Church Bulletins: 3 Ideas & 4 Alternatives

Church Bulletins: 3 Ideas & 4 Alternatives

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:

    1. Reduce the size
    1. Print in black and white
  1. 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:

    1. Produce videos in-house
  1. 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.

Trust me.

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?

Hang tight.

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?

Their email.

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:

    • Don’t include everything
    • Send weekly emails
    • Include links (if applicable)
    • Be consistent
    • Include images
  • 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:

    • Add events
    • Share content—e.g., sermons, blog posts
    • Provide sermon notes
    • Include social media
    • Send push notifications
    • Share prayer requests
  • Encourage mobile giving

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:

    • Simplify your website
    • Make things easy to find
  • Promote your website

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?

Nope.

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:

    1. How can we best inform church members?
    1. How can we best inform visitors?
    1. What information do we need to share to accomplish these goals?
  1. 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.

3 Social Media Principles Your Church Should Live By

3 Social Media Principles Your Church Should Live By

Knowing what to share on social media can feel overwhelming.

Every time you open your social media accounts, you’re encouraged to share something:

  • Facebook asks: What’s on your mind?
  • Twitter’s wondering: What’s happening?
  • LinkedIn’s requesting: Share an article, photo, video or idea

It doesn’t matter what social media platform your church uses.

All of them are on 24–7–365, and they are always asking for you to share something.

(This makes me feel a bit anxious just thinking about it.)

Before moving on, take a deep breath.

Even though social media platforms are vying for your attention, you don’t have to feel overwhelmed by their constant demands. There’s a way your church—even if it's “small”—can effectively engage your congregation and reach new people without breaking down in the process.

Below I’m going to share with you three social media principles your church should live by. Before we dive in, let’s take a moment for a public service announcement.

Social media platforms and principles

Here’s what you need to know about social media:

The platforms are different, but the principles remain the same.

Every social media platform differs in some way.

From Facebook to Twitter to Snapchat, the social media platforms influence what you share and how you interact with other people.

For example, on Twitter, your tweets are limited to 280 characters—news breaks faster, and engagement is near instantaneous. Whereas Facebook’s user base makes it ideal to engage with your church and connect with people in your community. When it comes to posting on Facebook, unlike Twitter and Instagram, it’s best not to use a ton of hashtags.

Here’s the deal:

The social media platform you use will determine how your church should use it.

In other words, what posts work well on Twitter or Instagram may not work as well on Facebook or Snapchat.

So you’re probably wondering:

What works well on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, etc.?

Technically, there are ways you can optimize what you share on every social media platform. But I’m not going to walk you through the weeds of details today.

Instead, I want to share three social media principles that will influence how your church engages in social media. By building your social media strategy on these principles, in time, you’ll increase your engagement and reach more people in your community.

#1 – Share life in your church

Life in your church doesn’t start on Sunday, and it doesn’t end by lunch.

Assuming your worship service lasts for 1 hour, every member of your church still has another 167 hours of life to live throughout the week.

Know where they're spending their time?

If you guessed social media, you’re right.

According to Social Media Today, the average person in the United States spends 2 hours per day on social media. Here’s a breakdown of these eye-opening statistics:

  • Facebook: 35 minutes
  • YouTube: 40 minutes
  • Snapchat: 25 minutes
  • Instagram: 15 minutes
  • Twitter: 1 minute

Don’t lose sight of the importance of leading people to have face-to-face conversations. As a church leader, you want to ensure that people in your church are building relationships with other people in your church. This is what being the church is all about.

Here’s one thing you also don’t want to overlook:

People spend a lot of time on social media.

This isn’t a judgment, just an observation.

So, if you want to engage with your church and reach people in your community, you need to go where they’re spending time—and that’s on social media.

One of the best ways to do this is to share what life in your church looks like. From church activities to the everyday life of your pastor, staff, and volunteers, be purposeful to share what’s going on.

Remember, social media is about being social. Sharing the life of your church isn’t about promoting your church per se. It’s more about sharing material that will engage your church and be seen by people in your community, which will lead them to check out who you are and see what you’re all about.

#2 – Celebrate life in your church

Jesus is alive!

He is building his Church (Matt. 16:18), and he is at work in your church and community.

Think practically about this for a moment.

