Ministry Facilities Mon, 24 Nov 2014 01:58:21 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb 10 Common Worship Distractions

Worship is frequently a controversial topic, and it's not my goal with this post to add to those debates.

I also realize that the focus of worship is God. Any attention we give to the human component of worship might send us in the wrong direction. But that's not my intent, either. I simply want us to think about aspects of worship over which we have some control—and that we might improve for God's glory.

Based on my work as a church consultant, reports from our consultation "secret shoppers," interviews with church members and my own experiences, here are 10 far-too-common distractions during worship services:

1. Starting late. Our secret shoppers know to be present in the worship center prior to the publicized starting time and to record what time the service actually begins. A late start may be unavoidable, but too often the tardiness is seemingly due to disorganization and apathy. A late start seldom strengthens an attitude of worship.

2. Poor sound and/or video quality. Occasionally this problem unexpectedly happens when the system malfunctions. At other times, it seems clear that either (a) rehearsal never occurred to detect and correct any problems or (b) leaders chose to ignore problems. Either one is unacceptable.

3. Excessively loud music. I suspect my age is apparent here, but even some of our young secret shoppers have commented negatively on this issue. Increased volume may be appropriate in some settings, but it does not automatically strengthen worship. Sometimes, worship occurs best in the quiet.

4. Incomprehensible choir or praise team words. The lyrics are probably great, but we cannot tell. The sound system may be poor, the singers may not enunciate well or the music may drown out the words—but we miss the message while straining to understand the words. Simply including the lyrics on a Power Point would help.

5. Grammatical and/or spelling errors on the screen. Granted, this error should perhaps not be a distraction. Surely, we can overlook an omitted apostrophe or misspelled homonym. On the other hand, God—and worshippers who are often well educated—deserve our best in presentation.

6. Poor synchronization of presentation slides. The operator gets caught up in the worship and fails to progress to the next slide. Or activity in the sound booth becomes itself a distraction for the operator. Nevertheless, it's difficult to worship in song when the lyrics on the screen are measures behind the worship leader.

7. Unclear directions. Worshippers—especially guests or unchurched attendees—do not readily follow everything that takes place in a worship service. Even our best secret shoppers sometimes feel awkward over such questions as: Who is the person speaking (no one introduced him)? Will they recognize guests (and will I be put on the spot)? Am I permitted to partake of the Lord's Supper (no one explained it)? If the church does not take an offering, how do I give (again, no one guided us)?

8. Poor lighting. The problem may simply be weak lighting; that is, uneven lighting in the worship center creates dim sections where reading the Bible is difficult. In some cases, delayed maintenance results in burned out bulbs. In others, a darkened room intentionally creates worship ambience—but also reflects a wrong assumption that all worshippers will be reading the Bible only on the screen.

9. Bad preaching. This conclusion is subjective, but nonetheless truthful: Worship is challenging when the preaching is boring or disorganized. It's even more taxing when the sermon covers everything but the Bible.

10. Crowd movement. To be fair, I admit that worship should so focus on God that crowd movement is not distracting. In addition, many folks we interview sit toward the back of a worship center, where the movement is likely more noticeable. Nevertheless, folks coming and going from the worship center—especially during times of prayer, reflection, preaching and response—can be disruptive.

What other worship distractions have you noticed?

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 ) Communication Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:00:00 -0500
Dan Reiland: 6 Things I Learned From 2 Great Communicators

All leaders communicate. Not all leaders communicate well.

Communication is a broader topic than just your Sunday morning or weekend messages. Much of a leader's most important communication takes place in one-to-one conversations or in small group meetings. But in this article, I'll focus on public communication, looking mostly at the context of the Sunday message. But with just a little translation, the principles carry over to all communication.

Moses was slow of speech and lacked confidence. The apostle Paul was eloquent and powerful. Most of us are somewhere between those two. My purpose in writing is to offer what I've learned from two of the best communicators I know, Kevin Myers and John Maxwell. I've had the privilege to work closely with both of these men for a long time, and I'm fortunate to have learned how to be a better communicator.

Here's some of what I've learned:   

1. Connection is essential. Communication begins on the inside with a healthy self-awareness and a comfort level with who you are as a person. This enables you to be yourself as you communicate. This allows connection to take place and is the beginning of good communication. When you are yourself, people can connect with you. When they connect with you, they can trust you; and when they trust you, they are willing to follow your teaching and leadership.

The opposite of connection is self-protection, and it is rooted in fear and results in hiding. Your teaching becomes more powerful when you don't attempt to hide. Remember, though: You don't tell your story so you feel better. You tell your story to set others free. Knowing that helps you determine what to say.

2. Content won't carry you. John and Kevin are naturally gifted communicators. It would be easy for both of them to lean into their talent and not work on their craft. But instead, both of them continually work to master their craft! Both are better today than ever! Content is very important, but it won't carry you or the moment. Delivery is king.

You can have a brilliant biblical message, but if your delivery is dry and dull, you've wasted the content, and you'll lose the people. They may love you and trust you, but they will still drift when you talk if you don't teach with increasing skill.

Study the best teachers and preachers you know. Don't copy them, but learn from them. And let me offer you this really good tip for now: If you aren't a great communicator, keep your talks shorter till you are better. Seriously! Don't teach for 40 plus minutes unless you are really good. Stick with 25 minutes.  

3. It's with the audience not at the audience. I've listened to many pastors and teachers over the years. There are a surprising number that seem to talk "at" the audience, not to them or seemingly "with" them as in a conversation. I'm not referring to the angry thundering preachers. Candidly, there aren't that many left. That style simply doesn't work. I'm referring to the pastors who are technical in their skills and practice. They have some good thoughts, write them down and then dispense them on Sunday. It almost wouldn't matter if the people were in the room or not because the words are delivered the same.

The best communication feels more like something with the people. I know you are talking and they are listening, but it still needs to feel like a conversation. You can draw them in by asking a question where they can raise their hand for a yes or no. You can use humor. There are a number of ways involve your listeners.

4. Confidence comes from preparation. We all know what it's like to show up unprepared, or at least not prepared enough. It's not good. You may be talented enough to get away with it for a while, but as a steady diet this bad habit of short-changing your preparation will catch up with you. In time your communication skills will lessen and your confidence will decline.

In contrast, consistent and disciplined preparation not only breeds confidence; it cultivates enthusiasm within you. One of the ways I know I'm ready to teach is that I absolutely can't wait to deliver the message! My messages never start that way. The process starts with, "Dear Lord, please help me!" (Really.) But every time, at some point in my preparation, something clicks, and I get so excited I can hardly stand it. It's then I know I'm ready.

5. Read the room. Pay attention to your surroundings. The environment matters. Even if you can't change the elements, being aware can help you. Start with the physical elements. What is the temperature of the room?  Is it comfortable? How is the lighting? Can they see? Dark isn't always cool. Light brings energy to the room! Low lighting subdues the room. This may be good for worship, but it's not good for communication. How about the seating? Too many chairs? What about the podium? Is it a huge fort-like thing that hides the communicator, or is it something small and just enough to hold your notes? If you find yourself with one of those "hotel-issue" kinds of giant podiums, grab a music stand. That works great! 

There are two more elements to "read." The people and the Holy Spirit. What do you sense from the people? What do they need? And most importantly, what is the Holy Spirit telling you? 

6. Know where you are going, and get there. My wife has often said to me in the past, "Hun, you need to learn how to land the plane! Pick a runway and land the plane!" Good advice. Far too many communicators appear as if they are circling the airport trying to pick a runway and just don't know where to put the plane down. Not good.

Kevin works with two simple questions. What do you want the people to know? And what do you want the people to do? Be clear about those two things, and you'll know where and when to land the plane.

Remember that you are not only teaching, you are also leading. The people need you to inspire them. I don't mean hype, but helping them believe what you are saying is actually possible with the help of God. If you believe God can and will help them, they will embrace that hope as you teach.

There is much more to great communication, but this is a good start. Add this to what you already know. Practice and you'll see the difference.

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.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Dan Reiland) Communication Thu, 06 Nov 2014 14:00:00 -0500
Century-old Nazarene Publishing House to Close

Nazarene Publishing House (NPH) and Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City will be closing as of Dec. 1. The announcement was made in an Oct. 3 pastoral letter to the board of general superintendents.

The general superintendents wrote that they were "deeply saddened" by the decision, but said that all NPH employees, of which there are 60, would retain their positions until Dec. 1, with a severance package provided they remain as employees through that date.

NPH has served the Church of the Nazarene denomination for 102 years, offering holiness literature, music and resources.

Beacon Hill Press has published 35-45 trade books a year; NPH published Sunday school curriculum under the WordAction imprint and music under Lillenas Publishing.

The board also reflected on the "many profitable years" of NPH.

"A great deal of the income that has been generated through NPH has been poured back into the mission and work of the church, even beyond the walls of the House. Recent years have been more financially difficult. Due to shifting cultural circumstances, including changes in the church, NPH has found itself having to adapt to new paradigms in order to maintain financial stability and sustainability. Net profits have decreased dramatically over the last decade to the point that the company was forced to draw heavily on financial reserves to stay afloat. The economic downturn of 2008 only deepened the pending crisis."

The board noted that with the election of a new leader for NPH in 2012, "plans were laid for yet another change in paradigm for NPH, including the acquisition of a new business unit for NPH." Unfortunately, the board concluded, "it did not work. It was a miscalculation on many levels."

In the last year, steps have been taken to "rescue what we could," the board said.

A crisis management team is now in place, and a task force has been appointed "to help envision how holiness material will be provided for the future."

There may be a new publishing configuration coming.

"While the current business model of NPH will be closing, this new way will continue to provide the necessary resources to educate and equip our pastors and laypersons around the world. NPH maintains resources that will help give birth to a new, dynamic publishing model."

NPH is in the process of shipping the December-February curriculum and intends to ship the March-May curriculum in December.

]]> (Christine Johnson/Christian Retailing Editor) Media Thu, 30 Oct 2014 16:00:00 -0400
3 Things Atheists Can Teach Others About God

If you are a Christian who is passionate about living out your faith, then chances are you have engaged in at least a few religious discussions with agnostics and/or atheists.

I can still picture cafeteria debates from my freshman year of high school. What was actually said escapes my memory, but we Christians saw it as our duty to prove the atheist "ring leaders" wrong so we could joyfully rope them into the kingdom of God.

Thankfully, I began to learn the art of friendly discussion as opposed to blatant and prideful truth-telling. Fast forward 15 years and things have changed drastically. Oh, we still debate our beliefs, but I suspect we listen less and less as our conversations increasingly take shape on social media platforms.

I am left wondering: "Are #cleverhashtags more important to us than the other person?" and "Why do we equate spiritual retweets and Jesus jukes with angelic halos?" #arguingneverwonanyoneintothekingdom

When we stop long enough to listen, we convey to others that we care about them and what they have to say. As a result, they are often more open to what we have to say as well. And, as I've listened, atheists have taught me a few things about God along the way.

1. We are all sinners. Sometimes, we need a healthy dose of humility. As Christians, we know that we are sinners saved by grace, but sometimes we tend to think that all our "big" sins disappear the moment we trust Christ. We might slip up and tell a white lie about someone's awful haircut or extra body fat, but we would certainly never be guilty of anything really bad, right?

But that's simply not true. I don't have to look farther than my Facebook newsfeed to be reminded of this, and often the most grievous reminders are from news articles and posts shared by atheists concerning Christianity.

Folks, we don't have it all together. The only difference between us and anyone else is that we have come to know the One who does have it all together. Our hope is in Christ's righteousness, not our self-righteousness.

2. Interpretations are not infallible. Scripture is infallible, but human interpretation is not. We need people who can point out our inconsistencies in order to help us hone our critical thinking skills and perhaps realize areas where we have been wrong. Input from non-Christians is invaluable in this regard because they see things that fellow believers aren't as quick to catch.

3. The importance of social justice. Because we have a Savior who has experienced suffering in human flesh, we can take comfort in His presence and in turn minister to others. God calls us to reach out to the abused, the desolate and the downtrodden, even when it's out of our comfort zones.

I've noticed many atheists championing social justice causes that Christians have overlooked. It's like their hearts come pre-programmed with "injustice detectors" that beep whenever any injustice comes within a 300-yard radius.

Perhaps this has been born out of their struggle to believe in God because of the pain they see around the world. Regardless, it has often been atheists who have brought social justice issues onto my radar screens.

I could list more things, but it's safe to say I've learned valuable truths from atheists about the God of all Truth. My prayer is that they too may come to know the One whom they have taught me more about.

Sarah Bowler is communications coordinator at EvanTell, a ministry committed to reaching people around the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. She is one of my contributors at EvangelVision, a blog resource from the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College.

This blog post originally ran at EvangelVision.

]]> (Sarah Bowler) Communication Wed, 22 Oct 2014 13:00:00 -0400
8 Ways to Make Your Communication Stick

Whether you are a seasoned leader, college student, author, professor, CEO, politician or pastor, we all have to learn to communicate well. Whether we are speaking to thousands, speaking to our staff, giving a report, making a speech, teaching your kids' soccer team, or addressing your company, it's imperative as leaders that we know how to communicate—to make our point or to deliver a message.

And communicating is much easier said than done. Actually it's the saying part and the doing part that make it difficult.

So, here are some tips that might make communicating a bit easier for you and a bit more enjoyable for those listening. To make it stick. 

1. Keep it simple. Stay focused on a few key points. And use common sense. If it sounds confusing, it probably is. If it sounds cheesy, it probably is.

2. Tell great stories to validate your points. Unless you are just an amazing communicator, your points probably won't hold me. So sprinkle in some great stories, good analogies, personal connections, and current events.

3. Inspire action. Push me toward doing something, not just hearing something.

4. Know your audience. Seems simple, but many miss this one. Make constant connections to your audience. If you're talking to a group of high school students, don't use the same jokes and intro as you did with the local Lions Club men's pancake breakfast the day before.

5. Create hooks, repetitions and memorable phrases. I won't remember all you said, but I might remember something you said. Our current culture is built around sound bytes, status updates, tweets, texts, etc. So keep it simple, but also keep it short.

6. Connect personally. Look people in the eye. Recognize individuals in the audience and mention their name. Find people in the crowd and speak directly to them. Make eye contact with the entire room, from side to side. If your audience thinks you care about them, then they'll care about what you are saying.

7. Be authentic, vulnerable and funny. The key is to just simply be you. Allow the audience to get to know you. Make yourself vulnerable by talking about a failure or something that gives you instant connection. Be funny, and find ways to keep your content light and humorous.

8. Land the plane on time. Not just ending on time, but actually ending with the right timing. Don't keep circling above the runway—land it now.

What other tips would you add for communicating well? 

Brad Lomenick is president and key visionary of Catalyst—a movement purposed to equip and inspire young Christian leaders through events, resources, consulting and community. Follow him on Twitter @bradlomenick, or read his personal blog at

]]> (Brad Lomenick) Communication Mon, 13 Oct 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Mastering Media: Knowing What Each Platform Does Best

Too many people use media randomly, with no real strategic vision. Perhaps a friend recommended local TV, or a board member suggested billboards, or a church youth director likes social media.

All these platforms and others are important, but they question is: Why? While I could write many books on the subject, here is a short list of what differentiates some of the major media platforms:

Newspaper Advertising

  • An effective way to reach adults over age 50 since they are the primary readers of newspapers.
  • Newspapers are by definition a local media tool and can provide opportunities to create "newsworthiness."
  • Newspapers are good for more in-depth stories.


  • Research indicates the typical household watches over seven-plus hours of TV daily. (Other research says eight hours per day).
  • TV still delivers the largest audiences for specific programming.
  • Blockbuster movies get more publicity, but the truth is, a popular TV series reaches far more people.
  • The growing number of special-interest TV channels provides opportunities to target specific audiences and leverage their interests.


  • Despite what you might think listening to Christian radio, music is still the top reason that people tune into radio.
  • Drive time is still important. Seventy-eight percent of consumers listen to the radio on their commute to work.
  • Similar to TV, specific radio formats appeal to different segments (young/old/multicultural/faith, etc.)


  • Billboards and other outdoor advertising can be a powerful local tool.
  • We've had enormous success using it to drive people to churches.
  • It reaches a broad range of different target audiences and provides local geographic flexibility.
  • The recent growth of outdoor has revealed new outdoor advertising products like LED screens that reach and engage consumers throughout the day.
  • New media tactics like gas station advertising, stadium advertising, and health club advertising are examples of highly targeted media products that reach and engage consumers.

    Internet/Digital/Social Media

  • Digital advertising is still innovating as marketers look for the right mix that provides meaningful information and will then attract consumers to a website.
  • Similar to other media choices, consumers have the ability to opt in and choose what digital advertising they see and consume.
  • For churches, virtually 100 percent of new visitors will check you out on the web first—so why is your website so lame?
  • We're finding that your website is your "media hub." It can be the connector to your video, bookstore resources, social-media pages and much more.
  • The 55-plus audience watches as many online videos as the 20-plus audience.
  • Significant numbers of online viewers of videos want to find out more about the subject of the video.
  • With social-media platforms, you can start with "budget zero." It literally takes nothing to build a tribe, and start sharing your message with significant numbers of people.

There could be some powerful marketing and advertising tools you haven't even considered. Before you get in a rut, find out more about new platforms and consider how they could help your message reach a greater and more responsive audience.

Phil Cooke is a filmmaker, media strategist and the author of One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do. Find out more at

For the original article, visit

]]> (Phil Cooke) Media Fri, 03 Oct 2014 16:00:00 -0400
How Your Church Can Get an Internet TV Channel

The TV industry is ripe for disruption, and it's holding on for dear life. The traditional content producers (studios) and the cable companies are holding on to that old business model till the last dollar is squeezed out of it. Unfortunately for them, the market is starting to dictate how things will play out. Just as the music industry was made to adapt, the television industry will have the same fate.

Whether it's Twitter lighting up when Scandal is on or a beloved TV series getting a new life on Netflix, we will become more immersed in social media-connected viewing, and we'll watch what we want to watch, when we want to watch and from any device we want to watch—no more cable bundles and set show times.

All this disruption in the TV industry is an incredible opportunity for your church.

We have an opportunity like no other to reach people who watch television. An Internet TV channel is within reach of anyone, including your church. But there are a few things you need to consider before launching an Internet TV channel:

1. Content First. Before anything else, the church needs to provide content for the channel. Every week the church generates quite a bit of content ranging from the pastor's sermon, praise and worship, the church experience and a variety of behind-the-scenes videos that could populate an Internet TV channel.

Now don't limit yourself to just churchy content. While sermons are great and very inspirational, for an opportunity like this the church has to think bigger and create all kinds of content for viewing on this channel. The opportunities for Internet TV are endless, but the successful churches will likely go beyond merely televising their church service.

One of the great options we utilize at The Potter's House in Dallas is to take every video we already supply to our YouTube channel and put it on our Internet TV channel.

2. Count the Cost. The second thing your church needs to consider is price. Previously, it could cost upwards of $50,000 per week to run on a traditional television station like TBN or Church Network. That much cash and you didn't have the tools to fully analyze your viewing audience.

But with the Internet TV platforms we have today, a church can get started for as little as $500 upfront and $150 per month. Additionally, the reporting features are so good that any church can see what shows were watched, how often, how long and other key analytics that can help determine future programming and content decisions.

3. Pick a Platform. Finally, the last decision to consider is which platform to use for your Internet TV channel. Currently, there are two main platforms that churches can utilize:

Roku: The first platform (and best one in my opinion) is Roku with an audience of 10 million viewers and a price range of $49 to $99.  This platform is based on the Roku box or the Roku HD streaming stick that you can connect to your HDTV and choose a channel from the numerous ones available in the Roku app store. A quick search for "church" shows how many churches have already rolled out their own channel.

Amazon Fire TV: Another platform is the recently released Amazon Fire TV.  This platform is based on the Amazon Fire TV box and has an audience of around 2 million viewers and growing due to the backing of and a price of $99.  Like the Roku device, the Amazon Fire TV has an app store, and numerous channels can be downloaded.

And that's just the beginning. More platforms are rolling out in the future, including Apple TV and Microsoft Xbox.

Real World Example: The Potter's House

Now let me get more specific on how we implemented our Internet TV channel. Instead of building the channel ourselves, we chose a cloud-based software to streamline the process. The provider we choose was Streamotor, and I have created multiple channels with this organization. Their setup, delivery and service are very good.

Now your church can go into all the world with an Internet TV channel, reaching a new generation without the stigma of a televangelist. 

]]> (Jason Gaston) Multimedia Thu, 04 Sep 2014 16:00:00 -0400
3 Reasons for Not Using a Tablet for Speaking Notes

I love technology and I applaud speakers, preachers, teachers and others who use an iPad or other tablet for your speaking notes. But as much I want people to know you're savvy with technology, here's a few cautions—some issues I'm seeing a lot out there on podiums, pulpits, and classrooms:

1. Speakers tend to hunch over when using a tablet.  I watched a teacher last week spend his entire talk hunched over the podium looking at his tablet like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. You can see paper notes from every angle and direction, but it's not so easy with a tablet. Hunched over, you look like you're in your own little world and not interested in the audience.

2. Speakers tend to lose eye contact with the audience when using a tablet. It's a smaller space than a piece of paper so you tend to turn pages more often and struggle to keep track of where you are on the screen. As a result, you lose eye contact with the audience, and when you do that, you lose them.

3. Speakers can look inept with the technology. In your effort to look tech savvy, it often backfires. Let's face it, a tablet can be tricky in front of an audience. Text moves, pages turn, documents close, notes disappear. I can't tell you how many times I've suffered through a speaker saying, "Hang on, I've lost my place," or "Where did it go? I had it right here" or "Whoops, I think I've lost my talk" or "Hey (insert assistant's name here) can you come up and help me find my notes?"

Here's some solutions to help you feel more confident and comfortable:

1. Practice, practice, practice. Get as comfortable with a tablet as you are with note cards or paper.

2. Learn to stop the rotation, hold the page, increase or decrease the font size, set the screen saver, and much more.  Also find a pdf reader or other notes app that you're comfortable using.  Make sure the settings won't betray you in front of a crowd.

3. Learn to hold it well.  Get a partial cover with gripping back so it says in your hand. Learn where the buttons and the on-screen navigation tools are so you don't hit them by mistake.

4. Learn to keep eye contact with the audience. Don't let a tablet pin you to the lectern or keep your eyes away from the audience.

Your goal should be to make the tablet invisible. If the audience becomes fixated on your poor handling of the device, that means they're not paying attention to you or your message.

A tablet can be a powerful tool for speakers, so learn to use it well.

Do you have any other suggestions that have worked for you?

Phil Cooke is a filmmaker, media strategist and the author of One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do. Find out more at

For the original article, visit

]]> (Phil Cooke) Technology Mon, 01 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0400
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).

For the original article, visit

]]> (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.

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]]> (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?

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]]> (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.

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]]> (Rick Warren) Communication Wed, 25 Jun 2014 13:00:00 -0400