“My church is small.”
“How small is it?”
“My church is so small that our board is me and my spouse.”

That’s pretty small.

Now I know that many of you reading this are blessed with an awesome church board. You couldn’t be happier. Your board is made up of the most supportive, cooperative, generous, spiritual, mature people a pastor could ever hope for. I’m happy for you, I really am. But you’re missing out. You have no idea how faith-stretching and character-building it can be to have a dysfunctional church board. I believe one of the main ways God wants to grow you as a pastor is by using a board that drives you nuts. Therefore, let me share with you some ways you can have a dysfunctional church board.

I’m assuming that you have something to say about who joins your church board. This is not always the case. Many of you have come to an established church and are lucky enough to have inherited a dysfunctional church board. Lucky you. The following tips will relate to both i.e. those that have a say in choosing board members and those that don’t.

First, if you have an opening that needs to be filled try to find someone that’s been in the church since it’s inception. The longer a member the better. You know the type, “I was here before you came and I’ll be here after you’re gone.” It’s board members like this that will say things every pastor loves to hear, “That’s   not the way we do it.” or “Over my dead body.” or “Wal-Mart is hiring.”

When considering someone to join your board don’t worry so much about those who are spiritually mature and have proven to be loyal to you, your family, and the church. The church is a business and the church board needs to run it like they would any business. You don’t need a bunch of monks, you need business-savvy people fluent in Robert’s Rules of Order.

Along these lines, let your board meetings be dominated by one outspoken, opinionated, negative, belligerent person. Every board needs to have one of these. And whatever you do, never confront them and tell them to stop it. If you do this there is a good chance that you will indeed find out that Wal-Mart is hiring.

In your meetings have prayer make up no more than 3% of your time together. More than this will encroach on all the ‘business’ that needs to be addressed. If someone wants to pray they can go to that prayer meeting sister Mabel has that is poorly attended. Win, win.

Never, I repeat, never suggest term-limits. Why would you ever want an easy way to replace a board member who causes you constant frustration?

Finally, don’t worry about reeducating your church or your board as to the role of a church board. This takes a lot of time and you still might end up at Wal-Mart. The bottom line is if it’s not broke don’t fix it. If it is broke…leave it alone. Remember, you’ve been called to be a pastor and that has inherent in it a glutton for punishment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like it or not, the church is a volunteer-driven organization. Unless, of course, your church is so small (how small is it?) that you are the volunteer. That’s pretty small. In fact, the smaller your church is the less you need leaders and the more you just need helpers or…volunteers. Now apparently some of you are pretty good at losing volunteers because so many pastors want to talk to me about how frustrated they are with their dysfunctional and dwindling volunteer base. There’s always room for improvement. I want to share with you how you can become more effective in helping your volunteers quit.

First of all, over commit the few volunteers that you have. Volunteers love this. If they are good at doing one task they will probably be good at two, or three, or four. And especially if they were stupid enough to tell you “Anything you want pastor, I’m here to help.”, they have to expect that you will not pass up an opportunity like that.

It’s important for volunteers to confuse their commitment to the church for their commitment to the Lord. You see it as one and the same, so should they.

Keep them in the dark as to what exactly it is you want them to do. For example, if you want them to do A, B, C and D, only tell them about A and C. It’s best to spring things on them after they’ve signed on the dotted line. But don’t have them sign anything. Whatever you do, don’t give them a job description (wait, you’d better call it a ‘ministry-description or you’ll be accused of running a church like a business.) The bottom line is…don’t put your expectations down on paper. This way you can add things to their job without them knowing which will give you the freedom to be irritated at them for not doing what you never told them to do.

Whenever you meet with them limit the conversation to how they and their ministry are doing. Don’t check in about their family, their marriage, their soul. You only have so much time…focus on the important things, i.e. how they are helping you grow the church. Volunteers love this.

Oh…when you do meet with them make sure to list off what needs improvement. Volunteers love this. And whatever you do, never let them tell you what they think needs improvement in your areas of responsibility. Hey…who died and made them the boss.

Don’t bother praising them for a job well done in front of others. You don’t want this to go to their heads, after all, they should be looking for the praise of God, not man. Don’t feed that thing.

Make sure that their commitment is until Christ returns. Jesus didn’t take a break. You don’t get a break. Why should they expect one? Believe me, volunteers love open-ended commitments.

Training? Who needs training? You’re an intuitive leader, they should be an intuitive volunteer. And don’t go quoting Eph. 4:11,12 to me. That was easy for Paul to say because he never had a busy schedule like yours.

