Thursday, June 30, 2011

This Sunday - State of the Church Update

You may recall the talk I gave on January 2 about the state of our church.  In it we heard all the cold, hard facts about PCC, how we got there, and what action steps we were going to take to turn things around.

Well, we have taken action on those things.  It has been a difficult process, sometimes painful.  Mostly it was joyful and productive.  In the process, God has pruned some deadwood, but the branches that remain are more fruitful than before.

This Sunday I will give you a six month update with details.   I’ll be talking about our attendance, some of the improvements we have made, the course corrections we have taken, people we have lost, and the progress we’ve made.

And yes, I will be talking about the state of our finances.  No, I will not allow this message to be posted on our church’s website.  This is family business, not fodder for the community.  So if you want to know what’s going on in your own church, you’ll have to be in attendance and hear it straight from me.

Things are better at PCC right now than they have been in a very long time.  Yet, we still have a ways to go.  If you want to hear the facts and get the inside angle on things, I’ll see you this Sunday.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Before You Quit Pace Community Church (or any church)

There are many reasons why people choose to leave a church – some of them good and some of them not so good.  Many times the Lord Himself may reassign a person to another church so they can bring ministry or encouragement to another congregation – that’s the best reason to change churches.  More often than not, however, people leave a church simply because they are disinterested, dissatisfied, or feel they can find something better.

To just stop showing up (no matter the reason) is the wrong way to leave.  It is inconsiderate and immature.  If feels like abandonment to those you left behind.  Instead, you should go to one of the pastors, or the senior pastor, and discuss it.

My advice to you is this:  If you are in a church that (1) is scripturally sound and Biblically focused, (2) is reasonably stable and loving, (3) has godly, moral leadership, (4) is doing their best to exalt Jesus Christ, and (5) is making a reasonable effort to minister to you and your children, then hang in there and remain faithful!  You don’t know how blessed you are to have a healthy church like that.  Many Christians would be give almost anything just to find a church that wasn’t involved in an all out war!

If you are unhappy with a church which fits this fivefold description (mentioned above), it’s very likely that the problem is NOT the church, but yours.  Maybe you are hung up on some trivial issue, your feelings have been hurt, you struggle with discontent from other personal problems, or you just don’t like being challenged towards spiritual maturity.

Here are six things to consider before leaving your church:

1.  Don’t leave out of your personal discontent.  If discontent is rooted within you, it will follow you wherever you go, regardless of what church you attend.  Three years ago a certain man who began attending PCC came to me after a few weeks and said, “I really like your church.  It’s so friendly and nice compared to the other churches in the area I’ve attended.”  I asked, “How many other churches in the area have you attended?”  “Almost all of them” he said.  Right then and there I inwardly knew that this man would give me problems, because when it comes down the basics, most churches are not that much different from each other.  Whenever a person finds dissatisfaction with several congregations, you can be assured that the problem is their own, not the church’s. And sure enough, the man eventually became discontented and left our church too, just like he had left all the others.

2. Don’t leave because your feelings got hurt.  Hurt feelings are a “violation of self interests” and are usually a result of being too self-sensitive. In any church or gathering of people there may be many offensive things said or done, mostly unintended, but you don’t have to let yourself become offended. Those who are easily offended may simply be immature, too self-centered, or may retain self-sensitivities due to past, festering wounds. Hurt feelings are probably the greatest reason why people leave churches, but deepening your roots in Christ and His word can immunize you against such tenderness. “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165 KJV).

3. Don’t leave because you transferred your own personal frustrations here.  Sometimes unhappiness toward the church is a symptom of personal problems such as: family or marital difficulties, job dissatisfaction, personal offenses, memories of childhood abuse, mental stress, emotional illness, and so forth, which are then transferred upon the church and its leaders.  People who struggle with deep internal problems sometimes develop a distorted estimation of the people or situations around them, and may blame them, including the church, for their anguish. Generally speaking, the church is not your problem. Remember that it and its ministers are there because they love you and want to help you -- not hurt you.  So avoid pushing off your feelings of disappointment from other areas of your life onto the church.

4. Don’t leave over trivial criticisms. -- People sometimes have a remarkable ability of making a mountain out of molehill. I’ve known people to change churches merely because they didn’t like the way the way the pastor dressed, the color of the carpet, how the bulletin was typed, or other silly reasons.

Of all the many excuses that persons use to leave a church, trivial criticisms is the most shallow. If all you seem to do is criticize and find fault with the church, you have an attitude problem. Regardless of where you go to church, you’ll find similar faults again, because the problem isn’t with the church -- the problem is with you.

5. Don’t leave because you are being challenged to grow up into a mature disciple.  Many people do not understand that spiritual growth requires confronting and overcoming the conflict that’s within ourselves (James 1:3-4). The environment of the church provides two important features of your spiritual growth: (1) Church leaders (authorities) who will challenge you with truth and correct you when you are wrong. And (2) an environment of fellow believers, all of whom are imperfect, some worse than others, and whose rough edges will serve as sandpaper to smooth out your rough spots. “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Prov. 27:17).

If you really think you are so spiritual, then prove it by getting close to your brothers and sisters in the church and staying put.  Then you’ll find out what’s really inside you.  People are like “mirrors” in which we can see ourselves as we really are. If there’s bitterness or a lack of love within you, it will become exposed when people rub you the wrong way.  It you lack patience with other people, it will be manifested.  If you can’t get along with church leaders, it will soon reveal itself in rebellion.  If you are a fault-finder, it will surface when you see the sinful imperfection in others. 

Spiritual maturity is proven in the context of relationships in the church.  That is how God has designed it.  It doesn’t matter how much your feelings got hurt or how imperfect or unspiritual your brethren might be.  This does not justify your intolerance or impatience with them.  Neither are your criticisms of church leaders justified when they challenge your towards discipleship or have to make decisions in which you didn’t get your way.   These attitudes are characteristics of your own immaturity – a weakness that is within YOU that needs to be perfected.

This is why some people run from church to church – it’s easier to abandon people than it is to stay planted and work their way through the tough stuff.  It’s easier to start over in a new church than it is to be challenged through convicting preaching or correction.  But that’s not God’s way.

If a person remains an “island” unto themselves they will never have to face up to the spiritual immaturity within them.  Conversely, being in an environment with other imperfect people in the church will cause them to face the conflicts that must be overcome in order to grow up.  A sign of a spiritually mature person is that they can be loving and patient with anyone (1 John 2:10, Gal. 5:22-23), and they can humbly submit themselves to truth and the correction of godly leaders (Heb. 13:17).

6. Don’t leave until you have contributed in some way to try help make PCC better.  Some people come to church with the mistaken notion that it is simply a provider of entitlements for them, and nothing more.  They shop for a church as one might shop for fast food.  “Do you have a youth pastor that will play with my kids?  Does your church offer an aerobics class? How about free counseling?  Is there a fully staffed nursery I can use? Will the church pay my power bill?”  And when the church doesn’t meet their expectations, they drop out.

It may be that your church can’t meet those expectations.  Instead, you should find out what direction your church is headed, what their action plan is to get there, and then get on board with that agenda – rather than your agenda. 

Have you prayed for the leaders?  Have you offered to serve or help in areas of ministry where the church actually needs you?  Have you contributed your time, money, effort, and skills to the church in sacrificial living?  Have you humbly followed the direction of your church's leaders?  Have you done anything to make your church better?  Before you leave, you should.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday Mind Dump - June 26, 2011

We have the neatest church.  I really mean that.

Great people.  Get stuff happening.

We had a number of guests today.  I got to meet some, but not all.  One family I met has just moved here from North Carolina.  He is in the Army, stationed at Eglin.  Special Forces, Green Berets.

I enjoyed playing bass guitar during in the band.  Our regular bass player was out of town so I was asked to fill in.  Had a lot of fun.

I’m especially enjoying the hymns that we have been doing the last few weeks for the offering.  My observation is that almost everyone in the congregation lights up and gets fully engaged during this time.

We are now one month into summer and vacation/travel time has officially started.  It was apparent today.  Our attendance was off about 75 people.  It didn’t diminish anyone’s enthusiasm; there was a great spirit in the house.

The best part of the day was the ministry fair.  It produced very good results.

A lot of new people signed up to serve in our ministries.  I don’t’ have an actual count yet, but my estimate is between 60-70 people new volunteers.  WHOW!

We had ministry opportunities and openings for the worship band, ushers, greeters, welcome center, hospitality, all age-level departments, teens, security, grounds keeping & landscaping, children’s check-in, clean team, and several other areas.

This is going to turn things around for us.

After church we had a luncheon for all the ministry leaders and department heads who were involved in the enlistment drive.  This gave us time to debrief, compare results, and spend some time together.  It was a lot of fun.

We’ve got a great group of volunteers serving at PCC, and great group of leaders who lead their teams well.  Combined with our improved systems, this is going to take us over the top!

A full calendar of activities is planned for the month of July and August.  This will keep our momentum going for the rest of the summer.  Then in September we will have our fall family roundup.

A generous man purchased and donated a brand new lawn mower (and other lawn equipment) to PCC on Friday!  This brings our total number of mowers up to two.  This mower will be put to good use at beautifying the grounds and will be an enormous help to those who serve in this ministry.  I really appreciate the people who love their church enough to do things like this.  It demonstrates a deep investment in PCC and ownership of their ministry. Thanks Chuck R. for making this happen!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Brand New Things at PCC!

I’m really excited about our church right now.  Good things are happening.  As I mentioned on June 16th  in the Letter to the PCC, for the last eighteen months we have been methodically working our way through a certain list of critical areas in our church that needed help.  We took a hard look at our ministries and internal systems.  Everything was put on the drawing board for evaluation and some tough decisions had to be made.  During this process we have not expanded or added any new ministries; and for good reason, other critical areas needed to be fixed first.

After a lot of effort we have finally hammered out a good result.  We have found our stride in the adult service, and the Kids Zone has come together beautifully.  New leaders have been deployed in several ministry areas of our church, other leaders have found new places to serve, and new staff has been added to the team.  Attendance on Sunday mornings is better balanced between the two services; we no longer have an “A” service and a “B” service.  For the most part, we are firing on all eight cylinders on Sunday mornings, which is a huge step forward for us.  In short, the right people and the right systems are now in place.

The time has now come for us to pull the trigger on some new stuff around here.  Unlike before, we are now ready to expand and add new ministries.  This is what’s happening next:

Giving Page.  We are upgrading the giving page on our church website to make it easier and more convenient those who prefer this electronic option.

Ministry Fair.  Tomorrow we are offering about a dozen different opportunities for people to serve in a ministry at PCC.  Walk around and take a look at the different displays.  Read the brochures.  Talk to the ministry leaders at each station, they’ll be glad to answer your questions.  It’s time to defrost your frozen assets and get involved.

Ministry Leaders Luncheon.   Also this Sunday we are having a lunch with all department ministry leaders immediately after second service.  This is our way of saying thank you to those who lead.  While it’s certainly not going to be the level of an elegant appreciation banquet, this will give all us face time together.  It’s going to be a lot of fun.  No, it’s going to be a blast!

State of the Church Address, Six Month Update.  On July 3rd I will give a six month update on the state of Pace Community Church.  You may remember the talk I gave on January 2 entitled “Vision Sunday”  in which I gave you all the cold, hard facts about the state of our church, how we got there, and what we were going to do to turn things around.  The six month update will show you the progress we’ve made.

Baptism Service.  This will take place on July 17th.  We have made the decision to have baptism services more often, but with fewer people each time.  This will make it easier for us to handle and make it more meaningful for the families being baptized. On this Sunday we’ll baptize about 10-12 people, half in first service and half in the other.  It’ll be a regular day, singing, worship, message, and baptism at the end.

Newcomers Luncheon.  On July 31st we are hosting our first ever Newcomers Luncheon.  This will be an informal lunch for newcomers, guests, and our newest members to PCC to meet us face-to-face, ask any questions they have, discover a little more about the PCC family, and just have some fun.  The meal is free.  Renae and I used to host an event similar to this in my home called “newcomers coffee” and we did it for years.  This simple act of hospitality brought in scores of new members and established many relationships that we still cherish today.  Hospitality grows a great church, and we believe this Newcomers Luncheon will be even more effective.  Listen out for details.

Teen Summer Camp – August 1-5.  Teen camp is going to be a lot different this year.  It has been totally designed "in house" by the Youth Staff of PCC.  The name of the camp is “Road Trip” and the theme is “Your Direction Determines Your Destination.”   It is designed to get teens thinking about these questions:  What is the real purpose and meaning of Life?  What’s really important to me?  Where does God fit into my life and future? and Where am I going?  The camp will take place at Camp Baldwin in Alabama, about an hour drive from Pace.  Because of its closer location I'll be driving over for a day myself to hang with the kids.  I've even been invited to speak at one of the break-out sessions, and I think Renae has been invited to speak too.  This camp is going to be a home run!  We will publish more details about the event as the date gets closer.

Vacation Bible School – August 15-19.  This year will be completely new and totally different than in all previous years.  We are approaching VBS with a very strategic plan; it will fall into perfect alignment with our current “Think Orange” approach we now use in the children’s ministry on Sundays.  Plus, we plan to incorporate as much parent participation as possible by offering a teaching class to the parents while the kids are involved in VBS activities.  VBS will not be a baby-sitting service this year or a convenient drop-off opportunity for strangers.  The goal this year is to “partner” with parents in raising godly children – not do it all for them.  And yes, the kid are going to have a blast!  We are pulling out all the stops to make it the most memorable VBS ever!

Young Adult Ministry to Start July 19th.  Attention young adults.  You are invited to join us on Tuesday night, July 19th at 6:15 p.m. for our first get-together.  It’s a night of bowling at Cordova Lanes and dinner at Olive Garden.  This is for 18-to-25 year olds, married or single.  Bring a friend or bring a date if you like.  If you are interested, there is a sign-up sheet at the information table in the atrium.  To help you get connected and stay in contact with others you can go to the young adults Facebook page at  PCC Young Adults.  Or you may contact Denise Yates for more information.

Over 50+ Adult Ministry.  This is still in the exploratory stage and will likely launch very soon.  If you are interested, just fill out one of the interest surveys and place it in the drop box in the atrium.

Elective Bible Classes in the fall.  In an effort to better serve you we are hoping to offer a series of elective Bible classes in the fall.  We did something similar to this a few summers ago called “Foundations” which was highly successful.  This project is still in the early stages, but we have identified a few teachers and possible subjects.  It’s still a few months away, but we’ll keep you updated as the plan progresses.  We might call it PCC University.

Okay.  There you have it.  This is what we’re doing right now.  But this is just the beginning.  It’s a new season at PCC.  We’re going to be trying a lot more new things around here.  We are going to be adding new people to our church, new members, new ministries, new programs, and events for fellowship.  There will be recreational activities, needs-based ministries, new groups, new classes, new teachers, new leaders, new staff, and new pastors.  We are going to create open doors for people to enter the life of our church, mobilize the members for ministry, raise financial resources, and assimilate newcomers into the social networks of our church.

We’re going over the top!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Pea Patch

This is my experimental garden using the seeds my uncle gave me several weeks ago.  I have planted two varities of field pea; purple hulls that came from my father (they are more than ten years old and my uncle kept them in his freezer all this time) and brown crowder peas  that came from my mother's side of the family (and have been passed down for decades).  The purple hulls are a vine-type of pea and are climbing the poles on the left.  The brown crowders are a bush, planted on the right.  Both are family heirloom seeds; you won't find these in the store.

I have only fifteen plants this year because I'm using this time for my learning curve.  Next year I will plant three rows, 100 feet long each.

These plants are growing very fast right now and appear healthy.  I'll post another picture in a couple of weeks to compare the progress. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Who is Our Competition?

As a church, who are we competing against?  Other churches?  No.  We are competing against everything.  We are competing against the beach, cleaning out the garage, playing tennis, going fishing, sports activites, the cares of this life, the deceitfulness of riches, sleeping in, self-centeredness, the god of this world, spiritual blindness, etc.  You name it.

Let’s say you run a karate school and you’re trying to grow your business. You’ve got a brand new space, a handful of promising black-belt students, and a decent operation. In order to take things to the next level, you’ve got to outshine and outsell your competition.  But your competition ISN’T the karate school on the other side of town.  Your competition is the gymnastics center, the soccer league, and the summer drama camp. Parents have limited dollars to spend on extra-curricular activities for their kids, and they ARE NOT debating between which karate classes is the best choice; they are debating on which activity is best for their kids.

It is a wast of time (as well as an exercise in futility) for church leaders to spend their time competing against other churches in town and putting them down, as if they were the real competition.  No, they are not.  Worldliness is the real competition.  Our task is to convince people that Christ is better than soccer, gymnastics, volleyball, Sunday fishing trips, or any other alternative.  We must teach people that salvation and discipleship is better than worldly success or human achievments.  In fact, heaven is better than hell.  THAT is our task.

Growth Strategies for Medium-Sized Churches

We cannot cause growth; we can only create a climate in which growth can take place.  Whether it’s farming, raising children, or leading a church, ultimately only God causes growth.  Our responsibility is to do the plowing, planting, watering, fertilizing, weeding, and hoeing.  Which is essentially what Paul meant when he said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (I Corinthians 3:6).  That balances very well with Jesus’ words, “The harvest is great but the laborers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest field” (Luke 10:2).

As church leaders we must do everything we can and God will do the things we can’t.

Here are six growth strategies for medium-sized churches.  To say it another way, here are six ways to plant and water:

1.  Develop a distinct identity.  Studies show that healthy churches of this size have at least one ministry for which they are well known in the community.  It might be an excellent children’s ministry, vibrant worship services, great preaching, or caring for its seniors.  Once a church identifies the ministry or ministries for which it is known in the community, it should begin to highlight that ministry intentionally both within and without.  The increased name recognition and visibility will attract even more people to the medium church.  In other words, a church should build in its strengths, not its weaknesses. 

QUESTION:  What are we most known for at PCC?  APPLICATION:  Let’s deliberately highlight and promote those features inside and outside the church.  HOW do we do that?

2.  Add additional staff.  A failure to add additional staff and thus expect the pastor to supervise the entire church and be the primary caregiver for everyone will result in plateau or decline. To keep growing, a medium-sized church (one that is in the 400-500 range) should keep adding pastoral staff at approximately 1 staff member to every 100-125 members (or attenders).  Following a hiring pattern like this throughout the life of the church will ensure that the ministry has an excellent chance of expansion while keeping up with internal demands.

Furthermore, support staff is an additional need in a (growing) medium-sized church.  The value of secretaries, maintenance workers, janitors, interns, and various assistants cannot be underestimated.  Research reveals that a church needs to have a minimum of one support person for every two pastoral staff.  Growing churches will actually have a one-to-one ratio of support staff to pastoral staff, especially if all support staff, such as janitors, are included in the count.

QUESTIONS:  Who is the next person to be added to our pastoral staff?  What role/position is most needed to fill?  Do we add staff to grow, or do we grow before we add staff?  When is the best time to add support staff (the positons mentioned above)?  Where will the funding come from?

3.  Use the facilities multiple times.  Medium-sized churches eventually discover that they are running out of space.  One obvious answer is to build a new facility.  However, this choice is expensive and leads to mortgage payments which may strangle the church budget.  A better answer for most medium churches is to use their facilities multiple times.  Multiple worship services, new classes, and new ministries allow a church to break free from a plateau, reach new people, increase income without increasing mortgage expenses, boost overall attendance, and involve more people.

QUESTION:   How do we optimize the usage of our building?  We can't say yest to everyone, so what is the criteria for saying yes to some and no to others? 

4.  Create Multiple Congregations.   Smaller churches feel like one big family, and that’s because they are.  There is one congregation where almost everyone knows everyone else.  In order to grow, a church must develop multiple congregations within the congregation and develop cells inside of them, with each group and cell having its own pastor/shepherd.  That means avoiding “single-cell” model at all costs.  This is a huge issue and I will write about it soon in detail.  But for now...

QUESTION:  How do you feel about growing larger and smaller at the same time;  that is, growing larger in the weekend services but smaller through multiple affinity groups, cells, and having lay pastors as shepherds of your group? 

5.  Write a long-range plan.  Plans give a church direction and motivate members with a sense of purpose.  The planning process does not need to be complicated but it should take into account the needs of the congregation, the opportunities for reaching those far from God, the resources available to fulfill the plan, and an outline of the steps to get started.

QUESTIONS: What are the most pressing needs of our congregation?  How can we best reach those who are far from God?  How do we overcome limited financial recourses to meet these needs?

6.  Improve the quality of ministry.  It’s no secret that people today have higher expectations for their church than ever before.  As a rule, a church’s ministries need to be a notch above what people expect.  For instance, parents do not want the child care at their church to be as good as what they use during the week – they want it to be better.  Those who drive around with super sound systems in their car will expect the church’s sound system to be excellent.  Etc.  Thus is it essential to upgrade the overall service level of the church.

QUESTION:  What areas of PCC's minstries do you think need the most improvment?  What are you going to do about it?

Obstacles to Growth for Medium-Sized Churches

Inadequate Facilities.  As medium-sized churches attempt to transition to a large church, immense pressure is felt as they try to fit everything into a facility with limited space.

Inadequate Staff.  Today’s congregations expect high quality and diverse ministries.  Their desire is to see a broad range of specialized programs and worship services usually leaves a church understaffed.  Medium-sized churches have three options at this stage:  (1) Add sufficient staff to continue growing; (2) Add just enough staff to remain plateaued at its present level; or (3) Do not add staff and face eventual decline.

A related need in medium-sized churches is motivating and recruiting volunteers.  Most people who have full time jobs can give no more than a few hours a week to their local church; with most of that time being donated on Sunday.  Careful use of volunteers is a needed ministry at any level, but it rises to the top for medium-sized churches.  To keep advancing, they must find ways to involve lay-persons in effective ministry.

Inadequate Finances.  Every church identifies with this obstacle.  Yet, it is crucial for medium-sized churches.  The need for enlarged facilities, new staff, and program expansion require a growing financial base.

Poor Administration.  Small churches do not require a sophisticated level of management.  But as a church grows to the middle stage, the pastor, staff, and leaders must address the increasingly complex needs of the church.  The typical management problems are things like:  Confusing the end with the means…. Lack of planning and coordination…. Ineffective time management… Poor budget control… Unclear policies…. Etc.

Increasing Complexity.  The increased level of complexity is one of the factors that cause churches to revert back to a small church after a few years at the medium size.  Long-term members may recall the “simple” atmosphere of the small church.  The increased complexity now requires them to make an appointment with the pastor, or reserve a room for a potluck meal, or ask for permission to use the building… something that is not appreciated.  They would prefer a simpler structure and will do what they can do to return the church to previous times, if they get a chance.

After a few years of growth, the medium-sized congregation must make the necessary adjustments to move up to the next size church or it will plateau.  Medium-sized churches that plateau are always in danger of declining, due to the pressure to eliminate the complexity by reducing the program, staff, and budget.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Keeing it Simple

You don’t have work at making things more confusing.  Stuff gets harder than it needs to be over time.  But you do have to work to keep things simple and clear.  Here are a few tips:
  1. Don’t put on two pages what can fit on one page.
  2. Don’t create a five step process when a three-step process will suffice.
  3. Intentionally remove as many steps as you can.
  4. Don’t have eight people in the meeting when all you need is a four.
  5. Don’t have a meeting when all you need is a conversation.
  6. Don’t CC people with an email if they don’t really need to know.
  7. If it doesn’t make sense to someone brand new, then it’s too confusing.
  8. If it doesn’t make sense to a teenager, then it’s probably too confusing.
  9. Saying less is often better than saying more
  10. If you have to click on three different links to get there, it’s too hard to find.

Building Morale

  • People need to know that they actually make a difference, not just complete tasks
  • People won’t go along with you if they can’t get along with you
  • One of the biggest morale builders is simply asking people their opinions.  People feel valued when their opinions are taken seriously.  Besides, the people INSIDE the system are in the best position to evaluate it
  • The more you value people, the more they will be committed to you
  • Great ideas don’t always come from the top
  • Just because someone doesn’t ask for recognition doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve it
  • Hand-written thank you notes are amazing, and so much better than emails.  I’ve gotten thank you notes for sending thank you notes
  • Taking 5 minutes to say thanks doesn’t cost a leader a whole lot of time, but it really can make someone’s day
  • Always take the high road
  • Praise publicly and correct privately. 
  • We must give people the freedom to ask questions, the freedom to provide feedback, and the training that they need.
  • People matter

Monday, June 20, 2011

I Enjoy Summer

Summer is a great time of year for me.  I love getting up early, say about 5:00-to-6:00 AM, and going outside.  It’s cool and quiet that time of the day.  The birds are active.  Before it gets hot I will do some yard work; mostly things like watering my plants, tending my garden (the picture is of my blackberry bushes.  Click for an enlarged view), and digging in the dirt.  I like getting my hands in the soil.  It makes me feel connected to the earth; to myself; especially to God.  Simple pleasures like these mean more to me at this stage of my life than they did when I was younger.  Strange as it sounds, I like the humidity too.

The days are long, which is something else that I like about summer.  By getting up early, it means I will have a fourteen or fifteen hour day – most of it daylight.  I exercise almost every day before I go into work.  Then I’ll put in eight hours or so, usually without a lunch break (I love my work so much that I simply work all day long, as do all our staff).  Then I have a few hours after work for personal time; usually in my back yard again doing some more “gardening stuff.”

Then there are the outdoor recreational activities that summer offers.  Things like motorcycle riding, vacations, boating excursions, day trips, picnics, going to the beach, taking drives through Blackwater State Forest, etc.  All of that adds up to an active lifestyle.

Summer gives me the chance to work hard outdoors.  I like working hard.  I mean hard physical labor. It releases tension.  It also provides me with a sense of accomplishment when I see a task completed (something that office work fails to do).  It’s a good form of exercise too.  By tilling in the soil I am reminded of my connection to Adam, the father of the human race.  Because of his failure I have to labor under the curse “by the sweat of my brow among the thorns and thistles” (Genesis 3:17-19). Digging in the dirt keeps things in perspective for me.  As I am pulling weeds and feel the strain in my back, I think back to Eden.  In some ways, it’s very spiritual for me.

Five Ingredients for Successful Ministry

The thing that is dominating my thought-life and time right now is how PCC can break through the 500 attendance barrier and stay there.  If we do not accomplish this, we will shrink back down to a small-sized church.  Churches of our size, (medium-sized), do not stay that way for long. There is too much tension pulling in both directions.  So it's our choice.  Either we become a large church (enabling us to accomplish more for God) or we will shrink down to a small church.  One thing is for certain - maintaining the status quo is unacceptable to me.

I have written about my concerns in three previous entries.  This is my next installment.  Here are five ingredients for a successful ministry:

1.  The Church Must Have Visionary Leadership with an Emphasis on Reaching the Lost.  Churches that make decisions based only on how it will affect their current members are generally not growing churches.  It takes a visionary leader to see outside the box (of current membership) and formulate strategies or efforts at winning the lost. 

So we must ask ourselves, “Will this decision increase our church’s chances of winning LOST people to Jesus Christ?”

2.  We Must Deploy as Many Volunteers as Possible.  When 50% or more of the worshippers are involved in a ministry in the church, it aides in the growth of the church.  At least 10% of those serving should be involved in outreach.  The emphasis is not on plugging warm bodies into positions or simply running the organizational machinery, but rather putting into practice the priesthood of all believers (which is a Biblical principle).

Effective churches will ask, “Will this decision utilize our volunteer staff for maintaining and expanding our ministry?”

3.  Create “Open Doors.”  Open doors allow newcomers an opportunity to enter into the life and ministry of a church.  Closed doors keep newcomers out.  Doors that don't exsist keep newcomers out too.  Open doors can be anything from the Sunday worship service, to volunteer opportunities to serve, to recreational activities, new classes, or specialized ministries.  Church leaders must constantly seek to create new doors that allow new people to enter the life of the church. 

Thus growing churches ask, “Will this decision create opportunities for new people to enter the life of the congregation?”

4.  Assimilate New People into the Social Networks of the Church.  The dynamics of social networks are very real in churches, making all the difference in the world as to whether or not a person feels welcomed or excluded.  Whether it is on the girl’s softball field, a women’s sewing group, a men’s fishing trip, dinner in a members home, or a Sunday School class, social networks exist.  Newcomers don’t stay long if they feel like outsiders.  The feeling of being wanted and belonging to a social network are strong pulls for a newcomer’s personal involvement.  Pace Community Church should be a place where new people can find acceptance in Christ as well as fellowship with His people.

So we must ask ourselves, “Will this decision exclude newcomers or help include them in the life of our church?”

This is the most vital ingredient and yet the easiest to fix.  Our poeple just have to be nice and inclusive to newcomers.  It has to be an individaul or group effort.  Don't think "program."  Instead think "organic."

5.  Raise Financial Resources.  Just about any human endeavor takes a financial investment.  Churches are no different.  While money alone does not guarantee growth, the lack of financial resources assures a church will not grow.  Without money there are no resourses for outreach, or for funding of internal ministries, or for expanding ministry initiatives.  

We must ask ourselves, “Will this decision allow for adequate funding of outreach?”

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Renae and I went fishing today.  We caught eight fish; one red fish (red drum); two bass; five speckled trout.  They were all keepers, (by my standards), but we threw them back in.  It was a catch-and-release day.  Makes me feel good to do that. 

While we were out on the water we bumped into a few people from PCC who were in their party boats, I mean pontoon boats.  We beached at Scavanes Point in Blackwater Bay (a place my father often went to) and had lunch with them.  It was a great day to be on water.  Just another reason why I like living in NW Florida. 

I took the photo of the boats and Renae took the group picture.  (Yours truly is in the back row with the yellow fishing shirt and ridiculous hat.  But hey, I was fishing today, not trying to impress anybody.  Apparently I succeeded at both endeavors).

Friday, June 17, 2011

Newness is the Trigger for Momentum

New leaders trigger momentum
New direction triggers momentum
New programs trigger momentum
New initiatives trigger momentum
New classes grow faster than established ones
New groups grow faster than established ones

Everything has a limited shelf life.
Nothing is intended to last forever.  Momentum has a limited amount of energy and then it slows down and loses life.  APPLICATION:  Start a new ministry or new initiative for a predetermined period of time only, then deliberately close it down (planned abandonment) and start something new.  The “newness” eventually wears off because momentum is not sustainable.  New things are the key to momentum.  Kill programs that have served their purpose, no matter who has an emotional investment in them, capture the resources (money and people) and then reallocate them in new initiatives.

 When evaluating our church, its programs and ministries, we must ask these key questions:
Do we need a new leader?
Do we need a new direction?
Do we need a new program?

Credits:  Andy Stanley, Northpoint Community Church, Atlanta GA

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Letter to the PCC Family

For the longest time I have been in deep thought about the growth and future of PCC.  It’s something I constantly do.  Hardly as day goes by that I’m not fully engaged in this mental activity.  The last couple of years have been a real challenge for me too, and for a variety of reasons.  You may remember me saying on Vision Sunday (Jan 2) those very words:  It’s a challenge for me to lead right now.”  These leadership challenges have dominated my thought life.

Regarding our church’s growth I have been all over the emotional chart when thinking about it; one day telling myself that we’re big enough; another day thinking it might be easier to pastor a smaller church and maybe I should allow PCC to go down in size because the work load is about to kill me; and another day wanting to grow so that we might reach our redemptive potential.  It's been an emotional yo-yo for me.

You may have noticed a bit of a slow down on my blog recently.  That’s because I have been devoting a great deal of my time and thought-life to this matter.  The last three or four weeks have been the most intense.  Believe me, I have wrestled my way through some tough issues trying to decide what I’m going to do, and that was a process that I could not rush.

In the thirteen years I have served at PCC, staff members have come and gone, board members have come and gone, elders have come and gone, key lay leaders have come and gone, and significant donors have come and gone.  Most left on good terms; the sad result of a mobile society.  Other departures were painful and cut me to the core.  But either way, these exits have led to some of the loneliest moments of my life.  Why?  Because losing great people who shared the vision is very disappointing – and sometimes downright scary.  How can I carry on without this person?  What’s the point of working so hard, we can’t get ahead.  Why should I continue to investing myself in people; they all just end up leaving anyway!

Just so you know, I have turned the corner and will not ask myself those questions any more.  After numerous late-night gut checks, I have come to complete clarity on this issue:  By God’s grace, I fully intend to pursue the vision that God has entrusted to me, no matter what, no matter who comes or goes.  I will not let the opinion of others affect my own commitment to God’s call on my life.  Whether PCC is setting records and I’m enjoying the enthusiastic support of friends and followers, or if PCC is stumbling and bumbling down the court and I end up alone, still I will pursue the vision.  It’s a private thing now, between God and me.

Regarding our church’s growth, I have decided that shrinkage is not an option for us.  I have also decided that being a plateaued church is not option either.  I am fully committed to seeing PCC become a growing church so that we might reach our redemptive potential and accomplish all that God has willed for us.  What I mean is this: if we shrink or remain plateaued it’s not going to be because I sit back and watch it happen.  I’m “ALL IN” and will do everything I can do to see PCC move forward and upward.  I am mentally and spiritually healthy for this challenge too.

Of course, it takes more than pep talks, banners, and emotional stories to have a growing church.  I understand that clearly.  There’s a huge difference between having a vision and “getting the vision done.”  To get it done means somebody has to roll up their sleeves and get into the thick of things.  It means providing effective leadership; the kind that has muscle, punch, and oomph to get the job done.  It requires setting goals and coming up with a strategic plan to achieve those goals.  It means finding champions for these goals too.  It means keeping the main thing the main thing and not allowing ourselves to get sidetracked.  It means the role of the pastor must change, and the role of the staff must change.  It means the expectations that the congregation has of the pastor must change too.  It means that structural changes must be made.  It means we have to learn new skills and new leaders must be developed.  It means that “ministry alignment” is a must.  We cannot allow ourselves to become a federation of sub-ministires who operate idependelty from the whole - like a group isolated ministry silos - a mistake I made in the past.

This will involve “growing pains.”  Growth always involves decision-making and every time you make a decision somebody gets disappointed.  There is no growth without change, and there is no change without loss, and there is no loss without pain.  The church that wants to grow without experiencing pain is like the woman who says, “I would love to have a baby but I don’t want any labor pains or stretch marks.”  It’s just not going to happen.

For the last eighteen months or so we have been methodically working our way through a certain list of critical areas in our church that needed help.   We took a hard look at our ministries and internal systems.  Everything was put on the drawing board for evaluation and some tough decisions had to be made.  During this process we have not expanded or added any new ministries; and for good reason, other critical areas needed to be fixed first.

After a lot of effort we have finally hammered out a good result.  We have found our stride in the adult service, and the Kids Zone has come together beautifully.  New leaders have been deployed in several ministry areas of our church, other leaders have found new places to serve, and new staff has been added to the team.  Attendance on Sunday mornings is better balanced between the two services; we no longer have an “A” service and a “B” service.  For the most part, we are firing on all eight cylinders on Sunday mornings, which is a huge step forward for us.  In short, the right people and the right systems are now in place. 

On this solid foundation we are going to step into our future.  We will launch new initiatives and expand the borders of PCC.  Pastors can usually sense when God’s timing has arrived, and I think the time is now or is very soon. God has not placed PCC here to simply play patty-cake religion and do laps each Sunday. He has placed us here to have an impact on this community and advance His cause.

Over the last several months I have also done a great deal of research looking into the differences between small, medium and large churches and what makes each size unique.  I have gathered a wealth of information that I want to share with others.  I’m very excited about the future of PCC.  As I stated on my Mind Dump last Sunday, “I am more encouraged than I have been in a very long time.  Not because we are setting the woods on fire, but because of the people we have.” 

We are going to the next level.