Archives for : March2016

Sunday is Coming



     The biggest Sunday of the year is here and hopefully you have prepared and are ready for the largest attended day of the year. It has been referred to as the Super Bowl of the church where many will attend who will not usually come. It is a great day to celebrate the risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The question you need to be able to answer is, “What will you do if everyone you invited shows up?”

Do not underestimate the importance of having a plan for every ministry from the parking lot to the nursery and overflow, if needed. Then you must also have a plan in place to follow up on those who do visit. Consider how you can show your guests how thankful you are they came and how much you appreciate their presence. People will come where they are invited but they will stay where they are loved.

Here are some ideas for Easter Sunday:

First, be careful what you say! Some make the mistake of offending the ones who show up by actually calling them names like, “Welcome to you CEOs!” (Those who attend Christmas and Easter only) One pastor shared with me that as he was inviting a lady for Easter services said she would love to come but did not want to be referred to as a “Chreaster” (Christmas/Easter). He knew he had done that before but made an inward commitment to never do that again. Sarcasm is not appropriate for your guests!

Second, give them a gift for attending! Let them know you appreciate their efforts and want to give them something for their spiritual journey. There are some excellent resources such as The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell, and The God Questions by Hal Seed (Gift Edition). You can get The God Questions gift edition from Outreach for $2.00 each. That is a small investment in the journey they are on in the search for the truth.

Third, have greeters in the parking lot! You never get another chance at a first impression. Many people decide whether they want to come back to a church in the first 3-7 minutes. Having someone in the parking lot to welcome and direct them to where they need to go makes an excellent first impression. You are saying to your guests, “We were expecting you and we are so glad you came!” A friendly face and a big smile help those who are already nervous to relax and know they are welcome!

Fourth, make sure you have good signage! When people arrive the two most important locations they need to know about immediately are the bathrooms and where to take their children. Simple signs can be made on the computer and displayed easily to help people find what they are looking for. Always try to look at your church plant through the eyes of a guest. Have greeters ready to make your guests aware of where to go and to take them there if necessary. Think of greeters as tour directors.

Fifth, be ready to help seat people! Train your people to be prepared to make room for your guests. They may not want to scoot into the middle but they can step out and allow guests to the seats that are available. Your greeters can lead them in and then your guests will not feel like they are making the journey into the unknown alone. You could also save some seats for your guests. You roll out the red carpet for guests at your home and we should do even more for those who decide to come to our services.

Sixth, have a packet ready for everyone! This could include a bulletin, connection card, sermon note card, and a pen with the name of the church on it. This enables everyone to know the important announcements, take notes while the sermon is being delivered, and to fill out a connection card for follow-up. The connection cards can be used by everyone and handed in during the offering. They enable people to make their prayer requests known and to give important information that you as a church need to know.

Seventh, make good use of the connection cards. Have these handed out to everyone when they enter the worship area. This makes it much more convenient and easier for everyone to fill them out with the pen provided. When you welcome your guests assure them you will not be hounding them nor giving out their information but that you would love to connect with them at whatever level they are comfortable with. You are hoping that they will attend again and you want to help them any way that you as a church can.

Eighth, follow up on the connection cards! Make an initial contact within the first 48 hours. Send them a letter and send them an email. Then have someone call them that week and thank them for attending. Pastor, on Wednesday send them a hand-written note thanking them for attending and that you look forward to seeing them again. If they turned in a card then they are expecting you to connect with them. If God trusts us enough to send them our way then we must embrace our responsibility to connect with them!

Ninth, make sure your building is ready for guests! This probably should have been sooner but have everything cleaned up bright and shiny. We all clean and tidy up our homes when we know guests are coming. Well, guests are coming this Easter! Take a look at your church plant through their eyes and make sure everything is extra clean. Get rid of the clutter, make sure everything smells wonderful, and that people are glad to be in such an inviting and welcoming environment.

     Healthy churches are friendly churches and treat their guests well!

7 Principles for Working On Your Ministry

On Vs In

The challenge of the pastorate requires the leader to be focused on many different areas at the same time. It is easy to get caught up “in” doing the tasks that need to be accomplished but unable to find the time to work “on” the ministry. In The Emotionally Healthy Church, Peter Scazzero says, “When our life with God isn’t sufficient to sustain our work for God, we will find ourselves struggling with our integrity.”

Before we can even differentiate between the “out’ and “in” we must first make sure that we are not just doing the work of God but that we are being who He want us to be. The doing is easier and can produce a false sense of spirituality and accomplishment. Hal Seed has said, “The temptation of pastors is to spend 90% of their time working ‘in’ their ministry instead of ‘on’ their ministry.”

In 1992, we headed to Northern Illinois to be church planters. Our first Sunday we had 13 present and my family comprised five of those in attendance. We began doing the things we believed that needed to be done. We had to do it all and actually enjoyed controlling everything from printing the bulletin to planning every activity. The problem is that as the church grows it is not healthy for one person to oversee and run everything.

The smaller the church is, the more it tends to run on individual talents but the larger the church becomes, the more it requires systems. If one person is in charge of a ministry and something happens to that individual then the ministry comes to a screeching halt. Don’t build your systems around one person but rather find a group of people to run them together. Always think in terms of a ministry team that builds a system for each ministry.

So, what does it look like to be working “in” the ministry of your church? This includes tasks that are important and usually necessary. However, these tasks are focused more on maintaining and caring for what is already in place and functioning. Working “in” ministry includes sermon preparation, counseling, teaching a class, overseeing a ministry event, and many other regular duties of the ministry.

Working “on” the ministry involves evaluating the effectiveness of present ministries, determining the vision and long range goals of the church, developing new ministries and new outreach opportunities. The key difference is between maintenance (not all bad) and creating and considering new approaches (not all good). Working “on” the ministry means to spend time thinking about what needs to be done, when it should be done, and who is going to be in charge of making sure it happens.

Here are a few things to consider in how to work “on” your ministry!

First, listen to the advice of others around you. You do not need to, nor should you, control everything. The leader is the primary influencer but remember there are godly people around you who have better ideas than you do. Listen well!

Second, develop a team of thinkers who can speak unfiltered into every situation. That may be a little scary, but if they only feel comfortable enough to tell you 90% of what you need to know then there is a 100% chance you will make the wrong decision.

Third, continue to develop as a leader through reading, mentoring, and training. Somebody out there knows what you need to know and you need to find out who that somebody is and learn from them. Great leaders are life-long learners.

Fourth, see crisis and challenges as opportunities. All of the polls and the research tell us that more people than ever before are turning away from the church. We should see this as a great opportunity to figure out how we can reach the greatest unchurched population ever.

Fifth, realize it is more about the person than it is the position. Some may say they don’t like preachers but what you usually find is that there is a pastor in their past that they feel let them down. Remember this truth, people will join an organization but they quit because of people.

Sixth, train the team to know what they need to do and how they will do it. Systems develop a process of next steps so that everyone on the ministry team knows what to do next and who to talk to in order to make it happen. It is providing a pathway of how to get from point A to point B and beyond.

Seventh, your greatest asset is the people around you who give of themselves to make the systems function properly. If you do not value them they will never live up to your expectations. If you want more out of your team it will require you making a greater investment into their lives.

Where do you begin? It starts with evaluation of the ministries and systems you now have in place by asking good questions. Do we have a process in place that is easy to understand? Where can you improve this system to make it more effective? What changes do you need to make to the system and are there any changes that need to be made with team members? Do we have a plan and when will this plan be implemented?

     Your church not only needs you to work “in” the ministry but also to make sure you are working “on” the ministry. This will require you to schedule time to pray, study, and determine where you are and where you desire to be as a church. It will demand these elements: Attention, Inspiration, Instruction, Training, and Evaluation. Remember, plan your work and work your plan…….but also be ready to change the plan when necessary!

Pastoral Care

Pastoral Care Team

How do you make sure that you are caring for the people in the church properly? Is pastoral care completely the pastor and staff’s responsibility? Is it possible that pastoral care is actually keeping many churches from reaching more lost people? How do we balance loving people more and the call to love more people? We have the challenge to help and care for people but also are to share the gospel with those who are far from God.

In Lasting Impact, Carey Nieuwhof makes these observations. “Practically, churches cannot run simply on paid staff. The model is unfeasible and the work is simply too great!” Also, “Ironically, it’s in caring for others that most leaders make the mistake of neglecting self-care!” He has even written a blog article on how pastoral care stunts the growth of most churches, which is well worth the read, at It will challenge you!

The early church had a problem in this area that we are told about in Acts 6. When the apostles saw that there was a lack of adequate pastoral care they did not work harder or try to do all the work themselves. They did not work longer hours and neglect their families because they were the only ones who could do the work of the ministry. They did not rebuke the widows and tell them they were too demanding but, instead, chose seven other men to help in the needed pastoral care.

Your church will struggle to grow, and the pastor and staff will become overwhelmed, if the church does not take steps to appoint a pastoral team. When we follow the biblical model it ensures that people are properly cared for and that a few are not so overloaded that they eventually burn out. Here are a few ideas from Dynamic Church Planting International’s New Church Dynamics on how to develop a pastoral care team:

First, find someone with a pastoral gift to lead the team. Prayerfully ask the Lord to raise up an individual who has a passion for this ministry. They need to be someone who loves loving others and visiting people in their times of need. If you structure small groups to oversee those in their groups, they are the first responders. Then, this leader can help come alongside of the small group to make sure they are properly ministered to and cared for.