And finally…always, always, always expect your volunteers to be as committed to the church as you are. You don’t have a life outside of the church, why should they? And if they dare to admit that they don’t have enough time to volunteer any more than they are you can always resort to guilt and shame. Guilt and shame are very effective motivators. In fact you should plan to regularly preach on how screwed up Christian’s priorities are. Volunteers love this.

I hope you’ve found this helpful. Now go out there and lose some volunteers. God be with you.

 

 

 

 

Believe me when I say that it’s harder to get a guest to come back a second time than it is the first time. You might argue with me about this, and you might be right, but certainly we agree that it’s hard to get someone back a second time. And…believe it or not, some church members aren’t really that keen on having new people join their church. They would never say this out loud (or maybe they would) but deep down they like the way things are and they don’t cherish the idea of new people messing things up. For those of you that are fortunate enough to pastor a church like this here are some ways to insure that first time guests never become second time guests.

First, you must teach your people that being ‘seeker-sensitive’, or ‘guest-sensitive’ is what those worldly churches do while watering down the gospel in order to tickly people’s ears.

Don’t feel obligated to explain too much, after all…it’s their job to figure out ‘insider talk.’ They should know who Bob is when you announce the men’s retreat he’s planning. If you do a lot of standing up and sitting down…spring it on them. It’s really funny to watch people try to coordinate this with the others so they don’t look like an oddball who’s still sitting when others are standing. If you are one of those ‘Charismatic’ churches…please, please, please don’t explain all the stuff going on when “the Spirit starts to move.” (I can say things like this because I’m a quasi-charismatic.) Oh that was funny, my auto-spell check inserted queasy for quasi. Oh well, that works to.

I’m concerned that so many churches are no longer asking guests to stand up and introduce themselves. We need to bring this back.

Encourage your people to fellowship with one another before and after the service rather than try to strike up a conversation with a visitor. After all, it’s easier to talk to someone you know rather than someone you don’t know. If someone is looking for friends they can be the one to instigate.

If your people insist on being friendly, have them be soooo friendly that it really is more creepy than friendly.

Preach ten minutes too long.

While on the subject of preaching, always preach on holiness, sin, judgment, God’s coming judgment, what’s wrong with this sinful world, what’s wrong with the liberal Christians, what’s wrong with the conservative Christians, what’s wrong with the Christians who can’t make up their minds what they believe.

Have really bad coffee.

Have the volume of your music so loud it will make their ears bleed. People love going to a church that made them bleed.

If you use hymnals, insist on those that have the print so small that the visitor has to squint and struggle to read the words and results in headache. People love going to a church that gave them a headache.

If you don’t use hymnals and are one of those ‘contemporary’ churches that uses ‘choruses’ (by the way, ‘choruses’ is an outdated way to describe those songs…please stop saying that) choose the ones that are poorly written, hard to follow, and have really strange lyrics that even your own people don’t understand, let alone those guests.

Well that’s all I’ve got for now. Maybe you can gather your leaders together and come up with some more ways to scare first time visitors away. Church is for the committed and if those people were committed they would already be in your church. Who needs them anyways…unless they tithe and are willing to work in the children’s ministry. We always need those people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marriages end before the marriage ends. Some stay married after their marriage has ended. Being a pastor has embedded in it the potential of ending ones marriage. Here’s how to end your marriage.

Be warm and friendly and caring and attentive to your congregation but an entirely different person to your spouse. After all, it’s good to have a time and place to let your defenses down. Believe me, your spouse will understand.

Having a day off is all good and fine, in theory, but in reality, a pastor needs to be available to their congregation even if it is ones day off. It’s important to check your email during said day, answer your phone, and read a ministry related book. Your spouse will understand.

Never forget that nothing is more important than the church, not your children, not your marriage, not your mental and physical health…nothing. Church first, then if there is any of you left over it can be dished out to who’s ever left. One of the things your spouse loves about you is your dedication to the ministry. Your spouse will understand.

Whatever you do, never repeatedly make it clear to your church that your marriage and your family will always come first. Never clearly explain the boundaries you have…pastors aren’t allowed to have boundaries. Your spouse will understand.

Don’t establish boundaries. Your spouse will understand.

If you and your spouse are having relational problems…keep it to yourself. You can’t trust anyone. You can correct said problems on your own simply by praying more and reading your bible more. Besides, chances are that the problem is with your spouse, not you. Your spouse will understand.

Have a few unrealistic expectations for your spouse, after all, they are married to ‘the Pastor’ and congregants will expect more from them. Your spouse will understand.

Work more than 40 hours a week. 50+ is better. Your spouse will understand.

Jesus didn’t take vacations, why should you? Your spouse will understand.

