Eight Reasons You Are Wasting Your Resources

Most churches keep their members so busy they don’t have time to do ministry.

Indeed, I spoke to a lay elder of a church recently who told me he simply did not have time to get to know his neighbors because he was so busy in his church.

Something is not right with this picture.

In an earlier post, I talked about how our churches can become more intentional about doing real ministry instead of busy work. But in this article, I address how churches became so busy. Perhaps understanding the origins of dysfunctional busyness will help churches avoid this problem in the future.

  1. Activities became synonymous with ministry. I am familiar with a missions support group in a church. It includes over 30 people, representing over 20 percent of the weekly worship attendance. The group is very active with fellowships, meetings, and speaker events. But the missions support group has never supported missions, nor have they ever been involved in missions. But they sure are busy.
  2. Programs and ministries are added regularly, but few or none are ever deleted. This reality is glaringly obvious at a church in the Southeast with an average attendance of 60. The church has 15 committees and nearly 30 different programs and ministries throughout the year. They almost have one ministry or program for every member. They add some activity every year, but they never delete the dead or useless activities.
  3. Programs and ministries become sacred cows. They were once the pet project of a particular member or a group of members, alive or deceased. The thought of eliminating the non-functional ministry started by Sister Harriett or Brother Frank 35 years ago is deemed blasphemous.
  4. The alignment question is not asked on the front end. Even a good ministry may not be the best use of time for a church. In one church, the membership voted to initiate a ministry because one person had become a believer through the ministry in another church over a two-year period. But the church members never considered if there might be other ministries that could be more effective and better aligned with the direction of the church.
  5. Silo behavior among the different ministries of the church. A worship ministry in the church began a new ministry that required extensive volunteer help. But the leaders never considered they were hurting other ministries in the church. Members don’t have unlimited time; they have to make choices.
  6. Lack of an evaluation process. Most churches have an annual budgetary process. That is an ideal time to ask tough questions about existing ministries and programs. Very few church leaders take that opportunity.
  7. Ministry becomes facility-centered. In other words, if it’s not happening in the church facilities, it’s not “real” ministry. As a consequence, we keep our members too busy to do ministry outside the walls of the church.
  8. Lack of courageous leadership. It takes courage for a leader to look at the busyness of a church and say “no” or “enough.” Some leaders would rather not rock the boat and, as a consequence, lead a church toward mediocrity and malaise.

We are wasting too much time, energy, and money in our churches. Often we are doing more things and becoming less effective. It’s time for busy churches to become simple churches.


Connect with an Auxano Navigator to learn how to avoid wasting your resources.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 
Where may I purchase the Church Unique kit?
 
— Linda Winkelman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Five Challenges to Healthy Church Growth

Every year another two million American adults become less receptive to the gospel, and less receptive to churches.

Every year.

That is one of the nuggets I took from the Pew Research work on the “Nones” when they first released the data in 2012. Pew has continued to follow the religious commitment level of Americans. From 2007 to 2014, over 12 million American adults have moved from a high level of religious commitment to a low level of commitment. They just skipped the medium level of commitment altogether.

Cultural Christianity is dying.

One no longer has to be a Christian or in a church to be accepted by society. That relatively easy pool of prospective attendees for our churches is disappearing.

But most churches keep doing what they’ve always done.

As a consequence, they are reaching fewer. They are declining.

Why?

The answer to that question is too complex for a simple blog post, but let me provide five high-level responses for now.

  1. Church members are not being intentionally relational with those who are not in church. The old way of church outreach was more transactional; today it requires the development of relationships. Most church members will not take that step. Many don’t know how to take that step.
  2. Many churches are stuck in the past. While we never compromise the gospel and the Word, our methodologies must reflect an awareness of our culture, and a willingness to be missionaries to that culture. Sadly, too many church members are unwilling to make changes. Church, for them, is about their needs and their preferences.
  3. Church members are not regularly inviting people to church. Yes, it can be that simple. Many of the religiously unaffiliated will come to church if we invite them. But it’s difficult for them to respond to an invitation if they never get one.
  4. Many church members fail to act like Christians on social media. Unbelievers are watching us on Facebook and Twitter. And many of us are more likely to show our rear ends than Christian love. Social media is where the unchurched reside. And they constantly see our petty quarrels, our venomous politics, and our self-serving attitudes. Look at this blog post about what non-Christians think about us. I wrote it in 2013, but the comments still come in from unbelievers.
  5. If they come to church, they only have a mediocre experience. The religiously unaffiliated do visit our churches from time to time. But, more often than not, they see our holy huddles and our lukewarm greetings. Most will not return.

Growth is indeed more difficult in most of our churches today. We no longer have the large pool of cultural Christians from which to draw. But we can reach them. We must reach them.

We will have to treat our membership in our churches as missionaries to the community instead of country club membership. Biblical membership is not about getting our perks, privileges, and preferences. It’s about sacrificing self for the gospel.

Then, and only then, will we see our churches start growing again.


Knowing how to grow a church shouldn’t be a mystery. But the busyness of ministry, combined with the clutter of church growth ideas, leaves many pastors with more questions than answers. As a result, progress is slow, people are scattered, and the work of ministry feels less meaningful than you thought it would. Connect with an Auxano Navigator to learn more about a process that leads to growth.


> Read more from Thom.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 
Where may I purchase the Church Unique kit?
 
— Linda Winkelman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Are These Offertory Trends Taking Place at Your Church?

For most Protestant churches, the offertory is the time of worship where church members make financial gifts to God through the church. It may be combined with special music or announcements, but the central theme is giving to God.

I am seeing seven major trends develop related to this aspect of worship services. The changes have been subtle but noticeable.

  1. More churches are moving the offertory to near the middle of the service, shortly before the preaching of the Word. This development is a change back to a practice that was most common before 1990. This approach has either an implicit or explicit theological belief that the offertory is a central facet of worship, and should be placed prominently in the service.
  2. The second most common practice is to have the offertory at the end of the service. The typical rationale for this practice is more related to the flow of the service. The offertory is still deemed important, but the service has a more continuous flow if it is placed at the end.
  3. Churches that provide the opportunity for online giving see an uptick in overall gifts.Obviously this type of offertory does not take place in a worship service, but it is deemed very important by leaders whose churches offer this option. I am not aware of any churches where online giving has replaced the worship offertory; it is simply another way to give.
  4. Churches that mail offering envelopes to members also see an uptick in overall gifts. I have heard numerous stories from church leaders of the importance of this church practice. One church leader told me his church eliminated the practice, and offerings declined almost 20 percent. The church reinstated the mailing of offering envelopes pretty quickly.
  5. Only a relatively few churches have offering boxes for member donations. Most of these churches do not have an offertory time in the service; members are asked to give as they leave the service.
  6. More churches have some type of testimony or statement about stewardship to accompany the offering. Typically, this statement is about how the funds are used. Members are able to see through videos or testimonies the missional impact of their gifts (See the blog post with Pastor Mike Glenn’s example).
  7. Relatively few churches receive gifts in their small groups or Sunday school classes. This practice was more common prior to 1990, especially in Sunday school based churches.

From my perspective, the most effective churches in stewardship make certain that items 3, 4, and 6 are common practices to accompany the church’s offertory. Let me hear from you about these seven offertory trends, and let me hear what your church does as well.

> Read more from Thom.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

scottreavely — 05/05/15 1:42 pm

Is the offering moved to the middle or the end because people are late getting into the service? It may appear to fit the flow of worship or centralize the offering, but there are VERY practical reasons to move it later as well.

Recent Comments
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 
Where may I purchase the Church Unique kit?
 
— Linda Winkelman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

5 Dangers of Unaligned Small Groups

The first time I encountered this issue was in a church consultation nearly twenty years ago. I asked the pastor to tell me what was being taught in the church’s small groups. He seemed to be nonplused in his response: “I have no idea.”  I was taken aback.

I tried a different approach. “Tell me,” I said, “how the church decides what will be taught in the small groups.” Again, I was unprepared for his response: “The church leaders have no input into what small groups teach,” he said. “We let every class decide on its own. We don’t want to be like dictators telling them what they have to do. They decide according to what’s best in their own eyes.”

So, I continued, “I guess you let anybody teach or preach anything from the pulpit on Sunday mornings?”

“Of course not,” he said with some indignation. “We are very strict about the Sunday morning preaching. If I’m not teaching, then we have someone who is closely aligned to where we are going and what we believe.”

He did not get my attempt to connect the approach of the small groups with that of the Sunday morning teaching and preaching. How can you be so concerned about one and so nonchalant about the other?

Over the years I have been surprised to find out how many church leaders have a laissez faire attitude about what is being taught in small groups and Sunday school classes. Allow me to share five dangers of this unaligned, “anything goes” approach.

  1. Because preaching is held to a higher standard, the perception becomes that the small group teaching is just not that important. The reality is that most small groups or Sunday school classes spend more time in their groups than the time they take to listen to a sermon.
  2. The vision of the church could be distracted or derailed. When the preaching and small group teaching are not aligned, the small groups can become alternative little churches with their own vision and priorities. Unfortunately, I have seen this reality a number of times.
  3. It opens the door for heretical teaching. I know of one church that gave no thought to the content of the teaching in the small groups. They would soon discover that one group was studying a book that denied the deity of Christ.
  4. It takes away from the unity of the church. The preaching is headed in one direction. The small group teaching is headed in another direction, or multiple directions. There is no unity in what the church is learning or how the members are growing spiritually.
  5. It does not allow for strategic teaching. Indeed, the contrary may be true. The teaching in the small groups can negate the strategic intent of the preaching plan of the pastor.

Leaders in churches need not be autocratic in their desire to get small group teaching aligned with the ministry of the church. It can and should be a mutually agreed upon goal to move people toward greater maturity in Christ with clear and known material.

Indeed many churches are now moving to a uniform curriculum across all ages in all small groups and Sunday school classes. I see this development as a healthy trend. The leaders are making a statement that what is taught in every group is vitally important for the spiritual health of the members and for the church as a whole.

How does your church decide what is taught in its small groups or Sunday school classes? How would you evaluate its effectiveness?

Read more from Thom here.


Would you like to learn more about small groups and/or a disciplemaking process? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Bishop Q — 11/10/15 12:26 am

Excellent insights. I have experienced the heretical teachings in small groups debacle. It nearly split the church!

pastorwillrice — 12/30/14 8:21 am

Great piece Thom! I have found it really challenging in the mainline church to try and move to a uniform curriculum. There is much resistance to changing the culture and it as seen as "telling us what to do." I think it is possible, it is just a long process of negotiation and an attempt to get people to see the value. I have seen new church starts have a great advantage here. If they begin with unity in their small group teaching, it can become part of their DNA.

Ralph Graves — 12/23/14 1:41 pm

Having planted 8 years ago, I've kind of shy'ed away from small groups. I might add to these 5 reasons a 6th reason. "Cliques" will form quickly in the body. And that's another headache altogether. God Bless.

Ro'i Steiner — 08/14/13 12:16 pm

You didn't define what "unaligned" is. Small groups can be totally aligned , and need to be, with their church doctrinally and still talk about and emphasize anything they choose. Having a group that meets to talk about business , lets say, can be aligned with the church doctrinally but not discuss the last sermon. Would you say that a group like this is "unaligned" ?

Recent Comments
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 
Where may I purchase the Church Unique kit?
 
— Linda Winkelman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

7 Traits of Increasingly Generous Churches

One of the key metrics of financial giving in a church is per member giving: What is the average giving per member or per attendee? Per member giving is often masked by fluctuations in attendance and membership. The most effective measure is to calculate the average giving per member.

Churches with increased giving per member have seven dominant characteristics. These seven traits are becoming even more important as Millennials enter in our churches in greater numbers.

  1. Increased emphasis on belonging to a group. Those members in a group, such as a small group or Sunday school class, give as much as six times more than those attending worship services alone. Take time to absorb the previous sentence. It’s a huge issue!
  2. Multiple giving venues. Per member giving increases as churches offer more giving venues. I recommend all churches provide these four venues at a minimum: offertory giving in the worship services; online giving; mailed offering envelopes to all members and givers; and automatic deductions from members’ bank accounts. I also recommend churches strongly consider kiosk giving and offertories in groups. I will elaborate more on these issues in a later post.
  3. Meaningful and motivating goals. Church members give more if they see the church has a goal that will make a meaningful difference. “Increasing total gifts by 10%” is not a meaningful goal. “Giving 10% more to advance the gospel in the 37201 zip code” is more meaningful.
  4. Explaining biblical giving in the new members’ class. New member classes should be an entry point for both information on and expectations of biblical church membership. Biblical giving should be a clear and unapologetic expectation of church membership.
  5. Willingness of leadership to talk about money. In the 1980s and 1990s, some pundits did surveys of unchurched persons that indicated they did not go to church because “all they talk about is money.” As a consequence, many church leaders stopped talking about money altogether. While it is possible to communicate financial stewardship in an overbearing manner, it is inexcusable for leaders to be silent about financial stewardship by Christians.
  6. Meaningful financial reporting. Many churches provide financial reporting that only a CPA or a CFO can understand. Church members need to be able to understand clearly how funds are given or spent.
  7. Transparent financial reporting. If church members sense that pertinent financial information is being withheld, they tend to give less or nothing at all. While that does not mean every financial statement provides endless details, it does indicate that church members will have a clear idea of how funds are given and spent.

There are reasons for optimism in church giving. Many churches are experiencing increases in both total giving as well as per member giving. And most of those churches exhibit the seven characteristics noted above.


Would you like to learn more about generosity for your church? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 
Where may I purchase the Church Unique kit?
 
— Linda Winkelman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Seven Commitments to Refocus Your Leadership

I see the New Year as a time for recommitment and re-focus. And though it is simply the changing of the page of a calendar, it is still a good time to be reminded about those areas that are most important in our lives.

With that in mind, I have seven suggestions for church leaders. Consider these seven resolutions to be statements of renewal. Ask others to keep you accountable. Above all, ask God for the wisdom, strength, and perseverance to move these commitments of renewal to reality.

  1. A commitment to move beyond the inward drift in our church. It does not take long for a church to lose its outward focus. It does not take a long time for the tyranny of the urgent to replace the priority of the important. It does not take a long time for most ministries and activities to be focused inwardly instead of outwardly toward the community we serve.
  2. A commitment to renew our attitude. Leading a church is tough. Church members can be critical and demanding. But God has called us to serve in the messiness of life and people. We all can use renewal of our attitude toward others and towards our life situation.
  3. A commitment to become a more grateful leader. It can be natural to focus on the negative, the naysayers, and nitpickers. But we need to turn to prayer and ask for supernatural help in focusing on all the blessings God gives us. A review of Philippians 4:8 would be helpful as well.
  4. A commitment to be a leader of greater faith and courage. Again, this commitment cannot be realized in our own strength and power. But we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
  5. A commitment to be the leader who realizes our family is our first line of ministry.We seek not to fall into the trap of putting family in opposition to church. First Timothy 3:5 is a clear reminder that our families are our first line of ministry. We can’t be blessed in the totality of our ministry if we are lacking there.
  6. A commitment to clear the church of clutter and activities. By clutter, I mean all the ways we keep our members busy. We are often expecting our members to participate in so many activities that we implicitly discourage them from caring for their families, their health, and their ministries.
  7. A commitment to be an Acts 6:4 leader. If we are not giving focused attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word, we need to get out of vocational ministry. Ministry has become human-powered rather than God-centered.

I remain an obnoxious optimist about the local church. I see God working in so many great ways. I have no reason to believe 2017 will not be a great year for our congregations, especially if our leaders are willing to make these commitments of renewal.


Learn more about developing your own leadership this year – connect with an Auxano Navigator.


> Read more from Thom.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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Recent Comments
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 
Where may I purchase the Church Unique kit?
 
— Linda Winkelman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Five Positive Responses to Negative People

The grief is both real and anticipatory.

The church member knows his or her church is in decline.

That member knows some things must change or the church is headed for more rapid decline or even death.

But change is difficult. These members want their old church back. They want to do things the way they’ve always done them.

That church of the past, however, will not return. The pace of change is faster than ever, and it will only increase.

How do we respond to these hurting, and sometimes, angry people? Here are five responses.

  1. Respond pastorally. These members are not just hurting; they are grieving. Some of them believe they can find a way to return to the church of the 60s, 70s, or 80s. When they finally realize that the past will not return, their grief intensifies. They need our love, our encouragement, our support, and our prayers. If our first response is to return anger with anger, we can exacerbate a difficult situation.
  2. Respond with reality. Do not give false hope to these members. That will only make the situation worse. Let them know gently and lovingly that change is inevitable. The church will either respond proactively to change, or it will be the victim of change. The latter is usually a death sentence.
  3. Respond with the non-negotiables. Assure the church member that there are some facets of church life that can never change. The Bible is still the Word of God. The gospel is still powerful. Christ is still the only way of salvation. In providing these non-negotiables, you are pointing the members away from the minors to the majors.
  4. Respond with an outward focus. Sometimes a church member’s longing for the past is indicative that he or she is inwardly focused. These members can possibly see church as a place to meet all their needs and desires. If possible, get them involved in ministries that take them away from their own preferences and desires to the world that needs our hope, our love, and our ministry.
  5. Respond with resolution. A few church members will fight for the past no matter how toxic it may be for the church and her future. Leaders have to resolve to move on. They cannot spend all their time coddling the disaffected to the neglect of those who are ready to make a difference. This step is a last step. It is a final alternative. It is the most painful. But it can be necessary for the health of the body as a whole.

These days are days of rapid change. Congregations have not been immune from the impact of the change. We must always love people. But we cannot let one or a few hinder us from the work to which God has called us.


Connect with an Auxano Navigator to learn more about dealing with negative feedback.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 
Where may I purchase the Church Unique kit?
 
— Linda Winkelman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Five Common Mistakes Made by Leaders When They Speak

Many of the failures in leadership are failures to communicate well. No matter how smart we are or how good our strategies are, they are doomed for failure if no one understands them.

In previous articles, I dealt with poor written grammar, so much so that some of my friends refer to me as “the grammar cop.” In this article, I deal with five of the more common communication mistakes made by leaders when they speak.

  1. Poor grammar. Grammatical mistakes are not limited to written communication. They are much too common when leaders speak as well, including some leaders who are highly educated and in positions of great influence. The most common speaking grammatical error that I have noticed in recent years is the incorrect use of reflexive pronouns. For example the reflexive pronoun “myself” is used improperly in this sentence: “The award was presented to Janice, John, and myself.” The correct pronoun is the non-reflexive “me.”
  2. Too much information. An audience can only absorb a limited number of facts in a given presentation. Some leaders attempt to cover a multitude of items, leaving the hearers bored, confused, and frustrated. Speak to the essential issues and provide supplementary written material if necessary.
  3. Too many visuals. PowerPoint and other visual aids can be either a help or a hindrance to a speaker. Too often leaders try to put too much information in visual aids. At that point the aid becomes a barrier to communication. Consider having no more than one visual aid for each three minutes of speaking. You might be surprised how much the retention of your listeners improves.
  4. “Insider” language. Acronyms should be banned from speaking presentations. At my organization we have one acronym for every molecule that exists in our building. Those who are on the inside may think it’s okay to use acronyms with other insiders. The problem is that the pattern of speaking develops into a habit that will creep into external presentations. Indeed, good speakers avoid acronyms and insider technical words unless they are clearly explained to the audience.
  5. Insufficient pathos. Aristotle divided the means of persuasion into three categories. Ethos is used to establish the credibility or character of the speaker. Logos means persuading by reasoning or logic. Pathos means persuading by appealing to the readers’ or hearers’ emotions. Too few speakers attempt to speak to the hearts of the audience through personal illustrations, humor, or captivating stories. As a consequence, the presentation is often deemed dry and boring, regardless of the quality of the content.

I continue to be a student of effective communication. I still have a long way to go. What could you add to this list? What stories or examples do you have of either effective or ineffective speaking?

Read more from Thom here.


Do you need help with your communication skills? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 
Where may I purchase the Church Unique kit?
 
— Linda Winkelman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

8 Mistakes New Pastors Make

I met one of the most stupid rookie pastors I’ve ever known.

The year was 1984. I saw him when I looked in the mirror.

It is excruciating for me to recall some of the dumb things I did. I am so grateful for church members who demonstrated love and grace. I am thankful I did not do something so stupid that it had a lasting impact on my ministry.

I love pastors. I love rookie pastors. As I have worked with hundreds of rookie pastors over the years, I see a pattern of mistakes many of them make. I pray my highlighting of these eight common mistakes will be helpful to some of you.

  1. They handle personnel issues with difficulty. Most of these rookies have never had direct supervisory responsibility or led an organization. They often have difficulty confronting direct reports. They can make rash decisions without considering the unintended consequences.
  2. They amplify criticisms. Most of us don’t enjoy criticism. Rookie pastors often have never been criticized as a leader. The criticism stings, and the pastors can make more of the criticism than they should.
  3. They are not disciplined with their schedules. Not only are most rookie pastors in a leadership role for the first time, they are put in the unstructured role of a pastor. Many of them have no idea how to utilize their time effectively. They either become workaholics, lazy bums, absentee pastors, or inefficient users of time.
  4. They don’t often ask for help. Many of them desperately need help in business, finance, counseling, time management, conflict resolution, preaching, leadership, and many other areas.
  5. They demonstrate favoritism. When you spend most of your time with a select group of people in the secular world, it’s called “relationships.” When you spend most of your time with a select group of people in the church, it’s called “favoritism.”
  6. They don’t seek feedback or coaching. They either don’t want to hear it, or they don’t know how to get it.
  7. They don’t continue their education. Education should not end with seminary or Bible college. It should be ongoing, either formal or informal.
  8. They are influenced by the latest fad or group. One rookie pastor got most of his leadership insights from a group who had no idea about the context in which he ministered. He listened to them and made some grave mistakes.

One of the reasons I do what I do is to help pastors as much as possible, both rookies and veterans. I pray these words will prove beneficial to you who are just beginning a lifetime of ministry as a local church pastor.

> Read more from Thom.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 
Where may I purchase the Church Unique kit?
 
— Linda Winkelman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Would You Recognize Inward Drift in Your Church?

All organizations tend to lose their focus and forget their original purposes over time. I call this almost imperceptible movement “inward drift.” The attitude becomes one of protecting the way we’ve always done it rather than looking back to the original purposes and reasons for existence. Numbers of stagecoach businesses failed, for example, because they thought their primary purpose was to make stagecoaches rather than to provide reasonable and rapid transportation.

The primary dangers with inward drift are twofold. First and foremost, the organization can forget the very reason it was created. Second, the drift is often imperceptible. Many organizations don’t realize there is a problem until it’s too late.

When Inward Drift Comes to Church

Local congregations are not immune from inward drift. To the contrary, the vast majority of churches in North America are likely in crisis because of the negative impact of inward drift.

Some of the labeling of congregations is unfortunate. Particularly, when we speak of “traditional churches” or “contemporary churches,” we rarely come to consensus on a clear definition. My son, Sam Rainer, popularized the term “established churches,” a term I prefer to use today. An established church is simply a church that has been in existence for a few years and is thus susceptible to inward drift. Indeed most any church three years or older will likely begin to experience some of the symptoms of inward drift.

When an organization such as a for-profit business begins to experience inward drift, it will change or die within relative short order. The marketplace will not buy its goods or services if the company doesn’t address the needs and the hearts of the consumers.

An established church, however, can exist for years and even decades with inward drift. The church may not be making disciples. It may not be reaching the community and the nations with the gospel. But it continues to exist more as a religious social club than a true New Testament church. Its members and constituents are willing to fund the congregation since it meets their perceived needs and desires.

Signs of Inward Drift in Established Churches

The signs of inward drift in an established church are clear even though the members don’t often recognize them:

  1. Most of the ministries and programs are focused on meeting the desires and needs of the members.
  2. The budget of the congregation is directed primarily at funding the projects and even comforts of the members.
  3. Conflict in the congregation is not uncommon since members are more concerned about getting their perceived needs and desires met.
  4. There is little to no focus on evangelism, reaching out to the community, and getting the gospel to the nations.
  5. Leadership is weak and reticent to address the problems, because that leadership emphasis could disrupt the status quo.

Addressing the Issue of Inward Drift in the Church

I recently drove through my hometown. I lived in the same house and the same town for my first eighteen years of life. But it had been more than a decade since I visited the town. I was shocked. Businesses on the main street were closed. Some were boarded. Many of the homes I knew and loved had deteriorated greatly. The major industries had exited and left large vacant buildings. It was almost a ghost town.

Someone who had never left the town, though, told me that things were really going well there. They were serious when they said it had not changed much since I left. For me, the change was stark and shocking. For him, it was slow and imperceptible. When we fail to see the deterioration that is taking place, we will not see the need to make changes to reverse the course.

Such is the crisis in many of our established churches today. And it is that imperceptible inward drift that often makes it so difficult to lead a congregation toward healthy change. In a future post, I will address some of the possible steps to lead an established church toward change without destroying it in the process. I hope you will join me then.

Read more from Thom here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 
Where may I purchase the Church Unique kit?
 
— Linda Winkelman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.