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5 Commitments That Propel and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry

Ever wonder why some small group ministries seem to steadily move to new levels of success and health while others start with a bang and go out with a whimper?

Here are five commitments that make the difference:

1. Connecting everyone to a small group is a top objective every year. By “everyone,” I mean everyone. And it’s not just 50 percent or 80 percent of the weekend adult attendance. I’m talking about 150 percent of the weekend adult attendance number! In addition, the commitment is to a small group (i.e., not a class or a Bible study that meets in rows). And it’s not about off-campus versus on-campus. It’s all about connecting to a group that includes the essential ingredients of life change. (See also "Essential Ingredients of Life Change" and "Design Your Group for Life Change.") read more

Dr. Joe McKeever

What to Say to a Church Bully

(This is the type of article some church people will find objectionable. I’m fully aware of that and am willing to run the risk of the flack from writing it. If it results in one congregation standing up to a member who has held the church in a stranglehold and run off preacher after preacher, if it puts just one bully out of business, it’ll be worth the flack. This is a far bigger problem than most people realize.)

No church bully thinks he’s one. He’s just (ahem) looking out for the interests of the church, since a) no one else seems to be willing to do it and b) even though it’s a difficult task, he has the courage to step up and do this difficult thing. read more

F-MinLeadership

How to Model Multigenerational Unity

The final words of Malachi’s prophecy say the hearts of the fathers will turn to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. The church is at its best when we see that Scripture being lived out among the generations in our local congregations. It isn’t easy with a widening generation gap in a rapidly changing society. But it can happen when it’s modeled within church leadership.

As a youth pastor, I know I’m able to lead a younger generation toward God because of the people who paved the way for me, believed in me and gave me a chance despite my failures. I’ve been blessed to have a great relationship with my senior pastor, David T. Demola, who taught me the true meaning of ministry. read more

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Confessions of a Broken Pastor’s Wife

I love the community that has formed on my blog. There are several people who are regular commenters; they have become a part of my blog's family, and I feel like I know them.

Some of them come to the blog in affirmation of what I have written. I am always grateful for such encouragement. But some visitors disagree with me. I gladly post their comments for two reasons. First, I want to be fair to all who take time to read my blog. Second, I am wrong some of the time and I need to be corrected.

How This Story Began

Sometimes, however, people come to my blog hurting deeply. They need a place where they can be heard, and they need a place where they can share your pain without fear of retribution. That is why I allow them to comment in anonymity if they so desire. My only requirement is that they enter their legitimate email address in case we need to confirm that they're not hiding behind a fake address. But we will never publish email addresses. read more

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8 Relationships Leaders Can’t Live Without

Being a leader is not easy. Not by a long shot. In fact, with all of the hard work and criticism we face, sometimes it can feel like a lonely, thankless job. At the same time, we were never made to go this alone.

Here are eight relationships you can’t live without as a leader:

1. Mentor. Having someone who believes in you and cares deeply for your life as a whole is vital to your success as a leader. I can’t imagine my life without the mentors God has given me. If you don’t have a mentor, don’t wait for one to come to you. Seek one out.

Look for someone who is a believer in others and will take time for you and look to your interests. read more

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12 Simple Rules for Greetings

Hello. How are you? What’s up? Hey.

All of us greet differently. There is no right or wrong.

These are a few of my thoughts on greetings that might create a few laughs. Most of these are related to greetings within the office, but a few are appropriate anywhere.

Enjoy these and add more below in the comments section! read more

Mixed-race-church

How to Discriminate Against ‘Those Other People’

This is not a good story, and I apologize in advance.

In between my sophomore and junior years in college, I worked the call-in desk for the Seaboard Railroad ticket office in Birmingham. Located downtown on 20th Street South, this was an attractive office with pleasant people.

The year was 1960 and during the heyday of Jim Crow laws. The police commissioner in the city was named Bull Connor, a man destined to make headlines a couple of years later when he turned the fire hoses on blacks (and maybe a few whites; I’m not sure) protesting the harsh laws and customs in our city. read more

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Why Ministry Isn’t Paint by Numbers

This might be nerdy, but I’m going to tell you anyway. When I was a kid, sometime in elementary school, I was given a huge paint-by-numbers kit, and I loved it. I told you it’s nerdy. It was big. My memory says the picture was about two feet by three feet.

That’s a lot of paint by numbers. The picture was of the Last Supper, and it contained intricate detail.

I painted for weeks and then quit. Picked it up and painted months later. It took about a year to finish.

Here’s what I noticed: I enjoyed painting by numbers, but as I gained confidence, I began to mix the colors and paint my own colors and even went outside the lines. It was no da Vinci masterpiece, but it was pretty cool. I’m not sure what brought that to mind lately, but as I think about leadership, it rings true. read more

Leading-pastor

How to Help Your Staff Develop Their Gifts

As a pastor, you have a lot of responsibilities. When your task list grows, it’s easy to overlook the need to invest in your staff. However, one of the most important parts of leadership development is helping others understand their gifts.

At some point, most of us worked for or learned from a leader who understood this responsibility. And we wouldn’t be where we are today without them. Even if we didn’t have that help, we all understand the value of it and why we should invest in our people this way.

So for all you leaders, here are three ideas for helping the people you lead develop their gifts: read more

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Are Churches Isolating Introverts?

Some of you may find this surprising, but I’m an introvert. I first made the confession in this blog post back in 2012.

Now, just because I’m an introvert, that doesn’t mean I don’t like connecting with people. I absolutely love it. However, I have to train myself to balance the opportunity to connect with others with the discipline of taking time to recharge.

While serving in ministry through the years, I’ve had to train myself to overcome some of my tendencies and preferences as an introvert for the sake of making others feel comfortable and welcome. Sometimes it was draining, but I felt that it was essential for my ministry to succeed. read more

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Can You 'Fire' a Church Attendee?

Maybe fire isn’t the right word. But can you say no to someone in a way that suggests your church might not be the right church for them? How do you balance loving and caring for a person and not allowing him or her to leverage their personal wants and maybe even their own agenda?

I’ve been reading a great book titled The Orange Code: How ING Direct Succeeded by Being a Rebel With a Cause, by Arkadi Kuhlmann and Bruce Philp. I’ve been reading it slowly and thinking my way through it for a long time now. The chapter on staffing (“The Dirty Dozen”) is worth the book. There is another great chapter titled “You Say You Want a Revolution?” that speaks to the topic of this article. read more

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How to Tame Resentment at Church

I recall a time as a pastor when my emotional skin got so thin that I took offense at just about anything anyone said. I knew it was not good, but it was like I could not stop myself.

I liken that period to having “emotional rug burn.” Rug burn is a painful condition where friction of some sort has rubbed your skin so thin that it becomes highly sensitive to heat or touch. You can get rug burn innocently enough, like when roughhousing with your children on the floor. But when one has rug burn, the hypersensitivity it creates makes things that normally would pass unnoticed become a painful focus of our attention. read more

Thom-Rainer

Pastor’s Perspective: 10 Ways to Be a Better Church Staff Member

After about a quarter of a century of church consultations, I have dealt with a plethora of church staff matters. I continue to hear many of the same themes since I left church consultation.

Today I present the top 10 issues from the senior pastor’s perspective. In an upcoming post, I will offer 10 issues from the church staff perspective. My desire in writing these two blog posts is to offer a positive framework and to allow church staff today, and pastors on Saturday, to have the best possible work relationships. read more

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Can the Church Respond to Depression?

It’s amazing how many Christians are suffering from depression. There are precious people who love the Lord dearly yet find themselves struggling in a day-to-day battle to simply enjoy their lives.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in 10 Americans take an antidepressant (it’s even higher in women), yet at the same time so many leaders in the church find themselves ill-equipped when trying to understand and minister to those who suffer from this often-confusing condition. read more

Pastor-ignorant-church

Are You Asking Too Much of Your Ministry Team?

Pastor Jason was frustrated about the level of commitment in general within his congregation. He called me to get some advice, and I think just to vent a little.

I told him he was asking for too much from his people and needed to ask for less. And if he did, he would get a far greater response.

Jason responded saying, “What do you mean? Are you saying I’ll get more if I ask for less?  That flies in the face of all that we know about the ‘big ask’ and challenging people to big dreams!” I talked with Jason about the difference between challenging people to a big vision and draining the life out of a congregation by asking them for something every time they come to church. read more

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How Do You Deal With Mental Illness in Church Members?

You know the feeling—you see her coming and you want to turn away.

Mary is in your church. Something isn’t quite right with her. Sometimes she seems balanced, lucid and smart. Other times she is really off. She might have strong mood swings, flow in and out of psychotic episodes, or she could have one of dozens of mental illnesses.

The bottom line is that you (and most everyone else) feel uncomfortable around her, and with that discomfort comes frustration and sometimes guilt. read more

Calling for a Marriage Revolution

MarriageToday’s Jimmy and Karen Evans know firsthand that even the most seemingly hopeless marriages can be resurrected and restored

Twenty years ago in April 1993, a 39-year-old pastor woke up from a dream at 3 a.m., feeling like he’d heard from God. 

“I saw my wife, Karen, and I sitting on a TV set talking to people about marriage,” says Jimmy Evans, founder and CEO of the international ministry MarriageToday. “I just had a strong impression in my heart that God wanted us to do a TV ministry that was very compassionate, excellent and about marriage.” 

The next two mornings, he awoke from the same dream. But not unlike other leaders who receive a calling, Evans told God, “I’m not qualified. You need to find someone else.”

Still, he knew he’d heard from God and shared his dreams with Karen and the elders of Trinity Fellowship in Amarillo, Texas, where he has served as senior leader for 30 years to date. As he continued to pray about it, Jimmy says God gave him several promises and began to fulfill them. A little more than a year later, Jimmy and Karen had produced several pilot programs as a result.  read more

How These Pastors Keep Their Marriages Strong

How do you and your wife keep your marriage prioritized above ministry? What is your greatest challenge in keeping your marriage strong? What is and isn’t working in your church to reach couples and strengthen their marriages?

We asked a group of pastors these questions and more. What follows are their insightful responses, as these leaders give us an inside look at how they pursue marriage and deal with the inevitable struggles, as well as how they’re leading their churches to help build marriages. And we are richer for their experience.  read more

Gina-McClain

Is Too Much Asked of Church Volunteers?

I could write a book. But I won’t. If you’ve been in children's ministry for any amount of time, you’ve visited this topic.

What level of commitment do we ask from our children's ministry volunteers? How much is too much? Is a weekly commitment too much to ask?

In kids' ministry, I’ve swung to each of these trains of thought over the years:

  read more

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4 Ways a Pastor Can Show Love

Pastor, you set the tone and atmosphere in your congregation. If you want to know the warmth of your church, put the thermometer in your own mouth.

I’ve visited some churches where the pastor’s lack of love is the main reason the church isn’t growing. Some pastors, by their cold demeanor and lack of personal warmth, virtually guarantee that visitors won’t come back. And in some larger churches, I’ve gotten the impression that the pastor loves an audience but doesn’t like people.

Great preaching without love is just noise in God’s view. Every time I speak to at Saddleback, I repeat a simple reminder to myself. I never preach or teach without thinking this: read more

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