Ideas That Work

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imagesI’m into my tenth year of full-time coaching. That’s a lot of conversations with pastors. Occasionally I’m asked about ‘trends.’ For example: “Dave, what are some of the most common problems pastors have, or want to talk about.” That’s a good question. It’s not unusual for pastors to want to talk about problems with their board or a belligerent church member. Sometimes it’s how to develop an outreach or discipleship strategy. Some pastors want to talk about vision or direction for their church. These are just a few examples of common topics that can make up my day.

But there is another subject. This is a really frequent subject. Pastors want to talk to me about it. Pastors talk amongst themselves about it. Pastors deal with this topic all the time. This is something that frustrates and can sometimes suck the life out of a pastor. And it is also a topic that pastors almost never teach on. What is the topic? CHANGE.

One of the greatest reasons why a church does not move forward in it’s mission is due to a resistence to change on the part of the people. But it’s not always their fault. Sometimes pastors don’t understand the dynamics of change, and then couple that with an absence of teaching on change, and you have a perfect receipt for frustration and corporate stagnation.

As pastors we must become experts in how to lead through change. We need to learn how to become effective change-agents. We need to regularly teach our key-leaders and then our congregation about change. Here are some topics pertaining to change that I speak to pastors about all the time:

  1. Never underestimate how much change freaks people out.
  2. Understand the fears behind resistance to change.
  3. Most churches that have been in decline or plateau will not be able to turn things around without accepting and embracing significant change.
  4. Change is a process that requires wisdom and patience.
  5. Often times change is preceded by reeducation. What does that look like?
  6. Identify those in your church who are the most resistant to change.
  7. The role of prayer in implementing successful change.
  8. Resistance to change could be the number one reason why many churches are not effective in reaching new people and creating disciples.

These are examples of ‘change’ conversations I have all the time.

If you are trying to lead your people through change you’re going to need to teach on change, and teach on change, and teach on chance. First you must understand the dynamics of change. Then you need to pass this on to your leaders. Then you need to pass this on to the rest of your people. Then, and only then, will you be in a place to lead into change.

I can help.

 

joinme-150x150There’s a lot of talk these days about taking the church to the unchurched (missional) instead of expecting the unchurched to come to church (attractional). I understand what’s behind this, but does it have to be either/or? We desire to see our members walking out their faith where they live and work and play. We want them to “be the church, not merely go to church”. Also, we don’t want our people to abdicate their responsibility to share their faith by relying on their pastor to do it for them on Sunday morning. Fair enough, but I still believe that inviting a friend to church is a legitimate expression of personal evangelism.

People continue to respond to invitations to come to church. Ed Stetzer’s recent study discovered that 63% would respond favorably to an invitation from a friend or neighbor to come to church. Chances are the majority of the members in your church are there because someone invited them, they came, they liked it, they stayed. In addition to this, a large percentage of believers say they became Christians by responding to the gospel message or to an invitation made in church. There’s nothing wrong with training your people to be inviters and includers with a specific emphasis on inviting their friends, relatives, and co-workers to church. Inviting someone to church is not the only way to do personal evangelism, but it is a way. If you are going to create inviters and includers then you’ll need to do eight things:

1. You have to model it. When was the last time you invited someone to church? Remember, you reproduce what you are.

2. You have to pound the concept into them, altering their mental DNA. You have to talk about being inviters and includers over and over and over again.

3. You have to provide something relevant and safe for them to invite people to. Somehow discover a way to objectively determine if your Sunday morning service feels relevant and safe to visitors. Relevance can be achieved without compromise.

4. You have to celebrate victories. Remember, every time someone invites someone to church it is a victory regardless if the one invited comes or not.

5. You have to be committed to this for the long-haul. Altering the DNA of your people, creating inviters and includers, takes time.

6. You must not be afraid to present the gospel. Develop a streamlined version of the plan of salvation that you can share in two minutes or less. One advantage of sharing the gospel on Sunday mornings is that your regulars end up learning what the gospel message is.

7. You must not be afraid to ask for a decision. It doesn’t matter if you ask for a show of hands, or to sign a card, or come forward, or whatever…what matters is that you give them an opportunity to respond. I know that raising ones hand is no guarantee the person has truly been converted, but leave that to God.

8. You must have a plan for follow up. Somehow, someway you need to have a way to make contact with those who visit your church or make a decision for Christ. It’s always amazing to me when I hear of a church that has no follow up plan. Remember, Jesus said, “You have not because you follow up not.” No, not really.

UnknownThere’s a lot of talk these days about taking the church to the unchurched (missional) instead of expecting the unchurched to come to church (attractional). I understand what’s behind this, but does it have to be either/or? We desire to see our members walking out their faith where they live and work and play. We want them to “be the church, not merely go to church”. Also, we don’t want our people to abdicate their responsibility to share their faith by relying on their pastor to do it for them on Sunday morning. Fair enough, but I still believe that inviting a friend to church is a legitimate expression of personal evangelism.

People continue to respond to invitations to come to church. Ed Stetzer’s study discovered that 63% would respond favorably to an invitation from a friend or neighbor to come to church. Chances are the majority of the members in your church are there because someone invited them, they came, they liked it, they stayed. In addition to this, a large percentage of believers say they became Christians by responding to the gospel message or to an invitation made in church. There’s nothing wrong with training your people to be inviters and includers with a specific emphasis on inviting their friends, relatives, and co-workers to church. Inviting someone to church is not the only way to do personal evangelism, but it is a way. If you are going to create inviters and includers then you’ll need to do eight things:

1. You have to model it. When was the last time you invited someone to church? Remember, you reproduce what you are.

2. You have to pound the concept into them, altering their mental DNA. You have to talk about being inviters and includers over and over and over again.

3. You have to provide something relevant and safe for them to invite people to. Somehow discover a way to objectively determine if your Sunday morning service feels relevant and safe to visitors. Relevance can be achieved without compromise.

4. You have to celebrate victories. Remember, every time someone invites someone to church it is a victory regardless if the one invited comes or not.

5. You have to be committed to this for the long-haul. Altering the DNA of your people, creating inviters and includers, takes time.

6. You must not be afraid to present the gospel. Develop a streamlined version of the plan of salvation that you can share in two minutes or less. One advantage of sharing the gospel on Sunday mornings is that your regulars end up learning what the gospel message is.

7. You must not be afraid to ask for a decision. It doesn’t matter if you ask for a show of hands, or to sign a card, or come forward, or whatever…what matters is that you give them an opportunity to respond. I know that raising ones hand is no guarantee the person has truly been converted, but leave that to God.

8. You must have a plan for follow up. Somehow, someway you need to have a way to make contact with those who visit your church or make a decision for Christ. It’s always amazing to me when I hear of a church that has no follow up plan. Remember, Jesus said, “You have not because you follow up not.” No, not really.

Follow me on Twitter @thinkmonk

UnknownI can remember fishing with my grandpa when I was a little boy. Fred Flowerday, one of nine boys and a girl born to a farmer in Nebraska. Fred knew how to fish. Grandpa taught me about “keepers”. Those of you who fish know that “keepers” are fish worthy of…well, keeping. If the fish was too small or looked sickly, Grandpa would say, “Throw it back.” All others were keepers.

Now if we apply this metaphor to newcomers at your church, it’s easy to sound callous and disinterested. But the fact is that some people will be right for your church, and some won’t. Some will be keepers, and some should be released to go swimming in another pond. It won’t do you any good in the long run to encourage someone to stay and get involved in your church if you know the church will not be a right fit for them. Save yourself, and your new fish, a headache. Be comfortable in saying, “I don’t think this church is a good fit for you.” You’re not being mean (provided you speak caringly), you’re being a good leader. You’re being good to them and good to your church.

If you sense that your new catch has a different agenda than yours…let them go. If your fish is pushing for a different style of worship than you want…let them go. If they want you to be more charismatic than you are or less charismatic than you are, if they want you to be something other than what you are, they will be frustrated with you and eventually you will be frustrated with them. Express to them that it’s okay for them to leave, no hard feelings.

Now I understand that you want to grow your church. You don’t want people to leave, you want them to stay. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to feel you’ve got a “keeper” because they seem so excited about the Lord, so talented, so experienced, and they believe in tithing. Sure you might have a small check in your gut about them really fitting in, but hey…they tithe. All people have worth, but not all are worth the energy of trying to keep them happy when your church is simply not right for them. It’s not going to be worth it to you to try and fit a square peg in a round hole. You will either damage the square peg or damage the round hole to make them fit. Either way you’ve got damage.

Maybe you’ve been struggling with someone in your church for a long time. They always seem to be kicking against the goads. Maybe your church is not a good fit for them. Have enough integrity and courage to suggest they try someplace else. Be kind, choose your words carefully, and then show them the door. You barely have enough energy to care for those who are a good fit for your church, let alone those who aren’t a good fit. Keep the keepers and be willing to stock someone else’s lake. Who knows, maybe there they will be happy and flourish because they’ve found a church better suited for them.

images-2-150x150So it’s Sunday morning, or maybe afternoon. You’ve preached your heart out. You’ve been at the building since 8:00am. The last chair has been put away. Your stomach is growling and you’re tired. Just as you reach to turn off the lights, Brother Bill comes up to you and wants to know your position on women in the ministry. Since Bill considers himself somewhat of a self-taught theologian you know he will not be satisfied with a one or two sentence answer. You say, “You insensitive, arrogant numbskull, can’t you see I’m trying to get out of here?”

Well…you’d probably never say that…but you’d like to.

Position papers save a lot of time and let you address the individual’s question in a thorough way without taking the time right there and then. When I was pastoring I had position papers on a wide range of controversial subject. Some examples:

Women in the ministry
The gifts of the Holy Spirit
The role of the elder
Church government, i.e. how decisions are made here
Tithing

I developed the content of these papers based on past messages I’d delivered. I honed my teaching notes down to the bare essentials, and created a 8.5 X 11 double-sided tri-fold brochure, printed off copies and made them available each Sunday morning at our literature table. Eventually the same documents appeared on our website.

It was great to be able to simply refer someone to one of my papers. That way, when someone wanted information that I did not have time to give, or if a controversial subject was brought up in a large group setting, I could tell them to visit our table or website.

The bottom line is that it’s always more loving to hand someone a brochure than to call them a numbskull.

UnknownHave you ever had a home run? I’m not referring to your glory days in high school. I mean a home run, out of the stadium, ball bouncing around in the parking lot sermon. I’ve had a few…or at least I thought they were. And then again, there have been times my assessment was “home run” only to hear from my wife later that afternoon, “You’ve done better.” Ouch…foul!

One of the many things I enjoy about my job is being a preaching coach. Everyone, even the best of communicators, can become better, and the process of increasing one’s effectiveness in speaking is greatly accelerated when one has an objective pair of ears to offer helpful suggestions. I want to share with you three essentials for a home-run sermon. When crafting your message always focus on: Strong Content, Practical Application, and Dynamic Delivery.

Strong Content. Here you are asking yourself if your teaching is biblically and theologically solid. Does the passage you are teaching from really say what you say it says? You need to know that what you’re teaching on is rock-solid because you’ve studied it out for yourself instead of merely passing something on that you’ve been taught by someone else. If you haven’t had any training in the area of hermeneutics, I suggest you find a good book on the subject and read it.

Practical Application. Every home-run sermon will answer the question, “So what?” Great sermons make great application for those who are listening. What are you giving them that they can take with them and apply during their week? And while I’m at it…make sure the application relates to their week and not yours. Most of your people live in a different world than you do. Scratch where they itch.

Dynamic Delivery. Are you interesting to listen to or boring as…well you know? Do you have good eye contact, do you incorporate humor in your sermons, do you have good fluctuation in your voice? Are you articulate? Are you dull or fascinating when preaching? Dave’s rule #12: Bore your people, go to jail.

Don’t settle for a single or a double. Your people deserve at least a triple and occasionally a home run. If you want to knock it into the stands focus on Content, Application, and Delivery. Hum-now batter…sa-wing!

If you think you might benefit from having a preaching coach…let’s talk.

Unknown Have you ever attended a meeting that was poorly planned or a waste of time? Remember how frustrated you felt? As a pastor you are always attending meetings. Some meetings you’re in charge of and others someone else. You don’t have a lot of control over someone else’s meeting but you do over the ones you lead. Whether it’s a board meeting, a leadership team meeting, or any type of planning or business meeting there are four things you can do to insure that no one ever feels your meetings were a waste of time.

Be prepared. Never come into a meeting that you haven’t adequately prepared for. When people take time out of their busy schedules to come to one of your meetings you can’t afford to “wing-it.” Your leaders will forgive you once, maybe twice, but after that they will either make up excuses for not coming or they will come but bring along with them a bad attitude. Bad attitudes never result in a productive meeting. Be prepared.

Have an agenda. The best way to develop your agenda is to ask two questions. First, what could my agenda be? Second, what should my agenda be? First you brainstorm on all the things you could talk about and then narrow it down to the most important things to talk about. Don’t try to cram too much into a two hour meeting. Have a realistic agenda.

Hand out the agenda ahead of time. You will increase the productivity of your meetings 50% by simply emailing the agenda to those who will attend at least three days before the meeting. Let them know what the meeting will be focusing on. Ask them to give the agenda some thought and prayer. You might think you’re prepared, but if you don’t have an agenda and if that agenda is not in the hands of your people ahead of time…you’re not prepared.

Don’t talk so much. Pastors talk too much and listen too little. If you don’t care about their thoughts, opinions, and ideas then don’t call a meeting. But if you do care (and I know you do) then limit your words so there will be enough time for everyone to talk. A great leader will not take up more than 10% of the meeting time talking.

Before your next meeting ask: Am I prepared? Do I have an agenda? Has that agenda been handed out ahead of time? Am I prepared to listen and ask more than talk and tell.

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Unknown-150x150If you’re a pastor it’s probably been a while since you’ve been a visitor in someone else’s church. I mean a visitor in the sense of one looking for a new church home. After Ellen and I moved to Southern Oregon it took us a couple months to decide on a church to join. Moving put us in that unfamiliar place of looking for a church. Just think, for 28 years I’ve never gone church shopping. Ellen and I have always started our own churches and had people visit us, not the other way around. It’s a very interesting experience, i.e. looking at a church through the eyes of a visitor.

They say (I’m not sure who “they” are and I’ve never seen the study that is supposed to back this up, but it makes a great point whether true or not.) that first-time visitors decide if they are going to return to your church a second time within the first seven minutes they walk through your doors. Even if this is nothing more than a “church” urban legend, I would probably agree…give or take a few minutes.

The point is, you will become blind to how your church looks to first-timers in direct proportion to how old your church is. The longer you’ve been open for business the less likely it is that you can tell what comes off as strange, confusing, or weird to those who are visiting. In order to remedy this you might need to plant a spy. There are two ways you might do this.

First, find someone in your church who you feel can be truly objective and understands what it is you are trying to accomplish. The following Sunday (or whenever it is that you have your pubic meeting) have them come a few minutes late and take notes of everything that stands out to them that might be a turn-off to a guest. Their challenge is to see your service through the eyes of a guest…whether they be a Christian guest looking for a new church home, or an unbeliever checking your church out for whatever reason. Or…

Second, and this is probably the best way to get some truly unbiased feedback, pay some unchurched non-believer to help you out. Have them visit your church, fill out a questionnaire, and meet with you afterwards for a debriefing. Pay them, say…$25 – $50. It will be worth it.

If we want to attract the unchurched we must learn to see our meetings through their eyes. An attempt needs to be made to remove any obstacles that might keep them from returning…within reason of course. One of the best ways of identifying and removing said obstacles is to plant a spy.

UnknownOccasionally we need to sit down and appraise how effective the ministries in our church are. Paul told Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” (Col. 417) Referring to Timothy’s calling, Paul encouraged him, “Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress may be evident to all.” (1 Tim 4:15)

Don’t be afraid to evaluate how well the different ministries in your church are doing. Don’t obsess, but don’t neglect examining the effectiveness of the programs your church offers. Below you’ll find my best questions to ask when evaluating ministry. You can either go through these on your own or with your key leaders.

1. What will be the criteria we use to evaluate?

2. Why do we feel this is an fair criteria to use?

3. Can we identify any weaknesses with the criteria we’ve chosen to use?

4. Are we including the right people in the evaluation process?

5. With our criteria in mind, on a scale of 1-10 (one being lowest), how would we rate our ministry, or specific department?

6. What would need to happen to bump that number up one or two points?

7. What will our next action steps be?

I would recommend two to three times a year you set apart some good thinking time for the sole purpose of appraising and evaluating the different key ministries in your church. It’s difficult to know if your church is effective without objective, specific times of evaluation.

Question: Do you regularly evaluate? If so, what process do you use?

Ali-150x150Inside the ring it’s a sport, outside the ring it’s a crime. You guessed it, I’m referring to professional boxing. I’ll return to the absurdity of this sport and how it relates to leadership in a moment but let me say if you want a good laugh simply google “boxing quotes” and enjoy yourself. Here are a few I came across:

Bob Hope: “I was called “Rembrandt” Hope in my boxing days, because I spent so much time on the canvas.

Muhammad Ali, on an upcoming fight with Floyd Patterson: “I’ll beat him so bad he’ll need a shoehorn to put his hat on.”

Randall “Tex” Cobb: “When I got up I stuck to my plan — stumbling forward and getting hit in the face.”

Max Baer, when asked for his definition of fear: “Standing across the ring from Joe Louis and knowing he wants to go home early.”

Muhammad Ali: “It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.”

I think it’s this last quote from Ali that sums up how ridiculous boxing seems to me…we’ve sanctioned a job the purpose of which is to beat someone up. But what does this have to do with leadership? Be selective with who or what you’re willing to climb into the ring for. Choose your fights wisely.

A college professor once said, “Some things are worth fighting for and some things are worth dying for. And most things aren’t worth either.” Sometimes leaders can make issues of things that really aren’t that important. We need to ask ourselves, “Is this something I need to get in the ring over?”

Are you in the ring right now with someone? Is it really worth it? Could someone else get in the ring in your place? Will letting the issue go be all that bad? Never underestimate your ability to think something is really important…when it’s not. In the past I’ve made issues of things that looking back I can now see weren’t as important as I thought they were. There have been things I thought were problems that were not and my thinking they were ended up making them a problem…a different problem, a bigger problem.

When in doubt get advice from someone objective and disassociated from the situation. Don’t get in the ring unless you really need to.

You can follow me on twitter @thinkmonk

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