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Jump-Start Your Communication Strategy

Some will say the very act of sitting down to come up with a communication strategy will improve how you communicate. Though that may be true, it helps if you’re asking yourself and your team the right questions.

Question 1: Who is our church trying to reach?

You might be tempted to answer, “Everyone!” But start with your church’s mission statement. Everything you do will trickle down from the mission of your church. If your church is like most, it probably has some sort of evangelistic phrase in its mission statement. In fact, if you asked your senior leaders to share their heart about whom they would like to reach, they will most likely speak of reaching those who do not already know Jesus.

This step is critical because it will drive how you communicate on your website and from the stage. It will force you to come up with a communication system that’s easy, obvious and strategic. It will mean giving preference to the outsider who hasn’t yet been to your church, instead of the insider who has been there for years. If the mission of your church is to reach those not in the church, then start talking to them!

Question 2: How are we going to reach our audience on the weekend and during the week?

The weekend seems easy, but without a strategic plan, it will turn to chaos. You’ll need to put together simple criteria to determine what will be talked about through your bulletin, from the stage and on the weekend. The easy criteria to start with is the percentage of your total audience that a particular announcement applies to. If it’s below 90 percent, then you might not want to talk about it from the stage. If it’s below 50 percent, then you might not want to talk about it at all on the weekends.

But don’t stop there. Your online efforts should continue to engage and dialogue about the same things emphasized on the weekends. Your website should be the most trusted source of information. All other media (e-newsletter, social media, etc.) should point to that content.

The most important element about reaching your online audience is engagement. Don’t just tell them the information you want them to hear. Dialogue with them. Ask questions. Post photos. 

Asking these two simple questions will begin to frame a strategy from which to start. Focus on communicating creatively and effectively with the people already connected to your church to get them motivated, excited and equipped for outreach. Then you can begin to focus on external marketing based on your mission and budget.


Joe Porter is the communications director at Whitewater Crossing in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area, in addition to maintaining his photo and video business. Adapted and used with permission from churchmarketingsucks.com. read more

Calling for a Marriage Revolution

MarriageToday’s Jimmy and Karen Evans know firsthand that even the most seemingly hopeless marriages can be resurrected and restored

Twenty years ago in April 1993, a 39-year-old pastor woke up from a dream at 3 a.m., feeling like he’d heard from God. 

“I saw my wife, Karen, and I sitting on a TV set talking to people about marriage,” says Jimmy Evans, founder and CEO of the international ministry MarriageToday. “I just had a strong impression in my heart that God wanted us to do a TV ministry that was very compassionate, excellent and about marriage.” 

The next two mornings, he awoke from the same dream. But not unlike other leaders who receive a calling, Evans told God, “I’m not qualified. You need to find someone else.”

Still, he knew he’d heard from God and shared his dreams with Karen and the elders of Trinity Fellowship in Amarillo, Texas, where he has served as senior leader for 30 years to date. As he continued to pray about it, Jimmy says God gave him several promises and began to fulfill them. A little more than a year later, Jimmy and Karen had produced several pilot programs as a result.  read more

How These Pastors Keep Their Marriages Strong

How do you and your wife keep your marriage prioritized above ministry? What is your greatest challenge in keeping your marriage strong? What is and isn’t working in your church to reach couples and strengthen their marriages?

We asked a group of pastors these questions and more. What follows are their insightful responses, as these leaders give us an inside look at how they pursue marriage and deal with the inevitable struggles, as well as how they’re leading their churches to help build marriages. And we are richer for their experience.  read more

Why Our Society Needs a Marriage Revolution

In America, one divorce happens every 13 seconds, equating to 6,646 divorces per day and 46,523 divorces per week.

Forty-one percent of first marriages end in divorce; 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce.

Forty-three percent of children growing up in America today are being raised without their fathers.

Half of all American children will witness the breakup of a parent’s marriage. Of these children, close to half will also see the breakup of a parent’s second marriage. read more

Mega-churches

3 Dangers Large Churches Face

I love to eat! When I was in high school, I would go for a day or two without eating and never even notice. We had plenty of food; I was just busy with other things. Now I barely go for an hour or two without being tempted by something with enough calories to add pounds just by looking at it.

