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Charles Stanley: Tips for Being Led by the Holy Spirit

F-Stanley-CM-8-12One of the world’s most beloved Baptist pastors, Charles Stanley shares how to walk in step with the Holy Spirit’s promptings

Several years ago during a photographic trip, my group had been traveling up a trail for almost three hours, and I began to have a funny feeling that we were going in the wrong direction. I asked the guide about it, and he assured me that everything was fine. Not wanting to be presumptuous, I kept walking. After a few minutes, I noticed that my sense of uneasiness persisted; in fact, it was growing stronger. I pulled out my compass and looked at the map. Sure enough, we were headed away from our intended destination.

It took us close to an hour and a half to return to where we had taken the incorrect turn off the trail. Sadly, this meant that by the time we got to the site, our window for taking photographs was cut short.


8 Steps to Reaching People Indifferent to the Church

d-MinOutBox-8Steps Istockphoto-drbimagesIf the majority of your community couldn’t care less about church (see above), then how can you attract those people in a compelling way? Here are some first steps.

1) Identify people groups in your community based on their passions.What do they want to pour their time into when they get home from work? Get a diverse group of people in your church to brainstorm and answer this question. 

2) Who can your church most effectively reach? Let’s be realistic. You can’t reach all of these groups. The way you reach Harley-Davidson fans is typically different from the way you reach gardeners. Your church is uniquely equipped to reach some of these groups very effectively.

Note: Many churches have tried steps one and two, and then built outreach events accordingly. That’s why we often see church softball leagues, motorcycle rallies and Super Bowl parties. These activities are good, but they don’t usually speak to people at a deeply emotional level. That’s why step three is so important. 

3) Learn what keeps these people up at night. What are those deeper emotions that drive people to obsess over their motorcycle, climbing a corporate ladder, or never-ending home improvement projects? What chronic problems do they deal with in their lives? These fears and problems will vary a bit from each group you identified in steps one and two. Sometimes, it relates to the passion, but usually the thing they pour their time and passion into is just a facade for what keeps them up at night.

Step three may make you uncomfortable. But advertisers are capturing consumers’ hearts by speaking to them at a deeply emotional level. They tell them that the thing they are selling will make them happy. Advertisers do it in a manipulative way, but you don’t have to. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re sharing the Good News.

4) Develop practical biblical teaching. In step three, you identified a chronic problem or fear these groups of people face. What does the Bible say about this topic? If you’ve listed a problem or fear in step three that you don’t think the Bible addresses in a practical way, then you’re probably still listing symptoms instead of root problems.

Pick one of these fears or problems. Prepare a multi-week teaching series and make sure each week offers its own practical action steps.

5) Don’t water it down. It’s tempting to dilute your teaching to make it more seeker-friendly. But if you hit on a problem that speaks to them at an emotional level, they want all the information they can get. People who think Scripture is irrelevant have probably never discovered practical answers to their problem.

Now that the teaching is developed, it’s time to re-engage your advertising campaign (with ads that no longer talk about your church).

6) Design advertising that speaks to these people at an emotional level. Focus on what keeps them up at night and the practical outcomes of your teaching. Make a promise about what practical benefits they’ll get for taking action. Your call to action probably shouldn’t start with visiting your church. We all know that’s a risky proposition for some.

7) Create a marketing funnel. Create “baby steps” people can take before they step foot in your church. Don’t require people to visit your church to start learning about solutions to their specific problem. Instead, earn their trust with some practical teaching on your website. Effective baby steps will get more people in the pews for your teaching series. But it will also get many more people interacting with you through your website.

8) Make your advertising more targeted. Billboards and direct mail are fine, but you should supplement them with more targeted forms of marketing. Did you know that you can use Facebook to advertise to these folks in a targeted way? You can run targeted, local Facebook ads that tie your message to their passions, and you only pay when someone clicks.

Thousands of ads are running at this very moment that suggest random products or activities will fill the void in consumers’ lives. The ads get results because they speak at a deeply emotional level. We can do the same—and offer real solutions!

Jeremy Harrison is the owner of Spire Advertising Inc, a Web design and Internet marketing firm in Ashland, Ohio. 


Does Your Church Advertising Work?

d-MinOutBox-DoesYour Istockphoto-Rafal PlechowskiThree reasons why it probably doesn’t

While driving home from a family vacation, we passed a billboard for a church that read: “The church for people who don’t like church.”

As I continued to drive, I started thinking about it. I’ve seen many variations on this campaign across the country. So why does it always bother me when I see ads like these? 

First, a disclaimer: I’m a marketing guy. I am not really a church marketing guy. But as a believer who happens to do advertising and marketing for a living, I often pay attention to church marketing.

Does your church advertising work?

