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Ministry Today's Resource Guide

Ministry Today proudly presents Greenelines, a new blog from Dr. Steve Greene.

Dr. Greene writes on a wide range of topics important to leaders, church administrators and young leaders in development.

He has lead business organizations, served as a dean of a college of business and lead as a senior pastor. Greene's primary focus is to equip the leaders of saints.

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These days, young people especially want to know if God is for real.

Perry Noble: You Asked for It

Most don’t want to know what happened to the goat in Leviticus, they want to know if God is real and if the Bible can be trusted. Find out what sermon topics may of interest to the unchurched.

Pressures

Dan Reiland: Leadership and Pressure

Sometimes it’s lonely at the top, and the pressures can be intense and overwhelming. Pastor Dan Reiland says you can handle them your way or God’s way—it’s your choice.

Passing the baton

Helping Your Ministry Succeed Without You

Keeping in mind that we are all on the same team—the team of Jesus Christ—if you were in the position of leaving your ministry, how would you pass the baton to your successor?

Men at church

Why Are Men Leaving the Church?

Is your church environment conducive for nurturing men? Here are some things men are desperately searching for in their church experience.

Harvest Food Bank

Research: Protestants Increase Involvement in Social Justice

Many Christians believe they can't preach Jesus and not care about justice or, conversely, that they can't have true justice without pointing people toward Jesus the Just. Find out why the numbers seem to show that more churches are catching that mission.

Pastor Steve Murrell

The 6 W’s of Men’s Discipleship

There are many elements to effective discipleship. Steve Murrell, one of the founding pastors of Victory Manila in the Philippines, explores them.

The real Patch Adams

3 Things We Can Learn From Patch Adams

The movie Patch Adams is an inspiring, feel-good film starring Robin Williams. The real Patch Adams, however, is someone whose Christ-like character most people should aspire to emulate.

Photo of Perry Noble

The One Thing That Holds Most Leaders Back

What is the one thing that holds most leaders (and the organizations they lead) back?  

It's simple: the unwillingness to make a really hard decision.  

Most leaders know the decisions that need to be made, the hard conversations that need to be had, the programs that need to be done away with or the people who need to be replaced. They simply lack the courage to do it.  

Photo of Greg Atkinson

Only God: A Pastor’s Confession

God did something amazing in my heart recently (but it’s not about me). God did something amazing in our church (but it’s not about us).

I could share stories and testimonies with you all day (and maybe one day I will), but right now they’re too dear and precious to my heart. They’re too fresh. I know you understand.

a raging river

Ron Phillips: The Cost of Grace

The movie A River Runs Through It is narrated by Norman, one of the main characters. He makes this statement about his father, a minister:

“My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things – trout as well as eternal salvation – came by grace; and grace comes by art; and art does not come easy.”

While we rightly view grace as a free gift, grace always costs someone something.

Thom-Rainer-headshot

5 Reasons Why Pastors Have Guest Blindness

In my blog, I have referred many times to my days of church consultation, particularly those experiences where we sent one of our consultants to be a first-time guest in a church. He or she would return with a report of those experiences, and the report would eventually be consolidated with other information for the church.

I have nearly 300 of these “mystery guest” reports. Both Chuck Lawless and I have posted about them on my blog.

In the past, the mystery guests would grade the visit based on several criteria. Less than 20 percent of these reports were graded “B” (good visit) or higher.

Geoff-Surratt

How Long Could You Stay in Ministry Without God?

I wonder how long I could be successful in ministry without God? I’ve been in vocational ministry for 31 years, and I seldom encounter a situation I haven’t seen before. I have a stockpile of sermons to pull from and many other places where I can grab a complete sermon with a moment's notice.

I do strategy, staffing and structure in my sleep. My experience, connections and the Internet give me all the tools I need to do ministry and do it at a very high level. God is good but often not all that necessary.

team-conflict-progress

How to Defuse a Youth Ministry Bomb

For most youth workers, few things in ministry are as dreaded as navigating conflict—especially when it comes in the form of an angry parent or frustrated volunteer and when it comes suddenly and unexpectedly.

You know the scenario: You’re hanging out in the youth room doing your youth pastor thing, and before you see it coming, he’s in your face. He’s on a mission. He’s got a few concerns, and he’s gonna share them with you right now. He has no desire to think about the timing. His agenda is the only one that matters. He’s a ticking time bomb, and time is running out.

Bible-study-group

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.")

Jigsaw-puzzle

3 Church Lessons From a Jigsaw Puzzle

My wife loves to put together jigsaw puzzles. I’m not patient enough to always help, but I do try as much as I can stand it. A couple of Sundays we were on the back porch and I was watching Georgie put a puzzle together.

