Archive for August, 2007|Monthly archive page

Why Start a Church – Part 2

I gave some bad reasons to start a church (and a few people left some great comments).  Today, let’s talk about some good reasons to start a church.

1.  Calling.  If you’re going to be a church planter, you better be sure about your calling (and your wife better affirm it and be willing to be a part of it).  This is a spiritual thing – you’re not starting a lemonade stand.  You’re entering into an area where people’s lives will be on the line.  The bottom line reason that I left the comforts of youth ministry was because God told me to. You need to start that church out of OBEDIENCE to God, not out of any selfish desire.  I know this is the super-spiritual answer, but it’s the truth.  Do not get into church planting because you think it’s something that suits you or because you are interested in the field.  Plant a church because God was crystal clear in his directions.

2.  Passion.  You need to see yourself doing this, and can’t imagine anything else.  You should be driven to make things happen, to learn all you can, and to soak up information.  It’s got to come from within, not some book you read or conference that you attended.  If you can picture yourself doing something else in ministry, then I’d go back to the drawing board.  Church planting is an all-inclusive thing.  I may take some heat for this, but I don’t think you can be good at it if you’re working a second job or having six side ministries going.  Passion leads to focus.

3.  Ability.  I am convinced that a lot of church plants fail because the guy who started the church was not gifted in that area.  I think to be a successful church planter you need to have the God-given ability to lead and communicate.  You need to be a leader to be a church planter.  And if you’re going to stand up in front of people every weekend to teach God’s Word, you need to be good at it.  There are some good-hearted, God-loving people who want to do something with their lives that should NOT be the main guy.  There are some church planters who should be a PART of a church plant, but not be THE guy planting the church. God wires people differently, and I think the wiring for a church planter is unique.

What else?  What are your reasons for getting into church planting?

Why Start a Church

Here’s some bad reasons to start a church:

  1. You hated the kind of church you grew up in or worked in and want your church to be the complete opposite. That’s a reaction, not a calling.
  2. You were a youth pastor and never got freedom to make decisions so you’re going to start a church where nobody can tell you what to do.
  3. You think traditional churches are dead and useless and don’t reach anyone.
  4. All your friends in ministry are doing it.
  5. You read a book about church planting or went to a conference, and it just seems like the thing to do.
  6. You think working a regular job isn’t ministry and is beneath you.

Any others to add?  Later, I’ll write about some good reasons to start a church.

Creating a Comfortable Environment

Sometimes, we don’t talk about things that are very comfortable. Jesus said we were to take up our cross (be willing to die). Disciple left behind their nets (quit their jobs). The truth often hurts because the Word of God is sharp and it cuts.

I don’t know who originally said this, but we want to create a safe place for people to hear a dangerous message. So while we may communicate some uncomfortable truths, we want to create a comfortable environment for guests. We want people to come in and feel like they belong there – like they are not an outsider. We design our Sunday morning experience with guests in mind, because we don’t want people to stay guests. Here’s some things we do to help create this environment:

1. We play secular tunes in the lobby and as the preservice. People connect with music. Hearing a song they recognize will calm people. It let’s people know that you don’t have to know a secret setlist of songs to attend church here. I personally make a preservice play list, mostly out of songs that are on the iTunes top 100 list. Background music is really important, and it’s one of the silly little things that I don’t delegate.

2. We serve coffee. Why do people like to keep drinks in their hands at a party? Because it’s comfort zone thing. It gives people something to put in their hands. It’s a lot more natural and relaxed to talk to someone when you have a cup of coffee in your hands. We go ahead and spend the extra money to have good coffee. We actually get comments from guests about this all the time.

3. We explain stuff. Every week in the service, I speak to guests. I thank them for coming. If we’re talking about something that is more for the church family, I give that disclaimer. From time to time, we explain why we stand up and sing (a church and a baseball game are the only times when this really happens in our culture). I explain what the offering is about. We don’t assume that people know what’s going on. Our church people hear this stuff every week, but that’s okay…it’s not for them.

4. We ask people for their information. I ask people to fill out a connection card and provide boxes to check if they want information. I ask them to fill out as much info as they feel comfortable sharing, let them know that we are not going to pester them, and tell them that we won’t give out their number or e-mail address to other people. They can drop their card in the offering buckets (easy, plus it allows them to participate at that point of the service).

5. We prepare for and expect guests. I look at things from a guests point of view. I’m a perfectionist about that kind of stuff. We also prepare gift bags for guests and let them know they can stop by and pick them up. They have stuff about the church, but also some candy or some other kind of freebie. We give out a bunch of these each week. Not only is it helpful, but it lets guests know that we prepared for them. During my prayer time each week, I pray for the guests who will be at OLC each week. I think if you don’t plan or prepare or pray for guests, then you will never have any!

Counting Correctly

There are lots of methods for counting how many people are at your church, but may I offer two big suggestions.  Make sure you count honestly, and make sure you count consistently.

At OLC, we count butts in seats and kids in classrooms.  We don’t count adult teachers in KidVenture, because we assume they come to church and we count them there.  We count the total number of adults in each service, and add the total number of kids in classes, deduct a certain number (because we know there are a few preschoolers who attend more than one service), and arrive at our total.  I’m looking forward to transitioning our kids check in areas over to a computerized system, because that will help us be even more accurate.

It’s important to us not to fabricate our numbers, because we want to honestly evaluate.  Fake numbers, counting the band in ever service, or counting the same person more than one time, may get you invited to speak to some conferences, but it’s not going to help you make wise decisions in your church.

Make sure you’re counting correctly, and keep the same system in place from week to week, so you have accurate data to chart your course.

