I’d never heard of a ministry coach when I started out in ministry. But some of my most effective ministry occurred after I hired a coach. At the time I had grown a good-sized church from scratch. But I had made several mistakes that cost the church time, money, and members. So I knew I could do better and the church could grow faster. So I enlisted a coach and over the next few years the church doubled in size and our influence over our city grew. I even had more free time to be with my family because I had been shown how to focus only on the things that brought about positive results. Today, hiring a coach is almost fashionable. There are coaches everywhere. So the question is not should you have a coach, but which coach should you hire? The answer is simple – hire one who has been where you are and has done what you hope to do. If you want to grow yourself and your church, I’m your guy. I’ve been in the trenches from restarting a church to leading one of the most effective churches in the U.S. And I’ve helped hundreds of pastors reach their potential. Listen to what Hal Seed says about my coaching. Three years ago I hired Bill Easum to be my coach. In every conversation he compassionately nudged me to take a step in our ministry that seemed impossible at the time. A year after we took that step, New Song joined the Outreach 100 Fastest Growing Churches list. Thanks for your help Bill! Hal Seed New Song Church My coaching is simple. First, I evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and offer suggestions how to improve them. Second, I evaluate your church using our proven Complete Ministry Audit. Third, I give you a Personal Pastoral Mission Mandate that says here are the things you must do; should do; can do if you have time; and should never do. All of the above is negotiated based on the evaluations and how you feel about each item. When we reach a 360 degree agreement we are ready to get down to business. Fourth, I supply you with over $8,000 dollars worth of resources. My commitment to you is, “If we don't have it on the site, we will develop it for you.” And we give a money back guarantee with no questions asked.
Getting prepared for Easter is an important task. You will have people there who haven’t been in worship before, at least not with you. So you need to put your best foot forward. Here is a list of things you need to do to be ready. Prior to the Service
- Begin by deciding who your target audience will be. We suggest you start with “unchurched” then proceed to what age group, and if you’re demographic savvy, what lifestyle might be in the majority. Your target audience may vary from service to service. For example, an early service might be made up of mainly churched older adults, whereas the main service is more likely to include a younger audience.
- Next, you need to make sure your sermon, music, and liturgy connects with your target audience. This means you may have to alter the sermon, music, and style of each service. (If your church doesn’t do this normally, this is a good opportunity to “try” something different for this special occasion.)
- Update your website so that people who are looking for a church will be drawn to your message. Make sure the message, location, and time is located above the scroll.
- Work with the Religious Editor of your newspaper to have a news release about the service. If your budget can stand it, plan on sending out a direct mail piece to every home within a targeted area based on your targeted demographic. You may want to place an ad in the Personal Column as well. And if you have a big advertising budget, get a prominent billboard for the month prior to Easter and only put the message, name of church, website, and worship times.
- Don't overlook the importance of an Easter egg hunt for the children. Publicize it anyway you can afford, but do your best to make it a big event with big air balloons, super prize egg, etc. Don’t forget to offer a “valuable” door prize that guests must register for in order to win (what of “value” depends on your immediate context). Then make sure you follow up with each household with a postcard, phone call, email, etc. … but refrain from the standard “form letter” response.
- Try to secure the witness of some well known celebrity in the area who is a Christian. This witness would become part of the worship service. Of course, if you do be sure to leak it to the press. The press might show up or better yet, they may write an article for the paper or do a broadcast on the local TV News.
- Make sure you have a trained parking lot team with walkie-talkies to help people feel welcome and find a place to park. Use the walkie-talkies to communicate names of new people to the greeters who can then call guests by name.
- Give some extra training for your ushers and greeters about the importance of making people feel welcome without overwhelming them. This is not the time to use your regular rotation of volunteers. Your greeters and ushers must be the most gregarious, friendly, smilers in your congregation.
- Be involved in the selection of the music and special music. Don't leave this to chance. The music needs to integrate with your message. Make sure you have the biggest choir or best band possible.
- If you offer a contemporary worship service, spend time and money designing the stage to fit the message, especially if your target audience is under the age of forty.
