Higher Education http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education Thu, 31 Jul 2014 05:31:58 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Greg Surratt: Why Multisite Churches Don’t Value Teaching Gifts http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20942-greg-surratt-why-mutli-site-churches-don-t-value-teaching-gifts http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20942-greg-surratt-why-mutli-site-churches-don-t-value-teaching-gifts

I thought it might be of interest to address some frequent criticisms of multisite churches. Questions are good because they force us to examine what we do in light of Scripture and culture. 

So, here's one concern we hear often: "Multisite churches don't produce preachers and teachers."  The concern stems from the concept that many multisite churches leverage the teaching gift of one gifted teacher across various geographic locations, thereby not providing opportunities for young or new, emerging teachers and preachers to develop their gifts.

Here are some ways we handle that at Seacoast Church:

1. We have a primary teaching team. Several years ago I decided that the only way for me to keep my sanity (the small portion that remains), stay healthy and keep the church from relying too heavily on one voice was to create a weekend teaching team. We currently have five active members of the team. The way it works for us is this: One person does the teaching at all the services on any given weekend at our Long Point location. That, in turn, is videoed and viewed at our off-site locations the next weekend. For us, this is one of the primary things that ties us together as a church—we are all hearing the same message, discussing it in groups, responding to what God is saying to us as a church. I do between 55-60 percent of the weekends.

2. We have secondary teaching teams. In addition to the weekends, we have secondary teaching opportunities that include student ministries, young adult ministries, retreats and special events. Each of these have teaching teams that function similar to our weekend experience.  A newer teacher can cut their teeth in an environment smaller than a weekend gathering.

3. We do initial message-planning together. For our weekend experience, we do initial message-planning together every Monday at 10 a.m. Some pastors are schedulers by nature and plan their messages out months in advance (Andy Stanley, Bill Hybels, etc). Others are normal, like me, and have little of the organizational gift, work better on a tight deadline (a procrastinator's motivator!) and can only see what is coming in the current week. So I show up Monday morning with a clean sheet of paper, a preacher's hangover and a hope that the Holy Spirit will breathe on the assigned Scriptures that week—and with a faint (actually a very real) fear that I have exhausted all ability to say anything helpful the previous weekend.

We invite our primary teaching team, some of our secondary teams and selected others to the meeting to help whoever is "on" that weekend think through the passage. Occasionally, visiting pastors or interested churchgoers ask if they can be a part of the process—which ratchets up the pressure to produce, but we almost always open the meeting to people who ask, with the requirement that they contribute, not just watch. Actually, it's a lot of fun, and God usually gives us insight that we couldn't get on our own. Just the process helps speakers in training get the hang of how you put a message together.

4. We have our primary teachers do a practice run-through on Thursday afternoon. After the message-planning session, whoever is up to bat that week locks away to prepare the message. Our deadline is Thursday noon (so notes can be printed and bulletins stuffed, and there has to be a deadline, so it might as well be Thursday so we can at least have a couple of days of sanity before the weekend). On Thursday afternoon, the teacher of the week does a practice run-through for the teaching team. This is not fun, but it does make the message better. It's a tough crowd: "What am I supposed to do as a result of that?" "That wasn't funny" "I don't have a clue what you were talking about" "Does the Bible really say that?" Definitely makes you sharpen your delivery before the weekend.

5. We have Starbucks coaching sessions throughout the week. Several times, I have received calls on Saturday morning: "You got time for a coffee? I need help with an idea or two." I love it. I just wish we would have had this type of environment when I was learning to preach! My first attempts to speak were in youth services and nursing homes. The youth services didn't work out too well (I was fired from my first three youth pastor jobs). Nursing homes were great because most of the people couldn't hear, but they were happy I was there.

6. We have feedback sessions after our Saturday night service. Sometimes the Saturday night message is really, really good. Most of the time, not so much, so we gather in the "bullpen" immediately after the service and see what we can salvage. Usually it's just a touch up, sometimes a major overhaul, but it's great to know that the team is fully invested in making the message successful.

7. We intentionally teach prospective teachers weekly. Every week, Mac Lake, one of our guys who loves developing leaders, gathers some of the newer teachers and others that we think may have the gift in embryo form. They listen to and learn from some of the better preachers in the world. Recently, they have listened to and watched Andy Stanley, Bill Hybels, Mark Driscoll and others. Then Mac leads them through a discussion on technique, structure, delivery and what made it work. I walked in recently, and they grilled me on one of my recent messages. (They'll learn over time not to question the supreme leader so harshly!)

