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When we look at Scripture, we can see that Jesus continually spent time with people. It wasn’t Plan B for him, it was his whole mission. He had a desire to be with people and could often be found in small and large gatherings. Somewhere in our culture, we have lost site of the fact that God works best in and through relationships. We build programs and we create environments that are designed to ‘reach people’. However, we have become great at trying to reach people at arms length. We focus on the big picture without realizing that eternal differences are made one relationship at a time. We are often so busy in this culture that it becomes very difficult to carve out time to just love on people. And as a result, organizations are formed, but relationships are distant. We can’t expect to make a difference in our communities if we aren’t willing to spend time with people in real life, day-to-day environments.
I want to give you four reasons to invest time in cultivating personal relationships.
1. Ministry equals Relationships. Ministry is the ability to touch people at their needs. It is simply to discover what is taking place in the lives of people around us and meet them there. We can’t expect to meet the needs of people around us if we keep our distance from the people around us. When we love people where they are, that is ministry. When we demonstrate the love of God by valuing those who are hurt and broken, those who are searching for hope in this world, we can make an eternal difference. This happens best when we personally invest our lives in the lives of people. We must work side by side to make a difference for Christ.
2. Discipleship equals Relationships. We can impart knowledge in many different environments. However, the ability to share or gain knowledge is not discipleship. Discipleship is living life together in a way that we not only learn the truth of the Bible, but we also learn how to apply it to our lives on a daily basis. Proverbs 27:17 tells us that as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. This simple principle teaches us that we are more likely to become who it is God has designed us to be as we spend time in Godly relationships. He uses other people in our lives to sharpen and shape us for His glory.
3. Life equals Relationships. Our culture is moving more and more toward a culture of isolation. We are actually moving away from intimacy and accountability with others and replacing it with a technology substitute. In this day and age of social media, we can feel like we are connected to people because we see what is taking place in their lives because of Facebook, Twitter and other media. We also can freely share happenings in our day through these avenues as well. The result is we feel as though we are connected to people without having any accountability for our actions daily. The questions we need to ask ourselves is “Who would we turn to if we really had a need?” Is there anyone in your life right now that you can turn to with life’s toughest questions? Is there anyone you’re close enough to (besides your spouse) that you would feel comfortable talking to about your struggles? The truth is that God created us to live life in a culture of relationships. Without these kinds of relationships, we are missing out on a big part of what life designed to be. We are missing out on the opportunity to experience him in greater ways. When we come to the end of our lives, we won’t want a bigger portfolio or to have climbed one more rung on the ladder of success, we will look back and view relationships as our biggest assets in life.
4. God loved us so much that He wanted a Relationship with us. God demonstrated that relationships are important by desiring a relationship with us. He became one of us, lived here on the earth in bodily form and did not sin. He went to the cross to pay the price for all of our sins and rose from the dead to create the opportunity for us to have a personal relationship with Him. That is powerful in itself. God loved us in spite of who we were, in spite of what we’ve done. He loved us not because of who we were, but because of who we could become. He simply asks that we believe in Him. He made the first step in coming to us in order to have a relationship with us. Let’s follow His example and make the first step in building relationships with those around us.
Relationships aren’t secondary in our lives, they should be a primary purpose of all that we do. The only thing in this world that is eternal is people. So let’s intentionally invest in eternity, by spending time with people. Let’s work hard at not seeing people for what they’ve done, but who they could become in Christ. Extend grace when possible and enjoy the opportunity to spend time with those he died to save. Make room in your schedule to have people in your home, in your activities, in your life. As you do this, you’ll begin to notice a change not only in your perspective of people, but of what it is God has for you to do while you’re here on this earth.
- Discipleship is Relational (cwoznicki.wordpress.com)
I believe that the church, when it follows a Biblical model, is an unstoppable force in the community. It can make a difference in every aspect of it. As individuals, we all play a part in accomplishing this. God designed the church to be made up of individual parts, but work in unison together to accomplish something that is bigger than all of us. When everyone joins together to become who God made them to be, Scripture tells us that even the gates of Hell will not be able to stand up against the church. We can have power in our lives and in our church, not because of who we are, but because of who He is.
