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Monday, January 31, 2005

Breaking The Barriers: Helping Your Church Grow (Part 1)

BricksHave you ever experienced any growth barriers at your church? Things are going really well. The church is growing. People are coming to Christ. Families are being discipled. Then you hit a wall. Things stop moving; and you have no idea why. Today we'll start a two part series by Pastor John Jackson about how to get your church growing again by breaking down these barriers. John writes...

Athletes often describe hitting a “wall” of performance.  It is a barrier where no apparent amount of effort appears able to push through the pain of the moment.  Athletes who hit such a barrier either surrender to the lid or they devise new understandings of the mind and disciplines of the body to help break through the barriers of their efforts.

Churches and church leaders face similar barriers.  Often, it is a barrier that exists because of repeated patterns of behavior.  Church consultant Lyle Schaller calls this behavior,  “path dependency”: once people/institutions travel down a certain path, it is difficult to choose a new road (Schaller, The Very Large Church, pg. 107).  Having gotten what we’ve always gotten, we continue to do what we have always done.  How many times have we constrained ourselves to destructive patterns in the church that prevent our growth?  God wants our churches to grow…to reach new people for Him and to impact our culture for Christ!

Barriers to your ministry vision do exist!  Some of them you know about, others are perceptible, but others hide under the surface and threaten to damage your ministry leadership.  A “growth barrier” is a set of qualitative factors that create a ceiling to quantitative progress.  In this respect, a number of barriers have been observed that relate to various size plateaus.  Schaller has suggested the following size groupings as a way to categorize church ministries:

Small            -100
Midsize      101-350
Large          351-750
Very Large      750-1800 
Megachurch     1801+

Of these, the 200 barrier is the most notable in that 85% of churches in N. America stay below it.  The dynamics that relate to this barrier are mostly predicable, and from the leadership perspective, it marks the quantitative divide between small churches and large churches.

Tools to Break Barriers
Each size has a different DNA and size constraint. In my observation, there are at least 6 fundamentals that will help you and your church break through ministry growth barriers:

Clarity of vision
Certainty of leadership
Unity of leadership
Connection with Community
Excellence in Presentation
Faithfulness in Follow Through

In this article we’ll look at the first two fundamentals; successive articles will look at the remaining fundamentals….at the end of this series, you will be equipped to help your church to grow!

Clarity of Vision
Growing Churches have a heart for reaching people for Jesus Christ.  If your vision is to care for the contented, then you will not produce passion in your people to reach those outside the boundaries of the church family.  Walt Kallestad's book entitled, "Turn Your Church Inside Out" is probably the easiest reading and clearest reference that I have read in years on this topic.  Clarity of vision must answer the question, “Who does my church exist for?”

One of the exciting dynamics of having a clear vision is recognizing the need to be present in the community.  Rather than waiting for the community to show up on the church’s doorstep, churches that break growth barriers practice what some call, “Presence Evangelism”; being present in the normal network of society, being present in the ministry to physical needs of people, and being present in the spiritual battle for people’s souls.

“Churches that are effective reaching people for Christ see the needs of the unchurched, establish ministries that allow the church to be present in the community, and have a process by which they are able to draw these unchurched people into the safety of Christ and a local church” (Mcintosh & Martin, Finding Them, Keeping Them, Page 22).

Leaders of Growing Churches know who they are, why they are, and where they are.  They have learned to operate out of their strengths and to mitigate against their weaknesses.  They know what their key role is and how to parlay that role into motivated ministry.  Finally, leaders in growing churches know where they are going and where they are now.  Leaders in growing churches build bridges to the future while they are walking there.

Unity of Leadership
Larry Osborne, pastor of North Coast Community Church in the San Diego area, has written a great book entitled "The Unity Factor".  While it is a small book (like Kallestad's), it has a powerful message:  “Get the key influencers in your church to share a common vision.  Sacrifice today for the promise of tomorrow in these peoples lives.”  Without leadership unity, there will be no lasting ministry growth that breaks through barriers.

Listen to this quote from a committed leader in a local church about the importance of leadership unity:

"At our church my wife and I are giving time we don't have and tons of money because it's important.  Do you think we are going to let sick people kill that work and investment? Heavens no!  It's costing us way too much!  For every sick, agenda laden, divisive, contentious, person in our church we aren't willing to confront (out of fear we say "oh that's just the way they are," "I don't think God wants us to treat people like that”), there are 10, 20, 100, 1000 people out there to be won to Christ that won't because they sniff out the contentiousness and will go somewhere else.  Do we want to stand before God and say we did the math wrong, or that we didn't have the guts to make way for 100s more to come to Christ by not tackling these problems decisively?" (Don Nelson, personal conversation)

Where are you and your church with these two fundamentals?  Is the vision clear?  Has God written the vision on your heart?  How about unity of leadership?  Is the leadership team in your ministry united in passion, purpose, and process?

God wants you to break through growth barriers.  Take the steps necessary to see those growth barriers removed from your local church ministry today!

