Experiment: The Little Things Matter

In making a first impression…

The little things matter…

A number of years ago, while I was pastoring another church, I felt I needed more buy-in from them in helping to lead the church. They were a great group of people, passionate about reaching the lost, but they had begun to neglect some of the little things that had to keep a church operating. I wanted to encourage them to be more observant about what needed doing. (To be candid, the women did most of the work, so it was the men who needed the most encouragement.)

I conducted an experiment with the male church leaders. I placed a Sunday bulletin on the floor of the men’s bathroom, right in front of the urinal. It stayed there through two Sundays and no one picked it up. At the following Wednesday night leadership meeting, I brought the bulletin with me. I asked, “Does anyone recognize this?” Actually it looked vaguely familiar to most of the men. :)

I wasn’t trying to be cruel, but it was a tangible reminder to them that when making a first impression, the little things matter. This was a church plant. We didn’t have a custodial staff for the building we rented. We were the custodial staff. If the bulletin was to be picked up, one of us needed to do it.

They instantly recognized that every man visiting our church in the last couple weeks had probably seen that bulletin on the floor of the men’s room. We only had one urinal…and we had very good coffee. :) Although it was a minor thing…just a bulletin on the floor…it had the potential to leave a larger impression; especially if that same visitor returned the next week to find the same bulletin still on the floor. (Of course, in a church plant, by the second week we’ll even plug you in to pick up bulletins off the bathroom floor. :) )

From that point, some of the men became more observant about the little things that needed attention. They started to take ownership in their roles as church leaders. I felt I had more participation in leading the church. It turned out to be a very helpful illustration.

Question: Would this same demonstration have worked in the women’s bathroom or would someone have picked it up? (Just curious)

Any other ideas? How could you help your team learn the principle that the little things matter?

How to Revitalize a Dying Project

In less than one minute, this video from Scott Belsky is brilliant. Watch him explain how to revitalize a project that has plateaued.

Can you put this idea to work?

Reminds me of a Jesus principle I Tweeted about yesterday:

Thanks to Catalyst for pointing me to this video. BTW, will I see you at Catalyst East this year?

In a Church Plant…Hire Generalists not Specialists

In a church plant, no one can be a specialist.

In the early days of Grace Community Church, I did many things I wasn’t necessarily trained or qualified to do. That was even truer in my first church plant, which started smaller, but I suspect it’s true of every church plant. This has been the case for all of our staff. They’ve had to fill roles not assigned to their specific job description.

Specialist concentrate on what they do best.

Generalist, while they may have a specific job title, handle multiple tasks; some better than others.

At Grace, we’ve hired people for specific jobs, but we’ve had to ask everyone to do tasks which weren’t necessarily in their “job description”.

  • Our groups pastor helped launch our second campus.
  • Our family pastor helps with worship planning.
  • Our worship pastor helps with our website.

As the church grows, you may hire more specialists, but honestly, we are living in a day where generalists are more needed than ever. To me, someone’s value to the team increases the more tasks he or she can complete, or they are willing to try.

If you are looking to add to your church staff…consider those who can and are willing to handle multiple roles.

Have you had to handle multiple tasks in your position?

Do you see a change to more generalist or more specialist roles in churches today?

Church Marketing Designs that Work and are Affordable: d2designs

I first met Paul Loyless on Twitter. It doesn’t happen often, but Paul and I were able to run together at a conference a year or so ago and I instantly fell in love with his heart and vision for the church. Paul heads a marketing company for churches and church plants called d2designs. Check out the site…I think they do amazing work.

I believe in Paul and his company and wanted you to know about them. If your church needs help with marketing, especially if you are a small church or church plant on a budget, I recommend the services of d2design and Paul Loyless.

Here is an interview I recently did with Paul:

Paul, you have a unique business. Having met you personally, I know your heart is more about building the Kingdom and less about profits. What drives you to specialize in churches?:

We are asked this question all the time and my response is always the same – I love the local church and I love pastors. More specifically I love small churches and church planters. While neither of them are perfect it is who God is using to call people to him and I want to see them communicate clearly and with excellence. It blows my mind that over the past 10 years I’ve been able to make a living doing this.

