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Conferences Help Women Succeed in Ministry

Women by the thousands are flocking to conferences, seeking a fresh touch from God and answers to practical questions affecting their lives and ministries. Are they finding what they need?

My footsteps resounded as I walked down the long, concrete corridor toward the office of the founder and president of Crossroads Christian Communications. With each step came a reason to turn from my mission, but my heart would not allow my feet to stop. This meeting could not be delayed or omitted because of any personal anxiety, for it was fueled with a passion that came from the depth of my spirit.

My passion was to reach women with the good news of the gospel, unite them in their faith, motivate them to rise above an enemy called “average,” and spiritually fuel them to return to their daily lives with new vigor and excitement. read more

Make the Presentation Engaging

Create a system that frees and empowers leaders to do what they do best

I constantly remind our leaders, The sermon begins in the parking lot. By the time I stand up to deliverwhat is traditionally considered the message, everybodyin our audience has already received a dozen or moremessages. Many have already made up their minds as towhether they will come back the following week.

Thesame is true for your church. The quality, consistencyand personal impact of your ministry environments defineyour church. Whether you refer to them as classes, programs, ministries or services, at their core they are environments that involve a physical setting combined with some type of presentation. read more

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Healthy Marriage Ministry Depends on Strong Vision

Note: This is the second of a three-part series about Christian marriages.

There is nothing wrong with having a marriage class, seminar or retreat. We have them all. But a healthy marriage ministry will focus on strengthening marriages, not just fixing marriage problems.

I began to teach a weekly “couples class.” The title alone immediately attracted singles and the divorced. We found that the classic marriage class is designed to fix the problem marriages. I wanted more than that. So we send struggling marriages to the marriage class in hopes that they will get better, graduate and then get back to work for the church.

The very title “marriage class,” along with the predictable subject matter, often defines “healthy marriages” according to a series of dos and don’ts, steps and conditions and understanding one another's differences. After that, there is just getting through life with a new set of tools. read more

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Protestants Declining With the Rise of the 'Nones'

The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion is growing at a rapid pace.

According to a new report from the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, about one-fifth of the U.S. public--and a third of adults under age 30--are religiously unaffiliated today. Those are the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15 percent to just under 20 percent of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6 percent of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14 percent). read more

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True Friendships Carve Out Many Blessings

Note: The following is an excerpt from Dan Reiland’s book, Amplified Leadership. Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., and the former executive pastor at Skyline Church in San Diego, Calif. His passion is developing and empowering leaders who want to grow and who are willing to take risks to do so.

Friends are a blessing. You never know what will come from each relationship you begin. One of the many blessings of my relationship with John C. Maxwell was the privilege of helping him write a little book titled The Treasure of a Friend. Consider this definition of friendship John and I shared in that book: Friendship is based on what it gives, not what it gets. read more

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Don’t Enter the Ring Unprepared

Note: The following is an excerpt from Dan Reiland’s book, Amplified Leadership. Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., and the former executive pastor at Skyline Church in San Diego, Calif. His passion is developing and empowering leaders who want to grow and who are willing to take risks to do so.

Cinderella Man is one of my favorite movies. In it Russell Crowe plays James J. Braddock, a prizefighter down on his luck during the Great Depression. Braddock was determined to provide for his family, so he returned to the ring at a time when most people thought his career was over. To everyone’s surprise, Braddock scored win after win. Then he did the unthinkable. read more

Is the Presentation Engaging?

Create a system that frees and empowers leaders to do what they do best

I constantly remind our leaders, The sermon begins in the parking lot. By the time I stand up to deliverwhat is traditionally considered the message, everybodyin our audience has already received a dozen or moremessages. Many have already made up their minds as towhether they will come back the following week.

Thesame is true for your church. The quality, consistencyand personal impact of your ministry environments defineyour church. Whether you refer to them as classes, programs, ministries or services, at their core they are environments that involve a physical setting combined with some type of presentation.

As stewards of a local church, we should determine the messages our environments communicate. Your ministry leaders need to know what makes an environment great as your organization defines great. Defining what a great environment looks and feels like ahead of time provides a powerful safeguard for your entire ministry culture. When it comes to creating great, irresistible environments, we ask three key questions:

  • Is the setting appealing?
  • Is the presentation engaging?
  • Is the content helpful?

For this article, I want to focus on the second question. Engaging presentations are central to the success of the church’s mission. We are the only entity charged with the responsibility of presenting the gospel. So we need to be good at it. Here are some things we’ve learned along the way.

Engaging presentations require engaging presenters. However, engaging presenters are not always good content creators. Likewise, some insightful content creators have no business on a stage with a microphone.

