Archive for October, 2007|Monthly archive page

Communication @ Oak Leaf Church

Here’s some principles that we try to implement at Oak Leaf Church about communication, promotion and making announcements.

1. We only announce one or two things from the stage during the service. It has to apply to the majority of the people in the room. I think if you’re making more than two announcements, you’re really making none.

2. We send out a weekly e-mail vis Constant Contact. We currently have about 600 people on our list. People can subscribe from our site. We also add people if they provide an e-mail address on a connection card.

3. About 50% of the e-mails we send are actually opened.  Constant Contact gives you some pretty helpful stats.  Don’t assume that sending an e-mail is the same as communicating.

4. I’ll generally communicate via e-mail (my preferred method of communication) with people that I know also communicate with e-mail.

5. We look for ways to communicate with the target audience. For example, we put a parent dedication sign at kids check in. That seems like a logical place. People that don’t have kids don’t need to be unnecessarily exposed to kid friendly announcements.

6. We send letters and postcards from various ministries to targeted mailing lists inside our church. Parents of kids will get a letter from the preschool director. Figure out ways to communicate to the people that need to know – don’t waste communications capital when a targeted announcement will do the trick.

7. When we start a new series, we will usually do a mass mail out to the community OR a postcard mailout to our entire database.

8. We use preservice slides in the service to announce events. When we are making an announcement live, we always make sure there is a corresponding graphic.

9. We give out a weekly handout with information. I would not announce everything that is happening, but highlight the most important things. We’ve used a 8.5×11 handout with printed info on the inside. We’ve also custom printed them for a whole series from

10. We try our best to funnel people to our website. That means we try hard to keep it up to date and put the correct information there. We have a long way to go, but everyone in Cartersville isn’t web friendly.

11. For important things (like our move to Woodland), we’ll use one of those automated phone services to send a recorded messages to our entire phone list. is pretty easy to use and it seems to be cost effective. I would not over use this.

12. For really important things (there shouldn’t be a really important thing every week), we’ll use as many mediums as possible. Letters, phone calls, personal e-mails, e-mail blasts, videos in the service, etc. But you have to be careful not to do this for every event or ministry, or else it will quit working.


The Games of Life Resources

Messages include Sorry (forgiveness), Risk (self-explanatory) and Monopoly (tithing). You’ll also find Keynote presentations and various graphics. Here ya go.

Church Planting Questions

We’re always happy to meet with church planters as the schedule permits, but maybe this will save you some time.  Here’s my answers to the questions you probably want to ask.  If you have others, feel free to send them my way.

1.  How many people were on your staff when you started?  Two.  Me and one other guy.  We were both full time, but raised half of salary.  He was the small groups guy and did a bunch of random things.

2.  How much money did you spend before launch?  From January 1 to August 20 (grand opening day), we spent $60,000.  Some of that came from the launch team tithing, and I raised some of it.

3.  How did you pay yourself?  About 1/3 of my salary came from our sponsoring church, about 1/3 came from personal support, and about 1/3 came from speaking different places.   I took a pay cut from youth ministry to start this church.

4.  What was your timetable?  April 2005, moved to Cartersville.  August 2005, started working with sponsor church and on church plant.  November 2005, started core group Bible Study.  June 2006, first of two preview services.  August 2006, grand opening service.  I feel like we could have done it a bit faster, but we weren’t from the area and really used the time to meet people and get to know things.

5.  Where did you get people for the launch team?  Met a few in Cartersville, met a few at sponsor church.  The launch team probably had about 12 families on it by the time we got to the preview service.  I would only recruit people from my current church with the pastor’s blessing.  Do NOT go behind the back of the staff and try to get people to go with you.

6.  What did you do in launch team mode?  Talked about core values, planned, prayed, and organized some community outreach stuff so we could get out in the community.  We met on Sunday nights for about an hour.  We visited some church plants as a group on Sunday mornings.  Feel free to bring your team to our place.  Let us know you’re coming and we’ll give you a tour guide and a behind the scenes look at everything.

7.  What would you focus on early in the church?  Making Sunday morning the best it can be.  We hired out bands because we wanted great music from day one.  (I called in favors and used local bands that I met…we paid what we could, but it was still cheaper than one full time worship pastor).  If your service stinks, people won’t come.  That’s pretty simple.   We focused on the service (music and teaching), children’s ministry and small groups.

8.  When did you start small groups?  About 2 months into it.  In retrospect, I probably would have waited a little bit longer.

9.  How did you get volunteers?  We have more than 250 adults volunteering at least once a month.  We set the bar high and do a good job.  Excellence attracts people.  Good music attracts good musicians.  People want to work for something that is working and accomplishing it’s mission.

10.  What kind of advertising is effective?  Depends on your area.  Nobody was doing direct mail here, so we did it.  We didn’t do big mailouts at first, because we didn’t have much money.  We also did road signs and went to every community event we could.  We gave out helium balloons with our logo.  We set up a moon walk at kid friendly events.   You need to do everything you can to market and advertise and do outreach.

11.  What did you do for messages.  Wrote my own.  I didn’t download messages from the internet, but worked to communicate.  We borrowed some ideas and some graphics.  There’s lots of places for that.  Our first series was called “No perfect people” because that’s kind of an overall tone for our church.  I see too many planters talking about the vision and what they are going to do one day…just be the vision from day 1.

12.  What did you do at your preview services?  A regular service…with music, teaching and an offering.  We used the first offering to pay for the next service.  We let the service speak for itself.  Obviously, we referenced that this was our first service, but we tried to let it be a normal service.  Same was true for the second. Let people see what you really are.

13. What was your budget?  A joke.  You have no idea what your weekly offerings will be, so your budget is probably a guess.  We had one, but we literally spent money as fast as we got it. We had a list of what we wanted to get and we’d get one or two things every Monday.  We’re just now getting to the point where we are actually operating on a real budget.

14.   Where do you get staff?  Stay away from staffing websites.  Nearly everyone on our team (currently 10 people) was hired from within.  Meaning, they started coming to our church before they came for a job.

15.  What’s your structure?  Simple and staff led.  We have a board of directors made up of other pastors that I am accountable to.  They set my salary.  I hire and fire everyone else.   I have a right hand person (executive pastor) who runs the staff.  I focus on leadership, vision and teaching.  We have a finance committee and a pastors advisory team that help us make good decisions.  Accountability is a Biblical principle.

16.  Did you like the movie theater?  Yes.  And Yes.  It was great for visibility and environment.  I’d go with a movie over a school in a heartbeat.  We moved from the theater because we grew too big and we couldn’t fit.

17. What mistakes did you make?  Tried to do some things before we were ready.  We tried to do the once a month believer’s service before we should have.  It was sideways energy for us.

18.  Did you know what you were doing?  Not really.  I was a career youth pastor.  I read lots of books and asked lots of questions.  I didn’t feel qualified but I knew I was called.  We faked a lot of things and just went with it.  I was scared, but still confident that I was doing the right thing.

19.  Would you work another job?  I wouldn’t.  I know there are people that can, but I have to be focused on everything, and I want people around me focused on what we’re doing.  Launch big so you don’t have to work.  I was WILLING to do what was necessary, but I’d do everything in my power to not have to get an outside job.  I think it’s the kiss of death.

20.  What general suggestions do you have?  Go  to the conference.  Read books on business and marketing.  Find your niche but be yourself.  Have a good Sunday morning experience.  Don’t do too much.  You don’t need a women’s ministry or a Wednesday night service.  Focus on the most important things first.

Kids Classrooms

I read somewhere that before age six, 80% of a child’s dreams are about animals.  If this is true, this should probably affect how we name, decorate and program our preschool environments.

Talking to Each Other

The other day, I went into my local Stabucks and didn’t have the experience I know they were going for.  The problem was not with my Pumpkin Spice Latte.  The problem was that the three or four employees were all behind the counter, engaged in their own conversation.  They weren’t that focused on making drinks or making change.  I felt like I was a bystander rather than a customer.

If we’re not careful, our church services will become like that.  Greeters (who are naturally social people) have then tendency to talk to their friends or other church people.  We all get caught up in our thing and forget why we are there.

What You Can Learn

Ray Krock, the guy that founded McDonalds, tried to introduce Kolacky (some kind of Bohemian pastry) and a HulaBurger (a sandwich featuring a slice of pineapple and cheese) to the menu. As you might expect, both of these menu items didn’t do so well.

Individual franchises (not the corporate company), on the other hand, were responsible for developing the Big Mac, the Egg McMuffin, the Filet O Fish sandwich. Not to mention creating the character of Ronald McDonald.

Sometimes, the people in the organization have great ideas. The problem is…we don’t give them a forum to share their ideas. I’ve gotten some great advice, feedback and ideas from people in our church. Every now and then, we get a team of volunteers together to brainstorm ideas for an upcoming series. We need to do more of these things. Who knows who is sitting there with the next great idea.

Getting More Volunteers

I imagine every church, young or old, has asked this question. We have more than 100 people serving on any given Sunday, and yet it seems like we always have new opportunities. How many times in a meeting have I said, “We need to get somebody to…” And occasionally, staff or key volunteers will come to me or Anthony looking for volunteers.

We don’t have a secret list in a drawer somewhere of people that want to serve but aren’t plugged in. I don’t have a pastoral stash of good people just waiting around to do something. Last week, I talked with our staff about these principles.

1. Volunteers will only work under leaders. People that are serving need clear direction and they want to work for someone that has it under control. Volunteers do not want to walk into a mess that needs fixing. It’s much harder, but we need to solve the leadership problem before attacking the volunteer problem.

2. Expand your circle. I don’t know people in our church that are not serving, so coming to me for help isn’t going to accomplish much. Each staff person has a circle, and over time, all those people start serving somewhere. I’ve read that it’s only possible to really only know about 150 people. In a church setting, you’ll get to a point where you are out of people to know. So the key is not making your circle bigger, it’s getting into other circles. You need to ask your key volunteers to intentionally develop their circle, not keep trying to get people out of yours.

3. People need to buy into the ministry, but they also need to buy into you. There’s probably not a lot of people in your church that don’t think kids ministry isn’t important. They don’t hate children and think kids ministry is a waste of money. They think someone should do it. But sometimes, the reason people don’t rush to serve isn’t because of the ministry, it’s because of the leader. There needs to be a personal buy in…a personal connection. They need to trust your leadership and want to follow YOU.

4. Go get ’em. We have 600+ adults that are attending our church on a regular basis. The volunteers we need are already in our building. They are so close. We just need to go get them. We need to develop systems that help us train and empower people. This is hard, and it takes time. But most of the time, the people you need are sitting there doing nothing. They just need to be inspired by the vision, challenged by a leader, and given an opportunity to impact the Kingdom.

Inspect the System

From time to time, a guy will pull a can of peaches off the assembly line, open it up, and test it for freshness. It’s quality control…pulling some random samples to make sure the whole operation is working smoothly.

Today, Anthony and I called ten random first time guests from the month of September to check up on ourselves. We wanted to make sure they got the phone call, the personal note and the e-mail that we sent. I wanted to be sure they knew where to go if they had questions. I wasn’t checking up on them as much as I was checking up on us.

All of the people we spoke to had the experience that we hoped for. Apparently, the system that is in effect is being carried out. I’m proud of our volunteers – because much of the system on them.
What about your systems? What quality control step can you take today to make sure you’re actually doing what you’re supposed to be doing. We need to constantly evaluate our systems and make sure they are working properly.

What Keeps Them

In the world of food marketing, it’s been said that packaging will cause someone to buy something for the first time.  Companies spend millions and millions of dollars on packaging, carefully considering words and colors.  In a world where there are hundreds of choices for cereal, getting your bran flakes to stand out on the shelf is important.

Packaging may cause a customer to purchase something new for the first time, but the quality of the product will cause them to buy it again.  A cool box may draw their attention initially, but a good tasting cereal will cause them to make that repeat purchase.

In the world of church, “packaging” matters.  A postcard, invite card, or website may initially attract a person to your church.  It’s very important for you to get this right (which is why you should read marketing and business books).

But it’s the experience that will cause them to come back.  You can spend thousands of dollars on a direct mail to attract guests, but if they are not warmly greeted by your hospitality teams, then it’s not working.  You can promote the heck of out of a new series, but if you don’t communicate something Biblical, practical and helpful, then disappointment will set in.  Too many times, we focus on getting people here, but don’t work enough on having something meaningful for them once they are inside.  If you promise something but don’t deliver, they will be disappointed.  Sure, go the extra mile in your promotion, but be sure the taste test backs it up.

Membership Class

In a couple of weeks, we are doing a one hour membership class for people that want to become official members. We’ve experimented with various formats for this, including more low-key newcomers lunches. We tried calling it a partnership class, because I like that term better, but it’s confusing to people that see it for the first time. For now, we’re just going to call it what it is…a class where the end result is that you can be a member. Sometimes, I think we get too cute with naming things or name them something based on a philosophical understanding (for example, gatherings instead of services). But most people still think of a church service as a service. Anyway…

In the class, I will tell the story of how Oak Leaf got started. Then we will take 7 minutes each and talk through the 5 G’s – the things that we want people to do. These are the things that essentially make someone a member. Our groups guy will talk about the G of groups. Our executive pastor will talk about the G of giving. I’ll hit the others. We’ll do some quick Q&A and there it is.

We are doing this right after church one Sunday – we already have childcare set up. And we provide lunch for people. At the end of the class, they can take a membership application. When they turn it in, our connections pastor signs off on it, and they are an official member.

I’ll keep you posted on how this works. Here’s a PDF of the membership application in case you’re interested.