- Make sure the worship folder will appeal to your target audience. Include information about the service, about your hospitality services (coffee, child care, etc.), and especially about upcoming events that your target may be interested in. Expunge the folder of any “insider” announcements or events (no board meeting dates, etc.).
- Launch a multiple part sermon series on Easter Sunday to help entice guests to return for part 2. In addition, spend extra time making sure you have your best sermon possible. If you still use a manuscript or notes, this is the week to break that habit.
- Train enough people to take a gift to the new visitors so that they can do it on Easter afternoon.
- Make sure you have connection/commitment cards in every worship folder.
- The best option to increase your visitor return rate is to arrange your order of service so that your offering is collected after the sermon. This will allow you to use your connection cards effectively.
- After the opening song, welcome the visitors and point them to the connection card. Tell them you will come back to it at the end of the service. To ensure you get nearly 100% of guest information, we recommend that you announce that you’ll be making a $5 donation to the local food bank (or another community-favored charity) for every connection card that’s completely filled out by a first-time visitor.
- Keep announcements to a minimum and put them at the end of the service just before collecting the connection card.
- Immediately following the sermon, walk the congregation through the connection/commitment card and give them time to fill it out.
- Then ask them to put the connection card in the offering plate as its passed. If they are a visitor tell them they are your guests and you don't expect them to give this morning – Instead put the connection card in the plate.
- Make a doorstep visit with each new visitor within two hours of the service. The laity should make these visits, although if you have a small church and are committed to growth, the pastor and whomever else served “up front” where people could see them should make these visits.
- The pastor should handwrite a card to each new person welcoming them and inviting them to hear next week’s message (be sure to include the title). In addition, if your target is a younger crowd, invite them to be a part of an upcoming, hands-on mission project that your church is hosting. Many young adults will enter the church through these kinds of hands-on opportunities.
- If you have the budget, send them a FedX including a short CD of the pastor and family, a $5.00 gas coupon, a list of places to plug in, and a brochure just for visitors. A FedX cost and is somewhat expensive if you look at it as a cost; it’s not if you look at it as an investment.
- On Wednesday, send an invitation to an upcoming Meet the Pastor and Explore Our Church luncheon or dessert. This event does not need to take place the following week, but should be scheduled within four weeks of Easter.
- If the guests return at least one other time in the next month, during week four or five following Easter, the pastor (churches under 250 in worship) or a paid staff person (churches over 250) should call, email, or text the new family inviting them to consider becoming part of a small group.
- Over the next three months monitor their progress. The goal is to get them connected to some aspect of your church beyond worship. This is the critical time for deciding whether to join or not.
Signs are a plus if you use them correctly. They are a waste of money if you use them incorrectly. Lets look at the difference. A church down the street from me purchased a beautiful digital sign a couple of years ago. I have to drive by that church almost every day. Of course being a consultant I noticed the new sign and ever since I have been observing what they put on it as I drive past. In two years of driving by that church probably 4 to 5 times a week I have seen the times for worship once and to this date I have not seen a sermon topic. Nada. Not once. What I see almost every time I drive by is the time or date or temperature. And I think to my self “What dummies. They spend thousands of dollars for a really nice sign and then misuse the heck out of it. Go figure. So what should they put on that sign- Nothing but the times for worship and the sermon topic. The only exception would be if they were having an event that was so big it included everyone in the area. Folks, everyone has the time, date, and weather either in their pocket or on their wrists. They don't need another sign telling them that. I saw an electronic bank sign the other day. All it had on it was the time and weather. Instead of that why not put the amount of interest the bank is paying or how inexpensive it would be to open an account? The worst kind of sign is the one parallel with the street with letters so small that someone walking by can only read them. Signs need to be perpendicular to the street. The letters need to be large enough for a car passing by to read them. The church I just referenced had the right idea. They purchased a digital sign and put it perpendicular to the street but from there on they made a mess out of a potentially great sign Remember, you have only 2 seconds for your sign to be read. Your sign should be thought of as the headline on the daily newspaper. What do you really want them to remember?