In your church, God is doing a lot of work:

  • He is giving people new life in Christ
  • He is restoring broken marriages
  • He is delivering people from crippling anxiety and depression
  • He is building a loving Christian community
  • He is giving people purpose
  • He is growing people in their faith
  • He is leading people to be generous with their time and money
  • What’s the bottom line?

There’s a lot for your church to celebrate.

Be prepared to capture these celebratory moments. Make a plan to share what’s going on.

Sidenote: If the nature of the story is personal, make sure you also obtain permission to share.

Here are celebratory examples for many churches:

  • Baptisms
  • Baby Dedications
  • Commitments to Jesus
  • Service in your community
  • Volunteers
  • Staff

To share the everyday life of your church, be prepared ahead of time by having a staff member or volunteer take pictures or shoot videos of an upcoming event.

During the event itself, get someone else (staff or volunteer) ready to share photos and videos on social media. It's ideal to share on social media what’s going on as it’s going on—this is all about being social.

#3 – Share your church’s worship service

In your church, you have an endless amount of material you can share—especially content from your weekly worship service.  

There are a variety of benefits to sharing your worship services on social media, such as:

  • Boosting engagement
  • Increasing awareness
  • Inviting people to participate
  • Giving people a taste of life in your church
  • Reaching new people
  • Connecting with absentees

Speaking of reaching new people, sharing your worship services on social media or online for others to see will help first-time guests feel more comfortable.

Think about it.

It’s intimidating for first-time guests to visit your church’s worship service—even if a close friend personally invited them.

They’re entering foreign territory.

They don’t know what to expect.

They’re not sure how they’ll fit in.

The burden of “what if’s” can be crushing for potential visitors. But you can answer many objections, and help first-time guests feel more comfortable by sharing your weekend worship services on social media.

There are many ways you can share your worship service. Consider posting:

  • Photos
  • Livestreams
  • Service times and information
  • Quotes
  • Sermon audio or videos
  • Worship music
  • Behind the scenes
  • Church life updates or upcoming events

Again, it’s best to share life in your church as it’s taking place.

During your worship service, prepare your staff or volunteers to capture photos or videos of your worship service and have another person ready to share the goods on social media.

Over to you

If there’s one thing you take away from this post, let it be this:

Social media is all about social.

Everything you share doesn’t have to be professionally produced. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good idea to share high-quality material. But it’s essential to capture the daily moments of life in your church as they’re taking place.

Don’t overly stress about the quality of what you share. Instead, focus on being social and connecting your church—building relationships and reaching your community.  

Your Pastor Resigned: Six Things to Do During a Pastoral Transition

Your Pastor Resigned: Six Things to Do During a Pastoral Transition

Pastoral transitions are common.

My intent isn’t to discourage you.

Instead, my goal is to splash cold water on your face—to wake you up to the reality that pastors often transition in the United States.

Again, this isn’t meant to be a dig at pastors.

Far from it.

I simply want to let you know that if your church is going through a pastoral transition, you’re not alone.

The frequency of pastoral transitions

It’s common knowledge that pastors often transition, and studies actually validate this point.

According to one survey conducted by LifeWay Research, the average tenure for a full-time pastor is six years. This frequency of change may sound alarming, but when you take into consideration that the average employee tenure is 4.6 years, pastors aren’t doing so bad after all.

There are times when a pastor will transition for negative reasons, such as a moral failing. There are also times when a pastor transitions for less sinister reasons, such as a change in calling, conflict, or problems with their finances. What’s more, some denominations, like the United Methodist Church, reevaluate their pastors every year.

What’s the bottom line?

Pastoral transitions are frequent, and they can occur for good or bad reasons.

One key to pastoral transitions

Pastoral transitions can lead your church to lose one key thing: momentum.

I’m not talking about when a pastor is fired for a moral failure. I'm talking about normal pastoral transitions and the average amount of time it takes a church to call a new pastor, which can crush your church’s momentum.

According to pastoral succession expert William Vanderbloemen, it takes the average church 12 to 24 months to find a new pastor. If your church experiences such an extended gap in leadership, you’ll run into a host of problems, including:

  • Lack of vision
  • Lost momentum
  • Decrease in membership
  • Lack of small group participation
  • Decrease in giving
  • Decline in volunteers

Not only will a vacancy in leadership lead to these problems, so too will a mismanaged pastoral transition, which leads us to the next point.

6 ways to lead your church through a pastoral transition

Remember, pastoral transitions take on all sorts of shapes and sizes—both good and bad.

