50 Lessons for Young Leaders

My name is Greg Atkinson and today is my 47th birthday. As I get closer to the big 5-0, I started thinking about lessons I’ve learned over my nearly 5 decades on planet Earth.

I was thinking of leaders like you when I wrote this. I pray God will amplify the words that are just for you.

I was the high school intern at my home church in 1992 and ’93. I started on staff at my first church, as a freshman in college, at the ripe old age of 18 (in February of 1994). That was 28 years ago. Wow!

I had to learn a lot of tough and powerful lessons over the past nearly three decades of ministry. I saw a discussion happening on Facebook about things you wish you knew in your 20s. I had too many comments to share in one Facebook post, so I decided to write about it.

Please allow me to share lessons that God has taught me and continues to teach me. These are in no particular order and I’m positive I’m leaving something out.

1) God uses weak people. God uses broken people. God will break you eventually. It seems that brokenness is an ongoing thing. Don’t boast in your strengths, you can do those in the natural. The supernatural kicks in in your weakness, that’s where God’s strength is made perfect.

2) The gospel is about repenting and believing. Constantly repent and believe the good news of the gospel. You are who God says you are. Your identity is a child of God – not a pastor, not an ethnic group, profession, gender, or any other thing – your identity is a child of God. Meditate and daily reflect on justification. This will ground you and free you to be who God is calling you to be. It will also give you a great sense of thankfulness, wonder, peace, love, and joy.

3) God uses us despite ourselves. No one is perfect. All pastors and church leaders sin daily. Repent. Thank God for His amazing grace.

4) Everyone goes through pain in his or her life. I’m living proof that there is a purpose to the pain. As Rick Warren says, God never wastes our pain.

5) Hurt people hurt people. You must live and practice forgiveness.

6) Depression is real. Don’t oversimplify mental illness into not having a quiet time or healthy prayer life. Study the brain and do all the reading you can on mental illness and the church.

7) We all have highs and lows, mountains and valleys. God is near to the brokenhearted. Cry out to Him.

8) Death stings and families grieve, no matter how old the deceased is.

9) God pursues me.

10) Staff, servants, and volunteers are precious.

11) As the Word says, Be ready in season and out.

12) Often people will come to you for help or counsel and you realize you’re more messed up than they are.

13) We all stumble and fall, some harder than others.

14) You can’t have success, wins, breakthroughs, and innovations without risks and failure.

15) Smaller churches and church plants are usually the most creative and innovative. I watch them for inspiration.

16) Weddings, funerals, and new births happen non-stop.

17) I’ve said it before: Sunday comes every week.

18) Baptisms are extremely important and special, never take them for granted.

19) When you arrive, never bash your predecessor. When you leave, never burn a bridge.

20) Sometimes God asks you to stay somewhere when you’re begging to leave.

21) Sometimes God asks you to leave when you want to stay and fight.

22) Never let a denominational affiliation keep you from pursuing friends in ministry. Some of my closest friends in ministry are from different denominations.

23) God can and often does speak through lost people to you. Most pastors don’t know any lost people. I said: Most pastors don’t know any lost people. You have to be intentional to get out beyond the four walls and form relationships with those that are not like you, don’t believe like you and may never enter the doors of your church.

24) Study doctrine and Scripture, but live grace. Jesus was full of grace AND truth. Model compassion, mercy, unconditional love, and unwavering integrity.

25) God’s creation/nature is His gift to you and should not be taken for granted. Let it refresh, refocus, encourage, and inspire you.

26) God changes lives. We simply get to partner with the genius of the Holy Spirit (as Dave Browning says). I’ve come to learn (the hard way) only God saves. Only God heals. Only God restores. And only God can set someone free from whatever they struggle with (pain, pride, addiction, you name it.)

27) Some people will refuse Christ. I have watched people with blinded eyes reject the Gospel and no academic or theological argument or debate could convince them of the truth. God has to draw them to Himself and open their eyes. You can’t debate someone into the Kingdom.

28) When you feel your weakest, God uses you mightily. The Word truly is a lamp unto my feet. Abide in Christ. Cling to Him. Rest in Him.

