Just a few years ago, I was part of a thriving student ministry that was reaching between 120-160 kids every Wednesday night. Now, that same ministry averages around 25 middle and high school students.
For one, our student pastor who was leading the ministry transitioned into a very successful campus pastor. Also, in the three years since then, we’ve gone through two student pastors, with myself being the third. Oh, and we stopped running church vans because of lack of volunteers and safety concerns. That’s what has happened within the church, but what’s happening outside of the church seems just as drastic.
As part of my doctoral work, I interviewed rural pastors about their turnaround experiences. All these pastors faced significant crises early in the turnaround journey. Some inherited massive debt and unpaid bills. Others were on the verge of losing their church property. Not to mention the declining attendance, faltering ministry programs, and a lack of energy and vibrancy in worship.
So, what did I learn from listening to these pastors? Here it is - never waste a crisis! These pastors used the worst of moments as opportunities to build trust with their congregations. How did they do that?
Demonstrated Strong Leadership: instead of cowering and blaming, these leaders stepped into the crisis. They confronted the problems head-on, made decisions, and acted in faith. They did not shy away from having tough conversations with those causing contentions. Strong leadership by the pastor created an environment where church members felt safe.
What does the word hospitality mean to you?
My heart has been hospitality burdened over the last few years.
Taking first steps is difficult for a first-time guest who either
never got into the habit of church attendance or is far removed from the habit. That insight makes me want to be sure that their experience is favorable and filled with God’s love.
1 Peter 4:9 says rather plainly, “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” This hospitable word literally has to do with showing God’s love to strangers and guests.
This Holy Spirit-inspired verse feels more like a command than a suggestion. And to take things beyond mere obedience, I have to want to do this for my welcoming behavior to be “without grumbling.”
Let me share these 5 powerful words about hospitality with you. I’ve shared these with my congregation during recent spoken-ministry opportunities, and they’re ready for you to apply in your ministry setting.
When there was...
Who are you spending your time with? It’s a very important question, and one you need to answer honestly. Because your time is limited, who you spend it with matters more than you think. The mistake many small town pastors make is allowing the wrong people to take up the majority of their time.
I read a story a few years ago about a retail company that did the math and discovered that 5% of their customers were accounting for 80% of their customer service calls. To make matters worse, these same customers were accounting for less than 1% of their profit.
That sounds like a lot of small town churches. Eighty percent of the complaints come from five percent of the congregation, and typically that 5% are not giving or serving. Yet, we make the huge mistake of spending time with them.
As pastors, we want to make everyone happy, and most of us absolutely hate conflict. We think if we spend enough time with our critics, we can somehow make them understand.
Can I just tell you,...
Church growth isn’t what you think it is.
Church growth isn’t about doing any one thing exceptionally well.
It’s more about doing many small things with excellence.
It’s more about a selfless attitude that puts others' needs first.
It’s more about discipling the congregation you have.
When people get right with God, begin growing as Christ-followers, and stay in His Church, this means disciples are making disciples.
The number one characteristic of disciples is that they begin to forsake the selfishness, which dominates the non-Christ life. Selfless disciples refuse to insist on their ways of doing church and living life. They consistently change so they can better serve God. They want to help others discover the same amazing grace by which they are saved.
The number one characteristic of some non-growing churches (not all) is selfishness. Some people refuse to change the way they’ve always done church. For the sake of tradition and poor theology,...
It’s so hard to believe that it’s already December. Where did the year go?
It seems like just a couple months ago we were celebrating Easter and the resurrection, and now we’re getting ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Before I share with you my thoughts on Christmas services, I want to encourage you to slow down during this season. Spend time with your family. Spend time with your church. And most importantly spend time with Jesus.
Now I would not consider myself a Christmas expert, but I happened to be born on December 22nd, and legend has it, that I was brought home from the hospital in a Christmas stocking just like Jesus was.
What are you doing this year for Christmas?
Potluck? Special singing? Children’s Christmas play?
The options are endless, and depending on who you ask, what you choose could make or break your church.
Some pastors are saying that Christmas has become a bigger outreach opportunity than Easter.
If I had to name the biggest leadership struggle currently in the church I serve, I believe I would choose the area of giving. How many of you can relate? It’s not that they’re not generous, most of them are. It’s just that small towns and rural communities typically don’t have as much to give. That’s why we have to do our very best to keep those who are currently giving and find ways to motivate those to give who currently are not.
I’ve read the national average of per person giving in the church is somewhere around $45 per week. We’re doing well if ours is $15 per person.
Which may lead some of you to believe that I may not be the best person to be giving money advice. You may be right, but humor me for a minute.
I’m actually quite proud of that $15 per person because for a few years, we were below $10 per person. How many of you know it’s hard to get a lot of ministry done for less than $10 per person? Especially if...
When I first walked into my church over 12 years ago, there were 87 people in attendance. Today, across two campuses, there are over 700 people on a typical weekend. I’ve seen so many incredible things happen in my church over the years, and I have gained so much. But there are also things I have lost, and as your church grows there will be things you will lose as well.
“Can you announce that the mission team is having a barbeque fundraiser this Saturday? The ladies quilting group won’t be able to meet next week either. Make sure to get that in the bulletin. Oh and by the way, last Sunday you forgot to mention that the Richardsons had their new baby here for the first time. Now they’re upset and will probably never come back.” This is the communication nightmare that happens in far too many churches.
Today, I want to give you permission to say no.
For years, the church I serve heard these types of comments and suggestions.
Each time we would scramble to get every little detail in the bulletin and make every announcement that someone thought necessary. And you know what? We still didn’t please everyone.
Not only that, the more announcements we made, the less people attended the events we were announcing.
So, we made a decision. No longer would everything get promoted equally. The staff would decide what was worth...
God is great and greatly to be praised!
But what great things is God doing in your local church?
Let’s talk about how GREAT He wants your church to become in terms of quality and excellence.
You see, I believe your local church only deserves to be bigger if it is also getting better.
To get better, a local church focuses on growing obedience to the GREAT principles of the New Testament, which lead to better health.
What will it take for your local church to go from good to great? Let’s realize these four GREATS for optimal health.
1) The Great Commandment is to love God and others. You can learn about it from Matthew 22:34–40.
The Sadducees tried, and now the Pharisees have stepped up. Their trickery results in Jesus summarizing all of the Law and the Prophets in two commandments. The totality of the Old Testament is to love God and love others. It all hangs on these two.
With that, Jesus hangs us all out to dry with conviction. Christ is calling us to a...