Tag Archives: church

A plan for getting there!

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.
The system created must always connect back with the overall vision of the church.  This will ensure that all of the ministries of the church exist to accomplish the overall vision of the church in the community and beyond.  It must also work in unison with all other ministries of the church.  We shouldn’t create anything that competes with or conflicts with the goal of another ministry of our church.  As we develop our system for a specific ministry, it will give us a framework for allotting our time as well as our resources.  Additionally, it allows us to know if we’re moving in the right direction towards our goals or away from them.
As you develop your structure and begin to move forward, it should provide vision for change and focus for the ministry.  It should also give your team, not just a plan, but also a sense of purpose and make it easier to bring others into the ministry.  As I have been developing ministries, I have discovered that failing to provide a clear plan and structure will continue to  cause confusion and frustration for all who are involved.  I would encourage you to start  developing some simple systems that will help you get to where God wants you to go.
The reason I started this blog, www.insideministry.me, is to provide system and structure ideas for various ministries and other random thoughts as I discover new truths in ministry.  If you have any questions or would like help in moving forward with systems, I would be glad to help.  I have just recently started coaching individuals through personal, professional, and ministry related decisions and would be glad to tell you more about it if you’re interested in coaching.  You can go here to find out more.
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The Small Group Journey

To say that we’ve tried just about every small group approach out there would be accurate.  When our church started, we knew we wanted to have the small groups be the main hub for developing relationships, discipleship, caring for people, reaching the community and engaging people in a real life journey with others.  In the process of making this happen, we have tried a variety of ways manage the small groups systems at our church.  We have had long term groups and short term groups, age graded groups and stage of life groups, interest based groups and gender based groups, book studies and sermon discussion groups, and many other varieties.  We tried appointing people to groups and having people sign up for groups.  We have tried groups that consist of only 2 to 4 people and groups that were just over 20 people.  All of this was in an effort to discover what would work in our community and in the culture that we had been ministering within.  Through all of this, we discovered some things that were true for our church and may prove helpful to you as well.

1.  You can’t force relationships.  We worked really hard assigning people to groups because we wanted to make sure they were with someone.  We discovered that many times we were working against ourselves because we were the ones making the choices for the people in our church.  They had no ownership in the decision.  Because of this group attendance was hit and miss at best and the discussion seldom went past surface level.  We even tried this with 2 to 4 people to create opportunities for one on one discipleship to take place.  But there again, we were the ones matching people up and were in a constant state of frustration when many of the pairs/groups didn’t go well.

2.  Group settings require a forum.  We have discovered that really 6 to 8 people are the smallest forums we want to have healthy discussion and dialogue during the weekly group meeting.  Fewer than this and it often moves into more of a lecture format or very little discussion taking place.  In order to have this as the minimum, we try to sign up 16 to 20 people in each group.  This allows for people to be MIA at times and gives and average weekly meeting of 8 to 14 people. (Special Note: Even though this is a forum, it’s not an open forum for discussing church business or openly criticizing direction, ministries or staff.)

3.  Not everyone fits the stereotype.  Not every empty nester wants to be in an empty nesters group and not every college student wants to spend their time in a college group.  Because of this, we allow people to sign up for whatever group they feel would be most beneficial to them.  An exception to this, of course, would be gender based groups.  We have discovered that having a broad age range within one group often helps to add many different perspectives to the group setting.

4.  Leaders must come from within.  We have discovered that the leaders that excelled in their group are the leaders that had personally grown from being a part of a group within our church and had a heart to help others experience the same thing.  Giving a leadership role to someone who is new to the church is very tempting but often would come back to cause us issues in the future.  Even though new comers may show leadership skills and look like they would be a perfect fit, we discovered that waiting for at least 6 months would allow them to experience groups and us to experience them.  This approach has eliminated some of our frustrations with groups.

5.  Common Ground is essential.  For any group to fully engage those who are in it, there must be some common interest, study or pursuit.  This is why we now have implemented a lot of variety within our groups system.  We do have groups that tend to be age graded, some groups that go through certain books together (i.e. parenting, marriage, finances, etc…), some groups that explore a book of the Bible together, and some groups that are centered around specific interests.  This allows us to engage people where they are and let God work to shape them into He wants them to be.

6.  Change can be good!  Change is essential to any growing organization.  The same is true with groups.  We have found that within our culture, short term groups of 8 to 12 weeks work great.  We then reshuffle the deck and sign up for new groups.  This constant change makes it easier for newer people to jump in, keeps it fresh for people involved in groups, and allows many relationships to be cultivated throughout the church.  Change is also a defining force in our culture.  We know that once we have found “what works” that it will only be temporary, as the culture changes around us.  We continually make adjustments to impact and involve more people.

The truth is you’ll never get to where you want to be if you’re afraid to fail in the process.  We failed many times in our attempts to create healthy group environments within our culture.  But in the process, we learned new truths that helped us get to where we are today.  Don’t wait until you think you have all the answers.  Get started and discover that there is a good chance you weren’t even asking the right questions.  Enjoy the journey.


Be Yourself

I’ve often thought about how amazing it is that God made each and every one of us unique.  I know if it were me doing the creating, once I got to a good design, I would make a lot of duplicates.  But God not only made us unique, but is glorified in our uniqueness.  But too many times, we get caught in the cycle of being someone that God did not make us to be.  We try to be like a friend, our pastor, our dad, our brother or someone else we think has it all together.  Because of this, we aren’t living in our sweet spot.  I like to think of my life like a suitcase.  When I’m getting ready to go on a trip, long or short, there are a few things that I consider as I pack my bags.  The first thing is my destination.  I pack according to where I’m going.  I’ll pack differently for going to a place near me or going overseas.  The second thing is the season or the weather.  I pack according to the time of year.  Is it going to be hot or cold?  I also consider things that I may enjoy on any trip.  Is it a business trip or a casual trip? Will I have time to read? What else can I do in my downtime?

The truth is, if we were to all pack for the same trip and then compare bags, chances are great that there wouldn’t be any two bags alike.  We take care in packing and put a lot of thought into it and a lot of it is based on who we are.  We can’t live out of other people’s bags.  It doesn’t work that way.  The clothes wouldn’t fit, the extra’s wouldn’t match what we enjoy.

God has done the same thing with us in our lives.  He considered our destination and the timing and even considered what we may enjoy.  He packed each one of us to be who he created us to be.  Because of that, each of us are packed differently.  We may have some similarities, but not one of us in here are exactly alike.  That’s God’s plan.  He doesn’t want us to all be alike … he has intentionally created us to be different.  We would find it difficult to effectively use the tools and gifts that others have been given.  But it becomes easy to use the ones that God has given to us.  Instead of running from who we are, we should be excited about how God has made us.

A key thought through all of this is that when your uniqueness meets with God’s purpose, everyone benefits!

I’ve discovered 4 reasons in scripture to be yourself.

I Corinthians 12:14-18 tells us, “Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

  1. You belong.  Belonging means that you’re connected to something bigger than yourself.  Because of that, you have a responsibility that fits with who God made you to be.  Belonging lets us know that we’re not a solo act, but part of a bigger plan.  God didn’t create us to act independently of others, but to be involved with others.  If we want to thrive and succeed as we journey through life, we must discover our place of belonging in the body.
  2. You are unique.  This is because of who you are.  God made you on purpose.  You were no accident.  You have a reason for being.  He has given you abilities, relationships, experiences and gifts that make you who you are.  Because of all of this you are uniquely gifted to do exactly what God wants you to do.  Your characteristics, background, upbringing, perspective, and skills are different than others.  This is not a bad thing, it’s a great thing for everyone.
  3. You are valuable.  Because of what you can do for the body.  You can serve God best with who he has made you to be.  Many of us are ‘fans’ of church and we love to watch what God is doing through our church.  But we cheer from the sidelines and never set foot on the field.  God didn’t create any of us to be a bench warmer.  He made you to get in the game and fulfill the role he equipped you to do.
  4. You serve a purpose.  It’s no mistake that you are where God has placed you.  God has arranged each of us in the way he wanted us to be.  You have a purpose.  Because of that purpose, you have a job to do.  This is best done as you discover who you are and work hard at being yourself.  When you realize your purpose you can serve with a purpose and a passion that only comes from God.  When you realize that you serve a purpose in His church and you step up to fill that role, you glorify God.

I Peter 4:10 tells us, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering Gods grace to others.”  This should be our goal.  Our gifts are not for ourselves, but for others.  God gets the glory when you be who He made you to be.  He takes pleasure in seeing you be you.  When you don’t fulfill your role in the body of Christ, the church is crippled.  Other parts of the body have to carry the weight and are used in ways they weren’t designed to be used.

The question to ask yourself today is what are you going to do with who God made you to be?  You may feel ordinary, but God has made you to be extraordinary.  He has placed value on your life and gifted you uniquely to fulfill a roll within His body.  You serve a purpose! When you don’t we’re crippled.  When you don’t, you can’t give Him the Glory.


Introducing “Your Church”

Waggoner IL - Christian Church (1 of 3)

(Photo credit: myoldpostcards)

I know that ‘Your Church’ sounds like it’s leaving God out of the picture. We could debate the value of saying ‘God’s Church’ when we are talking about His bride.  And I totally understand and agree with this.  What I mean when I am referencing ‘Your church’ is how it functions and what are some characteristics of the specific local church.

Just like God created all of us as individuals to be different, I believe all churches have their own uniqueness as well.  The pastors’ heart and the characteristics of the members of the body help to form the ‘personality’ of the church.  With all that said, I think it is important that we create ways to introduce ‘our church’ to those who are new to the church.  This will go a long way to closing the back door and helping people gain a better understanding of how to connect to the church.  We have been doing this at our church for several years now by offering monthly sessions that are about 45 minutes to an hour long, where we follow this basic outline:

  1. Who we are and where we’ve come from (People really want to know some history about how the church has made it to where they are today.)
  2. Engage by asking people what they are enjoying about our church (Great opportunity to hear some encouraging words and for those there to voice their thoughts)
  3. How to connect at our church.  We promote 2 basic ways: Ministries (Serving) and small groups (Discipleship/Relationships).  It’s important to have ways for people to ‘connect’ at the meeting by signing up to try out a ministry or sign up for a group of some type.  They need a way at the meeting to act on what it is you are telling them to do.
  4. How we function (What is the structure of the church like?)
  5. What’s unique about our church (Is there anything that is different?)

This meeting helps paint a picture of not only the church, but also a path for people to follow to experience more of what the church is doing.  This is not a high pressured sales pitch for the church.  It’s more of a casual atmosphere where we normally have snacks and something to drink.  At this meeting we also make the statement, “We know that every church is not for every person, but every person needs to be a part of a church.  If this isn’t the church for you, we want to help you find that church and if there is anything we can do to help you in this process we’re here.”  We have found that this disarms people and helps them to relax and listen to what we have to say.

Note:

This is not a membership class and people are not encouraged to become a member until they have connected to ministries and groups.  Once they have done this, they are encouraged to come to the next new member class where the Membership Agreement is reviewed in depth.


Raising expectations of Membership

English: Raising IT Logo

Image via Wikipedia

It’s amazing to me how often we have people make the huge decision of becoming a member of our churches, but often we fail to really explain what that means.  We make assumptions that their view of church membership will be the same as ours.  When in reality, we all come from different backgrounds and different church experiences.  This is why it is important that before someone becomes a member of the church, they gain a full understanding of what church membership means at that church from a biblical perspective (rather than a traditional or experiential perspective).

I have found that people who go through our membership session (it takes just over an hour), will thank me for explaining membership to them and they often say it is the first church that has ever done so for them.  By raising membership expectations, we’ve actually noticed that more people rise to the expectations of membership rather than run away.  People are looking for churches that have expectations.  My lead pastor and I developed our membership agreement and placed scriptural references with each point.

It is important that people understand that we aren’t asking them to do anything contrary to the scriptures.  In fact, we are asking them to become more what the scriptures teach us to be in our daily lives.  When we review this with them, we ask people to sign one copy of it and also give them a second copy for them to take home and examine the scriptures for themselves.

I am attaching a copy of the membership agreement we use here: Membership Agreement SAMPLE


Gaining a new perspective on Stewardship

English: Mountain View

Image via Wikipedia

Gaining the proper perspective of stewardship is essential to developing an effective Stewardship Ministry.  We must first realize that stewardship is discipleship.  Stewardship is not about developing donors, but developing disciples.  Our goal should not be to get more money out of people, but to develop more people into disciples.  Donors give because of outside factors, disciples give from their heart.  We can actually begin to measure the spiritual growth of a church, by how loosely or tightly those within the church hold on to their money.

It starts at the top.  If we want our people to be generous, we have to have a culture of generosity.  If we are not generous to our people, they will not be generous in return.  Generosity starts with the Pastors & Staff.  If we are timid about giving others will be too.  If we have a lack of trust in God that is demonstrated by a greater trust in our money, we set the tone in our church.

God is not a God of scarcity. He is a God of abundance. We can examine three types of approaches to money that will help us better see this.  These are the Scarcity Mentality, The Abundance Mentality and the Wasteful Mentality.  The Scarcity Mentality says that every time one church gains, another church loses. This says there is “not enough to go around”.  This is when the disciples said “We only have 5 loaves and 2 fishes”. It is a mindset that God is not going to provide.  In practice, we say that we can’t afford to mail quarterly statements or print envelopes or print full color.  Then there is the abundance mentality which says that if we spend what we have in order to reach people, God will give us more. This says with Jesus, “Let’s give them something to eat”.  It is realizing that God is unlimited in His access to resources.  Last, there is the wasteful mentality, which is throwing out what is left over.  We don’t want to throw money away.  Be reasonable with what God has blessed you with.  Have a plan and work the plan.  Don’t spend just to spend, but spend for a purpose.  Remember that in the story of the 5 loaves and 2 fishes that the disciples collected 12 baskets of leftovers.  They did not waste it.

In understanding these different mindsets of spending within the church, we also need to understand the mindset of why people don’t give.  There are a variety of reasons, but some of the main ones are no vision, no money, no desire, family pressure, lack of trust in organization, no realized need.  People don’t really give to need, they give to vision which prompts desire in our hearts.  The best way to change the mindset of the church is to cast and recast the vision of what God can do if they give.  In casting the vision, remember that raising money is as much about how you say it as what you say.

(insights learned from personal experience and gleaning from Steve Stoope’s ministry)


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