Oct 21, 2021

The Best Way to Be Successful in Ministry

What's the best way to be successful in ministry?  I believe it's actually pretty simple.  But by simple, I don't mean easy. 

It takes a lot to do what we're going to talk about today.

This thought crossed my mind many years ago when I was first starting out in ministry.  And it's this...

The best way to be successful in ministry is to stay in ministry.

It takes great determination and intentionality to accomplish what we're talking about today. 

I have been amazed by the number of high profile Christian leaders who have bombed out this year.  Leaders with incredible speaking ability.  Leaders who have built great ministries and have impacted countless number of lives.  

But they didn't finish strong and their legacy is now tarnished with sins like adultery, embezzlement, sexual harassment, drunkenness and abuse of others.  In-spite of all the good they did, this is what they will be remembered for.  In just a moment you can destroy what it took you years to build.

Let's talk briefly about some steps you can take to ensure you stay in ministry for the long haul.

1. Have a growing relationship with Jesus.  Spend time each day with Jesus.  Ask for His wisdom and for His guidance.  Ask Him to protect you from temptation and pitfalls.  The closer you are to Jesus, the more guidance and protection you will able to draw from. 

2. Put rules around you that will protect you from immorality.   Don't ride in a car alone with someone of the opposite sex.  Don't eat lunch alone with another person of the opposite sex.  Don't counsel someone of the opposite sex alone in your office.  Have a window in your office so people can see what you are doing.  Have someone who holds you accountable for your use of technology and regularly checks on the websites you've been on.

Some of these may seem extreme to you.  But it takes extreme caution to finish the race God has placed before you. 

3. Stay away from the money.  Have guidelines in place that free you up from having to handle the church's finances.

4. Pace yourself.  You can't run in the red rpms for an extended period of time without damaging your engine.  Same goes for your ministry race.  You must pace yourself.  You must set yourself up to be able to go the distance.

I found out the hard way that if you don't pace yourself, you can burn out.  You can read my story of burn out at this link.  Remember, ministry is not a sprint.  It is a marathon.  Is your current pace sustainable?

You can burn out doing something you love.

5. Guard your heart.  The Bible tells us that our number one job is this. 

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."  Proverbs 4:23. 

Guard your heart against bitterness.

Guard your heart against envy. 

Guard your heart against anger. 

Guard your heart against lust. 

Guard your heart against jealously. 

Guard your heart against pride. 

My prayer for you is this - to be able to say what Paul said at the end of His ministry. 

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing."                               I Timothy 4:7-8

p.s. You can get tons of more practical advice and insight that will help you finish your course strong in my book "Lead Well in Children's Ministry."  You can get the book at this link

See you at the finish line. 

Oct 20, 2021

Is Your Children's Ministry Attendance Declining? What To Do About It.

I am in dozens of churches each year.  One thing has stood out to me for the past two years or so.  

Many children's ministries' are in decline.  This is primarily due to the effects of Covid19.  But even before Covid, many ministries were already in decline.

A recent survey by the Hartford Institute found that 15,278 churches across the U.S. confirm this.  The number of people attending church is shrinking.

The survey also brought this to light.  Half of the countries' estimated 350,000 churches have 65 or fewer people in attendance.  This is compared to 2000, when the average church had an attendance level of 137 people.  That's a drop of more than half in attendance.

In contrast, non-Christian congregations such as Muslim, Baha'i and Jewish have grown in the last 5 years.

This shift is a reflection of our country's changing demographics.  Children are growing up and moving to urban areas rather than staying in the rural areas where they grew up.  

You can also see this when you look at megachurches.  Churches with 1,500 or more in attendance have been best able to avoid decline.  71% of large churches have actually grown over the past 5 years.

Here's the bottom line.  Most children's ministries are not growing.  Due to Covid and other related factors, children's ministries are struggling.  I was recently at a church that pre-covid averaged over 600 children in attendance each weekend.  The Sunday I was there, they had around 150 children in attendance. This story could be told many times over in churches across the country.

