7 First Impression Lessons from a Church Shopper

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Opening disclosure. This post is going to seem negative, and I am far from a negative person. The glass is always over half full for me. I actually intend it to be positive if it encourages churches. 

The transition 18 months ago to the Dallas area was difficult when it came to finding a church to call home. In fact, I ended up taking a short-term interim pastor position for a softer landing. I grew up in the church where my parents and grandparents attended. We were there until I surrendered to vocational ministry at 38 years of age. Then I spent 16 years serving as a pastor. 

I have never been a church “shopper” until we moved to Dallas. 

But Cheryl and I learned a lot. 

First Impressions or Guest Relations, whatever term you choose to use, was always high on my priority list as a pastor. We weren’t perfect, but we were extremely intentional in thinking through how we considered visitors from the moment they Googled “church” to how we followed up with them once they came. 

I think my motivation came from my years in the business world. When I was in retail management I knew that the way the store looked, the merchandise was presented, and our associates treated shoppers were all vitally important parts of motivating someone to buy an item. 

Our experience

After visiting lots of different churches, in Dallas and in other cities, I have come to realize how poorly many churches do in this critical area – at a time when church visitors are harder to come by than ever before. 

I would never call any names, but in the first three churches we visited not one person said hello to us. And in two of them we attended Bible study. (True story!) We even filled out information cards, and no one contacted us. Not even an email! 

And I wish I could say that type experience ended after those three churches. It didn’t.

We started asking around and went to some churches where people told us they were very friendly. They weren’t. We often left feeling no one even knew we were there. They may be very friendly if you already knew everyone’s inside stories and the names of their kids, but they weren’t to outsiders – at least not to us.

We saw churches that had greeters, but the greeters didn’t smile and they were usually busy catching up with people they already knew. 

Please understand two things.

First, these were all good churches. I have no doubt every church we visited is making disciples. I am just sharing our experience, because I think it matters if we want to help first-time visitors (some who may not even have a relationship with Christ) become growing disciples. 

Even more important for you to understand if you’ve made it this far reading – I’m FOR the local church. This is not meant to be complaining. I want the Church to succeed and even believe the Church is the hope of the world. I’ve spent my ministry years trying to help the Church flourish. Cheryl and I always said if we weren’t serving on a church staff we want to be the best church members possible. 

I should also point out that we did find friendly churches. We found churches doing a good job at welcoming visitors. I have to be honest though that we found more that simply weren’t. 

It might also be important to know we visited primarily larger churches (500+ in attendance). This was simply because the churches that Leadership Network primarily served at the time were larger churches.

The bottom line is that if we miss first impressions, we are going to have a very difficult time growing our churches. 

7 First Impression lessons I learned as a church shopper: 

Websites matter. I don’t think I’m unusual in the fact that I never visited a church where I had not first spent time on their website. First I went to their staff page, previewed some sermons, and also checked out their Facebook and/or Instagram page mostly looking for pictures. Pictures tell a lot!

The fact that there are churches with no website amazes me. Perhaps even more is when I see a church with lots of resources that has an outdated, hard to navigate website. 

Parking lots matter. Pulling into the parking lot starts the experience of a church visit. We were so confused many times, not knowing what door to enter or where to park relative to the auditorium. Some had parking lot volunteers, but they weren’t engaging. 

I should note that we almost never used visitor parking. Some of this is because we wanted to save them for others, but also, especially as an Introvert, I didn’t want to be identified until I was ready to be identified. I did want to know where I was going though. 

Signage matters. Maybe this is just me, but I’d rather try to find my way if I can before I ask. Granted, we visited mostly larger churches, but some of them were so difficult to navigate. Some churches had no signage at all and some had signage written in a language we didn’t speak. For example, a catchy name for a building is nice, but if I want to go to the auditorium a building called “The Alley” (I made that one up) isn’t going to help me.

Imagine a family with a child wanting to go the the student ministry. If it’s in a separate building or on the other side of the building from the auditorium, calling it “The Deck” (I made that one up too) probably isn’t going to help them get there on time. And what student (or adult) loves to walk in late their first Sunday. 

Trained volunteers matter. Signage can’t solve everything. When a visitor makes the effort to ask someone, the person they ask should be able to help. We once asked a person who was handing out bulletins where a Bible study class was. He told us he didn’t know. Period. He didn’t tell us who to ask or direct us to where we could get the information, but that he simply didn’t know. 

