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Friday, July 29, 2005

Theology "On Tap"

Ontap This from the Montgomery Advisor:

The Rev. Rick Mason has a mission to reach those who have given up on church to show them what they're missing. But he knows that those are the hardest people to lure.

That's why Mason, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Prattville, has decided not to try to bring the unchurched to church -- he's bringing the church to them.

Or at least, he's bringing it to where they hang out.

On Tuesday, Mason is starting a new program called Theology on Tap, scheduled for the first, third, fourth and fifth Tuesdays of each month, where people can gather to talk about scripture and faith issues.

And this new program will be -- where else? -- in a bar.

"I wanted a way to reach out to the unchurched, or as I like to call them, dechurched," Mason said. "It's for those with questions who don't feel comfortable enough asking in a church atmosphere."

Mason said he got the idea from something he learned while teaching evangel classes in South Carolina.

"Someone once told me that there's nothing in the Bible that says build a building, put my name on it and wait for the people to come," he said. "We need to be going out and meeting people in a place that they'd feel comfortable."

On Tuesday, that place will be the Pratt Pub in Prattville next to Bama Lanes. Mason said the Pratt Pub is the kind of place "Jesus would have hung out in to find people."

Mason and his congregation were familiar with the Pratt Pub from spending time there after youth bowling league matches at Bama Lanes. A member of the congregation also worked there part time.

"It's perfect because it has a side room away from the main commotion and it's easy to find," Mason said.

So Mason asked the owner/operator of the Pratt Pub, Pete Audie, if he could hold Theology on Tap there.

"After the initial shock, he said it was OK," Mason said.

Audie admitted he was surprised by the request.

"Out of my 30 years in the business, it was definitely out of the ordinary," he said. "But as he (Mason) said, what better place to reach those that don't go to church."

Audie said he's looking forward to the event, as it's a good opportunity for Mason and won't hurt Pratt Pub either.

"It's good he's looking to reach people that don't normally go to church," he said. "It's not like he's recruiting from other churches."

Mason knows a lot about those people -- he was one of them.

Mason spent 20 years out of the church -- a time that he says was God's way of preparing him for this mission.

"I still have some issues with organized religion and I know how hard it is to go back," he said. "I think this is easier -- neutral ground."

Some of Mason's issues will be discussed in the first Theology on Tap on Tuesday, when the subject will be "The Seven Great Lies of Organized Religion." Mason says the discussion will deal with some of the things the church says and does that puts people off.

Mason said this week would mainly to see who comes and what they want to talk about.

"I don't want to hit anyone over the head with a Bible. I want it to be comfortable," he said. "I'm not going in with any preconceived notions of who is going to be there or what questions they're going to ask."

One story stands out for Mason when he thinks about reaching these "dechurched" people.

While in South Carolina, he met a woman whose family had not attended church in over 30 years. The reason: They went to church one Sunday and the preacher publicly shamed her father for selling alcohol in his convenience store.

"He told them he had to decide if he was going to be an alcohol salesman or a churchgoer," Mason said. "They never went back."

Later, Mason would have a disagreement with that woman over the merits of video poker. She didn't attend church for a couple of weeks.

"She thought that since she didn't agree with me, she wasn't welcome at church," he said. "Some churches don't allow for a lot of disagreement and that's what I want to change so people will be more comfortable."

Mason said that if Theology on Tap is a success at the Pratt Pub, he hopes to possibly have it in places closer to Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base and Auburn University Montgomery.

OK... you're turn...

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July 29, 2005 in Outreach and Evangelism | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

One Pastor's Open Letter to God

Praying I like honesty... and I think God does too... Read this from "Wright off the Bat":

