Archive for August, 2008|Monthly archive page

Thank You Notes

In this age of e-mail and text messages, I think most people underestimate the value of a personal, hand-written thank you notes.  Stats show that only 1 out of 100 pieces of mail are personal correspondence, and that most people go to their mailbox hoping for something personal.  In other words, you can often make people’s day just by writing them a note.  I have a folder in my office containing thank you notes people have sent me.  I’ve even gotten a thank you note in return for sending a thank you note!

An e-mail just isn’t the same…it’s too easy and it doesn’t pack the same emotional punch.  Here’s a few tips for integrating thank you notes into your schedule.

  • Ask your staff who needs a personal thank you from the pastor.
  • On Monday morning, write five thank you notes.  Make it part of your Monday routine.
  • Get good stationary from a stationary store, or have some made with your name or initials.
  • In your staff meeting, hand out thank you notes and have everyone write one or two right there on the spot.
  • Send notes to children and teenagers, not just adults.

Launching Large Part 6: It’s a business

I know some people are going to push back against this one, so you can take it or leave it.

In America, church planting is entrepreneurship.  If you are starting a church, you are like a small business start-up.  You’re going to go through a lot of things that other entrepreneurs go through.

Listen…the church is not JUST a business, but it is a business.  You’re going to sign contracts, file paperwork with the government, pay people, advertise, and do all kinds of other business things.  If that’s the case, you would be smart to read books on business and leadership.  You’re probably not going to  put a giant gorilla out on Sunday, but you’re going to do some form of marketing (even if it’s just encouraging your people to invite their friends), so you should read books on marketing.

In our early days, I probably read as many books on business and advertising as I did on church leadership.  I became the marketing expert and the business expert in our church.  If you’re new to this, I would start with Buzz Marketing and The Tipping Point.

Talk to business leaders, learn the lingo, get involved with the Chamber of Commerce.  There is certainly a spiritual quality to church planting, and you can do all the right business things and leave God out of it.  But if your focus is on God and reaching people, then business principles can help you get to where you want to be.  After all, truth is truth, no matter where it’s found.

Launching Large 5: Don’t Do It

As a church plant, everything you do will be for the first time.  This makes each decision infinitely more important, and that much tougher.  You will face the temptation to start programs and ministries, because that’s what other churches do.

Don’t do it.

In addition to focusing hard on Sunday, you have to purposely turn off some other things.  But I want to take it a litte deeper than that, because even when it comes to Sunday, you’re not going to be able to do everything as well as you would like to do it.

That’s why you play to your strengths.

Do what you do well, and just get by on the other things.  And don’t feel guilty about it.  If you’re a great speaker, but your music isn’t where you want it, don’t try and have 30 minutes of worship becaues that’s what Hillsong does.  Do a few songs and get on with it.  If you don’t have a video guy that can produce amazing videos, don’t have amazing video.  Focus on what you do well, and develop the rest.  If you don’t have someone on your staff passionate about groups, don’t try and start groups…focus on something that you can do well.

The other important stuff will come to the surface over time.

Launching Large 4: Sunday

Again, this might be simple advice, but it’s often overlooked.  As a church plant, I think you should focus 80% of your energy on getting ready for Sunday.  This is the time when most people will connect with your church for the first time.  So, you need to do everything you can to have a good Sunday service.  It really doesn’t matter if you have great accounting or accountability or small groups or anything else if people come to a sucky Sunday service and never come back to your church.

In the early months when money was tight (come to think of it, that hasn’t changed), we had to make many judgement calls on money.  We always cut the things not related to Sunday.  For example, should we get an office copier or a few new lights?  Well, lights make Sunday better…a copier saves me a trip to Kinkos…so we went with Sunday.

Here’s some other things you can do to make Sunday count.

