Friday, December 27, 2013

5 Ways to Stamp Out Drama

5 Ways to Stamp Out Drama in the Local Church: 

Let's agree and be honest that drama exists in EVERY church on SOME level. I had a leader in a meeting ask me a good question, "What do you mean when you say drama?" 
Drama (in Kevin's terms) is the stirring up of dissension and disunity among a group of Christians that are attempting to live on mission together. This could be a church, small group or ministry in the local church. 
This stirring up detracts the group from their God-given mission and destroys Christian love in the community. 
Here are 5 simple ways to keep your ministry drama free. The whole community of believers on mission need to commit to these 5 "drama busters." 
1. Everyone is an Advocate for the Defenesless. 
•Don't allow someone to talk about someone else when they aren't present to defend themselves. Refuse to have that conversation or better yet, defend the defenseless. I often point out positive qualities about the person to shut the drama queen or king up. 

2. Emotional Maturity is a must for everyone.
•Accentuate emotional maturity as a key to leadership. Don't allow people who claim to be mature act like babies. Storming off angrily, pouting, stone-walling, selfishness and being hot-headed are just a few examples. Let your leaders know that the fruit of the spirit (of a Spirit-empowered life) is a must for leaders. 

3. Identify and Qurantine Drama Machines.
•Like cancer you have to identify and quarantine these drama producing people. 
Identification can be hard though at first. Some people try to find communication points with a new person so they may complain about something in their past or open and share a bad situation currently. That's not drama. Drama is the direct attempt through stirring up dissension in the ranks of the community on mission. Identify that. Confront them. 
Next we have to quarantine them. This simply means you allow them to be a part of the life of the body without spreading the disease. Like cancer, you find it, isolate and do surgery or zap it with radiation. You want to get them out of any places where they can spread.
4. Clarity in all areas. 
•Be very clear about EVERYTHING. Quickly deal with issues in a spirit of meekness. Be clear about your mission and vision. Over communicate. 

5. Confront Issues.
•This is the hardest part. Drama doesn't just fix it self or get better. It spreads and destroys major organs. In a loving manner confront those who you see stirring dissension and strife. Let them know that, "We don't do that here. You need to talk to __________ if it is such an issue."

Don't let this live in your organization's culture. It's better to lose a few who get wrapped up in drama than spoil the whole bunch. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

4 Steps to Breaking the 200 Barrier

4 Steps to Breaking the 200 Barrier 
The hardest barrier to break in church growth is 200. The average size church in America is 87 adults. Why is this? Because the pastor can be the center of attention and all-knowing guru while the people can use him as the "go-to" person. 

We made a mad push to break the 200 barrier in fall of 2013. We were at 175. Our verbiage was to "obliterate" the 200 barrier. So, with that in mind we started deliberately teaching our leaders on the dynamics of breaking this barrier. It is not a matter of numbers but a matter if the heart. Do you really want to reach people for Christ? It's going to cause you to break your comfort zone. 
Remember: Breaking a barrier means your total adult attendance has been at that number for at least 2 months. 

4 Principles to Breaking the 200 Barrier: 
1. Break 125 
•A pastor can get to this point just by being a funny, charismatic pastor. They can do it by being relational and hosting a quality worship experience. At this point the pastor has it on his shoulders. He should connect with these first 100-125. 

2. Pastor Dethroned
•These next 3 are the hardest. You built it to 125-150 on you being the go-to guru and solving all problems. 
The easiest way to dethrone the pastor is to make a hire that splits your duties. At this point you need another pastor who focuses on assimilation, groups and management. The pastor then starts directing people to this person. He allows them to oversee and solve problems. 
Now this is a shift because up till now you have been the direct connecting point. The people and you have to shift your mind-sets. 

3. Multiple Cell 
Another characteristic of the church from 50-150 is that they do everything as a whole. There are a few affinity groups such as men, women, youth and young adults. But you are pretty much still a single cell organism. 
Action steps are creating small group environments that go beyond affinity groups. 
Another action step is to publicly confront the notion that everyone in the church must do it all together. 
We mobilized our groups to become missional in outreach. They all chose an outreach individually. 

4. Few Family Disease Cured 
A church of 50-150 have those several families/groups that run the church. They serve on the boards, ministry departments and leadership roles. 
The key to breaking this is to breaking this is to level the playing field. Spread leadership out. Raise other people up. 
We did this by elevating the status of small group leaders and ministry team representatives. Multiply leaders and raise up other voices to help bring balance. 

Your goal should be 75-125-150 and then 200. At each level you have to make cultural shifts that challenge the previous level. 
Pastors remember... You have to be willing to change, stop blaming and make these shifts first in your own life. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Helping Your Church Learn to Value the Unchurched Part 2

In my last blog I discussed some signs that your church may not value the unchurched. I would suggest that you look at those points with your team and discuss where you are at in a 1 to 10 scale. 
After that you can help move your church to a place to where you start valuing the unchurched more. Most Christ followers in our generation believe that the engine of the Church is to primarily help them get a "good feeling" or meet their needs. The engine of the Church is to help people far from God know Christ. 

Here are some things I have done to help myself and our tribe be more cogniscent about the unchurched. 

1. Pray with them about it: Engage your congregation in prayer for them. Make it a point to pray for those far from God in your community. We do this each week at our ACTIVATE service on Wednesdays. 

2. Post about it: Use Social Media to remind the church about the focus of those far from God. Tell personal stories and solicit prayer for those far from God. 

