Ministry Life

Healthy Marriage Ministry Depends on Strong Vision

weddingtopperNote: This is the second of a three-part series about Christian marriages.

There is nothing wrong with having a marriage class, seminar or retreat. We have them all. But a healthy marriage ministry will focus on strengthening marriages, not just fixing marriage problems.

I began to teach a weekly “couples class.” The title alone immediately attracted singles and the divorced. We found that the classic marriage class is designed to fix the problem marriages. I wanted more than that. So we send struggling marriages to the marriage class in hopes that they will get better, graduate and then get back to work for the church.

The very title “marriage class,” along with the predictable subject matter, often defines “healthy marriages” according to a series of dos and don’ts, steps and conditions and understanding one another's differences. After that, there is just getting through life with a new set of tools.

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Protestants Declining With the Rise of the 'Nones'

empty-churchThe number of Americans who do not identify with any religion is growing at a rapid pace.

According to a new report from the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, about one-fifth of the U.S. public--and a third of adults under age 30--are religiously unaffiliated today. Those are the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15 percent to just under 20 percent of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6 percent of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14 percent).

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True Friendships Carve Out Many Blessings

Note: The following is an eFriendship-Dan-Reiland-Amplifiedxcerpt from Dan Reiland’s book, Amplified Leadership. Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., and the former executive pastor at Skyline Church in San Diego, Calif. His passion is developing and empowering leaders who want to grow and who are willing to take risks to do so.

Friends are a blessing. You never know what will come from each relationship you begin. One of the many blessings of my relationship with John C. Maxwell was the privilege of helping him write a little book titled The Treasure of a Friend. Consider this definition of friendship John and I shared in that book: Friendship is based on what it gives, not what it gets.

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Don’t Enter the Ring Unprepared

Dan-Reiland-Pastor-CoachNote: The following is an excerpt from Dan Reiland’s book, Amplified Leadership. Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., and the former executive pastor at Skyline Church in San Diego, Calif. His passion is developing and empowering leaders who want to grow and who are willing to take risks to do so.

Cinderella Man is one of my favorite movies. In it Russell Crowe plays James J. Braddock, a prizefighter down on his luck during the Great Depression. Braddock was determined to provide for his family, so he returned to the ring at a time when most people thought his career was over. To everyone’s surprise, Braddock scored win after win. Then he did the unthinkable.

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Is the Presentation Engaging?

d-MinLife-EnvironmentCreate a system that frees and empowers leaders to do what they do best

I constantly remind our leaders, The sermon begins in the parking lot. By the time I stand up to deliverwhat is traditionally considered the message, everybodyin our audience has already received a dozen or moremessages. Many have already made up their minds as towhether they will come back the following week.

Thesame is true for your church. The quality, consistencyand personal impact of your ministry environments defineyour church. Whether you refer to them as classes, programs, ministries or services, at their core they are environments that involve a physical setting combined with some type of presentation.

As stewards of a local church, we should determine the messages our environments communicate. Your ministry leaders need to know what makes an environment great as your organization defines great. Defining what a great environment looks and feels like ahead of time provides a powerful safeguard for your entire ministry culture. When it comes to creating great, irresistible environments, we ask three key questions:

  • Is the setting appealing?
  • Is the presentation engaging?
  • Is the content helpful?

For this article, I want to focus on the second question. Engaging presentations are central to the success of the church’s mission. We are the only entity charged with the responsibility of presenting the gospel. So we need to be good at it. Here are some things we’ve learned along the way.

Engaging presentations require engaging presenters. However, engaging presenters are not always good content creators. Likewise, some insightful content creators have no business on a stage with a microphone.

In church world, however, we have a tendency to expect content creators to be engaging presenters and presenters to be great content creators. If your system depends on your staff and volunteers being proficient in two or three of these disciplines, you’ll always get mediocre results. You need a system that allows engaging presenters to present, skilled content creators to create content, and relationally savvy group leaders to facilitate groups.

Now here’s something I know about your church. Somewhere in your congregation are people who make a living presenting information. You’ve got a bunch of teachers in your church. The last thing they want to do is sit in circles with eight children for an hour on Sundays. But they know how to organize content. And some of them would love to present the Bible story as long as they don’t have to take ownership of a small group.

