Why Most People Resist Change

People usually contact me because they want to change something.

They either want to change personally as a leader or to change the way things are done in their ministry. A driving motivation behind change is transformation. We want to be different, better and more effective; and we want to see people’s lives changed around us.

I find it very interesting how much we resist change.

When I ask clients (who are paying me to help them change) to do something different which they have been doing a certain way for a long time, they almost always fight me about it, sometimes even to the point of getting angry at my suggestion. In other words, they resist change.

I remember talking to a pastor who wanted to make some sweeping changes in how the church reached out to the community. I made three initial recommendations to him. The first had to do with the delivery of his Sunday morning messages (always a very sensitive topic for pastors.) The second was regarding the structure of the staff. And the third was related to how the church kept track of guest information. In each case, he told me, in no uncertain terms, that he “wasn’t ready to do that yet.” After a while I realized that he wanted to see changes happen, but he wasn’t willing to change himself. It took a while to help him shift his thinking.

Even when we know WHAT we should do different, we tend to keep doing it the old way.

This is intriguing for me. I struggle changing certain personal behaviors in my life (like how I eat,) and even how I view myself (personal insecurities.) In the same way, leaders and organizations struggle making the necessary changes to grow and make a bigger difference in their communities – even when they know what they should be doing.

This morning, I ran across this 8 minute video. I almost didn’t watch it. I’m so glad I did. Check it out.

Change is hard, especially when it means changing behaviors and mindsets that are deeply rooted in our psyche.

Whether it’s about our self-worth, how we see God or how we think He sees us, how we eat, talk or lead – if it’s something we’ve been doing the same way for a long time, it’s going to take work and effort to begin doing it differently.

 


Food for Thought – this would be a great video to share on a Sunday morning while addressing life change from the pulpit. Just an idea!


 

An invitation to get some help.

 

Proverbs 19:20 says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.”

I’d like to invite you to consider starting a conversation with me about helping you or your organization change. Driving change has been a part of what I do as a leader my entire adult life. Every situation is different and will require a different strategy – but I am confident you can change. Let me help you grow and make a greater impact with those around you!

To learn more about the coaching I provide, click here!

What The Church Can Learn From Chick-fil-A

When we are travelling on vacation as a family, my wife has been known to grab my smartphone and ask Google to find the nearest Chick-fil-A. It’s a favorite place to eat for our family. I’m secretly glad we don’t live near one – I’m sure my waist would rebel even more than it is right now!

Anyone who has visited a Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant will agree that the experience, compared to other fast food establishments, is quite unique. Most of us would give them a thumbs up and enjoy talking about the friendly employees, great customer service and the yummy chicken and fries. 

I ran across an article about some of the little things they do to serve their customers and thought to myself, “There are a lot of great ideas that the church could learn from this Christian-based nation-wide company!” Here are a few of my ideas, inspired by Chick-fil-A.

SMILE A LOT

I’m convinced God has injected a very important part of His personality into the muscles in our face. I learned that the hard way (check out, “Teach Yourself To Smile“.) Unfortunately, many people have forgotten how to smile. This is not just for your greeters, either. It’s a rare occasion that a Chick-fil-A employee doesn’t smile, no matter who they are or where they serve. I’d like to challenge local churches to teach everybody to smile at one another . . . a LOT! I know it will make a difference.

MAINTAIN HIGH STANDARDS

Sometimes, when I visit local churches it seems obvious to me that the leaders of the church have forgotten that they aren’t just a family. They are a family receiving guests. There’s a difference. A big one. When my family is just ‘hanging out together’ in our home, we’re OK with the occasional mess here or there. But when we’re hosting company, we clean up and sometimes even fix up the house to be able to receive our guests with excellence. Chick-fil-A shows high standards, from the bathrooms, to the floors, to the parking lot and beyond. I recommend local churches ask themselves the question, “Are we positioned to receive our guests and attendees with excellence every single week?”

DO SOMETHING UNEXPECTED

When was the last time you found yourself washing hands at a public bathroom and noticed a mouthwash dispenser made available to guests, for free. That’s what you’ll find at many Chick-fil-A restaurants. It’s both helpful and unexpected. It’s actually a well-kept secret any organization that is truly providing a ‘Wow’ experience has held close to their chest. They do something that is pleasantly unexpected. That is, it’s not expected at all, as in the mouthwash, or it’s above people’s expectations (like the smile.) Attendees will talk about their church experience to their friends when they walk away with a “Wow!” like that. (Hint, hint, click the link and buy one for your church bathroom today!)

BE CREATIVE

People love creativity. Just check out the latest box-office hit or see what’s trending on YouTube or Vimeo. I think we are naturally attracted to organizations who experiment a lot and try something new or different every once in a while. Chick-fil-A does a great job at turning heads, just because they try something new every once in a while. Their ‘Save the Cows‘ campaign is a prime example. I can’t help but wonder what local churches can do to surprise their community with a good dose of creative inspiration!

HOST A GREAT WEBSITE

Your church website is often the first place prospective guests go before they decide to actually visit on a Sunday. Sadly, I suspect some people decide to try a different church, simply because they were unimpressed by a church’s virtual presence (or lack of.) Chick-fil-A has a fabulous website that does so much more than give directions to the nearest restaurant. They boast customer testimonies, special campaigns, menu’s that include exact ingredients (with nutritious information) and a lot more. If your church is trying to attract the community, it needs a good website.

NOTE: I offer website services to local churches at reasonable prices. Learn more at www.tlsites.com

SHARE THE GOOD NEWS

Chick-fil-A isn’t just interested in providing great service and food in their communities. They also want to make a big difference. I happen to know that most churches desire the same thing (the make a difference part, that is.) And, in fact, many of those same churches ARE making a difference. Lives are being changed and people are experiencing God’s transforming love over and over again. The problem? Nobody hears about it. I think it’d be great if our local churches would figure out how to capture and announce those stories of transformation to their communities and world, similar to how Chick-fil-A does on their ‘Customer Stories‘ page.

What else can local churches learn from Chick-fil-A?

16 Ways To Lead A Bad Meeting

Many years ago I attended what I would call a bad meeting. It was the traditional setting: Long table with 6 people on each side, a meeting facilitator at the head and someone (me as it turns out) at the opposite end. It was, by far, the most boring meeting of my life. The frustration and anxiety I experienced in those two long hours are vividly etched in my memory. I can’t get them out even today when I think of that experience. I remember watching the gentleman sitting next to me pull out documents and a legal pad and evidently begin doing work from his office. He looked to be 100% disengaged from the discussion. I remember watching the seconds tick by on my watch just like I did while in high school. When the meeting was over I was the first one out the door. I have no idea where I went, I just remember thinking, “I need to get out of here.”

I know you are intrigued. You’ve been wondering for weeks now just how you can most effectively lead a meeting as frustrating, ineffective, unproductive, and boring as this one. Today is your day. Following are my top suggestions on how to lead a bad meeting

How To Lead A Bad Meeting

Begin the meeting late. 

Whatever you do, be sure to NOT start the meeting until everyone has arrived. Even better, show up late yourself to the meeting. 

Kill several trees.

Hand out lots of documents and papers. Make sure several of the documents were handed out at the last meeting. To add a layer of confusion to the meeting, include a document or two which you will never explain or refer to. Lots of paper will help you feel important and will require everyone to shuffle things around a lot and look busy.

Take attendance before you begin.

You know, like your teacher’s did in school. This will remind the team that you are in charge and that they should never miss a meeting.

Vote on the previous meeting’s minutes.

This is especially effective when there is no reason to vote on the previous meeting’s minutes (for example: it’s not a meeting that requires a vote based on an article in your organization’s by-laws.) The best way to facilitate this act of boredom is to request that everyone read the minutes from top to bottom; then ask for a motion to accept the minutes, for a second motion, and be sure that all in favor says, “I”. Don’t forget to personally record who made the first motion and who seconded as well. 

Rehash old conversations.

From the minutes, go over all of the previous meeting’s discussions, adding commentary and inviting additional discussion. One of the best ways to frustrate your team is by spending the bulk of your meeting re-hashing conversations and decisions that have already been made.

Recruit a scribe or note-taker on the fly.

In particular, do so after you’ve already led the meeting for 15 minutes and ask the scribe to write down what’s already happened. You can also ensure your scribe loses several hours sleep that night if you ask him about every 4-5 minutes, “Did you get that in the minutes?”

Overload the agenda.

Make sure there are more items on the meeting agenda than you will have time to address. This will provide an amazing tension in the room as the participants wonder if the meeting was meant to be an all-day meeting. It will also create an added layer of discontentment because the meetings will never seem to accomplish the designated goals.

Do most of the talking.

You love the sound of your own voice as well as your own opinions, so you know your team will hang on your every word. Well, not really. If they hung on your every word the meeting wouldn’t be very boring would it? No. Just talk a lot and make sure what you have to say is mostly irrelevant and delivered with the least amount of energy and passion as possible. Think of your History Professor in college.

Lose track of the conversation.

Focus is your enemy. Go on as many rabbit trails as you want, especially if they aren’t on the agenda or if they are discussions you have already hashed over in past meetings. Make sure you never really get back to the agenda item. Just close down one of the rabbit trail discussions, make sure it was recorded in the minutes, and move on to the next agenda item. Bonus idea: skip one agenda item.

Interrupt people.

If people start talking, wait until they are just getting to their point and either finish their sentence for them or thank them for their comments and move on to the next agenda item without inviting other thoughts. Note: never ask your note-taker if they got other people’s comments in the minutes, just yours.

Veto discussions.

An alternate to interrupting people would be to allow the team to discuss the topic at hand without your input for a long time and then veto their ideas with the one you’ve been planning all along.Don’t allow the team to question your decision, just move on to the next agenda item. Another option would be to ask someone else to lead a discussion while you are away on a business trip and then veto the decisions made in the room later in the week via email. These tactics require preparation: you have to have already made up your mind about what you want to do, before you ask for the team’s input. 

Assume everyone is on board.

This is easy to do. Just make sure you NEVER ask people if they understand or agree with the ideas or decisions being made. Don’t encourage questions either. If someone does ask a question, let them know they will understand once the discussion is over. Don’t follow up later to find out if that happened. Also, it’s really good to be slightly condescending when people ask questions. This will help them realize that they are big boys and girls and should be able to figure out what’s going on themselves. This will ensure others don’t ask questions later in the meeting.

Don’t hold anyone accountable.

Make sure nobody gets held accountable for outstanding action items assigned to them. One great method to accomplish this is to simply “forget” to send previous minutes. Also, don’t worry about setting due dates. If there is a due date and something doesn’t get done, just set a new due date. Using these methods, you will be sure to get almost nothing done as a team.

Mix things up.

Detail oriented tactical conversations don’t mix well with big picture strategic conversations. So to lead a bad meeting, mix them into the same meeting. Start talking tactical, like who is going to do that upcoming event, and then move into a strategic discussion about why it’s important; then go back to more tactical. This method will confuse and exhaust your team over the long haul.

Avoid constructive conflict.

You probably have this one figured out. Best case, avoid all conflict. If you can’t prevent conflict, then simply pick which side of the conflict you are on and join in the battle. The key to avoiding constructive conflict is to ensure that everyone involved is defensive and focused on protecting themselves and their ideas. Do that, and you will succeed every time in alienating and destroying team trust.

Go long.

No. That’s not a football reference. I just mean that you should make sure your meetings all go much longer than scheduled. Bonus: start a new discussion 2 minutes before (or after) the meeting is supposed to end.

How To Offer Amazing Ministry With Not So Amazing People

I recently visited a local gym who was offering a week membership for free. I was truly impressed. They had a wide range of workout rooms and exercise equipment and a beautiful facility. When I arrived for the first time, they gave me a tour of the facility and made themselves available to help me get acclimated to any of the equipment I didn’t understand. The offer to help wasn’t really necessary since there were instructional signs and videos available explaining how to use each machine.

They converted an inexperienced and mildly overwhelmed guy (that’d be me) into a confident individual who had the right tools he needed to get great results. At the very minimum, it would be hard to NOT have at least an average workout, though I’d definitely rate my experience above average, if not exceptional. 

Great systems turned the wrong person into the right person and quickly converted average results into maximized results.

The Systems/People Matrix

Let me introduce a revolutionary matrix that, if properly applied, just might change your perspective on how to offer amazing ministry with not so amazing people.

 

I call this diagram the Systems/People Matrix. It has been adapted from a similar graph I found in Nelson Searcy’s e-book, “Healthy Systems, Healthy Church“). 

The point of this matrix is simple. When you have great systems, you can often recruit people who aren’t necessarily the ‘right ones’ and eventually develop them into the right people over time. Amazing ministry happens not just because we have the best people in place, but because we have great systems that give people time to become the best people.

Let’s look at each quadrant a little closer:

Down and to the Right

When you have poor systems, but great people, your end result is frustration. That is, the people serving are frustrated, and the longer they serve in that role the more frustrated they become. This often eventually leads to volunteer or staff turnover. They love doing what they are doing and are passionate about it, but they don’t feel valued or cared for and don’t feel like they are equipped or empowered to do the job right.

RESULT: Not so amazing ministry.

EXAMPLE 1: A Sunday School teacher shows up to teach the class and discovers that the toys are dirty and put away in the wrong boxes from last week. She spends the first ten minutes putting them in order and getting all the toy pieces back where they belong. Those ten minutes were supposed to be spent preparing the craft and quieting herself before everyone arrives. The next time she arrives to teach, she discovers all the crayons are broken and the cereal box was left open so the cereal is stale.

EXAMPLE 2: The drummer shows up for worship team rehearsal 10 minutes early to prepare and make sure the drums are setup the way he likes and so he can warm up. When the worship rehearsal time arrives he discovers only two people have arrived. He waits 15 minutes before everyone else gets there and takes the stage. It then takes another 15 minutes to do the sound check and get the monitors mixed properly. He wonders if he should just show up 30 minutes late from now on and forget about warming up.

Down and to the Left

If you don’t have good people in the designated role, and you don’t have any systems to serve them, you’ll end up with failure. There’s really no way meaningful ministry can happen consistently in that environment.

RESULT: No Ministry.

EXAMPLE 1: A Sunday School teacher doesn’t really care about doing anything other than making sure the kids don’t hurt themselves. She doesn’t particularly enjoy kids either, but she serves because she knows it’s important. Since there are no systems in place to provide great toys, craft supplies and a lesson plan to the teachers, she literally just comes every week and spends her time trying to keep the kids occupied and prevent them from hurting themselves. Afterwards, kids leave the room crying or bored and the teacher leaves exhausted and ready to quit. As a result, the parents are frustrated that their kids aren’t getting any valuable teaching and don’t want to attend class and it becomes increasingly difficult to find reliable volunteers to run the class.

EXAMPLE 2: A volunteer is recruited to build a website for the church because he has some web experience. Since nobody gave him any instruction, images or content, he just creates a basic and simple site that ends up missing a lot of crucial data. And since all he was recruited to do was build the site, and not manage it, three months after it’s completed most of the information on the site is dated and some of the pages are broken. Guests who visit the site often choose to visit somewhere else simply because the website is so outdated and unprofessional looking.

Up and to the Left

The top left quadrant is the one that fascinates me the most. In this quadrant you have great systems in place, but not the greatest people serving in those roles. Perhaps the people are new, immature, unskilled, or simply not passionate about what they are doing. Despite this, the results will very often be average and sometimes above average. A great example of this in the business world would be your local fast food joint, like McDonalds, Arby’s, or Taco Bell. I’m fairly certain most of those employees don’t dream about making fast food service a career path or have a lot of previous training flipping burgers and taking orders. And yet, it’s highly likely you will receive similar service and products no matter where you make your order in the entire world. Why? Amazing Systems. 

RESULT: Nearly Amazing Ministry.

EXAMPLE 1: A hesitant single adult has agreed to do a ‘3 month test drive’ as a Sunday School teacher. At first, she is nervous she made a bad decision because she has never worked with kids much. But after attending two sessions as an apprentice, receiving great follow-up training and walking into the classroom each week with everything in it’s place and simple, easy to follow, instructions on the inside door, she has decided it’s not that hard and a lot of fun. At the end of the 3 months, she’s committed to serve another year and has already proven to be the ‘right person for the job.’

EXAMPLE 2: A volunteer that normally comes in on Saturdays to fold and stuff the bulletins calls in sick the last minute. The secretary has a substitute list of potential backups, but they have never actually done the job. She makes the call and as the backup arrives she spends 5 minutes walking her through a checklist and showing her the machinery, which is also well labelled with instructions. As a result, the job gets done as expected and the volunteer felt like she was able to help the church ‘on the fly’.

Up and to the Right

This quadrant represents not average ministry or even above average, but maximized ministry. Staff and volunteers are serving where they believe they are called to serve and they have the training and gifts needed to do it. Since there are great systems in place, they spend a lot of their time and energy actually ministering to people and improving the overall ministry of the church. Often, they move on to become the influencers within that sphere of responsibility. 

Result: Amazing Ministry.

EXAMPLE 1: The sound tech loves to do sound ministry, and over time he has learned how to do it well and is good at it. On top of that, the expectations, systems, and tasks necessary to do the job are well defined. As a result, he helps recruit and train new sound techs and is currently working on learning some advanced tech that will eventually help the church know how to best place the speakers in the room to maximize their capacity and actually minimize loud hot-spots in the room.

EXAMPLE 2: A Sunday School teacher serves twice a month in the four year old class and absolutely loves it. He actually looks forward to those Sundays. Since he knows exactly what to expect each Sunday morning there is little stress associated in the job. In fact, the children’s director has created room in the timeline of ministry to kids to allow him to personally pray over each child every week. He recently started a blog for parents of preschoolers at the church and is personally ensuring that each preschool teacher writes on it once a month. His love for the ministry is so contagious that the adults in his small group are thinking about volunteering too. 

I have a challenge for you . . . write out each area of ministry or responsibility you have delegated to other staff or volunteers. Now ask yourself which quadrant that ministry falls in, and what you need to do to improve the systems to better serve those serving within them.

Why Young Adults Don’t Attend Your Church

I used to visit a restaurant that had two separate dining areas, one slightly larger than the other. The larger dining area was always where I sat to eat, even though I had to walk right by the smaller dining area to get there. To be honest, it never occurred to me that I could sit in there if I wanted to. The reason was quite simple. It was where all the ‘regulars’ sat, who were also all much older than me. There was sort of an ‘exclusive club’ feel to the place. Everything about that space screamed, “Private Party” even though it wasn’t.

Sadly, our churches often send this same message to the younger generations, without even realizing it.

Let’s split up the ‘younger generation’ demographic into two categories, those (1) not interested in God and those (2) interested in or pursuing God, and focus on the latter group. It’s not hard to miss these people in our churches today, especially in the small to mid-sized churches. 

Why aren’t they attending more of our churches? 

I suspect the following 5 reasons might answer that question.

1. It feels like an insiders club.

Young people aren’t interested in learning the secret handshake so they can be part of the church. If they visit the church a few times and feel like an ‘outsider’ for very long, they’re not going to stick around. It is super important church leaders ask the question, “What (formal & informal) hoops have we created that people have to go through before they are accepted and integrated into the life of our church?”

In other words, how long will it take & what needs to happen before they are treated like family? More than any other age group, we need to be intentional about making this process simple, both practically and emotionally. 

2. It reminds them of their ‘mom & dads’ church.

I’ve heard young adults echo this phrase many times over the years. They leave the church they grew up in and find themselves at college or on their own. Eventually, they check out some churches in the area. From the moment they walk through the doors until they leave, their experience reminds them of church growing up. Only, for many of them, the Sunday morning experience growing up wasn’t for them, it was for the adults, for mom and dad. 

Although technically “adults,” many young people aren’t interested in acting like the ‘older’ adults they’ve been around their whole life. They want to express themselves as the younger generation. Churches who are actively reaching this group of people are also finding ways to enhance the Sunday morning environment to better appeal to them.

3. There is nothing interesting for them to do.

Despite the fact that young adults have a history of sitting in front of their devices, TV’s and xbox’s growing up, they don’t want to just sit around at church. They’ve grown up having a lot more freedom and control over what they get to see and do than those before them. And they are going to get bored real quick if they are forced to just do and go where everyone tells them to. They want to have a say in what’s going on and they want to do something important and interesting.

Churches who are thinking of this generation will quickly get them involved in ministry. They will encourage them to reach out to felt needs in the community. And they will provide lots of fun activities that are designed to keep young adults engaged with one another and the church family.

4. There is no one interesting to hang out with.

Many young adults who visit your church are looking for new connections. Surprisingly, not just with peers, but with people who can act as mentors and leaders in their life. That said, peers are important. Many a young person will walk in a church, scan the crowd, and determine to never return simply because there is no one else around their age. Churches that can reach a small ‘quorum’ of young adults have the beginnings of a foundation to build on, relationally.

It shouldn’t stop there. One of the best ways to truly connect to this auspicious group of people, is by inviting them into the homes and lives of your church families. I’ve never heard of a young person who turned down an invitation to dinner and who doesn’t secretly enjoy experiencing ‘family’ away from their own family.

5. Their questions are not getting answered.

Young adults hate watered down and pat answers. They have questions and they are genuinely interested in the answers. They want to know the Truth. But they have little patience for flowery speeches, big words, and long explanations. They want it simple. They want to get it. They want it fast.

Communicators need to brush up on their skills and not assume what worked ten years ago will work today. They need to know how to tell great stories and they need to be consistently asking themselves how they can connect with young adults. More than ever before, church leaders must, “be prepared in season and out of season.”


What other reasons are young people staying away from our churches?

What to Read

There’s so much great content available on the internet and through both books and ebooks. Sometimes it can be hard to sift through it all for the good stuff. So I thought I’d share some of the ‘good stuff’ with you, at least by my reckoning. Enjoy.

power-of-habitBook: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

I love this book. It’s a bestseller for a good reason. It’s well written and well thought out. The Power of Habit discusses what a habit is, why it’s so difficult for us to break out of a habit and provides practical input as to how to do so. The book introduces a few very important concepts for churches and non-profits too, the most interesting and powerful being what he calls, “Keystone Habits”. I strongly urge any leader who is trying to run an organization or pastor/counselor who is trying to help people get out of old habits and into new habits to give this book a try. Warning: it is not written from a christian perspective – but most definitely hits the mark.

Some Great Articles Online

6 Ways to Derail Your Church Announcements by Rich Birch

Announcements are a great tool for moving people to action. However, it can be difficult to keep them fresh and creative every weekend. Even worse, the people who do them can get lazy and some bad habits sneak in that undermine their effectiveness. Here are some of the habits I’ve seen over the years. Read More.


Five Things A Church Leader Can Do To Avoid Burnout by Perry Noble

#1 – Talk to your spouse. I can promise you that your spouse may not completely understand what you are going through (I wrote about that here in an article entitled, “The Pastors Pain”), but your honesty is what they are craving the most. One of the things I am most ashamed of in regards to my battle with depression and anxiety is I did not tell Lucretia for quite a while. If I would have told her earlier she could have understood me better and prayed for me as I battled through the issue. Read More.


Three Lessons Learned From My PK’s by John McGee

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to step into your children’s shoes – in other words, to have you as a parent? How would you feel if you were the PK in your family? Recently, a friend was sharing some thoughts he had gleaned from Barnabas Piper’s book about growing up as a Pastor’s Kid. This made we wonder what my kids might say if they ever wrote a book about being a PK. Rather than waiting 20 years for the book, I asked them what it’s like to be a PK at our church. Read More.


Five Things Pastors Need to Say to Their Children by Thom Rainer

Over a year ago, I wrote a post at this blog on pastors’ children. According to the comments and the views, I obviously hit a nerve. Some of the comments came from pastors themselves. But a number of comments came from the children of pastors. Since that article, I have continued to receive comments from children who grew up in pastors’ homes. There is a consistent theme going through many of their perspectives and emotions. Many of them had very positive experiences; but many did not. Through hundreds of comments and conversations, I have been able to distill five things every child of a pastor would like to hear from their pastor/parent. Indeed, those who heard these five things consistently are those who have the healthiest attitudes toward the church today. Read More.


26 Lessons from 15 Church Annual Reports by Rich Birch

Churches use their annual report as a tool to communicate with leaders, volunteers, donors and the general community about what happened over the past year. Done well, annual reports engage people in the mission … done poorly, they aren’t worth the paper they are printed on (or the hard drive space they are stored on)! I asked the unSeminary community to share their annual reports, to see what I could learn from them. I received a lot of reports! Here’s what I discovered from studying them. Read More.


Top 10 Small Group Curriculum Reviews of 2014 by Mark Howell

Looking for great studies to add to your approved list? Here are my top 10 small group curriculum reviews from 2014. Read More.


Five Reasons Why Millennials Do Not Want to Be Pastors or Staff in Established Churches by Thom Rainer

Not all Millennials are averse to serving in leadership roles in established churches. But many of them are. And our churches are approaching a tipping point where many are unable to attract Millennial members or leaders. It will likely soon be a crisis. What is it about established churches that push away Millennials? Let’s examine that question first, and then let’s look at some possible solutions. Read More.

Five Questions Every Church Must Answer

The answer to these five questions will drive what you do as a local church. They will impact the activities and programs you host. Ultimately, they will determine your effectiveness in reaching both your community and your congregation for Jesus Christ. 

1. How do we attract people to our church?

Sadly, many church leaders fail to seriously address this question. They assume people will visit the church because they see the church building and a welcome sign on the front lawn or they assume regular attendees will regularly invite people to the Sunday Service. They scratch their heads and wonder what people’s problem is. One pastor once told me that first time guests were often heard making comments like, “Your church is the best kept secret in our town!”

In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Your community doesn’t need to see your building, they need to see “the light of the world” in you and your congregation. They need to see that your church is a place where transformation takes place. Where lives are changed. Where people meet the True and Living God. You need to find ways to shout from the mountain that God actually shows up at your church each week. People need to get the feeling they are missing out on something important.

What is your church’s strategy to attract people?

2. How do we assimilate guests into our church?

Of the five questions, this is what pastors ask me more than any other. It can be very frustrating to see 3-4 guests walk through the front doors every week and yet not experience growth as a church. Sometimes guests will even return for a second or third visit, but eventually they sort of just disappear and we never know what happened. What makes matters worse, they usually tell us they really enjoyed the service! We can’t help but secretly ask ourselves: Was it something I said? Did someone offend them? Are we weird and just don’t know it? Why won’t they come back?

More often than not, the problem is that church leaders and longstanding members have blinders on. They are unable to properly see the church environment through the eyes of a guest or newcomer. This is fairly normal and to be expected, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. Creating a ‘guest culture’ should be high on every church’s priority list and should include finding ways to ensure guests have a positive experience and are tactfully invited to come again.

Another reason why this question is hard to answer is because we fail to properly define ‘assimilate’ when we ask it. Is it when they have visited 3 times or 6 or 8? Is it when they join a small group or get involved? Is it when they become a member? It may be different for every church, but at some point, newcomers need to feel like they are one of the ‘insiders’ at your church. We need to make that as easy as possible!

In Acts 15, Paul said, “It is my judgement, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for Gentiles who are turning to God.” In other words, we need to pay special and close attention to our new attendees as they are “turning to God.” 

What is your church’s strategy to assimilate people?

3. How do we connect people with one another in our church?

I often tell church leaders, “You can make a lot of mistakes as a church and people will keep coming if they are connected.” Certainly, the answer to this question is an important part of ‘how do we assimilate people.’ But it’s more than about just getting newcomers to stay. It’s about having a church where people truly care about one another, and show it in practical ways. A church that successfully accomplishes this doesn’t have to rely on the pastor(s) to do all the ministry in the church, because people organically minister to one another all the time. 

In today’s culture, getting people to ‘connect’ with others in the church is a LOT easier said than done. But it is a necessity if we are to go beyond the ‘superficial’ in ministry to one another. And despite the indoctrination of social media in the world, nothing will ever truly beat face to face interactions. Getting people to actually do that is a challenge some pastors have literally given up addressing. No matter how discouraging or hard it may be, we should ‘not grow weary in doing good’ and continue forward until we have discovered ways to do it for our church community.

The author of Hebrews so aptly reminds us, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” That passage isn’t just talking about the Sunday morning experience. It’s talking about small groups, medium groups, even 1 on 1 connections – all so we may “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

What is your church’s strategy for connecting people?

4. How do we disciple people in our church?

Any church leader who doesn’t know what the “Great Commission” is has missed his calling. It’s Christ’s final mandate to His disciples, and to each one of us. Entire sermons, series, books and even volumes of books have been given to us to explore Jesus command to us to spread the Gospel around the globe, as well as in our own communities. It’s hard to miss the four primary commands found in this passage:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19

Go. Make Disciples. Baptize. Teach.

From what I’ve seen, local churches can be all over the place on answering this question. Some of the reason may be differences in opinion or even theology. But I think the biggest difference is in intentionality. Are we doing church the way we’ve always done it, because that’s what church’s do? Or are we intentionally choosing to do {put program/activity/service here} because we really believe it will disciple people? Only you (and God) can answer that question!

Either way, discipleship should be a critical part of your church’s service to the congregation. This is going to include helping people learn how to discover God for themselves through activities like Bible reading, prayer and missions trips; teaching them Godly principles regarding evangelism, parenting, relationships, stewardship, etc.; and equipping them to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil by living a victorious life.

What is your church’s strategy for discipling people?

5. How do we engage people in our church?

An indicator of a healthy church is found in the level of involvement of the attendees in the ministries within your church and to your community. When the congregation relies almost entirely on the pastor, something is broken. The “body” has turned into a malformed entity that will never effectively serve it’s mission in the community. Last week I spoke at a small rural church that is run entirely by volunteers. It’s an active church with several great programs and activities for it’s attendees. But there is nobody on staff. They are hopeful to eventually hire a part time pastor, but in the meantime, they have discovered something powerful – when the body works together, ministry can and will happen.

Getting people involved tends to be something many church leaders talk about a lot, but struggle actually doing. The barriers they face are often complicated to completely unravel. It often seems easier to just do things themselves and rely on a few key influencers in the church to handle the rest. But this cripples the body of Christ. Paul was quite clear in 1 Corinthians that we all make up different parts of the body of Christ:

“But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” 1 Cor. 12:18-19

Helping people find their place in the body is going to serve both the volunteer and the rest of the body. Even if people aren’t placed perfectly, the whole body will benefit and grow. That growth will bring change, which will force people to adjust what they are doing and where they serve. With good leadership and a lot of time, people will eventually drift towards their sweet spots of ministry. 

What is your church’s strategy for engaging people?

Strategy for a Healthy Missions Program

Tom Brazell serves as the Director of International Ministries at Elim Fellowship. He has served for years as a missionary in Africa, and also as a pastor of churches in America. Therefore he has a keen perspective on both the challenges of being a missionary, and on the pastor’s challenge of balancing a missions vision with the needs of his flock. In these two teachings, Tom provides insights that will help your church better choose and serve the missionaries that you support.

Strategy for a Healthy Missions Program (54 min.)

 

Relating to Missionaries (19 min.)

Seats on the Bus

In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins says, “We expected that good-to-great leaders would begin by setting a new vision and strategy. We found instead that they first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats – and then they figured out where to drive it. The old adage, ‘People are your most important asset’ turns out to be wrong. People are not your most important asset. The right people are.”

He hit the nail on the head. Ministry is not just all about having people around doing things; it’s also about paying attention to what they are doing as well. Unfortunately, I think this ideas sort of locks many of us up. We think, “How am I supposed to find the exact right seat for everyone?” Ugh. Some of us can hardly figure out where WE fit in, much less trying to figure out which seats on the bus everyone else is supposed to fit.

MY RECOMMENDATION: START WITH SECTIONS.

What if we just started by getting people in the right section of the bus instead? Generally, we have three kinds of people in our church: Creatives, Doers & Leaders. Yes, I know. Sometimes people can be a mixture of one or more of those. But generally speaking, if we know what kind of people we’re dealing with, we can seat them where they fit best and worry about finding their exact seat as time goes on.

The back of the bus – Creatives

Everyone knows that the troublemakers like to sit in the back. If you’re sitting back there, you probably want to be far away from what’s really going on. You aren’t interested in where the bus is going right now. You just want to utilize your creativity to dream, talk, and get into just enough trouble that the bus driver doesn’t notice. 

This is where strategic thinkers and creatives sit. They are big-picture people. They like to try new things. They are sometimes critical thinkers (I didn’t say critical people!) They are the ones you want in the room when you’re dreaming about the future, evaluating how things are going and discussing creative, new things to do or ways to do them. 

These people don’t need a lot of authority to make choices, they just need a platform for their thoughts and ideas to be heard. Great leaders will gather them together to hear them out and learn from them. They also tend to be early adopters, ready to jump in with both feet when it’s time for change.

The front of the bus – Leaders

If you’re sitting at the front of the bus it’s likely because you want to be close to the action. You want to see who’s coming in and out the door. You want to talk to the bus driver. You want to see where the bus is going next and you want to play a part in how you will get there.

This is where the the leaders sit; the ones who make decisions. These are the people in your organization who will actually decide the future and direction of the church. Sometimes the Creatives & the Leaders are the same people. However, often it’s wise to have them sit in a separate section of the bus. Of course, if you’re driving a small bus (a small church/ministry) you don’t always have that luxury. 

In a perfect world, the Creatives come up with some great ideas, feedback and insights and the Leaders can then determine which one’s will work best for the bus based on it’s mission and where it’s going.

The middle of the bus – Doers

If you’re sitting in the middle of the bus you are likely in your own world. You’ve got your iPod in or your just hanging with everyone else in that section. Sometimes you like to listen in on the talk in the back of the bus and sometimes you like to sit near the front to get a feel for the action, without having to be involved. You aren’t cut out for the intensity of the back of the bus and you aren’t really super interested in where the bus is going. You just like being IN the bus.

This is where the doers sit. These are the people who will do whatever is necessary to keep the bus moving and support the vision of the leaders. They are the ones who will dig their heels in and grind out the plans you have made. Your doers don’t make a lot of decisions, and they don’t want to. They do the work based on the decisions that have already been made, and they do it well.

About Your Bus

Here are a few closing observations about how these sections work (or don’t work) in different ‘buses’ or ministries.

  • In my experience, the middle of the bus (Doers) is where the vast majority of people sit, like 90%. There are usually only a few seats in the front and a few seats in the back dedicated to Creatives and Leaders.
  • If a bus has too FEW Doers, it end up coming up with a lot of ideas/plans that never get done. Innovative ideas & new paths don’t get built. The bus doesn’t stop when it should to take on new passengers. It sometimes doesn’t get cleaned properly and needs a fresh coat of paint. You get the idea.
  • If a bus has too FEW Leaders, the bus tends to take loopy circles and gets distracted going places it doesn’t need to go. It also runs inefficiently and needs to spend a lot of time in the shop with repairs. Often, the bus looks great but is going nowhere important.
  • If a bus has too FEW Creatives it takes the path it’s always known, even when there are better paths to take. The bus stays old and eventually becomes uninteresting to prospective new passengers. 
  • The smaller the church, the more Creatives and Leaders have to double up and also be Doers. There is less of a clear demarcation between the different seats.

Four Terrible Assumptions Church Leaders Make

I was standing in the lobby of a local church talking to an unchurched first time guest. It was one of the first times he had ever visited a church and he knew nothing about God or christianity. The service had just completed and people were filtering out of the sanctuary and collecting in small groups, visiting with one another. It was a warm, friendly atmosphere. I was so glad when the pastor noticed me and came over to talk to us.

Alas, my joy was short-lived. The pastor introduced himself to my new friend and then proceeded to talk about his sermon and how important it was for “us Christians.” It was sort of an “insiders” conversation. I wanted to step on his toe or something. I wished he could read the urgency in my eyes. In desperation, I finally interrupted him and blurted out, “Pastor, I didn’t know if I mentioned this or not, but this is our friend’s first time here this morning. Did you get to meet his wife and kids yet?” I’m still unsure if the pastor got the message, but I was at least able to distract him from the unhelpful conversation and redirect it to a more safe topic. Ugh.

I happen to know this pastor has a heart of gold. He’s a great guy, a seasoned minister, and truly loves both his congregation and the people in the community. I know he has a heart for the lost.

But he has fallen into a trap. One that, unfortunately, is very easy for pastors and church leaders to stumble into. He’s forgotten that the people who sit in his congregation are not like him. He’s making several bad assumptions about the people in his church, and I’m afraid it’s potentially turning them away.

Four Terrible Assumptions Church Leaders Make:

Since I visit a lot of churches as a ‘Mystery Guest,’ I have the chance to experience their church from a very unique perspective. Following are four terrible assumptions I have seen church leaders make way too often. 

Assumption #1: Guests Know What To Do

It saddens me greatly when church leaders assume guests have experience attending churches and know what’s going on, what they are supposed to do, where they are supposed to go, etc. They forget that the church environment, one they are intimately familiar with, is a brand new environment for many guests. Even those who have, perhaps, attended church before may still be in the dark, especially if their ‘church experience’ was from a different denomination or style of church.

Imagine visiting a place that you have never visited before, where everyone but you feels at home and nobody thinks to help you get acclimated. Even better, go find that place and check it out. Perhaps your local health club or golf club, I don’t know, try the New York Stock Exchange. Visit that place and be reminded that your guests are experiencing something similar.

They don’t know what to do with their kids. They don’t know the words to the songs, and probably feel a little uncomfortable singing them. They don’t know if they are supposed to give money or take communion. And they don’t know when to stand, when to sit or what to say. At one church I visited, everybody quotes, from memory, the Lord’s Prayer and sings the Doxology every week. Your guests know neither of those things.

Assumption #2: Guests Know the Bible.

Walk up to just about any adult in America and you will discover that they know how to drive a car. It’s a given – and it’s pretty much assumed. After all, everyone we know eventually ends up behind the wheel. Sometimes we ride with them while they drive. That sense of familiarity has seeped into many churches regarding the Bible. Church leaders spend a ton of time with other people who read the Bible, understand what it’s about, and know all the stories. So it’s not that great a leap for them to assume that anyone who is in the church has Bible knowledge.

Imagine walking into an advanced physics class at your local university. Even better, go visit it sometime. Don’t tell anyone who you are or why you are there. Just let the instructor & students talk to you as if you’ve already been through the other physics courses, like everyone else. You get the picture.

You’re guests probably don’t know where to turn in the Bible, if they even own one. And it’s likely they don’t know the story of Jonah, David & Goliath, the parting of the Red Sea, the Last Supper, Pentecost and quite possibly even the story of Jesus’ death & resurrection. You learned all that as a kid in Sunday School; they didn’t. For many of your guests, the most they know about the Bible and it’s stories is from what they’ve seen at the movies. Do you really want to briefly mention Noah after they just watched Hollywood’s rendition of the story? 

Assumption #3: Guests are Christians

Perhaps one of the worst assumptions church leaders can make is that guests are already Christians. The tragedy behind this assumption is that, by making it, there is little to no room to actually open up the most important conversation that individual may ever have. When we assume someone has already discovered Christ’s love and forgiveness, we no longer think to share the Good News with them. Even worse, when we talk to unbelievers like they are already believers and part of the family, we may even give them the false impression that they are, in fact, Christ followers. They may end up attending and serving in the church for months or even years, and have never truly grasped the simple, yet profound message of the Gospel.

Imagine being invited to a football party with a bunch of people you don’t really know. What if, without being asked, everyone assumes you’re rooting for the same team as everyone else in the room? When a touchdown is made, everyone cheers and slaps five and nobody even stops to think that you aren’t rooting for that team, and maybe don’t even like football! Is it possible that our Sunday morning environment and the way we talk to and treat guests aren’t too far off from that hypothetical situation?

There is no guarantee your guests know God, or understand God. Jesus Christ may simply be a religious and historical name. Salvation? Forgiveness? A loving God? Atonement? All may be totally foreign words or concepts. The next time you shake the hand of that guest, assume nothing about their faith in God. Realize that they could be completely unchurched, or an atheist or agnostic; or to complicate matters, even possibly a Mormon, Buddhist, Muslim . . . you get the idea.

Assumption #4: Guests have it all together.

I’m convinced most Christian leaders would make terrible police officers. We have no idea how to truly profile another person. I’m pretty sure if we were sitting in the police car with an officer, watching the same people, we’d point out the nicest people as being potential criminals and totally miss those truly guilty. Sad to say, but I think a lot of church leaders look at our guests and falsely assume that, if they’re smiling, dressed well and friendly, then they are happy, well off and emotionally healthy; and if they’re scowling, dressed poorly and want to make a quick exit, then they are grumpy, in loads of debt and emotionally unstable.

Think about what you’ve gone through, personally, this year. I know you’ve faced a few challenges of your own – we all pretty much do. If this has been a good year, then go back a couple years until you hit that particularly difficult situation. Now, how many of the employees knew about your challenge at the local supermarket when you were buying milk? No. They thought you were fine. 

Philo of Alexandria once said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” That includes your guests. We don’t know if the battle is a recent loss, an addiction, a broken relationship, a serious illness, major debt or a lost job. Whatever it is, you aren’t going to see it when you introduce yourself and welcome them to the church. Don’t be fooled. They need the hope, love, healing, peace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

How about you. Which assumption are you most guilty of making?

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