Archive for March, 2009|Monthly archive page


One of the things that we do a good bit is survey our people. We’ve asked about favorite worship songs, how people first found out about our church, and what topics they want to hear.

We use Constant Contact to build the survey (they also handle our email communication). They send out a survey link to those who have subscribed to our email updates, and tabulate all the results. We also forward to the constant contact survey and promote it that way.

A few weeks ago, we used Jarbyco to do a live text message survey. It worked great, though we needed to leave the instructions on the screen longer and explain it a little better. Live and learn!


Web Design Recomendation

If you need a website design, I want to recommend a new friend. Chad did our Egg Drop website, and is an all-around good guy that does all around great work.

Look him up on twitter: @chadkello.

Discipleship Idea

I’ve had a discipleship thought rolling around my head for a year or so, and have no idea if it would work. But here goes…

What if we treated discipleship in the church as a one-on-one relationship rather than a group or a class.

Much like a personal trainer at the gym.

Say you want to get healthy. You join a gym and sit down with a personal trainer. They talk with you about your goals. They learn a little about your schedule and develop a custom workout plan.

What if discipleship was like that? A person comes and says “I want to grow in my faith.” They sit down with someone who takes time to get to know them, learns how they learn, talks through their spiritual goals and then helps them design a personal discipleship plan.

Maybe a group is involved. Or a personal reading plan. Or a class. But it’s driven by the relationship, and customized to the individual.

What if every member or partner in the church had just one person that they were mentoring, coaching or discipling?

No idea how this could work, but it’s an idea.

Redefining Discipleship

Defining the win is good. But what do you do when it’s not working? A lot of churches and organizations just redefine it.

I confess to you that small groups have always kicked our butt at Oak Leaf Church. We’ve never been able to reach what we would consider an effective level, according to our standards. We’ve tried several different things, and we always think we’re “almost there,” but it’s been hard. I’m tempted to just give up, cancel them, and try something different.

I know of a couple large, influential churches who are somewhat abandoning groups as a means for discipleship. While there will surely be groups within they church, they wouldn’t be official ministries. Instead, they are redefining discipleship as serving. They are emphasizing the weekend and mobilizing their people to make the weekend happen. I think this will be a trend in new churches over the next ten years, just like groups were the trend twenty years ago.

I further confess to you that killing groups is attractive to me as a church leader. It’s simpler, gets more people involved in the bread and butter program of the church, and gets the small group monkey off my back. In a way, it takes the hardest thing we do, the thing that causes the most relational tension and staff meeting headaches, and just sweeps it away.

But something inside of me just won’t let go.

I fear that we’re willing to spend the time, money and staff to make our Internet campuses and multi-sites work because they are fun and cutting edge, while letting Biblical discipleship suffer because it’s hard to figure out.

I don’t have a problem with a church getting rid of small groups if they determine that there’s a better way to make disciples. Maybe groups need to go in favor of web-based personalized discipleship plans. Maybe groups need to go in favor of one-on-one coaching ala personal trainers at the gym. Or maybe groups need to go in favor of something else.


We may be able to cover care and community via other ministries in our church. But please don’t push back against information to the point where anything information-based is taken off the menu. Christians need to know how to study the Bible. They need to know Church History. They need to wrestle with Theology. They need Godly pastors, teachers and leaders teaching the Word.

Jesus said that we would know the truth, and the truth would set us free. How can we be set free by the truth if we never know it? The Bible is living, active and sharper than a double-edged sword, and that we should learn how to handle it correctly. Can we do this effectively if we’re simply attending a church service?

Is there a call call to not only become better Christians, but smarter Christians, with a deeper and richer understanding of the Gospel? In recent years, new churches have pushed back against classes, seminars and things that look like information transfer because we have a bedrock conviction that information without transformation is useless. That is absolutely true…information alone leads to pride and arrogance and doesn’t automatically make us better Christ followers.

We often make fun of people who want to “go deep” in their faith, but never pick up a towel of service. And rightfully so! Growing as a Christian is NOT about acquiring knowledge. But let’s not forget that Paul was educated and smart. Let’s not forget that the early Christian leaders debated and discussed heavy theological issues like the Trinity and that we stand on their works. Let’s not forget that Luther, and Calvin, and Whitfield were students of Scripture and that they are our heritage. Let’s not forget that great songwriters are often Theologians. Let’s not forget that spiritual learning doesn’t have to be academic.

The reality is that information should be the beginning point. It’s pretty hard to change without processing information. We can’t repent of sin if we are not confronted with information. We cannot understand the cross, salvation, or the church without information.

Information isn’t the end-goal, but it’s often the starting point. So instead of getting rid of anything that looks like a class, why not make those classes more effective, more interesting, more transformational. It’s not that college is bad, it’s that too many classes are boring and useless.