3. Preach on it: Take time to use the platform as a place to talk about being missional in focus. Show the people what shape your country is in and the need of people far from God having their lives changed by Christ. Share series, messages and stories of engaging those far from God in relationship. 

4. Proclaim it (do it): Model it as a leader. Make it your mission to live on mission. As you do it, share about it. Spark the fire in others by active passion in you. 

5. Be Patient with it: Be patient with the church getting it. Be patient with those who you are living on mission for. Church folks have been trained mentally to be self-focused and look out for what is best for them. Be patient as they learn the difference between "outreach" and living on mission. Your church can do outreach and the people are still never taught to live on mission. Be patient as you share this paradigm shift. Be patient as you build relationships with those far from God. It's a long, hard, arduous and tough mission. 

•How do you plan to use each one of these platforms to help your people learn to live on mission? 
•How do you plan to reshape the mindset of your church to value reaching those far from God?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

4 Things LEADERS Should Never Do on Social Media

Social media is a terrific tool that we have access to in our generation. We can rapidly share ideas, thoughts, principles and ultimately the Gospel. I wrote a blog several months back on how use it for marketing. Today's blog is less about marketing and more about how a leader should use or not use social media. The way we use it can reveal how emotionally mature we really are. 

These 4 points are just some general guidelines to what leaders should not do on social media. 

1. Degrade other Ministries or Denominations:
•I have heard it said that the easiest way to try to look good is making others look bad. 
•We should never degrade other ministries or even denominations because we are polluting others with half-truths without the person (s) being able to defend themselves. 
•Emotional maturity is best shown when we are able to co-exist and even celebrate with others who are different. 

2. Snipe People who Hurt Them 
•Leaders should never go after people who have hurt them, especially in a passive-aggressive manner. I realize this is tough. It's very easy to vent on social media platforms. The main reason we should not do this is because it reinforces unhealthy ways to deal with conflict. We should always deal with conflict in person or possibly a call but never by writing snipe comments or aggressively going after someone who hurt you. 
•This also goes for arguing or trying to get a point across on social media. You should minimize or not respond then make time to sit with that person. Don't try to prove a point in social media interaction. 

3. Use for Personal Pity 
•Another expression of emotional immaturity is trying solicit pity. Only you can judge to see if your post is trying to get pity or you are just sharing your heart. I can't discern that for you. 
•There are some folks who, when they need attention, go for the pity "posts." Eventually people will get tired of you needing pity. 

4. Not Use it at All 
•Because of all the possible problems that come from social media there are people who just don't use it at all. Yes, you will find out things about people's lives that you did not want to know. You will have posts that anger you. But, you shouldn't retract from it as a leader. This is actually an immature response in some cases. If God leads you to get away or off, that's a different story, but don't let the drama, disappointments and just plain annoying folks keep you off. 

As a leader you have the ability to interact, have fun, share ideas and learn to be very patient with people. Instead of retracting, learn to engage and love people in it. 
*Our Connections Pastor at Thrive, Keith Rowell, wrote this informational and sarcastic blog a few years ago. Here is the link to "Different Types of Tweeps:" 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

7 Ways You Know Your Church Doesn't Value the Unchurched

I was on staff at a church one time where during the whole year we didn't see anyone accept Christ, have their life transformed or baptized. I told God that if this is ministry I want out. We hosted programs, conferences and events. We had good music and preaching but no life transformation. 

I believe we as churches have to intentionally pursue the unchurched. We have to bleed passion for those far from God. 
As I work with church planters and revitalization projects here are 7 ways (not exhaustive) that you know your church doesn't value the unchurched. 
1. You expect them to be the missionary
•We have made the unchurched the missionary in the 21st century. They are the biggest missionary group in the world. The church today expects them to take a mission trip to our church campus instead of us meeting them where they are at. 
•When a church loses the edge of pursuing those far from God this happens. There has to be a certain passion and push to go after them. 
•We have split this into two primary categories at Thrive: 
1) Missional Outreach: This is 1st Corinthians 13- love or as King Jimmy calls it, "charity." We do not expect return. We are simply engaging, giving and connecting. We do not judge the results by how many come to the campus or accept Christ.  
2) Missional Marketing: This is going after those far from God through marketing tools such as strategic postcards, Internet, invite cards, bracelets and more. We want those folks seeking and interested to connect with our family. We want them to come to a worship experience, surrender to Christ and become part of our family. 

2. You expect them to understand your church culture instead of exegiting theirs. 
•This is where you are more concerned about the style of church you have than the type of people you are going to reach. You may do strange things in your church service that people in your target community don't get. (Hint: we all do). Instead of changing the culture you keep doing it your way and wanting them to adapt. 
•Exegete your culture. What do the unchurched, dechurched and churched all have in common? What have they experienced in church before? What will they not understand about your church? What may be confusing? 
Here is a tip: If you always have to stop and explain WHY you are doing this strange practice or are getting a ton of questions- then stop to ask why this is happening. 

3. You use language that they don't understand. 
•Please bear with me. This is sensitive but it has to be done. Our church services are littered with strange words to the unchurched or offensive words to the dechurched. 
Verbiage such as:
-apostolic mandate (whatever that means)
-five fold ministry 
-corporate destiny (first time I heard this I literally had no clue what the dude was saying. I thought he was speaking to business owners. Seriously)
-Kingdom (I asked a group recently what was the Kingdom of God after a dude preached on it. They were stumped)
-God speaking (clarify to people what that is) 
-Destiny (it means fate to the unchurched) 
-tithing [which is a biblical practice] (for months after I got saved I didn't know what was happening at offering time. They taught on "tithing" each week. Still was clueless. Let them know at this time we are going to worship God by giving) 
-take the city (we don't do this alone. It takes all the churches)
-army of God (sounds like Islam) 

Help your leaders learn to say all these biblical ideas in everyday language. If you want a great commentary on this watch the film, "Jesus Camp," with the commentary on. The directors are far from God and VERY confused looking in on this camp. 