Look for people with the gifts of shepherding and mercy. There may be retired individuals in your church who would love to help in making hospital visits, home visits, and even calling to check on shut-ins and those who are sick. Remember, the number one reason many say they have never volunteered in the church is because no one ever asked them. There are those who would love to help if they were asked and shown what to do. This brings us to the next step:

Second, make sure you give this individual the training they need in this ministry. Here is a simple, but effective, four step process:

  • Model care ministry by encouraging your potential leader to accompany you as you care for people. Never go alone, but always strive to take someone with you so they can see first hand how to handle different situations.
  • Mentor the leader by sharing what you are doing and why you are doing it. They will learn a lot by watching how it is done and then discussing it after the visit has been accomplished. Answer their questions when you debrief immediately afterwards.
  • Monitor the care leader as you begin to give care assignments. Always be prepared, ready to give encouragement and guidance, because you will need to continue discipling them in this area. Continually ask what you can do help and resource them.
  • Multiply by asking the leader to recruit others to the care ministry. If they truly are a leader they will easily recruit others to help in pastoral care. If you do not see multiplication then you will need to pray that God will raise up another leader who can multiply themselves.

Third, empower care team members to visit on behalf of the pastor and staff. Like an ambassador represents his country’s leader, your care leaders represent the leadership of the church. Ask team members to make it clear that they are representing the pastor of the church. People should feel loved and cared for by the church when they are visited by members of the pastoral care team, small group leaders, or any other designated individuals you have trained to provide care.

If you want more out of your team then you must put more into your team. Make sure you have clear expectations spelled out for those serving in this area. Also, they need to know who to call if they are unable to follow through on their visits. There must always be a back up plan. The goal here is that they are loved, cared for, and prayed with. This can be full time job and the pastor does not have the time to do all of this himself.

The model of the pastor doing it all will only lead to people being mad, a lot of frustration, and the pastor becoming totally overwhelmed. Jethro said this to Moses, when he saw the way he was trying to do it all himself, “You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you. You can’t do it alone!”

Healthy churches develop pastoral ministry teams!

They Came – Now What

Next Steps


What do you do if everyone you invited shows up? How do you handle the extra people who do attend? Once they are greeted do you have a system in place to help them come a second and third time? Do you have a plan to help them connect and become fully engaged with the church? There are several things to consider as you evaluate your assimilation process of practicing biblical hospitality!

First, how do you treat the occasional attenders? Faithfulness is not defined these days as it was in times past. Many people see once a month or twice a month as being faithful. This does not mean the “new” faithfulness to church is correct but we must face the reality of our current culture. Split families can mean certain people only attend every other Sunday. People now have to work 24/7 and Sunday no longer is seen as the Lord’s Day.

If you treat those who attend sporadically as “second-class” members they will not respond well. If you try to guilt them into becoming more faithful it will not work on this generation. Do you feel guilty for not attending the synagogue on Saturdays? Do you feel guilty for not faithfully going to a Buddhist temple? Of course not, and if they were not raised in a church culture, neither do they. Make sure that everyone knows how glad you are that they are there and you want to help their spiritual walk.

Second, what is your ultimate goal for someone coming? Our mission is not to fill up seats on Sunday mornings but rather to lead people to Christ. Does that mean we do not want to see as many attending as possible? Of course not, but it does mean that church is bigger than Sunday mornings and mere attendance is never the goal. We are not using people to build our church but, rather, using our church to build up people. We believe that someone who becomes fully engaged with the local church will be better off five years from now!

Jesus told the parable of how the Master told His servants to go out and invite so that His house would be full. We have the life-giving truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and should be passionate about sharing it with everyone we can. We encourage people to invite their family and friends but what about their enemies? The gospel is all about reconciliation and Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

Third, be focused on connecting people to a small group. Whether it is a Sunday School class, men/ladies Bible study, discipleship class or any other type of small group they need to know how to get connected. In Lasting Impact, Carey Nieuwhof says, “A church that organizes everything around small groups will always be more effective than a church that does not.” The healthiest followers of Christ are those who are serving others, living their faith out, and connected to a small group.

Every person who attends needs a role and a relationship in order to feel that they are cared for and truly a part of the church. They need a role! This is their specific place of service. How will you connect them to a ministry where they can use their spiritual gifts? Do you have a way they can try different ministries and places of service so they can determine if it is a fit or not? They also need a relationship! This is their specific connection with a group who will care for them and love them more intimately!

Fourth, realize the importance of small group leaders! They hold one of the most important positions in your ministry because they give direct pastoral care. They are your first responders to the needs of those attending. They are the first to pray with them, cry with them, encourage them, walk with them, counsel and advise them. Here is one definition of a small group leader. “To help 3-10 (you determine the number) people learn Biblical truth and experience God while developing relationships with Christ, you, and other people.”

Think of it like this and scale the following numbers to your scenario. If you have 200 people attending you will need 40 small group leaders to help care for them. Then you will need ten leaders of leaders and two directors who will lead the leaders of the leaders. The ten are coaches of the small group leaders to make sure they are receiving the same care they are giving to those in their group. The coach (ten) cares for the leader (40) who cares for the people (200).

When my son, Matthew, did an internship at Oasis Church in North Little Rock it was wonderful to see how all of the small group leaders went to him and invited he and his wife, Allison, to join their group. He was immediately shown there was a way to engage and become connected. He was so encouraged by how many let him know they would love for him to be a part of their group. He felt like he was being “recruited” and he was!

Allow me to ask it again. What are you going to do if everyone you invite shows up and how will you try to connect them to a group that will care for them and love them?