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4 Reasons Short-Term Mission Trips Still Work

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In recent years many churches have been backing away from sending teams of volunteers on short-term international mission trips. Some argue that such initiatives are ineffective, a waste of resources, and even hurtful to the advancement of the Gospel.

I on the other hand believe short-term mission trips still work. God used a project I went on right after my freshman year of college with an organization called the Navigators to Singapore and Indonesia to completely change my view of what God is doing in the world. I’ve had the opportunity to lead hundreds of people on more than 10 international projects throughout the years and I’ve seen first hand how projects like this can change the world, the world of the participant and the field. Here are 4 reasons why I believe short-term mission trips still work.

1. Spiritual Maturity

I’ve never met a pastor who didn’t want the people in their church to grow spiritually. Short-term mission trips are an engine for spiritual growth. People grow spiritually when they put themselves in a position to grow spiritually. While we as pastors can’t make people grow spiritually, short-term mission trips create the right environment for spiritual growth to take place.

2. Leadership Development

I’ve never met a pastor who didn’t think they need more leaders in their church. Short-term mission trips are an engine for leadership development. Leaders learn to lead by leading not in a classroom. Short-term mission trips provide an environment for developing leaders to experiment with their leadership gifts.

3. Outsider Focus

I’ve never met a pastor who didn’t want to see people outside of the faith meet Jesus. Short-term mission trips are an engine for building an outsider focused culture in your church. When people participate in a short-term mission trip, begin to personally wrestle with the contextualization of the Gospel in a different culture, and see people meet Jesus on the field; they are compelled to see people meet Jesus in their own workplace, neighborhood, and city.

4. Advance the Mission of the Field

I’ve never met a pastor who didn’t think that people all over the world need to know Jesus. When great partnerships take place between local stateside churches and the field, short-term mission trips can create an infusion of momentum and be catalytic to advancing the strategies of what missionaries on the field are doing to reach people with the Gospel in their context.

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Posted in Spiritual Formation

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6 Things Your Church Should Know about Core Values

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Left to themselves organizations…including churches, drift. It can happen to the best of us if we’re not careful. As organizations and churches grow they naturally become more complex. There are more assets to allocate, more people to manage, decisions seem to have greater consequences than did when you were smaller and more nimble, and those decisions seem to just keep coming faster and faster. It is easy to become consumed with the business of running the church. But just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re taking ground.

Core Values are the guardrails of any organization or church that is taking ground. They are the core beliefs that drive how the people in the church interact with one another and the church as a whole behaves towards others outside of the church. They are the grid that filters our behavior to ensure that our activity is actually getting us where we believe God wants us to go.

So here are 6 things your church should know about core values.

1. Values aren’t real until they’re lived out in the church

There’s a big difference in most churches between what they say they value and how they behave. You can write anything you want to on a sheet of paper, you can train the staff and volunteers on it, you can distribute it on a slick promotional piece to the church body, you can even teach about it in the weekend services. But until it’s lived out it’s not a value, it’s an aspiration.

2. Keep the List of Values Short

If you value everything then you don’t value anything. There must be a few nonnegotiable hills that you’re willing to die on that drive the behaviors you’re looking to create. For a lot of reasons, I encourage churches to try to keep the list of values to be no more than 5.

3. Don’t Copy Values

Unless you want to be a clone, don’t copy values from other churches. Take the time to discover the unique personality of your church and what God has uniquely put in your heart as the leader. Copying values from other churches simply doesn’t work. You have to be you.

4. Hire and Fire (Staff & Volunteers) based on your Values

When team members or key volunteers demonstrate values that are contradictory to the values of the church either coach them up or lead them out. As you recruit volunteers and staff to join you allow your values to drive the recruitment. Because, you become who you recruit.

5. Articulate your Values

You’ve got to do the hard work of wrestling these ideas to the ground in such a fashion that they can be articulated in a clear, concise, and compelling manner. If your value statements can’t be sent out using twitter then they’re too long. If it doesn’t inspire or move people towards action it’s too dry.

6. Prayer and Doctrine aren’t Values

Prayer, evangelism, discipleship, outreach, core doctrines of the faith and the like aren’t values. They’re assumptions. If anything they’re permission to play values. Those basic values that allow you access to the room. I’ve listened as church leadership teams say they value outreach. Outreach doesn’t make a church unique, it’s the common behavior of any person or church that is following Jesus. Values are core and compact identity issues that make your church distinct from others.

 So what else would you add to the list? Leave a comment I’d love to hear your input!

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Posted in Leadership

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10 Findings from New Research on Church Communications

Recently, The Unstuck Group released its latest research report: Say What?! Key Research on Church Communications. We paused to ask 186 churches about the ways in which they communicate. Here are the 10 most interesting findings from that research:

  1. Smaller churches (1-499 attendees) have significantly higher levels of social media engagement on all major platforms.
  2. Churches are most engaging on Facebook.
  3. Study resources are one of the least offered components online.
  4. More churches communicate their beliefs than their vision online.
  5. Smaller churches (1-499 attendees) engage more volunteers per capita in the area of communications.
  6. Larger churches (500+ attendees) keep communications more focused on church-wide programs than individual ministries.
  7. The average church bulletin includes 7 announcements. (In our experience, that is too many to be effective.)
  8. The average church service includes over 4 stage announcements. (In our experience, 1-2 is most effective.)
  9. Most churches do not have a style guide to communicate with consistency.
  10. Nearly half of churches with a style guide do not use it consistently.

This is definitely the short list of everything contained in this report on church communications. In it, you’ll discover key findings that could enhance the way you communicate in five critical areas. You will also find suggested action steps to get unstuck along with a Communications Scorecard to see how well you’re really doing.

Best of all, this report comes at no cost to you! We simply want to resource your team to get unstuck. So take a moment and download your copy of Say What?! Key Research on Church Communications from The Unstuck Group.


Posted in Creative Arts, Leadership

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10 Things You Lose when Your Church Grows

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It’s impossible for your church to grow and everything to stay the same. I know it would be nice if everything could stay the same as the church grows, but it can’t. And the secret underlying truth is as your church grows you will lose some things along the way. But that’s kind of the point. You simply can’t move from here (current reality) to there (preferred future) and everything stay the way it is. If it did, you’d never get “there,” you’d just stay where you are. Understanding that, here are 10 things you lose when your church grows:

#1 People

This isn’t the goal of growth and no one “wants” to lose people, but it’s inevitable with growth. You are going to lose people. You’ll hear the age old complaint, “The church is changing and it’s not what it used to be.” But that’s kind of the point isn’t it? If every church stayed the way it was, no one new would enter the kingdom. And if every person stayed the way they were they’d never be conformed into the image of Christ. Change is required to walk with Jesus.

#2 Staff & Volunteers

The most difficult thing to lose as the church grows is not just people but key people. Particularly Staff and Volunteers. However the reality is the people that got you to where you are aren’t necessarily going to take you where you’re going. They had a particular personality, gifting, and skill-set to be the right person at the right time. But that also inevitably means that eventually everyone is the wrong person at some point as well.

#3 Your Parking Spot & Favorite Seat

Chances are if your church is going to grow it means there are going to be new people showing up, and unless you have your name on your parking stall and a sign on your seat eventually you’re going to head to church and have to find another place to park and another place to sit. If your church is going to grow it means you’re going to have to get used to change, and you’re going to have to give something up. Probably a lot of something.

#4 Relational Connections

When the church is smaller you can lean into and lead through key relational connections. In fact you can know everyone in the church when the church is smaller. Not so in a larger church. It doesn’t mean everyone can’t be known it just means you can’t know everyone.

#5 Segment Targeted Ministries

In a smaller church, moments like child dedications and high school graduations can be celebrated in the main worship service. As the church grows these celebrations will come to be limited to Segment Targeted Ministries such as Children’s or Student Ministries.

#6 Insider Focused Ministries

As your church grows you will begin to lose insider-focused ministries. You know, those ministries that keep the core long-term attenders happy but have no impact on people outside the faith. Time, finances, facility and people resources (which all have finite limitations) will naturally transition towards reaching outsiders. Sorry ladies, that quilting club might not make it.

#7 Ambiguity

Clarity is king when growth takes place. If your church is going to grow it means you are going to leave ambiguity behind. You are going to have to get crystal clear on vision, roles, action, cultural behaviors and what the next hill is. In fact that speed at which you are able to move forward hinges on your ability to shed ambiguity.

#8 Winging It

If your church is going to grow, those days of just winging it are going to come to a close. The days of just walking in and using a room, or taking some tables and chairs for a family reunion are over. It will take a coordinated effort to integrate the ministry calendar, budget resources, and people. You’ll need to learn to plan your work and work your plan, because you get what you plan for.

#9 Ministry Preferences

As the church grows you lose your ministry preferences as the leader, unless you’re a micro-manager, but if that’s the case then there is already a lid on the growth of your church. As the leader you’re not going design ministry the way you once did. Your attention will need to be elsewhere. And not everything is going to do things the way you would. Don’t freak out. If they’re doing it at 80% of how you would do it, let it go. If it’s under that threshold then coach them.

#10 The Power to make Decisions

Guess what. As the church grows something counter-intuitive happens. Instead of gaining decision making, as the leader you actually lose out on making decisions. You’ll make less day-to-day decisions but the decisions you’ll make will be heavier and affect everyone.

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Posted in Leadership

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5 Articles that will Help your Church Make Vision Real

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Thank you for making June a great month here at Helping Churches Make Vision Real! It’s great staying connected with you through social media and hearing about how helpful different articles have been. So, thank you for connecting with me through the content on this blog! You made these the top 5 Posts from this last month. If you missed out on any of them, here they are all in one place for your convenience!

#1 How Centralizing Ministry is Crippling Your Church

While at first pass centralization may seem like an efficient approach to greater ministry impact and moving further faster, it’s not always the best thing for the advancement of the mission of the church. In fact here are 6 ways well intentioned churches are unknowingly crippling their ministry impact for the sake of centralization.

#2 4 Ways Spiritual Leaders Violate the Trust of the Church

Trust is the fuel that leadership runs on, especially in church-world. When trust is high there is an environment for momentum, wins are celebrated, and people follow leadership because they believe in the leader and where the leader is taking them. When trust is low skepticism runs high, progress comes to a screeching halt, and the tenure of the leader is short-lived. Below are four ways leadership of church leaders is commonly eroded.

#3 How to Raise the Speed Limit at Your Church

Everyone is going to spend eternity somewhere. And there is a moment coming when you and I will no longer have the opportunity to affect change on the world. Jesus will come back and set everything wrong…right. Until then we’ve been given a window of opportunity to join Jesus in a sacred mission of reconciling the people of the planet to the purposes of God. That’s why it’s rare that I ever meet a church leader that wants to slow down. Most have a white hot passion to see people far from Jesus come near to him. While as church leaders we can’t control the movement of the Holy Spirit there are things we can do organizationally to set the sail.

#4 3 Ways Leaders Lead at their Best

Over the last 15 years I’ve been blessed to lead worship with many talented musicians and singers. I’ve led at camps and retreats. I’ve led for different generation, for different gatherings, for different churches. I’ve led in large venues and small venues. And through it all I’ve discovered three principles that allow me to lead at my best…truth is, these principles apply to anyone who leads a team.

This was a great guest post by Matt Thompson the Worship Pastor at Sun Valley Community Church’s Tempe Campus.

#5 Why Shared Leadership is Better Leadership

Leadership is a gift that is meant to be shared. It’s how leadership is both best developed and best exercised. Shared leadership is not for everyone though. It requires a tremendous amount of personal security and deep levels of trust at the highest levels of the organization. But if you can master shared leadership then you’ll move at a pace you never thought was possible.

Photo Credit: justin fain via Compfight cc


Posted in Leadership
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