20/20 Vision

I believe I was in second grade when I got my first pair of glasses. In those early years, I moved back and forth between contacts and glasses, but I’ve probably worn glasses exclusively for the past 15 years or so. It can be annoying at times, but I have terrible vision without them.

I have what the experts call astigmatism, which I believe is a fancy word for saying I can’t see stuff.

Google tells me it’s a defect in the lens, which results in distorted images, as light rays are prevented from meeting at a common focus.

No matter what the definition is, the fact is I’m a danger to myself and others when I’m not wearing my glasses.

My vision stinks.

Perhaps you or the church you serve has the same issue.

Scripture tells us, Where there is no vision, the people perish. Proverbs 29:18a

And it’s true. We all know people wondering aimlessly through life, and we all know of churches that have to close their doors because they lost their vision.

Andy Stanley, in his book Visioneering, says vision brings four things into our daily lives. We can also say vision brings these four things into our churches.

  1. Passion

The better your vision, the stronger emotion it invokes. It’s almost impossible to have passion without a vision. And those without a vision live passive lives. A strong vision stirs something within you that can’t be contained.

  1. Motivation

Without a vision for the future, there’s no need for motivation. Motivation needs a destination, otherwise you’re life will always stay in park. Weight Watchers realizes this, that’s why they’re always showing before and after pictures of their customers. If you’re a pastor, a big part of your job is painting a clear picture of what the future could look like for your church.

  1. Direction

Without a vision for where you want to go, you never know where you’ll end up. Clear vision sets the direction of our lives and helps us prioritize what’s important. If it’s not getting us closer to our goal, then it’s not something we need to do.

  1. Purpose

People with a clear vision for their lives are more likely to live their lives on purpose. As Stanley says, “A vision gives you a reason to get up in the morning.” I believe God’s given each of us a purpose. If you haven’t figured out what exactly that is yet, you may want to check your vision.

I can’t express enough how important vision is for your life and your church. It makes all the difference in the world. If your vision isn’t real clear right now, I encourage you to take some time this week to get focused.

Does your church have a crystal clear vision? What about your life? Let us know about it in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get updates on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

5 Signs that You’re the Growth Barrier

Why is your church not growing? Is it the stubborn deacon who refuses to change? The Sunday School teacher who is plotting against you? Or maybe the worship leader who insists on singing “Beulah Land” every Sunday? Chances are it’s not any of those things. More than likely the biggest growth barrier to your church…is you.

That can be hard to accept, however the quicker you accept it, the quicker you can make the changes that are necessary to take your church to the next level.

And don’t feel bad about it. Almost every pastor starts out making these same mistakes, and few of them ever change.

That’s why most churches will never break 200 in weekly attendance.

However, you’re not most pastors, so let’s take a minute and see if you’re making any of these five mistakes.

  1. You’re the Primary Care Giver.

To put it more plainly, you do all the visiting, counseling, and any other ing’s. And your church loves you because of it. It’s probably at the top of your job description, but it’s holding your church back.

  1. You’re Always Available.

Someone needs something, you’re the first person they call. Everyone in the church has your phone number. It may even be on the church sign. They can call any time of day or night. You attempt to be omnipresent and never miss a church event whether it be a prayer meeting or a birthday party. You’re unwillingness to say no to the small things is costing you the opportunity to do big things.

  1. You Don’t Delegate.

See above. You feel bad asking anyone else to do anything, or you don’t think they can do it as well as you. So, you lead every meeting, preach every sermon, mow the yard, take out the trash, and anything else that needs to be done. Even Jesus had a team of 12, and you’re no Jesus. Start giving others responsibility, or you’ll never grow.

  1. You’re a Terrible Planner.

If you don’t know what you’re preaching from week to week, you’re a terrible planner. And don’t give me this waiting on the Holy Spirit to show you. God is the ultimate planner. He planned how this world began, and He’s already planned the end. God had a vision for what He wanted to create and the outcome He wanted to see. Do you?

  1. You Ignore the Numbers.

What was your average attendance last year? How many guests have you had this year? How many salvations? How many baptisms? You don’t track it because you don’t want responsibility for it. If you tracked it, you might have to admit you need to change because what you’re currently doing isn’t working.

