Archive for September, 2007|Monthly archive page

Expert Training is Overrated

Let’s talk about staff for a minute.

When we’re looking for staff (and we are about to hire a few positions), we always look within our church.  We look around to see what volunteer is going above and beyond.  We see who is already doing a great job.  We check to see if they tithe (yes…we know who gives).  We watch them lead.

We don’t automatically look for experience and education.  Our executive pastor was a school teacher last year.  Our director of volunteers worked at a doctors office.  Neither of these people had expert training or tons of experience in their field.  This isn’t a big deal to us because expert training can be overrated.

If employee A is an expert at Rock of Ages Baptist Church and tries to do ministry at Oak Leaf Church based on his experience, that’s not going to work.  We’ll have to spend a couple years and a bunch of money on conferences to educate it out of him!  A seminary degree doesn’t automatically make you a good leader.  It may make you smarter (sometimes), but it doesn’t automatically qualify a person for ministry.  I’m using little of my seminary experience as a church planting lead-pastor of a fast-growing church.

All this to say, if you’re looking for someone to head up volunteers, children’s ministry, pastoral care, administration, or a hundred other jobs, don’t just look at the church job websites.  Look inside your church.  You may find a committed volunteer working a “regular” job who would take a pay cut to do something he or she  loves.


Calling Guests…Calling them Back

Our connections pastor has invited a team of people to help call first time guests a few days after they visit. We just call to say thanks for coming and ask if they have any questions. Sometimes, we leave messages. Sometimes, people ask a few questions. For us, calling people is an important part of our connections strategy.

But a second, and I think more vital part of this strategy is calling these guests back one month later. The same person that made the first phone call makes a second phone call one month later. They ask if the person has had the chance to come back. Maybe after a while, they have some questions. The point of this second phone call is to ask people that have come back to jump into a small group and to serve somewhere.

Top 5 Books for Church Planters

I’m a reader. When I stepped out of youth ministry and into church planting, I probably read a hundred books on church planting, leadership and business (starting a church plant is also starting a business, so don’t be so super-spiritual that you think you can’t learn some principles) Here’s the Top 5 Books I think church planters should read.

1. Good to Great. This is probably the best business book out there. When you hire staff, you should make them read it. You should discuss it as a team. If you’ve already done that, you should do it again. Honorable mention goes to The E-Myth.

2. Seven Practices of Effective Ministry. Think steps, clarify the win, narrow the focus…these principles are huge. This is a must read for church planters, and everyone in ministry for that matter. Honorable mention goes to Simple Church.

3. The Big Idea. Bil Cornelius writes a helpful little book that talks about a variety of practical subjects – from leadership structure to service planning.

4. The Revolutionary Communicator – as a church planter, you need to continually work on your teaching. I think this needs to be one of your driving gifts. So don’t just read to prepare for your messages, read books on how to teach. This is a one of the best. Andy Stanley and Calvin Miller also have good books on teaching and preaching.

5. The Bible.  Seriously. The Bible is the best church growth book out there. Make sure you’re actually reading God’s word, not just books about God’s word.

First Time Giver Letter

One of the things we do at OLC is follow up with first time givers. When someone gives to Oak Leaf Church for the first time, we send them a letter thanking them for their gift. I think it’s important to thank people that give, as well as reassure them that the church is on top of things with the finances. Here’s the letter we send out in Word format.


Top Five Resources

We’ve investigated dozens of tools and sites. Here’s five things we use quite a bit.

1. For database management, we use Fellowship One. It’s web based and mac friendly. It allows us to track people, do kids check in, and follow up with guests. We have some key volunteers that can have limited access from their homes, so we assign out first time guest calls to this team, and they can connect people from home. It all integrates in the system.

2. Constant Contact. We use Constant Contact to send out bulk e-mail newsletters. We have various groups, including the general newsletter (you can sign up from our website) which goes out once a week.

3. Displays2Go. We got our outdoor flag banners, inside sign stands, and truss podium from these guys. Good stuff.

4. PsPrint. We print flyers and postcards and invite cards with these guys. Great prices and great products.

5. Church Marketing Flickr Group. Lots of design and series ideas here. Various graphic designers and church people submit their designs for peer review. I’ve saved a lot of things in my idea folder.

Church Staff: What We Look For

In one year, we’ve gone from one person on staff (me), to 10 people (a combination of full time and part time). Every single one of the people on our team right now have been hired from within. In other words, they were committed to the church before they came for a job. I tell people that if they want to one day work for Oak Leaf Church, start volunteering in that area and do a great job.

We do not hire based on education. In my experience, a seminary degree does not mean you will be better at what you do. Some churches pay more for higher degrees…I joke around that we should reverse that. I’m all for education, but I don’t think it makes a person an expert in a ministry field.

We also don’t hire solely on experience. Just because you’ve done ministry 10 years doesn’t mean it’s a fit here. We may have to beat bad experiences out of you, or you might be stuck in your ways.

When we look to hire someone, I look for three things:

1. Leadership ability. I don’t want people to do ministry; I want people to lead ministry. If you’re a leader, I could put you in children’s ministry or service programming and you’ll be okay. Ministry is leadership. You’ve got to be able to take people from where they are to where God wants them to be.

2. The desire to work hard. I want to tell people “go home…you’ve been here all day” NOT ask them why they were an hour late. We hire hard workers who will get things done no matter what. I don’t have time for excuses. Being lazy is not going to get you anywhere. Our setup volunteers get to the place at 6 AM on their only day off – and you’re leading those hard working people.

3.  The ability to learn and grow.  We hire for potential.  I want people who are going to go out of their way to get with other people doing their jobs at churches that are getting things done.  Part of everybody’s job description is to seek out these relationships.  I watch other teachers.  I want our band watching other worship bands.  I want our kids people communicating with other dynamic children’s ministries and soaking up everything they can.

We’ve decided to hire for potential and character, not for education and experience.

Your Calling

I’m sure everyone that reads this blog probably already reads Gary’s blog.  But I want to give two thumbs up to this post.  I completely agree 100%.  If you’re going to plant a church, be absolutely sure about your calling.