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10 Articles that will Help Your Church Make Vision Real

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

10 Insider Focused Ministry Names

Still my all-time most popular post in 5+ years of blogging: The language we choose to use is important because it both reflects and builds culture at the same time. And one of the most obvious ways to tell if a church is insider focused or outsider focused is the language that they choose to use. It either says that the church is “inclusive” or “exclusive.”

A Large Multisite Church in Phoenix is Hiring a Small Group Pastor

I’m pleased to announce a new Staff Search. Sun Valley Community Church, the church I have the honor of serving at, is beginning a national search for a Small Group Pastor to serve on our Tempe Campus. Sun Valley began as a church plant in 1990 in Chandler, Arizona. Over the years Sun Valley has grown into a large mult-site church in the Phoenix area. Currently there are four campuses located in Casa Grande, East Mesa, Gilbert, and Tempe and with a fifth campus opening in the fall of 2016 in Queen Creek. Together nearly 7,000 people attend a Sun Valley Campus each weekend.

Where there’s a Huddle there’s a Team

How do you know if the volunteer teams at your church are really working? I don’t mean are they getting stuff done and meeting objectives, I mean are they developing people. After all the point of building volunteer teams at your church isn’t just to use people to accomplish objectives but rather to create opportunities and relationships to develop people.

Why Some Churches Win But Most Lose

Not every church is winning. In fact Thom Rainer, President and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources has stated in his research that: “Eight out of ten of the approximately 400,000 churches in the United States are declining or have plateaued.” There are a lot of reasons why 80% of churches in America aren’t winning and there’s no “silver bullet” fix. But there are a couple of things that winning churches consistently do that losing churches don’t.

3 Expectations that Young Leaders Need to Change Today

A lot has been written in recent years about the Millennial Generation and young leaders; most of it negative. At the risk of sounding like the old guy in the room, I’ll admit, it does seem like the expectations of young leaders are a little off the mark. In fact, here are three expectations in particular that I think young leaders need to change today if they want to be successful in the future.

How Many People Should Your Church Have on Staff?

Before you buy into the idea that you need another staff person at your church, think again. That just may be the worst decision you make at your church this year.

Making the Assimilation Process Work at your Church

While there are a lot of reasons that churches get stuck and plateau or begin to decline the biggest culprit is that somewhere along the way new people stop getting connected or assimilated into the life of the church. It doesn’t have to be that way. Try giving the list below to the Sr. Leadership Team at your church to read and then come back and have an honest conversation about each point and identify opportunities to improve and islands of strength to build on.

8 Reasons Why People don’t Volunteer at your Church

I’ve never worked with a church that has said they don’t need more volunteers. But I’ve worked with a bunch of churches that have trouble getting people to volunteer and stay engaged volunteering. This is a critical issue for churches to figure out. The reason why this has to be a front-burner issue is because at the heart of it, volunteering is an essential component of the discipleship process in someone’s life. Plainly put, volunteering is discipleship. Understanding that, here are 8 reasons people aren’t volunteering in your church…and subsequently aren’t growing in their relationship with God.

4 Common Church Merger Mistakes

There are a lot of good reasons that two churches might choose to merge together. After being a part of two separate church mergers and both coaching other churches through the process and observing other mergers happen around the country I thought I’d take the time to share four common church merger mistakes that I see happening.

The 3 Most Important Responsibilities of a Leader and Why you Can’t Meet Them All

Should a leader be out in front charting the way forward? Should they be magnetic personalities who immediately change the temperature of the room they walk into? Should they be a great developer of others? Or do leaders simply get paid to make decisions? The truth is, there are three key responsibilities of leaders and unfortunately leaders are usually good at one of these…NOT all of them.

Photo Credit: justin fain via Compfight cc


Posted in Leadership

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Insider Focused Ministry Names

The language we choose to use is important because it both reflects and builds culture at the same time. And one of the most obvious ways to tell if a church is insider focused or outsider focused is the language that they choose to use. It either says that the church is “inclusive” or “exclusive.”

In helping churches get unstuck and make vision real I’ve run across a number of insider focused ministry names. In fact here’s a link to a post with a free tool that you can use as you begin to evaluate your own ministry names and language you’re using in your church. Remember it’s always more important to be clear than clever. Here’s a quick list of 10 insider focused ministry names to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

Nation2Nine: A Young Adult Ministry in a church targeting people age 20-29. While it may be clear to people inside the church what this is, it doesn’t say anything to people outside of the church.

Romeo: “Real Old Men Eating Out,” a once a week gathering of old men who eat out together and talk about God’s Word together. Acronyms are the quintessential example of insider language. If your name or brand needs an explanation it’s not clear enough.

Men on Fire: A Men’s Ministry at a church. The only problem is people outside of the church don’t think the same way or have the same filter as people inside the church. While “church people” notoriously talk about being “on fire” for Jesus, that brand may elude to something different in the minds of people outside of the church.

Chicks with Sticks: A Quilting Ministry in a church. Yes this is real. This one came from one of the participants from a recent Leadership Coaching Network that I led. It was too good not to include in this list. Let’s just say people outside of the church aren’t thinking the same things as people inside of the church when they see this ministry name.

Girlfriends Unlimited: A Women’s Ministry in a church. Again while this may be clear to people inside the church any single 20-something young man is going to sign up for this one in a heartbeat. What young man who doesn’t know Jesus doesn’t want to sign up for unlimited girlfriends?

XYZ: “Extra Years of Zest,” a ministry to Senior Adults. This is another example of an acronym that doesn’t mean anything to anyone who isn’t an insider.

Body Builders: A Bible Study at a church. It may seem cute but when an outsider sees that name they’re probably going to be asking you where the gym is.

MOPS: “Mothers of Preschoolers,” a ministry to mothers of preschoolers…or is it a cleaning ministry? Again…acronyms are dangerous.

Equally Yoked: A Marriage Ministry at a church…or an egg ministry. Outsiders have no idea what the scriptures say so be careful about using Biblical names like this.

JAM: “Jesus and Me,” the name of a Student Ministry at a church…cute…just not clear.

This post has consistently been the most popular post I’ve written over the 6 years I’ve been blogging. A lot of people end up at this site because they’re searching Google trying to find a cool name to call the new ministry at their church. I rarely re-post old content (this post is 3 years old), but the principle in this post is still relevant today…and I keep coming across insider-focused ministry names and language at churches I consult with. Why can’t churches just call things what they are and make language accessible to people who are unfamiliar with Jesus and His Church?

I’d love to hear other examples that you’ve run across in your ministry experience, so leave a comment.


Posted in Leadership

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4 Common Church Merger Mistakes

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The thought of a church merging with another church had never crossed my mind 20 years ago when I started full time ministry. Mergers were something companies did, not churches. But if you’re paying attention to what’s happening in church-world, mergers are becoming more and more common. And I don’t think it’s a trend that’s going away anytime soon.

There are a lot of good reasons that two churches might choose to merge together. After being a part of two separate church mergers and both coaching other churches through the process and observing other mergers happen around the country I thought I’d take the time to share four common church merger mistakes that I see happening.

1. Trying to Blend the Culture of the Two Churches

Trying to blend the culture of two different churches is like trying to do a blended worship style on Sunday morning services. By trying to make everybody happy you end up making nobody happy. In the most successful church mergers one church culture leads the way and washes over the other church culture.

2. Not having a Plan for One of the Two Sr. Pastors

Many times in a church merger there are two Sr. Pastors involved, one from each church. When there’s not a clear plan for one of those to Sr. Pastors to exit it can lead to a conflict of loyalty and confusion of the vision. There needs to be a clear plan of what the Sr. Pastor who won’t be leading this newly merger church is going to do. Which one stays and which one goes, and why?

3. Keeping Staff that you Shouldn’t

Often times in a church merger the joining church has been stuck or in decline for a significant period of time and the lead church has momentum and has been growing for some time. The staff culture of those two kids of churches is significantly different. The kind of staff that can serve at a church that is stuck or in decline for a long period of time are not wired to serve in a fast growing church. Don’t keep them on staff longer than you should or you’ll unnecessarily slow the cultural transition of the merger and create disunity and conflict.

4. Taking a Ministry Menu Approach

Again, in an attempt to keep everybody happy I’ve seen some churches that merge refuse to stop doing the ministries that they were doing before the merger took place. Instead of taking the best of both merging church ministries and maximizing those ministries, they simply add to the ministry menu by offering everything that each individual church was previously doing. I know that shutting down a ministry can be difficult to lead through, but leading a church that is overextended and trying to be all things to all people is even more difficult to lead. Strategically choose which ministries will continue after the merger happens, before the merger happens.


Posted in Leadership, Staffing

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Why Some Churches Win But Most Lose

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Not every church is winning. In fact Thom Rainer, President and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources has stated in his research that: “Eight out of ten of the approximately 400,000 churches in the United States are declining or have plateaued.”

There are a lot of reasons why 80% of churches in America aren’t winning and there’s no “silver bullet” fix. But there are a couple of things that winning churches consistently do that losing churches don’t.

1. They make Decisions based on Who they are trying to Reach Instead of Who they are trying to Keep

The primary filter for winning churches is “What can we do (short of sin) to reach people who are far from Jesus?” You may think that all these churches care about is evangelism and helping people meet Jesus (Is that so bad?), and that leads to the church being a mile wide and an inch deep. But surprisingly these churches are usually very sensitive to helping people who have recently said yes to following Jesus take their next steps in their spiritual journey with Him. If a church isn’t reaching new people then it’s already dying, it just hasn’t shown up yet.

