When Your Faith Is Stretched

After a trial. When the dust has settled. When the sea is calm. When you are on the other side.

Praise God. Don’t look back.

God has obviously stretched your faith during the process. Don’t let the “elastic” go back where it was.

Forever let it change you.

As a pastor, I see so many people who praise God after the storm has passed, but then they quickly go back to their normal life. Soon, they forget the closeness they once felt to God. They forget the emotion of fear that caused them to cry out to God daily. They forget the way God delivered them from their time of need.

Has your faith been stretched?

Forever be changed. Never forget.

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Deuteronomy 8:10-14

When was a time God stretched your faith forever?

The 12 Essentials of Church Communications

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The church is the hope of the world. As church leaders we have the responsibility of communicating the greatest message known to mankind; the only message capable of changing a person’s entire eternity.

The weight of that responsibility is both profound and incredible. It moves us to action and demands that we communicate it well.

Yet oftentimes, churches have a difficult time communicating this message because they don’t understand the basics of church marketing and communications.

Think about it … Is your church clear on who they are and where they are going? Does your church use social media to nurture and grow relationships? Has your church spent unhurried time developing a brand that resonates with people in your church and community? Does your website accurately communicate the uniqueness of your church? Have you evaluated and observed what guests experience on a Sunday morning? Does your community even know you exist?

These things may not seem significant, but they are critical. In fact, they are essential.

A friend of mine created a company called Sayge. Sayge has spent years researching and identifying the 12 Essentials to Church Communications and have developed a resource that equips Church Communications leaders to master them.

The 12 Essentials Church Marketing and Communications are:

Vision Identification
Vision Identification is clarifying who you are, what you do, why you do it and where you are going. You will receive very specific instructions and exercises to achieve clarity on your vision.

Guest Experience
Your first-time guest experience is critical to guests returning to your church, and possibly to any church. The great part is you can improve any experience and we will give you the ultimate experience evaluation checklist to make improvements.

Social Media
Learning to use social media to reach the lost and to extend the influence of the church isn’t just a good idea; it’s a must. The key to social media is interacting with your audience through great content and conversations. We will give you an easy-to-use content calendar to develop and distribute content.

Brand Standards
Brand Standards are the compilation of documents where you articulate your key communication messages, establish a visual identity and explore ways to protect your brand. Your church will receive a Brand Guide to help you create your very own Brand Standards document.

Communication Strategy
Your communication strategy helps you determine what, when and how you will communicate. The development of a communication strategy is critical and we will give you a template to develop a compelling strategy.

Project Systems
Andy Stanley says, “The systems down the hall trump the vision on the wall.” If you don’t have systems in place, standards and strategy mean absolutely nothing. You will receive practical methods and customizable project management system templates.

Web Essentials
Today’s church visitors will most certainly check out your church on the Internet before they attend for the first time. Your website should be a web experience, not just a website. You will receive case studies and critical evaluation tools to help maximize your web experience.

Audience Connection
Ever been disconnected on the phone but not realize it until you have finished speaking? Then you understand the importance of making sure you are connected to your audience. We will give you customizable focus group agendas and surveys to connect with and learn from your audiences.

Volunteer Mobilization
You have an army of creatively gifted people who attend your church every week. Learning to recruit, train and mobilize them will catapult your communications ministry to levels you never dreamed possible. You will receive volunteer job descriptions and master lists on how to recruit and train volunteers.

Creative Leadership
Creative people are not easy to lead and motivate. Understanding how to lead creative people, and those in authority over you who lack creativity is critical. We will equip you as leader with practical ways to lead with meeting agendas, exercises and tips.

External Marketing
Most churches make the same marketing mistakes: the message is not unique; the content is not inviting; and there’s no long-term strategy in place. If that description fits your church’s marketing, it’s time to make some changes. You will receive over 50 practical and relevant ways to market your church.

Storytelling Principles
At the end of the day, stories move people. Effective storytelling is always more effective than just another event announcement. We provide storyboard templates to develop compelling stories that resonate with your audience.

