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How to Help Guests Self-Identify at your Church

Churches are notorious for making guests feel awkward and out of place. I attended a church once that asked every guest to wear a rose sticker on their shirt and then remain seated during a time in the worship service when everyone else would stand up walk around and “greet” the new guests. Super awkward, but honestly mild. I could tell some really embarrassing stories how churches make guests feel uncomfortable.

The guest experience is an essential part of your church reaching new people. But building a great guest experience isn’t just about church growth and numbers, it’s ultimately about helping people feel like they belong at your church, so they can then begin to believe in the life-changing news about Jesus.

There are a few simple things your church can do to help guests self-identify.

Guest Parking:

Priority parking for guests and a great experience in the parking lot with a parking team and good clear signage is a great way to help guests self-identify.

New Kids/Family Check-in:

Having a new family check-in area for first time kids in the kids ministry is a great way to help new families self-identify.

New Ministry Engagement:

Simply pay attention to new ministry engagement each week. The first time someone gives, the first time someone jumps into a group, the first time they volunteer, or any other way they self-identify, check to see if it is their first point of engagement.

Mention Guests in your Weekend Services:

Make sure you address guests directly in your weekend worship services. Thank them from the stage for being your guests that weekend and tell them what step you want them to take. Some churches have a communication card they want guests to fill out and turn in, some direct guests to a particular place to receive a special welcome and meet the staff, and I’ve seen others invite guests to self-identify and on their behalf the church donates a financial gift to a ministry…i.e. “By simply being here this weekend you’re providing clean drinking water to kids in…let us know you’re here and make a difference in the life of a kid.”

So, here’s how the math behind it all works…

  • We know that the average church in America has around a 15% attrition rate annually. People move out of town, people get mad at something the pastor says and leave, and people die. There are all kinds of reasons attrition takes place.
  • We also know that the average church that has a great guest experience and weekend worship experience (including a strong kids ministry), retains about 1 in 5 guests, or 20%.
  • So, if a church that averages 500 people on the weekend is going to grow by 5%, or 25 people on average then they need to help 500 1st time guests self-identify. That’s a 1:1 ratio of guest to attender for the year.
  • Still not following? Say that church of 500 people is on average going to lose 15% of people to attrition, or in this case 75 people. If that church has a 1:1 first time guest to average attendance ratio for the year, that would mean that church would have 500 first time identifiable guests. If they retain 20% of their guests, or 1 in 5 first time guests (which would be 100 people), that church would grow by 5%, or 25 people in average weekly attendance.

Obviously, there are other ways to get things growing at your church. You could “close the back door” and cut the attrition rate, or you could strengthen the retention rate of new guests.

But none of that matters is you can’t help guest self-identify and get them in your assimilation pipeline.


Posted in Leadership

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How Great Church Leaders Lead Up

Most young church leaders I talk to want to learn about how they grow as a leader, be more effective and gather a larger following. I love their zeal and ambition to go and do big things for God!

But one of the most overlooked leadership tactics that young church leaders need to learn is leading up. And this is one of the keys that separate good church leaders from great church leaders.

Great church leaders know that they’re responsible not only to lead those under their care, but also to lead their peers and perhaps most importantly those who are above them. Here’s a few ways they do that well.

#1 Expectation Management

No leader likes to be surprised. So, communicate early and often. Managing the expectations of your Lead Pastor is an essential tool for leading up. Scripture teaches us that, “hope deferred makes the heart grow sick.” In other words, when you mismanage the expectations of your leader you are actually leading their heart in a direction that will create disappointment, frustration, and even “sickness.” None of that is going to work out well for you. So, learn to set expectations for your leader and follow through on those expectations. They’ll love you for it.

#2 Bring Solutions to the Table

No leader wants to do your job for you, that’s why you’re there. Soliciting your Lead Pastor’s input can be helpful to learn their preferences or their style. And when you encounter something new or difficult and you really need their input and help, certainly go and get it. But I’d suggest leading with a couple of solutions to whatever it is you’re facing. This will let them know that you are solution oriented, that you take initiative, and you’re not just looking for someone to tell you what to do. This helps your leader know that they can trust you to think and make good decisions in the scope of ministry that you’re responsible for at your church.

#3 Support Publicly and Question Privately

No leader likes to be hit by, “friendly fire.” One of the fastest ways to lose trust the opportunity to privately influence your leader is to not support them publicly. Appropriately disagree all you want behind closed doors, that’s part of the process of getting to good decisions organizationally. But once the decision is made you’ve got to be 100% committed to it. When Church Members (or other Staff Members) complain to you, you cannot respond by saying, “I can see how you feel that way,” unless you redirect from there. You can’t in any way validate their criticism or they’ll think that you agree with them and it will lead to divisiveness in the Church. Someone in the Body will end up saying, “Well I spoke to so and so, who is on Staff and they don’t agree with it either.” When that happens there is division in the Body and the Enemy wins. And by the way, eventually you’ll lose.

#4 Carry the Vision

No leader wants to carry the vision alone. Leaders and Pastors that have to carry the vision alone lose. Most churches never reach their full potential because the vision ends up somehow being relegated to just one person. This limits everything because vision cannot be sustained through only one person. It has to be embraced and carried forward by everyone on the team. Your Lead Pastor can’t be the only one talking about the vision. When it comes to casting vision your Lead Pastor is looking for you to embrace, own, contextualize, and communicate the vision of the Church in the area of responsibility that has been entrusted into your care. You may not be the vision caster in the church, but make no mistake about it, you are a vision carrier. A great daily question to ask yourself is: “What did I do today to cast vision for the Church?”


