Keeping your church and visitors informed is challenging.
Every day, they swim in a sea of information.
From phone calls and emails to social media and television, they hear and see a ton of messages.
Over the years, churches have used printed bulletins to let people know what’s going on. But, with the introduction and proliferation of new technology—in particular, mobile phones—you may wonder if printing a bulletin is still helpful. It can feel like everyone is tuning out your church announcements.
First, let’s agree on one thing:
Keeping people informed in your church is essential.
No one is going to figure out anything by osmosis.
Besides, think about it like this:
Often when you attend an event—say a concert, gala, or game—you receive a program that informs you of the layout and tells you what to expect.
Today, if anything, the idea of church bulletins have become reimagined—not obsolete.
Below, I’m going to share with you four alternatives to a printed church bulletin. But first, there are three things you should consider before trashing your bulletin.
3 ways you can adapt your printed bulletin
Before casting your church bulletin into an eternal abyss, here are three things you can try:
- Reduce the size
- Print in black and white
- Print monthly, not weekly
Is your church bulletin ginormous?
Is it full of a tremendous amount of info?
Before ending your church bulletin, the first thing you can do is reduce the size. To accomplish this goal, really think through the purpose of your bulletin. What is its point?
When you answer this question, filter everything you usually include in the bulletin through this lens to see what does and doesn’t fit. If it doesn’t meet the criteria, then don’t include whatever it is—even if it is a promotion for Aunt Betty’s long-standing quilting ministry.
Do you print your bulletin in color?
If so, then consider printing your bulletin in black and white. If you go this route, you may have to remove images and colorful designs. But it will save you printing costs in the long run.
Finally, another option to consider is to print only one bulletin per month.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should print the same amount of bulletins every week. Instead, for this tactic to work, you’ll need to limit what you share, avoid sharing potentially canceled events, and reduce the number of copies you print per month.
This option will save you both time and money.
Have you tried these ideas? Or are you convinced you need to can your printed bulletin?
If so, let’s take a look at four alternatives you can pursue.
#1- Video announcements
Do you have the ability to share a video during your worship service?
Is your church open to the usage of video during the worship service?
If you answered “yes” to both of these questions, sharing announcements via video may be a viable option.
Before trodding down this path, you’ll need to consider how to go about making videos. There are two options:
- Produce videos in-house
- Outsource production
To record video announcements, you can produce them in-house. To pull this off, you’ll need video equipment, someone overseeing production, and a deadline.
Thankfully, you don’t need to invest thousands of dollars for video equipment. You can get a sweet set up for $1,000 or less.
To produce your video announcements, you’ll need to delegate responsibility and authority. Someone will need to be in charge of ensuring everything is produced on time and ready to share during your worship service.
Talking about deadlines, one thing that can quickly derail your production is not setting and adhering to a strict guideline. For example, if you don’t have a drop-dead date for announcement submissions, then your video announcement will barely be ready by Sunday morning, since you’ll have to make changes constantly.
This is a recipe for disaster and burnout.
The next option you have is to outsource production.
Today, many churches outsource a variety of services—including church announcement videos.
If you outsource your videos, be prepared to submit your announcements in a timely fashion, and be sure whomever you work with can provide consistent production. You’d hate to get into a situation where the style and tone is constantly in flux.
Ready to produce videos?
There’s one caveat you need to know:
The amount of information you can convey in an announcement is less than what you can share in print.
The medium (video) is simply limited by how many words you can share.
Think about it.
The average novel is 80,000–150,000 words, whereas the average word count for a movie script is 7,500—20,000.
What’s the point?
The amount of information you can share in a video announcement is less than what you can share in a printed bulletin. So, whatever you share needs to be clear and laser-focused.
#2- Email newsletters
Know what church members are continually checking?
If you’re not already, you can send your weekly announcements to your church via email.
With email, here are a few best practices to keep in mind:
- Include links (if applicable)
- Write a captivating subject line
Regarding the first point above, you’ll be tempted to share everything, which makes sense. It’s a digital format, and you’re not limited by the number of pages or margins as in a print bulletin.
Don’t do this.
When you send a weekly newsletter to your entire church, most of what you share needs to apply to everyone. If you need to send a message for your music ministry or children’s ministry volunteers, then send this group a separate message. This small pivot in your communication strategy will vastly improve the effectiveness of your communication.
#3- Church apps
A church app can easily replace your printed bulletin.
I know you may not be a fan of an app.
But there are some important tidbits you need to know.
With a church app, you can:
- Share content—e.g., sermons, blog posts
In short, a church app is one destination you can promote for your church members to stay in the know.
