Archive for May, 2008|Monthly archive page

Ed Young on Church Pirates

Some pretty strong words to church planters from Ed Young.  I am sure there will be some disagreement, but having been on both sides of this, I think I know what he is trying to say.  What do you think?


Background Checks

We use this company to perform background checks on everyone that works with children and students.  In the application process, we get permission from the prospective volunteer to run their background.  We keep the completed checks in a fire-proof, locked safe.

Explain It

In our partnership class and sometimes via e-mail, we get questions about how often we do come-forward-type invitations.  Public invitations are relatively new to to the organized church, but I grew up in a church were altar calls were standard practice.  I’m quite used to them,

At Oak Leaf Church, we sometimes do public invitations. About four or five times a year, we’ll really encourage our people to bring their friends (maybe their “one”) and we really teach a Gospel message.  We’ll do some type of public response.  Sometimes, we’ll ask people to move from their seats; sometimes I will walk them through it and I’ll ask them to fill out a card; one time I just asked them to stand up boldly with no music playing.

We’ve made a commitment to never do things without explaining them.  For example, lots of churches tack on communion to the end of a service (nothing wrong with this).  But for us, whenever we celebrate The Lord’s Supper, we want to take a lot of time and explain the significance and explain what’s happening.  The same goes for invitations, and baptisms.  Because Sunday morning is designed with guests in mind, we don’t want to do things that make sense to the insiders but would confuse the outsiders.  Calling for decisions, seeing people baptized, celebrating communion…these are all great things.  When we do them, we want to be intentional and explain everything.


I have had many conversations with our staff over the last couple days about tenacity and follow-through. Basically, we have been discussing operating with our best practices and core values.

Excellence is one of our core values and often it is one of the hardest ones to consistently follow. It isn’t that we cannot determine the difference between good enough and going over the top, but it’s that its much tougher to do things the best way, impressive way, and a way that will make an impression on as consistent basis.

One of the other huge hurdles that people face when they take on the role of a pastor at a church plant is being able to seamlessly transition between looking at the big picture and specifics. They have to be able to see it from all angles then work inside their ministry areas. It’s actually more difficult then you think to think like a manager and then still pastor the volunteers in your area. Huge to-do-lists, overwhelming projects, and a constantly evolving ministry can be distracting.

Tenacity, follow-through, and mental toughness is the only way to be successful in this kind of ministry. I often reference my days as a landscaper to illustrate my point. My go to illustration is the day a dump truck dropped off 50+ yards of mulch at a house we had to landscape. I had to clear the driveway it was dumped into in one day with only one helper. We had two shovels, two rakes, and two wheelbarrows. We worked non-stop for 8 hours to clear the pile and have it done for the opening house the next morning.

That project and many others like it didn’t tempt me to quit because it was physically taxing. It was the mental gymnastics to keep shoveling instead of sitting down in front of the frightening pile of mulch built up my attitude to stick with it…even when it was overwhelming. Unfortunately, you can’t teach people mental toughness…it’s learned. The mental toughness necessary to stick with a church plant when lousy stuff happens, when hard decisions have to be made, when giving goes up and down and when people quit on your church is the only thing that will ensure long-term success.

What’s your mulch pile?

Anthony Gratto

Executive Pastor

Unwritten Rules of Church Planting

Anyone that has planted a church that’s more than a year or two old knows that there are some unwritten rules of church planting.  Anyone want to leave a comment and leave your unwritten rule?

Only One Good Reason

I know there are a lot of church planters and potential church planters that read this blog, and wanted to put my 2 cents into the question:  why start a church?

You should NOT start a church for any of the following reasons:

  • you think it would be fun
  • the little old ladies at your last church said you were a better speaker than the real preacher
  • you are a youth pastor and thats as hard as being a lead pastor
  • your friends have told you that you’d be a good pastor
  • you don’t like the worship style of your last church
  • a Seminary professor said you should be a pastor
  • you like to teach, preach, speak, or whatever you call it
  • church planting is the latest hot ministry fad

There is ONLY one good reason to plant a church.  That’s it.  One.  Uno. You should only start a church if God has specifically, directly, blatently, clearly told you to do it.

Stuff Document

For the last couple of years, I’ve kept a Word document on my desktop.  When I read something interesting or come across a sermon illustration, I cut and paste it into this document.  From time to time, I print it out and read through it.  There’s tons of good sermon illustration, leadership lessons and ideas in here.  So far, I’m up to 31 pages.  There is probably a better way to organize this info, but this works for me.