2. They Embrace Change

Winning churches embrace change. They change their staff and organizational structure. They change their worship style. They change their strategies. They change what ministries they offer. They are incessantly tinkering to try and improve what they do to reach new people with the Gospel. They take big risks because they have a big God and they trust Him for big results. They are not afraid to try new things. They’re not afraid to fail.

3. They don’t just Shepherd People well they Lead People

While the staff at winning churches care deeply about people, they don’t view themselves as simply caretakers and they don’t view their role as simply taking care of people. They view themselves as leaders and feel a responsibility to lead people where Jesus wants them to go even if that means it’s going to be uncomfortable. After all, when was following Jesus ever comfortable?

4. They Help People take Steps not get into a Class

Most winning churches I’ve been around aren’t as interested in biblically educating people as they are challenging people to become obedient to the biblical knowledge they already have. They view discipleship as obedience not information. Winning churches have a clear plan to move people from guests to fully involved and people that say yes to Jesus to following Jesus. Their goal isn’t to simply get people into a class.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing

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10 Articles that will Help Your Church Make More Disciples

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No matter what label you put on it “Discipleship,” “Spiritual Maturity,” or “Spiritual Formation” it’s one of the most argued over and misunderstood issues in the church today. After all just because you know a lot about Jesus doesn’t make you a disciple and on the other hand being in a Small Group or “Biblical Community” doesn’t necessarily make you a disciple either. Over the years I’ve actually written quite a bit on the topic. Below are some of my more popular posts on discipleship.

Choosing the Right Small Group Model for your Church

There are pros and cons to every groups models, but the goal of all of this group stuff in churches is to simply make disciples. Check out these different group models and choose the best model that fits the unique personality of your church.

6 Keys to Successful Small Groups

In a conversation Chris Surratt who runs SmallGroup.com and serves as a Ministry Consultant with the Unstuck Group he mentioned 6 great questions that churches should be talking about if they want to have a successful small group ministry.

How to Convince your Sr. Pastor to Join a Small Group

One of the most common points of frustration I hear from church leaders around the country is, “My Senior Pastor wants Small Groups to be a big deal at our church, but they won’t be in a Small Group themselves.” And the natural follow up question that’s asked right after that statement, “How do I get my Senior Pastor to be in a Small Group?” In an attempt to answer that question, here are a couple of steps you can take to help convince your Sr. Pastor that they need to be in a Small Group.

Who is Responsible for the Spiritual Maturity of the Church?

I hear complaints by church attenders across North America that their church is not, “deep enough.” Essentially they’re saying that they’re hungry. And you want to know the first thought that passes through my mind when I hear comments like these? “If you’re hungry, eat. You know where the food is.”

Making Small Groups the Hub of your Ministry

NorthCoast Church is an outlier when it comes to small groups and you need to get to know these guys. While the norm across the nation is hovering at about 50% of weekend worship attendance in groups, NorthCoast is shattering that norm and boasts just over 90% of their weekend worship attendance in groups. That was enough for us to get on a plane and spend some time learning from these guys. Here are a few of my take aways:

Why the Church Wins when the Church Staff are in a Small Group

You’re as lonely as you want to be. Yes, relationships are risky. Any time you entrust your heart with others there’s a chance that it won’t be handled well. And I understand that church leaders often feel pressure to perform and live up to unrealistic expectations of perfection. But if the church staff chooses to shrink back from vulnerability and authenticity in relationship with others then you’ll build a culture of superficial pretending in your church. That’s why when the church staff takes the risk and jumps into a small group bible study the whole church wins!

Your Church isn’t Deep Enough

In my work consulting with churches and coaching church leaders this, “it’s not deep enough” phrase is becoming more common. And honestly it concerns me. Not because the majority of churches aren’t deep enough, but rather that a majority of people who are trying to follow Jesus misunderstand what spiritual depth really looks like.

5 Ways to Help your Small Groups be Successful

Whether you are starting from scratch at a brand-new church plant or blowing up a large system at an existing church, there are some principles that can help set up your new plan for success down the road. Here are five guidelines to think through.

Why Churches Don’t Grow #3: No Spiritual Maturity Pathway

Many churches are stuck or declining not because they have a difficult time attracting or introducing new people to Jesus but because they have no plan in place to move people towards spiritual maturity or the plan they’re working is broken. Here are a couple of indicators that there is a breakdown somewhere in your spiritual maturity pathway:

A Couple of Statements about Spiritual Maturity that will Mess with You Part-1

Simply put…these ideas will challenge your thinking on what spiritual maturity looks like and acts like. Happy reading! Bonus: here’s Part-2 of that post.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation
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