Once you make the decision that small groups will be your primary (or only) delivery system for connection and discipleship, it only makes sense to look for ways to accelerate small group ministry growth and impact.
Here are what I’ve found to be 6 keys:
1. Your senior pastor must become the primary spokesperson and champion. Although I’ve not ranked these 6 keys in order of importance, there is no question that this a very important key. If you want to build a thriving small group ministry, there is no workaround for the absence of this key. See also "Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church of Groups."
It’s common sense: Church leaders can’t expect people to grow in generosity if it’s not talked about.
While some leaders try to avoid the topic at all costs, the truth is most churchgoers aren’t as resistant to talking about money as we think. In fact, many already give to a variety of organizations and causes.
This shows there is a gap to fill between what we know the Bible says about money and our willingness to act on what we know.
Talking about money in church can be tough for the person on the platform and the person in the crowd. But it’s not impossible to do—and do well. You just need to better understand what to say and when to say it.
If you’re operating social media for yourself or for your church and you’re trying to grow your platform, I’m sure you’ve heard the one key to social media success is this: “Content is king.”
But have you ever wondered: What exactly does that mean? Does it mean that "if I build it, they will come”? Does it mean all I have to do is have a well-written article and hundreds of people will line up to read it?
If you’ve tried this, I’m guessing you know it doesn’t necessarily work.
If you haven’t tried it, let me save you some grief and wasted hours—there’s more to it than that.
For more than 30 years now, through three churches and a season of church consulting, I’ve keep two unique files. One is titled Beefs. The other is titled Bouquets. It may sound a little strange, but it has proven to be a great tool for reflection on both sides of a life given to ministry.
Ministry always has two sides, and much like God’s Word, there is grace and law. Most of us prefer the former over the latter, but they both represent an equally important part of reality.
I was recently watching a History Channel special on the days of 9/11. They highlighted many of the issues and misconceptions they feel contributed to the disaster.
I think the church could learn some valuable lessons from those.
1. It can happen to us. The U.S. had gotten to the point where it felt it were protected “by the great bodies of water” that bordered its country. So it never seriously considered a group could infiltrate to that level.
This topic will cause some discomfort for many of you. The very thought of the presence of power groups seems contrary to the spirit and grace of the gospel. But power groups are very real in churches.
Perhaps our comfort level can increase a bit by calling the groups “influencers” rather than power groups. Choose your label. The fact of the matter is that most churches have a clearly known group that carries the most influence in the church. And it is not unusual for that group to have a clearly known leader.
We’ve all seen it before. The team meeting went exceptionally well and everyone is energized by ideas that could greatly improve the church.
But only six months later, conversations about “What will happen when … ?” have degenerated into “What ever happened to … ?” The initiative that once had everyone excited eventually landed in the “graveyard of good ideas.”
There are a few common reasons why good ideas fail. Understanding those barriers is key to ensuring they never get in the way again …
In their return to Saddleback Church after the death of their son, Pastor Rick and Kay Warren share the very personal story of Matthew and his battle with mental illness. They explore the stages of loss that they are walking through with honesty and transparency, teaching us how to do the same in the tough and tragic times of our lives; reminding us that through it all, God is with us and loves us; and urging us to follow Paul’s teaching in 2 Corinthians 1:4-6—to comfort others in their troubles as God comforts us.
When studying church history, some of the most fascinating individuals we meet are the martyrs. These are the untold multitudes who, when given a simple opportunity to deny Christ, found it easier to stand for their faith and die rather than disavow the One who was sacrificed in their stead.
They faced agony and torture of a magnitude that so few of us can comprehend. They were flogged, impaled, crucified, eaten by lions, forced to fight to the death in coliseums and decapitated.
Were they not like us? Would they not have loved to live lives of peace and prosperity in the name of Christ instead? Would they not have loved to sit in our beautiful air-conditioned edifices with state-of-the-art sound, lights and videography?
In the 1990s, Peter Wagner published The Healthy Church, a book describing several diseases that churches sometimes exhibit. Some of his descriptions are quite helpful (e.g., koinonitis = excessive, inward fellowship), and the list itself challenges readers to come up with their own descriptions.
