Thursday, December 13, 2012

Conversations that Connect

Conversations that Connect 

by Colette Carlson

Conversing naturally is key to your success in the business world. Knowing when to initiate a conversation, keeping it interesting by asking effective questions, sharing your own stories and ending a conversation with kindness is an art. Create connections by following these seven steps:

Step 1: Exude confidence. When you're comfortable in your own skin, you make others comfortable. If you take the attitude that you bring something to the table, you will see that attitude reflected in others. Remember: Enthusiasm is infectious.

Step 2: Show up with something to say. Always be on the lookout for material. Although it may sound contrived, I read The Wall Street Journal looking for interesting, timely information that I can share at my next get-together: a party, association meeting or business affair. Think about keeping a file that you can review before your next event.

Step 3: Begin with a question. Besides showing interest in someone, one simple question can start an entire conversation. Asking something a bit unusual sets you apart from the crowd. Rather than, "What do you do?" ask, "How do you enjoy spending your weekends?"

Step 4: Find common ground. The surest way to build rapport is to find something you have in common and build on that interest. Don't shy away from topics that have nothing to do with business. They often create the perfect connection.

Step 5: Focus on others. Putting your energy and interest in another person marks you as a great conversationalist. Englishman Raymond Mortimer once described the art of conversation in the United States as "not tennis, in which you return the other fellow's serve, but gold, in which you go on hitting your own ball." Keep that back and forth volley going with conversation.

Step 6: Be inclusive. Excluding others in the group is a conversation killer. Make eye contact with everyone in the group, not just the person who asked you a direct question.

Step 7: Close a conversation with class.
When a conversation naturally lulls, take advantage and say, "It's been my pleasure talking with you. I hope our paths cross again soon." Before leaving, be certain to thank the hosts.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


One day a man was walking down the street on his way to work. As he walked down the street, there were dogs on just about every front porch and they all would bark as the man walked passed them. However, there was one dog that he remembered, because this dog was just sitting there and he was whimpering and whining and moaning, you know the little whimpering sounds dogs make when they are wounded or in some sort of pain. Well, this particular dog was just sitting there on the front porch making those sounds.

The man was curious as to why this dog wasn 't barking like the other dogs and why he was whimpering. He couldn't figure it out, so he just kept walking to work. The next day he was in the same situation where he was walking down the street and saw the dogs once again and this same dog that was moaning and groaning the other day was doing the same thing today and he just couldn't figure it out. Well, he walked passed for an entire week and every day the dog would be there moaning and groaning. So, finally, the guy got fed up, he said, "Let me find out what's going on." So he went and knocked on the door and a guy came out and said, "Yes, how may I help you?"

He said, "Sir, is this your dog? "

"Yes, that's my dog. "

"Well, what's wrong with him?"

The owner of the dog said, "What do you mean?"

"Well, he's been sitting here moaning and groaning, whimpering and whining for an entire week. The rest of the dogs are barking, your dog should be barking too, why is he moaning and groaning?"

The owner said, "Well, he's actually sitting on a nail." And the guy said, "What! Your dog is sitting on a nail. Why doesn't he get off?"

"Well, it just doesn't hurt him enough."

Story by Les Brown
Some churches are like this dog. They do not like the situation that they are now in but since it doesn't hurt them enough, they choose to remain in that situation. 

They want to win souls and grow spiritually but they are afraid to get off their nail. 

What they are doing now in the church is very comfortable. Even though the congregation is small, they are able to pay their bills and have enough to pay their some programs and activities. 

They are so afraid of doing something different and actually get very upset if someone tells them to do so. For the next 20 or 30 years, they will sit on that nail until grave claims all of them.

A sad story but thousands of churches around the world are sitting on their nail.

Are you and your church sitting on the nail?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Five-Finger Prayer

The Five-Finger Prayer

1. Thumb (people who are close to you)
Your thumb is nearest to you. So begin your prayers by praying for those closest to you. They are the easiest to remember. To pray for our loved ones is, as C.S. Lewis once said, a "sweet duty".

2. Pointer (people who point the way) 
The next finger is the pointing finger. Pray for those who teach, instruct and heal. This includes teachers, doctors, and ministers. They need support and wisdom in pointing others in the right direction. Keep them in your prayers.

