How to Become a Regular Church Attender

I love when people who don’t currently attend church, give church a try. Many of these once attended church, but for some reason, they no longer do. The best church growth, in my opinion, happens this way. And, statistics tell us there are plenty of people willing to give church a try if we will simply ask them. (Hint. Hint church people.)

The most common thing I hear from people who begin attending church or who want to is that it’s hard to get into the habit of church. I understand. Beginning anything new requires a change of lifestyle. That can be difficult.

Recently someone asked a great question, “How can I get my family back in the habit of church again?”

Great question. I’m so glad you asked.

Here are a few suggestions:

Recognize the greater purpose – Why are you going? If it’s to check it off a “feel good” list, that won’t sustain you when a “better offer” comes along. If it’s part of your spiritual growth process…if it’s making you a better person…if it’s to serve others…fellowship…grow…you’re more likely to be committed long-term. You’ll also complain less when the message isn’t the greatest or they don’t sing your songs :)

Discipline until it sticks – I don’t really get up wondering if I’m going to church. And, I didn’t when my family was young and I wasn’t in ministry. It was a habit. If you attend long enough, without too many breaks in between, it will soon become a very welcome and comfortable part of your weekly schedule.

Plan the night before – Don’t make the decision to go to church Sunday morning. Make it Saturday night. (or earlier). Lay out your clothes. Plan your breakfast choices. Set your alarm. Be prepared.

Find a place to serve – If you really want to go for the long haul in church attendance, find a place to serve in the church. If there’s not a place, stand in the parking lot and welcome people. Become a servant of others and you’ll not only be more faithful in attendance, you’ll get more out of the experience.

Make it a priority – The reality is that we make time for things we value most. If your kids want to play soccer, that game becomes a priority, right? If you want church to be a regular part of your life….make it important enough to follow through.

Help this post. I’ve never had a time in my life when church wasn’t part of my weekly routine. If you have, and you now attend regularly, what happened?

A Warning…If Your Brand is You

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Here’s a principle you need to understand in leading a church, team or organization.

I see many church planters, pastors, and other leaders who build their organization closely around their own identity. They brand the church or the organization, very closely associated with their personality.

When you think of the church…you can’t help but think of them.

In fact, you may think of them even more than you do the church.

It has their flavor, their culture, their stamp. That happens naturally in leadership. It’s unavoidable to an extent. People like to follow a leader. People follow a person. But, these leaders seem to do so purposefully.

I’m not saying that’s wrong. It is certainly one option. I even encourage personal branding in THIS POST. And it often works.

(Unless, of course, it’s done out of arrogance or in the case of the church it’s done at the exclusion of the real brand of a church…Jesus!)

But here is the warning…

If you brand something around you….

It will be harder to hand off should you ever or when you ever need to.

You can build a brand around your name, your personality, your particular flavor…

You can probably be successful at it…maybe even more successful at it.

The problem is that when you build around yourself…when you don’t give others a seat at the table of leadership…when you don’t let others share the “brand”…

…and then you leave.

What happens to the brand?

It often leaves with the one it was branded upon. Then others have to build a new brand.

Makes sense, right?

I’m not saying it’s impossible to brand around a person…lots of organizations have…some continue to be successful…it’s just more difficult. Take this blog for example. Who else wants the brand, right?

If you want the vision to last long after you are gone…

Build your brand around a vision that is bigger than you….known for more than just your name.

How to Fund Your Church

I believe giving is a part of discipleship. If we truly develop disciples, we will have no problem funding our churches. If you are a pastor or church leader, however, then you know that church funding is almost always an issue in carrying out the complete vision God gives a church and its leaders. That’s why I”m thankful for the work of guys like my friend Casey Graham. I know Casey well, having traveled with him, worked with him, and used his consulting services personally. Recently Casey shared with me another project he’s launching.

Casey is the Founder of The Rocket Company, which exists to provide coaching and resources for church leaders. The HOW To Fund Your Church Now event is Free for church leaders. Click here for more information and the full speaker line-up.

Do you want to better fund your church?

Here is a guest post by my friend Casey Graham:

How to Teach Low-Income Attenders to be High Impact Givers

It would be nice if one person could write a big check and wipe the worry away from the church finances.

But the average person in your church is barely getting by when it comes to their personal finances.

So it shouldn’t surprise us that 86% of churches are either broke or at breakeven financially.

I recently interviewed Pastor Vanable Moody on this very topic. Pastor Van has seen the church he pastors (The Worship Center Christian Church) grow from a few to over 7,000 people each week.