29) Don’t neglect your health. Prioritize your spiritual, physical, emotional, mental, relational, and financial health. Too many pastors have dried out spiritually. Too many pastors don’t eat well and exercise, thus not having healthy outlets for stress and anxiety. Hire a coach and/or see a professional counselor (both should be someone outside your congregation). Relational health is often over looked. Don’t use people. Be intentional about making friendships and prioritizing relationships with those inside and outside your congregation. Get and stay out of debt. Be an emotionally healthy leader. Constantly practice being self-aware. Go away on a retreat and ask God to reveal your blind spots and weaknesses to you. Ask for help. Get plenty of sleep and weekly rest. Take a vacation. Take a sabbatical. Encourage your staff to take vacations.

30) Always assume the best in others. Most people (not all) have good intentions. Don’t be quick to demonize others. Don’t be quick to rush to judgment. Give others the gift of trust. Until you are proven otherwise, assume the best. Note: Ask your leadership to do the same with you.

31) I’m thankful for my wife, my mom and step-dad, and a ton of precious people that consistently intercede and pray on my behalf. Don’t be afraid, ashamed or too proud to ask for prayer! Prayer warriors are Godsends.

32) Your spouse is along for your wild ride and weathers each storm with you. Sometimes things people say about you hurt them worse than you. Always listen to the counsel of your spouse. Make decisions as a couple and move forward together in-sync.

33) Leaders take bullets (from the Enemy and people). Better have your shield up. You cannot make everyone happy. Someone will not like you. Please try to accept that. Not even Presidents have a 100% approval rating. Leadership is not for the faint of heart. For the tenderhearted, yes, but you must be strong and courageous.

34) Don’t be a bully. Read that again. I don’t care if your DISC Profile says you’re a “High D.” Don’t be a bully. And NEVER shame anyone – not a staff member, not a leader, not a volunteer, not that guy that never serves, that person that never gives, not your congregation that doesn’t share their faith – no one. Never shame. Exhort and encourage. Lead and challenge, but be above shaming people into doing what you want them to do.

35) Your devotional life is key. Go too long without it and eventually you’ll get spiritually dry and crash and burn, or burnout. I’m speaking from personal experience. Allow God’s Living Word to refresh, revive, encourage, and guide you.

36) Real ministry happens in small groups. Corporate worship is wonderful, but I really see God move in home groups and recovery ministries like Celebrate Recovery and Divorce Care, etc. At my church, we say, Life happens best in circles, not rows.

37) When all is said and done, the people, the memories, those you’re closest to, those that are so special and you’re special to them, are because of unplanned, out-of-the-ordinary events, crises, emergencies, tragedies, etc. It’s hardly ever your job or what you get paid to do, or is on your job description that God uses to allow you to grow closer to an individual or group of people.

38) Life is messy. Don’t oversimplify. Spiritual and social issues are complicated and messy. Don’t oversimplify.

39) Please don’t just send people and money overseas if you’re ignoring your own city. Some of the poorest and most lost people in the world are in your community. The U.S. is the 4th largest unreached people group in the world. Christians in Africa send missionaries to us. Read that again.

40) In my experience, it seems every breakthrough or victory by God is followed (and often preceded) by attacks from the enemy. Be alert, full of hope, and don’t let the enemy steal your joy. The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

41) Leaders are readers. Leaders are life-long learners. Leaders are listeners. Never stop growing. Never stop being teachable. Never stop caring.

42) Lost people are not targets and notches on your belt. Be a champion of relationships. Don’t get a twisted philosophy of befriending someone just to convert them. Genuinely care for people whether or not they come to your church, accept Christ, or get baptized. People matter. Life is all about relationships.

43) Pride will sneak up on you. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal areas of pride, arrogance, boastfulness, and self-righteousness to you daily.

44) Have a mentor. I’ve been blessed over the years (and still am) with tremendous men twenty years older than me to pour into me, invest in my personal and professional life, and when needed, speak the truth in love to me.

45) Surround yourself with godly counsel. God will often speak through others to get your attention. There’s usually a grain of truth in every criticism. Dig deeper. Do some soul searching. Listen to feedback. Pay attention, and know when to acknowledge fault. Apologize when you mess up.

46) Pick your battles. Not every hill is worth dying on. Wisdom is knowing when to say, Yes. Let’s wait. or No.”

47) Lead by example. If you don’t build relationships with those in your community, don’t expect your congregation to. If you don’t serve others well (with grace, mercy, and compassion), don’t expect your congregation to.

48) Don’t mail it in. Whether you preach, sing, lead youth or children, create videos and communication pieces – whatever you do – do it as working for the Lord. Give your best effort. Have a value of excellence.