The important thing is that the method doesn’t matter as much as the Biblical imperative of making disciples.

Because small groups really aren’t the end goal anyway. The goal is making disciples, and that’s been the goal ever since the great commission. The win, no matter how cute our mission statements get is making disciples. We can do that without Sunday School, small groups, fog machines, and worship bands.

Multiple Services

I’m amazed when I hear about growing churches who are out of space and considering expanding, yet they only have one service on Sunday. If you’ve only got one service on Sunday morning, and your church has more than 100 people in it, you should move to two services right away. Here’s why.

1. Good stewardship. Don’t go spend money on expansion until you are having as many services as you can in your current facility. We do four services on Sunday morning, and though it wears me out, I can rest the next day. I’m not spending money on bigger facilities only to use them 2 hours a week.

2. It’s better for your volunteers. People say they don’t want multiple service because it’s hard on volunteers. Umm…just the opposite is true. When you have two services, your volunteers can serve one and work one. You can also do away with administering volunteer rotations.

3. It gives people options. People that don’t go to church like options. People in general like options, which is why restaurants serve different things and they make 734 kinds of toothpaste. Some people like an earlier service; some people like to sleep in. Some people would rather go on Saturday night. Give people options, don’t make them cater to your preferences.

EVERY time we have added a service time, we have grown. Multiple services are the way to go.

Virtual Tour

We’re honored to host church planters on a regular basis, and show them everything we do on Sunday mornings at the theater.  But everyone can’t make it on a Sunday, so I filmed a video basically walking people around, showing you how we do things.  Hopefully, it’s the next best thing to visiting in person.  Let us know if you have any questions or if you see anything we can do better.



We’ve recently taken most of our staff through the Clifton Strengthsfinders assessment, and I highly recommend the process. You can buy the book for about $12, and it comes with a code to take the test online.

You’ll learn a lot about yourself, and about your team. You’ll learn what challenges a certain kind of person and how to communicate with that person.  The short little book does a great job describing each strength.

Here’s a breakdown of the strengths for the people who are on our Lead Team. It’s cool how my assistant compliments my strengths. And there are quite a few strategic thinkers on this team, which is great.

Student Ministry Leadership Philosophy

Traditional thinking tells me that we should have hired a full time student pastor about a year ago.  But every Wednesday night, we gather about 130 students together for a student ministry service, and we still don’t have a youth pastor on our staff.  I’m not saying we never will…but what we’re doing now works, so why change it.

I was a student pastor for 12 years, so I know the mind of a youth pastor.  I think most up and coming student pastors have in their minds that the most important thing they will do is teach students.  And it’s still true that most youth pastors want to be “real” pastors one day.

But the #1 job of a youth pastor, especially for us, is not teaching.  I have 5 or 6 people on our staff, plus several people in our church that are more than capable of teaching students.  So why hire a youth pastor, 90% of whom want to just teach, to do that?

Instead of a traditional youth pastor, we have a student ministry team.  I call them the super team.

  • There’s a worship leader, who leads worship at the student ministry service.
  • There’s a very organized person who administrates, communicates and makes sure details are handled.
  • There’s a student ministry intern college student who does the hosting and relationships and hangs out with students.
  • And there’s a young married guy who leads a group of student leaders…discipleship kind of stuff.
  • I take care of the teaching…either teaching myself (60%) or arranging for other speakers (40%)

Instead of getting a youth pastor, who may be good at one or two of these things, we have four people who are in their sweet spot.  Organizationally, they all report to our Family Pastor.

I’m not saying you should organize your student ministry this way, but it works well for us.  I’m not saying we’ll leave it this way, but it works great now.  The key is to create a system that works for you, not just hire someone because you ought to.

Faith & Doubt Series Resources

Here’s a zip file containing message notes, Keynote presentations (you’ll need iWork 09), and an invite card (flattened PSD) to a two part series called Faith and Doubt.  Part one focuses on the relationship between faith and doubt, and part two focuses on practical steps to building faith.  You can listen and watch these messages by visiting our website.

Where is Fuel

A few months ago, I had a crazy idea. I thought it would be cool if we moved the location of our Wednesday night student ministry service around to different places every week. We’re portable anyway, so what if we just moved it around to keep it fresh?

So, we decided to go with We basically twitter, email, text and post the location of the upcoming Wednesday night service on Sunday night. We leave the info up on the site for 24 hours, then pull it off.

Over the past few months, we’ve met at the civic center, the movie theater, a meeting room, a high school and maybe one or two other places. We’ve got some interesting places lined up for the next few weeks, including some outdoor locations.  Nearly all the places have been free or very cheap.

How’s it working? Before the change we were running about 80 students. Now we’re running about 130. Students are also having to call and text each other and ask around for the location, so we’re facilitating invites and relationships.  There’s lots of buzz.

It’s out of the box, but I think it works…especially with students.