Archive for October, 2006|Monthly archive page

The Sermon isn’t the Message

I’ve come to realize this over the years, and seen this principle at work the last couple of weeks.  Most people think that the sermon is the message for the day.

But in reality, the message is everything that your Sunday morning experience communicates to people.  We begin Sunday planning by listening to God, and then answering this question "what one thing to we want to communicate to our people this week."  Then we build the music, video, graphics and the message around that.  The message is one element in the service.  The sermon is part of the overall message.  The message that you’re sending or giving people starts in your lobby, or even in the parking lot.

During our current series called Mythbusters, we set up scaffolding outside and on the stage.  We put greeters in hardhats.  Then for the particular myth "Jesus is my best friend," we wanted to communicate the greatness of God.  I talked about worshipping God with fear and awe.  We used pictures of the universe.  We sang "Indescribible" and "How Great is our God" during a worship set after the talk.  We gave people a picture of a spirial galazy with a Bible verse printed on it.  We used a video called "That’s my King."  We worked hard to make sure every element communicated the message.  Because the message is not just the sermon.

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Okay, I think it was actually 299.  But this was the number of people that came to Oak Leaf this morning.  It was our highest attendance to date, even bigger than our grand opening. 

We’re not a numbers driven church, but we do count.  We want to know how many people are there so we can create additional kids classes, add services, etc.  I believe people showing up is a sign (just one) that God is up to something.  I keep tract of attendance patterns and offering patterns.  There’s a difference between being numbers focused, and using numbers as a measuring stick.  Attendance and giving are easy numbers to track, but how many people are connected in groups and how many people are inviting others are even better measuring sticks.

For the first 11 weeks, we’ve averaged 232 people.  I never set any attendance goals (I can’t stand "high attendance days"), but I’m very happy that people seem to be coming to Oak Leaf and connecting with God and others.  When people ask me what we’re doing, I generally respond…"trying not to screw up."  We do work hard, but in the end, God is the one who grows the church.

I truly think God is up to something @ Oak Leaf, and we’re glad to be along for the ride.

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The Goal of Sunday

read a great book called Church Marketing 101 by Richard Reising
(review to come soon).  Here’s a great quote:

"I am convinced of one thing.  If members walk out of your service
saying, "I wish my unsaved friend had been here," they will start to
think about inviting their friend."

I had no idea who would show up to our first servides.  I didn’t set a numbers goal.  I don’t think our church will ever set
attendance goals.  But one of my goals is to have a
service that makes people think, "I wish I had invited so-and-so."  If
they think that…they will invite them next time.

If we have to beg, plead, or bribe our people to invite
people…then we’re doing something wrong.  We’re going to concentrate
on making the service good, the atmosphere inviting, and exceed
expectations.  We’re going to put on a service that’s worth inviting
people to!

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Bringing in Bands

We have six people on staff, but we do not have a worship leader.  For our first ten weeks, we’ve been bringing in bands like Tenth Avenue North.  We’re doing this for a many reasons.

1. It allows us to have high quality from day one.  Excellence is a value.
It has allowed us to focus on overall organization, children’s ministry
and getting volunteers into key places.  I think this showed at our
first preview service.
3. It has given us time to find out what kind of equipment we need and want in the theater. 
4. It is giving us time to develop our own internal worship band.
5. It will show our people and our community what kind of music we are going to have
6. It’s going to let our people assume leadership without a deadline, so when it happens, we will be ready.
7. Good music attracts good musicians.

I know a lot of church planting stuff says find a worship leader
right away.  And while this might be true for some, it’s not true for
all.  For us, the only other full time person we have on our team right
now is  overseeing small groups.  We’re going
to have systems in place to connect people…this is important to us.
We can buy quality music for a while, but you can’t buy that.

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Yard Signs

A couple people have asked me about the signs we put up for Oak Leaf.  We got 100 one sided, two color yard signs from these guys
(for about $3 each) and put them around town before our first preview
service.  Then we picked them up and put them back out last weekend.
It was a pretty inexpensive way to spread the word and generate some
buzz.   They are not as effective now because of the political signs,
but I think it was a good thing.  And hey, I’ve noticed a couple other
churches putting out signs now, so when you’re getting copied, I guess
that’s a good thing! 🙂  Here are a couple of my thoughts on the signs
for you pastors and planters.

1.  We were not trying to communicate information, simply go for recognition.  When someone invites them, or they get a doorhanger or a mailout or a balloon, we want something to jog their memory.
2.  We want people to see the red leaf.
3.  People can’t drive past a sign and write down a phone number, so we only give a web address.
We’re obviously trying to play up the movie theater angle, since that’s
the one thing that automatically makes us difference from every other
church in town.
5.  It’s best to put them out and take them up.
We also moved them around town a bit.  If you leave it in the same
place, people quit paying attention.  You’ll get more bang for your
buck this way.
6.  A lot of people in Cartersville have seen the
signs and told me.  We had people that came to our first preview
service as the result of these signs.  I think it was a good

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Ten Things I’ve Learned Visiting Other Churches

Over the past four weeks, I’ve had the
opportunity to check out some other church plants.  A couple of times,
I was able to take some people from our launch team as well, which was
really cool.  I wanted to post an overview of some of my thoughts in no
particular order and not necessarily reflective on one particular

1. Ridgestone wins the award for best setup in a movie theater.  Mill Creek did a
great job at creating a children’s environment in a movie theater, and their children’s pastor was awesome.
Lake Point was very friendly in a school environment…friendly and helpful.  Center Point
in Lexington was doing a great job of spreading the word about
the church.

2. Start on time. Get in the habit of starting on time no matter
what and your people will get in the habit of being on time.  Have
something great right off the bat, so if people are late, they miss
it.  I’ve heard from a couple of different places that people make
their decisions to come back or not to come back VERY early.

3.  Put friendly people at the doors and on your stage.  We went to
a couple of churches that really didn’t come across friendly right from
the beginning – it took a while for them to welcome us.  Your people
that are just welcoming and friendly and friendly looking…they need to
be greeters.  Where’s the rule that the pastor always has to do the
welcome?  You can’t put a price tag on creating a welcoming
environment.  It takes a lot of work, but there’s a big payoff.

4. Lighting helps creates environment.  A couple of the movie
theater churches I attended were just too dark.  This was great for
video and worship, but not so good for the message.  It’s hard to write
things down in the dark.  Shoot some par lighting at the ceiling, I
don’t know…I’m not a lighting guy.  But too much darkness (or too much
daylight) can really affect the atmosphere.

5. Coffee and fruit and muffins and bagels at several churches were
really nice touches.  They were done with excellence nearly every time,
and it looked like some sharp volunteers were all over this.  This went
a long way towards creating a welcoming environment and increase the
“hang-out factor” before the service.  Rigdgestone had a great coffee
area.  Mill Creek had Krispy Kreme donuts.

6. Look for some little ways to create wow experiences.  Maybe it’s
a sticker on a  baby’s diaper that says “I’ve just been changed.”
Maybe you make pens available (that’s not all that exciting, but if you
ask people to take notes or write things down, give them a pen).  Make
your bulletin and signage match your series.  We’re going to take a
staff meeting and just talk about the little things we can do  to
create wow experiences.  (Share yours.)

7.  I’ve got lots of thoughts to post later about words on the
screen.  But if you have a special song that the band plays, always put
the lyrics on the screen.  It’s hard to understand words to songs you
don’t know.  And you should never have more than four lines of text on
one screen.

8.  Signs are important.  Figure out how many signs you need to direct
people to parking, childcare and bathrooms, and then double that
number. Put signs outside and in hallways and in front of rooms.
Signs aren’t that expensive and they make things a ton easier on
guests.  If you’re meeting in a rented facility that already has signs
up (school signs, movie posters, etc.) you need bigger and better signs
that really stand out.

9. Make sure you have enough stage lights.  Setting lights only at
wide angles creates distracting shadows.  Again I say unto you,
lighting is important.

10. Relevance and truth are not mutually exclusive.  I know modern,
post modern, emergent, contemporary, etc. churches often get a bad rap
about this, but these two words are not polar opposites.  Most of these
churches were relevant as well as being true to God’s word.  Lots of
scripture references.  Lots of sharing God’s truth not just man’s
opinion.  When this is done in a relevant, excellent way, it really
hits home.  It’s possible to throw truth out there and make no
difference because people don’t understand it. 

11.    Bonus:  I’ve got a pretty short attention span.  Unless you’re Andy Stanley,
you probably shouldn’t teach more than 45 minutes.  (And if you ARE
Andy Stanley, thanks for reading my blog.) That’s just a long time to
teach and people tune out and forget everything you say.  I’m not
saying you need to teach for 20 minutes, but you cannot talk for an
hour and expect to keep people’s attention.

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Inside a Church Plant

Thought I would dump a little info out there for church planters.  Before our grand opening on August 20, 2006, I put in one year on the ground and went through the Westridge School of Church Planting. I learned a lot from some books and
confererences and blogs, and even more from watching other planters and
visiting other church plants.  Here’s some random information for any
church planter that might be interested. 

1.  We use the web-based Fellowship One
to track giving, contacts, membership, everything.  We signed up for
the affordable starter edition ($500 annual license, increased to $800 for the second year based on our total worship attendance) and it allows us to do everything we
want.  When a newcomer requests info, we assign that contact to a staff
person who sees that info when they access Fellowship One through the web. We keep track of
registrations of events through the program.  It’s a very powerful
tool, and one day, we’ll add the web link tools and the online
children’s check in.  I would highly recommend that all church planters
use this from the first moment that you need to keep track of one
single address.

2.  We use Mac’s in our office.  Our network is an external 250 GB
network hard drive. I publish all the church events with iCal and all
our staff and key leaders can view the master church calendar.  If they
use iCal, they can subscribe to it.

3.  We do a newcomers dinners about once a month.  We just talk
strategy, I share vision and values, and we let people ask questions.
We printed all the info in a book (from Lulu)
and we give that to everyone.  It’s a 45 page book, costs about $5
each, and it looks nice.  If you’re a church planter and want one, I’ll
send you one.

4.  We’ve used JakPrints and NetPrint 24 for printing.  I used these guys to design our website.  Stats are telling us that more than 50% of the people who visit our church visit our website first.  We created as a sermon-discussion site.  And we also have a password-protected site (through typepad) for all our our leaders.  We post kids curriculum, greeter schedules, and all kinds of info there for our leaders to download.

5.  We’ve done direct mail (NetPrint24 seems to have the best prices on postcards, not to mention fantastic turnaround time), road signs, invite cards (PS Print does
a nice job on those), and doorhangers to spread the word.  By far, the
most effective advertising has been word of mouth. Then direct mail and
road signs in that order.  We are constantly looking for ways to be
visible in our community – through outreach events, school stuff, and
the Chamber of Commerce.  If you do direct mail, check with post office
about saturating the rural routes…it’s the cheapest way to go and
every single residential mailbox will get a card.

6.  We basically run the whole service on Sunday from my MacBook Pro.  We use ProPresenter during worship, and Keynote (worth it just for the cube transition) during the message.  We play videos straight from Quicktime Pro.  I record the service with GarageBand using a little M Audio USB device.  We also record directly to a CD.  I use the GarageBand file to upload the podcast via Podcast Maker
(so easy), and we duplicate the whole service CD and give it to all our
KidVenture volunteers.  We have another computer there for backup, and
I have every file and video backed up on a jumpdrive just in case.  So,
we make CD’s available and podcast.

7.  On our staff is myself, a full time small groups person (both of
us having raised much of our salary from support), a part time
children’s person, part time student person, a volunteer programming
director, and a volunteer Connections leader.  We also have a part time
office person, who works very, very hard holding everything together.
That’s seven total staff. 

8.  We aren’t normal in that we have no worship leader on staff.
This has actually been a good thing because it’s allowed us the
opportunity to bring in great leaders and bands while taking time to
develop some of our people.  Most books say get your worship leader
right away…we played to our strengths and didn’t try to force
anything.  We’ve had some great worship so far.

9.  We started small groups about 8 weeks into the church.  We did a GroupLink event and the result was the formation of five small groups. 

10.  Our setup crew gets to Carmike Cinemas at 6 AM. We do have
rotating teams of greeters.  We set up a coffee table and an Info Table
(where we sell message series CD’s and OLC tee shirts, and give out
stuff to guests and just meet people).  We put signs all over the
place.  Inside the service, our ushers have Bibles available for anyone
that wants them and we encourage people to keep them if they don’t have

11.  Dana uses FirstLook for preschool 252 Basics for elementary children.  We started out using Kidmo for our elementary children, but changed over.  I think 252 is the best material out there for children.  Kidmo is a little easier to implement.  By far, inviting children’s ministry volunteers to join the process has been our biggest challenge.

12.  Our service is relatively simple.  A intro video, a welcome,
about three songs, and a message.  We usually take up an offering at
the end of the service. We don’t do a lot of announcements.  We print
them in a small handout (about half the size of a traditional church
bulliten – we got the custom designed outside printed in full color
from these guys, and
print the inside in black and white each week on a plain jane copier)
The service on Sunday is about 1 hour and 5 minutes give or take 5
minutes.  We focus on having something to say, and saying it well,
rather than trying to be cute.

Anyway, there’s a fire hose full of information…hopefully, you can find something helpful there.  We’re still learning so many things, and I hope that never changes.

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Church Planters Conference

I went to a Church Planting conference last year hosted by some of the folks at Mountain Lake Church.
It was a very good conference, with some good information.  This year,
I’ve been asked to lead a breakout session on "Launching Large."  I’m
very excited about that, but think it’s kind of funny.  Though I’ve
worked really hard for the past year and a half, our church is really
just 10 weeks old.  We’ve done a lot of things right and some things
wrong.  Anyway, I’m blessed and honored to be able to contribute. 

This years conference has some great speakers including Perry Noble, Matt Carter and Dave Ferguson.  Looks like some other great breakouts too.  It’s affordable and definitely worth it.  Check it out.

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Missions Team Wanted

Attention youth pastors and church leaders:

I would love for some of you to pray about coming to Atlanta for a
missions trip next summer.  Bring your students, college group or some
adults up to Cartersville and help us make an impact on this
community.  We’ll put students up in homes, put adults up in hotels,
provide supplies, take care of the details.  Missions opportunities
include servant evangelism, inviting people to a church, working with
children, feeding the hungry, and more.   We’re a brand new church, and
we could use your help sharing God’s love with this community.  And
there’s lost of fun things to do in Atlanta as well.

If you’re interested, hollar at me and we can get the ball rolling.

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