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.

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.

Going Pro

Inside Elevation - Session Two

In March, I was able to attend the Inside Elevation conference hosted by Elevation Church. It was a great experience for our entire team, and as always, the main sessions led by Steven Furtick were the highlight for me. Steven Furtick is an incredible leader and has great insights for churches of any size. If you weren’t able to be there this year, no worries, I’ve got you covered. If you missed Session One notes, you can find them here.

Going Pro

Whether you’re a volunteer or a full time staff member at a church, you can still act like a pro.

In this session Pastor Steven unpacked the differences between pros and amateurs.

  1. Pros give themselves to the process. Amateurs are always looking for the promotion.

If you will plow, God will promote. You have to crucify your need for credit. Pros don’t confuse credit with contribution. I can enjoy the win, even if I don’t get the credit. Do you want to be a part of a winning team, or do you have to be the star? Process reveals potential.

  1. Pros produce. Amateurs project.

Pros get the job done no matter what obstacles are in the way. Amateurs always have excuses. Well, I would’ve had that done, but so and so didn’t show up so it didn’t happen. Amateurs always project the blame onto someone or something else other than themselves.

  1. Pros view correction as an investment. Amateurs make you pay for correcting them.

Pros view correction as a compliment because they want to get better. Amateurs hate correction because nothing is ever their fault. Some of the greatest athletes in the world have trainers and coaches. When someone stops correcting you, that’s when you should be worried because that means they’ve given up on you.

  1. Pros submit their personality to their purpose. Amateurs submit their purpose to their personality.

Stop saying, that’s just the way I am. We don’t give anyone else a pass like that. That may be the way you are, but you should want to get better. I’m an introvert but not on Sunday mornings. You may have a temper, but that doesn’t mean you get to be a jerk to everyone. Get better!

  1. Pros know parameters and work within them. Amateurs are always asking permission.

Pros save you a lot of time because they know how you think and what you like. Amateurs take up your time because they can’t be trusted to think for themselves. You can tell a pro a broad idea and they’ll run with it, but you have to give an amateur step-by-step instruction.

Be on the lookout for my notes from Session Three next week, but in the meantime, what would you add to this session? Let us know by leaving a comment, and make sure to subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss out on church leadership tips delivered to your inbox each week.

One Big Mistake Rural Churches Make

And How You Can Fix It

Tell me if you’ve heard this story before. We really need to fire _______, but we’re worried because his/her parents are one of our biggest givers. Or so and so is never prepared, but if we say anything, it’s going to cause a bunch of drama. So, we end up doing nothing, and everyone else suffers.

Larry Osborne said it this way, It is not loving to kill the flock while you’re trying to be nice to one lamb.

Yet, rural churches make this mistake over and over again.

And I get it, because when you lead a small rural church, you can’t afford to make too many mistakes. Because of this, we tend to lead out of fear.

Here’s what I mean.

When you have a budget of $100,000, it’s really hard to make a decision that may cause a $10,000 a year giver to leave.

When you have 100 people attending your church, it’s really hard to make a decision that may cause 20 people to leave.

And it’s easy for people like me to tell you what to do, but it’s you who has to live with the aftermath of that decision.

So, let me just say I know it isn’t easy, and I know what it’s like to lead out of fear. I’m not sure that ever fully goes away, at least not for pastors in small towns.

But I also know the cost of not acting when you should, and the benefits of overcoming your fear and going through with those hard decisions.

So, if you have someone in a position right now, paid or volunteer, that may need to be removed, I want to give you a five step process to go through with them that gives them the best chance at success and gives you the opportunity to say I did everything I could to keep them.

  1. Reality Check

More often than not, people do not realize how they are doing. This is because most of us have never sat down and had a conversation with them about it. Many of us just hope and pray it gets better. You may have figured out that that strategy does not work. You have to let them know things aren’t going well, and they need to change.

  1. Ongoing Support

Let them know you are willing to do everything you can to help them succeed. If they have questions, ask you. If they need resources, you’ll get them. You are going to do everything you can to keep them in that position, and if that fails, they can’t say it was because they didn’t have your support.

  1. Timeline

It could be 30, 60, or 90 days. I wouldn’t suggest going past 90 because that’s a long time to let a ministry suffer. This is the window of time you’re giving them to change, and you’re providing your support during this entire time.

  1. Ongoing Evaluation

In order to make sure they are on the right path, you are going to meet with them throughout this timeline. It could be every week or every other week. I wouldn’t meet less often than that. During this time, you’re there to provide feedback on the progress that is or isn’t being made.

  1. Deadline

At the end of the timeline, there’s a deadline. Either they made the changes that needed to be made and you’re happy to go forward with them, or they didn’t and you’re going to have to make a change. Ultimately whatever happens here, it was up to them. They made their own decision.

Letting someone go is never easy, even if it’s a volunteer. You know his or her family, you run into them at restaurants, your kids go to school together. It’s hard in a small town.

But, sometimes it’s necessary to protect the vision of the church and the people they influence.

Have you ever had to fire someone? How did you go about it? 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.