In church world, however, we have a tendency to expect content creators to be engaging presenters and presenters to be great content creators. If your system depends on your staff and volunteers being proficient in two or three of these disciplines, you’ll always get mediocre results. You need a system that allows engaging presenters to present, skilled content creators to create content, and relationally savvy group leaders to facilitate groups.

Now here’s something I know about your church. Somewhere in your congregation are people who make a living presenting information. You’ve got a bunch of teachers in your church. The last thing they want to do is sit in circles with eight children for an hour on Sundays. But they know how to organize content. And some of them would love to present the Bible story as long as they don’t have to take ownership of a small group.

We’ve gone to great lengths to create a system that frees communicators and content developers to do what they do best. The corollary is we’ve gone to great lengths to protect our audiences from presenters who aren’t engaging. We choose our most engaging presenters, give them great content and then turn them loose. And we use those presenters in different departments throughout our church.

Engaging presentations aren’t limited to talking heads. As a general rule, if you can present something in any way other than someonestanding on a stage and talking, do so! If you can communicate something via video, go video. There’s so much more we could talk about under thisheading: visuals, interviews, note-taking outlines. All those things add an element of engagement.

The bottom line is this: Do what it takes to create a culture characterized by a relentless commitment to engaging presentations at every level of the organization. Your message is too important to do anything less than that.

If a presentation of any kind is going to be made in your church, it should be engaging. Set the bar high. Adjust your system or model so that your best presenters are presenting. Find the theologically astute thinkers in your crowd who might be good at helping with content. Employ the skills of your teachers and educators. Design a system that frees your small group leaders to facilitate rather than present. At every level of your organization ask: Was the presentation engaging?


Andy Stanley is the founding and lead pastor of North Point Community Church. He is a sought-after speaker and leadership mentor with a special passion for raising up the next generation of leaders. A best-selling author, some of his many books include Choosing to Cheat, The Best Question Ever, The Next Generation Leader, Visioneering and Deep and Wide, slated to release this fall. Adapted with permission from Deep and Wild: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend by Andy Stanley (Zondervan). Copyright © 2012. read more

Too Much Talk and Not Enough Action

Are you helping teens move beyond content into active obedience?

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Youth ministry has morphed into a never-ending conversation. Let’s face it. Those of us in youth ministry run from one meeting to the next planning, sharing, envisioning, describing—talking. If we got paid by the word, we would all be rich.

And now we have all sorts of seminars, workshops and conferences where we pay to hear others talk.

Too much talk and not enough action. I don’t think the early church was immune to this problem. First John 3:18 says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (NIV).

Door to Door

Jesus was all about action. He was always on the go serving, teaching, healing, feeding, touching and sharing. If we build our youth ministries in His image, then they’ll be active—not passive—focused on obedience and not just content.

I’ll never forget being a junior high intern 17 years ago. As the new guy on the block, I thought I’d try something different. My talk was on evangelism (no surprise!), and I finished it about 30 minutes early (big surprise!).

The handful of confused teenagers all kind of looked at each other and their watches with the “What now?” look. I seized the opportunity and said, “Now we are going to go do it!”

“Do what?” one seventh-grader asked.

“We’re going out into this neighborhood to serve people and share the gospel,” I explained.

“We can’t do that?” one teen said in fear.

“Why not?” I asked.

“This is Sunday school.”

“Well, you take field trips in school, right? Think of this as a field trip.”

So off we went door-to-door—raking leaves, cleaning up, initiating conversations, taking prayer requests, sharing Jesus. At first, the teens were terrified. But then it caught on.

By the time we headed back, a buzz had ignited among those young souls. Their Christianity was no longer a theory or a classroom situation. They had an opportunity to live it out in very tangible ways right in their church’s own backyard.

After that, Sunday school was never the same. There was always a sense that, with Jesus, anything could happen at anytime.

Walking the Walk

That’s the way church should happen every time. Look at the early church and how they did church. It wasn’t just about the meeting, so much as the mission that followed. Why do we compress all of our outreach efforts into a quarterly meeting or an annual missions trip? Maybe because we prefer a strategy that depends on words and not actions.

Now don’t get me wrong. Words are very important. Without words, our actions would be misguided and misled. But words without actions are like fire without heat—useless. Life-changing youth ministry has fire and heat, words and actions. Effective youth ministers talk the talk and walk the walk.

So why not have an application at the end of every talk you do? Your teens will soon catch on that “faith without works is dead” and that God wants us to be “doers of the Word and not hearers only.”

That’s one reason why we challenge students to call or text their unreached friends and get started immediately. We want students to experience the joy of doing what they have learned.

All talk and no action tends to turn Jack into a dull Christian.


Greg Stier is founder and president of Dare 2 Share, a ministry dedicated to mobilizing teenagers to reach their world with the good news of Jesus Christ. He is the author of multiple books and numerous resources, including Dare 2 Share: A Field Guide for Sharing Your Faith and Ministry Mutiny: A Youth Leader Fable. read more

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Salvation for a Generation


Four proven ways to establish vibrant ministries to teenagers

The church of Jesus Christ has been renowned for being an agent of rescue—rescuing cultures, people in the midst of horrific situations and generations from satanic oppression. The young generation in America today is in desperate need of rescue. As the church, we can rise up and become a source of hope instead. We have a historic opportunity to see a massive turnaround in the direction of this generation. Unfortunately, most data shows that young people are walking away from God and the church. Add to that internal struggle, as many people in church look so much like the world it's difficult to tell the difference.
For those frustrated pastors and leaders who may think there's nothing they can do to help, I'm here to tell you that you have many real teens in your community who can be forever changed by the impact of your church. I've seen this transformation. Consider these four proven initiatives that have helped churches establish vibrant ministry to teenagers. read more
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A Missing Demographic


How can your church intentionally reach and lead men?

God has a high opinion of men. That may sound presumptuous, but Scripture backs me up. He created man, so He obviously had in mind a purpose for men. And it's difficult to overlook the fact that Jesus founded the New Testament church on the hearts and minds of a handful of male apostles.
Yet according to polls conducted by Hartford's Institute of Religious Research and the Gallup Pollsters, the average church in America is comprised of only 7 to 11 percent men. What has robbed the church of its male leadership and effectual ministry?
When we attempt to answer this question, we find dozens of dynamics that researchers use to extrapolate explanations as to the various reasons why men don't see the need to be a part of a local church. One of the reasons they cite is that men feel pastors do not address "relevant" issues. read more
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Face Time


Avoid the pitfalls of electronic communication with practical action steps toward real conversation

My whole family seems to be addicted to their mobile phones and computers. How do we break this?"
I often get this question from concerned parents who, like this woman, are starting to realize that instead of having genuine, face-to-face communication, their family talks with one another and others through online chat, emails, text messages, tweets, Facebook and other social networking tools.
While there's nothing inherently wrong with using these communication avenues, we can look out for some warning signs. As leaders, it's important we're aware not only of how this issue affects our own families, but we also need to help the families in our church maintain a standard.
Communicating electronically has the benefit of expanding the ways we can talk to one another in families, but it cannot replace face-to-face communication. The danger can be that electronic communication replaces real, personal sharing and intimacy. Re-member that non-verbal communication is about 80 to 90 percent of the message. When all we send and receive from one another is a text or email, the full communication is missing. read more

The Secret Place

True revival comes from the inner room of prayer

 

The new breed of revivalist emerging in the earth must be a generation that has established a secret life with Christ. The Lord is releasing an anointing to see entire cities and nations turn to God, but that anointing can only be secured in the secret place.

There are some things you cannot get in public; you must press in for them in private. You can’t go to conferences or have anointed men and women of God lay their hands on you to get this anointing. It is an anointing that results from encountering the Anointed One in the secret place, the inner room of prayer.

Now, it’s crucial that you go to conferences and have anointed people lay their hands on you. But you won’t fully step into everything God has for you until you learn how to separate yourself to the Lord in prayer. Not one revivalist I have ever read about or met acquired his or her anointing through public gatherings. They received their anointing in the secret place of prayer. All of them have (or had) a secret life with God that, for the most part, they don’t even talk about. read more

Train Up a Child—Without Fear

Parenting should be about a heart-to-heart connection—not control

 

Our children are professional mistake makers. They are all on a learning journey. When we are afraid of their mistakes or their sins, our anxiety controls our responses to them and the spirit of fear becomes the “master teacher” in our home.

Even though 2 Timothy 1:7 clearly tells us that we have not been given a spirit of fear from God, we often partner with that spirit to train our children toward the goal of obedience and compliance.

For many, like it was for me, intimidation is our only real parenting tool. We have various levels of intimidation. We try to convey to our kids that we are in control of their lives from the time they are tiny. Once again, the problem with that lesson is that heaven is not trying to control your life. God doesn’t want to control you. read more

Spirit Wars

God wants us to know wholeness in spirit, body and soul

 

One night, exhausted from a hard week of work, I got in the bathtub to relax my tired body while my wife, Kathy, lay sick in her eighth month of pregnancy. An hour later, I started to get out of the tub. But as I stood up, an intense thought hit me: I am going to die!