Also, I am not sure you can have too many volunteers in this area of guest relations (starting in the parking lot). We wanted someone close enough to ask questions, but not so close that I felt uncomfortable. 

First Impressions matter. Entering the doors of a church the first time is hard. It was for me, but also for my extroverted wife. A smiling face goes a long way. Please, let me say this in love. You may not be as friendly as you think you are. This is an area I talked to our church about from behind the pulpit (or table I used) many times. It takes intentional vision-casting to remind people to be friendly to people they don’t already know. The atmosphere matters. You see the church every Sunday. It is your “home”. Visitors are new. They notice what you won’t.

Follow up matters. Again, we were surprised by the number of churches that did very little follow up if any. One church that did impress us was likely not even part of their system, but it could be systematized. A Bible study leader (a very friendly one) followed up with us a couple of months after we had visited their class. He just checked in to see if we needed anything or had found a class. Awesome! We truly felt “noticed”. 

All hands on deck matters. The one thing made clear to both my wife and me is that having a church that’s really “visitor friendly” probably starts at the top and trickles all the way throughout the church. 

I told you in the beginning this was going to appear negative. I expect some to criticize my use of the term “church shopper” and that we entered with a consumer mentality rather than a disciple mentality. Really, we just wanted to find a church. But I want you to know I really do want to help. This is such a critical part of our churches. By the way, I believe it enough that Cheryl and I joined the greeting ministry at the church where we attend. 

Yesterday I announced that I am beginning my own consulting practice. I hope to be a resource to churches in this area of Impressions. For some churches that could be onsite consulting to evaluate everything such as signage and appearance to training volunteers. Other churches may benefit in time from some online offerings – even if it is more discussions here on my blog. 

This is something I have come to realize is very important. It’s personal to me now and I want to help. I might suggest you take a few minutes and process some of this with your church staff or volunteers.

If you are a church that wants me to come to you, maybe even help you prepare for guests on Easter, send me an email and let’s talk. (Ron.Edmondson@gmail.com) 

Announcing a Life and Career Transition for Ron and Cheryl Edmondson

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A Life Transition for The Edmondsons

I recently resigned my position as CEO of Leadership Network. Although my tenure is much shorter than I had anticipated when I arrived almost 18 months ago, I feel it has been a productive time for me and the organization. Leadership Network has a long, great history of helping the Church accelerate growth and innovation. I spent my time restructuring the organization and the team; hopefully positioning it for the future. At times it felt as though I was back in church revitalization.

As our new leadership team began to plan for 2020, I saw my role shifting from one of building something new to more maintaining and managing. In addition, development would become even more important in my role. Those who know me know I am not a good manager and fundraising doesn’t excite me. Plus, I had less “hands on” time with pastors and the local church than I anticipated the position affording me.  

At 55 years old, I am wise enough to know that life is short, and time is precious. Wisdom and experience tell me these should be some of my most productive years. I want to use them doing something that fuels me every day. Likewise, in fairness, Leadership Network needs someone leading who is fully engaged at what the position requires of them. 

This was not a quick decision. It was a matter of several months of prayer and discussion and gaining counsel from a few wise friends. Cheryl and I used a recent trip to Israel as a deciding time to confirm this was the right decision for us and the organization.

What’s Next

Todd Wilson, with Exponential, once advised me that I’m a “5 chip guy”. He said I must be doing multiple things to feel fulfilled. I probably should have listened closer to him then. 

Currently, unless God intervenes, after the sale of our home, we plan to move to the Nashville area where we have family and friends. This move alone excites us. We lived in the area until seven and a half years ago and have lots of community there. I will launch my own ministry serving churches and organizations in the role of consulting, writing, speaking, and preaching. Several churches have entertained the idea of me doing some intentional interim work. I’ve been doing online ministry since “dial up” days in the mid 90’s. Look for more of this in the future. 

Let me share a few broad thoughts and then I’ll unpack more of this in the days to come.

Consulting

I may be somewhat unique in that I have successful experience in both church revitalization and church planting. It fuels me to help churches (and organizations) figure out how to start, re-start and scale. I think my experience can help with a broad range of leadership issues. 

One area I am particularly interested in helping churches think through is what I’m calling Impressions. The whole guest relations area was a pet peeve of mine as a pastor. We weren’t perfect, but we were extremely intentional in thinking through how we considered visitors from the moment they Googled “church” to how we followed up with them once they came. 

