Discover the Largest Social Media Platform that Few Churches Are Using

In my latest book, Meet Generation Z, I detail the importance of the visual for Generation Z. In a new survey, Adweek confirmed the pre-existing research and conclusions.

Teaming up with Defy Media, they asked a group of nearly 1,500 teens ages 13-20 what they think about everything from social media platforms to digital video to the new breed of online celebrity.

The overarching headline that reflects the deeply online nature of their lives and their almost entirely visual orientation is that nearly all of them use YouTube (95%), and half “can’t live without it.” Not surprisingly, Instagram came in second in terms of usage (69%). Snapchat has now climbed to equal Facebook usage (67%), but when it comes to keeping in touch with their friends, Snapchat rules.

All of you Millennials still using Pinterest will find only 33% of Generation Z even know what you are talking about. Even Google is used only by 37% of their peers.

The combination of growing up online and their orientation to the visual has led them to value online, “social” celebrities more than mainstream celebrities. They trust their advice/endorsement more when it comes to everything from beauty products to tech gadgets.

But make no mistake: it’s all about the visual, and they are getting that visual primarily (for now) through YouTube.

It’s the primary way they get their news, tied with Facebook (23%).

It’s the number one place, by far, to get a good laugh (51%).

It’s the top go-to for shopping recommendations (24%), followed by Instagram (17%).

So what does this mean for the church?

Let’s go for low hanging fruit here: start using YouTube!

Here’s five simple ways to begin using YouTube to reach a YouTube generation:

1. Start a YouTube Channel.

It’s increasingly common for churches of all sizes to self-produce videos that are used in weekend services, student ministry and children’s ministry. Why not start your own YouTube channel for those videos? At Meck, we are developing multiple channels, and probably putting the most energy into the one for MecKidz, our ministry to children birth-fifth grade. This not only reinforces what they learned/saw on the weekend, but is in an easy way to share it with friends.

2. Use YouTube Videos.

If the most popular form of communication and discourse is visual in nature and housed on YouTube then, for goodness sake, use what people are talking about! Viral videos can be used as sermon illustrations, talking points, even for the basis of showing a point of view you wish to disagree with. If I can “show” something instead of “tell” it, I go for “show” every time. Sometimes they can just be a fun way to get into a topic that everyone can identify with or enjoy. For example, I did a 4-week series titled “Viral Verses” on the four most popular verses popping up on Bible apps and social media. Each week, I began by showing the most viral comedic video trending that week.

3. Develop YouTube-Style Videos.

When you develop videos – and as mentioned, many churches of all sizes find this feasible – consider the kinds of videos that are popular on YouTube. Most are not polished, but they do have identifiable styles and cuts, angles and vibes. Our children’s ministry team continually studies the most popular YouTube channels oriented toward children to stay abreast of style, and then develops our videos in similar fashion as a cultural bridge. For adults, think of the enormous popularity of DIY (do-it-yourself) videos, or TED talks. Take cues from what’s clearly popular when you develop your own.

4. Study YouTube Videos Culturally.

If we are an increasingly visual culture, and YouTube is the primary medium housing those visuals, then start studying YouTube culturally. Consider it “Missiology 101.” If you were to be dropped deep into the Amazon basin to reach an unreached people’s group, you would intuitively study their language, dress, music and more. The reality is that you are a missionary. And in most Western countries of the world, that is going to mean studying YouTube. When you do, here is what I would suggest you look for: 1) topics that seem to be of interest; 2) how people communicate, both stylistically and actual verbiage; 3) what are the most popular/viewed videos, and what seem to be their themes; and 4) obvious ways of thinking being manifest that you can either take advantage of or must learn new apologetics to counter.

5. YouTube Your Website.

Generation Z won’t read an ad, but they will watch one. They may not read a book, but they’ll see the film. So when it comes to your website, they may not read much of your written copy, but they’ll watch a short video. So rethink your website and move away from extensive writing to numerous short videos that present information about the page they are visiting. Emphasis on short. If you visit Meck’s website (mecklenburg.org), you’ll find very few pages that do not have an embedded video.

This is, of course, a very narrow set of suggestions related to one visual repository. The idea of becoming more visual in light of a culture that is increasingly visual can take on any number of forms – how you present music, how you illustrate a message, how you convey a story, how you capture attention, and how you move someone emotionally.

But let’s state the obvious:

… start with YouTube.

> Read more from James Emery White here.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Reaching the 20Somethings

Quick: Who are you trying to reach?

Please don’t say “everyone.” If you are crafting a strategy to reach “everyone,” you are virtually guaranteed to reach “no one.” Think of light. Light that is diffused does very little in terms of penetration. Focus it through a magnifying glass and you can set something on fire. Focus it into a laser and you can cut through sheet metal.

So let’s get focused on who we are trying to reach for maximum impact.

First, if we really are talking about outreach, then you are not after the already convinced. So let’s rule them out. Let’s rule out the de-churched, too. Sure, they should be in a church, but they are already believers.

Let’s be hardcore.

Which means we’re talking about the unchurched unbeliever. The raw meat for evangelism. The testosterone for the mission. The person far from God. The one who doesn’t give much thought, if any, to Jesus, to heaven and hell, and certainly not to a church.

But we’re still not done.

Who is the average person in this category?

A 26-year-old. Yes, 26. Right now in the United States, 26-year-olds are the largest single cohort, numbering 4.8 million. And just in case you want to know, 25-, 27- and 24-year-olds follow close behind (in that order).

