Archives For Preaching

Death was arrested

So, you made it through the big weekend. Now the real work begins! Now you focus on turning those first-time guests into second time guests. This is where your assimilation process kicks in. I wrote about my process here. I also wrote about taking care of and thanking your volunteers and staff here.

Now would be a good time to run Facebook and Instagram ads promoting your new series that either just kicked off or kicks off this coming Sunday. Encourage your people to invite. Post plenty of sharable content on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Encourage your people to share the media and invite their friends, family, neighbors and co-workers.

So, let’s review! Here’s what jumped out at me from my contacts and friends in churches around North America:

  1. Songs of the season: “Death Was Arrested” by North Point, followed by “Resurrecting” by Elevation Worship. I wrote about the song for Easter two years ago here. It was “Forever” by Kari Jobe and I know a ton of churches still did that song. A powerful response song is “Come to the Altar” by Elevation Worship. Many churches used that this year as a song to follow the message, which is very appropriate as it has lyrics about Christ being risen from the dead.
  2. Signs of the season: Man churches created awesome, colorful, text-rich signs to hold for greeters, parking lot attenders and baptisms.  Signs 2 Welcome signs 2

Baptism signs

3. Next level guest services: With the welcome signs as seen above and the fun transportation for kids as seen below, churches rolled out the red carpet!

Kids ride

4. Intentional return tactics: Realizing that many guests were there for the first-time, many churches gave out invite cards to invite people back for the next week. Remember if you can turn first-time guests into second-time guests, they are 80% more likely to get plugged in and start a relationship with Christ. (Nelson Searcy – Fusion).

Invite to return

  • So get together with your team and review this past Sunday. See what worked, what didn’t work, where you can improve and ideas that you can implement in the future. It’s never too late to start doing things with excellence. Guest services and first impressions matter.
  • If I can help you in any way, contact me here. Let’s reach this nation for Christ!

Six Rules for Leading

*** Found on Pinterest.

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!

3

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.

This is not leadership

We know we all should die to self daily, but seriously – how often do you do a serious heart check? I recently transitioned off a local church staff and had to reassess my heart, think about my identity, remember my calling, and refocus my time and energy.

But today I want to talk about reassessing our hearts. Monday night I was at a men’s small group worship night held in someone’s house. There were about 15 to 20 guys gathered around a living room and kitchen.

We sang and worshiped our Living God, but what struck me was that the guy leading worship (who happens to be a physician) was singing and playing like he was in an arena with 10,000 screaming worshipers (picture a Passion concert with Chris Tomlin).

I stood there amazed watching this guy just go for it and sing his heart out. He truly led us into the Presence of God. And then it hit me:

Should we sing any less louder or give any less effort when leading before a small group than on a stage? Absolutely not!

Jesus deserves our all – our best. Our utmost for His Highest. Nothing less. He is worthy of all praise and as we sang the other night: a living sacrifice.

So, how’s your heart?

rsz_quit

Last week my 13 year old son tried out for his middle school’s baseball team. He didn’t make the cut. As a father, this saddens me, but I know it’s a part of growing up and a valid life lesson for him.

I gave him the “Michael Jordan got cut from his basketball team” speech. I also shared how when I was in elementary school, I auditioned for chorus and didn’t make it. They told me I couldn’t sing. I went on to get a vocal scholarship to college and graduate with a degree in music.

“God never calls us to do something we’re capable of. God calls us to do things that are beyond our ability so He gets all the credit.” – Mark Batterson

Everyone faces challenges – it’s how we respond to those challenges that is the true testimony of our faith and where the rubber meets the road in our lives. I don’t know who I’m talking to today, but maybe you’re one day away from throwing in the towel. Maybe you’ve written your resignation letter.

“We tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in two years, but we underestimate what we can accomplish in ten years!” – Mark Batterson

I would encourage you to pray and seek God for His leading. Don’t run away from a tough circumstance (or Board of Deacons or Elders) to greener pastures. Water the grass where you are.  Plant your stake in the ground and resolve to not move until God makes it clear that it is His will.

“Sometimes the power of prayer is the power to carry on. It doesn’t always change your circumstances, but it gives you the strength to walk through them.” – Mark Batterson

Too often we give up and quit right before a major breakthrough in our ministry. 

“If we had a larger vision of what God wanted to accomplish in us and through us, our petty problems would cease to exist because they would cease to be important.” – Mark Batterson

Read this last quote from Mark Batterson and just see if God speaks to your heart:

“You are only one prayer away from a dream fulfilled, a promise kept, or a miracle performed.” – Mark Batterson

I’m praying for you. I’m praying that God would pull you up out of the pit of despair, anger, frustration, brokenness, burnout, and hurt. I’m praying that you would be encouraged, inspired and hell-bent on chasing hard after God and His mission in your community.

I’m here for you. Many are counting on you. So – Don’t quit! We need you. 

Commit your work to the Lordand your plans will be established. – Proverbs 16:3

rsz_men_singing

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

Hustle picture

The picture above is from a year ago. That’s how long I’ve been contemplating this post. I’m constantly watching friends like Carlos Whittaker and others, including Jon Acuff encourage others to hustle. I have no problem with that. I’m extremely driven, ambitious and have a stong work ethic.

As a matter of fact, I just purchased and began reading my friend, Brad Lomenick’s book H3 Leadership: Humble. Hungry. Hustle. I love Brad’s quote: “Leadership is more than hard work, it is habitual work.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 7.02.47 AM

However, in the hustle and bustle of 21st Century life, I often wonder if we hustle too much or too often. I wonder if we take time to be still, be quiet, think, meditate, and hear that still, small voice of the Living God. I wonder if we stop to smell the roses and take in the beauty of a sunset or sunrise. I wonder if we appreciate the little things in life and thank God for family and friends.

Do we savor the good times in life and mourn the tough seasons that will inevitably come?

My exhortation and encouragement to you my friends is to take time to Sabbath. Take time to pray. Take time to think. Take time to rest. I’ve said for years that we should work hard and play hard. If you focus only on “hustle,” you will just work hard. Take time to enjoy God and being in His Presence.

Remember the story of Mary and Martha and make sure you’re not too busy hustling that you miss out on an opportunity to worship and adore the Savior.

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations,
  I will be exalted in the earth!” – Psalm 46:10

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 6.18.00 PM

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.

SecretShopper_top1

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!