I feel led to plant a church…What do I do now?

Rural chapel

About once a week…or sometimes more frequently…I get an email or Tweet from someone who says they feel led to plant a church. They almost always have the same question.

What do I do now? What’s my first step?

After answering dozens of times, I decided to put my thoughts in a post.

Step one: Run as fast as you can!

Just kidding. Although that does give you a testimony like Jonah. Just kidding.

Here are 5 immediate steps I would recommend:

Check your heart – Are you sure planting is what you are being called to do…or is it a desire because everyone else is doing it? It’s fine if you are. We need church planters. But, we also need people willing to help established churches thrive. It’s hard work to change what’s established already…but so is church planting. Make sure you know what you’re getting into is what God’s drawing you into.

Check your spouse’s heart – Church planting is not a sole venture. No ministry is for that matter. If you are married, you will need to be on the same page with your spouse. No. Doubt. About. It. Trying to do this without complete buy in from both parties will destroy one or the other…the plant or the marriage.

Determine where you feel called to plant – That’s an important beginning step. Much of your future steps will depend on this one. Many times you already know this and I think God gives tremendous latitude in this. We need churches lots of places. But, this will be one of the most difficult decisions you make if you don’t know. I once thought I wanted to plant in New York City. I still might someday. But, when I spent time talking to God about this, I sensed Him releasing me from the desire and pointing me in another direction.

Find others interested – This is critical. If you tell me you can’t find anyone…and I hear it often…I’d seriously question how successful you are going to be. Just as with Elijah in 1 Kings 19, in my experience, God is always “reserving” (1 Kings 19:18) people who He plans to use in the vision He is shaping in you. To build a body you need those who are part of the body to start.

Find experienced help – It can be a denomination, another church, or an experienced pastor or mentor, but don’t do it alone. Let me say that a little clearer. DON’T DO IT ALONE. Too much has been learned about church planting to miss out on someone else’s experience.

Those are my first 5 initial suggestions. What would you suggest?

A cold start. A great run. A life lesson.

20131023-200013.jpg

It was cold. Okay, not really, but it was a drastic change from the weather we’d been having. One of the first cold days of the season. I almost opted not to run, but bundled up and hit the road. 

Whoa! It was colder feeling than I thought. I was going to give up. For the first mile and a half I intended to turn around and head home. 

For some reason…I kept going. 

I ran 5 miles. I ran 5 incredible miles. Or at least 3 miles were amazing. It was a great run. 

It was a great reminder. 

Much of life is that way. 

The reason many of us never finish…the reason we don’t realize our dreams…is not because we don’t have them. It’s not even that we didn’t start. 

The problem is often that we gave up too soon.

We couldn’t endure the chilly start long enough. We opted too quickly for the warm recliner. We didn’t last the test of time. 

The last few miles is usually worth the misery of the first few. 

Are you tempted to give up your dream?

Not yet! Keep running. You’re getting warmer.

Leadership and Life Inspiration from T. J. Maxx

20131022-191918.jpg

Everyone has had this experience or at least witnessed it happening. You’re exiting a store after a purchase and an alarm goes off all around you. Lights flash. People stare. You (or whoever it happens to) are embarrassed. 

The store clerk failed to remove one of the security tags from an item you bought, stuck the item in the bag and sent you on your way. It was an innocent mistake. No one is mad. Normally. You simply return to the counter, they remove the tag and you’re on your way again. No harm. No foul. 

But, for a split second, you’re embarrassed. It feels like people are thinking something about you that isn’t true.

You stole something.” And yet you didn’t. 

Or even…

You’re an idiot.“And yet you’re not. 

Those alarms usually place us initially on the offensive. Even though you didn’t do anything wrong, you feel like everyone thinks you did.  

Of course, sometimes people did steal something, which is why the systems exist in the first place. But, for you, because of an honest mistake, it became a nuisance. 

Recently, Cheryl and I were out of town and witnessed this happen at a T. J. Maxx store. Yet, instead of obnoxious piercing noises and flashing lights, we heard a polite, easy to understand voice recording say: 

Excuse me, but we must have forgotten to remove a security tag from one of the items you purchased. Please return to the cashier’s desk and we will be happy to assist you.” 

I loved it. The lady “caught” simply returned to the counter. She appeared to be surprised, but unalarmed. People seemed to laugh about it. No one seemed to be looking for a criminal. Instead they looked for an honest mistake. 

