There are a lot of things that contribute to the successful and sustainable growth of a local church. I would never suggest that there are only 9, but want to invite you to take a few minutes to read some of my thoughts. Read them with an open mind and open heart. I am confident that with a few simple changes you will not only see your church increase in number, but your leadership team will grow personally and professionally.
Here are some basic principles for you to consider:
Love God, Love People
This is the core of who we are to be as the Church. We are to first and foremost focus on worshiping and giving glory to Jesus Christ. Second, we are to love people unconditionally, serve them unselfishly and disciple them unabashedly. Be mindful never to lose sight of why you do what you do. It is so easy to measure your success by the size of your church, but God measures success by the depth of your worship and the fruit of your efforts. Purpose yourself to worship the Creator of the Universe and to serve one another. Everything else is a distraction.
Know Yourself – Be Yourself
Every church has a personality. Every church appeals to various groups of people. My mother loves traditional hymns and responsive reading. I prefer contemporary worship and deep biblical teaching. Once you know “who you are” as a pastor, then you can better know “who your audience” is. I had a young pastor that wanted to hire me to help him become what he referred to as “the next Joel Osteen.” I smiled and reminded him that, “there is only one Joel Osteen, but the good news is…there is only one of you too, so let’s focus on being the best “you” you can be.” It is always good to look at the success of others, but don’t model yourself after them. You are YOUnique – God created you to be you. Be the best “you” possible.
Wear Your Guest’s Shoes
Do you have any idea of the experience that your visitors have on a weekend? Do you ever park where they park, sit where they sit? Have you tried to check your children into the nursery or find your way to a Bible study class? Are they being greeted with a smile and a handshake? Take a weekend and walk around your campus. Look for those “touch points” that will often leave more of a lasting impression on your visitors than a good sermon. Be committed to making the experience from the parking lot to the pulpit the most positive experience on earth. If Disney can do it – we can too!
Consistent Flow of Ideas
Bad ideas executed correctly are still bad ideas. Great ideas executed poorly are still bad ideas. Your best ideas often come from the people in the trenches. Are you asking your staff and volunteers how you as a church, as a pastor, as a leader can be better? Are you listening? You don’t have to take action on every idea that is shared, but the result of you seeking the advice and input of others on your team will pay dividends both relationally and organizationally. We have a saying; “feedback is the breakfast of champions.” Let me encourage you to make time every month to sit down and eat a bowl full.
Be a Visual Magnet
Your church and worship experience should stir the senses. There is certainly a fine line between creating an “atmosphere of praise” and “putting on a production”. It is easy to get so caught up in sound, lighting and visuals that we forget that we are there to worship the Lord. However, we are emotional beings and we are moved by our senses. Use the technology that the Lord has given you to enhance the experience and create a powerful atmosphere of worship. Take the time that is needed to focus on making your services the very best that they can be. Technology is a tool. You can choose to master it, or become a slave to it.
This is one of the biggest problems that I run into in ministry today. Staff and volunteers are asked to do too much. Churches are notorious for working their staff 70-80 hours every week. We can so easily put the “serving the Lord” tag on everything we do, so it is hard to say “no” to things. If we are not careful, our staff and volunteers may spend more time serving the church than they do their own families. Time does not equate to excellence. An organization with too many priorities has no priorities at all. It is better to do less with excellence, than be busy and mediocre.
Pursue Excellence, not Perfection
I have had the privilege to serve in fulltime ministry with two organizations that were passionate about excellence. Did we make mistakes? – for sure – more than I am going to confess to you in this blog. We certainly were not perfect, but everything we did was done with such excellence. There is a saying in the Marketing and Advertising world… “Quality, Speed or Price…Pick Two.” Excellence takes time, focus and resources. Excellence is a result of having a team of skilled, chronic overachievers that are able to dedicate the time and resources required to accomplish a goal.
Be a Problem Solver
It is easy to see the problems – it is harder to solve them. And for some reason a lot easier to talk about them to one another. For years I carried a stack of index cards in my shirt pocket. As I would walk around the church property, sit in services, have phone conversations or go on trips, I would constantly be writing down ideas or making notes of issues that needed to be fixed. I would then take that list – almost on a daily basis – and figure out what I could do personally to resolve the issue, or what our team could do to make it better.
Regardless of your position, don’t just keep a list of problems and certainly don’t be a problem, but take the initiative when you see issues and be a problem solver. Don’t point out what is wrong without having a potential solution and don’t wait to be chosen to do something … just do it. The best part about being on a church staff is that teams are always smarter than an individual (that goes for you too pastor). There is no obstacle that together you cannot overcome and no opportunity that together you cannot conquer.
Every day is Easter
I love what Walt Disney said, “Every day is opening day!” Walt Disney knew that there was something more important than the Disney experience … it is the consistent Disney experience. I remember in the late 60’s riding in the back seat of my uncle’s paneled station wagon going the Disneyland for the very first time. It really was magical. Years later, while attending college in Southern California, I took advantage of visiting Disneyland a time or two (or three or four) each year – and again, it was magical. Then in the 90’s I took my kids to Disney, and you know what? It was like the first time I was there. It was bright, full of life and color – truly magical.
So how does that apply to the church? Easy. Churches all around the world spend hours upon hours working on our Easter service because know that is one Sunday of the year that our pews will be packed. Now I love celebrating the risen Savior too, but what happens the other 51 weekends of the year? If the only time I come to your church is on Easter, am I seeing you at your best, only to return the week or so after and be disappointed that it was not as moving and inspirational. Don’t misunderstand me – I am all for having special weekends, but if we only put our best foot forward on “special” occasions then that is not really a true reflection of who we are. People want consistency. People want authenticity. When you know who you are and you have a spirit of excellence in everything you do – Easter becomes something you celebrate each and every weekend. Strive to make every day Easter!