The good news is, you don’t need hours of research, big budgets and countless cups of coffee to master The Essentials of Church Communications. The Sayge monthly training resource replaces the hours of research you’ll spend looking for great marketing and communication resources. And it contains the wisdom of some of the greatest church communication leaders in our nation today.

Each month you will receive a coaching video, comprehensive eBook, and hands-on application tools to help you master the 12 Essentials of Church Communications; and all at a price that won’t break or even stretch your budget.

Check out Sayge if you’re ready to master the basics of Church Communications.

Three Temptations That Destroy Good Leaders

This is a guest post by J. Warner Wallace. Wallace examines these three motives in more detail in his new book, Cold Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels

I’m a cold-case homicide detective. In the many years that I’ve been doing this job, I’ve come to recognize that every murder is driven by one of three sinister motives. It turns out that these same three motives lie behind very crime of the heart, every bad decision, and even every fatal mistake made by a leader. If you can be honest about what motivates you, there’s a good chance you can avoid the destruction that results from allowing yourself to succumb to one of these malicious motives. When I first launched a church as a bi-vocational leader, I carefully constructed my leadership template to guard myself as best I could:

The Temptation of Financial Greed

I probably doesn’t surprise you that many murderers are motivated by money, but killers aren’t the only people who are derailed by greed. When I decided to lead a church as a pastor, I deliberately volunteered my services. I was already being paid as a police detective, and I wanted to make sure that my decisions as a church leader were protected from financial considerations. I began by taking money off the table.

The Temptation of Sexual or Relational Lust

I’ve also worked a number of murders that were driven by sexual or relational desire. I’m sure I don’t have to remind you of the threat that this motive poses for those of us who are in leadership; we’ve all seen prominent leaders from every walk of life (both secular and religious) lose their leadership role as the result of a sexual “miss-step” of one kind or another. When I began to lead my group as a pastor, I consciously decided to do everything with my wife attached at my hip. As a police officer, I understood the appropriately high standard that officers must uphold. We cannot even allow the perception of wrongdoing. The same is true for those of us who lead in every other category of life, especially when it comes to the perception of sexual or relational wrongdoing.

The Temptation of Power

People sometimes fail to consider the pursuit of power as a motive, but I’ve investigated many murders that were committed by suspects who either wanted to hold on to some position of status, or wanted to gain influence within their gang or community. The unbridled pursuit of power can also threaten leaders, and I quickly recognized that this motive was my personal area of concern. Those of us who seek to communicate the Gospel want the good news to be heard by as many people as possible; the greater our position of influence within a community, the greater the opportunity to share the truth. It’s easy to allow our desire for influence (in order to accomplish something good) to become selfishly motivated (and result in something bad). When I planted the church, I made the conscious decision to establish a model that limited the size of our group. Anything above 50 people required us to establish additional leadership and launch a sister group that autonomously continued the mission under their own leadership. I recognized my own area of weakness and did what I could to limit its impact on my role as a leader.

Three motives lie behind every criminal act and every leadership miss-step. When I’m investigating a murder, I typically begin by looking for the person in the life of the victim who was driven by one of these motives. This person is very likely the suspect in my case. When I examine my own leadership failures, I typically begin by looking for how I might have allowed one of these three motives to influence my decision-making. If I can honestly say that none of these factors are driving me, there’s a good chance that I’ve protected myself from the destruction that results from these three temptations.

A Dozen Things I Learned Last Year

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I strive to be a continual learner. I learned a few things last year.

Here are 12 of them:

Small things matter most in making change.

Shower gel, shampoo and conditioner in one. Who knew? Changed my gym shower life. (Apparently my wife and boys did but they never let me in on the fun!)

A conference room table can also be used as an ironing board.

Certain neckties interfere with our television broadcasts. (This year we are looking to upgrade our system.) For now, it is a good excuse not to wear a tie, right?

Some people aren’t upset with you. They are upset with their life…or others…and you just happen to be in the way of expressing their frustration and discontent.