Don’t email me and ask me what anything means, but you may find some helpful stuff in here. Here’s a PDF of that document.


2 iMacs for sale

We have two 20 inch iMacs that I’m about to list on eBay, but figured I’d offer them up here first. They are about 8 months old and we used them for kids check in. $800 each (I think they were $1299). Specs:

  • 2.0 Ghz Core 2 Duo chip
  • 1 gig of ram
  • 250 gig hard drive
  • super drive
  • all the other standard apple stuff and both of them are in the boxes
  • pick them up at our office in Cartersville or pay for shipping

UPDATE:  These are sold.  You guys are fast.

Some Things I’ve Learned So Far

1.    You don’t have to do it, but somebody does.  Most church planters and pastors in churches like ours don’t really visit the hospitals or do counseling.  I can’t tell you how many up and coming leaders that brag that they are too busy to do these things.  But just because we’re not called or gifted to do them doesn’t mean they don’t need to be done.  As our church has matured, I’ve come to realize that while I cannot do these things, I must make sure they get done.  We need a system to meet these needs.  I need to make sure I delegate and train someone.

2.    Don’t use words, develop a language.  What I am talking about is developing a culture.  Creating “The Oak Leaf Way.”   Every church has a culture – a setoff unwritten rules.  Why not craft these and be intentional instead of just letting the wind blow.  If there are words that I would hope would define us (like generosity), then I should work hard to create that as a part of our culture.  When we celebrate communion, we need to work hard to do it in a style that fits our church.  That’s developing a language.

3.    God’s agenda is the only agenda that matters.  People come to church for a bunch of different reasons and lots of people have their own agendas.  We’re not about that…we are about God’s agenda and that’s it.  Even as the lead pastor, I have to set my agenda and personal preferences aside in order to follow God.  It’s great when those two things line up, but in the end, God’s desires are more important.  This isn’t my church…it’s His.

4.    Do it well or not at all.  One of our core values is excellence, and we always come back to it.  We’ve bitten off things that we had no business doing and it’s hurt us because we couldn’t do them well.  Excellence is more than just money…it involves time, preparation, staff, energy, and communication.  You can have the greatest program in the world, but you’re going to have to take time to communicate it.  And you only have so much time to communicate.  And when it comes to money, it doesn’t have to be expensive, but it can’t be cheap.

5.    There’s no right way to do church, but over communicate your way.  There are lots of churches from lots of molds, and all different style of churches are advancing the Kingdom.  There’s no right way, but there is our way.  It’s not right or wrong, but it’s how WE do it.  We have to communicate this constantly.  And I really do mean constantly.  Every week, we work the mission, vision or purpose of the church into some kind of service element.  It has to become our DNA.

6.    Make the steps simple and easy.  People want to do what you ask them, but too many times, we make it hard.  Anytime we have a church-wide meeting, we have to provide childcare.  It’s a headache and a bother, but with 28% of our Sunday morning attendance children, we have to make the step simple.   And it’s tough for some people to go from a large worship service (anonymous) to a really small group (not anonymous), so we had to create a middle step.

7.    Act a little bigger than you are.  Not the size you currently are, but not five times bigger either.  This is necessary for growth.

8.    Like pastor like people.  Hosea 4:9 is a great illustration of this.  I realize that how I go, so go the people.  If I’m not generous, then our church won’t be generous.  If I don’t pray, then the church won’t pray.  This literally scares the heck out of me.

9.    A church service is not a church.  What we do on Sunday morning is intentional.  We want to reach people that don’t go to church.  But our church’s influence is not limited to what happens on Sunday morning.  It may be the front door, but a house has more than a door.

10.    Evaluate ruthlessly.  I watch and listen to myself teach.  We tear things apart.  Not because we want to be critical or negative, but because we want to keep getting better.  In theology, this is called progressive sanctification.  We have to keep becoming more and more like Christ.

Forms online

We’ve been using to take some of our forms online.  Instead of having people fill them out on paper, it’s quicker to take it online.  We’ll get the info via e-mail and it’s also saved online so we have an easily accessible record.  Here’s a few of them.

Membership Application

The Tithing Challenge (form easily integrated into the look of our website)

Baptism Application

Calendar Request (for internal use only)

It’s free to have 3 forms with up to 10 fields, or you can upgrade for more.  If you’re not an experienced web designer (like me), but would like to create online forms, this might be a great option for you.