4 Ways I Discern Saying No to Good Opportunites

By | Call to Ministry, Church, Church Planting, Encouragement, Faith, Fear, Missions, Vision | 16 Comments

Age and maturity has helped me get better at discerning what I can do and should do based on my strengths, weaknesses, passions and dreams. It’s freeing when we become more certain in who God has wired us to be and who He has not.

Still, I’ve learned (through many different seasons of life) that there are often more opportunities than time in life…even God-honoring, seemingly good opportunities. Recently, I have had to say no to some great opportunities. These were things that I would have clearly thought had to be “God appointed”, but as much as they line with my strengths, passions, and dreams I have for my life, I said “no” to them.

How do you know when to say no to what looks like a good thing…perhaps initially even like a “God thing”?

Here are four things I look for in examining my heart before responding. I say no when:

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5 Shared Characteristics Needed to do Church Planting or Church Revitalization

By | Call to Ministry, Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership, Missions | 13 Comments

Recently I posted a funny video about what it takes to be a church planter. Want a laugh? Watch it HERE. I decided it might be a good idea to share what I really believe is necessary to be a church planter. Church planting is a difficult, but rewarding assignment in ministry. All pastors and planters should operate under a calling of God, but it does appear to me that there are some unique qualifications for church planters.

From experience, here are five characteristics I believe it takes to be an effective church planter:

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7 Ways I Partner with My Wife in Ministry

By | Call to Ministry, Church, Church Revitalization, Missions | 21 Comments

The following question is an actual question I once received from a blog reader, but it’s representative of one I frequently receive:

Could you share or possibly write a post about your relationship with your wife and how you incorporate or make her feel a part of your ministry and relationships?

Great question. I think it is one everyone in ministry should be asking.

My wife, Cheryl, is a partner in my ministry. No doubt about it. Everyone in our church knows it. Our staff and the church see her as an equal part of my role within the church.

It’s important to note, Cheryl was my partner before I was in vocational ministry. We taught Sunday school together. She has certainly been a partner now as a pastor’s wife. She’s very visible and always ready to join with me in anything we do at the church.

In every church we’ve been she’s been widely loved and popular. (I have joked when I’ve left one ministry for another, they’ve usually told me I’m free to go, but I need to leave Cheryl behind.)

I thought about this question of how this works for us. Some of these might work for others.

Here are 7 ways I partner with Cheryl in ministry:

I tell my church she’s my partner.

This may seem obvious, but I believe it is huge. I want the church to know her value to my ministry. She’s not a silent bystander. She’s a vital part of who I am to the church.

Emotionally it also encourages her if she hears me saying how much I need her beside me. (And I do.) I try to be clear with her of ways she can assist me on Sundays and during the week.

I keep others from assigning her commitments.

This to me is also huge. I realize it won’t work for every church or couple, but I’ve always been clear with the leaders of the churches where I’ve pastored that Cheryl will not be assigned a specific task, unless she volunteers to do so.

She often leads short-term Bible studies on times other than Sunday mornings. She has a servants heart, so she’s willing to do anything necessary. But, I help her keep Sunday mornings mostly free of an ongoing assigned task. Both of us want her available to assist me in ministering to people.

Again, I realize the size of the church may make it necessary for the pastor’s spouse to be a key volunteer in some area. I’m not even recommending this one necessarily, unless it works for you, but Cheryl and I like her being able to greet people. She shakes lots of hands and hugs lots of necks. We can tag-team with visitors, for example. She catches some and I catch others. We constantly introduce people to each other. It would be difficult to attend our church for long – as large as it is – and not meet one of us.

I let her work in her area of passion.

Cheryl loves to be busy. She loves greeting people, holding babies, and leading women’s Bible studies. She also loves to invest in women in our church, including some of the wives of other staff members. She does a lot of one-on-one mentoring. It fuels her.

I feel part of my role in partnering with her is to assist her in our schedule to allow her the freedom to participate in the things close to her heart, realizing her ministry is equally important to mine.

I keep her informed.

I work long days, but before we go to bed or in the morning, we unpack my day. It could be over dinner, on a long walk or before we turn out the lights at night or as we walk to breakfast in the morning. I try to make sure she’s as informed as anyone about what is going on or happening in the church. I don’t want Cheryl to have many surprises, because I didn’t tell her something.

At the same time, I don’t put Cheryl in the middle of a controversy. I never expect her to speak on my behalf. She’s good about saying, “You’ll have to talk with Ron” on issues which she may not have an answer or that we haven’t yet addressed together.

