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3 Things to Help You Receive Criticism Better

Justin-LathropOne of the best ways to grow is by hearing critiques about yourself from peers and mentors in relationships you trust. But not all criticism is constructive, and even when it is, it can still be hard to receive.

How you do you know which criticism should be taken to heart and which should be dismissed? And how do you respond to each in a way that promotes growth?

I think there are three things to remember when it comes to dealing with criticism in your life.

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5 Reasons Your Discipleship Strategy May Be Stuck

Darren-SchalkDiscipleship has become quite the buzzword. Books, conferences and writings abound on the topic. Most churches understand the need for discipleship but many are struggling to create effective discipleship strategies. Here are 5 reasons why your discipleship strategy may be stuck:

1. You Don’t Actually Have a Strategy. Most churches claim to have a discipleship strategy. Midweek meetings, Sunday school classes, small groups and other gatherings are frequently mentioned when asked to describe the strategy. Meetings don’t entail a strategy. Churches need a discipleship plan that encompasses everything they do based on their congregation’s specific biblical needs. Leadership teams should ask, “What will it take for our people to take the next steps toward maturity in Christ?” A specific plan should be created based on the answer to this question.

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The Need to Evangelize Remains the Same

billy-graham-houston-crusadeIn article in a 1972 edition of The Saturday Evening Post, the Rev. Billy Graham was quoted as saying, “The vast majority of American young people are still alienated, uncommitted, and uninvolved. There is a deep vacuum within them. They are searching for individual identity. They are searching for a challenge and a faith. Whoever captures the imagination of the youth of our generation will change the world. Youth movement of the past have been perverted and led by dictators and demagogues. Perhaps the American young people will be captured by Christ.”

Rev. Graham hit it on the head. He did not go into great detail about the symptoms of the youth crisis. He did not detail the issues of pornography, suicide, depression, self-injury and hopelessness, but he did highlight the core issue. He reminded us that their problems are spiritual in nature.

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God's Army Takes the Marriage Battle to the Front

D-MinOutResourcingIntheBattle

As president of the ministry my dad, Jimmy Evans, founded, I’ve been serving him for almost a decade. This year, we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of MarriageToday, so I’ve been along for a good portion of the ride. From day one, MarriageToday has always focused on equipping the local church to succeed in the area of marriage. My dad, who has been a pastor for 30 years, frequently says, “The local church is the hope of the world.”

We sincerely believe that. We see our broadcast ministry as the “Air Force” in the battle to save marriage and the local church as the “Army,” with its massive supply of ground troops. We absolutely know that we can’t win this war without strategizing with each other.

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Don’t Forget About the Unplugged

C-MinOutBox2The rise of the Internet, new media and mobile technology has ushered church communications into a new digital era. As a result, churches have worked hard to create a flawless user experience, engaged social networks and search engine-optimized websites. But while churches are working hard to keep up with the changing digital culture and reach emerging generations, I fear we’ve left behind a large group of people. 

Meet the “unplugged.”

Myth: The unplugged are all senior citizens.

Truth:The unplugged are not just those eligible for the AARP. Simply put, the unplugged are those in our churches who are not regularly visiting the Internet or socially engaged online. They think Facebook is a mystery or a joke. They may have an email address, but they rarely access it. They tend to be employed in vocations that don’t require frequent computer use. To label any one age group as the unplugged is a vague generalization that dismisses the idea that everyone needs access to information despite their tech level.

So, how do we keep up our online strategies while still caring for the unplugged? Think hub and spokes.
I look at communications as a bicycle: two wheels move the bicycle forward (online and offline). Just like you use Facebook, Twitter, email and other tools to bring everyone back to key points on your website, use platform announcements, signage, posters, people and other efforts to point the unplugged toward one central hub that hosts all your communication pieces.

Tips for Creating a Central Hub

  • Designate a central area in your church where all your communication pieces can be found (ie., an information kiosk or visitor center). If this doesn’t already exist somewhere in your space, it’s time to create one.
  • Determine whether the space should be staffed or stand alone by considering the pros and cons of each option. 
  • Place the hub centrally in your space and visible from as many areas as possible.

Begin With the End in Mind

Undoubtedly, you’ve spent much time thinking through and strategically addressing your online audience. If you haven’t already, consider creating content that can translate easily from web to print. Each page on your website exists because it presents valuable information to the curious churchgoer.

  • Display the information found on the website on printed cards, recycling web text and adapting the information as needed for an offline audience. Remove the hyperlinks and include any titles of documents to pick up, the name of a person to contact or how to register.
  • For dynamic online content that changes week to week, such as calendars, blog posts, email campaigns and prayer requests, compile a stapled booklet of printed copies and make it available as a weekly or monthly touchpoint.

Maintain a Simple Event Registration Process

Keep the offline registration process simple, universal and immediate. Rather than coming up with a different way to register every time, create a one-size-fits-all system that people become familiar with, and point them to the same system for every event.

Each time you announce an event from the platform, be sure to have a universal event registration card in the seatback that can be completed and placed in the offering plate.

One church leader recently told me about a huge push they were doing for an event. They had promoted it, then set up stations in their lobby for people to sign up immediatately. A seemingly brilliant idea! The only problem was that all of their stations had MacBook Pros. People wanting to sign up kept looking for a mouse, a click button and couldn’t navigate the “two finger scroll.”

“We walked away knowing that we ‘over-teched’ the process for our audience,” he said. 

Use Face Time

Never underestimate the power of a staff member’s personal invite or time spent casting vision for involvement. Communications is every staff member’s job. Full buy-in from your senior leadership is vital for the rest of the staff to jump on board.

  • Convince senior leaders of the need to be involved in the communications process, as well as the need to promote and use it.
  • Be sure they are familiar with any systems of recruitment or registration. Do this well in advance.
  • Craft clear objectives for weekend service conversations between staff and congregation members. Make sure they communicate volunteer needs for upcoming church-wide events, event attendance goals and other pertinent important points.

Some Final Cautions:

  • Don’t reinvent the wheel. The unplugged typically represent a small percentage of your overall audience. Create a simple, sustainable way for them to have access to the same information the “plugged in” do.
  • Avoid conflicting systems at all costs. Someone will always want to post a sign-up sheet for something, even if you’ve created a thoughtful process for collecting registrations. Conflicting systems only confuse people and weaken the system.

Remember, it takes both wheels spinning together to make the bicycle move forward, and it takes an online and offline system to move the people in your church toward the unique calling God has for them.


Jon Rogers works with numerous organizations, specializing in communications, graphic design and social media. He is a Creative Missions missionary. Adapted and used with permission from churchmarketingsucks.com.

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Ed Stetzer: Church Planting, Partner Churches and Denominations

Grace-Church-HendersonvilleOver the past couple of years, I’ve had the privilege of planting another church. In April 2011, our church-planting team and a core group of believers launched Grace Church outside of Nashville.

The methods of planting may have changed, but the motivation has stayed the same.

Needless to say, I love church planting. Yet church planting is different today than it was 25 years ago when I planted my first church in Buffalo, N.Y. We started that first church plant in Buffalo just going door to door. In other churches, we used direct mail, telemarketing campaigns and just about any other way to get the word out.

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