The five “P’s” to holding a successful “big event” at your church

The Letter P

Everybody knows that holding  big days are an important part of building a growing church. Whether it is a special Sunday service or a weekend concert or seminar, the rewards of a successful event can include growth in attendance, increased community awareness of your church, and a revitalized congregation. With those things in mind, I present to you five keys to holding a successful event at your church:

PLAN – Put a great deal of prayer, thought, and effort into planning exactly what kind of a special service you are going to have. You will want to maximize the potential for success by scheduling something that folks are going to actually want to attend, so don’t be afraid to get some feedback and counsel from others before you commit. Be ready and willing to invest some resources (money, materials, and manpower) to make this more than just another date filled on your annual church calendar. Success or failure starts by planning something GOOD!

PROMOTE – Planning a great event is NOT enough. You can have a dynamic speaker, an incredible singing group, an inspiring program, but all of that will mean NOTHING if folks in your community don’t know that it’s happening! PROMOTION is a huge part of the plan, and it includes multiple areas:

From the PULPIT – The Senior Pastor MUST get behind this event and promote it passionately and persistently from the pulpit. It will be impossible to get outside folks to attend if your congregation isn’t excited – they are your best advertisement! Present this event in such a way that no one will want to miss it!

With SOCIAL MEDIA – Make sure this event is clearly and consistently promoted on your church website, facebook page, twitter, etc. Begin months before the event and continue to ramp up the promotion as it gets closer. Be creative with this promotion using pictures, videos, testimonials, and anything else you can come up with to get folks attention. Social media is the most inexpensive yet most effective form of advertisement for your event.

With PRINT AND RADIO ADS – There is much debate over which is more effective – the easy answer is use both! If your budget is limited, many radio stations have free community service ads for non-profits, and your local paper may do the same.

PREPARE – The old saying “If you are praying for rain, bring your umbrella” applies here. If you are planning and promoting for a BIG event, then you and your congregation need to PREPARE for a big event! Make sure you have a full staff of volunteers prepared to deal with parking, greeting, and seating issues on the day of your big event. After all that work, you don’t want to be overwhelmed by the moment, you want to be ready and waiting to welcome all those visitors you prayed for.

PRESENT – All the planning promoting, and preparing has been done, and the big day has arrived. Now, all that’s left to do is to PRESENT a great event to your community. PRESENT your church as a friendly, welcoming place to all your visitors. PRESENT an inspiring program done with excellence that will reach the hearts of all in attendance. PRESENT Christ as the answer to every need and the center of all that you do. Make the most of the moment by making much of Jesus!

PURSUE – When your wildly successful big event is over,  it’s time to capitalize by PURSUING all of those visitors who attended and don’t have a home church.  They have been inspired and challenged about spiritual matters, and they are thinking positive thoughts about your church. What better time to follow up with them and invited them back to your regular services.

The Ten Commandments of Church Signs

churchsign

  1. Thou shalt HAVE a church sign – It is vitally important that every church have a sign identifying itself to the community around it. Your church sign will often be the first bridge to connect you to those you are trying to reach.
  2. Thou shalt have a PERMANENT sign – A temporary sign is a much cheaper alternative – unfortunately, many times the emphasis is on the word CHEAP. The look of a temporary sign is not the professional image you are trying to project to your community on a long term basis, not to mention it will also be subject to vandals and wind storms. (See photo above) The only thing worse than half your letters being gone is someone coming by and moving them around to create a less than spiritual message for your folks to view as they drive in on Sunday morning. Invest the money in permanent signage.
  3. Thou shalt do thy research before purchasing your sign – Study up on all  that is available and see what fits best for your surroundings, community, city ordinances, etc. before making this very important purchase. How big the letters will need to be on your sign will be determined by what the average speed is of cars as they pass your church. Don’t make a decision rapidly, do your homework.
  4. Thou shalt have a quality, professional sign – Don’t settle for anything less. If you need to save up, have a few fundraisers, or place a special line item in the budget, make it a priority to get a top notch sign. You only get to make a first impression once, and your sign should help you make a good one.
  5. Thou shalt put the sign in a good location – You may have the nicest church sign in the county, but it won’t do any good if no one can see it because it is out of the line of sight from those driving by, or if it is camouflaged under heavy foilage.
  6. Thou shalt maintain the sign – If it’s a wooden sign, make sure the paint is fresh and not peeling or weather beaten. If it’s a lighted sign, make sure the light bulbs work. If it’s an electronic sign, make sure it’s working properly. If it has changeable letters make sure they aren’t cracked, peeling, or unreadable.

churchsignspelling

7. Thou shalt spell checketh thy message – then spell checketh again. 

8. Thou shalt think twice before putting a message on your sign – Just as a Pastor should never get in the pulpit without prayerful preparation, you should prayerfully seek God’s will as to what He would have you put on your sign each week.

