Ministry Facilities Sat, 30 Aug 2014 02:14:35 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Preparing the Management Side of Ministry for Growth

Have you ever visited a construction site before the walls are finished and the drywall is put into place?

If so, you've probably noticed the myriad of wires and pipes woven into the hidden recesses of the building. These items provide ventilation, Internet connectivity, plumbing, security system monitoring, and much more.

We don't think about those items in the buildings we work and worship in until they aren't functioning properly. In a similar fashion, the management side of ministry isn't often noticed unless it's not working well. For example, as a congregation grows, a system that used to be effective may now be insufficient. Just think about trying to use the same A/C unit from your home in the church building—that's definitely not going to keep the place cool.

Are your current systems and processes effectively supporting your congregation and church leadership? If so, are they also scalable to support a growing congregation? If you couldn't answer "yes" to both questions, consider using the following process with your team:

First, evaluate the following management areas:

  • Financial processes & controls
  • Volunteer management
  • HR processes, including hiring and staff development
  • Policies & procedures—Safety/security, background checks, social media usage, etc.
  • Technology—Internal network, firewalls, church-management software, accounting software and more
  • Program & Event Planning
  • Communications—Announcements, social media, mass emails

Are these areas effectively and efficiently supporting the vision of your church? If not, where do you have room for improvement?

For each area that needs a bit of renovation, work with your team to determine what needs to change and what it will take to improve. Engage your staff in this process so they take ownership over making these changes. Make sure they understand this isn't about pointing out problems; it's about setting up the whole team for success and preparing the church for growth. As they identify ways to improve, start implementing those changes incrementally. Once you have a set of changes under way in one area, re-evaluate that area to make sure it's where you need it to be, then move to the next and repeat the process.

Next, start talking with your team about what they would do to support a larger church.

  • How would the team who recruits and leads volunteers handle a 25 percent increase in church attendance? They would need more volunteers to serve a larger congregation. How will they get more people involved?
  • What financial systems or policies would you need to improve to handle more donations and expenditures?
  • Would you need to consider hiring more staff? In what roles? At what time?
  • Will your staff require more electronic storage space or more sophisticated technology tools (software, etc.)?

Play out a growth scenario (10 percent more people next month) during a staff meeting and start asking these questions to get them thinking. Then develop a high-level plan to use as you start seeing growth in your church. Decide ahead of time at what point you need to implement elements of that plan.

We all want to reach more people with the gospel and make disciples. As church administrators, your supporting role may not be very visible.

However, the work you do behind the scenes can either propel or hinder your church's growth. Your teams have a vital role to play in serving your congregation. Take the time now to improve and prepare for growth. As we are faithful with what God has entrusted to us so far, it's very possible He'll entrust us with greater responsibility. Let's be ready for the opportunities He provides.

Deborah Wipf has a heart for ministry with a head for business. As the President & Founder of Velocity Ministry Management, Deborah serves ministry leaders by helping them to achieve their God-inspired vision without burning out themselves, their staff, or volunteers. She provides a variety of ministry consulting services based on her experiences in the corporate world and as a church volunteer. Connect with Deborah at and on Twitter (@DeborahWipf).

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]]> (Deborah Wipf) Expansion Wed, 27 Aug 2014 11:00:00 -0400
15 Common Church Facility Issues

I know the church is not a building. That is not to say, though, that the building is unimportant. A building says something about the congregation that gathers there; so, we need to pay attention to our facilities.

Listed here are 15 facility issues I and my consulting teams have seen recurrently in churches, including established churches and church plants.

1. No obvious main entrance. We have seen this problem in churches with large facilities as well as church plants that meet in rented space. The building has several doors, each that enters the facility in a different location. Only one leads to the main entrance, but guests must guess which door that is.

2. An unmarked (or unattended) welcome center. No signage indicates the welcome center, and no greeters direct people there. Brochures and sermon CDs might be available there, but sometimes no one is there to distribute them. Such a location is an information kiosk—not a welcome center.

3. Paper signage. Even in larger churches we've seen it: handwritten (or even poorly done computer-generated) room signs on a piece of paper taped to a wall. I realize emergency situations necessitate a "quick fix," but this kind of signage implies a lack of attention to excellence.

4. Old information on screens or bulletin boards. I've seen bulletin-board announcements for events that took place six months ago. Even in churches with computerized announcements, I've seen outdated information flashed onto the screen.

5. Unsecured children's area. Our "secret shoppers" often report having complete access to children's areas. In some cases, no security system is in place to protect children. In other cases where security does exist, unmonitored outside doors still allow entrance to this area.

6. Windowless doors in the children's area. Windows in doors cannot eliminate the possibility of child abuse in a church, but they are at least a deterrent. Solid doors are an indication the church has not taken enough steps to protect their children.

7. "Big people" furniture in children's rooms. Perhaps you've seen a children's room where the table is lowered a bit, but the chairs are still adult chairs. The furniture (and often, the teaching method in the class) say to a child, "Your job is to act and learn like an adult in this room."

8. Clutter. The list is long. Old literature on tables. "Donated" toys no one wants. Leftover craft supplies. Jesus pictures. Ugly upright pianos. Last week's bulletins. Unwashed dishes. Drama costumes. Somehow the church facility has become a gathering place for junk.

9. Open outlets in preschool rooms. A preschool room electrical outlet without a cover insert is an invitation to trouble. Toddlers typically have not learned not to stick something in the outlet.

10. Dirty carpet. This one surprises me, simply because cleaning a carpet is not that difficult. It may cost a few dollars, but not cleaning the carpet says, "We're not that concerned about the look of God's house."

11. Odors. Again, the list is long. The musty smell of water damage. The hangover of dirty diapers in the nursery or spoiled food in the kitchen. An unfixed clogged toilet. What's hard to believe is that people who attend regularly apparently do not notice the smells.

12. Unstocked bathrooms. Sometimes I feel like I'm traveling on a mission trip when I enter a church restroom—that is, I'm out of luck if I didn't bring my own toilet paper, soap and towels. Those issues are only magnified when the bathroom is generally dirty.

13. Poor lighting. Dimming the lighting might be an effective device to focus worship, but a service is hardly facilitated if members strain to read their Bibles. I'm especially sensitive to this one as I get older.

14. Few garbage cans. Church buildings would be cleaner if our buildings included nicely designed, strategically placed trash cans inside the building. There is a reason garbage cans in bathrooms and kitchens are often overflowing.

15. Faded paint. It's amazing what a fresh coat of paint will do to a room. It's also amazing how long some churches wait before adding that fresh coat.

What other facility issues have you seen?

Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Chuck Lawless ) Ministry Facilities Mon, 25 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Phil Cooke: Success in Media Ministry Requires Momentum

Pastors and ministry leaders come to me from time to time and ask an interesting question: "Do for me what you did for Joel Osteen." Apparently, they think it's easy.

But whenever I've worked with people like Joel Osteen, Billy Graham, Joyce Meyer, Jack Graham, and others—or big organizations like The Salvation Army, Stella's Voice, or The American Bible Society, it wasn't me doing something magic—it was give and take, commitment, time, and a lot of creativity from our team and theirs—not to mention the ministry leaders themselves.

But too many pastors who want to be on TV today think it's a just a matter of buying better cameras, lighting the sanctuary better, or creating a more interesting show open. Let me tell you what it takes:

The whole package. That means new lights in the sanctuary alone won't make you successful on television. New cameras? Same thing. Look at the process for a minute:

Production Quality: We start here because in a high definition world, nobody wants to watch a bad looking program. So we look at the quality of cameras, and where they're placed in the sanctuary. Then we look at lighting, because even the best cameras don't work without proper lighting. Then what about the stage? Is it helping you or hurting you? Is it distracting from or supporting your message?

Creativity: How do we capture your message? Directing isn't randomly cutting between cameras; it's an art. Cutting and dissolving to a director are like periods and commas to a writer. They're the visual grammar that make the scene work. Is the directing distracting, or is it invisible so the message cuts through? Editing is equally important. The show open and close are critical. What about shooting the audience? How you show the audience is incredibly important to the success of your program.

Response: Do you want your TV audience to respond? What if they want to find out more? What if they'd like to accept Christ? What if they love your vision and message and want to support you? Do you have the pathways for them to connect? Remember that it's not about how you want to connect with them, it's about how they want to connect with you. So you should have a strong response strategy through social media, online, phone, and mail. (Yes—the vast majority of fundraising still happens through snail mail.)

Training: Who's going to run those cameras, set the lights, direct the program, edit the show, or manage your response?

Media Buying: Where should you broadcast your show? Local, national? What about religious stations versus secular stations? How fast should you grow?

Marketing: How will people know about your program once it's on the air? Secular networks spend millions advertising new shows, but since you don't have that budget, what are you doing to find your audience?

The list goes on and on, and I've not even gotten around to spiritual issues, or your identity, calling or your messagewhat you preach and how you preach it.But the bottom line is what our team does for many major pastors and leaders is complicated, and it takes commitment to make it happen. It also takes time—and if you haven't noticed, TV is also expensive.

You may think it's not worth the effort, and so you keep doing what you're doing—shooting, editing, and broadcasting your local show the way you've always done it.  But believe me, over the long haul, doing it poorly is much more expensive that doing it right.

The question is, are you ready to make the kind of commitment that creates momentum in the media?

For the original article, visit

]]> (Phil Cooke) Media Thu, 03 Jul 2014 13:00:00 -0400
How to Lead Better By Improving Lines of Communication

You can't lead a church, evangelize a community, or do business without communicating. The better you become as a communicator, the better you become as a leader, and the better the team you lead becomes as a result.

That means to get ahead you've got to continually work on your communication skills. Probably 75 percent of the problems we face, at home, at work, and at church are related to poor communication with family members, church members, your clients, or your coworkers. Poor communication is also the most frequently mentioned problem in marriage counseling.

Here are three things you must give up in order to grow as a communicator. As you lead:

1. Give up your assumptions. We get into trouble when we start assuming we understand the meaning of what people say to us. The truth is, everything you hear goes through a filter. Your filter is determined by your past experiences and your unique personality. You may not be hearing what they are really saying. Therefore, it's smart (and safe) to ask for clarification. There are 6 possible messages every time you speak:

  • What you mean to say and what you actually said.
  • What they heard and what they think they heard.
  • What they say about it and what you think they said about it.

Proverbs 18:13 says, "It's foolish to answer before listening."

There is a second kind of assumption you need to give up on. Stop assuming people understand everything you're thinking and feeling as you communicate. It's only fair to clearly and completely share your expectations with people when you assign them a task or a project. You must find a way to be both concise and complete, and always clear when you communicate.

2. Give up your accusations. You're never persuasive when you're abrasive. And you never get your point across by being cross. Anger and sarcasm only make people defensive ... and defensiveness kills communication. Here are four common forms of accusation:

  • Exaggerating – making sweeping generalities like "You never " or "You always."
  • Labeling – derogatory name-calling. Labeling never changes anyone. It only reinforces the negative behavior.
  • Playing Historian – bringing up past failures, mistakes, and broken promises.
  • Asking Loaded Questions – which really can't be answered, like "Can't you do anything right?"

Ephesians 4:29 says, "Use only helpful words, the kind that build others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

3. Give up your apprehensions. Fear prevents honest communication. It causes us to conceal our true feelings, and fail to confront the real issues. The two most common apprehensions are: the fear of failure and the fear of rejection. But when you face your fear and risk being honest—real communication can happen. Freedom is the result of openness. Jesus said, "The truth will set you free!" (John 8:32).

Good teams communicate, or they disintegrate. It's worth giving up our assumptions, our accusations, and our apprehensions to build unity and lead everyone forward.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Rick Warren) Communication Wed, 25 Jun 2014 13:00:00 -0400
For Sharing a Christian Message, Television Still Matters

Churches, ministries, nonprofits, and others—if you have a message to share, don't think TV's days as a viable content delivery system are over. In an upcoming report to be released by the audience research firm Nielsen, here's some interesting new facts:

  • The average home in America now receives 189 television channels.
  • It's a significant increase from 2008, when the average home received 129 channels.
  • But despite that increased number, most viewers watch about 17 channels regularly. (A number that hasn't changed since 2008).
  • This is a strong argument for "unbundling" cable channels, since most people don't want to pay for the wide variety of channels they never watch. (Expect to see some politicians propose this later in the year).
  • However—religious stations and networks have always opposed unbundling because they believe few people would actually select religious channels that were paid. In a bundled package, Christian television at least has a presence in far more homes (whether it's watched regularly or not).
  • One of the surprises is that TV channels continue to increase, despite competition from Hulu, Netflix, and other online competitors.

Conclusions: As I've written before, television is "America's Last Great Campfire." In spite of the popularity of the web, people are viewing billions of different sites and pages—and are doing it virtually alone. However, 189 channels is a far smaller source to huddle around. And with the smaller number of 17 regularly watched channels—that means millions are watching the same channels.

It's the reason prime time media costs continue to increase. While people are online in greater numbers, the truth is, even there, they're watching programs like Breaking Bad, 24, Dexter, and others originally broadcast on TV.

If you want to reach large audiences, television is still an important medium to keep in the mix.

What do you take away from these new statistics?

Phil Cooke, Ph.D., is a filmmaker, media consultant and co-founder of Cooke Pictures in Los Angeles. Find out more at

For the original article, visit

]]> (Phil Cooke) Media Thu, 12 Jun 2014 13:00:00 -0400
9 Heartfelt Things Church Members Would Like to Say to Their Pastors

I am among the most blessed men in the world. God has graciously saved me and sustained me. I have an incredible family. The place and ministry where I serve vocationally is a gift from God.

And then, as if I should be blessed even more, God has allowed me to serve and hear from church leaders across the world. In this article, I share some insights I heard from church members via social media, emails, blog comments, and personal conversations.

The following nine statements are heart matters for many church members. For the most part, these members are not the perpetual critics and the business meeting naysayers. These are men and women who truly love their pastors.

But many of them do have some words from the heart they would like to share with their pastors. But many are reticent to do so, because they know their pastors often receive criticisms and inordinate demands for attention.

So, hear these heartfelt words from church members who love their pastors, from men and women who truly desire the best for them.

1. "Let me know you really care for me." That does not mean you call me regularly or that you visit me on demand. It is more of a disposition, or maybe words from the pulpit that demonstrate your love for the members. We can tell if you really care for us and love us.

2. "Teach me the Bible." I know you are inundated with requests, and the expectations for your time are often unreasonable. But please do not let those people distract you from your time in the Word. I am hungry for biblical teaching and preaching. Please spend time studying the Word so you can teach us well.

3. "Help me deal with change." This world and culture are changing so fast that I find myself dealing with fear and uncertainly. Help me understand the steadfastness of God in a turbulent world. And understand that my fear of change in the church is often related to my fear of change in the world. So lead me gently as you lead change in the church.

4. "Don't lead too far ahead." I do want you to lead us. But don't get so far ahead of us that we mistake you for the enemy and shoot you in the rear. I know change is necessary, but learn the pace of change that is best for our church.

5. "Help me deal with family issues." Some of us are in struggling marriages. Some of us are lonely whether we are single or married. Some of us have problems with our children. Some of us are dealing with aging parents. We hurt deeply when we have hurts about our families. Show us biblical truths about these issues. And show us your pastoral heart and concern for these issues.

6. "Be transparent." We know you are imperfect, but the critics sometimes cause you to hide your faults. For sure, we don't want every nitty gritty personal detail about you and your family. But we do want to know that you have some of the same struggles we do. It helps us to identify with you better. It helps us to pray for you more.

7. "Don't get defensive when I offer constructive criticism." I know that this one is tough. You get so many criticisms already; many of them are petty and self-serving. But there are many of us who love you and will, on rare occasions, offer some words that we think are best for you. Hear us without being defensive. Pray that God's Spirit will help you discern when you should listen and when you should ignore.

8. "Pray for me." Please let me know that you love your church members so much that you pray for us regularly. Let us know that you consider prayer for the members to be one of your highest priorities.

9. "Give me hope." This world confuses me. This degenerating culture scares me. Show me how God has dealt with such hopeless times in the past that they may be times of hope for me today. Show me Christ's possibilities, His hope, and His encouragement in difficult days.

Pastors, your task is not easy. Indeed, it is impossible without Christ's strength. You have many church members who love you. They are often the silent members and, thus, the disregarded members. Hear these words from healthy church members that you might be even a better pastor to them.


What would you add, church member? What would you add, pastor or staff? How do these nine sentences resonate with you?

Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Previously, he served the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for 12 years, where he was a founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Thom S. Rainer) Communication Fri, 30 May 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Charisma Media Unveils Ministry Today 21

Journalists are famous for coming up with lists. There is the Fortune 500, the Forbes 400 and the Time Magazine 100. Even in the Christian circles, there are lists of the "biggest and the best."

At Ministry Today, our core values are not simply to play up the biggest and the best. However, we believe ministries and churches should be recognized for being godly examples and models for others.

As the managing editor of Ministry Today magazine, I am proud to unveil our Ministry Today 21—a list of 21 churches and ministries that are influencing the 21st-century church. In our special May/June issue, we highlighted these 21 unique ministries, all of which have become models for others to emulate in the ministry world today.

We want everyone to know, however, that this is not a list ranking the 21 best churches or ministries in the United States. The Ministry Today 21 was created as a resource for pastors and ministry leaders from which to glean ideas that could possibly enhance their own kingdom efforts.

"This special issue of Ministry Today was created not to promote one church or ministry over another, but to show all ministerial leaders how God is glorified through these effective and successful organizations," said Charisma Media CEO and Ministry Today publisher Steve Strang. "We're confident that the 21 ministries and churches we chose do simply that. Other churches throughout the world certainly can learn from their example."

Since its publication, our May/June issue has received a great deal of positive feedback from pastors and ministerial leaders throughout the nation.

"I received my copy of the new Ministry Today magazine, and it is great," said Jimmy Evans, co-founder of MarriageToday in the Dallas, Texas, area. "Thank you for including us in this, it is truly a great honor. And, I really believe this magazine will be of great benefit to pastors receiving it."

The following is a list of the Ministry Today 21 and the ministries for which they were chosen:

  • Antioch Community Church, Waco, Texas—Expressing the Good News of Jesus in word and deed through missions
  • Association of Related Churches (ARC)—One of the most fruitful church-planting networks worldwide
  • Bethel Church, Redding, Calif.—God's miraculous healing power manifested
  • Christ for all Nations—Winning millions of souls for Christ through worldwide evangelism
  • Cityteam—A movement impacting billions through explosive discipleship training
  • Convoy of Hope—Opening doors for the gospel by meeting physical needs
  • The Dream Center, Los Angeles, Calif.—Changing the lives of the downtrodden and lost through compassion ministry
  • Empowered21—Connecting the next generation with the Holy Spirit
  • Gateway Church, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas—Displaying God's love through generous living
  • International House of Prayer KC—Setting new standards for prayer
  • Joyce Meyer Ministries—Effectively taking the gospel worldwide through the media
  •, Edmond, Okla. —Taking innovation to the next level for Christ
  • Marriage Today—Saving marriages and equipping husbands and wives to flourish
  • New Life Covenant Church, Chicago, Ill.—Bringing the hope of Jesus to the hurting and destitute through compassion
  • OneHope—Reaching billions of children worldwide through missions
  • The Potter's House—Impacting culture through Christian filmmaking
  • The Ramp—Awakening and equipping future generations to the purposes of God
  • Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, Calif.—Reaching unchurched groups worldwide through pastoral influence
  • Somebody Cares International—Touching millions through humanitarian aid
  • Teen Mania—Challenging and equipping youth to live for something greater than themselves
  • Youth With a Mission—Training young missionaries to impact the world through the gospel

It is my wish that this special issue of Ministry Today will not only bless all ministerial leaders, but will also be a blessing to he communities and the world in which they serve. I am proud to partner with these ministries and churches in reaching the world for Jesus, and I look forward to highlighting other worthy ministries in future issues.

All of God's blessings,

Shawn A. Akers, Managing Editor, Ministry Today magazine

]]> (Shawn A. Akers) Media Thu, 29 May 2014 13:00:00 -0400
6 Indicators That You Are a Church Planter

There are many places of service in the church. One category of ministry is pastoring.

Then there are subcategories, like children's pastor, teaching pastor, etc. Not lesser ministries, just more targeted areas of service. One subcategory is church planter. Pastors who plant churches have a very specific calling with accompanying gifts. It is not a better calling, just different.

And it is important to understand that it is different, because nothing spells disaster like an NFL kicker lining up as a center (even I know that, and I don't watch football). You can be a wonderful pastor and not have the gifts of a church planter. I have asked people for whom who I have great respect and are gifted in ministry, "Do you plan to be a church planter?" And they have told me, "No, that's not how I'm wired." They are making a difference in the kingdom, but they realize that they don't have what it takes to plant a church.

It takes a wise and sensitive person to realize what God does not want them to do.

So, how do you know if you are a church planter? I want to consider six things that are indicators you may be called to plant churches:

1. Pattern of ministry initiation. If the first thing you want to start is a church, that's not a good idea. That's not a good way to test if you are, indeed, a "starter."

Rather, there should be a pattern of ministry initiation, which may include starting Bible studies, compassion-based ministries, etc. Is there a consistent flow of "launch" in your ministry life? Starting other ministries can help you figure out if God wants you to plant a church.

Launching things is difficult but a great learning process. There is a biblical principle that says those who are faithful with a little will be given more to steward. If you have never started a ministry, it is highly unlikely that God would ask you to plant a church.

2. Pattern of ministry multiplication. Are you able to train others in an area of ministry and then let them go to lead that area? Or are you more likely to just do it yourself—so it can be done "right"? If how something is done is always more important to you than who is doing it, church planting will be a very difficult ministry path for you.

If you have a pattern of connecting people to ministry roles and then releasing them to grow into those roles, then you have a key characteristic that is essential in church planting.

3. Personal wiring. Ask yourself, "Am I wired to be a church planter?" There are characteristics church planters possess that are unique—even all pastors don't have these traits. God has built church planters a little differently.

Now, this wiring can drive some people crazy, even in your church, because there is ingrained in you this constant desire or drive to start new things. Not only do you seem ADD, but you are also simultaneously calm with it. It is the beauty and the beast.

If God wants you to plant churches, He has wired you to function in accordance with your focus.

4. Holy dissatisfaction. I really want to be careful with this one. A person in ministry can feel dissatisfied for various reasons. Perhaps it is Monday morning, and no one is shaking your hand, telling you how much they enjoyed the message. That can leave you flat and dissatisfied. It could be that you are just a dissatisfied person in general.

The fact that you're angst-ridden and don't like the church you're in is not necessarily a sign that God has called you to plant a church.

And so I want to be very careful to say that we are looking for a holy dissatisfaction, not a generic dissatisfaction.

I've had plenty of people sit across the desk and tell me they felt called to church planting because they were dissatisfied with where they were. Some were dissatisfied because the church wouldn't give them an opportunity to preach. Well, it may be they didn't give them the opportunity to preach because they had no gifts and skills in that area. But for them, that was a "sign."

There is a big difference between circumstances letting you down and God sending you out. And while negative experiences can be part of God's stirring the waters in your ministry life, it is good to have a mentor in your life who can offer discernment: "Yep, God is finished with you here, and you need to do something new to accomplish His mission," or, "Dude, quit your whining, and get back in there for another round."

5. Family commitment. God will not lead you to start a church if it means you have to leave your spouse and kids.

There needs to be a family commitment if you want to be engaging in your church planting. If you want to plant a church but your wife says, "I'm not getting this from God," sit down and talk with your family. Let them know your intentions.

It should be a cause of concern, however, if there is no affirmation of the gifting or calling within your household. My wife has some veto power in this area. If she senses that it isn't the direction God is leading, I receive that. If God has not led us both in a direction, then neither of us will go in that direction. Church planters can get "drunk with vision" as they are filled with passion and enthusiasm.

If you are married to a godly spouse, God can and will use that person who knows you better than anyone else to red light or green light you.

6. Church affirmation. If your church is remarkably hesitant about your church-planting gifting and call, then you should be hesitant about your gifting and your call.

It can be a tricky situation if you're going to plant a church out of the church. They may not be against you planting a church; they just aren't cool with you starting a church one block over and siphoning off people. But part of the process is to see if you are in a church that recognizes you meet the qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7.

It is also important for church planters to be able to build partnerships with sponsoring and sending churches. Along with this, a church-planter assessment is in order. Church affirmation is biblical and can be one of your greatest indicators and components.

Other Things to Consider

Obviously, there are other factors that weigh into planting a church. Have you considered the location? Part of the nature of church planting is the idea that you are going to a certain place to plant. This isn't about sowing seeds by throwing them into the air and hoping they find a good place to land. It is about digging in, preparing the soil and planting a growing organism. You need a draw to a certain location and people group.

There's something about where you're going that says to people, "This is something I want to consider being called to, and planting, and being a part of."

Oftentimes, we need someone to give us a straight answer. Charles Spurgeon would have young preachers tell him they felt called to plant churches. He would ask them about their vision, their plan. Then after hearing them, he would either affirm it or would tell the preacher, "Son, I just don't see it." And that would be it.

One of the things we need today is people to honestly affirm or say, "I just don't see it." Hopefully these six indicators will help you discover if church planting is right for you.

Is there a certain indicator that most aspiring planters miss? What would you add to the list of indicators?

For those of you considering church planting, why not take a few minutes and take the Church Planter Candidate Assessment—one of our research tools to help you get an early indication if church planting is a right fit for you. The assessment is regularly $88, but you can take it for the discounted price of $29 if you are considering planting with one of our sponsor organizations.

Ed Stetzer is the president of LifeWay Research. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ed Stetzer) Expansion Tue, 27 May 2014 13:00:00 -0400
What Should You Tell Your Church When a Staffer Leaves?

Losing a staff member for any reason can be hard on you as a leader. It's a difficult process. After all, your church staff is in some ways like family!

Pastors often call and ask if they need to make an announcement on Sunday morning when a staff member leaves their church. Good question. In addition to the pressure that a leader carries to handle a staff transition well, how that decision is communicated and to whom really matters.

This article is not about the decision regarding a staff member leaving (and regardless of whether it was your decision or theirs). It's about how to handle the communication when the decision is made.

Before we jump in, let me ask you a question: Do you feel compelled to tell the congregation when a staff member leaves? If you do, why do you feel this way? Have you considered that it's not necessarily or automatically a good idea?

Some leaders push back and say it's because the church is family, and everyone should know. That's one perspective, and fair enough. Others get very candid and own a little insecurity that brings with it a need for the congregation to like them, which shapes who they tell and how. Some admit it's an authority issue and involves keeping control. It may be nothing like that for you. It may be no more complex than a tradition of communication.

Every church culture is different, but here are some guidelines to help you know how to handle these situations. You may agree or disagree with some of my thoughts, but in the end, if they help you gain clarity, it's good.

1. Announce from the platform only when it is clearly necessary. Larger churches rarely take platform time for most staff changes. It's a worship service, not a business meeting. It is usually smaller churches that announce the "comings and goings" of staff on a Sunday, and it's not typically the best use of your precious and limited amount of time for the service. It is typically announced because of the family feel, expectation, and the fact that it's always been done that way. But keep in mind the reasons your people come to church and the big picture purpose of a worship service.

2. Your congregation needs to understand there is a difference between the business of the church and the ministry of the church. The hiring and firing of staff is not a congregation-wide issue. You would never expect your favorite restaurant to call you when they changed managers, even if you didn't like what the new manager did to the menu!

Staff change is not a secret. The board, key leaders and staff should be thoroughly in the know, but their responsibility is to make the decision, and they should not need to "explain" it to a large group of people who really don't understand all that is involved.

What they know is that they loved the person who is leaving. As long as trust is solid, most congregations don't require an explanation. Only upset individuals insist on explanation, so handle those few individuals privately. There is nothing you can say from the platform that will fix how they feel. If, however, you sit down with someone to make it personal, you can let him or her know that you care. (In most cases, you still don't give details. It's just not appropriate. The idea is to inform, not explain.)

3. The decision is not based on resignation vs. termination. Whether or not you share with your congregation on the weekend is not based on if the person was let go or they left of their own accord. Don't let celebration or termination be your pressure. Sometimes you will want to honor a staff member, and that's good, but you don't have to do that during a worship service. In fact, it may be more personal and fun in a special setting. If the leaving is problematic and difficult, all the more reason to handle it in a more judicious way. Think of the visitors on a Sunday morning who would be there wondering, "What the heck is going on here?"

4. Share the news as far as the staff member's influence extends. When you tell the entire congregation, it's often news out of context, especially as the church gets larger. When you share with the connected group, it makes sense relationally and honors those who are directly impacted.

For example, if your part-time children's leader is leaving, gather all the children's ministry volunteers and make the announcement there. Answer appropriate questions and express appreciation. Always stay positive, even if the leaving is a difficult one.

Your worship pastor is an example of someone you may feel compelled to announce from the platform. That makes sense. His or her influence extends to the entire congregation. My advice is to keep it brief and handle the appreciation or tough questions in a smaller gathering.

5. Always be honest, but don't give personal information. When you do gather the group in an appropriate environment, remember that you are not giving an explanation; you are giving information. Share from your heart and be honest, but never publicly communicate personal stuff.

Be sure to include the other staff members first. They carry the weight of leadership in your church, and it's important that they know early about staff transitions.

6. Generosity is always a good idea. You will never go wrong with a generous spirit. Even if the staff member who leaves makes things difficult, take the high road if at all possible. In most cases, especially when maturity is evident, staff transitions can be very positive. Be generous with gratitude. Let them know how much you appreciate them. Have a party! Celebrate the good things they accomplished!

7. Make the change slowly. You might start this process of change by not announcing the leaving of a part-time support staff member. Then perhaps a part-time ministry team member, then full-time ... you get the idea. Don't break tradition too fast, or you may be the next to go! Discuss this rationale with your key leaders before you do it. The overall purpose is to position your church for new behavior as it gets larger. (In really big churches, there would be an announcement a couple times a month—which is not what you want to do with a worship service.) The earlier you make this change, the easier people adjust to it.

Staff changes are never easy to communicate, but done correctly, your leadership and congregation will be stronger and you can focus on the real mission of the church!

Dan Reiland is executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY.

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]]> (Dan Reiland) Communication Fri, 16 May 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Comfort Preference: Pews, Chairs or Something Else in the Worship Center?

One of the larger expenses of many churches, and often an area of contention, is the type of seating in the worship center. I have been amazed to hear stories of intense church arguments over seating in a church facility.

In this brief article, I do my best to offer some objective analysis. I understand there are emotional attachments that go well beyond this mundane prose.

There are really three choices of seating instead of two. Most of the debate is between pews and chairs. But there are really two choices beyond pews. Design/build firms often call the latter two pew chairs and theater seats.

Pew chairs refer to the mobile, stackable chairs. They can be moved and configured as needed. They tend to be a bit more expensive than comparable seating of regular pews.

Theater seats are fixed and not mobile. They are typically bolted to the floor.

According to design/build experts, the actual capacity of pews is much lower than the stated capacity. In fact, pews are considered full when they are at 70 percent of stated capacity. Pew chairs fill at 80 percent capacity. And theater seats fill at 90 percent capacity. So, from this perspective, theater seats are more economically efficient.

Pew chairs engender greater flexibility, but the church must have a place to store them when they are not in use in the worship center. Frankly, many church leaders are surprised to discover how much space those chairs actually need for storage.

The parking capacity of the church is directly impacted by the type of seating chosen. Zoning authorities look at the seating capacity to determine the number of parking places a church must have. Theater seats fare better here, because each seat is counted as a capacity of one. Pew capacity related to parking counts one person for every 18 inches. For the record, most of us can’t fit in 18 inches, so more parking is required beyond the real capacity. If a church has the moveable stacking chairs, the number of chairs is irrelevant to parking. Instead, the total square feet of the assembly space is calculated.

Pews tend to have more sentimental attachments, particularly in more liturgical churches. But a number of nonliturgical church members express strong emotional attachments to pews as well.

]]> (Thom S. Rainer) Equipment Wed, 14 May 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Finding Strengths in the Fears of Church Online

My big third-grade school project was a beast. Every 8-year-old had to do their final project in front of the class, and Mr. Michaels, my teacher—who might as well have been Michael Myers from horror film fame, considering I was so scared—filmed the entire performance.

I hated the idea of being in front of my peers, and a video camera staring me dead in the eyes did not help. This fear of public speaking was irrational, but that did not help my body from shaking throughout my presentation. Maybe I was just channeling my inner Thom Yorke.

It is funny how at 8 I thought the camera was a form of torture, but over time my perspective started to change. So let’s look at the fears of doing church online. I’m going to make the argument they are irrational as well.

Fear No. 1: It will shrink local church attendance. People now can experience what happens in the church building without ever stepping into the facility. Church online becomes a huge marketing tool for those who would never walk through your doors. I can tell story after story of people who watched online and then attended locally. Their testimony consists of something like, “I never knew this was near me. I landed on your website because of a friend and got to see what happens in that building every week.” An online service will grow your local church if positioned correctly.

Fear No. 2: It’s shallow community compared to the local church. Church online is a partial expression of what the Bible calls community, but that doesn’t mean it can’t serve a purpose. It is important to remember your online service is geared for those who would never attend a local church. The goal is to provide an environment that is like a local church, where they can safely see what church is like. Think of church online as the conversation you have with someone in the coffee shop that leads him or her to attending your church. You would never call that connection shallow, right? Church online is the first step—and many times the best type of community for a new person to experience.

Fear No. 3: It caters to a disconnected generation. Technology can certainly produce disconnected people. It’s the church’s responsibility to create ways that provide connections. Churches used to provide potlucks and after-service parties for community, but now it's through online connections on Facebook or whatever local flavor of social network that works. The message never changes, but the methodology does. I think church online gives a way to reach a disconnected generation, since church is happening where many are disconnecting—online.

Now, fears can remain true if there is no growth. That nervous and scared 8-year-old was eventually able to conquer his fear of public speaking through changing his view of the camera. The lens became a resource to help point out areas where I needed to grow. As an adult, I can see my teacher wasn’t torturing me but was preparing me to always improve. I believe the fears of church online can be conquered as well. All that’s needed is a little perspective.

Jay Kranda is the online campus pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. Jay oversees Saddleback’s 167 online services that attract more than 23,000 people weekly and is over 1,100 small groups gathering outside of its local campus reach. To learn more about the ever-changing and evolving world of church online, visit

For the original article, visit

]]> (Jay Kranda) Technology Mon, 31 Mar 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Joe McKeever: Heresies Inside the Church

For a pastor, the way to deal with bad theology in his church is always to preach the Word.

Just hang in there, year after year, teaching and preaching God’s unchanging truth. The changes in your people will come as you remain faithful.

The word orthodox means “right thinking.” Straight shooting. Sound doctrine. Solid reasoning.

We think of heresy as something the bad guys do, the “spiritual gift” of cults and the aberration of the rebellious. After all, aren’t all heretics nuts?

(We interrupt to recommend a book. A half-century ago, Walter Nigg wrote The Heretics to establish that the great heresies in church history were the result of some pretty smart people with real grievances, and not nuts. Reading it was life-changing for me. I checked and just now. A used copy or two is available, and new reprints are expensive. However, this is a great investment, and the book will be a keeper.)

As Walt Kelly’s comic-strip possum Pogo once noted, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

There is enough heresy inside the walls of your church to start 12 new cults by breakfast.

In a half-century and more of churchmanship—pastoring, assistant pastoring and denominational involvement—I have seen these heresies, or beggars riding in kings’ chariots, as the saying goes:

1. “If you are having trouble in your Christian life, clearly it’s because you are not saved.” You struggle with temptations, with disciplining yourself to a daily time of prayer and the Word, with controlling your temper, and a thousand other things. Obviously, you have never been saved.

The solution is for you to this time, get it right. So, you go through all those spiritual contortions—praying, seeking, crying, pleading and performing autopsies on yourself—hoping that this time it takes. You ask the pastor to rebaptize you because you think, “If I was not saved before, it was not real baptism.”

Right thinking—orthodoxy—says it would help a great deal if you knew the Word. Christians struggle with temptation. They war against wickedness in high places. They fight a never-ending battle to conform their desires to the mind of Christ. Anyone teaching otherwise is a deceiver.

Background: In my first church following seminary, a congregation that ran 140 when I arrived and 240 when I left three-and-a-half years later, we baptized an average of 60 people a year. Impressive? It was, until you checked to see whose baptisms those were. Some were the same people every year, trying to “get it right this time.” As the young and inexperienced pastor, I went along with it, even knowing it was wrong.

2. “If our church is struggling and always having a hard time keeping our head above the water, it’s the pastor’s fault.” Year after year, we have a hard time making the budget, there is constant dissension among the congregation, and we can’t seem to agree on anything. Clearly, if we had a good preacher, we could be like that wonderful church across town.

Their solution: Fire this preacher and find one that fits.

Right thinking (orthodoxy) says these people should get their eyes off the preacher and ask, “Lord, is it I?” Meanwhile, let the pastor keep preaching the Scriptures.

Background: Been there, done that, and have the scars to prove it.

3. “A steady diet of prophecy—conferences, classes, sermons—will produce a great and godly church.” These people get tired of studies in Ephesians and classes on soul winning. They grow impatient with ministries to the children of prisoners and clamor for prophecy experts to get our minds off the problems of today and spread out their charts and tell us about the grand tomorrow that is coming for us and people like us.

Their solution is to find a pastor that will pull this off. Naturally, his views will need to jive with the official ones of the church leaders as well as the denomination.

Right thinking suggests 1) there is no church in the New Testament that did that, 2) only a few books of the New Testament devote much space to prophecy, 3) good and godly Christians disagree on prophecy interpretations and 4) churches in the past have committed 10,000 errors trying to identify antichrists, the abomination of desolation, and the time calendar. Let them proceed with care.

Background: I have had a few church members through the years who clamored for me to preach prophecy and bring in those prophetic powerhouses. When I refused, they became bitter and antagonistic. Likewise, I’ve seen good, solid churches taken over by new pastors who had gone to seed on prophecy. Other than illustrating that “knowledge puffs up” (1 Cor. 8:1), a quarter of a century later, I see no good that came from it. In fact, such an emphasis could have even been destructive to the extent it diverted the Lord’s workers from their God-given work in their church and community.

Question: Isn’t prophecy in the Bible? It sure is. The problem is pastors and churches that major on something the Bible does not. Furthermore, teaching this subject is a field of landmines all waiting to maim the unwary and naive. Let the teachers proceed with caution.

4) “Getting people saved is more important than discipling them. At least they’re going to heaven.” This thinking says if we can just get people to pray the sinner’s prayer, we have rescued them from hell.

Right thinking says, “Show me that in the Word.” Jesus did not send His people to get people to pray a loaded prayer but to make disciples of all nations.

Background: A pastor in our city printed the sinner’s prayer on a card that he handed out to all his members. They were charged to get friends and family, co-workers, anyone, to pray that prayer. Their goal was a thousand people a year. Meanwhile, their church continued along, running 25 each Sunday. What’s wrong with this picture?

Question: Isn’t it important to get people saved? You bet it is. But the goal is to bring them into the body as a disciple (learner) who will grow in Christ and become a worker in the kingdom. We are not sent to make friends or converts, not “likes” or supporters, but to make disciples! (See Matthew 28:18-20.)

5. “Doing evangelism wrong is better than nothing. After all, the unsaved can’t get any more lost than they already are.” This thinking says anything we do is better than nothing. Even the “Holy Ghost-shouting con men” of which revivalism in America has produced too many or the manipulative masters of emotions and purveyors of feel-good theology which have filled our church rolls with names but left the pews vacant—even these are better than nothing, according to this thinking. After all—and I have heard this said—“We can’t get the lost any more lost than they already are.”

Right thinking wonders about this, whether we would have done better to have left people to be lost than to mess them up but good for eternity. Perhaps they are far more unreachable now than had we not poisoned them against the real thing. Jesus spoke of people being made “twice as much a son of hell as yourselves” (Matt. 23:15). The proselyte duped into a bad religious profession will hereafter be twice as hard to reach for Christ as his deceiver, who knew precisely he was teaching error.

Background: I once knew a lapsed Jehovah Witness who would drop by for counsel from time to time. She had grown disillusioned with the lies and false prophecies of her religion—she and a million others had bailed out after the leaders had prophesied 1975, I think, as the year of Christ’s return—but she would not attend any other church. She admitted to me that her former faith had poisoned her against all Christian churches.

Someone will give account before a holy God for this.

6. “If you are not speaking in tongues, you may not be saved and are definitely not mature or godly enough to be a leader in the church.” A few days ago, a man told me of a preacher saying to him, “If you do not speak in tongues, you will go to hell.” He answered, “Man, what Bible are you preaching from?” Good answer (as far as it went).

This kind of thinking exalts one spiritual gift (and a minor one at that) above all others and makes it the test of everything, something Scripture does not come close to doing. I suspect the culprit is the ingrown theology of such groups, as they close their system and study only what they themselves have said, then focus on minute interpretations of their own “revelations.” Such a system is fraught with error and dangerous to live with.

Orthodoxy—right thinking—says, “Teach the Word. Even the book of the Bible that speaks most about tongues-speaking (1 Corinthians) sets limits, establishes barriers, and gives guidelines to rein in this kind of maverick theology.”

7. “This is our church. You preachers come and go. Do not meddle with how we do things.” This kind of thinking is found primarily among small and fossilized churches, those one generation from dying. After all, this kind of thinking is what will kill a church quicker than Jim Jones’ Kool-Aid.

Right thinking opens the Bible to Matthew 16:18, where the Lord says, “I will build My church.” It’s His church and not mine, nor yours. And He builds it.

Pray the Lord does not cancel your franchise, church leader. If He does, only the spiritually aware will notice. The rest of the people will go right on as before, doing their little activities and playing their little games. The only difference is that God will be nowhere to be found and no lives will be changed as a result of worship or faith. 

Teach the Word, Pastor

There is no error that the Word will not address in one way or the other. Seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Author of this book, to know the correct applications for your people.

Preach the Word from the pulpit, and teach it in your leadership classes, in deacons' meetings, in committee meetings, in groups large and small. Teach the Word to your youth and to your children. Teach it to old and young, newcomers and old-timers.

Never stop. Teach it with love and with full assurance that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17).

Go into the ministry believing that God’s people do not need your most clever ideas, but to know the Word of God. They do not come to church starving to know how the latest schemes from the business world apply to them, but hungering to know God and His Word.

Teach and preach the Word with the full assurance that:

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it” (Is. 55:10-11).

Dr. Joe McKeever writes from the vantage point of more than 60 years as a disciple of Jesus, more than 50 years preaching His gospel and more than 40 years of cartooning for every imaginable Christian publication.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Joe McKeever) Communication Wed, 05 Mar 2014 20:00:00 -0500