Here are 10 diseases I see as I consult with unhealthy churches around the country:
(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.
Every once in a while, we have to sit down and balance our checkbook. We take the time to assess what we’ve spent and how we are doing financially.
In a similar way, from time to time we need to take a spiritual inventory and a full audit of our theology. As leaders, it is easy to get in the performance habit—living our faith so publicly—that we forget the deeper parts of life that really comprise our foundation.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few of the basics.
I have always strived to be a delegator. I know I’ve written posts on it before—how to do it successfully and that kind of garbage.
But that’s before I knew the skinny on delegation. So, that’s it. I’m done. No more delegation for me.
I’m dumping delegation for good. Here’s what I discovered.
7 Problems With Delegation
Are you losing people when you preach? Do people check out during your sermons?
After listening to thousands of sermons and preaching quite a few myself, I have learned eight different ways that pastors lose people in their sermons.
1. Sloppy transitions. You just told a great story. It was funny and thought-provoking. But as soon as the story ended, you suddenly switched direction and started talking about something else.
Wait, what? Slow down. How did we get from that funny thing your kid did to some old guy in the Old Testament?
Where is the connection?
I am one of those people who believes the best about other people.
In my career as a junior guy working his way up and as a CEO, I have met all sorts of leaders in the marketplace and, now, in the church world. I have noticed over the years that both leaders and managers in Christian settings (like churches or ministries) are engaged with much less cynicism by their junior people at the beginning of a relationship because there is this perception that a common set of spiritual rules are shared and believed.
1. In all the world there are only three Christians who love change; none of them are in your church.
2. When you speak before an unfamiliar group, be careful what you say because you never know who is listening to you. You’ll start to tell a story about some guy in your former church, and his mama is sitting right in front of you.
3. There will never be a time in your life when you know all the Bible and have your questions all answered; if you cannot serve Him with some gaps in your knowledge and preach without knowing everything, you’re going to have a hard time.
When we planted Grace Church in a local movie theater two years ago, we assumed that one day we would have a more permanent location. Meeting in a theater is not without challenges, and we assumed we’d eventually have a place for offices and more permanent meeting space, etc.
We also had plans (which are currently in process) of sending out a planter and were excited about planting a new church. We think it is essential to plant and to do it early so that multiplication is part of the life of our church.
Why winning the battle for teens requires timeless elements
In the last few years, I’ve heard folks in ministry say the battle between good and evil is greater than ever. Many say it’s because we are close to the Lord’s return.
Sadly, however, it’s my observation that few truly understand or wholeheartedly believe this. If they did, they would do more to fight back!
Christians can complain about how bad things are getting in our society, but what are we doing to oppose the forces of Satan, who does whatever it takes to “steal, kill and destroy”? When it comes to our youth in particular, what are we doing to rescue them? The truth is, many believers think they’re doing all they can to reach the lost—especially teens—when in fact they’re simply doing the same things they were doing years ago.
We each have a faith and a calling, and mine stems from a covenant I made with God that if He showed me He was real, I’d do whatever He asked—anytime, anywhere, anything.
He kept His end of the deal. And since my life-changing encounter with God, I’ve vowed to keep mine. Because of this, I now view life as if I were part of the spiritual equivalent to SEAL Team 6. Every day I live with the excitement of my next mission. When I consider the commitment and sacrifice of those real soldiers, I get pumped up knowing that this is my calling—to push myself harder, go further and do more!
By the power of the Holy Spirit, I stand for Jesus in my life, the media and Hollywood. For me, that includes relishing the opportunity to push the limits and go beyond the norm of what I think can be done. In my personal ministry, I often share that a part of my morning prayer is, “Lord, can I punch Satan in the face today and then run?”
I share all of this to dare you to do more, to smash the box of your normal thinking that you are doing all you can.
Back in the “old school” days, those who carried the torch of the gospel all had a similar zeal to do more—evangelists such as Sam Jones, Billy Sunday, D.L. Moody, Billy Graham. They understood what it meant to give everything for the sake of making Christ known. My philosophy, like theirs, is quite simple: The best way to impact this world for God’s glory is to make more Christians.
