Archives For Diversity

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I became familiar with ExPastors.com and their Founder, Bo Lane, a couple of years ago. I’ve stayed in touch with Bo ever since. Over the past year, I’ve considered being more involved. Over the last month, I’ve now taken over as Executive Director of ExPastors.com.

I encourage you to get to know us. We’re not a place for people to bash the Church. We are a ministry that offers help, healing and hope to ex-pastors (for whatever reason they find themselves there), current pastors and church leaders.

We want to see all pastors be healthy physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

I encourage you to browse the website and its articles. See if there’s something there that might educate or encourage you in the season of life you find yourself.

This week (Tuesday) we have a very special guest post by an ex-pastor that hasn’t spoken out for over 2 years. Be sure to keep an eye on us and our articles.

You can do this by signing up for our newsletter, following us on Twitter, and subscribing to our YouTube channel (we are about to launch a new podcast). When you sign up for our newsletter, you will receive a FREE copy of Why Pastors Quit – a must read.

Read the newest post that is up there now. Maybe it will encourage you and offer you hope.

We get unbelievable emails from pastors and ex-pastors from around the world. Join our community and please know: If you’re tired, hurt/wounded, frustrated, burnt out, thinking about taking your life, depressed, anxious – whatever the enemy is attacking you with – I’m here for you. We’re here for you. You have people that care for you and want to help you.

God’s not finished with you. Neither are we. Don’t give up!

This year, Catalyst Atlanta is going to be out of this world. I plan on going and hope to see you there. Please don’t miss the Early Bird Rates that end today! Register HERE.

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I watched the big news yesterday that Derrick Rose got traded from the Chicago Bulls to the New York Knicks. What’s to note about this announcement is that Derrick Rose was supposed to be a Chicago legend and superstar originally. He is very talented and can make basketball plays and shots look effortless.

The problem is, unfortunately, like Grant Hill was, his career has been plagued by injury. He never reached his full potential. Your physical, emotional and spiritual health is huge. Without it, you’ll never reach your full potential. This applies to organizations as well.

If your organization is not healthy, it will not reach its full potential.

How do you address health in an organization? With its leaders. John Maxwell says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” I agree. Does this happen by accident? No! You have to fight for health. Just like you make yourself go to the gym and eat healthy. You must be intentional.

“You don’t have to cultivate weeds. They grow automatically. In fact, weeds are a sign of neglect.” – @RickWarren

Don’t neglect yourself. Don’t neglect your senior leadership. Don’t neglect your staff. Don’t neglect your volunteers. I have talked with three pastors and one Director of Missions for a Baptist Association that took or are on a sabbatical. That’s awesome! Give your leaders a break. Go on a personal retreat. Take time to rest. Time to play. Time to have a hobby. Time to care for your family and house.

If your leaders aren’t healthy… If your org’s culture is not healthy… If your team is not healthy… Say it with me: You’ll never reach your full potential.

And even worse, you can cause harm, hurt others and do real damage. You need to protect health at all costs. I’m big on church growth, but I always say church growth is a by-product of church health. It’s the same for non-profits and businesses. Your health can fuel your growth, or it can have an adverse effect on your growth.

Friends, pray for your leaders. Pray for me. Pray for yourself. Seek after health – in every area. And BE INTENTIONAL. Health doesn’t happen by accident.

14 The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. – Luke 8:14 (NLT)

So, I ask: How’s your health?

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I and my company Worship Impressions are committed to helping your church reach and keep guests. As specialists in Guest Services, Hospitality, and First Impressions, we come alongside you and what God is already doing at your church and give you a guest’s perspective, as well as suggestions and next steps to improve.

We don’t just do one consult and leave. I am committed to a long-term relationship. I propose next steps, introduce you to friends, specialists, and strategic partners. And I’m always one phone call or email away. I’ve had pastors call me up and ask a question years after I did a secret shopper for them.

The question becomes: When is a good time to bring in a church secret shopper or mystery worshiper? It really depends on your church’s season of life/schedule, budget and an attitude that says you’re ready to do whatever it takes to reach lost people for Christ.

One word of caution:

You will always be busy and you’ll always be getting ready for something. Please don’t let that stop you from investing in your church’s future and potential. Make time for a consultation if you are struggling, plateaued, declining, dead, or even if you’re booming and just want to go to the next level. The key is you have to be intentional. You have to be open to change and invite feedback. It’s scary, but oh so worth it!