You can watch the full interview on the HOW To Fund Your Church Now online event on October 17 for. But I wanted to give you a couple of ideas from the interview.

Two Tips To Help Low Income Attenders Be High Impact Givers

1. Don’t Make the Amount the Issue…Focus on Personal Responsibility

Pastor Van referenced the parable of the talents, pointing out that while each person had a different amount, they all had the same responsibility. He doesn’t think church leaders should give people an “out” just because they don’t make a lot of money. It’s not always the dollar amount…it’s the responsibility.

2. Help People Develop a Generosity Mindset

Pastor Van did a class for his church attenders that helped them think differently financially. This holistic class really helped people develop a right mindset with money. Teaching on giving is great, but it’s good to teach the big picture too.

The full interview with Pastor Van and nine other interviews with pastors around the country will be on the HOW To Fund Your Church Now online event. The event is focused on helping you and your church increase regular giving. If you want to have more money for ministry, this event will help you with practical stuff.

Have you registered yet? What are you waiting for?

A word to pastors…during pastor appreciation month

I came into ministry later in life, after over 20 years in the business world. Maybe that explains some of why I was surprised, when I entered the ministry, at how hard churches can be on a pastor. I never knew.

My church leadership blog has given me access into the lives of hundreds of young pastors, many of them in smaller churches where they are one of a few, if not the only, staff members. I don’t see this as much in larger churches where there are more staff members to spread the workload, but in some smaller churches, many times the pastor is drowning. His spouse is drowning. His family suffers. They can’t keep up with the demands of the church. I never knew.

Some churches expect the pastor to be at every hospital bed. They expect them to know and call when they are sick. They expect them to attend every Sunday school social and every picnic on the grounds. He is to officiate their wedding and then be the counselor when their marriage is suffering. He is to preach their funeral and visit their neighbor who isn’t going to church. He is supposed to recruit Sunday school teachers, manage a budget and be actively engaging the community through a healthy Tuesday night evangelism program. Then, they expect a well researched, well presented Sunday message, one in the morning and one at night, along with a passionate leading of the Wednesday night prayer meeting. One pastor told me recently he is allowed one Sunday off per year. I hesitated to do the math on the number of messages he is doing in a given year. Wow! I never knew.

Now some of that is exaggeration, but in some churches it is exactly the expectation. And, in principle, the activities may be different, but the level of activity is normal for many pastors, again, especially in smaller churches.

To be honest, I’m burdened for those pastors.

I learned when my boys were young and I was running a business, serving on the city council and on dozens of committees, that if I wanted to be successful as a husband, father, and business owner, I had to get better personally and privately, so I could achieve more publicly. It was then that running switched from being a fun pastime to a necessary part of my week. I needed and craved the downtime and the exercise. It was then that I had to get up early to make sure I had that days quiet time to fuel my soul. It was then that I became diligent in scheduling my week, so I didn’t miss family activities.

If I could give one piece of advice to pastors, ALL PASTORS, especially during Pastor Appreciation month, it would be that they take care of themselves personally, take care of their family, so they can meet the demands of their church. They may need to share this blog with some key leaders they trust in the church. They may want to have a hard conversation and establish some healthier boundaries with the church. Take some time and read Jethro’s advice to Moses. Read Acts 6.

I love you pastors. I want you around for a while. Take care of yourself. If needed, reach out to someone before you crash and burn. God called you to do His work, but the work He called you to do specifically, won’t be done (at least by you) if you aren’t here to do it.

Join the MinistryMatters.com “Why Ministers Matter” blog tour to read today’s leading pastors and authors share their stories of ministers who made a difference in their lives. Visit MinistryMatters.com/blogtour for a complete list of virtual tour stops and to link up your own post about a minister who mattered to you!

MinistryMatters.com “Why Ministers Matter” blog tour 10/1/2012 – 10/12/2012.

5 Steps When the Changes are Overwhelming

I’ll be honest. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately. In my new position, there are more opportunities than time. I’m excited about the potential, but my calendar won’t hold anymore and my mind is exploding.

One day recently, I was driving on the road which leads back to Clarksville. I considered my schedule, the enormity of the challenge ahead, the dozens of emails awaiting a response and the people I was still having to say “no” to when they ask for my time, many who don’t understand why the pastor can’t see them right away, and I turned to Cheryl and said, “Right now I wish I could just keep driving and that this had been a nice little dream”. That wasn’t reality speaking or how I really feel. It was emotions talking. I knew that I was simply feeling overwhelmed.

What do you do when you find yourself in that situation? Here’s what I am doing.

Here are 5 steps when change seems overwhelming:

Step back – Take a day. Take a week. Pause everything. Stepping back gives you an opportunity to take a fresh look at the challenges ahead. It may seem like you don’t have time to pause right now, but it may be you don’t have time not to do so. The time away will give you a better perspective, a clearer head and the rest will give you energy you need.

Get fit – I used to tell our staff in a church plant that “you have to strive to be healthy to work here right now”. I’m in that season in ministry again. As much as it depends on me, I need to be healthy spiritually, relationally, emotionally and physically. I need to eat healthy, exercise, and maintain a healthy relationship with Cheryl. I also need extended time in God’s Word and prayer. This is even more than usual a time for intentionality in living a healthy lifestyle.

Renew the vision – When change is overwhelming you need to remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing. The why is the key. It’s what fueled you in the first place and what has the best potential to fuel you again. I was called here for a purpose. God doesn’t make mistakes. If you are overwhelmed at something God called you to do, ask God to renew that passion you had in the beginning, before you were overwhelmed, again.

Chart a course one step at a time – Baby steps. That’s how big change is accomplished. One foot in front of the other. The bigger the change the more methodical you must be. One day, one week, one month at a time. I’ve had to ask some people to be patient. I have to prioritize each day. I have to not feel bad about saying no. I have to get up every morning, create a list of things I can accomplish that day, and realize that tomorrow is a new day.

Invite people on the journey – Delegation becomes even more important during overwhelming times in leadership. If you’re world is like mine, that pretty much equates to every season of ministry. :) Read THIS POST for more of my thoughts on delegation. I’m learning again the value of a team. I’m learning who I can trust, but I’m taking risks on people. I can’t do it without them.

I’m making slow progress, but the process is working. I am expecting great things in the days to come. Stay tuned.

Are you overwhelmed at the changes occurring in your life right now? Try these 5 steps.

What suggestions would you offer?

The job of a shepherd: Encouragement for Pastors and Teachers

You can’t change a person’s heart.

That’s the work of God’s Spirit.

Many pastors and teachers get frustrated when people fail to live up to their expectations, or when they come so far only to mess up again. I’ll join you in that frustration. Some take it personal. Even if they are doing all they know to do and are called to do, people wander. Many pastors and teachers I know blame themselves. They allow it to impact their self-esteem or use it as a measure of their effectiveness.

But…

The job of the shepherd is to lead sheep to the source of provision, not be the provision.

Shepherds point people to truth and grace, but you can (and should) trust God with people’s hearts.

The job of a shepherd is not to make grass or water. It’s to lead the sheep to quality grass and water.

You can’t change another person’s heart, so don’t be too frustrated when people don’t seem to change.

That’s God’s job.

Do the leading…let God do the changing.

Do you get frustrated when sheep run astray?

12 Words of Encourgement for Pastors (Or Other Leaders)

I love pastors. Each week, through this blog and my personal ministry, God allows me to partner with dozens of pastors, helping them think through life and ministry issues. I’ve learned that many pastors struggle to find people who will invest in them and help them grow as individuals, leaders and pastors.

Recently I had a pastor ask me for my “best advice” for other pastors. Wow! That’s hard to say. I’ve learned so much through the pastors who have invested in me and by experience. It’s hard to summarize all that I’ve learned. It could probably fill a book or two…but at least more than one blog post!

I put some thought into the question and decided to come up with a list of encouragement, one that I would give to all pastors, to answer his question. I’m sure there’s more (and you can help by adding yours), but this post is at least a start. Of course, wisdom is transferable to other fields, so change a few words around and I’d give this advice to any leader…some of them perhaps to any person.

Here are 12 words of encouragement for pastors:

Choose your friends wisely…but choose friends. Don’t attempt to lead alone. Too many pastors avoid close friendships because they’ve been hurt. They trusted someone with information who used it against them. Finding friends you can trust and be real with means you’ll sometimes get injured, but the reward is worth it.

The church can never love your family as much as you do. Your family needs you more than the church does. They can get another pastor. Your family doesn’t want another you. You’ll have to learn to say “no”, learn how to balance and prioritize your time, and be willing to delegate to others in the church. (You may want to read THIS POST from my friend Michael Hyatt on saying “no” with grace.”

If you protect your Sabbath day, your Sabbath day can better protect you. You’ll wear out quickly without a day a week to rejuvenate. God designed us this way. Take advantage of His provision. Take time to rest. You may not rest like everyone else…for me rest doesn’t mean doing nothing…but you need time away from the demands of ministry regularly. Lead your church to understand you can’t be everywhere every time. You owe it to yourself, your family, your church and your God.

