churches

How to be a BIG Church

Unknown-12I Love BIG Churches – Part 4

How to be a BIG Church!

Bigger is always better when it comes to some things… but we aren’t talking about mere numbers. Regardless of the size of your ministry and the greater demographic you are hoping to influence, here are some ways you can go BIG for Christ.

5 Ways to be a BIG Church…

1) BIG prayer. You can be certain of this, “Whenever God determines to do a great work, He first sets His people to pray!” (Charles Spurgeon) Fast and pray together in increasingly creative ways… 24hr prayer summits, days of fasting, scripture praying, prayer walls, stations and more. Simply put, you and your ministry family cannot pray enough as you align yourself with God’s unique purpose for you!

2) BIG worship. It doesn’t have to be a large venue or a long service to worship well and dive deep together into the Word of God. Make your times of gathering as a congregation a priority not only for you, but for those neighbors and friends you are inviting to join you. Give your best and make it all about Jesus!

3) BIG service. Who are you partnering with in your community to meet needs and be the hands and feet of Jesus? From a local school’s tutoring program to a homeless shelter, from a foster parenting group to a ministry fighting human trafficking, there are people with a heart for service you can partner with in your sphere of influence!

4) BIG giving. Don’t be afraid to inspire and inform often about the importance of tithes and offerings. Why? Because of the partnership potential it brings to the Kingdom of Christ. Keep the motivations before your people… from missionaries abroad to local and regional ministries, remind often that giving makes it go as God multiplies it for His glory!

5) BIG love. “Love one another.” The most influential thing any church has going for them is their capacity to love each other. People are attracted to people who genuinely care for one another, in spite of faults, failures and sins. Through small groups gathering often to simply being there for each other on a daily basis… leave no doubt in your communities mind that you are love by God and love one another in a BIG, BIG way!

Be BIG and go BIGGER and BIGGER in the ways that truly matter. The numbers will take care of themselves as people come to Jesus and you grow disciples who make disciples!

Here’s a BIG BONUS for small/medium sized churches… check out Breaking 200 Without Breaking You by Carrie Nieuwhof.

I Love BIG Churches!

Unknown-2I Love BIG Churches: Part 1

Are You BIG Church Bitter?

We all know the story.  One of those “BIG Churches” starts growing and then explodes in number. They get bigger and bigger while other churches get smaller. Some even close their doors and it’s all the fault of that “BIG Church.” But, is this an entirely true story?

Why are we tackling this “elephant in the room” among church leaders? It’s simply because we want to see churches of any size grow and gain more and more influence for Christ in their communities! Who knows? If more leaders spent less time criticizing others and more time uniting, praying, leading, serving and simply being God’s people in their communities, maybe their own influence would grow a little more? Oddly enough I began working on this series over a year ago when I was leading a wonderful, smaller congregation and, having pastored two of “those BIG churches” (and now on staff at another “BIG Church”)… my heart hurt every time I needed to confront BIG Church Bitterness.

If you find yourself a critic of big churches, and an even bigger critic of “mega churches,” this mulit-part series may be for you.

Here are 5 Signs You are BIG Church Bitter…

1. You speak negative about their leaders. Do you find yourself questioning or, worse, condemning big church leaders for things like preaching too shallow or leading too “CEO?” Your inner narrative is even worse when you think about these leaders!

2. You speak negative about their people. Obviously everyone that attends “that big church” does so because they can stay anonymous. They show up for the “big show” and leave. They don’t have to be and aren’t truly invested.

3. You are convinced you are deeper spiritually. You wouldn’t dare say it, however, your leadership and your people are simply deeper and better followers of Jesus Christ. You preach, teach and practice the truth, the whole Gospel and they don’t. Besides, they can’t possibly be true to the Word and have that big of a following.

4. You are sure they make a bigger impact only because they are bigger (and have more money). Here’s a good question to ask yourself, “Can big churches do what they do because they are big… or are they big because they’ve done what they’ve done?”

5. You secretly wish you were like them. Someone once said, “Methinks he doth protest too much.” (Hamlet paraphrase) Of course, you aren’t one of these. Some leaders might, but you insist you would never want their level of influence or the responsibility that comes with it. You have never once coveted their salaries which, of course, are too big. Yet, for someone who doesn’t care about “that big church,” you sure spend a lot of time and emotional equity thinking and talking about them among your leadership and people.

Here’s the problem with these 5 signs… they are all sin. They don’t curry the favor of God and only keep His favor from flowing. Talking bad (often disguised as sarcasm) may score points with people who are quick to agree and then stroke the egos of their far more spiritual leaders, but God simply hates it for what it is… disunity. It’s one thing to critique leadership and organizational styles and systems, it’s another to get personal. I’ll refrain from the Bible lesson. Needless to say God’s Spirit and Word combine to oppose BIG church bitterness and the counter-productive culture it creates. If you truly love the Lord, His Body, and desire to reach the lost for His glory… you’ll stop.

It’s time to see that”BIG church” (and maybe yourself) in a different light. Ask yourself, “Am I BIG Church bitter?”

Coming up next in this series:

I Love BIG Churches: Part 2… How to Beat Big Church Bitterness.                                        I Love BIG Churches Part 3… Exposing BIG Church Myths                                                                                           I Love BIG Churches Part 4…Questions to Ask about BIG Churches

7 Ways to Restore It!

imagesWhat do leading change and restoring old furniture have in common? When it comes to reworking a team, process or event, here are 7 practices I have discovered from refurbishing antique pieces (sometimes the wrong way!) to renewed beauty and use…

1) Start with the end. What do you want it to look like when the piece is finished? Will you be painting or staining? Flat or glossy finish? Will it be an everyday piece or only for special occasions? The same holds true for organizations and the programs within them.

Ask these vital questions and more before going to work… Why are we reworking it? Whom will it serve? What will it look like when fully functional? Start with the finish in mind.

2) Know before you go. In the same way it is vital to know the type of wood and grain you are working with, you need to know the people you will be teaming with towards your goal. Where do they come from? How are they wired? What “stains” do they have that go below the surface? Knowing before going will help avoid at least some of the inevitable challenges that are sure to surface along the way. How do you go about this? Keep reading…

3) Remove the layers. Just as there are often layers of finish on older pieces, there are always multiple layers of structure, training, experience, relationships and emotions that have become part of the organization, project or annual event you are reworking. It’s tempting to say, “What’s another layer?” and just add it on. However, over time multiple layers have a tendency to show themselves, and it isn’t pretty. They crack, chip, peal or wear thin due to repeated use. These must be removed with purpose, patience and care or you are only compounding the problem. “Un-learn” some practices and un-do some complicated processes during a season of training as you re-work your plan and, more importantly, patiently restore people to renewed purpose.

4) Look it over… again. Looking a piece over from a variety of angles and in different lights will give you the best idea of your progress at each stage. Don’t be afraid to get different perspective from a fresh pair of eyes. “You missed a spot…” isn’t always what we want to hear. However, these words may mean the difference between a job merely done and one that is done well. The same holds true for a ministry or business project. The more qualified input you have into the process, especially before you begin the restoration, the better the chances of success and the more creative the finished product will be. Consider the value of outside coaches to speak fresh perspective, challenge and inspiration into your team.

5) Test your finish. Know exactly what color and texture you want to use? Do yourself a favor and try it out in a spot other than the most visible surface. Sure, you can always re-sand or re-strip. However, each time you do this you are taking away something from the piece itself. This will be part of the final steps in the process as you avoid the temptation to rush the overall project.

When it comes to a process or event, try a test-run or “dress rehearsal” before the actual “opening day” whenever possible. Talk it through with the team at the very least. While perfection is never the goal, you want to put your best foot forward. Better to reset the launch date than to start poorly. Besides, “You never get a second chance to leave a first impression.”

6) Finish well. Finishing a piece includes the actual staining of a piece. Two thin but ample layers are always preferable to “laying it on thick.” The same holds true for preserving it with anything from a matt or satin to a high-gloss sealant. I liken this to the training needed before you actually implement a new structure or launch a new initiative.

Again, take your time and know that multiple opportunities for training, resourcing, beta testing will only make the actual launch more likely to produce the desired results. Make sure everyone knows their role and is well-equipped to perform with excellence.

7) Celebrate! Celebrate by putting the restored piece to use. The satisfaction of restoring old bookshelves is in seeing books, old and new, find their place on it. Or, in antique chairs filled with the people you love sitting around a table that will now host many a meal and meaningful conversation. This one is often missed.

Plan strategically to put the reformed structure, reworked plan, or a restaffed team to good use sooner than later. Capitalize on the momentum and excitement that restoring something to renewed use brings.

Remember that we all need refurbished, reformed and remade throughout life and the same holds true for the organizations we lead. Isaiah reminds us, Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8, NIV)

How do you restore or refurbish a project or event? Who are the people involved and how can you invest in them throughout the process? Add your own advice on leading renewal in the discussion thread below…

Leading Culture On It’s Own Terms

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“Trails are managed as part of

the natural environment.

Visitors must be prepared to

meet and accept nature on it’s

own terms.” 

I passed this sign countless times along an all too familiar trail, but never really read it. For some reason it stopped me in my tracks this time and its message was as clear as it was challenging.

Here are four simple takeaways for us as leaders of any organization, especially churches.

1 – “Trails are managed…”

Things aren’t just going to get better because you’ve showed up. You and your team will have to pray, process, plan, and get it done with perseverance for there to be lasting change and preferred outcomes along the way. Own it. It’s your trail… for the moment.

2 – “…as part of the natural

environment.”

How you find the environment of the organization you are leading is only natural. No one said it was optimal, just a natural part of life and leadership in a broken world. Don’t take it personal and simply take personal responsibility for what your organization is and will become.

3 –  “Visitors must be prepared…”

We must be aware and prepared for the fact that we are stewards, not owners. We are the “visitors.” Even if you planted the church or started the business, someone else will replace you. Let this humble you and challenge you to be prepared day in and day out. The very trail this sign is on was once Native American tribal land, then a regional center of colonial life, then a thriving resort, now a national landmark known as Fort Boonesborough.

4 – “…to meet and accept nature

on it’s own terms.”

It’s time to do this in your organization and to keep doing this daily as it evolves and grows through the natural cycles of all organizations. You will vision, work, grow, plateau, decline and eventually die unless you continually and creatively (stubbornly) face new realities, embrace change, and reinvent all while holding fast to the bedrock principles that guide you. For most of us… this means the timeless Gospel of Jesus communicated in ever changing ways.

How is your church or business really doing?

Don’t just pass the signs that

are right in front of you.

Stop. Read them. Realize that how you apply their guidance and where this trail leads you and your organization is yours to steward for a season. Start by accepting the realities of the culture you serve in on its own terms.

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.

THANK YOU EDUCATORS!

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

31 Tips for 2016!

Unknown-1Here is Tip #24 for leaders (especially my pastor friends out there!)… Finish What You Started. Which is why I’m including #25-31 practical tips in this post as well…

It’s so easy to get sidetracked, especially for most visionary type leaders. While we may have done a good job planning, prepping, promoting, praying, and more… we are often too quick to move on to what’s next and forget to follow-through and follow-up on what’s already going. Take a deep breath, gather your team and do your due diligence to see that what gets going, gets done.

#25 – Put down that sticky bun and pick up some clean eating habits. Every day (or meal!) can’t be a “cheat day.” Check out the lifestyle options Advocare has to offer. Yes, I use it. No, I’m not a distributor. I am much healthier than I was last year before I started being a steward of this aging body God has loaned me. Cut way down on the carbs (bread, potatoes and “country fried” anything) and load up on the lean meats, fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and nuts.

#26 – Create a standing work station. I use a cafe table that is adjusted high enough to do the trick. You might check out some actual standing desks such as those at Ready Desk. However you do it, don’t just sit there. Stand up, walk around, stay as mobile as possible throughout the day.

#27 – Pray about it. We miss this one constantly. Stop worrying, waiting, planning and plotting and pray for them, it or whatever you are facing. Find some trusted partners to step up, kneel down and pray with and for you. Worry is a waste. Don’t. Do pray vocally, specifically, passionately and constantly.

#28 – Drink half your weight (in ounces) of water every day… or give it a shot, anyway! AND STOP DRINKING THE EMBALMING FLUID KNOWN AS SODA. Take it from a recovering Diet Mountain Dew addict… it’s not doing you any favors. H2O is a large part of the stuff God made us of. Fill your body with it morning, noon and night.

#29 – Stop focusing (obsessing) on those who are against you and your vision. It’s pride masquerading as “concerned” leadership. Pray for them, whoever “they” are, (“Lord, move them up or move them out.”), deal with them in a redemptive but firm way if needed, and then focus on Jesus. Invest in those who are with you and if you must obsess, obsess on getting it done for God’s glory and the good of others.

#30 – Lighten up. Some of the very best advice my dad has given me is this… “Tommy, the world was doing just fine before the two Tom Pelts came along and will do just fine when we are gone.” Ouch… thanks, dad. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Live, laugh, love and lead light.

#31 – Invest in your family! Date your spouse. Put in overtime with your kids. Make family memories and make no apologies for it. In all of the deathbed conversations I have been privileged to take part in, not one person has lamented not making more money, gaining more position and power, or spending more hours at work. I have, however, heard many wish they could have done more for Christ and with their families.

Take nothing for granted and lead with a grounded sense of gratitude to the Lord for the privilege to learn from and lead with others! There you have it… 31 Tips for Leaders in 2016. Got your own tips? Add them to the discussion thread below!

 

 

Do you preach like Ted?

images-4Hey, pastors! Who do you preach like? Whether you are stylistically from the “big pulpit, suit-wearing, finger-pointing, fire & brimstone” or the “real, relaxed and relevant” schools of preaching (or somewhere in between), I hope you enjoy the parody found at the link below. This one pokes fun at the modern “Ted Talk” style communicator that has clearly influenced many pastors today. And, here are a few simple thoughts on communicating while you’re at it…

Preach like YOU. While all should be grounded in His content, I doubt seriously that even Jesus wants you to preach like Jesus. We don’t even know what that sounded like. Over the years I secretly wanted to communicate just like my dad (the teacher), then my father-in-law (the evangelist) in my 20’s, and then others like Andy Stanley in my 30’s. The problem is, people can always see through this more times than not. Thankfully, sounding like me and being OK with it has been a big relief for the last 10 years. Hopefully it has made me a better, if not more authentic, communicator. It only took 20 years to figure this one out!

We all have influencers and this is not only normal, but often good. However, find your voice, your style, your rhythm and be comfortable with it. Ask others who know you (and a few that don’t) to help you with this and keep you honest.

Know your audience. While you don’t want to change your voice (accent) or even language in an obvious over-attempt to be relevant (like some modern politicians), you do want to understand a little bit about the demographic you are communicating with. How do they learn? What are their likes and dislikes? What is happening in their part of the world? What is important to them?

Add a little “shortening.” This was my father-in-law’s kind way of telling me to cut down on the content early in my ministry. I’m still working on this one. The wisdom of Shakespeare still proves true today, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” This is one of many positive takeaways from the “Ted Talk” style of communication.

In simple terms, be true to God’s Word and true to who He has created you to be as a communicator of His Gospel.

Ted Talk Parody  by “This is That”

Looking for something even better than TED? Check out “Q” at qideas

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Memorial Day Remembrance

Unknown-13Who are you remembering as we celebrate Memorial Day? How does the simple act of remembrance bring much needed perspective to life?

Here are 3 simple ways to remember… 

1) We remember the sacrifice of those who have given their lives in defense of the freedoms we hold so dear.

“Each of the patriots whom we remember on this day was first a beloved son or daughter, a brother or sister, or a spouse, friend, and neighbor.” — George H. W. Bush

All should pause to pray and give God thanks for members of our armed forces who have given their lives in defense of our cherished freedoms and for their families who yet need comfort and strength .

2) We remember our spiritual ancestors. 

This is what Hebrews 11 is all about as it reminds us of the steadfast faith of those who have gone before us. Take the time to read and reflect on these heroes. This passage serves as the “roll call of our faith.” It ultimately reminds us of the person, power, provision and protection God has for us as we look to Him in simple faith.

But it doesn’t end with Hebrews 11. This roll call provides for us a clarion call to serve…

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2.

3) Remembering Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice keeps the joy in our journey. It is in remembering the sacrifice of Jesus and the joy He set before Him that we endure and live abundant and free in the here and now.

For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:3.

How are you remembering those who have given their lives for our freedoms? Pause to reflect, remember and give thanks this and every day.

Leading at Elevation Part 2

images-6What does it mean to lead at elevation? Whether you have made game-changing connections with your community, added staff, merged with another ministry, been given more responsibility, increased your budget, remodeled environments, launched a new ministry, or made any other significant gains or changes… what does it take to lead well in the midst of it all?

Leading at Elevation takes prayer. Prayer is the difference between a good thing, a great thing and a God-thing! A God-thing is something that, unless God shows up, it is doomed to fail. Prayer acknowledges the deeper reality that all our efforts are in vain if not rooted in the will and glory of God. As God said through Zechariah to King Zeruababel, “So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6, NIV)

Leading at Elevation takes honest communication. Create an environment that encourages honesty at every turn and every gain in influence. The truth that should be embraced is that new heights bring new challenges. It is not only normal to be a little nervous about it, it is a good thing to stay humbled by it. Talk about the fears, ask the tough questions and don’t settle for easy answers as you sort through a changing array of emotions that accompany new heights!

Leading at Elevation takes preparation. Plan your route (knowing there will be detours). Scout out the trail and establish clear goals as to where you want to be and by when. However, remember this… the wider your influence, the farther your reach, and the higher your elevation, the more you will need to prepare, plot, pack, encourage, equip, train and keep track of your progress. Remember, this doesn’t mean MORE of everything. Pack light. Don’t pile on. Less is more when it comes to going the distance on any trail, especially those that lead you higher and higher.

Leading at Elevation takes work. You’ve heard the old saying… “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.” Clearly, everyone isn’t. The way of greater influence for Christ is rockier, the path narrower, incline steeper, air thinner, commitment greater and the critics louder. Keep hiking, keep climbing and climbing and climbing. The view will be worth it.

IMG_7323Leading at Elevation takes evaluation. You’ve heard it said, “You cannot manage what you cannot measure.” Take time to take stock in where you are at and how well you are reaching your goals along the way. Task someone, perhaps an outside coach, with keeping you on track as you go. Consider them your “Sherpa…” an indispensable guide for your expanding expedition!

Leading at Elevation deserves celebration. Whenever you have reached and exceeded a goal, it’s worth rejoicing with all of those who helped the team get there. Acknowledge the effort and the organizational win. Take the time to enjoy the view. This, in itself, is a form of worship and God is worthy of it!

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You can lead well at elevation. Determine to grow together in Christ as you gain influence and reach new heights for His glory and the good of others. Let me know how I can help you and your team reach new heights in healthy ways. I would love to partner with you!

 

CONNECT 1-2-3

UnknownConnecting with people rarely just “happens.” The best of relationships take purpose and practice!

Use the CONNECT 1-2-3 worksheet to help focus you (and your small group’s) desire to connect with others for Jesus Christ. The concept is simple…

Connect with 1 person who isn’t connected to Jesus. People who are searching for Jesus are all around us. They may or may not know it yet, but He is the answer. Fortunately, we know He is the way, truth and life. Begin to pray for and purpose to connect with them for Christ. Show a genuine interest in them, their families, their hobbies, hopes and hurts. Invite them to join you in a small group, maybe even worship or other event soon. Most importantly, tell them about your own journey of faith in Jesus.

Reconnect with 2 people you have lost contact with. There is no “auto pilot” for healthy relationships. Life happens and, when it does, things aren’t the first things to suffer. Relationships must be purposed. It may be a little awkward at first. However, they may be waiting and wondering themselves, “What happened?” Be honest. Keep it simple. Call them. Text them… get together soon for coffee to catch up. Whatever you do, be intentional about reconnecting with them and encouraging them in Christ.

Encourage 3 people who need it. People have either just been, are, or are about to go through something that will leave them in need of a friend. Be that friend! We are reminded in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” 

Finally, pray for those “divine appointments” and be as ready as you are grateful for every opportunity God brings you to build relationships that connect people with the Lord Jesus Christ! There are no “chance meetings” for the follower of Jesus.

Get your free pdf here Connect123

Check out the Free Resources page for more downloads including the CONNECT Guide example for guiding people from guest to engaged member!