There is no greater field for a harvest than today’s youth. But equally as important as their conversion is the continual reminder of the knowledge of God’s Word and direction of their path through prayer.
There is no greater satisfaction in this life than the peace that comes with the presence of God’s Spirit. And there is no greater way to acquire this than through God’s Word and prayer, God’s Word and prayer, God’s Word and prayer—developing a lifestyle based on these life-giving elements. Missions work is awesome, but young believers must be continually reminded that it’s only by the Spirit of God leading them that they can know and do His will. They must know that their personal and ongoing relationship with Christ must be their primary focus, surpassing anything else.
In America, the spirit of darkness continues to deceive our Christian youth. Why is that? I’d argue that it’s partly because we have them doing all kinds of other things without the rock-solid foundation of being in His Word every day and spending time with Him in prayer.
Did that just rub you the wrong way and offend you? Pray about it! Whoever you are, wherever you are in your ministry, I beg you to do more.
Take a chance and do more. Create a cool gospel track that turns teens’ heads. Develop an innovative way to minister, or intentionally go after types and groups such as skaters. (A great resource for this is the Livin’ It skate videos.) Get a handful of tickets to a relevant Christian music festival or an Acquire the Fire event. Then go to the mall, skate park or local kid hangout spot and give away these seeds of hope that, God willing, will take root and grow and bless the Lord.
Please know that I make these suggestions because they work. Even if you think these kids won’t relate to you, these tools you pass on to them will. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and you can make a difference. It’s time to get “old school” and do more!
Stephen Baldwin is an actor, director, producer, author, talk radio host and motivational speaker. He periodically speaks to youth conferences around the country.
I love simple, effective strategies. And the strategy Jesus used to multiply leaders before email, texts, iPads and even printed books was incredibly effective! He did it old school.
1. Educate (face to face). Jesus often took the disciples away to solitary places and taught them the mysteries of the kingdom.
We have to give those we lead the right information. They need to know things like job descriptions, goals, expectations, communication routes, vision and direction. As we look to equip leaders, communicating with them face to face lets them know how valuable they are to us.
There is a pervasive stereotype that leaders are the ones in the limelight, the ones on stage, the extroverts with big personalities whose faces are on the front page. Like many stereotypes, I think this one is often unfair.
Some of the best leaders I know don’t demand up-front attention, but their leadership is powerful because of the fruit it brings.
Their teams or organizations or the individuals who come in contact with them are grown and propelled forward by the vision they have and by their strength, even if their vision and strength are quiet and unassuming.
One of the reasons I think quiet leadership like this is so powerful is because the burden of responsibility is taken off one person and transferred to many.
A group of people living up to their full potential is truly more capable than a single person living up to his full potential. This is easy to admit. Which is better—one person who is living out the gospel or a group of people with unified vision and purpose, all contributing equally to the community in his or her own unique way?
The answer is obvious.
So a leader, then, might sometimes be the person from stage, teaching and explaining and casting vision, but a leader might just as often be the one who is discipling, training or just living a life worth mimicking behind the scenes.
Chances are, this is happening over coffee or lunch or at home or in an office. No stage (or lights) needed.
The other thing I love about this view of leadership is that it acts as an important reminder that we are all leaders, if we’ll accept the job title.
We are leaders in our homes, with our families, in our marriages, at our work. We all have the opportunity to be someone who sets the tone for the year or the week or the day.
We can choose to not just respond to what life hands us but to set the pace, to cast vision, to inspire change.
When we do this, we suddenly start to impact people around us without even realizing we’re doing it. Their lives will change as our lives change. We can make an impact without asking for any credit.
The final reason I love this view of leadership is that my favorite leaders are humble people.
Some of those very humble people are “limelight” people, in the sense that they are well-known and sometimes on stage. But none of them are begging for the attention or asking for praise. In fact, each of them are willing to work hard and live their life in an honest, congruent way.
Their main objectives are to do what God has called them to do and to help others discover and do the same. They’re contributing to the kingdom in their unique way, and they’re doing it to the very best of their ability. I know up-front people who are doing this, and I know behind-the-scenes people who are doing it. But all of them are humble.
And people are noticing and changing.
It doesn’t take fame or notoriety to live this way. In fact, it doesn’t take anything other than just a willingness to work hard, be humble and welcome the grace of Jesus.
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 pastors.com.
Emma grew up in a small town her whole life. She dated and had a steady boyfriend for two years, until he succumbed to the ribbing of his football teammates and tried drugs for the first time. After learning of his new found habit, Emma’s parents forbid her to see him. But after spending most of her time with him and his friends for the previous two years, she never really found a place to belong again. The local churches’ youth groups were nonexistent; her sister had her own friends, and failed attempts to make the school’s sports teams left her feeling rejected. At home, she often saw and heard her parents fighting about money and didn’t get the attention she wanted from a distracted mom consumed with trying to keep her marriage together.
I love being a pastor’s wife. It truly is who God has called me to be in this season of life. Everyday is not easy, but when I’m serving as God intended for me to serve, I’m never more fulfilled in life.
That’s why I decided to share this advice to pastor’s wives. (I understand my husband has lots of pastors who read his blog. I hope they will share this with their spouse.)
Here is my advice:
Don’t try to be something you are not … and … Don’t be afraid to be yourself.
The conversation took place recently. A young man told me his dad, a pastor, recently committed suicide. He talked about the pain his father experienced in ministry as well as the intense loneliness.
Though suicide is not an inevitable outcome, I do know the number of pastors experiencing loneliness is high—very high. I hurt for these pastors, and I want to help in any way I can. Perhaps my nine observations can be a starting point for a healthy discussion on this important matter.
Recently I was visiting a church in the heart of a retirement community. The pastor got up and was astoundingly relevant. “There are five ways we tell you what’s going on here,” he said. He held up his hand and counted on his fingers: “The bulletin, the sign, the website, our mailer and announcements.”
He paused and then joked, “If you still don’t know what’s going on, then I have a hunch you’re just not with it!”
I don’t know if this was the pastor’s typical practice, but as a guest, it was a huge leg up in knowing where to find the information about how to get involved.
It’s common knowledge that men are far less likely to go to the doctor than women. While that may not be very shocking, one of the justifications for their reluctance to schedule a check-up is intriguing. Many men don’t go to the doctor because they don’t want to find out something is wrong.
This idea of “what I don’t know can’t hurt me” is part of the reason women’s life expectancy has long outpaced men. The average U.S. woman lives to be 81.3, while a man’s average life span is 76.2 years.
Churches that value and welcome assessments can expect health and growth.
Recently the Table Project, a private social network for your church, announced that it was being acquired by Gateway Church in Dallas. Now Gateway is a big church—one of the fastest-growing in the country, with more than 25,000 people. But a church acquiring a tech company? That’s different.
I love seeing the church do more than Sunday morning. I love seeing the church do more than VBS or neighborhood outreach. I love seeing the church do more than missions. All of those things are great, but I especially love seeing churches giving back to other churches.
Pastors and leaders, I’m going to give you a sneak peek at your final exam. You’re going to stand before God one day, and He’s going to evaluate your faithfulness. He’s going to look at seven different aspects of your life to judge your faithfulness, and you should be highly interested in developing these areas of your life and leadership.
1. Do you possess the right values? A faithful person knows what’s important in life and what isn’t important in life. A faithful person knows how to invest his or her life. A faithful person makes their life count. A faithful person knows the significant apart from the trivial.
Courage is not just a personal trait. It’s an organizational trait as well.
And we all want, in some way, to be part of an organization and team that demonstrates courage. That is willing to push up the hill, against the odds, beyond all doubts to achieve results and impact what most thought not possible.
So here are a few points about creating a courageous organizational culture:
Most church leaders who don’t have a plan for engaging financial leaders in their church lack one for these two reasons:
1. The belief that engaging financial leaders will make them feel as if all the church cares about is their money or it shows favoritism to certain givers.
2. The lack of confidence to engage financial leaders in a way that encourages them to become significant givers.
However, as churches look to climb out of the tough times caused by the recession, we can no longer exclude anyone—including those with financial means—when it comes to developing a giving ministry. At the same time, confidence is developed when we know the proper techniques to use and the right questions to ask.
In a world that has become so wrapped up in social media like Facebook, Instagram and avatars, has the live event lost it place? Has the “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves” become relegated to a computer screen or a smartphone (Heb. 10:25)?
I recently watched a group of young girls sitting at the same table in the food court of a trendy mall and laughing. Though there’s nothing unusual about that, what caught my attention was that they weren’t talking to each other; they were feverishly texting back and forth. Their laughter wasn’t a result of what they were saying to each other, but rather what they were texting to each other. In our digital age, have we lost even our most fundamental art of conversation?
This week, in Lynne Olson’s Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941, I found this interesting depiction of Harold Ickes, a member of FDR’s cabinet during the Second World War:
“According to T. H. Watkins, Ickes’ biographer, ‘a world without something in it to make him angry would have been incomprehensible to him.’ A disgruntled Republican senator who had been the target of one of Ickes’ verbal assaults called him ‘a common scold puffed up by high office.’ To one cabinet colleague, Ickes was ‘Washington’s tough guy.’ To another, he was the ‘president’s attack dog.’”
Half of all Christian students will walk away from their faith in college. How can your church confront that statistic and help teens establish a deep faith before stepping on campus?
As young people from your church graduate high school, how they develop in the years that follow will determine not only their destiny, but also the destiny of the American church. Pastors enjoy a certain delight and privilege in helping to guide the lives of the families that look to their wisdom and spiritual leadership for navigating the tumultuous waters of life.
This is especially true as many parents enter the minefield of determining a course of direction for their recent high school graduates. Since these early years are so important, we must be very careful to help parents set up their young adults for success, no matter how unconventional the approach may be.
"Those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. ... Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ. ... And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. ... And there was great joy in that city" (Acts 8:4-8)
I’ve been thinking on this passage for a couple of days, and the more I read it, the more I see.
My faith is being challenged and my vision is being expanded.
Are you willing to believe God by actually beginning to act in faith on these three components of kingdom domination displayed by the first church in the book of Acts?
I spent most of my 20s floundering around, trying to figure out what I was “supposed” to do with my life. Actually, from the outside, it probably didn’t look much like floundering (I went to college, graduate school and got a great job). But on the inside, I felt lost. Chaotic. Confused. And really curious as to what it meant to find my “true calling.”
So by the time I was in my mid-20s, I had followed all the rules of adult life and had many of the things a “grown-up” was supposed to have, but I still didn’t feel like my life had deep meaning.
I still didn’t know what I was here for.
What was my calling? Did God give everyone a calling? How was I supposed to find mine?
Inspired by the story of the Rich Young Ruler and encouragement from a friend, I quit my job, sold everything I owned, moved out of my apartment and set off on a road trip to discover my true calling. I learned so much while I traveled, but perhaps the most important thing I learned was what it means to discover a deep and meaningful purpose for your life.
Based on that experience, here are two questions I think you can ask yourself if you want to discover what God has called you to do.
1. What am I passionate about? I was always so scared to ask this question—or to answer it—because although I would call myself a passionate person, my passions sort of scared me. If I were to follow my passions—really follow them—where would they lead me?
I wasn’t sure.
And besides, weren’t passions kind of selfish and frivolous? Wasn’t I supposed to chase what God wanted for my life instead of what I wanted? Wasn’t that what being a Christian was all about?
What I discovered when I started to uncover my passions—and admit them—was that my desires and dreams could actually act like a window to what God wanted for me. Talking about my passions helped to unlock my purpose in life.
For me, this looked like quitting my job to chase my lifelong dream of traveling across the country and writing a book about it. And yes, in the beginning, the “passion” was a little bit crazy and unbridled and even a tiny bit selfish.
But as I submitted my passion to God and invited Him into the journey with me, the passion has grown and matured to be something deep and beautiful and lasting. And it continues to grow in this way, as long as I allow him to be part of it.