  • Resist the urge to do other things instead of working on your message.  If you’re the pastor, your message is your bread and butter, and it can’t suffer because you’re trying to learn how to work Quickbooks.
  • The message is bigger than the sermon.  Your greeters, music, and exit greeters are reinforcing the days message.  Are the bathrooms clean?  Are your signs clear?
  • Don’t try and act like a real church, except on Sunday.  You can’t compete with the church down the street offering ladies ministry, awanas, financial counseling and recovery ministry.  Don’t even try!  Focus on Sunday until you get it down.
  • Make sure everyone on staff has key, visible places of leadership on Sunday.  I had our Executive Pastor running kids check in for a while.  Everybody on staff works from 6am-1pm on Sundays.  They don’t leave when church is over to have lunch with people…they stay to help tear down.
  • Spend time in staff meetings talking about how to make Sunday better.  Evaluate ruthlessly.
  • Improve visible things.  Changing a few signs can be an inexpensive way to make improvements.
  • Hire a band.  In the early days of not having a worship leader, we just hired bands to lead for us on Sunday mornings.  We just pretended like they were our worship leaders.

Planning

I expect the people that work for our church to always be prepared and to think through problems before they arise.  A few weeks ago, I wanted to illustrate the level of planning that I expected from them.  So we had a short brainstorm session to brainstorm a fake event.  Something that we will never implement…a flag football league for church planters.

We spent 30 minutes brainstorming, and then I spent a couple of hours over the next two weeks working on this thing.  I looked at finances, investigated rules, thought about scheduling, thought about who we would invite, and came up with a plan.  I took all of this information and put it into a report.

If I was serious about wanting to do this, I would take that report back to our guys and we’d discuss it in further detail.  I wanted to illustrate the amount of detail that should be brought to the table.  I wanted to show, not just tell, the guys what I’m expecting.

See, sometimes, it’s good to just throw an idea out there.  But when we’re considering changing curriculum, launching a new ministry, or doing a big event, I want our guys to answer questions in advance and bring all the available info to the table.  When we have good information, we can make better decisions.

In case you’re interested, here’s the proposal I created for the Church Planters Flag Football Association. CPFFA

Launching Large 3: Who do you copy?

Part one here.  Part two here.

This is going to sound very simplistic, but one of the keys to launching large is to stop copying churches that aren’t growing.  I’m often amazed at where people get their advice.  Your uncle who has been divorced three times is not a good person to ask for marital advice.  And a church that has had 200 people attending for the last five years is probably not a good church to look to as a mentor.

Run what they say through your filter and your context.  Just because someone writes it in a book doesn’t mean it’s good advice.  Just because someone says it at a conference doesn’t mean it’s true.  There are a lot of opinions on church planting that come from people who have spent five years planting churches that have 25 people in them.  When you want to see what works, find a healthy church that teaches the Bible and who is growing, and go ask questions.

I know this is going to make people mad, and I’ll get accused of only caring about numbers, but I think it’s a bad idea to copy churches that aren’t growing.

Through the Eyes of a Guest

When a guest comes to your church, there are lots of areas that we have to make an impression.  Most of us spend a lot of time evaluating our message and the music, but there are so many ways to connect with guests.  All these things happen before the first song is sung or before they hear a word of the sermon.

  • They receive an invitation.  Is it a personal invite?  Do your printed materials reflect your personality?  Are they interesting?  Is the person inviting excited?
  • They drive to the building.  Are there clear signs? Do they know where park?  Do they feel welcome as they drive on the property?
  • They walk to the front door?  Do they see the clear entrance or are there two of them?
  • They walk through the front door?  Are they greeted?  Is the greeter too excited?  Not excited enough?
  • They check in their kids?  Was the process smooth and clear?  Do they know what will happen in the event they are needed?  Do they know where and how to pick up their kids?  Are they confident in your kids ministry?
  • They meet people?  Are they getting a cup of coffee?  Are people talking to them?  Not just the staff or the volunteers, but the other people there?  Do your people know how be friendly?
  • They enter the worship center?  Do they get a handout?  Does it have too much info?  Too little?  Are you asking for birthdays and address info when you don’t really need it?  Is the room too dark?  Can they find a seat?

SuperNatural Resources

We just wrapped up a successful series at Oak Leaf Church:  Supernatural: Angels, Demons and the Hidden War.  We used graphics and video from LifeChurch, though we changed up a good bit of the material.  Huge thanks to those guys for making their graphics and video available to everyone.

If you’re interested, here’s a zip file with my notes from the three messages.

SuperNatural Messages