The Three Most Important Pieces to the Kids’ Ministry Puzzle

If kids’ ministry is an afterthought at your church, you are never going to grow. It is the single most important ministry of a church right now, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Parents are no longer dragging their kids to church, but if you have a great kids’ ministry, the kids will start dragging their parents.

Let me say this to all my small town pastors out there who prefer to have kids in the adult service instead of having a kids’ ministry, you are making a huge mistake.

Yes, there may be a small benefit in kids seeing mom and dad worship, but it pales in comparison to having a kids’ ministry that is fun and exciting and teaches kids about Jesus on their level.

If this is you, I would beg you to reconsider. The future of your church depends on it.

For the rest of us, it’s not enough to just have a kids’ ministry. Your kids’ ministry needs to be great.

In order for that to happen, we need to focus on these three pieces of the puzzle.

  1. Volunteers. Don’t make the mistake of putting just anyone into kids’ ministry. I know it can be tempting, but unless they are excited and passionate about working with kids, they can do more harm than good. Kids’ ministry should get your best. Kids also thrive on consistency, so keeping them around the same volunteers is ideal. This means I prefer kids’ ministry volunteers serve at least every other week, if not every week. And it should go without saying by now that every kids’ volunteer should be background checked. We use a company called Clear Investigative Advantage, but there are several out there. Just do your research and make sure they’re legit.
  1. Curriculum. Flannel graphs and coloring pages don’t cut it anymore. We’re not just babysitting kids. We’re pointing them to Jesus. This means we need curriculum that keeps their attention and helps them learn. We use a combination of KidSpring and Elevate Kids. KidSpring is completely free. It uses a combination of videos and live acting. You just need to have volunteers who are willing to act out the scripts. Our kids love the KidSpring series, and we would use them exclusively if we had more actors. Elevate Kids is a video based curriculum that is also very good but can be expensive for smaller churches.
  1. Parents. You better care about what parents think of your kids’ ministry because more than likely it will determine if they ever come back to your church. They want to know their child is safe, so it’s a great idea to have a check-in system that only allows the parent to take them out of the room. It’s also important to have policies regarding allergies, sickness, etc. After the service a parent will likely ask their child these two questions about the experience. Did you have fun? What did you learn? If their child gives positive answers, chances are they’re coming back. If not, you probably won’t see them again.

Subpar or non-existent kids’ ministries are one of the top reasons small town churches don’t grow. You can fix this by making kids’ ministry a top priority.

What does the kids’ ministry look like in your church? Do you think it’s attracting families or pushing them away? I’d love to hear about it, so leave a comment below. While you’re here make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

4 Reasons Rural Churches Should Consider Going Multisite

Guest Post: Brett Bixby

There are lots of multisite churches in America today, and they are predominately located in cities. I think smaller, rural churches need to consider going multisite as well. Thom Rainer recently wrote, “Multisite used to be something only large churches tried. Now, smaller churches are getting in on the strategy.” Here are four reasons why adding an additional campus needs to be on your radar as an option for your growth needs.