We’ve gone to great lengths to create a system that frees communicators and content developers to do what they do best. The corollary is we’ve gone to great lengths to protect our audiences from presenters who aren’t engaging. We choose our most engaging presenters, give them great content and then turn them loose. And we use those presenters in different departments throughout our church.

Engaging presentations aren’t limited to talking heads. As a general rule, if you can present something in any way other than someonestanding on a stage and talking, do so! If you can communicate something via video, go video. There’s so much more we could talk about under thisheading: visuals, interviews, note-taking outlines. All those things add an element of engagement.

The bottom line is this: Do what it takes to create a culture characterized by a relentless commitment to engaging presentations at every level of the organization. Your message is too important to do anything less than that.

If a presentation of any kind is going to be made in your church, it should be engaging. Set the bar high. Adjust your system or model so that your best presenters are presenting. Find the theologically astute thinkers in your crowd who might be good at helping with content. Employ the skills of your teachers and educators. Design a system that frees your small group leaders to facilitate rather than present. At every level of your organization ask: Was the presentation engaging?


Andy Stanley is the founding and lead pastor of North Point Community Church. He is a sought-after speaker and leadership mentor with a special passion for raising up the next generation of leaders. A best-selling author, some of his many books include Choosing to Cheat, The Best Question Ever, The Next Generation Leader, Visioneering and Deep and Wide, slated to release this fall. Adapted with permission from Deep and Wild: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend by Andy Stanley (Zondervan). Copyright © 2012.

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Too Much Talk and Not Enough Action

d-MinLife-TeensAre you helping teens move beyond content into active obedience?

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Youth ministry has morphed into a never-ending conversation. Let’s face it. Those of us in youth ministry run from one meeting to the next planning, sharing, envisioning, describing—talking. If we got paid by the word, we would all be rich.

And now we have all sorts of seminars, workshops and conferences where we pay to hear others talk.

Too much talk and not enough action. I don’t think the early church was immune to this problem. First John 3:18 says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (NIV).

Door to Door

Jesus was all about action. He was always on the go serving, teaching, healing, feeding, touching and sharing. If we build our youth ministries in His image, then they’ll be active—not passive—focused on obedience and not just content.

I’ll never forget being a junior high intern 17 years ago. As the new guy on the block, I thought I’d try something different. My talk was on evangelism (no surprise!), and I finished it about 30 minutes early (big surprise!).

The handful of confused teenagers all kind of looked at each other and their watches with the “What now?” look. I seized the opportunity and said, “Now we are going to go do it!”

“Do what?” one seventh-grader asked.

“We’re going out into this neighborhood to serve people and share the gospel,” I explained.

“We can’t do that?” one teen said in fear.

“Why not?” I asked.

“This is Sunday school.”

“Well, you take field trips in school, right? Think of this as a field trip.”

So off we went door-to-door—raking leaves, cleaning up, initiating conversations, taking prayer requests, sharing Jesus. At first, the teens were terrified. But then it caught on.

By the time we headed back, a buzz had ignited among those young souls. Their Christianity was no longer a theory or a classroom situation. They had an opportunity to live it out in very tangible ways right in their church’s own backyard.

After that, Sunday school was never the same. There was always a sense that, with Jesus, anything could happen at anytime.

Walking the Walk

That’s the way church should happen every time. Look at the early church and how they did church. It wasn’t just about the meeting, so much as the mission that followed. Why do we compress all of our outreach efforts into a quarterly meeting or an annual missions trip? Maybe because we prefer a strategy that depends on words and not actions.

Now don’t get me wrong. Words are very important. Without words, our actions would be misguided and misled. But words without actions are like fire without heat—useless. Life-changing youth ministry has fire and heat, words and actions. Effective youth ministers talk the talk and walk the walk.

So why not have an application at the end of every talk you do? Your teens will soon catch on that “faith without works is dead” and that God wants us to be “doers of the Word and not hearers only.”

That’s one reason why we challenge students to call or text their unreached friends and get started immediately. We want students to experience the joy of doing what they have learned.

All talk and no action tends to turn Jack into a dull Christian.


Greg Stier is founder and president of Dare 2 Share, a ministry dedicated to mobilizing teenagers to reach their world with the good news of Jesus Christ. He is the author of multiple books and numerous resources, including Dare 2 Share: A Field Guide for Sharing Your Faith and Ministry Mutiny: A Youth Leader Fable.

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