The thought caused panic to rush through my whole being like stampeding cattle. My entire body trembled as my heart pounded out of my chest. Strength drained from my limbs as I fell back into the water, shouting desperately for Kathy to help me. She rushed into the bathroom where I lay helpless. I managed to mumble something about having a heart attack. She strained to help me out of the bathtub, and then she ran into the kitchen to call our family doctor.

He relayed a few questions to me and concluded that I was having a panic attack, not a heart attack. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a journey through a living hell. read more

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Let’s Get Real

Successful youth ministry is about the life-altering reality of the  gospel, not gimmicks

 

Youth ministry. The words alone are enough to strike fear in the hearts of even the most seasoned, accomplished ministry professional. They bring to mind laborious, draining efforts that don’t always have the results we want. How did it get this way? Why do church’s youth pastors tend to have such a high turnover rate? 

Out of a genuine desire to impact the next generation, many respond by trying to make church so entertaining or cool that young people will be too impressed or comfortable to walk away. So, expensive stage lights are installed and a café is set up. Nothing wrong with those things, but the problem is: When we give young people what we think they want—or even what they tell us they want—and deny them the life-altering reality of the gospel, we fail to give them the one thing they truly do want: something real. 

The few short years I’ve been blessed to serve as the director of Eagles’ Wings 9-month Internship and three-week Summer Discipleship have been a real crash course. Nothing like learning as you go! But as I have prayed, improvised and stumbled my way through, I’ve encountered some good news—actually, the Good News. read more

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For Zion’s Sake

Through worship and prayer, Christians will hear God’s heart for Israel

 

As leaders with a passion to be a part of God’s kingdom coming here on earth as it is in heaven, it is vital that we see the kingdom of God that is within us (Luke 17:21) coming as well. This happens as we come into His presence.

It’s one of the things I love about the tabernacle of David; that place where we come into His presence in worship and intercession; the flowing of harp and bowl (Rev. 5:8). 

We must become a house of prayer if we desire to see the house of prayer raised up in our generation—His kingdom coming on the earth and His kingdom coming in us. read more

Finding the Fathers

Churches need men who will mentor the next generation

 

On a recent mission trip to Sri Lanka, I had a most memorable conversation with a young man I had met more than 11 years ago. Then a 14-year-old Tamil boy, he struggled to survive amidst a bloody civil war raging a few miles from his village.

He recounted some of the most difficult times in his formative years that included living in a nation at war. He had deep appreciation for his father, a converted Hindu, who went to great lengths to protect him from the Tamil Tigers that reportedly forced families to sacrifice their sons for the cause. He recounted the indoctrination and the pressure he faced at the hands of school officials with direct ties to the Tamil Tigers on a daily basis in the classroom. 

He spoke of the Tsunami that killed nearly 20,000 people. He told of the war’s violent end that forced hundreds of thousands of people into refugee camps just a few miles outside of his village. read more

Authentic Kids-Discipleship

Raising up strong children requires transparency and authenticity


A time-worn Christian cliche’ says that family decline is the root cause of much of the devastation in the nation today. From broken families, broken children emerge to create broken communities, broken churches and even broken nations. If we are going to turn America around, we must heal our families. Our families and homes are the first school house and the first church.

When my husband talks about a spiritual reformation within our nation, I often think about the practical aspects of training the next generation. I know several strong Christian leaders whose children have wound up doing prison time or they are stuck in nonproductive jobs, or even worse: They hate the idea of being engaged in ministry. This is often because the leaders did not pass the baton on to the next generation. 

Years ago I looked at my life. I saw how wounded and dysfunctional I really was personally. Born an illegitimate child, the descendant of three generations of broken homes. Sexually abused before the age of 5 and brought up in a ghetto that led to me getting involved with drugs, alcohol and premarital sex. I even had two abortions. read more

Choosing the Right VBS for Your Church

Practical help for pastors and lay leaders in selecting the best outreach program

 

Vacation Bible School (VBS) has come a long way since 1923 when Standard Publishing produced the first printed faith-based curriculum for children, which was designed as a five-week course. Today, VBS has morphed and expanded into the largest church outreach program of the year for kids, though it only lasts a few days of their summer.

Churches nationwide gear up during the winter and spring months for the summer event by investing precious time, money and resources for a number of reasons. The most obvious one is the opportunity to reach out to the local community with the love of Christ and the message of hope. VBS is a non-threatening way for families to walk onto a church campus and experience firsthand a church’s commitment to loving and ministering to people.  

VBS also creates a great opportunity for the entire congregation to support and highlight its children’s ministry. VBS should always be a big deal. The exposure it creates for children’s ministry is invaluable.   read more

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