Here are three lessons the church can learn:

1. You have to look at the big picture first. She always starts with the box in front of her. When she can see the big picture, she can then start to put the pieces together. In the church world, always start with the big picture. The Great Commission and the vision God has given your church should be the backbone of everything.

Dr. Joe McKeever

Is it Possible to Overpay a Pastor?

Every once in a while, someone comes up with a new wrinkle on church headaches.

A young pastor friend wrote to say the church he now serves went through a split a year or so before he arrived, and the smaller congregation struggles to keep up with the financial needs. Presently, they are running a deficit of perhaps $10,000 a year, forcing them to draw on reserves.

The church has a number of fixed expenses, he says, such as utilities and insurance that cannot be cut. Even if they eliminated all literature and supplies, the deficit would still not be covered. His suggestion is that they cut his salary by $10,000 a year. The leadership refuses.

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Ron-Edmondson

5 Reasons People Aren’t Volunteering at Your Church

Do you need more preschool workers to serve children? Do you need more greeters to greet? Do you need more ushers to … ush?

If so, you’re in familiar territory.

I’ve never met a church that said, “You know, when it comes to volunteers, we’re good. We’ve got plenty. In fact, there’s a waiting list for the nursery.”

Churches everywhere need to mobilize more volunteers to get ministry done. But before you start signing people up and filling slots, it might be helpful to take a look at why people are not volunteering.

Here are five reasons people might not be volunteering at your church:

wooden-bridge-large-poster

Scott Attebery: The Cost of Disciple-Making

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book The Cost of Discipleship is a classic. It powerfully describes Christ’s call for men to “come and die” in order to be His disciple.

In as many times as I have discussed that book with friends, I’ve never thought about an equally important concept—until now. Since a true disciple of Christ will become a disciple-maker of others (after all, that is Christlike), we must also consider the cost of disciple-making.

Initially, we may think the cost is time and energy. Certainly this is true. Disciple-making is a commitment to open up your life to another person. It’s an act of service that requires long hours, late-night calls, inconvenient conversations and out-of-the way trips.

Man-fishing-small

Why Evangelism Should Focus on Receptive People

It’s a waste of time to fish in a spot where fish aren’t biting. Wise fishermen move on. They know fish eat at different times of the day in different places. To apply this to ministry, you need to focus on the most receptive people in your area.

This is not a marketing principle. It’s a basic New Testament principle. Jesus told it in the parable of the sower. When you sow seed, some of it falls on rocky ground, some on stony ground, some on hard ground and some on good soil. Wouldn’t it be great if you knew what the good soil was and sowed all your seed there? Why waste seed, time, effort, energy and money?

Fisherman-cast-small

Don’t Scare Off the Fish

Mark 1:17 says, “And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men’” (ESV).

Throughout my ministry, God has placed so many different people in my path—people from all different walks of life, from the affluent to the poor, from the important to not important, from the religious to the nonreligious. But a common theme between them all, when confronted with the gospel, is that they will listen if it is presented in a nonthreatening way.

In the book of Mark, Jesus told the apostles that He would make them fishers of men. Now, let me show you how a fisherman works.

Aaron-Crumbey

What Matters Most in Ministry?

A lot of times we can get into the results game or the comparative game and lose sight of what matters most. We think if only I had that building, that equipment, more staff or more money, then we would be able to do ministry better.

I’ve learned that if you start playing that game it’ll never end. You will always feel like you can do better ministry with more. I think we all know this but sometimes need to be reminded.

God has us where we are, for the work He has for us to do.

Dan-Reiland-Pastor-Coach

Finding the Spiritual Mentor God Has for You

My mentor, John Maxwell, has written and spoken about being mentored by the great coach John Wooden among others. I recently received a question by email asking, “How does one go about getting the greatest NCAA coach (John Wooden) as a mentor?

"Did he (Maxwell) just ask for regular meetings and what does mentorship look like?” 

Good questions.

I will admit that getting John Wooden as a coach is an extraordinary circumstance involving an extraordinary leader. But on the other hand, John Maxwell didn’t start there.

It was only after nearly 30 years of successful leadership that John was able to connect with Coach Wooden. It was John’s desire to grow and his great passion to add value to people’s lives that made the difference. The fact that John is a tremendous student is also a very significant part of the story.

Over the years I’ve wondered which is more important—to have a great mentor or to be a great student? The easy answer is both. But more and more, I think the secret is in being a great student. You can have the most brilliant mentor in the world, even a famous one, but if you aren’t ready to pay the price, dig in, learn and change, it won’t matter.

I love John’s early stories about offering to pay $100 for an hour of someone’s time just to ask questions and learn. Back then, $100 might as well have been $1,000! But that didn’t matter to John. That showed how serious he was, and at age 65, John is still passionate about learning and growing. I think that’s one of the reasons his books and talks are so good. They come not only from (now) 40 years of experience, but also from a fresh place of learning and relevancy.

