allowed us to do Multi-Site with a limited budget.  It’s my prayer it will encourage you as you attempt to accomplish what God has called you to.

HAVE A VISION – You have to have a vision for what God has called you to AND you have to share that vision with those in your church.   If you don’t have that vision, you need to get on your knees and start begging God for one.  Spend time in prayer, fasting, and silence.  Do what you have to do to see a vision for the local church you lead.

BUILD A COMMITTED TEAM – As we were getting ready to launch into multi-site, we desperately needed a strong committed team of leaders, but we didn’t have funds to hire them.  That’s when a pastor friend shared the idea of a volunteer team.  That team is expected to attend meetings and have real responsibilities.  In fact, they have job descriptions.  We ask them to commit for a year and at the end of the year, they can step off the team if they need a break or it wasn’t a good fit.  (Most of them have stayed on longer than a year.)

Even as we have begun hiring paid staff, there are very few people who are full time: three pastors and our secretary.  We have four pastors, including our lead pastor and our executive pastor (me), who are bi-vocational (working at least two jobs).

ENCOURAGE GENEROSITY  It’s no secret that many churches shy away from talking about giving.  Don’t.  Entire sermons series, blogs, and probably books have been written on this topic, so I won’t go too deep in the weeds except to say that you need to encourage people to give and provide them that opportunity.  Providing an opportunity isn’t simply taking an offering each week, though that is part of it.  It’s much bigger than that.  Here are three specifics:

  1. Teach about money.  It was important enough for Jesus to talk about, so we probably should too.
  2. Make needs known, and not just financial.  We have had drum kits, TV’s, computers, etc. donated.  We even had a building donated.  Let people know what you need for God’s vision for your church to be what He wants it to be.
  3. Check out Giving Rocket.  They have some great tools.  We utilize their idea for a Christmas Offering.  At a time when many are in a giving spirit, it gives people an opportunity to be generous for a great cause, something bigger than themselves.  In our case, at times we have used part of these funds to go towards future campus launch.

FIND FREE AND INEXPENSIVE RESOURCES – There are some great ones out there.  Here are some that we use:

  1. TechSoup.org – We are able to get a variety of computer programs and software at a greatly reduced price.
  2. Google Hangouts – We are spread out and have people joining meetings from all over.  Hangouts is a free video chat tool that allows us to meet remotely.
  3. iMovie – There are a lot of video editing platforms out there.  We use iMovie.  It works for what we need, and it comes installed on newer Macs.
  4. Dropbox – This is a file sharing platform that allows a person to put a file in a folder and have it available to everyone with access to that Dropbox folder.  It’s been a great way to share videos to all campuses.  We started with the free version, but due to the size of the videos, we upgraded to the paid version for $100 per year.
  5. Podcasts – Our leaders listen to a lot of podcasts, and why wouldn’t we?  It is free training from a variety of people on a variety of topics.  Want to have everyone discuss a topic but don’t have the funds to buy a book for the entire team?  Listen to a podcast, and discuss it.

GET CREATIVE – I know that I am biased, but we have some great stage designs. And we do it with next to no cost.  We have used corrugated metal from old farm buildings, furnace filters, and a variety of items that were laying around.  There are some great things you can do for cheap.

You can get some great ideas on the internet.  One of the ways we saved a couple thousand dollars was to build a rear projection screen versus ordering one.  The Campus did it for less than $50 with a shower curtain and some framing materials.  It was an idea we found online, and it looked great!

MAXIMIZE VIDEO – We had to figure out video in a hurry in order to support video venue.  (BTW, Dave Horn at Truth Seekers is a great resource. www.geartechs.com). Once we did that, we realized we could do so much more.  We began doing an online campus. People know Jesus today because of our iCampus. We started publishing videos to YouTube, Vimeo, social media, and our website.  One of the people on our staff first connected through one of those videos.  Others at our church checked us out for the first time through those videos.

SHARE YOUR VISION – This is here twice because it is that important.  You have to have a vision for what God has called you to, AND you have to share that vision with those in your church. Don’t wait to have all the answers.  I’ve heard it said that a God-sized vision has more questions than answers.  Embrace that tension. People are willing to volunteer, give, get creative, and tell others about our church because they believe in our vision.

These past five years haven’t been easy, but it’s exciting to see what God has done. He is working and lives are being impacted in real ways.

Sam Pickard loves people and is a leader in the rural midwest. His professional leadership began in a factory setting and continued into retail where he had the privilege of leading large teams at International Fortune 500 companies for more than 15 years. Currently Sam works as the Manager at Pickard Insurance Services in addition to being the Executive Pastor at The Rescue Church. He is married to Eve, his wife of nearly two decades. They have three amazing kids and future leaders: Miriam, Micah, and Kirti. If you want to connect, Sam is on Social Media at @iamsampickard and blogs at sampickard.com.

Church Planting: A Wife’s Perspective

Guest Post: Melissa Thompson

Two years ago my husband, Dustin, and I planted Refuge Church in Cookeville, Tennessee. At first I fought this idea for a long time. I knew that if we committed to this dream, I would need to be all in along with my husband. I would need to help carry this vision into reality, and this responsibility scared me. Now, two years into the journey, I am leading and loving it. Along the way, I have learned some valuable lessons in life and leadership.

church-planting

First, you and your spouse have to be on the same team. When you decide to live for Jesus and lead in your church, Satan will attack. Dustin and I are a team! We are there for each other. When he is down, it is my job to be there to lift him up. When I am down, he fights for me. We carry the weight of the vision God has for our church together. We problem solve together, dream together and cry together. We don’t always agree, but once a decision is made, we are united. Come what may, we are going to fight for it together.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

To maintain being on the same team, you have to talk about things that bother you. You and your spouse have to be open with each other. If you harbor hard feelings about anything with your spouse, it will grow and divide you.

Second, finding balance in life is unobtainable, but living with rhythm is what you should strive for. Every church I have been apart of has talked about finding balance. You have to balance being a wife, mother, employee, pastor’s wife, children’s director and the list goes on and on. You begin to feel like a circus clown trying to keep spinning plates on a stick. One plate starts to wobble, so you focus on that plate. By the time you get it going again, another plate wobbles. This keeps going until eventually plates start crashing to the floor. We cannot feasibly be excellent in all areas at all times.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” Then Solomon goes on to describe a rhythm. The same applies for church. There is a season of high intensity with outreaches, groups and big weekends. You also have seasons of lower intensity where you can focus on family. Finding this rhythm is essential. You cannot burn the candle at both ends for very long. You will burn out! Once this rhythm is established, you can be intentional in each season. When it is go time for the church, you are all in and ready to give all you have because you have taken time to rest. But when it is a season of low intensity, you can be intentional with your family. You can do this by planning ahead.

My husband is great at establishing a calendar. He will plan ahead for the next year. He will find the pockets of low intensity and plan little trips to look forward to. So in those moments when it is hard at church, you feel spent and have nothing left, you have something to look forward to. And in a season of rest, you can focus on family time and pray and dream for the future.

Last, God has equipped each of us specifically to make a difference. Sometimes, I struggle in the “shadow” of my husband. I know this sounds crazy, but it’s true. Satan will use this to disregard the plan that God has for me. It is so easy to lose sight of your purpose. You can get caught up in all the drama and forget that God needs you. God has equipped me to reach people for Christ just like my husband.

The Great Commission is just as much for me as it is for anyone in our church.   I have to be intentional about keeping my focus on Christ. This may be me serving in the kids’ ministry, praying for someone after service, or even just making sure the bathrooms are stocked and ready. God has equipped us all with the ability to grow God’s Kingdom. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

These are three lessons I have learned so far in church planting. I still have so much to learn! What are some of the lessons you have learned?

Melissa Thompson is a small town Tennessee girl with a big heart for God’s people. She has led in the secular workplace in the restaurant and banking industries and has served as a Children’s Director and Business Administrator in churches in both Tennessee and Missouri. Currently she serves in both of those roles at Refuge Church in Cookeville TN. Melissa is married to Dustin, has two kids, Avail and Archer, and enjoys quilting and knitting. For more information or to connect, you can find her on Facebook.

The Apps of a Pastor

Guest Post: Travis Sinks

Most pastors wear many hats. The variety of things we juggle from event cordinating, counseling, visual designing, general business organizing (such as insurance, finances, etc), sermon preparation, spiritual leadership, and much more, can be overwhelming. I for one am glad we live in an age where we can utilize technology to give us a leg up on all of these things.

apps

As someone who loves testing new applications and workflows to be more productive, I have tried MANY different applications. I hope that these can be of use to you. I’ve added links to the ones I’ve written in more depth on and I hope to write on all of these eventually so I’ll add links for those as I do.

NOTE: Personally, I am an Apple user. I love their products and the people who make applications for them so I don’t see changing anytime soon. However, many of these apps can be found on other platforms, and those that don’t have similar counterparts I’m sure you can find.

I’ve split up the list into apps that have iOS and OS X versions so you can see what will work in specific use cases. I hope this helps you find an app to help you in your situation!

IPhone/iPad and Mac apps:

  • Logos – Of course, I have to mention a Bible app in a list of apps for pastors! There are many good ones, but I prefer Logos. I use to only like it for study, and I had others for general reading, but they’ve recently updated their interface so generally reading the Bible is now on par, if not better, than others Bible apps.
  • Evernote – I love using Evernote as a catch all digital filing cabinet. This is where all my receipts (business, church, personal) go, as well as a ton of other things such as prayer requests, sermons, graphics, contact info, and general information backup. You can read my blog post where I go more in depth at this link, and this followup post on how I send information to Evernote.
  • 1Password – I can’t emphasize enough how much of a blessing this app has been! Not only for creating unique passwords, but between all the different Instagram, Twitter, email, and bank logins (just to name a few) I have because of personal, business, and the church’s – this app has been a lifesaver and I can’t imagine working well without it.
  • Text Expander – As I’ve written before, Text Expander is my top typing tip for pastors, and really anyone at all.
  • Dropbox – As we move forward in the digital age, files are becoming bigger, and file sharing and syncing is evermore important. Dropbox has been such a great tool to sync preferences and information between my Mac and iOS devices, but it’s also been a great way to share large groups of pictures, or large audio files. You can read more about that on this post.
  • Pocket – One downside of the digital age has been an overwhelming amount of information. I use pocket to save articles that I want to read whether from Twitter, Facebook, Safari, or just a random link in an email. This helps me have an ongoing list of things I’m interested in reading, so when I have some downtime, I’m never short on things to read.

IPhone/iPad only apps:

  • Drafts – As I’ve written before, I think having a notepad is extremely useful. I personally prefer a digital version for most situations, so I’ve come to love the Drafts app as a way to take notes and then be able to send them anywhere I want to store them (usually Evernote).
  • TurboScan – When I shared my receipt management workflow, I explained how I use TurboScan to get high quality scans of receipts. I also use this app for other paper items I want to digitize such as Christmas cards or even driver licenses.
  • Onsong – This is the very best app I’ve ever seen for worship leaders. I use to have an ongoing Word document where I would copy and paste each song into a new setlist for Sunday. Onsong is a great app where it not only organizes your songs individually to be grouped together into sets, but you can also change the key of a song with a simple click rather than having to edit each chord. It can do so much more, but these two functions alone have been amazing and totally worth it.
  • Hours Tracker – As I freelance making websites and doing marketing for churches (tnsinksdesigns.com) in addition to being an assistant pastor, I’ve found it very important to track my time both inside and outside of church work. This app is a simple, yet extremely useful app to do just that.
  • WeekCal – This is just my personal calendar app preference. But I encourage anyone in ministry to become good at keeping a calendar, it’s one of the most useful things you’ll do.
  • Services – This is one of the apps from Planning Center which is a great app to schedule and organize volunteers for services and events. Their iPhone and Android app (services) makes it extremely simple for volunteers to accept/decline volunteer scheduling, add in block-out dates, and to see their upcoming volunteer day/time.
  • Metrics – This is another app that requires some online setup at churchmetrics.com. This is provided for FREE by life church.tv, the creators of the YouVersion Bible app and many other helpful tools. We use the Metrics app to keep track of attendance and new people on both Sunday’s and in community groups, and to also keep track of rededications, salvations, baptisms, and pretty much anything else you can think of.

Mac only apps:

  • Keyboard Maestro – Although more of a technical app than the others, Keyboard Maestro is an app meant to create macros for your mac so you can automate frequent actions. It can do everything from keystrokes, to moving the mouse, clicking the mouse, utilizing input variables, and even editing the text on your current clipboard.

I hope some of these apps bring a solution to an area in your work, life, and ministry. If you have any apps you think ought to be added to this list, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!

Travis Sinks lives in South Florida with his wife and son. He is the Assistant Pastor of Redemption Church Delray Beach and a business marketing and growth consultant at Elite Business Growth Solutions. You can read his blog, focused on ” Equipping the Church for the Work of the Ministry,” at travissinks.com. twitter & instagram | @travissinks

6 Reasons You Should Attend the Small Town Church Conference

Guest Post: Tony Ashmore

The first ever Small Town Church Conference will be October 3-4, 2016 in Villa Rica, Georgia, hosted by LifeGate Church. I love pastoring in a small town and, along with the other Small Town Church lead team members, believe every small town church can have huge impact for the Kingdom. I am excited about this conference and would like to share some reasons I think you should be here too:

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  • I attend too many conferences and seminars that have great content and material but are all too often aimed at churches in large urban or suburban areas. Even though the stuff presented is excellent, it usually requires some ‘translation’ to make it applicable to the unique characteristics and challenges faced by the small town church leader. This conference is planned for the specific dynamics of the small town church and leader.
  • Every presenter is actively leading in a small town. As one of my friends told me, “I thought I had found a conference for the small town church, but none of those presenting were actually leading in small towns. They may have been there at one time, but all of them were now leading in large urban or suburban areas.”  I guarantee you will have the opportunity to connect with someone leading in a situation similar to yours at this conference.
  • Our network is founded on the belief that every small town should have a great and healthy life-giving church. Sometimes all we need to take our church to the next level is one tool or one friend. Whether your town is 500 or 50,000, you will have the opportunity to make new friends and find new tools—new friends who know what it’s like to lead in a small town and new tools that will help you ‘break the code’ for your small town.
  • No church is too small and no church is too large to benefit from this conference. It is focused on helping every small town church, whether it is 50 people or 5000 people, achieve their full Kingdom potential. That potential is different for every church, but the principles that will be shared will help every church and leader identify and achieve their full potential. Many of the churches present at this year’s conference have congregations that exceed 10% of their town’s population and several of them are successfully planting multiple campuses in other small towns.
  • I know attendance numbers are an important measurement, but I believe community influence is a more important measurement. A church of 85 in a town with a population of 500 may have more influence in their community than a church of 5000 in a city of a million. No matter the size of the church you lead or the size of your town, this conference will help you discover ways to increase your influence.
  • There is no one who understands your role as a small town pastor or leader better than another small town pastor or leader. One of the turning points in my life was making friends with Billy Hornsby and some of the others involved in the early days of the Association of Related Churches. Billy became like a father in the ministry to me and Sheryll and his input changed our lives and made our church better and more successful. Our #1 goal for the Small Town Church network and the Small Town Church conference is to create the opportunity for great relationships. Our conference this year is designed in a roundtable format, allowing the participants to have more networking time. I believe there will be friendships forged that, like my friendship with Billy, will take us all closer to realizing the full Kingdom potential in our own leadership and in the churches we lead.

You only have one opportunity to be the first, so register today for the first ever Small Town Church Conference. I look forward to hanging out with you there.