4. Signage is poor
•You expect them to know where everything is at. Over speak with signage. Make sure you have great signage pointing to entries, kids, restrooms and exits. 

5. You care more about pleasing or appeasing attendees than the unchurched. 
•"This is just who we are. We don't reach the unchurched but we have revival every week. Our people love it and would leave if we changed." That may be your best course of action. You may need some over fed, fat Christians to leave. 
•Going deep and not reaching the unchurched is a farse. If you have revival and folks are not surrendering to Christ then it's not revival. It could possibly be (not in all cases) your people flicking off the unchurched as they go "deep." Christ was crucified so people far from Him could come to know Him. 
•Stretch people to trade off so they can see those people far from God reached. 

6. You aren't prepared for them. 
•This is in two ways:
a) No guest services that make them feel like Jesus is on campus ready to greet them. From the parking lot (beginning) to the parking lot (end) they should feel overwhelmed with love. 
b) Your songs, message and whole experience is geared to the churched only. Your team needs to openly discuss  how the unchurched may perceive what they are doing. 
7. You don't pray for them corporately. 
•We pray EVERY Wednesday for people far from God in our community together. You get what you pray for. I believe if a church is praying and really prepared they wil see the unchurched come. 

Pray through these values to see if you believe you need to change a course of action to reach the unchurched. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

3 Reasons why Frustration is Your Most Dangerous Enemy

We all have this same issue the creeps up on us as leaders: frustration. 

There is an Old Testament picture of the price of frustration. God told Moses to strike the rock and water would flow. Moses struck it with frustration (anger) more than once and then God informed Moses that he would not be entering the promise land because of this. What was the big issue? Frustration. 

We may not be trying to get 1 million people into the promised land but we can definitely identify. We all get frustrated. We all have had the sound bite, "That's all I can stands and I can't stands no more (in your Popeye voice)."

Lets face it. People quit. People who you trusted go behind your back and say nasty things. There is a huge task list. Sometimes it is unthankful. Oftentimes we respond in frustration. 

Frustration is very dangerous to a leader. It is that short circuit in the system that eventually causes the melt down. This is true for marriage, ministry or leadership. 

Here are 3 reasons why frustration is your most dangerous enemy: 

1) It is a build up to a nasty ending
•Frustration not dealt with is like destroying the bridge you are going to eventually cross. Anytime a leader reaches a place of continual frustration it doesn't end well. A leader has to realize that once that disease sets in it is almost always fatal. 

2) It demoralizes the team or relationship.
• A frustrated leader often has nothing of value to add to the team at that point. They are usually jaded and bitter. They spew negativity about people and the future. 
Let's face it. At this point it's hard to lead with vision. Most of the talk is of past hurt and what people are not doing. It ultimately makes it impossible to lead a team. 

3) It causes perpetual ungratefulness
• Probably the worst problem is this. There is so much to be grateful and thankful for. We usually let the 1,000 things going great be overshadowed by the 1 thing that is going wrong. 
Frustration causes us to miss the beautiful things happening in our midst. 

If you feel like this is you then you need to confide in someone and dump on them. Secondly be prepared for advice and perspective. Let that come from trusted friends and from God. Pause to hear what He is saying. 
Finally, sit down and count the cost. Can you overcome this disease of frustration at your current assignment or do you need another one? 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

5 Marks of a Missional Worship Experience

This blog is not designed to teach "style" or "model." I simply want to give you give marks of a missional worship experience. 
We teach our people to live on mission all week. We also work with our ministry teams to be missional on Sundays. Every Sunday every volunteer is taking a mission trip. We are prepared for people far from God to be filled with life in Christ. 

Here are 5 marks of a missional worship experience: 
1. You are expecting people far from God to show up. 
•First and foremost this has to be the key. If you don't expect it then the rest of this blog is pointless. What you pray for and are expectant of comes to fruition. Every team leader and volunteer has to have that mindset. 
•If you are not expecting it them you will just turn your experience into camp meeting each week seeking to satisfy the ones who are coming. 

2. You gear every ministry with the mindset of mission. 
•Our mission at ThriveChurchVA is "we exist to help people experience God's love through Christ." 
•From your parking team to kids ministry; they are on mission. They are cognoscente that they will interact with people far from God. Constantly remind your church of their mission. 
•Help them understand that they participate in the wins. If someone gets saved at your experience help them understand that they, being on mission, played a part with that. 

3. Your worship song selection is Gospel-centered and engaging. 
•Worship is the engaging of mind, emotions and will. You want your songs to speak to them of God's love, the cross and His power that is available to save. You also want them to connect at the deepest level about God's love toward them. Finally you want them to do something. The result of worship music should also inspire people to want to respond to God's grace. 
•Keep a detailed record of all the songs you do. Plan them out and look at the big picture at what you are communicating. Worship leaders preach every week through the song selection. What are you preaching and teaching? Is it Gospel-centered? Does it reveal the true nature and mission of God?
•Be aware of singing songs that don't make sense to non-believers. Also, don't just sing the Apostles Creed or the Doxology. The song selection should be prepared to help them in the three areas  of mind, emotions and will. 
•Many times we do one if these really well but we fail in the other areas. Some churches sing a lot about "praise" but very little about the One who they are praising. Some sing about breakthroughs and new things but never the work of the cross or Christ. 
The main question to ask when looking at the music portion of your worship experience is this, "Are we teaching people the fullness of who the God of the Bible is and are they engaging with Him?" 
This is the essence of worshiping in spirit and truth. 

