Some people feel that not planning out their sermons is somehow more spiritual. You confuse that pit in your stomach on Saturday night because you don’t know what you are going to preach in the morning with the work of the Holy Spirit. Try this and see if it works for you. Take a day or two away from the church. Sit down with a calendar and a Bible somewhere that will not distract you. Pray over the dates in the calendar. You might get ambitious and give a rough plan to the entire year. If not, try for at least a quarter. Note that there may be certain holidays like Christmas, Easter/Passover, Ascension Sunday etc. for which you may want to plan a special service. You will also want to plan sermons that remind the congregation of the vision that is particular to your church at least once a quarter. Having a plan allows you to tackle jobs in bite size pieces. It allows you to have more creativity. Like if you want a prop for a sermon, it is much easier to acquire if you have a few months to get it than if you have from midnight Saturday evening until Sunday morning to get it. If you have a staff, it gives them a heads up about what they need to be doing as well. If you are worried about too much planning and not enough Holy Spirit, remember, HE can still change the plans at the last minute just like before…but there is a plan for HIM to change. HE can and should be part of the planning. If you have never tried this before, you might do something basic like dusting off one of those systematic theology books from bible college or seminary and work through the table of contents in a year or two. That way, you don’t preach on your pet doctrines every week while leaving your congregation ignorant of others. Have fun! I hope you will find that this approach relieves stress from your work. If not, after a quarter, go back to agonizing on Saturday night for a Sunday morning sermon.
Archive for the 'structure' Category
The church board can be a scary thing, both for those involved and for the pastor of the church. Every non-profit in the United States has to have a board of some kind. They are a good idea in a church. Otherwise, what happens if the pastor does something horrible? I have an idea to present that might seem to fly in the face of the traditional church board idea…but here it is. How about if 1/2 or most of the board are not people who are members of the church? Before you label me crazy, I am not talking about just picking guys off the street. What if the “church board” were made up of pastors of like minded churches in the area or even from around the country. This way, if there is a real problem, there is definite accountability for the pastor, but there will never be a lynch mob mentality that can occur if the pastor steps on the toes of a prominent member of the church in one of his sermons. Each of these pastor board members would go preach in each others churches from time to time so that the church membership would know who they are and also give them time to feel out the church and see where needs are. It seems to me that decisions could be made more objectively by people who are seeking God’s will for the church as a whole as well as the local body. This would prevent the situation of powerbrokering going on inside the church. Also, if the pastor should get into trouble, there is already a group of leaders there to help him get counseling and recovery. If you know of a church or your own church already uses a system like this, I welcome your feedback and comments!
This last weekend, I had the chance to go to a small country church with my wife and my parents. It was a different denomination than I usually attend, and a church of about 40-50 while the church I had been serving at is a church of 600-700. Needless to say there were differences. Some of the differences were good, while others were things the church could work on. I am going to write up my observations so that hopefully if you are a pastor or church leader you can evaluate your own church a little.
1. Age of the congregation: There were people of all ages! This may seem like a silly thing to point out, but the presence of teens and young adults in a rather traditional style church says that they are doing something right! There was an energy that is brought out by having youth yet it wasn’t all young people. There were those there who have the luxury of wisdom as well.
2. The preaching: Well planned and based on scripture. It was a clear message that people could apply to their lives. (Based on dealing with trouble in our lives. Used a passage from Job and supporting scripture from both old and new testaments.)
3. They shake up traditions a bit: If anyone knows this church, they will figure it out from this point. The denomination they belong to is known for being traditionalists, however, they changed up the order of service. That may seem like a small thing, but it is working for their community. They have Worship service first, then Sunday school, then lunch and then the second service…so there is no evening service. That is quite radical for that denomination, so I am applauding them.
4. The warmth of the church: The people were quite friendly once we got inside. (See Negatives). They prayed for each other’s needs in a very real way! During the “meet and greet” time, while most churches I have been in simply shake a few hands and sit down, at this church it was about a 15 minute time of fellowship among the people. Most of the church came to greet us…that last part can be both a positive and a negative, but it was obvious that this church had a real sense of community among the members.
1. Entering the church – Here was one of the areas where they needed help. The only one to welcome us was the mat in front of the door that clearly said “Welcome” on it. Upon entering the foyer of the church, the bulletins were laid out neatly on a table, yet there was no one there to show us where to go. We made our way into the sanctuary and sat down in a pew. (Yes, I did actually hear someone say, “Sorry sister __________ those people are sitting in your seat.”)
2. Music – Music is an opinion thing. Here I am not referring to contemporary or singing from the hymnal. They sang from a hymnal and that is fine. There seemed to be a disconnect at times in the rhythm between the piano player and the young man leading the singing. All in all though I enjoyed praising the Lord with this group!
3. Visitor treatment: We were very much pointed out. I heard people say, “I am going over to greet the visitors”. I am a fairly outgoing person who likes to meet new people. My wife is not. She absolutely hated everyone coming over and introducing themselves to her and asking questions. Not all visitors are created equal. Some just want to come in and enjoy the service without being singled out until they are more comfortable with the congregation. (Side note, those who just spontaneously greeted her before or after the service aren’t the problem, it was those making a point of meeting “the visitors” during the meet and greet time.) I admit this is a picky point and possibly one of personal preference, but if your church notices that visitors are coming, but not coming back, you might want to look at reasons why that might be the case.
Finally, It was wonderful to worship with a great group of believers! I look forward to seeing them in heaven and even here on earth should our paths cross again.
Yesterday in our staff meeting, there was a lively discussion about getting word to the congregation about various ministries in the church. It really comes down to how much pulpit time the senior pastor wants to give an individual ministry. As I began to reflect on the meeting, I began to think, (((Are we trying to do to much?))) We always say that things should be done with excellence! In my experience if we multi-task in to many directions, none of them actually gets done with excellence. After a quick outline of our ministry areas, I saw the problem. We have at least 10 areas of ministry! (In a 5 year old church of about 600). It might make people mad, but it could be that one of the very best things that could be done is to axe one, two, three or more of the ministries so that we can focus more time, money and energy on those areas that we do with excellence! I haven’t read Jim Collin’s book Good to Great, but I remember hearing him speak about it, and it seems that was one of the points of the book. (Forgive me if I am wrong Jim!…and I do plan to read your book someday…just haven’t gotten to it yet.) Just looking at the title though. If we just want to be a “good” church and do things “good” then we are fine. But if we strive to be a “great” church! Then excellence and greatness must be our standard, not good and ok.
I was sitting here thinking about church membership. At our church, people who want to become members must go through a class and then sign a covenant agreement. People can serve in our church without being members. One would think that with such a system in place, only those serious about participating in the ministry of the church would want to join. Over the years however, I have seen that many people still join just to get their name on the roll list. Which by the way won’t get you any discounts, or a get out of hell free card or anything…but they still want to join. When joining doesn’t require anything, than it also doesn’t mean anything.
In 8th grade, my friend Adam joined the AARP. While the AARP is a great organization for retired people or people over 50, it doesn’t cater in any way to a 13-14 year old. For some reason, maybe his lack of a job at that time, Adam was accepted and received his AARP card in the mail. Many churches seem to be like that. Anyone can join. Let’s be honest, we are a very inclusive club. We are a family of like minded people who love and serve Jesus Christ and we want everyone to be in our club. However…if we give people a card that says they are in the club while they still haven’t met the requirements like loving Jesus with all their heart, serving Him or at bare minimum having asked Him to forgive them of their sins…are we really doing them a disservice? Like my friend Adam who when he turns 50 may have some trouble getting an AARP card due to the fact that he will have already had one for almost 40 years, will these people stand before God on judgment day and say, “But Lord, I know I didn’t know you, but I have my membership card from ________________ Church! Doesn’t that get me into heaven?” While not wanting to revert to a legalistic draconian method like the board inquisition that led to D.L. Moody not being able to join his local church, I would love to hear suggestions on how to make church membership be an accountability tool and to mean something. Now you get to post a comment!
It seems in most churches that there are countless policies and procedures. Some of those are written, some are not. The question I want us to consider today is: Why is it so easy to write a policy, but seemingly difficult to change one once it is in place? In your church, is there a way to change or challenge existing policies without causing a church split? I am not talking about challenging the deity of Jesus Christ. I am more referring to things that the senior pastor may not realize. Example, a couple weeks ago, we had a guest speaker. Our pastor sat in the congregation and took notes along with the rest of us. At staff meeting the next day he remarked that the pens that we give out with the bulletins don’t write well. We decided then as a staff that new pens were not an out of the question change and set about ordering some new ones. Now, if our senior pastor hadn’t had occasion to sit in the congregation and use one of our pens; How long would it have been before a change would have been made? (I am looking at and thinking about our own church’s policy/procedure as I write this.) The funny or not so funny thing is that each of us in the room knew that the pens weren’t that great, but hadn’t rocked the boat to look for new ones anytime recently. (We still have a case of the old ones that haven’t been used up yet.) Pens are just an example, but it makes a few points come to life.
1. If you are a senior pastor. Take a Sunday to sit in the congregation and watch how your church operates from a different point of view. Let an associate speak or bring in someone from the outside, but other than the speaker, let things go on as normal. (Other than that, you will get a twisted view of the service if everything is done up specially for the guest speaker.)
2. If you are not the senior pastor. Remember that your senior pastor isn’t in every ministry area of the church. There may be a glaring or not so glaring problem that needs to be changed that he quite simply is not aware even exists. Let him know. It helps if instead of just pointing out the problem, you also have a solution in hand.
Have an awesome day!
Some of us have been in church so long that we don’t remember what the first time we stepped into a church felt like. Stop and think. What does your church look like to the person who is showing up for the first time? What if it is their first time in a church EVER? How is your church constantly keeping in mind that there are people coming who don’t know “the rules” who don’t know what “an offering” is or a “clap offering”? There are so many micro-culture things that go on in a church that many times we don’t even remember why we do them. Does everyone pray out loud once the prayer is started, or do they bow their heads in silence when the person leading in prayer prays? Do you put one finger in the air when you walk across the front of the church? Do people kneel, stand, jump, shout, lay down, spin around? All of that is fine, but can you explain it quickly to the person who doesn’t know anything about the Lord and even less about your church?
A quick thought for the end of my morning rant: God doesn’t give us more than we can bear. Is your church ready to bear the burden of new growth? Baby Christians? Messy New People?…
Here is a questions for pastors who preach. For those who don’t know, I am the Connections Pastor at my church; which means I never preach from our platform. I have only spoken from it once, and that wasn’t preaching a sermon. I love when I do get the chance, but that isn’t what God has called me to do in this chapter of my life. Here are some questions for pastors who do preach. When you put a sermon together, what are you trying to accomplish? Are you just telling people something that is true? (If you are taking your sermons from the Bible like many pastors in the country, the sermon should be something that is true.) Do you present helpful information? While it may be true that Elishah, Tarshish, the Kittim and the Rodanim were the sons of Javan, most people do not find that information relevant helpful information to their getting through life in this century. Sermons need to address subjects that will help people in their lives. Thirdly, are they engaging? A sermon can be true and present helpful information but in a manner that quite helpfully cures insomnia. If people are going to see God changing lives, they need to want to hear about God’s love for them. They won’t do that if they feel like church is just a place for a nice hour nap on a Sunday morning. Look over your sermons, are they True, Helpful and Engaging? If not, it might be time to go back to the drawing board.
Before I write anything on this topic, I must first confess that I am church cultured all the way through. I have been in church since the first Sunday after my mother and father created me. Nine months or so later, I became a regular in the church nursery. You get the picture. In the world of business, a lot is changing, old business models aren’t necessarily working as well as they once did. Technology and the internet have made it possible for people to make business connections that were nearly impossible 5o years ago. So, my question is, how is that affecting the church? Should it? While the message we have to give away must remain constant through time, the way in which that message is given must be ever evolving and changing if we are to reach this generation for Christ! Pastors, we are awful about finding something that works and sticking with it long after it has ceased to work. Flannel board was all the rage and the newest and coolest way to reach people with the love of Jesus about 40 years ago. Fanny Crosby wrote incredible hymns that were put to the popular music of her day in the later half of the 1800′s. Overhead projectors shining the lyrics to “Majesty” up on the front wall of the church were great in the 1980′s! None of those things are bad. None of them will send anyone to hell. So why wouldn’t we keep using them in church? (Some churches still do.)The sinner on the street wouldn’t connect with the method in which the message was portrayed. Fanny Crosby herself said that her songs were written to speak to the man on the street, not to the highbrow church person. I am not just writing about music. Fellowship is meant to be relational. We can worship together in a large church, but fellowship only happens in small groups. How do we as a church, unless your church is only 10-15 people, continue to reach out to people while also creating environments in which small groups can assemble and spend time getting to know each other in very real relationships? At our church, we use a small group model that we call “Home TEAMs”. They are great! The problem is that less than 25% of our congregation are actively involved in one. That means that 75% basically show up on Sunday for a worship service and never experience the meaningful relationships that Christ meant for His Body – The church, to share.
Going back to the idea of rethinking business. Often 80% of your customers only account for 20% of your profit/income. In the church, we often say that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. Nice to see that isn’t only a church problem, but is it possible to get the other 80% actively involved in the work of the Lord? Yes it is! Here is my “Rethinking church” idea. We often refer to certain organizations as “para-church organizations” or “faith based organizations” I would propose that maybe some of these are really undercover churches. An example: I used to work as a volunteer with a group of theaters in the Midwest called Stained Glass Theatre. They put on plays using volunteer actors. All the shows contained a strong salvation message, but were not “Bible stories”. (Except for very few.) This group of stage hands/script writers/actors/editors/…were a fellowship of people who loved the Lord and loved theatre. Through that ministry and its offshoots, thousands of people have come to know Jesus as their Savior. Thousands more have had their walk with the Lord strengthened, and I am only referring to the spectators! The people who were in the theatre, were all working toward a common goal. Some had big jobs, others little ones, but all were involved with a purpose. When one is sick or hurting all are their to comfort and help. When one rejoices, all rejoice. Is SGT perfect? No! But were real meaningful relationships build every day? Yes! People found fellowship with other Christians and with God there. So is it a church? You can decide that one…maybe we should look at that model though, and see how it can affect our church. Having a common goal and purpose, and each person having his or her role in carrying out that goal can cause a revolution in Christendom. Sorry this one is so long. Have an awesome day! Hopefully you are thinking a bit.
Have you ever thought about planting a church? What does it take…other than everything you have and a bit more? God has allowed me to be part of a church that was a couple years old when I first attended. It is now a 4 1/2 year old church plant. The senior pastor is a visionary who is also quite ADD, I am much more conservative, structured…the rest of the staff is as different from each other as they are from us. We ALL have two common goals – to reach people with the love of Jesus Christ and to teach them to love others with the Love of Christ! Many would consider our church a “successful” church plant. It wasn’t accomplished by finding a bunch of people who were exactly like the church planter. (If it were, I would not have been allowed to even attend, much less end up on staff.)If you are considering planting a church, this is one small point among many to keep in mind. As you start staffing even if that is unpaid lay staff, find someone who has strengths in your weaknesses. My wife often laughs that 1/2 the staff here are ADD or ADHD and the other half are uber-organized number-crunching nerds….you can guess which category I fall into. That is a good thing! Guess what, if I were the “front man” for the church…it wouldn’t look anything like it does, and I must admit, it would probably be much more boring to many. I am not the super get excited kind of person. Those people are needed! Calm, cool and collected doesn’t inspire people unless there are guns involved. Passion does! I thank the Lord that he let me be a part of such a diverse bunch every day! Have fun with your church plant! We need more of them! Until everyone on the planet can claim to have been presented with the gospel and have made a choice to accept Jesus or reject Him, we still have a lot of work to do!