Business Reply Mail

Most of our weekly offering comes in when we pass around buckets at the conclusion of our service.  Most people turn in their connection cards this way as well.

But just like a few people always take their connection card to the Information Table, some people mail their tithes and offerings to our office each week.  Several months ago, we started putting envelopes with our handouts on Sunday morning.  Lots of people feel more comfortable giving cash this way.  Today, we just got in 10,000 new envelopes from Action Envelope.  We created them as business reply envelopes, so people can just drop them in a mailbox and mail them to the office without having to worry about a stamp.

It costs less than $1 to get this in the mail, and the permit and design was not that expensive.  I think it’s a sharp way to equip your people to give on a regular basis.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Ten Week Averages

Since we’re just one year old, we don’t have a bunch of data on hand to compare things to. Our average attendance for one month is dramatically different from 5 months ago. So, we keep an eye on TEN WEEK AVERAGES. Elevation Church really helped us process through that.

So in our Excel sheet, we keep track of all the weekly stats (pretty detailed), but we also have a page devoted to ten week averages. That number helps us with planning, service times, budgeting, and so much more. It typically includes two first-of-the month Sundays and it factors out some of the highs and lows.

For the last ten weeks, we know that our average total attendance has been 564. We get an average of 32 guest cards turned in. The 8:45 service ias 148 adults, the 10:00 service comes in at 222, and the 11:15 service has averaged 118. The average per person giving is $18.84.

All this data really helps us plan well. Take a look at your ten week average, especially if you’re a new church.

Team Planning

No matter how you write your messages, I recommend getting your staff or some kind of team to help you process.  In a few weeks, we’re doing a series called “Issues,” where I’m going to talk about abortion, homosexuality, drinking, divorce and porn.  Tough topics to tackle.

Last week, four of us on the Lead Team got together for a focused meeting on content for these messages.  Everyone came prepared with a one page “report” and then we just talked.  I took lots of notes and we had lots of discussions.  It will really help me as I prepare for these talks.  Even if you can’t do it every week, try a big old content session with some people for an upcoming series of messages.  You’ll appreciate the perspective.

Time Off Policy

We’re pretty straightforward people, so when it came time to write a time off policy for employees, I didn’t see the need to make it a nightmare to track sick days, vacation days, personal days, etc.  So we created a pretty simple policy.  People get a number of days each year to do whatever they want.  Anthony, our Executive Pastor, writes about it on his blog here, and provides the actual policy in Word document format.

Meetings are so 1990’s

We’re experimenting with some audio training for our leaders.  8-15 minute training sessions, recorded by our staff, and uploaded to a podcast.  I think this might be a way to get training and information into the hands of our people, without having them come out to a bunch of meetings.

It’s pretty easy to record and create a podcast, but because not all of our volunteers are podcast listeners, we will also take all the sessions and put them on a CD. That way, our volunteers can just listen in their car on their own schedule.  So far, we’ve recorded a couple of small group leader training, some for kids workers, one for ushers, and one for greeters.  It’s me talking with the appropriate staff person.  I’m planning to do some general leadership ones as well. We’ll see how it works.

If you’d like to check it out, just go to oakleafleaders.com.

Leadership Structure

We’re one year old and we’ve just finalized our bylaws.  We’re still in the process of installing people.  Before describing our leadership structure, let me give you a couple of principles that guided us.

1.  Structure should be simple.  Your bylaws don’t have to describe everything you do in detail, but they describe what you must do.  So be careful with your words.

2.  Structure should be invisible and streamlined.  Somebody compared them to pipes in a house…they are valuable, but you don’t want to see them.  They go inside the walls.  Your structure should also be simple enough to allow you to accomplish things in a timely manner.  We were able to add a third service in less than 2 weeks because our structure allowed for it.

3.  Accountability is a Biblical principle and a good thing.  So is trust.  It’s just good leadership to keep smart, Godly people around you to guide decision making.  Just because I am the Lead Pastor doesn’t mean I have the freedom to mess up people’s lives.  Good decisions come from good counsel.  I trust the guys on my team and run lots of things by them.

So with that said, here’s our structure, as described in our bylaws.

1.  We are a staff led church.  I am the Lead Pastor, and am the only one that can hire and fire staff.  The Lead Team is composed of some staff people and we meet once a week.  Our Lead Team members meet the Biblical requirements of an Elder.  I don’t make big decisions alone, and we model the core value of teamwork in these meetings.  I choose to lead the staff through the leadership of our Executive Pastor, and then through the Lead Team.  We don’t have a bunch of committees who talk about ministry – we have a whole bunch of people who do ministry.

2.  We have a Board of Directors that I am accountable to.  These are pastors and leaders from other churches.  I respect these guys.  They have the best interest of me and our church in mind.  They love Jesus, and they will not let me do stupid things.  They have the ability to fire me.  They review our annual report and financial statements.  Again, our Board must meet the Biblical requirements for being an elder.

3.  We have a finance team that helps me and the Executive Pastor and the Lead Team set the budget.  They also look at money coming in and money coming out to make sure it’s being spent appropriately.   It’s another level of accountability.   They do not approve individual check requests and purchases…that’s what a budget is for.

Our church is not a voting church.  We do not even vote on the budget.  The finance team, lead team and Board of Directors approves our budget.  The church would vote on a new Lead Pastor, and that’s it.  Just as biblical accountability is a principle, so is trust.  We’ve set up a system where nobody could run off with all the money and do whatever they want, but it’s a system that allows for maximum amount of ministry with little red tape.  We ask our people to trust us, and we don’t take that for granted.