More Churches Should Be Like Danny Tanner

Did you ever watch Full House growing up? Not the recent reboot, but the original with Danny Tanner, the father of three young girls who was trying to raise them with the help of his family and friends. A lot of the episodes had a similar theme to them. Throughout the episode one of the girls would be dealing with some sort of issue that comes with growing up, and at the end of each episode, either the dad or one of the other characters would be in the kids’ bedroom sitting on the bed trying to help them navigate the ups and downs of life. After eight years of fatherhood, I can now say I’ve had one of those moments.

My eight-year old daughter had a school project that she was really excited about. The project was to recycle things like cardboard boxes and plastic bottles and make something useful out of them. She had decided to make a claw that could pick things up from far away.

Unfortunately, she had been working on the project for three days at school, and it wasn’t coming together. She wasn’t allowed to bring it home, and the teacher had told them, once they started it, they couldn’t switch to something else. Oh, and they only had one more day to finish it.

I didn’t know these details until the night before. As I sat on my daughters’ bed to do our normal nightly prayers, my eight-year old didn’t want to pray. When I asked her why, she started filling me in on all the details and tears started to stream down her face. This project she had been so excited about, now had become the source of her greatest pain.

I had never seen my daughter filled with so much anxiety and fear. Her tears quickly turned to sobs, and nothing I said was making her feel any better. I quickly discovered this wasn’t about a failed project, it was about the fear of being judged.

In her mind, she was going to fail and everyone was going to make fun of her. They had already been asking her what her project was supposed to be, and this had embarrassed her. Their projects were coming together, and hers wasn’t. To make matters worse, the projects were going to be displayed outside the room for everyone to see. So now, not only would her classmates be making fun of her, but the rest of the school would be as well.

I told her not to care what anyone says or thinks, but she does. I told her everyone fails sometimes, but she never had. I told her it was going to be ok, but she didn’t believe me. In that moment I saw her as broken as she’s ever been, and my heart broke for her.

Every bit of it was because she was worried about what others may say or think about her.

And as I thought back upon what she was going through, I couldn’t help but think about broken people and their view of the church. Their fears of being judged, and their fears of what people may say or think about them. And how those fears many times keep them from experiencing the love of Jesus.

My daughter didn’t need me to tell her she messed up. She didn’t need me to say you should’ve known this wouldn’t have worked. She didn’t need me to say you should’ve told us sooner. She needed me to love her and to show her a better way.

So, that’s what I did.

And that’s what so many churches need to do a better job of.

That night we all got out of bed, we found some sturdier cardboard, we modified the design, and I gave her the tools to make it work. Danny Tanner would’ve been proud. The next day she came home with a smile on her face, and a little closer to her father.

Let’s hear your Full House story. Tell us about a time you shared love in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get emails on church leadership, growth, and sappy dad stories delivered to your inbox each week.

6 Ways to Recruit More Volunteers

If you’re a church that’s trying to grow, it’s really difficult to find enough volunteers to fuel the vision that God has given you. I know this because I’ve lived it. One of my first roles in the church I serve was the role of volunteer coordinator. I took on the role as we were transitioning from a small 2,000 square foot rental space to a 7,200 square foot permanent facility. The added space was awesome. We were going to be able to provide a much better worship experience; however, we also needed a lot more volunteers to make it happen, a position that many of you probably find yourself in.

During that time, I remember writing letters to 72 individuals in the church, sharing the pastor’s vision with them and how they could help us accomplish it.

Luckily, they all said yes, and once we moved into our new building, our church grew like crazy.

Today, the church I serve has close to 300 volunteers spread across two campuses. These volunteers may serve as much as every week or as little as once a month. They serve in the children’s ministry, in our café, in the parking lot, on the stage, and in countless other ways. And they’re a huge reason why our church has continued to grow.

I wish I could say we have plenty of volunteers, but the truth is when you have a big vision from God, you’ll probably never have enough volunteers. Just this week I received a message from a volunteer asking to be taken off the schedule because they’re now working on Sundays. Unfortunately, this sort of thing occurs all the time.

This is why, if you want your church to grow, you have to constantly be recruiting volunteers. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but I have learned some ways to make it easier.