You have influence…use it well. The pastorate comes with tremendous power and responsibility. It’s easy to abuse or take for granted. Don’t. Humility welcomes the hand of God on your ministry.

No amount of accountability or structure will keep you from temptation if you’re heart is impure. Above all else, guard your heart. (Proverbs 4:23) Avoid any hint of temptation. Look for the warning signs your heart is drifting. Keep your heart saturated with God’s Word and in prayer.

Let God lead. You can do some things well. God can do the impossible. Whom do you think should ultimately be leading the church? You’ll be surprised how much more effective your leadership will be when it’s according to His will and not yours.

If you can dream it, God can dream it bigger. Don’t dismiss the seemingly ridiculous things God calls you to do. They won’t always make sense to others or meet their immediate approval, but God’s ways will prove best every time.

Keep Jesus the center of focus in the church. You’ll never have a money problem, a people problem, or a growth problem if people are one with Jesus.

Your personal health affects the health of the church. Take care of yourself relationally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This, too, requires discipline, balance and prioritizing, but if, to the best of your ability, you strive to be healthy in every area of your life, as a good shepherd, your people will be more likely to follow your example.

The people in your church deserve authenticity. Not only will be honest about who you are help keep you from trying to meet unreal expectations, but it will help the people in your church be transparent with you and others. Don’t be someone you’re not. Be someone worthy to follow, but make sure you’re living it…not just teaching it.

You’ll never make everyone happy. If you try, you’ll be very unhappy…and very unproductive.

Now, make this post better. As you can count, there are only 11 here. I’m counting on you to add your best number 12.

What word of encouragement do you have for pastors (or other leaders)?

10 Thank You’s to My Pastor’s Wife

This is to my wife.

It could be to anyone married to a pastor. It’s hard work.

In fact, I’ve said this before, but it may be the most difficult job in the church at times.

But, this one is to my wife. (You’re welcome to read along.)

I’ve also said this before…I have the perfect pastor’s wife. Younger pastor’s wives, if you want to learn how to do it, I’d submit my wife as an example.

As we venture out again on a new journey (There have been many in our years together), I’m reflective on the reasons I’m thankful for my pastor’s wife.

Cheryl,

Thank you for following me where God leads me…without complaining. Usually you are ready to walk by faith before I am. I couldn’t and wouldn’t do this without you.

Thank you keeping confidences. Thank you for biting your tongue when someone complains or criticizes unjustly. Thank you for knowing more “junk” than most people should, and never sharing it with anyone, yet being my closest confidant.

Thank you for being my biggest encourager and never making the church wonder where your support is. Even when the message stinks, you pretend it was wonderful!

Thank you being a safe place…even letting me blow off steam at times. Ministry is hard. I’m glad my wife has big shoulders upon which to cry at times and an incredible faith to point me back where I belong.

Thank you for believing in me when no one else does. You were with God and had me in ministry long before I could see what God was doing. You still believe I can do things of which I’m not so confident.

Thank you for knowing me best yet loving me most. Okay, contrary to public opinion :) , you know I’m not perfect. Far from it. Yet, your love is always undeniable.

Thank you for putting our marriage before any human relationship. At times, that’s meant you had to say no to others so you could say yes to me. Thank you for the sacrifice. Thanks for helping build a marriage and family life the church can easily follow.

Thank you for loving people and Jesus so passionately. The church knows it. Everyone knows it. You fully reflect that in all that you do!

Thank you for being a protection for me. You sense things in people and ministry that I can sense.

Thank you for respecting me unconditionally. You understand the frailty of a man’s ego and know it’s my greatest need and you fill it completely.

Thank you for being my pastor’s wife.

Give a shout out to your pastor or minister’s wife/spouse here! (Better yet, also send her/him a card!)

The Lure (And Danger) of Fame, by Shawn Lovejoy

This is a guest post by Shawn Lovejoy. Shawn is a friend and the Founding and Lead Pastor of Mountain Lake Church, the Directional Leader of churchplanters.com and the author of the newly released book, ‘The Measure of Our Success – An Impassioned Plea to Pastors”. God has used Mountain Lake Church and churchplanters.com to become one of the most influential church planting ministries in the world, and Shawn gives Jesus all the credit. Shawn loves his wife, his kids, the church, pastors, college football, and PlayStation3. In that order. He lives near Atlanta, Georgia.