4. You pass by the cross when you preach and show them the real Hero of the message. 
•We have many different series that we preach. Some are felt needs, others the Gospel and some verse by verse. No matter what series you are in you always need to drive them by the cross. I had an elderly Bible professor tell me that. It has always stuck. 
•Make sure that people see the finished work of Calvary in the message. If you can preach it without needing the finished work on the cross then it is probably not Biblical. 
•Finally show them the real Hero of the story. We often make David, Moses or Joshua the hero. Remember that you are not slaying giants. Jesus did it and is doing it on your behalf. You are not conquering promised lands, Jesus has done it and is doing it on your behalf. Never let someone leave your message believing that they are the center and hero of the story. Point them back to the cross and Christ. 
If you are not preaching this then refer back to point #1 for the reason why you are not. 

5. Your two goals at the end are that people far from God connected with Him and that the people walking with God leave with a missional focus. 
•The main goal is two-fold. You can't make it one or the other. You want people leaving feeling more connected to God and having a greater awareness that they are in mission for God. 
•If they leave with one or the other they are in trouble. If they leave just feeling more connected to God without a sense of mission they become self-centered. However if you try to get people on mission that are not walking with the Savior they feel drained and can even become just a social justice machine. 
•Intimacy and Mission have to be married. Make sure that is woven throughout the worship experience. 

The worship experience requires lots of prayer, planning and evaluation. You can use these five points to see if you are putting together a missional worship experience. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Secret to Understanding Demographics

The Secret to Understanding Demographics

Let's get to the point. Demographics are misleading. I didn't think so four years ago. I had the best demographics for our church plant. I studied them and even memorized certain portions. But it didn't prepare me and truth be known it didn't even help me. Yes. I said that. They were misleading because I was not taught the secret of demographics. 

If you view demographics as just numbers, stats and ratios then you will be misled. 

The culture behind the numbers and stats are more important than the numbers themselves. For instance, you may have "City A" with 40% of the population 20-40 years old. So, you assume that you will mostly reach that group. So you sit in an office and make a plan based on those demographics. After a while you find out why you are not reaching that group. You moved from "City B" and reaching that group is like shooting fish in a barrel. You pop up a church and boom- they come. It's not happening here in "City A." Why? The culture is totally different. 

You need to put culture to your demographics. You can't exegete your culture by numbers on paper. You have to be baptized in that culture. For those pastors and planters who grew up or pastored previously in the city they do ministry in it's much easier. But if you are a church planter or accepting a pastoral assignment in another area then you need the numbers and stats but don't make any assumptions based on your previous culture. 

4 Things to Remember: 

1. All cultures are unique and different. Chicago and Atlanta are metro cities but totally different. Their cultures are very different. Find out what makes the culture unique there. Certain portions of the US have culture pockets. Some pastors work better in their culture pocket. A pastor from NY may not do very well in a Southern rural town just as the country preacher from a rural town may not make it in Seattle. 

2. Don't base your target on demographics alone. 
Get baptized in the culture. I worked for a government agency helping folks who were unemployed get back to work. I saw hundreds per week in South FL. I quickly realized the culture and my estimation of demographics were wrong!

3. Talk to the locals. 
Talk to pastors, natives and pilgrims. When I planted my first church I resisted the wisdom of local pastors. Granted most of them were very negative and cynical but I did not listen. In my most recent endeavor I just sat in onunch meetings and asked questions. Also, listen to the natives. Read responses to online newspaper articles. Find those who have been there for years and ask them questions. Also, talk to Pilgrim's. find out why people are moving to your community.

4. Don't ignore demographics. 
At first glance of this article it may seem that I am downing demographics. Not so. Learn them. Memorize them and adjust accordingly. 

The secret is to know the culture of each people group in the demographic that is represented. This is an ongoing task. Don't think you have it figured out after 3 months or 6 months of being there. You will continue to exegete and excavate that culture that will give you more insigt on the numbers and percentages. So, never recite numbers with out attaching the local culture if every group represented.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

7 Secrets to Make the Most out of Summer

May 31-Sept 7 is church summer time. The months of June, July and August are usually a time for vacations and travel for families. 
I saw one church sign say, "I am glad God doesn't take vacations." You can sense the pastor's frustration. 

Summer can be fruitful. I am not saying you will break major growth barriers. If you do, that's great. But most past it's are trying to blindly walk through summer. I have heard that if you plateau during the summer you are probably growing. Encouraging, right?

Here are seven short secrets to making the most out of summer. 

1. Focus on getting better before bigger. 
•Take time to meet with ministry leaders and make each ministry better. Focus on getting better in all your functions. As the founder of Chick-fil-a said, "If we get better out customers will demand we get bigger." 

2. Plan strategic events that create momentum toward the fall. 
•We are hosting a baptism bash and BBQ, a community wide VBS and two back to school bashes. These events help build synergy and excitement within the church that bring momentum toward the fall. 

3. Use the summer to evaluate the previous six months. 
•Look back at averages, numbers and stats. Breakdown percentages of those serving, in groups, conversion growth, attendance and finances. See how much you have grown, declined or plateaued. 

4. Don't use all your creativity in preaching during the summer time. 
•We do a verse by verse teaching starting after Memorial Day and it continues through most of the summer. We teach through a book of the Bible. Don't use creative series during the summer. Save those series for Sept-May. Save up those creative juices. 

5. Summer doesn't mean you have to shut down. 
•I know there are several ways to skin this cat. The main point is to not quit during the summer. Use it strategically. 

6. Have a half-time huddle at some point.
•All sports teams have a half-time huddle. The coach reviews the first half of the game and gives an "adjusted" game plan for the second part of the game. Do the same with your church. 

7. Do some fun things during the summer with the church. 
•When people think of summer they think of BBQ's, water and fun. Have some fun events that can bring your folks together. Just have some fun! 

There are hundreds of other things ministry leaders can do during the summer. These are just a few ideas. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Routine vs. Rhythm

Q: I get this question asked a lot ,"How do you get so much accomplished and stay so focused?"
A: Routines are deadly while a rhythm is necessary for growth as a leader. 

The people (including this guy) who face constant burn out are those who have a routine but no rhythm. This means their routine is a habitual problem that puts them in the direct line of burnout. 

A routine can be very deadly. For instance, your routine could be that you: 
•take on every task as it comes. 
•don't say no to opportunities or needs. 
•leave work late every day because you can't say no. 
•allow other people or co-worker's lack of planning put you in a tough spot. 
•don't schedule meetings properly or schedule too many. 
•allow people to back you in a corner by needing it "right now." They need to learn to plan as well. 
•have no daily and weekly task, meeting and emergency schedule.

And the main reason is you don't have a rhythm. Lets be honest: your routine of spontaneity, haphazard planning, lack of foresight and inability to say no is taking its toll on you. 

2013 was the year I had to move from an unhealthy routine of the hamster wheel to a healthy rhythm. 

A rhythm means that you establish certain tasks on certain days, live by a calendar, protect your personal time and refuse to be spread thin. 

A rhythm looks like this: 
•certain tasks HAVE to be scheduled and completed weekly. I will even say, "I am in a meeting." It's that serious. I am meeting with that task. 
•schedule personal devotion time and exercise. Being physically unhealthy is the result of a routine as well. 
•Plan time in each day for "surprise" or emergency tasks. They will happen. Stop being surprised.
•live by a schedule. This means you can't stay on the phone as long as you want or surf the Internet all day. There are times when I can't take calls because I have scheduled "meetings" with critical tasks. 
•if it's important they will leave a message. Schedule times to return calls and emails. 
•have downtime EVERY DAY. Don't be so consumed with work that it's a you do or think about. 

Here is the easy way to do this. Plan your week around the big tasks that have to happen that week and every week. 
I write my Sunday message on Monday. Why? The media team needs it and I don't want them to be pressured late and I want that monkey off my back. I have 4 major tasks everyday that have to be accomplished. I work through those first and then go to "surprise" tasks that come in via email or call. The schedule dictates my time, not feelings or other people. 

Take time this week to set up a RHYTHM. Remember, don't complain because you are the master of your schedule. If you live in a rhythm then others will have to adjust their routines to your rhythm. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Thoughts on Burn Out

As a leader who desires to start a movement in your church or organization there is a hidden enemy called, "Burnout."
I remember in 2007 sitting with Coach John (Chasteen), Dean of Southwestern Christian University, at an Applebees in South Carolina and he explained burnout to a friend and I on a napkin. He drew the picture of a linear graph and showed the signs and procession of burnout. He also shared his dramatic experience with this. He even stated that once you burnout you never get fully back to that place of energy again. 

Even with all this information I burned out in the summer of 2011. There were TONS of external issues that helped contribute to it, but the main factor is that I allowed myself to burnout. 

The key is that we often think that if we had a different scenario we would not burn out. We get into the "when-then" mentality. The view that burnout is an external issue is the problem. The reason one lets burnout happen is just that- they let it happen. 

Here are a few thought on stress....
1. Know the Signs: Anger/Frustration. Lack of joy in hobbies that once seemed fun. Marriage or close relationships suffer. Depression. Lack of motivation. Physically tired all the time. Withdrawal. Constant ideas on how to escape or quit.

2. Know the Reasons (personally): Stress comes because of being overwhelmed. This can come because of personal high expectations or meeting other's approval. This may come from conflict or tasks that seem overwhelming. 
Know what burns you out personally. 

3. Act Immediately: The moment you think you are burning out- act. You are the master of your life. Don't act as a victim. That's what got you burned out in the first place. Take some time. Explain to your wife, leaders or denomination that you need a few days off. Begin to seek God fresh once again.

4. Set up Boundaries: Weekly have a time of personal refreshing. You need to do this spiritually and recreationally. Guard your time carefully. Have a way or ways to "dump" stress. As a dump truck gets loaded, so do you. It doesn't stay loaded however. It's called a "dump" truck. Take an inventory of the things you are doing to dump stress. Make them happen.
Learn to REST! God rested on the 7th day not because He was tired but because He made a model for us. Perry Noble recently said, "If you don't work people may call you lazy, but if you don't rest God calls you disobedient." 

Do you find ministry frustrating?
Have you lost joy and peace, internally?
Are you fatigued and lack motivation?
Are your sleep patterns changing?
Do you dream of doing something else (fantasizing)?
Have you lost gratefulness?

Talk to someone today. Be open, vulnerable and honest. Take some time away. Rest and recharge. Most importantly, let God speak to you about your situation. You were never mean to carry that stress.

Monday, May 27, 2013

How Leader's Process Hurt

Previous Post from June 2011. 

Hurt People can Hurt People

Genesis 31:7, "but he (Laban) has cheated me, changing my wages ten times. But God has not allowed him to hurt me." 

Jacob was done wrong in the most amazing way. Worked 7 years for a lady he did not want to marry and then was cheated into working another 7 years for the wife he wanted. Despite this, Jacob carried a godly perspective and did not allow the hurt he experienced to shape him. 

We will never escape life without experiencing hurt and pain. Realize that hurt and pain from a sickness or disease is much different than hurt or pain from relationships. I want to talk to you about that for a few minutes. 

In life and especially ministry, you will get hurt from and by people. You will also, hopefully unintentionally, hurt others as well. The way we respond and react will utlimately determine how we proceed in our lives. 

To be totally honest, I have been taught all the proper techniques of planting and growing churches. The books I have read and mentors I have sat under address all the hot topics and trending movements. I was aware of all the church growth stuff. I was aware of all the newest teaching. However I was not aware and was never taught on a real level how much people can hurt you. 

You have two options when you are hurt by someone. The first option is to internalize it and promise yourself this will never happen again. You can live in a false trust of others and react out of that pain the rest of your life. The second option is to process the hurt and pain in a positive manner. The first step is to realize that people are people. Allow yourself to grieve the relationship and the hurt, but ultimately allow God to speak to you, give you perspective and then encourage you. 

I have been active in ministry for 10 years now. Only the past two years have I met some of the most faithful and trustworthy people and literally, crazy folks. Yep. Crazy. I have heard, "I got your back man. We are going to do this together." Or my favorite, "I am here to serve you. God has called me here." After these statements, the same folks have cursed me out (and I am still trying to figure out why), left me and never returned a call, attempted to sabotage our ministry when we supported them in difficult times and one dude even gave a check and then stopped payment without telling me (you know that story). 

God has taught me how to discern who the true leaders are. God has taught me to love those who have done me wrong. God has taught me how to love and most importantly He has taught me how to process pain and hurt from relationships.

Here are the steps to take when a relationship ends painfully: 
1) Extend love and grace to that person.People are people. We are fallen and broken. 
2) Spread that love and grace to your leadership around you. They may have to know the facts (or they may not), but teach them how to operate in love and grace. 
3) Allow yourself time to grieve. It hurts. You will experience shock and awe in some of the stuff that is done to you and your family. Cry. Cry out to God. Have a friend to vent to. 
4) Gain God's perspective on the situation. Let Him speak to you about the situation. 
5) Finally, do not react in an email, text or even a call. If you feel that you absolutely must talk to that person, do it face to face and get someone to be your filter and see if it is worth it. 

Jacob was hurt deeply. He had huge disappointments, but he did not allow that hurt to run his life or dictate his calling. Neither should we. Process the pain positively.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Defense Doesn't Win Championships

In sports we always hear, "Defense wins championships." That is true for sports. Just ask Mike Diantoni (Currently Lakers Coach).

However in your ministry this is not true. Defense doesn't win. Leaders who are defensive find ways to lose.

Being defensive means that we respond to criticism or advice in a critical way. Ministry success is not primarily found in great preaching or outreach techniques but how one decides to respond to criticism. I have been a part of ministries that fell apart at the seams because the senior leader was defensive.

Three Signs to Become Aware of Your Defensive Posture:
1. Can't Handle Criticism:
•Defensive leaders get extremely offended at any sign of criticism and they bite those who give it. All criticism is bad. Even though it may be through a biased lens, you can still learn from it.
Ask, "Why did I respond that way?"

2. Unholy Ownership:
Defensive leaders also call their ministry/organization, leaders or group "my" and "mine." Because of this posture when things don't go 100% correctly they take extreme offense and become defensive. This especially manifests if someone else is seeing success and they are not. Jealousy and isolation are birthed from this one.
Ask, "Why do I call it 'mine?'"

3. Blame Game:
Another defensive mechanism is when one starts blaming external circumstances and other people for their problems. They make comments like, "We need more commitment. These people just don't care." They must first look INTERNALLY to find out if they need to change instead immediately looking to others as the main fault.
Ask, "What do I need to change in my dealing with others that will make it easier to work with me?"

The reason I can write this is because I am extremely defensive. I am praying daily for God to heal my heart of insecurity and bitterness that produces these defense mechanisms. My wife helps me immensely to see when I am operating in this mindset.
Ask God daily to help you heal and ask others to help you guard against the big 3.

Friday, April 26, 2013

4 Tips on Marketing through Facebook

Facebook is a great tool to reach people who are seeking, engaging your current members and to promote events.

Here are 5 Tips we use when marketing through Facebook:

1. Have a Facebook Page.
Some churches are using a "person" profile instead of a page. For the sake of time I simply want to say that you cannot promote a person or advertise a person profile but you can advertise a page. Use a page, not a personal profile for your organization.

2. Advertise and Market Your Page.
You can use ads manager to advertise your page. Create an ad that promotes an event, your church, sermon series or big day.

3. Target Different Age Groups when Advertising.
Run several ads at one time. Market one for young adults, one for parents with teens and so on. Target them by interests and location as well.

4. Run Ads Thursday through Sunday.
Don't continuously run ads all week. People are looking for a church Thursday through Sunday.

5. Post 3 Times a Day at Least.
Keep your page current with updates. Post pictures, Scriptures, stories and events. You can now schedule your posts through the Facebook page. See what time you get the most reach and what type of posts get the most reach as well.

Friday, March 8, 2013

10 Commandments of a Healthy Church

I went through this with our Core Team of Thrive Church when we got ready to launch. We talked about what a healthy church culture looks like.

The 10 Commandments of a Healthy Church:

          1. Thou Shall Worship God and not a Ministry Style or Tradition (past, present or future).

          2. Thou Shall Not Gossip about Others or Spread your “Opinions” to Other people about Them.

          3. Thou Shall ___________________________ (we all placed our own).

          4. Thou Shall not Desire Positions but Rather just be People of Production.

          5. Thou Shall not Run People off from the Church by being Mean to Them.

          6. Thou Shall be Willing to be Flexible to Find the Best Way for the Health and Growth of the Church and its People. (Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape)

          7. Thou Shall Embrace Other Races and Cultures. (racism and prejudice are condemned by God and a mark of an immature disciple or an unbeliever)

          8. Thou Shall Not GET OFFENDED or STAY OFFENDED, but Will Act Like Mature Adults When Conflict Arises. 

          9. Thou Shall Work with Others in a Team Ministry Format.

          10. Thou Shall be Generous with Time, Talent and Treasure.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"Tebow" Pastors

Everyone was taken back by Tebow-mania last year. The 2011 season was highlighted by Tim Tebow's performance with the Denver Broncos. He led them all the way from a 1-4 start to a divisional playoff game. That's impressive. Or so it would seem. He had a great season.
Look at the 2012 season. Tebow was traded to the NY Jets and then benched. No starts. No glory. No postseason heroics. He simply had one really good season.

The reasonTim Tebow only lasted one season and no one wants to take him as a QB is because he is one-dimensional. He can really run the football. He is a powerful back, but he cannot throw the football. The Jets really wanted Tebow. They traded draft picks for him. Then they found out he is one dimensional. He is a glorified running back but will never make it because he simply cannot throw the football.
(I am not hating on Tebow. I like the dude. I love his faith.)

Many pastors have only one good season in their career because they are one-dimensional. They are "Tebow Pastors."
It is a struggle for me and if you are a pastor it's a struggle for you. No one is exempt.
What is the struggle? It is being one-dimensional in our approach to how we do ministry. It is being one-dimensional in our denomination ties. It can even be in our skill sets.

Here are some ideas to train your inner Tim Tebow to be able to pass and run.

1. Multi-Dimension: I thank God for my tribe. They are good folks with good intentions for the Kingdom. The problem comes when you grow up in a denomination, go to their school and pastor their churches. You only know one way to do ministry. If you are Pentecostal then you only know aggressive, demonstrative ministry. If you are Baptist, then you are trained from a contemporary, but dry, seeker-sensitive approach. If you are Methodist, then probably heavy liturgy and programmatic worship services.
Here's the point: Learn, appreciate and incorporate the values of other denominations. If you are Charlie Charismatic or Perry Pentecostal, then work toward learning how to reach unbelievers and value the unchurched thoughts or perceptions of church. Learn how to systematically teach the Bible.
If you are mainline, then learn the value of prayer, faith and believing God. Learn the importance of the Holy Spirit.

How are you one-dimensional?

I heard a guy say this one time, "If you always look for a potential spouse at your family reunion then your family may come out a little slow."
Learn to cross-pollenate so you can stop being a "Tim Tebow."
I believe that God is calling pastoral leaders to become more like the Levite tribes. They were able to go in and out of each tribe. May we be that way with our tribes.

Monday, January 14, 2013

7 Website Mistakes Made by Churches

I don't have one single source for all that I have learned with websites and online marketing. I will say that my friend Craig Walker from and one of my coaches, Bob Franquiz, of Calvary Fellowship have been instrumental.

I do know that churches have the worst ideas when it comes to websites and online marketing. I spend hours talking to pastors about how to make their sites better. Most of them listen to about 5% and then continue to do what they "think" is best.
Let me just say this: Don't mess up the website! It is key.

Thrive Church started with just 25 people in June of 2012. We have grown to over 125 people in 6 months. That is 500% growth in 7 months.  90% of our newcomers are coming through our website. The two elements that helped me the most was Craig's book, "Right Message; Wrong Method," then I studied all the top churches websites.

Over the years I have learned the hard way about websites and having a strong online presence. These principles will apply to your church or business.
Here are the seven, common, mistakes of churches and websites:

1. Your Website is Based on Your Own Personal Creative "Think Tank."
I remember talking to one guy who sat with his friend to make this really cool new idea about creating their churches websites. They had this elaborate plan of forums and discussions. It was in depth. I asked this guy, "Do any of the top churches or growing churches in your area do this?" His response was, "I don't know." I encouraged him to see what they are doing and use their principles. He didn't. The website is your basic, irrelevant, church website.
When creating a website make sure you use empirical evidence. Find out what design companies the top churches in your region are using. Find our what links they use as main links. Find out what they are doing.
Don't sit around with a friend to make the "ultimate website." Hint: It's been done. There are churches who have paid someone lot's of money to figure this out. Mimic their principles.

2. Someone in Your Church Can Make Websites.
I am laughing as I write this. Listen, my great aunt took a class at the community college that teaches how to make websites. Anyone can make a website, but not everyone can create a WOW website. Be courageous enough to say no to this. Unless they are a pro and a stable person in the church, just say no. If they are amateur and not very connected, eventually you will have a bad site that is never updated.
I hear this one more than anything else. If they are web saavy, then have them use a reputable web design company that will host it. You will get a great template and they just have to "plug and play." Make sure you get ALL passwords and information. Don't get caught with them leaving and your URL is on an island.

3. Cheaper is Better.
One of my pastor friends was trying to convince his board of the necessity of a great website. They wanted to know the CHEAPEST way possible. They would do yardsales for irrlevant events, but not put money into a quality website.
Here is the key: If it is cheap, it will be cheap. Just like a used car, you will get what you pay for. This can be the best investment you have ever made.

4. Too Much Information.
Make sure your home page has the KEY links and buttons. Pretend you are a first time guest. What type of church is this? What do they believe? Where are they located?
Have links on your page, but your home page should NOT have a novel on the front page. Make it easy to navigate around the page.

5. You Don't Know What S.E.O Means.
Search Engine Optimization is the KEY. Google is the number one search engine right now. Search engines read your web page. When someone searches for a church, they will use key words. A person may move to our area and type in: Christian Church Chesterfield. If we don't have these keywords in description pages, on the front page and in other areas, it will be looked over. Google doesn't read JPEG's or FLASH. Pictures and flash NEED to be on the front page. It looks good, but being found is much better than looking good. We had to cut our flash pictures in half so we could add more keyword search words. This boosts your rankings in certain categories. We have several key words we use over and over again on our website.
We paid a company called, "Boostablity," to come in and optimize our site. They helped GREATLY. The two ways you are found are: 1) Organic listings and 2) Paid Advertising.
Use a company like Boostability to help your organic rankings and then use Google Adwords Express for your paid advertising. We see tons of families a month come through Thrive Church due to Google Adwords. We INVEST money into Google Adwords. If you type in "best church in richmond va," we will come to the very top.
We have put enough emphasis on Google Adwords to the point that we now dominate our region with organic listings and Google searches.
We also use Bing/Yahoo search, but the return has not been as good.
Have your site, "Search Engine Optimized."

6. Lack of Video and Audio (or poor quality).
I have heard countless people say, "I watched your welcome video. That sold me." We have a link to a welcome video. They need to see the pastor first and then see what the church looks like. Make sure your video is solid and reflects your church. 
One issue I have found is very poor audio quality of recordings. People want to see a welcome video and they want to hear your preaching (or see it).
Don't post crappy videos though. If you can get a better audio clip than video for preaching, then go with QUALITY. Video doesn't sell. If they can't hear you and you look really small on the screen, it may be a turn off. People will search for your website while at work. Most work computers will not let them play YouTube videos. If that's all you have then you will miss out. Post audio.
 I have also seen churches try to post worship in those venues. BAD IDEA. Let people know what music you play and add some shots or video, but don't put extended video of your worship that was recorded with a cheap camcorder or iPhone. Remember that most of our teams will sound worse recorded. That lady who can't hit a note- the guest will hear it. Play it safe. I know you are proud of them, but your guest to the website may not be as proud.
Keys: Welcome video. Great Quality Audio. Finally, have some video if it is good quality.

7. Website Doesn't Match the Church.
I learned the hardway. When I planted a church in FL this happened to me. Before we launched our church we created this rocking website. The problem is that we were still running 30 people. We met in a weird location with bright blue walls. I had our first website guest come to the church. He told me afterwards, "You have a good thing here, but your website oversells your church. Tone it down to match your church." That was hard to swallow.
Use pictures of the facility. Use pictures of your people. Don't let guests be surprised when they come to your church. After they leave the website they should have an accurate description of what to expect.
If you have a great church then don't have a terrible website either. Your website is a personal reflection on how much you think of your church.

Here are a few companies that host sites:
Clover Sites
Faith Connector
Church Plant Media
-many, many, many more.

Craig Walker's Book, "Right Message, Wrong Method."

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

It's Not for You!

I had a huge wake up call in Florida. I moved there thinking I would spend the rest of my life in that city. I sacrificed. I saved money. I raised support. We took a huge step of faith. We started and established a church.

I remember in August of 2011 when I felt God impress on my heart that our associate/youth pastor was to take it over. I did not want to hear it. Over the next several months I fasted, prayed and sought advice from trusted mentors. All signs were pointing to the inevitable. I was not going to be there forever.

The passage of Scripture here speaks of this very thing. David had an inexperienced son who was to take over. Instead of David being insecure and looking at Solomon's limitations, he made "preparations."

David said, "My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house that is to be built for the LORD shall be exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorious throughout all lands. Therefore now I will make preparation for it." So David made ample preparations before his death. (1 Chronicles 22:5 NASB)
::How are you preparing the next generation for ministry?
You are building your ministry for someone else. You are always preparing it for someone else. What you are building is not just for your enjoyment, but for the next person.

Here is the way to accomplish this:
1. Don't base it on your personality alone.
Don't put pictures up of you and your wife around the church. It may make you feel good, but the next guy has to take them down. Don't build everything based on your talent and personality alone. Even though the church will take on your personality, don't make it that.

2. Don't base your ministry on your programs.
If you and your wife run all the programs and administrate everything, then when you are called out, it will fail. Most pastors (especially young, like myself) initiate and start programs. They run them, put energy behind them and make it their own. Remember, what you start, you will have to sustain. Don't try to carry a program or ministry on your shoulders. Build ministry around people's passions. Pray and wait for the right people. Let God build it through the people, not "on" you.

3. Don't just "do" church.
Build a culture that has healthy systems and healthy leaders over those systems. Build a culture where the people own the vision and when it comes down to it, with or without you they will take it on.

We launched Thrive Church in 2012. It has been wonderful. But what I have learned is that we were able to do that because a group of people helped start a movement 63 years ago. I am seeing success because "preparations" were made.

Say this daily, "It's not about me; it's about the next guy. This is not for me; it's for the next generation. I will not be here forever; but I want this culture and vision to outlive me."

Now- for all my Thriver's reading this. I plan to be here for a while. Take a deep breath! :)