After 18 months of visiting lots of different churches, I realize how poorly many churches do in this critical area – at a time when church visitors are harder to come by than ever before. I’d love to help churches think through and improve this ministry in their context. 

I wrote a post talking more about this HERE.

Adjunct staff member

Would it be of value to you if you could add some “strategic thinking” capacity to your staff team for a day or two – maybe once or maybe once a month for a year? Again, I love brainstorming and thinking through next steps. Whether it is figuring out staffing structure, organizational culture, or strategies for growth, if you’ve got a problem and need an experienced voice in the room, I’m here to help. 

Teaching/Preaching

I’m open for opportunities to guest preach at your church. Also, as invited, I will continue to speak at conferences and workshops. 

I have already agreed to one opportunity. For those of you who pastor, but never had the time (or inclination) to go to seminary, I will be working with Ed Stetzer at the Wheaton Grad School to teach two special cohorts, one for pastors of churches running 1000-2000, and another for pastors of churches over 2000. Stetzer is the dean and has developed these cohorts. (Matt Chandler is in one and he talked about it here.)

The program is not only practical, but also fosters the holistic development of spiritual maturity, theological integration, and skilled leadership. I’m thrilled to be able to be a guest lecturer in the program. The cohort model allows leaders of similar size / stage churches to learn from one another, network, and is always a time of encouragement. In addition to the Wheaton faculty, Will Mancini will also be involved. Since these are for established church leaders, we will meet 1-2 times per year for the week-long classes and the remainder of the courses will be done online with the cohort. If you’d like to participate in this cohort, go to www.wheaton.edu/mml or email MML@wheaton.edu for more information. We’re taking around 20 students, so inquire soon if you’re interested. 

Online offerings

I have provided content to pastors and other leaders through my blog, devotionals, and other resources since my first devotional site launched in the mid 90’s. There is more I can offer here, including some online coaching opportunities. Stay tuned. 

A Walk of Faith

Over 17 years ago, when I surrendered to leaving the business world and entering vocational ministry, Cheryl and I both agreed we would always be willing to walk by faith. Cheryl asked recently, “Is it okay to be 100% at peace and still be a little afraid?“ Of course it is. This is a move of faith. I always taught our churches that when we know what God would have us do the time to obey is now. God will handle the details.

Please pray for our house to sell. We would also appreciate prayers for the right opportunities to come about and be made clear.

I’m filling my first quarter calendar. If your church or organization needs my help, please email me now (ron.edmondson@gmail.com) and let’s start talking.

7 Helpful Skills for Pastors Who Want to Grow Churches

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I came close to titling these “essential” skills, but I knew that was unfair. God grows churches and He works through all different types of people. I have heard great pastors say — “I know how to teach and care for the people, but I’m not always sure how to lead.” They recognize the value in and the need for leadership, but were never trained to do it well.

In my experience, there are helpful skills for those who want to lead a church to care for and disciple people, but also grow and be healthy. A church can have momentum, unity and excitement around the vision of the Great Commission. That usually takes leadership.

Here are a 7 helpful skills I’ve observed:

Following – Ultimately, it’s all about Christ and church growth will be a matter of prayer and the work of God’s Spirit. I can’t lead people closer to Christ unless I’m personally growing closer to Christ.

But following also involves allowing others to speak into my life. It means I have mentors, people who hold me accountable and healthy family relationships. Self leadership — and following others who are healthy — keeps a leader in it for the duration.

Networking – This is the ability to bring the right people to the table to accomplish the mission – inside and outside the church. This is likely obvious inside the church. Churches need the right people in the right seats of leadership. I often found those leaders through networking – learning who was in the church and what skills they have to offer.

One place where good relationships always proved helpful outside the church was within the local school system. Churches can make significant missional differences in their community through school relationships. Those relationships are usually formed through networking. And the possibilities here are endless.

Connecting – The best leaders bring people together. When a new person comes into the church, it’s important that they be able to connect quickly to others. The pastor meeting them isn’t enough to really make people feel connected to a church. Good leaders ensure systems are created that connect people to people within the church. This skill values creating healthy, life-changing relationships in the church and see that it is an intentional part of the church’s overall mission.

Vision-casting – Good leaders are able to cast a picture beyond today worthy of taking a risk to seek. They may not always have all the ideas of what’s next, but they can rally people behind a vision. I like to tell pastors that a good vision message (often given at a business meeting) is sometimes the most important sermon you will write.

Pioneering – To lead a church by faith, a pastor has to be willing to lead into an unknown, and often take the first step in that direction. People won’t follow until they know the leader is willing to go first. Momentum and change almost always starts with new — doing things differently — creating new groups, new opportunities — trying things you’ve not tried before. Pioneering leaders watch to see where God may be stirring hearts and are willing to boldly lead into the unknown.

Delegating – No one person can or should attempt to do it all. It’s not healthy, nor is it Biblical. This may, however, be the number one reason I see for pastoral burnout, frustration and lack of church growth. Good leaders learn to raise up armies of people who believe in the mission and are willing to take ownership and provide leadership to completing a specific aspect of attaining the overall vision.

Confronting – If you lead anything, you will face opposition. Period. Leadership involves change and any change in a church involves a change in people. Most people have some opposition to change. After a pastor is certain of God’s leadership, has sought input from others, cast a vision, and organized people around a plan, there will be opposition. Perhaps even organized opposition. Good leaders learn to confront in love.

That’s my list. And I believe, while you may not be naturally inclined towards each of them, most, if not all of these, can be developed with intentionality.

Four Seasons of Leadership

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After years of leading, I have learned there are four seasons of leadership. There could be more, but I’ve been able to clearly identify these four.

Misunderstanding this can lead to frustration. You may think you are doing something wrong. Yet you’re only in a different season.

Four seasons:

Some plant – Many leaders sow seeds. They are used to start something new. As a church planter in two churches, we planted a lot of seeds. I love knowing both of those churches are still thriving today. God allowed me to be there in the beginning, but others are leading them now.

Some water – Other leaders are used to create systems that allow progress to continue. They build healthy teams, create good structure and help things continue to grow.

Some pull weeds – Still other leaders identify problems and provide solutions to address them. They make the hard changes, restructure and clear the path to progress. This was my primary role in church revitalization and in my current role.

Some harvest – Finally, other leaders get to see the fruition of the harvest. There is a skill to capitalizing on the foundation of planning and working others have invested. These leaders know how to celebrate well and continually fuel new momentum.

Granted we do some of these within every season. And we must spend considerable and concentrated energies in the middle two seasons if we hope to sustain a healthy, long-term harvest.

It’s great when you get to do all of these in one position of leadership. It hasn’t always happened for me. Also, in my experience, we only get to enjoy one or maybe a couple at any particular time. Sometimes they run concurrently, back-to-back to each other, but it seems rare – and difficult – to lead all four of these seasons at one time.

Don’t be afraid of your season. All our necessary.

5 Quandaries of Leading Creative People

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I love having creative people on teams I lead, but, honestly, they can make leading much messier. Leading creatives can be difficult.

In case you’re wondering, here’s the top Google definition of a creative: relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.

Creative minds are always wandering. They get bored easily. They are never completely satisfied with their work – and often with the work of others. It makes leading a team meeting harder.

And, before you creatives get too defensive, just so you know…

I’m a creative.

Not an artsy creative. I don’t paint, do music, etc. But I’m a dreamer. I have a vivid imagination. I’ve never met a day I didn’t have a new idea. My mind wanders quickly — randomly — often.

The main reason I love creatives being on the team is they bring new ideas. They stretch others, add energy and challenge mediocrity.

One huge paradigm for me, however, was realizing the quandaries of being a creative. I think this is the word I’m trying to illustrate. A quandary — “a state of perplexity” — confusion.

It is in some of these quandaries which might makes us creatives more difficult to lead.

Consider what I mean – and see if this is familiar with you – or the creatives you lead.

Here are 5 quandaries of the creative:

We don’t like boundaries, rules or policies (and we may test them or rebel against them)  but we need them in order to be effective.

The fact is we need deadlines. We don’t like deadlines, or being held to them, but deadlines are usually the only way to keep us on task, so we actually crave someone to give them to us. Creatives need to know what a win looks like. We need structure. I’m not suggesting you give us needless rules – we need healthy rules which empower more than limit or control – but we produce our best for organizations and teams under some restrictions.

Sometimes our minds wander in so many directions, with no clarity, that we can’t even catch a single thought, and nothing makes sense other times the idea is laser-focused, and we can’t write, paint, draw, or sketch it fast enough.

Which is why even within the deadlines we need freedom to decide how and when we do our work. Creative flow doesn’t always happen in cooperation with standard office hours.

We have lots of ideas – they are endless. Ideas come fast; really fast, too fast sometimes.

As fast as they arrive they’re gone if we don’t record them quickly, but sometimes we can’t get them out of our head and onto the canvas, or put them into a format which helps you understand what we are even thinking.

Which is why having us on teams can be beneficial, especially when there is more than one creative on the team. We like to process our ideas – often out loud – with others. And, even when we don’t feel like it – we probably really should. It helps eliminate confusion later. Brainstorming can be loads of fun and beneficial with a room full of creatives. (We will need more structured people to help make sense of things.)

Nothing we observe is ever wasted, every new thing we see, hear, smell, touch, taste, can lead to another idea but it also means our mind is never still, and if we are forced still long enough, we become very bored.

Long meetings lose us. Long emails never get read. Details make our heads explode. Leading creatives really does necessitate creative methods of leading.

We are tremendously flexible in our imagination – in the things we can dream about or create, but we can often be dogmatic in protecting our original ideas, and inflexible when it comes to changing them.

It’s true. I admit it. We actually like change, but can resist on changing our “masterpiece”. Don’t be afraid though to challenge us to improve. It is often just the push we need to get to our best work.

Do you see how we could be more difficult to lead?

Within each quandary is a decision I have to make as a leader — knowing when to place boxes around them and when to give them free reign, etc.

But it often begins with an understanding – of the quandary – and ultimately of the people we are attempting to lead.

5 Reasons a Pastor May Not Be Leading Well

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I remember talking with a concerned man about his church. He was concerned the church was wasting a lot of resources and accomplishing little towards its vision to make disciples. They have a large building and staff. There is a rich history of Kingdom-building, but the building sits empty most days of the week. There is a steady decline in baptisms and Sunday attendance. The church lacks momentum and he was concerned in 20 years the church would be gone.

He blamed it all on the leadership of the pastor.

I can confirm his concern. Some statistics tell us almost 90% of churches are in decline or plateaued. I have been told it takes 30 years for a declining church to die.

I don’t know, however, if it’s completely fair to always blame the pastor.

In my experience, the number one issue churches appear to face is leadership — specifically pastoral leadership. In fact, many would say if the pastor isn’t leading well, the church will likely suffer at some level.

But when a pastor isn’t leading the church well, I believe there’s usually an answer as to why. I’ve listed some of the ones I’ve observed.

5 reasons the pastor may not be leading well:

Ignorance

I don’t mean this one to be cruel, but we only know what we know. Most pastors don’t learn everything needed to lead a church in seminary. So much of pastoring becomes on-the-job training. Because much of a pastor’s job involves people, the realm of possibilities a pastor might encounter are as wide as the differences are in people.

The solution for this is training, mentoring, and growing by experience. The church should be supportive of opportunities for the pastor to develop. Plus, the pastor needs to be humble enough to admit the need for further training.

Innocence

Many times the pastor simply doesn’t see what you see. I learned as a pastor I was often the last to know of a problem within my church. If there’s an issue in preschool ministry, for example, if someone doesn’t tell me about it, I was less likely to know about it.

I always suggest pastors develop the discipline of asking questions. And staff/church cultures should be created in a way where people have channels and the encouragement to share needed information. (Without complaining or arguing, because that’s the Biblical way.)

Burnout

In a survey of pastors who read my blog a few years ago, 77% said they were presently or had been in a burnout situation. Burnout is when you aren’t healthy enough to function at full capacity. When a pastor is facing burnout, leadership will suffer.

Pastors need to learn how to recognize the signs of burnout and address them early, before they significantly impact their leadership. The church needs to be mindful of the demands placed on the pastor and consider the pastor’s family. One of the best things a church can do is give the pastor significant enough downtime to recover from the demands of ministry.

Structure

I hear from pastors frequently who feel they are handcuffed to tired, worn out, traditions that keep them from accomplishing their God-given vision for the church. A pastor is restricted when there are too many unnecessary rules, the committee system is cumbersome and inefficient, or when the demands of the church on the pastor are unrealistic. Many times the restraints placed against a pastor prevent effective leadership.

If the pastor is expected to lead, then latitude and freedom to lead needs to be afforded without constant fear of retribution.

Arrogance

Some pastors assume more control than has been afforded to them. Others refuse to allow anyone in the church to really lead. In either case, people naturally resist leadership, stir controversy, and resist change.

Every pastor needs people around them who have authority to speak into their life. And every pastor needs to guard their heart against foolish pride.

What are some other reasons pastors don’t lead well?

One Sign You’re Doing Good Work as a Leader

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Do you want to know one sign you’re actually doing well as a leader?

It’s not fool proof, but it’s pretty telling – in my experience.

You’ll know you’re doing good work when…

People oppose you!

And I think we have Biblical principles to illustrate this.

“But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door of effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” 1 Corinthians 16:8-9

Here is the reality – few people worry about the people doing nothing.

Have you noticed the more you do for good the more opposition you receive? 

7 Actions I Recommend When A Church is Declining

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What should you do when a church is in decline? I get asked that question a lot.

It should be noted there are no cookie-cutter solutions for reversing a church in decline. Churches have unique characteristics, because they have different people. There are different reasons which cause decline. And ultimately, God is in control of all of this.

I would be considered arrogant and even hurtful to pretend to have all the answers for a church I do not know.

There are a few suggestions, which come from working with churches in decline.

Here are 7 suggestions:

Evaluate

What is going wrong? Why are less people attending and new people are not? Ask the hard questions. Is it programmatic, a people problem, or a Biblical issue? Don’t be afraid to admit if your church is just plain boring.

If nothing has changed in the programs you offer in the last 10 years – I may already have your answer. But ask questions. Ask for inside and outside opinions. This takes guts, but is critically necessary.

Ask visitors. Recruit a “secret shopper” attendee to give you an objective look at the church. Evaluate even if you are afraid to know the answers. You can’t address problems until you know them.

Own it

The problems are real. Don’t pretend they are not. At this step, cause or blame is not as important. They were important in the first step, because they may alter your response, but now the problems are yours. They are not going away without intentionality. Quit denying. Start owning the issues. I see too many churches avoid the issues because they are difficult – or unpopular – to address.

Find a Bible story where people of God were called to do something which didn’t involve a certain level if risk, hard work, fear or the necessity of faith.

Address major, obvious issues

This is hard. Perhaps the hardest one. If the church has “forgotten your first love” – repent. When the church holds on to bitterness and anger from the past – forgive. Sometimes walking by faith has been replaced by an abundance of structure. In these times you may need to step out boldly into a new area of ministry.

If the church is in disunity it must come together first. When the church loves the traditions of men more than the commands of God it must turn from sin. And, if the problems involve people, you can’t be a people pleaser. (I told you this is hard.)

Find alignment

Where does the church best find unity? What will everyone get excited about doing? This is many times a vision, or a moment in history that was special to everyone, or a common thread within the DNA. Find and focus attention on it.

In my experience, God will not bless a church in disunity, but churches have issues, causes or programs that everyone can get excited about and support. Church leaders must be working together to build enthusiasm, momentum and unity.

Regroup

At some point, regardless of how drained you feel from the decline, you’ve got to come to a strategy of what to do next. You need a road map of where you are going in the next season. (It is Biblical to think ahead. Consider Luke 14:28)

I’ve never personally been able to plan in great detail more than twelve months out and sometimes, especially in times of less clarity, only a few months, but you need a plan. Start with your overall vision and explore ideas of how to accomplish it again.

Put some measurable goals in place to make progress – things you’ll do next week, next month, and in a few months down the road. It will hold you accountable if you have an action-oriented strategy and build momentum as people have something to look forward to doing.

Reignite

Put your energy and resources where it matters most. This often involves getting back to the basics of what it takes to achieve your vision. If you are a church with a heart for missions, for example, amp up your mission efforts. When special events are the church’s wheelhouse then do them. It may mean not doing things that aren’t working or things that tend to drain energy and resources. Look for what is working, or has the potential to work again – the fastest, and begin to stir energy around that program or ministry.

You need quick wins so the church can feel a sense of progress again.

Celebrate

There will be wins. You may have to look for them some days, but when they occur celebrate. Remind people that God is still moving among you. Now, it should be noted, for the overly celebratory types, that you can’t celebrate everything. If everything is wonderful – or amazing – then wonderful and amazing is really average. They need to be legitimate wins. If you celebrate mediocrity you’ll set a precedent of mediocrity. But, when you see signs of heading in the right direction, make a big deal out of it.

Those are seven suggestions. I strongly encourage you, if you want to see the church growing again – if the church yearns for health again – be intentional. Be willing to ask for help. Raise the white flag and invite honest dialogue.

The harvest is ready – the workers are few – we need you! We are losing too many churches and not planting and reviving enough. Do the hard work. Pray without ceasing. And, trust your labor will not be in vain. Praying for you.

What suggestions do you have for a church in decline?

5 Actions Before I Preach

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As a pastor, I was often asked what my routine was as I prepared to preach on Sunday mornings. Ultimately, it’s all about Jesus, but I realize I have a responsibility as a shepherd to do all I can to be prepared.

Ideally, I always tried to be completely finished with my sermon Friday, so I could take Saturday off. Sometimes I would spend an hour or so on Saturday doing one final edit. I tried to limit my activities and get a good night’s rest Saturday night. I spent Sunday mornings doing one final edit of the message.

I had some Sunday morning routines, which best helped me prepare.

5 ways I prepared to preach on Sunday mornings:

Read something in the Bible other than the passage I’m preaching on 

I wanted to feed myself before I try to teach others. Often I am reading through the Bible and I continued this on Sunday mornings.

Pray 

I spent longer on Sunday mornings than other mornings in prayer. It prepared my heart. I prayed for those who will be in attendance and those who may still be debating attending. I prayed for God’s presence to be with us. I prayed for other leaders in the church. I sought a sense of oneness with God’s heart to mine.

Exercise 

I didn’t get to do this every Sunday, but when I did I was more mentally alert and physically prepared than when I didn’t.

Worship 

Ideally, I loved to put the Sunday morning line up of worship music in a playlist and allow the music to lead me in worship. Either way, I tried to find a time to worship on Sunday mornings. When I’ve made much of God before I get to church, I find I’m better able to make much of Him.

Pray 

Just before I preach I have a fairly standard prayer. It goes something like this, “God, I can’t do this. You know I’m not worthy to speak on Your behalf. You know and I know that it’s only by Your grace I can be here this morning. If You don’t show up, today will be meaningless.”

That’s how I prepared on Sundays. What’s your process, pastor?

12 Principles of Leadership Inspired by Jesus

By | Church, Church Revitalization, Leadership | 2 Comments

There are many leaders I admire who have influenced my own leadership. I admire the teachings on leadership by guys like John Maxwell, Andy Stanley, and Patrick Lencioni.

There are leaders from my personal life such as a former pastor, a former boss, a high school principal and leaders in my own community who have influenced me as I have watched their leadership.

I also love to learn from a great athletic coach. There have been teams I have chosen to support because of the coach that leads them.

The principles, however, which I admire most are found in the leadership style of Jesus. Jesus’ leadership is still impacting culture today.

Here are 12 leadership principles of Jesus:

He invested in people others would have dismissed.

When I consider the disciples I see a group of men who were not the “religious” elite, yet Jesus used them to start His church.

Jesus released responsibility and ownership in a ministry.

I recall how Jesus sent the disciples out on their own. There was little micro-management it appears.

He had a leadership succession plan. 

Jesus consistently reminded the disciples He wouldn’t always be with them. Of course, He was still the “leader”, but He left others to take the ministry forward.

Jesus practiced servant leadership better than anyone.

Imagine this – the King of kings was willing to wash the feet of His followers.

He was laser focused on His vision.

Regardless of the persecutions or distractions, Jesus kept on the mission God had called Him to complete.

Jesus handled distractions with grace.

When the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years touched His garment, Jesus stopped to heal her, even though headed to a definite purpose.

He was into self-development.

We find Jesus constantly slipping away to spend time with God.

Jesus was into leadership development and replacement.

The disciples were very purposefully prepared to take over the ministry. Jesus pushed people beyond what they felt they were capable of doing.

He held followers to high expectations.

Jesus was not afraid to make huge requests of people. “Follow Me” meant the disciples had to drop their agenda to do so. He told the disciples they must be willing to lose everything to follow Him.

Jesus cared more about people than about rules and regulations.

I see Him willingly jeopardizing Himself by breaking the “rules” to help someone in need.

He celebrated success in ministry.

People that were faithful to Him and His cause were rewarded generously.

Jesus finished well.

Do we have any questions whether His ministry was effective?

Any other reasons you admire the leadership of Jesus?