I just finished a book called Gaining By Losing by J.D. Greear. The premise is basically that the more people you send or give away for whatever reason, the more likely the church is to thrive because that is God’s plan for all churches as seen in the Acts of the Apostles. In a nutshell, God is a sending God and the church is a sending place. So the new – but old – metric for church success is how many people is your church sending out into the world to make a difference. “Sending is already in the DNA of any Jesus-following church.”So I’m glad to see this book. It takes my concept much further than I did. The rise of the multi-site church and the emphasis on church planting play right into this metric. How would it change your church if you measured your success by how many people you sent out into the world? One thing it would change is this – you would have to have a leadership pipeline to be able to constantly replace the leaders you were giving away. Wouldn't that be nice? Greear is the pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC, a megachurch with more than 100 church plants under its belt and a goal of 1,000 by 2050. Two main things characterize The Summit Church: its gospel focus and sending culture. Greear is the author of five books. Question: What are some key Scriptures that illustrate the claim that God is a sending God?
New Churches Committed to Multiplication: Part Six - Why It is Next to Impossible for Mainline Churches
The issue of church multiplication is either a mystery or an unknown to most mainline pastors and denominational leaders. Most of them are simply trying to survive, so the gap between survival and multiplication is wider than the Grand Canyon. But what would have to happen to make multiplication possible for mainline churches?
- There would have to be much more passion for the Great Commission than I see in most mainline pastors. One of the drivers of the multiplication movement is a deep seated concern for lost people and too many mainline clergy are wishy-washy about what Brunner called “The scandal of particularity.” For every multiplication pastor I’ve met, there is no room for doubting that Jesus is the only way to God. I can’t say this about most mainline pastors.
- There would have to be much less of an emphasis on formally trained and ordained clergy. Most of the multiplication pastors have little to no formal theological training. What they have is the experience of being groomed in a multiplication church. By the time they are sent out to plant they have gained demonstrated credentials. These church planters are mostly raised up within the sending church rather than sent by a denomination.
- There would have to be less denominational control and more of a decentralized path to planting. For multiplication to happen, planting has to be organic and under the control of the planter. Multiplication has to grow out of the pastors passion for giving people and control away to other planters and not from some centralized bureaucracy.
- There would have to be less jealously and guarding of one’s church turf. Mainline pastors are notorious for getting upset if the denomination tried to plant a church too close to them even if they were dying and the area was growing. In other words mainline pastors would need a greater commitment to the Kingdom of God and less of a commitment to their church.
- Mainline pastors would have to take more pride in sending people away to plan than accumulating a larger crowd on Sunday. This is one of the hardest things to even for the most committed Kingdom oriented pastors.
- There would have to be more of a willingness to take risks because measuring your success by how many people you send away can leave you with no one to pastor.
- Mainline pastors would have to commit to one-on-one discipleship of non-believers. For multiplication to happen there must be a constant influx of new Christians. The problem here is that the vast majority of mainline Christians, including pastors, are not accustomed to personally leading a person to Christ.
- Bottom line, mainline pastors and denominational officials would have to have a total reorientation of priorities for multiplication to be possible. Even for my tribe, United Methodist, who has the legacy of the Circuit Rider, can’t get their hearts around this movement.
I just got off the phone with a delightful conversation with Ralph Moore, pastor of Hope Chapel in Honolulu. Ralph is a 70 year old humble, hippy who is planting the third Hope Chapel and is responsible directly or indirectly with over 1,000 church plants. I was struck by his humble, straight-forward way of sharing both himself and what he has learned. So here is what I learned from this great man.
- The key to their multiplication was to have a simple decentralized plan and a red-hot passion for the Great Commission. They just let it happen and they are passionate about church multiplication. Moore left the Four Square Church because they wanted too much control on how things were done.
- They take 5-7 years before they send someone out to plant a church and way they decide is that if a person starts three small groups (they call them mini-churches) they are going to look at them as a potential church planter. These small groups reflect each week on the sermon around some soul searching questions much like those of Wesley’s class meetings. They always ask “What did the Holy Spirit say to you this week?”
- Everything centers around these “mini-churches” and their ability to foster discipleship and raise up planters. All of their direct plants come out of their church with people who have had no formal theological training.
- When asked about why multiplication is happening all over the world except the U.S. he quickly answered ”The U.S. puts too much emphasis on mega churches.” This takes time away from discipling. It costs a lot of money to be mega.
Here’s some research that you should know about because it could give you some pointers on what grows church plants. The research included all major denominations and some 1200 church planters. The survey was limited to churches started after 2007 so the number of church planters that fit the criteria was 843. General observations for comparison purposes:
- Average worship attendance the third year was 95.
- New commitments by the third year was 18.
- 34% of the church plants had an unchurched background.
- 71% of new churches that put their sermons online as a form of communication are self-sufficient within three years, those that don’t- 57%
- 74% of new churches that meet in a school are self-sufficient within three years- those that meet elsewhere-60%
- 71% of new churches that have membership classes are self-sufficient within three years- those that don’t- 53%
- 68% of new churches that have a leadership training plan are self-sufficient within three years- those that don’t- 57%
- 72% of new churches with a proactive stewardship plan to move to self-sufficiency are within three years- those that don’t- 53%
- 71% of new churches that contribute to other church plants are self-sufficient within three years- those that don’t – 54%
- 73% of new churches whose pastor feels adequately compensated are self-sufficient within three years – plants with pastors who don’t – 57%
- 71% of new churches that plant at least one church in their first three years are self-sufficient within three years – those that don’t – 63%
- The average attendance by the third year in churches that use mailers as one of their top 3 forms of communication is 129 versus 86 for those who do not.
- The average attendance by the third year in churches that use radio or television ads as one of their top 3 forms of communication is 167 compared to 92 for those who don't.
- The average attendance by the third year in churches that contribute to other church plants117 compared to 62 for those who don't
- The average attendance by the third year in churches whose leaders invest or mentor other leaders of new churches is 121 compared to 73 for those who do not.
- The average attendance by the third year in churches whose leaders receive at least a month-long training course provided by their denomination or network or coach is 154 compared to 93 for those that don't.
- The average attendance by the third year in churches whose leaders receive financial compensation for their work is 108 compared to 50 for those that don't.
- The average attendance by the third year in churches that hold new members classes is 113 compared to 67 for those that don't
- 37% of those new churches that use special events for kids as a primary form of outreach are unchurched – compared to 30% for those that don't.
- 45% of those new churches that use door hangers or flyers are unchurched are unchurched – compared to 31% for those that don't.
- 38% of those new churches that use prayer walking in preparation for their launch are unchurched- compared to 33% of those that don't.
- 45% of those new churches that use door-to-door outreach as a primary strategy for their launch are unchurched compared to 33% for those that don't.
- 46% of those new churches that use ongoing sport leagues as a primary form of outreach are unchurched compared to 32% for those that don't.
- New churches that use podcasts as a form of communication have an average of 60 commitments compared to 38 for those that don't.
- New churches that use mailers as one of their top 3 forms of publicity have an average of 25 commitments the third year compared to 16 for those that don't.
- New churches that use a sports league as a continuing form of outreach have an average of 20 commitments the third year compared to 18 for those that don't.
- New churches that have a plan for leadership development have on average 22 commitment the third year compared to 11 for those that don't.
- New Churches that use digital presence, have intentional outreach activities and programs, and are investing in developing lay leaders are more like to see higher number of commitments from people with no church background.
- Growing churches are more likely to use door hangers, mailers, television, sport leagues, special events for kids, prayer walks, door-to-door, and podcasts than those that don't.
- New churches that prioritize a public presence, focus on new membership assimilation, and developing leaders are more likely to become self-sufficient by the fourth year.
- New churches that invest in other church plants are more likely to grow than those that don't.
- New churches that have an intentional plan for leadership development are more likely to grow than those that don't.
- New churches that have membership classes and raise the membership bar are more likely to grow than those that don't.
Boy do I have egg on my face. Like most of the people who coach church planters, I’ve always told them that the most important thing they can do is get butts in the seats. Don’t worry about serious discipleship until you get a crowd. The problem with this is that by the time you get a crowd, the culture of the church is one of accumulation instead of multiplication. And what I’m learning is that multiplication becomes possible because of one thing: the depth and breadth of how you disciple. If serious discipleship happens at the beginning of a person's journey with the church, the odds of them being willing to be sent are exponentially increased. If you have been reading my recent blog posts, you know that a new form of church is emerging that we’re calling the multiplication church. I spent time in Atlanta at a think tank with a dozen of the brightest minds in church planting. It was a life changer for me. I’ve had to rethink two crucial pieces of ministry. One, I’ve had to accept that church planting is more important than multiple sites; and two, I’ve had to realize that telling church planters to get butts in the seats and not to worry about serious discipling until you get a crowd works against multiplication. Why is it necessary for me to change my mind on such crucial pieces of ministry? The new form of church that I experienced in Atlanta and that I’ve been writing about expects every person to be willing to do one of the following:
- Lead a church plant
- Be on a church planting team
- Be sent into the city, town, or village to lead or be part of an outreach ministry
As a result of my time at the think tank in Atlanta, I spent some time listening to the message of several pastors who are leading either reproducing or multiplying churches, and I confirmed a suspicion I’ve had for some time. The success of a church is not determined by how well the pastor teaches or the best of the music. What causes some churches to rise to the top and not others is the depth, breadth, and clarity of their vision and teaching. Consider the webpage of Hope Chapel in Hawaii. I’m going to share a section of it in its entirety.
“We asked God for meaningful 20-year goals at the outset of Hope Chapel Honolulu. We believe our goals came to us from the Lord. They are doable, but only with God’s help. Here are those goals.
The first goal is to include “Reproducing DNA” at every level of our ministry. This means that each ministry needs a bias toward reproducing disciples, reproducing ministry and reproducing new churches. This can only come with sound teaching and an equivalent desire to obey Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples of every nation.” We’ll ultimately touch other nations but we must begin at home. And we must be intent on reproducing disciples in everything we do. If we stay focused on disciple making we will accomplish all that God asks of us.
Our second goal is to plant 30 organic churches in 20 years. By organic, we mean that we work through relationships with people we’ve discipled. We aren’t looking for “hired guns” from some other ministry to help us plant churches. We hope to raise up church planters from our midst. This is a tall order and one that requires as much prayer as active disciple making. Coming out of the gate we partner with people we knew before we started and with some folks attracted to our church because we intend to plant churches. These people are already equipped and in the process of planting. But, the future lies with our youth. As we disciple young people we keep an eye out for potential church planters (we have some pretty hot potential in the pipeline).
To establish a church planting presence in three other nations also requires prayer. We are deeply involved in Japan and China and believe that God is calling us to those two countries. Doors seem to be opening in Kenya but it is still too soon to tell if we are called to that country.
We hope you notice that accomplishing the latter two goals comes from success with the first. We can only achieve them if we successfully make disciples.”
New Hope Chapel
=====There is simply no way anyone could mistake Hope Chapel's intent. Are the goals of your church as deep, broad, and clear as those of Hope Chapel? I‘ve heard a couple of Ralph Moore’s messages. While they are clear and well done, he is not the most electric preacher on the planet – good, but not great. So here is the message – you can spend as much time as you want perfecting your message, but if the goals of the church aren’t crystal clear and embedded in every fiber of the church, and if you’re not developing obedient Jesus-followers, you’re just pissing in the wind (I can’t think of a more pungent way of expressing the utter futility of not making obedient Jesus followers). So why am I harping on the quality of preaching? Because most pastors spend too much time on their messages and not enough time developing obedient Jesus followers.
- Although it’s not central to disciple making, suitable biblical content is helpful in supporting the role modeling and mentoring of the pastor and staff. People need to know their faith. So some classwork is needed, but not the normal form of classroom teaching. This is not a class where you memorize scripture or absorb content. This class is one where you learn, and then go and do, and then come back for debriefing. Remember how after Jesus spent time with his disciples he sent them out two by two to knock on doors. That’s the kind of class needed to make obedient Jesus followers – we learn and then practice what we’ve learned.