Thankfully, today, church apps are affordable. So, you won’t have to take out a second mortgage on your church facility to pay the bill.
After building an app, the only thing you’ll need to do on the regular is to encourage your church to download it and ensure notifications are enabled (they should be by default).
#4- Church website
A mobile website can also do many of the same things a church app can accomplish.
If you want to use your website to replace your printed bulletin, then here’s what you need to know:
There’s one thing to keep in mind with your website:
Today, church websites tend to be the front door for potential visitors, and it may not be the best way to share information with your church community—especially personal info, like prayer requests.
Does this mean you can’t use a website to replace your printed bulletin?
It’s just something to keep in mind.
Should you focus on your website or an app?
Again, it just depends.
A church app is different than a mobile website.
For the sake of your replacing your church bulletin, think through what you and your team can reasonably manage from a time and budget standpoint.
Is it time to get rid of your printed bulletin?
Well, that depends.
Before you make a decision, you need to ask yourself these four questions:
- How can we best inform church members?
- How can we best inform visitors?
- What information do we need to share to accomplish these goals?
- What are the best mediums (print, email, social media, etc.) to connect with our members and visitors?
After you think through these four questions, you’ll know if you need to keep your printed bulletin the same, adapt it, or replace it with something else entirely.
Leading a church can feel lonely.
Your church looks to you to cast a vision and make decisions.
You don’t have peers who can relate to what you’re experiencing.
When you feel stuck or run into a problem, you don’t have anyone outside of your church to turn to for advice. As you know, you can’t bare your soul to just anyone in your church about a church problem.
Before you throw your hands up in surrender, there’s a real solution you can pursue:
Get a ministry coach.
I’m not talking about a motivational speaker hyped up on Mountain Dew who tries to pump you up with pithy statements.
(You know that’s what you were thinking.)
Instead, I’m talking about a coach who can support, guide, and provide you with practical advice.
Now, here’s one caveat about ministry coaches:
A ministry coach isn't a mentor.
There are similarities, but there are some big differences.
Previously, we’ve shared why pastors need a mentor, and what it means to be a mentor and mentee. So, I don’t want to get into the weeds here.
In short, here’s what you need to know:
A mentor is unpaid and his or her focus is on providing advice, whereas a coach is someone who’s paid and whose focus is on helping you to achieve a goal or overcome an obstacle in your ministry.
As I said, there's overlap between a mentor and coach in how he or she helps a mentee or student grow. But there’s a big difference between their arrangements and focus.
In a moment, we’ll dig into the details of coaching.
But first, there’s one last point I’d like to address.
The different types of coaches
Coaches are different.
I’m not talking about their personality, experience, or ability to help you and your church.
What I’m talking about is the different ways you can receive coaching.
In general, there are two different types of coaching you can receive:
- Personal coaching
- Group coaching
Personal coaching can take place in person or online. Unlike someone who’s a mentor, a coach is someone who partners with you to provide support, guidance, and practical advice over the phone, on a video chat, or in person. The “medium” used to share their support doesn’t matter in this scenario.
When it comes to personal coaches, they should have experience in the area in which they’re providing support—in particular, they should know ministry inside and out. Since they’ve “been there, and done that,” they’ll be able to give you the advice you need to go from where you’re at to where you need to go.
Group coaching takes place with a group of people. During group coaching sessions, a coach normally discusses a general topic, such as church management, budgeting, or creating a work-life rhythm, and opens up the discussion for questions afterward.
In this scenario, you may not receive the undivided attention of a personal coach, but the advice he or she shares in a group setting can still be applicable and helpful for your situation.
At this point, you’re probably thinking:
What’s the best option for me?
At Church Fuel, we’ve found that providing a combination of personal and group coaching works best in empowering our members to fulfill God’s calling on their lives.
In seasons of your life, you’ll need a personal coach who can walk alongside of you, pointing out potential landmines and helping you navigate the way through the fog of unclarity.
In general, group coaching sessions are helpful for an ongoing basis. These sessions will force you to learn new lessons, and focus on growing yourself as a leader and your church in Christ.
The benefits of coaching aren’t theoretical—they’re extremely practical.
Let me show you what I’m talking about.
5 benefits of having a ministry coach
A ministry coach provides five powerful benefits. A good coach will:
- Push you beyond your comfort zone
- Guide you in creating a plan
- Help you overcome obstacles
- Help you create a life-giving, work-life balance
- Help you navigate the five-core ministry relationships
Time to take a look at these in detail.
#1 – Push you beyond your comfort zone
As a church leader, it’s easy to get stuck.
You’re on call 24/7/365.
You move from one fire of urgency to the next—all the while trying to prepare for your weekday activities or Sunday worship service.
Exhausting, I know.
When this happens, you’ll end up focusing only on what’s in front of you.
Over time, you’ll slowly neglect the mission of your church.
Not because of any fault of your own.
Rather, you get stuck in survival mode.
This is where having a coach can make a world of difference.
Like a coach in sports, a ministry coach can help you to step outside of your comfort zone. They’ll challenge you in your comfort, and help you break free from the shackles of your own limitations.
Unlike a mentor, a ministry coach will be more inclined to shoot you straight. Their job isn’t to be your friend per se. Their job is to support your growth as a church leader. In this arrangement, there will be times when they’ll have to say painful things. But this is all a part of the growing process.
Talking about the growing process, this leads us to the next benefits of having a coach.
#2 – Guide you in creating a plan
As a church leader, you need a plan to get better.
If you’re not learning and growing in your position, then you and your church are slowly dying.
The world and your community is constantly changing.
Think about it.
New technology is regularly created.
How people interact with one another has been changed by social media.
Beliefs and values are in flux.
Basically, if you don’t plan on growing as a leader, then your ability to make disciples will be throttled. In time, what works today in your ministry will not work tomorrow. If you’ve been serving in the ministry for longer than a minute, you know what I’m talking about.
Thankfully, this isn’t something you have to figure out on your own.
A coach is someone who can help you clarify your vision, talk through your church’s mission, and create a plan to accomplish the work God has called you to fulfill. What is more, a good coach will also hold you accountable to accomplishing your goals.
If we’re honest, anyone can set a goal.
To accomplish a goal, you should reach for something realistic and attainable, and when you hit a roadblock, you’ll need someone like a coach to encourage you to push through.
As a church leader, your work doesn’t end with accomplishing personal goals.
Your calling isn’t only to be the best you you can be.
Your calling also involves serving Jesus and his church.
So, when it comes to accomplishing goals, a ministry coach can also help you to lead your church from where it’s at (point A) to where God is calling you to go (point B).
With this being said, there’s one BIG point I want to make:
Not every church leader or coach is right for you.
Let me explain what I mean.
Today, it’s easy to get enamored by church leaders.
There are many (good) church leadership books you can read, podcasts you can listen to, and events you can attend. Oftentimes, what happens after reading these books, listening to these podcasts, or attending a conference, you come away feeling like only “that” person understands you and can help you.
In reality, this is typically not the case at all.
God can—and will—work through people who are equipped to support you in your season of ministry. For example, a pastor who leads a church of 10,000 may not be the best person to help you break through the 200 barrier.
The challenges you’re facing personally and as a church are probably miles apart from the person you think can help you.
When looking for a coach, you don’t need a celebrity. What you need is someone who’s a step or two ahead of you and can speak into the situation you’re facing.
#3 – Help you overcome obstacles
At some point, you’re going to run into a challenge you can’t resolve.
This isn’t a dig against you.
This is just the reality of being a human dependent upon God and other people.
Besides, church leaders have been running into problems since the inception of the church (Acts 6:1–7).
Whether it's managing internal conflict or breaking through growth barriers in your church, you’ll run into the limits of your experience. But that’s okay. When you run into these situations, you have an opportunity to seek God in prayer and to seek the help of others.
This is where having a ministry coach is super helpful.
Think about it.
When you’re facing a problem you don’t know how to resolve, wouldn’t it be beneficial to talk to someone who’s come up against the same thing you’re up against? Someone who can ask the right questions and clear the air?
Know what else?
There will be times when you’re stuck, and you don’t even know it—not in the sense that you’re dealing with an unresolved issue. But rather, there may come a time when you're not growing as a leader or your church isn’t progressing in making new disciples for Christ.
Again, when you have a ministry coach, he or she can wave smelling salts beneath your nose to wake you up to the plight of your situation.
#4 – Create a life-giving, work-life balance
Burning out will be one of the biggest challenges you face.
Like most pastors, you work well over 50 hours per week, and “balancing” your life isn’t going to work. Sure, you have family, friends, and church leaders to help hold you accountable. But it’s ideal to have someone from outside of your circle of influence to hold you accountable.
Enter a ministry coach.
Since a ministry coach is on the outside of your life looking in, he or she will have a clearer view of you and your workload. What is more, since he or she has ministry experience, a ministry coach understands what you’re going through, and he or she will be able to read the signs of your life to really know how well you’re doing.
For this to work well, you have to be willing to talk truthfully about your weekly schedule and how you’re feeling. Armed with this information, a ministry coach can help you to set healthy boundaries or encourage you to take a break to get refreshed.
#5 – Help you navigate the five core ministry relationships
If church leadership is anything, it’s relationally-based.
Everything you do revolves around working with or serving people.
What’s my point?
You’re going to run into a relational problem at some point.
When you work with a ministry coach, he or she will be able to help you navigate the five core ministry relationships of every church leader:
- Church leadership
- Church members
Let’s take a look at these in turn.
For starters, as a church leader, the most important relationship you have is with God.
As we’ve shared before, you don’t get a pass on devoting your life to God.
Every day, you need to carve out time to talk to (pray) and hear from God (read the Bible).
Neglecting the Lord would be like not spending any time with your spouse. It won’t be too long until you feel cold, distant, and indifferent.
#2 – Church leadership
Working with your church’s leadership can be … tricky.
Depending upon your ecclesiastical structure (Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Non-Denominational, etc.), navigating the nuances can be challenging.
As a church leader, learning how to work with and through your church leadership is vital to the forward movement of the church you serve.
On the one hand, if your church’s leadership is divided, you won’t be going anywhere since everyone is going in different directions. On the other hand, if your church’s leadership works well together, then plan on experiencing forward momentum.
Regardless of the makeup of your church’s leadership, a ministry coach will be able to guide you in having critical conversations.
#3 – Church members
Not every church member is alike.
From saints to sinners, you’ll have to learn to work with a variety of church members.
Let’s be honest:
Figuring out how to relate to your church members as a pastor isn’t easy.
Depending upon your personality, you'll wrestle with either being too close or too distant.
There’s no right or wrong way you can build relationships with your church members. But having help in figuring it all out can reduce your learning curve and save you a tremendous amount of heartache along the way.
#4 – Family
Are you married?
Do you have children?
In either case, you have to get these relationships right. Why gain the whole world if you lose your family in the process? Not a good move.
If you’ve been in church leadership for more than a minute, you know this is easier said than done. The consistent requests can easily pull you away from family obligations. Next thing you know, you’re five years down the road and your family relationships are strained at best.
Before this is your story, a ministry coach can hold you accountable and make sure you’re prioritizing your family in the business of ministry.
#5 – Friends
Friendships are probably not what you’re thinking about.
If anything, you push friendships to the back burner for the sake of everything else.
Here’s the deal:
Friendships are crucial to your well-being.
Like everyone else, you were created by God for community (Gen 1:28). What is more, the Book of Proverbs has really strong words against isolating yourself (Prov 18:1).
Don’t believe you can be a Lone Ranger.
Remember, according to an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
If you’ve sold yourself short in the area of friendships, let your ministry coach help you make them a priority once again.
Need a ministry coach?
At Church Fuel, we want to help you lead your church like never before.
To provide you with the training and support you need, we relaunched Church Fuel. That's right. Our site. Our membership offerings. Our products and resources.
For less than the cost of attending a conference, as a member, you’ll get access to five powerful tools:
- Monthly video coaching
- One-on-one sessions with a ministry coach
- Full access to our resource library
- Team training
- Member forum
With Church Fuel, you get more than content—you get a community.
You’ll learn from a group of peers and a personal coach who are facing the same challenges as you.
When you join Church Fuel, you become part of a community to grow together, challenge each other, and celebrate your wins as a team.
Click here to join.
Trying to balance life and ministry can sound like a cruel joke.
Sermon preparation takes hours.
Pastoral care is never-ending.
There is a slew of church meetings to attend.
Family responsibilities don’t take a vacation.
And unless you have a staff or team, you’re on call 24/7/365.
What’s the moral of the story?
As a church leader, it’s really challenging trying to balance everything.
You work a ton of hours, every week looks different, and it can feel like an impossible task to serve your church well without burning yourself out in the process.
How do you balance it all?
Well, for starters, you don’t.
What you do is identify your guiding principles to help you create a rhythm for your week. There will be times when things are really busy, like Christmas and Easter, and then there are your “normal” workweeks.
To help you serve your church, love your family, and not lose your mind or soul in the process, here are 10 tips to help you find a good rhythm in your life and ministry.
#1 – Don’t neglect your first love
As a church leader, you don’t get a pass on devoting your life to God.
I know this sounds obvious, but hear me out.
When serving the Lord vocationally (as a pastor or church staff member), it’s easy to believe that the work you’re doing is a replacement for spending personal time with God in prayer or reading the Bible.
This isn’t something that church leaders do on purpose. In most cases, church leaders slowly drift away from their first love—God (Rev 2:4), which makes practical sense.
You spend your time serving, preaching, and taking care of others, and it’s easy to forget about your own relationship with God in the busyness of your life.
Don’t let this be you.
Before you dive into time-management hacks, take a moment to reflect on your devotion to Jesus.
How are you doing?
Do you feel like you’re walking closely with the Lord?
Or do you feel indifferent?
Before implementing any of the tips below, commit yourself to daily carving out time to talk to God (prayer) and hear what he has to say (read the Bible).
Don’t be afraid to block out a portion of time every day to spend with the Lord. If not, you may not get around to praying or reading the Bible.
“I schedule everything,” shared a member of Church Fuel. He went on to add, “When something needs to be done, I immediately put it on my calendar. If it’s not scheduled, usually it doesn’t get done.”
When you add daily devotions to your calendar, you’ll be able to create a habit, guard this time, and get ready the day before (e.g., go to bed on time if you want to get up early).
#2 – Create margin
To balance your life and ministry, you have to embrace this reality first:
Every week is different.
There are normal rhythms in your schedule, such as mid-week or weekend worship services. But outside of your normal programs and events, mentally prepare for every week to look a little bit different than the week before.
With this being said, here’s a big idea:
Create margin in your week by not filling your schedule to the brim. If possible, leave 60 unscheduled minutes in your daily calendar. If it’s mid-afternoon and you’re on track with everything you had planned, then feel free to use the time. But it’s best to have some wiggle room in your day-to-day so that you don’t get behind on anything.
Possessing this mindset will help you to better balance your life and ministry, which brings us to the next point.
#3 – Nail down your church rhythms
The first place you need to start in creating a healthy rhythm is to work with your church rhythms.
As you identify the big rocks in the life of your church, you’ll be better able to prioritize your schedule.
When doing this, there are two things you need to nail down:
- Weekly rhythms
- Annual rhythms
For weekly rhythms, identify the weekly activities that take place in your church. As you write these down in your calendar, it’s also important to include the time you need to prepare. For example, if you preach, then you’ll need to guard a decent amount of time to prepare. What is more, if you have a weekly event, you’ll need to make sure everything is taken care of (more on this in a bit).
As for annual rhythms, mark down the following in your church calendar:
- Sermon series preparation
When you have these big rocks in place, you’ll be able to plan ahead and prepare yourself for really busy seasons of ministry, like Christmas and Easter.
#4 – Take one day off per week
A lack of rest is bad.
Like, really bad.
If you don’t plan to take at least one full day off per week (a Sabbath), then you can plan on having health problems, depression, and poor judgment, among other things.
God modeled taking a break during creation (Gen 2:2) and Jesus wasn’t afraid to get some shut-eye too (Mark 4:35–40). If God finds rest important, then you would do well to follow his example and take a break yourself.
By not taking a weekly day of rest—at a minimum—you run the risk of burning yourself out.
Do yourself, your family, and your church a favor and arrange for at least one day off per week.
#5 – Arrange for an extended trip
There’s one thing you need to fight for in your ministry:
This is why I’m trying to get your attention about taking a break by emphasizing a weekly rest and now an extended break.
Now, what I’m arguing for here isn’t necessarily an extended Disney cruise (sorry). If possible, plan on taking an extended break (1–2 weeks) every year to pray through and plan your church’s annual calendar.
During this time, you want to unplug, spend plenty of time in prayer, and think ahead.
What is more, this isn’t something you have to do alone. At Church Fuel, we encourage church leaders to plan an annual retreat for their staff. You can click here to check out the details.
#6 – Love your spouse
Are you married?
Then don't leave your spouse on the altar of ministry. Working long hours isn’t necessarily a godly thing. If you have a spouse, and you work too much, then you run the risk of neglecting him or her, which is a big no-no.
Instead, fight for your marriage by planning weekly or bi-weekly dates.
These dates don’t have to be fancy. From getting out for a walk or enjoying a cup of coffee together, schedule time for the two of you to get out of your office and away from your home for a few hours.
#7 – Make time for your family
Do you have children?
Well, you can’t leave them hanging either.
There are a variety of ways you can create a weekly rhythm for your family:
Depending on the age of your children, include them in different errands throughout the week. Think about it. You can turn a bland trip to the grocery store into an opportunity to spend time with your children.
Whatever you do, be sure to put something on the calendar every week.
Here’s the deal:
Spending time with your family will not happen by accident.
To make sure his schedule reflects his priorities, one Church Fuel member shared, “Set your priorities and make your calendar reflect them. Set a number of evenings you will be home for dinner with your family and don’t allow anything to compromise that.”
By scheduling these non-negotiable times in your calendar, you can create a rhythm around time well-spent with your family.
#8 – Take care of your body
The Apostle Paul shared this with his mentee Timothy:
“For the training of the body has limited benefit …” (1 Tim 4:8).
But let’s be honest:
As a church leader, you need to take care of yourself physically—from eating healthy to regularly exercising
By taking care of yourself, you’ll increase your energy levels, feel happier, and reduce your risk of chronic disease.
When you add these physical benefits together, you’ll place yourself in a better position to provide pastoral care for a very long time.
Can’t remember the last time you exercised or ate a salad?
That’s water under the bridge.
Connect with a personal trainer and/or doctor to get a physical and put together a plan to get started.
#9 – Get a mentor
Having a mentor is probably not what you had in mind to create balance. But like everyone else in the world, you—church leader—need a mentor.
Here’s the deal:
A mentor is someone who can give you an unbiased opinion and help you get your life in alignment.
In life and ministry, you’re going to get off course. With the number of hours you have to work and the pastoral care you need to provide, you’re going to get stuck or drift off course. This is why you need a mentor who can help you to maintain balance.
Michael Lukaszewski, the Founder and CEO of Church Fuel, added, “Get help from others. Family and friends need to know and support you during busy seasons.”
Regardless if you talk to a mentor, your spouse, or friend, be open about what you’re feeling and your workload. This will give people who care about you the opportunity to love and support.
#10 – Delegate work
What’s the one thing God didn’t call you to do?
Know the answer?
If you’re the senior pastor, you may be responsible for everything. But this is different than doing everything.
Regardless of your position, as a church leader, you need to identify your primary responsibilities, know your strengths, and delegate any tasks that someone else can do or work that falls outside of your comfort zone.
Depending upon your situation, you may be able to hire someone. If not, you’ll have to bank on finding a volunteer to help. If it’s the latter, it will take time to turn a volunteer into a leader. But your investment into his or her life will help you—and most importantly, help them fulfill their call.
Balancing it all
Don’t fight for balance.
That’ll place you in a position of trying to figure out how to do everything.
Instead, strive to create a healthy rhythm in your life with these 10 tips:
- Don’t neglect your first love.
- Create margin.
- Nail-down your church rhythms.
- Take one day off per week.
- Arrange for an extended trip.
- Love your spouse.
- Make time for your family.
- Take care of your body.
- Get a mentor.
- Delegate work.
It will take time and energy to make a change, and you’ll have to learn how to say “no” or “later” to different requests. But working toward creating a healthy rhythm in your life will help you have a long and fruitful ministry.
The need for volunteers in church isn’t going away anytime soon. Even though people are busier than ever, churches still need volunteers to do the work of the ministry.
That’s why it’s always a great time to take a look at your volunteer ministry: how you recruit, how you train, and how you lead.
When we talk about volunteer training, it’s easy to think about handbooks and meetings.
But training your volunteers involves so much more than that.
Whether they are serving with guest services, family ministry, or the worship team, every volunteer in your church needs to know these three things.
#1 – The purpose and mission of the church.
Every volunteer needs to know why your church exists and what you’re trying to accomplish.
Your purpose is the eternal reason your church exists. It’s your deep sense of why. It’s the big-picture and the fundamental calling God has on your church. It might sound something like this:
- We’re here to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus.
- We help people love God and love others.
- We make more and better disciples who make more and better disciples.
Each of those phrases is really big picture. But when you look at them closely, they are never going to really be accomplished. They are long-term, even eternal in nature.
You’re never going to call a meeting and say, “Hey everyone…there are no more potential disciples to make. We’re done with that. So, what’s next?”
Your purpose is like an anchor your church, but what that looks like today can be hard to grasp.
That’s why every church needs a second statement, a mission statement.
While your purpose statement is forever, your mission statement is about now. It’s what you are trying to specifically accomplish in this next season of ministry. If your purpose statement is really broad, your mission statement is specific.
Here’s an example.
NASA might say their purpose is to explore space. That’s their big picture, but it’s always going to be ahead of them. They are never really going accomplish that.
NASA’s current mission might be to land someone on Mars. That has a timeline and a deadline. They can measure progress and one day, they will check it off the list.
See the difference? Purpose is big, but mission is current.
Here’s another example.
A church might say their purpose is to help people far from God experience new life in Christ. That’s a “forever” purpose because it’s always going to out there.
That same church might say their current mission is to start a second campus in the net 24 months. That’s much more specific and in a way, it’s much more relatable.
I know some people use purpose, mission and vision differently, but don’t let the specific terminology confuse you. You need to clarify and communicate a big picture purpose but also a time-bound, specific mission.
#2 – How they fit with that purpose and mission.
Once your volunteers know the purpose and mission of your church, the next most important thing to clarify is where they fit.
Don Simmons and Steve Caton write, “People want to get involved where expectations are high. They want to know they play an important role in the work of the church. If you can’t validate them through the ministries of the church, they will find a place that does.”
Your volunteers must be able to draw a clear line from what they do to the purpose and mission of the church. They need to know what they do, but they need to know why it matters.
If you lead people, one of your most important roles is not just casting vision but casting clarity. Your people are looking to you to clarify their role.
Answer questions like…
- What I do actually do?
- When do I show up?
- What training is required?
- How long is my “term of service?
And beyond tasks, they need to continually hear stories about how their tasks connect to the greater story. Greeters need to know how saying hello to guests is connected to the purpose of your church. Small group leaders need to know how their activities help the church with the current mission.
The best place to clarify this information is on a simple, one-page volunteer job description. Every single volunteer who serves in your church needs one.
Clarity like this won’t keep people from serving; it will help them say yes. And clear expectations are a sign of value.
If you’re a Church Fuel member, we have dozens of job descriptions available for you.
#3 – Where they go for help.
Lastly, every volunteer needs to know where to go if they have a question, concern, prayer request, need, or problem. They need a single point of contact.
You can include this information on your volunteer job descriptions.
It’s also helpful to visualize your leadership structure by creating a volunteer org chart. Here’s one we made to organize our volunteer ministry.
This org chart let us visualize who was serving, who was leading them, and where we needed help. It helped us ensure that everyone serving had a volunteer leader responsible for their care.
- Orange cards represented family ministry.
- Yellow was the worship team.
- Red was guest services.
- And white was our new small group ministry.
Org charts aren’t just to show your direct reports; they are there to show your direct supports.
Americans are giving more to charity now than ever before. $410 Billion in 2017, a 5% increase over the previous year and the highest amount ever. Charitable giving is up across multiple income levels and in most demographics.
But people are giving less and less to the church. Only 32% of the total given to charities goes to a local church, and that number has steadily declined over the last two decades. Giving to churches is down across the board.
You can dive deeper into these numbers by reading this Blackbaud report, but here’s what it means for your church.
People are diversifying their giving, prioritizing other non-profits over their local church. They are giving to the humane society, GoFundMe campaigns, and fundraisers for chorus trips.
This poses a fresh challenge.
When it comes to money and the church, things are changing.
Churches who are on the front end of this change will be poised to grow, while churches who neglect these shifts may start or continue to struggle with financial health.
Here are five shifts that I think leaders need to make in regard to how we talk about money in the church.
#1 – Shift from just preaching on giving to preaching on money.
When you think about preaching a sermon on money, what topics come to mind?
We asked pastors to share their actual money sermons and then analyzed them for content.
83% of the messages were focused on giving.
Even when broader topics like stewardship, contentment, or financial health were mentioned, the lion share of these messages made giving the foundational topic or the clear call to action. These weren’t money sermons; they were giving sermons.
There is nothing wrong with preaching a giving sermon, and generosity is certainly an important component of being a good steward. But preaching on giving is not the same as preaching on money.
If you want to lead a financially healthy church, you must address broader money topics than just giving. Definitely keep preaching on giving, just don’t forget to preach on money.
Your sermons on money must provide practical and tangible help. You need to talk about spending, debt, contentment, saving, stewardship, communication, faith, trust and so much more. People need help and hope, not just a challenge to give money to the church or advice on how to get out debt.
When you adopt a helpful posture like this, you don’t have to apologize for talking about money in church.
The people in your church are bombarded with unhealthy financial advice. They are marketed to by every facet of society. Unless they have a Christian financial planner, they won’t hear about wisdom with money anywhere else.
If you don’t talk about wise financial principles, who will?
That’s why our team is working on practical financial tools to help you teach wise financial principals to your church.
There’s so much more than “give the tithe” and “get out of debt.” The churches who help their people be wise with money will be much better positioned for financial health.
#2 – Giving means more than giving money.
When you say the word “giving” in your church, what do you mean?
Most pastors, particularly Gen-X or older, mean financial giving.
But that’s not what everybody, particular Millennials, hear.
The Generosity Gap, a research study from Barna Study, released in conjunction with Thrivent, highlights the generosity gap that exists in churches.
Giving means different things to different people. Let me just highlight a few findings of the report, which is certainly worth studying.
- Financial giving ranks third on Christian’s list of most generous actions. For Millennials, it’s even lower. They rank hospitality as the most important act of generosity. That means when you talk about giving and generosity, people aren’t necessarily thinking about money.
- When people were asked “what’s the most generous thing a person could do?” people ranked “taking care of someone who is sick” much higher than “donating $40 to an organization.” Again, more and more people are not equating generosity with finances.
- Is it okay for church members to volunteer for their church instead of giving financially? 67% of pastors strongly disagree. \But 40% of Christians strongly or slightly agree. In other words, there’s a big gap.
What does this mean for churches?
First, we need to use clear language. When we’re talking about financial generosity, we need better words than “give” or “support.” Consider the words you use and make sure they mean what they think you mean.
Secondly, we need to recognize that people are looking for broad ways to support organizations they care about. The research shows the people who give most financially are also most likely to serve or volunteer. Don’t limit giving choices to finances; look for ways to expand your approach.
#3 – Take care of your existing donors before you worry about attracting new donors.
How can we get more people to give?
That’s a common question we hear from many of the churches we serve. It’s not a bad question.
When it comes to church giving, the 80/20 principle holds true. 20% of your people give 80% of all that is given to the church. That means there are a lot of people connected to your church who are not financially supporting the church.
They are attending. But they are not supporting, at least financially.
So it’s beneficial to develop a strategy to encourage people to cross the line of generosity.
But the very first thing you should do if you want more people to engage in giving to your church is develop a robust strategy of care for your existing donors.
It sounds counter intuitive, but the way you reach new people in this area is to serve your existing donors.
I’m not talking about the occasional mass thank you email or including some pictures with the year-end giving statement. I’m talking about a serious donor care strategy.
What specific things can you to do care for your donors?
- Start saying thank you immediately. Most people provide receipts and miss the first opportunity to connect a gift to the mission.
- Communicate regularly with your donor base. Communication is a form of appreciation. Talk to your donor segment differently than you talk to the rest of your church.
- Send gifts. Coffee mugs with your church logo or books that have been meaningful to your own faith are affordable and meaningful ways to say thank you to the people who support the church.
- Host a donor appreciation event. Bring in a speaker or throw a party. Don’t be afraid to do it well.
- Send hand written thank you notes. In a world of tweets and likes, old-school communication stands out. You can do this when someone gives for the first time, when someone gives an unusual gift, or for no particular reason at all.
- Make sure every donor has a “pastor.” A good pastor shepherd’s people, so make sure everyone who financially supports the church has someone who checks on their life, family, and faith.
If you want to know more, download the free Senior Pastor’s Guide to Stewardship. It will walk you through several pastoral approaches to talking about money and managing money in a church setting.
#4 – Your church needs a funding plan as much as it needs a spending plan.
Once a year, finance teams and ministry leaders embark on a process of updating the budget for the new year.
Every church is different, but it’s not unusual for two or three months of reports, requisitions, comparisons and planning to be debated, crunched and ultimately presented to the congregation.
A lot of work goes into making a budget, the document that shows how all this money is planned to be spent.
You know what’s an afterthought in many churches?
Where the money is going to come from.
What would happen if we shifted some of the time spent on the budgeting process into time spent discussing funding options?
What would happen if your financial leaders took a posture of facilitating financial growth in addition to the posture of being guardrails to spending?
Finance teams need to have a perspective and give input on the revenue side of things, not simply serve as a watchdog of expenses.
This isn’t the job of most finance committees, but there are probably people in your church who could help you here. Find people with a growth mindset to help you process ideas and make real plans to facilitate generosity in your church.
If you’re a Church Fuel member, you’ll find an Annual Funding Plan template and a coaching video you can watch with your team. Just follow the plans we lay out for you and you’ll move your church forward in a big way.
Working on a funding plan is an important exercise that will help you proactively meet or exceed the budget.
#5 – More shifts are coming.
In the coming years, we will continue to see shifts in generosity in culture and in the church. That’s why the biggest shift you could make in your church is to prepare for uncertainty.
Many churches will see their financial base motivated to give to other (and more personal) causes, and harder preaching likely won’t change the patterns.
Alternative funding models will become more important to many churches as they consider ways to remain financially strong in the wake of decentralized generosity. Leaders will look for new ways to generate revenue from their facility or alternative funding strategies to pay staff.
There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach here but an imperative to stay open. There’s not a cause for fear, but there’s a greater reason to stay tuned into the trends and respond with strategy.
In the coming years, we will see more shifts, and the churches that are flexible and responsive will not only stay healthy but thrive.
Feel like your church should be more financially healthy?
Ultimately, the financial situation in your church is up to God. It’s His church and you’re a steward. But He chooses to work through people and entrusts us to lead well.
That’s why we created a free guide filled with stewardship principles that will help your church.
Get your FREE copy of the Senior Pastor’s Guide to Stewardship today.
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