Monthly Archives: February 2012

Fresh Eyes are Valuable

English: A keyboard with clutter on it to illu...

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Have you ever found yourself going into a store and being put off by the clutter, disorganization, dust or something else?  Have you ever gone to fill up with gas and pick the brighter well lit gas station over the older station with dimmer lights?  The truth is that we make choices every day based off of what we see and how we perceive things to be.  It could be that we make the decision off of a need to feel safe or the idea that a store like this wouldn’t have quality merchandise.  But without knowing it, we make a split second decision of where to go, how long to stay and if we will return to that place.  Realizing this, a fresh set of eyes on our church complex might prove to be time well spent.

As you walk through your complex, try to put yourself in the place of a guest to your church.  What do you see?  This can be difficult for us to look at with fresh eyes because many times we are walking through the same halls everyday.  It might be better to get someone else from outside the church to walk through and give their opinion.  You might be surprised at what they tell you.

There are a few things below that you can look at as you begin to evaluate how welcoming your complex may be:

1.  When you pull up to the building.

  • Is it inviting? (clean, lawn/building maintained, etc…)
  • Does it have clearly marked directional signage for guests? Including where to park, where is the main entrance, etc…
  • If you could identify one thing as you pull up to the building that might need to change, what would that be?

2.  When you enter the building.

  • Is there a welcoming atmosphere/environment created? (Any clutter, or items that have no purpose being in the main entry?)
  • Is it clean?  What is the first thing that you smell when you walk in?
  • Does it have clearly marked directional signage or a campus map letting people know where to go? (i.e. where is Children’s Ministry, Worship Center, etc…)
  • If you could identify one thing as you walk into the building that might need to change, what would that be?

3.  As you walk through the building.

  • There are many places that things get ‘stuck’ in a church building.  As you walk through the building ask yourself, What is the purpose of this being here? What value is it to our guests and regular attendees? If it’s not decor that is creating a welcoming atmosphere or something that will enhance the full experience on Sunday morning, it might need to go.
  • Is there a detailed cleaning that is needing done? Look at the lights, baseboards, walls, etc…
  • Is there some building maintenance that needs taken care of? (Lights that need replaced, toilets that need repaired, carpet that needs fixed, etc…)
  • Are there outdated materials left from previous weeks and months? If so, eliminate them.
  • If you could identify one thing or group of things that might need to change as you walk through the building, what would that be?

4.  Pay attention to the restrooms

  • Restrooms are a great place to invest some time.  This may not be high on our ‘worship experience’ list.  But it is high on the list of every ‘consumer minded’ person who walks through our doors.  Are the restrooms clean and inviting?
  • Are they well stocked for the amount of people that will be coming through the building?
  • Is there any maintenance, painting, etc… that needs to be taken care of?
  • Are there baby changing stations available for guests to use?
  • Is the smell pleasant when you walk into the restrooms?
  • If you could identify one thing that might need to change as you examine your restrooms, what would that be?

One exercise that you might find very enlightening.  Take a neighborhood tour of churches.  (These will be the same churches your guests may be visiting too.)  Ask yourself these same types of questions as you walk through their building.  What ideas can you learn from them that you can take back to your church complex? If  for some reason you can’t tour neighborhood churches, then anytime you’re at a meeting in another church, make sure to use this time to also pick up any ideas that might help you develop your welcoming environment at your church.

We might could discuss the fact that people should come to church for worship and not care about the rest.  And in a world where we were all spiritually mature, that would be true.  But the fact is we should also be seeking to reach those around us who are lost and those who haven’t grown spiritually.  One thing that I emphasize continually with our property team is that the work they do to keep the grounds and the property maintained is an important part of seeing people come to Christ.  It eliminates the distractions.  Even those that come through our doors with a ‘consumer’ mindset will have barriers removed so they can worship and draw closer to God.  Our goal is to use our facilities to bring honor and glory to God.  It is to allow people to come and worship together.  Spend some time evaluating your complex and see if some of the ‘first impressions’ that you’re giving to people are actually causing them to leave.  We are stewards of all that God has blessed us with daily.  Let’s take good care of it!