Let's hear from you about these two areas this week (Clarity of Vision and Unity of Leadership).  What do you think of these areas and what John has said?  Leave your comments now!

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Dr. John Jackson is the President of VisionQuest Ministries and the Founding and Senior Pastor of Carson Valley Christian Center.  Dr. Jackson has written the books, PastorPreneur, and High Impact Church Planting.  You may learn more about breaking growth barriers and creative approaches to church ministry by visiting the VisionQuest Ministries Website at www.vqresources.com

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January 31, 2005 in Church Growth | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Friday, January 28, 2005

Custom Brew Brings The Young Crowd to Church

BeerHere's an interesting article from the Washington Post.  I guess it's an idea I never thought of for outreach.  :)

Since introducing its own brand of lager this fall, St. Mark's Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill has seen an influx of twenty- and thirty-somethings on Sunday mornings.

"I can't say it's a compelling reason," Rector Paul Abernathy said when asked whether the addition of Winged Lion Lager to Sunday's pub lunch menu had anything to do with the new faces at St. Mark's.

Last summer, Rick Weber made the first batch of Winged Lion Lager for St. Mark's Episcopal Church. His brews are popular at the church's pub lunches. (Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post) 

But he acknowledged the coincidence and said with a smile, "I'll find out."

Pub lunches are a long-standing tradition at the 135-year-old church, which has 700 members who pride themselves on their spirit of fellowship and conviviality, Abernathy said.

Sharing a brew in a family atmosphere is one way they take part. Every Sunday after the 11 o'clock service, more than 100 people gather in the parish hall for pub-style fare that includes soup, sandwiches, salad, bread, beer, soda and wine.

For 31 years, the beer selection was dominated by commercial brands such as Samuel Adams. That changed last summer, when parishioner Rick Weber rented a kettle at Shenandoah Brewing Co. in Alexandria and cooked up a batch of Winged Lion.

At the church's fall fair in September, the parish's own "heavenly brew" premiered -- in bottles featuring a winged lion, the symbol of Saint Mark the Evangelist. The first five cases, 120 bottles, lasted only a few weeks, and Weber returned to the brewery to make a second batch of lager.

For holiday variety, Weber, 45, decided to make an English-style nut brown ale with touches of nutmeg and chocolate malt and headed to the brewery a third time. The congregation loved the Christmas Cheer ale and and scarfed up all 60 bottles at a Christmas fundraiser for the church two weeks ago.

With the Christmas Cheer gone and the Winged Lion down to a few bottles, Weber plans to brew a honey porter for Mardi Gras. People are saying they don't know if they can go back to commercial beers, and two other parishioners have offered to help with the next batch.

Weber, a journalist, said he enjoys brewing time because Shenandoah's do-it-yourself area "has a laundromat feel." People chat or read books while waiting specified intervals before stirring the hops and other ingredients.

After the cooking process, which lasts about two hours, Weber transfers the liquid into a fermenting cask, where it sits for several weeks. He then uses a hand-operated machine to put the beer into bottles and adheres specially made labels.

On a personal level, he feels joy at "seeing something everybody at the church was excited about, something that contributed to the sense of community and belonging."

Parishioners consume the beer as part of the pub lunch, a nonprofit service to the parish. Participants buy pub tickets for $10, a donation to the church, and redeem the tickets for food and beverages.

Abernathy welcomes the excitement Winged Lion Lager has generated. And he makes no apologies for serving alcoholic beverages in the parish hall.

"This is a religious community made up of people, people who do drink socially," the priest said. "We also serve nonalcoholic beverages in a way that is as attractive as alcoholic beverages. We do not encourage or dissuade people from drinking [beer or wine]. And we do offer a choice."

Any thoughts?  :)

Have a great weekend!

Todd

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January 28, 2005 in For What It's Worth | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Building the Perfect Church: The Four Issues All Churches Deal With

Building_1Introduction
Some time ago I was with a pastor friend of mine.  As we were walking to his church office I jokingly remarked to him that the only churches where I always agreed with the pastor were the ones I pastored.  He quipped, “even then, I am not sure I always fully agree.” 

As I noted last week, and as reflected in your comments, building the “perfect” church, this side of heaven, is an impossible task.  Jesus tells us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Mat. 5:48).  Yet who can do that?  Not even the apostle Paul (Phil 3:12).  That’s why some preferred the concept of building a “healthy” church.  It is an attainable goal.  But even in this difference of wording, the project is already seeing the budding of fruit.  The goal is not agreement with me, but a sharpening of us all.

This week, I want to set forth the “lay of the land.”  This project is such a huge undertaking that we are going to have to break this effort down into manageable components.  From an organizational perspective, life in the church can be broken down into four major categories.

STRUCTURE
In this category, we are talking about the church’s “set-up.”  What are the recognized offices of the church?  How were the individual’s holding the office selected and for how long?  How much authority does each office hold in relation to the others?  Do board decisions require unanimity or a simple majority?  How many staff does the church have?  Who creates job descriptions?  Who performs job evaluations?  How much authority does the congregation have?  What are the church’s formal modes of communication and feedback?  What is required for membership?  How does the church’s property and facility promote or restrict the church’s ministry?  How does technology impact church ministry (e.g. the presence or absence of a computer, video projector, etc.).   What is required for changes to be made in the church bylaws?  These and a host of other questions all relate to the operational environment and organizational structure of the church.  (For churches that are part of a denomination, other structural considerations have to be taken into account).