I seek her input.

Cheryl is often my biggest sounding board of ideas in the church. I want to know her opinion. She protects me with an insight and intuition I don’t have. Especially when it comes to making people decisions, Cheryl is my most trusted adviser.

I don’t hide things from her.

I could try to protect her, but I’ve learned she will discover the truth eventually and be more hurt because I didn’t share it with her first. Even when I know it will weigh heavy on her, such as a current complaint or rising criticism, I know she would rather hear it from me than from someone else. (And, you may not understand this one unless you’ve led ministry in a church – especially in a very established church.)

The only exception to this is that I don’t share intimate personal information about men I meet with in the church. I don’t want her to struggle when she sees some of them on Sundays. With women, this is the opposite. She may know things she doesn’t share with me.

Also, I always tell women I meet with that I include my wife in intimate conversations they share with me. I do this to protect my heart and marriage first.

She shares my office – and my life.

The best way I keep Cheryl involved in my ministry is we keep our relationship as healthy as possible. We genuinely do life together.

Cheryl has access to my office, my calendar, my computer, and my wallet. She frequently comes to my office, puts things in my desk, and has freedom to everything in my “personal space”. (She actually has her own drawer in my desk.)

I’ve always told my assistants and staff they can communicate anything to Cheryl they feel is pertinent. We have no secrets.

I believe she feels a part of my ministry mostly because she feels a part of my life.

7 Suggestions for Planting a Church or Revitalizing in a New Community

By | Change, Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Encouragement, Innovation, Missions | No Comments

I am consistently asked for suggestions I have for moving to another city to plant a church or revitalize a church.

I planted once in my hometown, so I am very familiar with that community, but I also planted a church in a city in which I didnt know anyone well, so I have some experience in that area too. In my present church, I moved to a city where I knew only one other couple.

Recently someone who was about to move to a new city to minister asked a very good specific question.

What advice would you give me that people don’t always give?

Good question. It made me think. I don’t know that any of these are original, but I don’t hear them talked about as much as other suggestions.

And, I think the things I would do would be the same in any ministry position.

Here are 7 suggestions for moving to another community to minister:

Have a prayer team There should be a group of people praying for this community, the church, and the leaders on a daily basis. I have a personal prayer team and organize teams to pray for special events. Bathe every move in prayer.

Learn the culture Every city and every group of people have their own unique identity. What matters most? What do they celebrate? Where do people live and play? What do they do for fun? Whats their unique language? What are the traditions unique to this area? What history do they value most? You’ll have to ask lots of questions and observe.

Learn the market Is the community in a growth mode or a declining mode? What’s the quality of the school system? If you’re planting, are schools an option for a building? What are the major problems, concerns and needs of the community? Who are the leading employers? What are the demographics? How would a church address some of the issues? These matter for numerous reasons, but mainly it will impact the people you are trying to reach.

To learn these things I try to meet with the highest level leader I can in each area of interest – Schools, city government, police, business community, etc.

Learn the competition Before you get too excited – its not other churches. Its anything that has the peoples attention you are trying to reach besides a church. Sunday sports events. Major festivals. Community traditions.

Support the Community Immediately find ways to get personally involved in the community with volunteer investment. That could be through the Chamber of Commerce, schools, festivals, etc. Give back. Believe it or not, that gets attention. Currently, we volunteer several places around town, including at our local visitor’s center. And, if you really want to show you love the community support the sports teams they support.

Develop patience It is harder than you think it will be. It just is. Church planting, church revitalization – really any ministry – takes a tremendous toll on you physically, mentally and even spiritually. It doesn’t happen overnight. Prepare for the journey. Commit to the change you bring to the ministry – even knowing how difficult it might be at times.

Protect your family Just as church plants are stressful on the planter, they are equally challenging for the planters family. That may even be more true in revitalization. And, it’s true in all ministry. These issues are multiplied because of relocation, since much of their support system is being replaced. Protect your family by discipling your time and not losing them as your primary focus. As much as possible, involve them in the work so they understand its value and get to share in the rewards. Protect your personal down time and your soul. Don’t burn out by trying to do too much too soon.

Ministry is tough, but like all actions of faith and obedience, God uses the sacrifices to reach hurting people and change their life for His glory. Thanks for Kingdom-building.

7 Suggestions for Churches Meeting in a School

By | Church, Church Planting, Leadership, Missions | 13 Comments

I get lots of emails asking how we do certain things as a church. I usually figure that when several people are asking the same question that it represents a larger audience wanting to know the same answers. This post is an example of that thought.