He is the Creator of all things and still works to hold it all in place. He is the Sacrifice who gave his life and died in our place. He is the Savior who rose from the grave. He is our Redeemer who personally forgives our sins. He is our strength to live beyond ourselves each day. He is our hope of what can be when we put our trust in Him.
Because of him, I believe that the church can do great things. I believe that it can make a difference. As the church, God can work through even small things to accomplish great things. Imagine a place where hurt people can find peace, where the poor can find relief, where the grieving can find hope. Imagine a place where those who are broken can be made whole again. That place is the church.
In the book of Acts we find that at different times there are descriptions given on how the church is growing. Acts 1:15 tells us the church numbered 120 believers. In Acts 2:41 we find that believers were being added daily. This continues to grow as we look at Acts 5:14, believers were increasingly added to the Lord. Acts 6:1 notates that the number of disciples were increasing in number. Then in Acts 6:7 we find that the number of disciples were multiplying greatly. It is obvious that the church here is beginning to move from simply picking up a few people here and there to growing exponentially. Multitudes are turning to the Lord. There are a few things that I see happen in Acts 6:1-7 that causes some increased momentum for the early church and can have the same effect for our churches as well.
Four Simple actions that can create multiplying results.
1. Solve problems quickly. Anytime you have growth, you have growing pains. And we see that the church is definitely growing. So much so that some of the widows were being neglected. This was a real problem. In the context of scripture, this was a matter of life and death for many. But we find in the passage that the apostles didn’t drop everything to take care of this. They realized the need and knew something needed to change, but also knew that they weren’t the ones to handle the change. Problems have a way of forcing change in any organization, but it doesn’t have to stop the forward progress of what may already be happening. If allowed to, problems can lead to focusing on internal needs of the church rather than the external mission of the church. As things change in our church, we have a choice of whether to be a part of the solution or a part of the problem. Our goal should be to glorify God and be used by Him to solve problems quickly. When problems arise, we can take those problems as opportunities to further the work of the church but at the same time keep the focus of the church in check.
2. Set your priorities correctly. The apostles set their priorities as prayer and the ministry of the word. They knew that these were two areas of the church that could not be neglected for any reason. Stepping away from these two areas would have devastating effects on the spiritual life of the growing church. Prayer releases the power of God in our lives and in our church. Without it we essentially cripple the work we are trying to do. The ministry of the word gives us the only true source of truth that can change people. It is easy to get caught up in running programs in the church and lose sight of the main purpose of the church. When the program or system becomes the end goal, we have lost sight of our purpose. We should be seeking to reach people at all times, laying a foundation of prayer and ministering the word as we go.
3. Share the responsibility. The apostles delegated portions of the ministry needs to others. They didn’t try to do it all themselves. We should be always in the process of including more people in the work of the ministry. There are a lot of good things to do in the church, but each of us will only have a few God things that He has called us to. The apostles knew what their God thing was and stuck to it. They could have added some more good things in, but that would have taken away from their God thing. At the same time, God had men He had been preparing to do this specific God thing that was needed in scripture. Let people take ownership of specific areas. We should encourage people to do their part and find a place to serve within the church. This actually multiplies the results and effectiveness of ministry.
4. Saturate everything in prayer. I know we have already looked at this, but it’s worth repeating. The very first thing they did when they started wasn’t getting a food pantry started, developing a Widows in Need program or getting a list of names of all of those who were being neglected. They didn’t just jump in and start working. We see in the scripture that the apostles laid their hands on them and prayed. We could see a lot more happen in our lives, in our families, in our churches and in our communities if we would really take hold of the power of prayer. Prayer has a way of changing the world around us. It can and does make a difference. Matthew 7:7 tells us to ask. This requires us to admit we don’t have all the answers and we aren’t in control. But it also requires us to admit that we know that God is in control. He can make a difference in our churches if we let Him.
If we want to see a multiplication movement take place in and through the church, we must place prayer and the word as a priority. Also we must make it a part of our culture to raise up leaders who will share the load. When we do things in our power, we get what we can do. When we do things through prayer, we get what God can do.
