Can the Church Learn from the Coffee Shop?

20130716-215656.jpg

I believe the church is to be a cultural change agents in our communities, but the truth is that many coffee shops have taken some of that responsibility. Starbucks supposedly began trying to be the “Third Place” for the community. Borrowing from a sociological theory by Roy Oldenburg of everyone wanting a place besides home and work in which to feel welcome, Starbucks has become the “Cheers” place where if I come often enough everyone knows my name. There was even a sign in Starbucks recently inviting customers to serve the community with them. The church I pastor has a Gather, Grow and Serve strategy of discipleship. Starbucks appears to capture two of those attempts.

Regardless of whether you believe coffee shops can change culture, the newest one in Lexington, KY raises the bar in a coffee shop experience. And, frankly, I believe they are better engaging the community with their mission than many churches are with theirs.

And personally, I believe…

Every church

Every business

Every pastor

Every leader

Can learn something from this coffee shop experience.

A Cup of Commonwealth opened recently in Lexington. I frequent a lot of coffee shops, but I was out of town the week they opened. I caught them in their second week. Wow! They blew me away with the excitement and energy they have rapidly created. Owners Salvador Sanchez and Chris Ortez impressed me greatly.

Here are a few observations:

They know their stuff – Coffee 101 not, this is coffee expertise at work. One of the owners, Salvador, (Most folks seemed to call him Sal, but he introduced himself to me as Salvador. Probably because he saw me as old enough to be his parent.) told me he had been Central America to tour coffee productions. They spoke the coffee language (which I don’t, but many do).

They created an experience – It was an enthusiastic atmosphere. The place was enjoyable. They joked with customers. They had unique offerings. Apparently things have changed just since they opened with some of their decor. (And will change weekly)

They have vision – It is clear they want to provide exceptional coffee in a way that engages the community. (The picture above is painted on their wall.) Nothing appeared to distract them from this vision.

They acclimated first timers – Every time someone entered the door, if they didn’t know them, they took them through a mini tour of the experience. It wasn’t a canned presentation, but it provided the basic information one would need to understand the uniqueness of this place.

They engage comfortably – They made everyone feel welcome, but they seemed to interact with you depending on your level of interest. If you simply wanted a cup of coffee, they learned that soon enough to leave you alone, but if you wanted someone to talk to, you got that also.

They followed through – The next day they connected with me on Facebook. They actually “liked” some of my posts.

They provided quick entry to feel a part of the vision – The most unique item was their “Pay It Forward” board. A large, handwritten piece of paper hangs on the wall. (See picture below.) It contains drink orders prepaid for future customers. You can take one or add one. You can make up unique requirements for the type person you are looking to bless. (An attorney. A homeless person. Someone willing to sing a song. Etc.) I bought a large cup of coffee for someone besides my own. In 10 days, I was told they’d been through 4 of these large pieces of paper.

It was interesting to watch how quickly customers were engaging in something exciting…something unique…something they felt gives back to the community.

Of course, the key to all this will be whether or not they can sustain this energy. Apparently when I entered, 10 days after opening, the two owners are the only employees. They are new and excited. If they can, however, I believe they have a very successful business model.

But, I’m not in the coffee business. I am a church leader. I always want to be learning how I can do what I do better. And, honestly, I learned some things from this coffee shop experience.

Anything jump out at you that could improve what you do at your church?

(Okay, I have been blogging long enough to already anticipate the push back on even my logic behind this post. Some don’t think the church should or even can learn anything from the secular world. The Bible is our guide. I hear that. I’m a Bible guy. Cover to cover. But, let me ask you…where did you learn how to write a church bulletin…or even to have one? Who taught you how to register kids in preschool? Please quote chapter and verse if you choose to answer.)

20130716-223943.jpg

12 Game-Changing and Tweetable Proverbs

wisdom road sign arrow

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. – Proverbs 15:1

A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash. – Proverbs 15:14

Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success. – Proverbs 15:22

Greed brings grief to the whole family – Proverbs 15:27

Pride goes before destruction – Proverbs 16:18

Discretion is a life-giving fountain to those who possess it – Proverbs 16:22

Kind words are like honey— – Proverbs 16:24

Better to be patient than powerful – Proverbs 16:32

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven. – Proverbs 17:9

A cheerful heart is good medicine. – Proverbs 17:22

Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish. – Proverbs 18:13

Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes. – Proverbs 19:2

Which of these most speak to you? 

5 Steps in Planting a Church or Launching a New Ministry

gradini rossi

I am receiving an increasing number of inquiries about church planting or launching a new ministry. I like that. It shows people are still willing to walk by faith. Having planted two churches and after helping numerous non-profit ministries see their start, I’ve learned a few things, many of which I write about here. I’ve also learned there are a few common steps in a successful launch.

It doesn’t really matter what the ministry is…the launching process is relatively the same. You should know I’m a simple-minded guy. But, time and time again I’ve seen simple work. Sometimes we over complicate things.

I’m not saying simple is easy. It hardly ever is. I’m saying that we should not make the steps more convoluted than they actually are and that the more we can simplify the steps into an easy to understand format the easier it will be to complete them.

Here are 5 steps to a successful ministry launch:

Vision – Get a clear, easy to understand, worthy vision that honors God and brings good to other people and for which people can get excited.

People – Recruit people who love the vision as much as you do. If you can’t find like-minded people, it will be very difficult to be successful in the new ministry. I always believe, and have witnessed it repeatedly, that if God is in this, He has already been shaping the vision in other people’s minds. We just need to find them.

Equip and assign – With people contributing, determine the tasks needed to accomplish the vision. Help people understand their unique role in accomplishing the vision and assign them to specific tasks. Give them the resources they need and make sure they are clear on their assigned role.

Energize – Keep people motivated towards the vision by continually reminding them of the overall purpose and their significant place in accomplishing it.

Release – Let people do their part to accomplish the vision. Give real ownership. Delegate. Don’t control.

Simple enough? What would you add?

Any of these you’d especially like me to expand upon on a future post?

7 Things Forgiveness IS NOT…

(I’m on vacation this coming week, and so for the next couple weeks I’m posting again some of my most read posts, but also ones I think are actually helpful. These are my “favorite top posts”. Some posts had more hits, but they simply do well in the search engines. I’m actually proud of these. :) None of these were posted this year. All are older than that. Thanks for reading my blog. Feel free to share these on Twitter, and Google Plus to get them circulated. I won’t be doing much of that while I’m gone.)

We get confused about what forgiveness is and what it isn’t. Maybe we don’t really know sometimes.

Forgiveness is not an option for the believer. We are to forgive others as we have been forgiven. For most of us (all of us if we will admit it), that’s a whole lot of forgiveness. Understanding forgiveness doesn’t make it easier to forgive, but it does make it more meaningful…perhaps even tolerable…but I believe understanding the process could make us more likely to offer the forgiveness we are commanded to give.

With that in mind, in two posts, I want to share what forgiveness is and what it isn’t.

Here are 7 things forgiveness IS NOT:

Forgetting - When you forgive someone your memory isn’t suddenly wiped clean of the offense. I know God could do that, but it seems that would be the easy way. I suspect God wants forgiveness to be more intentional than that.

Regaining automatic trust - You don’t immediately trust the person who injured you when you forgive them. That wouldn’t even be logical. Trust is earned, and they must earn trust again.

Removal of consequences – Even though you forgive someone, they may still have consequences to face because of their actions.

Ignoring the offense – You don’t have to pretend nothing happened when you forgive. The reality is an offense was made. Acting like it never occurred only builds resentment and anger.

Instant emotional healing – Emotions heal with time. Some pain runs deep and takes longer to heal.

Restoring the same relationship – The relationship may be closer than before or not, but most likely it will never be the same.

A leverage of powerGranting forgiveness does not give a person power over the person being forgiven. That would violate the entire principle and purpose of forgiveness.

Here is the companion post….7 Things that Forgiveness Is… Just a note before you get there: This post may have seemed easy, even freeing, but the next one may be more difficult.

What would you add to my list of things forgiveness is NOT?

7 Things Forgiveness IS…(Repost)

(I’m on vacation this coming week, and so for the next couple weeks I’m posting again some of my most read posts, but also ones I think are actually helpful. These are my “favorite top posts”. Some posts had more hits, but they simply do well in the search engines. I’m actually proud of these. :) None of these were posted this year. All are older than that. Thanks for reading my blog. Feel free to share these on Twitter, and Google Plus to get them circulated. I won’t be doing much of that while I’m gone.)

I often wonder if the reason we don’t forgive as we should is because we don’t understand the subject well enough.

Yesterday I posted 7 Things that Forgiveness is NOT. It seems appropriate to also post 7 things that forgiveness IS.

Here are 7 things that forgiveness IS:

Letting go of a right to get even – You give up the right for revenge when you forgive someone.

Moving forward – Forgiveness is like saying, “It hurt. I didn’t like it, but I’m moving forward with my life in spite of the pain.”

Dropping resentment and grudge – Forgiveness releases the angst towards the person who did the injury.

A choice – Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it’s a conscious decision made by the injured party.

A step towards healing – Forgiveness releases a weight from the shoulders of the injured, opening the door for emotions to heal.

An opportunity to display grace – There is no greater picture of God’s forgiveness of us than for us to forgive one another.

The removal of a roadblock – Forgiveness removes the barrier between us and living at peace again with ourselves, others, and God.

I know these are difficult. I know some of the pain runs deep. I can’t describe it for you adequately, but I can tell you that forgiveness IS all it’s claims to be. If you truly want to be free of the hold the injury has on your heart, forgive the one who injured you.

What would you add to my list of 7 things forgiveness IS?

What is the most difficult situation you’ve had to forgive? Do you have a story that could encourage us?

How to Honor a Pastor’s Wife (Repost)

(I’m on vacation this coming week, and so for the next couple weeks I’m posting again some of my most read posts, but also ones I think are actually helpful. These are my “favorite top posts”. Some posts had more hits, but they simply do well in the search engines. I’m actually proud of these. :) None of these were posted this year. All are older than that. Thanks for reading my blog. Feel free to share these on Twitter, and Google Plus to get them circulated. I won’t be doing much of that while I’m gone.)

One of the toughest jobs in the church is that of being a pastor’s wife. I know I’m biased, but I have one of the best in Cheryl. Cheryl has a full-time professional job, is an excellent wife and mother, but the demands on her as my wife are often overwhelming. There is never a day she’s not asked to minister to someone. She is every bit as much in the ministry as I am. She makes me so much more effective as a pastor. Some days…really most days…the demands are more than her time, but still she handles it with grace and a smile.

I work with pastors every week who are burned out from ministry. Almost weekly, I hear of a pastor or pastor’s wife ready to quit the ministry. My desire is to help you know how to honor and protect your pastor’s wife. In this post, I am not talking on behalf of Cheryl. These are tips to help honor every pastor’s wife, but this isn’t about Cheryl. She would never ask for this (most pastor’s wives wouldn’t either) and frankly we are in the best church environment I have ever experienced, as far as the way our staff and spouses are treated. We welcome the continued support, but in this post, I’m speaking on behalf of the struggling pastor’s wife; the one who has a sense of loneliness and often struggles even to come to church.

Here are a few tips to treat your pastor’s wife well:

  • Pray for your pastor’s wife and family daily.
  • Do not put too many expectations on the pastor’s wife. She cannot be everywhere, at everything and know everyone’s name and family situation and still carry out her role in role in her own home.
  • Do not expect her to take your side on an issue opposing her husband. She will protect him as you would your spouse. In fact, this issue possibly causes the biggest tension for a pastor’s wife. If she feels her husband is being questioned, she may naturally become protective.
  • Protect the pastor’s wife from gossip. She does not need to know the “prayer concerns” that are really just a way of spreading rumors.
  • Let her have a husband and enjoy her family time. The pastor is pulled in many directions. If you can limit your demands on his schedule to his normal working hours it will help the pastor’s wife have a family life also.
  • Don’t demand she have a “position” in the church. She may want to, but her husband may want her free to greet guests with him. For me, I want to see Cheryl in the service as I speak, especially for the first service. I feel more comfortable when she’s nearby. I definitely want her in the halls to meet people. (She’s so much better at that than I am.)
  • Include her in invitations without placing demands or expectations on her to attend. The pastor’s wife is often one of the loneliest women in the church. She rarely knows whom to trust and often is excluded from times that are just for fun, but again, she can’t be everywhere; so invite, but don’t get frustrated if she has to say no.
  • Never repeat what she says. If the pastor’s wife happens to share information with you about the church or her personal life, keep it to yourself. There will be temptation to share her words as “juicy news”, but you will honor her by remaining silent.
  • If your church really wants to honor the pastor’s wife, find ways to give her extended time away with her husband and/or family. That is probably what she needs the most.

Feel free to give a shout-out to your pastor’s wife here on this post and share ways you can honor your pastor’s wife. If you are a pastor or pastor’s wife, I would love to hear your thoughts.

How does your church honor your pastor’s wife?

7 Ways I Protect My Heart and Ministry From an Affair (Repost)

(I’m on vacation this coming week, and so for the next couple weeks I’m posting again some of my most read posts, but also ones I think are actually helpful. These are my “favorite top posts”. Some posts had more hits, but they simply do well in the search engines. I’m actually proud of these. :) None of these were posted this year. All are older than that. Thanks for reading my blog. Feel free to share these on Twitter, and Google Plus to get them circulated. I won’t be doing much of that while I’m gone.)

It seems every day we hear of another big name celebrity, politician or pastor that has fallen into the temptation of lust and had an affair. I think it is dangerous for any leader to assume this could never happen to him or her. Speaking as a man, (I can’t speak as a woman), I understand that temptation is very real. When the mind begins to wander in a lustful direction, it is very hard to control. The failure, I believe, comes more in not protecting the heart and mind. I know that I must personally work to protect myself, my wife, my boys and my church from the scandal and embarrassment of an affair.

There are a few rules I have in place that serve to protect my heart:

I never meet alone with a woman besides my wife (or mother). I always take someone along to lunch meetings and I make sure others are in the office when I meet with women. Also, I never exercise with other women. (If you need explanation, then you’ve never been a guy going to a gym where girls are in workout clothes. Trust me!) I realize this is not popular in these days where men and women are searching for equality in the workplace. Honestly, some women never understand this. I had one woman tell me recently that I “think too highly of myself”, but my family is too important to me not to take this precaution.

I try not to conduct very personal or intimate conversations with women. I am careful not to compliment women on her appearance, unless I feel she needs the encouragement and her husband or my wife is in the conversation. If a woman is in tears I am careful about prolonging the conversation. When emotions are flowing, people get vulnerable. There are women on our staff and in our church equal or more capable than me to deal with these type conversations.

When talking to couples I focus my visual connection mostly on the man and not his wife. It’s not that I don’t talk to the wife, but I try to place my eyes more in the direction of the man. This is a discipline I have had to practice. Sometimes I see couples from our church in the community and I often don’t recognize the woman when she is not with her husband. This is not that I don’t care about the woman (or that I’d rather look at a man!), but this is necessary in order to protect my heart and mind from wandering. (Did you ever read 2 Samuel 11?)

I try not to stare at women. When an attractive woman catches my eye, I try to quickly bounce my attention elsewhere. Yes, I notice a pretty woman in the room…often. God made some beautiful women. I just know my heart and mind too well to allow myself to stare. Trust me…I can’t.

I spend lots of time with my wife. The best defense is a good offense. The most certain way to protect my heart is to strengthen my marriage. Cheryl and I spend most of our leisure time together.

I try to always remember my boys. My boys are two of my very best friends, and thankfully, as for right now, they still have tremendous respect for me as a dad and man. I would never want to disappoint them by being unfaithful to my wife.

I love my church. I would never want to injure the work God is doing at Grace Community Church. If I were ever tempted to sin against God in this way, I would hope my love for the church would draw me back.

Do my rules offend you? What are you doing to protect your heart?

You might also want to read 7 Ways I Protect My Family Life in Ministry

A Year in Review of my New Ministry Position

The calendar indicates a year has past since I began my new ministry position as pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church. You can read about it HERE. I left the church planting world to pastor a historic, 104 year old church. People ask me all the time how it’s going. Recently I was talking with a friend and he reminded me of an old saying, “You’ll accomplish less than you thought you would in a year and more than you thought in five years.”

That’s probably true, but, by God’s grace, we’ve accomplished a lot. It’s been a whirlwind. In some ways it seems we’ve been here forever and other ways it seems we just arrived.

I’m asked consistently how it’s going. Here’s a quick recap. If you read my blog often, you know I’m transparent. I have the opportunity to share with literally thousands of pastors daily through this medium, so I try to share honestly what I am experiencing.

We’ve had an incredible year. It’s been amazing to see God at work. Cheryl and I have “mostly” enjoyed the experience. There have been some hard days. Change is hard. Sometimes anything new is hard. But, overall it’s been good.

So for some quick reflections…

Most exciting parts

  • Making new friends (and we’ve made many quickly)
  • Celebrating incredible growth
  • Increased baptisms
  • Seeing a stellar staff develop
  • New families attending and joining
  • Meeting budget
  • Seniors who love seeing the church grow again
  • Renewed enthusiasm and momentum in the church
  • Strategic plans that are coming together…to make more disciples
  • Embracing a community

I’ve never been one to sugar coat an issue, but let me be clear that every negative leadership post this past year has not been about my time here. Most have had little or no direct relation. But, it’s been a challenge at times. Even frustrating some days.

Most challenging parts.

  • Fighting battles that don’t matter in an eternal sense
  • Gossip or indirect conversations
  • Limitations caused by structure or traditions of men
  • Getting people to think beyond what’s always been done
  • Redeveloping trust

I realize these are “normal” issues in churches. I’m not complaining. Just reporting. God is moving and I’m happy to be a part of what He is doing “for such a time as this”.

Finally, I’m excited about the potential in the days ahead. There was a part of us that questioned whether we could lead a church this age to better days. And, a year is probably not yet a good indicator, but if this year is a precursor of days ahead…we are in for an exciting time.There are many potentials in the days ahead.

Potential

  • Missions
  • A few major projects yet to be announced
  • Community involvement
  • Men’s and women’s ministries
  • Discipleship opportunities
  • The best days are still to come.

That’s my year. Anything specific you’d want me to expand upon in other posts?

Tell me about your past 12 months.

What to Do When You are Lonely in Leadership

Umbrellas

If you are in leadership long enough, there will be days when you simply feel you are all alone and no one understands. You may feel overwhelmed. Unappreciated. Misunderstood. And alone in all of it.

Christian leader, don’t think of yourself as “less spiritual” on those days. Think of yourself as human. Remind yourself that Elijah felt that way at times. So did the Apostle Paul. Jesus sweated drops of blood in his humanity.

Lonely days in leadership will come. I wrote about them HERE. I also addressed this issue for pastors HERE.

Most likely those are emotional responses to your circumstances and not based on truth, but they are real. But, what do you do in those days?

Here are 7 suggestions:

Talk to God – Be honest with your loneliness. That’s what Elijah did. Better yet, listen to God. Hear His perspective. It trumps yours.

Rest – These days tend to come more often when we are tired. On a recent day like this I stopped and took a short nap. I was energized when I returned. On more severe times, you may need to get away for a longer period. Schedule a night at home and go to bed early. I also find that sometimes it isn’t rest, but exercise I need. When I am not rested or as healthy as I could be it makes me feel more tired easily and more quickly overwhelmed with life.

Phone a friend – I have a few friends I can always count on to encourage me. Granted you have to be that kind of friend to have one and the time to build those friendships is before you need them, but, “That’s what friends are for.” (Now you’re singing that song aren’t you?) Allow your friend to help you see a proper perspective on your day. It’s probably better than you are currently feeling.

Plan some time away – Put it on your calendar now to get away later. It could be for an afternoon, a day, or a week, depending on what you can do or need to fully restore yourself emotionally. The realization that you are actually going to have some down time often fuels you for the present. Plus, you’ll need the rest then even more.

Dream a little – I like to stop what I’m doing and dream about some new venture, some change of pace, something crazy I’d love to see God do in or through me. Dreaming stretches the imagination and fuels your energy and excitement. Plus, you’ll never dream bigger than God can do.

Evaluate – How often do these feelings occur and how long do they generally last? Are there areas of your life that are leading to feelings of loneliness? Are you isolating yourself from others? Do you agree to do more than you can physically do? Do you have a problem saying no? Do you need to get better at delegating and sharing leadership? Are there really more people around you than your feelings indicate? Are things as bad as your emotions tell you they are? (They usually aren’t.) Depending on your honest answers you can evaluate how deep these feelings are and whether or not you need to seek more immediate or long term help. (There is nothing shameful in a leader seeking counseling or coaching, whichever is needed most.)

Look big picture – Again, things probably aren’t as bad as they appear. There are probably people around you who care and are willing to help. You are likely doing better than you feel you are right now. But, regardless, leaders have to be the ones primarily thinking beyond today. You have to get beyond these emotions to where you are leading people who are looking to you for leadership. What’s the vision you are trying to accomplish? You may not be where you want to be, but is it still a worthy vision? Has God called you to attempt it? Remember it’s a marathon not a sprint in accomplishing the best things in life. Find the help you need. Reenergize. Grow through the experience. Move forward.

It’s easy to produce mediocrity. It takes patience, endurance, and weathering the periods of loneliness in leadership to produce excellence. Which are you striving to achieve with your leadership?

If you’re a lonely leader today, I’m praying for you. Send me an email if you want me to pray for you by name.

What do you do on the days you’re lonely in leadership?