Recently I was asked what suggestions I have for a church planning to start meeting in a school facility. Grace Community church has met in our high school for three years now and it has been a blessing to us and the school, from feedback I have received. Here are 7 suggestions for churches meeting in a school. Most of these are more philosophy than actions, but with them as our paradigm it helps direct our actions.

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4 Ways to be a Church for Dummies

By | Church, Church Planting, Missions | 20 Comments

I received email feedback the other day from someone who attends our church. Not having grown up attending church very often, but now wanting to learn the Bible and about the things of God, the woman thanked us for being a “church for dummies“. (That’s her term…not mine…) I laughed at first when I saw her comment and wondered if I should take it as a positive remark, but then she explained that she used to leave church more confused than when she arrived, but now she is starting to understand the Bible and wants to learn more. She is thankful for a church that is challenging her to grow in her faith, but inviting enough to feel welcome, regardless of her background. I took it as a high compliment!

As I processed the meanings behind her statement, I thought of a few reasons she may feel as she does about our church.

Here are 4 ways our church became a “church for dummies:

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7 Suggestions for Planting a Church or Revitalizing in a New Community

By | Change, Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Encouragement, Innovation, Missions | 27 Comments

I was recently asked for any suggestions I have for planting a church in a different community from where you currently live and know. There is a group of 25 plus people who are leaving the comforts of home in California traveling to the state of North Dakota to plant a church. I love that kind of faith.

If you don’t know, Grace Community Church is my hometown, so I am very familiar with our community, but I planted a church before this one in a city in which I didn’t know anyone well. Still, as I thought about these suggestions, I really believe they are shared for any church plant (perhaps even any church.)

Of course, these are given assuming you have a clear calling as to where you are to plant, but here are some of my suggestions for planting a church a another community. There are probably hundreds of others, but these were the first 7 that came to my mind:

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Lasting Transformation vs. Routine Fundraiser

By | Culture, Missions | One Comment

This is a guest post by Kevin Herr, with Water Missions.

(This is not a paid post. I believe in this mission.)

In my role at Water Missions International I often talk with church leaders who want to get their churches involved in our ministry, which provides safe water solutions and the Living Water message of Jesus Christ to people around the world. These groups often participate in a special event like our Water Sunday initiative and while many encounter great breakthrough and mountain top experiences, some end up disheartened with little lasting impact.

Here are a few key points that can drive your church event towards transformation and action rather than being just another fundraiser.

Cast The Vision

Casting the vision means praying about how God can use your church, speaking with other key leaders and making a clear case for what you’d like to see accomplished. Want your church to provide safe water to an entire community? GREAT! Share that vision and what it will take for your church to achieve it. Make a goal, communicate it, and go for it! If you don’t set a clear goal, you will never reach it.

Engage More than Checkbook

Take your missions engagement a step further than simply asking them to write a check. Start to engage their hearts! How can you incorporate the mission or message into other activities they’re involved in? How can they engage spiritually and actively?

Start engaging your church early: the longer the involvement the deeper the impact. For Water Sunday, we encourage groups to do a beverage fast where they drink only water for a period of time, keep a tally of the money they would have spent on other beverages, then donate that amount on Water Sunday to provide safe water to people around the world. During this time they pray for those who lack safe water, develop the spiritual discipline of fasting, talk about it with their friends, and realize how much they spend on something that’s really not important.

Another fun way for people to engage actively is by participating in Walk for Water where they simulate the trek that people around the world do every day for dirty water. Take buckets and walk from your church to a local water source then walk back.

The key idea here is to provide them with an experiential touch-point that re-emphasizes the theme of your message.

Make it a Team Effort.

Don’t do it alone! Use it as an opportunity to draw out leadership in some of your church members or staff. As people prepare and talk about the event, God will be at work in their hearts. Allow others to participate and be impacted!

Celebrate The Win

In order to effectively motivate your members to participate and experience life-change, you need to emphasize the outcome and celebration. What happens if you achieve your goal? How are you going to celebrate?

Water Sunday 2015 | Chris Ndikumana from Water Missions on Vimeo.

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To learn about how your church can make a transformational difference both around the world and in the lives of your own members, visit www.watermissions.org/watersunday.

We’re praying for 100 churches to come alongside us on April 26th and focus on the global water crisis through a variety of activities, studies, and sermon. All the resources are done for you, totally free, and designed to transform lives in your church! Take your next step HERE.