Small Town Big Church Coaching Network

How’s your church doing? Is it growing or has it plateaued and begun to decline? Do you feel like there are questions you don’t have the answers to? You’ve gone to the conferences and you’ve read the books, but none of the information seems to translate to your small town context.

We get it. That’s why we started the Small Town Big Church Network, to help small town pastors like you, see big time growth and impact in their churches.

And this fall we’re excited to announce the very first Small Town Big Church Coaching Network designed to help small town pastors go further faster.

During this six-month program, we will cover the essentials of leading a growing church in 12 live video coaching sessions. Sessions will include:

  • Developing Mission and Casting Vision
  • Doing Ministry with Excellence on a Small Town Budget
  • How to Assimilate First Time Guests into Growing Disciples
  • Creating First Impressions that Bring Guests Back
  • Creating a Kids’ Ministry that Kids and Parents Love
  • How to Talk about Giving and Grow Your Budget
  • How to Recruit, Train, and Lead Volunteers
  • How to Develop Leaders that Help Carry the Load
  • How to Preach Better Sermons
  • How to do Marketing in a Small Town Church
  • How to Start, Build, and Grow a Small Groups Ministry
  • How to do Worship with Excellence in a Small Town

Each live video session will include a 15-minute introduction to the topic followed by 45 minutes of question and answer time.

Along with the two live video coaching sessions, you will also have a one-on-one 30-minute phone call with your coach to discuss any topic in further detail each month, as well as 24/7 email access, access to a private Facebook group, and access to any and all resources we currently have or develop.

We understand that many small town churches don’t have a large budget for leadership development. That’s why we’ve made our coaching network as affordable as possible, while keeping in mind the value of our experiences and resources.

The cost for the 6-month coaching network is $200 a month, or $1,000 if paid up front. We believe this network will more than pay for itself, but if you’re not satisfied you can request a full refund within the first three months with no questions asked.

In order to provide the most value to our participants, we are limiting registration to 12 small town pastors. We also ask that you either be the Senior Pastor, Executive Pastor, or Associate Pastor of a church in order to participate.

The Small Town Big Church Coaching Network starts soon, so leave a comment below, shoot us an email, or visit the contact page if you’re interested in being a part.

Small Town Big Church Coaching Network Coaches

Jon Sanders

Lead Pastor of The Rescue Church, a small town multisite church with locations in South Dakota, Illinois, and Jamaica. Jon has a heart for helping pastors in rural communities realize their full potential. Learn more at jonsanders.org.

Travis Stephens

Executive Pastor of Strong Tower Church, a small town multisite church with two locations in northern middle Tennessee. Since coming on staff at Strong Tower Church six years ago, the church has tripled in attendance, expanded its facilities, and launched a second campus. Travis has a desire to help small town churches go big and writes about church growth and leadership on his personal blog.

What’s Next?

This Thursday, September 7th, 2017 marks the two-year anniversary of this blog. It’s hard to believe it’s already been two years. In those two years, I’ve written 200+ posts, interviewed names like Bob Goff, Tim Stevens, and Chris Surratt and developed relationships with small town pastors all around the world. It’s been an incredible journey, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me next.

My goal has always been to help small town pastors grow the churches they serve. The blog was the beginning, but I always knew I wanted to offer coaching and consulting some day.

I’m excited to say that day has finally come.

Early into this journey, I met a pastor named Jon Sanders, who leads a multisite church with locations in South Dakota, Illinois, and Jamaica. We share the same passion for helping small town pastors.

This fall we are teaming together to launch the first ever Small Town Big Church Coaching Network.

I’ll be posting all the details this Thursday. Trust me, if you’re a small town pastor who wants to take your church to the next level, you want to be a part of this network.

We’re taking everything we’ve learned in the past 10+ years about growing churches in small towns and sharing it with you over a six-month period. We’ll be answering your questions, we’ll be giving you resources, and we will help you grow your church.

Because we want to value you and your time, space is limited to just 12 participants. That means if you want to be a part, you need to let us know as soon as possible.

Full details on Thursday. Let’s take the next step in this journey together.

Don’t miss Thursday’s post or any other. Take just a few seconds to subscribe today. And if you know you want to be a part of this coaching network, please visit my contact page and send me a message or message me on Facebook.

Two Year Anniversary Stats & Giveaway

Two years ago I set out on a journey to help small town pastors see their churches go big. While the journey is far from finished, I definitely feel like we’ve made some progress. Whether you’ve been here from the beginning, or you’ve joined us somewhere along the way, I want to say thank you. Thank you for serving the communities you’re in, and thank you for allowing me to serve you.

Next week I’ll be sharing a huge announcement about the next step in this journey, but for today, let’s take a look back at where we’ve been so far.

  • The blog has been visited by over 13,000 people representing 143 different countries. Up from 115 countries last year. I’m not ready to say I’m a global sensation, but I’m making strides.
  • I’m most popular in North America, Great Britain, Canada, France, and Australia. Good day mate! If you’re reading this post in a country outside of the US, leave me a comment and let me know where you’re from.
  • Those 13,000 people viewed over 25,000 pages of content. The top pages include, 4 Types of Pastoral Leadership, Confessions of an Adulterous Pastor, Small Town Church Growth, Planning a Church Service, and Talent Isn’t Enough.
  • And last but not least, the blog has received over 5,000 comments, of which over 95% have been spam. Is that normal?

To celebrate the two year anniversary I’ve decided to give away a collection of three of my favorite books: The Unstuck Church by Tony Morgan, Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley, and Greater by Steven Furtick.

There’s a couple different ways you can be entered to win. One, leave a comment below with your name and your favorite blog post I’ve written. Or two, share this post on Facebook or Twitter and remember to tag me in the post. Make sure to does this between now and noon (Central Standard Time) on Friday, September 8th to be entered. Good luck to everyone.

P.S. Over the past year I’ve focused mainly on producing content and less on marketing the blog. After the big announcement next week I plan on posting a new blog each Monday morning and marketing it throughout the week. If you’ve found this blog helpful would you do me a favor and share it with someone who could benefit from it as well. This journey’s not finished, it’s just getting started…

Creating Team Alignment

A few years ago our team read a book called The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni. The book was on everyone’s must read list that year and still remains one of the best leadership books I’ve ever read. The main idea of the book is organizational health is what differentiates great organizations from mediocre ones.

For an organization to be healthy, everyone needs to be on the same page.

Which doesn’t always happen in churches. In fact, it rarely happens.

Most of the time, there are multiple people with their own agendas pulling in totally different directions. This leads to confusion, jealousy, turf wars, and church splits.

Luckily, there’s a way you can prevent this. You just need to get everyone working from the same playbook.

Your playbook should answer these six questions.

  1. Why do we exist? What is our mission and vision? What’s our purpose?
  2. How do we behave? What are we going to need to value in order to accomplish our mission?
  3. What do we do? A simple, direct explanation of our church or organization. For example, “We share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
  4. How will we succeed? What’s our strategy? Who’s our target? How will we reach them?
  5. What is most important, right now? This question helps us define our priorities. We may have a core strategy as a church, but what do we need to add to that in this season to take us to the next level?
  6. Who must do what? What role is everyone playing, and who is responsible for what?

If you can answer the questions above and get everyone on board, you can accomplish a goal.

When my church worked through this process, we said our goal was for our church to become an evangelism juggernaut, so that we have no choice but to add more services or more locations.

We knew there were some things we did well that were our core strategy. For example, we had relevant preaching, great kids’ ministry, a heart for serving, and passionate worship.

We also knew there were some things we needed to add or do better. For example, increase group leaders and participation, developing leaders, creating wow experiences, and providing invite cards.

Looking back now, I see that we didn’t follow through as well as we should have in a lot of these areas, and we didn’t see the growth that we would’ve liked.

Looks like its time for me, and maybe you, to develop a new playbook.

Do you have a playbook for your church? What about a goal for the next season? I’d love to hear more about it, so don’t forget to leave a comment below. And if you’re interested in working through this together, I’d love to talk to you more about that. Just shoot me an email through my contact page, and I’ll be in touch soon.

How to Become a Leader

Basics - Leadership

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

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

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

Actually, it’s very simple.

There are really only three things required.

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

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

7 Traits of a Successful Coach

In my last post, we discussed what it looks like to be a part of a winning team. They care for one another, they communicate well, and they put the team’s needs before their own. All of those things are great, but we all know, if a team is going to be successful, they have to have a great coach. So, how do we know if we’re doing a good job coaching our team?

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

If you look at great leaders and coaches, whether they’re serving on the football field, basketball court, or leading a church, they all have similar traits that I believe make them successful.

  1. They choose their players well. This doesn’t mean they always choose the most talented players, but they always choose the best players that fit within their team. They’re great at identifying strengths and weaknesses and filling those gaps.
  2. They’re great at communication. They know in order for their team to execute the game plan, they have to be great at communicating it. They also have to be great at inspiring their team. If you can’t get your team excited, you’re going to have a hard time winning. Great coaches are great communicators.
  3. They’re not afraid to make adjustments. The Atlanta Falcons held a 21-3 lead over the New England Patriots in the 2017 Super Bowl and ended up losing the game. Why? Half-time adjustments from a great coach. How often are you evaluating what’s working and not working in your church? Great coaches are willing to make the adjustments that will give them the best chance to win.
  4. They’re problem solvers. If you’re pastoring a church, you’re going to have problems. Some will come from people on your team, some will come from people in your church, and some will even come from people outside your church. Your ability to make the right decisions at the right time will go a long way in determining your success.
  5. They provide support and encouragement. When’s the last time you sent a thank you letter to someone on your team? If it’s been more than a week, you need to stop reading and start writing. Your team needs to know you care about them and you’re there for them.
  6. They earn the players respect. If you’re lazy, the team is not going to respect you. If you’re not trustworthy, the team is not going to respect you. If you’re not willing to make hard decisions, the team is not going to respect you. Don’t think because you have a title you deserve respect. Respect always has to be earned.
  7. They know how to delegate. John Maxwell says, “Learning how to delegate effectively is the most powerful tool any coach has.” Your time and expertise is limited, which means you’ll need to bring other people around you to help accomplish your vision. The best coaches know they can’t do it by themselves.

Take a minute and look back over this list and evaluate yourself. How would you rate yourself as a coach? Are there areas you need to work on?

Sometimes the best thing we can do is get coaching ourselves. I plan on doing some coaching for small town pastors in the near future. If you’d like more information on that, please leave a comment or send me a message through my contact page and I’ll keep you updated.

Creating a Successful Team

It seems that every year sports writers around the nation debate the greatest teams that have ever played. Several years ago in college football, it was the USC Trojans with Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, who went on to lose the National Championship to the Texas Longhorns. A few years later, it was the New England Patriots, who had gone undefeated up until they lost the Super Bowl to the New York Giants. And this year in basketball, it was the Golden State Warriors with Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and a host of other great players. All of those were great teams, but what does a great team look like within a church?

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

In the previous two posts in this series, we talked about developing individuals. In this post I want us to think about what it would look like to have a great team of leaders. Because we all know individuals don’t win championships–talking to you, LeBron–teams win championships.

And great teams, whether it’s football, basketball, or even church, tend to have some common characteristics. Here are a few of them I’ve observed.

  • They care about one another. A lot of times we call this team chemistry. How do they get along? How do they interact? I don’t know if there’s anything more important than this. We’ve all seen teams with incredible talent underachieve because there was no team chemistry.
  • They have fun together. If you watched the NBA Finals this year, did you notice which team was having more fun? You could say, yeah, the Warriors were winning, so that’s why they were having more fun. That’s true as well, but I just don’t think the Cavs enjoyed playing together like the Warriors did. Either way, great teams have fun together. It’s important. Schedule time for fun.
  • They know what’s important. No one has to guess what they are trying to achieve. I’m a Tennessee Vols fan, and when our coach, Butch Jones, made his “Champions of Life” comment, I just shook my head. I get the big picture of what he was trying to say, but as a fan, you want your team to win championships. Does everyone on your team know what’s most important?
  • There’s good communication. On the playing field, often teammates can just look at each other and know what the other is thinking. That’s a sign of great communication. Does your team have that, or is everyone left in the dark? Good communication builds trust among a team.
  • They put the team first. There is no “I” in team, right? Good teams share common goals. They win together, and they lose together. If you have someone on your team who’s always trying to do his own thing, you need to have a tough conversation.
  • They’re willing to sacrifice. Greatness doesn’t come easily. Success is hard work. Those who find it are those who are willing to spend the time to practice and prepare. They’re also willing to put their personal desires aside for the betterment of the team. I believe God blesses those who are willing to work hard.

Here’s the good news for small town churches. You can have a great team in a small market. Look at the San Antonio Spurs. They had an incredible run because of great coaching, team chemistry, and player development. Your church can do the same if you’re willing to put in the work.

Who’s your favorite sports team? Do they have the characteristics of a great team? Why or why not? Leave a comment and let us know, and take ten seconds to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Six Steps to Equipping Leaders

I think if I had to pick the area that I feel like I’ve failed at the most as a pastor, it would be equipping leaders, for a couple of different reasons. One, I’ve always been self-motivated, and I’ve expected others to be also. Two, equipping is an ongoing process that takes time and consistency. I’ve often gotten caught up in the day-to-day operations of a church and dropped the ball on leadership development.

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

Those are my excuses, and I’m sure you have yours. Regardless of what those excuses are, I think we can all agree if you want to lead a growing church, you have to prioritize leadership development.

And not just for a season. That’s a mistake we’ve made. You think, ok, I’ve done this yearlong training. Now, we’re ready to take the next step as a church, but as soon as you stop equipping, your leaders start slipping.

They forget the vision of the church. They forget the why behind the what. They turn insider focused. And before long you’re taking two steps back, for every one step forward.

At least that has been some of my experience.

So, we know equipping leaders has to be a priority within our churches. Now, where do we start?

I think we need to focus on these six areas.

  1. Build Relationships. You have to have a relationship with those you lead. Otherwise, they aren’t going to follow you. Relationships not only build trust, but they help you to identify their potential strengths as well as weaknesses.
  2. Share the Vision. Don’t assume people know what you know or feel how you feel. Share your dreams and your heart every chance you get. When people hear what motivates you, they will be more likely to help you achieve your dreams.
  3. Ask for Commitment. John Maxwell says, “Commitment is the one quality above all others that enables a potential leader to become a successful leader.” This is something I’ve often avoided because I feared it would scare people away. Yet, what I’ve learned is it’s better for them to be scared off on the front end than quit in the middle.
  4. Set Goals for Them. People want to know if they’re being successful. Don’t keep them guessing. Give them goals that will stretch them but won’t overwhelm them. Small wins build momentum.
  5. Provide Training and Tools for Success. Don’t just tell them how to do something, show them. Then have them do it in front of you, and give feedback. People learn by doing. Also, spend some money on things like books and resources you can give them to develop their leadership. It wouldn’t hurt to even introduce them to blogs like this one.
  6. Check Up on Them. When it comes to equipping leaders, your job is never done. Even after you’ve given them goals and the training and tools to achieve them, they still need to be checked up on periodically. If they’re doing well, encourage them. If not, then give them some feedback on how they can get better.

If you will make the commitment to do all six of these things to equip your leaders, I can almost guarantee you’ll see results. And when leadership grows within your church, your church is able to grow with it.

How are you equipping leaders within your church? What would you add to this list? Let us know by leaving a comment and make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

How to Identify Potential Leaders

One of the most important tasks of a pastor is developing other leaders, but where in the world do you find them? I don’t know about you, but this is a huge frustration for me. The idea of leading just seems to be foreign to a lot of people in small towns. They’ve grown up in churches where this was never talked about, so they often don’t see the importance. So, how do you and I go about identifying potential leaders?

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

In the six years or so I’ve been serving in my current role, I’ve been responsible for placing quite a few leaders over various ministries. Some of them have worked out, and some haven’t.

I saw potential in all of them, which is a problem because I’ve been wrong more than a handful of times. And being wrong is costly.

When you choose poorly, the ministry suffers, the organization suffers, and the person you chose ends up suffering.

I’ve had to admit that I need to get better at identifying potential. Liking the person isn’t enough. The person being reliable isn’t enough. The person being loyal isn’t enough.

There’s a lot more that has to go in to identifying these people. Otherwise, I keep making mistakes, and the organization keeps suffering.

So, I came up with a new list based on what John Maxwell looks for and my own observations. Hopefully, this will help you as well.

  1. Character. There’s nothing more important than this, especially when we’re talking about serving in the local church. If a candidate has a history of not taking responsibility for their actions, not fulfilling obligations, or failing to meet deadlines, you have a character issue.
  2. Influence. In the past I’ve made the mistake of overlooking this one. I can’t afford to make that mistake anymore. If they’re going to be a successful leader, they have to be able to influence others.
  3. Positive Attitude. This is another one that I haven’t put enough emphasis on in the past. Having a positive attitude doesn’t mean you ignore problems. You just tackle them in a positive way. This is one of the most important assets a leader can have.
  4. People Skills. Maxwell says, “A leader without people skills soon has no followers.” A leader needs to be able to connect with people by showing concern for them, encouraging them, and caring for them.
  5. Confidence. This is another one I’ve often overlooked, but confidence attracts people. Confidence is also contagious. Just be careful that confidence doesn’t turn into pride.
  6. Self-Discipline. Self-discipline is so rare these days. I struggle with it myself. But if you can find someone who is disciplined in handling their emotions and managing their time, you may have found a potential leader.
  7. Communication Skills. One of the hardest skills for most people is being able to communicate effectively. But it’s necessary if you’re going to lead. They don’t have to be Billy Graham, but they do need to be friendly, be able to focus on the people they’re talking to, and be able to communicate in a variety of ways.
  8. Not Satisfied. I would’ve never thought of this one on my own, but it’s so true. This doesn’t mean the person’s negative, it just means they are always looking for how to improve or achieve more.

As you look over this list, you may think, there’s no one in my church with all of those characteristics. I kind of feel the same way. But what if you printed off several copies of this list and wrote a potential leader’s name at the top of each of one? Then go down the list and circle the characteristics that each leader has. Maybe they don’t meet all the requirements, but can you develop the one’s they lack? If you can, you may have yourself a great leader.

What would you add to this list? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Creating a Leadership Development Climate

One of the more positive trends happening in the church today is a focus on leadership development. The problem is, very few have figured out how to do it well. That includes the church I serve, and we’ve been talking about it for years now. So, this summer I was excited to read John Maxwell’s book, Developing the Leaders Around You. I took a ton of notes, enough for a six part series on leadership development that I would love to share with you. Let’s start by learning how to create a leadership development climate.

Where I live, if you were to walk into most of the churches, it would be pretty obvious that leadership development isn’t happening. That’s not a shot at those churches because many of them have great pastors and some great volunteers.

But in most cases they’re not developing leaders. They may be developing doers, those who do some kind of volunteer work, but not leaders.

And that’s a big problem because when the church doesn’t have leaders, the church doesn’t grow.

Sure, they may get to a hundred in attendance and a few who have great preachers may even get to two hundred, but it’s almost impossible to grow past that number without good leadership.

Maxwell says, An organization’s growth potential is directly related to its personnel potential.

This is why leadership development is so important. In fact, if you’re pastoring a church, I would say that acquiring and developing people is your most important task.

And it’s up to you to set the climate for leadership development. What you value, your congregation will learn to value. So, you have to develop the climate.

Here are a few ways you can do that.

  1. Model leadership development. No one else is going to develop leaders until you start developing leaders. What you model, they will follow.
  2. Call out the potential within people. Most people won’t see themselves as leaders. This is especially true in small towns, so you have to see what they can’t. Then pull it out of them.
  3. Show that you care. You’ve heard it said a hundred times, no one cares what you know until they know that you care. Find out their desires and needs, and help meet them.
  4. Take the focus off positions and titles. Jesus made it very clear that we are to be servants. The people we lead do not serve us, we serve them.
  5. Provide opportunities for growth. Sometimes I forget that the majority of people in my church don’t know of all the great resources available to them. One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is, “What does this person need to grow?”
  6. Make the hard decisions. Unfortunately, not everyone who wants to become a leader will have the desire or commitment level needed to accomplish it. There will be times when you need to stop investing in them in order to better invest in others.
  7. Never stop growing yourself. I’ll say this again, what you model, the people will follow. If you become satisfied with where you are, don’t be surprised if people become satisfied with where they are. You set the pace for your church, so continually invest in yourself.

Don’t underestimate the importance of the climate you’re setting. Your attitude and a positive atmosphere can encourage people to accomplish great things.

How many of these things are you doing in your church? Are you seeing it pay off? Let us know by leaving 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.