I appreciate a nice restaurant with quality food and great service. I love Atlanta, but it did take some getting used to “all things fried” and sweet tea so sweet it can take the enamel off your teeth. So each time Patti and I find a really great restaurant, we are thrilled.

Large and small restaurants share a similar purpose. They want to serve good food, provide good service and make a profit. But they are different in nature. Small, one-of-a-kind restaurants have different concerns than the larger “mega” restaurants, chains and franchises do. read more

Mudslide

How to Avoid a Spiritual Mudslide When You Can’t Stop the Rain

My wife Ann and I lead busy lives. Yet, despite the flurry of activity, God has protected us from the ravages of spiritual collapse. One of the reasons is that we’ve been able to keep up a daily personal devotional life. For us, it’s a key to sanity!

Many of us are task oriented. What we DO is the measure of our success. If you ask people why Jesus was successful most will point to the to the things he did. “He healed the sick…cast out demons…raised the dead…preached to the multitudes”…and the list goes on. And yet, there’s an aspect of the Messiah’s life that involved doing ‘nothing,’ but spending time alone with the Father. So significant were these times that all four Gospels mention them.  In fact, Luke 5:16 says that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” read more

worship

God Knows What Tree You’re On

 


Worship leaders are some of the first people to get to church and some of the last to leave. We plan all week for a practice, only to find the singer we’d hoped to feature on a song has called at the last minute and says she’ll be out of town. We work hard to lead a team toward excellence, yet we all know the feeling of finding out five minutes before rehearsal on Sunday morning that our drummer is sick and won’t be there.

God, did you really intend for me to go through this? I used to ask this often. Our church secretary can attest to the number of times I’ve said, “I just wanted to play my trumpet and my piano, and that’s it; God got me into the rest of this thing!”

As I was thinking about these all-too-common worship leader experiences and pondering a point from my pastor’s recent preaching, something clicked for me. God knows what tree I’ve climbed! Let me explain.

In Luke 19:2-8, we find Zacchaeus strategizing so he can encounter Jesus. The short man ran ahead of the crowd traveling with Jesus and found a sycamore tree to climb to boost his chances. I imagine him saying to himself, “Thisis the tree I’ll climb to see Jesus. He has to come through this road!”

The truth is, it wasn’t Zacchaeus who knew where Jesus would walk; it was Jesus who knew where Zacchaeus would be.

Today, God knows every single struggle and joy you go through as a worship leader. He knows the number of hours you put into arranging a song, learning the chords and figuring out different ways to play it so it will sound fresh and new. He knows when the arrangements you work so hard on at rehearsal come out exactly as planned—as well as when they flop! (And we all have some flops once in a while.)

He knows the happiness you feel when everything goes well on Sunday and the disillusionment you experience when it doesn’t. He even knows when you struggle to reveal to others those inner feelings, for fear they’ll either think you’re self-consumed or that your sole concern is how the music sounded rather than what God did in the service or whether He was truly worshipped.

God knew where Zacchaeus was. He knew his status in society, his fears, his problems, even his thieving. He knew the emotion Zacchaeus would experience when Jesus called out his name in front of so many people, most of whom he knew despised him.

Let me remind you today that just as Jesus knew about Zacchaeus, He knows and cares about your emotions, triumphs and failures. You’re not just "Worship Leader No. 1087"!

Jesus also knows your name, and in the same way He called Zacchaeus by name down from that tree, He calls your name today. He knows what tree you’ve climbed into, and He wants to hear all about what’s going on with you. He cares for you!

Your tree may be the ministry or church that you’re helping to lead. It may even be the team you’re on. God knows why you’re on that tree and not on another, and He knew this is where He was going to find you and change your life.

I encourage you, as the Word says in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” (NASB). Have a heart open to what God wants to teach you while you’re on this tree. Often He’ll even show you why you’re there and give you a deeper purpose.

Worship leader, you are not alone. Jesus knows what tree you’re on!


Denis Campos serves as the director of Christ for the Nations’ Advanced School of Worship and Technical Arts. read more

Gina-McClain

Is Too Much Asked of Church Volunteers?

I could write a book. But I won’t. If you’ve been in children's ministry for any amount of time, you’ve visited this topic.

What level of commitment do we ask from our children's ministry volunteers? How much is too much? Is a weekly commitment too much to ask?

In kids' ministry, I’ve swung to each of these trains of thought over the years:

  read more

Numbers-game

How to Master the Youth Ministry Numbers Game

As youth pastors, we don’t like to talk about numbers. If we do, it’s with wailing and gnashing of teeth, as we imagine the elders shaking their heads in frustration at the job we’re doing to reach the students in the community.

Or we laugh at the image of the same elders shaking their heads with concern because the numbers are up but the students you’re reaching are causing problems—serious problems—like an occasional swear word and wearing earbuds on church property.

Here’s the truth: Numbers matter.

Try as we might to help leadership see the student ministry discipleship process as more than a head count, it remains one of the universally accepted currencies of “health” in youth ministry. Here are a few numbers to keep an eye on: read more

Rick-Warren-Book-small

4 Ways a Pastor Can Show Love

Pastor, you set the tone and atmosphere in your congregation. If you want to know the warmth of your church, put the thermometer in your own mouth.

I’ve visited some churches where the pastor’s lack of love is the main reason the church isn’t growing. Some pastors, by their cold demeanor and lack of personal warmth, virtually guarantee that visitors won’t come back. And in some larger churches, I’ve gotten the impression that the pastor loves an audience but doesn’t like people.

Great preaching without love is just noise in God’s view. Every time I speak to at Saddleback, I repeat a simple reminder to myself. I never preach or teach without thinking this: read more

Josh-Griffin-youth-small

3 Common Youth Ministry Pitfalls

I had a chance to get away with some of our youth ministry leadership team recently to process some of the common pitfalls that youth pastors face as they navigate ministry. My mind has hovered around three particular ones that I’ve personally witnessed in my recent experience in youth ministry:

1. Overspending or misuse of church funds

2. Inappropriate relationships

3. Compromising staff/church policies read more

Steve-Murrell-Headshot small

How to Make Jesus Really Mad

Recently I had the privilege of speaking to over 400 Filipino kids' ministry pastors, coordinators and volunteers at our annual Victory National Kids Ministry Summit. The delegates came to Island Cove from 50 Philippine cities, plus Singapore, Cambodia and Dubai.

My topic was the “why” of kids' ministry. I told some stories, read some Bible verses and asked four questions. Here are the Bible verses and questions.

Question 1: Are we bringing kids to church or to Jesus? Getting kids to church is a good start, but it is only a start. The goal is to get them to Jesus. Let’s not be like the disciples in Mark 10:13 who completely missed the point: “People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them” (NIV). read more

Girl-reading-book-small

What to Do With Your Summer

Even though school has not let out here in Maryland, we are already in summer mode. That doesn’t mean we shut things down or fill our days up with summer camps and events; we simply alter our schedule.

We tone down programming, keep things simple and maintain our pace. The goal in summer is to prepare for the fall while staying in touch with the teens.

Your summers are so important. How you approach them will determine your readiness for the fall. There is a tendency by many youth ministers to either overload their schedule or completely check out. If you are going to do youth ministry for the long haul, you need to treat the summer with the same focus and attention that you do every other season. If you take advantage of this, you’ll find yourself: read more

How to Create a Multiethnic Vision for Your Church

In 1990 my wife, Karen, and I began an endeavor that would forever change our lives. What began as a church plant became a radical reordering of our personal priorities and approach to ministry. We became painfully aware during our early days as church-planting pastors that we were far off course from God’s heart toward people of different ethnicity than us.

We slowly realized our ignorance of the daily issues that affected people of color. We also became aware that our day-to-day lives were void of any genuine friendships with non-whites. We, of course, “loved everybody.” The problem was you couldn’t tell it by our lifestyle or relationships.

I began to ask, “Why don’t our churches look like heaven?” Out of that question rose a powerful new quest in our lives. read more

Man-giving-flowers-small

Greg Surratt: How I Nearly Ruined Mother's Day

I’ve got to admit—Mother’s Day is one of the most fear eliciting, stress inducing weekends of the year for me. It’s not so much about my ineptness in selecting a gift or honoring the mother of my house—Debbie—although, I’ve messed that up more than once.

No, the trepidation comes from the annual exercise of trying to prepare and deliver a message that navigates the veritable minefield of emotions that women are feeling on that day. You’ve got women who are: moms; want to be moms but haven’t been able to yet; mothers who’ve lost a child; women who’ve lost a mother recently; moms with wayward children; women who have lost their husbands; women who would LIKE to lose their husband; women who would like to find a husband; career moms; stay at home moms, etc. The list goes on. read more

George-O-Wood-AG

George O. Wood: Pastors Should Respect and Love People

I have told my son, who is a young pastor, “There are just two things you need to do: Love God and love people.” If you do these two things, you will not go too far astray.

Many younger pastors immediately try to assert their authority because they feel insecure. They try to change things overnight, do not respect the DNA of the church, and run over people. I did some of that as a younger pastor.

On one occasion an issue came up, and I was out of sorts. Fortunately, there was an older person on the board who would listen to me vent. He sat in my office about 45 minutes before one Sunday evening service while I vented. If the board did not go along with me, I was going directly to the membership. After all, more people had come to the church under my leadership than under the previous pastor. It was going to be the board or me. He did two things: He listened to me without rebuking me, and he kept confidence. read more

Youth-ministry

How to Equip Students to Preach

When I was 16 years old, I had my first opportunity to preach in a church service. I was nervous as could be. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest.

For some strange reason, my youth pastor felt it was worthwhile to put me in front of an auditorium full of people and be the main speaker for Youth Sunday. The rest, as they say, is history.

Equipping our students to become preachers of the Word not only impacts their future in ministry, but also can be a great encouragement to their peers, the youth group and the church as a whole. Most of Jesus’ disciples were teenagers. He believed they could do the work of ministry, and so should we.

How do we go about equipping our students to do this facet of the work of ministry? read more

Argument-confrontation

Do You Lean Into Conflict or Step Back from It?

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to lead a breakout session at Lifeway’s Kids Ministry Conference 2012 titled "The Non-Confrontationalist’s Guide to Confrontation."

I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation, primarily because no matter the context, no matter the size, no matter the organizational structure … leading through conflict is one of the most important things we do.

In this session, I unpacked three reasons why you should choose to lean into conflict rather than step back from it. And I shared four steps I use to lead through conflict. I believe everyone can be a better leader by applying these simple steps. read more

strategy-for-communication

5 Steps to Avoiding Communication Meltdowns in Youth Ministry

Our ministry once hosted a “Battle of the Bands” fundraiser that required a lot of work. Our team had to audition bands, price out food, order speakers and recruit volunteers. We put so much work into this event; however, we forgot one key component: to invite people.

We had sent out an email and made a few flyers; however, that was it. What was the response?  Embarrassing. While a few people showed up, they were mostly friends and families of the bands. It was a disaster.

Developing a communication strategy is a must in youth ministry, and while it doesn’t seem like the most attractive responsibility, without it you can’t expect your ministry to grow. Developing a strategy for how you communicate means being intentional about what you say, how you say it and to whom. That means you should do the following: read more

Tony-Morgan

The Magic Question: ‘What Do You Think?’

Yes, someone needs to eventually make a decision. But if you want to fully engage the people on your team, you have to routinely ask the magic question: “What do you think?”

People want to contribute to the conversation. They want to be part of the big decisions. Don’t worry if you don’t take their advice every time. That’s not their expectation either. They just want to know their voice has been heard.

People Are Different

There are certainly some folks who appreciate a more directive style of leadership, who say, “Just tell me what to do, and I’ll go get it done.” Those people will value your decisiveness. read more

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