  1. There is a need for the people in the next community over to be reached with the gospel. Whether we like it or not, our church will only reach people in a certain proximity. Sure, we can point to that family that is driving from 45 minutes away to attend our services, but they are usually the exception. They are usually not the ones who are inviting their neighbors to make the drive and check out our ministry. I believe people who are far from God will not drive over 15-20 minutes to attend a church with any regularity (most of our regulars won’t drive that far either). With this in mind, there is a need to take the ministry of the Gospel to the surrounding communities where our people are driving from in order to help them invite their neighbors, friends and co-workers to church. If the community is large enough to have its own elementary school, then it is large enough to handle an effective ministry in the town. The elementary school shows there are enough young families with children to warrant a ministry geared to reach them.
  2. Launching a second campus doesn’t have to be costly. There are ministries out there that are dropping $8 million on each campus they launch. This does not have to be the case. Being creative in a small community can enable a ministry to start a campus with very little money invested. There are usually buildings around that can be used, and the start-up costs are mostly in the renovations. We have launched sites in a True Value Hardware store, an American Legion building, and a church building that had been closed down. For under $100,000, a new location can be launched, and this would include the additional staff expenses for the first year. Almost immediately, new people in the area will be invited and reached to begin financially supporting the ministry.
  3. Launching a second campus is just like starting an additional service, except the service is held in a location 25-30 minutes down the road. When 80% of the chairs in your auditorium are taken, you are perceived as full to any new person who walks in your doors. As you watch your seats fill up, you will want to begin talking about your next move. One of those options is to start a second service. If you are from a small town like I am (1,400 people and a stoplight), you begin to realize people are driving over 15-20 minutes to get to church. Learning where your people are coming from will help you identify where you could potentially start a second campus. We had around fifty people who were driving from a town about 25 minutes away called Hallstead. Hallstead does not have a stoplight but does have 1,100 people and an elementary school. We sent those fifty people to start a Bridgewater site inside an American Legion building in their town. We said that we were just starting a fourth service, and it was meeting in a different location. They preach the same sermon, sing the same song set, and are named Bridgewater just like we are. We are one church meeting in many locations. We now have done this four times and have five sites with ten services on a Sunday morning. We are committed to reaching communities for Jesus by starting additional services this way all over our geographic area, and many of your ministries could do this as well.
  4. Starting a second campus will offer twice as many of your people an opportunity to use their gifts and abilities in serving ministries. I realize this is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, there will be many ministry roles that need to be filled once you start a campus in the next town. The flip side of this is that there will be many opportunities for people who are currently standing on the sidelines of ministry to get involved! We have found that if people have a role or responsibility on Sunday, there is a greater chance they will attend regularly. We do not struggle with a surplus of people who desire to serve. I don’t know any ministry that has this problem. But, we have found that when ministry opportunities are available and when we ask people to step up and take on a larger responsibility, they will. When we ask some who are helpers in children’s ministry to become teachers or classroom leaders, we see them stepping up and taking on the responsibility. We ask each person in a ministry at Bridgewater, whether paid or unpaid, to be working to find their replacement even before they need one. This allows us to have someone available to serve when we launch another campus.

There are many reasons why I believe smaller, rural churches need to consider going multisite. It has been a growth engine at Bridgewater and has allowed us to see God reach far past our community and into several additional communities around us.

Brett Bixby is the Executive Pastor at Bridgewater Church. They have 5 campuses spread across Northeastern PA and the Southern Tier of NY. He has been a pastor for 20 years and has been at Bridgewater for the last 8 years. He is married to Nicole, and they have 5 children.

8 Steps to Creating a Contagious Volunteer Culture

How many of you are fans of Apple, not the fruit, the company that makes the iPhone? I became a fan several years ago because of my senior pastor. He bragged and bragged about their products, until I finally broke down and got the iPhone, then an iPad, then an iMac, and eventually a Macbook. Over the years I’ve fallen in love with their products, but I have to admit something…there are other companies that make products as good, if not better, than Apple. I don’t keep buying Apple products because they’re necessarily the best. I keep buying because of the culture Apple has created.

Samuel Chand says, “Culture is the strongest force in any organization. The best way to understand culture is the statement: This is how we do things here.”

It goes without saying that culture is a big deal when you’re trying to sell something. In fact one of the new sayings the church has adopted from the business world is “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

So, if you’re having a hard time getting people to serve in the church, then you may want to take a long hard look at your culture.

If it’s not working for you, you may want to try these eight steps to create a contagious volunteer culture.

  1. Raise Awareness. Ephesians 4:12 says that Jesus gave pastors the job of equipping His followers to do ministry. That means ministry isn’t something only pastors do, ministry is something we all do. Each of us has a ministry. You need to make sure people are aware of this.
  2. Have a Compelling Vision. Your vision should not only excite you, it should excite others. When my pastor was talking about the latest Apple product, he did it with excitement, which peaked my interest. Not sure what your vision is? Check out this post to help discover it.
  3. Tap a Shoulder. Many pastors ask for volunteers from the stage and have limited success. Don’t stop asking from the stage, but teach your leaders to tap a shoulder. You are ten times more likely to gain a volunteer from a one on one conversation than you are from asking from the stage.
  4. Develop Leaders. Speaking of leaders, you need to take time to develop them. They need to own the vision and be able to communicate it clearly to potential volunteers. The best leaders are those who have influence and a positive attitude.
  5. Change the Language. Try to never say the word need. For example, never say we need more nursery workers. Instead of needs, you have opportunities. We have an amazing opportunity for you to love on some babies. Also, try to avoid saying, “I have to serve today.” Instead develop a culture of saying, “I get to serve today.” There’s a big difference.
  6. Create Job Descriptions. Many people hesitate to volunteer because they are uncertain of what’s required. Job descriptions eliminate this issue. If you don’t have time to develop your own, send me a message, and I’ll send you ours.
  7. Offer a Trial Period. Another reason people hesitate to serve is because they’re afraid they’ll be stuck doing something they don’t enjoy. You can get around this by offering trial periods. I would make the trial period no longer than 3 months. Anything longer than that starts to give people anxiety.
  8. Show You Care. One of the worst things you can do is recruit a new volunteer and never follow up with them. Don’t make this mistake. Make sure you develop a system to check on new volunteers periodically and show them you care.

What would you add to this list? Let me know by leaving a comment below, and don’t forget about the Small Town Big Church Coaching Network launching this fall. You can find out all the details here.

Five Numbers to Watch this Fall

I’m a numbers guy. I’ve always loved them. Math was my best subject in school, and I graduated college with a Business Management degree so I could count more numbers. When I was asked to become the Executive Pastor at the church I serve, counting numbers was the easiest part of the transition. Unfortunately, a lot of pastors don’t share my same love for numbers, but regardless there are a few numbers you need to pay close attention to this fall.

Historically, September through November has always been a season of growth at the church I serve. Summer is over and temperatures start dropping, which means people are spending less time on vacation or at the lake and more time showing up to church. The kids have gone back to school, and parents have gotten back into their regular routine.

It’s not uncommon to see ten to fifteen percent more people showing up to church in the fall than in the summer. More people gives you the chance to build momentum and get more people connected to the mission and vision of your church.

This fall should be a win for your church…if you measure it.

If you don’t measure it, how will you ever know when you’re winning?

Here are the five numbers I’ll be measuring, and I think you should be measuring them as well.

  • Attendance. Every pastor should be measuring weekly attendance. How many people are showing up at your church for weekend services? Once you get this number you need to do something more with it than just put it on a board in the back of your church. You need a way of tracking it over a long period of time. Church Metrics is a free online platform that allows you to do that and a lot more. Once you start tracking these numbers you can go back and compare them in order to give you a better idea of the health of your church.
  • Giving. I’m guessing even if you don’t count the attendance, you probably still count the offering, right? Of course you do, you’d be crazy not to. This fall I’m looking for my weekly giving numbers to be ten to fifteen percent higher than during the summer. How do I check that? You guessed it, Church Metrics.
  • Groups. The fall may be the best time of year to launch new groups. That’s why this fall I want to measure how many total groups the church is offering and how many total people are showing up to them. Groups are difficult in a small town. You can read my thoughts on why, here. But, they are vital to keeping people connected to the church. I’m really excited about our groups this fall, and I haven’t been able to say that in a couple of years. If your church offers Sunday school instead of groups, you can still use the same measurements.
  • Volunteers. The fall is also a great time to recruit new volunteers. The closer we get to Thanksgiving and Christmas it seems the more people get in the serving spirit. Just last month we added 15 new volunteers at one of our campuses. That’s huge in a small town church, but we still need more. So, this fall I’ll continue to measure the number of volunteers we have, as well as the number of new volunteers that have been recruited. If you need help recruiting and retaining volunteers, you can find out more here.
  • First Time Guests. One of the most important numbers I’ll be measuring this fall is the number of first time guests. They’re the key to church growth. I heard someone say once that in order for your church to grow the number of first time guests that visit during a year needs to exceed your average weekly attendance. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but it’s definitely a number we’re striving for. That means if your church averages 75 people on a weekend, then in order to grow you need to have more than 75 first time guests throughout the year.

Of course, we’ll also be measuring salvation and baptism numbers as well. We just don’t see as much change in those numbers during the fall. Again, you can track those using Church Metrics.

I’d love to hear some of your number goals for the fall. Are you trying to break 100 in weekly attendance? Trying to add 10 new volunteers? Trying to serve 50 first time guests? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe. Also, if you’re looking to grow your church this fall in an incredible way strongly consider becoming a part of the first ever Small Town Big Church Coaching Network. You can find more details here.