Do any of these sound like you? If so, you’ve found the problem, and that’s 90% of fixing it. Now, just be willing to do the other 10% and change.

Have any of these ever described you? How did you change? Let us know by leaving a comment and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

 

Don’t Get Too Comfortable

I like comfortable. You probably do too. You don’t have to stress when things are comfortable. You don’t have anxiety when things are comfortable. You don’t lose sleep when things are comfortable. But I don’t think God likes comfortable.

So, does God want us to be uncomfortable? And if so, why?

I know my wife wants me to be uncomfortable.

She wants me to throw out my comfortable shoes that have a hole in them.

She wants me to try new foods that are out of my comfort zone.

And she would love it if I would leave the comfort of my own house more than I currently do.

It’s not that she really wants me to be uncomfortable. She just wants me to change.

Which makes me uncomfortable.

I have the feeling that God wants the same.

He doesn’t necessarily want us to be uncomfortable, but He does want us to change.

Which means I may have to try some new things. And I may have to give up my old ways. And I may have to let go of some of my preferences. And I may have to get to know new people.

And I may have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

And you may have get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

And I may have to embrace change. And you may have to embrace change.

Because God wants to change us.

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2nd Corinthians 5:17

What’s the biggest change you’ve had to make personally in ministry? Why? Let us know by leaving a comment below and take a second to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week

3 Things Passion is Not

I just finished reading Bill Hybels book, Courageous Leadership. If you’ve never read it, do yourself a favor and pick it up here. One of my favorite lines is Hybels’ definition of vision. He says, “Vision is a picture of the future that produces passion.” I don’t know about you, but for me as a pastor, one of the things that fuels me is seeing people live with passion.

One of my favorite scriptures is the promise Jesus gives recorded in John 10:10,

The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

And yet I see so many Christ followers who seem to have lost their passion.

They are living a life that they would describe as far from abundant.

And here’s what I think we need to learn about passion.

  1. Passion is not a personality type.

It’s not something that some people have, and some people don’t. It’s not a spiritual gift. Sometimes passion is raising your hands during worship, but I think more often than not, passion is about the things you do when no one is looking. Passion is the single mom who drags her three kids to church every Sunday. Passion is the teenager who stays home and reads his Bible when everyone else is at the party. Passion is the couple who on the brink of divorce decide to stick it out.

  1. Passion is not a feeling.

Passion and excitement are too very different things. It’s easy to get them confused. If you want to tell them apart, you have to give it time. For example, one of our campuses recently moved into a permanent facility. We’re seeing a lot of new people come, a lot of people taking next steps, and our volunteers are excited to serve every week. I’ll know they’re passionate if they’re still ready to serve every week when we’re not seeing growth. The evidence of passion is perseverance.

  1. Passion is not passive.

How many times have you asked someone to serve and they said, let me pray about it first? Translation, I want to sound spiritual, but I don’t actually want to do anything. If you have passion in your life, someone shouldn’t have to ask you to do something you know you already should be doing. You’re going to want to serve, you’re going to want to read your Bible, you’re going to want to give. Passionate people aren’t passive.

If you’ve lost your passion, you need to get it back. Jesus tells us how in Revelation 2:5

Remember from where you have fallen, repent, and do the things you did at first.

It’s not difficult, you just have to do the things you did when you were passionate. You just have to practice it, even when you don’t feel like it because passion isn’t a feeling. It should be a way of life.

We all lose our passion from time to time, what have you done to get it back? I’d love to hear about it so leave a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

3 Qualities Followers Look for in a Leader

Leadership doesn’t happen without relationship. Let’s say that again, leadership doesn’t happen without relationship. The foundation of leadership is relationships. The foundation of ministry is relationships. The foundation of the church is relationships.

And I’m not great at relationships. In fact, several years ago, I would’ve said I was pretty terrible at them.

It’s something I’ve had to work on throughout the years, and while I’ve definitely improved in that area, I’m still not where I’d like to be.

Relationships require you to connect with people’s hearts. Get to know them. Do life with them. Yet, my naturally tendency as an introvert is to isolate myself.

Relationships require you to appreciate people for who they are. Not just tolerate, but appreciate. Yet, my natural tendency is to try to fix people.

So, I’ve really had to be intentional about getting out of my comfort zone in order to build relationships.

Because I know no one is going to follow me unless they trust me, and trust comes from relationships.

Hopefully, that’s not the case for you. Hopefully, you’re great at building relationships, and you have a line of people already following you.

In order to keep them following, you need to have these three qualities.

  1. Encouragement

Everyone struggles with self-doubt. Discouragement is a reality of life. The thing that will keep your followers moving is encouragement. It provides hope. It builds their confidence. It makes them feel good. If you are an encourager, you won’t have to seek people out. They will gravitate to you. People are drawn to leaders who build them up.

  1. Inspiration

A good leader inspires people to follow the vision. They are able to navigate through change and are constantly on the lookout for new opportunities. A good leader understands the organization can’t stay where it is. It constantly has to change in order to reach new people. Your ability to communicate an inspiring vision to your followers will determine your success or failure.

  1. Consistency

Consistency is the glue that holds it all together. People won’t follow an unreliable leader. It doesn’t matter how talented or charismatic you are. They want a leader who is disciplined because there’s something about discipline that inspires people. It makes them want to be a better person.

If you have these three qualities in your life, you’ll be a leader people want to follow. If you don’t have them, work on getting them, otherwise you might not be leading for long.

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

Breaking 200

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Talk about it…a lot.

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

  1. Do what works.

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

  1. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

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

  1. Deal with the doubters.

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

  1. Delegate the care.

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

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

4 Important Vision Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. What is God calling us to?

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

  1. How are we going to accomplish it?

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

  1. Who needs to be involved?

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

  1. When should you begin?

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

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

Name one big vision you’ve implemented at your church in the comments below. I’d love to hear about it. And while you’re here don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

My Apple Experience

Why you should always get it in writing?

I’m a big fan of Apple products. I just upgraded to the iPhone 7. I have a MacBook I’m using to write this blog, and I have a 27” iMac in my office at church. So, when my wife asked me for the Apple Watch for her 29th birthday, I was happy to oblige. But my happiness turned to disappointment when the face randomly popped off the watch a few weeks ago.

Upon doing some research, I discovered this was a fairly common problem with the Apple watch. So, I contacted Apple support.

I hate talking on the phone so I was glad to discover they had a chat option.

After just a few seconds, I was connected with an Apple representative and was able to explain the issue. They asked me to send a picture of the Apple watch, which I did, and then they explained to me my options.

This is where I started to get a little concerned. I had heard about the incredible customer service of Apple. I had even bought the book, The Apple Experience: Secrets to Building Insanely Great Customer Loyalty.

So, why was I getting the run around?

They let me know my watch was out of warranty, and there was no guarantee they would fix it or replace it for free. Even though the face of the $250+ watch popped off after 16 months.

If they decided it wasn’t their error, it would cost me $199 to fix.

I let them know I wanted to send it in to see if they would replace it for free, but to contact me if they were going to have to charge me.

The representative let me know this was fine, but informed me I may have to pay to have it shipped back to me. I agreed.

They sent me a confirmation email to confirm I was sending the watch in for repair, which led to me having to provide payment information.

This alarmed me. So once again I asked the Apple rep if they would contact me before charging me, and they said yes.

I sent my phone in, and within two days a replacement had been sent back.

I never received an email or phone call to confirm, so I assumed they had replaced it at no charge.

I was wrong. A $217 charge showed up on my credit card a couple days later.

I tell you this story for one reason. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to get things in writing and save important emails and documents.

Luckily, I had saved the transcript from my chat with the Apple rep. After a couple of phone calls, they had apologized and refunded my money and allowed me to keep the replacement at no charge.

I don’t think that would’ve been the case had it just been my word against theirs.

Hopefully, this saves you some time, trouble, and money in the future. And if you’re thinking about buying an Apple Watch, you may want to get the extended warranty.

What’s been your experience with Apple products? Have you been amazed by their customer service? 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.

Is Church Membership Necessary?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. What about church discipline?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do what works for you.

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

5 Keys to Empowering Leaders

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Train Them

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

  1. Trust Them

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

  1. Communicate the Expectations

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

  1. Give them Authority

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

  1. Encourage Them

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

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

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