So what can you do?  How can you not only bounce back, but also grow and thrive in this new reality?

Here are some things you can do about it.

Keep your current kids and families connected.  Reach out by phone, email, text and zoom calls.  Live stream on Facebook.  Create a YouTube channel and use videos to communicate.  

Share your safety precautions with families.  Parents are obviously concerned about putting their children in an environment where exposure can happen.  Let them know the things you have implemented to keep children safe. 

Encourage your kids and families to invite people to come to church with them.  I have seen this happening in many churches.  They are having a good number of first-time guest families show up. This is primarily the result of people inviting their friends, neighbors, co-workers, team mates, etc.  For many unchurched families, the pandemic has been a wake-up call.

This is a great time to invite people to come to church.  They are afraid.  Lonely.  Uncertain.  Confused. You have the answer for this.  It's Jesus.  Introduce them to Him.

Be willing to try something new.  Be willing to change something that wasn't working before the pandemic.  One church I know about was still singing out of the old songbooks.  During Covid,  they had a good reason to remove the hymnbooks for safety measures. And the songbooks never returned as they transitioned people to singing the words off a screen up front.

Keep your focus outward.  Yes. Care for the kids and families in the ministry.  But it's also just as important to keep your focus on the kids and families outside of your ministry that don't know Jesus.  Lead kids and families in praying for those in your community that do not yet know Jesus.

Pray.  Pray.  Pray.  Pray for laborers for the harvest.  Pray that God would draw those around you that need Jesus.  Pray for the Spirit of God to move throughout your community.  

Be the salt and the light.  What an incredible opportunity we have to bring hope during this time.  What an incredible opportunity we have to be the light in the darkness.

Rather than focusing on the number of people who are attending, keep your focus on those in your community who don't know Jesus.  That is the heart of Jesus.  And when you align with His great passion, you will see your ministry grow and reach people with the Gospel.

How is your church doing in the pandemic?  Growing?  Plateaued?  Declining?  What are some steps or strategies you are trying?  Share your ideas and insight in the comment section below.

Oct 19, 2021

3 Strategic Steps to Take After Your Halloween Outreach Event

It's that time of year.  The leaves are changing colors (depending on where you live) and the weather is getting cooler.  

October 31 is just a few weeks away.  Many of you are doing a Halloween outreach event (or whatever you call it) at your church. 

If you are hosting an outreach event, I'm sure you are busy preparing for it. 

But what about after the event?  How can you follow up with guests?  How can you see families visit your church on a weekend?  How can you see families get involved in your ministry?  How can you grow your volunteer team by enlisting some of the volunteers who served for the first time at the event?

Here are 3 strategic steps you can take after your Halloween Outreach Event.

Actually let's back up.  Because the first strategic step actually takes place at the event.  And the step is this - Give families a great experience at the event. 

It is vital that families have a great experience at the event.  If they don't, they simply won't come back.  If people are rude to them, if their kids don't get enough candy, or if the festival doesn't match what was advertised...it doesn't matter how much you follow up.  They won't come back.  The first impression truly is a lasting impression.  

The second strategic step is to be intentional about inviting guest families to a weekend service at your church.  Here are some ways to do this.

Collect families' basic contact information You can't follow up without it.  Here's some ways you can collect it.