Help! I’m a Student Pastor

I recently got a new job title, Student Pastor. It wasn’t one I applied for. It just kind of dropped into my lap. Now, I’m not leaving the church I serve as Executive Pastor. I’m just expanding what I do. For those of you who serve in small town churches, you probably can relate. You’re rarely just the Groups Pastor or Worship Pastor or whatever. Most of the time you wear multiple hats, and the hat I’m putting on is a flat bill hat tilted slightly off center.

The good news is I’ve been a part of our Student Ministry for the better part of ten years. The bad news is Student Ministry is changing at a rapid pace, and I have a lot of responsibilities to juggle.

Time is not on my side.

And if you’re a Student Pastor who is wearing multiple hats or you happen to be bi-vocational, you realize time isn’t on your side either.

Thankfully, I think I’ve found a solution, or at least a lot of help when it comes to planning and preparing for student ministry.

It’s called Grow Curriculum, and from what I’ve seen and used of it, it’s pretty awesome.

Here’s what it includes:

Curriculum – 52 weeks of teaching in 13 sermon series. You get the logo, the video openers, the customizable messages, and the small group materials that go with each message. This alone will save you hours upon hours of work.

Discipleship – 4 activities, one per quarter, that will grow your students in the spiritual disciplines of serving, evangelism, community, and personal time with God.

Games – 50 fun and interactive game ideas that tell you exactly what you need to get your students smiling and laughing.

Events – 7 done for you event guides so you can easily put together weekend retreats, summer camps, and mission experiences.

Volunteers – Everything you need to connect and build relationships with your ministry volunteers throughout the year. Discussion guides, conversation starters, meetings, celebrations, and more.

Parents – A one-year parent investment strategy that again includes emails, events, open houses, and more.

It includes everything you need to have a successful student ministry, and it will save you a ton of time.

There are also a couple other big bonuses that come with it.

The Grow App – The app includes all the small group materials for your small group leaders to use. Why is this a big deal? Because you don’t have to spend time thinking up and printing off group questions each week. You can just tell your leaders to download the app.

The Message Builder – One of the coolest pieces to this whole curriculum is their drag and drop message builder. I used it for the first time this past week and loved it. It’s kind of hard to explain, so make sure you check out this video for all the details.

If I didn’t stumble upon this curriculum, I can honestly say, I would be in a world of hurt because I just don’t have the time needed to do student ministry at the level it deserves to be done. This is going to be a game changer for me, and I think it would be for some of you as well.

Now it’s not free, and I didn’t expect it to be. A ton of work has gone into this. A yearly plan that includes everything I’ve listed above is $997. I think it’s worth it. If you can’t swing that, then you can get just the curriculum, the discipleship piece, and the games for $497. I think it’s worth the extra $500 to get all of it, but I understand student ministry budgets are often really tight.

Quick Disclaimer – If you purchase Grow Curriculum through one of the links on my site, I will receive a commission on that purchase. But, everything I said above I would’ve said if I didn’t get paid. It really is a great product that I’m currently using and one I believe can make a difference in your student ministry. If you purchase it, let me know how you like it by leaving a comment below.

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.

3 Reasons Church Members Resist Change

There are some great leaders in the Bible. Some come to mind quickly, and others you might have to think about for a bit. But who would you consider the greatest? Let’s take Jesus out of the running, because He always tends to win these things, but out of everyone else, who would be your pick?

There’s no right or wrong answer, but I think I might lean towards Moses.

He was a reluctant leader, but once he realized God wasn’t going to take no for an answer, he had a pretty incredible run.

He convinced Pharaoh to free the children of Israel from slavery and let them return to their own land. When Pharaoh quickly changed his mind and gave chase, Moses led the children of Israel across a parted Red Sea. And Moses was responsible for jotting down the Ten Commandments that he received from God not once but twice.

But in the words of Shania Twain, “That don’t impress me much.”

What impresses me the most about Moses is how he was able to put up with the children of Israel’s constant complaining, bickering, and backstabbing.

He wasn’t always perfect. He got mad a few times, but if I was in his shoes and God offered to wipe the complainers off the map and start over, I’m not sure I could’ve been as merciful as Moses.