Written by Tony Ashmore.

I am a husband, father, grandfather and pastor of LifeGate Church in Villa Rica, Georgia, with campuses in Bremen and Carrollton, GA. My wife Sheryll and I have planted 5 churches and have a passion for helping small town churches and pastors. We also believe that too many pastors were like us, not having a ‘father or mother in the ministry’, and we are in a season in our lives where we embrace that role. Contact me at tony@mylifegatechurch.com.

Three Lessons on Explosive Growth

Guest Post: Vince Daniel

I am not writing this as a professional church planter or church growth specialist. I haven’t written any books on the topic of “Church Growth in a Rural Community.” We have just seen some really amazing things happen in the last nine months in our church. I want to share three of the lessons we’ve learned as God has taken Real Life Church from 350 in weekly attendance to over 900 in weekly attendance in a short amount of time.

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  1. Know Yourself

Before I pastored Real Life, I had never pastored a church larger than about 100 people. There have been moments that I have thought, “What is God doing? I am not qualified to do this.” And then God would send 100 more people to the church just to show that His quantity is never based off my qualifications. I believe God keeps me in that tension so that I never get to the place of thinking that I am the sustainer. The moment I start to think “Oh I’ve got this,” He sends more folks to remind me those are His words not mine. So I do my best to stay teachable, constantly learning what the next level is like, just in case God decides to take us there.

  1. Know your Culture

Our community is unique, so is yours, and so is the church’s down the street or two towns over. It took us a while to wrap our minds around this. I wanted to build a trendy new facility that had all the bells and whistles, but I have come to realize if the product is authentic and done with quality, the packaging matters little in our community. We currently meet in a renovated horse barn, and our people love it. Before you make an assumption…we are not a Cowboy church. We are a community that appreciates authenticity and humility. So be approachable and gracious. We are in a community that appreciates quality. So whatever your facility is create an environment that is excellent. I promise if any horse walked into our barn now they would say, “Whoa!” (You see what I did there…Horse joke…whoa).

  1. Know God

If God truly places His hand of favor on you and your church, you cannot manage, contain or manufacture it. You can only hope to live in it as long as He sees fit. In the last nine months, we have had to change our facility three different times, our children’s check-in system at least twice, and our organizational structure has resembled a game of Jenga. And all of this has been awesome! Our teams freak out a little bit, but we survive. We look back wondering why God would ever allow us to be a part of this movement called the local church. We look forward in wonder of what He will do next. It is my prayer that you will still be in awe of what God is capable of doing in your church. Stop trying to figure out what’s not working and go back to what always has, loving people with the Gospel of Jesus.

Vince is a Jesus follower, church planter, husband and dad. He is the senior pastor of Real Life Church in Mountain Home, Arkansas which will be celebrating their 5 year anniversary in September.

Taking a Sabbatical Saved My Ministry

Guest Post: Brandon Petty

Last year one week before Father’s Day, I woke up like any other Sunday morning. It was about 5:30am. I normally get up, put on a pot of coffee, and begin to read, write in my prayer journal, and focus on the sermon for that day. I grabbed my phone off of the nightstand and noticed I had two voicemails. I didn’t recognize the numbers. I had gone to bed earlier than normal the night before due to a hectic week. Both voicemails were from my father’s sister. She called me late the night before to inform me that my father had passed away from a heart attack at 62 years old. As you can imagine, my heart sank as I listened to her words drop in my ear like heavy bags of sand that seem to pour out into my soul. I even felt guilty for going to bed so early and missing the phone call. But with my life being filled with so much anxiety and chaos, I found myself tired…a lot.

Camping

Why am I sharing this story in a post about taking a sabbatical? Because it was that life event that finally drove me to a place of desiring mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health over ministry success. After planting a fast growing church in 2012, my life seemed stuck in the mud with tires spinning as fast as I could put my foot to the pedal. As I reflected on who my father was, a man who had made a journey that started with a ton of mistakes throughout his life with addictions, poor choices, and dysfunction within his own family to a man who loved God, loved people, and loved life. He finished well. Those three words echo through my hearth and soul…he finished well. Isn’t that the issue with most of us in ministry today? We all start out with the courage to start something great but rarely have the character to sustain consistency. After all, we are too important and too busy at the expense of our congregation or in most cases, a leader board to slow down and think about how we are going to finish. That usually leads to poor decision-making, burn out, or even moral failure.

My reflection on my father during that season brought me to a place of self-reflection. My dad loved spending hours in the woods praying or meditating. He had such a love and respect for God’s creation. He had a lot of demons in his life but had seemed to overcome them. I could remember a time when I was kid and my go-to sources of renewal were a campsite, a fishing hole, the woods, or simply outside my cousin’s barn playing basketball in a gravel driveway. I loved being outside and enjoying God’s creation as well. But my source of renewal had become my phone, my computer, or even going to a church conference in the name of ministry. I would only come back with more anxiety over feeling the need to figure out how to continue to grow the church. So last fall, I finally took a week long sabbatical. It was just me, a tent, a hammock, and the great outdoors…and food, of course. It was one of the most amazing weeks of my life. I read books, prayed, listened to sermons, but most of all, I slept! God poured so much restoration and vision into my life during that week. I want to give you five reasons why you should take a sabbatical:

  1. Healthy things grow, not busy things.

As pastors, we all feel the pressure to lead well in our churches. We want needs to be met, souls to be saved, and the church to grow and be strong. The problem is, we normally sacrifice our own health or spiritual growth on the altar of performance. We think that if we work non-stop or if we say yes to every request, then somehow God will bless us, people will love us, and our church will be successful. I have found that nearly 100% of the time the opposite is true. What I’ve discovered is that if you’re not healthy at the core, the rest of you won’t be healthy. That’s true for you personally and for your church. I began to change my focus on church growth strategy to health and culture. I began to focus on my own spiritual growth and the growth of my leaders. I know that if I create a healthy culture at the core, my leadership capacity (and the church) will grow. Why? Because healthy things grow.

I took intentional steps towards overall health in the last 2 years. The gym is a consistent part of my life. I began going to counseling for my own past that was embedded with dysfunction. I make sure I take a Sabbath day off each week. I’m intentional about date nights with my spouse and spending time with my kids one on one. And now, I plan a week long sabbatical each year. The healthier I am overall, the healthier my family and my ministry will be.

  1. The only way we can be productive is to rest.

I’m reminded of a moment in 1 Kings with Elijah when he had just performed one of the greatest miracles in scripture. He had just called down fire from Heaven and defeated the 450 prophets of Baal. You would think he would be on cloud nine. But something happened right after this intense God moment:

“When Ahab got home, he told Jezebel everything Elijah had done, including the way he had killed all the prophets of Baal. So Jezebel sent this message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.”

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.

Then the angel of the lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”1 Kings 19:1-7 (NLT)

Elijah goes from feeling unstoppable and full of faith to depressed and zapped of his strength. In a matter of moments, he is in such depression that he desires for God to kill him. Have you ever been there, Pastor? One minute you just finished delivering your greatest sermon and people’s lives are being changed; the next minute someone has sent you an email that has ruined your week and brought you to the brink of quitting. Ministry can be emotionally overwhelming. What’s our response in times that we feel like we just need to press on? We’ll eat unhealthy, load up on coffee or energy drinks, stay up later, or even put more stuff on our calendar. What did the angel encourage Elijah to do? He encouraged him to sleep, eat, and repeat. Why do we struggle with that at times? We feel that we are being unproductive, but honestly, the best way to be productive is to stay rested. God knew Elijah had another leg of his journey and purpose ahead of him. He couldn’t use Elijah if he wasn’t well rested. What happened next? God used him to anoint Elisha to replace him. Our longevity in ministry isn’t even about us. Someone else’s calling and purpose also hang in the balance. Take time to rest; it’s actually encouraged by God.

  1. You have to disconnect in order to re-connect.

The greatest way to hear from God is get away from everything else. This time I’m reminded of Moses and his encounter with his father-in-law. That statement sounds scary, I know. But in Exodus, we see that Moses was doing everything. He was trying to lead, but he was also listening to everyone’s disputes. He did this every single day. Basically, he was accessible to everyone at every moment. His father-in-law gave him this advice:

“This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him. Teach them God’s decrees, and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives. But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you. If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.”—Exodus 18:17-23

Many of us would be truly set free if we took Jethro’s advice. Notice where he said Moses’ focus should be: visionary, preacher, teacher, and ultimate example for all to follow. Do you know what happened after Moses took his advice? He took a trip in the wilderness at Sinai and went up the mountain. It was there he received the Ten Commandments from God. Sometimes, our greatest revelation comes from our greatest times of rest. Moses appointed leaders to lead so that he could disconnect from the people and re-connect with God. Your church is expecting you to be the one to hear from God and give them direction. You can’t do that if you don’t disconnect to re-connect.

  1. Jesus took a sabbatical.

Jesus actually began His ministry with a 40-day sabbatical. Granted, He didn’t have hammocks, tents, or electricity (don’t judge me), but He disconnected in order to prepare for His destiny. Jesus often went off by Himself to pray and disconnect. It would often come at times when it seemed the people needed Him the most. Jesus knew what was more important. Know this, Pastor: people don’t need you as much as you think they do. They need Jesus. The only way Jesus could fully give Himself to the world was to fully give Himself to the Father. Your church doesn’t need your time as much as they need your anointing. What God does through you is what impacts people’s lives. It’s not about what you do for the church. Refusing to rest is actually idolatry. You believe you’re too important to get away from it all. If you don’t have leaders around you that can handle things while you’re gone, then maybe you don’t have Christ followers. You might have pastor followers.

  1. It will help you gain focus on who you’re becoming.

One of the things I do on my sabbatical is write down goals for ministry, personal growth, and family. I want to ensure that each year I am becoming a better Christ follower, husband, and father. Those three things are far more important than any sermon series I could preach. If I’m not stretching my capacity to love Jesus and my family more each year, then how can I affectively minister to people? Let me tell you, it’s a lot easier to preach a sermon series on marriage and relationships when I’m actually living out what I’m talking about. I don’t want to practice what I preach. I want to preach what I practice. When you set goals and ask God to continue to change YOU, then everything that you do as a leader will come from a place of authenticity. Most people avoid the church like a plague due to the lack of authenticity. And I believe it’s because there are too many people focusing on becoming a good preacher and pastor instead of focusing on becoming a man after God’s own heart. Eventually, people will find out which one you aspire to be.

As I finish writing this post, I just came back from my annual camping sabbatical. I caught a lot of fish, sat by campfires, prayed, read books, read my Bible, laid in my hammock, and I slept. I also came back with the next five years of vision for myself, my family, and our church. I came back with a renewed focus and fire. I came back rested.

My prayer for you is that you would not focus on simply having the courage to start strong. People love starting new things (especially if you’re a church planter). But I pray that you would have the character and consistency to see a dream through until the end. My prayer is that like my father, you would finish well. Take care of your mind, body, strength, and soul. How can we fulfill Christ’s commandment to love Him with all of those if we don’t? Take time to disconnect. I promise you that it will save your ministry and change your life.

Brandon Petty. Follower of Jesus, Husband to Jessica, and proud daddy to Launa, Mya, and Truett. I enjoy playing basketball and weight lifting. Pastor of Generation Church, which quickly grew to over 600 people in a few short years after starting in 2012. I am absolutely passionate about encouraging leaders and investing in others. I also coach church planters and love to speak to the next generation. If you would like to know more about me please visit me at brandonpetty.org

Connecting Men to the Church

Guest Post: Gary Miller

ManSleeping

Over the past 13 years, (8 full-time) I have traveled and spoken to men’s groups throughout much of the nation. I do a ministry called Outdoor Truths. It started through an article that I began writing to newspapers. The article spread and eventually churches started asking me to come and speak at their men’s events. These events were mostly geared to hunters and fishermen and were designed for evangelistic results. I would have never thought that I would have become an evangelist to outdoorsmen. This was so far from what I thought my giftedness was – especially after pastoring one church for over 15 years at that time. Not only did I see results that only God could have brought, but I began to learn something about men that has literally changed my life. And after having garnered a big enough sample size, I begin to be able to help churches design effective evangelistic outdoor events and I was also better able to understand the faithful Christian man and what many of us pastors and churches have done to limit his Christian effectiveness. This also helped me to see why, as David Murrow wrote, “Men hate going to church.”

Even though I still do this ministry, I am also the pastor of a little church plant that is just over one year old. Our average attendance since January is 160 people. PTL! We are terrible at most things. I am the most reluctant pastor they could have for lots of reasons. I look up to and want to learn from you who are having so many successes. I hope to be there one day. I am however thankful for the men at my church. Many of them are young adults with children who had either stepped away from church or had never gone before.

With this in mind, let me give you some things I have learned and humbly suggest for a pastor who wants to connect with men.

  1. Be a man in the pulpit.

That doesn’t mean that you have to like to hunt or fish, but it does mean that you like to beat other people at golf or tennis or basketball, and talk trash while you do it. It’s just what we do and it’s okay.

  1. Be real

Men want a friend not a pastor. Don’t try to be hip or relevant. You will be if you are real. They want to see your humanity. Whatever you dress like on a regular weekday, do so on Sunday.

  1. Sometimes on Sunday talk directly to the men.

Say things like “Ladies, you can check Facebook a minute while I talk to the men.” That way if you want to say “kill a deer” or talk about NASCAR, you can.

  1. Stay away from “churchy” words as much as possible.

Unchurched men don’t know any of them and your churched men never use them around their unchurched friends. Any time you can use a common word to replace a church word, do it.

  1. Don’t emasculate men by telling them to be safe and predictable.

If you do they will be confused when you ask them later to step out in faith to build a building you have no money for.

  1. Don’t beg men. It embarrasses them.

My neighbor is 29 years old and is unchurched. He has had four tours in Iraq in the Army. His superiors have never begged him to do anything and he has never begged another man to do something as well. That means when you sing 64 verses of Just as I Am, and beg him to come to the altar, he feels that you are less than a man.

  1. Don’t challenge men. It insults their intelligence.

Your locker room speech says to them that you think you can stir them to action by some emotional tirade. As you know, most men are not very emotional. Passionate, yes! Emotional, no. Instead talk to them from the heart about what it means to walk by faith. They will resonate with that because that is how God made men. Faith is risky and adventurous. It doesn’t scream success, it screams failure. It reminds us of terrible odds and unlikely victories. Men thrive when the odds are against them.

  1. Make Sunday look like Saturday.

Recently I was in one town getting ready to speak on a Saturday night. I was standing in the back of a full auditorium. I noticed the men who were there. They sat in the same pews that others would sit in that next morning; except this night they were sitting there dressed in blue jeans and wearing their favorite hat. They were perfectly comfortable. Many times pastors are confused as to why they can get men to their event on Saturday night but not on a Sunday morning. I think one answer is this. When Sunday morning looks like Saturday night, men will come.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about being crude, rude, or ill-mannered. I can’t stand a man who is not kind, considerate, and humble. I am also not talking about forgetting about the women. What I am talking about is bringing the balance back that we have lost over the years.

Gary pastored one church in a small town in Tennessee for over 18 years. It grew from a small, very traditional church to a contemporary congregation with several hundred in attendance each week. For the past 13 years he has led Outdoor Truths Ministries. Through that ministry he writes for approximately 70 publications each week, speaks at wild-game dinners, and men’s conferences. For just over one year he has been the lead pastor of a new church plant in Kentucky, Locus Church. He holds a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies from Liberty University and a Master’s Degree in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Gary is married to Teresa and they have 3 children and 3 grandchildren.