8. We give new, emerging teachers an occasional swing at the plate. We have very few outside speakers at Seacoast. I don't know if that is good or bad, but it does allow more opportunities for upcoming, in-house speakers to learn their craft. Our campus pastors have quarterly turns at the plate as well.

I'm not sure multisite has anything to do with whether you do a good job of training teachers and preachers. It all depends on the vision of the house. 

What do you think?

Greg Surratt is the founding pastor of Seacoast Church, one of the early adopters of the multisite model. Located in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, Seacoast has been recognized by various media as an innovative and influential thought leader in future strategies for church growth and development.

For the original article, visit gregsurratt.org.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Greg Surratt ) Education Wed, 21 May 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Greg Surratt: 5 Things I Read That Can Make Me a Better Leader http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20910-greg-surratt-5-things-i-read-that-can-make-me-a-better-leader http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20910-greg-surratt-5-things-i-read-that-can-make-me-a-better-leader

How do you grow in your leadership skills? By doing? By watching? By being stretched? By learning from others? Probably you grow by doing a combination of all of them.

One of the ways I grow best is by watching the example of the leaders around me. I love learning. I’ve always been a curious sort. Over the years, curiosity has gotten a bad rap. We all know about the cat. What you might not know is that St. Augustine wrote in Confessions in A.D. 397, in the time before creating heaven and earth, God “fashioned hell for the inquisitive.” Apparently one of his followers was asking a few too many questions. I hope he was wrong.

One of the ways I scratch the leadership curiosity itch is by reading as much as I can, as often as I can. The information age that we live in is like crack for a consummate learner like me. Earlier I wrote a post about some of the tools that I use to help me do my job. I use at least three of those every day to help me learn and to retain what I’m learning.

1. The first tool is Feedly, which is an RSS reader. For the nontechies – it’s an app that allows me to accumulate the blogs and news services I read into one place. I have it sectioned into the following headings: Christianity, news, leadership, social media, technology, photography, quotes and productivity. At least twice a day I check out what is new on Feedly.

2. The second tool is called Pocket. It is a “read it later” app that syncs with Feedly. As I’m scanning through Feedly I might land on an article that I may want to either read later, use in a blog post, send to a friend or use for message prep. A button on Feedly sends it immediately to Pocket for later reading and tagging.

3. The third tool is called Evernote. I use it as my long-term storage for everything. Think of it as an electronic file cabinet with some drawers with neatly organized folders and other drawers that are searchable catchall’s. Pocket has a button that sends things to Evernote for long-term storage.

So–as promised–here are five things in my pocket this week that are helping me become a better leader:

  1. Five key characteristics every entrepreneur should have. Just substitute “church planter”, “Pastor” or whatever you do, for “entrepreneur”, and it applies to you.
  2. Eight things truly outstanding leaders do without thinking. These are things great leaders do instinctively.
  3. A beginners guide to social media for small business. Just the basics for anyone interested in connecting your message through social media.
  4. They are your words, choose them. Before you put up a sign to correct someone’s behavior, read these words of wisdom by Seth.
  5. How to get 300% more people to read your content. Poor title but an awesome blog post on the power of story.

It’s always been my goal to learn something new on the last day of my life.Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it’s probably not a bad way to go.

Greg Surratt is the founding pastor of Seacoast Church, one of the early adopters of the multi-site model. Located in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, Seacoast has been recognized by various media as an innovative and influential thought leader in future strategies for church growth and development.

For the original article, visit gregsurratt.org.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Greg Surratt) Education Fri, 02 May 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Be Careful How You Teach http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20800-be-careful-how-you-teach http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20800-be-careful-how-you-teach

I recently looked through some really excellent small-group curriculum. I loved the way it dug in to lead students in going deeper with their relationship with Christ.

However, it also held one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to prewritten curriculum:

It was really written for an adult, not a student.

The subject matter is excellent. However, the way it is written asks questions in a way that an adult who is a fully devoted follower of Christ would understand. Since this has annoyed me for years, I went through a period of time where I wrote my own stuff.

In my pride, I went back and looked to see if my stuff was any better. Truth is, I did the same thing.

We think adding in engagement, activities and perhaps a video or two solves the problem of drawing in teens. This isn’t it, either. If you merely hand off any curriculum to your team, they think the point is to get from the beginning to the end of the lesson. Therefore, they stop ask these “grown-up” questions, get blank stares they think is boredom, and move on.

If there are unchurched students in your group, these concepts are totally foreign to them. When students have grown up in the church they have been “told” but often are not “taught.” Just because they have heard about concepts doesn’t mean anyone has stopped and asked,  ”Do you know what any of it means?”

Recently, I was probing my own three middle-school-age kids as to what grace really is. The idea that it is Christ’s “free gift” that we “don’t deserve” and what that means eluded them. These are three kids who have grown up in Christian school, in youth group, in church, in Christian programming, with two believing parents who talk to them, and still they couldn’t explain this simple concept.

I don’t think the answer is writing our own stuff or adding any more hands-on games. The answer is in the way we teach and in teaching our teachers to teach. Connecting students to the truth is not intuitive for everyone. Knowing how to strategically pull apart a lesson and get to the heart of the issue does not make sense to all of us. We don’t always know how to keep bringing it all back to Jesus. It’s not about the lesson at all. It’s about asking, “How will this deepen their relationship with the Lord?”

So, stop!

As you go through your curriculum and look at questions, think before you ask, and spend the time training your team to do the same.

Look at the lesson with the following questions in mind:

1. If you think about it, can you easily understand and articulate every concept in front of you? Chances are if you have to think more than a moment or are pondering, “I know I just am not sure how to say it,” the teens in your group have no clue at all. They need you to let them ask more questions about the questions.

2. Could someone who doesn’t speak your language understand all of the words? A Dutch friend of mine pointed this idea out. If you were trying to teach this lesson to a person who had just entered the country, how would you break it down? You would use easy concepts and small words. Do the same with your teens.

3. Are you stopping along the way? Don’t go from start to finish of the curriculum just to get through. Go through it line by line. Make absolutely zero assumptions that they all get it. Our unchurched students are sometimes vulnerable enough to say, “I don’t know.”

Many times, though, they think everyone else knows when they don’t. Our “churched” kids think they are supposed to know this stuff. They aren’t going to stop you and say, “So, listen, I’ve heard about this armor of God thing a lot. As a matter of fact, when I was little, I even owned the play set from the Christian bookstore. I think I understand that armor is protective, but can you give me a clue as to why wearing my salvation like a hat really is helpful? And you know what? Salvation is also explained as something I only have to do once, so really I am not getting this. While we’re at it, can we talk about how we wear shoes of peace or what righteousness has to do with living my life today? Did I mention I have no clue what righteousness really is and how on earth to wear it like a breastplate? I mean, practically speaking. Can you tell me how this has anything to do with following Jesus?”

The discussion question read, “How can your helmet of salvation protect your thoughts?” Line by line, ask them, “Do you get this?” and “Does that make sense?”

Personally, I think maybe teens should be writing curriculum for other teens. Therefore, we are left with the adults trying to think like an adolescent. Maybe instead we need to ask, “If I’m honest, do I know what walking with Jesus means at all?”

How are you teaching your students? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Leneita Fix is the director of ministry development for Aslan Youth Ministries, a family-focused urban ministry serving Monmouth County in New Jersey and Haiti. She has been working in some form of youth and family ministry for almost 22 years.

For the original article, visit simplyyouthministry.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Leneita Fix) Education Tue, 25 Mar 2014 16:00:00 -0400
10 Areas Where Pastors Need Training for the 21st Century http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20775-10-areas-where-pastors-need-training-for-the-21st-century http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20775-10-areas-where-pastors-need-training-for-the-21st-century

Any pastor or other church staff member should be prepared in biblical truths. Theology is a key discipline as well. Indeed, none of the classical disciplines should be forsaken, nor any of the practical disciplines, such as missions, evangelism or church planting.

But the American culture has shifted dramatically in a relatively short period. The United States is becoming more like an international mission field. As a result, ministry training, whether formal or informal, should reflect this reality. Missionaries are typically required to receive intensive cultural and language training before they go overseas. Frankly, a similar need exists today for those in American congregations or those planning to go to these churches.

So, where are the greatest needs? My list is certainly not exhaustive, nor is it listed in any particular order. But I do see all of these areas as key to reaching our new and challenging culture:

1. A new language. If a pastor or church staff member does not “speak” social media, he or she is neglecting one of the fastest-growing trends in our nation, indeed in our world. It is no longer a fad; it is a primary means of communication.

2. A non-Christian culture. Our nation is fast becoming a non-Christian nation. While we lament the relative decline in the numbers who follow Christ, we must also accept the reality that those in our community cannot be assumed to be like us or to hold our values.

3. The decline of cultural Christians in churches. The Pew Research project confirmed the dramatic increase in the numbers of people who have no religious affiliation. For our churches, this development means that most people do not feel cultural pressure to attend churches. More and more, those who are there are convicted Christians and not Christians in name only.

4. A new work/life balance. Pastors and church staff members have always been on call 24/7. But now they are connected 24/7 as well with computers, smartphones and other technological advances. For better or worse, the world of work and personal life is becoming increasingly blurred.