Moses loved the vision God had given him of the Promised Land, but he loved the people God had put him over even more.

I’m guessing you have some complainers in your church. You have some people who will tell you what you should be doing but will never help you do anything. The hardest they will ever work is when they’re working against you.

As long as you maintain the status quo, they’re often satisfied. It’s when you start trying to change things that they get the loudest.

The temptation is to want them to go away, and sometimes that’s necessary. But sometimes God may want you to love them through it.

It’s certainly not easy to love someone who is fighting against you, but I think it helps when we understand why. Whenever people resist change, it’s often because of these three reasons.

  1. They’re living in the past.

All of us have a way of idolizing the past. If you have any sort of card collection in your closet or attic, you’re as guilty as anyone. People who’ve spent a lot of years in the same church tend to want to hold on to the traditions of the past. They would call them the good ole days.

Instead of ignoring the past, one of the best things you can do is take some of those past traditions and tweak them to fit into your current context. This helps you to accomplish your vision without stomping on their memories.

  1. They’re comfortable in the present.

I believe the United States is full of comfortable Christians. They sit in the same chair every week, they serve in the same area, and they give the same five dollars that they’ve given for the past five years. And they would be perfectly happy to do that until God calls them home.

Change scares them because they know it will take them out of their comfort zones. You have to paint a compelling picture of the future that’s better than what they’re experiencing now. A large percentage still isn’t going to change, but you only need a few to start gaining momentum.

  1. They’re fearful of the future.

Who are the loudest critics of moving from a Sunday school model to a small group model? The Sunday school teachers, right? What about moving to two services? You may have lots of critics because people like seeing everyone.

Sometimes the best way to overcome these types of fears is to talk about what would happen if you don’t change. You may want to say things like, our fear of not reaching our community has to be greater than our fear of not seeing all of our friends on Sunday.

What you’ll find from most people is that they’ll resist change until the change happens. Once the change takes place, they’ll realize that it wasn’t that big of a deal to begin with.

Or they’ll still be mad about it and leave. Sometimes that happens, and you just take comfort in knowing you did the right thing for the church.

Who’s your favorite leader in the Bible? Why? Let us know by leaving a comment below and make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

The Why and How of Volunteer Central

At the beginning of this year, we turned our largely unsuccessful “Next Steps” room into “Volunteer Central.” I realize it’s only been a few months, but I’ve been very pleased with the results. So much so, that I would say if you don’t have a designated space for volunteers in your church, you should make one.

Here are a few reasons why.

  1. It fosters community.

Before we created a centralized location for volunteers, they largely just showed up and went to their designated areas. They had relationships with those they served with, but that’s about it. By creating a central location, you cross paths with people you wouldn’t have before. This not only creates community, but it also creates unity within your church.

  1. It centralizes communication.

In our volunteer central room, we have copies of every ministry schedule for volunteers to take with them. We also have a board that displays all these schedules. If a volunteer isn’t sure when the next time they serve is, all they have to do is look at the board.

  1. It shows appreciation.

There’s something special about having a room with your name on it, especially a room that has perks, which we’ll talk about it in the how section. If you’re going to keep volunteers motivated, they have to feel appreciated.

Now here are the important pieces of the how.

You need a room.

If you don’t have a room, you at least need a couple of tables in a corner of a room. But a room is certainly preferred. Most churches have rooms they’re not using or rooms they’re not using wisely.

You need a leader.

This piece is really important. You need a leader or leaders that set the tone for church that day. We have an amazing couple that has been doing ministry for years. They’re highly relational, really passionate, and love to serve others. This is what you’re looking for in a leader for this ministry.

You need a way to get people to show up.

A room with a leader and some volunteer schedules gets boring quickly. It’s going to take more than that to get people to keep showing up week after week. So, you’re at least going to need some food. We’ve had everything from granola bars to bacon and pancakes. Nothing gets people to show up like food. In addition to that, we do a monthly drawing for random prizes that are displayed throughout the month. It may cost a couple hundred dollars a month, but your volunteers are worth it.

In addition to retaining the volunteers you already have serving, this is a great way to recruit new volunteers as well. People start smelling bacon frying, and they’ll be waiting at the door to sign up.

Do you have something similar for volunteers at your church? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment and let me know, and while you’re here make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.