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?

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?

7 Ways a Pastor has a Great Weekend (Sabbath)

Chaise lounge and umbrella on sand beach.

I recently wrote 7 Ways a Leader Has a Better Weekend. Read that post before you read this one. The most repeated response I received to that post, however, was “Where is the one for pastors?” or “Can you write one for pastors?”

Actually, I thought I was writing for pastors too, but obviously I need to add a little clarity. So, here goes. (By the way, I previously wrote 7 Ways I Protect My Sabbath.)

How does a pastor have a great weekend?

Here are 7 ways:

Plan ahead – Sunday is coming. It comes about the same time every week. And, so should be your Sabbath. It should come every week. I know too many pastors who wait to the last minute to get prepared. They may let everything else distract them during the week, and at the end of the week they have no choice but to cram for a message. I plan my week knowing I’m going to take a day off at the end of the week.

Delegate – Equip people. Lead leaders. This is so critical if you want to disciple others and be effective in your own pastorate. When you believe you are the one who has to do things, or has to know everything, you’ll be married to a ministry more than your spouse. Your schedule will be dictated by ministry needs, which are endless, more than by ministry objectives, which builds disciples.

Entrust people – This may appear the same but some need to hear it again. The fact is, many who think they know how to delegate actually don’t. They assign tasks, but they never delegate responsibility or ownership. In the end, they end up being just as involved in a project as if they’d never delegated. If you think you can do it all or you’re even supposed to you’re going to eventually hit a brick wall. I realize your church sometimes puts undue pressure on you to be everywhere and know everything, but you may have to learn better how to lead the church to a healthier (and more Biblical) reality. You may certainly need to learn to protect your family and your Sabbath.

Write your sermon all week – Get the main idea. Just one. Put it in your schema. All week build on that idea. I use Evernote and I’m consistently adding thoughts to the file for messages. I may have messages I’m building upon that won’t be preached for six months. It makes writing a sermon much easier when I have notes already in place that were spurred from my heart and mind through daily living.

Be willing to say no – It’s amazing how many pastors resist my encouragement on this one. They think they have to be everywhere, even on the weekend. Every social. Every invitation. Everything the church does. I’ve even had church members say “that’s what I’m paid to do”. They want me available when they want me available. I know pastors who agree. The problem is this isn’t practical for my personal health or the health of my family, especially longterm. Which ultimately is not health for the church. Pastor, if you would teach your church to honor the sabbath then shouldn’t you lead the way?

Listen to your spouse and family – If you are not sure if you are protecting your family or personal time…ask them. Give them the opportunity to speak into your life. Ask them if they think ministry gets in the way of your time with them. Ask them to be honest, but to tell you which they think you love more…them or your ministry. (Wow…will you really ask that?…even I’m not sure you should. Actually, I think you already know the answer…whichever it is.) Before I get the emails, let me be clear I’m not talking about your love for Christ. That always comes first. But, love (or devotion) for ministry doesn’t always originate out of love for Christ. Many times it originates simply out of a sense of obligation that’s man made not God inspired. Make sure you’re following Christ more than traditions of men. And make sure your honoring your family over any other human relationship.

Have a true Sabbath – Your weekend may not look like everyone else’s, but you can have one. You can do a Monday and Saturday combination or a Friday and Saturday, whatever works best in your setting. Again, don’t be ruled by what society says is a weekend. Just be ruled by the truth that you need rest. I work six days most weeks. I don’t recommend it unless you’re wired that way. But on my day off…I’m off. It is rare for anything to interrupt that day, except for unavoidable occurrences, (which obviously occur in ministry or outside of ministry). This sounds so harsh to some people, but I don’t mean it to be. I didn’t make up the idea of a Sabbath. I’m just trying to actually live it.

Those are my suggestions. I’m not trying to add more pressure to already stressed out pastors. I love you guys. I’m one of you. I just know you need your Sabbath. You need your rest. God seems to think so too. If you want to last for the long run…honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.

Pastors, who enjoy great weekends (great Sabbaths), what would you add?

How to Weather the Long Days of Summer as a Church

SummerSun

A recent conversation on a Sunday went something like this:

Staff member: Where is everyone?

Me: It’s summer.

Staff member: But, it still seems low, even for summer.

Me: This is still up percentage wise well over last year…

Staff member: But, it doesn’t feel like it.

Me: No, it never does.

The next day I received an email from a church staffer at another church. His question prompted this post. He wondered how to handle the long days of summer, when church crowds are smaller, budgets are tighter, and volunteers are harder to find.

Honestly, it can be disappointing if you focus on attendance alone. And, anyone who says they don’t is simply much more mature than I am. You recently celebrated the crowds of Easter. One of the highest times of attendance is followed shortly after by this…the dog days of summer. (I know some churches that are equally impacted seasonally, but at other times of the year.)

The fact is the time to prepare a summer sermon takes as long as sermon preparation does in September. Or it should. But fewer people may hear it. At least in person. If you are not intentional it can be discouraging.

What should the church do during the summer months?

Here are a few thoughts:

Plan and budget accordingly – Recognize the obvious. People are going to be traveling more. The lakes will be full of boats. If your church has them, this will include paid staff, but certainly volunteers. You know it’s coming. Plan for it. Intentionally.

Find ways to stay in touch – Emails are even more important. Facebook, church newsletters and websites become even more valuable. You want people to hear from you and know what is happening even when they aren’t always there. Information helps people feel and remain connected.

Enter in with lower expectations, not lower presentations – Less people may be with you Sunday, but the people who are there shouldn’t suffer because of it. What they receive may be different. You may not have the volunteers or staff to pull off a full schedule of activities, but what you put together shouldn’t suffer in excellence. The fact is people will visit in the summer, sometimes even more so than during the fall or winter. Churched people aren’t the only ones out of their routine. Unchurched people often have more open schedules and are open to visiting if they are invited.

Plan for flexibility – Realize last minute trips will occur and people you thought would be there may quickly decide not to be. I like for the summer series, for example, to have a central theme but each week be able to stand alone. (This is not a bad idea anytime of year, because people who attend less regularly are more likely to return if they aren’t intentionally made to feel they missed something. Ideally there should be a encouragement to want to be there next week, but not a slam for missing last week. That’s a delicate balance.) Something is likely to come up with me also and someone else might need to preach. This makes it easier. We sometimes preach through a book of the Bible or some theme from the Bible. This summer we are doing Bible stories of adventure…people who took risks for their faith. If anyone preaches for me this summer, there are plenty of stories from which to choose.

Carry this flexible attitude throughout all ministries of the church during the summer. It could be, in children’s programs, that you plan more large group activities for when teachers are on short supply. You may need to pull volunteers from one area to help in another area. However it works for your church, just create a summer culture of being flexible.

Do a few special events to boost averages – Special occasions build excitement and sustain momentum through the summer months. Ice cream socials. Outdoor baptisms. Pizza parties and swim parties for youth. Dinner on the grounds. Vacation Bible School. One day concerts. They serve a purpose. We are doing a high attendance emphasis this summer. It’s really just a branding emphasis to “invite a friend”, and obviously the goal is lower than a similar day in the fall, but the hope is to boost attendance for a day. I hear from teachers frequently that they lose ground with students over the summer. It can be that way with churches too. Plan some opportunities to keep engaged.

Use the time to prepare for Fall – People will return from vacation. School will start back. People will return to church whom you’ve been missing. Will you be ready? Rest up. Plan. Prepare some exciting changes to implement. Relaunch.

Remember the vision – Again, it can be discouraging when less people are around for the summer. You simply miss getting to see some of the people. That’s a natural reaction, but remember your vision is for when two or more are gathered. The number isn’t as important as the mission being fulfilled. Celebrate what is happening and whoever comes if they are growing in Christ.

Summer can be a special time if you use it intentionally. And, remember, time flies. Fall will be here soon.

What ideas do you have for churches to “weather” the summer months?

7 Ways a Leader Has a Better Weekend

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If you are like me you love your weekends. T.G.I.F…right? If we are not careful, however, the weekend passes so quickly and we begin another work week feeling we wasted the weekend we had. Or we are so stressed by the week behind or the week ahead that all we do is catch our breath and we can’t fully enjoy the weekend.

How can we help guarantee better weekends? Every weekend. I have learned the more intentional Cheryl and I are about planning for it, the better weekends we had as a family when our boys are home and now as empty-nesters.

Here are 7 suggestions I try to live:

Plan on Monday – Set your week up for success. Plan what you can realistically do in a week and end the week with a sense of accomplishment.

Do hard things now – Handle the hard stuff as they arise. Try not to carry it into the weekend. Obviously that’s not always possible, but many times it is. for example, don’t put off that difficult conversation you know you have to have until Monday if you can and should do it today. It will haunt you all weekend. Whatever the issue, bite the bullet and handle the tough issue, as soon as effectively possible.

Be honest with your schedule – Don’t feel bad about declining activities on the weekend. If you want to go then go, but if you’d rather relax then do that. No guilt. Say yes sparingly when accepting weekend appointments. They sometimes sound good on Monday but are less exciting on Saturday morning.

Attend church – That’s an appointment you should keep. I know it seems self-serving to suggest it, and I’m not being legalistic. That’s not my nature or theology. I’ve just hardly ever heard someone say they wish they’d skipped church. But I’ve heard many who believe it gave them a better weekend. God always seems to bless the time I give Him.

Plan ahead for a true Sabbath – Even though it makes for slightly longer weekdays, try to accomplish many of the “chores” you have to do before the weekend. Try to have some unplanned time simply to do what you enjoy.

Keep a fairly normal sleep schedule – If you always have to “catch up” on your sleep on the weekends, or you spend your week tired because of the late nights on the weekend, you never gain a healthy rhythm for life. Be reasonably consistent in your bedtime and waking up time and you’ll feel better and enjoy a more productive awake time.

Share time with people you love – The best memories center around time with people we love. When the family is running in many different directions you end the weekend feeling like you “missed” the weekend. Limit activities your family commits to or do things your family can do together. This takes prior thought and coordination but makes for a more enjoyable weekend.

Pastors, this list includes you too. I originally wrote it for you and decided to expand it to a more general audience. Your weekend may look different, but you need to protect it. I wrote THIS POST on how I protect my Sabbath.

What tips do you have for a better weekend?