Archives For Holidays

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I was worshiping with Chris Tomlin’s song “At the Cross” the other night and I thought it was the perfect testimony for me. I share the lyrics with you now as a Good Friday testimony and reflection:

“At The Cross”

There’s a place where mercy reigns and never dies
There’s a place where streams of grace flow deep and wide
Where all the love I’ve ever found
Comes like a flood
Comes flowing down[Chorus:]
At the cross
At the cross
I surrender my life
I’m in awe of You
I’m in awe of You
Where Your love ran red
and my sin washed white
I owe all to You
I owe all to You Jesus

There’s a place where sin and shame are powerless
Where my heart has peace with God and forgiveness
Where all the love I’ve ever found
Comes like a flood
Comes flowing down

[Chorus]

Here my hope is found
Here on holy ground
Here I bow down
Here I bow down
Here arms open wide
Here You save my life
Here I bow down
Here I bow down

[Chorus]

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We all come from different tribes, denominations, styles of music and sizes small to large. The one thing churches of all kind have in common on a day as huge as Easter is wanting to turn first-time guests into second-time guests. How do you do that?

One tool that I’ve used well over the years and highly recommend is having some sort of response card, info card, communication card or connection card – whatever you want to call it.

You can put these in the seats, in the bulletin or hand them out as people walk in. You can collect them in a variety of ways: Have the guests put them in the offering plate, or have the guests take them to a connection or collection area.

You can see a higher response rate by offering a free gift for people that turn them in at the designated area. Some churches give away books and some give away coffee mugs.

The point it to collect as many response and connection cards as you can. Please have a circle or box that they can check off that reads “First-time Guest.” Also good to ask is, “How did you hear about us?” Also have boxes for people to check off if they made a decision for Christ. Also good is a space for people to share prayer requests.

What you do with the card once it’s turned in – what you do post-Easter is key. As I’ve said before, “Assimilation is an often overlooked or under-appreciated part of church ministry.”

You can read all about how I did assimilation at my last church HERE

I hope you guys have an incredible and productive week and may you see much fruit this Easter season!

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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.

Need

I’ve tried to practice what I preach and take off this week to relax and vacation with family. We are preparing to celebrate the 4th of July, otherwise known as Independence Day. I was reflecting on that and thought about the last chapter of my book Strange Leadership.

In the last chapter (Ch.40 titled Desperation) of Strange Leadership, I write about our need for a desperation for God. A desperation for God to move on our behalf. The key that I write about is a desperation that leads to a dependency on the Holy Spirit. This is the key to the connected Christian life. To be truly in sync with God and move when He moves, we need to be desperate for Him. Not only that, we need our desperation to lead us to a dependency on the Holy Spirit.

So as we celebrate Independence Day this year, let us also remember our ever present need for God and live lives that are dependent upon our great and good God.

Happy 4th of July!

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Today as you grill, swim and relax from a day off work, take time to remember those that have sacrificed so much for our freedom. Happy Memorial Day!

Here are some Easter highlights shared with Christian Media Magazine from churches around the world:

Easter at The Orchard in Chicago:

Easter at The Orchard in Chicago

Easter Recap Video 2014 from  LifeChurch.tv: 

 

LifeChurch.tv OKC Opening:

Easter 2014 Opening Video “Amazing Grace” from Wes Gillett on Vimeo.

 Freedom Church in Georgia:

Dead In The Water from Freedom Church on Vimeo.

The Meeting House in Toronto, Canada:

This Man Named Jesus — Reverse Poem from The Meeting House on Vimeo.

Life Church in Peterborough, UK:

Celebration Church in Salinas, California (featuring Gabby Martay Williams of CMM): 

Easter 2014 at Willow Creek Community Church:

Saddleback Church Easter 2014: 

C4 Church in Canada:

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This Easter was different and in a good way. Usually over the past two decades of local church ministry, I’ve worked 80 and 90 hour weeks leading up to Easter Sunday. I’ve done Maundy Thursday services, Good Friday services, Easter Sunrise services, Passion Plays, and multiple Easter worship experiences. I’ve produced countless services, videos, stage sets and highly attractional services.

This year was wonderful. I had no stress leading up to Easter. I spent quality time with my family. I was with my family Sunday morning as they looked through their Easter baskets. I worshiped our Risen Savior and enjoyed fellowship with dear friends.

I saw someone on Facebook post the day before Easter that most churches would double in attendance and then be back to normal numbers the following week. I’ve been there. Last year at my campus, we had over 800 people show up and then were back down to 400 the next week. There’s a lesson there somewhere. 🙂

I’m enjoying this season of life as I’m engaged in both a church plant for the unchurched and involved in a missional community with friends and neighbors. I’m much more focused on discipleship and seeing people grow in their faith. I used to be focused on pulling off a good production and seamless transitions and media cues. I’m not dogging any of that, but I’ve got to admit: I really enjoyed being away from all that pressure and production and showiness.

I’ve found my passion writing, speaking, consulting, equipping and training big “C” Church leaders and helping the Kingdom advance. I’m also passionate about getting to know my neighbors and friends in the community where I live. I’m reading all sorts of missional books to stretch and challenge my thinking, and I love it. This is a sweet season of life and ministry.

How was your Easter? As Editor of Christian Media Magazine, I’m curious as to how you used media leading up to Easter weekend (social media, promotion, website, etc.) and during your Easter worship experiences (videos, music, etc.). Please share on here or email me what you did at your church. I’ll be sharing some stories on CMM.

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It’s the Easter season and church teams are working hard to prepare for all the expected guests. As a secret shopper or mystery worshiper of churches around the country, I’ve found there are some reasons that I will tell a church I would not return for a second visit and some may be news to you. Whether I’m working with a church plant of 60 people or a mega-church of over 15,000, some things are universal and should be present regardless of church size. Throughout this post we’ll look at actions and areas every church needs to address.

The Front Door

Before a guest ever steps foot on your church’s physical campus, he or she has probably already checked out your church website. What every church should have clearly visible on their homepage is a section or button for first-time guests. Once clicked on, this should take you to a page that addresses FAQ’s, service times, directions, parking instructions (Is there a side of the building that is better to park on if one has kids?), what to expect (upbeat music and relevant, practical, Biblical preaching in a come as you are atmosphere, etc.), what to wear (Are jeans okay? Are shorts okay?), and encouragement for them to be sure to stop by Guest Central or your church’s Information Booth to pick up a first-time guest packet.

What Stinks?

It’s important that no church ever underestimates the sense of smell. While sight is the strongest sense for short term memory, the sense of smell is the strongest and most vivid for long-term memories. If you’ve ever smelled something and had memories you hadn’t thought of in years come flooding back, that’s your sense of smell in action. Every church has the potential for positive or negative smells. Mold is a bad smell. Coffee is a good smell. Bleach is a bad smell. Citrus is a good smell. Many churches have restrooms that are disgusting and smell like urine. This lack of attention to detail can be costly and discourage many from ever returning. As best you can, try to walk into the lobby or entrance of your church with a new nose.

Park Here

One of Tim Stevens’ three “growth lids” that he thinks every growing church should have someone who is constantly watching is parking. Tim says, “This is why Visitor Parking is so crucial. If it’s difficult for newcomers to go to your church, they won’t go.” Some would argue that guests want to remain anonymous and don’t want special parking. Of course some want to go unnoticed and will choose to park in regular parking (a minority), but for the rest of newcomers, they are appreciative for a close parking space; it’s a kind gesture in an already intimidating and nerve-racking experience of attending a church for the first time, especially a large one with a huge campus.

This Way Parents

One way to assure guests will not return is to have a confusing, long or hard to find process for getting their kids registered and in the right classroom. Wise churches have signs for first-time guest kids’ check-in and make the process quick and painless. Regular attendees may know to go up to the check-in kiosk and enter their phone number or swipe their card, but guests will be clueless and need a manned station that is clearly marked for guests and have a volunteer walk them through the registration. Then have that person or another helper walk you to your kid’s class explaining what will be going on and how to go about picking their kids back up. If they must have a sticker with corresponding numbers on it to get their kids, this needs to be explained to them. Signage for the kids check-in should start in the entryway of the guest parking. Do not assume people know where to go once they enter the building.

Give It Away

Something subtle, but powerful is a church that has a generous spirit. Chris Hodges at Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, AL is big on this. They have a coffee shop, but they also have a designated area where people can get free coffee and not pay anything. They also give away their message CDs. Too many churches charge for everything and wonder why no one buys CDs of the message. If you want to bless people and create a generous spirit throughout your church, give away free coffee and message CDs (and other surprises throughout the year). Chris Hodges will have ice cream trucks pull up outside the church doors and give away free ice cream to congregants leaving on a hot, summer day.

Security Counts

One issue that is huge to a secret shopper and visiting families is security. If a parent is worried about their child’s safety, they will not enjoy the service and will likely not return. A children’s classroom must be clean, safe and secure. Security also includes the check-out process. If anyone can walk into a classroom and pick up a kid, you’re asking for trouble and will turn off potential newcomers. It’s important that your kids’ volunteers are trained well and know to ask for the parent’s sticker when picking up their kids. This is vital and goes a long way to ensuring a tragedy doesn’t occur and a parent has peace of mind.

The Visible Pastor

Accessibility of the senior pastor is another subtle and powerful statement of a church. Even pastors of the largest churches in America make an intentional and strategic effort to be seen, greeted and hugged after a service. They may have a body guard present for security reasons, but they are available and willing to pray with people that need to speak to their pastor. Some churches have a designated “Guest Central”, like Steve Stroope at Lake Pointe in Rockwall, TX or Brady Body at New Life in Colorado Springs. Some have a “Meet and Greet” like Charles Hill in Utah. Some pastors stand down at the altar and meet and pray with people like Kevin Myers at 12Stone in Atlanta. Some walk around the campus shaking hands like Don Wilson at Christ’s Church of the Valley in Phoenix. Erwin McManus at Mosaic LA has an “After Party”, at which the pastor is present and available to meet with newcomers. This, especially in a large church, goes a long way toward countering the rock star or unavailable pastor stigma that so many guests walk into the church expecting.

Finish Strong

It’s simply not enough for greeters and parking lot attendants to say “Hello” or “Welcome” when one walks into their church. To go to another level, have your first impressions team stationed at their posts when the service ends to say “Goodbye” or “Have a nice week”. This goes a long way to wrapping a bow around the entire morning experience and will send them off with a lasting positive impression.

Do these 8 things and you’ll see a greater return and higher percentage of second and third-time guests.

*This article originally appeared in Outreach magazine.

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Two of my songwriting and worship leading heroes have come together to create a great new worship song that is perfect for Easter. I hope you’ll check it out. Here are the lyrics:

He Is Risen

By Paul Baloche & Graham Kendrick

Early morning break of dawn
Stumbling to the tomb
Standing awestruck wondering who
Rolled away the stone
And as the sun came up
Amazed they looked inside
A voice, an angel clothed in light
Don’t be afraid, He is alive!

He is risen 
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Christ is risen
Let the whole world sing
Christ is risen 
Christ is risen from the dead

Sing, with all creation sing
Of a world made new
In His life we too may live
Bursting from the tomb
And looking up we see
Our King enthroned on high
His wounds of love now glorified
Rejoice, for soon He’ll burst the skies

 

Copyright © 2013 Thankyou Music & Integrity Worship Music/Leadworship Songs

CCLI Number: 6606369

Watch Paul lead the song live:

What songs are you planning to use this Easter at your church?

After I watched this video I immediately felt convicted and put down my iPhone. I’ve written about this in the past – the struggle we all face with technology and the danger of it taking over our lives. So watch this video, close your computer, put down your phone and look your spouse in the eyes and be present this Valentine’s Day. Love boldly. Life is short. Make the most of every opportunity. I’m preaching to myself! Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Video:

Written by Charlene deGuzman & Miles Crawford
Directed by Miles Crawford
Starring Charlene deGuzman