Ministry Facilities Mon, 03 Aug 2015 06:42:54 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb 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 Even in churches with computerized announcements, I've seen outdated information flashed onto the screen.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
Twitter for Your Church d-MinFac-Social Media Green Mellen Media
Believe it or not, 140 characters could solve your communication problems

If you're a church leader who feels like your church should be using the social networking tool Twitter, but you're not sure how to leverage it to carry out your church's vision or mission, here are a few techniques that may give you some ideas for getting started.
Showcase your staff. On your church website's "Staff" page, provide clear links to those staff members on Twitter. This is also a good place to link to their profiles on other social networking sites like Facebook. Here's an example:
Show live chats from events. A simple hash tag (indicated by a "#") can go a long way. At a recent youth event, our church encouraged people to use a hash tag when discussing the event on Twitter, and then we pointed parents to the Twitter search results page for that hash tag. Note: It was very popular, but you do run the risk of someone posting something inappropriate; nothing can be cleaned up or deleted.

]]> (Mickey Mellen) Ministry Facilities Thu, 25 Oct 2012 20:00:00 -0400
A Necessary Evil? d-AccountingWhy you shouldn’t shun good financial accounting in your church



I once worked for a corporation that was growing tremendously. At an annual meeting, the CEO gave a speech lamenting the fact that the accounting staff had become larger than the sales staff. But the reality was that the rapid growth of the company demanded a higher level of internal financial management than ever before.

Many churches view their need for accounting and business administration in much the same way—as a necessary evil. But I contend that appropriate financial accounting, administration and accountability is not evil. In fact, it is not only essential but also beneficial because it helps maximize the efforts of your ministry.

]]> (Todd Lane) Accounting Wed, 26 Jan 2011 19:36:54 -0500
Stories of Transformation: Crossroads Christian Fellowship Improves Communication James and Becky Valekis have been at Crossroads Christian Fellowship since 1999, when James became the senior pastor there. Crossroads is a "re-birthed" congregation, and the church has been experiencing a significant amount of change over the last 10 or 15 years since the Valekises arrived, so they decided it was time to do some self-assessment.

Crossroads Christian Fellowship is part of Grace Communion International (GCI), a denomination present in over 70 countries and made up of over 50,000 members in about 900 churches. One spring, GCI leadership recommended LifeWay Research's Transformational Church Assessment Tool (TCAT) to churches who may benefit from assessing themselves and moving forward in ministry effectiveness.

Pastor Valekis and Crossroads did some research, contacted LifeWay, and embarked on their journey of self-assessment.

Since the arrival of Pastor Valekis in 1999, Crossroads found themselves transitioning from a more commuter-based congregation to a more traditional, community-based congregation.

Becky, Pastor Valekis' wife and a leader in the church, said, "We started there [Crossroads] in 1999-2000, and we were about 100 percent commuter-based, I would guess. Then, by the time we did the TCAT last year, we were probably more like 80 percent community based."

That's a huge demographic swing. Such a change would have no small effect on the congregation.

The transition was a big one, and the church thought some self-assessment would go a long way in helping them better minister to the community around them.

They were right.

Crossroads, Becky says, actually scored really well on the TCAT. But while there were no glaring areas needing improvement, the assessment confirmed a suspicion many in leadership had: Communication could improve, specifically as it relates to the mission and vision of the church and its discipleship efforts.

The question the leadership faced is this: "How do we improve our communication with the congregation?"

Pastor Valekis, Becky and other leaders in the church found a solution: more leadership.

"One of the things that came out of it [the assessment] was that we really did need more leadership, to spread out more. So we've been working on creating a more varied leadership structure, and we just commissioned and ordained three new leaders since the assessment," Becky reported.

Pastor Valekis is the only full-time pastor of Crossroads, so having other part-time and lay leaders to assist him has done wonders to bring about communication effectiveness in the church. Church members can contact any number of church leaders now, instead of relying on Pastor Valekis to be available.

The expansion of leadership is already starting to show fruit. Crossroads is a church of approximately 80 regular attendees, and Becky says that since they've commissioned the new leaders, attendance has been up, and they just recently baptized 17 people on a single Sunday!

Crossroads is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, with increasing attendance, increasing interest in baptism and church involvement, and significant financial giving. Becky sees taking the TCAT as a sort of turning point for the church.

"We were at a good place, but we didn't know what the next step was. So I think that it's helped us see that a little bit better," she said.

More information about the TCAT can be found online at

This post was written by Chris Martin, social media facilitator at LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit

]]> (Chris Martin/LifeWay Christian Resources) Communication Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:00:00 -0500
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
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
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
Prayerful Consideration: To Build or Not to Build Perhaps you are in a ministry where God is moving, your attendance is growing, and you find yourself asking, "How do we facilitate this increase?" Or maybe, your ministry has plateaued and your team realizes that, in order to grow, you may need to renovate, replace or relocate.   

What do you do? Where do you start? Do you do anything right now?

Those are tough questions every ministry faces at some time. Unfortunately, due to the nature of ministry, most churches reach a point of needing to do something "now" to survive the growth or the decline, and they have not made preparation. So whether your need is immediate or several years down the road, let's discuss some options and good practices you can put in place to make progress.

Let's consider first the most important issue when it comes to any type of capital improvement or expansion: How do we pay for it? So often this is the most difficult hurdle to construction projects. Too many times, churches employ the services of a design company before really considering what they can afford. They often end up with a design or set of plans they cannot build, because they did not design with a budget as the guide. The first step for any renovation or addition should begin with how much we can spend.

To determine your spending capacity, you need to know your options and which path your staff is comfortable navigating. First, do we have any excess cash that is set aside for capital improvement? As I speak to pastors and church leaders across the nation, I always encourage them to build a payment into their budget and set that money aside, even if you do not have debt.

This does two things. First, it sets aside cash that can help you initiate a process of due diligence when the time comes for your project. Second, you will have already proven to a lending institution that you can afford a loan. A liquid building fund gives leaders some capital to engage a partner to help them determine the best course of action when it comes time to upgrade or expand.

Once your cash reserves are measured, then we look to some type of capital campaign. Often church leaders are hesitant to lead their members to make a commitment to give toward buildings or renovations; however, it often can be a time of great spiritual growth for a church when it is done well.

Buildings are not the end; they are a means to an end. They are tools with which churches do ministry.

When sharing a vision to raise funds for construction projects, it is vital to put the focus on the ministry that will be accomplished for the kingdom, rather than the edifice itself. Don't discount completely the necessity to share the renderings, animations or drawings of your facility, but promote these as investments in future opportunities to reach and serve the people of your community.

A good partner to walk the journey of a capital campaign is a necessity if you have not traveled that road before. A good partner will mean the difference between great results and great growth, or average results and a potentially miserable experience.

With cash in hand and pledges on the way, what is our next source of funding? We now turn to the lenders. Two basic options are available for churches when it comes to borrowing funds. There is the conventional loan and the sale of bonds. Many factors play into the ability for a church to secure either type of funding, but some of the most important need to be in place before you attempt to borrow.

First, you need to be able to show an ability to pay back the loan. How will your budget be affected when you add the monthly payment to the bottom line? What adjustments do you need to make now in order to be prepared for that day? Second, you need to keep accurate accounting records and financial statements. Oftentimes, churches don't do a good job of keeping accurate financial records and, when it comes time to borrow, it can take months to get your financial house in order.

If you know a loan is in your future, hire an accountant to do a review of your financial records. Most of the time you will be required to have audited financial statements to present to your lender, so why not get those in order sooner rather than later?

The type of funding you choose will depend on your specific situation, but consider both before making your decision. Also, choosing your lender is very important. Many churches believe that their local bank is the best choice, and oftentimes, it may be. However, there are many lending institutions that specialize in lending to churches or ministries, and because they understand ministry, they frequently can offer better terms, better rates and larger loans. Sometimes a conventional loan may not be the best option.

Then, we turn to the sale of bonds. For the sake of space I will not detail all the differences, but let me mention a few of the major ones. Conventional loans will have lower fees; however, they may require more detailed appraisals and other requirements that often offset some of the savings. Bonds normally will provide more cash than a conventional loan and, oftentimes, the terms and refinancing benefits are much better than conventional. The interest rate will always be lower for a conventional loan over a bond program, but that should not be the only factor considered. It may be best to talk with both types of lenders to see which option provides your church with the right solution.

Once you have completed this exercise, you now know what your budget is and you can answer the questions "How much can we afford? What do we do next?" It is time now to engage a partner who can walk with you through the journey of design and construction. It is critical to choose a partner who understands construction and ministry. They can assist you by asking the right questions to help your team determine the best course of action for your project.

Any contractor can build your buildings, but to help you determine what you need to build, or if you need to build, requires the experience of a team who has been on both sides. For example, a church reached out to me to build them a new sanctuary. After attending church with them over the weekend, I helped them realize that if they built a large, new sanctuary, they would only increase the problem of an already overcrowded preschool and children's area.

Through a process of evaluation, they came to the conclusion it was better to invest their available funds in a smaller version of a new sanctuary and renovate their preschool and children's area. A partner who understands the ministry side and has a heart to help guide you can save you much heartache down the road.

A partner who will allow the budget to guide them is very crucial to the success of your design and project. It is imperative to have a partner engaged who, from the very beginning, knows the costs of building churches and ministry facilities. When a builder is not involved from the very beginning, helping with site evaluation, due diligence and cost estimation throughout the design process, statistics tell us that 36 percent of those projects will never get built. The design repeatedly ends up exceeding the financial ability of the church and the money spent on design is wasted.

When the budget drives the design and the costs are estimated as you progress through design, you end up with a feasible design that can be constructed for the funds that are available.

With an accurate budget and a good partner, there are still many questions that need to be answered. Let's address four major considerations:

1) Do we renovate, relocate, expand or multiply? Let's begin with renovation. When your existing structure is sound, your square footage is adequate and your location is still effective, you may consider a renovation project. If your existing facility does not have any major structural issues there is no cheaper place to be than right where you are. As long as you have sufficient square footage, even though it may need to be rearranged, you can rework your existing space for much less than building a new facility.

A new façade on the exterior, often tying multiple buildings together, can provide a new face to the community that communicates good things are happening at your location. Renovation, though painful during the process, can be a much less expensive way to continue to facilitate growth.

2) Relocation is a painstaking process that commonly requires churches to take two steps backward before moving forward. The cost of land, infrastructure, parking, utilities, etc. at a new location can use so much of your available funding that you may wind up with much less facility than you are currently occupying. All of those unseen expenses are difficult to swallow when you make a decision to move.

However, there are many times valid reasons for relocating. If your current area has changed so dramatically that it is difficult to continue your ministry, it may be time for a move. If current facilities have suffered damage or are structurally unsound, a new home may be a viable option. In any case, it is advisable to have a good partner to assist you in evaluating the new site to ensure you don't take any missteps in purchasing a piece of land that can be extremely costly to build on.

3) The third consideration is expansion at your existing location. If you are experiencing growth and are needing more space, adding to existing facilities may be a great step. A few considerations for this approach are important. If you expand your buildings, do you have enough parking to compensate? Oftentimes additional parking is required by code when churches expand. This can be a costly piece of your project that, if not considered early on, can be a painful hurdle to overcome. Are current utilities adequate for the expansion? What is the best configuration for the expansion? Should we renovate a portion of our existing facility and build a smaller new building? These are just a few pieces of the exercise to navigate when considering adding on.

4) Finally, multiplication is a good biblical word that is working with many churches when it comes to facilities and location. Multisite churches are popping up everywhere. This is a very valid solution to growth. Others can communicate the pros and cons to multisite expansion better than I can, but let's toss up a few thoughts on the facility side.

As mentioned before, new locations can be costly. So the purchase of "big box buildings" may be an alternative to building a new building. Whether a grocery store, hardware store or furniture store, building can provide much of the infrastructure and parking in one purchase. The interior can be renovated to accommodate a new church for much less than new construction. It is important to take into consideration things like ceiling height, parking, columns inside the building, etc. before making the purchase. Again, a partner that understands these concerns may be worth your investment.

Building, renovating, expanding or relocating are all very critical decision for churches. Planning ahead and engaging a great partner are the two best practices that can save leaders a great deal of heartache. Always remember, buildings are tools to accomplish the ministry God has called you to fulfill. Build right, and ministry is much easier.  

For 20 years, Rodney James Daniels served as a pastor. During his ministry God allowed Rodney to complete multiple building projects. In 2012, Rodney joined the Churches By Daniels team as director of business and finance. By utilizing his experience and talents in ministry and business, he is able to bring a unique perspective to building churches.

]]> (Rodney James Daniels) Construction Tue, 13 Jan 2015 17:00:00 -0500
Impact Ministry: The More-With-Less Church It was an exciting time for Riverside Church in Big Lake, Minnesota. Hundreds of people were coming to faith in Christ and the church was growing. It was growing so fast, in fact, that there was no room for more people.

Senior Pastor Tom Lundeen and the elders knew they needed to build. They just didn't know what to build and had no idea how they could pay for it. They still owed a $750,000 debt from their last building project and a tenth of their budget was going to mortgage payments. Plus, their staff was stretched to the max. More than one staff member was flirting with burnout. Yet, there was no money to hire desperately needed staff.

Riverside was at a crossroad. Either the church would find ways to meet their needs for space and staffing, or it would quit growing and probably shrink. Of course, this wasn't mainly about the numbers. These new attendees were people who were becoming followers of Jesus and entering into the life of a vibrant church family. Unless Riverside could discover creative ways to do more with less, spiritually hungry people would remain hungry.

Fast-forward nine years. Riverside's average attendance has more than doubled from 690 to more than 1,500 today. Most of that growth, about three-quarters of it, has not come through evangelism. The church is debt-free and has been for years. The 10 percent of the budget that had been used for debt payments has been repurposed for staffing. The church is healthier than ever. And amazingly, even though the leaders were convinced nine years ago that they were out of space, all this has been accomplished without adding a single square foot to their building.

Today, Riverside truly is using all its available space and is getting ready to launch a second campus so that the church has room to keep welcoming more people.   

More-With-Less Buildings

How has all of this been possible? When Riverside found itself at this bewildering crossroad, the senior pastor and elders called on Living Stones Associates, a church consulting team, to help them come up with solutions.

Riverside had already gone to two worship services, and both services were full, so Riverside's leaders all knew—or thought they knew—that they had no option but to build a larger worship center. But that wasn't the end result. At the consulting team's suggestion, they converted their fellowship hall to a video café, creating a second worship venue where people could join the worship service via video.

A challenge was that there was just a six-inch wall between the worship center and the video café, making it impractical for the video café to have live music. Leaders of other churches warned Riverside that a second worship venue without live music wouldn't work, but Riverside had no other option, so they tried it anyway.

The video café has three large screens on the wall so that worshippers can experience the music and teaching from the room next door. At first, the leaders were concerned that people might see this room as "overflow," second-rate seating. But that concern was soon put to rest when, on the first blizzard Sunday when attendance was so low that everyone could have easily gathered in the main worship center, 75 people chose to worship in the video café. Many people assumed that the video café would appeal mainly to young people, but people of all ages chose the café as their preferred worship venue. Some older adults appreciate having a table where they can lay their open Bibles and take sermon notes.

In time, when both the worship center and video café were both at capacity during both services, Riverside added a third service.

More-With-Less Finances

Seating capacity was only one of the challenges Riverside's building posed. There were traffic bottlenecks that would only get worse as attendance increased. Offices were scattered throughout the building, even on different floors, undermining efficiency and teamwork. One nursery was upstairs and the other downstairs with no place for secure check-in. The small classroom model the church was using for Christian education made poor use of both space and volunteers.

The facility plan recommended by Living Stones and improved upon by the building contractor widened the main passageway upstairs; created a wide, straight stairway to the basement; created a state-of-the art nursery area; brought all the offices together; opened up rooms for large-group team teaching; and, of course, created the video café. A building that had originally been designed for single use—each space used for a single function with a single worship service—had been transformed into a multi-use facility, with the capacity to handle the increased traffic flow of multiple services in multiple venues.

While all this cost was a fraction of the cost of a new building, it still required real money. Committed to paying cash for the remodel and also becoming debt-free, the church conducted a capital campaign, raising $1.4 million over three years. During the first year of the campaign, the church accelerated its mortgage payments, slashing interest expense. During the second year, because the mortgage was already paid ahead, Riverside used the pledges received to pay cash for the construction project. During the third year, the balance of the mortgage was paid off.

During the past three years, Executive Pastor Skipp Machmer has led the congregation in developing a culture of generosity. The past two years, giving has exceeded the budget, this past year by $250,000. Now truly out of space, the church is preparing to launch a second campus. This will likely require some short-term debt, but the church is financially healthy enough today that it can do that without using funds needed for staffing and ministries.
More-With-Less Staffing

Riverside's most urgent staffing need was for an executive pastor. Pastor Tom is a gifted communicator, and his clear, practical sermons are powerful. But strategic planning and staff management are not his sweet spots. Tom needed an executive pastor to free him to focus on what he was called to do and to make it possible for the staff and congregation to continue to grow. An executive pastor was hired and a couple of years later, so was a community life pastor who gave leadership to the small-group ministry. Support staff roles were tweaked and other staff assignments reorganized, all with the eye to getting each staff member working in the areas where they were most gifted.

Today, Riverside spends about 60 percent of its budget on staff—more than the average church spends—but this investment in staffing has been key to sustaining rapid growth through evangelism over the past decade. This investment in staffing would not have been possible if the church had still been using 10 percent of its budget to pay debt.

More-With-Less Ministry

Around 90 percent of churches in the U.S. and Canada are over-programmed. They operate so many programs that they are constantly struggling to recruit enough volunteers, people end up serving out of a sense of duty or guilt rather than call and many of the ministries are not done with excellence. The result is tired leaders, mediocre ministries and limited ministry impact.

The liberating truth is that the fruitfulness of our ministry is greatest when we do fewer things with greater excellence. A few years into Riverside's "makeover," their children's ministry team discovered the power of this principle.

When the national AWANA program made some programming changes a few years back, Riverside's AWANA leaders observed, "With these changes, AWANA is now going to be very similar to what we're already doing on Sunday mornings with our children."

A basic principle of programming is that if you have two programs that are serving similar purposes, you will be more effective if you combine the programs and do an excellent job than if you try to maintain two programs and do a mediocre job. So at the suggestion of the AWANA leaders, Riverside combined its AWANA program with its children's church program, allowing the staff and all the children's ministry leaders to put their time and energy into creating a top-rate Sunday children's ministry.

Today, the children's ministry at Riverside is more effective than ever at connecting with families with children.

Most churches in the U.S. and Canada have three church-wide programs for children—Sunday school, children's church, and a weeknight program.  In all the churches Living Stones has consulted with over 30-plus years, not one has said they are able to do an excellent job with all three programs. In fact, the churches that are known nationally for their excellent children's ministries—those that hold training events that people from all over the nation attend—these, like Riverside, have committed to doing one children's ministry program and doing it superbly.

When it comes to ministry programs, less is more.

More-With-Less in the Inner City

Hilltop Urban Church in Wichita, Kansas, was facing challenges vastly different from those facing Riverside, but they were no less daunting. Hilltop's call was to serve the poor, multi-ethnic neighborhood that surrounded the church. For the 20 years of the church's life, white, middle-class, educated people from the suburbs had commuted to Hilltop to lead the church's ministries. They ministered and the neighborhood people received ministry and sometimes assisted the leaders.

From the beginning, Pastor Dennis Hesselbarth's dream had been to raise up indigenous leaders from the neighborhood, but his dream had gone unfulfilled.

Twenty years into the church's life, the original core group of suburban leaders was aging out. Some were forced to step back from ministry due to health issues. The writing on the wall was clear: Unless a new generation of leaders could be raised up, the church would be dead within 10 years.

More-With-Less Ministry

Seven years ago, the part-time children's director at Hilltop left the staff. In the past whenever this happened, the church would search for another paid children's director and help her raise missionary support to pay her salary. This time, though, Hilltop chose a different approach. One of the women from the neighborhood who had assisted with children's ministry was asked to pray about forming and leading a children's ministry team. Her first instinct was to say no, because she had never led anything before. But after praying, she felt she should say yes. She chose three other women, none of whom had led anything before, to join her team.

A former children's director was assigned to coach the team, and they began meeting weekly to pray and think about the children's ministry they would launch in the fall. The pastor gave them guidelines within which to work, but within those guidelines, they were given great freedom to decide what to do, when and how.

It was no surprise to the pastors (thought it might have been to the team) that the team put together an effective children's church ministry for the fall. What surprised everyone was to see the transformation that took place within the team members. A team member who would come to church and spend most of her time crying and hardly be able to hold a conversation because she was so distraught, within a couple of years became a lead teacher in children's church.

Over the next few years, the children's ministry team hit so many home runs that they developed great confidence and took great pride in their team.

Over the next four years, all the ministry programs at Hilltop transitioned to this team ministry approach, and ministry teams became the primary incubators for ministry leaders. The leaders discovered that the best way to raise up indigenous leaders is to get them onto a ministry team where they are fully engaged in designing and carrying out the ministries to which they are called. A key to making this possible is that every ministry team leader has a coach who is on call when the leader gets stuck. Because the coach provides on-the-job, just-in-time training, dependable people who have never led before can be successful leaders.

The leaders came to call their old way of doing ministry Hilltop 1.0 and the new way Hilltop 2.0. In the five-year transition from Hilltop 1.0 to 2.0, about three-quarters of the existing ministry programs went away. They were replaced by much more relational ways of doing things, which included making house churches—Hilltop's version of deep-relationship small groups—the heart of everything they did.

Seven years ago, none of the ministries at Hilltop were led by people from the culture of poverty. Today, about 80 percent of Hilltop's leaders are from the culture of poverty, and more life transformation is happening than ever before. Fewer programs, more fruit.

More-With-Less Finances

One of the goals Hilltop has set in their transition from 1.0 to 2.0 is for the church to become financially self-sufficient in all their core ministries while continuing to be a channel for suburban churches and ministry partners to invest in the needs of the poor through compassion funds, scholarship funds and so on.

Making progress toward this goal has required two shifts. First, many people who live in the culture of poverty have the mindset that they have nothing to give. The leaders have had to challenge this mindset, working to develop a culture of generosity even in the midst of poverty. Second, the church's old models of staffing and doing ministry, which depended primarily on outside funds paying for professional staff, has been replaced with a new model in which people from the local culture lead most of the ministries.

Seven years ago, Hilltop attendees gave only about 30 percent of what was needed to meet the budget. Today, about 90 percent of Hilltop's core ministries are funded by the congregation.
While Hilltop's attendance is about the same, there are far more frequent stories of changed lives and much greater excitement among the leaders than there were seven years ago. And this is happening on a budget only about one-third the size of the Hilltop 1.0 budget. Plus, there is the sense among the leaders that the church leadership core is becoming stronger. The church is poised for growth.

More-With-Less Staffing

Seven years ago, Hilltop had a full-time senior pastor, a full-time youth pastor and a quarter-time children's director. Today, the staff team is made up of six people, two of whom are paid part-time and four unpaid. Paid hours for ministry staff (support staff not included) have been reduced from 90 to 30 hours a week, appropriate for a church with attendance in the 50s.

Hilltop will probably always rely primarily on unpaid staff made up of indigenous leaders. As the church grows, paid ministry staff may increase, but their primary role will not be to do ministry for people but rather to equip others to do ministry, to grow and coach ministry leaders.

More-With-Less Buildings

Hilltop is blessed to be debt-free. But while they have no mortgage, the cost of operating their building is a burden—utilities, insurance, maintenance and custodial salary. When the main building was built in 2000, Hilltop was a program-based church and the building was built to meet the needs of those programs. With Hilltop 2.0, most of those programs went away as more and more ministry moved out of the building and into people's homes.

Hilltop's more-with-less building strategy has been to seek out ministry partners who share their mission to reach out to the Hilltop neighborhood and share space with them. Hilltop now rents space to a Spanish-speaking church and to a ministry serving victims of domestic violence. The church is exploring the possibility of sharing the building with another nearby church that already partners with them in multiple community outreaches. A Shared Ministry Team, made up of representatives of the three churches that share the building, works out practical issues related to sharing the building and explores possibilities for shared ministry.

Riverside and Hilltop are two very different churches, but both find creative ways to do more ministry with fewer resources. Certainly, your church's situation is different from both of these, but these same principles can release your church to bear more fruit with less investment of money, space, time and people.

Less effort, more fruitfulness. Why would you settle for anything less in your church?  

Eddy Hall joined the team of Living Stone Associates in 1996 and assumed the leadership in 2000. He also leads the staff team of Hilltop Urban Church, a multi-ethnic congregation in a low-income neighborhood in Wichita, Kansas.

20 Questions to Answer Before You Build

Which of the following statements are true for your church? Answer yes, no, or NA ("not applicable").

Do You Need to Build?

___     1. Big groups are in big rooms. Little groups are in little rooms.
___     2. Our teaching methods maximize the use of space.
___     3. All unused or underused rooms have been identified and put to full use. No rooms suitable for meeting are being used for storage.
___     4. Most furniture is movable and arranged for maximum use of space.
___     5. Classroom tables are lightweight, folding and adjustable in height, and easy to move and store.
___     6. Worship chairs are comfortable, stackable, and easy to move and store.
___     7. Every space possible has been made multi-use.
___     8. We have at least three worship services.
___     9. We have multiple sessions of Christian education.
___     10. Some ministries are effectively conducted off-campus for less cost.
___     11. Homes are used for small groups and other ministries.

We have researched the feasibility of the following:

___ 12. Buying adjacent houses or buildings for church use.
___ 13. Holding a simultaneous service in one or more video venues.
___ 14. Adding another worship site.

Are You Financially Ready to Build?

___ 15. Our church is debt-free.
___ 16. We consistently meet our budget, fully funding our ministry and staffing needs.
___ 17. Our staffing budget reflects our commitment to staff for growth by hiring staff ahead of growth.
___ 18. Our budget includes 1 percent to 2 percent for equipping unpaid ministry leaders and team members.
___ 19. Our people have made pledges to increase giving to cover the cost of
construction and future building operating costs so that none of the church's present ministry spending is diverted to building.
___ 20. The church now has enough in its provision fund to be able to pay cash or mostly cash for the proposed building program.

Each yes answer identifies a more-with-less solution you are already
implementing. Each no answer points to another opportunity to do more with less.

If you answered yes to statements 15 through 18, your church is financially healthy. By taking the steps described in statements 19 and 20, you should be financially ready to build within a few years.

Adapted from The More-with-Less Church by Eddy Hall, Ray Bowman and J. Skipp Machmer (Baker, 2014).  Used by permission.

]]> (Eddy Hall) Construction Thu, 15 Jan 2015 14:00:00 -0500
How Much Church Is Too Much? Weighing your church's vision for growth with realistic planning.
]]> (Clarence Shaw) Construction Tue, 01 Jul 2008 00:00:00 -0400
Before You Build An expert in church construction outlines a practical strategy pastors can use to plan expansion projects well and avoid potential pitfalls
]]> (Brian Walsh) Construction Wed, 01 May 2002 00:00:00 -0400
The Biggest Mistakes of Building Projects Planning and oversight will help you avoid these five missteps
]]> (Charlie Daniels) Construction Sat, 01 Nov 2008 00:00:00 -0400
Have You Left Your Building Behind? Biblical principles for construction during difficult economic seasons. ]]> (Glen Sauls) Construction Sat, 01 Nov 2008 00:00:00 -0400 10 Amazing Unseen Things That Can Happen in Your Church Every Sunday Attend just about any church next Sunday and you'll see the usual obvious things taking place: people are greeted, songs are sung, Scripture is read, a sermon is preached. All good stuff.

But far more impressive things are happening on Sundays—and you may never see it.

1. Insights are gained. Paul once told Timothy that if he would reflect on what Paul had written, he would gain insight. Insight is more valuable than silver (Prov. 16:16). During next Sunday's sermon, some powerful and profitable things will be happening. You won't see them physically, but they'll be happening nonetheless.

2. Hope is created. As Scripture is taught, somewhere in the church, someone is finding hope. Don't blink or you will miss it. But someone will walk out of your church with a new sense inside of them.

3. The Father smiles. God doesn't speak audibly very often, but sometimes He does. During Jesus' baptism He was so moved with joy that He articulated out loud, "I am well pleased." Imagine how you would feel if your children came together one morning to sing songs to you about how wonderful you are. I bet you'd have a big smile on your face. I believe this happens with God every Sunday.

4. Treasure is stored. At some point in every service, an offering is taken. According to Matthew 6:20, while that's happening, givers are having treasure deposited in heavenly accounts with their names on them. Very cool!

5. Souls pass from death to life. More people come to Christ on Sundays than any other day of the week. In your church, you may see a hand raised, a knee bent, or a person walk forward to an altar. What you won't see is the most important part: Their soul will be passing from death to life. Imagine it for a minute. That's worth coming to church for, isn't it?

6. Crowns are earned. Do a study of rewards and you'll find that lots of them will be handed out in heaven. One of the top awards is the crown of righteousness, which is awarded to those who lead others to Christ (1 Thess. 2:19). Next time you see someone coming to Christ in your church, imagine an angel manufacturing an amazing headpiece that will be placed on the brow of the one leading the other to Jesus. Unseen, but unspeakably exciting!

7. Intentions develop. As God speaks in worship services, people are moved to live differently. Sometimes this happens during a song. Often it happens during a sermon. You can't see it as you look around the room, but it's an unseen reality: People change their intentions when they encounter the truth of God.

8. Demons are defeated. Christians are involved in an unseen battle with "the forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph. 6:12). These forces are defeated whenever a Christian puts on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the Word of God. That sounds a lot like what happens in a church service, doesn't it? The next time you're in church, be aware that demons are falling.

9. Heaven gets changed. Revelation 1 pictures Jesus in heaven, standing beside a group of lampstands. He explains that the lampstands are churches. Hundreds of new churches are planted around the world every Sunday. Apparently, with the birth of these churches comes the creation of a lampstand in heaven that burns with light to the glory of God.

10. God gets glory. "God gets glory" is such an easy statement to make that you may have never thought what that might look like. But try to imagine it. The primary Hebrew word for glory is "kabod." It refers to something weighty, with wealth and honor.

Imagine this unseen, radiant force somehow being given further weight, or wealth, or value as God's people gather and worship Him. That's not a full picture. But then, what happens when God gets glory is unseen. And well worth showing up to church to make happen.

Take a minute to thank God for what He is doing on Sundays in your church.

Hal Seed is the founding and Lead Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California. His newest book, I Love Sundays, covers seven suggestions for making Sundays the best day of your week. To find out about holding an I Love Sundays Campaign with your church, visit I Love Sundays.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Hal Seed) Environment Mon, 27 Jul 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Greg Atkinson: The Most Beautiful Churches in the World I’m going to list the most beautiful churches in the world. Are you ready? Follow me. If I said, “You have a beautiful church," would you reply, “Thanks. When did you visit our building?” or would you reply, “Thanks. Who did you meet?”

It’s simple and subtle but potentially dangerous. So often we refer to churches’ facilities or campuses and define that as a church, as if they’re synonymous. One of the reasons that I love church plants and those in portable facilities is that they don’t have to overcome this hurdle like churches with their own building.

We don’t go to church. We are the church. If you want to see the most beautiful churches in the world, you’ve got to spend some time with believers that are sold out to Jesus, filled with His love and grace, display the fruits of the Spirit and have a passion to serve their community.

While I’m thinking about it, read Dino Rizzo’s book Servolution—that’s a beautiful church and a beautiful vision/ministry. Each time I’ve visited a church that has a Dream Center, including the LA Dream Center led by pastor Matthew Barnett, I’ve seen a beautiful church. The ironic thing about this is that churches with Dream Centers often are doing messy ministry and getting their hands dirty; still, they are what I consider to be a beautiful church.

I remember years ago being at the Evangelism Conference at Willow Creek and hearing Bill Hybels share his heart and vision. What I left with is, at the end of the day, it’s about people sharing their faith and life with other people.

Please understand, I ran a social media marketing company. I’m all for marketing and branding and using tools like social media, but when it comes down to it—people are the church and they, by their word of mouth, are used by God to grow a church and be salt and light in a dark world.

How can your church be a beautiful church? It can be by making disciples and growing up people in their faith. Spiritually mature Christians are beautiful in their own way. They’ve had years to practice spiritual disciplines and give off the scent of Christ. New Christians are beautiful in their own way. Yes, they’re sometimes rough around the edges, but their passion and zeal is inspiring and their newfound “first love” is a breath of fresh air.

I’m curious: If I came to your community, would I experience a beautiful church?

Note: The above was a book excerpt from Greg Atkinson’s latest book, Church Leadership Essentials, available on Amazon through Rainer Publishing.

Greg Atkinson is the campus pastor at one of Forest Park’s campuses. Forest Park is a multisite church based in Joplin, Mo. Visit Greg Atkinson at

For the original article, visit

]]> (Greg Atkinson) Environment Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:00:00 -0500
8 Types of Power Groups in Churches Thom-Rainer-headshotThis topic will cause some discomfort for many of you. The very thought of the presence of power groups seems contrary to the spirit and grace of the gospel. But power groups are very real in churches.

Perhaps our comfort level can increase a bit by calling the groups “influencers” rather than power groups. Choose your label. The fact of the matter is that most churches have a clearly known group that carries the most influence in the church. And it is not unusual for that group to have a clearly known leader.

]]> (Thom S. Rainer) Environment Thu, 26 Sep 2013 13:00:00 -0400
Online Giving: Pass the Wifi Passing the plate takes on new forms as the years roll by. From coins to bills to personal checks, the giving plate has been no stranger to advancement. While the finance industry continues to evolve alongside that of technology, so does the act of worship through giving. Whether through your church's website, in person at an iPad kiosk in the church lobby or through your mobile phone right from the palm of your hand, giving has changed quite a bit since Jesus' time to say the least.

How is a church supposed to keep up? This is one tough question that pastors keep asking themselves.

Multi-Site Church, Multi-Format Online Giving

For New Life Covenant Church in Chicago, Illinois, growth has become something they're accustomed to. When the church began with just a few hundred people meeting in the high school gym, little did they know that in 10 years, they'd be operating as a multi-site campus spanning the Chicago area and offering a variety of ways to give.

"It was all a manual process of passing the plate for a long time," says Alex Navas, digital media coordinator for New Life.

In 2013 Navas was preparing to help move the church to its new building to house the incredible growth—currently 17,000 attendees at three campuses—and did a complete church technology overhaul to update the church's website and find better online giving options.

"As I looked around at what we had in place, our giving solution wasn't mobile responsive and didn't offer text giving," Navas says. "Plus, we had many people taking donations and payments for events in lots of different places. There were also problems with reporting functionality.

"We had so many accounts to keep track of—from retreats to Sunday donations. We had also leased two kiosks which gave us separate reports."

New Life brought in Mogiv to help unify their giving options and streamline the reporting on the backend—both of which were critical to New Life, given their incredible season of growth.

Now, New Life offers giving on their website through a page that doesn't navigate visitors away from it site. They also offer text and mobile giving.

"We still have a manual process via collection plate, but we also ask people to pull out their phones and give via text. Plus, people are aware we have iPads on stands in the lobby and ushers ready to help them," says Navas.

Since offering a more streamlined approach to giving online, New Life saw a 23 percent increase in giving between February 2013 and February 2014 and the numbers continue to climb.

Navas admits trepidation when rolling out text and mobile giving to New Life's Hispanic congregation that reaches many first-generation Americans. But by educating people through video announcements and walking them through the text-to-give process, they were able to harness the power of the mobile phones easily and give everyone a helping hand.

Multiple Options

Statistics show that most people do not carry checks and few people carry much cash in their wallets. Debit cards and the prevalence of digital payments for everything at every store everywhere have virtually eliminated the need to carry cash, checks or even visit your bank in person. This said, many churches still expect people to operate as they did 50 years ago.

There is an incredible amount of options available to churches today.

Some of the options churches have at their fingertips are text-to-give or short code giving, dedicated church apps, mobile responsive websites that easily scale from computer to tablet to smartphone, online recurring giving, and of course the trusty ACH withdrawal or bank bill-pay features which require no work from the church since it is sent through the donor's bank website.

While some service providers offer similar methods of giving, the reporting features, in addition to the merchant and transaction fees, can vary quite a bit. It's good to do your homework. Churches must also take into account their audience and provide giving options that reach the people in the pews.

"The general populous of our community is not very tech-driven, so we had to combat some culture paradigms and dispel the myth that online giving was not safe. We started with one payment gateway, but after attending a conference, our lead pastor challenged us to find a payment platform that offered text-message giving," says Brian Sisneros, associate pastor of Living Stone Worship Center.

The pastors at Living Stone felt that choosing an online giving platform that was congruent with their giving philosophy was of paramount importance.

"Another part of our giving philosophy is what I call the 'integrity of transparency.' When our supporters click on that [giving] link, they are seamlessly directed to the dashboard where they can monitor the progress of each campaign. They can see what is coming and what is not coming in," Sisneros says. "As of right now, digital giving accounts for about 30 percent of our monthly income and we have seen it steadily increase over the last six months."

The Future

Like many others, churches are seeing the wave of mobile technology continue to grip their congregations. Many feel that giving via text message will become the norm in the years to come.

"We foresaw that texting was the future of banking and giving in general, and we wanted to get ahead of the curve. We believe that the majority of our giving will eventually be through text messaging," Sisneros says.

While some churches are still wary of the fees involved in offering online giving, if they begin to think about it in terms of losing 30 percent of their donations because they don't have any way for people to give digitally, it might change their perspective.

Technology and online giving aren't going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, more people than ever have access to technology and desire to use it for good.  

Lauren Hunter is a freelance writer, consultant and blogger who desires to encourage churches to better use technology to improve every aspect of ministry. Her blog, ChurchTechToday, was born from a need for a place to discuss how technology can impact the church in positive ways.

Digital Giving Solutions and Surprising Statistics

Here are some digital giving solutions that offer mobile app, kiosk and text-to-giving options:

Easy Tithe |

E-zekiel |

Kindrid |

Mogiv |

Qgiv |

SecureGive |

SimpleGive |

  • Two out of five people carry less than $20 on their person (Bankrate).
  • Consumers never write checks are up to 38 percent. Another 20 percent only write a few per year (The Financial Brand).
  • Six in 10 Millennials do not have a credit card (Washington Post).
  • Branded giving pages [pages embedded on church's website] account for 54 percent of online giving. Branded giving pages raise six times more in contributions than generic giving pages (Charity Navigator).
  • Website traffic for nonprofit websites rose 16 percent from the year prior (M+R 2014 Benchmark Study).
  • Charitable giving revenue grew 4.9 percent in 2013, the largest gain since the 2008 recession (Forbes).
]]> (Lauren Hunter) Equipment Wed, 07 Jan 2015 17:00:00 -0500
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
Would Peter Have Ever Foreseen This? When Jesus issued the Great Commission in Matthew 28, it's doubtful His disciples could envision a world where going into all the nations would be fulfilled digitally, but that's precisely what World Mission's Treasure does.

A solar-powered audio Bible, the Treasure connects Third World Christians with the power of the cross. Pastors familiar with the Treasure and its evangelization capabilities are constantly asking for more, says John Hullett of World Mission.

"Whenever we ask for prayer requests, the only things leaders ask for are courage and more Treasures," says Hullett. "It builds passion, and the power of the Word of God changes people."

It's the verbal power of the Word of God that's making a difference.

Global illiteracy statistics are staggering: A total of 775 million people, or 1 in 5 worldwide, cannot read and two-thirds of those are women, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The goal of the Treasure isn't to create Western-based church plants. Rather, it's to provide indigenous churches rooted in God's Word the tools to share the gospel.

The organization has access to more than 5,000 languages with 200 complete New Testaments.

One Treasure can impact hundreds of people. Along with the gospel, the groups of people that form around the Treasure can launch churches and awaken gifts of evangelism digitally. They in turn can share the gospel with others, further spreading the Good News.

World Mission receives the Treasure parts in units and then custom makes them so any given device can feature the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, an audio version of the Jesus film, as well as testimonies of people who could never otherwise travel to a mission field.

Anyone with a heart inclined toward missions can record their testimonies. While sharing with a youth group or a friend, their stories will only go so far, but if recorded for the Treasure, their stories can impact nations.

And with the the availability of multiple languages and programs, one thing becomes increasingly clear: "Your God speaks my language," according to a Treasure listener.

"The laborers are already there," Hullett says. "They just want the tools." —Jessilyn Justice

]]> (Jessilyn Justice ) Equipment Thu, 07 May 2015 21:00:00 -0400
Equipment: Upgrading for the Future While technical systems are a great way to enhance a worship service, they are also a great way to ruin or distract the congregation.

Many churches are looking for new ways that they can improve their sound system while trying to keep within an extremely tight budget. While this is not always an easy task, there are a couple of ways that this can be done:

1. Talk with your local sound company (find one if you need to) and come up with a list together. This is an important first step. It's always good to put things into a list and figure out the order of importance. Certain things are going to be more crucial to do right now over other things, and this can often be a way to keep the costs down. This is also a good way to figure out the costs of performing all the upgrades and work that are required.

2. Maintenance and system re-tune. Some systems can simply benefit from some basic maintenance being performed. Having a sound company that designs and installs church sound systems can provide you with a re-tuning of your sound system that will cost far less than replacing equipment. While not every system will benefit from this, it's a good thing to look at as an option. If certain items need to be repaired or replaced, they can help you out with pulling old equipment, replacing it or sending it in for repair.

3. Moving your speaker system. Oftentimes, feedback is caused by poorly placed speakers. While this is not the case 100 percent of the time, many churches who are limited in their budgets can have the speakers moved to a place where they will provide higher gain before feedback. Placement is so crucial in a sound system, and this is one easy step that can sometimes be taken.

4. Upgrade speakers. This can sometimes be far less costly than upgrading your entire system. If you deal with poor sound quality, coverage or feedback, then upgrading your speakers and making sure they are in the proper place can make a world of difference. The sound company you work with will be able to provide you with a new speaker system. Most of the time, design software is now used to ensure that 1) the correct speakers are being chosen for the room, and 2) they are placed in the spot that will provide the optimum performance. While this is more expensive than the other options, sometimes this can provide the most benefit.

5. Training. Most churches will benefit from a training program. However small or large your church is, training is key. Making sure that your sound team has the right tools to perform their job will help ensure consistency and a higher level of quality. If you cannot find a local company that provides a training program, please check out We provide a variety of programs to help your team perform at its best.

Please keep in mind that some sound systems require more help than others, and certain measures (as listed above) will not work in every instance. The most important thing to do is work directly with a company that designs and installs church sound systems. This will guarantee you are working alongside a company who has your best interest in mind and the necessary experience to get the job done correctly.

Used with permission from  

Jeffrey Miranda is president of NeoLogic Sound, a commercial audio integration firm based in Los Angeles. He has over a decade of experience involved in audio, lighting and video for worship.

]]> (Jeffrey Miranda) Equipment Fri, 09 Jan 2015 14:00:00 -0500
Kid Keepers Five paging and check-in systems to give parents peace of mind
]]> (John Brandon) Equipment Tue, 01 Jan 2008 00:00:00 -0500
Direct Donations When a Georgia pastor created a ‘tithing ATM’ for his church, giving increased—as did the ethical questions.

]]> (Cameron Fisher) Equipment Thu, 01 Nov 2007 00:00:00 -0400
Does Your Church Really Need a Bigger Building? Church buildings can be a major barrier to exponential growth. Massive building programs are often a waste of money.

History has proven over and over that future generations never fill the cavernous temples of previous generations. For instance, every time Spurgeon's Tabernacle was rebuilt (three times) it was downsized. The list of empty great cathedrals would be quite long. God wants to do something new in each generation. He blesses anointed people, not buildings.

We also need to remember that the period of fastest growth for Christianity was during the first 300 years—when there were no church buildings at all. And today most of the rapidly exploding church-planting movements around the world are multiplying without having physical church buildings. They've learned to spread out!

Buildings should be tools for ministry, not monuments. I've said repeatedly to our congregation that Saddleback will never build a building that could not be torn down if it prevented us from reaching more people. Churches should focus on building people, not building buildings! (Tweet that!) That's what being purpose-driven is all about. It's a people-building process. Build your people before your steeple.

One of the goals we set at Saddleback was to prove that you don't need to build a building in order to grow a church. That's why we waited until after our congregation was averaging more than 10,000 in attendance before we built our first building! I think we proved our point. Just because you are growing does not mean you should build a new or larger building.

I am absolutely opposed to building any size facility that will only be used once or twice a week. It is poor stewardship of God's money to build a facility just because the pastor wants to speak to everyone at one time.

In fact, here's a little secret: Only pastors like really huge church services! I'd rather have a building of 200 and fill it with five services than have a 1,000-seat auditorium that is filled only once a week and then left empty the rest of the week. In fact, that's what we've done. Saddleback's campuses have buildings that might be considered large by many standards, but they're actually smaller than the total attendance at each campus. We fill them multiple times, doing as many as six services per weekend in one location.

If you must build, I urge you to at least consider making it a multi-purpose facility. That is much better stewardship of resources. At Saddleback, as soon as our weekend services are over, the seating arrangement in our worship center is taken down and the building is used in a variety of ways every day of the week. This releases an enormous amount of space for programs and money for missions.

I can already hear the critics of this suggestion making a good point for "the grandeur and beauty of worship architecture." Of course, I believe in architectural beauty as an aid to worship too. But at what cost? Can anyone seriously give a New Testament justification for billions of dollars spent on debt for sanctuaries that are used for only a couple hours a week—especially when so many around the world have yet to hear the Good News?

I encourage you to experiment and look for ways to reach and grow people faster and cheaper, without buildings. Don't let traditional methodology, or brick and mortar—or the lack of it—keep you from focusing on what matters most—changed lives!

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times best-seller 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) Expansion Tue, 10 Feb 2015 17:00:00 -0500
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
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
Why We Multiply Everything, Including Churches and Campuses Grace-ChurchWhen we planted Grace Church in a local movie theater two years ago, we assumed that one day we would have a more permanent location. Meeting in a theater is not without challenges, and we assumed we’d eventually have a place for offices and more permanent meeting space, etc.

We also had plans (which are currently in process) of sending out a planter and were excited about planting a new church. We think it is essential to plant and to do it early so that multiplication is part of the life of our church.

]]> (Ed Stetzer) Expansion Fri, 20 Sep 2013 16:00:00 -0400
Raising An ‘Army of Compassion’ How a multi-site church creates more opportunities for community impactd-MinFac-Expansion

Christ Fellowship is a multi-site church. That means we are one church family meeting in multiple locations across our region. We currently average around 30,000 people in all of our combined campuses. Before you begin to revel in our fruit, I want you to understand why we worked so hard to pioneer a new way of doing church.

One of the major roles of the American church must be the reformation of our great nation. We started down the arduous path of multi-site development knowing that would help us mobilize a vast army of compassion, which could impact on our region. 

No one cares about our politics or moral issues until they know we love them. The 
multi-site model creates more outreach opportunities and makes us more aware of the broader needs of our community, allowing us to serve in a more strategic and thoughtful way.

As our people step out to serve others in loving compassion, more doors are opening for us to have greater influence. For example, when we saw that the foster care system in our area needed help, we established the Place of Hope children’s home. Because of the widespread impact of this faith-based program to care for abused and abandoned children, we are now able to speak into the entire foster care system and offer positive contributions on the local, state and national levels.

]]> (Tom Mullins) Expansion Tue, 10 Jan 2012 17:47:59 -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
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
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
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
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
Wanted: Multicamera Directors With Experience There are many churches today that are shooting their worship services, concerts and other events with multiple cameras. Whether you have a broadcast media ministry or not, it’s not unusual to use multiple cameras and to switch them live for the IMAG screens, DVD sales or eventual TV broadcasts.

But in more and more churches and ministries, I’m seeing a disturbing trend that devalues the multicamera director. Sometimes it’s the lowest-paid employee, other times it’s a volunteer, and too often it’s the guy who just shows up. Unless your volunteer is experienced, works in TV during the week or knows his stuff, any one of those choices is a huge mistake.

The director in multicamera shooting is an extremely critical component of the program. Here’s why:

1. The director makes the decisions on camera angles, zoom lengths and framing. Once that’s captured, that can’t be changed, so it’s critical that those decisions are made live in the moment.

2. The director is talking to all the camera operators. His ability to encourage, inspire, and lead the team is essential for them to operate at their best.

3. The director makes the live decisions about what is captured. When to use audience shots, wide shots, framing for the speaker or musicians—all these are critical to telling the story properly.

4. The switching itself is far more critical than many people think. For instance, cuts and dissolves to a director are like periods and commas to a writer. It’s a visual grammar that has rules and not something that happens at random. Know when to cut and when to dissolve.

5. Whatever decisions the director makes, the video editors will have to live with. So make sure the person making those decisions at the director’s console is trained, experienced, and knows what he or she is doing.

In network television, multicamera directors are a talented breed who live under pressure and are comfortable talking to 10 or more people at the same time on a headset—all while using multiple cameras to capture an event and visually tell a story. Don’t take shortcuts. If your job is to produce an effective program—ministry or otherwise—make sure the person sitting in the director’s chair and making the creative decisions is the best person for the job.

Phil Cooke is a filmmaker, media critic and adviser to some of the largest churches, ministries and nonprofit organizations in the world. He's the founder of the Influence Lab.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Phil Cooke) Media Thu, 27 Feb 2014 14:00:00 -0500
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
Did You Miss This in the News? Charismanews app android-photoCheck out some links below to recent stories from Charisma News that you'll find interesting and informative. You can also sign up to receive stories on your smart phone by signing up for the free app Charisma News by clicking here.

Mark Driscoll Compares Twilight Saga to Pornography
In Wake of Obama's Failures, Netanyahu Has Become Leader of Free World
Court: Hobby Lobby Must Violate Faith, Pay for Abortion Pills
Court Halts Aborton-Pill Mandate Against Bible Publisher
IHOPU Offers Statement About Off-Campus Murder

]]> (Charisma Staff) Multimedia Tue, 20 Nov 2012 17:52:00 -0500
The New Media Pioneers The emerging church is engaging a younger, mainstream audience. Are you?

]]> (Phil Cooke) Multimedia Sat, 01 Sep 2007 00:00:00 -0400
The 10 Commandments of TV Ministry Want to take your message to the masses? Here are the 10 most important steps to launching your media ministry successfully.

]]> (Phil Cooke) Multimedia Mon, 01 Jan 2001 00:00:00 -0500
Online Fixes for Free How to improve your church Web site without spending a dime

]]> (Tim Warren) Multimedia Wed, 10 Jun 2009 21:15:53 -0400
Making the Digital Connection

How the Digital Revolution has changed church community

]]> (Chuck Hochreiter) Multimedia Mon, 20 Apr 2009 14:18:30 -0400
Did You Miss This in the News? Charismanews app android-photoCheck out some links below to recent stories from Charisma News that you'll find interesting and informative. You can also sign up to receive stories on your smart phone by signing up for the free app Charisma News by clicking here.

Should Birth Control Pills Be Sold Over the Counter?
Thanksgiving-The Remedy for a Rotten Attitude
Gay Marriage, Obama, Legalized Pot Dividing Families on Thanksgiving
Boy Miraculously Survives Deadly Shooting on Indian Reservation
When Sex Scandals Hit Sesame Street

]]> (Charisma Staff) Multisite Wed, 21 Nov 2012 17:41:00 -0500
High Impact, Low Regret d-MinFac-MultisiteHow a divine disappointment led us to save money and triple our growth

I will never forget the day the town said “no.” I thought it was the end, but it was actually just the beginning. We had experienced a season of growth at Seacoast and felt it was time to build. We were conducting five services on the weekend and had purchased additional acreage for a 4,000-seat expansion. We had been in discussions with the city for about a year, and things seemed to be progressing well. At the last minute we were caught in a “not in my backyard” backlash which resulted in a no vote from the town council, making it impossible to build.

To say I was disappointed by this turn of events was an understatement. The prospect of continuing five services or adding more seemed overwhelming. We were already beginning to plant churches, but that didn’t address our current capacity issues.

So I did what I always do when discouragement sets in. I shut the blinds to my office and turned on some country music. In that genre, singers are always losing something—a horse, a dog, a girlfriend or a truck. I wanted to listen to someone who understood my loss. I wasn’t ready to move on yet. Later, a church member helped me with my flawed theology.

“Pastor, it’s OK to sit on the pity potty,” she said. “As long as you don’t sit there long enough to get ring-around-the-hiney.”

That sounded about right. So I sat in my pity for a while. Then I remembered: There are no surprises to God. He has never had a day when He said, “Wow, I never saw that one coming.” So if He didn’t share my surprise by the turn of events that day, it’s probably because He had been working on a solution—before I even knew there was a problem. So we bandaged our wounds, rolled up our sleeves and went to work finding out where He was leading us next.

We settled on multisite services as the best possible solution to our situation. We knew that adding more services at off-peak hours had inherent problems. The further we moved the service from the “golden hour” of 11 a.m. to noon on Sunday, the less likely people were to attend. What if we were able to add extra services at the optimum time? The only way to do that was to meet offsite. Ultimately, we added 30 more services in 13 additional locations.

How much did it cost? A lot less that a 4,000-seat auditorium. We used the phrase “high impact, low regret” to guide us in the process. We wanted the highest impact for the kingdom with the lowest potential for financial regret. 

We also tried to define what was necessary and what was merely helpful. If you confuse these two categories you can focus on the wrong things and find yourself regretting your decision in the long run. In life, for instance, food, water and air are essential, while Guitar Hero and iPads are just helpful. If you mix up the categories, you’ll wind up in a world of hurt. 

In launching multisite services, a good location, the right leader and the leading of the Holy Spirit are necessary, while high-definition video, a live stream and lots of low end in the sound system are only helpful.

We still haven’t added most of the helpful stuff, and we never built the 4,000-seat auditorium. But we have more than tripled the number of people we minister to weekly, and we’re able to do it with very few regrets. 


Greg Surratt is the founding pastor of Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant, S.C., one of the early adopters of the multisite model. Greg is a founding board member of the Association of Related Churches and is married, with four children and seven grandchildren.




Pastor Chip Sweney tells the inspiring story of one church that looked beyond its own growth limitations to create “a new kind of big”—a citywide network of almost 150 churches that today work together to meet the needs of their community and change their city.

]]> (Greg Surratt) Multisite Thu, 03 Mar 2011 21:15:12 -0500
Bankruptcy of Church and State: When Clergy Is Blind and Justice Isn’t Lyndon-B-JohnsonAmerica’s political and religious establishments are broken. Washington fails to provide the answers needed to solve the economic and political crises facing us at home and abroad. The church fails to exhibit the moral guidance necessary to hold a collapsing culture together. The nation is rapidly losing faith in both institutions, evidenced by declining approval ratings. 

The political process in Washington is overheating in partisan gridlock while our churches are becoming increasingly ineffective and indifferent to the ongoing culture wars. Both institutions are insolvent to the fiscal and spiritual indebtedness they have incurred upon the nation.  Neither can produce the economic capital or spiritual stimulus to jumpstart the economy or usher in revival.

]]> (Dan Cummins) Taxes Fri, 31 May 2013 20:00:00 -0400
4 Taxes Your Church May Not Owe You need to know what you don’t have to pay!

It seems crazy to think that a church, which is a tax-exempt entity, could be paying taxes needlessly. Because your federal exemption exempts your church only from paying federal income tax many state and local authorities may try to charge you tax as well. Knowing what taxes your church doesn’t have to pay is very important!


d-Facilities-TaxesSales?1. Sales tax. Do you know for sure that the individual in your accounting department is diligently monitoring every invoice to make sure you are not paying sales and use tax? Even recurring bills can include sales tax without your realizing it. Sales tax can be rolled into other items or even miscoded on utility bills. 

Depending on the state you are in, it could be years before your church realizes it. Follow up with your staff members and ask them to call every vendor to make sure they know your organization is a church, and verify that you have been classified correctly in their billing software. One church received a refund check for three years’ worth of overpayment on taxes from an electric bill!


?d-Facilities-TaxesProperty2. Property taxes. Always review how much your state’s property taxes are for your church building, any auxiliary property the church owns, land owned by the church and church-owned parsonages. Some states have exemptions for ministers who live in church-owned property, for religious property, or for those with a duly held license, so be sure to thoroughly research the exemptions in your state. 

If you have an additional church- or ministry-owned property, the local assessor’s office may try to assess it if particular criteria for the property are not specified, such as for use as a “worship auditorium” or other purpose. Be sure that the assessment has been thoroughly analyzed to confirm that you are not overpaying. 

If the fair market value of your church or church property has decreased, be sure to thoroughly check the assessment to make sure items are calculated correctly—if by chance you live in a county where certain property taxes may be applicable. You might want to consider hiring a local property-tax professional who specializes in reducing tax bills to assist your church.


?d-Facilities-TaxesPayroll3. Payroll taxes. Are you absolutely certain your church payroll is being run correctly? In our experience, numerous administrators believe so, but upon closer review discover numerous errors. Do you use a large company to process your payroll automatically? If so, be sure the company hasn’t set you up as a for-profit corporation instead of a church. If you are incorrectly set up as a for-profit, they might be charging you Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) or State Unemployment Tax Act (SUTA) taxes. 

Ensure that your payroll processor is running the ministerial payroll correctly and not inadvertently charging the church FUTA or SUTA (if applicable, and subject to state laws). Verify that all payroll benefits are being properly processed, and all deductions are being processed as pre- or post-tax. These errors could be needlessly costing the church additional employer FICA taxes on certain benefits. Make sure you are not overpaying, because every dollar counts.


?d-Facilities-TaxesHotel4. Hotel use and occupancy tax. Numerous states allow exemptions from certain hotel and occupancy taxes for 501(c)(3) organizations. When your staff plans to travel, diligently fulfill your hotel’s requirements for applying the tax exemption before they travel. Check with the hotel to see if you can fax in advance copies of your church’s IRS 501(c)(3) letter. 

Never let a church staff member check out from a hotel without carefully examining the bill to see if any of those taxes were inadvertently charged. Take the time to visit the front desk to have the erroneous charges deleted. It is surprising the amount of money these taxes can add up to over time!  


Pamela M. Schavey, J.D., is a CPA and tax attorney with ChurchShield LLC (, which assists churches and ministries in IRS compliance with legal, accounting, tax and payroll matters.

]]> (Pamela M. Schavey, J.D., CPA) Taxes Wed, 26 Jan 2011 19:40:59 -0500
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
The Digital Gospel Goes Global No better symbol of the digital revolution's impact on the church exists than YouVersion, the ubiquitous Bible app that now spans more than 1,000 translations, 700 languages and 165 million users worldwide.

Yet the story of how it emerged from failure shows how God can transform efforts to bring Him glory into something humans never conceived. There is a lesson in this, particularly for small- and medium-size church pastors—cyberspace tools many consider beyond their reach are, in reality, at their fingertips.

Computer-geek-entrepreneur-turned-innovation-pastor Bobby Gruenewald at in Edmond, Oklahoma, was in a long security line at Chicago's O'Hare Airport in 2006 when the thought struck: For spreading the Word, cyberspace could rival the printing press in historical significance.

The 38-year-old pastor's concept to meet this opportunity involved a new kind of website. Instead of just consuming content, people could create it; the church hoped to connect their content with Scripture. The trouble is, hardly anyone visited the site.

God, however, used the process to introduce Gruenewald's team to numerous publishers and other key sources that helped further the new Bible success. This interaction laid the groundwork for successfully answering the question: "What if we tried using a mobile device instead of a computer?"

Converting the website idea into a smartphone-based product proved divinely D-Walkertimed, coinciding with Apple announcing open season for app developments in 2008.

"We wanted to see if the Bible could be one of the first apps," Gruenewald says. "It's hard to distinguish the [app from the web site] because we feel God was preparing us for the mindset of developing resources for free.

"That led us to the app, and three days after it launched, 83,000 people had installed it. I'm amazed at how God has taken it and grown it."

The Power of Digital

Although YouVersion attracts the lion's share of publicity, the Bible App is only a small portion of's electronic evangelism. This outreach has sparked the church's growth to 21 campuses, with another expected to launch by Easter.

Such mushrooming development illustrates how pastors who tap into the power of this transformation instead of cursing its sometimes bewildering aspects may help usher in a new Reformation.

"We have that focus of reaching out to unbelievers," says Brett Huckins, executive pastor of Gateway Church, whose Dallas area multi-site recently unveiled a dedicated social media platform to enhance its outreach.

"That's the idea behind our online video, streaming our services online and [other content]. Everything we do is to reach people."

Former pastor and social media innovator Justin Wise believes embracing such a philosophy is necessary for survival.

The author of The Social Church (Moody), Wise points to Christians' historic usage of radio (Aimee Semple McPherson) and televangelism crusades (Billy Graham) as paving the way for 21st-century adaptations.

"Not everyone will seize this opportunity," Wise wrote in a blog post last year. "In fact, some churches will stick their heads in the sand rather than face the changes head-on.

Nor should unfamiliarity with the rapidly changing technosphere hinder a pastor's willingness to learn. Gruenewald points out that when he started attending in 1999, its only high-tech device was air conditioning.

What the one-time website developer tells church leaders is they don't have to master the entire learning curve of the process, which can present a formidable challenge.

Technology Leaders

Other megachurches like Seattle's Mars Hill, Nashville's Cross Point and San Antonio's Community Bible earn high marks for their use of social media. Yet and Gateway Church have emerged as noted leaders in the digital age.

The Bible App isn't the only one developed by's technology staff. The 25 YouVersion personnel and others have also developed the following tools.

Its Bible App for Kids made its debut on Thanksgiving of 2013, with its complete library of stories expected to be finished by this summer. By the end of December, it had been downloaded on 5 million devices. Church Metrics (also a website) helps churches track attendance, giving and other statistics. More than 26,000 churches have signed up.

Eight thousand more use the Church Online Platform. This platform enables churches to facilitate chats and interaction within their own community—alongside worship and a sermon. During the month of August, more than 1 million people "visited" church using this method.

Through Church Online, audiences can participate in's worship services, sermon, live chats and one-on-one prayer. The main website also offers on-demand downloads of past services.

At a separate site (, the congregation offers an impressive library of 20,000 free resources. By year's end, approximately 163,000 pastors and church leaders had downloaded 6 million free tools, ranging from sermon notes to video clips to children's curriculum.

In addition to connecting with church leaders, the Oklahoma City-based congregation's cyberspace initiatives reach into places where Christians are persecuted or religious freedom is restricted. At present, Pakistan has the most people-visiting church online. also uses unconventional methods like search engine advertising to appeal to cyberspace users searching such terms as "pornography," "depression" or "prayer." Pop-up ads have enabled staff members to reach out to many people in time of need and connect them with a supportive community.

Gruenewald says this online community falls into several categories, starting with people who use it to supplement their church connections when they can't attend in person.

Some new believers find Christ and get connected to a local church. Others consider the portal their church home, while the mission-minded see it as a new field.

Social Media Tools

Bibles aren't the only high-tech device gathering attention in this brave new world. Last August, Gateway Church launched The Table Project, a Christian-oriented social media platform that it acquired from a Minneapolis, Minnesota company in the spring of 2013.

The acquisition came the year after the debut of the original Gateway Church App, which Huckins describes as a consumer-based device—a place where people came to watch video or retrieve information.

The staff wanted more. Tired of seeing others finding random Scripture commentary and spiritual comments on Facebook, several suggested creating a tool they could use to pastor their members digitally.

Staffers wanted to do more than offer counsel. They could incorporate such elements as Gateway's service times and locations, online giving options and spiritual formation tools.

The key concept: Offer a community-like atmosphere that would encourage sharing of prayer requests, special needs and the development of special-interest groups.

The Table ( is freely available to anyone that wants to use it. After working to spread awareness of the platform, last August the church introduced the interactive version and the new My Gateway, the "branded" app linked to the platform. In November it introduced a paid version, Table Pro.

Aimed at smaller churches, the free version is a kind of "church app in a box" that
includes social features, service times and locations, and small groups.

Table Pro is designed for churches that want a customized expression of their app. Offering teaching material and product support, it includes the ability to customize names and links, includes a giving module and gives the church the option to offer apps through Apple and Google Play. Monthly costs vary.

In addition to helping churches join the digital age, the new social media tool is fostering interaction among members. Special groups cover everything from motorcycles to theology, while different staff members focus on reaching out to the curious.

This all takes personnel. From a staff of about 45, Gateway plans to expand its tech department to 60 by this spring as it expands The Table and other interactive technology.

Other Outreach

Part of Gateway's electronic emphasis stems from its need to tie together its five campuses in the Dallas Metroplex, which host a collective 30,000 worshipers a weekend (an endeavor that requires more than 150 staff members and 7,300 volunteers).

However, it moves beyond through such moves as hosting technology in ministry conferences and partnering with some 173 ministries in 47 nations. In 2013, the nondenominational charismatic church founded its School of Tech Arts, a two-year program that uses the church's campuses as classrooms and industry experts as instructors.

Huckins calls this multi-faceted program its attempt to answer the question how they can better disciple people in the digital arena as traditional brick-and-mortar locations no longer occupy first place in many people's hearts.

He says it's working, particularly The Table. Among the testimonies returning from the field is the Table user who sat next to an airline passenger whose mother had just been diagnosed with cancer.

The member replied, "Is anyone praying for you? Let me post a request on My Gateway."

"The member turned around the phone to show them the app and could see tears in the other person's eyes," Huckins says. "It's also for a person who has needs and is exploring, asking, 'What's this church all about?' People can post a need that others can meet."

However, before getting too excited over the potential of technology, Gruenewald raises a couple yellow flags for church leaders. It starts with avoiding feeling pressured to adopt a certain kind of technology just "because everyone else is."

The other caution is to avoid mistaking technology for innovation. Sometimes from a well-intentioned desire for groundbreaking moves, pastors can reason they need the latest and greatest technology.

"In reality, the technology purchases we make say a lot more about our budget than they do about how innovative we are," Gruenewald says. "It's really about leveraging your passion and resources to work within your constraints.

"People are sharing their lives on social media with an unprecedented degree of transparency. The question is: Are we listening and responding?

How every pastor answers that question may well determine the future of the body of Christ.  

Ken Walker is a freelance writer, co-author and book editor from Huntington, West Virginia, and a regular contributor to Ministry Today and Charisma.

]]> (Ken Walker ) Technology Wed, 14 Jan 2015 14:00:00 -0500
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
26 of the Best iPad Apps for Pastors If you are anything like me, you are in a never-ending hunt, roaming the iTunes app store, looking for the next app that will make your iPad better than ever.

After trying many different apps, I have compiled a list of my absolute favorites for ministry that I truly believe every iPad-packing pastor needs.

Day One Journal. Day One recently has won various app awards for a reason. It is the best app for anyone who journals. It is especially useful for your quiet time with God. If you are not into journaling, consider using Day One for recording prayer requests. Another great use is for having a record what God has been speaking to you in your quiet time with Him, so you can pull those thoughts for sermon preparation later.

Evernote. Never forget anything ever again. This the best note-taking app ever. I use Evernote for keeping a database of every sermon I have ever preached. I also use it to capture down random ideas for sermons, illustrations, blog posts or whatever else comes to mind. Evernote helps you capture great ideas before you forget them. A must for every pastor! Plus, here are more ways Evernote makes a pastor's life easier.

Penultimate. Penultimate is a hand-written note-taking app created by the good folks at Evernote. Because it is owned by Evernote, as soon as you are done taking your notes, it automatically saves them into a designated Evernote folder for you. I love using this app for taking notes in meetings. Call me old school, but I find that typing on an iPad can seem obnoxious during meetings. People don’t know if you are sending email, surfing the web or actually paying attention. So I use Penultimate along with a good stylus to write meeting notes by hand that are later searchable in Evernote. This just feels and looks much more professional to me.

Dropbox. Dropbox is an amazing hard drive in the cloud. Dropbox syncs with your computer so you can easily drag and drop any file into it. Then you can easily pull these files up at any time on your iPad or iPhone. I love having it for things like volunteer applications. Any time someone asks me about volunteering, I can simply pull up Dropbox and email them an application on the spot. (Similar apps: Google Drive and Box.)

Paper. Paper also won the app of the year award from iTunes. It is an awesome note-taking/drawing app. Paper allows you to organize notes and sketches into different notebooks just like if you had a bag full of notebooks with you. The interface is smooth and easy to use. I love using it for brainstorming sessions. Plus, it just looks beautiful.

LogMeIn. A must for the pastor on the go. LogMeIn allows you to access your desktop computer at any time from your iPad. It’s like having your computer with you at all times. Everything you need is right on your iPad. It can be a little pricey, but it’s worth it if you are rarely in your office.

1Password. Never forget a password again! Like most tech-savvy pastors, you probably have multiple accounts on multiple websites. Forgetting a password can be an extremely frustrating and time-wasting scenario. 1Password is an app for keeping all of your passwords in one secure place.

Downcast. The best podcast listener out there! If you want to grow as a pastor, listen to free podcasts from your favorite preachers. It automatically syncs across your iPad and iPhone. The best feature is the ability to speed up podcasts. By going up to 2x speed, you can cut an hourlong message to 30 minutes or a 30-minute message to 15. This is a great time saver, and you will be surprised at how quickly your brain adjusts to the increased listening speed.

Logos Bible. Logos gives you the power of an entire research library with you wherever you go. If you haven’t purchased the Logos software, you can still do Hebrew and Greek studies and read the Bible for free. However, if you use Logos software, this app will sync with your entire book library. Excellent for sermon study on the go!

The Bible App. The Bible App from YouVersion is the best Bible app without exception. This has practically replaced my paper Bibles. The reading plans are a fantastic way to keep you accountable for daily Bible reading. And if you are driving, working out or just don’t feel like reading, you can listen to the audio versions. All for free!

Bible for Kids. The Bible for Kids app was created by the YouVersion team. It’s free. And my 4-year-old daughter loves it. If you have kids, get it. You should also recommend it to parents in your church for a fun, interactive way to get kids to learn Bible stories. I can’t help but wonder why they didn’t have anything as cool as this when I was a kid in Sunday school and we just had the flannel graph.

Feedly. After Google Reader closed down, Feedly quickly became my favorite RSS reader for the iPad. Feedly allows you to subscribe to all the posts from your favorite blogs. I use this app to sift through hundreds of blog posts a day. Leaders are readers. Why not take advantage of the great free content some of the best minds on the Internet are producing every day? (Other option: Flipboard. Does the same thing but puts it together in a visually appealing magazine that also includes news feeds and social media.)

Planning Center. Planning Center is the best worship service and volunteer management system available. If you have never heard of it, do yourself and your worship pastor a favor and go to right now. Hurry up! I use this app weekly to manage the service order and coordinate the scheduling of hundreds of volunteers. Makes planning services and coordinating volunteers easy!

HootSuite. If you are using social media to reach your people and community (which you should), HootSuite is a great way to schedule posts across multiple sites. Use it for the church Facebook page, Twitter profile and more. The greatest feature is the ability to schedule posts in advance. You no longer have to log in to each website individually at the perfect time to get the message you want out at the optimal hour. I am currently three months out in scheduled posts. Did I mention it’s free?

PagesNumbersKeynote. The office products from Apple are second to none. For writing documents, managing spreadsheets or creating presentations, these apps are a must-have for every iPad. Apple has made them free for anyone who has recently purchased a new device (iPhone or iPad). But whether it is free or not, I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t use these apps. Check them out.

Kindle. If you love reading, you need to get the Kindle app on your iPad. Why do I use Kindle instead of iBooks? 1) Amazon is the biggest book company in the world and has a bigger selection of books for often a better price. 2) Call me paranoid, but if Apple ever went downhill as a company—gasp!—I will still have all my Kindle books that I can read on an Android tablet, online or an actual Kindle reader. I am not locked into an iPad. 3) I love being able to access all my notes at and save all of my highlights into Evernote for quick reference (more on that here).

Presentation Clock. I love using this app for timing my preaching. I speak a lot in environments with no clock. Instead of bringing a big clock and mounting it in the back of the room, I use Presentation Clock (although typically on my iPhone, since I use my iPad for preaching). It counts down the remaining time and changes color to warn you when you are nearly out of time. If you tend to preach too long, your church will thank you for using this app!

Genius Scan. Genius Scan turns your iPad into a scanner. I have gone paperless at home and at work. No more messy stacks of paper scattered across my desk! Genius Scan takes a picture of the document and then exports it to your destination of choice. (I use Evernote.) Rather than searching through a messy pile of paper, I can now just search Evernote and—bam!—there it is. This is great for tracing receipts, meeting handouts or saving a picture of a whiteboard.

GoodReader. I love preaching with an iPad. GoodReader is a great PDF reader that I use for all of my sermon notes. I write my sermon notes in Pages, but word processors are terrible to preach from, because with one tap you could accidentally delete or rearrange all of your notes. GoodReader allows me to crop, highlight and read my notes without fear of messing them up.

Spotify. Spotify has completely replaced the iTunes app on my iPad. It gives you access to a music library of nearly every song ever recorded! There are free options, but I signed up for the subscription, because it is worth every cent. Instead of paying $10 a month for one new Christian CD, I pay $10 a month for every Christian CD ever. It is great for making current playlists for my ministry. No more old songs playing again and again for years in my church. Nothing but the best.

GarageBand. If you want to make music, record music, record a podcast, record your preaching or record a meeting, GarageBand is for you. GarageBand is the best audio-recording app available. Period.

iMovie. Being able to create video is more and more important in churches. If you want to shoot and edit video announcements, testimonies, skits, video of service projects or whatever, iMovie is the best. This app can handle just about any video project a church has (other than 3-D animations and more technical videos like that).

30/30. 30/30 is a time-management app for getting more done. It lets you set a list of tasks and a time allotment for each. Then start the timer and get as much done as you possibly can before the buzzer. Now switch to the next task. This works great if you think about it as a game. How much can you get done before the clock runs out? Just don’t forget to schedule a break or two in between tasks. Use it for managing time on Facebook, checking email or working on a sermon. You will be surprised at how much more you get done in less time.

Clear. Clear is now my favorite to-do app. I have tried a many to-do apps, and I absolutely love the simplicity of Clear. If you live and die by your to-do list like me, you need a simple, enjoyable way to keep your list across all your devices. This may sound weird, but the gestures you use and the sound effects in this app make finishing and adding tasks feel like a video game. If you try it, you will see what I mean.

I hope you found this list of the best iPad apps for pastors helpful. I plan to keep this article updated as I discover new apps.

What apps am I missing? I’m always looking for new suggestions. What would you add to this list?

Brandon Hilgemann has been on a nine-year journey to become the best preacher he can possibly be. During this time, he has worked in churches of all sizes, from a church plant to some of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the United States. Brandon blogs his thoughts and ideas from his journey at

For the original article, visit

]]> (Brandon Hilgemann) Technology Wed, 29 Jan 2014 17:00:00 -0500
Are You Connected? God is the ultimate filter for every part of our lives—including technologyD-MinFac-Tech

Technology is powerful—drawing you in, altering your world and expectations, even defining who you are. If you’re not careful, what you start out controlling has a way of controlling you.

There’s nothing quite like the power of saying yes. The ability to say yes is heady, immediate and satisfying. It’s the feeling of having the world at your fingertips. No matter what the latest “it” app is, with the slide of that finger, the press of a button or the click of a mouse, your options magically unfold in nearly geometric progression.

But with every yes comes a consequence: when you say yes to all this technology, you attach yourself to a digital umbilical cord that can be difficult to remove—even temporarily.

If you’re not careful, what you start out controlling has a way of controlling you.

]]> (Gregory Jantz ) Technology Mon, 30 Apr 2012 09:13:28 -0400
Avoiding the Big-Top Tendency We should use technology to help glorify God, not put on a showd-MinFac-Technology

Technology in a church setting can be a difficult issue. When referring to the sound, video and lighting aspects of a church sanctuary, we all have our own varying experiences.

On the positive side, a well-lit room may inspire us to forget what is going on around us and create an environment that draws us closer to God. But isn’t it strange how the same tools can be 
distracting by demanding our attention and causing us to take our eyes off God?

The fact is that many churches commonly use equipment that was initially developed for use in concert tours and theater productions. In theater settings, technical equipment is used to bring scenes alive. It directs our focus and makes us believe we are somewhere else. In concert tours, it builds excitement and stimulates our senses.

]]> (Kevin Morehouse) Technology Tue, 25 Oct 2011 15:52:48 -0400