It’s best to limit your time reading the Bible to when you are preparing your sermon. This will insure a shallow inner life which effects everything, including your marriage. Your spouse will understand.

Date Nights are highly overrated. Besides, when one is out two or three nights a week, who has time for date nights? Your spouse will understand.

Remind your spouse that driving together to mid-week service is the same as a date night. Your spouse will understand.

Remind your spouse that it is their job to run interference between the children and you. When you come home after a hard day at the church, you need to be left alone and allowed to vegetate in front of the TV without any nagging pressure to pay attention to the kids. Your spouse will understand.

In conclusion, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting that you actually end your marriage. You can stay married without being married. If this doesn’t make sense to you, ask your spouse. They will understand.

 

 

 

 

Pastoring can take a toll. Pastoring can take a toll on your devotional life. Pastoring can take a toll on your marriage. And Pastoring can take a toll on your children. When our children are young it’s easy to keep them interested in church. The test of our parenting isn’t whether or not our children love to go to church, or VBS, or summer camp. The test is what they think about church when they become teenagers, and more so…when they become young adults and venture out on their own. There are too may PK’s out there who want nothing to do with the church. Here are nine ways to insure your children turn away from their faith and the church.

  1. Act differently at church than you do at home.
  2. Be away from your family more than two nights a week doing ministry related activities.
  3. Tell your children that you expect more from them because their father is a pastor.
  4. Invest at least 50 to 60 hours a week in church work so that you will be exhausted and spent by the time you get home, thus insuring that your family gets your leftovers rather than you at your best.
  5. When sharing problems at the church with your spouse, make sure to speak loud enough for your children to hear.
  6. Neglect your personal devotions so that you are handling the pressures of life and ministry in your own strength. Whenever this is the norm the first to suffer is our family.
  7. Don’t worry too much about having a day off (and remember a true day off means nothing happening that has anything to do with ministry) or vacation time.
  8. Give out your personal phone number and let your people know that they can call you any time they want. Remember, you’re a pastor 24/7. When the phone rings, even if you are reading your children a book, stop and answer the phone. Ministry comes first.
  9. Remember your priorities: Church, TV, spouse, children, your soul.

Having said all this, often times a ministry couple can do all the rights things and still have a child that turns from the church and from Jesus. It happens. It’s sad. But do your best and pray, and pray, and pray.

 

Never underestimate your ability to convince yourself that you are a great communicator when in reality you are a boring one. Here are my 13 ways to insure that your sermon is boring.

  1. Have more than five main points to your sermon and let your church know this in advance, after all, this is what an introduction is for, i.e. to cause your people to wish they have followed their earlier idea to stay home.
  2. Seldom smile. After all, preaching is serious business and you don’t want those listening to you to think that you actually enjoy them or preaching.
  3. Make sure that you keep things negative. Focus on God’s judgment, sin, and all the other things that your church (or some other church) is doing wrong.
  4. Convince yourself that you are being spontaneous (or led by the Spirit) when in reality you are going down rabbit-trails and ever returning.
  5. Whatever you do, don’t rely on your notes because this is a sign that your are not led by the Spirit.
  6. Don’t bother rehearsing your sermon, after all, you want to be led by the Spirit.
  7. Design a sermon with just a couple people in mind, that way when they don’t show up the rest of your group can hear something that doesn’t relate to them.
  8. Never check with your spouse whether or not a joke is really funny or just funny to you.
  9. Let your speaking voice be completely different than your normal voice. This way your people will not only be bored but will conclude that you are one person in the pulpit (or whatever it is that you stand behind…or don’t stand behind) and a different person in normal life.
  10. Use outdated sermon illustrations that you found in that sermon illustrations book that you’ve been using since 1982.
  11. Let your people know that you are wrapping things up…and then don’t.
  12. Don’t bother trying to figure out what your people would find interesting and helpful to be taught. After all, you’re in a much better position to know this than they are.
  13. And the most important: Let your sermon run ten minutes too long.

 

 

 

 

 

You’ve heard it before, “Set the bar high. People will rise to the level of your expectations.” Or, “Expect great things from God.” To be honest with you, and please don’t burn me at the stake for heresy, I’m not sure such statements always come true. Now hold on. Give me a second before you unfriend me on Facebook.

I think one reason why we experience frustration and disappointment in the ministry is due to unrealistic expectations. You can have unrealistic expectations of your people and you can have unrealistic expectations of God. Let’s start with God.

An unrealistic expectation of God is when we expect God to do something that He hasn’t clearly promised to do. Now, granted, Christians will differ on what God has promised in His word and what He hasn’t. Based on your theology, or hermeneutics, or denomination, you might think one thing is a promise to expect God to fulfill, while another pastor might think differently. But what I’m referring to here are the many voices (usually pastors of large churches) that tell us things like…

God wants your church to grow.
God wants to use you to reach your city for Jesus.
If you want to grow your church focus on _____ or _____ or_____.
God wants to do great things in your ministry and through your church.

I kind of believe those statements but the problem, as I see it, is that such statements revolve around formulas and numbers. There are more ways for a church to grow than merely by numbers. A church might grow in numbers but it be a very, very slow process. I haven’t heard of a church that has successfully “reached it’s city for Jesus.” Why is it that “great things” are seldom “small things?” If formulas work then why are there so many churches that have implemented the formulas and still are not experiencing numerical growth?

What are you believing God for? What are you expecting Him to do for you? What are you basing that on? If you are convinced that your expectations are based on the scriptures then fine. Hold on to those promises. But if not…rethink your expectations. And what about our expectations of our people?

If you expect your people to be as ‘into it’ as you are then you are setting yourself up for disappointment. If, by raising the bar of commitment, you have seen your people leap up and over that bar like Superwoman (or man) then good for you. Congratulations, you’ve accomplished something most pastors never experience. I’m not exactly suggesting that we lower our expectations…but maybe I am. Maybe it’s more about having realistic expectations than unrealistic ones. And to be honest with you, many of the pastor I interact with have, again, in my opinion, unrealistic expectations and that is why they are so discouraged, frustrated, and lack peace and joy in the ministry. In regards to goals, I have a saying, “Set the bar so low that you can’t help but step over it.”

Before you ‘unfollow’ me on Twitter…just think about it. Keep praying and planning to reach new people for Jesus. Ask God to do great things with your church…just be careful of your definition of ‘great.’ Be content without becoming complacent. If you want to have more peace, discover those unrealistic expectations you have with God and your people and adjust them accordingly.

I’m about to wrap up my tenth year of coaching pastors. Ten years…that’s a decade…that’s a long time to be listening to, encouraging, and resourcing pastors and church leaders. But I’m telling you, if I had twenty bucks for every time I’ve spoken to a pastor who is dealing with someone in their church that is a gossip…I’d be a rich man. Well, maybe not rich, but I would have a significant amount of discretionary fun-money in my wallet. My point is, if you have a church you will have gossip. Everybody has to deal with it at some time. You might be dealing with it right now. Gossip (and it’s cousin Slander) are two of the most dangerous sicknesses to infect a church.

Let me share with you seven steps to deal with gossip in your church.

  1. Compile a list of all the verses in the Bible where the words ‘gossip’ and ‘slander’ appear.
  2. Come up with a working definition of gossip and slander.
  3. Review the verses on your list and the definitions you came up with and using a scale of one to ten (one being lowest) score the degree of problem you have in your church or with a specific individual.
  4. Clearly identify the guilty party(s).
  5. If you were to confront this person, what response might you expect from them?
  6. What risks are you taking by confronting them and what risks are you taking by not confronting them?
  7. Are you willing to get bloody over this? You probably will. Gossips and Slanderers usually don’t repent, stop, or leave the church without putting up a fight. If the gossip has a great deal of influence in the church you could get in trouble at best, and lose your job at worst.

You might be surprised to hear me say this but my experience in working with pastors is that they fail to deal with gossip early on and this results in the problem growing and growing until they have a much more serious situation on their hands than when the gossip originally raised it’s ugly head.

If you decide to confront the person don’t forget to:

  1. Pray before you go.
  2. Take someone with you.
  3. Don’t sugarcoat the seriousness of the situation to the person.
  4. Don’t be afraid to tell the person to stop it or they will have to leave.
  5. Don’t forget to duck.

 

 

I don’t know which is harder, getting people to come to your church for the first time, or getting them to come a second time. I think a second time is harder.

They tell us (I’m not sure who ‘they’ are) that as soon as someone enters your parking lot they are accumulating reasons why to come back again…or not. Impressions we make on first time visitors is not the purpose of this article. I want to focus on what to do with them when they come back a second time. If someone comes back a second time it’s fare to assume that you have not scared them off yet. They liked what they experienced enough to give you a second chance. There is no guarantee that they will come back a third time, but second time is better than no time. Second time gives us something to work with.

I want to share with you five steps to taking your first time visitors all the way, i.e. from visitor to participant in the life of your church. What you’re about the read is not rocket science. I actually know a bivocational pastor who is a rocket scientist and he assured me that this is not that.

Step One: Actually this is not so much a step as it is a reality check. It’s more than likely that most visitors will not come back. But, hopefully, many will. Don’t be overly discouraged if a guest does not come back. A church could have the best follow-up-to-guests system in place and still experience many first-timers who never become second-timers.

Step Two: Get them through the door. What are you doing to reach new people? Regularly evaluate what is working and what is not working. Are there ways to attract new people that you’ve thought about but have not yet experimented with? And when talking about ‘what to try’ never forget that the most effective way to attract new people is by a personal invitation. What are you doing to encourage and equip your people to be inviters?

Step Three: Gather contact information. Some churches call these ‘connection cards’ or ‘visitor cards.’ I wish I had more time to elaborate more on how best to do this, but you must get their name, email, phone and address.

Step Four: Follow up. Keep this first follow up simple. Send a quick text or email when you get home. In my last church I would take five minutes and mail a short handwritten note. People were always impressed with this. And don’t forget, once you get this information (It’s hard to get some people to fill out a card the first time but they are more likely to do so a second time.) you must file this information in some way that will be easily retrieved and used in the future.

Step Five: Assimilate. How does your church encourage newcomers to get involved, what is your plan? In my last church our assimilation plan was three-fold: 1) get them to come to an orientation night in our home, 2) get them to join a small group, 3) get them to join some type of ministry team. Accomplishing this is easier said than done, but what is your plan?

If we want to take our visitors all the way we must:

Get them through the door.
Gather information.
Follow up with the information.
Have an assimilation plan.

How is your church doing in these four areas?

Dictionary

vision:

noun

– the faculty or state of being able to see: she had defective vision.
– the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom: the organization had lost its vision and    direction.
– a mental image of what the future will or could be like: a vision of retirement.

Let me ask you, how’s your vision?

In a couple weeks I’m going to see my Optometrist. It’s been a few years. My glasses aren’t working as well as they should. Well actually, it’s my eyes that aren’t’ working as well as they should. My vision is failing. Nothing drastic, only what’s to be expected as one gets older. Hopefully all I’ll need is a slight adjustment to my prescription, order some new glasses, and I’ll be set. No more squinting.

It’s not unusual for a person to have to stay on top of their vision as they age. The same is true of a church, or a pastor. We’ve all read those articles on ‘vision’. Maybe you’ve attended a conference on “Getting your vision for 2017.” And I know you’re familiar with that often pulled out of context verse, “Without vision the people perish.”

In the church world, when we talk about ‘vision’, we mean the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination, wisdom, or, hopefully, the leading of the Holy Spirit. Vision is the mental image of what the future of your church will or could be. Here are five reasons why your vision might fail.

  1. Multiple vision. I remember hearing someone say, “The problem with the church today is not a lack of vision but multiple vision.” What they meant was that often in a church there will be too many ideas as to where the church should be headed. If everyone is not on the same page you will be frustrated while trying to lead in a direction some don’t want to go in. How unified is the vision of your church. Is everyone on board and paddling in the same direction?
  2. You don’t see it clearly. It’s my belief that vision starts with the pastor. I’m not saying that your leaders don’t play any part in developing and implementing the vision of your church, but I do believe, for the most part, that vision begins with the pastor. If you are not clear on the direction of your church don’t be surprised if what you see (fuzzy as it may be) fails to get traction. Do you see where you want to go clearly?
  3. You can’t articulate the vision in a simple, easy to grasp way. I think it was Albert Einstein who said something like, “If you can’t describe something in a simple way, you don’t really understand the thing you are trying to describe.” Until you can articulate your vision good enough for a fifth grader to grasp you’d better hold off.
  4. You haven’t gained ‘buy-in.” Remember to give your leaders and people at least as much time to buy into your vision as it took you to develop your vision. I see this all the time. The leader has been working on the vision for weeks, maybe for months. Finally they’re done. They’re excited to share it at their next leadership/board meeting, but when they do they are met with blank stares, objections, or initial rejection. They go home discouraged and defeated. But the problem often is not their stiffed-necked, visionless, hardhearted, reluctant to change leaders…it’s simply that they needed more time to process, to think, to question, to chew on things for a while. These things take time.
  5. A failure to program around the vision. You might see it clearly. You might be able to articulate it simply and clearly. Everybody might be on the same page. But if you don’t program around the vision, it will never be anything other than a nice idea on paper. To program around vision, ask these questions:

a) What do we need to start doing to see our vision succeed?

b) What are we doing that we need to do more of to see our vision succeed?

c) Is there anything we need to do less of to see our vision succeed?

Are you suffering from multiple vision?
Do you see your vision clearly?
Can you articulate it simply and clearly?
Have you allowed enough time for everybody to get on board?
Do your programs move your church towards your vision or away from your vision?

Now…where did I set my glasses?

« Older entries