Imagine you go to 2 restaurants. One has paint coming off the walls, the table is kept from rocking by some cardboard shoved under one leg, a dead fly is on the table when you sit down, the menus have some sort of sticky residue on them, and you’re treated like you’re intruding on someone else’s time. This environment will effect your attitude toward the meal you are about to eat. You order a steak, but you’re not certain that’s what they brought you. The end result is that your experience was less than perfect. The other restaurant has just the right lighting, not too bright, not too dark. You’re treated like you’re family. The menu’s are clean. The tables are clean. Everything seems to be good. This environment will effect your attitude toward the meal you are about to eat. You order a steak. It’s just what you were hoping for and as a result you’ll definitely be back.
Imagine you go to 2 hotels. One was built in 1970. It was modern in it’s day, but over the past 40+ years it’s lost its’ appeal. The burnt orange carpet is no longer ”fancy”. The dark paneling is dented and scarred from years of guests coming and going. Even the clothing worn by the front desk personnel is dated. It’s almost as if you walked back in time to 1970. It’s really no longer a relevant environment. And you’re hoping that the bed is newer than 35 years old. The other hotel was built the same year. The difference is that it just underwent renovation to bring it up to date. It will still serve the save purpose. It’s just a little more relevant. A fountain and greenery were installed in the lobby. Large tile floors, abstract painting, new furnishings and much more were included in the renovation. You can immediately feel a sense of relaxation when you walk into this environment.
The truth is that we make our choices of restaurants, hotels, even where we want to watch a movie because we like the environments that are there. Environments are important to how we respond to situations. This is true for our worship as well. As far back as Genesis, we find environments of worship being created. In Genesis 8:20, Noah built an altar for a sacrifice to God. This had to be built before he could worship. We also find that Solomon built the temple. Following God’s leadership, he built it with only the best gold and precious jewels. Nothing was spared. This was to be the house of God. The environment had to be suitable. We even have current examples of environments of worship.
Today, God doesn’t dwell so much in a place as much as he does within us. However, to be able to reach the world that we live in we must be aware of the importance of environments. The world around us uses a variety of gadgets, computer graphics and technology to communicate in large environments. Because of this, we have to be aware that what we do in an environment of worship is important.
Our goal is to create worship environments that are appealing, relevant, changing and current. Probably the best example of what we attempt to accomplish is our own homes. When we have people over, we attempt to make them feel welcome and comfortable as our guests. We put our best foot forward by making sure our house is clean (usually). We want the decorations to look good and for everything to be in its’ place. We don’t hold back! It’s only the best for our guests. And we may even surprise them with a few unexpected things.
So what does this mean for us as we develop environments of worship where we are? How do we create a relevant environment for worship and what exactly does that mean? There are a few things that are important.
1. The People. We need people who are contagious. This is the most important aspect of setting our environment. Attitude counts! We’re not a looking for a fake personality, but a genuine excitement for what God is going to do. From the time people arrive on any day of worship, we set the stage for worship. A Guest Services team should be ready to greet people at the door to invite and encourage them to worship. They create an environment in the refreshment area and meet and greet people there. Praise singers, audio visual, children’s workers, instrumentalists, greeters and others all play a vital role in creating an environment of worship. That’s why people are a vital key to a successful environment.
2. The Decorations. Cleanliness is important. We should have an inviting place to come and worship and for our guests to come and worship. Don’t be afraid to change things up. Create fresh looks by using new banners and graphics. Change is a good thing because it helps keep us from falling into a rut or a routine. We set the stage for our environment by providing a visually stimulating environment. Everything works together. Those who work on cleaning the property, maintaining the property or decorations all work together to help create an important aspect of our environments …
3. The Gadgets. We live in a technical world. Any concert you go to is maxed out with lights and sound and visuals that are top of the line. Check out the computer graphics in movies these days. It’s amazing what can be accomplished by the stoke of a key on a keyboard. To reach this computer driven age, we must be relevant. Our technology and audio visual is important in creating a relevant and current environment. It’s important to realize how these just aren’t extras if we want them anymore. They are things that are expected as much as hymn books were expected in many churches.
4. The Unexpected. Everyone likes being entertained. Although church is not “an entertainment”, it’s not intended to be boring either. One of the main reasons people go to different concerts, movies and more is because they’re looking for the unexpected. So let’s plan to be unexpected in what we do when we worship God. We can change our flow of worship, change how things are presented, and even change how things look. As we create the unexpected in our worship, we must always stay true to the truth of the Bible. That is one thing we cannot change! Scripture demonstrates that God has been worshiped in a variety of different ways throughout history. As we do things that are unexpected, it allows us to worship God in fresh ways.
We need to realize that we all have a role in creating an environment of worship whether we’re the Pastor or have just been worshiping for a short time. Because of this, we need to plan ahead. What attitude do we need to have? What needs to be cleaned up? What needs to be changed or added? What are some creative things that can be done to engage people in worship? How can we have a sense of worship that is contagious? Everything we do works together to create an environment of worship. Our Worship involves the whole body. Once the environment is set, we can let the worship begin!
A few years back I was reading a book on leadership by John MacArthur. In that book there was a statement that leadership wasn’t the ability to manage people or details, but the ability to inspire others to follow. It went on to communicate that leaders don’t exist without followers. This thought challenged me because I had always been a good “manager”, but had to start evaluating how effective I was at being a leader. As I started to think through this, some areas started to become obvious to me as a pastor.
1. We are not managers, but Spiritual Leaders. A manager can direct traffic in any organization simply by conveying a list of things that need accomplished. As spiritual leaders, we have the opportunity to move people from following out of a sense of obligation, to following because they believe in the goals we set out. We must convey the goals and the overall vision in such a way that it inspires people and motivates them to become something more than they could ever have imagined. We can’t just do this with good, persuasive words. It must be accompanied with much prayer and discernment on our part. We should see that, as spiritual leaders, we must spend time daily with our Leader and Lord. This should be a priority in our schedules if we ever hope to accomplish anything for Him as we lead.
2. Relationships Matter. A manager can function apart from any real relationship with those that are managed. Again, it’s simply conveying a list of things that need to be accomplished and the people who do it are just a means to an end. As a spiritual leader, we must follow the example of Christ in what we do. If we examine how He was able to have such a broad impact, we can see that He invested His life in people through relationships. We can look at His relationship with the disciples and see that these were the people He poured into. How were they able to go on and turn their world upside down? It’s because they had been inspired by their leader through their relationship with Him to become leaders of others. We should make it a point to invest in the lives of the people and leaders we lead.
3. Direction Matters. We must be able to cast a vision for where we are going. For those who follow, they want to know that what they are doing has value. They want to see that it accomplishes an overall purpose or goal. No one likes busy work. No one wants to look back and see that they have just been working in circles and have nothing to show for it. We must constantly remind those we lead where we are leading them to. What is our purpose? How will this grow the kingdom? How will this impact the church? How will it help those who are hurting? As we have one on one conversations with people, lunch with people, meetings with groups, we must always restate the vision in different ways and in different settings. This allows us to remind them, as well as ourselves, where we are going.
4. Grace is necessary. As a manger in the work force, I would often find myself in situations where policies were broken by employees and action would have to be taken. There were often times where I had to go in and demote people or terminate people from their positions because of their actions. But as a Spiritual Leader, it’s not just a matter of enforcing policies. Although, we do desire that people work within the boundaries laid out. We must be consistently communicating with those we lead. If there is a situation or confrontation that needs to take place, it must be done in grace. This doesn’t mean that we allow people a free pass to do whatever they want or to work against the vision or direction of the ministry. It simply means that we are not the judge and jury. We all do the wrong thing sometimes and we need people to come into our lives and lovingly guide us and correct us. In these times we should follow Matthew 18 and talk with those who may have offended us one on one. I have discovered that some clear communication at this time can go a long way to restoring and refocusing everyone on the overall vision and direction. I’m reminded of Peter’s denial of Jesus at the cross. Jesus knew it was coming, but it must have been devastating to Peter. But Jesus showed him grace and Peter became one of the key leaders in the early church. Grace can go a long way.
5. Truth matters. We should always be honest as we lead. Everyone wants to follow those who have a strong character and live in integrity. Grace is important, but it must always be measured with truth. If someone is living in sin and/or refusing to follow spiritual leadership it must be confronted sooner rather than later. If we sweep it under the rug or just hope it will go away, we can actually do more damage than addressing the issue. We shouldn’t confront people in anger, but in truth. If our emotions are high, we must take some time to pull away and pray. It’s amazing how some time alone with God can change our perspective on situations. Often, it becomes less about us and more about Him. When this happens, we can address people from the truth of God instead of a personal agenda.
These aren’t intended to cover everything about Spiritual Leadership, but is a good place to start. Just working through these has reminded me of some areas that I can focus on more in order to be a better leader. What are some thoughts on Leadership you might could add to this?
- 6 Character Traits of a Spiritual Leader (whostrengthensme.wordpress.com)
- Ten Characteristics of a Spiritually Plateaued Leader (garyrohrmayer.typepad.com)
Many churches start their new budgets in September. So with that in mind, I am writing this blog post with a few thoughts on creating a budget. I’ve been working with budgets for years; personally, in business settings and in ministry settings. One thing I have learned is that you do not set a budget based on what you need, but on what you have available. A budget says “If” we bring in this amount of money, this is how we are going to spend it. They are actually designed to focus on making effective use of income rather than searching for money for expenses. With that said, you should always start with a clear understanding of your income for the set time period. When you are calculating this, you should never use percentages of increase to project your budget. Always use real numbers. If the past two quarters showed an increase of $2,000 each, trends would tell us that there is a good chance that the next quarter will show and increase of around the same amount if all other factors stay the same.
Projecting Your Income:
- Numerical Projection: Determine what your history has been. You can look over a given history to help you in looking forward. If possible, use at least two to three years of history to get a clear picture of giving. Use this picture to identify trend of giving based on your history. If in looking at the previous two to three years, you see that each year you had an increase of $50,000 annually, then you can project that conservatively you will see $50,000 in additional giving in the coming year. You don’t go up on your projected giving until you have a track record that shows your giving can increase. Use real numbers.
- Per Capita Projection: What is your per capita giving? Take your average attendance and take your average weekly income for the year and divide it. You will come up with the per capita income per person per week. (The longer the length of time is for your averages, the more accurate your per capita giving will be.) You then can use your average attendance and your projected attendance to make an calculated per capita projection.
Calculate both the numerical projection and the per capita projection and compare these together. If there is a huge difference between these, you may need to look at what some variables may be that would be causing a huge difference. Have there been some huge one time gifts? If so, you may need to pull these out because they are skewing your results. I’ve found that, generally, using both of these calculation methods put me very close to the same projections. Once you determine an annual projection using real numbers, you can begin to move forward. It is a good idea to be conservative on your projections. You can always do more with increased giving, it’s harder to cut back from initial projections when the giving falls short. Conservative budgets also will give your staff freedom to spend their budget as it is needed.
Creating Your Budget:
Once you have a good understanding of your estimated income you can then create A, B and C budgets. The A budget is if God really blesses and everything goes right (could be anywhere from 10 to 20% above budget). The C budget is if things get tight and things go wrong (maybe 10 to 20% below budget). The B budget is the primary operating budget and this allows shifting up or down. You need to plan all three budgets in advance. It’s easier to make alternate plans in advance than when you’re in the middle of the storm. As you create these, have a simple one page broad budget by major categories. Don’t get too detailed, just list general categories (i.e Children’s Ministry, Student Ministry, Evangelism etc…) Have 2 or 3 line items in your budget that are open and flexible, these could be designated as “Special Projects & Events”, “Ministry Expansion”, etc… This gives you opportunity to also meet needs as they arise through the year using these categories. When you are assigning dollar amounts to budgeted areas, don’t make it so tight that ministries can’t function. Allow room for flexibility.
Filling in the Details:
Look at the overall pie and determine the percentage of the pie that goes toward Staff. Keep in mind that churches are largely volunteer in structure, so we need staff to lead them. Only use percentages for allocations. Payroll should be no more than 50 to 55% of budget. If your payroll is below 30% you are probably understaffed or not paying your staff enough. Building needs should be 20% of budget. Missions should be at least 10% of budget (this is all missions including international, national, state and local). Areas of Ministry should be 10% of budget. This leaves 5 to 10% for other areas.
You need to know your seasons so you can manage cash flow. When is your biggest quarter? When is your weakest quarter? Are there times in the year that the cash flow expenses may naturally increase, but at the same time the cash flow income slows down? Generally first quarter is going to be one of the strongest quarters. At the same time, the end of second quarter and third quarter can also be a struggle. Have a plan of action in place for if you consistently miss budget. When will you move to “C” Budget?
If possible, allow your ministries to have the same budget as previous year plus half of the planned overall percentage of increase. (i.e. if after you determine your dollar amount projection, you determine it will be a 8% increase, allow each ministry to increase their budget by 4%.) Then look at what was spent in each ministry. Identify growing ministries that may need slightly more of an increase to cover needs. Prior to having the staff develop their budgets, give them the specific dollar amount they will have to spend for the year. Don’t give percentages or expect them to calculate their overall budget. Once they have their overall budget, have the staff submit 3 budget requests. The first request is their General Budget Request (this will match the number they have been given). The second request is a One Time Request. This is when a ministry has an expense that is not a reoccurring expense. The third request is a Ministry Expansion Request. This is to expand their current ministry into a new area that will be an ongoing part of the ministry from that point forward.
Don’t think you have to spend surplus just because you have it. At the same time, you shouldn’t hoard what God has given to the church just because you’re not sure about what will happen in six months. We serve a big God who is capable of providing our every need. You can set aside a Cash Forward Reserve (2 to 4 weeks of operating budget) in a separate account so that if things slow down, you have a few weeks to make budget adjustments. Anything past this amount would be considered idle money. One of the principles from the parable of the talents is that God hates idle money. It should be put into play for the Kingdom. Not doing so will limit God’s blessings on your church. Our faith is in God, not in our money.
Note: You should never promote that you are behind on budget. People do not want to give to a sinking ship or a need, they want to give to a compelling vision. So promote a compelling vision. What is God doing? Where is He leading? What needs can be met? Make it a habit to talk vision at every opportunity. It is also good to identify your annual turnover rate of individuals/families in your church. This number is good to know as it will help you not only understand the importance in developing a culture of giving in your church, but also realize that every year there is a portion of your income that is always changing.
I recently had the opportunity to fly to a couple of different areas of the country. On both instances, I noticed that, although, the airplane was the source of travel, there were a lot of things in place to make sure that both the passengers and the plane were able to make it to where it was supposed to go. For the passengers, there is a solid system in place of what happens with luggage, what happens with passengers, what happens at security check-points and even what happens when boarding the plane. For the airplane itself, there are teams of people directing and guiding the plane to where it should be. Additionally, the airplane is pointless without a runway for takeoff. Someone had to think of how all of this would work in order to accomplish the overall purpose of actually riding an airplane from where you are to where you want to go. A system is simply a plan or structure for doing something that will consistently get you from where you are to where you want to be.
In ministry, our main goal is helping people become who it is God has made them to be by reaching them where they are and helping them to get where God wants them to go. That is our goal. But how do we get there? Is there a process, a system, strategy, or a structure in place that will serve as the runway? The truth is, many times we want the big goal, but fail to put a system in place to accomplish it. I’ve noticed that having a system or structure is, in fact, a Biblical principle. If you examine Scripture, you start to discover that God is a God of order and plans. He has overall goals that He wants to accomplish, but He usually uses a system to accomplish it. Explore the first chapter of Genesis, the book of Nehemiah, Jesus sending out the disciples, the plan laid out in The Great Commission, Acts 1:8, God’s redemptive plan of Salvation. In all of these, you can see some sort of structure that was used to move toward the desired goal.
I’ve also noticed that not only is structure a Biblical principle, it is also necessary for us to be able to efficiently accomplish the overall goal. Below are a few things that help us better understand how it is necessary:
A system is necessary to:
- Focus our Efforts. We need to work smarter, not harder. In order to do this, we must have a plan to include others in the ministry.
- Minister in our Context. There are needs that exist around us that can’t be met if we don’t PLAN to meet them.
- Work with a Team. If we’re going to all work together in the same direction with the same goals, it must be structured.
- Communicate Clearly. We should be able to communicate our vision and our plans simply enough that even a fifth grader can understand them.
- Stretch our Faith. As we develop our ministries, we will dream bigger than before, reach further than before and trust God even more in the process.
- Get us There. We need to have a system or systems in place with an overall goal that we can see is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time sensitive. The system doesn’t just help us get there, but it helps us know when we accomplish the objectives of our ministry as well.
- 8 Reasons your Church is Stuck (frstephensmuts.wordpress.com)
- The value of a Ministry Rotation (insideministry.me)
- Plan to Reach More People with the Gospel this year! (insideministry.me)