Receive an offering at midnight!

The Moon is the most common major object viewe...

Okay, so midnight is just a random time, but what if you could receive an offering at any point in the week and any time during the day?  That would change the way we view receiving an offering weekly.  There was a point in the not too distant past that receiving an offering on Sunday during services was the only option to allow people to give.  There are a few problems with that being our only option today.  One of the main draw backs to this is that when people are not there on Sunday, they have no other way to give their offering to the church.  We expect that they will make it up the next Sunday, but all too often, they don’t.  We need to learn from the world around us and provide multiple opportunities for people to be able to worship God through giving.  Below are a few different options that you could set up at your church.  Increased options provides opportunities for increased giving.

1.  Sunday Giving

Sunday Giving shouldn’t be eliminated.  It is a vital part of our worship experience and a great opportunity to cast vision about giving.  Below are a few options of how you can use this time effectively on Sunday:

  • Use this time to celebrate what God has done as a result of giving (i.e. campaign goals reached, missions that have been supported, etc…)
  • Have someone share a testimony about how giving has changed their perspective on money (either live or by video).
  • Let people know how your church has been able to help families in the community through benevolence.

Keep in mind that this is an opportunity to inspire and cast vision about how giving can make a difference in the life of the giver and the life of the church.

2.  Mailed in Giving

  • Business reply mail envelopes
    • Set up at USPS.com.  You can set up a courtesy envelope or a postage paid envelope.
    • Put a place to give to general, building, missions and other on this envelope
    • Use this envelope for onsite giving as well.  This way you only have one type of envelope and people can take them home with them for future use.
  • Have givers set up in bill pay at their bank.  This will be mailed in to the church throughout the week depending on the schedule set by the giver.
  • Use an envelope service
    • You can bring in as much as 5-8% more by mailing envelopes to homes.  Have people opt out before you start sending the envelopes, this will save some money in the initial setup and mail out.  Then send to people’s homes once a month.  Include a postage paid our courtesy envelope in the mailed envelopes.  Address for envelopes: Lifeway Envelope Service, PO Box 269 Chester, WV 26034-0269    1-800-875-6319

3.  Online Giving Options

  • This needs to be on the home page of your website and easy to use.  Make it easy to navigate through the online giving system.  Tell them the steps.  Have a place to give to general, building, missions and other.  Have it automatically send an email to allow them to know their donation has been made or if the donation has failed.  This email can go out in the form of a “Thank You for your gift”.  You can start by using paypal  (You can negotiate paypal fees).
  • Send out email reminders to give online in place of envelopes.
  • Put stewardship articles on your website as well as financial helps and budgeting tips.  Stewardship is part of discipleship, therefore provide tools to help your church learn.

4.  Automatic Bank Debit giving

  • Your overall goal should be to move people to Auto-Debit.  This is the preferred form of giving because it is automatic and less expensive for the church to manage.  Have them download and fill out a form that can be sent to the office.  This will make it easier for them to give.  You can set this up through the church.  It is an amount that can be deducted from your account on a weekly, bi weekly or monthly basis.  It is important to send emails to everyone who does auto-debit to let them know their account has been debited.
  • You can include in your new member orientation a form to sign up for automatic giving.  Use this as a time to express how this can help in consistency and truly giving God ‘first fruits’.

5.  Debit/Credit Card giving

  • Set this up for online and onsite giving.
  • Get a merchant account.  Your church database software may have recommendations for easy interface.  If not, try Authorized.net as a place to start.
  • With this, you can also use this same merchant account to allow credit/debit cards to be used at resource tables, coffee house, book store, etc…
  • When you use this option, put a disclaimer on any printed material or opportunities to give that ‘credit cards are to be used in a God honoring way and not intended to be abused.’
6.  Set up a Giving Kiosk
  • You can make it easy for those without their checkbook to give on site by simply providing a computer or ipad setup in a prominent area to allow them to give.  Sign it and make it noticable.  Promote it during the offering time to bring attention to it.

7.  In Kind Gifts

  • Securities & Stock – there are tax benefits for giving in this way.  You will need to set up an account with a brokerage firm.  Then you will give the name of your brokerage firm and a code to the individuals who are interested in giving this way. This allows them to avoid the capital gains tax. Promote this for special campaigns, capital campaigns, yearend giving etc…
  • You can also leave the church in your will.
  • Annuities
  • Planned Giving

These are just some simple ways to broaden the opportunities for our membership and attendees to be able to give in a God honoring way.  As we provide more opportunities as a church, our people will be able to find a system that works best for them.  As a result, they will become more consistent in their giving.


Planning a One Day Mission Event

One Day mission events are a great way to ‘prime the pump’ of outreach and evangelism in your church.  These events are opportunities to organize simple acts of service throughout your community that will engage your church body and impact the community.  A One Day event isn’t just one event, but multiple events that occur at the same time.  So you could have a group of people prayer walking, a group of people doing a block party geared towards kids at a local park, a group of people doing yard work and minor maintenance in the community and more.  This allows a variety of different people in the church to get involved and engages your community at multiple ‘entry points’.

There are a few things to keep in mind as you move towards creating a one day event at your church.

1.  Play to your churches strengths.  If you have a strong children’s ministry, gear a part of the event towards children.  If many in your church are good with home projects, create an opportunity for them to use their gifts.  Identify some of the areas where your church is strong and capitalize on those strengths.

2.  Look at community needs.  Talk to community leaders and find out their perspective on the biggest needs in the community.  This is time well spent.  You can make a huge difference in your communities if you start with the biggest needs around you.  Once you know the biggest needs, match the strengths of your church to the needs and begin to move forward.

3. Team up with community events.  You don’t have to create every opportunity.  One great way to make a difference without having to initiate a program is to team up with what is already taking place in the community.  What are some activities, events, community happenings that already draw people together?  Is there a way your church can be a sponsor of the event? Is there a way you can provide volunteers to help with whatever needs there may be?  Then if it’s possible, your church can wear shirts that shows they are serving from your church.  They may be working booths, setting up an event, cleaning up after an event and much more.  But the fact that your church is willing to serve will have an impact.

4.  Keep it simple.  Don’t over think this or over complicate it.  You may find that starting small is the best way to go.  For example, you could plan a Saturday event that lasts 4hours and has 3 or 4 different opportunities to serve.  This can be a good start to developing this kind of ministry and can have a huge impact not only in your community but in your church.  You may find that doing two or three small events like this, along with your other missions effort,s are what works best for your church.

For ideas on a variety of different activities, check out this Servant Evangelism site.  Let’s be intentional about reaching the world around us with the love of God.  Be intentional about not just having activities, but also sharing the gospel at every opportunity.  As we’re faithful to go, I believe God will be faithful to bring a harvest for His glory.


I don’t measure up!

Tape measure

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I don’t know how many times I’ve let this one thought keep me from going forward.  Too often I have thought that, for a variety of reasons, God shouldn’t be able to use me.  That for some reason “I don’t measure up.”  Because of this, I’ve spent way too much time wondering about what others think of me and not enough time realizing what God thinks of me.  And to be honest, this process has kept me from being entirely who God has made me to be.

I have listed a few traps that I have fallen into that have limited my potential to be used to reach others around me…

1.  I wish I were like _______. This is a tough one.  I look at other pastors and other leaders around me and see how easily some things come to them and how sometimes it seems like ‘they have arrived’.  But as I have gotten close to some of these men, I have seen that they have struggles and areas that they want to improve on as well.  No one will ever ‘arrive’ while we are pilgrims in this world.  I’ve decided to focus more on being who God made me to be and am learning to enjoy it!  There are gifts and abilities that you and I have that are valuable to the body of Christ.  I can’t limit myself by trying to be someone else.

2.  I’m not good enough or smart enough. By being a leader, I have often thought that I also had to have all of the answers or I had to be really good at something.  When in reality, I can look around and find a lot of people who can do things better than I can or have answers to things that I don’t even know the questions to start asking.  I’ve learned that this isn’t a bad thing.  My role is that of an equipper and an enabler.  As a pastor, I don’t have to have all of the answers or be the best at doing something.  But I do have to be able to empower other people to take ownership of areas and equip them to accomplish it within their gifts.  I have learned to love handing ministries off to others.  It’s amazing to watch them grow and even watch the ministries grow past where I could have taken them.

3.  My past limits my future. Let’s just go ahead and admit this together:  we all have made mistakes and have regrets that we wish we could change.  But the truth is that God doesn’t use us in spite of our past but often because of our past.  It’s through our past that we gain a clearer understanding of who God is and what we are capable of doing.  It’s through our past that we can have empathy in the present and meet people where they are.  I’ve decided to stop living in fear of my past and let God use it to show others about His loving grace in our lives.

4.  I wonder what they think of me.  I don’t know how many times, because of an awkward conversation or situation, that I have spent time wondering what people thought about me.  As if they spend any time at all thinking about ME.  I have let this thought slow me down because I have been afraid of people’s perception.  But I have come to realize that I cannot control someone’s perception of me.  What I can control is my character, my response to a situation, my integrity, and a few other things.  But I have stopped trying to manage other people’s perception and even my reputation (which is simply other people’s viewpoint of my actions).  I can only be the best me I can be and let God handle the rest.  It’s Him that I serve and I want to give Him glory and praise in and through my life.  I’ve realized life is too short to try to control everything else.

5.  I need to be perfect.  God did not call us to perfection, but to a relationship.  He doesn’t want us to be fake, but to be genuine before Him and others.  I can’t live up to a standard of perfection, but I can live in a relationship with Him daily and seek Him at every turn.

All of these areas above could keep me from being who God has called me to be if I let them.  And the truth is I have found out that “I don’t measure up”.  But actually nobody does.  Romans 3:23 tells me that everyone has sinned and because of this we all fall short of God’s glorious standard (NLT).  So I no longer try to have all of the answers or to be perfect or to dwell on what others are thinking.  Because this isn’t the point of my life or ministry. I’m not the first one to pick up a stone when someone else falls short, because I know that it is because of the grace of God that I am who I am today. I am important and valuable not because of me but because of God in me!  It’s not about my past mistakes or my current shortcomings.  It’s about God and who He is.  Because of this, I’m learning to focus on what’s important in life and that’s people.  Let’s love them with all that we are and let them see God in us everyday.


Putting our Prayers into Motion

An example of walking in sandals.

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If we want to see God show up and show out we have to be willing to get out of the way.  We are a culture that ‘plans’ everything and then asks God for His approval.  But I believe that if we are going to see God move beyond our abilities or our plans, we must start with one very powerful thing.  This is called PRAYER!  Prayer is not ‘plan B’ or an afterthought.  Prayer should be our ‘plan A’.  It should be where we start with everything we do.

There has never been a mighty movement of God where He did not call His people to pray.  Prayer revives the hearts of God’s people as it prepares our communties for God’s word to be spread.  As we pray for our communities, we can begin to see a spiritual awakening around us that is prompted by God, not our gimics.  Prayer allows us to tap into God’s power.  Realizing all of this, we can know that concentrated prayer has the power to literally change the world around us.  A great way to put our prayers into motion is through prayer walking our communities and neighborhoods.

Prayer walking is putting legs to your prayers.  Instead of sitting in your house praying, it puts you into the community where the people are living.  This allows you to see the area that you’re praying for and be more intentional in your prayers.   You may see kids toys in a yard and know to pray for the kids at that house, you may see recreational items in a yard and pray specifically for safety and protection.  Every house you walk by you can pray that God will bring them closer to Him and into a relationship with Him.

Prayer walking makes us more aware of what is around us and helps us see prayer needs of the area on a more personal level.  As we walk through the neighborhoods we are trying to reach, we can begin to feel more connected to the area and learn to pray more specifically.

As you’re preparing to prayer walk, I would encourage you to be ready to share your faith at any point during your walk.  If you’re praying that people would come to know Jesus as their Savior, don’t be surprised if He gives you the opportunity to share your faith as you meet people in their yards, on the street or on sidewalks.

Also, prayer walking can be combined with neighborhood canvasing.  As you are canvasing neighborhoods with door hangers or flyers, include prayer walking as an essential part of this canvasing.  God may use the canvasing to bring people to Him, He may use the prayer walking or He may use a combination of both.

There are 3 areas to pay attention to as you prayer walk:

1.  Before you go:

  • Be sure you’re in good relationship with God. Prepare your heart by praying and studying His word.  Confess your sins to allow him to use you and work through you.
  • Ask God to give you His heart and His eyes for the area.  What is it He wants you to see?
  • Set a time when you will actually go prayer walking.  It is important to schedule it or you will never fit it in.  I’ve noticed there is strength in numbers as we go.  This strength comes from the encouragement and additional prayer support that comes from even having one more person with us as we prayer walk.

 2.  While you’re walking

  • Be sensitive to God’s Spirit.
  • Expect God to do something through His power as you walk and pray.
  • Pray for People, Marriages, Families, Businesses, Government, Leaders, Husbands & Wives, Children, Civic Leaders, Senior Adults, Churches, Revival and Spiritual Awakening, God’s word to spread, people to accept Jesus as Savior and whatever the Spirit prompts you to pray about
  • You can pray out loud as you walk.  This is helpful especially when you are with a group.  You can also pray silently at times.
  • If you encounter people as your walking and praying, you can say, “We’re out praying for people in our community, is there a special way we can pray for you?”

3.  When you finish your prayer walk

  • Celebrate what God is doing and going to do as a result of the prayers.

One last note to consider as you go, EXPECT GOD TO ACT.  Our prayers should be based on a faith in a living God who is active in the world around us.  When you finish your time in prayer.  Expect that things will be different in your perspective, in your desire to see people grow closer to Him, in your hunger to reach the lost and the least around you.  Let God use you to be His hands and feet.


Developing a Prayer Team – Part 2

Earlier this week  I posted about developing a prayer ministry at our church.  I want to continue to share some of the thought process for this ministry.  God has gifted the whole body of Christ to be able to minister to each other.  We as pastors can share the load of ministering to those around us by investing in a group of people who truly care about people.  We can help them know how best to minister to others and give them tools to accomplish this.  As we build this kind of ministry, we can allow God to work through the process in a way that only He can.  Below are the guidelines and principles of this prayer ministry that we have at our church:

Guidelines and Principles

1.   Realize the serious nature of what is happening when someone responds to an invitation.

 

2. Realize that the enemy and human flesh are interested in interfering with what the Holy Spirit is doing during an invitation

 

3.      Always be spiritually prepared to minister.

a.      You should be in unity with those in authority

b.      You should be living a life honoring to God.

c.      You should be meeting with God daily through personal devotions.

d.      You should be available to be led by the Holy Spirit.   

 

4.      Be physically ready.

a.    Breath mints may be a good idea. 

b. Speak pleasantly and remember to smile as someone comes to you. 

c.   Don’t act “spooky” or “super spiritual”.  People are looking for someone real to talk to. 

d.   Don’t be shocked by what you are told or what you see.

 

5.    Always wear your “identification lanyard”. This is what will allow people to know that you have been authorized by the Church to minister to people.

 

6.      Always treat each person with respect and love. Do not be overly “mushy”. 

         

7.    If at all possible, Men minister to men and Women minister to women. There may be exceptions as allowed by the Pastoral Staff.

 

8.   You must know how to guide someone to accept Christ as Savior and how to help them rededicate their lives. 

 

9.    Allow people the freedom to pray alone in the altar if they desire to do so. (Note: if someone is praying in the altar for an extended amount of time, go to them and ask if there is any way you can pray for them.  The Holy Spirit will prompt you and guide you through this.)

 

10.Always ask the person for permission to pray for them. (Is there a way I can pray with you today? Would it be ok if I prayed for you?)

 

11.You should never argue or debate with anyone in the altar area. In fact arguments and debates are seldom fruitful.  Present the truth of God and pray for the person.

 

12.Remove people to the prayer room who need salvation, extended prayer or who are becoming a disturbance to the public service.  (There will be times when you won’t be able to minister effectively due to the music at the altar and may need to go to the prayer room to minister.)

 

13.Give the person your undivided attention.  Realize this is not a time for a life history to be given to you.  Keep the conversational part only to the specifics of their need.

 

14.Without interrogating a person, ask questions to discover their need.

 

15.Don’t give advice or counsel outside spiritual areas. You are a prayer team member not a lawyer or professional counselor.

 

16.Don’t share your problems. This adds more weight to their burden and draws their attention to you instead of Jesus.

 

17.Don’t preach to them—pray with them!

 

18.You need to learn when “not” to pray for someone.  (We don’t pray selfish prayers for people.  We always pray God’s will to be done.)

 

19.You are to be the leader in the conversation. If a friend accompanies the person you are praying with, do not let them take over the situation. The person has come forward to be helped by the church—help them. 

 

20.Obtain information that will be needed for follow-up.

 

21.Always seek the direction of those leading you if a situation arises with which you are not prepared to handle.

 

22.You should demonstrate respect for those leading your team and ministry. If asked to do something, know that your pastors have asked you to do it and there is a good reason.

 

23.Always point them to Jesus. He is the Savior, Healer, and Deliverer.

 

24.Your goal is prayer and ministry that will honor Jesus.

 

25.Remember: You will be blessed for allowing the Holy Spirit to use you.

These guidelines are useful in establishing a clear understanding of how God can use team members as they are open to Him.  It also helps them know how to prepare to minister as well as worship God as they are His hands and feet.  This ministry is still new to our church, but I look forward to seeing what God is going to do as a result of many being prepared to be used by Him.


Sharing your faith can start Here.

I had the privilege to go to Ghana just over a year ago. There we saw God move in a mighty way in a very short time.  While I was there, I found it easier in that culture to approach people and talk with them about my faith.  I also found it easier to tell them about the fact that Jesus loves them and wants to have a personal relationship with them.  In just 8 days and a team of 9 people, we witnessed over 900 people accept Christ as their Savior.  This gave me a hunger to see more people where I live come to know Christ as well.  I knew the culture was different at home and I would need to be able to adapt my approach to minister to a more fast paced people.

As I thought about ways to approach people, I developed a survey that would help give me a reason to approach people and ask them 5 or 6 questions that would lead us along a path.  Once I developed the survey, I started using it immediately and it is very effective at starting a conversation with people.  (After I had used it for a while, I read the book “Share Jesus Without Fear” by William Fay and found his survey to be very similar.)  Each question is designed to help me gain an understanding of where a person is spiritually.  The survey is below (I have also included a link for a print version here: Spiritual Survey).

6 Easy Questions

Open up by asking, “Have you taken our survey yet?” or “Would you be willing to take a quick survey for my church?”  This questionnaire is designed to identify the level of SPIRITUAL INTEREST in people’s lives.

  1. On a scale of 1 to 5, how important is your spiritual life?  (1 – Not at all … 5 – Very Important)
  2. Do you attend church? (Y/N)  If yes, How often?
  3. Do you believe the Bible is relevant to your life? (Y/N)
  4.  Who do you think Jesus is?
  5.  Do you believe in life after death? (Y/N) If Yes, Where will you spend eternity? If Heaven, What makes you think that?
  6.  Could I share with you how you can know you have eternal life?

In addition to the survey, I always carry with me invite cards to my church, a small notebook with the survey inside and a pen, and gospel tracts.  I have found that public places such as parks and walking trails are great places to do this survey.  Not only do I get to present the gospel to people, I also get to encourage Christians that I meet in their walk with God and have the opportunity to invite many to our church.

If you have a heart to share the gospel, but not sure where to start or how to approach people, my prayer is that this tool is helpful.  Let’s be bold enough to care for those around us and tell them about who He is and what He can do to change our lives.


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