- A passion lies deep in the heart of the leader for the fulfillment of Jesus’ last will and testament – “Go make disciples of all people groups.” The leaders must have a passion for those who are not Jesus-followers. This emphasis on making obedient Jesus-followers is not a fad; it is something embedded in the very heart of Jesus and the gospel. How we have missed understanding this for so long, I don't know. It would appear either that we’re stupid or that we just don't care beyond our own church.
- The pastor and staff are mentors and role models who make obedient Jesus-followers. The “monkey see, monkey do” concept applies to making disciples. We can’t expect people to do what we’re not doing. If the pastor and staff are making disciples, it’s easier to show the congregation how to do it. I remember being at Perimeter Church in Atlanta and hearing the executive pastor talk about how their pastor leads someone to Christ every week. Now I know this is probably an exaggeration. But still, that is what their pastor is known for. So when he teaches about disciple-making being the responsibility of all Christians, he has credibility and people listen and are encouraged to follow suit.
- A different understanding of pastoral education is needed for most mainline churches. Since I am a United Methodist, I have to address the concept of seminary training because multiplication is almost impossible if pastors have to go to seminary before leading a church. It takes almost as much education to be a minister as it does to be a physician. But multiplication doesn't have time for that. Most of the multiplication will take place through the efforts of pastors who haven’t been to seminary but who have a passion for people who don't yet know Jesus. You don't have to be smart or know a lot of systematic theology to make disciples. Multiplication won’t happen if pastors have to first go to seminary. It’s time we realized that fact. Of course I can just hear denominational officials screaming while reading this. But let me ask you this: how are things working for you? Are you growing?
- I know this is hard for the established denominational people and I respect that, but my heart burns for the growing number of people in the West who aren’t followers of Jesus. We can’t let this escalation of non-Christians continue. We must do something, and this something is multiplication.
- A different understanding of ordination is needed. The church I attend when I’m in town has several pastors and only one of them is seminary trained. The others were ordained by that church based on their gifts, not their education.
In my last blog, A New Form Of Church, I shared about a new form of church that’s emerging in the West. I was first introduced to this new form of church while in Hawaii, spending time with New Hope Christian Church. Last week, I had the privilege of meeting with a handful of some of the most innovative church leaders in the U.S. to discuss this new form of church. Prior to this meeting, I was convinced that multiple sites were more productive than church planting. After this meeting, I’ve changed my mind; church planting has more potential than multiple sites – if it is the DNA of a church and not just a part of it. Why? Because church plants have the potential to reach geographically far beyond the reach of multiple sites and because church plants done right always reproduce, whereas most multiple sites do not. This meeting was a huge eye-opener for me. It made me want to be a planter again. Consider the following: Hope Chapel in Hawaii has only planted seven churches but those seven churches have resulted in more than seven hundred church plants. No multi-site church can come even close to matching that number. What if there were hundreds of churches like Hope Chapel? Give that some thought. So today I want to say more about this new form of church. Keep in mind that I’ve only seen two of these churches, but I can say that it is the most biblical form of church I’ve ever seen and I look forward to the emergence of more of these churches. The key word to understanding this new form of church is multiplying as opposed to reproducing. There are a number of churches that are reproducing through multiple sites but there are only a handful of churches that are experiencing multiplication through planting hundreds of churches. Please note that there is nothing wrong with reproducing churches: thank God for them. And please note that size has nothing to do with this new form of church. So, what are some of the characteristics of this new form of church? These churches are committed to tithing the firstfruits of everything they do to church planting. This means that they commit the time, energy, and money first to church planting before anything else. They plant churches before they build, before they add a lot of staff, or before they add programs. They live and breathe planting churches. It’s who they are and what they were planted to be. Take away church planting and they would wither and die. Church planting isn’t optional; it’s their reason for being.Comments section below.