It Might Not Be As Bad As You Think It Is

I wanted to share a quick and hopefully encouraging lesson with you. It starts with this picture.

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Looks like a pretty nice place, doesn’t it?

Now, take a look at this next picture.

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That’s a picture of the exact same property. Know what’s different?

Perspective.

Perspective is your mental view or outlook. It’s how you see things. Consider…

  • You might feel like things are financially tough. Perspective tells you that your church is more blessed than you think.
  • You might feel like you’re not growing as fast as the church down the street. Perspective tells you to shepherd the people God has entrusted to you.
  • You might feel like you don’t have enough people to serve. Perspective teaches you to appreciate and pastor those who give so much of their time.

It’s easy for our perspective to get out of whack…it happens to me all the time. I get caught up in the here and now and lose perspective. I think about the things I don’t have, and forget about things I do have. I try hard to get to the next level or break the next growth barrier, and I forget to enjoy the journey. I slip into leader mode and forget that my first ministry is to my family.

So maybe these pictures can give you a perspective change today. I know they did for me.

By the way, shout out to Kem Meyer who originally posted these pictures in a blog post titled “perspective.”

52 Things Pastors Should Do

Here are 52 things pastors should do.

  1. Evaluate your meeting schedule.
  2. Get intentional with the time of giving in your services. You plan the music and the message…start planning how you set up the offering.
  3. Do something that deepens your own faith.
  4. Have friends, not just colleagues.
  5. Work on the church, not just in the church.
  6. Hire people smarter than you.
  7. Share the pulpit.
  8. Plan ahead.  It saves money.
  9. Understand the people in your community.
  10. Invest in people.
  11. Read the Bible for yourself.
  12. Work on your marriage.  You can’t put it on autopilot.
  13. Have fun with your team.
  14. Get your team out of the office.
  15. Evaluate your staff on a regular basis.
  16.  Let your staff evaluate you.
  17. Follow up with guests.
  18. Follow up with donors.
  19. Communicate the vision of the church on a regular basis.
  20. Ask lots of questions.
  21. Write simple and clear job descriptions.
  22. Send thank you notes on a regular basis.
  23. Communicate to your key volunteers and leaders.
  24. Have people over to your home.
  25. Listen to sermons.
  26. Survey your congregation on an annual basis.
  27. Learn from experts.
  28. Reinvent tradition.
  29. Preach intentionally.
  30. Be generous.
  31. Respond quickly.
  32. Guard your heart.
  33. Learn the Bible.
  34. Finish your sermons earlier in the week.
  35. Welcome guests every week, even if you don’t think any are there.
  36. Talk to teenagers in your messages.
  37. Set clear expectations for your staff.
  38. Lead a start/stop meeting.
  39. Ask other people to teach your staff and leaders.
  40. Preach on money.
  41. Create brand new volunteer positions and make them super-specific.
  42. Make sure your church service is good.  If you have to beat people up to get them to invite their friends, then you don’t have a good service.
  43. Spend time with your kids. Someone else can lead the meeting; nobody else can lead your family.
  44. Counsel someone.  You don’t have to counsel everyone, but your should counsel someone.
  45. Fight for your children’s ministry.
  46. Involve your spouse.
  47. Only work one or two nights per week.
  48. Outsource.  Bookkeeping.  Series graphics.
  49. Listen to feedback from key leaders.
  50. Hire a secret shopper.  Look at things from a guest’s perspective.
  51. Write sermons.  Don’t steal them.
  52. Get out of debt.

How to Be a Likable Pastor

When I was planting and pastoring Oak Leaf Church, I think I alienated just as many people as I befriended.  I talked about how I didn’t really like people (as a smokescreen for my lack of real relationships).  I justified offending people with aggressively going after unchurched people.

I’m not there yet, but I learned a lot about the like-ability factor.

In fact, I think it’s one of the most important characteristics for success.  If people don’t like you, they probably won’t listen to you.  And if they don’t listen to you, they probably won’t be impacted by your life.  So here are a few ways pastors and church leaders can be more like-able.

1.  Don’t hide.

As our church grew in size and importance, I started to shut myself off from people.  Some of this was absolutely necessary, but part of it was an infatuation with going to the next level.  I allowed my introverted personality to become an excuse from secluding myself from people.

So before the messages, I hid in my office.  After the message, I was wisked away to solitude.  I put literal walls up between me and the people in the church, as well as the people in my community.

This was not a good decision.

While it is absolutely necessary to put some healthy boundaries in place, creating systems to help you hide is a bad thing.  Email auto responders that make people feel unimportant and green rooms that subtly suggest you’re above the people can become a wall of contention between you and the very people you are trying to serve.  Don’t hide behind systems that separate.

2.  Talk about your mistakes.

Dr. John Maxwell says if you want to impress people, talk about your successes, but if you want to impact them talk about your failures.

Authenticity is the doorway to like-ability.  If you want people to like you, you’ve got to be real.

Take intentional steps to combat pedestal thinking in your church members.  They need to know you’re a real person, with real struggles.  Whether they are financial or spiritual or relational, find ways to relate to real life.

You’ll do more when you talk about your mistakes (even the ones that don’t end with a supernatural blessing) than you will with subtly bragging on your victories.

There’s an important principle here.  You don’t need to ACT like you’re on their level…you really need to come down and BE on their level.  We are all equal at the foot of the cross, and being in full time ministry does not give you special access to God or secret knowledge on how to live the Christian life.

3.  Don’t complain.

This is something I am continuing to work on.  It so bothers me in other people, but I am tempted to ignore the 2×4 in my own eye when it comes to this issue.

Just the other day, I picked up my phone to tweet about how long it took to order a sandwich at Subway.  Why was my first inclination to complain?  Why wasn’t I grateful that I had enough money to buy food?  Or that I was getting food for my incredible family who was waiting in the car.

Complaining isn’t attractive, no matter who you are.  Whether you’re complaining about bad customer service, how tired you are, or long lines at Subway, it isn’t endearing talk.  Nobody says, “You know who I like to be around?  People who complain!.”

People want to be around positive people.  Positive people are just simply more likeable.

4.  Be accessible.

You don’t have to be accessible to everyone, but you don’t have to bring your systems front and center either.   An email auto responder that comes from your public email address that tells the person how busy you are or that someone else from the team will get back to them just isn’t necessary.  It just puts a wall up between you and the other person.

Sure, go ahead and have someone else answer the email.  You can do it without making the person feel bad.

It wouldn’t have killed me to take some time at the end of church services to shake hands or talk to people.  And I really didn’t need a security team of seven people surrounding me either.  I knew how to be a big boy and have conversations and serve people.

I know of pastors who have open office hours, who find a way to control their schedule yet still be available for people. It might require some thinking or planning, but you can do it.

The Five Common Struggles of Pastors

This isn’t a scientific study, or even results from a poll.  These five things are simple reflections of nearly twenty years in vocational ministry (twelve as a student pastor and six as a church planter/pastor).  In my opinion, here are five common struggles of pastors.

1. Stress.

Peter Drucker, the late leadership guru, said the four hardest jobs in the United States are President of the United States, a University president, CEO of a hospital and a local church pastor.

Let that sink in for a moment. If you’re a pastor, the degree of difficulty of your job is up there with the President of the United States. And we’ve all seen those before and after pictures.

Pastors are under an incredible amount of stress. In addition to dealing with their own issues, they often bear the weight of the struggles of other people. They lead their own families and finances, but also feel the weight of the entire congregation. They have the stress that accompanies their own financial issues, but feel the weight of financial situation of the entire church.

Pastors are leaders, public speakers, counselors, community leaders and monks rolled into one. The job descriptions are ridiculous. The requirements of the job are diverse. The schedules easily spin out of control.

2. Marriage.

There’s a ton of pressure on pastors to look like they have it all together, especially with their spouses and children. A Leadership Magazine study found 95% of pastors felt pressured to have an ideal family.

The pastor has preached many sermons on marriage. But what does he do when his own marriage needs work? Pastors struggling in their marriage often don’t know where to turn for help.

But if the pastor went to the deacons about this problem, he might be fired. Getting help takes a back seat to protecting his job.

Many pastors feel like they can’t openly talk about their marriage issues with anyone. Because they are up on a pedestal, admitting their struggles is kin to abdicating leadership of their church.

For several years, my own marriage was struggling. All the while I was preaching sermons – some of them on marriage! On the outside, everything looked great. On the inside, things were falling a part. It wasn’t until something dramatic happened that we sought out a professional counselor.

I’ve got many regrets, but not going to counseling before I HAD to go to counseling is one of them.

3. Depression.

There’s a heavy weight that comes with being a pastor that most people just can’t understand. It’s because a pastor is more than a CEO and a public speaker – he or she is a spiritual shepherd.

You might think depression is something “other people” deal with. After all, with the Word of God, God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, why in the world would a pastor struggle with depression? The weight of other people’s struggles make their way to to the heart of pastor. There are incredible expectations, and when those aren’t met, it’s easy to get down.

Stress, marriage problems, finances, burnout, critics, spiritual warfare, unnecessary comparison…I could go on and on. All of these things weigh a person down.

“The likelihood is that one out of every four pastors is depressed,” said Matthew Stanford, a psychology professor at Baylor University.

4. Loneliness.

Pastors are some of the loneliest people on earth. Lifeway Research learned 55% of pastors, in fact, admitted to being lonely. You might think a pastor is the most popular person in the church, but in many cases, he’s one of the most isolated.

This was my story as I planted and led a church for five years. As our church got larger and my stage got bigger, I mistakingly cut myself off from people in order to “go to the next level.”

I was scared to be vulnerable with people because I was afraid their opinion of me would be messed up. I made jokes and excuses and allowed my introverted personality to keep me from developing real friendships.

A lot of pastors are introverts – comfortable in their study but not always the life of the party. But these pastors need friendships, too. They need to be able to hang out with other pastors and not talk about church growth strategies. They need to be able to be open and honest with a group of real friends without the fear of losing their jobs.

Ironically, the larger your church gets, the more lonely leaders can become.

5. Conflict.

From the deacon who doesn’t like the new direction of the church to the staff member who just can’t get it together, a pastors has to deal with more conflict than most people realize. It’s not all praying and reading the BIble – there are tough conversations and difficult circumstances to navigate.

Pastors deal with a lot of conflict, and dealing with conflict often leads to more conflict.  Conflict in the church carries over to conflict at home.

Make no mistake about it, being a pastor is a tough gig.  There are too many many casualties.  In a coming post, I’ll share some ideas on how we can begin to solve this problem.

Five Things Pastors Should Never Say

I’ve said some of these things before, and when I’ve said them I’ve been wrong.  But here is a list of six things pastors shouldn’t say.

1. Pastoring a church is so hard and so different from every other job.

It’s time to stop whining about how hard you have it. Publicly discussing the “holy hangover”, the emotional Monday morning effect that comes from preaching multiple times on Sunday might earn you sympathy points with other pastors, but most regular church members think it’s silly. In their minds (and remember, perception is reality for most people), you stood in front of people for an hour and talked – something they would love to do on a regular basis instead of working the night shift or meeting a sales quota.

Other pastors understand the spiritual battle and the emotionally draining reality of leading a church, but trying to convince your congregation of this will make you seem out of touch. And in some ways, full-time pastors who set much of their own schedules and have work meetings over Starbucks or lunch, have things much more manageable schedule than the cashier who stands on her feet for ten hours or the teacher who has to create lesson plans and IEPs.

2. We’re here to reach the lost, not churched people.

Jesus said he came to earth to seek and save the lost. But He also spent significant time teaching a small group of followers. I understand he heart behind reaching the lost, and I understand tailoring certain environments to accomplish that person. But in your zeal to reach the lost, don’t discount the comprehensive mission of the church – to go into all the world and make disciples.

When you say “we’re here to reach unchurched people…there are plenty of churches for Christians” you alienate people of faith and communicate that they have no real place of ministry in your church. You insult the 65-year-old grandmother who has served Jesus and children for 40 years. Whether you mean to or not, you foster a spirit of competition among area churches over who is more evangelistic and who is more missional and who is more Bible-based.

Say, “We care about reaching the lost,” but don’t say you don’t care about church for Christians. God loves everyone, even Christians.

3. I don’t counsel people.

While you might think you need to do that in order to go to the next level, bragging about your refusal to engage hurting people isn’t going to do you any good. I made this mistake. You might not to be the primary counselor, especially if you’re not trained to handle specific situations. But you should stay connected at some level, because it’s helpful, and because you’ll stay connected to a hurting group of people who look to you for advice.

If you pastor a large or rapidly growing church, you may not visit everyone in the hospital, but you should visit someone, and you should create a system that does provide personal pastoral ministry to everyone. “I don’t visit people in the hospital, so if I show up, you know it’s bad,” might sound funny from the stage, but it’s a condescending position that attempts to maximize your visible value to the church. But mostly, it makes people feel unimportant.

Refusing to engage people, even if it’s a small group of people, on a personal level isn’t good leadership – it’s ministry arrogance. I was guilty of this in the past, and I was wrong.

4. If I talk about money, people will leave.

Unchurched people aren’t stupid – they know it takes money to run a church. Don’t be held hostage by fear, either of offending the unchurched or running off a key donor. Develop a holistic approach and a systematic plan for taking about one of the most important subjects facing 21st century America.

The reality is this: when you talk about money the right way, people are helped and they grow closer to Jesus. Tearing down the idol of greed is an important part of the discipleship process, and it should not be avoided or done in secret. Christians need to understand that it’s not feeling generous but acting generous that means their generous. They need to understand the Biblical principle of stewardship. People who are not Christ-followers still feel burdened by debt and out-of-control spending, and they crave helpful advice on the subject.

So pastor, don’t apologize for talking about money. Don’t introduce a sermon or a series on money with an apology or a 5-minute disclaimer. Preach the whole counsel of God’s Word with boldness.

5. Can I get a pastor discount?

There are many underpaid pastors in the world, including Lead Pastors, Youth Pastors, and missionaries. I remember my first job in ministry when I asked for a raise and was told “We’ve always wanted to get you UP to the level of a public school teacher but it’s going to take many years.” I could write about this for a really long time, but that’s not my point today.

Good stewardship is a good thing, but poor-mouthing brings dishonor to the profession and calling of pastor. I know a pastor who asked for a “pastor discount” at Home Depot – apparently, new kitchen cabinets can be used for the Lord’s Work. I really do understand the financial limitations of most pastors and churches, but in my humble opinion, constantly asking for discounts seems to cheapen the importance of what pastors do.

I’m not advocating extravagant spending, either from the church or the leader, but a cheap mentality is deadly. It leads to broke thinking, and that hurts the church.

What Churches Should Do the Week After Christmas

Christmas is one of the most important times of the year for many churches. There are lots of guests, lots of serving opportunities, and the chance to offer hope to so many in need. That’s why thinking through your Christmas sermon and thinking through your Christmas service is so important.

But what do you do the week after Christmas? It’s too easy to roll into the New Year without taking time to reflect, recover and review everything God did in your church.

Can I offer a suggestion as to what you could do the week or so following Christmas Eve services, Christmas pageants or the Christmas season at your church?

What if you took a week to say thanks?

Here are three groups of people who need thanks.

1. Thank guests for attending.

If you’ve written a form letter and are planning to send a copy to every guest, stop the presses. You don’t read form letters – guests who visit your church won’t either.

Opt for a persona, hand-written thank you note. Yes, pastor…you can take the time to write these. It IS worth your time.

When you hand-write them, be sure to hand address and hand-stamp them. It’s a nice touch and comes with meaning. You can include a small card with a little information about your next message series.

2. Thank donors for giving.

Giving isn’t a financial decision…it’s a spiritual one. Whether someone gave $5 or wrote a big check, a first-time gift to a church is a big deal. Think of all the OTHER giving options that person had. So stop and say thanks.

People who gave to your church didn’t’ make a financial decision – they made a spiritual one. Jesus said our money and heart are connected, and whether they wrote a big check or gave $5, a first-time gift to a church is a big deal. And you need to say thanks.

So again, ditch the form letter and send a personal note. Better yet, send this. It’s a thank you note AND a little teaching that unpacks what happens after someone gives.

3. Thank volunteers for serving.

Christmas isn’t just a busy time for pastors. It’s a busy time for volunteers. Think of the nights out people gave to serve, set up, clean up and more. And people did all of this IN ADDITION to all of their regular responsibilities at work and at home.
There are volunteers who didn’t hear the message because they were serving families. You have greeters who served across multiple services. You have people who didn’t go to their mom’s church so they could serve.

When you say thanks, make sure it’s specific. Carve out time to write thank you notes and call out a specific action. Don’t just say “thanks for serving” – make it personal. In addition to the personal thank, you can write a blog post or send an email to the whole church highlighting the specific service of three or four volunteers. Don’t believe the lie that if you can’t thank everyone personally, you shouldn’t thank anyone personally.

Take some time after Christmas and before you launch into the new year to say thanks.

Creating Healthy Systems in a Church Plant

Church planters are usually good at planning services, teaching the Bible and communicating vision.

At least, those were my strengths as I stepped out from a dozen years of youth ministry into the world of being a Senior Pastor. I knew how to speak, having spoken to junior high and middle school students for years. And vision casting was second nature for me.

However, I wasn’t good at – and wasn’t prepared for – leading an entire organization. Spreadsheets scared me. Forecasts were like punching me in the face. Unless it was a blank word document full of sermon ideas, documents were deadly.

But as we moved through the launch phase and into leading a church, I realized that passion and vision were not enough. If we were going to grow – or even survive – we were going to have to get organized.

Looking back on the whole thing, I wished I learned about creating systems earlier. I think it would have saved a lot of trouble. Here are a few systems that I think church planters should create before they launch.

1. Financial Systems

I wish we had created and lived with better percentages in the early days, designating a certain percentage for world missions and a certain percentage for savings from day one. Personally, I think it’s wise for churches to designate 10% to world missions, 10% for long term facility savings and live off 80%. I know this is hard, but the fact is, it doesn’t get easier.

2. Hiring Systems

We had no hiring processes, so in some cases, we hired too fast and didn’t hire correctly. I’m convinced that creating a good hiring process – with multiple steps that you refuse to skip – is a key to getting the right people on the team.

3. Follow up Systems

Our young church grew quick, so after about six months, I wondered, “Now what do we do with these people?” We didn’t have a clear path. We had a lackadaisical small group communication plan and no real volunteer involvement strategy. We counted on good people stepping up to save the day, which isn’t really a good strategy. I believe it would be wise for church planters to spend some time creating a movement process for people – one that isn’t built on doing more stuff at the church, but built on following Jesus.

One of the reasons I was hesitant to create systems was because I knew we would change them. But that’s okay. Planters…go ahead and create systems knowing you’ll revisit them a year or two into the life of the church and make adjustments. There is not perfect plan, but not having a plan is not wise.

Want immediate help with all of these systems? Get Docs and Forms.  It’s got more than 120 editable documents to help you organize ministries, worship service planning, staffing, facilities and operations.

Get 20% Off Any Resource for the Next 48 Hours

From now until Tuesday night, you can get 20% off any and every resource on my resource page. Simply enter “twenty” (without the quotes) at checkout, and you’ll get the discount. You can use this on any single resources or any combination of resources.

  • Docs and Forms is probably the most downloaded resource – more than 200 church leaders have grabbed this in the last 9 months. It’s the perfect way to create healthy systems (and the summer is the perfect time to work ON your church, not just IN it.)
  • Reach will help you invite more people to church. It’s got a training video, and eBook and tons of documents, samples and sermons. You’ll get press releases (free advertising!) and two complete campaigns.
  • Inspire is all about volunteers. I used to say that our church was driven by God but fueled by volunteers. I wrote down everything I know about finding, training, inspiritng and keeping volunteers.
  • Next is all about follow up. You’ll learn how to follow up with guests, givers and brand new Christians. In addition to coaching, I’ll give you plug and play tools to jump start action.
  • Bible classes come with student guides and teaching notes and they are the perfect way to launch a few classes in your church. There’s Intro to the Old Testament, Theology 101, and Start Here (for new Christians.)
  • Ten Minute Training for Core Groups is my newest resource for church planters. It’s a series of 7 videos designed to show your core group or launch team. It comes with discussion guides.  It’s plug and play core group meetings.
  • Organize Your Church in 30 Days is a highly practical eBook that will give you 30 actionable items to get your church organized around the mission.

All of these resoures are 20% off until Tuesday night at midnight. Grab one or grab as many as you like. Be sure to enter the code “twenty” at checkout.

Summer is for Systems

On vacation, I stumbled into a used book store and found an old book on counting cards and winning at blackjack. I noticed there was an entire chapter about what makes a good card counting system, so I purchased the book.

According to Richard Canefield and BlackJack Your Way to Riches, a good card counting system:

  1. Has to be reasonable simple.
  2. Has to be easy to learn.
  3. Needs to be versatile.
  4. Needs to be up to date.
  5. Has to work.

As I read this book on blackjack, I couldn’t help but think about how many churches are lacking in the area of systems. Pastors and church leaders usually default to communicating vision and let someone else figure out how to make it work.

But it’s systems that help a church accomplish it’s vision. Systems trump passion every day.

It’s strategy that make things work.  Ideas without strategy impact nobody.

Coming up with all these systems can be daunting (or boring), but there is something that can jump start the process.

It’s called Docs and Forms – a collection of 120+ editable documents. So far this year, more than 200 pastors, church planters and church leaders have grabbed this highly practical resource.  Consider this:

  1. They are extremely simple.  If you can cut and paste, you can benefit from these documents and forms.
  2. They are easy to use.  A volunteer can be the point person.
  3. They are versatile and will improve ALL of your ministries.  From children’s ministry to the worship service, there’s stuff that will make an immediate difference.
  4. They are up to date.   There aren’t any outdated strategies – this stuff is being used in churches across the world TODAY.
  5. They work. Nobody has EVER asked for their money back.

When you download the file and unzip the folders, you’ll find tons of documents and spreadsheets to help you create necessary staffing policies, organize your ministries and service planning, and get your financial systems up to speed. There are job descriptions for volunteers, employee evaluations for staff members, and simple facility procedures.

And the summer is a great time to work on this stuff. Start with one or two areas, tweak a couple of these documents and get things running smoother.

Grab Docs and Forms here and work ON your church, not just IN it.

 

The Best Ideas Come from Unlikely Sources

Masking tape was invented by a guy who worked for an auto body paint shop.

Post It Notes weren’t invented because someone was trying to invent the post it note.

Some of the best ideas aren’t totally out-of-the box, brand new thoughts, but a combination of two or more ideas. So it’s not always a brand new product that revolutionizes life, but the mixing of two ideas to create a semi-new category of something.

The technical term for this is conceptual blending.

It’s why you get great ideas when you’re outside your normal flow. For example, we recently got a great idea because we intentionally went into a section of a bookstore dealing with art and design. I have minimal interest in art and design, but something I noticed there greatly influenced one of my core responsibilities.

It’s why the best people to ask about your church bulletin and handout might not be your staff, but moms or insurance salesmen who have a good grasp of writing. The people knee deep in the operation might not be the best people to innovate…you might need to bring in help. Not complete outsiders, but people on the fringe.

It’s why pastors need to read people magazine. There’s very little there of eternal worth, but it’s a glimpse into what people are thinking and talking about throughout the normal week.

Get outside the normal.  Or bring in some people from the fringe.

That’s how innovation happens.

The Monday Morning Hangover

It’s Monday.

Which means your twitter stream will fill up with tweets from pastors citing something called the holy hangover.

What is the holy hangover? It’s the Monday-morning feeling of emptiness that comes from preaching your heart out. It’s coming down from somewhat of a spiritual rush. It’s a real sense of being drained that only preachers will understand.

But before you Facebook about your holy hangover, press pause for a minute and think with me. How are your followers going to interpret this holy hangover.

You talked to people.

On a stage.

Most people don’t think it’s hard work.

They don’t know how much time you spent preparing and they don’t understand the spiritual weight that comes with preparing and delivering a sermon. In their minds, you were the center of attention for a few hours.

On top of that, they read your holy hangover tweet from the teachers lounge when they have to eat a 22-minute lunch that was reheated in the community microwave. Or maybe they read about your holy hangover on Facebook, which they checked from their office cubicle where they will sit for eight hours doing work they don’t enjoy for a boss that has little personality. Or they didn’t even see your status update because they were on their feet for ten hours straight in the restaurant.

I’m not trying to make you feel guilty for needing a Sunday afternoon nap or feeling emotionally drained on Monday morning. That’s reality.

But perception is also reality.

When you talk about a holy hangover, it disconnects you from your congregation – the very people you’re attempting to help follow Jesus with all their hearts. I know being a pastor is a ministry and a calling and a divine responsibility, but many of your people feel the same way about their jobs. At least, that’s what you told them when you told them to be a missionary in their workplace and invite their co-workers to church.

I know there’s a spiritual weight but it sound like whining to the everyday person.

Is the holy hangover real?

Sure.

It might be a very real sensation for you.

But my humble advice learned from years of making this mistake: don’t brag about how tired you are on social media.

Most people will think you’re crazy.

The Monday Before Easter

It’s the Monday before Easter and you work at a church.  What should you do this week to prepare for this coming weekend.  Here are a few ideas on how to maximize the week.

1. Prepare for guests.  During a time of welcome, specifically welcome those who are attending your church for the first time or for the first time in a long time.  Point them to a location where they could pick up a welcome gift – this could be a message CD or a gift bag.  And you’ve still got time to make something like this happen.
2. Prepare for donors.  People who visit your church for the first time might want to participate in the offering – people DO want to give.  And when they give, you need to say thanks.  So prepare to personally thank them by sending a hand-written thank you note.  Better yet, send this.
3. Change your printed bulletin.  If you do a printed bulletin with upcoming events, change it up for easter.  Guest don’t need to know what’s coming – they need to know what happens each and every week.  Your printed bulletin should talk about your regular ministries, not your special events.
4.  Pray.  Pull your staff, leaders, family, or small groups for a time of prayer for Easter weekend.  Invite people to a specific place at a  specific time to pray for everything that is going to happen.  You can still schedule an old fashioned prayer meeting.
5.  Take some time off.  Easter Weekend or Easter Sunday is going to be a busy and important day.  One of the best things you can do is take a day off.  Work hard to get everything ready by Thursday so you can relax on Thursday or Friday.  Make sure you have time to prepare your heart and mind – and you can’t do that if you’re running around at the last minute.

Churches are Like Airports

The other day, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend six hours in the Atlanta airport. In between reading magazines and complaining about the wi-fi not being free, I jotted down a few thoughts about the similarities between churches and airports.

#1 – It’s takes a lot of people to run. Ticket takers, baggage handlers, pilots, flight attendants, food service people, and more. It takes a bunch of different people to run an airport, and it takes a bunch of different people to make a church. It’s always cool to me to see people volunteer at church.

#2 – Each area depends on the other. If the guys don’t get the bags to the plane on time, then the plane doesn’t leave on time. Each area of service depends on another to function properly. A church is a body, and all the parts are important. If your stomach gets sick, it’ pretty much affects your whole system. When the kids ministry is healthy, it feeds into student ministry. We depend on each other for health.

#3 – Customer service isn’t always what it should be. In my case, the ticket agent couldn’t help me, and I had to go on the internet to book for a lower fare. Not good. I wonder how many guests have bad first time experiences at churches…checking in their kids, finding the restrooms, knowing where to go for help, etc. I want our church to keep pressing ahead to become the most guest-friendly church people could attend.

#4 – We’ve both got insider language. Next time you fly, notice how many airline-only terms are used in the flight attendants safety speech. Why don’t they use regular words like “turn off your phone” instead of “place electronic devices in the off position”?  I don’t tell my kids to put their lights in the off position.  But churches have their own vocabulary too, and we just expect people to understand what we mean. I have no idea why they call the inside of the airplane a cabin, and I’m pretty sure people in the world are freaked out when we say washed in the blood.

#5 – Not very kid friendly. So many people travel with kids (and they usually sit right behind me), but so few airports are kid friendly. Where are the play areas? Where are parent-friendly waiting areas? Churches can be the same way…we spend so much money on adults and programs for adults, and often forget about kids. The church should spend more money on kids and teenagers than ANY other ministry.

#6 – All the smokers gather in one place. All you have to do is just walk by the open-door smoking lounge to smell like a bowling alley. In churches, they usually gather out back. And they are usually deacons.

#7 – People are always coming and going. In the airport, people are always going somwhere…same is true for churches. Sadly, there are so many church-shoppers and church-hoppers. People don’t settle down and sit still. You’ll have people leave when you talk about money.

#8 – Many systems make it easier for employees and not the customers. I saw a ton of things that were designed with airport employees in mind, forgetting about the travelers. In the same way, churches often do what is easier for the staff or key volunteers, and forget about the guests. As a leader, one question I used to ask myself is “does this just make it easier for our staff or for the people in the church.”

#9 – People aren’t always happy to be here. You don’t see a lot of joyful people in the airport…they are stressed and hurried. And sadly, there are a lot of people that aren’t smiling at church. We’ve made it boring, informational, and something you have to endure. You know what…it’s okay to have a good time a church!

#10 – The best ones have free wi-fi. I like airports with free wifi…with so many mobile devices, it’s probably something that’s helpful in church too.

7 Questions Every Church Leader Should Ask

Here are ten questions that would be perfect for a staff meeting, lead team off-site, or personal reflections.

  1. What kind of people want to come to our church?
  2. What ministries are doing well?
  3. What ministries would we not start it we were doing it all again?
  4. Who is NOT coming to our church and why?
  5. Who are we uniquely called and positioned to reach?
  6. What people are not being reached by any other church in are area?
  7. Who are the leaders and influencers in our church?

7 Things Pastors Should Never Say (Part 2)

Part one is here.  And here are two more things pastors should never say.

6. I don’t need to go to counseling. About a year ago, I started going to counseling. And about a year ago, I started wishing I had gone much, much sooner. As a pastor, I thought it was admitting weakness to go and talk to someone about my issues. I thought I would lose credibility if word got out I was seeking help.

In retrospect, I believe this is a lie from the devil. I wanted to deal with stuff on my own, but it didn’t work. I wanted to pray problems away, because after all, if I’ve got the Holy Spirit and the Bible, that’s all I needed. But that’s neither true nor Biblical. The book of Proverbs is full of encouragement to seek the counsel of others.

There’s a pastor reading this who needs to go to counseling…who needs to go with his wife to counseling. I can say this because I’ve been there. Listen…overcoming that fear is nothing compared to the crap you will deal with if you continue to refuse help. It’s not a sign of spiritual maturity. It’s a sign of stubbornness and pride.

I have a great counselor, and she has been a huge help to me. I’ve learned about the issues behind the issue, and not in some weird, hyper-spiritual, super-Freuidian way. It’s just a healthy feeling.

7. Can I get a pastor discount? There are many underpaid pastors in the world, including Lead Pastors, Youth Pastors,  and missionaries. I remember my first job in ministry when I asked for a raise and was told “We’ve always wanted to get you UP to the level of a public school teacher but it’s going to take many years.” I could write about this for a really long time, but that’s not my point today.

Good stewardship is a good thing, but poor-mouthing brings dishonor to the profession and calling of pastor. I know a pastor who asked for a “pastor discount” at Home Depot – apparently, new kitchen cabinets can be used for the Lord’s Work. I really do understand the financial limitations of most pastors and churches, but in my humble opinion, constantly asking for discounts seems to cheapen the importance of what pastors do.

I’m not advocating extravagant spending, either from the church or the leader, but a cheap mentality is deadly. It leads to broke thinking, which is hurting the church.