Archives For Intros and Announcements

american-flag

Today will be a true test for our Nation and its unity. May we pray for our country and its leadership.

Whoever wins, God is not surprised. God is still on His throne. God is still sovereign.

Pledge of Allegiance:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

In God we trust.

graceGRACE. It’s my favorite word. As a matter of fact, I named my first-born child Grace. I often tell her how special her name is. I know she gets tired of hearing it (or maybe she secretly loves it), but I point out every song, sermon, or movie that mentions the word “grace.”

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently became the Executive Director of ExPastors.com. We have a mission statement that reads as follows: We seek to be a place of help, healing, and hope for ex-pastors, pastors, and church leaders. We do this by hearing their stories, connecting them with people and resources, and focusing on spiritual, physical, mental and emotional health.

When Tullian Tchividjian reached out to us and I talked with him on the phone, I heard a man that had committed a sin (a serious sin before God and that is a hot-button for many people). I heard a man that had experienced brokenness, shame, loneliness, deep and dark sadness, and regret over what he had done to his family, and how he let his church and followers down.

As a matter of fact, Tullian was in such a dark place of sadness, regret, loneliness, anger, and frustration that he set out to take his life. He even wrote a suicide note that he shared in the piece we published. You can read it here.

Why did we share his piece? I shared today on ExPastors.com, we didn’t share it because he had “arrived,” or we thought he was “fully restored,” or that we believed he was “ready to re-enter ministry.” We don’t know any of that – that’s between him and God. He did, however, address those questions and accusations with RNS in this piece. A while back, when writing about Tullian, Charisma News wrote the following:

“Weak areas such as drugs, alcohol, pain meds, sex, anger, marriage issues, and so on are ‘opportune times’ for the enemy to strike. We must expose these areas through repentance, and install safeguards and accountability.”

I agree. Friends, I’ve been in ministry for over two decades and I know and have experienced the attacks, traps, temptations, and lies of the enemy. I urge you to pray for pastors around the world. And I challenge you to sincerely pray for pastors who have fallen (like Tullian), been fired for addiction (like Perry Noble), and burned out (like Pete Wilson).

We, as a ministry, and myself personally, took a ton of heat, bullets, and accusations by many upset and angry people. Did they have a right to be upset and angry? I don’t know. I just know that when it comes to truth and grace, I always lean towards grace. A therapist, professor and author that I respect said the same thing. Only Jesus perfectly embodies truth and grace equally. He is 100% truth and 100% grace. We all lean one way or the other.

On Wednesday night, after we and I took a beating on our website and on social media, I looked my daughter Grace in the eyes, with tears in my eyes and said, “You know how special your name is to me, right?” She said, “Yes.” I told her about the personal attacks I had received for showing Tullian grace. And I reminded her:

“Grace is unmerited favor. You can’t earn grace (thank God). We don’t receive grace because we’re perfect, deserve it, or have it all together. Grace is freely offered by God to us and we should freely offer it to others.”

Tullian’s grandfather, Billy Graham, wrote about grace and the unmerited favor of God here. I encourage you to read it. You can read more about what we, at ExPastors, believe and are about here.

So, Thursday after being emotionally drained and exhausted from the constant attacks on our website, social media, and people that targetted me personally and questioned my integrity, I went to see my therapist for our weekly appointment. Yes, I see a counselor. Yes, I believe strongly in therapy. And I’ve writen and spoke out about it frequently. I think every pastor should see a therapist. One of the lies and traps of the enemy is isolation. If you feel alone and have no one to talk to, you will fall (or take your life), and be another statistic.

So, last week I met with my therapist. He said, “What would you like to talk about today?” I said, “I have a lot to talk about, express, get off my chest, and get some counsel on.” So, I told him about my week and the reason we published Tullian’s piece. I told him that many pastors commit suicide each year. In an article by Charisma News, they wrote: “It’s this thought process that could have caused both Seth Oiler and Isaac Hunter to take their own lives after being caught in affairs.” God help us!