  • Let them know up front that you are not going to show up on their door step the next week.  Ask permission to send them some info. about your ministry. People will be hesitant to give you their information if they think you are going to show up at their house unannounced.
  • Have people register for a free gift that they receive right on the spot.  It might be something as simple as a full-size candy bar for their kids.  With all the mini-candy bars being passed out, you'd be surprised how many people will give you their contact info. just to get a large candy bar for their child. 
  • Have a drawing for some large prizes like a bike, family meal certificate to a local restaurant, movie tickets, etc.  Ask people to register for the drawing.
  • Have a table or booth set up with church information, brochures, etc.  Staff it with friendly volunteers who can answer questions.
Follow up after the event. 
  • Follow up as quickly as possible.  If you follow up within 48 hours, the likelihood of them returning goes up. 
  • Send them an email or better yet, a handwritten note, that thanks them for coming.  Include information about weekend services or other upcoming events.  Ask them at the event if you can send them some information about your ministry.  Keep it short and simple.  Here's a sample.
Dear Parent,

Thank you for being our guest at the Family Fall Festival.  We hope you had a great time.  your church's name is a family made up of people just like you and me, who come together to encourage and support each other on this journey called life.

One of the most exciting and challenging parts of life is being a parent.  At your church's name, we want to help your kids learn more about God and discover the purpose He has for their lives.  We also desire to come alongside parents to provide parenting tools, resources, encouragement and support.

You can get more information about your church's name by visiting our website at your church's website or by calling phone number.  We also invite you to be our guest at any of our weekend services.  We're here for you and your family.

Hope to see you this weekend!

  • Include a coupon that they can redeem for a free gift the next time they attend the church.  It might be a drink for the parents and a small toy or t-shirt for the kids. 
  • Invite them to your next big event.  Add them to your mailing list and invite them to your next event.  Even if they don't show up for a church service the next weekend, you may see them return for another event.  Keep planting seeds...God will bring the fruit.
  • Call them.  A short...thank you for coming...if we can be of any service to you...phone call is appropriate.  I would encourage you to keep it light and not come across as pushy.
The third strategic step is to invite first-time volunteers who served at the event to join your volunteer team on a regular basis.
Before the event, do a church-wide push to enlist new volunteers to serve at the event.  Once the event is over, call the new people who served and invite them to join your volunteer team on a regular basis.  I've seen as high as 85% of people who volunteered at the event to join our team as a full-time volunteer.
Halloween is one of your best opportunities to reach families.  I'm thinking of a family who came to our Fall Festival.  It was their first contact with our church.  They came back on the weekend, gave their lives to Christ and are now growing in their faith and serving in the ministry.
Take these three strategic steps and you can see new families come to your church and people step into serving roles.

Oct 14, 2021

There's Nothing Like In-Person

I am thankful for technology that is enabling us to share the Gospel with the entire world through the www.

During this pandemic, many children's ministries have taken their message online to continue reaching and teaching kids.  

Some have been somewhat successful while others have not attracted very many viewers. 

We are also seeing hybrid models where children's ministries are offering both online and in-person services. 

All things considered, I believe there is nothing like in-person ministry.

In-person ministry where each child hears their name spoken.

In-person ministry where children are prayed for.

In-person ministry that enables children to interact and learn from each other.

In-person ministry where the presence of God fills the room. 

In-person ministry where children can feel the energy and excitement of being together in one room.

In-person ministry that helps kids build stronger relationships. 

In-person meetings are more productive.  Did you know that on average, an in-person meeting will generate about 13.36 ideas, whereas a virtual meeting will only generate around 10.43?

In-person ministry allows volunteers to make direct eye contact with children.

I believe it is easier to show children that you care with in-person meetings because they can better see your facial expressions.  Plus they can better feel your compassion and heartbeat for helping them grow up to love Jesus.

In-person ministry better helps you build credibility and trustworthiness with the children.

In-person communication and services are needed because the more important a meeting is the more effective communication you need.  We have the most critical, life-changing message in the world.  The message that Jesus was crucified, died and rose again so we could be forgiven.  The higher the stakes and the more critical the conversation, the more you need close proximity to communicate effectively. 

Online meetings and services are here to stay. And let's be honest.  They are easier and more convention to have.  But I believe that as the Covid19 situation continues to improve, we should opt for in-person as much as possible. 

Your turn. what are your thoughts about in-person services vs. online services?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below.