Here’s what you need to know:

If you don’t handle your pastoral transition well, you’ll create an entirely different set of problems.

To help lead your church well through this season, here are 6 steps you’ll need to take:

  1. Continue your ministry
  2. Make a plan
  3. Clarify roles
  4. Overcommunicate
  5. Be patient
  6. Follow Jesus’ lead

Let’s dig in!

#1 – Continue your ministry

There's one reality you must embrace during a pastoral transition:

The life of your church marches on.

For a variety of reasons, it’s difficult when a senior pastor transitions off staff. But the life of your church is not limited to this one man or woman. Your church is made up of every member who places their faith in Jesus Christ.

This is what the Apostle Paul emphasizes in his letter to the church in Corinth:

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ … For the body does not consist of one member but of many” (1 Cor. 12:12, 14).

As the body of Christ, your church—for better or worse—possesses a church culture. In other words, your church has unique characteristics, behaviors, and ministries. So, when there’s a pastoral change, what makes up the culture of your church may change, which will cause anxiety among many of your members.  

When there’s a pastoral transition, your church will be nervously questioning things like:

Will the style of worship change?

Will we continue this or that ministry?

Will other pastors, staff, or key volunteers leave?

What will become of my small group?

These thoughts and more will race through the minds of your church members.

If your church’s leadership does not address these anxieties, they will grow into more significant fears and may lead to gossip, slander, and division.

During a pastoral transition, it’s essential that the life of your church continues without interruption. There’s no need to make sweeping changes, and it’s best to let everyone know that life in your church will continue.

#2 – Make a plan

It’s easy to skip planning your church’s next steps during a pastoral transition.

Regardless of how well the transition takes place, this is still a difficult time for your church. You may be experiencing a sense of loss or feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work that needs to be done. Taking the time to plan for your future can feel daunting.

Hear me loud and clear:

Make a pastoral transition plan and work your plan.

Writing for the Vanderbloemen Search Group, Tracey Smith said, “Many transitions go strangely wrong because the leader(s) does not have a plan.” As I pointed out above, this is something you don’t want to go strangely wrong.

In your plan, there are several short- and long-term tasks you’ll need to think through and outline, such as:

  • Creating a job description
  • Planning for pastoral care
  • Providing pulpit replacement
  • Forming a search committee
  • Establishing milestones
  • Promoting the open position
  • Interviewing candidates

In your plan, there’s one additional item you’ll need to include: clarify roles.

Since this last step is nuanced, let’s tackle it individually next.  

#3 – Clarify roles

In team sports, when a player is unable to play in a game, his or her position is filled by someone who can assume the responsibilities.

For example, in football, if your quarterback is injured, you need a replacement who can play quarterback—not a different position.

What do team sports have to do with pastoral transitions?

Everything.

A senior pastor serves as the leader of the church. From providing spiritual leadership to strategic guidance, a senior pastor provides oversight for your church.

During a pastoral transition, your church will experience a gap in leadership. When this happens, your church will be concerned about how these responsibilities will be fulfilled moving forward. Also, your staff and volunteers will be curious to know how their responsibilities may change.

To help create a healthy pastoral transition, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Identify interim leaders
  • Clarify roles
  • Empower your staff and volunteers

Interim leaders for your church can be an interim pastor, assistant pastor or staff member, or even shared responsibility among your board, session, or staff. Whether it’s an individual or group who’s assuming leadership responsibilities, make sure all roles are clearly communicated to your church and staff.

When there’s a pastoral transition, there’s also a need for someone else to pick up the work left behind. The size of your church will determine how much work you’ll need to delegate to your staff and volunteers.

To clarify roles, you must first identify what work will need to be accomplished in the absence of your pastor. Take the time to jot down everything your pastor did—from preaching, to pastoral care, to administrative work.

Now, with your list of tasks in hand, it’s time to delegate among your staff or volunteers. Don’t feel obligated to make sure everything is passed along. If your team doesn’t have the additional bandwidth, there’s a good chance you can postpone non-essential work.

Finally, empower your staff and volunteers in their roles and responsibilities. Encourage them to continue doing what they’re doing.

If you need to make any adjustments to someone’s responsibilities, meet with them individually to work this out. Laying this out up front will minimize stress with your team and reduce the risk of team members vying for a different position or higher authority.