The Lure (and Danger) of Fame

No pastor would ever admit to the desire to be famous. Our hearts are deceitful, though, aren’t they? Most of us care far too much about the number of Facebook friends, blog readers, and Twitter followers we have. We keep a secret eye on how many times our wisdom is retweeted, and we feel validated and important if we can write an article, speak at a conference, or gain a voice in a larger forum. If we’re honest, often times our desire for “growth” and “influence” is really just a desire to be noticed and affirmed, isn’t it?

Pastors, are we trying to get people to follow us or follow Jesus? The church has too many pastor-followers as it is. Every one of us looks more glamorous from a distance. We all look dirtier up close. I know many famous pastors, and they’re not nearly as perfect as they seem…. or talk. I’m not either. Before I decided to write this book, I had to ask myself, “Why do I want to write this? What do I really hope to achieve?” I must strive every day to keep my motivations in check, because “pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). Fame simply cannot be the measure of our success.

All of us are tempted to measure success by the world’s standards. However, if we do, it ill cost us. It has cost us. It has cost me. I’ve allowed false measures of success to drive me to insecurity, isolation, loneliness, anxiety, and discouragement. Have you ever been there? I bet you have. When we succumb to the temptation, we must repent. We must tear down the idols in our hearts and lives. We must find a new standard of measurement. We must live for an audience of One. We must rediscover His measure of success.

Pastor, is this an area of struggle for you? How are you measuring your success?

I love Shawn’s heart for pastors. I’ve personally benefited from his encouragement and friendship. Shawn is a passionate Kingdom-builder.

Get this book now:

The Measure of Our Success: An Impassioned Plea To Pastors, available today on Amazon.

A Story. A Shaping of My Ministry

“If it weren’t for those __________ churches…”

I will never forget that statement.

I was in my mid-twenties, serving on a board of the local non-profit. We were discussing how we could raise more support for the organization. I had participated most of my working career (which was obviously short at that point), financially contributing personally and helping them raise funds. Every year we had the same discussion. How could we raise more money to do more good?

In the middle of our discussion, a greatly respected and leading businessman in our community made that statement. “If it weren’t for those _______churches we would have plenty of money. All churches do is take from the community, serve their own interests, and rob the community of needed money for charity.” The room instantly echoed and agreed with his bold remark. I was young and intimidated, so I said nothing.

Honestly, however, those words stung. As an active member of one of the largest church in town, I didn’t believe anything he was saying. Our church, along with most churches in our community, were doing good things to help people. If all we did was change people’s lives and send better people back into the community, we would be doing good things, but there were many church-connected ministries helping people in our city. Not to mention, many of the top contributors to this organization were active members of some of those same churches. (I was one of them.)

I never forgot those words though. It shaped me and my view of ministry.

Years later, when God placed the dream on my heart to plant a church in my hometown, I knew some of what that church would look like. Not that I seek the approval of man, but I wanted to be a part of a church that reversed that paradigm some have from the outside looking into the church. I wanted to be part of a church that would truly make a difference in our community, so much so that if we were gone, people would miss us.

One of the first things we did as a church was to partner with our city to reach some low income, impoverished areas of the community. For the past several years, once a year, we have put together as many as 1,400 people to invest in people outside the walls of our church. We sent over 800 people into our schools to meet the requests of principals in teachers completing things their budgets couldn’t afford to do. We participated with local radio stations to gather thousands of pounds of food for the poor. We’ve helped to launch a ministry to homeless people and one to military wives. We’ve been consistently called upon by our community to help with local festivals and events, and even by our mayor to help in flood recovery efforts.

My wife, who works in a local credit union and is active in the community is frequently asked, “Are you part of that church that’s always helping people?” We love that question. We both get it often.

I think our intentional investment is one of the primary reasons our church has grown into one of the fastest growing churches in America in a little over 6 years.

Please understand, I’m not trying to brag about what we are doing. I believe other churches are making a huge difference in their community; certainly many more than ours. I simply want to encourage any church I lead to show our city the love of Jesus and maybe even encourage your church (and mine) to do more. I think we have a better chance of reaching our cities for Christ if they know we care. The more we get out of our buildings and meet real needs, the more we’ll have opportunities to share the hope we know is in Christ.

In my time at Grace, we’ve tried to be intentional about letting our community know we love them…and so far…it is working. I’ve got a new assignment in ministry ahead and in my discussions so far, I’m encouraging this church also to greatly invest in it’s community.

Share with me. What is your church doing to display the love of Christ to your community in a practical way?