Top 10 Posts of 2017

A Quick Look Back

Happy New Year! I hope you saw God do some incredible things in your church last year, and I’m sure you can’t wait to see what He’s going to do in 2018. I feel the exact same way. I have some posts coming up in 2018 that I’m really excited about, but before we move ahead, let’s take a quick look back at my most viewed posts of 2017. Enjoy!

My Christmas Wish List – A list of some of my favorite items that have helped my church grow, and I believe could help yours.

One Big Mistake Rural Churches Make – Do you have a rogue sheep that’s killing your flock? In this post I give you five steps to help them straighten up or move on.

Talent Isn’t Enough – One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made as a leader is putting someone in charge based on their talent alone. I don’t make that mistake anymore. Now I evaluate them based on the three areas mentioned in this post.

Some Churches Don’t Need to Change – “I feel like some of us believe our churches need to do a complete 180 in order to reach our community, when the truth is, we just need to get better at the things we already do.”

Five Stages of Church Growth – What do churches and babies have in common? More than you think, as you can see in this post.

10 Tips on Church Growth – You want to see your small town church grow? Start by implementing these tips.

Small Town Church Growth – The post that started it all. If my small town church can see crazy growth, so can yours.

Four Thoughts on Christmas Services – I know, I know, it’s a bit early to be talking about Christmas, but you may want to bookmark this post for next year.

5 Reasons We Made the Switch from CCB to PCO – And I’ve never regretted it. If you’re looking for a church database management system, Planning Center Online is a great option.

5 Elements of a Great Worship Experience – I knew this post caused quite a stir, but I had no idea it would become my most popular post by a very large margin. Read it yourself, and see why it had everyone talking.

Looking back is fun, but I’m more excited about looking forward to 2018. I’m believing this is going to be an incredible year for you and me both. If I can ever serve you in anyway please shoot me an email, or check out my coaching page for the different options I offer.

P.S. I’ve added a store to feature some resources I’m developing this year. Currently you can pick up my 8 Steps to More Impactful Preaching ebook if you don’t already have it, or my new ebook The Basics: 13 Steps to Turn Around Your Small Town Church.

How to Create a Preaching Calendar

For those who may not be familiar, a preaching calendar, in its simplest form is just a calendar in which you’ve written down what you’re preaching about each week for the next year. It’s an incredibly useful tool for pastors, and in this post I’m going to share with you its benefits and how you can create one of your own.

In the early days of the church I serve, my pastor would preach what we would call stand-alone sermons. There was no rhyme or reason from week to week. It was just whatever the Holy Spirit placed on his heart.

We eventually realized stand-alone sermons weren’t the best option for our church, concluded that the Holy Spirit wasn’t limited to week to week, and switched to series based sermons. In my opinion, it was one of the biggest catalysts of our growth.

If you’re still on the fence, you can check out this post I wrote about four reasons sermon series work.

A few years after switching to a sermon series model, we heard about the idea of creating a preaching calendar.

Here are a few reasons why a preaching calendar makes sense.

  1. It ensures balance. Most pastors tend to have certain topics or even scriptures that they love to preach on. For my pastor, the topic is evangelism. Without a preaching calendar, there’s a good chance he would preach on evangelism forty weeks out of the year. He wants people talking about Jesus, which is really important, but there are a lot of other topics we need to talk about as well. A preaching calendar helps you see the big picture and helps to maintain balance in your preaching.
  2. It helps with planning. Try your best to invite a few others to help you plan your calendar. Getting others involved takes the pressure off you to come up with 52 different sermon ideas. It also creates buy-in from those you involve, and they become more invested. A preaching calendar also gives your creative team time to find or create graphics, plan worship sets, and all those other little things they get frustrated with you about.
  3. You preach better sermons. My wife served ribs last night she had been cooking in the crockpot all day. They were fantastic, but how do you think they would’ve tasted if she had just thrown them in the microwave for 15 minutes? Not as good, right? This same concept can be applied to your preaching. The longer you have to think on a message, the better it will be. We’re no longer giving the Holy Spirit just a few hours to work. We’re giving the Holy Spirit days and even months to bring thoughts and ideas to our mind. It’s a better process and creates a better result.

So, when should you start creating that calendar? About six months ago, but since we don’t have a time machine, as soon as possible. Set a date, invite a few others to join you, and don’t leave the room until you have a preaching calendar for the next year. Good luck!

Do you use a preaching calendar? In what ways has it helped you? 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.

My Christmas Wish List

Andy Williams calls it the most wonderful time of the year. I call it budget season. The time of the year when you can start thinking about all the things you can buy with next year’s budget. So, with that in mind, I wanted to share with you a few of the items that I have found to be well worth the investment.

Kids Ministry. Your kids ministry should be a place where kids learn about Jesus on their level in a fun and safe environment. Here are some items that can help create that environment.

Dell All in One PC. This computer will allow you to implement a check in station for your ministry. This is vitally important for parents. They want to know that they’ll be the only ones who can check their child in and out of a room. You’ll also need a printer to print those labels. We use the Dymo Labelwriter 450.

KidSpring CurriculumOne of the best moves we’ve ever made as a church is switching to the KidSpring Curriculum from Newspring Church. It takes a few more volunteers to pull off, but it’s well worth it. The best thing is, the curriculum is absolutely free. You can’t beat that.

Baby Playpen Safety Play Center. Something simple like this play center can really improve the look of a room, and it’s fun for the little ones. I also love using playhouses like this Walk-In Kitchen for older kids.

Foam Floor Tiles. Foam floor tiles are always a great addition to a space with little ones. These can provide fun colors to a room, as well as some cushion for all those falls and trips.

Changing Station. The absence of baby changing stations in bathrooms is a huge pet peeve for a lot of parents. Especially when it’s such an easy fix.

First Impressions/Guest Services. You rarely get a second chance at making a first impression. Studies have shown that most first-time guests who attend your church will decide whether they will ever come back within the first seven minutes.

Outdoor Flags. I’m not talking about the Red, White, and Blue even though I love that flag. I’m talking about flags that market your church by gaining the attention of everyone who drives by. They’re not exactly cheap, but they’re worth it.

Guest Parking SignsYou should have parking spaces clearly marked for visitors close to your entrance. This communicates your expecting them, you care about them, and it helps you identify them.

Coffee. If you’re not serving coffee, you need to be. It wakes people up, and it fosters conversations. For years we used Standard Coffee to provide all of our supplies. You may just want to brew several pots of coffee and keep them warm in a Curtis thermal dispenser. Do whatever works best for you.

UmbrellasOur parking team’s motto is, “When it rains we shine.” Feel free to steal it. We get a lot of rain in Tennessee, which means we get a lot of opportunities to shine. You got a single mom with three kids trying to get to a door during a rainstorm, you better believe it makes a great impression when someone escorts her to the door with an umbrella.

Worship/Media Ministry. The key to keeping us looking and sounding good. It used to be that only megachurches could afford to create an incredible worship experience, but that’s not the case anymore.

Sound Board – The Behringer X32 has really changed the game for a lot of churches. It’s an affordable digital console, which just didn’t exist a few years ago. We loved ours so much that when we got ready to start a portable campus we bought the compact version and haven’t had any regrets.

Microphones – We use Shure SM58 microphones. They sound great as long as I’m not the one singing into them.

Projector – A couple of years ago we moved from two screens on the sides of our auditorium to one screen behind the middle of the stage. This has helped with crowd engagement. At the time we purchased the Hitachi CP-WX8265 and it has held up well.

Camera – Earlier this year we purchased the MEVO Plus to use to Facebook Live our services. It has it’s issues, but for $499 it gets the job done.

Student Ministry. I’m an executive pastor who has recently become a student pastor as well. It’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever attempted, but also one of the most rewarding. Here’s a couple things that have helped.

Grow Curriculum. I would be in a world of trouble if it wasn’t for this curriculum. It has saved me so much time. I go much more in depth about it in this post. If you’re a student pastor, I highly recommend this.

Books. When I became student pastor I did lots of research and joined lots of groups. The two books that were recommended over and over again were Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry and Sustainable Youth Ministry. After reading them, I know why. They’re fantastic.

DownloadYouthMinistry.com. I’ll be honest, I haven’t spent much time on this site yet, but I plan to. It’s on my wish list for 2018. But I know lots of people who have, and they consider it the best youth ministry resource around.

Office/Admin. This list wouldn’t be complete without some administrative items. Here are a few of my favs.

PlanningCenter. I absolutely love Planning Center. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a church management database that makes my life so much simpler. It helps me track contributions, volunteers, group attendance, and lots of other stuff. I wrote more about in this post about my switch from Church Community Builder to Planning Center.

Apple iMac. The first big purchase I made as a pastor seven years ago was an iMac. For someone who had always used PC’s it took a minute to get used to, but I would never go back. I upgraded to a newer version a couple years ago, and I’m thinking 2018 may be the year I upgrade again.

HP Laserjet Printer. We’ve used a version of this printer for years now. If you print your own bulletins, this printer is a great option. It prints fast, and the quality is great. It’s a great option for the money.

Vistaprint. The items we can’t print on our own printer we now outsource to Vistaprint. We use them for connection cards, invite cards, and thank you cards. They do quality work, and you can always find a promo code that will save you money.

I hope this list helps, and I’d love for you to share the one thing you would add to your list. Let us know by leaving a comment and a link below. Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.