Should your Church Spend more Energy Reaching or Keeping People?


It’s commonly said that you can tell if a church is insider-focused or outsider-focused by how they make decisions. Do they make decisions based on whom they’re trying to keep or whom they’re trying to reach? Oh, if it were only that simple.

Churches that Reach

  • Jesus started this movement called the Church with one simple mission, to reach outsiders.
  • Some churches become so focused on this mission that they’ll do anything short of sin to reach outsiders. Unfortunately this often involves ignoring insiders (people who have already said yes to Jesus)…which might be sin.
  • The challenge most outsider-focused churches have is helping people who say yes to following Jesus take their next steps with Him (discipleship).

Churches that Keep

  • It’s also clear through the teachings of Jesus that knowing and following God is relational by it’s very nature and can not be done well alone. This is why He said that His followers would be known by the quality of their relationships (love).
  • Some churches become so focused on the “one another’s” of Scripture that they don’t make room for outsiders. They frequently become so comfortable that they’re unwilling to change to reach people. That’s the exact opposite of the definition of maturity that so many insider-focused churches cling to.
  • The challenge most insider-focused churches have is helping people actually say yes to Jesus (evangelism).

I recently heard Dr. Kara Powell who serves as the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute say, “Balance is something we swing through on the way to the other extreme.”

Great church leaders don’t try to balance reaching people and keeping people. They’re willing to live in the tension that the call of the Church is to reach outsiders and impact insiders. They don’t see these as two opposing forces rather complimentary ideas that fuel the movement of the church. It’s not one or the other…it’s both and.

Posted in Spiritual Formation


Don’t let your Organizational Chart Hold you Back


A friend of mine at the Unstuck Group shared a thought with me the other day that really resonated with me. He said, “Never let a box on an organizational chart define your level of influence in the organization.” My first thought was…”I wish more people thought like this!”

I’ve seen so many leaders, both young and old, limit themselves and limit their churches because of they way they think about their role, title, or box they sit in on the organizational chart. The problem is when you allow yourself to be limited by where you find yourself on an organizational chart you’ll always be limited by your organizational chart. This kind of thinking is a sure fire way to never grow or advance as a leader.

If you need a “Title” to Lead then you’re not a Leader

If you’re waiting for someone to give you a title or a particular box on the organizational chart to lead then you’re probably not a leader. Leaders naturally lead, because that’s who they are. I’m not saying leaders are bullies or that they don’t understand submission to authority that comes with being a part of an organizational chart. But boxes on organizational charts don’t box leaders in from being who they are.

Leadership is a Gift not a Position

The New Testament describes leadership as a spiritual gift, not a position on the organizational chart. Not everybody has that gift and it’s not given in equal measure. Positional leadership is the lowest form of leadership. If people only follow you because you have a title, you’re their boss, or you sign their paycheck then they’re not going to follow you very far or for very long.

Leadership is Acknowledged not Appointed

If you’re sitting around waiting for your opportunity to get in a particular position on the organizational chart before you start leading, you’re going to be waiting around for a long time. Leadership isn’t something that you get appointed to; it’s something that gets acknowledged for as you do it. So start leading where you are. Be faithful where you are right now today.

Posted in Leadership, Staffing


Why Big Weekend Worship Services are not the Goal of the Church


I’ve personally been following Jesus for more than 30 years and in full-time ministry now for more than 20 years and there are still times that I get frustrated and wish the Bible gave us more answers than it really does. The New Testament is notorious for being way more descriptive than prescriptive in its approach. It describes much of what happened during the early stages of this new movement called the Church getting off the ground but it shares very little about how we should be doing Church today.

For instance, even the idea of having deacons was a pragmatic response that the Apostles had in Acts chapter 6 to meet the need of running a feeding program so they could focus on what they were supposed to focus on. And churches have been mimicking this practice ever since.

That being said, it’s really interesting to me that the modern church has fallen in love with a practice that the New Testament doesn’t actually prescribe anywhere, weekend worship services.

Now don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m a big proponent of churches providing meaningful, engaging and relevant weekend worship services. Not because that’s the mission of the church, but because it’s the most effective strategy in North America to expose people to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words large weekend worship gatherings are a strategy, not the mission.

The Mission is the Goal not the Strategy

When you love a strategy more then you love the mission you’ve got the right recipe for a declining church. When the strategy stops working it’s not time to give up on the mission, it’s time to employ a new strategy. The mission of the church is not to get a bunch of people in a big room at one time for a great show, the mission of the church is to help people meet Jesus. Don’t get those two things confused.

Strategies are Designed to Serve the Mission not the other way around

Strategies are fine as long as they are effective in moving you towards the mission Jesus has already defined for His Church. The moment a strategy becomes a lid or a hindrance to accomplishing the mission it’s time for it to go. If your weekend worship service is no longer effective it’s time for it to change. And the easiest way to measure the effectiveness of the weekend worship service at your church is by measuring life-change. Are people meeting Jesus and are their lives changing as they get to know Him and follow Him?

Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation


Why Firing People who work at your Church Sucks


Changing Church Staff can be a terribly painful experience. Exiting a Church Staff Member costs the church more than just money. Trust is often eroded; people frequently leave the church during these times, and ministries typically lose momentum. Firing a Church Staff Member should always be a last resort option.

Simply put, firing people who work at your church sucks. It’s no fun for anyone and there’s rarely a win, that being said, there are times when it is the right decision. When those moments come along here are some principles to keep in mind.

Most churches tolerate Poor Work Performance over Poor Moral Behavior

The church is one of those weird “industries” that seems to tolerate poor work performance as long as you’re a nice moral person. I’ve seen churches keep people on staff who are constantly low performers and who produce little to no results simply because they like them and the relational or political fall out would be too great to withstand if they were ever let go.

Sometimes People in the church are going to Freak Out

No matter what you do there are going to be some people in the church who just freak out because they think a church shouldn’t fire people. In those moments, I wish the church cared as much about people who don’t know Jesus as they do about their favorite Staff member being asked to leave the team. But I wish that about a lot of things people freaked out about at churches.

Ministry is all about Relationships & Trust

Keep in mind that if you let go of one of your Church Staff that there will be some relational loss and trust will be eroded between the leadership of the church and the attenders. No matter how poor a performer or how right the decision is to let them go, ministry is all about relationships and everyone has their fans. Be prepared to lead through this loss.

People aren’t Expendable

Your Church Staff aren’t simply cogs in a machine that can be easily replaced or interchanged. They’re people to be developed and coached. In a current church climate where the talent pool seems to be thinning in America the best way to have a talented Church Staff team is to build and develop them. It’s hard to develop people if you’re constantly churning through them.

Mission Trumps Everything

Even thought it’s difficult, it’s okay to let someone go who works at your church. If they’re not doing their job, if they’re not the right fit, if they’ve hit their leadership lid and you don’t have another role for them or a number of other valid reasons. Jesus started this movement called the Church for a reason, He intends for it to accomplish something very particular. We don’t get to pick our mission. And the mission of the church is too important to allow the church to be held back from taking Kingdom ground because you have the wrong person on the team.

Your Church Staff Lose more than their Job when they Lose their Job

When your Church Staff lose their job they lose more than their jobs. They are losing their spiritual community, friendships, and the church that they and their family attend. So don’t make this decision flippantly.

Posted in Leadership, Staffing


Why Wise Church Leaders don’t Say everything they See


Ever say something you wish you could take back? Sure. Everyone has. Whether it’s something we regret saying to a spouse, to a child, to a friend, or in the workplace to a coworker. Everybody has said something they wish they could go back and say differently…or…not say at all.

Many of us are not aware of how powerful our words are and how they affect the people around us. The best church leaders I’ve ever been around understand this and they exercise discipline with their words.

Wise church leaders understand the power their words have to shape culture and as a result craft them carefully.

Leaders don’t Say Everything they See

Just because God has allowed you to see it doesn’t mean you need to say it. You may see things that need to improve. You may see where the church needs to go in the future. You may see team members that need to change. But wise church leaders don’t say everything they see. They say what people can handle. They say what people need to hear in order to help them move in the direction they need to go.

Leaders understand their Whisper is a Shout

The words of a leader have an inordinate amount of weight to them. If you’re a leader then your whisper becomes a shout very quickly. Similar to the power a father’s words have to a family. Wise church leaders understand the power and weight of their words and they are selective about how they use their words.

Leaders Kill Hallway Conversations

When leaders get in the habit of having passing hallway conversations they unintentionally build a culture of misalignment, competition, and create a bottleneck for decision making. Hallway conversations train your team that every decision needs to go through you. Worse hallway conversations create an environment where people go to you for a decision before a meeting and then walk into a meeting and say, “well I spoke to the leader and they said this…” Wise church leaders redirect hallway conversations to the right people and the right environments for decisions to be made.

Leaders don’t Speak to Everyone the Same Way

If you’re a parent you get this. Just like you don’t talk to each of your kids the same way you don’t talk to everyone on your team the same way either. Leaders also don’t speak to every audience the same way. A wise church leader learns to say the same ideas out loud to different audiences such as the church Board, their Sr. Leadership Team, the church Staff, Volunteers, and the whole church with a different voice.

Posted in Leadership
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