5. Unregenerate church members. Cultural Christians are those who really know they are not believers but are affiliated with churches for cultural reasons. But another group includes those who may cognitively assert a belief in Christ but have really not had a conversion. For certain, this development is not new. But we are seeing the cumulative cost of weak discipleship and false conversions in our churches. How will we respond to the issue of numbers of members who are not truly believers?

6. The community as a mission field. Can we change our mindset and be better prepared? Our communities are not just changing because there are fewer Christians. They are changing with an influx of new ethnic groups and people of other religious beliefs.

7. Less automatic cultural respect of church leaders. In past years, those who held the title of “pastor” or some similar nomenclature were revered in the community just by the position they held. Such is not the case today. Respect must be earned one day at a time.

8. A more critical world. Many pastors and church staff members do not deal well with the more transparent and critical world in which we live. Some retreat to a form of passivity or paths of least resistance. And some quit altogether.

9. A greater need for leadership skills. The world in which we live is complex. We may long for simpler times, but that won’t change our realities. Church leaders must be better leaders in more challenging times.

10. More churches in need of revitalization. This last item may be last on the list, but the need is huge. As many as 9 out of 10 of our churches are in need of some level of major revitalization. There are tens of thousands of these churches, and the implications for equipping leaders for them are vast.

This list may be discouraging to you as you read the cumulative implications. I see it, however, from a different perspective. I see this new reality and this new mission field as a great opportunity. No, it’s not your father or mother’s church. It’s a new and challenging reality requiring a missional mindset. It requires total dependence on the One who sends us to the mission field. And that is exactly where God wants us.

What do you think about this mission field called America?

Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Previously, he served the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for 12 years, where he was a founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer) Education Thu, 13 Mar 2014 13:00:00 -0400
7 Reasons Church Leaders Should Memorize Scripture http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20774-7-reasons-why-church-leaders-should-memorize-scripture http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20774-7-reasons-why-church-leaders-should-memorize-scripture

I still remember the first Bible verses I memorized, even though I memorized them decades ago (and in the King James Version, for that matter):

“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 John 4:8).

“For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

I was a young believer saved out of a non-Christian home, and the Bible was new, fresh and alive to me then. I would be dishonest, though, to say that memorization is as easy today. I often must remind myself of why memorization matters. Here are seven reasons:

1. The Bible is the Word of God. Church leaders know this fact, but we don’t always treat the Word with this level of respect. I am particularly burdened by this reality because I’ve been with many people in the world who have little access to this Word. Should not North American believers—who often have more Bibles in our homes than people—be especially grateful? Should we not want to know God’s Word so well that it dwells in our hearts?

2. Jesus modeled for us the power of knowing the Word. Three times on the Mount of Temptation, Satan tempted Jesus—and three times Jesus countered him with the Word. In fact, He quoted the book of Deuteronomy (without, it seems, using a concordance or a Google search)! How many of us could readily quote from that book, especially in a moment of agonizing temptation? Jesus showed us that the Word—all of it—has power over the devil.

3. Hiding the Word in our heart helps us to avoid sin. That’s what the psalmist told us:

  • “In addition, Your servant is warned by them [the ordinances of the Lord]; there is great reward in keeping them” (Ps. 19:11).
  • “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping Yourword. I have sought You with all my heart; don’t let me wander from Your commands. I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You” (Ps. 119:9-11).

The Word of God teaches us, rebukes us, corrects us and trains us in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). Only when we treasure it in our hearts can we most powerfully fight the sin that so easily entangles us (Heb. 12:1).

4. The Word drives the garbage from our minds. I’m more than 50 years old, but I still occasionally remember images I saw as a teenager. If I allow those images to linger, I’m asking for trouble. Here’s the good news, though: Through the Sword of the Spirit (the Word; Eph. 6:17), we can capture every thought for Christ. Satan cannot hold our minds in bondage when we wield the Sword.

5. Memorizing the Word can help prepare us for the mission field. Whether as a short-termer or as a career missionary, you may go to a place where having copies of the Bible is risky. That danger may be even greater for the people you are trying to reach. If your knowledge of the Scriptures is limited only to what you can read in the moment, you may limit your outreach opportunities.

6. The day may come when we have little or no access to the Bible. I am, of course, speaking more to North Americans here. Much of the world already faces this situation. We cannot know when that may happen in our context, but nor can we assume it won’t happen. If that were to occur, how much of the Word would you know? How much of your teaching would be affected? We need to know the Word so well we can teach it without a written text in front of us.

7. Memorization review requires daily time with the Word. That’s the nature of memorization—if we don’t do it every day, we forget what we memorized. Even a few minutes a day to review biblical texts can strengthen our walk with God.