  1. Create a culture of serving. I cannot emphasize this one enough. It’s imperative if you want to be successful. You need to create a culture were serving is the norm, and it’s not just something the spiritually elite do. It’s something everyone does because everyone has been called to serve. The first church I ever went to, I attended for three years, and no one ever asked me to serve. I was a young Christian passionate about serving and yet never got the opportunity. That should never happen.
  2. Offer opportunities and not needs. You have to be very careful about how you talk about serving. People respond to invitations and opportunities, but rarely do they respond to needs. You should never say, “We need more volunteers in the nursery.” You should say, “We have a great opportunity for someone to love on some babies, so their parents can hear God’s word.” A shift in your language can actually shift the culture. We don’t want people feeling like they’re guilted into serving. We want them to feel like they’re making a difference in someone’s life, because they are.
  3. Recruit in the lobby, not from the stage. Recruiting one on one is a lot more successful than making a plea from the stage. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask people to serve from the stage, but you should always combine it with personal conversations. Keep in mind, you shouldn’t be the only one recruiting. A healthy serving culture has every volunteer recruiting other volunteers.
  4. Get people plugged in quickly. Another mistake that we’ve made, and I see many other churches make is taking too long to get someone plugged in. Once someone says they want to start serving, you need to get them on a schedule within the next two weeks. There might be some exceptions, if they have to go through a background check or want to play on the worship team, for example, but in most cases, don’t wait to get them started. The longer you wait, the greater chance that they change their mind or forget all about it.
  5. Don’t give up too easily. Not everyone is going to want to serve. You’re going to get some no’s. You’re also going to get some people who say, “Let me pray about it,” which is usually a more “Christian” version of no. However, you shouldn’t take that as meaning no forever. Sometimes people are in seasons in which they can’t serve. Sometimes people don’t want to commit. There are lots of reasons people may say no. Don’t be afraid to come back to them six months to a year down the road and ask again. Many times you’ll find their answer will change.
  6. Check to make sure they’re enjoying it. One of the worst things you can do is get someone signed up to serve and then forget about them. Set up a reminder to follow up with them after the first time they serve, then again a few weeks later. Make sure it’s a good fit, and they’re enjoying it. This communicates that you care about them and gives you the opportunity to move them to another spot if they’re not. The better you care for them, the more likely they are to recruit others to volunteer.

Recruiting volunteers is an ongoing process for every pastor I know. What would you add to this list? What have you found that works? Leave a comment below, and also if you enjoy tips on leadership and growing your small town church, make sure to subscribe.

4 Ways to Make the Most of Summer

In the famous words of Olaf, “Winter’s a good time to stay in and cuddle, but put me in summer and I’ll be a – happy pastor!” I know spring is awesome because you have Easter and Mother’s Day. Fall is nice because the kids go back to school which means parents go back to church. During the winter, you have Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s Resolutions. But for me, personally, I love the summer.

If you’ve been pastoring very long, you know that ministry really never slows down, but summer seems to be the least crazy of the seasons. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to work as hard during the summer; it just means your work may look a little different than normal.

In order to maximize your summer and set yourself up to grow this fall, I would encourage you to do these 4 things.

  1. Continue to encourage your congregation to invite. Yes, your weekend attendance will more than likely be less this summer than it was this spring. People are going to take vacations and enjoy the weather. That doesn’t mean evangelism should take a vacation also. Quite the opposite. You need to continue encouraging people to invite. Families could be visiting from out of town, new people could be moving into the area, and most people have more free time during the summer than any other time of the year. So, invite them to church.
  2. Don’t be afraid to do an attractive sermon series. If you’re not already doing sermon series, you need to be. Here are four reasons why they work. Many times our tendency during the summer is to avoid attractive series because we believe our attendance is going to be down. Life.Church has proven that’s not necessarily the case. Each year they do their “At the Movies” series during the summer, and each year it’s their most attended series.
  3. Get plenty of rest. It’s hard to rest as a pastor, but it’s absolutely necessary if you’re in this for the long haul. There are around twelve Sundays between Mother’s Day and mid-August. I personally believe you should take off at least four of them. Take a couple to spend with family, and take a couple to spend visiting and learning from other churches. A friend of mine said taking a sabbatical saved his ministry. Don’t underestimate the importance of rest.
  4. Don’t cancel your small groups. I really have no business giving pastors advice on small groups because my church isn’t very good at them. We struggle to get leaders, and we struggle to get people to attend. However, some of our best small groups have happened during the summer. The days are longer, which means people have more time to get things done and more time to attend a group. One of the most popular groups getting ready to start is an ING group. They’re going to be grillING, hikING, and kayakING. Summer fun groups allow relationships to form, which hopefully will carry over to groups in the fall and spring.

I hope these four thoughts help you, and I’d love to hear your ideas. What’s worked well for you to maximize summer? Leave a comment and let us know. Also, if you love tips on leadership and church growth, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog.