The Shepherd CEO

UnknownTwo extremes pull and tug at most pastors, especially those that lead small/medium sized congregations . They may be called upon at any time of day or night to be one or the other. It can be as overwhelming as it is exhausting to find balance between caring for and leading the flock. In other words, being the Shepherd and the “CEO.”

The pastor as shepherd. This role calls on the pastor to be listener, comforter, intercessor, counselor, friend and more. While this can be as rewarding as any aspect of ministry, it can also be exhausting. Without some checks and balances pastors can easily find themselves suffering from compassion fatigue and worse, burn-out. This role isn’t isolated to the pastor and is shared in so many ways by spouses, kids and other ministry team members.

Still, being a shepherd never goes out of style. As a small church pastor I cared personally for the church one family, couple or individual at a time. When I was a large church pastor I was there for the staff, lead teams and their families who in turn cared for the larger congregation through small groups. To be honest, this is will always be the best method regardless of size… God’s people caring for one another! Regardless, the call to love the people we lead is still relevant, and always will be. Shepherding never goes out of style. Only the context changes with size.

Then there’s the pastor as CEO. Regardless of polity, structure and/or staffing, the pastor can’t ignore the realities of organization life (visioning, goal-setting, staffing, budgeting, planning, training, etc.). I have had the privilege of pastoring churches from 9-900 and the overall responsibility is the same, only the administrative method changes. For many in small and medium-sized churches, they often find themselves as their own secretary, executive assistant, administrative pastor and more all rolled into one. There is a better way and we would love to help you find it! (Let’s talk coaching!)

Whether you have paid staff or not to handle daily operations, the reality is that the church has a business side to it and it should be handled with a practical professionalism, and a lot of prayer! After all, administration is a biblical gift. For those with the benefit of dedicated staff for all the above, you still bear the responsibility of oversight, equipping and encouraging each leader and each area of ministry well.

Pastors have long since been tasked with leading as both shepherd and CEO. “Old school” pastors and churches emphasize one while millennial ministers and their ministries have trended to the other. However, both are vital to the health of the organizational culture and congregation.

Bottom line? Pastors must be all about the business of being there for people while simultaneously overseeing the nuts and bolts of organizational life. Both never stop begging for attention and deserve equal parts compassion and excellence.

The question is, how do pastors do this without losing it? Is balance even possible?

Share your suggestions in the reply section below. Need some help finding a balance or renewing your focus on one or the other? We would love to help you find a more effective balance. Let us know how we can help through an ongoing coaching partnership. Just reply, “Let’s talk coaching!” in the reply section below and we’ll get connected!

5 Ways to Encourage Educators

Unknown-1We all have that teacher, coach, bus-driver, librarian, administrator or other educator who played a vital role in us becoming who we are today (Thanks “Coach P” & Mr. Pyle!). As a new school year begins, let’s pay this forward by practicing…

5 Ways to Encourage Educators in Your Life

1) Pray for them daily. Who couldn’t use more prayer? Remember, they face the same real world stuff of life as us. Pray the Lord blesses and strengthens them for their task.

2) Encourage them often. Don’t assume they know how important they are and how much they are appreciated as they mold the minds of our kids! Let them know… often.

3) Be kind in your critique. Take the tone and choose the words you would prefer they use when evaluating your kids or, better yet, your parenting skills. Think honesty and encouragement as a good combo.

4) Be generous at holidays (or anytime “just because.”) Educators aren’t in it for the money. Give them a restaurant gift card, gas card, movie card, coffee shop card… or get together with other parents to buy them a new iPad, send them on a paid weekend away at the destination of their choice. Why not? When they are at their best, so will our kids!

5) Be grateful for their influence on our kids. “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” (Henry Adams) They are investing in life changing moments with our kids. Think of even more ways you can help them do the job and fulfill the call they have assumed.


How do you honor the educators in your life? Share your suggestions in the Reply section below…

5 Ways to Get Over It

UnknownWe all get hurt. We’ve all hurt others. This isn’t optional, though we desperately try to avoid it. What we do with it is. While it won’t be easy and will take some time, here are 5 Ways to Get Over It when you’ve been hurt in life and leadership.

1) Get real. Don’t be brave and deny your pain. It will haunt you. Don’t “bottle” it up. It will blow up on you and those around you. Go ahead. Be hurt. Be shocked. Be angry. Be sad. After all, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35, NIV) Whether from the unbelief of his closest followers or just because his friend died, he cried over it openly. Though sinless, He also expressed anger, disappointment, loneliness and every emotion we experience in life and leadership today.

Be whatever it is you are feeling. Be real about it. Fail to do this and you only prolong and even intensify the pain. Say the words. Journal about it (No… don’t blog it, rant on Facebook or tweet about it). Look yourself in the mirror and face your reality. God is big enough to handle your hurt and you won’t befooling anyone but yourself if you fail to take this vital step.

2) Go to it. By “it” we mean “them.” You can’t get past it if you try to go around those involved in whatever “it” is. You may have to do this more than once as you first go to God, then to those who wronged you (or you wronged), and then to those in your life who can help you (family, friends & accountability partners). Be honest with them. Don’t minimize or exaggerate. Be genuine as you forgive and seek forgiveness. There is no other step until this step is taken. (See Matthew 6:12-15 & Matthew 18:15-20) 

3) Get over it. This will take some time. The deeper the pain, the longer it may take. It sounds more spiritual to say you can simply, “Forgive and forget.” The reality is we may truly forgive and be forgiven and still be tempted with lingering issues, regrets, cynicism, defensiveness or become very guarded. When this happens, do something about it.

  1. Be accountable. Admit it to yourself, the Lord and someone you trust.
  2. Give it the antidote… speak a word of Scripture, of faith, hope, or encouragement over yourself, your situation or someone you’ve already forgiven.
  3. Control your atmosphere. Refuse to throw private, let alone public, pity-parties. Create atmospheres of gratitude, expectation, and joy… at home, your car, your workplace, etc.

4) Give yourself time to get over it… but determine to get over it and go forward with God’s grace and the accountability of others. Our emotions will often circle and cycle around as we move forward. So will the feelings of others involved. They may come to you and then, together, you can process the hurt and gain a better understanding together of how to learn and grow from it. Take your time because that’s what it will take.

5) Get on with it. It’s time to move on. You may or may not be moving on locationally, but you can move on in heart and mind. Determine with some real “grit” to focus on what God is doing in your life right here, right now. Dare to dream a little about your future while you are at it. Then, find someone to listen to, lift up and help get through the challenge they are facing in their life. Stay busy in these ways and there will be little time to obsess about you or listen to the lies from the enemy of our souls whispering doubt and defeat, hoping to trap you in the past. Not you. Not this time. You are moving forward!

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:17-19, NIV)

Finally, be grateful for it. This is perhaps the ultimate way of cementing closure and moving on. Call it the “Joseph Principle.” Having been betrayed by family, co-workers, promoted, demoted, imprisoned, promoted again and everything in between, Joseph responded to his brothers, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:19-21, NIV) (See Matthew 5:11-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; 1 Peter 4:12-14) 

God hasn’t something new and next for you, not in spite of what you need to get over, but through it… maybe even because of it. No, you won’t get there in “5 easy steps.” However, you can and will get there as you determine to find help and healing in the Lord.  Start by getting real…

The Best (re)Action

images-3What is our first reaction to a challenge, problem, or crisis? How many panic or just plain freak out? How many get all “hero” and do something immediately… even if it’s wrong? How many retreat ASAP to get away, process and plan?

What if we did something altogether different? What if, instead of immediately asking, “What am I going to do?” we first asked, “Lord, what do you want to do?”

Pray first. Consider a small but powerful commentary on some of our Biblical heroes found in Scripture, “Abraham prayed…” “Isaac prayed…” “Jacob prayed…” “Moses prayed…” “Samson prayed…” “Hannah prayed…” “David prayed…” “Elijah prayed…” “Elisha prayed…” “Nehemiah prayed…” “Daniel prayed…” “Jonah prayed…” “Jesus prayed…” “Stephen prayed…” “Peter prayed…” “Paul prayed…”

…you get the picture.

Then again, do we get the picture when it comes to prayer? The great theologian, John Bunyon lends perspective, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” Sure, we can spend a lifetime doing things by pure initiative. But what if, through prayer, we partnered in God’s initiative, His plan and purpose? We won’t know until we try.

The next time something comes up and we don’t know what to do, let’s make our first reaction taking action through prayer. Remember, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” (Oswald Chambers) 

Lessons in Liberty

images-22Never have the lines between God and the Country His providence established been more blurred. Never in the history of our nation have our founding principles and values been more compromised, watered down in a sea of relativism, and a pseudo-tolerance of anything but fundamental biblical principle. What does this mean? It means never has the opportunity been greater for the Church of God in Christ Jesus to be the “light of this world.” Never have we been more poised to proclaim the Truth in an age of uncertainty to a generation desperate for clarity.

As we celebrate this weekend our independence as a nation, I want to take this opportunity to remind us of some Lessons in Liberty, some fundamental truths about where our freedom comes from and how it is sustained.

Isaiah 61:1 (KJV), “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me: because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.”

This prophecy was given concerning the One who would forever be the freedom of human kind, God the Son, Jesus Christ. He would not only proclaim liberty, but become our liberty through His death, burial and resurrection. And now, “If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed.” John 8:36 The freedom all human hearts beat for is found all and only in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

(Bold Freedom) Lesson One: “…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NIV)

God’s people have always known this because His Word has always proclaimed it and God’s Spirit has always made sure we stay conscious of it. What attracts the Spirit of God and what is so attractive about that Spirit? Humility! The Lord knows how to keep us humble. Why? Because the opposite is also true. The Spirit of the Lord is not free, “quenched” because of human pride, the pursuit of self at the expense of others, the pursuit of personal glory instead of His fame. Bondage soon follows. The Spirit of God favors the humble and resists the arrogant.

Our founding Fathers understood what many, in self-sufficient arrogance, today have forgotten. Chief of these was George Washington…

“…O most Glorious God, in Jesus Christ my merciful and loving Father, I acknowledge and confess my guilt, in the weak and imperfect performance of the duties of this day. I have called on Thee for pardon and forgiveness of sins… Let me live according to those holy rules which Thou hast this day prescribed in Thy Holy word; make me to know what is acceptable in Thy sight, and therein to delight, open the eyes of my understanding, and help me thoroughly to examine myself concerning my knowledge, faith and repentance, increase my faith, and direct me to the true object, Jesus Christ the Way, the Truth and the Life, bless, O lord, all the people of this land, from the highest to the lowest, particularly those whom Thou has appointed to rule us in church and state. Continue Thy goodness to me this night. These weak petitions, I humbly implore Thee to hear, accept and answer for the sake of Thy Dear Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”  George Washington’s personal prayer book, “Daily Sacrifice,” 1752, Sunday Evening Prayer:

It was in and through such a humble spirit and posture that God would use such a man to birth a free and great nation. Greater still, it was through the Spirit of humility that Jesus gave His life for us! Philippians 2:1-8. The question to us today is, “What is my spiritual posture, my attitude?” Am I insistent on my way, my agenda for me, mine and ours. Or, am I willing to decrease that He might increase?

To each generation of the church the question begs… am I willing to put the interest of a lost generation ahead of my own and that of my generation? We have some tough calls to make and some exciting steps to take in the days to come in answer to this question. Who is this all about? In the end, it’s all about Jesus! What is Jesus all about?

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost! Luke 19:10. Jesus also said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

I love what our new General Director for the COG, Pastor Jim Lyon, said in his first address to our General Assembly in 2014… “Jesus is the subject!” In humility we must stay mindful that this is not about us! “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” I Peter 5:6

(Bold Price) Lesson Two: There Is a Price

I Corinthians 6:19, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

The bottom line is that Jesus has paid the price for you and me. “Jesus paid it all…” Romans 3:23 & Romans 6:23. He paid this price for you & me. Have you accepted His gift of eternal life? Will you live for Him in this brief life in exchange for eternal life with Him in Heaven? Take the deal!

How important is this? What is the price humanity pays for rejecting this offer of infinite love and choosing our own ways? Romans 1:18-32. WE HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO NOT ONLY PROCLAIM HIS TRUTH, BUT TO LOVE PEOPLE REGARDLESS OF THEIR LIFESTYLE! MAYBE THEY WILL ACCEPT IT, AND MAYBE THEY WON’T. BUT WE MUST LOVE PEOPLE OR THEY WILL NEVER ACCEPT HIS TRUTH. What price do we pay in return as Christ-followers? 1 Corinthians 6:12-20.

(Bold Memory) Lesson Three: God Won’t Be Forgotten

Psalm 14:1, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

Illustrate – Kids come forward: “In God We Trust” dollar bill… free to a kid who answers a question and will give it away to someone who needs it.

Do we trust God? Do we still believe in God as a nation? In the end, God is “I AM!” The more people insist He doesn’t exist the more it highlights that He does and that He governs in the affairs of humankind. Here’s a bigger point… even if you don’t believe in Him, HE BELIEVES IN YOU! HE HAS A GREAT PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE THAT IS BIGGER AND BETTER THAN YOUR PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE!

It had been less than 100 years and already the sinful pride of man was eroding away at the bedrock foundations our nation was built on. The cornerstone of that foundation was belief in God Almighty. Now, embroiled in civil war our nations President was able to look beyond all other agendas and competing political ideals as fingers pointed in all directions and absolutely nailed it on the head…

Abraham Lincoln, April 30, 1863, National Declaration of Prayer and Fasting

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”

May God be merciful on any nation that rejects the Creator, Sustainer and Judge of all creation. God will only tolerate human pride so long. It has been said that “…those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” That history proves that the greatest downfall of nations has been prosperity and/or power and the pride that always accompanies it. We must be diligent in praying as His people for a renewal of humility among our leaders and as a people, a humility that will keep us contrite before the God who so graciously ordained our place in this world that we might proclaim His message of freedom to that same world.

Consider the words of another Founding Father…Thomas Jefferson, “Notes on the State of Virginia,” 1781…

“And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

(Bold Praise) Lesson Four: God Will be Praised!

Illustrate – Laos Deo – “God Be Praised,” the inscription on the cap of the Washington Monument, facing east. Facing east, in my heart and mind as though waiting in anticipation the splitting of the eastern sky at the coming of the Lord. Philippians 2:9-11.

How do we apply these “Lessons in Liberty?” How do we ensure that they are not lessons lost on ours and emerging generations? Remember lesson two… “There is a price.” This price is paid daily as we “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4) in every conversation and with every opportunity to speak out, show up and when the opportunity comes, to vote our Christian values.

3 Critical Concerns:

Sanctity of Human Life

Sanctity of Marriage and Family

Religious Freedom/Christian Heritage

NOTE: Money is not our primary concern. Neither is Party affiliation. There is not enough money in the world to save this or any other nation and no political party is a suitable replacement for the Church. Only a return to the Judeo-Christian heritage of our founders, only in the REVIVAL OF THE CHURCH in North America will suffice to bring us back into the Providential favor of the Lord who so graciously established us. For now, “..the waves of God’s wrath are crashing hard against the dam of His mercy!”

Let’s focus on the sanctity of marriage and family for a moment and what it says about our freedom as a whole as Christian citizens… (expound briefly on the recent Supreme Court ruling)

Now, if the struggle to preserve the traditional Judeo-Christian definition of marriage was all that was at stake, it would be worth exhausting all our collective efforts. However, it is about so much more. It is about the right to proclaim the whole counsel of the Word of God concerning some of the most important issues of our day. It is about the freedom to love people with a grace and truth that calls sin, sin and loves people enough to warn them about the dangers and inspire them with message that they can be transformed through Jesus Christ. While proclaiming the truth we should love and welcome people so much that any claim that we don’t love them is seen as ridiculous. Will this love be rejected? Yes. Still, make no mistake, if we won’t use our voice there are those who would take it from us.

How can we live out our values? Here’s an assignment… pray together over your meals. Whether at home or at a local restaraunt, hold hands a thank God for His grace and provision. It isn’t to promote you and how holy you are. It’s to promote God and how holy, loving and gracious HE is.

In closing, the Word of God speaks with clarity…

Psalm 33:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance. From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth – he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.”


“…And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”  – President George Washington, concluding paragraph of his farewell address, Newburgh, New York, June 8, 1783

(Adapted from a Sermon titled, “Lessons in Liberty” by Pastor Tom Pelt

Jesus is the Subject

imgres-1“Be BOLD!” is the theme of this year’s Church of God North American Convention and it has been a powerful week in worship and the Word! Tonight’s service features Francis Chan speaking and Larnelle Harris and Sandi Patty leading worship along with the Crossings Community Church worship band.

Praying for a mighty move of God’s Spirit! Check out the live stream at 7pm (CST)

Small Church BIG Change: New Normals

imgres-5Hoping to see something or someone move in your ministry in order to influence your community for Christ? For many churches normal is the norm and tradition is traditional. Even the ruts have ruts. The only things that ever change are the creative lengths and ready excuses to ensure that nothing changes. Of course, not all small churches fit this mold. Some have willing spirits and eager hands with growing influence for Christ. Still, if this does sound painfully familiar, here are 4 New Normals for churches that resist change…

1) Change. Start by changing your attitude about change. Repeat after me, “Change is Godly. Change is good. I like change.” (Repeat 3 x’s) Okay, the last one may be a stretch.

Some of you are going to need convincing. Especially for those who see themselves as keepers of all things sanctified, sacred, traditional (or trendy), consider some thematic supports for the concept of change found throughout Scripture…

Dark to light. Old to new. Ashes to beauty. Judgement to mercy. Stranger to friend. Fatherless to adopted. Condemned to forgiven. Law to grace. Slave to free. Blind to seeing. Lame to walking. Night to day and death to life… just to hit the highlights!

The Apostle Paul instructed, Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2, NIV) No doubt about it. Change is good.

Are we talking about change for the sake of change? Why not every once in a while, if nothing but to keep everyone on their toes and one their knees as the new normal works it way thoroughly into the new DNA of your ministry? Are we talking about Biblical principles or orthodoxy? No. The fundamentals of our faith (The Holy Trinity, inerrancy of Scripture, sanctity of marriage as one man, one woman, for life, the sure and soon second coming, etc.) are non-negotiables. The message of the Gospel remains unchanged even as our methods morph in order to meet the culture as Jesus modeled… at the point, place and time of their deepest need.

2) Pace. It’s time to pick it up. You know who you are. If patience is a virtue, you and your church are virtuosos! You make a snail look fast and furious. You are in no danger of violating the axiom of “haste makes waste.” The moment you face something new, something hard, something requiring someone to change in any way, you pull out the old, “Let’s table this so we can pray!” routine. It’s time to get things moving along with a greater sense of purpose. How do you do this? Keep reading…

BONUS CHANGE: Empowerment. Determine to do away with the “death by committee” system. This isn’t so much a “bonus” as it is all but essential to stay agile and keep up with the rate of change in our communities and greater culture. Seek out a coach to guide you towards a leader-led, people-empowered, fully-accountable, and highly mobile structure. This will require both patience and purpose but can be done with limited collateral damage. The question isn’t, “How many will we lose if we change thing?” The right question is, “How many will we fail to reach if we don’t change?” Ask me how to make this change and let’s partner to see this become a new normal for your ministry or organization. Hint: See Acts 6 and read about how appointed leaders empowered new leaders to meet a need and grow the church!

3) Excellence. When was good enough ever really good enough? We may not be able to invest in THE best (yet), but whatever we offer in Jesus’ Name should be OUR best. No, we aren’t talking about perfection. Nothing would ever get done. However, most churches are in no danger of this. We have set our sights way too low and created cultures where mediocre character and average execution is not only tolerated, but encouraged (even guarded) so that no one is offended and everyone is included. It’s time to “raise the bar!”

Some people protest, “You can’t require that. These are volunteers!” Make it clear that there is no difference between the glory God is due and the good that we should be doing based on paid/un-paid status. Besides, all the people God sends your way are “VIP’s” and deserve your best. Establish shared and clearly defined standards and “best practices.” In other words, “This is what (how, why, etc) we do here.” Then, encourage, encourage, encourage and equip people every step of the way.

4) Grace. With all of these new normals, amazing grace will be the order of every minute of every day. Mistakes will be made, everyone’s patience will be tried and it’s about time! You’ve been playing it so safe that you have created a culture where there is little need of practical grace because no one makes any mistakes or ruffles any feathers. The enemy of our souls perceives no threat, no need to do anything but hum a soft lullaby that keeps everyone comfortably sleep walking in religiosity. Instead, create the kind of culture where people are empowered, prayed up and planned for risks are encouraged, and creative ways to fulfill the vision and live out your values are celebrated as you reach your community for Christ.

These “new normals” are only the beginning. What would you suggest needs to be on the list? Share your thoughts in the Reply section below!

7 Ways to Make Your Kids Like Church

images-4How do your kids feel about the whole “church” thing? Do they dread it or drive you crazy you asking, “Is it time to go to church yet?” The fact is you can’t “make your kids like church.” Sure, you can make them go. We all know how well this strategy works in the long run. However, there may be a few things you can do to help them appreciate it for what it really is as much as you do. Here are 7 Ways to Make Your Kids Like Church…

1) Like it yourself. If you are constantly complain about something you don’t like, they will pick up on it. This will color how they feel about church. Worse, they will get the impression that church is all about getting… when it is really all about what we are giving to Christ and others. Start by liking, if not loving your church!

David chose this attitude, I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1, NIV)

2) Live it outside. Kids are perceptive. When they observe consistent inconsistencies between the truth they are hearing and how they see you living, something is very wrong. It’s called hypocrisy. And, since it’s easier to just dismiss the whole church or Christian thing than deal with the hypocrisy they observe and the questions it raises, they will often take it out on the church, its leadership… or worse, it will stain how they perceive God. We aren’t talking about perfection. We are talking about an authentic relationship with Christ that seeks to bring Him glory in our thoughts, words and actions. When we blow it, we own it and move forward in grace and truth.

3) Talk about the bad stuff. There’s no sense in denying it. Church is messy, at least the real ones are. Someone has said, “The church is the perfect place for imperfect people.” Create an atmosphere in your home where everyone can talk about the stuff that hurts, that just isn’t right, the obvious sins and everything in between. Remind them often that who we follow is NOT the pastor, elder, youth leader, Sunday School teacher or small group leader. Together, we are all followers of Christ and sometimes we mess up or simply sin outright in the sight of God and everyone else. We need Godly confession, repentance and the amazing grace that makes it all possible to keep going and growing together.

4) Talk about the good stuff. For all that your church isn’t, there is so much to celebrate. Be intentional about pointing out the good things God is doing in and through real people all around you. Celebrate the wins and cultivate gratitude for your church leadership and the people you are serving with. Ask your kids about the things they are experiencing and even brag on the leaders in their kids or student ministries. Invite your own friends, co-workers and family members. Talk up what is coming up and help create the “buzz” that every organization needs to gain and grow in momentum.

5) Do church together. We have created an environment where we often all go our own way… to “Big church,” the nursery, the “Kid Zone,” or youth room, etc. Make sure you not only worship together often (even sit together! I know… radical!), but serve together. Take advantage of the missional opportunities your church offers to serve Christ in your community together. Maybe there aren’t many or any to choose from? Then get connected with those who are. Very few homeless shelters will turn away volunteers. Adopt a child or support a ministry with monthly giving above and beyond your regular tithe and offerings. Check out

6) Stick it out. We are notorious in North America for church shopping and hopping. This includes everyone from leadership from pastors to board members. If you just can’t get past something or someone (and have taken the time to make it right relationally), then find a people and a place where you can serve and worship together with genuine joy. Life’s too short and how your kids perceive the church is too important not to.

Don’t let stubbornness, tradition, trend or anything else keep you or make you go. Make sure God is doing the leading. Besides, every church (as with every organization/business) has a life-cycle full of ups and downs. Grow through it with a people somewhere, and refuse to be a mere consumer.

Check out Barna’s research on Church Attendance trends…

7) Remind them (and yourself)… it’s not about you. Yes, church is about growing in the Lord through the preaching, teaching, worship and fellowship. We need encouragement and resourcing to be and do better as Christ followers. However, this is only part of the equation. Teach your children by example that church is about what you bring to the Lord through your local ministry. How can we pray for our pastors, serve with our leaders, worship with gladness, connect with our community and more as the family of God?

Your kids won’t always like church. Be honest, neither do you! They can come to appreciate and maybe even love your church for what it really is… the beautiful mess and light to the world that is the Body of Christ.

How do you love your church? Share your thoughts in the Reply section below…

Small Church BIG Change – Where to Begin?

images-14Are you a small church leader dreaming of BIG influence for Christ in your community? What does it take to make the changes needed to increase your impact? Many pastors and lay leaders share this same deep desire along with an overwhelming sense of, “Where do we begin?”

Here are 5 Ways to Lead Small Church BIG Change… 

1) Pray. I know, you’ve been praying! But, could you pray “better?” Gather your family and lead team to pray specifically for open minds and willing hands as the Spirit leads change over the long haul. Then, engage your congregation in strategic prayer throughout. Look for the “Small Church BIG Change Prayer Strategy” coming soon.

2) Probe. You need to dig deep by asking tough questions like… “Am I the only one who wants this?” If not, who else shares your desire? “Why do we want this? What do we want to become? Who do we hope to reach? Is pride driving your desire or is the Great Commission your true driving force?What’s been tried (and died) before?” Don’t underestimate the felt-needs and baggage tied to this. “Who and what are we prepared to lose to reach the unreached?” Make no mistake, this will happen. Change forces it. Transformation requires it.

WARNING: IF EVERYONE HAS TO AGREE AND EVERYONE MUST GO WITH YOU… STOP BEFORE YOU START. Watch for the upcoming post, “Why Everyone Isn’t Going With You.”

3) Plan (& prioritize). What needs changed? Who needs changed? You may feel like the answer is “Everyone and everything!” However, healthy change must begin in the right people, in the right areas, in the right ways and at the right pace. I look forward to helping you prioritize through the “Small Church BIG Change Priorities” and “The New Normal” posts coming soon.

4) Promote. Whether you are a leader led ministry where no votes are needed, or a traditionally structured church where everyone has a voice (and a vote), you can’t communicate too well or too often. Gather creative minds to help you harness a multi-platform media strategy for getting the latest word out.

5) Protect. Determine to protect the health of your family and lead team. Encourage your membership to do the same. This will be an emotional journey full of extremes… loss & gain, joy & sorrow, harmony & dissonance, sudden stops, fast starts, slow going, innovation, celebration and more!

WARNING: DON’T SACRIFICE YOUR FAMILY ON THE ALTAR OF THE CHURCH. Look for “Growing Your Family Through Church Change!” post coming soon.

How can I help you with Small Church BIG Change? Contact me at to consider how we can partner in transformation and see your ministry partner in the Great Commission like never before! Have a great “Small Church BIG Change” story? Share it with me as I collect stories of transformation to encourage others!

On the Way of the Cross

images-18What is life really like for followers of Jesus? In a culture that promotes technologically advanced convenience and comfort, and a brand of Christianity where relevance and righteousness often clash, what does it mean to “carry our cross” both now and in the future?

Discover 6 things we can expect as we follow Jesus On the Way of the Cross…

”And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” Luke 9:22-24, NIV

1) On the way of the cross… People will cheer you. We all love to be cheered on! Beware (See Luke 6:26), most cheer like fickle fans that only do so when their team is winning. However, those on the way of the cross are saved from the need of accolades and applause. Why? Because it is the pleasure of God heard in“Well done, good and faithful servant…” that becomes our reward. Besides, we have a cheering section that is out of this world. (See Hebrews 12:1-3)

2) On the way of the cross… People will question you.

Why? Because the life of a Christ follower calls into question a life lived for self. Jesus asked His followers then and now this question, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:25) We will be questioned, and will plenty of questions ourselves. However, on the way of the cross we are saved from the need to have all the answers. We follow the One who is the answer… Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life…”  (See John 14:6)

3) On the way of the cross… People will betray (& deny) you.

This doesn’t exactly leave us shouting, “Sign me up!” This is hard truth and not a promising prediction. Why? Because it is a hard way to walk. Why would anyone go this way unless it was guaranteed to be worth it? Worse than betrayed, we may just be denied… marginalized as though our existence means nothing.

However, we are never alone. “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5, NIV) On the way of the cross we are saved from the loneliness that marks so many who are surrounded by people and things but never truly belong. Our longing is replaced by a sense of belonging as we walk in the Spirit of Jesus.

4) On the way of the cross… People will accuse you. (See Matthew 5:10-12)

However, Jesus is our vindication. He is our alibi. He is our counselor, defender, payment, who bore our sins.  We may be found guilty in the eyes of man, but through Jesus’ sacrifice we are seen as innocent in the eyes of the Heavenly Father. Following Jesus on the way of the cross saves us from the need to be vindicated in the eyes of this world.

5) On the way of the cross… People will mock you. (See Matthew 24:9-14)

Righteousness isn’t always “right” in the eyes of the world and this will only increase in the coming years as our convictions based on God’s Word are seen as intolerant or worse, evil. Jesus saves us on the way of the cross by freeing us from the need to fit in and go the way of the crowd. Suggested read – Bonhoeffer: A Biography by Eric Metaxas. 

6) On the way of the cross… People will crucify you. (See John 15:18-24)

All of church history and the recent martyrdom of Christians throughout the Middle attests to this. However, on the way of the cross we are saved from the fear of death. We do well to remember this in the relative light affliction we face in the USA. Ultimately you can’t really kill someone who is already dead and yet, has never been more alive. 

What is our response? None… not if we have already beat them to it! 

Paul said to followers of Jesus in Galatia, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20, NIV)

Jesus showed us the way to the cross, so that we could walk the way of the Cross. The deeper truth is that we can’t go the way of the Cross unless we have first been to His Cross and laid all our sin before Him. Then, as we are empowered by His Spirit and guided by His Word, will we have power to walk the way Jesus walked and fulfill the will of the Father for our lives as He did His.

Is it worth it? Jesus encouraged His disciples, “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mark 10:29-31, NIV

In the end, those who “take up their cross” will find what Jesus found. Not just the certain travailing on the way of the cross, but abundant life on the other side of the cross! (See John 10:10)

What have you learned about what it means to follow Jesus? Share your thoughts below in the Reply section…