Perhaps you think there’s room to improve it, or you’re on the verge of giving up on church advertising completely. Before you do anything drastic, consider these three reasons why I think most church advertising (like the campaign I saw on vacation) simply doesn’t work.

1. It doesn’t resonate with as many people as you might think.When churches run ads like this one, I think they assume it appeals to most of the people in their community—after all, the majority of the local community is not in church; therefore, the majority of the community must not like church. But this logic is flawed. It takes energy and effort to experience something and then decide you dislike it. Most people don’t dislike church. It’s worse than that: They couldn’t care less about church. They’re completely indifferent, and this advertising doesn’t speak to them at all.

2. It beats up on an already damaged brand—the church.If you think of the Church (with a capital C) as a brand, we can all agree that the brand is in bad shape. But the answer is not to run an ad campaign that distances your church from other churches. In fact, I believe this approach probably hurts your church more than it helps. Remember, the majority of your community is indifferent. As a result, they don’t care enough to take time to understand the nuances between your church and the church down the street. So any time we speak of the church—with or without a capital C—we should seek to build it up. There isn’t a megachurch on the planet with an advertising budget large enough to completely separate themselves from the larger brand of the Church in the eyes of a public that doesn’t care.

3. It doesn’t speak to many people on an emotional level. All effective advertising speaks to people on an emotional level. As a marketing professional, I know this can sometimes be difficult to do—especially when my client is selling something boring, like a technical thingamajig to a purchasing manager.

When I think about the church—the Great Commission, the power of the gospel, the stories of changed lives—that is a story just teeming with energy. It has the power to connect with people at an emotional level. So why on earth do we throw away advertising dollars with ads that compare our church to most other churches, when most people don’t care about church?

When pastors and church leaders see billboard concepts like my example above, it speaks to them at an emotional level. You love your church. You are passionate about what you want to accomplish in your community and are understandably excited to share how different you are. But remember, the majority of the people who drive past your billboard aren’t looking for a better church. They don’t think they need church.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you’re selling something most people don’t think they need (like church), then focus your marketing on why they need it!

Adapted with permission from


Stuck in a Professional Rut?

d-MinOutBox Istockphoto-Zeno0620Three strategies for freeing you up to develop your ‘tent-making’ skills

One of my favorite quotes on bi-vocationalism comes from renowned Southern writer and economist Wendell Berry. He spoke at a 2007 seminary convocation saying: “It seems to me that one of the most important things in ministerial training would be to teach them to do something besides be a preacher. Because ... it’s a bad thing to be professionally trapped.”

Those last two words really sting: “professionally trapped.” I dare say it, but there are likely thousands of pastors—young and old, men and women—across the country who feel like they have no place to turn but the church. In other words, they’re stuck.


Ministry Outside the Box September-October 2012

d-MinOutBox Istockphoto-Zeno0620Professionally Trapped?

Three strategies for freeing you up to develop your ‘tent-making’ skills

One of my favorite quotes on bi-vocationalism comes from renowned Southern writer and economist Wendell Berry. He spoke at a 2007 seminary convocation saying: “It seems to me that one of the most important things in ministerial training would be to teach them to do something besides be a preacher. Because ... it’s a bad thing to be professionally trapped.”

Those last two words really sting: “professionally trapped.” I dare say it, but there are likely thousands of pastors—young and old, men and women—across the country who feel like they have no place to turn but the church. In other words, they’re stuck.

Berry goes on: “I can’t imagine a worse trap to fall into than a total dependence on being a minister. [Pastors] ought to be taught to garden, to farm, carpenter, take care of themselves in some other way. And then they can tell the truth.

Being in occupational ministry isn’t something new. We see it in the New Testament, the early church and our modern church as well. Someone leads a church and depends on the tithes and offerings of that local congregation to provide for their needs. Pretty typical.

What we’re seeing less of is pastors having a skill they can depend on when the financial support from ministry isn’t getting the job done—also known as “tent-making,” borrowing the term from the apostle Paul’s skill that helped support his ministry endeavors.

I believe all pastors should have the tent-making skill in their back pocket. I talk to pastors on a regular basis who confide in me, “My paycheck from the church isn’t cutting it, but I have little time/skill/energy to try anything else!”

I understand. I’ve been there myself. It’s a terrifying position to be in, but it doesn’t have to stay hopeless. There is a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel!

If you find yourself trapped in ministry, here are three things you can do:

1) Assess your strengths.

If you think you don’t have any marketable skills, you’re wrong. You’re a pastor. That means you’re a people person. If you’re good with people, you can do just about anything and be successful at it!

I know pastors who own painting businesses, cotton candy machines, carnival rides and consulting businesses all on the side. If they can do it, so can you. Trust me.

2) Ask for more money.

This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many pastors don’t ask for raises or pay adjustments! Usually, it’s because a pastor doesn’t feel worthy of a raise or that there’s truly not enough money left at the end of the month.

If it’s a question of worth, let me remind you: Pastors are not called to be poor. You need to hear that. You don’t have to sacrifice your personal finances on the altar of ministry to be a good pastor. Trust me.

If it’s truly a question of lack in regards to congregational resources, read the next point ...

3) Ask for more time.

If your church can’t pay you more money, they can always give you back your time. If you’re in the office five days a week and a raise is out of the question, ask for an extra day out of the office. Use that extra day to build a side business. I’ve used this approach personally, and it works.

If you’re not happy with the amount of income you’re making, do something about it. You’re not any less spiritual (or more, for that matter) if you need a little more cushion in your bank account.

Find your skill. Free up the time. Market yourself. Get out of the trap a paltry ministry income may set for you.

Justin M. Wise is director of projects and development for the Center for Church Communication (, a resource for church communicators. Follow him online at

Reaching the Unplugged

The rise of the Internet 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. We’ve come far, but I fear we’ve left people behind. Meet the “unplugged.”

Despite popular belief, the unplugged are not just senior citizens, they are those in our pews who are not regularly visiting the web or aren’t socially engaged online.

So how do we keep up our online strategies while still caring for the unplugged?

I imagine communication as if it were a hub and spokes on a bicycle. A bike has two wheels (online and offline) and is capable of moving us forward. Just like using Facebook, Twitter, email and other tools to bring everyone back to your website, you can use platform announcements, posters, people, etc., to point back to one central hub with all your communication pieces.

Try to designate an area in your church where all your announcements connect, such as an information or visitor center.

Remember to begin with the end in mind. Consider crafting 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 on printed cards, recycling website text and adapting as needed for an offline audience.

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 touch point.

Also consider maintaining a simple event registration process that can be accessed offline. Every time you announce an event from the platform, there should be a universal event registration card in the seatback that can be completed and placed in the offering (or however it’s collected).

Finally, never underestimate the power of the personal invite or time spent casting vision for involvement by a staff member. Communication is every staff person’s job regardless of their title.

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 that the plugged-in do.

In the end, 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 organization toward the unique calling God has for them. —Jon Rodgers

Relentless Branding

I can spot an Old Navy commercial from a mile away. Maybe it’s the bright colors or the almost-recognizable celebrities or perhaps the fact that I used to work at an Old Navy in Minnesota. Whatever it is, their commercials are obvious. Unfortunately, their commercials aren’t always attractive, at least not to me. They are loud in every way possible. Loud announcer. Loud music. Loud colors. Yet these commercials keep coming. Their marketing must be working.

I think pastors and church creatives can learn a few things from Old Navy’s repetition.

1. Your organization should be recognizable.

Chances are my talent in noticing Old Navy commercials isn’t unique to me. The clothing company has had the same message for years. No matter what you’re saying in your church, you’re saying something. It’s essential for your church to be consistent in the words you communicate, especially when intentionally branding your church. Identify your church’s core values and let people know about them again and again. How many leadership books do we need to read until repetition seems repetitive? Either way, repetition is key to getting people to recognize your church.

2. Your church isn’t for everyone.

Like I said, I’m not super excited about Old Navy commercials, but someone is. It’s OK to not reach everyone. Decide who your church is touching and/or who you would like to minister to and do whatever it takes to get to them. And please understand that marketing your church won’t look the same way the megachurch down the road markets. That’s fine. Just be intentional with your messages.

3. If your content is good, people will ignore your flaws.

Even though I don’t like Old Navy commercials, I still wear their clothes. They’re good quality, readily available and priced low. Frankly, they have what I want and need.

As churches, we carry the most important content around. No other message needs to be conveyed more than Jesus’. Bottom line is that we have what people want and need. People will overlook things not working in our churches if they can connect to the Savior of the world. Figure out what you want to communicate, create a message and be relentless in pursuing your target audience. —Aaron Springer


Ministry Outside the Box July-Aug 2012

MinOutBox-SpiritualCodependency Istockphoto-Cirilopoeta

"I see too many pastors over-functioning for their people. They make way too many decisions for them."
Wise words from a seminary professor that still ring in my mind years later. I think he was on to something. Add that to the fol-lowing passage from Mark Batterson's 2008 book, Wild Goose Chase:
"I'm afraid we've turned church into a spectator sport. Too many of us are content with letting a spiritual leader seek God for us. Like the Israelites, we want Moses to climb the mountain for us. After all, it is much easier to let someone else pray for us or study for us. So the church unintentionally fosters a subtle form of spiritual codependency."
Wow. How refreshing that some of the leaders in the church are willing to come out and name the elephant in the room. People in the church, myself included, depend entirely too much on their leaders to spoon-feed them morsels of spiritual truth. The office of the pastor and preacher, to my conviction, is much less "spoon-feeder" and much more "spoon-teacher"—as in, "teach people how to hold the spoon!"
I try to always stress to my leaders that I am "no better and no different" than they are. I happen to be in a place of leadership, yes, but they have an equal part to play in what God is doing through our ministry.
I wonder if the problem we're seeing with leaders in the church is the same problem we're seeing in schools? Parents depend-ing on teachers to not only teach their kids but to also raise them, advising them on everything from morals to mathematics. I wonder if it's the same problem we're seeing in our homes, depending on our televisions to watch our children as a more conven-ient (and less expensive) babysitter.
Are you seeing any of this? Do you feel like your congregation depends too much on their leaders? As a pastor, do you feel that pressure?

MinOutBox-DifferentIsnt Istockphoto-eli asenovaDIFFERENT ISN'T WRONG

I was talking with my friend Mitch recently and he told me a story that made my head spin. Mitch was on an airplane talking to the guy next to him. It ended up that his travel buddy was a Presbyterian pastor. They got to talking and eventually ended up discussing the movement of the Holy Spirit and what that looked like.
The pastor said this: "To a Presbyterian, the Holy Spirit is moving when everything lines up in order. When one element of the service flows perfectly into the next with no seams, we feel like the Spirit is at work powerfully. If there is perfect order to a service, we feel exceptionally blessed."
The pastor continued, "Now, contrast that with a different tradition—let's say Pentecostal. Pentecostals feel like the Spirit moves when schedules are put aside, the pastor or preacher gives a message that lasts two hours, people are clapping and speaking in tongues and laid out on the floor."
Which one is right? Is there a "right"? Can you tell one tradition that the Spirit is not moving in their church because, on the surface, it seems to be at odds with another tradition's definition of the movement of the Spirit? Could it be both?
We Christians spend so much time judging one another that we can't step back for a minute and ask the question "Is God big enough to move in different ways in different churches and traditions and still be God?" Nothing bothers me more than when I visit a church that cannot accept faith traditions that express themselves differently than their own.
A relationship with God goes so much deeper than our cultural assumptions and traditions. Plainly speaking, that's what most of our wor-ship expressions are—traditions that have been passed onto us by the people who have gone before us.
This isn't a bad thing; we just need to be aware of it. Perhaps the tradition that makes you feel most expressive in worship before God is the same tradition that makes another Christian feel the most inhibited and uncomfortable before that same God. They aren't any less faithful; they just aren't like you.
Different isn't wrong. It's just different.

Advertising Is Dead

I was watching a commercial for some "gold-into-cash" website the other day. They used adjectives such as "the best," "better," "faster" and phrases like "we pay top dollar" to describe their service.
My instant thought was: "How do you know?"
How do you know that your service is the best? How do you know you're better or faster than the competition? How do I know you pay top dollar for my gold? Are you going to return my gold so I can send it to another company for the sake of comparison?
And here's one for burger joints: How do I know you have the world's best burgers? Or that your particular brand of burger is "world famous"? Really? You sure people in Bangladesh are going to know what I'm talking about when I say "Burgerland"?
As a matter of fact, advertising seems to be having an adverse effect, with people simply turning off the "ad chatter." (Case in point: While listening to the radio, I heard a spot where they gave the phone number for the company three times in a row. The announcer took a breath for the fourth round, and I promptly turned off the radio.)
Online media and software expert Dave Winer shares my sentiment. He blogged: "Assuming the economy comes back from the recession/depression thing that it's in now, when it does, we will have completely moved on from advertising. The Web will still be used for commercial purposes, people will still buy things from Amazon and Amazon-like sites, but they will find infor-mation for products as they do now, by searching for it and finding out what other people think, not by clicking on ads and buying things on the pages they link to. No one needs advertising, and there are much better ways to sell products."
Where am I going with all of this? Simple. This little observation has massive implications for the church. For the way we "market" our churches, if you will.
No longer can we depend on "Sunday Night Casual Service" or "Wednesday Night Potluck" to get people into the pews. For the most part, a watching world has no idea what a church service looks like, let alone a casual one, at that.
People will be drawn to your church—the church—once they see life change flowing from it. And not before.
Amazon has a feature that suggests products to you based on what you've looked at or bought in the past. It also has customer reviews that tell the Average Joe/Josephine everything they need to know about the product and whether it delivers on its prom-ises. A business may not always be honest about the benefits and drawbacks of its product, but a consumer always will be.
Could it be that the massive decline in American churches is happening because people are tired of a "product" that doesn't deliver what it promises?
JUSTIN M. WISE is director of projects and development for the Center for Church Communication (, a resource for church commu-nicators. Follow him online at



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