How do you judge whether your work with a church has been successful?:

My answer may surprise you. Most agencies gauge their success with how creative or cool their portfolio is. Not us. The only measuring stick we have is this…. have we helped the church clearly communicate their vision and message?

What advice would you give to a church or church plant who has never really considered marketing, but may be concerned about the expense?:

You are going to pay. There’s just no avoiding it. You will either pay with cash or you will pay with time. Most under resourced pastors (planters or small church pastors) think they can save money by doing it themselves or having a friend or family member do it for them. The ending is almost always the same: an inferior product and strained relationships. Marketing and branding are fun and exciting – no doubt about it. But God has called you to a community to preach His word, love on people and spend time in prayer and fasting for you community. That’s your calling – don’t fall into the black hole of branding and marketing.

I would also advise pastors to beware of the silver bullet solution. There are a lot of companies that have crept up in this space making empty promises to pastors that if they will just use their (insert widget here) that their church will grow 300% in a year just like the other churches they have worked with. It just isn’t going to happen.

Where should they start?:

Great question and the most important one. Start with a plan. We’ve created a great exercise called “5 Steps for Creating a Church Marketing Plan” that walks a pastor and/or leadership team through a process for creating a marketing plan. Most pastors skip this step and it is absolutely the most important step for creating a clear identity and vision. Once you know who you are and where you are going, creating the strategy for getting there is much easier.

Sometimes at a restaurant I ask the waitress to suggest an item from the menu for me. Considering what you have to offer as a company, pick one product and tell me why you would recommend it for me.:

Any chance I can order a two course meal here Ron? If so, I would start with ConnectFirst. It’s our new mover outreach program that connects churches with new movers in the community. It’s a solution we have that can benefit ALL readers.

IdentityPaks would be the main course. We wanted to create a solution for church planters and pastors of small churches with limited resources to have access to a quality comprehensive visual brand from web site to print materials. It took almost eighteen months of tweaking and improving the solution until we were able to bring the solution to the church planter at the lowest cost. We are thrilled with the solution and just as excited to see how positively planters and pastors of small churches are responding to it.

Need some marketing for your church or church plant? Contact Paul today!

(Full Disclosure: Paul did not pay for this post. I asked him for this interview. Paul has advertised on my blog, but I believe strongly in his services and would have posted this anyway, as I do frequently for causes and services I use or believe in personally.)

Rick Warren’s Saddleback Leadership Academy

It’s been almost a year since I first heard of Rick Warren’s vision to plant and assist hundreds (maybe it’s thousands)of churches in the next 10 years. After hearing his heart and vision, if I were beginning a ministry career or even in a time of transition and felt God was calling me to be a church planter today, I would strongly consider attending the Saddleback Leadership Academy. I have walked the property, visited with some of the leaders, and this is going to be an incredible Kingdom asset.

Recently I interviewed Rob Jacobs, Director of Enlistment at the Saddleback Church Leadership Academy

Why did Saddleback start the Leadership Academy?

If the Church is to reach the entire world, we are going to need thousands of new churches and thousands of new leaders.
The Saddleback Church Leadership Academy was started to create a leadership pipeline for the next generation of equipped, empowered, and healthy leaders who can plant churches, launch multi-site church campuses, and lead the ministries that will serve them.

In a nutshell, what is the academy?

The Saddleback Church Leadership Academy offers four unique leadership development tracks that provides participants the opportunity to lead Saddleback ministries or multi-site campuses while learning from Saddleback pastors and staff — getting hands-on ministry leadership experience from some of the most respected and experienced experts in the country.

What are the 4 tracks?

DISCOVER is a part-time internship designed for current college students or recent college graduates.

ACCELERATE is a full-time year-long apprenticeship for recent college graduates who are called to lead in a specific ministry area at an existing church, multi-site campus, or church plant.
(Worship , Small Groups, Women’s, Men, Single’s, Couples, Workplace, Children’s, Student Ministries, and Church Admin)

ELEVATE- is a full-time year-long residency for future church planters or future multi-site campus leaders. This track is designed for college graduates who have had some church staff experience and are now preparing to plant a church or lead a multi-site church campus of their own.

LAUNCH- is a part-time launch-phase program for church planters who are within 12 months of launching their own church. It provides nuts-and-bolts practical and relevant preparation needed in order to successfully plant a church or multi-site campus.

Why would someone choose this option over seminary?

If someone wants to develop into a leader, the best way is by experiencing actual opportunities to lead. We provide real opportunities to lead while Saddleback pastors and staff walk alongside participants, while providing guidance, feedback, and mentoring.
We value the role of seminary. Saddleback doesn’t see it as a pre-requisite to leadership. Our goal is to expand the opportunity for people to become a church or ministry leader. We are more interested in someone’s calling, heart, and leadership potential, rather than the school they attended or the degree they’ve earned. The need for leaders is too great. We provide avenues for future leaders to begin developing skills immediately.

What is unique about the Saddleback Church Leadership Academy?

We are focused on developing leaders. Our program is hands-on, practical, and relevant leadership development. Participants learn from the pastors who have literally written the books on the ministry they are leading. In addition we are able to provide participants the option of earning a Master’s degree along the way.

If someone is interested, what should they do next?

Visit the Saddleback Church Leadership Academy website or send an email to: LeadershipAcademy@saddleback.com.

(Full disclosure. No one paid for this post. Saddleback Leadership Academy does advertise on my blog, but I requested this interview separate from that arrangement. I believe in this program and would do the post without the advertisement!)

Is the Problem with the Gym the Same Problem with the Church?

Let’s face it…going to the gym can be brutal on the ego…

Recently Cheryl and I moved downtown. It was an intentional life change (You can read about it HERE.) Part of that move involved changing gyms. I now workout on the campus of our local university, Austin Peay State University. I love the facility. I’m a huge supporter of our local school. Cheryl and I graduated from there, but there’s only one problem with my new workout location.

Most of the people in the gym don’t look like they need to be there…

They are young, lean, fit, strong, beautiful college-aged gym people…

More so than my last gym where lots of people looked like me. :)

Recently as I was sweating like the oldies it got me thinking…

Isn’t that the perception of the church at times?

I can’t go there…because…everyone looks like they don’t need the church.

They are smiling, joyful, seemingly have-it-all-together people.

If my life is falling apart, why would I want to go there? I don’t fit in. I have nothing to offer. My life doesn’t match their life.

But then again, maybe because my physical body is out of shape is the reason I need to be in the gym…

And, maybe it’s why, when my life is a mess, I need the church…

BTW, behind the beautiful bodies in the gym may contain some messed up hearts and minds. And, behind those smiling faces at church may be some mixed up hearts and minds. (I wrote about that HERE.)

Let me make a deal with you…

I’ll keep going to my gym if you’ll give church another chance….

Be honest, have you ever felt you didn’t belong in church because your life was a mess?

4 Ways to be a Church for Dummies

I received email feedback the other day from someone who attends our church. Not having grown up attending church very often, but now wanting to learn the Bible and about the things of God, the woman thanked us for being a “church for dummies“. (That’s her term…not mine…) I laughed at first when I saw her comment and wondered how I should receive the remark, but then she explained that she used to leave church more confused than when she arrived. Now, after attending our church for a year or so, she is starting to understand the Bible and wants to continue learning more. She is thankful for a church that is challenging her to grow in her faith, but inviting enough to feel welcome, regardless of her background. I took it as a high compliment!

As I processed the meanings behind her statement, I thought of a few reasons she may feel as she does about our church.