Posted in Leadership

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Leaders are the Culture

Everywhere I turn it seems like people are talking about culture. Team culture, staff culture, and organizational culture. How to build a healthy culture and how to avoid a toxic one. But what about the culture at your church? How do you know what your church culture actually is and how can you change it if you don’t like it?

A church’s culture is determined by the defining set of values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of the Sr. Leadership Team. This could be the Sr. Pastor, the Staff Team, a Board, Deacons or a group of Volunteer Leaders depending on the size and nature of the church. Another way to say it is, show me the top 3-5 decision makers or leaders in your church and I’ll show you who your church is going to be and the culture you’re going to have in a couple of years.

Culture is something that is usually unnoticed, unspoken, and unexamined in churches. As a result, few churches ever take steps towards intentionally defining and building a healthy culture; instead it usually happens by default.

It’s common to see churches fall into ruts and get stuck in the familiar traps of, “just preach the Word,” “just reach people,” or “just build disciples.” The problem is building a healthy culture in a church; particularly a healthy leadership culture is never “just that easy.”

While every church already has a culture, most of them “happen on accident.” As the leader you have to create the culture. And here’s a truth about culture you may have never thought about before…

Leaders are the culture

Their behaviors, their attitudes, what they allow, what they address, how they approach people, the decisions that they make, how they dress and carry themselves, how approachable they are, the list goes on and on. All of this tells people how to behave.

This is why I can play a name association game with you, and by saying Jeff Bezos you automatically think about Amazon. Or if I say Mark Zuckerberg you think Facebook. Or if I say Steve Jobs you think Apple.

This is because over time every organization takes on the personality of the leader. This is how the organization takes its cultural cues. Some leaders understand this and are wise and intentional about it while others lead without thought as to how their behavior is building or eroding culture.

Because leaders are the culture at your church, the easiest and fastest way to change the culture at your church is to change the leader at your church.

Change the leader, change the culture

Obviously, a new leader is a leadership change and will result in a change to the culture. But I’m more so referring to the leader themselves changing and growing. This is why everything gets better when the leader gets better.

If you’re the leader at your church and you want a better culture on your team and at your church, than change and be a better you. Pay close attention to the culture of your church because it is a mirror for you and your leadership, and after all you are the culture.


Posted in Leadership

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Why a Great Strategy Won’t Grow your Church

If you know anything about me, you know that I’m a strategy guy. It’s how God has wired me up. It’s my best place in the Church. Strategy bridges the gap between where we are and where we’re going.

Mission answers the question: “Why do we exist?”
Vision answers the question: “Where are we going?”
Strategy answers the question: “How are we going to get there?”

Strategy, I believe, is the greatest missing link in a majority of churches today. The church has a great mission. Jesus picked that for us. Most churches aren’t short on vision. They have big God given dreams of what a preferred future looks like. They just don’t know how to align all of the pieces of the church and design a clear pathway to get where they want to go.

But as much as I love building and executing a great strategy. A great strategy alone won’t grow your church. And that’s because…

Love is more important than strategy

If I have the best strategy in the world but don’t have love, it’s worthless. If that’s sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because it should be. In 1 Corinthians chapter 13 the Apostle Paul writes that even though he may have incredible gifts, abilities, and do incredible God sized things…without love he says it’s literally worthless.

  • A great strategy without love is hollow, provides an empty promise, and ultimately creates a cancer that erodes your team and your church.
  • A great love without strategy is equally hollow because it doesn’t provide a pathway for action to help more people experience the love that they need.

All of that being said, if your church needs help building and executing a great strategy to get where Jesus wants you to go, I’d recommend you take a look at the Unstuck Group. These guys really are the best strategic consulting group for churches out there!


Posted in Leadership

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Why it’s Good for Ministry to be Difficult

Over the last couple of decades of full-time local church ministry, I’ve seen my fair share of difficult ministry moments. Like many of you I’ve experienced incredible wins and painful setbacks.

Anyone who’s been in local church ministry for more than 5 minutes knows that it’s not always rainbows and unicorns. Ministry can have incredibly difficult seasons and sometimes we can face what seems like insurmountable obstacles.

And that’s good…

Difficulties often force us to take a Different Direction:

When things become difficult in ministry sometimes the right thing to do is to push through and give more effort. But sometimes difficulties provide an opportunity to take a different approach and get different results. Either way, the best way to silence your critics is not to shout or fight back but to simply keep going and prove them wrong. So if you have to give more effort or take a different approach, either way, keep going!

Difficulties provide a Mirror for our Leadership:

When the lights come on and the whistle blows, and the game clock begins to tick it’s too late to practice and perfect your craft. Difficulties are a gauge for us to measure how we’re growing as a leader. Difficulties reveal our leadership capacity and effectiveness.

Difficulties help us Develop a Greater Capacity:

Often times you don’t know you can, until you do. One more mile, one more rep…one more. Everyone knows that overworking can lead to all kinds of unhealth and ultimately kill you. But people have a tendency to forget that underwork can lead to all kinds of unhealth and kill you just the same. Life change isn’t easy. The cross wasn’t easy. Difficulty is good for church leaders because it helps us develop our leadership muscle, mental toughness, and remind us to rely on the One we’re doing all of this for. Don’t give up just because it’s difficult. God can do more in you and through you than you think He can.


Posted in Leadership
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