49) Less is more. I can sum up the book Simple Church (which I highly recommend) by saying, “You can accomplish more by doing less.” Most churches are too busy. Stop putting more things on your people’s calendars and encourage them to be involved in the community and an active parent at every ball game, piano recital, band concert, you name it – be present. I’ll add: Lead Pastors, don’t make a staff member choose between a church activity and a family activity. Our first ministry is to our family.

50) All of life – ALL of it – the good, the bad, the ugly, the highs, the lows, the struggles, the pains, the hurt, the sickness, death, and disease, the study of Scripture, prayer, godly counsel, hard lessons, your kids, your parents, your spouse, your friendships, your congregation and all its issues, your neighbors, your calling, your devotional life and spiritual disciplines… ALL of life is to conform you into the image of Christ. God has a purpose and He’s molding you, shaping you, pruning you, refining you, and making you into the image of His Son, as a part of the Body of Christ. Thank God for His work through you. Praise God for His constant work IN you. 

 

BONUS: Never lose sight of the faithfulness of God. Be a worshiper. Plan on finishing well and enjoying the journey. May I, and you, be found faithful.

 

I’ll end with 7 quotes from men I respect:

1) “The world for which we were trained no longer exists.” – Pete Briscoe

2) “We as a church don’t have a mission. The mission has a Church.” – Reggie McNeal

3) “As I look back over fifty years of ministry, I recall innumerable tests, trials and times of crushing pain. But through it all, the Lord has proven faithful, loving, and totally true to all his promises.” – David Wilkerson

4) “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” –  William Carey

5) “Go straight for souls, and go for the worst.” – William Booth

6) “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – C.S. Lewis

7) “Your greatest ministry will most likely come from your greatest hurt.” – Rick Warren

 

SO… What would you add? What are your life lessons? 

7 Simple Things You Can Do to Start the New Year Off Right

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2022 is coming upon us. Most people make new year resolutions like joining a gym, going on a diet, etc. I’d like to share 7 simple things you can do to get your new year started off right.

  1. Go on some sort of fast – Priorities and focus are more important at the start of a new year than resolutions that quickly fall by the wayside. You need to participate in some sort of fast from something you love to place your focus on God and make Him your priority. I’ve done short fasts, extended fasts, Daniel Fasts, movie and TV fasts, and most recently a technology fast. Since it’s not healthy for me not to eat due to some medicine I take, I recently fasted one month (30 days) from social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat… you name it) and all things technological. I was shocked to see how dependent (in a bad way) that I had become on them. Getting away from technology for a month allowed me to spend more time in Scripture, prayer, and with my family. It also gave me a healthy perspective on social media. I found myself wanting to post the silliest things that had no business being on Facebook. When I returned to social media, I had a new purpose and perspective and started using my social media platforms the right way. For some of you, it may be easier to go 30 days without eating than without social media. If that is the case, you have a problem and an intervention is needed. I’m kidding. Sort of.
  2. Get a watch – While I was on my recent fast from social media and technology, I found one thing happening over and over: My iPhone was constantly in my hand. I was attached to it. I realized that I always had it out, in my hand and would look at it during meetings, mealtime, and other rude and inappropriate times. I jokingly told my wife, “I just need to get a watch. Then I could keep my phone in my pocket.” Sure enough, while out of town speaking at a conference, I stopped in a shopping mall and bought a watch. Now my lunches, dinners, coffees, and meetings are different because I’m not constantly checking my phone and appearing rude to whoever I’m eating or meeting with. Everything is going mobile and we need a healthy boundary and perspective for this technology.
  3. Read a different kind of book – I’ve often said, “Leaders are readers.” To start the new year off right, I want to encourage you to read something completely different and out of your comfort zone. For two decades of ministry, I bragged about only reading non-fiction and said I had no time for fiction. Guess what? God opened my eyes that truth and beauty can be found in fiction. I recently watched “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” again and I found myself saying, “Tolkien was a genius and God had His hand on His writing.” God used that eye-opening movie to open my mind to reading books out of my wheelhouse. Maybe you only read Christian or ministry books and need to read a business book. Maybe you need to read a historical book or biography. Whatever may be your case, branch out this year and read something totally different. You’ll be better for it.
  4. Go on a retreat – At the last church I pastored I would go on two different retreats at the start of each year (in January). One was with our church’s Senior Leadership Team. One was with my campus staff. I would put a lot of time and effort into prepping for my campus staff retreat. I would think of things that my team needed to address, tackle and discuss. I would be sure to include plenty of social and bonding time as well. We also spent a great deal of time dreaming and talking strategy. There’s a lot of ideas and creative juices flowing at the start of a new year, coming off of the Christmas season and heading towards Easter. January or February is the perfect time to get away and pray, dream, create, plan, play, and bond.
  5. Go to a conference – I also try to take key staff to a conference in the early part of the year (pre-Easter). It’s another opportunity to get away, bond, and feed your professional side. I’ve often said I’ve learned far more at conferences over the years than I ever did at school. Going to a conference as a team could be just the boost your team needs. You must stay sharp in the ministry world and the new year is the perfect time to fill up your tanks (spiritually, mentally, creatively) and to just all around be inspired. Definitely plan on attending the 3-day online First Impressions Conference. This is a must-watch for your team and no travel is involved!
  6. Visit another church – This is my secret that I’ve kept for 20 years of ministry. Whenever I can, however I can, I take any opportunity to visit another church. Maybe I’m on vacation. Maybe I’m out of town at a conference. Maybe I go to a Saturday night service or a Sunday night service. For two decades, every chance I got, I visited other churches. Good and bad. I’ve visited almost all of the churches on the largest church list, as well as the fastest-growing list. I’ve learned what to do and what not to do (I’ve visited some bad churches, too). The key is to see something different than what you’ve grown accustomed to. You see the same church week in and week out, 48 to 50 Sundays a year. You have to be intentional and make it a priority to visit somewhere else and learn what you can. I can not stress enough how important this is.
  7. Set goals – I’m extremely driven and goals are essential to the innovation and strategic leader. It was the late great Zig Ziglar that said, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” At the beginning of last year, I asked my staff to turn in goals for the year for their area of ministry. You would have thought I had tortured them. It was like pulling teeth. I scratched my head in disbelief. Every staff member should set goals for his or her ministry area and then share them with the team. This is a concept called Goal Contagion. Scientists have found that you are dramatically more likely to accomplish your goals if you can see other people working on goals. You don’t even have to meet the person, simply reading about what they’re working on gives you a literal boost. As I have blogged about numerous times in the past, we must constantly be recruiting, equipping/training, and growing in our given areas of ministry. If you have 10 volunteers, make a goal to get to 20 volunteers. If you are bad with communication, make it a goal to communicate better this new year. If you’re bad with follow-up and assimilation, make it a goal to send out letters, emails, and make phone calls this new year, each week. Make goals to grow spiritually and professionally. If you lead a staff or team, think of developing personal growth plans for each of your team members and check in with them each week. Don’t wait until the year-end evaluation to tell someone how they’re doing. If someone is doing a poor job, it should not be a surprise to them in a year-end review. Read that again. Communicate and set clear, measurable goals.

* Do these 7 simple, but crucial things, and your new year will be off to a great start.

Greg Atkinson is The Virtual XP

Greg Atkinson is open (currently) to work with one to two churches as a virtual XP (Executive Pastor). Greg has no plans to move but is available to a church (ideal size is 500 to 1500 average attendance) that is looking to hire expertise and experience without the expense of a full-time staff member with benefits.

Greg has served every size church in his nearly three-decade ministry career, including being on staff at 3 different mega-churches. Greg has also been a consultant to some of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the US, with congregations of 30,000+.

Greg has worked with a number of coaching clients, but this is different and more intense, with more access to Greg, who would be flying in once a month to be onsite at your church. Throughout the week, Greg would be available via text, phone, and Zoom, as agreed to upon the retainer and what the client needs.

Greg can oversee staff and be a great support, friend, encourager, and counsel to the Lead Pastor and Senior Leadership of the church. You can read more about Greg here.

If you’d like to explore this option with Greg, please contact him at greg@gregatkinson.com.

10 Questions to Ask Your Congregation Before You Reopen

“When can we reopen our church?” That is the question that keeps getting asked. I want to help you make an informed decision.

Pastor Judah Smith recently said that now is a great time to survey your congregation. We wholeheartedly agree. Our fear is that church leaders and pastors may be assuming things that their people aren’t thinking or on the same page with. 

What if you have a church of 500 people but when you reopen the doors only 100 show up? What if all 500 show up, but your Governor has put social distancing guidelines and maximum occupancy numbers in place?

What if it takes 50 volunteers to pull off a Sunday, but only 10 return? 

What are you going to do about children’s ministry? How will you keep them safe?

Who is going to completely sanitize the church? How will that be communicated to the congregation? 

Will you be adding services? Will you be roping off seats and dividing up sections of the auditorium for seating?

What about the drive-in church? Many churches are talking about starting back outside (drive-in) first before going back inside the church building?

Will you continue to live stream and do all the online church stuff you’ve been doing the past month? 

Will you continue to pass the offering plate? How will you handle giving? Are you adding giving boxes and continuing to encourage online giving?

How will you celebrate Mother’s Day? 

These are things that must be thought through and discussed as church leaders.

Here are some sample questions for your congregational survey to get you thinking. Use whatever works best in your context:

 

  1. When is the soonest you would consider coming back to the church building?
  2. Would you come if we had a drive-in service?
  3. Do you expect the church to provide you a mask?
  4. If you volunteer, are you planning to volunteer in the same spot if we reopen?
  5. If you have kids, will you be putting your kids in children’s ministry?
  6. Do you want the church to serve coffee and refreshments? (If you used to)
  7. When churches resume worship services in their facilities, will you be more likely to attend services in person, or online?
  8. In the last 6 weeks, how many times have you watched services online?
  9. How many times a month do you typically attend church?
  10. Have you ever given online to our church?
  11. Are you comfortable with us passing the offering plate?
  12. Are you comfortable with us serving Communion?
  13. Are you in favor of us rolling out house churches/small groups of 10 people to get back to meeting together physically until it is safe to do so at our full size?

Survey creation and sharing options:

SurveyMonkey.com

Google forms

Gravity form

JotForm

Formstack

Typeform.com

Your church’s ChMS (Example: FaithTeams, Tithely, Rock, Planning Center, CCB, Fellowship One, etc.)

 

SO… When you do decide to open up, here are some great resources like hand sanitizer stations from my friends at Outreach.

 

Articles and resources for consideration as you make these decisions:

 

https://www.whitehouse.gov/openingamerica/

 

https://www.aei.org/research-products/report/national-coronavirus-response-a-road-map-to-reopening/

 

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/church-after-quarantine-5-strategic-questions-help-your-ted-vaughn/

 

https://kenbraddy.com/2020/04/18/20-questions-your-church-should-answer-before-people-return/

 

24 More Questions the Church Should Ask Before People Return

 

https://www.tnbaptist.org/reopen

 

https://www.columbiametro.org/relaunching-your-congregation/

 

https://medium.com/@pastorbrandonweddle/how-to-re-open-your-church-after-covid-19-bd10ad5b2fd6

 

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/april/what-relaunching-church-might-look-like-over-next-312-month.html

 

https://www.ministrytogether.com/what-to-do-now-as-we-enter-coronavirus-phase-2/

 

https://www.vanderbloemen.com/reopening-church

 

https://www.vanderbloemen.com/blog/reopening-the-church-after-covid19

 

https://malphursgroup.com/ready-to-reopen-church-checklist/

 

https://www.smartchurchsolutions.com/blog/church-facility-re-opening-checklist

 

https://stateofthechurch.com/churchpulseweekly

 

*** For a free downloadable PDF of this resource along with tons of other resources for the Church and Coronavirus (including free webinars), join the Weekend Worship and Guest Services Facebook group and join the discussion of 13,000 church leaders from around the world sharing resources. You can join for free HERE.

SO… When you do decide to open up, here are some great resources like hand sanitizer stations and face masks from my friends at Outreach.

*** If you’d like a downloadable copy of this resource of top questions to ask to pass out to your leadership team, click HERE.

How Your Church’s Website Homepage Should Look

For well over a decade I’ve evaluated church’s online presence across North America. For over 200 churches, I’ve critiqued their social media and website and given them feedback – all without having to get on an airplane. If you’d like to hire me to evaluate your church’s online presence like I talked about on Carey Nieuwhof’s podcast, go HERE to get more details.

However, many of the things that I looked for and advised are no longer relevant. For example, people don’t need to see a homepage with service times and directions like I’ve always advised. They don’t need to see an “I’m New” or “What to Expect” or “Plan Your Visit” button.

Now, in the midst of the Coronavirus, you should have an overhaul of your church’s homepage.

Here’s what people need to see when they go to your church’s website:

  • Online services (You should have your messages/services playing on your home page).
  • Online small groups
  • Online giving
  • Links to social media (Facebook and YouTube)
  • Daily Devotionals (if you do them)
  • Links to what you’re doing in your community

Here are some great churches for you to get inspiration from:

PRO-TIP: You don’t have to stream your service once a week (Sunday at 11am for example). You can have multiple services play throughout the week. As a matter of fact, you could be delivering online content to your people daily. Set up your service to play on-demand!

BONUS: Also, why not do daily devotionals? Why not use an online connection card like my friends at Vous Church? Get creative.

SPECIAL SHOUT OUT AND RECOGNITION TO MY FRIENDS AT ACCESS CHURCH THAT I CONSULTED WITH: https://couch.church/

I’ve been saying: “Digital = Daily” – Greg Atkinson

 

*** Since I’m grounded and not traveling like I normally do for secret shopper consultations, I can do more of my Package Three (online presence evaluations). I can evaluate your church’s social media, website, and online service. If this is something that interests you, go HERE for more details.

*** Looking to start using a true ChMS/church database with online giving built-in? Have you seen that FaithTeams is offering a FREE 60-day trial due to the Covid virus? Sign-up HERE.

*** My small church plant got up-and-going in minutes with our online giving through Tithe.ly. Here’s my link to them.

 

HAPPY EASTER!

  • Here are some essential and insightful thoughts from my friend Carey Nieuwhof about this first all digital Easter. Check them out HERE.
  • Here are all kinds of FREE Easter resources from Life.Church HERE.

Why I’ve Been Blogging For the Past 12 Years

Before I tell you why I blog, let me start with how I got into blogging. In the summer of 2006, my friend Don Chapman of WorshipIdeas.com, was visiting me in Dallas. I was driving to Oklahoma City to speak at a conference and Don came with me. It was about a 3 hour drive and I started sharing some ideas, resources and new companies that I had come across. Don directly and boldly said, Dude, you have got to start blogging. Church leaders would really benefit from what you’re sharing with me.

Not only that, that night Don went online to GoDaddy and bought the domain name: ChurchVideoIdeas.com and said, Here you go. Now get to blogging! I started a cheesy-looking WordPress blog and the rest is history. Thanks to my great Charter Sponsors, I was able to give my blog a face-lift. It’s been through several design changes over the years.

The why is simple. I have a heart for the Church (capital C). My heart and passion is for the Kingdom and equipping Church leaders, that’s why I write, that’s why I consult, that’s why I speak at conferences. I love Christ’s Bride and want to be a friend, helper, encourager and equipper to Church leaders around the world.

Praise God, people actually care what I have to say. I’m blessed that thousands of Church leaders from around the world read and share this blog each week. That, to me, is surprising, shocking and extremely humbling. Almost every day I receive an email from a Church leader asking me a question and many of you reading this, who have sent me an email, hopefully have seen that I try to answer your email promptly and to the best of my knowledge.

The truth is: I don’t know it all. I don’t even come close. I just share what I’ve learned on my journey and if I think someone else can answer your question better, I point you in their direction. What would I like to change? I’d love to see more interaction on this blog. More of you making comments. There are a couple each day, but I can see (via my tracker) that a ton of you are reading this blog or receiving it via RSS or email, but apparently not commenting. I always try to pose some type of question and ask for your feedback, ideas and I sincerely want to hear what you’re doing in your own ministry setting.

SO, with that being said… I’m glad Don talked me into blogging, I’m grateful to God for the sponsors that make all this possible, I praise God that he’s given me a passion and desire to write something fresh each day and I’m humbled, honored and excited that you are reading this and we have this cool sort-of virtual connection. What a great time to be alive! By the way, give a look (over to the right) at my sponsors and check them out. I’m only partner with people I believe in.

My blog was also selected as one of the Top 35 Blogs Christian Leaders Need to Read in 2018. This blog is listed with ChurchLeaders.com, Pastors.com, Michael Hyatt’s blog, and others. I’m honored! You can read the list HERE.

As always, I want to again mention that I love meeting you in real life, too. If you’re ever in Charlotte, let me know. If we’re at the same conference, let me know. I’m speaking and traveling a lot this Fall. You can hear me teach at the First Impressions Fall Conference in Atlanta in September and the SALT Conference in October. If we’re at the same event, conference or school, hit me up!

So, to wrap up: Glad to be blogging. Glad you’re reading. Hope you’ll continue to. Hope you’ll comment and add to the discussion. Also, feel free to email me questions or suggestions of topics to blog about. You rock!

The State of the Plate 2016

Nationwide survey shows many churches saw declining or flat giving in 2015, while at the same time seeing the need for modern digital giving solutions.

For a copy of the 19-page report with ten key findings, seven graphs, and recommended resources to increase church giving go to our Sponsor, Tithe.ly’s page here

In the 6th installment of the ground-breaking research on church giving authored by Brian Kluth of Maximum Generosity, we asked nearly 1,600 survey participants from mainline, evangelical, non-denominational, and other Christian groups to report on their giving patterns and practices.

The findings from the 2016 survey reveal a dramatic shift in giving over the past three years, compared to the last time the survey was conducted in 2013.

Giving has flat-lined or decreased for the majority of those surveyed, which has many churches scrambling to implement more modern giving solutions.

Key findings from the 2016 State of the Plate survey:

  • 59% of churches surveyed reported flat-lined or decreased giving over the period 2015 to 2016. (A previous survey from 2013 revealed 53% of churches had an increase in giving that year.)
  • Only 41% of churches surveyed saw giving increase by 5% or more.
  • 79% of churches surveyed offer website giving (up from 29% in 2010), 46% offer cell phone/text/app giving (up from 4% in 2010), and 32% have a kiosk/iPad in the lobby for in-person digital giving.
  • Generous church giving is not limited to the older generations. 63% of those in their 20s-30s give 10% or more to their church.
  • Only 41% of those surveyed said they give weekly, while 46% give once or twice a month.
  • The top five reasons for missing church services are: out of town (74%), sickness (42%), serving during the worship service (16%), social commitments (13%), and had to work (14%).

DOWNLOAD REPORT

 

*** Go here for more about tithing in the bible.

The Results of a 2015 Pastors Survey

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The following are the results of the 2015 Pastor Survey conducted by ExPastors.com. I think you’ll find them very insightful. I also encourage you to participate in the 2016 Pastor Survey, which is currently going on and has new and improved questions to help us collect more data to better serve the ExPastors community. Please know these surveys are totally anonymous.

We wished to concern ourselves with getting accurate information on issues ranging from burnout and finances, to work hours and the demands on families With this objective in mind, we also chose to make our survey confidential and allow the option to answer basic demographic questions, the only exception being the initial question of whether the person filling out the survey was or was not currently serving in the role of pastor.

The 2015 Pastors Survey

Of the following, which is most accurate:
I am a pastor (170 / 62%)
I am an ex-pastor (89 / 32%)
I stepped away from the pastorate but am now serving as pastor again (16 / 6%)

At any time during your pastorate, have you doubted your call to ministry?
Yes (165 / 60%)
No (110 / 40%)

Would you consider yourself overworked?
Yes (166 / 60%)
No (109 / 40%)

At times, do you feel unable to meet the demands of the job?
Yes (222 / 81%)
No (53 / 19%)

Do you feel there are/were unrealistic demands or unwritten expectations of you and your family?
Yes (225 / 82%)
No (50 / 18%)

Have you ever considered leaving the ministry?
Yes (234 / 85%)
No (41 / 15%)

Do you constantly fight depression?
No (146 / 53%)
Yes (129 / 47%)

Do you consider yourself lonely?
Yes (174 / 63%)
No (101 / 37%)

Would you consider yourself having experienced burnout?
Yes (212 / 77%)
No (63 / 23%)

Do you have anyone you consider a close friend or someone you can share your struggles or burdens with?
Yes (207 / 75%)
No (68 / 25%)

Have you or a family member experienced a conflict with a church member within the last month?
No (158 / 57%)
Yes (117 / 43%)

What is the size of your church?
40-200 (147 / 55%)
200-450 (41 / 15%)
400-800 (28 /10%)
Below 40 (27 /10%)
800-2000 (21 /8%)
2000+ (4 /1%)

Next Step

Please fill out the 2016 Pastor Survey so that ExPastors.com may better serve you. Thanks.

Have You Heard of ExPastors.com?

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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!

The One and Only XP-Seminar

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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 America—people 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.

 

*** Go here for more on tithing in the bible.