Monday, October 15, 2018

Musing of a Church Planter - Lesson Four

Today's Lesson - Be Visible!

Many people have imagined what being a fly on the wall would be like or having the super power of invisibility.  Imagine being invisible and being able to sneak into a place and out of it without ever being seen!  You could be the perfect spy.

Unfortunately, a lot of church plants, and churches, have this super power.  They are perfectly visible to themselves but invisible to the world.  Being visible is more than having a day in the community when you are working to make an impact for Christ.  Being visible means your church family can be found when needed by the community.

One of the biggest struggles I had when attempting to plant Faith Community Church was the problem of being seen past the big events we tried.  For example, each year we participated in the local community's Independence Day event.  We passed out hundreds of bottles of water to the masses of humanity (this event is one of the largest fireworks displays in the area).  We handed out water, flyers, cards, hand fans, and even held a raffle.  People loved the water and were grateful for a moment of shade.  Great outreach event!

The problem came in follow-up.  Being visible at an event does not mean we were visible in the community.  We rented a 11,000 square foot building but we were so far off the main road that the building was not immediately visible from it.  The other problem was that we were not allowed to put advertising or any signage out on the main road to point people to our meeting place!  We were never able to get a second touch out into the community to help remind people we were there...

Many advertising experts agree that you need to "touch" a person about 7 times to get them to buy from you.  I know of numerous churches that have given out free products at events I have attended, and later I have driven by their facilities on another day and that product came to mind.  We were unable to capitalize on this opportunity.

I am not making excuses.  I am, however, trying to get you to be more aware of those "touches" and how effectively you are in reengaging people in the community.  Maybe you also have the problem of signage.  Maybe your building is hidden from the main road.  Maybe you are meeting in a community center or school.  None of those things matter if you are doing more than just one thing in touching or reaching your community.  

SO how do you become more visible (beyond a good outreach event)?

1 - You have to model invitation and develop an inviting community of believers.  A big event is just that - a big event.  It is not meant to get a bunch of people to come to your church.  Personal invitation is the number one reason people say they attend a church service.  Big events are not personal invitations.  These events are necessary to remind the community you are there.  The personal touch of your congregation is the catalyst needed to get more people into your worship services.

2 - Know your community.  Take a moment to survey your community and get to know what keeps them there.  Map out an area around your facility and go engage your community at places that people gather.  Ask them simple open ended questions such as "What makes this community special?"  Open ended questions are not "yes/no" questions.  They are questions that get people to talk and show your interest in them and not in your intentions.  You may be surprised at some of the answers you get as you learn to ask questions that get at the heart of people's needs and desires.

I wish I had an perfect plan that makes perfect sense.  But communities differ vastly.  In the area I attempted to plant a church, you could drive 15 minutes to the next large city and find a completely different culture.  Within the city, the north side was different from the south side.  There is not a perfect in-the-box solution to reaching your community - other than getting to know the people and being personal in your invitations.

Do not stop doing the big events.  In fact, think of it this way: Awareness, Connection, Relational, and Discipleship.  Big events touch large groups to help people become aware of your presence in the area.  Very few people, if any, will attend your church from these events.  Next, you want to engage your community through connection events (VBS, Festivals, Movies, Picnics).  People come closer to visiting but more importantly they get a chance to know you as you get a chance to know them.  Next, develop relational events (Small groups, Conferences, etc).  People know you care and were thoughtful of their needs.  Discipleship happens when they attend, and that is a whole new ballgame because you want them to return.  Personal invitation is vital throughout all of these areas.

Hope this gets you to think about your visibility in your community.  I am available to consult or to coach you in this area if needed.  Feel free to contact me: EMAIL

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Musings of a Church Planter - Lesson Three

Today's lesson is a simple thought: Know your vision!

George Barna says that vision is "the ability to understand the history, the present condition, and the potential of the church."  Without vision, churches are wanderers.  Visionless pastoring is the crock pot for doubt.  It slowly cooks the average of situations and turns it into the largest of problems.  Without vision the people perish according to Proverbs.  So how can knowing one's vision prepare a leader to move out of wandering and into the straight and narrow path of ministry?

- Make it personal

Vision should be personal.  People can tell within a few minutes if you believe in your vision.  To be honest, a personalized vision triggers emotional responses.  Leaders that are emotionally connected to there vision will be more passionate about communicating that vision. 

Case in point - I have friends who were passionate about starting a coffee house ministry.  I wasn't so sure about it but their passion translated into a vision that was undeniable.  They moved from a small room in their church to the main street of their city.  To hear them speak of their vision was to see a dream unfolding before your eyes.  Not only are they thriving but people's lives are being changed because of it.

Personal vision speaks volumes about your ministry, and people can easily line up and be a part of something they know the leader believes. 

Avoid the trap of being immovable in your vision, however.  No one will follow someone over a cliff - no matter how many times they watch Thelma and Louise.

- Be able to give it in a 60-second elevator speech

Short and simple and not boring and long.  You do not always have all the time in the world to communicate your vision to someone.  If you can narrow it to a one minute speech, then you can capture more listeners who will not tune you out.  Leaders without an intentional and prepared vision will start rambling.  Rambling sounds good in a song but bad when presenting your passion.

- Make it visible everywhere

The biggest problem most churches have today is that a guest can enter and leave their facilities and never be introduced to the vision of the church.  If you can paint it on the walls, put it up on posters, include it on bulletins, add it in the Powerpoint slides, and put it on your website, then you need to do it!

You only get one chance to help people connect with your vision.  Don't miss it because you do not want to scare someone.  They are there because they want to be a part of something bigger.  Paint them into the picture by helping them know your vision!

- Repeat it constantly

Not only should it be visible, it should also be audible.  It should be heard from the pulpit.  It should also be heard from any and all volunteers.  Do you want to know how well you communicate your vision?  Ask your staff and volunteers to write out what they think the vision of the church is.  Scary thought?  It is not when you and those you lead are consistently repeating the vision.

- Make it fresh

Do not allow your vision casting to become a mantra.  Refresh the language from time to time.  Make it new and memorable.  You will find that new ways of saying your vision will refresh you as much as energizes it your people.

Let me know what you think.  I am available to coach this if you need it.

Vision is the ability to understand the history, the present condition, and the potential of the church, and to conceive a plan for action that will maximize the ministry potential. More often than not, vision is a result of having spent much time absorbing the facts about the community, knowing the resources upon which the church can call (people, funding, facilities, equipment, etc.), and devising sound but creative strategies for moving forward. Vision always entails progress: it is never satisfied with the status quo. George Barna, How to Find Your Church, p. 104.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Musings of a Church Planter - Lesson Two

Harry Truman - "Not every reader is a leader, but every leader is a reader."
I have never met a leader who doesn't spend time with books and magazines trying to find new innovations or new product ideas or new leadership developments or just reading for pleasure.  Reading is the way everyone levels the playing field.  Information is out there in so many venues from actual books to virtual libraries and from public libraries to cellphones.  Reading is still the most fundamental way a leader masters the topics of his or her desire.

I have read that a person can become an expert about any topic when they read five to ten books on that subject.  Whether true or not, I know everything I have learned has come from reading.  So the lesson for today is simple: Read and then read some more!

If you are reading this blog, then you are stepping in the right direction...😂

Seriously, reading does your soul good.  Reading has been linked to good mental health as well as mental development (Look at this article).  John Quincy Adams spent two hours a day reading the Bible, reading news articles and books, and then writing about what he read.  Talk about dedication to reading!

I am not suggesting you spend two hours a day reading but I am saying that reading will open doors that seemed closed.  For pastors, reading opens your vocabulary and expands your illustration file (your congregation will appreciate it).  For business leaders, reading helps you stay focused and prepared for new opportunities and for unexpected events.  For civic leaders, your reading will propel your ability to communicate with your peers and with the people you serve.  I could go on and on.

Reading impales your inabilities and replaces them with knowledge that impacts the people you lead.  Every new idea begins with knowledge.  Every breakthrough starts with understanding.  Every leader emerges from leadership barriers by being attentive to their own cognitive development.

When face-to-face with the devil's temptation, Jesus replied with three simple words, "It is written..."

So read.  You will never regret it.
Warren Buffett (on the key to success) - “Read 500 pages…every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Stress Free Spending

In your own words, describe what you think a budget is.....

A lot of people would say that budgets are for people with limited resources.  The same people are probably living from paycheck to paycheck and suffering under extreme amounts of debt.  These people will also believe that their home is an asset and that saving can be done once they have settled down.

Think again.  Budgets are the foundation to financial stability and financial intelligence.  You will never meet a wealthy person who doesn't understand their spending habits or their personal financial statements.  

Real wealth is accumulated when a person plans their actions.  If you do not control your spending, then your spending will control you.  When your spending controls you, your ability to grow wealth is stifled and you spend more years digging out of debt instead of staying out of debt.

Crown Ministries has several excellent guides about budgeting to which you can compare your spending.  (Spending Guides)

If you are looking to begin a budget, then Crown can also help you get started with their budget guide. (Financial Planning Guide)

What do you have to do to begin a sound financial plan?  What obstacles do you face?  When will you get started?

Only you can break the chain of debt in your life.  Get control of your spending and experience the stress relief it provides!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Musings of a Church Planter - Lesson One

I spent the last four years praying about, learning about, and attempting to plant a church.  During this process I feared, hoped, laughed, cried, and experienced any other emotion someone can muster.  Unfortunately, the process ended with the closing of the church.

There are a lot of reasons why: poor execution of plans, not enough resources, not enough people, not enough leadership from me...oh the list could go on and on.  And after closing, the list continued to go on, and it would have continued to go on if a respected leader had not sat down to dinner with my wife and me and simply asked, "What are ten things you take away from this process?"

Hmmmm....that had me thinking.  Yes, plenty went wrong, but what went right?  What did I learn?  What can others learn?  So I created a list.

Over the next few weeks I am going to try to share the list of what I learned in hopes of encouraging current and future church planters, leaders, or anyone interested.  It is a very lonely process at times but you are never alone. God is always with you.  Charisma may ignite a church plant but only God can sustain it.

I guess what I am trying to say is that if you are going through the many emotions of church planting or leadership, you are not alone and you do not have to do it alone.

In fact, that is the first lesson I learned - have a good friend outside of your ministry that you can talk politics with, watch sports with, or do whatever with.  Not a peer or a confidant or a mentor.  A friend.

There are times that leaders need to step out of leadership roles and just be human.  I read one article that said a person will always struggle in church leadership if they cannot simply learn to be just a Christian and be satisfied.  If you always have to be the leader, you will become disappointed and find yourself struggling to separate yourself from your leadership role in order to enjoy a friend.

If you are married, you spouse is your best friend but even they need a break from you - the leader.  They want to spend time with you - the child of God, the person.

Friendships remind us to be us and not an image.  Images can be distorted and so can we if we lose ourselves in our roles.  Friends will remind us how to relate with others and how to more effectively see people as Christ sees us - broken but healing, hurt but mending, weak and yet strong.  Value friendship and you will learn how much God values you.

So do not do ministry alone but especially do not do life alone.  You will not regret having a good friend or two or three to hang out with from time to time.

Who are your closest friends?  How do you make time for them?  How often do you purposely set aside time to be with friends?

As a Christian leadership coach, I can coach you through these areas.  Let me know what you think.