CULTURE

Culture speaks to the collective mindset of the church community.  What is the worldview that members share?  What are the core theological beliefs which members accept?  What is the vision and mission of the church which members are asked to subscribe to?  What values and norms are held in highest esteem?  How are members expected to behave?  How are members expected to dress when they come to church?  What lifestyles are tolerated and which are frowned upon?  Who is held up as heroes or models to follow?  How free do members to express their opinions?  What are traditions and customs of the church?  What is the prevailing attitude with respect to change?  What is the style of worship music?  Is the church charismatic or non-charismatic?  What is the prevailing thinking related to social issues (e.g. abortion, gay marriage, creationism vs. evolution)?  What is the general attitude of members toward outreach and assimilating newcomers?    These and a host of other questions relate to the beliefs and perceptions held by the congregation. 

INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS
This addresses how well we relate to and connect with one another.  How comfortable do we feel in the other’s presence?  How well do we work together?  How competitive?  Do we hold grudges?  Do we put others needs ahead of our own?  How open and transparent are we with each other?  How willing are we to protect another’s reputation against unsubstantiated allegations?  Do we do unto others as we would want them do unto us? 

And then there is the whole set of questions relating to how well the pastoral staff relates to their circles of influence and to the larger congregation, and visa versa?  A few years back, there was a mega study of over 14,000 congregations.  It found that the most significant combined sources of moderate and serious conflict were due to leadership “style” and member behavior, that is, our relationships and interactions with each other. 

THE INDIVIDUAL PERSON
This category is all about each unique person.  What is a person’s perceptions of reality and interpretation of events?  What is that person’s understanding of God and his or her relationship to Him?  How does the person view himself or herself?  How does he/she view others?  What motivates the person?  What is the person’s temperament?  Does he or she clutch at power?  Is a person or team player or a leader, a conformist or an ardent individualist?   How honest?  How sensitive to other people’s feelings?  How self-centered or giving?  What is the individual’s gifts and capabilities?  What is his or her weaknesses and particular styles of sinning?  How competent is this person in his or her role?  Is it easy or difficult to satisfy this person?  This and a host of other questions relate to the individual person.

Remarks
A recent Christianity Today survey which reveals that 20 in 100 pastors (thus churches) are struggling with conflict.  Given all the things that can cause conflict within each of these four major areas, that shouldn’t really surprise us.  It is easy to see how conflict can readily arise when people from different backgrounds join together in their common faith in Christ.  Beyond the essential areas of agreement, there are innumerable arena’s where our different temperaments, upbringings, cultural experiences, expectations, etc. can turn our diversity into division.   Moreover, accurate diagnosis of the real cause of the conflict may be absent.  Too often an individual is fingered as “the problem” when, in reality, it may relate to a deeper, systemic issue relating to the structure or culture of the church.  Yet incredibly and wonderfully, it is the role of the church to bring harmony out of diversity in the worship and service of the Lord. 

With the “lay of the land” now set before us, we are ready to begin in earnest this project of building the perfect church.  Next week, we will begin with the church’s structure and I will highlight the first element we will be focusing on.   

For Discussion This Week
Corresponding to this overview and in preparation for next week, I would ask you to share your general thoughts about church structure.  More specifically, in what way has your church’s structure served you and/or your congregation well?  How has it kept the peace?  In what ways has it been a hindrance to ministry?  How has it been a source of conflict? 

I look forward to reading your experiences.

God bless,

Ken

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© 2005 Kenneth C. Newberger
Ken Newberger, an experienced church conflict resolution specialist, earned his Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, has ten years senior pastoral experience, and is in the dissertation phase for his Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at Nova Southeastern University, one of only two accredited doctoral programs of its kind in the United States. If your church needs help resolving conflict, if you need individual coaching, or if you would like to introduce a proactive conflict management system into your church, please visit Ken's website at www.ResolveChurchConflict.com  or call 301-253-8877.

--

You are invited to attend Ken's free conflict resolution seminar entitled, “How to Convert Church Problems and Tensions into Energy Leading to Deeper Relations and a Positive Outcome.”  This event is sponsored by Regent University at its Alexandria, VA campus (just outside of DC).  The date and time is March 7th, 7:00 – 9:00 pm.  For more information, contact Lolita Cobbs.  Email: lolicob@regent.edu. Phone: 1-866-REGENT-U or 703-740-1409.  Come join us for an interactive and edifying time together.

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January 27, 2005 in The Newberger Project | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

James Dobson vs. Sponge Bob

Sponge_bobThe opening sentence of the article a Seattle newspaper caught my eye:

"On the heels of electoral victories to bar same-sex marriage, some influential conservative Christian groups are turning their attention to a new target: SpongeBob SquarePants."