It seemed to communicate…

We are not assuming you did something wrong. We simply want to correct our error.”

Genius. 

Someone at T. J. Maxx has been thinking.

Most people who set off those alarms aren’t criminal in their actions. They are innocent people. T. J. Maxx is thinking for their paying customer. A relationship they want to keep and protect.

It was a great reminder to me of something I remind myself and our team frequently. 

The way you approach an issue of concern often determines how it is received.

Do you have an issue to address with someone that could prove to be uncomfortable?

Consider these suggestions:

If the relationship is valuable enough to keep and protect…

Write it down and consider how it sounds initially. Put your response to the issue in print…for only your eyes to see at this point. Does it sound unsensensitive or alarming? Would it immediately put you on the defensive? If so, consider rewording to a softer, kinder approach. 

Practice how you will say it. Pay special attention to your tone and body language. You can be truthful…and you should be…without being degrading and accusatory. Practice grace and truth.

Prayerfully address the situation. Pray to change your heart towards the issue first. Pray for your approach…perhaps even more than you pray for their response.

Because, your approach will often determine their response.

Thanks T. J. Maxx for the inspiration.

5 Suggestions When People Leave a Church

church crowd

One tough reality of being a pastor is when people you thought were supportive leave the church. For a variety of reasons, people will leave.

Make any change and someone is not going to like it. Life changes and relationships often impact a person’s church attendance. Misunderstanding and unmet expectations cause some people to leave. There are a variety of reasons. I wrote about some of them HERE.

The point of this post is addressing how we respond as pastors and church leaders.

How do you respond when people leave?

Here are 5 suggestions:

Accept it happens – It actually happens in churches where everything seems to be working at the time. Regardless of the reason…people leave. We shouldn’t be surprised simply because they do or think it can’t or won’t happen in the church in which we minister.

Admit it hurts – God is in charge of numbers. I get that. People are responsible to God and not the church. I get that too. People may leave because it’s the best thing for them spiritually. I totally get that also. The bigger issue is whether or not a person leaves “the” Church or “a” church. If they are attending another church we should take comfort in that, but pretending it doesn’t still sting a little is like saying you didn’t feel the bandaid being ripped off your arm. You are human. It hurts. It is difficult not to take personally. Depending on the circumstances or way it happens it may hurt more sometimes than others but it always hurts.

Analyze the reason – This requires asking the hard questions, and admittedly, this too can hurt, but it’s helpful to know even if the answer is you. It requires humility to admit you’re not the church for everyone nor the minister everyone wants to shepherd them. But, you can’t address what you don’t know and there are often valuable lessons to be learned from why a person chooses to leave a church.

Adjust if necessary – Don’t be afraid to admit you could be wrong. If people feel the church wasn’t meeting their needs try to discern if it’s them or the church. If it was a matter of style they didn’t appreciate that’s one issue, but if it’s something lacking from the church’s offerings…that you should have…you may need to make some adjustments. Be willing to learn.

Attune your vision – Okay, it was obvious I was looking for an “A” word, but this is actually a good one. Attune means “to bring into harmony”. And that’s often necessary when people disappear from the church. Most likely their absence will affect others. You may need to realign people to the vision, especially when those leaving were previously and visibly committed. Assure people you are listening, and genuinely be listening, but in the end stay true to the God-given vision God has called you to lead.

Again, no one wants people to leave, especially if they are leaving upset with you or the church. But, it is a part of church leadership. Learning to process it will make us better equipped to minister to the ones who stay…and the new people God will bring.

Pastor, help me out with this post. What tips do you have for addressing this issue of what people leave the church?

(Update: the comments are already making this post better.)

7 Suggestions for Hiring the Right Person

Interview

I’ve hired dozens of people. Probably more like hundreds. I spent more of my time in the business world than ministry, and in that world I hired many people. Even in ministry though, I’ve had the honor and humbling responsibility of shaping several church staffs.

I don’t share this to brag on my abilities, but to make a point of credibility in the manner. I’ve had success in hiring people.

In the last year, I have had the opportunity again of adding to a church staff. I can honestly say we have one of the strongest teams of people I have ever known…in ministry or in business. I am frequently asked my “secret”… as if there is one. How do I find so many good people?

I don’t have a process, but I have learned a few things about hiring the right people. I’ve been blessed with a good amount of discernment, mostly through making similar decisions with good and bad results. That’s the purpose of this post. I’m sharing some suggestions from my experience.

I previously posted similar thoughts on this topic HERE.

Here are 7 suggestions for hiring the right person:

Put resumes aside – I’ve frankly only used them a couple times in my career. Granted, I keep my resume up to date and I think you should also, but a resume is not much more than an extended business card. It answers initial questions and may initially stir interest, but I have never hired anyone based on a resume alone…and frankly…the strongest resume is rarely the strongest candidate.

Ask people I trust – I am diligent about networking with people, because I know someday I may need the connection. I can’t always depend on what I read on a piece of paper (a resume), but I can almost always depend on the advice of a friend. I’ve told my boys they will possibly never have a job in their life where they didn’t know someone who helped them get the job. Relying on personal recommendations has been critical for me finding the right people.

Listen carefully – People are often talking. I run into people all the time who know people who know people. You do too. If I’m in the process of looking for someone, every conversation has the potential to discover someone. Of course, you have to be in the right conversations to hear such information, but I’m intentional enough to create dialogue…or steer conversations in that direction. I have learned that finding the right person is that important that it should play an important part in present conversations.

Use discernment – Obviously, because someone is thinking it, this includes prayer. (But, my hope is that you’d be prayerful in each of these steps.) But, I have learned that I can depend on my gut if my gut is properly centered. If I am in a good place spiritually and mentally, I can more easily discern the choices between numerous seemingly good people. And, that’s often the problem. Many times I have numerous good candidates. Deciding the right one is the hardest decision.

Think strategically – I try to think strategically about the person, the vision, and the person’s role and fit within the overall team. I have turned down good people, because they weren’t the best person at the time. This is a critical step. You can hire the one who appears to be the best candidate and because they were mismatched to the team it turns out to be a disaster.

Hire for heart – I will always hire  for heart over skills. I always choose character over competence. Granted, we need both but one trumps the other in my experience. I want qualities such as passion, honesty, follow through, commitment, integrity, and loyalty. This is another place a resume isn’t much help. It’s also where a recommendation from others can help. (Not their references…but someone you know.) By the way, especially in ministry, but I also hire for the heart of the spouse. If I wouldn’t hire both I don’t hire one. You’ll just have to trust me on that one if it doesn’t make sense.

Ask experts – There is usually someone in your field who knows people you don’t know to whom you should be talking. That could be someone in ministry, a denominational leader, or a professional consultant. I don’t have to know them to ask them for suggestions. They often know someone looking or someone who would be a good fit. They are usually honored to be asked. (This is not an advertising post, but my friend William Vanderbloemen leads a company dedicated to staffing the church. They do great work. A search company like this can many times speed up the process or help find the right person.) Finding the right person is too important to leave it to the “hunt and peck” method of shifting through multiple resumes.

Those are a few suggestions. Again, read my previous post also. What suggestions do you have?

5 Steps to Take if You’re Addicted to Porn

man laptop

This is a guest post by Tom with Ever Accountable. Tom is a 30 year old husband of one beautiful woman and father of two rambunctious boys. He is a passionate crusader against internet pornography after witnessing the destruction it causes in lives. He blogs for Ever Accountable because he believes their accountability software for Android phones will keep users honest and open in their relationships.

5 Steps to Take if You’re Addicted to Porn

Perhaps there is nothing more sacred on this earth than family. Our family fills the primal need to have intimate connections with others of our own species. Our species is a kind that thrives on real connection with real people, and there is no stronger connection than that of a family. So, it is with great sadness that we see the direction of society’s apathy towards perhaps the number one destroyer of families: internet pornography. What follows are five steps to take if you feel you might be addicted to porn.

Admit it

The first step for beating any addiction is to admit that the addiction exists. There is a distinction between accepting and admitting that is obvious to everyone except an addict. An addict thinks that accepting the addiction as part of who they are is the same as admitting their addiction. However, the addiction is not who you are – the addiction just took up residence without asking. Admitting is realizing that you have to evict the addiction, or you will lose everything. Admitting is taking action because you realize that the most important thing in your life is getting rid of pornography addiction.

Knowledge is Power

Knowledge of its destructive nature is essentially what keeps us from trying meth, cocaine, heroin, or any other hardcore drug. Why should pornography be any different? For one thing, the problem is not admitted as such in mainstream culture, but there are still great resources that help us understand the science behind porn addiction and these outlets help us understand why we should quit. The science helps us get past the lies that the porn industry feeds us. Porn is harmful, it is destructive, it will ruin you.

Stop hiding it

Porn thrives in privacy. I get that it can seem impossibly hard to tell your spouse or significant other. I get that you fear losing your relationship when you think about telling those close to you. I understand that, but I also know that telling your spouse about your addiction is necessary and the absolute best thing you can do to stop your addiction. When you remove the secrecy of your addiction, you remove the “security” blanket that has kept you trapped in the addiction cycle.

Be held accountable

Because of porn’s reliance on secrecy, it is essential to find someone that will hold you accountable. Find someone that will be firm with you and bust your chops when they need busted, and lift you up when you need lifted. Talk to people in your church that you admire, talk with friends that you think of as strong, moral individuals, and talk with your spouse. Find somebody that you can trust with your addiction and have weekly meetings with them.

Protect your electronic devices

Perhaps the most helpful advice is to get right to the root and fight this problem at the source. Porn is still circulated via print, I know, but the internet is where porn breeds, hunts, and eats. It is almost nigh impossible to live without computers, smart phones, and tablets in today’s world, and fortunately, accountability software exists for this very reason. Accountability software allows you the opportunity to continue using those devices, but with the knowledge that you’ll be held accountable for your browsing habits. I like to use the analogy that putting accountability software on your phone or computer is like being loaned the keys to a Corvette, but with the understanding that the car will be inspected by an expert mechanic upon return. You might be tempted to test the limits of the car, but is that what you want to do when you know your actions will be brought to light? You know where your addiction lives, so it is absolutely imperative that you put in place a defense on that domain.

Don’t buy into the lies that pornography isn’t destructive. Don’t believe that your life hasn’t changed if you’re already in the addictive cycle. When you pull away from your addiction you will very quickly see the destruction porn was wrecking on your life. Be encouraged that stopping porn will be the best step you take for restoring every part of your life.

Things My Wife Does I Take for Granted

20131016-211955.jpg

My wife is amazing. In so many ways. She’s intelligent. Beautiful. Caring. She’s a far better person than me. But, she’s also a doer for others. All the time. She does so much for me and our household. Some of them…honestly…I take for granted.

Recently I saw her watering the pretty flowers we have on our front steps. I must admit, I’m not a great detail person. I would be likely to forget those flowers are there, but when I get home from a long day at work, it’s nice to walk into a home that is so welcoming. Those flowers this fall are a part of that.

That’s when it hit me. How many things does she do that I take for granted? She just does them. I don’t even know when she does them all the time. She just does.

Here are a few examples:

Watering flowers – Okay, I mentioned this one. But, someone has to water them…and she apparently does it every day.

Feeding the dog – I love our dog. I don’t mind helping with this one. I just never do. It’s in Cheryl’s daily routine.

Washing clothes – I’ve joked that I only need a couple pairs of underwear. The girl never stops. It seems she’s always washing clothes. (She’s even said she misses washing the boy’s clothes. Whatever!)

Clothes from cleaners – I take my shirts to the cleaners…I mean…Cheryl takes my clothes to the cleaner. And picks them up. And places them back in my closet. All I do is find them clean. Amazing how that works.

Check book balanced and bills paid – I would pay the bills, but the checkbook wouldn’t be balanced if it weren’t for her. Of course, she is an accountant, and this comes naturally for her. She actually feels better when she knows this is done well, but no doubt I take it for granted. Many times.

Special dates remembered – Birthdays, for example, come the same date every year for everyone we know. Funny how that works. Cheryl remembers. Even when I don’t.

Social calendar arranged – Cheryl keeps my work calendar on her phone. It helps her know where I am throughout the day. (Guys, this is not an inconvenience, but a huge blessing. When our spouse wants to know what we did during the day, because they love living life with us, this gives them a head start. It also helps Cheryl know how to pray for me throughout the day.) But, mostly it allows her to plan our social life working with my busy schedule. And, I love having a social life. I just don’t like planning it. She does this. Continually.

I’m sure there are many more….such as being thoughtful enough to send thank you and sympathy cards…but these were 7 that easily came to mind when I took the time to think about them. And, you know how much I like 7. :)  And, at first glance, they may seem like little things, but they are really big things…for example…if we don’t feed her the dog dies…but all of them make life better for me. Bottom line, my life would have less color, less excitement, and less enjoyment without Cheryl. Forgive me for taking that for granted so many times.

Men, what do you take for granted that your wife does?