#4 – Overcommunicate

There’s one thing you cannot do enough during a pastoral transition: communicate.

As I shared above, pastoral transitions will naturally lead your church to experience anxiety and stress. Often, these feelings are exasperated when there’s a lack of communication. It’s human nature to fill in the blanks when questions are left unanswered.

Communication with your church will need to be a two-way street.

On the one hand, you’ll need to continuously share with your church about what’s going on. On the other hand, you’ll need to be open to receiving feedback and listening to the concerns of your church.

Let’s explore both of these in detail.

Continuously communicate

Here’s the deal:

In pastoral transitions, your church members and staff will be anxious.

What you share with the members of your church and staff will differ.

For example, the members of your church will be curious about many things, and fearful about others.

What led to this transition?

How significantly will this affect my family and me?

Is there anything we need to be worried about?

As for your staff, they’ll likely have similar questions, but they’re also going to be concerned about their job security.

In the plan you were encouraged to make in step 2 above, think through the questions and concerns your members and staff will have. It’s also a good idea to develop a response to these questions to ensure consistent communication with everyone involved.

Be available

In a transitional period, your members and staff will experience a variety of feelings.

They’ll feel the loss of a pastor, friend, or boss.

They’ll feel stress at adjusting to the change.

They’ll be concerned about the future of the church and their job.

Whatever your church feels, it's okay. Transitions are hard for most people.

Give them room to breathe, and let them know who they can talk to if they have questions. Providing people with a clear line of communication will be a comfort for everyone—even if they don’t take advantage of the opportunity.

#5 – Be patient

Let’s face it: Transitions are messy.

In the midst of transitions, your entire church experiences change—and it’s hard.

How your church—both members and staff—navigates this change will be different.

Know ahead of time that you’ll run into a variety of opinions, and it’s essential to exercise patience. In other words, be ready to encounter different views—even from people who won’t accept the new reality.

To prepare yourself, know that your church will fall into one of three categories when it comes to working through the transition:

  • Early adopters
  • Majority
  • Laggards

Knowing how your church will (or will not) accept change, will help you be better prepared to handle the different opinions. Let’s break this down a bit. 

When it comes to change, early adopters are people in your church who are aware of the pastoral transition, and are comfortable with the changes taking place. This doesn’t mean this group of people has hard feelings toward the previous pastor or are not fighting loss. But it does mean they are the first group to embrace this transition.

In dealing with this group, you may not have to work hard to convince them to accept the transition. A strategy that works well with this group is sharing information and answering their questions.

What is more, consider leveraging the influence of early adopters by encouraging them to be champions of the church. It’s always helpful to have a group of non-staff people who act as a supportive voice.

As for the majority, this group represents the members of your church who are battling the loss of their pastor, but understand things change, and they will fight for the well-being of the entire church.

Expect this group to be slower in accepting the transition. In working with them, be informative and answer their questions. But be patient in forcing them to “fall into line.” Quick moves with this group can lead them to become combative, rather than supportive, which isn’t a good idea.

Finally, in any transition, you’ll have a group of laggards. This group of people is committed to the previous pastor, and they will fall into one of two categories.

First, there’s a portion of this group who will not accept the transition under any circumstances. Regardless of how you deal with this group of people, they will not be willing to stick around to see what happens, and that’s okay. Don’t force this group to be different than who they are. Be ready to part ways on good terms.

Second, there’s a portion of this group who will accept the transition and embrace a future pastor, but they’re skeptical and waiting to see how things work out. In working with this group, practice extreme patience. Don’t worry about when they choose to come on board.

Also, encourage early adopters to be aware of this group, build strong relationships, and be an encouragement for the church during this transition.

In leading your church through a pastoral transition, there’s one final point to make.

#6 – Follow Jesus’ lead

Jesus is the head of the Church, and he is the leader of your church (Col. 1:17–18; Eph. 5:22–25).

Over, and over again, remind your church of these truths:

  • Jesus is alive
  • Jesus is in control
  • Jesus loves your church
  • God is involved in your situation
  • God will work things out
  • God has good plans for you

By opening up the Bible and fearlessly sharing from its pages, God will change the hearts and minds of your church to see things from his point of view.

This is not only helpful during pastoral transitions, but there are many common themes—change, vision, faith—that will also help people grow in their faith in Christ.

Over to you

In the end, I want to leave you with this reminder:

You’re not alone.

What you're going through isn’t uncommon, and most importantly of all—God is involved in your situation.

If you still feel overwhelmed after reading through this process, consider reaching out to a third-party to help you work through the situation.

How to Create an Inviting Culture in Your Church

How to Create an Inviting Culture in Your Church

Anything having to do with religion or the church can be really uncomfortable for most people to talk about. Maybe the only experiences people in your church have ever had with talking about church or inviting someone are downright painful.

So, rather than reliving an uncomfortable experience, they do nothing. They shy away. Not because they don’t want to invite people to your church, but because they don’t know how.

Instead of getting upset with your people, this is a great opportunity to teach them how to invite. This doesn’t have to be a weird thing. And you have the chance to show your people that. Inviting can become a normal part of your church’s life.

Here are five simple ways you can create a culture of invitation within your church.

1. Make Sunday service your priority.

Yes, we know that Jesus commissioned us to “go” and make disciples, but He also called us to gather together as a local church (Hebrews 10:25).

The reason this is so important is not to make your church look great, but to create an environment guests want to come back to. You don’t have to have fancy lights and a rockstar worship team to do this either.

You just need people who care about people.

If your pastor cares about people, he will preach gospel-centered sermons. If your staff cares about people, they’ll strive their best in their individual ministry areas. And when your church cares about people, they will want others to experience a Sunday at your church because it adds value to their life and personal faith.

If you need further help with this, here are five practical ways you can improve your weekend services.

But anyone can invite someone. How do you get someone to want to come back?

2. Practice Hospitality

It is easy to say your church is friendly. It is another to actually be warm and inviting to people who have never stepped foot in your building.

People want to feel seen, heard, and like they matter. And it is so easy to do this!

The best way to lead is by example.

Look around on a Sunday morning and ask: Who is standing around your lobby alone? Is anyone looking around or up at signs to try to figure out where to go? They’re likely new. And that’s a great opportunity for you to go up and greet them personally. You don’t have to ask for them to commit to membership on the spot—just welcome them and ask about them and what brought them to your church.

A great way to encourage others to have a warm and inviting mentality is to make personal asks. Something like…

“Hey Laura, I haven’t seen that woman in our cafe before. I think she’s a new guest. I think you are very approachable and would be a great person for her to connect with. Would you mind connecting with her?”

This is one of the most powerful strategies you can use to encourage and develop your existing members as leaders and to create that culture of inviting without adding shame or guilt to the mix.

3. Be completely present.

Recently, due to some serious health issues, I hadn’t made it to church in about a month or so. I was so excited to finally be feeling well again and to be back together with other believers, worshipping in song, and learning more of God’s Word from my pastor.

I came back to a few unsympathetic “it’s been a while” remarks and some people who greeted me, but looked like they were in a hurry and weren’t interested in talking to me. I felt unseen, unheard, and unimportant. And this was a place I was on staff at one point! I considered these people my family.

Imagine that being a guest at your church.

What reason would they have to come back?

People notice when you are glancing at your phone, your watch, someone else, or are hurriedly rushing through a conversation. You make time for the things that are important and people can sense when they are not important to you. That’s not to say there aren’t times where you have a lot going on and that happens—we’re human. But there are far more grown adults who still are on their phones in the middle of a meal with others than those who are not. This is not okay.

Let’s get practical. How do we avoid doing this when we have so much on our plate? Here are some tips:

  • Learn to listen. Listening is much more than hearing someone talk. Forbes has 10 great steps to learn to become an effective listener. People will come back to someone they feel listened by.
  • Let someone completely finish what they are saying before adding in what you have to say.
  • Be aware of your body language. Are your feet pointed towards the door? Are you being attentive? Nodding while the person is talking? Does the other person notice you are listening to what they are saying or is it like they are talking to a wall?
  • Are you dialed in to what the other person is feeling? Are you empathetic to what the other person is experiencing, even if you can’t fully relate to what they are going through?
  • Are you giving the other person the gift of unhurried time?

You can always ask a trusted friend (or spouse) how they feel like you listen and then to evaluate you using some of these new techniques. Even the best listener can always work on becoming a better one.

4. Be involved

Here’s what I mean.

It’s easier than ever to not have to leave your house. You can get groceries to delivered to your house, have your close friends over to watch a college football game, and continue to get into the same routine with the same people. We’re not against this, but try broadening out.

City Church in Tallahassee, FL does this well and we even have a case study on it in our Church Fuel Resource Library.

Here are some ways you can try to broaden your horizons:

  • Instead of forming an IM soccer team with your church, grab one or two friends and join an existing team.
  • Take a group exercise class to meet new people.
  • Take your dog to the dog park or dog events to meet other pet owners.
  • Get to know the local businesses in your area. You can build great relationships with them and even partner with them to do an event.
  • Volunteer at high school events to give parents a break to be able to actually watch their kids at their sport or performing art.
  • Partner with an event your city does every year (this could be anything from an Easter Egg Hunt to a local concert).
  • Go to local bookstore readings to get to know the literary scene better.

The great part about this is you don’t have to go out of your way to “evangelize.” People can tell when they’re a project and that’s not how you want to come across.

If you get involved in your city in things you already have an interest in, it becomes very natural to build relationships with people. And once they can see that you are a normal person that likes the same things that they do, you may completely change their perception of the local church. A little intentionality goes a long way.

4. Teach your people how to invite.

Most pastors assume their people know how to invite, but this may be foreign to some people.

You can talk through some of the points we’ve mentioned in this article to your church. If you don’t want to do this during a sermon (which we think is perfectly normal), you can mention these during member meetings, volunteer trainings, and small groups.

Andy Stanley also mentions to North Point regulars that they should look for three cues. When they are talking to someone else and they hear one of these three sentences:

  • Things are NOT going well…
  • I was NOT prepared for…
  • I am NOT from here….

Then that clues them in that that is a great opportunity to invite. You can point these out to your church as well.

Elevation Church also created graphics for their church to share on social media. This is a great and easy way to have your church share what is going on in your church on social media. You can even encourage people to tweet during the service!

Choose one of these action steps to begin creating a culture of invitation in your church today. What will you work on? Let us know.

Take a Next Step

The #1 barrier to church growth starts with you.

If the senior pastor, or church leaders, are not intentionally taking the time to get better, no one else will follow suit.

We know it can be difficult to know where to begin or even where to go to grow personally. That's why we developed a FREE resource for you.

The personal growth plan. All of us on staff at Church Fuel use it because it's that useful.

Take some time this week to fill this out and make your personal growth plan.

Get the free download below.

Five Money Shifts Every Church Should Make

Five Money Shifts Every Church Should Make

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 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.

You can take a look at some of the tools we are creating for you here.

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 at the end of this post. 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.

What’s Next?

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.

When People Don’t Want Your Church to Grow

When People Don’t Want Your Church to Grow

There’s this little BBQ joint near me.

It’s a hole in the wall place, frequented by locals and regulars who know a thing or two about low-and-slow BBQ.

The food is amazing.

The service is fast.

Even the sweet tea tastes better. And a big part of me absolutely, positively wants NOBODY else to know about it. Because if more and more people start going there, it will probably change.

They might change the menu to accommodate different tastes. Or I might have to park farther away or wait longer for a table. This place is great because it’s not crowded. And if other people discovered the greatness, I might stop going.

That’s exactly how some people view your church.

They like the preaching, the music, the people, and their favorite seat.

They like it the way it is, and if crowds of new people starting showing up, it would change.

See, while leaders love progress, most people like stability.

A large group of people in your church like their church the way it is right now. They don’t really want it to grow.

They are proud members of the ninety-nine, not vocally upset that you are going after the 1, but quietly saying, “What about me?” The ninety resist change, hoping all that vision-casting and forward thinking wears off soon.

The ninety-nine share their preferences and expect the church to cater to them. After all, they pay the bills; they fill the seats. That seat is squarely in the status quo, not opposed to reaching people with the Gospel, but not actively pursuing what will disrupt their lives.

So what do you do when you know your church needs to change but the people in the church resist that change?  What do you do when you believe the church should grow but the people in the church resist growth?

Here are six thoughts to consider.

#1 – Choose to be positive.

We all carefully construct the world around us to suit our preferences and desires. Both Millennials and Boomers like things the way they like them. Anytime something pushes up against our preferences and expectations, we push back.

Growth is hard, because change is hard. And the very thing you want to change FROM is the thing someone fought FOR in the past.

Choose to believe people resisting growth are not against people, against the Gospel, against the church, or against you.

They just like things the way they are.

Positivity in the face of resistance is hard, but a message of hope is best delivered with patience.

#2 – Be a pastor and a prophet.

Leading your church to growth will require courageous conversations and courageous decisions.

You know that.

You already feel that.

But depending on your personality, you’ll default to one of two positions.

The prophet points to the future.

The pastor looks to the people.

If your church is going to grow (and grow healthy), you need both of these voices of leadership. Your people need to hear the voice of the prophet, clearly articulating the WHY behind the mission and the vision of where your church is going.

But if your church is resisting change, they may need a pastor to help guide and shepherd them through transition.  This kind of immense patience isn’t always easy for a visionary leader.

You need to continually cast vision and clarify the current mission, but do it with the heart of a pastor.

#3 – Build a coalition.

I’m not saying this should be the case or that it’s the best model for leadership, I’m just calling out what exists in reality.

Every church has power brokers.

It could be people in official leadership roles or it could be influential or long-time members.

But if you want to move your church in any given direction, there are people you need to get on your side. They need to believe in you, not just the cause. They need to know the details, have a say in the decision, and know their part in the process.

  • If you want to start a second service, you need influential representatives from every ministry involved in the decision.
  • If you are changing the org chart or the structure of the church, you need influential leaders with relational equity to “sell” the change to people who have reservations.
  • If you are making a bold move that will disrupt the status quo, you need strong leaders who will stand with you and say “this is our decision.’”

A lot of church growth initiatives fail because there was not enough private buy in before there was a public campaign.

The bigger the change you’re trying to make, the more people and the more time you need.

#4 – Talk about what is NOT changing.

The Church has been around for more than 2,000 years and has gone through many cultural changes. But through all of that, the Great Commission and the Great Commandant have remained the north star.

In the midst of your vision casting, remind people what is NOT changing. Reassure people some things will stay the same forever.

No matter what kind of change is needed in your church, remind people the Gospel will never change.

Your tactics will come and go, but your purpose will stay the same.

Your programs may change with the times, but your mission takes precedence.

Reminding people what will never change will comfort those who are worried about “losing their church.”

#5 – Get outside help.

Once a quarter, I participate in a strategy meeting for a local non-profit. It’s an all-day meeting focused on reviewing the mission, setting quarterly goals, and breaking those goals into measurable (and accountable) tasks.

The executive team of the nonprofit participate in the meeting. But they bring in an outside facilitator to run the agenda. To be fair, this facilitator touches base in between meetings and runs those meetings according to a system.

Even though there are people qualified to run the show, and the agenda is the same nearly every time, they have an outside facilitator each time.

It’s not free.

It’s actually a sizeable investment.

But as a participant in this meeting, I can honestly say it’s worth every penny.  A highly engaged, but unemotionally invested outsider can bring perspective to an organization that you will never get otherwise.

Despite the expense, if you want to lead your church through a growth barrier, get some outside perspective.

#6 – Draw a line in the sand.

It’s important to believe the best about people.

It’s vital you act with patience, like a loving shepherd who cares about people.

It’s important to get the right people on your side, including strategic advisors with outside perspective.

With all that said, there will still come a time when you have to make a decision.

At some point, you have to stop talking and start doing.

It might be time to make a decision and live with the consequences.

Carey Nieuwhof summarizes it well in this post:

“If you’ve been in an honest dialogue for at least a year and are not making progress (that is, you haven’t made a plan for change you are ready to act on), you have come to a moment of truth.”

If you want to dive more into this growth mindset, check out The Senior Pastor's Guide to Breaking Barriers.  Just fill out the form below and we'll send you the PDF.

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Not everybody in your church wants it to grow.

But that’s not a barrier to stop you; it’s an obstacle to overcome. It’s an opportunity to stewardship the leadership God has given you.

Get some people around you to encourage you to keep going and to give you good advice along the way, but don’t give up.

Take a Next Step

If you’re looking for more help leading your church to growth, come join the Church Fuel Community.

We are a group of pastors and leaders who value practical coaching and resources and encourage one another to grow healthy. Reaching new guests and helping them get involved in the life of the church is a regular topic among our members.

Every month, we release a brand-new master class, covering topics like volunteers, connecting people, preaching, finances, and more.

Members also get access to a resource library full of documents, spreadsheets, and templates, including lots of church growth resources. There are members-only office hours and round tables where you can get personal help when needed.

There’s no long-term contract and a money back guarantee, so you can check it out without pressure. Learn more here.