The Summer Outreach Planning Guide (and 5 Ideas)

The Summer Outreach Planning Guide (and 5 Ideas)

As a church leader, the summer can feel like an overwhelming onslaught from a powerful enemy. 

During the spring, you see the summer months coming, and a tinge of anxiety strikes your chest. 

You see what’s about to happen. 

Your attendance declines. 

Giving decreases. 

Your ability to reach your community feels thwarted. 

In these moments, you’ll feel tempted to hide for cover, close your doors, and bury your head in the sand until school starts again. 

Be encouraged!

I know the summer can be a challenging time. But I’m here to tell you it can also be a fantastic opportunity to reach your community for Christ!

Below, I’m going to share a handful of outreach events your church can use. 

Before I share those details, I think it’s essential to talk about two things first:

  1. 5 common mistakes to avoid when launching an outreach event
  2. How to plan your next outreach

Let’s get started!

5 common mistakes to avoid when launching an outreach event

Launching a new outreach event is exciting. 

The thought of connecting with new people, sharing the gospel, and making disciples is awesome. 

In your excitement, it’s easy to make mistakes in the rush of launching something new. 

Before you dive headfirst into your next outreach event, take a moment to learn these common mistakes. This will help you to avoid stepping on any potential landmines that can blow up your progress. 

1 – Moving too fast

I just alluded to this first mistake: 

Getting caught up in the moment and launching something too soon is a common mistake. 

In other words, it takes time, planning, volunteers, and money to make most outreach events work. 

What is more, if you try to launch something in the next few weeks or months, you may not be able to secure the support you need  or have enough time to promote your event to the community. 

When planning your next outreach event, be sure to forecast the amount of time you’ll need to make it a success, which leads me to the next point. 

2 – Misguided vision

Pop quiz:

What's the goal of an outreach event? 

Time’s up! 

Have your answer?

It’s to reach or serve your community. 

When thinking through how to reach your community, keep in mind that your goal is to connect with non-Christians or people who are unaffiliated with a local church. Your outreach event needs to be about just that: outreach—not (only) about doing something fun for your church family. 

Launching an outreach event unanchored to a clear purpose of serving your community will naturally lead your plans to become simply an event for your church. 

Before getting started, clearly identify your goals, think through who you want to reach, and make sure every staff member and volunteer is in the know. 

3 – Lack of promotion

Who are you trying to reach in your community? 

How will they find out about your outreach event? 

If you’re not thinking about these two questions, then stop what you’re doing. 

If you don’t have the time or resources to promote your event, then don’t plan on anyone showing up other than your church members. 

To reach your community, you have to do more than build something and expect people to come. You have to make a plan and provide people with a compelling reason to show up. 

4 – Expecting one person to do everything

Don’t expect one person to do everything that needs to be done. 

Running an outreach event is no joke. 

It takes a village of people to run a successful event. 

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a project manager. What I’m saying is that you can’t expect for only one person to accomplish all of the tasks that need to be completed. 

Whomever you assign to spearhead your outreach event, encourage him or her to build a team of volunteers, be open to ideas and input, and empower everyone to pitch in a helping hand. 

5 – Mismanaging your outreach event

It’s easy to be inspired by an idea. 

But implementing an idea through to completion is a different ballgame. 

When (not if) you run out of steam, there’s a good chance your outreach event will derail.

Why? 

If your only motivation is inspiration, and you don’t make a plan and work your plan, then your outreach event will go nowhere fast. Excitement can only take you so far. You need to clearly define what needs to be done to get ready and to get your community excited. 

With these common mistakes out of the way, let’s take a look at how you can plan your next outreach. 

A checklist for planning your next outreach

I know you’re pumped about launching a new outreach. 

Before you get caught up in a whirlwind of excitement, stop for just a moment. 

You’ll need to take a moment to think through the nitty-gritty details. I know this stuff isn’t exciting. But like I just mentioned, it’s a huge mistake to overlook planning, organizing, and managing any outreach event. 

We’ve covered project management for churches elsewhere. So I don’t want to get into the weeds here. However, I’d like to share with you a few quick practical tips for launching a new outreach. 

Here’s a 7-step checklist you can use for launching any outreach:

  1. Figure out who you’re going to reach
  2. Pick a tactic
  3. Assign a leader
  4. Make a plan
  5. Build a team
  6. Launch
  7. Follow-up

Let’s take a look!

1 – Figure out who you’re going to reach

Who are you trying to reach in your community? 

Are you interested in making inroads to local schools? 

Is there an at-risk community who you feel burdened to reach? 

Are you trying to think of ways to reach families in your area? 

I know talking about this can feel awkward. But you have to know who you’re trying to reach so that you can identify the best ways to serve this group of people—to build relationships, share the gospel, and invite them to your worship service. 

Here’s why:

The outreach tactic you choose will influence who you want to reach, which leads us to the next point. 

2 – Pick a tactic

From the list of events below or elsewhere, decide what you’re going to do. 

I know this sounds obvious. 

But many church leaders (maybe you?) struggle with merely pulling the trigger. 

If you wait too long to make a decision, then you’ll miss out on reaching your community. 

As a friendly reminder, keep in mind whom you’re trying to reach. 🙂 

3 – Assign a leader

Who’s going to run point on your outreach event? 

Someone on your staff? Or do you need to tap on the shoulder of a volunteer? 