My therapist told me of another local therapist that used to be a Lutheran minister. He said this former minister is now a practicing counselor, who’s whole practice is dedicated to helping former pastors. Believe me, I will be reaching out to this counselor and getting to know him.

I told my therapist (and this is the God’s honest truth) that when I woke up Wednesday morning (after we posted Tullian’s piece on Tuesday), the first thought in mind before I even sat up and put my feet on the ground was:

JUST ONE. Yes, we took a lot of heat and bullets for posting the article, but if just one pastor read Tullian’s story of deep, dark depression that led him to consider taking his own life. If just one pastor decided to not take his life and seek help so they can keep on living – it was worth it all. 

My therapist encouraged me by reminding me of the “Starfish story.” You’ve probably heard it. Ever heard of the man walking along the beach and picking up starfish and throwing them back into the water so they wouldn’t die? Someone mocked him because there was no way he could make a difference and save every starfish. The man picked up a starfish, threw it in the water and said something like, “It made a difference to that one.”

Read my article on ExPastors.com entitled, “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay. This is a Safe Place.” In the article I write, “We reach all kinds of pastors and ex-pastors: broken, hurt, wounded, mad, angry at God, angry at the Church, confused, on the verge of suicide (like Tullian Tchividjian shared), in transition, now in lay leadership, pastors who have burned out and are ready to quit, pastors who have resigned and now work a job outside the local church, pastors who were fired, pastors who were laid off due to finances or circumstances out of their control – all kinds of pastors and church leaders.

As my friend Pete Wilson once said, “It’s okay not to be okay.” And I would add, “This is a safe place. All are welcome here. Whether you like us or not, trust us or not, love us or hate us, agree with us or not, or are just checking us out – we welcome you.

And like it or not, Tullian is the very definition of an ex-pastor. For every mega-church pastor, author and/or conference speaker that finds themselves in a similar situation, there are hundreds or thousands of ex-pastors and struggling pastors that are hurting and/or burned out – they just pastor smaller churches and don’t have the platform that Tullian has. And to you, my friend, I also say, “This is a safe place.””

So, if you stumbled across this blog post and God has stirred something in your soul. If you’re a current or ex-pastor, we’d love to hear from you. Submit your story to us. It doesn’t matter if you pastor a church of 10 people, 100, or a 1000. We’re in this together and we hope to create a community where people can help one another get through tough seasons of ministry and life. If you’re at the end of your rope and need of help, contact us. We want to connect you with resources and other pastors.

Browse the site. Read through our articles. Maybe you’ll find something helpful and timely. Check out our Resources page and if you have a recommended resource, email us. Check the site often. Subscribe to our newsletter to get weekly email updates and subscribe to our YouTube channel to keep up with video content, including our new podcast (coming soon). FYI – When you subscribe to the ExPastors.com newsletter, you’ll receive a free copy of our Founder, Bo Lane’s best-selling book Why Pastors Quit.

Let’s be people known for and characterized by GRACE. That’s my story and my personal mission. I’m a grace dealer and I’m going to keep on dishing it out. God bless you pastors as you serve the Church. Keep pressing on. Don’t give up! You’re not alone.

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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.

Catalyst Early Bird

Catalyst speakers

Register

YouVersion congrats

Hello readers! I am beyond thrilled and excited to partner with YouVersion by writing some new devotionals that will be coming soon, starting this Fall.

Here’s where you can see some of my new content that I’ve been writing or have coming out soon:

  • Rick Warren’s Ministry Newsletter
  • Pastors.com
  • ChurchLeaders.com
  • ChurchCentral.com
  • Christianity Today
  • Leadership Journal/CTPastors.com
  • XPastors.org
  • Church Fuel (look for a new eBook coming soon)
  • I will also be a guest on several church leader podcasts this Fall. I hope you’ll listen in on the conversations!

And lastly, I have BIG news: My 4th book entitled Secrets of a Secret Shopper will release this Fall. As you know I’m a consultant and church secret shopper. In this book, I tell you what I look for when I go to a large church and do a church secret shopper consultation.

I wrote this book primarily for small to medium-sized churches that may not be able to afford to hire me. So, if you want to make some killer improvements in the area of hospitality and guest services, be on the lookout for my next book. I can’t wait for you to read it!

healthy person

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!

CCV-Communication-Card

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.

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Later this month I’ll be attending the XP-Seminar in Dallas, TX with some very good friends of mine.

This is THE place for executive pastors and church leaders to learn, network and hangout.

The dates are February 17-18. You can enroll HERE. Today is the last day for special pricing.

This years seminar with be featuring Mel McGowan
From the Magic Kingdom: Lessons Learned from Disney

A former Disney Imagineer
brings vital insight to church design.

Mel McGowan is the President and Founder of Visioneering Studios. This firm is a national “Envision.Design.Build. firm” with offices around the country. Mel had a decade-long tenure with the Walt Disney Company, helping to design the renovation and expansion ofCalifornia Adventure at the California Disney Resort. He also has a background in film and urban design—and continues to work on many civic designs around the country. He brings a rich perspective on “sustainable Christ-centered community” and has written Design Intervention: Revolutionizing Sacred Space.

In Exodus, God gave His people complete instructions for designing and building a tabernacle. From specifying the colors of linen to the dimensions of each alter, God cared about the details of that environment and His connection to the people inside. God still seeks relationship with His creation, and our gathering places can still reflect it—if we’ll consider a Design Intervention. From the Old Testament temple to today’s most innovative building, churches create effective environments by using their unique story to share The Story. Design Intervention is a global journey through this revolution in sacred space.

Why Come?

Dr. Gene Getz Pastor, Author

Dr. Gene Getz
Pastor, Author

Author of more than 60 books, Gene Getz says …

David Fletcher has been helping Executive Pastors for over a decade through XPastor.org.  I love what he is doing through the keynotes and workshops—and I had a great time a couple of years ago when I was a speaker. To learn and grow, this is a fantastic place.

I’ve also seen first hand the results of his own leadership where he serves at the local church level and in helping train leaders in cross-cultural situations—which has added to his ability to structure a dynamic learning environment regardless of the societal factors. Don’t miss this opportunity!!

Tim Samuel

Tim Samuel

Tim Samuel, CFO of Bridgeway Community Church says …

The Seminar enables me to create future opportunities. Daniel Rolfe’s talk last year helped shape my 2015.

It connects me with church leaders from around the country so that I can innovate and save money for my local church.

Clint Smith

Clint Smith

Clint Smith, XP of of NORTHchurch says …

The XP-Seminar has had a huge impact on my leadership and development as a person, as well as an executive pastor. Years ago, when I began the journey as an XP in my late twenties, it provided the networking, mentoring and insight that I needed to grow in this demanding role. I continue to attend the Seminar to increase my knowledge in church law, HR, staff development, budgeting and so much more. The relationships I have built through XPastor grow every time I attend.

This year I will be teaching a workshop entitled, “Raising Up Leaders—Coaching and Development.” As a 10+ year veteran as an XP, this is still my favorite part of the job. I believe in this seminar and what it represents and would love to give back any way I can.

Seminar Highlights

Dr. Paul Utnage Springhill Presbyterian

Dr. Paul Utnage

Survival Skills for Managing Moral Failures Among Your Leaders

Paul has been an XP and SP, serving in ministry for decades. He has served with some of the most noted pastors in the nation. Paul has been a noted contributor to the XPastor world, giving mentoring to many upcoming XPs. Currently he is the XP of Springhill Presbyterian Church in Bozeman, Montana and earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from Dallas Seminary.

There are two types of skills that help manage moral failures on your team: tangible and intangible. Tangible skills are the organizational decisions and processes that must be followed to have success. But there are intangible skills that many people ignore, to their later dismay.

Bruce Woody

Bruce Woody

Golden Buildings and the Architect-Client Process

Bruce Woody will share some of their “golden projects.” These are the church buildings that have special merit—things that architects really hit a home run for and with the client. Look for lots of concrete illustrations of the client-architecture process and its results.

This is a “tour de force” of great architecture. Bruce is the President and CEO of HH Architects.

Matt Anthony

Matt Anthony

SCOTUS on Marriage—Legal Considerations For Your Church

The majority opinion of the Supreme Court of the United Stated held that “The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.” This was the Oberfefell v. Hodges case, argued on April 28 and decided on June 26, 2015.

David Middlebrook

David Middlebrook

In response, one Senior Pastor said, “Our church will never do any kind of marriage again—go to the Justice of the Peace.” An Executive Pastor said, “We won’t rent out our facility to any outside group.” Some changed the constitutions of their church to address the issue and others have done nothing. This imperative presentation contains material that you must consider as you audit your church policies and practices.

Every year, David Middlebrook and Matt Anthony from The Church Law Group bring the XP-Seminar imperative topics from the field of law, HR, safety, fiduciary responsibility and much more. This will be a growing time and invariably you will take away homework and a full to-do list.

 

Mike Erre

Mike Erre

The Constant of Change and a Track for Lead Pastors

You asked for Mike to return again! We heard from him, Mr. “Lightning in a Bottle,” at the 2014 XP-Seminar about his transition to EvFree Fullerton and the resulting phenomenal growth. But you wanted more of Mike. In 2015, he spoke on being a catalyst and directional leadership. This year he will address The Constant of Change–giving us a continued insight into a dynamic leader.

On Thursday afternoon, Mike will lead a workshop only for Senior Pastors/Lead Pastors. Before becoming the Lead Pastor of EvFree Fullerton, he served as the teaching pastor at Rock Harbor Church and Mariners Church. XPs, this is a prime opportunity to bring your SP!  Read about the SP track.

Jon Platek

Jon Platek

The New SP and XP Team

Two years ago, Jon became the new SP of Maple Grove Church. He soon added XP Jim Hobbs to the team. Let’s learn the “start-up lessons” from Jon about his experience. You never know when you will get a new SP or join a new team. His observations and perspective will give insights to new and experienced XPs and SPs. Read Jon’s story of when he was a Campus Pastor to gain some perspective on his prior ministry.

 

Eddie Park

Eddie Park

Emcee

Our emcee this year will be Eddie Park. On a 4-year learning gig at EvFree Fullerton with David Fletcher, he is an Assistant Executive Pastor overseeing church business and operations. Eddie provides church-wide strategic leadership and oversees EvFree’s internship program, along with developing skills in teaching and communication.

Eddie is an information addict, avid life-hacker, and leadership junkie. His passion is to change lives and organizations with the highest level of Christian leadership.

At the 2015 seminar, I was exposed to some of the most experienced church leaders from all over the nation. I never thought I would ever be prepared for senior leadership until I came to the seminar and received the invaluable wisdom and resources provided by David Fletcher, the speakers, and participants.  ~Eddie Park

 

About the Seminar

Short Rides

short-rideWe will feature a short ride with a case study on church leadership issues. To the point. Clear. Impactful. Horse not provided.

Afternoon Workshops

On each afternoon, we have three sets of workshops led by some of thebest church leaders from North Americapeople who are coming up with innovative solutions to practical ministry. Hear from your peers! The workshop leaders are church leaders who speak from their amazing areas of expertise. They talk to you as “one skilled leader to another.”

“Thank you so much for the obvious work that was put into the conference. It was my first time attending and it was very beneficial.”

“On our flight home, my XP said to me, ‘So was the conference worth it for you?’ I answered, ‘Yes it was.’ He agreed as well.”

Enroll in the Seminar

The regular enrollment rate is $750.  Includes books and lunches—but not lodging. Overview of all rates:

  • Enroll by February 1 for $675–save $75
  • Enroll two or more from your church for $600 each–save $300 and more!

Location

We will again be at the Hilton Dallas/Park Cities.

I hope to see you there! If you’re going, let me know and we’ll grab some time together.