In contrast, I’ve seen men and women receive an hour or so of someone’s time and show up ill-prepared. They had no written questions. They talked more than listened and expressed very little gratitude. It was almost as if they had some time to kill and thought that might be fun. When you do that to a busy person, they will not give you a second meeting.

So, do you want a mentor? Let me offer some good advice.

1. Be good at something first. This might sound strange, but you need to be good at something before you ask someone to help you be great at something. You can be good at anything! That doesn’t matter. You may want to be a great leader and your only claim to fame is that you are really good at golf or giving a talk. Maybe you are brilliant at math or a technological genius type. Here’s the point: If you are good at something, you have shown the passion and discipline to create the needed potential to become great at what you really want. I don’t want to discourage you, but if you’ve just been hanging out and you’ve never worked hard at anything, you’re not ready for a mentor. Perhaps you’re a young adult and your only claim to fame is that you were an A student in college. Great! That’s what I’m talking about. Get good at something first.

2. Seek someone just a little ahead of you. A common mistake is to think, “If I’m going for a mentor, I’m going right to the top and getting the best.” I appreciate the sentiment, but you are likely making a mistake. For example, if a pastor who serves in a church of 500 seeks a mentor who pastors a church of 5,000, the two of them clearly live in two different worlds and they barely speak the same language. Yes, leadership principles are leadership principles. That’s true, but trust me on this, and this is the key: You are much better off being mentored by someone who understands where you are because they were there at one time, and maybe even not so long ago! If you lead a church of 500, try to get a mentor who leads a church of 800 to 1,200. This is not a legalistic thing. Don’t get hung up on the numbers; just go with the idea. And of course, make the ask.

3. Think intentionally organic. Don’t ask for lots of regularly scheduled meetings. You will likely lose a potential mentor that way. Don’t ask for monthly or even quarterly connects. Go for a more intentionally organic approach. Here’s what I mean. If you can hang with a couple meetings (phone or in person) a year plus a few short emails, you might be surprised by how quickly you get a yes. Intentional refers to staying strategic and on purpose, and the organic simply means to catch the meetings when it works out naturally in both your schedules.

You don’t need lots of meetings, not if you really want to change and grow. Information requires lots of meetings—transformation requires only a few. If you connect with a good mentor two or three times in a year, that is plenty. It will take you at least that much time between conversations to really put to practice what was given to you. Now let’s do the math. If you have two or three mentors, you can see that would be six to nine meetings a year—basically way too much.

Note No. 1: When it’s a boss/employee relationship, of course you meet much more often, but much of that is just “doing business.” That’s natural and normal. It is unrealistic to think that’s all mentoring. In fact, if it is, you are likely into something closer to a counseling relationship than coaching and mentoring.

Note No. 2: When it’s a crisis situation, everything changes. If it’s a true crisis, your mentor will get that and quickly respond, and that requires more time. Sometimes in those situations I encourage the one I’m coaching to hire a consultant who can devote the needed time, and I remain as chief encourager during that crisis time.

4. Work harder than your mentor. Don’t waste your mentor’s time. Show up with well-thought-through and relevant questions. Take notes. Work hard to practice what was discussed, and the next time you talk, tell him or her what you have done.

A good mentor will always have some questions, a resource or two, and good advice, but the mentoring is more your job than his/hers. You set the agenda and come with it in writing. If your mentor asks you to do something, make the necessary adjustments, but do it. This does not prevent healthy disagreements and intense conversations, but you either want their advice or you don’t. If you don’t, that’s OK, but then stop taking their time, and end the mentoring relationship with respect and gratitude.

I’ve been blessed with five mentors over the course of my life, and I’m grateful! I’m sure that’s part of the reason I’m eager to coach as many as I can. I trust that you will also pass on what is given to you.

Dan Reiland is executive pastor of 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., listed in Outreach magazine as the No. 1 fastest-growing church in America in 2010. He has worked closely with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY. His semi-monthly e-newsletter, The Pastor’s Coach, is distributed to more than 40,000 subscribers. Dan is the author of Amplified Leadership, released in January 2012.

Gina-McClain

Youth Ministry: Making Wise Choices

It was another average weekday. Shortly after arriving home from work, I’m routinely rifling through the pile of papers pulled from my second-grader’s backpack. Amid the assortment of math worksheets, writing assignments and doodles, I see one yellow slip of paper.

One glance, and dread envelopes me.

Another ticket; another note from the teacher; another reminder of my son’s innate gravitational pull toward horsing around. (Sigh.)

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Iranian-Christians-small

Inside Iran: An Interview With an Iranian Pastor

Iran is all over the news. President Obama and President Hasan Rouhani talked just over a week ago—the first time the presidents of the two nations have spoken since 1979. This is being hailed as good news, and I tend to think that starting conversations is a good first step.

Yet even in that conversation, religious liberty became an issue. I am thankful President Obama brought up pastor Saeed Abedini to the Iranian president.

Iran is a complex place when it comes to the gospel, religious liberty and sharing Christ. Recently, I had a conversation while in Central Asia with some workers in that nation. It was a powerful and moving conversation, shared here with their permission.

emotional-pressure-small

7 Reasons Pastors Burn Out

I heard the story again last week. A pastor I know announced his resignation. No moral failure. No severe crisis at the church. No major family problems. No sickness. He was simply burned out. That’s how he described it. He said he had gotten to the point that he was having trouble putting one foot in front of the other.

So he quit, without another job. His church family was stunned.

I admit I haven’t seen recent statistics on pastoral burnout but, at least anecdotally, it’s high. It seems that hardly a week goes by that I don’t hear another story of a burnout victim in pastoral ministry.

Praying-man-standing

Prayer and Fasting in the Life of a Pastor

Prayer and fasting is one of the most neglected spiritual disciplines in the life of the pastor. We know that prayer and fasting was not only a part of the lifestyle of many major leaders in the Scripture, but even in the life of Jesus Christ. Therefore, I want to focus on prayer and fasting in the life of the pastor.

What Is It?

Fasting is abstinence from food with a spiritual goal in mind. It is when you neglect the most natural thing your body desires, which is food, in order to pursue the God of heaven to do something supernatural in your life. Prayer and fasting is not a hoop you jump through in order to try to catch the attention of God. It is far more significant than a self-determined tactic to get God’s attention. We cannot manipulate God.

Chuck-Bomar

2 Things Not to Do as a Teacher of God's Word

Teaching people about Jesus through the Scriptures is one of my favorite things to do. But over the years, I’ve discovered bad habits that I had to overcome.

If you teach at all, I’d guess that you struggle with things like this too. So I thought it might be helpful to list a few things we tend to do that I believe to be outside of our “job description” as teachers.

As a teacher your job is not to …

Pastor-Rick-Warren-Purpose-Driven-Life

7 Strategies for Taking Your Community by Storm

Fellow pastors and church leaders, we are in a battle for souls. The Bible encourages us to “endure hardship as a soldier.”

This is not to say that we are at war with people, and we need to be very careful to realize that the war we are involved in is spiritual in nature. In fact, the war we are engaged in is far more important than any earthly one. The implications of our war are eternal.

Victory is not a matter of who will be in charge politically or who will control natural resources. It’s a battle that will determine how many people we can rescue from sin forever. We’re talking about souls for eternity.

Joe-McKeever-small

Pastors’ Wives Deserve Empathy, Respect Too

The letters and comments are pouring in from our recent article on the pastor’s wife.

I suppose it should not surprise me—weirdness is everywhere—but some people were angry that we called the pastor’s wife “the most vulnerable person in church.” One guy gave a long list of people, mostly the hurting seekers who arrive at church hoping to find a word of encouragement or a helping hand, who come before her.

There is no question that churches are filled with seeking, hurting, vulnerable people. Ranking them in order of desperation and need is pointless, since we are to be ministering to them all.

church-planting-logo

5 Legitimate Fears of a Church Planter

Having planted two churches and now working with church planters on a regular basis in a coaching capacity, I know first hand the fears associated with the situation. It’s a leap of faith and one God is calling many to these days.

My theory here is that recognizing the fear and realizing their legitimacy is part of guarding our hearts against them. The fact remains that for a church plant to be successful, at least in Kingdom terms, God must provide His grace.

Here are 5 legitimate fears of church planters:

4 Tips to Prevent You From Becoming an Abusive Leader

I just got off the phone with a good friend. He is in a situation where the leader of his congregation is abusing the power that God has given him. As we talked about this I said, “Often a leader will surround himself with weak, yes-men, so no one will ever challenge him. Other gifted, strong leaders will be pushed aside, even though they could help build the vision, because the leader is threatened.”

My friend added, “In the end, he becomes the emperor with no clothes. And no one will tell him.”

Here are four ways to keep from becoming an insecure, abusive leader that produces little or rotten fruit.

Small-church-group-growth

6 Keys to Accelerating Small Group Ministry Growth

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."

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Money-tithing

10 Things People Want Before They Will Give to Your Church

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.

Social-media

The One Key to Achieving Social Media Success

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.

Dan-Reiland-Pastor-Coach

Dan Reiland: Beefs and Bouquets

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.

Osama-bin-laden

What the Church Can Learn From Encountering Osama bin Laden

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.

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