Here are 4 reasons she might call our church a “church for dummies”:

Instruction – We teach truth everyone needs to know but we try to use language people who grew up outside the church can also understand. If there are Biblical terms not common to everyday language we try to explain the word rather than assume they know it or leave them guessing. Let’s face it. Being a mature believer is simpler than we’ve made it to be at times. It’s not a list of rules to keep, but a relationship to develop. Jesus said the work of God was “to believe in the One He has sent.” (John 6:29) The real work of being a Christian is Christ working in and through us as we submit our life to Him. Our goal then is first to engage the heart, create a passion for knowing Christ more fully and being like Him, and then provide them with resources, environments and service opportunities that help them grow as a believer. We know that engaging their heart first is a key to helping them take ownership in their individual spiritual growth process.

Application – We try to help people apply the timeless truth of God’s Word to their life today. We want them take next steps in life according to the truths of an unchanging God. The Bible is not only historical, but also practical and applicable to everyday life, so we try to help people understand how to adapt their life to the truth of Scripture.

Illustration – We use illustrations to relate truth to people. They called them parables when Jesus used them and we use lots of them. The illustrations we use are mostly from current, modern day and very transparent examples of how God works in a person’s life. Whether a personal story from our life, someone whose life is changing at Grace or a video element, examples of real life help people better understand the Bible.

Follow up – We know the people we see on Sunday aren’t living our vision as closely as we do during the week. It’s our occupation, but they have busy lives that distract them, so we find ways to repeat the same messages throughout the week, series and year.

If we’re doing our job, then people who are mature in their faith or people who are new to faith or still exploring faith can discover truth and be challenged to adjust their lives to that truth.

I don’t even mind being labeled…a church for dummies…in fact…the term is growing on me a little…

How does your church help people outside the faith or new to faith learn and grow in faith?

How to Increase Church Staff Without Spending a Dime

I suspect if you are in a growing church, that you and your staff feel stretched to accomplish all there is to do. You have probably said aloud that you are “understaffed”. I know, because it is part of being a growing church….and I’ve said it many times. In any organization, growth brings stress to systems and structure. Growth in staffing needs will always outpace growth in cash flow.

What if you could increase the size of your staff without spending a dime?

You can. You may not be able to hire for a new paid position, but you could:

  • Raise up new leaders
  • Empower some volunteers
  • Hand out authority
  • Increase your delegating
  • Release some control
  • Share some vision
  • Enlist some support

Chances are, regardless of your church size, that you have some untapped leadership already in your church. They have skills you and your team don’t have. They may not be leading yet, they may not even appear committed at this time, but it also could be that they are waiting for an opportunity. They may need to be recruited. Some of the best leaders in your church are serving elsewhere in the community, but need to be asked to join your efforts in the church.

I’ve noticed many pastors and church staffs holding too tightly to the positions of leadership. This limits the church’s growth, stresses out the staff, and keeps volunteers from growing in experience and faith.

Take a risk on a new leader for your church. Recruit someone and give them a simple task as a trial run. I wouldn’t start with the finance chair position, but find something with an ending date, a special project perhaps, and let them lead. See how they do in a smaller role. You will discover that some people will let you down. That happens with paid staff, too. Evaluate if the problem was you or them and go from there. Remember that they may not do things your way, but analyze based on reaching the mission of the church. You may find a new volunteer staff member who can handle other, on-going, even larger tasks.

You may also want to read:

10 Ideas in Developing a Recruitment Strategy
Test Drive a Volunteer Opportunity
10 Steps to Replacing Yourself and Add New Leaders

If you are reading this post as a pastor or church leader, I’d love to hear from you. Who is your church, where is it, and what is your role there? Are you currently understaffed?

Sermon Message on Money and Giving

One of the most feared sermon messages, at least from personal experience, appears to be a message about money. Still, giving is a part of a maturing believer’s experience. In our series Concrete, which addresses the foundational issues for a growing follower of Christ, I recently addressed this issue of giving. I also address why I believe the church (the people) resist this type of message.

You can view the message here: If you don’t have time for the entire message, at least watch the opening illustration. God used it to speak volumes to me about this issue.

Just curious. If you are married, is one of you more giving than the other? Be honest.

(I should note that I borrowed ideas for my closing challenge from an Andy Stanley message I heard recently.)