Archive for the ‘Programming’ Category


Next week, we’re starting a pilot program at Oak Leaf Church called Oak Leaf University. It’s a series of four week courses that will happen on Tuesday nights from 6-8. They cost $20, and include snacks, course materials and childcare.

While we’ve offered Journey Groups since our church began, I think Oak Leaf University will meet a different need.  The courses are short term (four week commitment), meaning that it’s easier for many to attend.  We’re providing childcare, which is easier for parents with children. It’s a little more classroom-oriented, which appeals to a different kind of learner.

The four courses that we are offering in the first semester are Theology 101 (I’m teaching…here’s the student book that we prepared), Introduction to the Bible, Parenting and Finances.  Two “Bible” topics and two “Practical” topics.  So far, we have had 100 people sign up for July, which is about 15% of our adult weekend attendance.

The idea is to run it for one month, with two months back to back, and then take two months off.  That will give us six semesters a year, and we’ll offer different classes.  We are currently working on a course for new Christians, something on Leadership, and a Church History course for the fall.


Calendar Requests

As our church gets larger, we can’t just decide to throw things on the calendar. All events must go through the calendar process.

There’s a Word Doc form (included in the Docs&Forms package by the way), but the form is also online. This gets submitted to our office manager who checks for immediate problems and checks on availability (of the date, the room, the media tech if needed). All calendar requests are approved in our weekly lead team meeting.

By the way, we use Google Calendar for the master church calendar.  Two or three people can add/delete things but every staff member can subscribe.

Saturday Night vs. Sunday Night Services

We knew we needed to choose either Saturday or Sunday night for an additional service at our new place, so I thought I would let you know why we chose Saturday night.

We talked to a lot of people, checked out a ton of church websites, talked about it in our team, and said a lot of prayers. In the end, I feel like Saturday night will allow us to reach people who do not know Christ or attend Church a little better than a Sunday night would.

In our area, churches have Sunday night services, and they are generally attended by the highly churched.  Nothing wrong with that, but we’re not trying to reach that demographic. I feel like Saturday night is a night out for a lot of people, and that they might make church a part of their night.

A few other reasons…

#1 – We’ve got a ton of families with children, and Sunday night is a school night.

#2 – We feel like we can develop an identity on Saturday night…no other churches are doing Saturday nights in our area. I think we can really gain some momentum and reach new people. We’ve got a full-blown coffee shop in our building, and I’m hoping that people will connect over coffee before or after the evening service.

#3 – One of the most common reasons we heard about churches doing Sunday night over Saturday night was because of staff. Saturday nights are hard for staff. But we don’t do Wednesday night stuff, we aren’t busy with night meetings throughout the week. We’ll do some things to make sure that we’re taking care of people, but our staff is committed to reaching people, and I think we could all give a night a week to that mission.


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!

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.

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.

The Welcome

Every weekend, we take about 90 seconds to welcome everyone.  This element in our service has a few items:

– Introduction of whoever is talking (always do this, by the way…don’t assume people know who you are)

– A quick hit on vision, our mission statement.  We try and work in the mission statement.

– Telling people you’re glad they are here and welcoming guests

– Explaining the connection card and what to do with them

– A next step

The Third Thing

If you’re like most churches, then your Sunday service has music and teaching. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the third element. Sure…we try to make the music and the message creative, interesting, relevant, truthful, authentic and all that. But as I look back on our 2 1/2 years worth of services, the ones that had a 3rd element are often the most memorable. Here’s some things that we’ve done or that we’re thinking about doing:

  • A scripture reading as a part of the worship set
  • Silly videos like this one, this one and this one
  • Text to screen during the sermon or during worship
  • A goofy game
  • Elementary kids singing…helping lead the church in worship
  • A drumline or cheerleaders interrupting the welcome
  • A personal testimony or story

What about you?  What have you done in your worship services that isn’t worship or teaching?

Creating Flow

Good worship leaders know how to create the all-important flow between songs and elements in a worship set, but I wanted to give some ideas for improving flow throughout the entire worship service.  Transitioning between elements is something that is often over-looked, but if you sweat the details, you’ll have a better service.  Here’s some ideas.

1.  Acknowledge what just happened.  When a person gets up on stage, he or she should acknowledge what just happened.  If it was a high energy worship song, he could say “man, you guys sound great.”

2.  Direct people.  Dont’ assume that people know to stand up when the music starts.  Don’t just turn down the lights and show a video without warning.  Give people clear directions.  If you want them to stop by the lobby and pick up something, hold it up for everyone to see.

3.  Tell people what is about to happen. If you’re about to receive the offering, say “in just a few minutes, ushers are about to come pass some buckets down the aisles.” If you are transitioning from a welcome to some worship, tell people what they should do.

4.  Control everything in the room.  Whoever is on stage is in charge of the entire room.  From time to time, the person handling the offering will direct the ushers.  “Guys, go ahead and send those buckets down the aisles.”  A good speaker will own the room.

5.  Have personality.  You don’t have to rocket through the information or the element.  If you’re on stage, let your personality come through (and don’t put people on stage that don’t have a personality).  From time to time, I will interact with the worship leader and make jokes.  I’ll ask people how they are doing.  I’ll drop in quick stories about my kids.  These personality moments make your service personal for people, and not just something they watch.

6.  Use the pause.  Great speakers are experts at the pause.  They will say something dramatic and let it sink in for a minute.  Pauses can build anticipation.  I’ve seen people get up after a great time of worship and stand still for 10 seconds…as if they are allowing the room to breathe.

7.  Be prepared.  This is the most important this for us.  It’s why we wrote an official guide to the welcome and an official guide to the giving talk (I’ve posted those before if you want to check them out.)  If you are going to be on stage, you need to plan out what you are going to say, and you need to have an understanding of everything else that is happening in that service. Prepare your transitions just like you prepare the elements themselves.

What else would you add to this list?  Have you ever been in a service with a terrible flow?  What do you do?

Last Sunday of the Year = No Services?

I know there are a lot of churches that cancel services on the last Sunday of the year, and I’m not dogging that.  Here’s why we don’t do it.

Sunday only happens once a week, and we want to use every opportunity we have to gather people to hear about Jesus.  People generally go to church on Sunday, and we gear up for 52 big days every single year.

The most common reason people site for canceling services is to honor and thank all their volunteers. While I understand the sentiment, I don’t really get the point.  Our volunteers love to serve and they look forward to Sundays.  Plus, killing people for 51 weeks and then giving them a week off isn’t really appreciating them.  Your volunteers should always be able to take a week if necessary.

There’s a good chance that guests and people who need Jesus would attend your church on the last Sunday of the year.

Not everybody goes out of town or checks out.  In fact, in this economy, I bet more people stayed home and would appreciate something to do that doesn’t involve going to the mall.  We nearly had our ten week average attendance on the last Sunday of the year.

It’s a great opportunity to do something special – like the Lord’s Supper (like we did), or look back on what God did in your church during the year (like NewSpring did).

By the way, I don’t think churches that cancel services are less spiritual or don’t care about reaching lost people.  I’m just sharing a few reasons off the top of my head why we do church at the end of the year.