God. I love you. You know that. But sometimes I have questions that seem to almost border on disrespect. May I ask one of them now? Why do you give some people harder assignments than others? Why do some people who serve you seem to get a "harder lot" in life? Why are there some ministers who live in shacks for houses and labor tirelessly for rewards that are eternal while their stomachs are starved for food? Why are some called to labor among the poor, the wretched, drug dealers and prostitutes while others serve in the comforts of suburbia, far from crime and gangs? Why do some suffer heart break, loss, anxiety attacks and bodily harm while others have luxury cars, million dollar houses and hefty bank accounts? Why do some endure ghastly pain, perilous nights and sullen days while others see victory after victory? I know that all people who truly serve you suffer in some way. There is joy in suffering when it is done in Your name. But some people seem to suffer a lot more than others. There is a disconnect going on here God that I am not quite understanding. Why do some preach in tailored suits behind oak pulpits while others cover themselves in rags before mounting a wooden crate beneath an oak tree? Who decides who gets to pastor the mega churches and who plants the church in the inner city surrounded by gang warfare? This is not a matter of jealousy God; this is a matter of life and death. I just want to know why some of your servants will toil for the rest of their lives in what seems like mundane futility while others will see substantial fruit yielded day after day. I know that all true rewards are eternal and perhaps this is the part of me talking that is all too human. I'll take whatever mission you give me not because I am a cold foot soldier merely taking orders but rather because I love you deeply. But please answer me this; why do some people get harder assignments than others? Amen.

Thoughts?

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July 29, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

South Florida: MultiSite Churches Popping Up Everywhere... (Part 2)

Southflorida_1 Wanted to continue with the rest of the story we started here...

A recent Wellington service at the middle school finds worshipers in their 20s to 40s -- Anglos, Hispanics, African Americans, Caribbean islanders -- many in jeans and slacks, gathering on a Saturday night, one of three weekend services. Worship leader James Duvall leads a rhythm section of guitars, keyboards, drums and singers.

Some of the worshipers clearly sing from memory; others read video displays on two large screens.

After a half-hour of singing, the campus pastor, Brian Benjamin, steps up. Tall, lean, mellow, with a short beard and black mock turtleneck, he seems less like a minister than a counselor. Actually, he's both.

He offers a few words of welcome for visitors, then prays:

"Thank you that we are part of something so big and far-reaching. ... You have called us to something besides a man-to-man religion. You've called us to a relationship." Yet he doesn't segue into a sermon. Instead, the members watch several recorded videos, with Mullins and teaching pastor John Maxwell. Some of the church's other ministers -- including Todd Mullins, 38, the senior pastor's son and second in command -- occasionally preach in person as well.

In 2003, Tom Mullins decided to expand into Wellington, for its rapid growth. Christ Fellowship already had lots of members in western Palm Beach County.

Benjamin, who sang, played trombone and directed counseling at the Palm Beach Gardens campus, confessed mixed feelings when Tom Mullins asked him to lead the Wellington branch. "I enjoyed what I was doing in Palm Beach Gardens," Benjamin said. "But my wife and I came to help where we were needed. I felt it would be a privilege to start ministries here."

The centerpiece at Wellington is the weekly praise and worship service. But during the week, some 30 groups meet for Bible studies in private homes.

Stephanie Plummer, 21, says she likes the appeal to young people. She adds that the Wellington services are much closer to her home in Royal Palm Beach.

"It's a more active service, more exciting," says Plummer, a Christ Fellowship member for seven years. "Brian is great; he relates to young people. And I think Tom Mullins draws a lot of men; that's good for a church."

Once a month, the Wellington church has a family dinner, with members gathering at picnic tables before the service. The dinners, plus the separate children's worship services, were a big draw for Andy and Karen Langsam of Wellington and their four kids.

"It's important that the kids have a good church experience," Karen says.

The Langsams moved from Houston in January, then church-shopped awhile before hearing of Christ Fellowship. They checked out the church from friends' referrals, then surfing its Web site, then attending services.

"I liked how easy it was to find out about the church," says Andy Langsam, chief operating officer for a software company in Boca Raton. "And the pastors preach a wonderful message, not your ritual 10-minute sermon."

The Wellington worshipers are looking forward to their new headquarters, an old Target store. Dedicated on May 1, the 116,000-square-foot building is part of a $12 million project to create a "Ministry Center" for worship, Bible study, counseling and other activities. Plans call for closing by the end of July, then moving in early next year.

Meanwhile, the church founded The Ascent in West Palm Beach, a new branch for late teens and 20-somethings. Meeting at the Harriet Himmel Theater at CityPlace, the downtown satellite boasts summertime attendance of 350. The church plans to launch a second Ascent service there in late August -- and a third service in September for their elders.

Back in Palm Beach Gardens, the church plans a new ministries center, to double or triple the 1,000 middle and high school students the church already serves. Cost of that project: about $18 million.

Where else to expand? Maybe to Stuart or Port St. Lucie, to serve the members who come from the north. The church is also looking south, perhaps to Boynton Beach.

To the Christ Fellowship pastors, all of it -- the campuses, the hardware, the organizations -- are just "tools" for spreading the gospel.

"Jesus said he came to give us life in its fullness, Benjamin says. "I want people to experience that."

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July 29, 2005 in Multi-Site Churches | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Signs Your Church People Aren't Reading Their Bibles Enough

Readbible2_1 10.  You announce the sermon is from Galatians … and everyone checks the table of contents.

9.  They think Abraham, Isaac & Jacob may have had a few hit songs during the 60’s.

8.  They open to the Gospel of Luke and a WWII Savings Bond falls out.

7.  Their favorite Old Testament patriarch is Hercules.

6.  A small family of woodchucks has taken up residence in Psalms.

5.  They become frustrated because Charlton Heston isn’t listed in either the concordance or the table of contents.

4.  Catching the kids reading the Song of Solomon, they demand: “Who gave you this stuff?”

3.  They think the minor prophets worked in the quarries.

2.  They keep falling for it every time when you tell them to turn to First Condominiums.

1.  The kids keep asking too many questions about their usual bedtime story: “Jonah the Shepherd Boy and His Ark of Many Colors”

Needed something light for a Friday... :)

Todd

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July 29, 2005 in Humor | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Another Church Power Struggle Hits the Papers

This is a follow-up to a post a few days ago titled "Pastor Reaches End of His Rope... Why Does This Always Happen?"  Well... guess what... it happened again.  Different church, different scenario... but big media coverage about a church in conflict.

This is an article that made the Orlando Sentinel today.  Again, I know nothing of the situation.  I don't know the internal workings of this church; but I do know that things could've been handled better... way better.

Whenever I post something along this line, I always get an email saying to the effect, "why are you publicizing something that's so negative?"  Well, there are really two reasons...

1.  I find the topic of conflict in churches to be extremely interesting. As I've said before, I often don't understand how relationships get so 'out of whack' in churches.  Things like firing your senior pastor's right-hand-man without telling the pastor are amazing to me... I just wonder how that kind of think happens.  (again, I don't know the merits of whether the pastor in question should have had his position eliminated or not... just the circumstances are very interesting).

2.  I do think there is some value in stories of this kind for another reason:  It can serve as a wake up call to each of us in our ministry that we need to maintain our relationships every day.  Seeing the consequences of not doing so may be the incentive we need to keep things on track today.

OK... that being said, here's the article.  I'm interested in hearing your take after you read it...

During more than 10 years in the pulpit at Calvary Assembly, the megachurch overlooking Interstate 4 in Winter Park, the Rev. Clark Whitten has been known for his plain speaking.

It surprised no one when he announced the contentious end of his ministry in a typically direct way, before thousands of worshippers at services Sunday.

Whitten said he was quitting because the church's board of elders, without his knowledge, had voted to eliminate the position of senior executive pastor, held by the Rev. David Smith.

"I didn't agree with the elders' conclusion -- and I still don't," Whitten, 55, told the congregation, according to an audiotape of the service. "That's just honest, but it doesn't mean that we can't disagree and be friends and love each other, and we do."

He will deliver his last sermon at Calvary this Sunday.

"The honesty was refreshing," said Becky Meeks of Ocoee, a Calvary member for 18 years. Whitten's candor "is one of the things I like best about him."

In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel last week, the Rev. Bill Snell, an executive pastor and an elder, had made no mention of discord related to Whitten's departure, citing the pastor's "desire to just enjoy life at a different level."

Neither Whitten nor Smith could be reached for comment last week. Snell told the Sentinel at the time that both were out of state, playing golf.

Snell did not respond to repeated requests for comment this week.

However, in the sanctuary last Sunday, both sides described what amounted to a power struggle.

Gary Hall, speaking for the elders, said the board had become concerned about "some management issues," according to the tape. He said Smith, whom Whitten had brought from Oklahoma in 1999, was seen as an administrative "bottleneck." The five executive pastors reported to Smith, who reported to Whitten.

In what Hall said was a unanimous decision -- and without consulting Whitten, who had just returned from a two-month sabbatical -- the elders voted to eliminate Smith's position. They offered Smith the opportunity to join the five executive pastors, but he resigned immediately.

Hall called Smith's departure "a great loss." He described the minister as "the most talented pastor I've ever met," and said that, when it came to administrative ability, there was "nobody in the country better than David Smith."

Whitten told worshippers he had a sharply different view of the board's actions, and he criticized their tactics. Especially galling, Whitten said, was that the board's action "was done in my absence and it was done without my consultation. That was a situation that I couldn't reconcile."

Jack Norman of Longwood, an elder and a church member for more than 30 years, said he thought Whitten "knew what we were doing." He added that "looking back, I guess we should have called him and told him that this is what we had in mind."

Whitten's tenure at Calvary was marked by stability.

In previous years, the congregation had lost one pastor after a sex scandal and another after an expansion that left the church millions of dollars in debt. Under Whitten's leadership, the congregation's remaining $10.8 million debt was erased by 2000, as the minister had pledged.

Longtime Calvary members voiced regret at the pastor's departure.

"Clark Whitten has done excellent work as our senior pastor, and I'm truly disappointed that he has decided to leave," said Andrew Roberts of Lake Mary, a member for 23 years. "I wish he was deciding to stay another 10 years. He will be missed."

At an interview at their home earlier this week, Whitten said he and his wife, Martha, had considered several options -- from remaining in the pulpit under the new administrative arrangement, to taking their case to Calvary's membership. In the end, he decided it was God's will that he resign.

Anything that would divide the church he loved was out of the question.

"I don't see how any of that honors God," he said. "I have no desire to be part of that. I am submissive to authority. I teach it and I believe it."

The minister said his decision had left him both sad and relieved, and he said he is not angry with the elders.

"I honestly believe they just made a mistake," he said, although it was a "monumental" error, and he predicted that ultimately they would have to apologize to the congregation.

"How it was done was the most egregious thing on a personal level," he said. "They were wrong in their position and in their vision of how a large church is run."

The Whittens, who have two grown children, put their lakefront home up for sale, although they said they intend to remain in Central Florida. "Our time spent here was very good -- the best years of our lives," he said.

Whitten said he plans to write, speak and teach -- "I'm not going to sit around" -- and that he will not take another pulpit.

What are your first impressions/takes from this article?

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July 28, 2005 in Church Conflict | Permalink | Comments (33) | TrackBack

The Church, Church Growth, and Marketing

Growthchart Here's a great thought-provoking read from WesleyBlog.com.  I agree that everything doesn't have to be either/or in this area...

I find it interesting that mainline pastors seem to be the biggest critics of church growth. The assumption among naysayers seems to be that if a congregation is growing quickly, then it has obviously watered down its message or sacrificed something for the sake of increasing its attendance. Sorry, but I don't buy it. Obviously we can't use numerical growth as the only indicator of a healthy church (consider Mormonism, for example), but more often than not, it's a good one. The anti-Willow Creek movement thrives on false dichotomies: theological depth vs. relevant messages, solid lyrics vs. rock music, slick marketing vs. truthfulness. The fact is, none of these are either/or propositions. We don't have to sacrifice Christianity's message to meet people where they are. Paul figured it out centuries ago. (See 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.) Bill Hybels, Rick Warren and Adam Hamilton figured it out, too. The people who haven't figured it out are the same ones who promote the idea that not growing a church is okay. They're entitled to their opinions, but they're refusing to face the truth of a basic spiritual principle: faith that isn't reproducing itself is dying. If our churches aren't growing, something is wrong.

The idea of marketing Christianity doesn't set right with many of us, and for good reason. We don't like the word marketing. 21st Century Americans been bombarded with advertising. It's in our newspapers, on our TV shows, on billboards, buses, restaurant menus and web pages. It has crept into the names of sports arenas and even invaded the walls of public restrooms. If all that weren't enough, we can't even have dinner without being pestered by telemarketers. So I understand the backlash when church growth gurus dare mention the M-word. But the reality is, any church with an exterior sign markets itself to some degree, whether it calls it that or not. Marketing is simply promoting a product or service to the public. Where it gets a bad name is when companies attempt to create a need where none exists. (How many people do you know who trade cell phones and cars every other year because of persuasive advertising?) So if this is the kind of marketing we're talking about, then the church should have no part of it. But we're not offering the latest gadget, we're offering something people desperately need: eternal life and a relationship with Jesus Christ. That being the case, shouldn't we promote this even more, not less? Jesus himself met people's immediate needs as he shared with them why they also needed him on a much deeper level. And some of you don't like to be confronted with this, but it was Jesus who came up with the fishing metaphor- not Rick Warren or Adam Hamilton. Marketing isn't a bad thing: it's actually morally neutral. It's the what and how of marketing that make it good or bad.

Really effective marketing requires you to believe in your product. The problem is, many mainline churches preach an impotent faith that doesn't even excite them, much less the unchurched. Pluralism and relativism have entered the mix as well, along with a hint of anti-capitalism. The result? A bunch of churches that are clueless about what they believe, and even more clueless about how to persuade anyone else to believe it. Promoting one's faith implies that it is superior to other religious belief systems, and that is just downright offensive to the mainline mindset. Would Coca-Cola have gotten where it is today with the slogan, "All soft drinks are about the same, but we really hope you try Coke"? Of course not. And if that's true for something as trivial as a soft drink, doesn't it apply even more to something as important as faith?

What do you think the proper balance is?  How is your church making a difference in your community in this area?

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July 28, 2005 in Church Growth | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

What Happened to the Mainline Churches?

Mainlineturnaround James Swanson has an interesting post on his blog about why so many churches are in trouble (particularly many mainline churches).  James says:

Lyle Schaller has a new book out called "A Mainline Turnaround". I have just started reading this book but as most books do it really sparked some conversations within me. In his first Chapter he writes about “What Happened?" to the mainline churches. In one of the beginning paragraphs he writes, "Why did the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center in New York City collapse on September 11, 2001? The National Institute of Standards and Technology subsequently concluded the combination of the intense heat, the inadequate fireproofing, the design of the floor trusses, the grade of the steel used in the construction, and other variables in the design meant that the buildings could crumble if the unexpected should happen. The unexpected came on a sunny September morning when the fuel-laden wings of two commercial aircraft traveling at nearly 600 miles per hour cut through those exterior walls and the fuel ignited."

The buildings failed because they met with conditions they were not designed to respond to. Schaller believes that Mainline Churches are crumbling because we have met conditions we were not designed to meet. Schaller asks a very piercing question, “When the actual outcomes do not match the desired results, whom do we blame?" Schaller lists three reasons that our churches are crumbling.

1. Inadequate human resources--We simply have not produced the leaders we need for today.

2. We have designed our churches "...to serve a foreseeable set of circumstances. When the circumstances changed on us we did not change our systems

3. It is three times as difficult to be an effective pastor today as it was in 1955. Peoples' expectations of the pastor have changed and the context in which we live and do ministry has changed.

Your thoughts?

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July 28, 2005 in Leadership Issues, Trends in Today's Church | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Conflict? Ask Ken: The Escalating Stages of Unresolved Church Conflict

FistIntroduction
Two intensifying processes take place throughout the stages of unresolved conflict: (1) an increasing personal frustration over the unresolved issue(s), and (2) an increasing negative perception of the character of the other person / people. Church conflict can deteriorate to such an unmanageable level, that barring a miracle, a major rupture within the church is inevitable. The need for a congregation to call upon the services of a conflict resolution specialist before the
conflict goes beyond the point of no return can be pivotal to the church's health, well-being, and even functional survival. Consider the escalating stages of unresolved church conflict. 

1.  (Sometimes) An Uncomfortable Feeling
Something doesn't feel right. You can't quite put your finger on it. Nothing explicit has been mentioned.

2.  A Problem To Be Resolved  (issue-focused)
An identifiable problem has emerged and dealing with that matter is the focus. The participants are civil and respectful to one another as they each share their perspective. Solutions are proposed and, in most instances, issues are resolved in a calm and collaborative fashion to everyone's satisfaction. But if this is not the case.... 

3.  A Person To Differ With  (other person-focused)
The focus of conversation changes from what should be done and what is the best solution, to a debate of who is right and who is wrong. Frustration sets in because the attempt to achieve one's goals is undermined by another. Parties may become more cautious in dealing with each other. The dispute can still be constructive if the parties make a greater effort to see the other person's point of view. On the other hand, if the matter is not resolved, the situation can easily deteriorate into destructive conflict.