Transitioning to a new city happens faster when you’re intentional. And one way to do that is to learn all the hamburger joints. Another is to intentionally network with people…especially people who will connect you to other people.

Resistance to change is relative. Everyone struggles with it at some level. It’s just a matter of how we react to it and how it impacts us that determines our response.

Having done both, I have to say, church planting, in many ways, is easier than church revitalization…and more difficult in other ways. But both are needed.

Losing a beloved pet as an adult may be harder even than as a child.

Lexington, KY is one of the friendliest cities we’ve ever experienced. It would make a great, inexpensive, family weekend vacation spot.

Trust doesn’t come with position or title. It comes with time and experience. Yet gaining trust may be one of the most important aspects of being an effective leader.

People transfer emotional baggage and injury to other people and other situations, who had nothing to do with creating the emotional pain. It is unfair to the innocent recipients, but very true.

What did you learn last year?

A Dozen Bible Verses for Leaders (Repost)

(End of the year countdown of the most read posts this year.)

If you want to be a Biblical leader, consider these:

“Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” Luke 6:31

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23

But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain —and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.Exodus 18:21

With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand. Psalm 78:72

But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant. Matthew 20:26

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4

Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. Matthew 5:37

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

He must become greater; I must become less. John 3:30

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

Perhaps you should choose one or two of these, write them down somewhere you’ll see it often, and commit it to memory. Of the ones about, which would most help your leadership right now?

What other verses would you recommend to leaders?

Opportunity or Possibility…Know the Difference

In making decisions whether or not to take on a new project, adopt a new stance, or move forward in a new direction…

Wise leaders never confuse a possibility for an opportunity.

There is a huge difference in the two.

I remember once our church was approached with what we thought was a great opportunity to plant another church campus. An existing church building was going to be available for little or no money and 10 or 20 people were ready to launch with us. With no start-up costs it was reasonable to think we could successfully move quickly towards a decision. We had always been thinking and sensing of God that multi-site campuses were in our future, so this seemed to make sense. We even felt God was opening a door of opportunity.

Shortly into the discussions the owner of the building decided he did not want to continue to discount the building for another church plant. He was considering other options with the building. If we rented it our cost would be several thousand dollars per month. No longer was this an opportunity. It was now only a possibility. It didn’t mean we shouldn’t do it, but it would now require further study, more prayer and more time for discernment. We realized in time this was not where God was leading us at the time.

Characteristics of Opportunities

  • Defined as “an appropriate or favorable time or occasion” (Dictionary.com)
  • Come with some defined realities
  • Almost like being “in the right place at the right time”
  • Hard to pass up, because they almost always come with some pre-arranged wins
  • Make decision-making easier, because everything “makes sense”
  • A clear “open door” for a fairly probable success
  • Almost seems to be where God has been leading
  • Quickly has almost unanimous support…a “no brainer”

Characteristics of Possibilities

  • Defined as “the state or fact of being possible” (Dictionary.com)
  • Filled with lots of hopes and dreams
  • Have fewer assurances
  • Could be great, but could equally fail
  • Come with unique risks and require more preparation to insure success
  • Need more thought, prayer and discernment
  • Sometimes originates as one person’s “good idea” that came out of no where
  • Has selected supported

Both opportunities and possibilities can be good. Plus, God could equally be in either one. I love risks and big wins are often scored with them, but leaders (and individuals) need to learn to recognize the difference between the two. Confusing a possibility for an opportunity often gets churches, organizations and people in trouble quickly. I have heard too many people say, “This is such a great opportunity”, when mistakenly what they have is an attractive possibility. Confusing the two they may feel no prayer is needed, because the answer is clear, when really the opposite is truer.

Granted, God often leads us to the seemingly impossible. We are to walk by faith. Understanding the difference in these two, however, will give you a clearer picture of what is a stake, improve your ability to discern and pray, and help you make wiser decisions.

Next time you have a situation you’re considering ask yourself, “Is this an opportunity or simply a possibility?” It may make all the difference in how you approach it and greatly determine your ability to be successful.

Have you ever made mistook a possibility for an opportunity?

(This is a revised post from a previous post.)

Politics in the church…

Someone asked, “Why are there politics in the church?”

Without trying to be condescending I answered simply…

Because there are people in the church.

Where people gather…things will often get political

Special interests. Personal agendas. Group platforms. Jockeying for position, power and influence.

Sounds like politics to me.

Sounds like church.

We shouldn’t be surprised when politics appear in the church. Frankly, I would be more surprised if there wasn’t and I grow a little suspicious of what is being hidden when there isn’t.

Just being honest and speaking from experience.

Remember James and John…two of Jesus’ closest disciples? (Mark 10:35-45)

Sounds somewhat political to me. Jockeying. Platforms. Agendas. Special interests.

How did Jesus reply?

Jesus knew that the desire for position was normal. He didn’t scold them. He validated their position as disciples. He also didn’t give into them. He helped them understand their greater role as servants and redirected their attention to what was more important. He used the political opportunity for a greater Kingdom purpose.

Don’t be surprised at the politics in the church. In fact, expect it. There’s people involved. Don’t be led by politics. Find ways to redirect attention, refocus energies, and point people to the greater good.

Any politics in your church?

10 Ways to Create an Unhealthy Team Environment

I am not sure why you would want to, but just in case you ever did…

Perhaps understanding how helps you not to, because, just as with a healthy team environment, creating an unhealthy team environment doesn’t happen without intentionality. You’ll have to work at it.

Here are 10 ways to create an unhealthy team environment:

Make people question their role or performance on the team.

Avoid all conflict.

Pretend things are okay when they are not. In fact, exaggerate the positives and avoid the negatives.

Add rules that impact everyone, rather than dealing with the real issue.

Never applaud. Always critique.

Keep people wondering what the leader is really thinking.

Allow innuendoes, finger pointing and excuses to govern decision-making.

Hold mistakes against people rather than using them as a learning experience.

Limit control of decisions made to a few people.

Have no clear purpose for the team.

How many “points” did you score?

What would you add?

When you can’t encourage your team…

I was coaching a young pastor recently on building a healthy team. One question I asked was about his involvement with other staff members. Specifically, I asked if they felt encouraged in their roles on his staff. His response was revealing.

He said, “I think most of them feel encouraged, but honestly, I can’t think of anything for which to encourage some of them.”

Really? If that’s true we obviously have deeper problems.

Leader, if you can’t encourage someone on your team in what they’re doing…

I see at least three possibilities:

They are not a good fit for your team – Be honest. Some are and some are not. We can play games, do drama, hide the fact, but the truth remains. Not everyone has chemistry on a team. The longer you wait to address it the harder it will be.

There is a deficiency in your leadership – Whenever someone isn’t a fit on my team I always ask first if it’s me. Depending on the circumstances I’ll often ask them. Some will tell you and some won’t, but I need to know when the problem is me. That deficiency in me is probably impacting others without my knowledge.

There is something lacking in them or the organization that keeps them from finding their place – It could be training, adequate resources, or simply encouragement, but something is needed. You can fix this.

Everyone on a team should have value worth encouraging.

Everyone.

If not, find the reason why. Then act accordingly.

Have you ever led someone you struggled to find anything about them to encourage? What did you do?

5 Do’s and Don’ts to Gain Respect as a Leader

Want to be respected as a leader? It won’t come easily. It’s not freely given. Yet it’s not complicated either.

Here are 5 do’s…then 5 don’ts of gaining respect as a leader:

Don’t

Don’t be someone you’re not

Don’t commit to more than you can do

Don’t suppress people

Don’t use people for personal gain

Don’t take out your pain on others.

Do

Do be yourself

Do what you say you will do

Do empower people

Do help people achieve their goals

Do help others recover from their pain.

Add your own do’s or don’ts to be respected as a leader.