Whoever it is, just be sure it’s not your senior pastor or teaching pastor. I’m not saying your senior leadership is above managing an outreach event. 

Far from it. 

But at Church Fuel, we believe senior leaders must focus on the things only they can do, such as preaching and teaching and casting a vision. 

4 – Make a plan

Know what you’re going to do? 

Great. 

Now it’s time to get to work. 

To make a plan, there are a number of essential things you need to nail down:

  • When is your event?
  • Where is your outreach taking place? 
  • What’s your budget?
  • How many volunteers will need to help? 
  • What tasks need to be completed?
  • How are you going to promote your event? 
  • Do you need to print anything? 

These questions will help you to start thinking about what you need to do. 

Now, as I pointed out above, everything that needs to be doesn’t fall under the responsibility of one person.

5 – Build a team

Alright, so you know who you’re going to reach, what you’re going to do, and have a pretty good idea of what needs to be done. Now it’s time to build your team. 

This process doesn’t necessarily have to start at this step. 

This is something you can (and should) do while you’re thinking through who you want to reach and what you need to do to reach them. 

As you build your team, think through everyone you’ll need to not only launch an event—but to reach the people you want to reach. 

6 – Launch

Launch your outreach event with a bang!

For anything you do for your community, you have one opportunity to do it well. 

Don’t hold anything back. 

Give it everything you’ve got to make it pop. 

7 – Follow-up

This is an essential step and it’s easy to overlook:

Follow up with your community and your church. 

Here’s how: 

Be ready to follow up with new guests by collecting information (if relevant). Also, consider planning a follow-up event to lead them one step closer to getting involved with your church. From launching a relevant sermon series to promoting your children’s ministry, there are several ideas you can pursue. 

For your church, share stories, images, and videos from your outreach event. Let your church know how everyone together—donating and volunteering—made the outreach possible. 

5 summer outreach events

The outreach tactic you pursue will depend on three things:

  1. Your community
  2. Who you’re seeking
  3. Your resources (time, volunteers, and finances)

Below I’m going to share several ideas you can consider. 

As you pray through your next outreach, run through each idea with this lens. 

Let’s dig in!

#1 – Do something sporty

Sports can reach one of two groups:

  1. Adults
  2. Children

Depending on whom you want to reach, there are several different approaches you can take. 

For adults, you can either gather a team of players to join a preexisting league (e.g., softball) or start a sports ministry. For this latter option, you can tap an expert in an area (e.g., archery, MMA, aerobics) and offer classes.

For children, you can pursue similar opportunities. For example, you can recruit a team of children (both affiliated and non-affiliated) from your church community to join a preexisting league. What is more, you can also consider launching a sports ministry where you offer basketball, soccer, or baseball lessons. 

In both of these scenarios, don’t stop at offering sports training alone. Be sure to provide a great experience, offer refreshments, and find ways you can collect contact information and invite people to visit your church’s worship service, small group, or Bible study. 

#2 – Watch a movie

There is one thing most people in the United States have in common: 

They LOVE watching movies. 

During the summer months, watching movies is one of the most popular activities. So, why not tap into this crowd-pleasing activity and reach people in your community? Besides, your church probably has a sweet audio and visual setup or at least access to a legit location to host an outdoor movie. 

Now, if you go for hosting an outdoor movie, be prepared to have a backup plan. It’s impossible to forecast the weather, and you want to be able to pivot on the spot (go inside somewhere) or at least postpone the movie for another day. 

Regardless if you host an outdoor or indoor movie, go all out to create a movie theater experience. 

Get a popcorn machine. 

Buy boxes of candy. 

Provide drinks. 

To manage this, provide attendees with a ticket for one popcorn and/or candy. As for drinks, you can keep them flowing. If there’s plenty of snacks leftover, then offer people seconds and thirds.

#3 – Host a book club

People read books. 

I know that reading, in general, is on a downward trajectory. But depending on whom you want to reach, starting or joining a book club is a great way to connect with your community. 

You can start a book club for men, women, or both. 

You can start a book club to read through a “spiritual” book focused on an introduction to Christianity like The Reason for God by Timothy Keller or Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Or you can pick a famous book people in your community are interested in reading. If you go this latter route, read ahead and find ways you can naturally weave into your conversations discussions about Jesus—but don’t force this if it doesn’t fit. 

#4 – Provide a date night

Parents need to go on dates. 

Just because people get married and have kids doesn’t mean they don’t want to or shouldn’t go out. 

But here’s the deal:

It costs a lot of money to go out on dates, and the cost of childcare can make it cost-prohibitive for many couples. Give parents a night out by providing free childcare, and ensuring their children have a great experience too. 

Here’s another thought:

Provide a gift card to a local restaurant or elsewhere for couples. This can be a total surprise for parents. But a tremendous blessing. 

#5 – Serve schools and families

During the summer, your church has two BIG opportunities to serve the schools and families.

First, is there a school in your community you can serve? Is there a school in need of restoration? 

Identify the local schools in your area, and reach out to them to see how you can help them during the summer months. From cleaning to painting classrooms to providing general repairs, unearth the problems they have, and then reach out to your congregation to see how you can help. 

In this scenario, see if a member of your church can spearhead the work. He or she can work with the school to nail down what needs to be done, then he or she can put together a list of what you need to purchase, and then you can get to work raising the money and recruiting volunteers. 

Second, you can purchase school supplies for families. 

Let’s be honest:

It’s expensive for families to get ready for an upcoming school year. 

From purchasing new clothes to buying the supplies they need, the expenses add up. 

As a church, you can provide real, tangible support by purchasing the school supplies families need. 

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Coordinate with local schools
  • Get a list of supplies
  • Set a goal for how much you want to purchase
  • Raise financial support
  • Go to the store!

After you collect school supplies, you can donate these to families in your church, or you can work with the local schools or shelters in your area to coordinate delivery. 

Over to you

The summer doesn’t have to be a time of retreat. 

It can be an opportunity for you to make forward progress with the gospel. 

For additional ideas, check out 7 Summer Outreach Ideas

5 Ways to Immediately Improve Your Church Website

5 Ways to Immediately Improve Your Church Website

Your church website shouldn’t be static.

It's not something you can “set and forget.” 

Rather, it should adapt to updated technology and how people interact with websites, which is continually shifting.

This doesn’t mean you have to revamp your website every month. 

Far from it. 

But there is a precedent for keeping an eye on how well your website is performing. 

Is your website leading people to visit your church? 

Is it helping visitors to engage with your church community? 

To help you assess whether your church website is serving a purpose and not collecting dust, here are five things your site should accomplish—today. 

#1 – Clearly display your purpose

Your website must be (really) clear. 

I’m not talking about the quality of your images. 

Instead, what I have in mind is the communication of the ONE step you want your website visitors to take. 

Do you want them to visit your worship service? 

Do you want them to listen to the most recent sermon? 

Do you want to promote what ministries you have available? 

Ultimately, what ONE action do you want visitors to take? 

Now, let me ask you these follow-up questions:

Is this ONE thing made crystal clear on your website? Can your website visitors easily find this ONE thing? Or is it buried in one of your website’s internal pages, toward the bottom of your homepage, or crowded out by 10 additional calls to action? 

If you don’t make your ONE purpose clear on your site, then you’re making a big mistake. 

Here’s why:

Based on a recent study, when someone first visits your church’s website, he or she will only spend 5.59 seconds reading your homepage’s written content.

What’s the moral of the story? 

If the ONE step you want people to take isn’t clearly displayed, then the majority of your website visitors will not take that step. 

Action: Ask five people (friends, colleagues, volunteers, staff) to look at the homepage of your website for six seconds and answer this question: After looking at our website, what would you say is the ONE thing we ask you to do? 

#2 – Improve your website load time

Your website has to be fast. 

Like, really fast. 

According to the same study I mentioned above, nearly half (47%) of the people visiting your website expect it to load in two seconds or less. If it takes your church's website longer than this to load, then your website visitors will bounce. 

Here’s the deal:

You can have a slick website. It can have killer images, crazy good copy, and stunning design. But if it takes longer than two seconds to load, then your website will be more like an online trampoline. 

Action: Go to PageSpeed Insights by Google to see how long it takes for your church’s website to load. This is a free service, and Google will provide you with some tips on how to improve your website’s speed. 

#3 – Help people find your church

Your website doesn’t have to be complicated. 

In fact, most people visiting your website are looking for practical information. 

Based on a report by GreyMatter, here’s what visitors are looking for: 

  • What time are your services?
  • What activities or ministries do you offer?
  • Where are you located? 
  • Can I listen to or watch a sermon? 

Make this information easily accessible. 

Fight the temptation to bury this deep within your website. 

You want your website visitors to quickly figure out where you’re located and what time they need to be there. 

Regarding your sermons, uploading your most recent content is a bonus. 

Here’s why:

Based on a survey conducted by the Pew Research Forum, 83% of respondents said that the “quality” of the sermon influenced whether they chose to visit a church.

When you first read this, you may be tempted to compare  yourself to the local megachurch pastor. 

DON’T. 

The definition of “quality” differs from person to person. 

Be faithful. 

Preach the Bible. 

Upload your sermons. 

Call it a day. 

Action: Make practical and useful information available and easy to find on your church’s website. 

#4 – Make your church website is easy to find online

“Churches near me.”

“Easter service near me.”

“Churches in Atlanta.”

“Baptist church Charleston West Virginia.”

These are common phrases people use to find a church in their town. 

If you want these potential first-time guests to visit your worship service, then it’s best for your church’s website to appear on the first page of results. 

Here’s why:

Per MOZ, a leader in search engine optimization, the majority of organic clicks (71.33%) take place on the first page of search results. 

Know what else?

Results that rank in the 1–5 range will receive 67.6% of EVERY click. 

To get the attention of these would-be visitors, you’ll need to brush up on what’s called “search engine optimization” (SEO). I understand this sounds technical. But you don’t need to be a software engineer or have a considerable budget to boost your church’s ranking in search results. 

There are practical things you can do to improve your church’s SEO. 

Action: Read 3–5 articles on church SEO, and see if you or someone in your church can help improve your website’s SEO. If you hit a dead-end, consider hiring an SEO expert to boost your church’s rank.

#5 – Show people what your church is all about

There’s one last way you can make it easier for people to visit your church:

Let them see what your church is like. 

To do this, it’s essential to include photos of your church on your website. 

From pictures of your church staff to candid shots taken during worship services or church events, include as many images as you can. 

Adding photos of your church to your website will help people see what your church is like. It will help them get a better feel for your style of worship, what to wear, and what they should expect. 

Action: Get someone to take high-quality, professional photographs of your staff and candid shots of services or events. This person can be on your staff, a church member, a volunteer, or someone you hire. Upload these images at relevant locations on your church’s website. 

Improve your church’s website

There you have it. 

The five things you can do to improve your church’s website today: 

1. Clearly display your purpose

2. Improve your website load time

3. Help people find your church

4. Make your church website easy to find online

5. Show people what your church is all about

After reading this post, take 10–15 minutes to walk through the action steps above. These short exercises will place you well on your way to making your church’s website a more effective tool for communicating with your church members and community. 

3 Ways Your Church Can Create Different Streams of Income

3 Ways Your Church Can Create Different Streams of Income

Raising financial support for your church will look different—really soon.

Let me explain. 

In recent years, one significant shift has been taking place that will negatively influence your church:

People tend to be less engaged in local churches.  

Study after study has revealed a general decline in worship attendance across the United States. Now, this trend may not be influencing your church today, but there’s one more thing you need to know. 

When it comes to younger generations (Gen Z and Millennials), their view of participating in local churches differ from older generations in one big way: They tend to be less engaged. 

What does this have to do with raising financial support?

Well, it’s a simple equation. 

Fewer people attending your church means there will be fewer people available to donate.

Your church may already feel the impact of this change, or it may be years until you experience the full brunt of this shift. In either scenario, you need to start preparing for this change now. 

In this post, I’m going to share with you three ways you can leverage what you already have to create multiple streams of income. 

#1 – Leverage your church’s property

Does your church own property?

If so, you may be sitting on several streams of income.

Think about it. 

Depending on the size of your property and how you use it, there are at least three ways you can leverage it to generate income. You may be able to lease your facility (or a part of it) for:

1. Business space

2. Coworking space

3. Events

Do you have enough space in your church building to lease it to a business? This is what Mosaic Church does. Mosaic Church had enough unused space on their property to rent to a fitness club to the tune of $8,000 per month. 

With the extra income they earn from this lease, Mosaic Church can cover the entirety of their monthly mortgage. 

And although this wasn’t mentioned by their church leaders, I imagine this stream of income provides a tremendous amount of peace because they know their monthly mortgage is paid.

Your church may not have enough free space to spare several thousand square feet. But do you have unused office space or a wing of your building you can lease as offices? Can you convert some of your building into a workshop for a local artisan? Is your church building in an ideal location to provide space for a coffee shop or retail store? These few questions will help you to think through the possibilities. 

On a similar note, your church may be able to tap into the growing popularity of coworking spaces. For example, Bethesda United Methodist Church runs Haw Creek Commons—a coworking space—out of their church facility. 

For this to work, you can rent out a handful of offices or use an entire section of your church building to provide coworking space. 

Finally, a third option you can consider is hosting events. 

If you think about it, there’s a good chance your church building is ideal for hosting live or virtual events. From providing a stage to seating to a foyer, you can quickly adapt your facility into a perfect event location. 

From concerts and theater to seminars and ceremonies, there are countless ways you can transform your facility into an ideal event venue for your community. 

#2 – Open a bookstore

There’s one thing many Christians have in common:

They like to read books. 

Christianity is a religion of the Word. 

An essential tenet of our faith is that we believe God revealed himself through the Bible. This belief not only compels us to read the Bible. It also leads us to read books. 

Despite the general decline of people purchasing books over the years, according to Forbes, the revenue of religious publishing companies increased by 14.7% in 2019. 

So what’s the point? 

There’s a good chance your church could benefit from starting a bookstore. 

Before making a decision on this, here are five things to keep in mind:

1. Preparedness

2. Placement

3. Pace yourself

4. Payment

5. Promotion

Is your church prepared to have a bookstore? 

One of the most significant factors influencing the answer to this question is your weekly attendance. For example, if your church has an average weekly attendance of 75, then you may not have enough people present to make a bookstore a viable stream of income. However, if your church welcomes a few hundred people or more every week, then you may be able to sell enough books to produce a decent stream of income. 

If you believe your church is prepared to provide a bookstore, then you’ll need to consider the store’s placement. For instance, you don’t want to place your bookstore in the janitor’s closet or away from the flow of people coming and going. Be sure to place your bookstore in view of people attending your worship services. 

Pace yourself in launching your bookstore. Instead of purchasing thousands of dollars worth of products, consider purchasing a few hundred dollars worth of material. This way, if you run into a problem selling products, you will only incur a small financial setback. 

How will you sell your books? 

When you make your books available, be sure to have your payment information nailed down. There are many payment options you can provide: From using a Square Reader to providing a box people can drop cash or a check into, to asking people to make a payment via PayPal.

Finally, don’t forget to promote your bookstore. 

Naturally, your preaching pastor will mention books during his or her sermon. If possible, identify what books or resources your pastor will highlight during their sermon or sermon series. This way, you can include those books in your bookstore. 

If you’re just getting started, here’s a book table idea from All Souls in Seattle, WA: 

Now, if you’re in a position to create a larger retail storefront, here’s an example from Crossings Community Church:

#3 – Gain interest on your savings 

When it comes to your church’s finances, it’s a good idea to save money for a rainy day. If your church has faithfully saved money over the years, have you accumulated a decent nest egg? 

Depending on your church’s financial situation, you can leverage your savings to create an additional stream of income. I’m not suggesting you invest in the stock market or pursue risky investments. Instead, consider placing a portion of your church’s savings or checking account money into interest-bearing accounts. 

Several factors will influence this decision. Instead of giving you general advice here, I suggest you consult your church’s leadership and financial advisor to ensure your church is leveraging the money you have well. 

Over to you

No matter your situation, is important you and your church leadership think through options for expanding your streams of income. That way, your church will be better prepared to handle any ups and downs in giving that may occur now or in the future.

What to Look for in Church Technology

What to Look for in Church Technology

It’s about relationships.

Technology is no longer just about the latest, greatest, or flashiest thing. It’s about relationships. Think about it: You don’t use the messages app on your phone because it has the coolest or most robust interface, you use it because it enables you to talk to the people you already care about. 

Likewise, your church community expects to be able to interact with your ministry in the same way. But the reality is, while technology is a necessary bridge between a church and its members, most churches struggle to make smart tech-buying decisions that don’t just help connect members in the short term, but help the church fulfill its long-term mission.

While each church’s workflow and order of service is different, and every tech solution may not fit every congregation, there are some non-negotiable features you should look for in every potential technology buy:

Does it nurture participation?

Any member-facing tool should have a strong mobile device presence. People already spend, on average, five hours a day on mobile devices. To nurture healthier participation and engagement, strive to get a piece of that time. Through targeted—and actionable—push notifications, quick polls, and consistent delivery of excellent media (sermon videos, music, etc.), congregants can participate in church at their convenience. This is especially helpful for times when people are out of town or sick and unable to attend in person.

Your tech solution should also feature your church’s events on a single platform. Members should be able to register for events at any time, whether they’re at a worship service, lunch, or watching a baseball game.

Does it nurture generosity? 

Your giving solution shouldn’t make it difficult for people to give—it should make it easier for them to give more. This means your giving tool should have strong mobile capabilities since people are familiar with making financial transactions on their mobile devices. Your tech solutions must drive people to mobile so that your community can give whenever and wherever they feel led to do so. Look for features that simplify the process for your donors and helps nurture giving

For example, your church needs a way to easily move people to mobile when they give through other means like cash or check. You’ll want the ability to share preconfigured giving links that allow donors to give a specific amount to a specific cause. Technology should never be a barrier for your givers—it should always make giving simpler.

Does it come with expert coaching and support?

You didn’t get into the ministry to drown in IT and cybersecurity, and you shouldn’t have to launch and sustain your church technology by yourself. Require new partners to come to the table with significant resources in coaching and support. An effective technology partner has helped thousands of other organizations effectively use its product. It’ll lean into that experience to help make your experience better.

Your tech provider’s support team should understand your unique church needs and mission and understand how their product can improve your processes. Because your biggest days are often on weekends, you need support that’s available seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Don’t settle for anything less.

Does it simplify financial workflows?

Your technology should help you manage and engage your donors, tie your financial systems together, and reconcile your finances as simply as possible. Your staff is already trying to do more with less, and your church technology must be able to save them time and effort.

Features like batch entry of digital and offline gifts, annual giving statements, remote check deposit, and historical transaction imports aren’t just features that are nice to have.

These are all must-have features that today’s churches can’t thrive without.

Does it personalize the journey?

Your members expect a personalized experience each time they use your tech offerings. If your tech solution looks templated and impersonal, you lose credibility and trust. Tech giants like Amazon, Ebay, Google, and Netflix have taught users that technology can provide a unique and personalized experience. Your congregants want this same experience from their church.

Your tools should allow you to easily create a personalized experience for your members. They want to see your name, logo, and color palette when they use the tool—not the tech provider’s. The first screen your users visit on your technology will be the most-visited, making it a critical piece of communications real estate. It’s the perfect opportunity to add your church’s mission, vision statement, and images for consistency across platforms.

Does it safeguard trust?

Your congregation must be able to trust your church in order for you to have an effective platform for ministry. Your tech solution should help you build this trust by working effectively every time but especially when you need it the most. Tools like your giving solution should work consistently and safeguard donors’ financial information every time without fail.

What does the data say?

When it comes to evaluating your giving solution, you need to look for an additional feature:

Data. Information about how your members use the giving solution is important to have, not only to make smart decisions concerning new tech options but also to understand and plan around members’ giving patterns.

If your current giving solution can’t answer the following questions, you need a new tool:

  • What percentage of our church currently gives digitally?
  • What percentage of our givers are “recurring givers”?
  • What percentage of our givers give through mobile devices?
  • What percentage of giving happens outside of times when we normally hold services?

Track Record Matters

While every church’s technology use differs, they can certainly learn from each other when it comes to adopting new tech. Whenever you’re looking for tech solutions, ask potential vendors for case studies from churches like yours. Case studies can help you get a picture of how a specific tool has benefited other churches. Ask for references from churches with a similar size and demographic makeup to get a feel for what the platform can do from a church’s perspective. Some tech solutions that work for small churches won’t work for larger ones and visa versa.

For more on buying church technology the right way and getting the right people involved, check out the free ebook from Pushpay, the Church Technology Buyer’s Guide, today!

Pastoral Searches: 4 Common Mistakes & A 7-Step Playbook

Pastoral Searches: 4 Common Mistakes & A 7-Step Playbook

Searching for a new pastor is nothing new.

But if you're feeling overwhelmed by the thought of finding a new pastor, you’re not alone.

For good, bad, and ugly reasons, pastors often transition.

But look on the bright side.

Since this is the case, there’s a ton of helpful advice out there on how to find your next pastor.

In this post, I created a short guide based on the best available advice to help you put together a pastoral search. Before getting into the nitty-gritty, let me save you some heartache and lay out the four common mistakes to avoid when searching for a new pastor.

4 common pastoral search mistakes

You’re going to make plenty of small mistakes along the way, and that’s okay. But you want to avoid stepping on one of these landmines during your pastoral search. One of them could blow up your entire process. So, tread lightly. 🙂

#1 – Avoid advice

Let me state the obvious:

Finding a new pastor is challenging.

Know what else?

This task isn’t something your church does every day.

In this post, I’m going to share practical advice handed down over years of pastoral search committee experiences. Following these tips will place you on the right track. But there’s one colossal limit this blog post possesses:

It will not turn you into an expert.

Becoming an expert in anything takes time, dedicated practice, and experience.

Does this mean you shouldn’t move forward in your pastoral search?

Far from it.

Here’s what this means:

In your search for a new pastor, don’t overlook your potential lack of experience with hiring people. Instead, be humble. Acknowledge the possibility that you, your church staff, or your church members may not have the skills you need to promptly find the right pastor for your church.

This process isn’t a simple task you can mark off of a church project-management to-do list. The life of your church marches on without a senior pastor, and in his or her absence, you may lose church members, experience a decline in giving, or lose forward momentum. When (not if) this happens, your search for a new pastor will feel more urgent, which can lead your search committee to make a rash decision.

As you prepare to search for a new pastor, consider soliciting advice from outside sources, such as your:

#2 – Searching too fast—or too slow

Timeliness is of the essence.

When it comes to pastoral searches, many churches have erred in two ways:

1. Moving too fast

2. Moving too slow

First of all, there’s no need to move too fast.

Don’t offer the position to the first person you interview. Give yourself and your search committee time to interview several candidates. There’s no need to rush the process.

The other error you want to avoid is moving too slow.

It’s easy to make the position public, receive interest, and then never return an email or phone call. Moving too slow will cost your church the interest of great candidates, and an unnecessarily lengthy search process will negatively influence your church members.

#3 – Lack of communication

Searching for a new pastor is a public (church) thing—not a private matter.

Even though your church may have a board, bishop, or search committee who’ll make the final decision in hiring a senior pastor, you shouldn’t leave your church members in the dark.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to forget to keep your church up-to-date.

How’s the process going?

Has your search committee narrowed down their list?

Will you invite a candidate to interview soon?

These are just some of the questions your church members are thinking. Instead of tempting them to gossip, it’s best to continually share updates while being open and honest..

Know who else needs to know what’s going on?

People who’ve applied for the position.

As you work through the pool of applicants, be quick to let those who didn’t make your short list know, and provide them with encouraging words to keep pursuing their vocational call to ministry.

Have you identified candidates you’d like to learn more about?

It’s best to let them know as well.

As I shared above, you don’t want to keep your candidates sitting in the dark for too long.

#4 – Unrealistic expectations

Visionary leader.

Executive skill set.

Gifted orator.

People-person.

Organizational builder.

These are just some of the characteristics you may be looking for in your next pastor, and it makes sense. It’s nice to have someone who can “do it all.”

But here’s the deal:

From vocational ministry to the business world, you’ll never find someone who is or can do everything. So, be careful that you don’t place unrealistic expectations on the pastor you’re searching for that Jesus himself can't fulfill.

In your pastoral search, your search committee will have to define exactly what you’re looking for in a candidate. During this process, be sure to clarify your church’s priorities versus qualities that are nice to have.

A 7-step playbook for finding your next pastor

Now it’s time to get work.

After pouring over a ton of different resources from denominations, networks, and independent churches, I put together this 7-step playbook for finding your next pastor.

Here is the table of contents:

1. Pray, pray, and pray

2. Build a search committee

3. Find an interim pastor

4. Know the vision of your church

5. Know who you’re looking for

6. Review your applications

7. Interview your candidates (thoroughly)

It's time to get started.

#1 – Pray, pray, and pray

At ChurchFuel, we’re practical people—it’s what we do.

We have a biasness for action, and a tendency to act first.

We’re not alone.

As a church leader, you’re beyond busy.

Your schedule (LINK) can be unruly.

You have more work to do than hours to do it.

Now, in the search for a new pastor, you have a huge task to accomplish. At this point, it’s easy just to put your head down, make a plan, and start knocking out the work you need to do like whack-a-mole.

Stop.

Take a breath and prepare to pray—a lot.

Calling a new pastor to serve your church isn’t a simple task. Sure, you can hire anyone you like. But you want to do more than find a hired hand. You want to discover the next pastor God is calling to lead your church, and this is a spiritual matter that can only be accomplished through prayer.

As you prepare to search for a new pastor, here are three things you’ll need to pray for:

1. Wisdom

2. Search committee

3. Future candidates

As for wisdom, you need to submit your work to the Lord. Place yourself and your church in his hands, and ask for him to lead the way. A prayer for wisdom isn’t a one-time event. Seeking God’s input through prayer is something you’ll need to do on an ongoing basis.

In your prayers, you’ll also need to pray for your search committee. At this point in the process, you haven’t put together a search committee. But you’ll want to start praying for God to put together the right team.

Don’t stop praying for your search committee after they're formed. You’ll want to lead your church to pray for them throughout this process. So, however you share prayer requests with your church members, be sure to include a call to pray for your search committee.

Finally, you’ll want to pray for your future candidates. Ask the Lord to lead the right person to serve your church, and pray for that person’s well-being and family throughout this process.

#2 – Build a search committee

Remember, searching for a new pastor is a public (church) task.

This is a principle that undergirds finding a new pastor—especially when it comes to forming a search committee. If prayer is the fuel that drives your church, the search committee is the engine behind finding your church’s next pastor.

Since forming a search committee is vital to this process, let’s take a moment to talk about the following:

  • What is a search committee?
  • How many people should be on your committee?
  • Who should be on your search committee?
  • What roles should form your committee?

Let’s dig in!

What is a search committee?

A search committee is a group of people in your church who are temporarily organized to find your church’s next pastor. From developing a job description, screening candidates, and setting up interviews, the search committee leads the process of finding your church’s next pastor.

How many people should be on your search committee?

For your search committee, it’s best to have an odd number of people, in the range of 7–11.

An odd number of members will help your team to avoid a stalemate.

Shouldn’t the search committee unanimously agree on the decisions they make?

This would be nice.

But a unanimous decision isn’t necessary.

Here’s the deal:

Your search committee should be made up of people with different perspectives. When this is the case, there’s a good chance that not everyone will agree on whomever your church decides to call as their next pastor.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a bad thing.

When disagreements are present, then your search committee will be able to talk through differences, make a compromise, and move toward the middle in whatever decisions they make.

For your church committee, you don’t want fewer than 7 members, and you want to avoid having more than 11. If you have less than 7 people on your search committee, then there’s a good chance your committee will get overwhelmed by the work and move too slow during the process. On the other hand, if you have more than 11 people, you run the risk of taking too much time to make decisions.

Who should be on your search committee?

Your search committee should reflect your church.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Involvement in the church
  • Positions in the church

Regardless of the polity your church does or doesn’t have for selecting a search committee, make sure your committee reflects the life of your church as best as possible. This way you can ensure that this process is a public (church) task.

What roles should form your committee?

Here are the three essential roles you need to fill in your search committee:

  • Chairperson
  • Secretary
  • Communications director

The chairperson is the man or woman responsible for leading the search committee. The chairperson’s primary role is to schedule meetings and oversee the work that needs to be done.

The secretary will take notes and help everyone stay on track.

Finally, the communications director is the person responsible for communicating with the church and with the candidates.

Don’t overlook this last position. Without having a dedicated communications director, you run the risk of keeping your church and candidates in the dark or slowing down communication to a standstill.

#3 – Find an interim pastor

In between senior pastors, your church will have a considerable gap to fill—especially in the pulpit.

One idea to consider during this pastoral transition is to identify an interim pastor.

An interim pastor is someone you can hire, an assistant pastor, staff member, or even shared responsibility among your church's leadership. Whatever your church decides, be sure to clarify the most critical work that needs to be done in the absence of your previous pastor, and ensure that someone or a group fulfills these responsibilities.

Here’s what else you need to know:

Having an interim pastor will help you fight the urge to hire someone too fast.

Why?

An interim pastor can preach and take on other responsibilities while your church works toward calling its next pastor.

#4 – Know the vision of the church

There’s one vital step your search committee needs to take before moving forward:

Your search committee needs to agree (not by a vote) on the vision of your church.

Thankfully, this isn’t something your search committee will need to define. This is something your church has probably already nailed down in a vision or mission statement. So, your committee won’t have to recreate the wheel at this point.

Here’s why this important:

The mission and vision of your church will influence the type of pastor you call.

In one way, the location of your church (urban, suburban, or rural) will naturally influence the type of pastors who will submit an application or be open to considering serving your church. Differently, your church’s mission, worship style, and philosophy of ministry will also influence what type of pastor you hire.

Here’s what else to keep in mind:

What is your church’s vision for the future?

For the answer to this question, your search committee needs to take stock of where you’re at and what type of pastor you need to help you get to where you want to go. When your team is armed with this information, then they’ll be in a better position to define what type of pastor can help your church fulfill its mission, which leads me to the next point.

#5 – Know who you’re looking for

Creating a job description is one of the first big tasks your search committee will need to complete.

Don’t treat this as a simple task to complete.

This job description is so much more than a random posting on a church staffing website. This description stakes a claim about your church and the type of pastor your church is seeking. What is more, the description you create will also influence the kind of candidates who apply.

When creating the job description or ministry profile, here are specific things you want to include:

  • Academic qualifications
  • Ordination requirements
  • Ministry experience
  • Necessary skills
  • Personal, familial, and spiritual characteristics
  • Job (pastoral) expectations
  • Philosophy of ministry
  • Ideal ministry setting
  • Personal testimony and call to ministry

Don’t rush this process—your search committee won’t be able to complete this in one evening. For a lot of this information, if your church is affiliated with a denomination or network, then you can lean on your network for input.

Keep in mind the future of your church. For example, if your church needs help breaking the 200 barrier, then it’s ideal to find a pastor who has experience doing this.

Know what else?

Depending on the size of your church, you’ll need to be careful of what type of pastor you call. For example, it’ll be difficult for a pastor of a 200-member church to lead a church of 2,000. Can he or she learn how to do this? Sure. Unless you have the time or a transitional plan in place where your current pastor will mentor the next pastor, then prayerfully move forward if your committee “believes” a candidate may fit the bill.

Here’s a different side of this coin to consider:

A pastor transitioning from a solo situation to a team or a team to a solo situation may struggle.

Here’s why.

The skills anyone needs—including pastors—to work with or without a team are different. If someone is skilled at being a solo pastor, then he or she will need time, resources, and support to learn how to work well with a team.

If a pastor akin to working with a team is considering a solo pastoral opportunity, then be sure to ask him or her if they’re ready to work without a team. This might seem inconsequential. But the type of work required in a solo setting versus a team setting differs, and the pastor considering a call in this scenario needs to consider this.

#6 – Review your applications

Let’s say you’ve already completed the steps listed above.

What is more, let’s also imagine that a couple of months have already passed, and you’ve received multiple applications.

What do you do next?

Are you supposed to interview every candidate?

Nope.

After you receive applications, the first step your search committee should take is to create a short list. Based on the criteria you established in the previous step, examine applications and decide whether each candidate fits the qualifications.

At this point, there are three things you can do:

1. Pass

2. Pause

3. Go

At the first step, you can simply pass on candidates who do not meet the requirements for the position. As a search committee, you need to be prepared to receive applications from candidates who do not meet the qualifications—especially in the area of skills and experience.

In pastoral searches, many people will wrestle with a perceived internal call from God to serve as your next pastor. Some candidates may be called to serve in vocational ministry. But based on their pastoral experience, they are not the right person for your church. In these cases, it’s okay to say no and to let them know as quickly as possible.

During your search, there will be other candidates who you’re on the fence about. In these moments, it’s okay to pause and further explore this candidate. When you run across candidates who you’re not sure about passing on or moving forward with, you can follow up with them to ask a few questions. This can be done via email or someone from your search committee can speak with the candidate directly and report back to the team.

Finally, if an applicant meets the qualifications for the position, you can go—move forward—with interviewing them as a potential candidate, which leads me to the next point.

#7 – Interview your candidates (thoroughly)

Have your short list handy?

Great, now it’s time to move on to the interviews.

How many candidates should you invite to interview?

Well, it depends.

At a minimum, we suggest interviewing at least 3–5 candidates.

Now, when I say interviews, I’m not only talking about a friendly fireside chat over the phone. What I have in mind is inviting the candidate and his or her spouse to visit your church for a few days.

For this process to be effective, you’ll want to schedule 3–4 days and make sure they connect with multiple people and groups, including:

  • Church leaders and spouses
  • Ministry leaders
  • Volunteers
  • Long-standing members
  • Shut-ins
  • Small groups or Bible studies

Basically, you want candidates to meet as many people as possible.

By making multiple connections through your church, you’ll be better able to gauge how well your church members respond to candidates.

What is more, during your interview process, there are three areas you want to look into:

1. Experience

2. Personal life

3. Family life

Let’s take a look at these in detail!

#1 – Experience

When it comes to a candidate’s experience, look closely.

Here are some things to be on the lookout for:

  • Sermons
  • Bible studies
  • Social media accounts
  • Supplemental material
  • Recommendations

When your committee is reviewing a candidate, it’s essential to connect with his or her referrals or recommendations. This is a time-consuming yet vital step you don’t want to skip. There have been plenty of cases of churches who did not connect with a candidate’s referrals, and then discovered months or years later of significant issues that disqualify him or her from the ministry.

Here’s what else you’ll need to do:

Invite your candidates to preach and teach.

At a minimum, you want every candidate you’re seriously considering to preach. It’s one thing to listen to a candidate’s sermons. It's another thing to hear him or her preaching from the Bible for your church.

Also, depending on your church and the candidate’s time, it’s also a good idea to have him or her teach a Sunday school class, lead a small group, or whatever is essential for your church.

Requiring this step will give you and your church first-hand experience of each candidate’s ability to preach and teach.

#2 – Personal life

The pastor you call is your next shepherd.

He or she should be able to set a grace-filled example of what it means to live and love like Jesus.

There’s only one way you can find this out:

By asking each candidate questions, listening, and chatting with referrals.

Here are just some of the questions you’ll want to ask:

  • What are your views about [fill in the blank]?
  • What do you think about the use of alcohol? Smoking?
  • Can you describe your devotional life?
  • What place does family have in your life?
  • How do you approach sermon preparation?
  • Are you involved in your community?
  • What hobbies do you have?

There are many more questions you can ask. But this list will get you started.

#3 – Family life

Finally, the last big area you want to explore is a candidate’s family life.

Assuming your candidate is married and has kids, you might ask these questions:.

  • How often do you go out with your spouse?
  • In what ways are you discipling your children?
  • How would you describe your relationship with your spouse?

You don’t want to leave these questions to your candidate. During the interview process, you can also ask his or her spouse similar questions to gauge their relationship.

Before moving on, there’s one last thing I’d like to emphasize:

Require your search committee to maintain strict confidentiality.

It’s okay for your team to speak in general terms. But it’s best for everyone to hold back their thoughts on individual candidates until a final decision is made.

Calling your next pastor

In the end, it’s time for your church to make a decision.

How this decision is made will be influenced by your denomination or network. For example, do you allow your church committee to make a decision or recommendation, does your church’s leadership (elders, deacons, board) make the decision, or does the entire church cast a vote?

To make your decision, we don’t suggest requiring a unanimous vote. Instead, we suggest requiring two-thirds (2/3) of your committee or church to vote in favor of your next pastor.

Regardless of whom you call, your work isn’t done.

It’s now time to partner together with your future pastor to share the gospel, make disciples, and be a light in your community.