Huh?  I thought.  Then I continued...

"Does anybody here know SpongeBob?" James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, asked the guests Tuesday night at a black-tie dinner for members of Congress and political allies to celebrate the election results.

In many circles, SpongeBob needs no introduction. He is popular among children and grownups as well who watch him cavorting under the sea on the Nickelodeon cartoon program that bears his name. In addition, he has become a camp figure among adult gay men, perhaps because he holds hands with his animated sidekick Patrick.

Now, Dobson said, SpongeBob's creators had enlisted him in a "pro-homosexual video," in which he appeared alongside other children's television characters such as Barney and Jimmy Neutron, among many others. The video's makers, he said, planned to mail it to thousands of elementary schools this spring to promote a "tolerance pledge" that includes tolerance for differences of "sexual identity." He urged his allies to stand against it as part of a "spiritual battle" for the country.

The video's creator, Nile Rodgers, who wrote the disco hit "We Are Family," says Dobson's objection stemmed from a misunderstanding. Rodgers said he founded the We Are Family Foundation after the Sept. 11 attacks to create a music video featuring 100 well-known cartoon characters dancing to his song in order to teach children about multiculturalism.

The video has appeared on Nickelodeon and other networks, and nothing in it or its accompanying materials refers to sexual identity. The "tolerance pledge," which was borrowed from the Southern Poverty Law Center, is not mentioned on the video.

Rodgers suggested that Dobson and the American Family Association, the conservative Christian group that first sounded the alarm, might have been confused by an unrelated Web site belonging to another group called "We Are Family." That site is owned by a Charleston, S.C., group that supports gay youth.

Mark Barondeso, general counsel for the We Are Family Foundation, suggested that anyone who says the video promotes homosexuality "needs to visit their doctor and get their medication increased."

Yesterday however, Paul Batura, assistant to Dobson, said Focus on the Family stood by its assertions. "We see the video as an insidious means by which the organization is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids," he said.

OK... this article is from the New York Times (not a publication that is normally pro-Christian/pro-family-values).  So, for further clarification; here is James Dobson's statement on the issue.

Andy Havens from the website ChurchMarketingSucks.com (believe it or not, a church marketing website) says that there are four reasons that you shouldn't ever pick a fight with a cartoon character.  Andy writes:

I'm not going to get into the political, social or moral debate at all, because that doesn't have anything to do with marketing. What I am going to tell you--and this isn't a suggestion, but a straight up marketing imperative--is don't ever, ever, ever get in a fight with a fictional characacter. I don't care if it's the protagonist in a classic novel, a lead figure in a play, a cartoon animal, a comedic role in a modern sitcom or the animated spokes-thing for a major brand of pet-food. It's a lose-lose-lose proposition for you from a PR standpoint. Why? Four main reasons.

1. You look foolish.
You're arguing about (and potentially with) something that doesn't exist. That's bad enough in the business and political world, but even worse in the world of faith. If you think that a particular type of entertainment or show is problematic, say so simply and back it up scripturally. You don't need to poke fun or villify the authors or creators of the work. All that will do is turn their fans into enemies. And fans of creative work are some of the worst enemies you can have from a PR perspective.

2. You're on their turf.
Created characters actually live in the world of information. That's all they are--content. You have to eat, sleep, walk the dog, sit in traffic, etc. You have friends whose opinions matter to you. You have family. They do not. They are not real. They can defy the laws of space and time. Dead presidents can speak on their behalf. They can appear on 20 different shows at the same time. It's like trying to outswim Flipper. Bad idea.

3. Reason isn't reasonable.
The fans of fictional characters love them because they aren't real. Serious, rational arguments about their "faults" don't count.

4. They bite.
It's one thing to get taken down a peg by a real-life antagonist; someone with an argument better than yours or a competing organization that simply does a better job at what you're trying to do. It's another thing entirely for a fictional character to take you out back and spank you like a redheadded stepchild. Murphy Brown did it to Dan Quayle. Not pretty.

What do you think?  Is this something to seriously fight for or against?  Is Sponge Bob worth James Dobson's time?  I'd love to hear your comments.

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January 26, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Elephant in the Boardroom

ElephantDuring the next few weeks we'll be looking at the topic of pastoral transitions.  We'll be using the new book titled "'The Elephant in the Boardroom -- Speaking the Unspoken about Pastoral Transitions" by Carolyn Weese and J. Russell Crabtree.  Read this short story from their introduction:

This is a story about a pastor named Pete.  Pete was a good pastor and a great guy. He served Meadowbrook Church fror ten years and the church grew to about twice as big as it was when he came.  One day Pete decided that the Lord wanted him to move on to another church.  Now, Pete wanted to do this right, and doing it right meant making sure that no one at Meadowbrook knew he was thinking of leaving.  Pete realized he would have to live a double life.  This was a change, because generally speaking Pete was a person of integrity.  He was about to live a part of his life in secrecy.

He went on living the life he had lived for ten years at Meadowbrook, the one that everyone had come to know and appreciate.  But secretly Pete was living a second life off the radar screen.  He was praying for a new call.  he was talking to his family about moving. He was scheduling secret meetings after worship with strangers who had come to hear him preach.  He was telling people he was off on vacation when he was really looking at other churches.  He was having his mail sent to his home rather than to the church, and he set up a separate email account with its own password.

Pete was incredible as a secret agent pastor.  He was able to live these two separate lives for a full eight months.  He baptized babies, prayed for the sick, ran board meetings, and preached great sermons (many of which he secretly duplicated to send to other churches).  Not a single person at Meadowbrook caught on to the other life that Pete was leading behind the scenes.

The phone rang one day, bringing news of a call to Riverton Church.  Pete scheduled a meeting with the Meadowbrook board, announcing that he would be leaving in three weeks.  One party (a real gush-and-blow), five speeches, and ten boxes of Kleenex later, Pete was gone. As he drove his family across three states to their new home, he though, I did it!  I was a secret agent pastor for eight months.  An no one figured it out!

Churchland is filled with good pastors like Pete who don't talk about the most important event that can happen in their church -- the elephant in the board room, or call it pastoral transition.  Because Pete didn't talk about it, everyone suffered.  (Next week, we'll find out what happened in Pete's old church after he left).  Pete sacrificed some of his integrity to live a double life.  The next pastor was hindered because of issues that hadn't been dealt with and people who had been hurt.

This is a better way.  In the next few weeks, we'll be looking at some suggestions Carolyn and Russell give to help you starting thinking about how to create a strategic succession plan for your church.  I'm sure you'll enjoy it.  If you'd like to get  a copy of the book so that you can read more in-depth as we go, please go here to get a copy shipped out to you today!

QUESTION:  Have you ever played 'secret agent pastor'?  How did it make you feel?  What was the outcome at the church you left?  Would you have done things differently?  Please leave your comments!

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January 25, 2005 in Personnel Issues | Permalink | Comments (31) | TrackBack

Monday, January 24, 2005

The Seven Worst Communication Habits for Church Staff

CommunicationLast week, I ran across a secular leadership article by Jamie Walters titled "The Seven Worst Communication Habits." According to Jamie, "The big seven worst habits of communication are bad enough when they happen occasionally. They become "big and bad" when they're practiced habitually. And they do, ultimately, exact a cost, whether it be in miscommunications, lost projects, lowered productivity, missed opportunities, or poor relationships." As I was reading, I began to think that these are the same bad communication habits that creep into church staff life and relationships...

Here are the top seven. How many might have caused a problem for you in the past week?

1. Contacting others only when you need something.
Is there someone in your life that you hear from only when they need something? Are you like me and find that annoying? Jamie says that this type of person "routinely surfaces when they're job hunting, when they've got a problem, when they need a reference, and when they want ideas from you." When they don't need anything, they don't call you. As a matter of fact, this person might not even return your calls or emails when you try to contact them.

QUESTION: Do you as a church leader only contact people when you need them to do something for you or the church? If so, you run the risk of making people feel 'used'.

FIX: If you feel guilty of this communication habit, make a list of people that come to mind and make contact with them this week. Ask for nothing; just touch base. They'll appreciate the contact!

2. Not following up, or closing the loop.
Ever given a gift and not received a thank you? Has someone promised to let you know the outcome of a certain meeting or conversation, but you never heard back from them? This type of person simply is not closing the loop or following up with you. This is a vitally important communication skill.

QUESTION: Is there anyone in your ministry that you recently promised to get back with or follow-up with that you haven't?

FIX: Contact that person this week and close the loop. They'll love the fact that you did follow-up.

3. Not returning telephone calls or email messages.
How frustrated do you get when you're trying to get ahold of someone and they simply don't return your call or email? Actually, this is a pretty common occurance, but it still is a very bad communication practice. It should be your goal to quickly acknowledge and return each phone call, email and note that you receive. (This is an especially hard one for me... this morning, I have almost fifty emails that I need to respond to (some from the middle of last week! (GUILTY!) It's hard not to fall behind!)

QUESTION: What pink telephone message slip do you still have on your desk? What emails have been sitting in your 'inbox' waiting to be replied to?

FIX: Take a few moments and clear your desk and your in-box. Your quick response will help you gain credibility in your communication.

4. Foregoing basic courtesy.
Have you ever been on the receiving end of a nasty email or phone call? Ever felt snubbed by someone? Do you know anyone who you feel is downright rude? This type of person may be self-absorbed; they may feel entitled to have a bad attitude; or maybe they just don't know better. But you know that when you come into contact with them, it's a real turn-off.

QUESTION: Is there anyone that instantly comes to mind that you've been 'discourteous' to? Maybe someone you avoided (obviously) at church yesterday; maybe someone you were short with; maybe someone you were just rude to?

FIX: You know the fix. Make it right with that person. Apologize for your behavior and do your best to get that relationship back on track. The lack of basic courtesy is a real communication stopper in ministry... and it happens much too often.

5. Not listening.
This is something we probably all need to work on. How many times are we so concentrated on things that are important to us that we fail to listen to others? Jamie says, "One hallmark of poor listening is that a person won't ask any questions. Another hallmark is that he or she might repeatedly paraphrase incorrectly, or "put words in your mouth" that you neither say nor agree with. On an interpersonal level, poor listening skills result in miscommunications, lost opportunities, lower productivity due to mistakes or redundant efforts, employee turnover, and other costly scenarios."

QUESTION: Did you catch yourself "zoning" yesterday while someone was talking to you? Have you had a conversation lately where you really don't remember what the other person was saying? Do you find yourself thinking of what you're going to say next rather than listening?

FIX: Work hard this week on listening and 'being interested' in what people are saying to you... (yes, even if you're not!) Ask questions. Re-state back to people what they are saying. Most of all... adjust your attitude so that you make listening a priority.

6. Telling lies.
Pastors and church staff people telling lies? Hopefully not blatent ones, I hope. But how many times do you tell 'little lies' to keep from hurting someone's feelings? And does any instance come to mind where you may have slanted the truth for your own gain?

QUESTION: Do you ever play with the truth? Do you shade a story or situation differently depending on who you're talking with? Do you withhold parts of the truth in order to sway people to your side?

FIX: Stop playing games with the truth. As the psalmist said "Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; Keep watch over the door of my lips (Ps. 141:3 NIV)

7. Spewing chronic negativity.
It's easy to be negative, especially if you're in a bad situation. But leadership requires that we step above the petty negativeness of our situation. Being negative, especially with the wrong people is a leading vision-killer.

QUESTION: Do you find yourself constantly being negative? Is your negativity affecting others?

FIX: Refer again to Ps. 141:3. Rather than dwell (and comment) on the negative, try to find solutions or speak positively about the situation.

There you have it... seven of the worst communication habits we go up against each day. The questions and fixes given are much easier to write down and type out than they are to live. Let's all try to pick one or two areas of weakness this week and try to improve.

Which of these areas do you have the biggest problem with? We'll begin a discussion today at the MMI Blog on "Communication Blunders". Feel free to add your own. Have you ever been misunderstood? Have you ever suffered greatly because of one of these seven areas? Please feel free to share in the conversation!

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January 24, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Friday, January 21, 2005

How Much Does Evangelism Cost?

Rick Warren had a great article featured in a recent edition of his Ministry Toolbox newsletter... Here's part of that article:

I believe one of the reasons so few churches engage in outreach is because they ask the wrong question. Too often, the first question asked is, “How much will it cost?” The right question is, “Who will it reach?”

How much is a soul worth? If you spend $500 on a newspaper ad that reaches one unbeliever for Christ, is it worth it?

If your church gets serious about developing a comprehensive evangelism strategy, it will cost money! With this in mind, let me share some insights about financing your strategy, based upon my experiences as Saddleback grew from four members to over 20,000.

First, money spent on evangelism is never an “expense;” it’s always an investment. The people you reach will more than repay the cost you invested to reach them. Before we held the first service of Saddleback, the people in our small home Bible study went about $6,500 in debt preparing for that service. Where did we get the money? We used our personal credit cards! We believed the offerings of the people we reached for Christ would eventually enable everyone to be paid back.

Often when finances get tight in a church, the first thing cut is the evangelism and advertising budget. That is the last thing you should cut. It is the source of new blood and life for your church.

Second, people give to vision, not to need. If “need” motivated people to give, every church would have plenty of money. It is not the neediest institutions that attract contributions, but those with the greatest vision. Churches that are making the most of what they’ve got attract more gifts. That’s why Jesus said, "It is always true that those who have, get more, and those who have little, soon lose even that” (Luke 19:26, LB).

Third, when you spend nickels and dimes on evangelism, you get nickel and dime results. Do you remember the story about the time Jesus told Peter to go find money in a fish’s mouth in order to pay the Roman taxes? In Matthew 17:27 (NIV) Jesus told Peter, "... go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin.”

Fourth, remember that “God’s work done God’s way will not lack God’s support.” This was the famous motto of the great missionary strategist, Hudson Taylor.

(You can read the entire article here at Pastors.com)

Now we all know that evangelism isn't all about investing money... but Rick has a point. I like it when he says "when you spend nickels and dimes on evangelism you get nickel and dime results."

Today's question:  how is your church effectively spending money specifically earmarked for evangelism?  Do you have a set budget for evangelism/outreach?

I look forward to hearing some of your success stories (and/or frustrations).

Have a great weekend!

Todd

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January 21, 2005 in Outreach and Evangelism | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Newberger Project: Building the Perfect Church

BuildingToday, we start a new series with Church Conflict Resolution specialist Ken Newberger.  We're entitling this new series:  The Newberger Project:  Building the Perfect Church.  It's going to be an exciting adventure!  Ken writes:

We have a wonderful opportunity through Monday Morning Insight to take our thoughts and channel them in a way that would be most edifying to one another as well as our churches.  The idea came to me that I use my column to collectively think through the elements of the perfect church.  Does such an animal exist?  Of course not.  Will we actually be able to detail it even on paper?  No.  As a diverse group of individuals, we will never agree (which already tells us something of what we are up against when we try just to create a “better” church where we serve).  But I anticipate that the exercise will be most profitable.