This semester at Southeastern Seminary, I am teaching a class on discipleship and Christian growth. One topic we are covering is Scripture memorization. Let’s help one another with this task.

What obstacles to memorization do you face? More importantly, what strategies have you found effective?

Chuck Lawless currently serves as professor of evangelism and missions and as the dean of graduate studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.

For the original article, visit thomranier.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Chuck Lawless) Education Wed, 12 Mar 2014 19:00:00 -0400
10 Essentials Needed to Fulfill Your Kingdom Assignment http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20757-10-essentials-needed-to-fulfill-your-kingdom-assignment http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20757-10-essentials-needed-to-fulfill-your-kingdom-assignment

As a person who has been preaching and attempting to implement strategies, I have come up with the following essentials necessary for effectiveness in kingdom ministry:

1. High-level intercession. In Daniel 10-12 and Ephesians 6, we find that there are high-level demonic entities called principalities that rule whole nations and/or empires. These are the highest-ranking demons under Satan that control the political, economic and social systems of the world through ideology and worldview.

Consequently, I found that when I started preaching the kingdom with a goal of shifting culture toward biblical standards that I walked into the highest level of warfare. This is why God led me to spend much time in deep travail and elicit the prayers of high-level intercessors. If we do not combine kingdom implementation with commensurate effective prayer, we will get our butts kicked! When you preach the kingdom of God, you are dealing with demonic systems, not just individual demons and sinners. Without a proper prayer plan in place, our goals of kingdom implementation will be doomed to fail.

2. Spouse on the same page. Before you make a public shift from preaching merely an individualistic gospel of salvation to the gospel of the kingdom, make sure your spouse understands the spiritual and social implications it will have on your life. If your spouse is not on the same page with you theologically or teleologically (in terms of objective and goals), then the enemy can use this as a wedge that can divide your marriage.

3. Humility in the marketplace. When leaders start making headway implementing successful strategies for the kingdom in their communities, key marketplace leaders in politics and business will latch onto you. You will start moving in circles outside the religious walls of the church and will be in proximity to power, influence and celebrity like never before. Never forget your original vision and what got you there to begin with. Always walk in humility. I have seen countless Christian leaders fall into pride when they started hobnobbing with the rich, influential and famous, resulting in them being transformed by the world instead of vice versa.

4. Strong connection to local church leadership. The local church is the only entity on earth that the devil cannot destroy (Matt. 16:16-19). Leaders and ministers who bypass the local church run the risk of not having long-term fruit. In some cases, high-level marketplace leaders will be connected more with individual apostolic-type pastors who will mentor them, even if they live too far to attend the local church the pastor oversees. In any case, if you want biblical results, then connect your work to a biblical model of discipleship that involves the family of families called the church. Of course, if at all possible, high-level marketplace leaders should attend an apostolic-type church, which is a local church that equips and releases the saints for the work of the ministry by effectively engaging culture and influencing their region holistically.

5. Have a strong covenantal team for support. I have found that I need to have community with those who understand and partner with me in my kingdom calling. I have been blessed to have several close friends I work with, pray with, travel with and play with. Without this mutually beneficial support group, I would have a difficult time persevering in the kingdom marathon I am called to run.

6. Avoid mission drift. It is inevitable that the more successful you become in your kingdom assignment, the more opportunities will come your way, both in the church and marketplace. Many people will want you on their boards and will pull upon you to aid them, and the demands on your time will increase. One of the most important things a leader has to do in order to remain successful is to avoid drifting from their original mission.

For example, I put every invitation and opportunity I get through the grid of my God-given assignment. If it doesn’t align, I don’t even consider it. If it seems to connect to my mission, I pray and try to get a witness in my spirit before I make a commitment to minister somewhere.

Furthermore, with every new level a person obtains, there will be adjustments they will have to make to ensure they are still on point with their mission. Having a team of folks that help you discern the will of God is also invaluable.

7. Be motivated by the message, not money. The more the demand upon you increases, the more opportunity will come to get involved in church ministry or business deals. God will allow both divine and demonic opportunities to come your way to reveal to you the motivations of your heart! If you are motivated primarily by money then you will only go after whatever pays the most instead of what will be the most fruitful for the kingdom. This will lead to a watering down of your purpose, resulting in the dissipating of your effectiveness and divine authority.

8. Center the message/ministry on Jesus, not societal transformation. The Word of God teaches us that all things were made by Jesus and for Jesus (Col. 1:16). In all things we do, Jesus alone should have the supremacy (Col. 1:19). I have seen numerous leaders and ministries focus so much on societal influence and transformation, they wound up in humanism (humanitarianism without Christ). If we seek first His kingdom and focus on Jesus being the center of our lives and ministries, then He will lead us to do things that will enable us to bless both God and humanity.

This does not mean we have to do every good work overtly in the name of Jesus, but we have to look for every opportunity to let His love be known to our neighbors. Otherwise the focus is more on quality of life transformation than on Jesus. In my opinion, this violates Colossians 1:16, 19.

9. Balance your life with individual renewal. When we start preaching and implementing the kingdom message in our spheres of influence, we will see more needs and opportunities than ever before, which can result in work overload. There is no end to societal and individual needs.

One of the most important lessons I have learned is that it is essential I consistently do things that build me up spiritually, emotionally and physically. I need to do things that not only strengthen me spiritually (prayer, Bible reading, church), but also those things that give me life emotionally (sports, music, art, cultivating a social life, etc.).

Furthermore, I need to regularly exercise and be strategic in what I eat so I can remain physically functional. Missing it in any of these three areas can mean a premature death either in ministry, family or even our lives.

10. Balance work and play. I have learned not to take myself too seriously. I have learned that I have to work hard but mix play in as well. I need to invest in mutually beneficial friendships that give me and my wife a healthy social life that will strengthen us emotionally and inevitably lengthen our lives and ministries.

I have also found that the leaders I have the most fun with are the ones God is bonding me with the most for kingdom ventures. Jesus called His disciples His friends (John 15). He loved the Pharisees but liked His close associates. Jesus loved everyone, but I am convinced He did not like everyone! (Look at how He spoke to the Pharisees in Matthew 23, and compare it to how He spoke to His disciples in John 15.) Consequently, I believe God is going to lead us to work the closest with those we are compatible with emotionally and socially.

In the kingdom, relationship precedes ministry. If you reverse that, your key ministry partnerships may not endure the test of time!

Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, N.Y.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bishop Joseph Mattera) Education Fri, 28 Feb 2014 17:00:00 -0500
Should Potential Preachers Attend Seminary? http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20709-should-you-attend-seminary http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20709-should-you-attend-seminary

Because of my public ministry, I receive a lot of questions. One that comes up from time to time is whether the questioner should attend seminary, and if so, where?

I see myself in many of these people. A while back, I was in the same boat. I had just accepted my call to ministry and was ready to go to school to get the entrance requirements into ministry.

Little did I know that my ministry had already begun. You don’t merely go to seminary to get the entrance requirements into ministry; you go to seminary to refine the tools of ministry that you are already exercising.

Don’t expect seminary to help you determine your type of ministry unless you want to go into the parish. Those of us in other ministries have to kind of feel our way around without much help.

Don’t expect that anyone will care about your ministry other than the ones to whom God is calling you to minister. Some churches will be very supportive. However, some will not really care. Sadly, some will go out of their way to demonstrate their lack of interest in the ministry God calls you to.

Paper Without Function

Your diploma is a piece of paper. I remember having lunch with a former classmate about seminary. At some point in the conversation, he picked up a napkin said, “The only difference between this paper napkin and my paper diploma is that at least I can use the napkin to wipe my face." We both laughed.

We must remember that this is simply a piece of paper. It is not the key to open many doors that you didn’t have access to before (that could happen, but probably won’t). There are hundreds of people with the same paper.

I do not, however, want to leave you with a misunderstanding. I think seminary helped me in many valuable ways. The process and the road were both very helpful. What seminary did for me is that it opened the door to interdenominational ministry as well as encouraged me to recognize the gifts that I had before attending.

Did I need the degree to start my ministry? No. But would I have started without the rich experiences of seminary? Probably not. I am only saying that the value of seminary is what you learn, not the piece of paper.

I came to seminary understanding how to read the Bible devotionally or even apologetically (in defense mode), but seminary taught me how to read the Bible in other ways. I came to seminary largely from a particular ecclesial heritage but left seminary with a deeper understanding of my sisters and brothers in other traditions. I came to seminary with a more limited vision of what the church was and what ministry was; seminary gave me a broader vision.

An Enjoyable Experience

At the end of the day, seminary can be valuable. But please don’t expect that it will do what it will not do. It will be a fun time. But remember that your ministry happened before you arrived at seminary—and you perform it long after you leave.

Should you go? It is a personal decision, but if you go, allow it to refine the ministry that God is already leading you in right now—which is what brought you there in the first place.

Sherman Haywood Cox II is the director of Soul Preaching. He holds an M.Div with an emphasis in homiletics and an M.S. in computer science. Visit Sherman at SoulPreaching.com.

For the original article, visit soulpreaching.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Sherman Haywood Cox II) Education Fri, 14 Feb 2014 20:00:00 -0500
Why You May Need Some Fresh Ideas for New Sunday School Classes http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20658-why-you-may-need-some-fresh-ideas-for-new-sunday-school-classes http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20658-why-you-may-need-some-fresh-ideas-for-new-sunday-school-classes

When a church begins new small groups or Sunday School classes, eternity is impacted. New hands are put to the task. Easy entry points are established. Members are more likely to invite lost friends. Peripheral members become involved. And Christians joyfully rediscover the outreach purpose of the church.

Imagine what would happen if your church began lots of new classes this year. Need some fresh ideas?

  • Life changes offer opportunities for new classes. Provide a small group for expectant parents or engaged couples. (These will evolve into new parents and newlyweds classes.)  How about a class for recent retirees or college students? If your youngest adult class has aged a bit, add a new class for younger adults.
  • Your church ministries may provide opportunities for new small groups. Example: A church with weekday childcare could invite those parents for a new class.
  • Consider establishing a new small group for each decade of adults. Fresh new classes attract newcomers and others who do not currently attend. Provide a list of new members who aren’t active in a small group, as well as recent guests and uninvolved church members. Advertise the new class in your community.
  • Look at growing areas in your church. If the youth group is exploding, you might begin new small groups for parents of middle- or high-school students.
  • Look at “holes” in your current attendance. What groups of people are uninvolved? What segments of your community are untouched? What types of new classes would include overlooked people? Example: About a third of adults in your town are unmarried (see www.census.gov). Are you organized to reach them?
  • Kick off a targeted new group with a themed study. For example, if there are lots of artists in your town, the class could begin with a short study of biblical art.
  • Ask church members to submit suggestions about needed small groups, along with ideas for leaders and names of people that might attend.
  • Challenge current classes to multiply themselves. The current teacher shares responsibilities and helps train a co-teacher, and then some group members go with that teacher to begin a new class. Small groups in our church plant are committed to reproduce regularly, and 24 new Christians have been baptized as a result!

It’s a new year. Will your church make an intentional plan to reach new people for Christ by establishing new small groups?

Diana Davis is an author, speaker and wife of the North American Mission Board’s vice president for the Midwest region, Steve Davis.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Diana Davis) Education Wed, 22 Jan 2014 20:00:00 -0500
7 Trends in Church New Member Classes http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20516-7-trends-in-church-new-member-classes http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20516-7-trends-in-church-new-member-classes

One of the most significant changes in church practices in the past 15 years is the requirement of an entry class to be granted church membership. In a 1997 survey I did, only 17 percent of churches were requiring a new member class.

In a recent and non-scientific Twitter poll I conducted, 86 percent of those who responded said their church requires a membership class to be formally affiliated with the church.

Even if you provide allowances for the potential lack of accuracy of a Twitter poll, the change is remarkable if not dramatic. The number of churches requiring a membership class has increased 400 percent in 15 years!

That is one of seven key trends we see today in new member classes. Let’s look at all seven:

1. Requiring church membership classes has become a normative church practice. Indeed this church practice is almost as pervasive as churches that have small groups or Sunday school classes.

2. The longer a church has required a membership class, the shorter it becomes in length. Many churches start with membership classes that are multiple weeks in length. Because of teaching efficiency and the need for better participation, they typically move toward one-day classes.

3. The most common length of a new member class is three hours. Of course, there is a wide variety of lengths and days of these classes, but the three-hour class is now the plurality among those offered. It still is a long way from becoming the majority preference, though.

4. The most common day the class is offered is Sunday. The logic behind this option is that people are already at church, so offer the class while they are there. I have heard from many church leaders whose churches offer the class during the Sunday school/Bible study/small group time. Others offer the class immediately after the worship services, typically connected to lunch. Again, there is still much variety on the day or evening these classes are offered.

5. The most efficient membership classes have options. By efficient, I mean the level of participation. If the church offers classes at different times, more people are likely to participate. A common example is a church that offers a class on two Wednesday evenings for 90 minutes each or one Sunday afternoon for three hours.

6. Among the minority of churches that do not require new member classes, there are strong feelings against them. Some church leaders and members view such a requirement as legalistic and/or unbiblical. This issue still evokes strong emotions.

7. Leaders in churches are enthusiastic about the benefits of new member classes. Though I have no metrics, I do hear anecdotal testimonies about improved member retention, better stewardship, stronger ministry participation and lower conflict.

Let me hear from you about new member classes in your church. Do you require them? When are they offered? What is the content of them? What is your assessment of their usefulness thus far? What have you changed about them? What would you like to change?

Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer) Education Fri, 22 Nov 2013 17:00:00 -0500
5 Things Young Pastors Need and How to Get Them http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20505-5-things-young-pastors-need-and-how-to-get-them http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20505-5-things-young-pastors-need-and-how-to-get-them

I recently hosted an event aimed at equipping young pastors with the resources they need to thrive in their ministry. This was the culmination of a vision I’ve had for a very long time.

I’ve been in ministry for over a dozen years and, in that time, I’ve both been a young pastor, and also worked with many young pastors. And if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that young pastors need a ton of support in order in order to be successful in the ministry God had called them to fulfill.

So this year I decided to launch a non-profit to resource and connect young pastors.

The event we hosted in Minneapolis is one of many resources we plan to provide, and only the first of many events we plan to host in different parts the country, but each event and resource will have the same objective: Equip young pastors.

Based on my experience working with young pastors, and my own early ministry experience, I’ve pinpointed five areas of focus for our resources and events.

We believe these are the areas which will benefit you—the young pastor—the very most.

The five areas are as follows:

  1. Spiritual Devotion. Our spirituality isn’t just important, it is the driving force behind everything we do. If we don’t cultivate spiritual devotion, we can’t lead others to do the same.
  2. Church Innovation. Our message never changes, but if we aren’t constantly innovating the way we do ministry, our mission is at risk. It is our goal to equip and connect you with resources and people to make sure you never stop growing, creating and innovating.
  3. Personal Development. There is too much at stake in the Kingdom of God for us to not continue growing as leaders. We want to encourage you to keep growing, and give you the resources you need to do so.
  4. Overall Wellness. There is too much to be done not to pay attention to our overall wellness. Without our emotional, physical and mental health, you will not last in ministry. We want to help you create an action plan to be well and stay well.
  5. Global mission. God’s will has always been that NONE should perish. With technology available today, we need to rethink how Global missions can be done in the 21st century.

The reason I share this with you is threefold. First, if you are a young pastor, I would love to invite you to connect with what we’re doing. Find an event in your area, or simply follow the blog and tell us how we can best help you.

You are the reason we’re doing this!

Second, if you know a young pastor, chances are you know how difficult their job can be. Would you please share this resource with them as a way to help them grow and become effective in their ministry?

Finally, if you believe in young pastors, I want to invite you to stay connected to what we’re doing. There will be opportunities to share and invest more in the future.

Are you a young pastor? Do you know one? I’d love to hear what else you need.

Check out the Young Pastors’ Website.

With more than a dozen years of local church ministry, Justin Lathrop has spent the last several years starting businesses and ministries that partner with pastors and churches to advance the kingdom. He is the founder of Helpstaff.me (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership, and MinistryCoach.tv, all while staying involved in the local church. Justin serves as a consultant in the area of strategic relations predominantly working with the Assemblies of God, helping to build bridges with people and ministries to more effectively reach more people.

For the original article, visit justinlathrop.com.
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Justin Lathrop) Education Fri, 15 Nov 2013 20:00:00 -0500
10 Reasons Why Church Leaders Should Continue Their Education http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20414-10-reasons-church-leaders-should-continue-their-education http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20414-10-reasons-church-leaders-should-continue-their-education

I admit my bias here. I am a seminary dean and professor, and I believe in education. Students help to pay my salary. They have become my friends, my mentees, my children in the faith. Graduates make me proud.

My reason for writing this post, though, goes beyond these thoughts. If we are doing the work of God, we must give our absolute best. I desire to be part of a team that trains and sends out the strongest leaders in the world—leaders who make a difference in the kingdom of darkness. Those leaders never stop learning.

With those thoughts in mind, here are ten reasons why leaders should continue their education:

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Chuck Lawless) Education Fri, 11 Oct 2013 15:00:00 -0400
3 Things We Can Learn From Patch Adams http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20412-3-things-we-can-learn-from-patch-adams http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20412-3-things-we-can-learn-from-patch-adams

On a lazy Friday afternoon (my day off), I watched the semi-old movie Patch Adams. I loved many things about the movie (have seen it several times before), but on this viewing, the most impactful part was the words on the screen at the end of the movie:

“Currently there is a waiting list of over 1,000 physicians who are willing to leave their practices to join Patch.”

1. Be willing to work the hardest. Patch was was one of the top in his class. He loved learning and earned the respect of his colleagues by his eagerness to learn his field. We can’t accomplish a thing without working hard. Good luck comes to those who work hard. Patch understood that. We have to as well. If you’re a leader, you gotta work!

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Artie Davis) Education Thu, 10 Oct 2013 20:00:00 -0400