3. Tall Finger (people in authority)
The next finger is the tallest finger. It reminds us of our leaders. Pray for the president, leaders in business and industry, and administrators. These people shape our nation and guide public opinion. They need God's guidance.

4. Ring Finger (people who are weak) 
The fourth finger is our ring finger. Surprising to many is the fact that this is our weakest finger; as any piano teacher will testify. It should remind us to pray for those who are weak, in trouble or in pain. They need your prayers day and night. You cannot pray too much for them.

5. Little Finger (your own needs)
And lastly comes our little finger; the smallest finger of all. Which is where we should place ourselves in relation to God and others. As the Bible says, "the least shall be the greatest among you." Your pinky should remind you to pray for yourself. By the time you have prayed for the other four groups, your own needs will be put into proper perspective and you will be able to pray for yourself more effectively.

Use your daily routine of life to reinforce your prayer life:

When you first wake up - Praise your Creator

When you shower or bathe - Ask for cleansing of your soul; confess, repent and receive forgiveness

When you eat - Give thanks not only for the food, but for your family, home, life, etc.

When you go to work or school - Pray for those with whom you come into contact

Where to Pray...

Jesus tells us where to pray in Matthew 6:6: "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

How to Pray...

In Matthew 6:9-15 Jesus tells us how to pray when He gives us the pattern for prayer in what is now referred to as the Lord's prayer.

"This, then, is how you should pray: "'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.'

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Arrow Principle - 2nd Edition

The Arrow Principle - 2nd edition
Have you ever felt that no matter how hard you try, your church or organization just cannot grow? Maybe it’s time you apply the Arrow Principle: find the right people and build a competent team.

The Arrow Principle first appeared in 1987 as a one-page delineation in my Church Growth Manual. Since then many people, both from the churches and secular organizations, have heard me shared the Arrow Principle. However, it was not until 2007, while ministering in the Philippines that I was inspired to elaborate upon these principles and put them in book form. This year, the second edition is published and will soon be in the bookstores.

Ministers from both the Evangelical mainline churches and the Charismatic/Pentecostal churches had asked for more materials and details on how these principles may be effectively applied to their ministries. That triggered a writing project that took one and half year.

This book is obviously not a scholarly or theological monograph. I have written it with the purpose of serving as a practical guide for contemporary church management and growth. 

In future postings, I will share with you more about the principle that helps so many pastors to organize their churches for greater growth. 

God bless,
Rev Albert Kang

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Causation vs. Correlation

Causation vs. Correlation 
You visit a church that has become known for its rapid growth.  You take down a number of observations, seeking the “key” to its “success.”
You note that the pastor is young, dynamic, and hip.  The music is loud and edgy.  It is situated in an affluent area of the city.  They “market” their “brand” unblushingly.
The temptation would be to do the following:  take note of the music, the sermon topics, the communication style, the outreach strategy, the type of facility it rents or has built, and deem yourself informed about what makes that particular church “work.”  Throw in a few designer tees and skinny jeans, and you think you’ve got this one covered.
There would be so much wrong with this it’s hard to even know where to begin.  First, it’s one of the poorest ways to study church growth.  Second, it assumes that whatever works in one situation will work in a different context under a different leader.  Third, it mistakes cosmetic issues – the kind gathered from a site visit – the most substantive ones to note.
But most of all, it runs the very high risk of confusing causation with correlation.
Seth Godin gives the example of noticing how, in most cities, every time you observe that lots of umbrellas are out and open, it's raining.  From this analysis, the obvious way to make it rain is to be sure that everyone has an umbrella, preferably a black one, since that seems to be the kind that's most visible during big storms.
But that would be confusing causation with correlation.  There is a correlation between umbrellas and rain, but not causation.  The umbrellas have nothing to do with whether or not it rains.
Let’s return to our church visit.
What if the deeper reality is that the church was actually the beneficiary of unprecedented transfer growth due to several large churches in its proximity going through some kind of split or internal dissension at the same time, and they just gathered the disaffected?  What if one church alone sent over 1,000 people its way, and another nearly 2,500?  And further, the high baptism rate was not true conversion growth, but Presbyterians getting dunked by Baptists, or rebaptisms for rededications?
Suddenly what might deserve to be studied is how to position a church for transfer growth, largely through the disgruntled and the disaffected, and to see the maximum value of that church’s education more in the realm of assimilation than outreach.
Countless other examples could be offered of fast-growing churches that beg to be examined for music or teaching or style or innovation, but in truth:
...the church reached out to Christian high school students, and then the parents followed in fear of becoming spiritually separated from their child (but in truth, didn’t really like the church at all).
…the church was planted in a small town, rural area with a large population base built by many nearby small towns.  They became the transfer growth magnet due to being the only contemporary church in the region, almost its only “entertainment.”
…the church has such a flaming evangelist for a pastor that the church would grow regardless of the style of worship or strategy.
…the church is benefiting from the fastest-growing edge of town and interstate access.
I know all of this is crass, and plays into some of the worst (read “secular”) reflections on church growth.  My apologies.  But the point is that whenever we study any model of church life, health or growth, or get ready to anoint the “next, next thing,” we must dig deep to make sure we are determining causes, and not just correlations.
Most of the time, the umbrella has nothing to do with the rain.
James Emery White
Seth Godin, “Getting confused about causation and correlation.” Read online.
Editor’s Note
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president.  His latest book is What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary (Baker).  To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world.  Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

Danger of Broken Focus

The way for a pastor to have a mediocre ministry and a non-growing church is to have a broken focus. 

The key of concentration is to stay focused on the primary goal that God has given you to do. 

The devil can destroy that primary goal by recommending many other non-essential goals and make them of equal importance as the primary goal. 

When you have too many goals then your focus is broken. Ultimately, you will fail not only in achieving the primary goals but all the other goals too.

Rev Albert Kang

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

8 Reasons Why People Aren't Coming Back

As a secret shopper or mystery worshiper of churches around the country, I’ve found there are some reasons that I will tell a church I would not return for a second visit and some may be news to you. Whether I’m working with a church plant of 60 people or a mega-church of over 15,000, some things are universal and should be present regardless of church size.
Throughout this post we’ll look at actions and areas every church needs to address.

1. The Front Door

Before a guest ever steps foot on your church’s physical campus, he or she has probably already checked out your church website. 
What every church should have clearly visible on their homepage is a section or button for first-time guests. Once clicked on, this should take you to a page that addresses FAQ’s, service times, directions, parking instructions (Is there a side of the building that is better to park on if one has kids?), what to expect (upbeat music and relevant, practical, Biblical preaching in a come as you are atmosphere, etc.), what to wear (Are jeans okay? Are shorts okay?), and encouragement for them to be sure to stop by Guest Central or your church’s Information Booth to pick up a first-time guest packet.

2. What Stinks?

It’s important that no church ever underestimates the sense of smell. While sight is the strongest sense for short term memory, the sense of smell is the strongest and most vivid for long-term memories.
If you’ve ever smelled something and had memories you hadn’t thought of in years come flooding back, that’s your sense of smell in action.
Every church has the potential for positive or negative smells. Mold is a bad smell. Coffee is a good smell. Bleach is a bad smell. Citrus is a good smell. Many churches have restrooms that are disgusting and smell bad. This lack of attention to detail can be costly and discourage many from ever returning.
As best you can, try to walk into the lobby or entrance of your church with a new nose.

3. Park Here

One of Tim Stevens’ three “growth lids” that he thinks every growing church should have someone who is constantly watching is parking.
Tim says, “This is why Visitor Parking is so crucial. If it’s difficult for newcomers to go to your church, they won’t go.” Some would argue that guests want to remain anonymous and don’t want special parking.
Of course some want to go unnoticed and will choose to park in regular parking (a minority), but for the rest of newcomers, they are appreciative for a close parking space; it’s a kind gesture in an already intimidating and nerve-racking experience of attending a church for the first time, especially a large one with a huge campus.

4. This Way Parents

One way to assure guests will not return is to have a confusing, long or hard to find process for getting their kids registered and in the right classroom. Wise churches have signs for first-time guest kids’ check-in and make the process quick and painless.
Regular attendees may know to go up to the check-in kiosk and enter their phone number or swipe their card, but guests will be clueless and need a manned station that is clearly marked for guests and have a volunteer walk them through the registration. Then have that person or another helper walk you to your kid’s class explaining what will be going on and how to go about picking their kids back up. If they must have a sticker with corresponding numbers on it to get their kids, this needs to be explained to them.
Signage for the kids check-in should start in the entryway of the guest parking. Do not assume people know where to go once they enter the building.

5. Give It Away

Something subtle, but powerful is a church that has a generous spirit. Chris Hodges at Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, AL is big on this. They have a coffee shop, but they also have a designated area where people can get free coffee and not pay anything. They also give away their message CDs.
Too many churches charge for everything and wonder why no one buys CDs of the message. If you want to bless people and create a generous spirit throughout your church, give away free coffee and message CDs (and other surprises throughout the year).
Chris Hodges will have ice cream trucks pull up outside the church doors and give away free ice cream to congregants leaving on a hot, summer day.

6. Security Counts

One issue that is huge to a secret shopper and visiting families is security. If a parent is worried about their child’s safety, they will not enjoy the service and will likely not return.
A children’s classroom must be clean, safe and secure. Security also includes the check-out process. If anyone can walk into a classroom and pick up a kid, you’re asking for trouble and will turn off potential newcomers. It’s important that your kids’ volunteers are trained well and know to ask for the parent’s sticker when picking up their kids.
This is vital and goes a long way to ensuring a tragedy doesn’t occur and a parent has peace of mind.

7. The Visible Pastor

Accessibility of the senior pastor is another subtle and powerful statement of a church. Even pastors of the largest churches in America make an intentional and strategic effort to be seen, greeted and hugged after a service. They may have a body guard present for security reasons, but they are available and willing to pray with people that need to speak to their pastor.
Some churches have a designated “Guest Central”, like Steve Stroope at Lake Pointe in Rockwall, TX or Brady Body at New Life in Colorado Springs. Some have a “Meet and Greet” like Charles Hill in Utah. Some pastors stand down at the altar and meet and pray with people like Kevin Myers at 12Stone in Atlanta. Some walk around the campus shaking hands like Don Wilson at Christ’s Church of the Valley in Phoenix.
Erwin McManus at Mosaic LA has an “After Party”, at which the pastor is present and available to meet with newcomers. This, especially in a large church, goes a long way toward countering the rock star or unavailable pastor stigma that so many guests walk into the church expecting.

8. Finish Strong

It’s simply not enough for greeters and parking lot attendants to say “Hello” or “Welcome” when one walks into their church. To go to another level, have your first impressions team stationed at their posts when the service ends to say “Goodbye” or “Have a nice week”.
This goes a long way to wrapping a bow around the entire morning experience and will send them off with a lasting positive impression.
Do these 8 things and you’ll see a greater return and higher percentage of second and third-time guests.

About the writer: Greg Atkinson has been writing, speaking and training Church leaders since 2000. In late 2003, Greg launched (mSw) – a website geared to encourage, network, resource, and equip Christian pastors, media ministers, artists and worship leaders – after having served the previous 11 years as a worship pastor himself in the Carolinas and Washington DC. Greg produced ARC’s online church planter training ( and now travels the country as a secret shopper/mystery worshiper for churches of all sizes. Find out more about Greg's ministry here:
More from Greg Atkinson or visit Greg at

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

10 Suggestions for the Shepherd of a Stagnant Flock

10 Suggestions for the Shepherd of a Stagnant Flock


How many churches in this country—in your denomination, of your church-type, in your county or parish or town—have stopped growing? It depends on whom you ask. Go online and you’ll soon have statistics coming out of your ears on this subject. In our denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, the most significant number—one that seems to have held steady for over three decades—is that some 70 percent of our churches are either in decline or have plateaued.

Plateau. Funny word to use for a church. One wonders how it came to be in use. Why didn’t they say “mesa,” “plain,” “delta” (ask anyone who lives in the Mississippi Delta—flat, flat, flat!), or even “flatline.” Of course, in the emergency room to “flatline” is to die. No one (to my knowledge) is saying a non-growing church is dead, just that some things are not right.

Healthy churches grow. Non-growing churches are not healthy, at least in some significant ways. If it’s true that seven out of ten pastors in our family of churches lead congregations either in decline or stagnation, this is a situation that ought to be addressed. And to my knowledge, everyone is addressing it. Everyone has an opinion.

My single contribution to this discussion is directed toward the shepherd of a stagnant flock: “If your church has plateaued, make sure you haven’t.”

Bill Day, the numbers cruncher and evangelism professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (as well as pastor of Parkview Baptist Church in Metairie, LA), gives his definition of growing, declining, and plateauing: The church that increases 10% in a five-year period is growing. Decline 10% in the same five-year period, and your church is decreasing. Plateauing means your church fits neither group.

Here are ten statements to pastors of churches that are either stagnant or are in decline.

1. Some churches are easier to pastor than others.

When Bob began to pastor Easytown First Church, to his amazement and relief, the numbers turned around almost immediately. People loved him, they began responding to his leadership, the pews filled, and soon they were bringing in chairs. Bob was elated.

That’s when he made a mistake. Bob decided the great response was because of his terrific preaching and inspired leadership. And who’s to say he was wrong? After all, had he preached poorly or led haphazardly, the story certainly would have been different.

But Bob became critical of churches that were not growing and pastors who were not leading in dynamic ways. Without knowing it, Bob had become part of the problem. He was discouraging pastors of troubled churches, when what they needed was an encouraging word.

I have pastored both kinds of churches. Serving at Easytown early in your ministry can sure be nice. It can also give the young preacher a heady dose of ego. I’m afraid I pontificated on matters I knew nothing about and criticized denominational leaders for not doing what we were doing. I cringe with embarrassment over some of the statements I made.

Either because of the Lord’s sense of humor or of fair play, He let me get hold of a church that did not respond to my dynamic personality (!) or bag of tricks. At the annual associational meeting, when certificates were handed out to those who led in baptisms (a practice of dubious merit, I must say), I was embarrassed by our small numbers. As if to break me of disparaging even one person coming to Christ, the Lord eventually let me see how it felt for our church not to make that “top-ten” list at all.

Some churches are easy to pastor, some are hard, and all are different. Not all methods work in every church.

2. Some pastors have the gift.

Argue with this all you please, but I will go to my grave believing that preachers like John Bisagno could grow a huge church in the Sahara. They say “Good morning” in a way that makes you look around for an aisle somewhere to walk down.
As the old saying goes, “Some were born on third base and think they’ve hit a triple.” I’m not saying Bisagno is this way; he has helped more pastors (including me) to become Kingdom-growth-minded than anyone I know. But for some of us, those without the “gift,” turning a church around is hard work.

3. Even if my church has plateaued, I don’t have to join it.

Just because my church is not growing does not mean I have to stop growing. Don’t give in; don’t throw in the towel. Don’t stop learning and growing and looking for ways to make a difference.

4. Some churches should not grow—at least, not yet.

Some churches do not grow for good reason: They are sick. The last thing in the world they need is for a hundred new members to join them next Sunday. They need to get some matters right with God and with their neighbors before the Lord is going to allow them to grow.

I watched as a small congregation tried to self-destruct. The unhappy members ran the pastor off, along with the group which supported him. As pastor of the nearest church, I watched this from the outside and did not understand all the issues, but my personal conclusion was that the pastor was a fine man, and the ones who left would have been excellent members of any church. In fact, several joined my congregation and became just that.

As soon as the pastor left, the disgruntled few looked around, found an unemployed preacher, and made him pastor. The man of God walked in, saw all those empty pews, and decided the church needed to grow. He announced a week of revival services. They printed leaflets and hung posters, then held their meeting. But nothing happened. The community wanted none of what that little group had to offer.

The merciful Lord in Heaven clearly decreed that little bunch would not be allowed to mess up a new crop of young believers. They did not need to grow; they needed to repent.

5. The pastor’s problem is not the church members’ or deacons’ problem.

“We announce visitation, and no one comes.” “I handed out assignments, but none of the deacons made their calls.” “These people are just like the ones following Moses—headstrong, stiff-necked, hard-hearted.”

The people are not the problem, pastor; they are your opportunity. You are your biggest problem, pastor. If you want your people to minister in the community, go minister in the community yourself. If you want your people to visit in homes, go visit in homes yourself. If you want them to take door-to-door surveys or prayer-walk blocks, go do it yourself.

After you’ve done it for six months on a regular basis without telling a soul that you’re doing it, invite the rest of them to join you.

6. The most urgent task is to become a person of intense prayer.

If you love your church and have a burning desire to see it live once again and make a lasting difference in your community, tell the Lord.

The tendency for pastors with a hurting desire to help their churches grow is to look for human saviors—some pastor of a big dynamic church somewhere whose brain they could pick or whose conference they could attend. That’s not entirely wrong, but it’s out of order.

It’s prayer time—time to spend concentrated time on your face before the Lord finding out what He wants for His people. Keep reminding yourself (and Him) that these are His people. He died for them, you didn’t, and their welfare and health means far more to Him than it does to you. Seek His face; ask for His will.

The Lord may tell you His entire plan during a two-day prayer retreat. But I’d be surprised if He did. More likely, He’s going to give you some immediate direction for your leadership and sermons, but you’re still going to have to spend quality time on your knees pleading for His intervention.

Expect this to take six months, a year, several years. Some have said if the church has been stagnant for six months, turning it around will take six months. If a year, then one year. If 40 years ... well, surely it won’t take that long! (I’m not sure what I think about this principle.)

7. Go to conferences and read the books on reversing plateaued churches. But do not look for a program for your church; look for a key idea.

There are experts out there who would willingly come into your church (for a fee), take over the show, and rearrange all the furniture to get the church growing again. But then they would leave, and you would be left to deal with the consequences. You don’t need that.

When you sit before pastors with “turnaround” stories, listen in two directions at the same time: to what they are saying, and to the Holy Spirit.

When something is said and all the bells go off inside you, that’s what you came for. The Holy Spirit is fingering this principle, that story, this strategic ministry, that idea.

8. Don’t be surprised if the Holy Spirit has you start with small improvements.

Someone in our church called my attention to a needy trailer park. A seminary student in our church wanted to try to reach the people there. We sponsored him. No big deal. At first, it was just an arrangement between the student and me, the pastor.

In time, as leaders came and went, God sent us a young man with a real heart for the families in that park. He began reaching the kids, some of the parents began to respond, and our church members began to get involved.

This became the finest mission experience of any church I ever pastored. Before long, more than 60 members of our church were involved to some degree with the young pastor, his wife, and that trailer park. It’s my observation that this compassionate ministry helped make it a truly healthy congregation.

“Who has despised the day of small things?” asks the prophet in Zechariah 4:10. I think we can answer that. Our spirits despise small things. We want big numbers, big programs, big responses. Anything wrong with 3,000 people coming to Christ in one day? Not a bit. But great results often begin with tiny deeds, such as prayer-walking a neighborhood or putting someone in a leadership position who becomes a key player.

9. Start even smaller than that.

Walk over your campus. Are the restrooms clean? Do the hallways need painting or brightening up? What do the grounds look like? Never, ever pass a piece of trash on your property without picking it up and walking it to a dumpster.
Even if your sanctuary has not changed since the 1950s and looks every bit as dated as it is, and even if you can’t afford a renovation, you can get a bucket of paint and cover the fingerprints on the walls. You can scrub the floors. You can see that wastebaskets are emptied each week.

Schedule a “work day” on a Saturday. Encourage your students to brighten up their rooms. Appoint two or three of the most persnickety matrons to walk through the buildings with one of the men and make a list of improvements to be made. Talk it up, serve breakfast early that day, and make it fun.

Don’t overdo it and don’t over-expect, pastor. Don’t make this an all-day thing. Two hours on a Saturday morning with 20 or 30 adults can make a huge difference. If they uncover more tasks to be done, ask them if they’d like to have another such work day six weeks later. That’s far enough in advance that they’ll agree, but not so distant that they’ll forget about it.

Go for little improvements at first. See that the church sign represents the church well and is changed weekly, even if you have to do it yourself until the Lord raises up a responsible volunteer. If your sanctuary looks bare, ask a florist to lend you some greenery on the weekends, or even rent you some. When the congregation responds enthusiastically, see how people would feel about purchasing the greenery.

Use the word “experiment,” as in, “We’re going to experiment with this.” It won’t sound as threatening or as permanent as, “We’re making this change.”

10. Thank people. Encourage them. Praise them. Send them notes.

You have two choices, pastor. You can harangue the people on Sunday because they are not what a church ought to be, or you can applaud them as they take baby steps in that direction.

I’m in favor of the pastor calling names from the pulpit of people who did well this week. (You’ll want to work hard to not leave someone out who should have been included. If you do, be sure to include him/her the next Sunday and apologize for omitting them.)

Write thank-you notes on the church letterhead. One or two sentences are all that’s required. Tell them how much better the church looks with those new flowers in front and how it is a glorious witness for the Lord. Tell the custodian how pleased you were to hear someone comment on the clean bathrooms last Sunday.

I once wrote a column in the church bulletin thanking our custodian. Andy was not an easy man to work with. He could be curt, and more than once he’d offended some members with a sharp comment on the way she kept her classroom. But when you gave him an assignment, he carried it out well. So I wrote a note of appreciation to let church members know that Andy was responsible for the building looking so impressive on Sundays. A year later, while looking for something in the sanctuary building, I opened a closet. There was my column, taped to the inside of the door. Andy had kept it all this time.
I never forgot that lesson. It matters. As nutrients to flowers and as fertilizer to a crop, so is encouragement to God’s people.

The Lord’s people should be seen as tender plants; if you want them to grow, you must never mistreat them. Instead, handle them with care, treat them lovingly, and keep them in the sunshine with plenty of food and water. Protect them from storms, shield them from careless children, and watch for signs of disease or trouble. They want to grow, and they will—if we do it right.

Joe McKeever
Dr. Joe McKeever is a preacher, cartoonist and the retired Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. Currently he loves to serve as a speaker/pulpit fill for revivals, prayer conferences, deacon trainings, leadership banquets and other church events. Visit him and enjoy his insights on nearly 50 years of ministry at

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Cost of Outreach

Recently, it was reported that 82 percent of the churches in my denomination do not have a soul-winning program and that last year more than 11,000 of the churches did not report a single conversion!

I believe one of the reasons so few churches engage in outreach is because they ask the wrong question. Too often, the first question asked is, “How much will it cost?” The right question is, “Who will it reach?”

How much is a soul worth? If you spend $500 on a newspaper ad that reaches one unbeliever for Christ, is it worth it?

If your church gets serious about developing a comprehensive evangelism strategy, it will cost money! With this in mind, let me share some insights about financing your strategy, based upon my experiences as Saddleback Community Church grew from four members to over 15,000.

First, money spent on evangelism is never an “expense”; it’s always an investment. The people you reach will more than repay the cost you invested to reach them. Before we held the first service of Saddleback, the people in our small home Bible study went $6,500 in debt preparing for that service. Where did we get the money? We used our personal credit cards! We believed the offerings of the people we reached for Christ would eventually enable everyone to be paid back.

One of the “miracles” of our dress rehearsal service was that a man who had not attended our home Bible study came to that first service and gave a check for a thousand dollars when we took the offering. When the woman in charge of counting the offering came up and showed me the check, I said, “This is going to work.” Sure enough, we paid everyone back within four months. (Please note: I’m not advocating that your church use credit cards to finance it. I’m just trying to illustrate how willing we were to pay the cost of reaching people for Christ.)

Often when finances get tight in a church, the first thing cut is the evangelism and advertising budget. That is the last thing you should cut. It is the source of new blood and life for your church.

Second, people give to vision, not to need. If “need” motivated people to give, every church would have plenty of money. It is not the neediest institutions that attract contributions but those with the greatest vision. Churches that are making the most of what they’ve got attract more gifts. That’s why Jesus said, “It is always true that those who have, get more, and those who have little, soon lose even that.” (Luke 19:26 TLB)

If your church is constantly short on cash, check your vision. Is it clear? Is it being communicated effectively? Money flows to God-given, Holy Spirit-inspired ideas. Churches with money problems really have a vision problem.

Third, when you spend nickels and dimes on evangelism, you get nickel and dime results. Do you remember the story about the time Jesus told Peter to go find money in a fish’s mouth in order to pay the Roman taxes? In Matthew 17:27, Jesus told Peter “...go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open it’s mouth and you will find a four drachma coin.”

I believe there is an important lesson in that story; the coins are always in the mouth of the fish. If you’ll focus on fishing (evangelism), God will pay your bills.

Fourth, remember that “God’s work done God’s way will not lack God’s support.” This was the famous motto of the great missionary strategist, Hudson Taylor.  

Adapted from 
Rick Warren’s Ministry ToolBox, a free e-mail newsletter available through Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church.