2. Where do I see my passion changing others? This is important because if I ask the first question without asking the second question, I might end up chasing my “dream” of becoming a singer/songwriter.
And why not? I love to sing in the shower and the car and into my bedroom mirror with my brush as a microphone.
I assure you, if I were to chase that passion, the world would not be a better place. I mean, I love to sing, but I love to sing far more than other people love to listen to me sing, if you know what I mean.
Maybe you love to golf, but you have to ask yourself: How is the world being changed by your golf game? Maybe you love drinking coffee, but how can you help people and serve people and reach people with that passion?
It’s certainly possible. Callings come in all shapes and sizes. But it’s important to ask the question.
Of course, this isn’t a perfect formula. I’m not pretending like it’s failproof or that callings are cut and dry or that they don’t sometimes flux and change in different seasons.
Right now, I’m called to write. But I believe later in life I will be called to be a mom, and maybe even a grandma, and probably a whole host of other things too. I believe we have more than one calling in a lifetime and that our callings are constantly unfolding.
But I guess the biggest tragedy would be if we didn’t believe we had a calling at all or we didn’t believe that it mattered so we ignored our passions altogether or ignored our capacity for serving and connecting to others.
Please don’t let that happen. The world will be a better place when more of us wake up to what we were put on this earth to do.
Allison Vesterfelt is a Christian author. Her book Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life With Less Baggage was recently released.
For the original article, visit justinlathrop.com.
Have you ever noticed how ideas seem to flow when you don’t need them? Throughout the year, you might have a dozen great ideas for a weekend getaway; but when a weekend is finally available for a trip, you can’t think of anything to do. Or maybe you’ve had a million “when I get around to it” moments only to find that on a rare day off, you can’t remember any of them!
Being a pastor is much the same way. For years you may have thought, “If I was a pastor, the first thing I would do is …” And then, when that moment finally comes—a church calls you to pastor—you can’t figure out where to start. Being chosen to pastor a church is a great honor. Much like the first moment holding your newborn, you are overcome with one thought: “I want to do this right!”
Think about the teenagers in your church who you believe love God the most, the ones that would be most likely to serve in your congregation. Can you see them in your mind yet? These are the “good” kids, right? At least these are on the correct path, right?
Don’t be too sure.
These are the exact type of teens who go on mission trips with my team each year. More than 72,000 of them have shown up over the years ready to explore South American jungles, trek through Himalayan mountains and journey inside cultures unlike their own, all for the chance to tell people about Jesus. At least that’s what I thought, until I made a shocking discovery.
Have you ever had to lead change when no one knew for sure what change was needed, when there wasn’t clear agreement on where the organization needed to go, when some players on the team were uncommitted or complacent, or when the leadership pipeline—who is supposed to be leading—wasn’t clearly defined? Have you ever had to lead change when the season of decline has been so long no one remembers what success looks like, or when ... you get the idea.
It’s like navigating through muddy water. Have you ever been there?
In 1999, the company I worked for was acquired by the world’s largest insurance broker, which was based in Manhattan. I was appointed the chief information officer of one of the subsidiaries and began a 10-year period of commuting from Seattle to my office on the 50th floor in the south tower in the World Trade Center.
I was one of more than 1,700 employees from four subsidiaries that were housed in the north and south towers. We lost 376 staff and contractors the morning of 9/11. Many were my friends and colleagues.
The greatest legacy my mother gave me was a legacy of holiness, of integrity, of a life well-lived and of exemplifying the Word in action.
Simply put, Alice Gray stood out among the crowd. Many of the people I grew up around attended church. But looking back, there were very few whom I would classify as true Christ-followers. That’s not to judge them and say that they were bad people. But there’s a difference between those who follow a religion (which simply involves rote repetition) and those who are committed to growing and developing in their relationship with God.
Lakeside Wesleyan Church, in Lakeside, Calif., was the first church I served as a staff member. It was a small church, and I learned much!
Rich Lauby was the pastor then, and the church accomplished significant life-changing ministry. For more on that story, see the previous article in this series (Part 1), which includes “6 Words for Small Churches.”
The first church I “officially” consulted was a small church in Ruston, La. Ever been there? The pastor’s name was Mark, and we hit it off immediately.
It’s no secret that almost 90 percent of those who come to Christ do so before the age of 20. Youth ministries are built upon the premise that the younger years are when the harvest fields are richest.
But time and again, I hear senior pastors and church members express the same frustration: “I just don’t know what to do to get through to these kids!”
The good news is that “getting through” is easier than you may think. Put simply: Just feed them! (And I don’t mean just feed them pizza, though that may be a good start.)
It was 30 years ago that I began serving a small rural church in southern Indiana. I was so incredibly green then; I’m glad I didn’t always realize it.
I loved those people in that church and, for some reason, they loved me too. I had to be one of the most inept pastors in history, but they just continued to show me grace and love me even more.
Three decades later, I reflect back on what I’ve learned in ministry. Some lessons came rather naturally; others were very painful.
Loss is hard. Although everyone handles grief differently, I’m convinced that nobody handles it easily.
One of the ways that Christ comforts His children is through His body—the church. Romans 12:15 reminds us to “weep with those who weep” (ESV). After all, that’s what Jesus did. When His friend Lazarus died, He wept with Mary and Martha over their loss (John 11:35).
So when Jesus gives us, His ambassadors on earth, an opportunity to represent Him through comforting those experiencing loss; we must not take it lightly. That’s why I think it is vital that every church think through their own “care plan” now.
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.
Last week, I wrote about the three greatest temptations of leadership. This week, I want to talk about the three ways we can keep our integrity and prevent those temptations from destroying our testimony and diminishing our influence.
First, deepen your reverence for God. Never forget that God put you in the position you’re in today. Psalm 75:6 says, “For promotion and power come from nowhere on earth, but only from God. He promotes one and deposes another” (LB). Great leaders realize that they are stewards. They realize that it’s not their world, their church, their business; they are just the manager, the steward. Promotion comes from God, not from other people.
Back in the 1950s and through the 1980s, there were some massive evangelistic and social-service ministries created that did amazing work around the world (and some still are). From Campus Crusade, the Jesus Film Project, Feed the Children, the Navigators, The Gideons—plus big evangelistic organizations like Oral Roberts, Billy Graham and many more—these ministry and nonprofit organizations had a global impact and raised hundreds of millions of dollars in the effort.
But today some of the large legacy ministries are struggling. After seeing many of these organizations from the inside, and from my experience engaging today’s culture, here’s five things these organizations need to do to transition and stay relevant to the next generation:
When you look at the students in your life (let’s give them a name for the sake of convenience—how about Steve and Sally?), what do you see? What stands out to you?
Is it their height, their build or their features? Is it their personality, style or quirks?
The world sees their label—jock, diva, brain, groupie, gaming geek, ladies man or drama queen.
They are assessed a tag based on their past behaviors—liar, thief, pervert or addict; difficult, dangerous, dominating or delusional.
What do mission legends Mary Slessor, Hudson Taylor and Cameron Townsend share in common? They were all impacting nations and reshaping mission paradigms before they were 30 years old.
The gospel’s march has often been carried on the backs (and in the backpacks) of young people. The golden chain of mission expansion has been forged by teenagers and young adults. And whether or not they realize it, on-fire youth today add to a train of faith centuries long.
This past week, I was contacted by a minister who was getting ready to start his new role of campus pastor at a multisite church in 2014. He asked me to share with him what my week and responsibilities looked like and to explain the role of the campus pastor.
Believe it or not, this is something I do often and will be doing more in the future as a resource and partner on my friend Scott Williams’ new website campuspastor.tv.
How to use today’s real-time connectivity and community to extend your church’s reach
Last month was my birthday. Because of social media like Facebook, I got more birthday wishes than I ever got cards in the mail. A few weeks ago a friend of one of my friends was in dire straights. Her husband had been in a motorcycle wreck and lay in a coma in the hospital, yet people instantly began praying for him.
Because of Facebook and how connected we are today with smartphones and tablets, we can hear about and respond to the burdens and celebrations of life in real time. Gone are the days of hearing about a prayer request for the first time in the Sunday bulletin.