Sometimes even the best leaders don't know what to do. Here are three things you can do when you have no idea what to do.
So…you want your church to grow, right?
When I ask ministry leaders whether they want to see growth, almost every leader I’ve ever talked to says yes.
Sure…there are some house church movements that want to stay small. And some long time or xenophobic churches have lost their appetite for growth. And there are always a few people who think big=evil.
But most leaders want their churches to grow…and for good reasons most of the time. They want to reach people with the life changing love and forgiveness of Christ.
That is awesome.
But most churches don’t grow.
And most churches that start small stay small.
Almost Nobody Starts Big
Well first of all, almost no church starts big. There are a few exceptions, like North Point.
But that’s the rare exception—almost all of churches start small. Even mega churches most often start with 5 people meeting in a living room and grow from there.
Big doesn’t have to be the destination for everyone.
But clearly, if you want to reach your community, growth is a natural by product of a mission being fulfilled.
I Don’t Want to Start Another Debate
Before we get to the main point, a qualifier. The last thing I want to do with this post is to start a debate on small church v. large church. We’ve had them before on other posts and keyboards have been set on fire on other blogs over this issue. No more, okay?
So, for the record:
There are lots of great small churches.
There are lots of great large churches.
There are some bad small churches.
There are some bad big churches.
There is no perfect or biblical number for church size.
No one can claim moral high ground in this discussion.
Can we agree on that? And even if you have different views, can we please not be disagreeable?
Once and for all, size doesn’t determine how significant your ministry is.
Rather, size becomes relevant only for those who are attempting to reach their community.
If you’re going to reach your community, you’re going to grow.
And if you’re going to grow, you have to figure out why certain things make a church grow and why certain things curtail growth.
5 Reasons Churches That Start Small Stay Small
For sure there are more than 5 reasons (I outline 8 related but different reasons why churches never grow past 200 here).
But just know there is no silver bullet.
Doing these 5 things is no guarantee your church will grow.
But the opposite is true.
If you don’t pay attention to these 5 factors, there is a very good chance your church won’t grow. At least not substantially or sustainably.
Today’s post is by William Vandenbloemen. William has developed an expertise in helping churches find top staff for their teams.
He has some sage advice on how to plan for your replacement regardless of your age or how long you’ve been in your position.
So whether you’re a young leader or have only a decade left in full time leadership, William’s advice can help you set up your church or organization up for future success long after you’re gone. Personally, we’re going to implement his advice where I serve at Connexus. It will only make us stronger. – Carey
The truth is that we are all interim leaders.
There will come a day when you are no longer the leader of your church.
The key to a successful pastoral succession plan is to start planning now, no matter your age or tenure.
We co-wrote a book called Next: Pastoral Succession That Works to help pastors, church leaders, and church board members to understand what they can do now to start preparing themselves and their church for the day their church will need a new pastor.
Today is Better Than Some Day
There is not a singular pattern or set of rules for succession planning because there are many differentiating factors that make each succession process unique.
However, throughout our studies, we’ve seen a few cardinal rules pop up. They’re stunningly clear and universally applicable, no matter your situation or stage of planning.
These are steps you can start taking right now. These ideas can apply whether you’re 32 or 62, whether it’s your second year at your current church or your twenty-second, and whether you’re in a denominational appointment system or not.
You shape your future more than you might think. Start by taking ownership of your future succession.
Everyone wants to talk about succession planning until it’s his or her own. Too many pastors push away ideas of succession planning, because they think it is an unrealistic and overwhelming task.
The unknown variables can be scary: not knowing the future burdens and dreams that God might develop in your heart, the health and growth momentum of your present church, the ongoing “fit” between you and your present church, what your church board or district superintendent might do, or how your health or family circumstances might change.
5 Steps You Can Take Now
You can take these 5 steps now to begin planning your future.
Very rarely does success come from jumping from one venture to another every few years.
And very rarely does long term impact happen from short term tenure.
And yet in ministry and in life, people often jump from venture to venture or church to church hoping the next fit is better than the last fit, only to be perpetually disappointed.
Many Leaders Leave Before Their Critical Breakthrough
In my view too many leaders leave too often before critical breakthroughs happen.
Most people who become ‘overnight’ successes have put in a decade or more before anything really note-worthy has happened.
I’m not saying leaders should never leave. In fact, here’s a post outlining 5 signs it’s time to move on.
It’s just if you go too early, you can miss out on so much.
5 Things Long Term Leaders Learn to Master
Here are 5 things every leader who stays long term learns to master:
So let me start here.
I struggle with pride.
Pride is at the root of all sin. It is pride—the pursuit of self, of knowing better, of being right—that caused our fall in the first place. It is a daily struggle for me.
My heart broke this weekend as I read of the latest developments at Mars Hill Church as their Pastor, Mark Driscoll, temporarily stepped down. There’s a very (from what I can tell) balanced and fair article about the events here in Christianity Today if you want some background.
I need to say I don’t know Mark Driscoll. I’ve never met him.
And this is not a post where I’m going to pass any level of judgment on Pastor Mark or Mars Hill. He needs our prayers as does his family and church (My heart really hurts for his family in a season like this. They love their husband and dad. So does Christ.)
And even as I say “he needs our prayers” I realize that often in Christian circles we say that with a sense of superiority, as though he needs our prayers or she needs our prayers in way that I don’t.
Not even close to true.
No one prays with clean hands. I don’t. You don’t.
I need your prayers as desperately as Pastor Mark. So do you. So when we pray, we need to pray as those who come alongside each other before a merciful and just God and a Saviour we all so desperately need.
We are in this together.
You’re probably trying to change something right now.
And — if you’re honest — you’ve already thought about backing off.
Change seems too difficult.
You’ve watched friends get hurt trying to lead similar change.
You’ve heard the voices of opposition get a little louder.
You really don’t want to be afraid to open your inbox every morning.
But what if this is true?
Change is harder than it needs to be because it’s more mysterious than it needs to be.
And it doesn’t need to be quite that mysterious.
Here’s what I believe about change.
Change has dynamics; and the dynamics can be learned.
A couple years ago, I wrote a book about leading change while facing opposition. I’m passionate about change because I’ve lived through it and can vouch for the fact that change is more than possible.
I’m also passionate because if the church (and other organizations) are going to reach their potential, change isn’t optional, it’s inevitable.
13 Facts About Change Many Leaders Miss
So, if you’re navigating change, here’s a short cheat sheet of 13 key principles that I hope will help you maintain clear thinking amidst the sea of emotions that leading change brings:
I’m on vacation with my family, and today’s post is a guest post from Doug Fields.
Doug is one of the leaders who has set the pace for student ministry leaders over the last number of years, and he’s weathered the tensions that inevitably arise between leaders and ministry only to come out strong in both areas. Doug recently coauthored the book Married People with Ted Lowe.
By Doug Fields
When I speak on marriage, I’m always asked if I intentionally taught my kids about marriage.
The answer is yes… and, no.
Yes, there are times when we’ve talked specifically about marriage (either ours or ones that our kids have observed). But, for the most part, Cathy and I have been wise enough to know that our kids are constantly watching and learning from us without us having to do a lot of talking.
Our actions (both good and bad) are always teaching them about marriage.
I would be thrilled if my kids had a similar type of marriage that Cathy and I share… it’s definitely not perfect, but we’re both very proud of what we’ve developed over 27+ years.
10 Actions My Kids Have Caught Over the Years
Here are 10 actions that I know my kids have observed from us over the years:
Cathy & I are very affectionate and I like having my kids see me holding their mom’s hand, hugging, kissing, cuddling, etc… as often as I can.
2. Saying “I’m sorry”
I want to be quick to use this phrase and I want my kids to hear me say it (and I have to say it a lot more than Cathy).
This is my primary love language so it’s easy for me to dish out encouraging words.
My kids get a lot of verbal affirmation, but they also hear me directing it toward my wife (which is really easy).
I think Cathy is hot… and, I make it known around our family. I’ll regularly say, “Isn’t your mom beautiful?”
Our kids know that we like to spend time together. When they see us steal time away to sit in the backyard and talk, or go in the hot tub, or go on a date night, or sneak away for the weekend…that’s a good message I want them to see.
We laugh a lot in our house and my wife’s cute sense of humor cracks me up. I like having my kids see that my wife makes me laugh.
Opening the door for Cathy, saying “thank you” and “please” and showing her simple signs of respect.
8. Faith conversations
We’re not always praying in front of our kids, but they hear and see our faith conversations and know that we’re always talking about Jesus and what it means to be a follower.
9. The value of friends
Our house is well worn from the traffic of friends in/out of our house.
We love having people over and the Fields’ house is a regular hangout for some incredible friends.
I know my kids have had a better example in Cathy than with me because she’s the ultimate servant. Always asking, “How can I help? What do you need to make life better?” Serving one another is seen in the daily, little things and there’s many opportunities to serve.
Kids are always watching their parent’s marriage and yet too many marriages underestimate the power of modeling!
Children are taking daily recordings of what a marriage looks like and those recordings are definitely influencing and shaping their view of marriage.
Question: Do you have intentional actions that you’re modeling to your kids? Do you have some actions that are different from the ones I’ve listed?
If you do…leave a comment!
Special Offer This Week
My friends over at Orange Books are offering some great deals this week.
You can get any of the deals, any day this week, but, as a leader who’s passionate about people’s marriages, I wanted to highlight today’s featured deal:
Buy one copy of the book Married People, and get all of this:
• “Why Marriage Ministry Is Doable for Every Church” (Orange Conference 2014 breakout by Ted Lowe, audio file)
• “Married and in Ministry” (Orange Conference 2014 breakout by Ted Lowe and Doug Fields, audio file)
• an annual subscription to MarriedPeople E-ZINE
Plus, when you tweet or share any of the deals on Facebook, you’ll be entered to win a prize.
Just go to to orangebooks.com, click on the Married People book and place your order.
So…what are some things your kids are picking up…for better or for worse? Leave a comment.
Do a quick google search for the phrase “millennials are…” and the autocomplete adds “lazy”. Burn.
As a leader in my 40s, I personally love working with younger leaders. I think it’s a two way street. I learn from them, and they also learn from those of us who are ahead of them in life.
But what about the reputation millennials have for being slackers? It’s fairly pervasive.
Despite most younger leader’s incredible passion for life and desire to make a difference in the world, the reputation persists.
Personally, I think it’s as much about skill set as it is about anything.
In fact, the skills missing in millennials today are to some extent the same skills I needed to learn when I was in my 20s as a lawyer (my first calling) and then as a young church leader.
7 Habits That Will Help Young Leaders Overcome the Slacker Label
So…want to banish that label for good as a young leader? Great. Me too!
Here are 7 habits that can help you do that.
As a leader, you fight for people’s attention.
If you don’t have their attention, you don’t have influence. And if you have no influence, you’re not leading.
So having people’s attention is critical.
How do you get it?
That’s a great question.
And the emerging consensus today is that you need to be shorter because people’s attention spans are shrinking. As this article (among many) shows, people’s attention spans are dropping.
But notice the claim is only that the span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds today. 12 seconds was hardly a marathon.
Idea? Be brief, and you’ll have people’s attention.
I’d like to challenge that. I’m not convinced it’s solid logic and I’m not convinced that’s actually what’s happening.
I tend to agree with Derek Halpern and want to buck the accepted wisdom that attention spans are shorter.
Let me explain why, and then I’ll show you 5 ways to hold people’s attention far beyond what they’ll give most people.
The Real Issue: 10 Minutes of Boring is 10 Minutes Too Long
So what’s the real issue when it comes to attention span?
People don’t have time for boring.
Clearly we’re inundated with more messages than at any time in human history. And it’s forced us to be better stewards of what we consume.
Come on, you know this: faced with countless options, 10 minutes of boring is 10 minutes too long.
But an hour of fascinating is hardly enough.
If people’s attention span was truly 8 seconds, you couldn’t explain the rising phenomena of binge watching.
Why would teens and twenty somethings with zero attention span lock themselves in a room all day and all night to binge watch a brand new series?
Why This Blog Shouldn’t Work
When I started blogging seriously just under two years ago, people told me ‘nobody will read anything over 400 words.”
I heard it again and again.
But I realized much of what I had to say didn’t fit within 400 words, or often even 700.
So I just decided to be a long form blogger. I try not to waste words or go on too long. I always try to be helpful. But some ideas take longer to explain than others.
My average post is about 1200 words. Some have gone as long as 1600 words.
Just ask Ramit Sethi. He will often write very long emails, and hyper-lengthy copy and is one of the most successful online marketers around.
If you’re wondering, I personally don’t study him to become rich (that’s what his business is about), but because his approach to marketing is fascinating and completely counter-cultural these days. (If you want to see a study of his writing approach, you can click this link. Warning: there is off colour language).
So, I just decided to be me and wrote longer posts.
As some of you know, I set a goal in 2013 (my first full year of blogging) of 100,000 page views. To my utter astonishment, I saw over 800,000 page views.
Just a few days ago (early August 2014 if you’re reading this in the future), this blog passed 1,000,000 page views for 2014. I still can’t believe it.
Maybe long form copy isn’t dead.
And THANK YOU to everyone who has read and keeps reading this blog. I am so grateful to have met so many of you and we’re learning so much together.
It’s been an AMAZING journey.
And Now A Leadership Podcast
Next month I launch a podcast. Again, I’ve consulted with many podcasters about the ideal length.
Many told me 17-22 minutes is the sweet spot.
I’m doing an interview format in the podcast, and I want the podcast to be the best leadership conversations out there. My best personal leadership conversations never take 17-22 minutes to get through.
When I’m talking to a high capacity leader, the conversations often last an hour or longer.
So I’m setting the format at 40-50 minutes per episode. I hope you’ll find the conversations with leaders as fascinating and helpful as I do.
We’ll see what happens. But I’m excited.
(P.S. If you want to get in on the launch of my podcast, sign up on my email list today. We’ll be keeping you in the loop and giving you further options for even being part of the launch itself. Just subscribe under my profile pic at the top right.)
5 Ways To Hold People’s Attention Spans In a Crowded World
So how do you hold people’s attention spans in a crowded world?
Here are 5 ideas that have helped me wade through it:
1. Write killer content
Quite simply, write the best content you can. When you’re writing (even an email), when you’re blogging, when you’re designing your website, when you’re speaking or preaching.
Spend the time you need to think through your ideas.
Don’t try to be someone else.
And if you’re not a writer, become an incredible curator of other people’s content.
If you cant’ write, research, collect and distribute the best content you can to your community.
Always ask permission, but use other people’s articles to populate your emails to people who attend your church or are part of your organization.
Killer content wins. It just does. People will read it. People will thank you.
Because everyone is looking for help. Be the person who helps them.
2. Pay attention to your headlines and series titles
I have learned over time that the headline makes all the difference.
If you want how to learn how to write great headlines, click on over here where I explain it in detail (and include some helpful links).
I’m now trying to apply that to sermon and series titles at our church.
For example, I was going to call our summer series this year “Entitled”, because it was all about entitlement.
Then I realized I created a yawner.
So we renamed it “Starve the Monster”. I talked about the monster of entitlement that lives in us and our kids, and our team developed a really great graphics package.
People talked about it, remembered it more, and it became one of our most shared series online this year. All that in the middle of summer.
Bet you you’ll remember Starve the Monster. And you already forgot ‘Entitled”.
3. Consider a 2 minute YouTube style summary of your message alongside the full version
Here’s an idea we haven’t implemented yet but will shortly.
Most churches upload their 30-50 minute message Sunday and leave it at that.
I think that’s a mistake. People are used to 2 minute YouTube clips. So why not create a 2 minute excerpt of one of the best moments of your message or a 2 minute highlight reel to place beside the full version on your site.
It would allow people to sample something before they dive in.
My guess is if your content is great it will increase the number of views you get on full length messages, not decrease them.
It’s just an easier access ramp.
4. Create headers, white space and key points.
Even though most of my posts are over 1000 words, you can read the key points in under 10 seconds.
Headers and subheaders, lists, points and lots of white space make the text so much easier to read and scan.
I think it also makes it more memorable.
You remember what you see.
5. Get up close and personal.
You know what people still like? Face time. And not the online version.
People love to meet you. They really do.
So as much as you can, get out from behind the keyboard and meet the people you serve.
Doing that one on one is tough when you have a church or organization over 100-200 in size.
But if you can’t meet one on one, meet in groups.
In the future when I’m on the road, I’ll try to meet blog readers and (soon) podcast listeners in groups by hosting meet ups.
At home, from time to time I throw parties for leaders and people who attend our church at my house. I can’t invite everyone (we have 2000 people who call our church home), but that doesn’t mean I should invite no one.
Throughout the year, we’ll host other events and ministries in which we try to build personal relationships, cast vision and thank people for their involvement.
We just recently held a few during peak vacation season and were shocked to get a 70% yes rate from people we invited. Clearly people want to connect.
Guess what happens every time you connect in person with someone?
People feel connected to you and you feel connected to them.
And that means the next time you speak, you have their attention, because they have yours.
Don’t ignore the personal touches that make life the amazing adventure it is.
So that’s why I think people will give you more time and attention than you think when you connect with them.
What do you think?
Leave a comment!
It wasn’t that long ago you actually had to work hard to access anything you missed at the church you attended.
You had to show up in person to pick up a CD (or cassette…remember those??) or ask someone to mail you a copy. Or you simply missed out.
Fast forward to now, and almost every church has their messages available online.
It’s always good to ask some questions when things are changing quickly.
What are the rapid rise of messages online and experiences online doing to the church and to people’s faith?
Are they acting as a front door to ministry and attracting people, or are they acting as a back door for people slowly leaving the church?
In other words, is the option of church online moving people closer to Christ, or further away?
It’s a great question every church leader should think through.
So What’s Happening, Exactly?
When the option of churches podcasting and launching online campuses became real 6-8 years ago, it looked like it was all upside for the local church
A chance to reach more people.
An opportunity to get the Word out.
A chance to reach people who are scared of walking through a church door.
And, in many ways, all that upside is still there and amazing.
But another trend has emerged that no one really saw coming. Or at least I didn’t.
A growing number of Christians seem to be watching the local church rather than being engaged in the local church.
It’s not usually a huge number, but talk to even the mega-church people behind the scenes and they’ll tell you that as many as several thousand who used to attend in person aren’t any more. They’re watching from the comfort of a bed or beach instead.
While this hasn’t killed attendance by any stretch, it has dented it. The churches that offer numerous online gateways are still growing, but they are also seeing a smaller exodus of Christians no one is sure what to do with.
And it’s alarming for many more reasons than it being downward pressure on a growth curve.
4 Questions About Church Online For Christians
If you’re a Christian and your primary experience of church is online, my question is “why”?
Here are 4 questions I would ask: