How Should We Measure Church Success?

Church Success

Pre-pandemic, this was already a controversial topic for churches. But in an era where fewer people are choosing to attend physical church services, more pastors are asking the question: “What should success at my church look like?”

For many years, a large number of churches in the United States focused on one singular number – the number of weekly attendees. They asked the questions, “How many people do we have and how can we get more people in the doors?”

Our culture in America naturally celebrates “big.” It’s easy for us to approach church with the same mentality…that “bigger is better.”

We often equate the size of the church with the success of the church.

Or at least many of us did prior to the pandemic. Now, many churches are relying on digital services, or limiting the number of physical attendees in accordance with health and safety guidelines. The shift has caused many pastors to question their approach and what these changes means for the success and effectiveness of their church and ministry.

Numbers Aren’t Everything

The first thing to remember is that while numbers can be a helpful tool, they are not the only measure of success.

Did you know that even pre-pandemic, the average church had less than 100 in attendance? While there is something to be said for analyzing why a church isn’t growing, numbers definitely don’t paint the entire picture.

So as we move forward in an era of social distancing and pandemic uncertainty, how should we measure success in church?

Here are four things to consider as we re-evaluate the matrix we use to measure church growth.

1. Begin with Your Mission and Vision

What specific purpose has God given your church? Are you being faithful to that mission? What elements of your mission or vision remain true and what elements need to shift in this season?

2. Examine Your Growth Engines

These are usually the things your church does to either reach new people or that help your people grow spiritually. In what ways are you reaching new people? In what ways are you helping your members grow? Are your current methods effective in this season or do you need to try something different?

3. Measure Against Your Goals

What goals did you set for your church this year? As circumstances shifted, did you recalibrate those goals? If not, take some time to rethink your goals and adjust as needed. Then look at what practical action steps will move you closer to your goals. Are you taking these steps?

4. Think Big Picture


Ultimately how is your church doing at loving God and loving others? How are you doing at fulfilling the Great Commission? Our mandate to love God and others remains constant regardless of where or when or how we gather together.

Ultimately, there is no one right way to measure success in church. But my hope is that you find encouragement in knowing that small does not equal ineffective. The number of people physically coming into your building is not an accurate measure of spiritual health, growth or success, especially in these times.

Do you have a specific way that you measure success or maintain an analysis of your church activities? Have those measures shifted this year?

The Easter Opportunity: How to Create an Impactful Easter Service amid COVID-19

I’m sure you’ve checked your calendar and seen that Easter Sunday is a little over a week away.  

On Easter Sunday, most churches typically see a spike in attendance. For many churches, it is their most attended Sunday of the year. 

You may have been planning for your Easter service for weeks or months already. And now it’s time to throw out those plans and completely shift gears. 

But before you give up on reaching new people this Easter consider this:

  • More people are facing high levels of stress and anxiety right now
  • More people are feeling isolated right now
  • More people are actively looking for ways to deal with their stress and anxiety
  • More people are considering either their own mortality or the mortality of a loved one

They are looking for something that can bring them a sense of joy, hope and peace in a season of fear and uncertainty. 

This Easter, more than any other, more people are looking for what can only be found in Jesus Christ. 

In other words, the Easter opportunity still exists! 

Yes, you will need to completely rethink your strategy, but Easter is still a significant opportunity. I believe that if you choose to seize this moment, you’ll be amazed at what God can do through your church to reach people that might never otherwise darken the doors of a church. 

But You Must Seize the Easter moment.

By this I mean you cannot simply do “church” as normal (whatever that means anymore). You need a new plan to reach people on this particular Easter. 

So how do you prepare for an online Easter service in the middle a global pandemic that reaches MORE people for Jesus? 

BOOST AWARENESS

Your Goal: To get someone who is not connected to a church to watch your Easter service online. 

In many ways, this is much simpler than asking someone to get dressed up and drive to a building with a bunch of people they don’t know. They never have to leave home or even get out of their pajamas. They just need to know that you exist and that you have something that can help them out. 

Clarify Your Message

Let’s start with the second part – they need to know that you have something that can help them out.

Here’s the honest truth: If someone isn’t connected to a church, they won’t care about the story of your church, or even the story of Jesus. What they will care about is if what you have to offer can help them survive or thrive.

When you create content that invites people to watch your Easter service, keep this important fact in mind. Create content that addresses the pain you know people are in, and how you have a solution to that pain. And please don’t use “churchy” words. 

Before you sit down to write anything, pretend that you’re having a conversation with someone that has never been to church and has just lost their job due to economic impacts of COVID-19. What would you say to that person to get them to watch to your service?

Now create an inviting social media post based on that idea.

Encourage People to Share

Once you’ve thought through what you want to communicate, the next step is to let people know that you exist. The easiest way to boost awareness is to enlist the help of your current attenders. Create a post about your upcoming Easter service on your social media pages. Ask your current attenders to share your posts to their own pages. 

This works even better if instead of just hitting the “share” button, they add a personal anecdote about their experience with your church. 

Boost Your Visibility on Facebook

If you have some money in your budget, I’d recommend boosting your post as a Facebook and Instagram ad. Once you make a post on your Facebook page, you’ll see a “boost post” button. Click the button and Facebook will give you a series of options to promote your service. You can specify who you want your ad to appear to (such as people in your local area or friends of those who like your page), how long you want the ad to run, and how much you want to spend to reach people.

Engage with People on your Church Facebook Page

Begin now by posting regular content on your social media pages. This will help both keep your regular attenders connected and growing AND help engage new viewers with your content. Have someone from your church leadership team go live on Facebook each day for a daily dose of encouragement, or to share ideas for staying connected and growing spiritually.

Another idea is to create a holy week journey for your members with specific content, scriptures and prayer points posted daily in the week leading up to Easter Sunday.  

Encourage Members to Host a Facebook Watch Party on Easter Sunday 

A watch party is a co-watching video experience. A host creates a Facebook watch party and invites friends to join him or her. Everyone in a watch party watches the same moment in the video at the same time, and group members can comment on and react to the content in the video.

Let’s say you go live with your Easter service on your Facebook page. A member can navigate to the video, click share and choose the drop-down option “watch party.” From there the member can start a watch party on their own Facebook page or share it to a group page that they are a part of. 

The more your members interact with and post about your online service and personally invite friends to join them, the more people scrolling the Facebook news feed will see your service. 

PLAN YOUR EASTER SERVICE 

Your Goal: To get someone that watches your service to make contact with you  

Now is the time to begin planning your Easter service. As much as you want to equip and encourage your church members, choose this service and create it specifically for someone that may be tuning in for the first time. 

As I mentioned above, what makes people curious about what you have to say is the belief that it can help them survive or thrive. Build your entire service – your worship, your announcements, your message – around this idea. 

For example, if you begin by talking about the fact that we all have a sin problem, you’ve probably already lost your audience. 

However, if you begin by talking about the stress and anxiety people are currently feeling and the need to resolve these feelings, then you’ve aroused curiosity and your audience is open to hearing more.

Author Ray Edwards provides a simple outline that he calls the P.A.S.T.O.R. framework. While his book is specifically about communication, this framework is exactly what you as a pastor are called to do!

Here’s the framework:

P – Pain. Begin by meeting people where they are at. Talk about the pain they feel and the problems they face in terms they can relate to

A – Amplify. What is the cost of not solving this problem? 

S – Solution. What is the solution to this problem? 

T – Transformation. Share a story of a life that has experienced positive change due to solving the problem

O – Offer. Explain the solution being offered

R – Response. Ask for a response

I have a sign in my home that reads, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” 

You probably know that just because you ask for a response, it doesn’t mean someone is ready to make a response. On average someone needs to hear the gospel 7.2 times before they are ready to respond. But you will get a response more often than if you never asked for a response. 

But asking someone to make a choice to follow Jesus isn’t the only response you can ask for.

Think about a response in terms of building a relationship. You probably wouldn’t ask someone to marry you on a first date. Instead, you might ask for a phone number or a second date.

So what is a logical next step to start building a relationship with that first-time viewer? Ideally you’d like to be able to reach out and start a dialogue.

As I mentioned in this post, every digital service should offer some type of digital connect card that people can fill out. You do not need fancy technology to make this happen! It can be as simple as posting a link to a free Google form you create.

You can encourage more people to fill out these forms by asking them to submit prayer requests that you will pray over. 

Or consider offering to donate a specific amount of money (e.g. $5) to your local food bank or some other COVID-19 response organization for every connection form that gets filled out.  

Another way to encourage a response, is by offering a free download that helps people further implement whatever you talked about in your message. This could be almost anything.

You could offer a prayer and meditation guide, or a list of people offering free online counseling, or a handout on how to rethink your budget in times of crisis, or a free ebook on overcoming fear. The possibilities are endless! 

For the next few weeks, you’ll need to be clear (and repetitive) about specific ways for people to plug into your digital community. Keep publishing encouraging content on your social media pages and keep seeking opportunities to connect with those who may be far from God. You might even consider starting a new preaching series on Easter and encourage people to come back the following week to hear the rest of the story.

PLAN YOUR FOLLOW UP

Your Goal: To turn a one-time viewer into a regular viewer and potential future visitor to your church.

I’ve talked with plenty of churches who theoretically had a “follow-up plan,” but their execution was lacking. Make sure you know: 

  • HOW you will follow up (text, email, card in the mail, etc)
  • WHO will follow up
  • WHAT TIME FRAME you will follow up

Last Christmas I was visiting family and we visited a local church on Christmas Eve (a Tuesday) because the service time worked well for our family. A few weeks went by and one morning I received an email from a church thanking me for “my visit last Sunday.” I knew that I had been at my home church the past Sunday and my first thought was, “Has someone been using my email address?” 

It took me a few moments to figure out that email was from the church we had visited on Christmas Eve. While I am glad that the church followed up, their follow up was neither timely (three weeks later) or accurate (I did not attend the past Sunday).

 I could make excuses for them and say that the person responsible for follow up was probably on vacation, but the truth is that their follow up would have been a lot more effective if they had simply tweaked their message and then either had someone else send the follow-up message or automated their follow up. 

A simple text or email might be the difference between someone never watching your service again and someone eventually becoming an active part of your congregation.

Services like Text In Church are designed to help you effectively follow up either through text or email. (Note: They are currently offering 60 days free for new members). 

A simple text or email might be the difference between someone never watching your service again or someone eventually becoming an active part of your congregation.

However you choose to follow up, your plan should include MORE THAN ONE touchpoint. The goal is to build a relationship over time. That does not mean rushing to a commitment, but rather cultivating curiosity that leads them to want to hear and learn more. 

FOLLOW THROUGH 

Now that you and your team have developed an intentional process for connecting new people to your church digitally, follow through with it.

Remember, you are creating open doors for new relationships. As with any relationship, getting to a place of trust will take time. You may get discouraged because this method is not nearly as simple as counting the number of visitors who attended on an Easter Sunday and then counting how many visitors returned for another visit.

But the door to reach MORE people who would not normally visit a church is open to you. And if you are faithful in the slow path of building relationships over time, you may be surprised at how many visitors you do get, once you can physically begin meeting together again.

But you must seize the opportunity! 

Be intentional and consistent in your planning, execution and your follow up. I can’t wait to hear how God works through your church in the coming weeks and months!

How to Help Your Church Go Digital, Part 2

Congratulations! For many of you, you made it through your first week of doing church online!

It took some creativity and ingenuity, but you made it happen. And that’s something worth celebrating.

So my guess is your thinking, “What now?”

Many states and localities have now issued “shelter in place” orders, so you and your staff and volunteers are probably trying to navigate working from home. 

Are there best practices for church leaders seeking to work remotely? How do you stay connected? How do you collaborate? Manage projects? Communicate? 

Here are Simplify Church, we’ve been working as a remote team for more than a decade now. We partner with churches all over the country to provide financial management services, so it just made sense to allow our team of Simplify Account Managers to work remotely as well. The convenience and flexibility of this set up has truly served both our company and our employees, and I believe it has great potential for your church as well.

With this in mind, here are a few tips, ideas and best practices to help you navigate the next several weeks of working remotely with your ministry staff and leaders. 

KEEP YOUR STAFF AND LEADERS CONNECTED

Overnight, we’ve all gone to a virtual environment. Last week you may have chosen to cancel your staff meeting or your elders meeting or your Sunday planning meeting.

While this is okay for a week or two, it’s not a sustainable way to keep an organization connected. You still need to be in regular contact with those on your church leadership. You can do this via:

Slack – This free messaging service is a very popular way to communicate virtually via instant messaging and group chats. Instead of an email inbox, you have direct conversations with others in dedicated spaces called channels. Pro tip: organize chat channels into broad categories to keep the discussions relevant. 

Zoom – After using several tools and testing them out over the years we’ve landed on Zoom as our app of choice for video calls with those outside our organization Zoom makes the process simple and easy to setup a new call, invite others and collaborate together in a virtual meeting. Zoom offers a free option with time limitations or a simple single user price for $14.99/month.  Single user just means that you have one login. So long as that one individual can schedule the calls (even for others), then that option is viable for a church.

Microsoft Teams – If you already have Office 365, you have access to Microsoft’s chat and video conference tools via Microsoft Teams. In fact, here at Simplify Church, we recently made the switch from Slack to Teams for our internal communication, primarily for the ease of use of Teams Meetings. This system is very simple to use, but if you don’t already have Office 365, it’s probably not worth the subscription in lieu of using Zoom. 

GoToMeeting – A great tool, but not as easy-to-use as Zoom. They offer a similar service to other video conference options. Admittedly, I have not looked into their system after transitioning to Zoom from the simplicity they provide. 

Google Hangouts – If you’re a Google Apps user, then you have access to Google Hangouts. This is a viable option even without the Google Apps setup so long as all users have a Google ID (anyone can set up a google email address for free) and use that to login. Note: there is a bit of a learning curve for this option. 

Email – While I would absolutely recommend you incorporate one on the above tools, in the short term you can stay connected via email. You will just need to remember that it is important to err on the side of over-communicating rather than to under-communicate and risk miscommunication.

KEEP YOUR CONGREGATION CONNECTED

I was listening to a podcast targeted to small business owners the other day. But as soon as I heard this suggestion, I knew it was just as applicable to churches.

The podcast host made the statement: “The businesses that survive this pandemic will be the ones that find a way to stay connected to their audience.”

Now, replace business with the word church.  

This is exactly what will set apart the churches that come out of this crisis stronger from the ones that will end up closing their doors.

Yes, it will take creativity and ingenuity, but one of the best things you can do for your church is lean into this new era of digital connection.

You must find a way to keep your congregation connected. An easy way to do this is to encourage all of your small groups to continue meeting virtually via Zoom, or apps like WhatsApp or GroupMe. 

Stay tuned. We’ll be sharing some more ideas for creatively connecting with your congregation in the weeks to come!

HELP FACILITATE YOUR STAFF WORKING FROM HOME

Let me first address a common concern/myth I hear from those resistant to virtual workplaces. It’s the myth that given the opportunity to work from home, people won’t actually work. 

In over a decade of working with staff remotely I have found the opposite to be true. In fact, often remote staff work MORE than they’re supposed to (which is why it’s important to encourage your team to develop healthy work/life boundaries). 

To be fair, there have been a few instances where an employee took advantage of the situation. But I’ll be the first to admit that it was a hiring issue, rather than a virtual employment issue. I simply hired the wrong individual and they took advantage of the flexibility we offered. 

Working from home is not the issue; it is how we lead and facilitate a remote team that makes the difference. 

Communication

The best piece of advice I can give is to maintain intentional communication with your remote staff and team members. Being intentional means that you reach out to them periodically. Check in and see how things are going. Communicate with them even more frequently than you normally would in an office environment.  

Set up consistent video calls with the team. These calls may be project-related, or they may simply be a chance for people to connect with one another. It’s all about keeping people connected in this new reality, when they may not be used to working from home. 

Pro Tip: If you’re going to use a system like Slack or Teams, you can set up a “check in” channel so that people can let everyone know when they are available or stepping out. I'd also recommend setting up a “virtual water cooler” channel to give people a place for non-work-related discussions. This helps foster community, collaboration and helps people feel like it’s more than just a place for transactional discussions.  

While I’m sharing suggestions that we’ve learned from years of remote work, it is also important to keep in mind that this season is anything but ordinary. Many on your team will be home with children, since most schools are cancelled.

A virtual chat offers an outlet from that 5th episode of Wild Kratts playing in in the background. Also understand that your team members may be less productive and need additional flexibility and grace as they seek to both accomplish necessary tasks and teach/care for children. 

P. S. As the leader, your staff and volunteer leaders are looking to you for guidance and direction. In times of stress and uncertainty, it can be helpful to have a person or a group to process with. You also have the opportunity on calls with your team to help them navigate the days ahead and be the voice reminding them that our security is found in Christ alone! 

Tools

Beyond simple communication, you’ll need to find a system that works for your organization to manage projects and collaborate with team members. Here are some options:

Project, Task Management 

Trello – basically an online dashboard of post-it notes. You can share your Trello board with others and track project progress as you move cards along the lists that you have pre-defined. This is a very helpful tool for managing projects and other needs for your staff. 

Asana – Free online project management software. Asana is a bit more robust than Trello in that it already has some pre-defined ways of doing things. You can setup projects, invite people, track progress and to-dos and set deadlines.   

Basecamp – a paid online project management tool, but at a nominal cost. Basecamp is great as the company itself has written several books about the concept of remote work. If you’re looking for some resources or tips, they have written extensively about it. Here is a piece they wrote about internal communication for remote workers. 

Online Collaboration 

Most of the project management tools listed above will have some cloud storage and collaboration systems built-in, but here are a few other options to help your team share files: 

One Drive – Part of Office 365, OneDrive allows you to share documents and work collaboratively on them. The benefit for many churches is to always have one version of the document so you can be sure you’re always working on the latest draft.  

Google Drive – very similar to One Drive except using Google’s infrastructure. 

Evernote – this is a little less robust from the features of Word or Docs, but still gives a method for cloud storage and collaboration. 

Dropbox, Box – both options are a cloud storage system.  These are great for times when you need to access a file from multiple locations. Neither of these system have online collaboration features, however, so you’d need to use Office 365, Word or Google Docs/Sheets to collaborate.  

REMEMBER THAT SPIRITUAL CONNECTION IS POSSIBLE, EVEN WHEN PHYSICAL CONNECTION IS NOT

Right now as a church leader, you should be encouraging your staff and congregation to stay home and help stop the spread of the Coronavirus.

But as you do that, you may feel a sense of confusion or loss. The Church has always been about connection, community and reaching out to meet needs. What should the Church look like in this season? 

The good news is that this crisis is simply a reminder that the Church was never about a building; it was and always will be a movement of people. The even better news is that God is not at all limited by our physical distancing. 

A pastor in our Oasis pastor networking group shared recently that he was able to lead a member of his church to Christ over a Zoom call last week. The mission and the message of Jesus and the movement of his Church continues, regardless of what workspace we use or how we gather together. Isn’t that a wonderful thought! 

I’d love to hear how your church is navigating the move to collaborating remotely. If you have any questions or we can help your church out in any way, drop me a line Josh@simplifychurch.com

How to Set Your Volunteers Up For Success

Most churches are completely dependent on volunteers.   

When the relationship is healthy, it is a double blessing. Volunteers help the ministry succeed in its mission, and the ministry provides an opportunity for the volunteer to serve. This symbiotic relationship is the lifeblood of your ministry. 

However, this dual-benefit relationship can also be a two-edged sword when issues with a volunteer’s service arise. 

As a pastor, your responsibility is to guide and direct the church. And for those of you with limited resources (as if some don’t have limited resources…who am I kidding!), you wear many hats.  

To maintain your sanity, you need to be able to rely on your volunteers to help you run the church. It is in everyone’s best interest that you set your volunteers up for success. 
 
Here are four ways that you can empower and encourage volunteers to succeed: 

Set Clear Guidelines From the Start  

We all begin relationships with the best of intentions. You meet a new volunteer that is excited to serve and has great expectations for how they will serve in their new role. Everything goes smoothly at first and things buzz along harmoniously.   

Not long into that service, though, one or both of you stops living up to their end of the unspoken expectations. This causes tension and, if not dealt with, leads to resentment that ultimately ends in failure and hurt. Often the relationship is damaged, along with the ability to get things done.  

By setting very clear expectations from the start, you can avoid many of the issues that may arise down the road.   

Remember as a kid sitting in class the first few days of the school year? Your new teacher walked in and laid down the classroom rules. Perhaps, like me, you worried that the next year of your life would be torture. But then remember how a few weeks later you grew to respect that teacher and ended up liking them (hopefully!).   

This is what I’m talking about…not trying to portray yourself as tough and mean, but setting a clear standard of expectation for the position that the volunteer will be serving in.   

  • What is expected? 
  • In what timeframe? 
  • What does a job well done look like? 
  • What happens if those expectations are not met? 

Always remember, it’s easier to give more leeway than to try to tighten the screws later on. 

Empower Volunteers to Succeed 

There’s nothing worse in ministry than stepping up to serve, and not being given the opportunity to succeed. No one likes or works well for a micromanager. The manager is stressed because they feel the need to be involved, and the volunteer feels frustrated, unable to make decisions on their own. 

If you’ve set clear expectations, you should assume that the volunteer will serve without continual oversight. 

By setting the guidelines, you are giving the volunteer what I call “flexible accountability.” What I mean by this is that the standards are set and laid out, and within those standards the volunteer has the agency and freedom to own their role in their area.  

An empowered volunteer will enjoy their role and do far more than one that feels they are under the overbearing watch of a micromanager. 

Be an Encourager  

Everyone has a love language that they respond to. While each of us has a primary love language, I’ve yet to meet anyone that doesn’t appreciate a word of affirmation or a simple thank you. Your gratitude towards those that serve will go far. 

When was the last time you let your volunteers know you truly appreciate their efforts? 

When was the last time you gave more than a casual “thank you” in passing?  What was the last thing you did for your volunteers to show how truly grateful you are for their service?   

As pastor, you are leading leaders. Your role is to lead the ministry leaders of the church and guide them to lead those that serve in their ministry area. Role model the way and encourage them to be encouragers as well. 

Now, that encouragement may be a simple thank you, but it must be intentional. For example, pick up the phone and call them during the week when they least expect it. Handwrite a card and mail it to them or recognize them for doing a specific job function well. Recognize them during a team meeting and single them out for something they did well. 

It doesn’t have to even cost you any money. Everyone appreciates being recognized for their efforts.  Make sure you take time to do so. 

Provide Regular Feedback for Volunteers

As pastor, you should view your role of overseeing volunteers similarly to an employer, employee relationship.  True, in most cases, your volunteers are not getting compensated for their efforts. But you still need a standard of accountability for that person. It’s the only way to maintain a healthy structure to your ministry. 

Note: If the volunteer is being compensated, be sure you’re handling your payroll correctly and adhering to state and Federal guidelines. This adds a new level of complexity to your church, and payments need to be handled in such a way that the church is above reproach. 

In the role of volunteer overseer, the guidelines we’ve already laid out still apply: Setting clear guidelines, empowering volunteers to succeed, and providing regular encouragement. But there is also another element to success – maintaining a feedback loop to let them know how they are doing, specifically related to the guidelines and functions of their role.  

Look at it similarly to a performance review. By establishing a regular pattern for providing feedback, your volunteers will always know how they are doing in their role. They will know where they excel and where there is opportunity for improvement and growth. This may sound like overkill, especially if you struggle to even get people to volunteer. But trust me when I say it is often better to not have a position filled, rather than to have a volunteer that does not fulfill the expectations of the position.  

Having a feedback loop sets the volunteer up for success as well. By explaining and demonstrating that there are expectations for the position, it shows that you value the position, and they should too.  You’ll be amazed at how they will hold their role in a higher esteem. Turnover will decrease, communication will increase, and the ministry as a whole will be healthier. 

Experiencing Success

In a time when we often qualify volunteers by whether they have a pulse, having clear expectations and continually reviewing those expectations will set your volunteers up for success.  

The good news is that this doesn’t all have to fall on your lap. As you set the example with your ministry leaders, they, in turn, will follow these guidelines for the people under their guidance. 

While these suggestions won’t magically make new volunteers appear out of thin air, you will find that retaining quality volunteers becomes dramatically easier. 

If you’re looking for additional resources and ideas to help your church succeed, sign up to receive free church finance, administration and growth tips delivered right to your inbox.   

What do you do in your organization to attract and retain quality volunteers? 

P.S. When you’re setting your expectations, a volunteer covenant can be a useful tool. If you don’t have one, we’ll send you a sample volunteer covenant form you can use for your church

3 Ways to Maintain Ministry Momentum This Summer

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With summer just around the corner let’s face it, everything about church for the next few months will slow down.  With that in mind, as pastors there are a few things we can do to help maintain ministry momentum this summer.

1. Put on your marketing hat

I know that for most pastors, marketing and advertising is one of the last things you think about.  There’s also a good chance that many pastors are either scared of it, don’t know where to start or just blatantly don’t feel the need.

Whether we like it or not, we’re always marketing.  Everything we do in some ways takes on a form of marketing.

For this summer, you may need to use some old tricks from broadcasting or newspapers to tease the stories.  I’m not talking about fake news or click bait, but come up with some ways to gain excitement about what’s going to happen this summer.

Here’s an idea.

Instead of putting out a schedule of your summer sermon series, perhaps tease it out and create some ‘buzz’ around it.  News agencies do this all the time.

“You won’t believe what the Bible says about (insert shocking idea here).  Be sure to join us for worship in June to find out more”

There’s a very fine line between engaging and corny so be careful, but having some way to create intrigue around your summer messages will increase involvement and attendance.

2. Embrace Summer

One big way to deal with the summer slump is just to embrace it.

Know that it’s coming and take steps to prepare for it.  Your giving will probably be lower than normal.  Attendance is going to slow as well.  A great way to get through it is to embrace it and plan accordingly.

Talk about it with your team and key leaders.  Plan for it.

Look at your recurring subscriptions and bills.  Are there any that you can stop for the time being to conserve cash flow over the summer?  There’s a good chance your youth may be doing events throughout the summer so their budget will get hit more than others.  Be ready for that as the increased expenses there may be above the norm of what you experience each month.

Plan simple inexpensive events for your congregation.  Participate in community events, anything that keeps people involved and maintains ministry momentum.

Here’s an idea, if your community has a picnic or other festival, volunteer to host a water tent or cool down tent.  Just a place where people at the event can come and take a break.  It’s low cost and allows you to be a part of what’s already happening in your community.

3. Over-Communicate What’s going on

Summer schedules get crazy.  Use the tools at your disposal to communicate with your church body.

Try Facebook live from worship services.  Setup some FB Live broadcasts from your VBS or other events to let people see what they’re missing out on.

(it’s a whole different topic to make sure your events are actually fun!)

Use a social media challenge to encourage engagement.  Send out random posts for a scavenger hunt or just have a spur of the moment meeting for coffee or ice cream at the local place.  Whatever you can to do encourage engagement and communicate what’s happening throughout the summer will not be a bad investment.

Every church deals with summer and the slow down that comes.  These are just a few quick ideas meant to start you thinking about what’s coming.  Every church has their own identity and personality so embrace that and run with it.  Get your people involved and excited about what they can do to stay focused and reach the community.

What are some ideas you have to avoid the slump and maintain momentum for the summer?
Comment below and let’s keep the conversation going.

3 Simple Steps to Prepare for Summer Church Giving Slumps

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Believe it or not, Summer is right around the corner. Spring is here bringing sunshine, outdoor activities, green grass and allergies.

For churches, summer times means an increase in children’s and student ministry opportunities since kids are out of school. Unfortunately, it also brings family vacations and a significant decrease in church giving. We all know that there is a slump of summer church giving.

I’ve written previously about how to prepare for the Summer giving lull but here is a quick read on a few simple steps you can take now.

Here are three simple setups you can take now to be ahead of the summer giving lull.

1. Analyze expenses

Get your last couple bank statements. Are there expenses that were let’s say… less than necessary? I’m not here to question anything, but it’s a good place to start.

For many pastors, taking people out to lunch or dinner has become the norm. Perhaps reduce that frequency or opt for coffee instead.

Are there any subscriptions you pay that are not necessary? Anything you can save will help get over the giving shortage.

Most churches are very frugal to begin with so this may not be a big area but it’s worth considering.

2. Avoid or Put Off Big Purchases, Renovations

I’m reading a book currently where the author is talking about tracking expenses and finding ways to save for your company. One story he expressed was when riding with a business partner in the car.

His first day in town, there were some electrical things in the office that weren’t pressing but could be fixed. As they passed the hardware store he asked his partner if they should stop in and get the parts. The response from his business partner was “We’ll wait until tomorrow.”

Tomorrow came and as they passed the same hardware store he got the same response.

On his last day in town, 5 days later, and after they’d passed that same hardware store with the same response he couldn’t take it anymore and had to ask. He wondered why his partner kept putting off the stop. His partners response was something we could all put to practice.

His business partner replied and told him it was a game he was playing with himself. Since the fix was not dire, or dangerous, he kept passing the store saying the same thing to see how many days he could live without making the purchase. The longer he went, the less important making that minor fix became and he saved that small amount of money.

What areas in your ministry can you “wait until tomorrow”?

We’re all guilty of falling victim to the tyranny of the urgency or wanting the new shiny stuff now. I have to check myself on this almost daily.

Can you find 3 or 4 things that you could challenge yourself to wait until tomorrow?

3. Communicate With Your Church

Giving is one of those areas that make pastors sweat.

I get it, talking about money has become a taboo subject in our society and the church has definitely received a bad rep for that.

As pastor, this is just an area where you need to step up and lead.

Giving is one of those areas of spiritual development that is often the biggest hurdle for growth in our relationship with Christ. As pastors, we need to be the encourager.

I’ve already written in several areas on this topic and I think we can already agree on the importance of the giving talk (perhaps begrudgingly by some )

But as we come into summer, it’s important to express so that people know the importance of their continued faithfulness. Most people sitting in the pews won’t realize that summer is a slow giving time for churches.

Be open and honest to let people know that while you realize that vacations and other expenses are pressing for the paychecks, it is crucial that people remain faithful.

Talk about it, it will go a long way.

What are your suggestions? What things have you put into place to prepare for the summer giving lull?

Comment below so we can all benefit from your ideas.

3 Reasons your Easter service should be Excellent!

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Believe it or not, Easter is just around the corner.

I realize with March snowfall totals increasing that makes it more difficult to believe but it is real and your Easter Sunday service will be here before you know it.

For many churches, Easter is the most attended service of the year. Several posts have been written on the topic about why that is the case so we won’t revisit too much except to say, Easter is a great chance to put your best foot forward.

Now, before all the haters start hounding me with comments that we should do that every week let me explain.

Yes, we should always do everything we do with excellence. Every week our goal should be to knock it out of the park and be better than we were the week before, but Easter is just one of those weeks that we should put extra emphasis on excellence.

Now, I didn’t say do something different or outside of the culture and identity of your church. If you’re a traditional piano and organ worship church Easter Sunday is not the week to pull out the Les Paul’s and Drums. It’s the Sunday to take that piano and organ and make it the best rendition of “Just As I Am” you can muster.

(Sorry, didn’t mean to spark the worship style debate there)

So why is Easter the week to put on our “Sunday Best”

1. You have the opportunity to reach people that may not otherwise step foot in your church

We all know that there’s an entire group of people that will only step foot in a church on Christmas and Easter.

Some are family members of your church, others just think it’s the right thing to do on those holidays.

Regardless, you have them at your church for a couple hours.

Now I’m not saying its time to hold them hostage and preach hell fire and brimstone to them. (And if you do then you might as well stop reading now.)

What I am saying is that you have a chance to speak into their lives that you may not have otherwise. Make them feel welcome. Make them feel accepted and know that Christians are not all weird and this church thing is actually a really good thing.

This post would get too long if we got into all the things we could chat about here so we’ll just leave it at the general rule that you now have people in your facility that may not otherwise have ever been there.

What are you going to do with that opportunity?

2. Easter is often the catalyst for the remainder of your year

To go in line with the first point, your Easter service can be the catalyst for the remainder of your church year.

Easter is a great opportunity to fire up some momentum in your congregation. In most cases, your Easter service will be one of the highest offering totals you’ll have for the year. As we mentioned in the previous point, you’ll have an opportunity to meet people that you may not have otherwise. There will be a quick influx of momentum for you to take advantage of.

Plan out the service but also go a step further.

The time to start planning your Easter service is several weeks before. Get your staff, leaders and volunteers to start planning with you.

Have your children’s leaders be sure to plan out your staffing levels so you can make sure every kid has a great time.

Get with your first impressions or welcome team and make sure they have the Varsity team ready to serve that day.

Do you have 2 services? Consider giving the facility a quick cleaning in between services so that the people coming to the second service have a great experience when they come in the door.

Those are just a few ideas but the point is to be intentional about the day. Plan it out now for what you’re going to do on that Sunday but also how will you de-brief and follow up?

Plan that process out as well so that you can use the momentum of that service for the remainder of your year.

3. Because Jesus

It’s difficult to reduce this idea into a short post but we’ll keep it there. While we talked about the service here we didn’t really get into the actual theology and part of your service where you just bring Jesus.

We can have a great looking, clean facility, friendly greeters and a fun time for the kids but none of that matters if people don’t leave hearing about Jesus.

While we’re not a site to help you be a better preacher or show you how to develop a great small group ministry, we do understand that after all is said and done, your church exists to share and glorify Jesus.

I cannot stress this enough.

It seems almost elementary to our ministry to say that Easter is the crux of our ministry. Easter is why the church exists (the cross of Easter not the service) and with that why wouldn’t we want the most important day of our faith to be done with excellence?

What does your church do at Easter to show excellence? Comment below and we can all help each other better reach our communities.

Three Steps For Your Best Year of Ministry Ever

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As we start a new year, there’s always talk of New Year’s Resolutions and all those things we want to do better that we forget by February. I hate going to the gym in January because it’s always too busy. I know I can wait a few weeks and most of the resolutioners will give and it will be back to the normal crowd.

With that in mind, the new year does give us an opportunity and a natural time to start something. Here are some ideas you can put in place now that will set you up for your best year of ministry ever!

1. Set measurable and tangible goals.

You may have heard this before, but if you don’t set a destination, you are going nowhere.

The same thing can be said about planning, budgeting, road trips, and even grocery shopping. When you go to the grocery store without a plan (shopping list) its inevitable you will come home with more food and spend more than you anticipated. Chances are also very high you may not grab that one item you went to the store for.

It’s very true when it comes to leading an organization like your church. Without a set plan in place, you have no measurable way to know if you’re heading in the right direction.

Let’s make 2017 count and be the best year of ministry yet.

To start, set some real goals that you can achieve in 2017. Maybe it’s a number of people in attendance, perhaps a number of salvations and baptisms. Perhaps you can set a number for new small groups you’d like to start this year. Whatever it is, plan it out and write it down.

Make your goal stretch you a bit.

Don’t just set a goal that you can achieve within your normal process. We’ll add a bonus point at the end of this section, but for now let’s set our goals just a bit higher than we could achieve without any additional effort.

If you know that your average worship service attendance has grown the past years by 50 people on its own, lets set a stretch goal to make that we grow it by 75 or 100. It will take some effort on your part, but is not beyond the realm of what’s possible.

These goals need to be something that you would stake your ministry on. Think of these goals this way. The goal needs to be important enough to you that if you don’t achieve it, you would consider leaving ministry.

Now I’m not advocating you leaving ministry, but at the same time, you need to give yourself a real consequence for not achieve this goal or it won’t be as meaningful. On the flipside, set yourself up to have a real “prize” should you hit that goal. Maybe it’s a nice dinner out with your wife or perhaps an afternoon off to do something fun with your children. Whatever will motivate you and give you a real sense of accomplishment, plan that out and make sure you stick to it.

BONUS – Set a stretch goal. The goals we have talked about up until now have been achievable, but will take some effort. Put a stretch goal in place. What is a goal you could set for yourself that is the next step beyond your goal? If you set a goal to increase average attendance by 100 people, could your stretch goal be 150? If you wanted to have 10 salvations and baptisms this year, could your stretch goal be 30?

What is that stretch goal for you?

2. Review your systems

If you’ve been around church, or any organization for that matter, long enough you know that we often fall into ruts. We do things for no better reason than that’s the way we’ve always done it. Perhaps you started doing something one way because you had to with the resources at the time, but now you have time to review and do something different.

The New Year is a great time to review the why’s and how’s of what we are doing and see if perhaps there are better ways.

Did you have some volunteers in key positions start in the past year? Are you having periodic reviews with them? Just because they are not employees doesn’t mean that you can’t set a standard and hold them to it.

One thing we see happen way too often is pastor knows they need someone to help in a key area. On the fly, they find someone that CAN do the job and they put them in place without much direction. With the speed of ministry happening and the many hats pastors wear, there wasn’t much time to give clear direction, guidelines, training and job descriptions.

Fast forward 6 months.

Now that leader is doing the job, but they’ve stepped a bit beyond the framework of what you had originally expected them to do. Perhaps that is now causing conflict or put them into a position where it’s not exactly how you wanted things to happen. Since they’ve gone so far without clear direction or expectations, it now makes that conversation a bit awkward to ask them to change.

I say that story because we’ve seen and heard it repeatedly. It’s just one of the many situations and issues that if you have not already faced, you will as you continue in ministry.

Use this time to review your current systems. Think ahead 2-5 years as well. What can we put in place now that will create an atmosphere for growth. (Have you realized that perhaps this step directly relates to step 1 with your goals?? ) The systems you review and implement should have a direct reflection in getting you positioned to reach your goals.

One system that’s always good to review is your bookkeeping and accounting system. Did you know there is an affordable, outsourced option that will scale with your ministry and provide peace of mind for you to never have to worry about finances, at least that the records and information is accurate and complete? If you’d like to know more, schedule a Free, Live demo with me Here.

3. Prepare Routines

Now that you’ve set your goals for the year, and you are confident your systems are as good as they can be for now, let’s work on you.

What can you do yourself this year to do things better than last year?

Regardless of how good you may be at time management, avoiding procrastination, following through with projects, planning ahead, and the list goes on; you can always do a bit better.
Take some time to reflect on your own personal work processes. Do you always feel like you’re making decisions on the fly and having to react to situations? Is there something you could do to be more proactive when it comes to managing you?

Start now.

Here are some ideas for routines you can put in place now.

– Set a time and be intentional about a daily quite time. This should be separate from sermon prep.

– Tackle the email inbox monster. How many emails do you get in a day. What do you do to manage that? Put rules for yourself in place on how you will respond and manage email.

– Facebook and Social Media. How much time do you spend on social media? For all the good things it brings, it can also suck your time away. Will you make some rules for yourself on how much time you will spend on social media?

– Never eat alone. A book for salesmen came out several years ago with that title. Now I know that it’s not realistic to never eat alone, but could you plan to reach out and have lunch with 1 new person or family in your church each week?

– Plan your messages sixth months in advance. How far ahead do you have your message plan scheduled out? Know what you’ll preach on Easter and the weeks before and after?

– Find an app to save stories and articles you’d like to read later. I use Evernote and setup the app on my phone where I can save news articles and posts into a folder there to read later. When I have time where I’m waiting, I have a full folder of articles to keep my busy.

– Your Ideas? I’m curious, do you have any ideas or things you’ve found helpful for you personally? Put them in the comments so we can all share together.

6 Things You Must Do Before This Weekend’s Easter Service

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Easter is just around the corner and for churches around the world we are entering into the week that is the pinnacle of our faith. If we did nothing else, Easter is the weekend where we can share the Gospel and Grace of a saving faith in Jesus.

Theology aside, there are some practical steps that you should consider for this weekend to give guests the best first impression of your church.

Here’s the deal though, make sure this weekend you are yourself. Don’t do things that aren’t normal for your church. Do what you do best, and do it VERY WELL!

Here are some things to remind you in last minute preparations for your service.

1. Have your facility in top shape

Make sure your facility, whether it’s rented space or your own, is in top condition. This woudl even include some last minute painting this week or even Saturday if need be. Make sure that everything is in top shape. Consider having your maintenance crew available to clean bathrooms, sweep, etc. between services. If you only have 1 service, make sure that everything is positioned and in place BEFORE people start to arrive.

We’ve all been there, running late on Sunday morning and tables with information and other items still don’t have a table cloth, stuff isn’t laid out, no one is there to answer questions. Consider expressing to every volunteer that Easter is the day to be 30 minutes early, no exceptions.

Here are some places that churches over look:
1. Bulletin boards – is there outdated information?
2. Doors and Windows – Windex!

2. Accuracy of Website

UPDATE, UPDATE, UPDATE.

And when you’re done, update again. I’m amazed at how many churches are not taking advantage of the great opportunity to let people know about what’s going on via their website and social media. Just when you think you’ve put out enough info, plenty of status updates or tweets, send another.

Your website is often the first impression people will get of your church. If it’s not giving an accurate representation of your church’s image, branding and identity, you may need an overhaul. Get in touch with us for some cost effective options for that, but we can definitely wait until after Easter.

3. Station as many people as possible in Logo’d shirts around the “mingling” areas. Make it obvious to a visitor or new person where to go for answers.

REMEMBER to express to these people to be careful to not congregate and chat together too much. When volunteers look like they are engaged in conversation with each other, a visitor will not want to interrupt and will move on.

Also, keep in mind that the new person’s experience starts the moment they pull into your parking lot. Put people outside to start the welcoming process.

The entire goal here is to make it easy for a new person to feel like they belong as quickly as possible. Nothing hesitates visitors more than feeling like an outsider or being singled out.

4. Have some way to capture visitor information

You don’t want to start Spamming these people and overwhelm them, but you do want to take an interest in each and every person that shows up this Easter. Chances are, you already have something in place. If not, make sure you print and insert a sheet of paper that people can fill out to give you. Express from the stage that they can give as much info as they feel comfortable.

Oh by the way, have a form to fill out if they check in their kids. This is a very simple way to get valuable information about new families to your church.

Pastor, for an extra piece, express to new people that you’d like to personally meet them and give them a gift. (oh by the way, get a decent gift to give them. Coffee mug, cd, etc.)

5. Don’t Stress

Easter is a big deal and you will have an influx of people that wouldn’t normally attend your church. While for most of us, this is a source of stress because we all want to maximize the impact of our Easter service, you must remember, it’s just another Sunday as well. People will see through over-stressed attempts in your service. Make sure your service is just like any other Sunday. Give people a REAL experience of your church, just make sure you do it REALLY WELL. Nothing will turn off a visitor like trying to be something you’re not just this one Sunday. (they’ll know for a fact when they come back next week!)

6. Follow Up

This may be one of the most important things on the list. Well, aside from the other 4.

In all seriousness, be intentional about your follow up to the weekend. Take Monday to ask yourself how the weekend went. Write down your thoughts, what went well, what didn’t. What would you do differently if you had more time (Last time I checked, Easter happens every year). Getting this documentation now while its fresh on your mind will prove very valuable for next year’s preparations. We’ve all been there planning a repeat event and asking ourselves what we were thinking about changing from last year.

De-brief your staff, leaders and volunteers. Find out what impressions they got, what worked well and what could be improved.

Click Here to grab our Swipe File that contains some forms and questions you should be asking. It will help to engage that debrief discussion for yourself and your staff.

Oh yea, those new visitors, follow up with them too.

Send a letter thanking them for their visit. Personally write (or type) it and get it out to them. If they left an email address, send it there. Don’t add them to your newsletter list just yet, that’s SPAM.

If you asked and they handed you their contact form, IMMEDIATELY after they leave jot a quick note on the card so you can personalize the communication back. What did you talk about, what did they mention, who invited them, how did they find you; these are all things that you can mention that will personalize that message back to them.

While Easter is the most attended day for most churches, remember that all these things should be done each and every week you have service. We should always be putting our best foot forward and doing things with excellence. We know stuff will happen and things will go wrong, but accepting complacency in our church is not an option.