Take Time to Celebrate

Every healthy organization needs several people in order to make it. You need a visionary leader…someone who can visualize the future and cast a compelling vision that people will follow.

You need some strategy people that can take the vision and create the road map. These are the question askers, Excel users, and dry erase board filler-uppers.

And you need implementers. People who are actually going to do all the work in accomplishing this amazing feat. Implementers don’t want to talk about things, they want to do things. How many more of these useless meetings are we going to have…let’s just go do something.

One of the down sides of being a visionary is that by the time things start happening, I’m usually on to the next thing. Because I’m so far ahead, it’s hard for me to pay attention to what is going on in the here and now.

During the months leading up to Easter of 2009, I believed we needed to prepare for 1,500 people to show up for church. The problem was that we were meeting in a movie theater, and even with the four services we were currently doing, that many people wouldn’t fit.

We decided to put a giant tent in the parking lot and hold two services. By the time Easter weekend came, we’d been planning the services, coordinating the schedule, and working out logistics for months.

It turns out that about 1,600 people showed up that Sunday morning. But I had played out the event so many times in my head, and communicated the vision and the expectations to our staff so often, I forgot to celebrate the win.

I have never understood the post-game interviews with the coaches. Has any coach ever said anything informative or ground-breaking in one of those interviews?

Reporter: Coach, how did you feel about the win?
Coach: It was a solid team effort. I was a little worried about the turnovers, but everybody did their part and it was a good win.
Reporter: You’ve got Denver next week. How do you feel about your team’s chances?
Coach: Yea, they are a good team…they have a good defense. We’re going to celebrate this win on the plane and then we’ll get to work tomorrow on that.

It’s really the same interview over and over again. It just cycles around like the holiday fruit cake.

I’m tempted to be like those football coaches who are happy about the win for a few hours and then drive everyone to prepare for the next opponent. The reality is that we need to take more time to celebrate wins. We need to take more time to tell stories of life change. We need to hit pause for a few minutes and relish the victories.

After all, the Bible says that the angels in heaven celebrate over just one sinner who crosses the line of faith. I’ve never been to heaven, so I can’t effectively comment on the schedule up there. It seems like there would be a lot going on. Random angelic singing. Peter telling some story by the pearly gates. Moses talking to Charleton Heston about the Red Sea.

But if all of heaven can stop to celebrate, then surely we can too.

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Organize Your Church with Docs and Forms

You’ve got sermons to write, a staff to lead, and people to help.  It’s hard to step back and work ON the church when you’re so busy working IN the church.  But working ON the church is what can make ministry more effective (and less stressful).


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Nearly all of the documents are editable, meaning you can customize and tweak for your church. These documents will help you lead your staff, organize your ministries, improve your financial systems, organize your volunteers and improve your worship services.

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Pastor, You Don’t Have a “Real” Job

The guy working at Waffle House on Saturday morning – the day I’m taking my daughter out to breakfast – has a “real” job. The guy working on spreadsheets in a cubicle all day, with only 45 minutes for lunch, has a real job. The underpaid school teacher and the soldier fighting in Iraq…they have real jobs.

You get to attend meetings and strategize about ways to save the world. You get to study the Bible, read blogs and attend conferences. You can study from an office, go bowling with your staff, and control a good part of your schedule. You can deduct a housing allowance from your taxes, something the stylist can’t do. You get to attend Exponential with your spouse, skipping a day for Disney of course, something the guy working at Jiffy Lube can’t do.

I’m not saying that being a pastor isn’t stressful. I’m not saying you don’t get tired or deserve a vacation. I’m not saying that being a pastor easy. Unless you are a pastor, you may not understand the weight and pressure pastors feel. But I am saying that it’s not the reality facing the normal people sitting in the congregation. You don’t have a real job, in the way that most Americans would define a real job.

This ought to make you thankful. If you’re a church leader, constantly remind yourself that you GET to do what you do. It’s a calling, and it’s an honor. Sure, there are going to be days when you feel like you are relying on your calling, because ministry can be emotionally, spiritually and physically draining. But I still say it’s an honor. If you’re one of those church leaders who is constantly talking about how hard this is…go find a different job.

This ought to keep you from complaining. Complaining about how hard it is to talk to crowded rooms full of people three times in one day sounds like the millionaire athlete complaining about losing a game check. You may actually be tired, but the rest of the world thinks you sound crazy.

This ought to give you perspective. The people in the pews work 40-50 hours a week, and a good many of them still find time to volunteer at church. The guy in the worship band comes to practice after 9 long hours in office – he didn’t get to run home for a couple of hours to see his wife and kids, or he doesn’t get to have a Friday off to spend with his family. The people in your church are real people with “real” jobs…keep that in perspective when planning.

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What Pastors Need to Know About Volunteers

I used to tell people all the time that our church was driven by God but fueled by volunteers.  Here’s a few things I learned about working with volunteers:

1. People don’t volunteer because they are bored. They are busy people with jobs, families and hobbies.  They don’t have lots of time for meetings, read all the emails you send, or think about church every day like you do.

2. They need clear directions. I’m a huge proponent of a written job description for every volunteer.  It doesn’t have to be long, but let people know how much time a volunteer position takes, and who to call if they have an issue.  Get on the same page on the front end, and you’ll have less confusion on the back end.  For what it’s worth, volunteer job descriptions are included in Docs and Forms.

3. They want to meet your expectations.  Most volunteers are not bad people with bad motives. They really do want to please you.

4. They want to feel good about what they do. Checking boxes and completing tasks aren’t inspiring. They want to be a part of something that leads to results, not plug away without seeing success.

5. Their only reward shouldn’t be in heaven. Appreciating people isn’t expensive.  Recognition and information are two great ways to appreciate people.

6. They need a break. No volunteer should be asked to commit to a position for life. This is especially true for children’s ministry workers. Give the setup team a morning off.

7. Someone needs to care for their soul. You are a shepherd, not just a leader. Personally. Family. Spiritually. Does someone know their kids?

8. You gotta ask people to serve. General requests from the stage get general responses from the audience. Ask people personally. Create specific opportunities for people to serve.  The more specific the position, the more likely you are to find someone.  “We need a 2nd grade small group leader at 9:00” will get a better response than “we need kids workers.”

9. It’s easy to use people. If you keep asking the same people for stuff, they will feel abused.  People in your church are not a mechanism to help you accomplish your vision. People have goals…help them reach them.

10. They need development. All volunteers are not leaders. Some people are doers; some people are leaders. Teach people skills that they can use in life, not just in church.

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It Doesn’t Have to Cost A Lot

Companies and non-profits alike frequently cite the pursuit of excellence as one of their goals. And they just as frequently cite the lack of money as an excuse for falling short.

But excellence doesn’t require a large budget. As a small business, you’ve got to learn to fake it till you make it, or bootstrap your way to success. If you don’t have the cash to pull off excellence, change the game and let creativity be your guide. Here are a few examples of cheap solutions at a young church.

We wanted to give all first time guests to our church a memorable gift. Our solution was a 3″ mailing tube from Uline wrapped in a full-page label purchased from an office store. We stuck some candy, info cards, a water bottle, and occasionally a t-shirt inside and gave them to first time guests who visited our church. It didn’t cost a lot of money and we put them together ourselves.

We wanted a display of current volunteer opportunities, and a few strips of metal, some magnets and homemade cards did the trick. We didn’t have the money to spend on a fancy display, so we chose to play off the metal look in our building.

As we prepared for hundreds of guests on Easter, but struggled with the budget, we decided to put together simple guest bags for everyone who attended. It turned out to be pretty cheap to print our logo on a bunch of brown bags (you could even order a stamp and do it yourself). Candy and a few flyers were all that were inside.

We didn’t have a video department or even a video guy on our team, but we know we wanted to use video. But this little solution worked great for what we wanted to accomplish. The videos that connected most with our church family weren’t the slick motion graphics, but the simple videos that told a story. A flip camera with an external mic did the trick. (Additional Note:  Will kindly left a comment with details on the setup and mic.)

It would have easy to use the lack of money as an excuse not to create video, but a simple solution allowed us to move forward with a “good enough” approach.

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