“Stop, Drop, and Roll won’t work in hell” may be true, for example, but do we want such a serious subject as hell to be reduced to a three line message on our church sign? Much prayer and consideration should be given before placing a message that will represent the heart and vision of your church for potentially thousands to view.

9. Thou shalt change the sign regularly – Nothing says “incompetence” louder than a church sign in July that is still advertising the Easter Egg hunt, or a snow covered sign telling folks about the annual Summer church picnic.

10. Thou shalt always remember the potential of your sign – You will preach to more folks from your church sign than you will on Sunday in the pulpit – let’s take this important ministry seriously and maximize the potential for outreach!

How to give the folks in your worship service a really BAD musical experience

covering-ears-e1371953670157

1. DON’T PLAN – Zero, zilch, nada, none. Don’t plan what the congregation is singing, don’t plan who is playing the instruments, don’t plan who is going to do the special music, don’t try to get really smart and figure out a way to connect the music with the pastors sermon, give NO THOUGHT to the musical portion of the worship service until you step onto the platform. 

2. DON’T PRACTICE – Who needs practice? If the goal is  BAD music, nobody needs practice, that’s who! Not the choir, not the band, certainly not those unsuspecting folks who will be called upon to deliver the special music! If everybody just “wings” it, I guarantee you that you are well on your way to a truly bad musical experience for everyone in attendance!

3. DON’T TUNE – Piano tuning is time consuming and costly. (It will just have to be done again in a few years anyway!) Don’t tune the guitars and other stringed instruments and if you absolutely think that you have to, wait and do it while the worship service is actually going on. Nothing says “bad music” better than out of tune instruments. 

4. TURN IT UP AND RIP THE KNOB OFF – Crank the song leader and praise team’s microphones up sky high. Get that music turned up to almost unbearable levels. Make it all about those on stage, and forget those folks in the audience. Everyone over 50 isn’t going to like it, but they’d probably find something else to complain about anyway. (Besides, all they do is pay a large portion of the bills – who needs ’em ?)

5. NAME THAT TUNE – Introducing a new song now and then is not good enough if the goal is a truly miserable music service. Find the most obscure, unknown, unsung hymns and praise choruses of the last 500 years, and then sing them in rapid fire succession. Audience sing-a-long participation will be down to near zero in no time, and it will give greater opportunity to hear the out of tune instruments. 

6. HIDE THE LYRICS – If you are singing new stuff, folks are going to need the words. Don’t let them have them. If you are using hymnals, distribute them throughout the congregation at a ratio of 1 for every 30 or 40 people. If you are projecting the words on the wall, make sure they don’t keep up with the song – that is extremely annoying and will have folks saying “this is a really BAD musical experience” in no time! (If that doesn’t work, try putting the words to a completely different song up.)

7. ENDURANCE TRAINING – Get those folks in the audience up on their feet, and then leave them there. 30 or 40 minutes, an hour if possible.  After a while they will forget whether they are in a church service or in training for an “Iron Man” competition, and the pain in their feet will only be matched by the pain in their ears. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You see folks, the quality of music in a Church service really has not as much to do with musical styles as it does about doing things with organization and a commitment to excellence. It’s when we put ourselves, our preferences, and our agendas ahead of worshiping God that we get ourselves in trouble. (That goes for the folks on the platform as well as those in the pew!) 

I believe that reasonable, fair, mature Christians can get through the “worship wars” safe and sound with a little compassion, compromise and common sense. 

Otherwise, we are just going to sentence ourselves to many more BAD musical experiences. 

The lost deserve better. 

The LORD deserves better. 

Six simple things you and your church can do THIS WEEK for better outreach

six

  • Set the tone for change – Let it be known that “business as usual” will no longer be acceptable. The message must be communicated through words, actions, and attitudes that an “inward focus” will not be tolerated, but a new, fresh “outward focus” is the goal. The reason? Inwardly focused churches die – Outward focuses survive and thrive.
  • Internet presence – A recent study found that of people who’d been attending a church for less than a year, 27% had found that church online. Your church MUST HAVE an Internet presence, with (at a minimum) the churches name, address, and service times readily available. You would be AMAZED how many churches I visit that are impossible to find online. This can be fixed quickly, easily, and at little to no cost!
  • Greeters – Have volunteers scheduled to be at your churches entrances early this Sunday with a friendly smile and a warm handshake for all who attend. Further responsibilities and training is great and should happen, but you can have a basic ministry up and running this Sunday – and it’s vitally important!
  • Organize your worship service – Know who is going to be playing the instruments and leading the singing – and those folks should know what they are going to be playing and singing sooner than five minutes before the service starts. (“Now, Bobby, YOU KNOW I CAN’T PLAY THAT SONG!” should not be heard being whispered from the platform pre-service.)  Know in advance of Sunday morning who is going to be offering the special music, and notify them sometime before the middle of the service. (“If no one has a song on their heart, sister Ethel, how about coming up here and singing that one you sang at the ice cream social last year?” should not be heard from the pulpit.)  Know in advance of Sunday morning who is going to be preaching, and allow that person plenty of time to prayerfully prepare a Bible based message. In other words, Let’s act like we know what we are doing!”. Why would anyone want to commit to becoming a member of our church family if we don’t seem to take it very seriously ourselves?
  • Make visitors a priority – From the way we organize our worship services, to the way we plan our Sunday School classes,  the way we communicate announcements, and in the way we share things in the bulletin – Let’s view everything we do through the eyes of a visitor and make them welcome from the moment they come through our door. Then, let’s be sure to follow up with them in some way after they leave in such a way that leaves no doubt to them that they are important to our church!
  • Commit to continuing education – Whether it be a book. a blog, or a website on church growth, a church revitalization conference, or a meeting with leadership to discuss progress, commit to regular, ongoing education designed to keep growth and revitalization at the forefront of your churches heart and mind.

Seven Ingredients Every Sermon Needs

image

Trymon Messer was one of the most unique men of God I ever met.   Known as the modern day “Preaching Deacon”, this man with a 5th grade education became one of the most effective communicators of our day and was widely used of God across our denomination.

Among his many gems of wisdom,  Brother Trymon said that  every sermon  needed 7 ingredients:

1. HEAD (Acts 20:27) – Every sermon needs Biblical content. Without it, it’s just a speech or religious discourse.

2. HEAT (Acts 2:37) – Every sermon’s CONTENT should be such that it delivers CONVICTION both to the saint and sinner alike. I have often said that I wouldn’t give ten cents for preaching that did not step on my toes from time to time!

3. HEART (Psalm 126:5) – An effective sermon will deliver CONVICTION from a heart of COMPASSION. Truth must be delivered, but with sincere love. Folks won’t care what you know until they know that you care!

 4. HUMOR (Proverbs 17:22) – Serious Biblical truths can be seasoned with a good dose of laughter along the way. Humor can often help drive home the point and keep folks “tuned in” to the message being given.

5. A HAND (Nehemiah 8:8) – A sermon without any practical application, even if it’s Biblically accurate and faithful to the text, is of little use to the hearer. A preachers prayer should always be, “Lord, keep my sermons RELEVANT!”

6. A HOOK (Matthew 4:19) – Every good sermon will end with a very direct challenge for folks to be able to respond to what they have just heard.

 7. HOPE (Hebrews 6:19) – Every sermon, however difficult the message or convicting the content, should always leave the hearer with a knowledge that there is hope in the circumstances of their life. The lifeline of grace, mercy, and forgiveness must be thrown so that every struggling pilgrim knows that the Gospel story truly is “Good News”!

Seven Traits of Highly Effective Pastors

seven

As we examine the ingredients to Church revitalization, I believe that it all starts in the PULPIT. Truly, everything rises and falls on leadership!

With that in mind (and with apologies to Stephen Covey), I give you what I call the “Seven traits of highly effective pastors”. 

A highly effective pastor:

#1 – Is CALLED (2 Peter 2:10)  – Not called to a career for financial gain, not called by their mother or called by men, but every effective pastor will be able to hearken back to a clear call to the ministry from God Himself.

#2 – Is COMMITTED (Galatians 6:9) – An effective pastor will not run at the first sign of trouble. If they are sure that God has called them to their pastorate, they will weather the storms, battle through discouragement, and keep pressing on. (TEST – Think of five successful pastors right now – How many of them have been in the same Church for 10, 15, even 20 year or more?)

#3 – Is CONTROLLED (Ephesians 5:18) – Not by their circumstances, not by praise, plaudits or paycheck, not by a church bully or board, but first and foremost by the precious Holy Spirit! 

#4 – Is CREATIVE (Isaiah 43:19) – “We’ve always done it this way” will not be the motto of the effective pastor. They will not be afraid to get a vision for the church, communicate that vision to their board and congregation, then use new and innovative means to accomplish what God wants to do in HIS church!

#5 – Is CONFIDENT (Acts 5:29) – If the pastor truly is called by God and truly being led by the Holy Spirit, they will not be deterred or dismayed by the occasional critic – They will stay the course, knowing God’s approval is what matters in the long run.

#6 – Is a COMMUNICATOR (2 Timothy 1:11) – A highly effective pastor will be a passionate and effective communicator of the Word of God to their congregation.

#7 – Is COMPASSIONATE (Jude 1:22) – While firmly, boldly, and unashamedly proclaiming the truth of God’s Word, the effective pastor will also do so lovingly, compassionately, with a tear in their eye and a lump in their throat. A good congregation will be able to handle getting their toes stepped on by their shepherd if the shepherd has clearly shown them that he sincerely and truly loves and cares for them. 

“Critics and Toothbrushes” – Dealing with criticism in the ministry

toothbrush

Early one morning at our home while taking a shower recently, I suddenly heard a loud mechanical “whirring” noise that filled the room.

It was so loud and ominous sounding that I turned the water off and rushed out of the shower, intent on finding the source of all the racket.

The entire bathroom countertop seemed to vibrate, so I quickly located my electric razor, certain that somehow it had turned on and was making the noise. I quickly found that was not the case.

The longer I stood there, the louder the noise seemed to get. Now it seemed to be coming from the fan in the ceiling, so I turned the wall switch to the “off” position. The annoying noise continued.

I stood there growing more anxious by the minute with visions of electricians and expensive repairs bills dancing in my head. But just before calling for help, I went back to the counter, bent my ear close, dug through my travel toiletry bag, and found the source of my problem.

It was a small electric toothbrush.

Tucked away from my last road trip, somehow, some way, while I was in the shower, for some reason it decided to roar to life.

All that noise, all that fear, uncertainty and anxiety, my morning routine completely disrupted – all because of a tiny little toothbrush powered by one tiny  battery!

Criticism is something that every one of us in the ministry must deal with on a regular basis. Here are a few principles to help us handle it when it comes our way:

Listen    No matter if it is delivered in an appropriate manner or not, don’t be quick to dismiss it. Don’t tune out and fantasize  about all the great comebacks you are going to deliver when you get your chance.  Genuinely take the time to calmly process what is being said to you.

Take the good     It would be easy to just completely dismiss the critic and the criticism as unjustified, unwarranted, and way off base. That’s our natural inclination, because no one likes to hear negative things said about us or what we do. However, if we will do some prayerful introspection, we may find that the criticism has merit, and even if it does not, there are life and ministry lessons that can always be learned in any interaction we have. Look for something positive to take from the experience.

Leave the bad    Do not let the critic take your joy, your peace, and certainly don’t let them take your enthusiasm for ministry. At the end of the day, we are serving an audience of ONE – and His praise and affirmation is all that really counts in the light of eternity.

I have had the following quote from President Theodore Roosevelt on my office wall for years:

“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of good deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena….who face is marred by dust and sweat and blood….who strives valiantly…….who errs and come short again and again……who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause……who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Let me tell you, old Teddy wasn’t a preacher, but reading that quote, it makes you feel that he sure could have been!

Finally, don’t let one noisy critic make you feel like everything and everybody is against you. Oftentimes, when someone says “Pastor, ‘they’ are talking…, often times “they” ends up being the critic and their spouse! In other words, don’t let the devil make you believe that the roof is caving in, when all it may be is just one noisy little toothbrush!