They live on the cusp of many of life’s most defining moments: choosing a career, buying a house and having children.

But there is a challenge.

They need remedial education in… well… almost everything. Take a cue from the marketplace, which is, as usual, ahead of the church on such matters. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, “The Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. has started offering gardening lessons for young homeowners that cover basic tips – really, really basic – like making sure sunlight can reach plants.”

Jim King, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Scotts, said: “These are simple things we wouldn’t have really thought to do or needed to do 15 to 20 years ago. But this is a group who may not have grown up putting their hands in the dirt growing their vegetable garden in mom and dad’s backyard.”

This shouldn’t be a surprise for a generation with “over-scheduled childhoods, tech-dependent lifestyles and delayed adulthood.” They are so different, in fact, “that companies are developing new products, overhauling marketing and launching educational programs—all with the goal of luring the archetypal 26-year-old.”

So companies such as Scotts, Home Depot Inc., Proctor & Gamble Co., Williams-Sonoma Inc’s West Elm and the Sherwin-Williams Co. “are hosting classes and online tutorials to teach such basic skills as how to mow the lawn, use a tape measure, mop a floor, hammer a nail and pick a paint color.”

In other words, they need the education before they can even begin to consider a purchasing decision.

Or even a purchasing need.

I hope you smell the application coming.

If you want to reach a 26-year-old unchurched unbeliever, you will need to go remedial. The heart of evangelism, and the apologetics that softens the ground for evangelism, will have to pay fresh attention to explanation.

For example, we did a series titled, “How to Bible.” As in, how to read it, how to apply it and how to believe it. Right now we are in a series called “Thru the Bible in 7 Weeks.” It’s an overview of all the big themes and ideas of the Bible, including introductions to all 66 books. In today’s climate, it’s critical to offer the most basic of introductions to the identity and nature of Jesus, Trinity, grace, prayer and sin. Beyond theology, when it comes to a relationship with God, there needs to be practical attention paid to such practices as prayer, worship and community.

Remember, you are trying to reach a 26-year-old who needs remedial education on all things in life, and this includes the spiritual.

Give it to them.

And then watch how your newly focused outreach to the unchurched actually starts reaching them.

Read more from James Emery White.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
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What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

8 Strategic Decisions that Serve Your Mission

At the church I pastor, Mecklenburg Community Church (Meck), our mission is clear: to help spiritual explorers become fully devoted followers of Christ. In our culture, we’ve observed that the “nones” – those with no religious affiliation – are on the rise and, as a direct result of this, Generation Z is proving to be the first truly post-Christian generation.

In order for Meck to be effective at not only reaching the unchurched, but unchurched nones and (specifically) Generation Z, we realized that we had to make some decisions. Eight decisions, to be precise, that have proven to be strategic in serving our mission.

1. Rethinking Evangelism

It is time to rethink evangelism, and that begins with capturing a new understanding of evangelism; one that sees evangelism as both a process and an event. When someone comes to saving faith in Christ, there is both an adoption process and an actual decision event. In light of today’s realities, there must be fresh attention paid to the process that leads people to the event of salvation. The goal is not simply knowing how to articulate the means of coming to Christ, but how to facilitate and enable the person to progress from a point of having no relationship with Christ to one where they are even able to consider accepting Christ in a responsible fashion.

2. Adopting an Acts 17 Model

In Acts 2, we find Peter speaking to the God-fearing Jews of Jerusalem. His sermon wasn’t even the length of a good blog, yet 3,000 repented because they had a good, foundational knowledge of the Scriptures.

Move forward to Acts 17, with Paul on Mars Hill speaking to the philosophers and spiritual seekers of Athens. Here was a spiritual marketplace where truth was relative, worldviews and gods littered the landscape, and the average person wouldn’t know the difference between Isaac and an iPad. Sound familiar? Paul couldn’t take an Acts 2 approach here, much less give an Acts 2 message. He had to find a new way to connect with the culture and the people in it. He had to go all the way back to the beginning of creation and work his way forward.

This is precisely where we find ourselves today. Which means our primary cultural currency needs to be explanation.

3. Being Cultural Missionaries

I think we all know what a good missionary would do if dropped into the darkest recesses of the Amazon basin to reach an unreached people group. They would learn the language, try to understand the customs and rituals, and work to translate the Scriptures – particularly the message of the Gospel – into the indigenous language. When it comes to worship, they would incorporate the musical styles and instruments of the people. They might even attempt to dress more like them. In short, they would try to build every cultural bridge they could into the world of that unreached people group in order to bring Christ to bear.

Why is it that what would be so natural, so obvious, so clear to do in that missiological setting is so resisted in the West?

In being cultural missionaries, we must be laser sharp in our focus, which means pulling out all the stops to reach the unchurched in our city.

4. Skewing Young

One of the natural flows of the church is that left to itself, the church will grow old. It will age. And that means, by default, you will not reach the coming generations. So while the goal is not to simply be a church for young people, neither is the goal to be a church for old people – a church that will have one generational cycle before closing its doors. This means the leadership of the church must invest a disproportionate amount of energy and intentionality in order to maintain a vibrant population of young adults.

At Meck, we’ve used three simple strategies to accomplish this goal: 1) To attract young people, you have to hire young people; 2) To attract young people, you have to platform young people; and, 3) To attract young people, you have to acknowledge young people.

Bottom line? Sometimes bridging a cultural divide is as simple as who you hire, who you put on stage, and who you acknowledge.

5. Targeting Men

At Meck we unashamedly target men in our outreach, in our messages, in our… well, almost everything. We have become convinced through years of experience that if you get the man, you get everyone else within his orbit – specifically, his wife and his children.

What does it mean to target men? It means you think about male sensibilities in terms of music and message, vocabulary and style. One of the most frequent things we hear from women is: “My husband loves this church. I could never get him to church before. But now he comes here even when I don’t!” And she will go where he wants to go. Get him, you get her. Get him and her, you get the family. It’s as simple as that.

6. Prioritizing Children’s Ministry

At Meck, we prioritize children’s ministry above every other ministry. Why? Because it is the most important ministry for the mission of the church. Too many churches treat children’s ministry as a necessary evil. It’s often severely underfunded, understaffed and underappreciated. Wake up. Children are the heart of your growth engine. And if an unchurched person ever was to come to your church uninvited, it would probably be for the sake of their kids. And if they come because they were invited, what you do with their children will be a deal breaker. If you want to reach Generation Z, realize that many of them are in your children’s ministry right now or will only be reached if they choose to enter it. Make sure that when they do, it is an experience that will have them begging to come back.

7. Cultivating a Culture of Invitation

At Meck, a culture of invitation is both cultivated and celebrated. That’s what we do and what we’re after. We talk about inviting our friends and family all the time. We create tools to put in the hands of people to use to invite their friends all the time. We celebrate and honor people who invite people all the time.

Such tools can be something as simple as pens with the name of our church and our website to hand to someone needing a pen, or empty pizza boxes with a card inside inviting them to Meck and a voucher for a free pizza – no strings attached – to bring to someone when you see a moving truck. For special times in the life of the church, like Easter and Christmas, we design tools to be fun – fun to give and fun to receive. People use these things all the time to reach out to their unchurched family, friends, neighbors and anyone else they interact with in their orbit.

8. Discipling Your Mission

I cannot begin to express how important it is to “disciple your mission.” I’ve never heard that phrase, so let me coin it. To “disciple your mission” means that you develop your discipleship, first and foremost, around who it is you are trying to reach. We are trying to reach the unchurched, and even more than that, the nones, in view of the pressing challenge of the rise of Generation Z. So our discipleship is going to be two-fold: serve the needs of our existing believers for missional engagement, and disciple the newly converted on the most foundational aspects of Christian life and thought.

So where does discipleship find its home at Meck? It’s not in the weekend service and it’s not even through small groups. We created the Meck Institute, a community-college approach to discipleship that offers classes, seminars, experiences and events designed wholly for spiritual growth and formation. They are offered on all days of the week at a variety of times, and we also have online classes.

So those are our eight strategic decisions. But here’s the secret sauce – the ingredient behind all of those decisions.

We really are on mission.

We really are turned outward. We really are after the unchurched. Really.

Our mission is one of the most important values that we hold as a church and one that shapes everything we do. What is killing the church today is having the mission focused on keeping Christians within the church happy, well fed, and growing. Discipleship is continually pitted against evangelism and championed as the endgame for the church.

The mission cannot be about us…

… it must be about those who have not crossed the line of faith.


 

Read more from James Emery White

 


Contact an Auxano Navigator to learn how strategy can serve your mission.

 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

10 Solutions to Consider When Your Church Isn’t Growing

It’s one of the most pressing questions pastors and church leaders ask themselves:

“Why aren’t we growing?”

To be sure, not every mission’s soil will yield the same fruit. We’re not talking about overall size, but rather the idea that biblically, we can assume that God wants every church that honors His name and proclaims His message in Christ to grow and that He is willing to empower it to that end.

Churches are living things. Living things grow. If you’re not growing – even if just in compensation to what you’ve lost through transition – something is wrong.

Again, it doesn’t have to be by much. Those churches in smaller communities who are growing by five people a year may actually be growing at a higher percentage of the available population than the “mega” churches.

So take heart.

But if you are not growing at all, or declining…well, God isn’t the problem. We are.

Here are ten areas to consider as to “why”:

1. Leadership

It’s been said that everything rises and falls on leadership. Perhaps a more accurate way of putting it would be that no organization will rise above the level of its leadership.If, on a scale of 1-10, the current leadership is around a “4,” then it will be difficult for the church to grow beyond that level in terms of vision, effectiveness, strategy and impact.

Solution: Ensure that people with the spiritual gift of leadership are actually leading, and that they are committed to developing that gift by reading about leadership, getting around other leaders for insight, and exercising their leadership gift in challenging settings.

2. Communication

There are few things more critical to a church’s growth than an effective communicator for weekend teaching. The dilemma is that many who serve as the primary communicators in their church aren’t Spirit-gifted teachers. They like to speak, and the group that gathers around their teaching seems to benefit from it, but the majority of listeners tend to vote with their feet. At the very least, the teaching doesn’t seem to be catalyzing the congregation to invite their friends.

Solution: Make sure that the point communicator has the spiritual gift of teaching and is actively working at developing that gift by listening to other gifted communicators. Don’t be afraid of developing a team-teaching approach to shore up weakness, or to adjust responsibilities so that various roles more accurately reflect gifting. In other words, perhaps someone has been serving as lead communicator when their gifts are better used in another area. This is a difficult maneuver for, as stated above, people who are speaking tend to like to speak and have a (perhaps) distorted view of their effect.

3. Quality of Worship

The quality of the worship experience is more important even than its style. If the service itself seems slapped together, incoherent or unable to be embraced, then it will not provide the traction needed for ongoing growth. To be sure, worship is not about what we get out of it, but what God gets out of it. But the better that service is at helping people connect with God, the more people it will attract. And lest we forget, the weekend service is the “front door” of the church. So it’s where we “win” or “lose” people. Which means part of the “helping people connect” dynamic will include helping those far from God connect to God through what we offer.

Solution: Review the music, presentation, style and quality of the worship experience of your church in light of its ability to optimally serve and engage people. View the services of larger, faster-growing churches that you feel are biblically and theologically sound for benchmarks. If you are continually plagued by forgotten lyrics, missed notes and awkward transitions, consider planning meetings for your services and run-through rehearsals of critical parts. And by all means, look at your service through the eyes of someone far from God and deeply unchurched.

4. Atmosphere

Every church has an atmosphere, but not all have an atmosphere of friendliness and acceptance. Let’s put it bluntly: every church thinks it’s friendly. But what that often means is they are friendly to each other, friendly to people they know, friendly to people they like or friendly to people who are like them.

Solution: If you haven’t already, consider developing an entire ministry around first impressions and the creation of a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. At Meck, we call it “Guest Services,” and it oversees parking lot attendants, greeters, ushers, hospitality and so much more – all geared toward the experience of first impressions and friendliness. It’s one of our largest and most strategic efforts. In fact, one of the leading reasons people return to Meck is our friendliness.

5. Location

The physical location of a church, if you want to grow by inviting people to attend, is decisive. If it is hard to find, hard to get to, too small in size, has insufficient parking, is difficult to enter or exit due to road traffic,

…then you are artificially limiting the size of your church.

In essence, the shoe tells the foot how big it gets.

Solution: Much of solving location problems is logistical in nature. Hire off-duty police to help people enter and exit your services. Increase the number of your services. Develop a capital campaign to help pay for increasing the size of your auditorium or parking. If needed, simply move to a new location. That may seem dramatic, but it’s often critical. Going “multi-site” is also proving to be a helpful strategy for many churches facing location issues.

6. Structure

Most church structures are not “structured” for growth, much less unity. As an organization, you have to be able to seize opportunities, streamline decision-making and unleash the leadership gift. There is so much that could be said on this, so…

Solution: Read my chapter on “Rethinking Structure” in Rethinking the Church. Do away with committees, across-the-board majority rule and endless policies. Read the chapter and you’ll see why.

7. Methods

Values and doctrine are timeless; methods and strategies are not. Think of a method as a very time-bound approach to solving a problem or answering a challenge. A vast number of churches are employing methods that simply aren’t viable. They hold on to them out of an unfounded sense of loyalty, or even worse, a sense of orthodoxy. Methods don’t fall into that camp.

Solution: Go to school on other churches and their methods. Further, make a list of all of your methods that haven’t been evaluated in five years. That’s your “to do” list.

8. Blind Spots

Blind spots are interesting…they are what you do NOT see. Others can, but you can’t. It’s been said that we all have them – actually, many of them. Do you know yours? Do you know where you are weak, outdated, sloppy, understaffed, wrongly staffed, poorly funded…

Solution: Bring in “mystery” worshipers, or outside consultants, to observe you, talk to you, counsel you. Get 20/20 vision on as much as you possibly can.

9. Not Fueling Growth Engines

Every church has one or more “growth engines.” These are the ministries that fuel whatever growth you have. Most will think of their weekend services; and to be sure, that is a powerful growth engine. But many of your sub-ministries offer the same, if not more, of your overall growth power. For example, at Meck our weekend services may be a powerful engine, but we tend to think that MecKidz is even MORE powerful. So we give it what it needs to grow. Right now, it has the largest staff and the most square-footage of building space of any ministry.

Why?

It grows our church.

Solution: Fund your growth engines. Repeat: FUND YOUR GROWTH ENGINES. And look beyond the weekend. The biggest growth engine of all, in most churches, is the children’s ministry.

10. Unity

Jesus made it clear that unity would be THE verifying mark on His message. A unified church is a growing church. Period.

Solution: Do the hard leadership work of confronting division, dissension and disunity. See the chapter titled “No Tolerance” in What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary (Baker).

One Last Thought

The most important principle I could pass on is this: think like a lost person.

Really.

Think like someone far from God, divorced from church, coming to your church, would think.

Then…

…change things.

Not the message. Heaven forbid. But do change anything and everything that would be a barrier to this person engaging Christ that does not involve altering the message of Christ.

Read more from James.


If you’re not satisfied with your church’s growth, start a conversation with our team. We’re glad to offer our input. Your vision is at stake, so let’s talk.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Excellent & Efficient: What the Church Can Learn from Chick-Fil-A

My oldest son and his wife recently gave birth to our fourth grandchild. On our way to the hospital, while his wife was still in labor, our son asked us to pick up some breakfast. The only place by the hospital was a McDonald’s.

We went through the drive-thru and couldn’t help but notice the trash in the parking lot and the beat-up feel to the entire locale. When we reached the menu/order station, we were greeted with a monotone, bored voice, “Can I take your order.”

It wasn’t even a question. Just a statement.

When we pulled around to the first window to pay, the woman never made eye contact with us; she just took our card and handed it back with the receipt.

I said, “Thank you.”

She never even replied. She just closed the window.

We pulled to the next window, got our order, and at least this time we were met with a brief, “Thank you.”

Later that same week, we went to Chick-fil-A. We always like going there because they have good food, it’s clean and bathed in a Christian ethos with impeccable customer service.

The difference between Chick-fil-A and our McDonald’s experience could not have been starker. The drive-thru line was served by energetic and pleasant young people with mobile devices able to take our order and payment to speed up the process. We were greeted with eye contact, smiles, “How can I serve you?” and, if you know Chick-fil-A well, lots of “My pleasure!” in response to any and all requests. I was told to have a great day. I was asked if there was anything else I needed. I was told how much I was appreciated.

I remember turning to my wife, even though we’ve been to Chick-fil-A a thousand times, to say: “It just doesn’t take that much to have good customer service. Why don’t other places do it like Chick-fil-A? It’s just not that hard to be nice and courteous and friendly.”

Chick-fil-A costs more than McDonald’s. The lines are sometimes longer (because it’s popular). They only serve chicken.

But I don’t care.

One “My pleasure!” is worth a thousand burgers.

What does this have to do with the church?

A member of our staff was serving this past weekend at one of our newer campuses and sent me an email following the experience. She was teaching a class there through the Meck Institute titled “Find Your Fit.” She met a woman who, through the class, decided she wanted to join our Guest Services Team.

Why?

Here’s the rest of her email:

“She said that’s what drew her to Meck because they made her feel so at home. Her kids noticed it too. A friend of hers asked her middle school daughter, I believe it was, why she likes going to Meck so much.

“She said, ‘Everyone is so nice and so welcoming. Let me put it this way. It’s the difference between the customer service at McDonald’s and Chick-Fil-A.’ I thought that was such a sweet (and creative) compliment to our Guest Services Team.”

I did too.

> Read more from James Emery White.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Welcoming the Unchurched to Church

I recently read an article from a professional “mystery worshiper” who works with churches to help evaluate and improve their friendliness and guest relations.

It was a good and helpful article. I found myself nodding in agreement with almost all of it.

Almost.

Not every guest who ventures to visit your church is created equal. On the broadest level, there are churched guests and unchurched guests. By churched, I mean they have a church background, are relatively comfortable and familiar with church world, and are there as a consumer. The unchurched do not have a church background, are not comfortable or familiar with church world, and are there (at best) as an explorer.

What difference does this make?

Quite a bit.

Consider one of the most commonly suggested steps to making a first-time guest feel welcome: designated parking. I’ve seen this done in many ways, such as signs that direct first-time guests to turn on their headlights (and based on that, they are guided toward special parking), or signage that simply directs first-time guests toward a designated parking area.

The parking is clearly marked for “Guests” or “VIPs”. Beyond being close to the church, those parking there are often met by volunteers who greet them, offer first-time guest materials, and even escort them into the church and through any children’s ministry registration needs they might have.

It sounds impressive.

In practice it looks impressive.

But who wants this kind of treatment?

Only the churched.

Churched people want to be welcomed, recognized, get questions answered, meet staff and, yes, park in designated guest parking.

The typical first-time unchurched guest wants anything BUT recognition. They don’t want to be singled out. They don’t want to be targeted. We used to joke that they didn’t want to “say anything, sing anything, sign anything, give anything or do anything.” We find that many first-time guests do not even want to take advantage of putting their child in children’s ministry.

At least, not at first.

It’s the same with special tabs on websites for “planning your visit”, which can include preregistering your child for children’s ministry, being escorted around by a volunteer, and more.

Again, that’s good.

But for churched people.

(I couldn’t help but smile at one church’s “planning a visit” page that also housed their online giving portal. Forget “churched” or “unchurched” – I’m not sure they understood the idea of “guest.”)

So design your guest experience any way you want. Just remember to put yourself in your guest’s shoes.

And know which guest that is.


 

> Read more from James.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The 5 Non-negotiables of Leadership

What does a leader do? The answers (and books) are endless. But there are five things every leader must do for the organization they lead, not least of which when it comes to the church.

1. Uphold Core Values

Every organization has a set of core values (At least, I hope they do). It is the leader’s job to uphold those values. To make sure they are followed, honored and embraced. If a core value is “excellence,” then that value is only as real and formative as a leader makes it by upholding it throughout the organization.

At Meck we have 10:

  • The Bible is true and the catalyst for life change.
  • Lost people matter to God and, therefore, they should matter to us.
  • We aim to be culturally relevant while remaining doctrinally pure.
  • It is normal to manifest authenticity and to grow spiritually.
  • We want to be a unified community of servants stewarding their spiritual gifts.
  • Loving relationships should permeate the life of the church.
  • Life change happens best through relationships.
  • Excellence honors God and inspires people.
  • We are to be led by leaders and structured biblically.
  • Full devotion to Christ is normal.

My job is to uphold all 10; celebrating when one is fleshed out, admonishing when one is not.

2. Cast Missional Vision

If there was one task almost universally affirmed for a leader, it is casting vision. But not just any vision – it must be the casting of missional vision. If we’re taking a hill, you need to define where the hill is and why it is worth taking.

Meaning: “Here’s the target on the wall. Here’s what we’re trying to do.”

On a more personal level, casting missional vision is helping individuals see how they are contributing to the vision in ways that expand their own vision about their investment.

It’s walking up to a person serving in the nursery and saying: “I’m so glad you’re serving. Thank you. Because of you, there’s a young couple in the service able to explore what Christ can mean for their lives. That’s what you’re doing.”

3. Create Unity

The Bible teaches that the number one requirement for becoming a pastor is leading your own personal family well. Why? Because the church is a family. Almost every organization would be served by being led as if it were a family. The question is whether it is a functional family or a dysfunctional family. The answer lies in whether the “parent” does the hard work of keeping everyone unified relationally.

A good leader works to bring parties together, work through conflict, and create open lines of communication. I’ll never forget a time when my two daughters were at a relational impasse at the tender ages of 8 and 6. Susan sat them down, brought them together and helped them talk it through. It ended, if I recall, in a time of prayer.

My wife is a good leader. My daughters are close friends to this day.

That is the goal organizationally.

4. Give Permission

Only a leader can give permission. This isn’t about control, but the privilege of turning people loose. A leader enables people to develop their gifts, chase ministry dreams, take risks and explore new ventures. In fact, the Apostle Paul wrote in the New Testament letter of Ephesians that the job of a church leader is to equip people for ministry. A leader clears the way for people to follow paths of God’s design and leading.

Going further, a good leader sees things in people and encourages them to explore things they never dreamed of for themselves. So it’s not simply permission, but provocation. It’s putting your arm around someone’s shoulders and saying, “I see you doing this,” or “I think you could make a difference here.”

5. Develop Other Leaders

I don’t know if I have ever read this statement (I can’t believe it would be original to me), but I believe it to the core of my being: “Only a leader can develop another leader.”

Which means that developing other leaders is one of the indispensable things a leader must do. At Meck, we’ve developed an entire Leadership Development Program through which we take 100 burgeoning leaders annually. It’s a one-year program that requires reading six books, attending three seminars (on leadership, mission and values, and the personal life of the leader), attending a three-day retreat (covering a course on systematic theology), cohort gatherings, engaging the annual Church & Culture Conference, and more.

Sound robust? It is.

It’s also one of the most important things I do.

So there are five things a leader must do. There are many more, of course, but these five?

All are musts.


Talk with an Auxano Navigator about leadership in your church.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Five Movements to Maximize Outreach Effectiveness

With culture in such a rapid state of flux, with the dominant headline being the increasingly post-Christian nature of our world, many churches are uncertain how best to respond in terms of outreach. They know they aren’t reaching the unchurched as effectively as they would like, but they don’t always feel comfortable trying to emulate the fast-growing models they see and hear so much about.

More specifically, they don’t feel they can. You walk through a megachurch children’s ministry and see a built-in climbing wall in a first-grade room, and it’s hard to know what there is to feel except envy.

Fair enough.

So here are five outreach shifts that almost every church should be able to make – regardless of style or structure, tradition or denomination – that will help situate your church toward greater effectiveness at reaching the unchurched. And each one can be followed no matter your church size and no matter your budget.

1. Change Your Outreach Focus from Easter to Christmas Eve.

Here’s something that isn’t often talked about, but I’m prepared to say is a new principle: Christmas Eve is the Super Bowl of outreach, not Easter.

There are many reasons for this, and none of them have anything to do with the church. Here are two: 1) an ever-increasing number of schools and colleges schedule their spring breaks around Easter, making Easter weekend one of the biggest “suitcase” weekends (travel/vacation weekends) of the year; 2) Easter has been effectively secularized into little more than the bunnies and egg hunts.

So why is Christmas Eve better for outreach?

First, unlike Easter and the resurrection, it continues to be primarily related to the birth of Jesus. Second, it is not a “suitcase” night – if people travel, it is to gather with other family members, not vacation. Third, unlike the “weekend” or Sunday-centric nature of Easter, Christmas Eve services can be scheduled for multiple days leading up to and including Christmas Eve. Fourth – and most important – there is a larger number of unchurched people present at Christmas Eve, undoubtedly due to attending being more of a family event than Easter (which is viewed as more of a spiritual event).

At Meck, we routinely have larger attendance figures for our Christmas Eve services than we do our Easter services. Easter weekend is big, to be sure, and is our second-largest series of services. But it’s not as big as Christmas Eve.

Lesson? Quit putting all of your eggs in the Easter basket and get serious about Christmas Eve.

2. Drop Direct Mail and Move to Social Media.

When I started Meck, nothing was better than direct mail. That was, of course, 25 years ago. It’s not better anymore. In fact, it’s often a waste of Kingdom money. It can still be effective if targeted toward new residents, or specific demographics, but the more specific direct mail becomes, the more expensive it becomes.

(And please, don’t even think about an ad on the “church” page of your newspaper. You are after the unchurched, right?)

A better use of your marketing efforts is online, such as ads on Pandora or, even better, through targeted pop-up ad responses to Google searches, or banner ads on the websites of local subdivisions, or the vast opportunities that exist on social media.

Speaking of social media, prepare things that your attenders can share on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

And the good news for small churches? So much of this is not simply cheap, but free, with technology almost everyone already owns.

Lesson? No matter what style your church may be, there is no excuse to be out of style with media.

3. Let Them Belong Before They Believe.

The most common way of thinking about outreach is that you get someone to believe in Jesus, and then you get them to belong to your church.

What if I told you the new reality is the opposite?

Today, people want to belong before they believe. They often have a lengthy adoption process as they move from spiritual and biblical illiteracy toward an understanding and acceptance of faith. So evaluate your outreach strategy in light of offering “belonging” opportunities that enable a movement toward believing. If you think I’m fishing for instituting a “seeker” service, think again.

Yes, I believe that the front door of the church is still the weekend service.

Yes, I believe that biblically (e.g., I Cor. 14:23), we should make sure our services are understandable to those far from God.

But no, a full-blown seeker service strategy (which no one really does anymore, anyway) is not what is at hand. But that doesn’t mean you can’t provide lots of opportunity to belong before believing.

Examples might include “exploring” small groups, low-key serving opportunities that don’t require the embrace of the Christian faith (much less membership), as well as a simple atmosphere of acceptance for those who simply with to come and see, come and hear, come and explore.

Lesson? Believing is at the end of the process, not belonging.

4. From Reach the Woman to Reach the Man.

For decades there has been a reality that no one owned: the church was designed for women and, as a result, that’s who they attracted. The service was for women, the music was for women, the décor was for women. I’m not saying this was intentional; it’s almost as if it happened by default. And don’t get me wrong – I am completely for women in the life of the church. Just not women as the life of the church in such a way that men are alienated.

So if the church has been unduly feminized, we shouldn’t wonder why there are so few men in attendance. Just like an African-American walking into a lily-white congregation might not feel comfortable returning, a man walking into a service decorated in pastels and flowers and “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs may not either.

Coupled with this is another truth that is seldom discussed related to how the dynamics of family outreach work. I don’t have a definitive study to back this up, just three-plus decades of being in the game: if you reach the man, you reach the rest of the family. But if all you do is reach the woman, you don’t tend to get much further in that family beyond the children. And without a supportive, involved, attending father, you don’t often keep the kids long after puberty.

Lesson? The absence of men from the life of church is legendary; work on their presence, and you can change the size and scope of your church.

5. From “You Build It They Will Come” to “You Create It They Will Invite.”

The old “Field of Dreams” mentality was that if you build something… like a great weekend event… they will come. Meaning crowds of unchurched people looking for a church home.

Um, no.

At least, not anymore. And it hasn’t been that way for a long, long time.

But if you create something that your current attenders intuitively sense would be perfect for their unchurched friends, they will begin inviting them to attend.

Yes, this may mean some changes to your current service on the front-end, but you might be surprised (and relieved) at how many of them are simply qualitative, and not necessarily stylistic.

At Meck, yes, we hear that people like our music and style of communication, but we just as often (if not more) hear that they appreciate our parking team, our signage that guides first-time guests, security within our children’s ministry and, most of all, friendliness.

Lesson? You can’t “build it” and have them come, but you can “create it” and have them be invited.

So there are just five things, among many others, that any church can take advantage of.

No matter your size, no matter your budget.


Connect with an Auxano Navigator to explore options for reaching more people.


> Read more from James.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Discipleship Can Be Served, But Never Delivered

Discipleship matters.

The goal is not a crowd, but rather a core of committed Christ followers who are fleshing out the life of Christ at work, in their marriage, their parenting, their finances, their thinking, their politics, their…

… everything.

To borrow from Abraham Kuyper, there is not an inch of any sphere of my life that Christ does not say, “Mine!”

But what is the nature of discipleship?

There seem to be two schools of thought. The first holds that discipleship is all about ongoing investment. Whether classes or seminars, sermons or small groups, everything is designed to “feed” the Christ-follower. The language used to describe and promote this understanding of discipleship puts the entire emphasis on someone or something, doing discipleship to someone else. The one being discipled is seemingly passive. In other words, discipleship is something received.

The other school of thought is less about feeding and more about training. There is an old line that says, “Give me a fish, I eat for a day; teach me to fish, I eat for a lifetime.” So rather than providing an ongoing pipeline for biblical teaching (present though that may be) the overarching goal is to teach people how to become Bible students themselves.

So which is the true nature of discipleship?

The answer lies in the word itself.

The word “disciple” is from the Greek word “mathetes” and literally means “learner.”

Stop there. Re-read.

Learner.

This puts the action firmly into the lap of the one doing the learning. The point is that you, as a disciple, are to be actively learning. It is your responsibility to take up the mantle of self-development.

And yes, this suggests a teacher is involved.

And yes, we talk about someone going to college to receive an education.

And yes, Jesus seemed to fill the teaching/equipping role by inviting 12 men (and more than a few women) to do life with Him for three years.

And yes, they were called “disciples.”

But reflect on those early followers: Theirs was an invitation to learn, not to enter into a passive process of being fed. We certainly know that not all of the twelve went to school on Jesus. One in particular didn’t seem to learn much of anything. If discipleship was simply something done to you, Jesus failed epically with Judas.

(I wonder if Judas ever said he needed to follow another rabbi where he could be better “fed” and thus grow better spiritually than he was under Jesus.)

Growing in faith is something that can be served by others, but ultimately must be owned personally.

This is decisive. Too many followers of Christ view discipleship as something that is done to them and for them – akin to a personal enrichment program. Yet the writer of Hebrews made it abundantly clear that people who keep getting “fed” in this way are in arrested development. Once out of infancy, they should no longer need to be fed, but instead be feeding others (Hebrews 5:11-13).

But even more disquieting is how we have missed out on what it is we should focus on learning. The back-half of the Great Commission exhorts us to teach new believers to obey what Christ has commanded. This is the essence of the content of discipleship.

And what has Christ commanded?

To live our lives in mission to the least and the lost.

In other words, what we are to be learning is increased love toward others and increased faith for the task of serving them. We are not to be in search for a feeding station that creates a culture of dependency and endless demand for head-knowledge, but instead for a learning environment where an active life of faith is stretched and encouraged.

I know, knowledge is needed. Doctrine matters. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds. But that transformation only happens when what is in the mind translates into obedience to serving the widow and orphan, and reaching out to the hell-bound and skeptic.

So discipleship is enhanced through practical teaching, learning the personal disciplines of prayer and Bible study, engaging in ministry, engaging in relationships that bring challenge and opportunity, and welcoming circumstances that demand the essence of commitment and obedience.

In other words, faith is stretched by being in the game where you are admonished by teachers/leaders, investing in connecting with God through prayer and the Scriptures, putting yourself on the front lines of the cause of Christ, mixing it up with other Christians who sharpen you as iron against iron, and being led by God into unique situations that challenge you at the deepest of spiritual levels.

That’s not passive, but active.

It’s something that can be served, but never delivered.

It takes a church, but only goes so far as the person is willing to be,

… a true learner.


Want to know more about developing discipleship at your church? Connect with an Auxano Navigator today.


> Read more from James.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

10 Ways to Build Your Church Staff Dream Team

I love the church staff team I have the privilege of leading at Meck. They are dedicated, loyal, unified, joyful and deeply missional. Sadly, staff discord and dysfunction is all too common. So I shouldn’t be surprised that one of the most common questions I get asked by fellow pastors and church leaders is, “How did you get a staff like this?”

It wasn’t always this way, to be sure. I have made more than my fair share of staffing mistakes. In fact, they’ve been my biggest as a leader. I think I’ve chronicled almost every one of them in my book, What They Didn’t Teach You In Seminary (Baker), still one of my favorite books that I’ve written. Painful, as it involved sharing a lot of “learning through mistaking,” but a favorite.

So how did our staff get to the place that it is? Here are the top ten things I’ve learned to do, or to look for, from over thirty years of pastoral leadership. I believe most are transferable to almost any organizational setting – whether at a church, business or school:

Ten Principles to Build Your Church Staff Team

1. We hired from within. I’m continually surprised by how few organizations do this. The biggest reason to look from within your own ranks first is simple: they already have your DNA. There is also a sense where you know what you are getting. But DNA is the biggest issue. They inculcate who and what you are in a way no one else can. Some might find this insular – I find it protective. It’s easy to stretch yourself as a learner – it’s not so easy to flesh out a culture.

2. They came to Christ here. There is no substitute for someone who is a product of your mission. Their loyalty is off-the-charts, and you never have to convince them “why” you do “what” you do the “way” that you do it. They are the poster child. If you’re in a business, think of hiring your most rabid fans. Regardless, the product of what you are trying to do is often the best recruit.

3. They passed the “beer” test. Sorry if that’s offensive to some of you, but it’s part of Meck’s internal culture. We have a saying about people: “Do they pass the beer test?” Translation: If at the end of a long, hard day of work, would you want to go out and have a beer with them? If the answer is “yes,” they passed. I think most of you know that this is about chemistry.

4. We don’t have to be suspicious. Have you ever spotted someone talking to someone else in a hallway, or out in a parking lot, and got a pit in your stomach wondering about the conversation? In other words, you wondered whether it was divisive, undermining, gossipy, slanderous… or mostly, if it was about you? Never, ever hire anyone you are suspicious about. We all know to hire for character, but few throw in the idea of “relational” character. Are they a “safe” person relationally?

5. They have a bias for action. I’ve long said that I would rather rein someone in than kick them forward. There is no substitute for being catalytic, meaning someone who initiates, takes charge and creates action. Some people have a “ready, ready, ready, ready” mentality instead of a “ready, aim, fire” mentality. Go for the fire.

6. This is what God wants them to do. There is a significant difference between someone who wants a job, and someone who is answering a call. I’m not simply offering employment – I’m offering a life investment. I’m offering a way for them to fulfill God’s clear direction and invitation. Meck is a fantastic place to work, and many, many want to work here – but what is most important is whether working at Meck fulfills a clear sense of life-calling.

7. They’re good at what they do. In a word, they are competent. Very competent. They have a skill set, an aptitude, an intellect, an ability that matches the job. There’s no sin in hiring this way, even for a church. People can be a ministry, but you shouldn’t hire them as one. I look for people who are “tens” where we need them. And we need them in every role.

8. They do not need to be, or want to be, micro-managed. This may speak more to my personality, but I have no interest, desire or time to micro-manage anyone or anything. I remember reading of a 33-page government manual outlining how to buy hammers. If I had to oversee that, then shoot me now. Just hire someone you trust to buy them! If they can’t be trusted to do it, hire someone who can! This also goes to the way people need to be managed. If someone comes to my door every morning wanting to know the five things they should do that day, again, put me out of my misery. I want people who will figure it out, chase it down, and keep me in the loop.

9. If you didn’t pay them, they would still be serving, attending and giving. This is key. They are doing what they love, doing who they are, and doing what they believe in. If it’s just for a paycheck, then they don’t have real passion or commitment. When you have someone who would do what they are doing even if they weren’t being paid, you have a keeper.

10. They get the mission, and as a result, are mission-animals. I know I alluded to this under the idea of “hiring from within,” but even people who come from your mission may not be committed to it afterwards (that’s another blog, to be sure). You want people who truly embody, understand, live and breathe the mission. At Meck, this means they “get” who we are after (the unchurched), and are unwavering in that pursuit.

So what makes Meck’s staff special?

We strive to have everyone on staff reflect all ten.

And if I can brag on my team, they pretty much do.


Learn more about developing your staff team – connect with an Auxano Navigator.


> Read more from James Emery White.

Download PDF

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.