You Are Not Alone

Whatever challenge you face know that:

1. You are not alone in the struggle, we all have them.

2. God custom designs our challenging circumstances to help us grow, know His will, and participate in ministry.

3. If we trust Him, stay positive, and don’t quit… what we learn will benefit us for our good and the good of others.

“Now the famine was severe in the land; I am your brother Joseph, do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” -Genesis 43:1; 45:4-5

Blaze New Trails

Blaze_new_trails_colorCopy

Blazing new trails has always been the best way for the Church to reach new people.

Whether creating a new (effective) church outreach program, planting a new church, or transitioning an established church to turn their focus outward, new growth always requires the same thing – change.

The challenge for passionate church leaders is that blazing new trials and the change it brings is rather risky. It upsets the status quo and anytime the status quo gets bumped off balance, well, they tend to get a little fussy. That’s okay. The Gospel has been bumping into both the religious and the lost for a long time.

That brings us back to the blazing new trails thing. The reality is that in most of our communities 70%+ of the people that live around our churches do not get up out of bed on Sunday to attend any church. They simply are not motivated enough to go.  I don’t know about you, but to me that’s a sure sign that new trails need to be blazed, and what has worked in the past to reach new people probably won’t work in the future. Steady though, this type of blazing new trails thinking will likely result in having to do the bump with a few of the status quo protectors in our church.

Would it be worth the bruises? Pretty sure it would. After all, the whole point of this thing called church is to help hopeless people who are lost get found. When a church begins blazing new trails and reaching new people, that’s when the Christian life gets really fun!

“Go and…” (Matthew 28:19)

PS. If you like the Blaze New Trails drawing, be sure and check out Hugh MacLeod’s inspirational art here and grab a framed one to promote reaching new people in your church office!

 

 

Delight–To See Your Church Grow

Once a week in your church service you have the attention of most of your attendees.

Now that you have their attention, turn that into an opportunity to delight. If you do, your church will grow.

To delight is to give those in attendance something worth talking about to others. Certainly God’s Word is worth talking about (if it’s communicated so it can be understood and applied), but also there are all kinds of things that you can do in your Sunday service to create moments of delight.

Do that and your people will talk, and if they talk, your church will grow.

Why Vision Needs To Be Refreshed Weekly

When it comes to casting vision to people in today’s distracted ever-connected world, vision does not just leak, it pours!

Every Sunday streams of people enter your church already filled to overflowing with information. But not your information. The vision you cast last week is gone. Long gone.

Where did it go? Well it didn’t just leak out through the week. The vision you cast last week was intentionally knocked around and it spilled from the hearts of your people. Like so much of today’s communication, your vision got lost in the tangled web of information overload.

May I Have Your Attention. Please!

Think about it. During the last week your people have been engaged in connected conversation 24/7. They have been force-fed hundreds of short messages, messages produced by professionals who have spent millions learning how to cast the vision of their products. The counter vision they cast is designed to convince your people to buy what they are selling, temporal satisfaction in an eternal world.

It’s Not Personal – It’s Just Vision Casting

Church leaders tend to be a perky bunch and can get pretty defensive when it comes to talking about their vision, and rightly so. They are the stewards and defenders of the vision God has entrusted to them.  The problem is they are not usually the best at measuring how effective they are at casting vision. More often than not church leaders either think they are casting vision enough, too much, or they don’t feel that casting vision is necessary at all.

When it comes to casting vision I suggest:

  • Do what works-here. Since most of us are in America and not in Rome, to reach our American target we have to learn to cast vision in a way that Americans can relate to. First, that means we have to learn to speak in the language of today. Next, we have to embrace the fact that America is filled with consumers. That’s our target. Thankfully, large corporations have learned about our target demographic and done the expensive R&D for us, and what they learned is that repetition creates action and builds followers.
  • Take the test. Think you’re good? That you have cast enough vision? Hmmm. Okay then, I triple-dog-dare you to walk around your church before the service this Sunday and randomly ask people “What is the vision of our church?” If three different people instantly spew it out, you win a cookie and are in great shape!  But if they stumble over their words, or if you get three different answers, it’s time to back up, relearn, and release a new version of your vision casting machine.
  • Again, again, and again. Vision casting in our distracted ever-connected world is not a quarterly thing, or even a monthly thing. It’s an every week thing. Remember, vision no longer leaks, it spills!
  • Change it up. How you cast vision is just as important as when you cast vision.  There are a million ways to cast vision, and it should not just be limited to text or verbal communication on a Sunday morning. Every time people gather at your church, for any occasion, your leaders should already have a strategic vision casting plan in place.
  • Keep score. Just as you track the church finances, measure how well your vision is being communicated. It’s that important.
  • Move vision from the head to the heart (or it doesn’t count!) It’s not enough cast the line, you have to catch a fish! If you don’t move the vision from the head to the heart, it doesn’t count, nor will it help accomplish your mission.

The results of regular vision casting will make an eternal difference!

 

Lights Green Dude-The Importance Of Feedback In Church

Recently I took my car to a banker, uh mechanic, to have it worked on. As a courtesy when I dropped my car off the mechanic had his 20-something employee run me home. Nice guy… until he rolled up to our first traffic signal.

We needed to turn left.

We were in the left lane.

We were the only car in the lane.

There was no approaching traffic (clear for a mile).

Still, my temp chauffeur came to a complete stop, at the intersection, with the light green.

We both sat there silently as his turn signal kept clicking. Talk about an awkward silent moment.

To be honest, what I wanted to say was “THE LIGHT IS GREEN STUPID–GO!!!!!!”

But I was a good Christian and didn’t say anything. Just sat there, in the car, with him, silent. (we finally got an arrow and he turned).

The truth is silence never accomplished anything -great. It never pushed a vision forward -farther. It never reached people -not being reached for Christ.

Feedback (information) helps us see things we would otherwise miss, it generates new good ideas, and makes us smarter leaders. None of us are as smart as all of us because that is how the body of Christ was designed to work, and it’s beautiful.

The more the lines of communication can be opened up in a church, the farther that church can go and the more people that church can reach. When we limit feedback to only a few staff members, or only a handful of people, we critically limit our potential.

Part of the strategic process of opening up communication in a church (or any organization) is to create easy paths for communication to flow. Social media, websites with feedback , weekly feedback cards, surveys with specific questions on the website, in the bulletin and in the lobby, and simply asking are all ways to begin opening up the communication in a church.

In a day when 80% of the people in many communities are choosing not to attend any church on Sunday, constant feedback is more important than ever.

Luke 11:9 (MSG)
“Here’s what I’m saying:
Ask and you’ll get;
Seek and you’ll find;
Knock and the door will open.”

 

Three Outreach Tools Every Church Should Have (updated)

Instagram sold for $1 billion to Facebook.

What made them so valuable? The way they connect with their users.

And what makes them valuable to their users? Right message (in their case images) + right tools to help users share that message = growth.

At a church the way we connect with those that attend and the tools we use to communicate and help them share, makes all the difference.

As with Instagram, churches have access to readily available tools that will help them communicate and grow (Matthew 28:19-20).

Three Outreach Tools Every Church Should Have

1. Website — Your #1 Outreach Tool

  • Your church website as an outreach tool either attracts people to your church or repels them. There’s no middle ground in this. Either your website works for you or it works against you.
  • Your website generates your churches very first impression. This is critical to growth and defining your congregation – first impression help determine who visits your church.
  • Your website defines your church to your target community. You can be sure that most of the people in your community that are seeking a new church home have visited your website.
  • Your website is where new people will begin their relationship with your church.

2. Church Identity Package — Your #2 Outreach Tool

  • How people perceive your church before they attend is very important. As the old saying goes “perception is reality” to most people.
  • Who your outreach target thinks you are makes a big difference as to whether they will come visit your church or not.
  • New people will not know who you are or what you do if you don’t tell them. The better you tell them (through your church identity package) the more people will be interested in visiting your church.

3. Visitor Assimilation Plan — Your #3 Outreach Tool

  • People, especially American people, always want to know “What’s next?” Help them know where they are going (what your assimilation plan is) and they’ll be more likely to stay.
  • It’s not enough to just get them to your church. If you want them to stay and become contributing members (shutting the back door) you have to communicate clearly what their next step is, and then guide them down your strategic assimilation path.

Bottom line: Using the right tools results in more people visiting your church and more people coming to Christ helping your church accomplish its mission.

Church Communication Matters – Engage

Whether trying to reach students or adults through worship, a small group, or a sermon, one thing is for certain – the more people are engaged, the better they respond.

Engage red stamp

Creating an engaging environment takes more work – but is well with it.

Engaged people:

  • Learn more.
  • Serve more.
  • Give more.
  • Love more.
  • Laugh more.
  • Invite more.

This worship video is one of the my favorites because of how well the audience is (you guessed it) engaged.

NOTHING HAPPENS… Without Focus

In life, no matter the vocation, nothing happens without focus.

And when it comes to church ministry, that’s even more true because we have an extra adversary that is busy about trying to trip us up.

Focus – laser focus – is required to break through the noise, and the front lines, to accomplish anything significant and eternal.

eagle

The Bible And The Broom

Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is put down your Bible and pick up a broom.

For Christians, attending Sunday services with heartfelt worship and inspirational messages can be relaxing and the highlight of our week. The problem is that a relaxed posture has never changed the world.  My apologies in advance for using a 4-letter word here – but that harsh reality is to reach new people with God’s amazing grace and love found in Jesus it requires less relaxing and more “work.”

If we’re not careful, bringing a Bible to church to just be taught, can become normal. Although our being ministered to can be beneficial and even necessary at times, when it comes to breaching the gates of Hell and reaching our community for Christ the new normal must become a deep love for others and sacrificial work.

The Blessing of Sweat

No one who has ever been part of a church that advanced the Gospel and has seen people get gloriously saved, has ever regretted the sweat and work it took to get there. There is nothing more beautiful than witnessing a hopeless life become a new life in Christ.

Picking up a broom in order to help accomplish God’s redemptive plan on earth can be one of the most loving things a Christian can do.

For you, the broom you pick up may be serving coffee on Sunday morning, greeting, ushering, holding an umbrella, making snacks, setting up or tearing down, or it may be using your administrative skills to help with office related tasks through the week. When someone discovers through serving how God has shaped and gifted them to serve the rewards and fulfillment from serving can not only be the highlight of their week, but it can become the greatest joy of their life.

To accomplish the mission of the church, somebody has to pick up a broom and do the work.

I’m ready, how about you?

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithfulstewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”  1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)

3 Things To Sustain Church Growth +1

sustained-growth-chartIn my work as a church growth consultant I’ve found that there are 3 things (+1) needed to grow a church and sustain that growth over time:

1.  A compelling vision that is communicated clearly & regularly.

Vision creates movement. A church without a compelling vision stagnates and eventually stops growing. Casting fresh vision clearly and regularly creates motion and keeps a church moving forward.

2. An easy to understand path to getting people involved (the assimilation process).

Creating an easy to follow assimilation path to involvement is key to shutting the visitor back door, getting people involved (the glue), and generating sustained growth.

3. The “right” outreach campaigns & events.

It’s not enough to just have an outreach event. To reach the community and in doing so grow your church, your outreach event planning should consider: The resources available (budget, skills of your people, etc);  The demographics (who really lives here) of the community you are trying to reach out to (for example a Cowboy Dinner may not work in every community); The needs of the community (outreach that does not consider the poor & needy in the community really isn’t church outreach).  It’s my belief that each event should be strategic and include an event mission statement so that the people in the church clearly know the what & the why making it easier for them to rally around and support the event.

As important as the above 3 things are for sustained church growth, there is something even more important:

+1. Love. 

As important as all of the above church growth strategies are, love should be the wrapping that covers everything that a church does.

Love places people first (regardless of how they can help our church).

Love allows for interruptions.

Love prays.

Love – lasts – forever.

“Let us love one another, for love comes from God.” -1 John 4:7 (NIV)