4.  A Dispute To Win    (issue-focused, greater intensity)
Collaboration wanes. Other issues adding to the conflict often appear, confusing matters. Disputing parties communicate less to each other and more about each other with those who take their respective side.  And while there may not be an intent to hurt one's opponent, it often results. Because the overriding goal is for one's needs to be met or interests to prevail, there appears to be
less concern about how that affects others, further exacerbating the conflict. One side comes to believe that the other cares little about them. As one side seeks to achieve it's goals, the other side feels like their interests are being all-too-readily dismissed or sacrificed. Action then begets counteraction. The longer this conflict remains unresolved, the more a person's own identity comes into play.

Discussion
Additional stages of escalating church conflict will follow in the next two weeks.  In the meantime, what is your opinion on Ken’s concept that escalating conflict can be reduced to the intensifying of two processes: an increasing personal frustration over the unresolved issue(s), and an increasing negative perception of the character of the other person / people? 

On a more personal level, can you describe for the rest of us church conflict you have witnessed or been a part of in terms of how it began?  What were the early stages of its development?  May we learn from each other what to be on the look-out for!

FOR OTHER ARTICLES BY KEN ON CHURCH CONFLICT... click here

FOR OTHER ARTICLES BY KEN ON "THE NEWBERGER PROJECT... click here

--

Unique_help_1  © 2005 Kenneth C. Newberger
Ken Newberger, an experienced church conflict resolution and development 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 develop a communicatively healthy church,  please visit Ken's website  at www.ResolveChurchConflict.com  or call 301-253-8877.

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July 28, 2005 in Church Conflict | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Why Doesn't the First Service "Get It"?

Pews Can you relate?  This just in from LarkNews...

AUSTIN — Pastor Bruce Smith's funny sermon-starter went over vastly better in second service than in first.

The cute illustration, involving a child who mis-read a Bible verse as "be ye one another's burdens," caused only scattered chuckles in first service. Smith's face pinked up and he moved on to his sermon.

But in second service the audience responded with a roar of laughter.

"I think I told it with a little more oomph," he said later, resting in his office. "I had my rhythm in second service. It's hard to nail a joke the first time out."

The appreciative response was "really gratifying," he said. He believes the joke will "hit the eight-o'clockers later in the day."

At my church, we have three services... the first is at 8:00.  The early service is always a different crowd.  Could be that they're just not awake yet.  :)

FOR DISCUSSION:  Anyone have any great stories about how something went over or flopped in first service (or any service for that matter?)

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July 27, 2005 in Humor | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Mixing Technology and Ministry: Don't Make These Mistakes!

Technology_1 My blogging friend Anthony D. Coppedge had a great post recently that discusses the comments of his pastor, Ed Young, from Fellowship Church in Dallas on the issues of technology in the church.  These are some great tips for you and your church when you consider the impact and use of technology in your ministry.  Anthony writes...

My Pastor, Ed Young, Jr., of Fellowship Church, sends out a "Leadership Uncensored" newsletter for people subscribed to CreativePastors.com. In the latest issue, he gave five practical tips on using media & technology.

I've listed his 5 points and brief explanations below in quote boxes. I've then added my own thoughts - from the techie side of the fence - as I think this is really great stuff and deserves some additional dialogue.

1. Who are the toys really for? When you are considering new technology and media purchases, ask yourself this question: Are they really going to help communicate God's unchanging truth? Or are they just toys?

Ed's point is dead-on target - and he's really aiming his criticism, rightfully so, at us techies. We're guilty of always wanting the latest and greatest technology, even when it's not something we need. When you stop and think about it, many pastors get frustrated because there are those of us who are always complaining about what we don't have.

This causes two big problems: 1) It lessens your credibility as a solutionist; 2) Techies have, for the most part, earned the reputation of being unsatisfied with what we have. Instead of using what we do have to the best of our ability and - here's the kicker - documenting and proposing what kind of changes can be made to meet the vision of the leadership, we simply say "we can't do that" or "we need more budget for better equipment".

By opening up an honest communication with our Pastors about what's possible, what's probable and what's impractical, we can help our leadership understand that sometimes we really do need better equipment, because it solves a problem, not because it's the latest widget.

2. Put people in place first. When you set out on the technology path, don't start with equipment needs. First go out and find people you can trust to help you make the right decisions. Whether they are staff, volunteers, partners or consultants, make sure they have the right training and experience to give you quality information and advice on wise technology purchases.

HELLO! There is such a huge amount of truth in this statement! I'd even add to Ed's suggestion by saying hire experts to check your staff and volunteers out! Training who you have is always a good idea, and getting an outside perspective is usually very beneficial. By investing in our people first, we can make sure that when new technology is added, we have the talent and expertise to utilize it fully.

3. Make the investment to get it right. Technical mistakes can turn a worship experience into nothing more than a performance evaluation. When you use media and technology to fuel your weekend services, make sure your church can commit the resources to make it a seamless experience. Spend the money to get equipment that will make it look professional. And then, set aside time for your staff to practice and rehearse.

Two HUGE statements are in that short paragraph: 1) Don't spend your money over and over again poorly; 2) Set aside time to practice and rehearse. I'll tackle these one at a time.

Don't Buy It Three Times is an article I wrote (it's in my Subscriber's only section) that takes the famous Don Davis quote and expounds on it. This is worth a read!

When Ed says "take time to practice and rehearse", he's not talking about 30 minutes before service. Look, even if you're a porta-church without a permanent facility, your team can still practice! How? By planning ahead! If your team has a copy of the songs, sermon outline, order of service, or any other pre-planned items, it's possible for each person to practice on their own.

For example, if your graphics person has a CD with the songs that will be used on the upcoming weekend, they can ensure the song lyrics are typed the way the song is sung (and not just how the CCLI Song Select database or worship software thinks it should look), the graphics fit the background and that the sermon notes and outline are ready and spellchecked. These are minimal things that any size church can do.

If you're really fortunate and have a Creative Planning Team, then the practice becomes even easier to delegate.

4. Be curious. You don't need to become a technical expert on every piece of equipment, but it is worth the time to educate yourself on the basics. Get a general grasp on how the different elements of lighting, sound and camera work come together to create a meaningful service.

I often tell the story of how I would ask my pastor or music minister or whoever was asking for a video to come in during the planning meetings and editing sessions. The first-hand experience of simply watching how long it takes to create a polished 3 minute video is incredibly helpful for them. Once they understand the time factor involved with quality media, one of two things should happen: 1) They start giving you more time to do a project when they first ask for your help and/or 2) they let you hire the right people and get the right equipment to meet the perceived expectation in their time frame.

One last thought about this point: it's not the Pastor's job to know how to do what we do. Chances are, they're not going to be "techies" like us. I submit that it is our responsibility to translate what we do and speak their lingo instead of Tech-ese.

5. Let your vision determine your direction. Too often, churches buy technology and media equipment that takes them in a different direction from their vision. The direction you go should be determined by the vision, not the technology. Ask yourself where you are and where you want to go. Then make a plan to get there. That way your media and technology decisions will mirror and underscore the direction the church is going.

WOW. The best statement of the five! When your pastor has the freedom and support to ask "what's possible for my vision" and can partner with you to create a plan to get there, you're on the right track. Unfortunately, many (most?) church techs don't have a strong, positive relationship with their pastors. Indeed, I believe that the vast majority of pastors live in frustration when in comes to communicating their expectations with people who typically can't speak plainly when it comes to high-tech. Worse, while they may personally like their tech director, the frustration level these pastors experience leads them to either stop asking for media support or have an almost adversarial relationship with techs that, in their mind, can't relate to them.

Along with this line of thinking comes my famous quote: "Don't Xerox a Mega Church!"

I'm all for copying something that's working well, but only when it fits the context of what we do, who we are, how we work and where we worship. No two churches are totally alike. In the same way, it's not smart to try and use the same technology or adopt the exact procedures of a large, media-savvy church. Instead, develop the trust, open communications and ensure the vision of leading your Media ministry is in synch with the vision of your church leadership. By doing so, you'll know that the implementation of technology is appropriate for your church.

Well said, Anthony! Anyone have any additional thoughts?

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July 27, 2005 in Technology in the Church | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack