The Smelly Cow

Every once in a while I have the privilege to lead all day meetings at Elim Gospel Church where I serve as Executive Pastor. After a couple hours of intense discussions we’ll take a break. Everyone will stand up, leave the room, go to the bathroom, get a new cup of coffee, etc. Ten minutes later, I’ll walk back in the room and be inundated with an odor I hadn’t noticed before. Ugh. We’ll all notice it. The windows get opened and we valiantly attempt to air it out. All those bodies stuffed into that room add up to some serious BO. Here’s the deal. Most of us didn’t notice it until we left and came back.

Two days ago I told you my sad story about a cow I cared about and then had to kill. I also suggested that some of our churches have cows as well. They are most often referred to and known as sacred cows.
Their not. They are only treated like sacred cows. They are really smelly cows. You know what it’s like to get used to a smell. You’ve been in numerous situations where the odor is mildly unbearable for most people – but surprisingly not to you.
By now you’re wondering what in the world my point is. Simply this. The ‘cows’ in your church aren’t very obvious to you and your members. They may be staring you in the face. You just might be gently patting one on the back while reading this article.

However, sacred cows are usually quite obvious to your guests. Ouch. Is it possible that’s one of the reason some of them don’t come back?

Do you have any sacred cows at your church? Not sure? I have a suggestion for you. Try sniffing them out. Here are a few ideas on how to get started…
  • Draft a few questions that are designed specifically to sniff out sacred (smelly) cows. Here are a couple to consider: 
    Was there anything that made you feel uncomfortable when you first arrived at our church? Was there anything about the Sunday service that was confusing to you or that didn’t seem to have a real point that you could tell? Is there anything anyone did or said that made you feel like an outsider? Is there anything about the facility that seems out of place? What can you think of about this church that has always been confusing to you? If you have attended other churches before, what would you say is really different compared to your other church experiences – good or bad?
  • Ask key people who might have some measure of authority to answer these questions. This could include:
    Any new members of your church within the past year. First time guests within the past 2 months (give them a call). First time guests each Sunday (make a feedback card or form). Guest speakers who have spoken in the past year. Trusted family members of attendees who visited from out of town.
  • Select four people who you trust know how to think critically to spend two weeks asking the question, “why?” to anything and everything. 
    I recommend you give them a notebook and have them journal all of their ‘why’ questions in the notebook. I also suggest they not share their ‘why’ questions with you or anyone else until the two weeks are over. Anytime they have a ‘why’ question that they can’t reasonably answer themselves, have them highlight them for further consideration after the two weeks are over.
  • Hire a mystery guest to come to your church. 
    Check out my post about mystery guests right here. 
If you find some cows, I’d love it if you’d let me know.

Creating a Trust Culture

Have you ever had a volunteer, employee, or friend tell you she would do something, and then totally bomb out and not do it – even to the point of not TELLING you she wasn’t going to do it? Have you ever done that yourself? When that happens, trust is broken. Trust should be an extremely important and well-guarded part of your church and ministry. If you don’t have it, then I respectfully submit that your ministry is in a very dangerous place.

Jesus highlighted how important it is that we be in honest and open communication when he said in Matthew 5, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Jesus is expressing here that the broken trust in this relationship is critical to fix, right away. Stop what you are doing (even worship) and go reconcile.

I listened to Andy Stanley talk about this yesterday and felt the need to encourage you to listen to it as well. Please consider taking 25 minutes out of your day today (before you forget and get too busy) to listen to this podcast by Andy entitled, “Trust vs Suspicion”.

Click Here to Listen to “Trust vs Suspicion” by Andy Stanley.

If you are interested in subscribing to Andy Stanley’s Leadership podcast you may do so right here.

Overcoming Barriers to Church Growth

Several years ago we read a book as a team that really started us on the path of strategic planning at Elim Gospel Church. It was called, “Leadership Transitions for Growth” by Michael Fletcher. The book has now been re-released by the title, “Overcoming Barriers to Church Growth“. It’s a short and easy read, and played a big role in helping us to change our mindset as a leadership team for growth.

Among other things, the book discusses how to build a leadership structure for the NEXT stage of growth you are believing God for in your church/ministry. He said it best on page 43:

“To cross over into a new stage, leaders must understand what lies ahead and make the necessary realignments before they expect to move to a new level of growth.”

He explores three questions for small size churches (under 200), medium size churches (200-700), and large churches (over 800):

  1. How do the Elders relate to ministry?
  2. Who does the ministry?
  3. How are decisions made?
If you have been struggling getting your footing in church growth, I would recommend this book as a resource, especially in the area of how your church leadership is currently structured.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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