So to show you how I usually help churches, here’s what a yearly schedule could look like:

  • I come in the Summer and help you Get Ready for Fall
  • I come in the Fall and help you Get Ready for Christmas and the New Year
  • I come in the New Year and help you Get Ready for Easter

There really is no right or wrong time to bring in a church secret shopper. Just pray about what works best for you and your ministry. Once you’re ready, let us know. You can reach me at my personal email: greg@gregatkinson.com or Worship Impressions at info@worshipimpressions.com.

I hope to meet you soon. The best days of your church are ahead!

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You may not know this about me, but there are many people who will remember that I have signed numerous emails, cards, and even my books when someone asks me to sign them with the tagline:

“Keep Pressing On!”

Life is tough. I mean really hard. There are days I don’t want to get out of bed, but I’m driven by the Holy Spirit inside me that has called me and given me a purpose to live. This is where my drive and ambition come from – God. I remember someone once said, “Showing up is 98% of anything. Hard work pays off.”

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:14

So whatever you’re going through, know that I know it’s rough. I know it hurts. I know life isn’t fair. I know life can sometimes seem upside-down. Better yet: God knows – He sees. He hears. He cares. So, get up anyway. Press on anyway. Love anyway. God is worth it. He’s worth it all.

Think of all the hostitlity He endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. – Hebrews 12:3

 

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So here we are – less than two weeks away from the biggest Sunday of the year. I just left a planning meeting with the worship pastor at my home church. We were talking about ways to turn first-time guests into second-time guests. We brainstormed about setting up a tent outside to welcome guests and give them a gift, as well as info about next steps.

The reality is all we planned to do takes a huge amount of volunteer leadership. I coached him on delegating and equipping the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4). But here’s the real question: How do we still have a team going forward after such a stressful and busy season as Easter?

Here are some thoughts: 

We live in a digital world. Texting, IMing, Facebook pokes, Instagram posts and daily tweets – it’s truly a whirlwind when it comes to communicating these days. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve found that a personal touch still goes a long way (yes, even in 2016).

1. A Handwritten Note

Everybody loves to receive a handwritten note thanking them for their service on your team. We’re coming up on one of the busiest times of the year with Easter. We all know that Easter is the “Super Bowl” for churches. More people will visit your congregation than any other day of the year.

Your volunteers are going to work countless hours (your staff, too). Take the time to write out Thank You notes to each and every one of them. If you have the budget, include a gift card in the note to them. Sometimes I do Chili’s gift cards for $25. Sometimes I can only do a $10 Starbucks card. Whatever your budget can do – make it happen.

2. Phone Calls

Another thing that goes a long way in this digital world is phone calls. It seems we’ve lost the art of picking up the phone and checking on our team and seeing how they’re doing. I used to go through my team’s list of names and give them a call just to see how they were doing and if there was anything I could pray for them about. This went a long way!

3. Personal Touch

One final thought I’ll mention on a personal touch is to give out hugs. You wouldn’t believe it, but a hug goes a long way. Now I know that some people don’t like to be touched and freak out if you try to hug them. You need to be aware of body language and know if you’re making someone uncomfortable, but by and large, most people like a good ‘ole hug.

On Wednesday night rehearsals, I greeted my team members with hugs and asked how they were doing. This is in contrast to barking “Get to your station!” or “Did you hear of the changes we made?”

I’ve made it a point to not let something “business” come out of my mouth first. The person is always more important than the thing we’re trying to accomplish or produce. Check on them first and then update them on the changes. Lastly, greet them with a warm smile. Let your people know you love and care for them.

This is about valuing people over production. People are more important than what they can produce and we shouldn’t prostitute them and their gifts. God has entrusted them to us and our team and we should value them.

How long has it been since you wrote a note? How long since you called a team member? Given any hugs lately? Let’s surprise our team and volunteers with a personal touch and an attitude of gratitude this Easter season.

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I’ve heard it for a decade now and I’ve had enough. I remember ten years ago in 2006, leading worship at my church in Dallas and we had a guest speaker that day: David Murrow, the author of Why Men Hate Going to Church. Since I knew the author was preaching that morning, I chose “Beautiful One” by Tim Hughes as a worship song. I just knew he’d love it. He didn’t. He actually referenced it in his message and talked about how men can’t connect to God with songs like that. I wholeheartedly disagree.

I think it’s safe to say that no lost person connects to God through song. They just sit back and watch and try to figure out what is happening in the moment.

However, if someone (male of female) has had a genuine encounter with the Living God – they sing, sometimes loud.

How do I know? I’ve witnessed it numerous times over 22 years of ministry and 40 years of life. I’ve seen and heard it in my local church and most recently, I have witnessed it in two very different environments.

First, I do prison ministry. I’ve been in prisons with a room full of tattooed, hardcore men (some with teardrop tattoos signifying they’ve killed someone) that are singing to the top of their lungs. They unashamedly worship our great God and Savior knowing the consequences and that some other prisoners may see this as a sign of weakness or make fun of them. Time and again, these men blow me away with their passion for God and love for worship music. Have you ever been led in worship by a praise band and choir made up of prisoners? I highly recommend it. They will rock your world.

I know what some of you are thinking: “Those guys have hit bottom – Of course they sing out to God.” Hold on. Secondly, I attend an invitation only men’s worship night that is held in a mansion-of-a-house in Charlotte on Monday nights. In this room are people like Executive Coaches, Life Coaches, ER doctors, a pediatrician, an orthopedic surgeon, an attorney and the list goes on and on.

These guys fill the living room and kitchen at the host’s home with sweet music as the pediatrician leads songs on an acoustic guitar. Are these men at the end of their ropes? Yes! In a different, but similar way. That’s the point I’m trying to make.

We’re all desperate for and dependent upon God. When we realize our need for Jesus, we cry out to Him. We lift our voices and shout, “Hosanna!”

So if you tell me men don’t sing, I’d ask you to come visit the imprisoned, sick, poor, along with the wealthy, prestigious, and influential leaders of our community and just be a fly on the wall. I think you’d walk away with your thoughts on the matter changed. We serve a powerful, amazing Creator God and He is worthy of unending praise.

So put your ear plugs in and buckle up because some men are going to lift Him up loudly. Will you be one?

He (Jesus) answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” – Luke 19:40

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A lot of people have heard or read that I’m regularly doing secret shopper or mystery worshiper visits to churches around the country. The question has been raised (and it’s a valid one): Do you need a secret shopper?

As someone who takes the mission to reach the lost and unfilled seriously, I think it’s a wise investment. It takes about a month for you to lose your new eyes, new ears and new nose. Things that you may have become used to or accepted, a secret shopper can spot on their initial visit.

I once had a great Secret Shopper visit with a local church plant in the DFW area. I then had great meeting afterwards where I shared constructive and encouraging feedback with their senior pastor. I was reminded of how even young church plants can quickly lose their new eyes and start to miss things that are obvious to a newcomer like me.

The pastor emailed me saying that they’ve worked on several of the items I listed and are excited about their future. Now, many years later, my secret shopper process has evolved. The last church I worked with was Menlo Church in California, pastored by John Ortberg. I evaluated all 5 of their campuses and went over a 22 page report with their senior leadership team. 

In one month, I’ll do another secret shopper visit at a mega-church in Dallas, TX. I’ve already begun my pre-assessment, as I take a thorough look at the church’s website and online presence.  This is a church that is seemingly doing well and has a large congregation in a metroplex, but they want to improve and tweak things and I applaud them for that.

I came across some good words on Mike Holmes’ blog that I’d like to share with you. He mentioned that a secret shopper or mystery worshipper can do a few things:

1.               Assess areas of strength and weakness.

2.               See what visitors see.

3.               Give objective appraisal.

He also shares the story of his experiment as a secret shopper, which is convicting and inspiring. He goes on to share signs you need a secret shopper or mystery worshipper:

1.               Visitors who don’t return

2.               Decreased attendance

3.               Lack of influence in the surrounding community

I would add an eye for excellence and an attempt to be better at hospitality. It’s always healthy to look at your Sunday morning experience through the eyes of a newcomer and especially the eyes of a lost person. You may get only one chance to make a positive impression on them.

We all know a guest makes up their mind whether or not they will return in the first 10 minutes.

Read that again!

When you bring a guest to church, you instantly become sensitive to your surroundings – the people, the seats, the ushers, the greeters, the kids check-in, the sermon, the music, etc. You want everything to be perfect for your visiting friend (especially if they are not a Believer). A mystery worshiper can spot these crucial areas out for you, before your lost friend does. It’s an investment, but I think a wise one.

Nelson Searcy (in his book “Fusion”) says that if a first-time guest turns into a second-time guest, they are 80% more likely to get plugged into your church and eventually commit their life to Christ. That’s huge and that’s what I do. I help churches remove unnecessary barriers and bad impressions and turn first-time guests into second-time guests. 

I once read an article in the Wall Street Journal on secret shoppers. As the article states: “Department stores hire mystery shoppers. Restaurant chains bring in undercover diners to rate their food and service.” Isn’t what we do on Sundays as church leaders more important than department stores and restaurants? Seriously, isn’t it???

If you’d like to pick my brain or ask what’s involved in a secret shopper visit, contact me. If you’d like to read through endorsements of my ministry, check out the Worship Impressions website. Keep pressing on and know that what you do matters!

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I met a pastor this past week at a conference for church planters. He told me he was searching for a worship pastor. I told him I would help. What I have found over the years through consulting and numerous conversations with senior pastors and executive pastors is that they simply don’t know what to ask when hiring a worship pastor (when it comes to music and if he or she can do the job).

Of course you will have your basic questions on theology, your particular church denominational beliefs and basic things we all look for like the 5 C’s: Character, Competency, Chemistry, Collaboration and Catalytic. Every leader should embody the 5 C’s.

Why do I feel qualified to write these questions? I think I offer a unique perspective as a boss, Campus Pastor and friend to numerous worship pastors. I’ve spent the last 22 years in worship ministry, producing worship experiences, serving as a Worship Pastor, Creative Arts Pastor, Tech Pastor, Director of WorshipHouse Media and consultant to some of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the country.

I’ve had the privilege and honor to consult with some amazing churches, including some of Outreach Magazine’s Fastest Growing Churches in the Country. I’ve also consulted and helped churches where Lincoln Brewster, Shane and Shane, Desperation Band/Jon Egan and the lead singer for Building 429 were leading worship. So, I know and have seen worship and the arts done on a high level and I have a true appreciation for what a worship pastor does, as well as a heart for worship.

So, for the rest of you that will be hiring a worship pastor and don’t have a background in music and worship, what questions do you ask when hiring a Worship Pastor? I have some thoughts, such as:

  1. What is your definition of worship?
  2. Describe what worship looks like and why it’s more that music.
  3. What does it mean to live a lifestyle of worship?
  4. Do you have a theology of worship?
  5. Do you have a personal mission statement?
  6. Explain your call to ministry.
  7. Explain your specific call to be a lead worshiper.
  8. Have you studied at a Bible college or seminary? (this can be both good and bad – as far as seminary)
  9. Do you have a good grasp of the Bible, theology and consider yourself to be of sound doctrine?
  10. Do you agree with our Statement of Faith?
  11. Do you agree with our denominational beliefs?
  12. Do you play an instrument?
  13. Do you lead from an instrument?
  14. The Bible instructs us to “play skillfully.” Do you work hard at your craft?
  15. Do you exercise your voice and practice your instrument daily?
  16. How often do you introduce a new song?
  17. Do you write any of your own songs?
  18. Do you arrange songs?
  19. Do you arrange old hymns and breathe new life into them occasionally?
  20. Do you even like and know hymns?
  21. Can you chart out music for your band? Can you listen to a song on the radio or iTunes and chart it out by ear?
  22. What are some of your musical influences?
  23. What are you listening to in your car, office and iPod?
  24. Can you coach a worship band and get the most out of them?
  25. Can you coach vocalists?
  26. Can you harmonize?
  27. Can you teach others to sing harmony?
  28. Do you know how to give professional musicians direction?
  29. Do you know how to give weak or poor musicians direction?
  30. What are some of your core or favorite songs these days?
  31. Who are some of your favorite Christian songwriters?
  32. Who are some of your favorite non-Christian songwriters?
  33. How familiar are you with media, tech (sound, video and lights)?
  34. Are you comfortable and competent recruiting and building a team of musicians?
  35. Are you comfortable and competent recruiting and building a tech team? (Some churches will have staff over tech, some will need the worship pastor to oversee this)
  36. Flat out: Are you a team builder?
  37. Are you an equipper or a doer?
  38. Can you work hard and play hard?
  39. What are your hobbies?
  40. Do you have a sense of humor?
  41. Can you handle pranks?
  42. Are you engaging in worship and do you connect well with people from the stage?
  43. Do you engage and connect well with people off the stage?
  44. Can you administrate and schedule musicians and tech team members weekly?
  45. Are you comfortable using software like Planning Center Online?
  46. How far out do you plan?
  47. How would you describe your abilities when it comes to creative worship planning and brainstorming?
  48. Do you plan worship in solo or are you a part of a creative planning team?
  49. Are you more creative or administrative?
  50. Are you a people person?
  51. Are you in a small group?
  52. Could you lead a small group?
  53. Would you disciple your worship team and volunteers?
  54. Are you comfortable in a multi-site environment (if your church is multisite)?
  55. If your church is multisite, can you collaborate with the worship leaders at the other campuses?
  56. Have you taken the StrengthsFinder2.0 test? If so, what are your top 5 strengths?
  57. What are you top 3 Spiritual Gifts?
  58. Where are you on the DISC profile?
  59. Are you looking to settle down and invest in a community for a long time?
  60. Are you passionate about reaching the lost?
  61. Are you comfortable with an externally-focused church?
  62. Read through the 3 Lost Parables in Luke 15 and share with me what you think God was trying to get across about His heart for the lost.
  63. Will you do whatever it takes to reach people for Christ?
  64. Are you a team player?
  65. Do you have a strong work ethic?
  66. Are you driven? What drives you?
  67. Are you an intentional and strategic leader? Explain.
  68. Do you have a mentor?
  69. Do you mentor anyone else?
  70. How long have you been leading worship?
  71. Do you get pure joy in leading people into the Presence of God?
  72. Are you a Mac or PC person?
  73. Do you use tracks?
  74. Are you comfortable playing with a click?
  75. Explain your struggle with pride. I ask because I’ve yet to meet a pastor (worship pastor or senior pastor) that doesn’t struggle at least a little at some point with pride.
  76. Do you struggle with porn?
  77. What are your greatest strengths?
  78. What are your weaknesses?
  79. What would your wife say is a weakness for you?
  80. What are the last 3 books you read?
  81. Who are some of your favorite authors?
  82. Do you know who A.W. Tozer is? Have you read any of his work?
  83. What is your favorite book of the Bible?
  84. What is your favorite leadership book?
  85. What is your favorite book on music and worship?
  86. Who are some of your favorite preachers?
  87. What’s your favorite movie?
  88. What’s your favorite sport?
  89. What makes you laugh?
  90. Who is the greatest boss you’ve ever had and why?
  91. What conferences do you go to?
  92. Who do you think are the leaders in design today (name companies that have a strong brand)?
  93. Who is your personal favorite worship leader?
  94. What is your current favorite worship song?
  95. Tell me about your family.
  96. Tell me about your friends. Are they all the same ethnicity?
  97. Tell me about your childhood?
  98. Tell me about your testimony. How did you come to faith in Christ?
  99. Why are you looking for a new church?
Don’t let the first few questions intimidate the candidate – just ask them for their honest answers.
These are just the first questions that popped into my head. What are some questions you’d add? What did I miss? Help me out, friends.

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Today, September 22nd, I turn 40 years old, and this past year God has been wrecking me and leading me to what Henry Blackaby calls a “crisis of belief.” One of Blackaby’s “Seven Realities” in Experiencing God is:

“God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.”

For the past year, I’ve been listening to and sitting under the teaching of my pastor and friend Derwin Gray. One of Pastor Derwin’s key themes that he weaves into most of his teaching is justification. Justification is the action of declaring or making righteous in the sight of God. Because of what Christ has done, we are justified, we are forgiven, we are free, we are as righteous as Jesus Himself.

This may not be news to you, but over the last year, this has taken its toll on me. God has used this message to open my eyes to pride in my life and the sin of self-righteousness. If you’ve ever heard Derwin preach, you may see him cry or get emotional. Once, when traveling with him, I asked him, “What do you do to keep your heart so tender?” He replied, “I think of what Jesus has done for me.”

Again, this may not seem like much to you, but it was revelational to me. You see, I grew up in a strong Christian family (which I’ve taken for granted) and I thought because I became a follower of Christ at a young age (before I had gotten into too much trouble) that I didn’t have a good testimony. This, too, is self-righteousness and pride – and it is a sin.

Hear me: EVERY salvation is a miracle.

This past Sunday, Pastor Derwin preached what I believe is the most powerful sermon I’ve ever heard. You can view or listen to it HERE. There was a strong call to repent in this sermon and I found myself repenting all throughout it. Repenting for pride, repenting for self-righteousness, repenting for thinking I didn’t have a testimony.

At one point in the sermon, Derwin said something about not understanding Christ-followers that don’t wake up every day in awe and amazement of what God has done in their life. THIS, my friends, is my midlife crisis. This is what has to change in my life going forward for the second-half of my life.

May I never take for granted again what Jesus has done for me. May I daily reflect on His love, His grace, His mercy, His sacrifice, His forgiveness, His justification. May I go forward from this day in awe and wonder of Christ and all that He’s done in my life. The truth is, friends, I DO have a testimony! I have experienced amazing grace. I just need to remember it and let it lead me to worship.

So, on my 40th birthday, I proclaim my love for Christ and my gratefulness that He would rescue a sinner like me. I pray God would lead you to a place of repentance and thankfulness, too. Be blessed today, friends.