Vision vs. Conflict
Here is my underlying premise:  Just as repentance is the flip side of faith (Acts 20:21, Hebrews 6:1), my underlying premise is that conflict resolution and problem solving is the flip side of vision.  Vision tells you where you want to go.  Being skillful at resolving conflict and problems along the way is the mechanism that will get you there.  This is my area of specialization, particularly within churches.  By its very nature, the resolving of conflict is predicated upon the assumption that “there is a better way.”  If there is no vision of what should be, there can be no resolution of what is.  Properly understood, the term “conflict resolution,” a seemingly negative concept, is anything but because it can only exist in the larger context of, “a better way,” “higher ground,” “a more perfect union,” etc.

Going to the Next Level
Accordingly, I want to take this column to “the next level” by starting with a positive concept and then dealing with the problems inherent in making that concept a reality.  This is actually a huge undertaking.  However, we don’t have to wait until the end to benefit from this exercise.  The real “take-away” will not be the product, that is, the conceptualized “perfect church.”  (What sets one person free may be another’s prison).  Rather it is the process of thinking through how to best resolve the kinds of problems that a ministry leader will have in attempting to make his or her vision of “good” a reality.

Iron Sharpens Iron
At this early stage, the way I envision this project to unfold is as follows:

(1)  Next week, I will write an introductory column that will set forth the 4 overall areas by which any society, organization, or congregation can be categorized.  I will then introduce the first category we will be discussing.  Within this category, I will introduce the first “element” we will focus on.

(2)  Then comes the real “meat and potatoes:” you’re input.  As the weeks progress, this will become more complicated than any chess game because each new element will then have to be put in proper “relationship” to the others.

(3)  Then I will attempt to make sense out of your varied input over an increasing number of inter-related components, as well as incorporate my own ideas, to set forth my vision of those elements within that category of “the perfect church.”  If we are of the same mind that we are not going to agree on what I come up with, we will be fine.  It is hoped that as iron sharpens iron, we will sharpen one another in becoming more effective in ministry.  My synthesis is secondary.

Let's start out the discussion though this week with your thoughts on what you think the "perfect church" would look like...

Until next week, your “positive” church conflict resolution consultant,


Ken Newberger

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© 2005 Kenneth C. Newberger
Ken Newberger, an experienced church conflict resolution specialist, earned his Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, has ten years senior pastoral experience, and is in the dissertation phase for his Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at Nova Southeastern University, one of only two accredited doctoral programs of its kind in the United States. If your church needs help resolving conflict, if you need individual coaching, or if you would like to introduce a proactive conflict management system into your church, please visit Ken's website or call 301-253-8877.

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You are invited to attend Ken's free conflict resolution seminar entitled, “How to Convert Church Problems and Tensions into Energy Leading to Deeper Relations and a Positive Outcome.”  This event is sponsored by Regent University at its Alexandria, VA campus (just outside of DC).  The date and time is March 7th, 7:00 – 9:00 pm.  For more information, contact Lolita Cobbs.  Email: lolicob@regent.edu. Phone: 1-866-REGENT-U or 703-740-1409.  Come join us for an interactive and edifying time together.

QUESTION: What do you think?  Let's hear your comments and perspective again this week!

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January 20, 2005 in The Newberger Project | Permalink | Comments (40) | TrackBack

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Go To Church, Win a Hummer

Hummer I found this article in the St. Petersburg Times.  What do you think?

Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne stands in the pulpit, preaching the promise of Malachi 3:10 over shouts of hallelujahs and amens.

God can rain down blessings, he says in his native South African accent, until "there shall not be room enough to receive it."

Someone apparently will need room enough in the driveway for a blessing the pastor plans to give away during the revival: A 16-by-10-foot H2 Hummer.

Revival Ministries International will give away a yellow, 2003 H2 Hummer during its Winter Campmeeting, which began Sunday and runs through Jan. 16. The weeklong program features Howard-Browne as the keynote speaker at the River at Tampa Bay, the church he and wife Adonica founded in December 1996.

Church officials declined to comment about the giveaway, saying they didn't want any publicity. Local clergy who spoke about the Hummer either liked the idea or hated it.

"I think it's an excellent idea," said Randy White, televangelist and senior pastor of Without Walls International Church, one of the fastest growing congregations in Tampa with 18,000 members. "If this were MTV or any other secular market or organization, there wouldn't even be anything written about it. I applaud Rodney."

White said that his church has given away homes and paid electric bills for a full year to those attending his services. "It's a bait on the hook to get people in to hear the message," he said.

White readily admits that his approach to religion and preaching can seem controversial. It's to be expected, he said. He's had strip club owner Joe Redner in his pulpit.

"And I've had Bubba the Love Sponge call me his pastor," White said.

W. James Favorite, pastor of Beulah Baptist Church, a congregation of about 600, said churches have given up on simple person-to-person relationships. There's no need for such incentives, he said. Pastors should simply ask people to join them.

"I'm a firm believer that the word of God is what gets folks to come to church," Favorite said. "I don't want to judge anybody's ministry on how they go about getting folks to come, but I thinks it's rather cheap to suggest that you can con folks into coming to church."

According to the official drawing rules and regulations for the Hummer on Revival Ministries International's Web site, www.revival.com people had the chance to register to win the vehicle between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2004. Those eligible for the drawing included first-time visitors to select services at the River during 2004, church members who brought first-time visitors, Bible students, and people who filled out one of several surveys.

The Web site listed two other prizes to be given during the Winter Campmeeting: a scooter and a Play Station. A 2003 H2 Hummer, listed as the "grand prize," is registered to Revival Ministries International, according to the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles. A 2005 H2 Hummer can retail for more than $50,000.

The Campmeeting at the River will double as a celebration of 25 years in the ministry for Howard-Browne. He began pastoring in his native South Africa when he was 18 and calls himself the "Holy Ghost bartender." Howard-Browne is known for spells of holy laughter, where followers are so drunk with the Holy Spirit they fall on the floor in hysterics.

During the summer of 1999, Howard-Browne preached a 24-night crusade at Madison Square Garden in New York City. His congregants have been known to flood the streets of Ybor City on Friday nights, offering free prayer instead of free beer.

Before moving to their current location at 3738 River International Drive, where Drive Time Car Sales used to be off Interstate 75 and the Mango exit, Howard-Browne's congregation did a stint worshiping in the Sun Dome at the University of South Florida.

He told churchgoers on the first Sunday of the new year that 2005 would be the year of blessings. For one person, that begins with a Hummer.

"It's a great idea. Ingenious," said Randy Brummit, pastor of Brandon Assembly of God with about 400 members. "If I could give away a car a week, we would."

But have churches become too secular in their attempts to attract worshipers?

"Religion is trying to fit in," said Dell deChant, a University of South Florida religious studies instructor who teaches a class called Religion and Popular Culture. "Does it fit in by trying to utilize the tools and techniques of a secular society? Or does it fit in by standing out, and saying here's how we're different? Our culture allows for both."

DeChant said a scripture in the Bible warns Christians "to be in the world, but not of it."

"Critics would say (giving away a Hummer) is a little too much of the world," deChant said.

Marc S. Sack, rabbi for Congregation Rodeph Sholom, with more than 500 members, said he would rather see the River give away a more economical vehicle.

"I think Hummers are morally questionable," Sack said. "At a time when Americans think about conserving energy resources, I don't think we should be encouraging or celebrating a vehicle that is the ultimate gas guzzler."

But White, from Without Walls, said churches in the Tampa Bay area have to compete with nearby amusement parks and beaches. Concerts offer million-dollar pyrotechnics, he said.

"We'll have a candle," White said. "It's just sad where the church hasn't stepped up."

White plans to have Rhythm and Blues songstress Mary J. Blige at Without Walls for the Super Sunday service on Super Bowl Sunday. White says he's working to get hip-hop stars Usher and Mace to also attend a service. Churches, he said, should be on the cutting edge.

"What would Jesus do?" asked White, pausing to recite a Bible text from John 14. "If you live right, you get a mansion. That's a pretty good incentive. It's better than a Hummer."

What do you think?  Good idea or good idea gone terribly wrong?

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January 19, 2005 in For What It's Worth | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Is it Time to Leave? Assessing Your Credibility Level

Before_you_move_9 This week, we'll take our last look at John Cionca's book "Before You Move: A Guide to Making Transitions in Ministry." This week we'll begin to look at some Pastor/People signals; today discussing how to discern your "Credibility Level".

As most readily recognize, a pastor with a high level of credibility can get a lot more accomplished in their work than a pastor that has little credibility with a congregation.  It should be the goal of each pastor to continually build credibility throughout their time at a church.  In his book, John mentions a great list of 'credibility busters' that can diminish your leadership capability.  Watch out for these:

--Defensiveness
--Inability to handle criticism
--Poor decisions
--Not following through on responsibilities
--Not managing conflicts skillfully
--Running a business on the side
--Firing the church organist or secretary (big-time problem in a small church)
--Preaching you rather than we
--Making major changes in the worship format without adequate preparation
--Inappropriate moral behavior
--Telling several different version of "the facts"
--Winging it (lack of preparedness)
--Missing significant events, such as funerals or anniversaries

John writes, "A reputation for high integrity is a good reason for a pastor to continue serving the current congregation... but the pastor who senses low credibility cannot help but consider transition.  We grow through mistakes, and a new congregation can offer a fresh start.  Whatever its source, lack of trust is a go-ahead to pursue another call.

What do you think?  Have you ever left a position because you lost credibility?  Was it something from on this list or something totally different?  Have you found ways to re-gain your credibility after losing it?  Please share your experiences here!

Please leave your comments now!

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January 18, 2005 in Personnel Issues | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack