June Sermon Series Giveaway

This month is giving away a 5-week series, “I Don’t Want To Be That Person Anymore.”

Sermon topics include:

  • The Difference Between Regret and Repentance
  • The Difference Between Condemnation and Conviction
  • The Difference Between Religion and Relationship
  • The Difference Between Falling and Failing
  • and more

Sermon Bundle Includes:

  • .jpg and .psd artwork files (title slide and scripture background slide)
  • 5-Weeks of sermon notes
Developing Leaders

4 Conversations A Pastor Should Have Every Week If You Want To Develop More Leaders

When I became a pastor, I incorrectly assumed my job was to make sure all the weekly “church work” was accomplished. After all, I was getting paid to be at the church while everyone else in the congregation had to go to their secular jobs. (That was my first incorrect assumption… I was being paid to be at the church.) Work needed to be done, and since I was at the church, who better to get the job done than me, right?

My intentions were noble, I wanted to be helpful and provide the most value to my church, but my mistake was believing that my value was determined by my productivity. I confidently believed the more tasks I checked off my “get done” list, the more the church would grow and the more people we would reach. I was wrong.

I know it’s hard to comprehend if you find yourself with a long list of ministry tasks that need to be completed and a shortage of help to get the job done. “If I don’t do it, who will?” you’re thinking. It’s a valid question.

  • Who will clean the church building?
  • Who will put the song lyrics in the computer?
  • Who will print and fold the bulletin?
  • Who will design the sermon series graphic, or make the chord charts?
  • Who will lead the small group or community outreach event?

As contrary as it is to everything we believe about senior pastor leadership, the more you “do” as the senior leader of your church the more you hurt the long-term health and potential of your church. It’s ironic, isn’t it? We work so hard to help our church but instead of helping we hurt our church because we accidentally create an organization that is dependent on us.

This idea is not original with me; it’s from the Bible.

Ephesians‬ ‭4:11-12‬ ‬‬
“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.”

According to the Apostle Paul, Christ gave you as a gift to your church. I know it doesn’t feel like it, but it’s true. Christ gifted you to your church so that you can equip God’s people to do his work.

That sounds like a different job description than most pastors I know. Yes, according to Ephesians pastors have a responsibility, but it’s not to “do” the work of the church, it’s to equip people to do the work of the church. Here’s the best part, when you do your job, and they do their job, the church of Jesus Christ is built up. You build the church when you build people.

If I was to interrupt your tireless work one day and ask you, “why are you doing all those tasks?” You would probably say, “I’m trying to build a church.” I get it, I want to build a great church too, but great churches aren’t built by a talented senior pastor, great churches are built by an empowering senior pastor. Talent doesn’t hurt, but it’s not the main criteria or responsibility of the pastor. The main responsibility is to equip people. And before you think the senior pastor is getting out of work, it’s way harder to empower someone else to do a job than to do it yourself. Way. Harder. (I wrote more about how your talent hurts your church in this post.)

[clickToTweet tweet=”PASTOR: Great churches aren’t built by talented pastors, great churches are built by empowering pastors” quote=”PASTOR: Great churches aren’t built by talented pastors, great churches are built by empowering pastors”]

A Pastor’s Job Description

So if you’re job isn’t to complete tasks, what is your job? There are many different ways to answer that question, and the answer can vary depending on the various spiritual gifts of the leader, but at its core, I believe every senior pastor (or team leader) has one job more important than any other. Your job is to be the CCO, the chief communicating officer.

When I say communication, don’t just think of preaching, or talking from the stage, what I’m talking about is WAY more important than that. Empowering leaders are always communicating: vision, expectations, encouragement, and correction.

One of the reasons it’s easier to get the job done yourself is because it doesn’t require communication; you know what you want, and you know how to get it done, or at least you can figure out how to get it done. To equip and empower someone else requires instruction, patience, and probably settling for a finished product of less quality than you could have done, and that’s hard. But when you help someone do something you could have done yourself you are doing what God called you to do: you are building the church.

[clickToTweet tweet=”PASTOR: When you help someone do something you could have done yourself you are doing what God called you to do: you are building the church.” quote=”PASTOR: When you help someone do something you could have done yourself you are doing what God called you to do: you are building the church.”]

How Do I Do That?

One of the best ways to gauge how effectively you are equipping and empowering your church is to look at your calendar. As you review your previous week or plan the week ahead, how are you spending the majority of your time? Are you accomplishing tasks by yourself or are you meeting with people? Are you spending most of your time on a laptop computer or sitting across the table having a conversation with someone. Of course, you need time to study and invest in yourself, but in general how often are you communicating with people?

To identify, recruit, train, and empower leaders to do the work of ministry requires intentional leadership. Think of it as being the lead car of a caravan on the interstate. You are leading the way, but you can’t drive so fast that you leave everyone, and you also can’t drive so slow that it takes you too long to arrive at your destination. When you are the lead driver of a caravan, you are regularly checking the rearview mirror. Are the people who need to be with you, with you? Is anyone falling behind? Did anyone exit without telling you? Does anyone need to stop and take a break? In a way, pastoring is continuously checking the rearview mirror. You set the pace, but a great leader makes sure he is being followed.

In a perfect world you would cast the vision, ask for help, empower the leader and never need to check back in, but ministry is not a perfect world, it’s messy because people are messy. The leaders you empower need to be challenged and celebrated. They need clarity and correction. That’s where your job as CCO comes in. A pastor should have at least 3, maybe 4, kinds of conversations every week. These conversations help to reinforce vision, provide clarity and instruction, and show care to the people you lead. There’s no hard and fast rule for how many meetings you should have; you get to decide, so pick times and formats that enable you to be at your best and make sure to have these conversations every week, so everyone arrives at the final destination together.

1. Clarifying Conversations

Clarifying conversations do exactly what it sounds like they do, they provide clarity. You have staff members, volunteers, and church members who need clarity this week, and you can give it to them. Maybe you need to clearly define their role on the team or their responsibility on the weekend. Maybe you need to clarify the vision because they’re not sure why you’re so committed to how you do do what you do. You probably have a new Christian in your church who needs clarity on spiritual questions. They need answers to Bible questions or instruction for how to overcome a spiritual battle. Does one of your volunteer leaders need a solution to a recurring problem, could you provide a solution that would help them stay committed and encouraged?

Think of clarifying conversations as releasing a small amount pressure from a kettle so that frustrations, hard feelings, or confusion, don’t build up and blow up one day. Great leaders are continually reinforcing values, vision, and expectation.

Go ahead and write down 3 names of people on your team or in your church who would benefit from a clarifying conversation this week. Set up a time to meet. By the way, don’t invite them to a “clarifying meeting,” invite them to coffee. Talk about their job, their kids, their hobbies. Have a 30-minute conversation and spend the last 5-10 minutes clarifying. Your agenda is not the material it’s the person sitting across the table from you. Invest in them and then clarify for them. Over time you will see them develop into an equipped and empowered leader.

2. Challenging Conversations

Challenging conversations are exciting because it gives you the chance to challenge someone to be more than they are settling for. A challenging conversation may be a hard conversation, but it doesn’t have to be. Maybe there is a person in your church who has been faithfully serving in a minor role, but you see potential leadership in them, take them to coffee and challenge them. Do what Dave Ferguson calls an ICNU conversation. It sounds something like this, “Sarah, I’ve watched how you’ve faithfully served the last few months in the kid’s department, and you’ve done such a great job. I want you to know that I see potential in you. I believe God has more in store for than just serving as a teacher’s assistant.” A challenging conversation may be out of concern. “Hey Joe, I’ve noticed you’ve been distant lately. Is everything ok? Is there anything I can do to help? I get worried when people get distant because I’ve seen too many people fall away. I want to challenge you to stay committed. God has big plans for your life.” You’re not confronting them; you’re challenging them. I bet you are the leader you are today because someone who loves you had a challenging conversation with you.

Think of challenging conversations as coaching. Every great coach knows how to motivate their players and push them to perform at their best. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, but the coach always has the players best interest at heart. I think one of my favorite and most awkward examples of a challenging conversation is found in Acts 16 when the Apostle Paul invites his new pupil Timothy to join him on his ministry trip.

Acts 16:2-3
“…so Paul wanted him to join them on their journey. In deference to the Jews of the area, he arranged for Timothy to be circumcised before they left, for everyone knew that his father was a Greek.”‭‭‬‬

Ouch! Can you imagine that conversation? “Timothy I know you’re not a jew, and you’re already in college, but I see great potential in you, and I think if you got circumcised it would grow your influence.” Now that’s a challenging conversation.

Go ahead and set up 1 or 2 challenging conversations this week. Is there someone who doesn’t realize the call God has on their life yet? Is there someone who is underperforming and needs to be motivated? When you take time to intentionally challenge them you are leading them to fulfill their God-given potential; it doesn’t get any better than that.

3. Confronting Conversations

Hopefully, you don’t need to have confronting conversations often, but if you’re leading people, you will undoubtedly be required to confront people and issues at times. No one likes confrontation, not normal people anyway. The fact that you don’t want to confront someone lets you know that your heart is in the right place to help them. Is there a team member who has consistently underperformed even after challenging conversations? Is there a church member who is living in blatant sin and needs to be confronted by their pastor who cares about them? Is someone being divisive or leading people astray. When you agreed to be the pastor you agreed to have the hard conversations. If you don’t, who will?

Even the apostles had to confront each other at times. According to Paul, he had to confront Peter for the way he was acting towards the Gentiles.

Galatians‬ ‭2:11‬
“But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong.”

If I told you I had a genie in a bottle and you could confront someone with the guarantee there would be no fall out after your meeting, who would you confront? I don’t have a genie in a bottle, but now you know who you need to meet with. The problem won’t go away, and you’re not kind by ignoring it, you’re selfish. You are probably one or two incredibly painful, hard conversations away from your church growing to the next level; you just have to get the courage to confront what everyone knows is a problem but refuses to address. You can do it!

[clickToTweet tweet=”PASTOR: You are probably one or two incredibly painful, hard conversations away from your church growing to the next level. Confront what everyone else around you already knows is a problem. You can do it!” quote=”PASTOR: You are probably one or two incredibly painful, hard conversations away from your church growing to the next level. Confront what everyone else around you already knows is a problem. You can do it!”]

4. Celebrating Conversations

I saved the best for last. Celebrating conversations are the simplest but most powerful tool you have to build unity, morale, and reinforce vision in your church. You are surrounded by team members and church members who need encouragement. They don’t believe in themselves the way you believe in them. They don’t think they’re doing a good job. They don’t think you notice what they’re doing. I don’t know who coined the phrase, but what gets celebrated get’s replicated, so find people doing what you wish everyone else was doing and make a big deal about it! At our staff meeting, every team member writes 2-3 thank you cards for someone on their team. It’s such a simple thing, but based on the reaction of the people who receive the thank you cards you would think we attached $100 bills. They feel appreciated and motivated to work even harder to build the church.

Clarifying, challenging, and confronting conversations need to be done face to face, but celebrating conversations can be in any format. Go crazy with it. Send 20 text messages today. Write a few thank you cards. Post on someone facebook timeline. You will be surprised how something so small makes such a big difference. You will never celebrate the people around you enough.

It’s counter-intuitive to think that a day with a breakfast meeting, a coffee meeting, a staff meeting, and a lunch meeting is more productive than a day where you cross tasks off your list, but you’re not the help anymore, you’re the pastor. God didn’t put you at your church to be the best musician, designer, small group leader, or handyman, he put you there to equip and empower people, and there’s no substitute or shortcut for building people. As you plan your schedule make sure you prioritize conversations; communicate, clarify, challenge, celebrate and confront if necessary. For a while, you will drive home at the end of the day, and wonder “What did I really accomplish today?” You will feel guilty. You’ll think you should be doing more, but you’re doing what only you can do: you are consistently communicating from the top down. The more you equip God’s people to do the work of ministry the more the church and your leadership will flourish. You got this!

[clickToTweet tweet=”PASTOR: God didn’t put you at your church to be the best musician, designer, small group leader, or handyman, he put you there to equip and empower people, and there’s no substitute or shortcut for building people.” quote=”PASTOR: God didn’t put you at your church to be the best musician, designer, small group leader, or handyman, he put you there to equip and empower people, and there’s no substitute or shortcut for building people.”]

Church Growth Podcast

Episode #15 – Running from the Spotlight, Healthy Leadership, & Social Media Dangers with Pastor Brady Boyd

Click Here to listen and Subscribe on iTunes

Pastor Brady Boyd is the pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs Colorado. Brady followed Ted Haggard at New Life and has spent the last decade preaching integrity, humility, and protecting your heart.

In our interview we talk about the dangers of the spotlight and social media for every leader, along with how to last and finish well in ministry. This is a great interview for any leader looking to lead long term.

Links mentioned in this podcast:

Addicted to Busy by Brady Boyd –
Speak Life by Brady Boyd –
Pastor by Eugene Peterson –


May Sermon Series Giveaway

This month is giving away a 6-week series, “How To Hear God’s Voice.” This series will help your congregation gain confidence communicating with God.

Sermon topics include:

  • How To Read The Bible
  • Following God’s Promptings
  • The Purpose of Pain
  • How to walk through open doors
  • How to know the difference between a good idea and a God idea
  • and more

Sermon Bundle Includes:

  • .jpg artwork files (title slide and scripture background slide)
  • 6-Weeks of sermon notes


Are Mission Trips A Waste of Money for Your Church?

If you fly anywhere in the United States during the summer, you will almost inevitably see groups of short-term missionaries headed on a mission trip. You can’t miss them, a group of week long missionaries. Teenagers and chaperones in bright neon t-shirts, brand-new passports, and an enthusiasm for all that they will accomplish for the Lord. Maybe you’ve seen them and asked yourself what those eager young people could possibly accomplish during their 5-day stay in whatever developing nations they were headed to. Perhaps the thought has even entered your head that those kids should just stay home and send whatever money they raised straight to the mission field, where it could be put to better use!

This idea of sending money rather than sending people is a hot topic in the missions community. As the directors of a children’s home in Guatemala, we often hear the question, “What do you need from my church, money or people?” Our answer: “Both!” We are big believers in short-term missions, and in the nearly ten years we have been on the mission field in Guatemala, we have seen the Lord accomplish so much for His kingdom through the partnership of short-term missionaries with a local organization.

Yes, short-term missions is a lot of work. It requires months of training, coordination, and preparation. It requires finding a reliable host organization to partner with. It often requires many hours of travel, and it almost always requires a significant financial investment from the church or from those participating in the trip. Is it all worth it for your church? Our experience says that if it’s short-term missions done right with a focus on Christ and on serving, yes, it’s absolutely worth it!

Let me give you 3 reasons why your church should take a short term missions trip:

1. Short-term missions gives your church accessible, achievable goals.

We have witnessed countless short-term missions teams come together across differences in age, socio-economic class, theological disputes and political perspectives to serve the children at our orphanage. They band together through pre-trip training, travel, and serving others, in order to accomplish a common goal. Achieving the goal of the missions trip, whether it be providing dental care in an underserved village, holding Vacation Bible School at an orphanage, building a home for a homeless family, or training local workers in best practices for hygiene and sanitation, is a hugely rewarding experience for a group of church members when done in the name of Jesus Christ. We’ve witnessed that these short-term missionaries almost always take this sense of unity and accomplishment back to their local church after the trip, and their enthusiasm serves as a true boost of energy and momentum for the entire congregation.

2. Short-term missions is a faith-building experience for participants.

Often, short-term missionaries are in over their head, which isn’t a bad thing! Out of their comfort zone and in unfamiliar territory, short-term missionaries are forced to rely on the Lord in a way that often do not at home where life is familiar and comfortable. As an organization that hosts missions teams from around the United States, we have seen hundreds of men, women, and teenagers encouraged in their faith while on a missions trip to the children’s home. We often hear “I came to serve and be a blessing, but the Lord has taught me so much about relying on Him during this trip that I am the one who was blessed!” Cliché? Perhaps. But it’s also true! We have even seen the Lord call people to adoption, the ministry, and even full-time missions at Casa Shalom! Former short-term missionaries at Casa Shalom have gone on serve full-time in Mexico, Brazil, Thailand and Italy! Although short-term missions can be uncomfortable and even daunting, we don’t need to fear it, as the Lord tells us in Isaiah 41, “Fear not, I am the One who helps you.”

3. Short-term missions trips are a fantastic way to truly be a blessing to the host organization in a developing nation.

In Acts chapter 1, Jesus makes it clear that missions is not optional. He uses his very last words on Earth to tell His followers that they would be witnesses for him in their city, their region and in the whole world! At this critical moment, He could have spoken on any topic, but He chose to emphasize missions one final time. Ministries like our orphanage absolutely need donations of funding to provide critical care for those we serve. But we also need man- and woman-power to accomplish what we cannot on the ground, and to provide the love of God and spiritual encouragement and refreshment! Short-term missions teams provide both funding to support the day-to-day operations of the orphanage, and workers to accomplish tasks we simply do not have the staff or funding to accomplish. We need men, women, and teenagers on fire for Christ to be witnesses for Him to us on the mission field!

Missions done right is a church or organization partnering with an existing ministry to accomplish what the ministry needs done. The ministry doesn’t need anyone to paint? Don’t insist on painting! The ministry doesn’t need someone to do door-to-door evangelism? Don’t insist on doing door-to-door evangelism! Take your cue from your hosting organization and focus your trip on what they truly need accomplished. Keep the focus on Christ and not the glorification of any one individual or of your church. Take the leap into short-term missions and watch how the Lord blesses your ministry!


10 Things I Learned Raising $1.5 Million For My Church

In full disclosure, I kind of cringed when I typed the title to this blog, but I wanted you to click the link, so I chose that title over the more accurate, “What I learned watching God provide $1.5 million for our church.” You probably wouldn’t have clicked that link, but alas, here we are.

I’m not a fundraiser, I’m a pastor, but as a pastor sometimes I have to be a fundraiser. I bet you’ve had to do the same thing at some point or another in your leadership. Whether it’s raising money for a youth trip or building a new building, every pastor has seasons of leadership where raising funds has to move to the forefront of your job description.

Based on conversations with other church leaders, raising money is not something we’re comfortable doing. I get it, we don’t want people to feel uncomfortable or draw wrong impressions about our motives, but over the last decade of pastoring, I have had a change of heart about how much I talk about money or challenge people to prioritize giving. I’ve written about it more detail here.

Here’s the fact: It takes money to do ministry, and while yes, technically God could miraculously provide all the resources you will ever need, historically that’s not how he operates. Instead, he puts a dream in your heart that is beyond your current level of resources and then tasks you with the responsibility of leading a congregation to that desired destination.

That’s where I found myself 18 months ago. I knew after ten years of pastoring Hope City Church; God was calling our church to take some bold, faith-filled, steps: A building renovation and a second campus launch. These steps would require me to put my fundraising hat on for a season as we tried to raise $1.5 million.

After months of praying, planning, and meetings, we launched our campaign and raised almost $1.6 million. God is good!

Whether you need to raise $1 million or $10,000 for a dream God has put in your heart, I want to share with you some lessons I learned along the way during this fundraising season for our church.

1. Hire an expert

You only get one chance to launch your first giving campaign, and if you need to raise a substantial amount of money (define that in your context), you can’t afford to “wing it.” It’s tempting to do the math and feel that the cost of a consultant or expert is too expensive, but the truth is you can’t afford not to hire an expert. I have pastor friends who have raised a lot more money than me and for their 2nd or 3rd campaigns decided to lead the campaign themselves, but that’s only because they hired an expert the first time and learned how to raise money on a large scale. Of course, don’t hire a car salesman, hire someone that understands your heart, and you feel comfortable with, but don’t try and save a few thousand dollars in an attempt to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s a cheap mindset and will cost you in the long run.

[clickToTweet tweet=”PASTOR: Don’t try and save a few thousand dollars in an attempt to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. @jasonisaacs” quote=”PASTOR: Don’t try and save a few thousand dollars in an attempt to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. “]

2. You don’t raise money from the pulpit you raise money over coffee

Pastors are typically good communicators so we’re tempted to believe that we can accomplish anything from the stage, but when it comes to fundraising, the stage is the final piece of the fundraising puzzle. If you stand up to preach/announce the start of a fundraising campaign and you don’t already have 50-70% of your money raised from private conversations beforehand you’re in trouble. The hard work has already been done before you stand in front of the congregation to announce the campaign. Don’t assume you can preach one sermon and raise money over the long term.

3. Don’t feel bad for prioritizing big givers

My friend said something to me one day that is so simple but so profound. He said, “large gifts come from large givers.” Go figure! We ask people who can sing to sing. We ask people who can teach to teach. Why not ask people who can give big to give big? The key, though, is that we ask everyone to participate. It’s not equal giving; it’s equal sacrifice. So, I met with everyone who wanted to meet with me, and I asked everyone to give sacrificially, but where there were families who could give larger amounts, I did not apologize for asking them to do so. I believe God has blessed them to help fund the kingdom of God, and I told them so. Just know, whatever amount of money you want to raise, 25%-35% of it will come from 2-3 people in order to hit your goal. This requires you to be courageous and direct with people who have the capacity to make a big impact. Which leads me to my next point…

[clickToTweet tweet=”PASTOR: Large gifts come from large givers. We ask people who can sing to sing. We ask people who can teach to teach. Why not ask people who can give big to give big? @jasonisaacs” quote=”PASTOR: Large gifts come from large givers. We ask people who can sing to sing. We ask people who can teach to teach. Why not ask people who can give big to give big?”]

4. Big givers are not uncomfortable being asked for big gifts

I won’t belabor the point, but know that when you sit down with a large donor to ask for a donation, you are probably the fifth person to ask them for money that month. Big givers are used to conversations about money. In my experience, they like the conversation to be direct and specific. The more uncomfortable you are, the less likely you are to inspire them. Don’t lowball them out of fear. Yes, ask them to pray about it, but be proactive and ask them to pray about giving a specific amount that it is in your heart.

5. Your church will be as generous as you are

I talked about this a lot in this post, so I won’t repeat everything, but this is an important point to make. As you prepare to have meetings and ask people to step up big and give, make sure you’re buying what you’re selling. Are you drinking the kool-aid? I hope so. My friend Josh, who helps churches raise money told me that he has never seen a fundraising campaign meet or exceed their goal if the pastor did not lead the way with an extremely generous commitment… NEVER! You shouldn’t be the biggest giver in your church, but you should be the largest percentage giver in your church because your church will not exceed your level of sacrifice. If you’re not ready to be extremely generous on a personal level, you’re not ready to try and raise money for your church.

[clickToTweet tweet=”PASTOR: You shouldn’t be the biggest giver in your church, but you should be the largest percentage giver in your church, because your church will never exceed your level of sacrifice. @jasonisaacs” quote=”PASTOR: You shouldn’t be the biggest giver in your church, but you should be the largest percentage giver in your church, because your church will never exceed your level of sacrifice.”]

One more thing, I didn’t tell many people what my commitment amount was, because I didn’t want to forfeit my spiritual reward by impressing people. However, for a few conversations, when I felt it was appropriate and could be an example of the kind of generosity it would require to take our church where God wanted to lead us, I shared my pledge to inspire and encourage someone to join me. You’ll have to trust your gut on that, but lead the way, it’s the only way.

6. You are currently fundraising whether you realize it or not.

You may not have asked for money yet, but you are building trust and credibility through your leadership practices and the vision you’re casting. Every budget meeting, every giving sermon, every staff hire is sending a message to your church about how you spend money and what your vision is. You may not ask for money for three more years, but know that you are raising money right now. We spent ten years preparing to ask people, during that time we never received a special offering for our church, but when it came time to ask, we asked big! If you never talk about money, and then one day stand up and start talking about it, don’t be surprised if people are confused. If you don’t operate on a budget, don’t be surprised if large givers are hesitant to write a big check. Everything you do is preparing the way for your fundraising campaign. Prepare now.

7. Tithers are your best givers

I guess this is kind of a no-brainer, but as you plan and think through your fundraising, go ahead and assume that the people who have already been giving will be the ones who will most participate in your fundraising effort. It’s tempting to think that someone who has money but hasn’t been faithfully giving, will be inspired to step up and give sacrificially, but the chances are not as good as you think. Are there people who will give to special projects who won’t tithe? Yes. And yes, new givers will give to the campaign. In general, though, the best way to plan is to assume those who have been giving will give, and those who have not been giving, for whatever reason, will have a reason why they will not. Which brings me to the next thing I’ve learned…

8. You’re overestimating outside gifts

I know I know. You know a guy who started a successful business, or got an inheritance or plays in the NFL and if you can get a meal with them, they will probably write you a six-figure check. They like you and have always said, “let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.” I’m not saying it won’t happen; I’m just saying, it probably won’t happen. Will you get something? Yes. Will you get what you think you’re going to get? I doubt it. Jesus said where your heart is your treasure will be and vice versa. The best giving prospects are people who are already emotionally invested in the church.

9. Focus Your Giving/Income Streams

Over time, most churches have several different categories a member can give to: the youth fund, choir fund, missions trip, pastor appreciation, etc. Some givers like to designate their gift to know exactly how their money is being spent. Here’s the challenge, if you’re trying to raise a large amount of money you need to have a singular focus, and the more streams, the harder it will be to meet your goal. We were faced with this challenge because one of the biggest wins for our church is something called the “Imagine campaign.” Over the last ten years, we’ve given away over $500,000 to help plant churches, build orphanages, and help local families in need. Our people love it, and they give to it in a big way, but we knew that if we were going to raise $1.5 million it would require a singular focus, so we decided to pause on imagine and designate all gifts to our campaign. We announced that we would designate 10% of the $1.5 million to our “imagine” projects so the work could continue, but we didn’t want people designating any money to Imagine. All giving went to the same place, the campaign. Don’t be afraid to press pause on everything else why you’re trying to raise money. Reaching a big goal requires big focus.

10. People are drawn to a big vision

I know that “vision” is a church leadership buzz word, and it seems like it’s the answer to every question, but there is a reason it feels that way…. because IT IS the answer to every question, especially raising money. When someone asks the question, “why are we raising money” you better have an answer, and it better be an answer that inspires them to dig deep. I love the story in Mark Batterson’s book Circle Maker about the couple who stopped by Mark’s office one day and asked about his vision. They eventually donated $3 million, and the reason they gave it is because, in their words, “you have a vision beyond your resource.” You may not have a $3 million giver, but you can have a big vision. Chris Hodges says he has $400 million of vision; he’s just waiting for someone to give it. I love that! Let me ask you this question: If someone gave you $1 million today to use for your church, do you know what you do with it? Is there a dream in your heart? Yes, you would pay off debt, yes you would hire some staff, yes, you would renovate the facility, but is there a BIG dream in your heart? The week after we raised the $1.5 million I had breakfast with my head finance leader to recap the numbers, and at the end of breakfast I told him, “I think I have an idea of what we need to do after we spend this $1.5 million.” He just started laughing, and said, “You never stop do you?” I just smiled and said, “nope.” Dream Big, Pray Big, Ask Big!


The Biggest Mistake Churches Make When Trying To Raise Money

As a pastor, I know that I’m never going to get everything in my ministry right all of the time. I’m going to preach some sermons that, for whatever reason, fail to connect emotionally with my audience. I’m going to put together some volunteer teams that don’t stay the course. I’m going to start some ministries that don’t make. Over time, I’ve come to embrace these failures as the natural consequence of innovation. If I’m not failing at something, I’m probably in a creativity or comfortability rut. As a very successful friend of mine told me once: “Fail a lot. Fail quick. And fail cheap.”

Congregations can recover quickly from failed sermons and ministries. We can adjust, change a staff member, or try a new ministry strategy in a relatively short amount of time. However, there is one element of ministry leadership where we pastors simply cannot fail. What takes a congregation years to recover from in terms of emotional momentum? The answer is simple, and I have seen it too many times: a botched capital campaign.

One reason I am passionate about leading successful campaigns is that the cost of failure is so deep. Like a child scarred by being publicly humiliated, I have worked with congregations that have an “inferiority complex” as a result of past failures.

There are several factors that might lead to failure in a campaign. Popular failure factors include:

  • An “insider” mentality that refuses external help
  • Setting an unrealistic goal based on unmanaged expectations.
  • A lack of preparation

However, I want to focus on one common factor to a failed capital campaign: the reluctance of the pastor/campaign leadership to set a hard goal and go after it tastefully, strategically, and aggressively. In the simplest terms, the leader is afraid to aggressively raise an appropriate amount of money.

The campaign team must be committed to publicizing a monetary goal that they are certain represents a realistically aggressive target. In my campaigns, we often take 4-6 weeks of research, analysis, and conversations before arriving at that goal. But once we get there, we own it. Then we apply best professional fundraising practices to achieve it.

One of my catalysts to partner with several churches a year as a generosity consultant stems from my experience in a church located in a wealthy zip code who set a monetary goal of raising 3X annual operating income in a traditional capital campaign. This was pre-2008 when such multiples were not uncommon. However, rather than owning the goal and strategically working toward it by following best professional practices, the leadership just “slung” out the number to the entire congregation at once. Their rallying cry: “We will build what you give.”

That phrase still makes me wince.

“We will build what you give”: That mentality represents the opposite of owning the goal. It does not communicate a God-inspired vision that must be accomplished to propel God’s work forward. It is not giver-centric. It pitches the vision that should be owned by the pastor and the team back to the average giver who is not equipped or called to chart the overall course. As a result, that church raised 1X annual income, a terrible failure for their congregation.

How do we start calculating a reasonably aggressive goal?

  1. We begin with data analysis and comparisons to other churches.
  2. We analyze giving trends in the church’s zip code and surrounding area.
  3. We invite lay leaders in the church into the conversation and ask for feedback, helping them to own the creative process.

What eventually emerges is a hard and fast number. What we construct and apply is a pathway to get there. The real result, and the fun part, is watching God work in the lives of everyday people as they are invited into a special season of generosity.

That’s how vision gets done on the ground. May we execute faithfully.


The Wrong Question That Most Pastors Keep Asking

I’ve been reading the book “Hero Maker” by Dave Ferguson and Warren Bird. The book talks about 5 levels of churches:

Level 1 – Declining Churches
Level 2 – Plateaued Churches
Level 3 – Growing Churches
Level 4 – Reproducing Churches
Level 5 – Multiplying Churches

Every pastor’s goal should be to lead a level 5 church, churches who launch churches who launch churches, but so often what holds the pastor back is asking the wrong questions.

For example, Level 1 pastors, pastors of declining churches, ask questions like, “What do I do when I don’t have anyone to help me?” or “How can we honor the legacy of the past.”

Level 2 pastors ask questions like, “How can we do things our people will want to participate in?” or “How can we keep the ministry going?”

Level 3 pastors are leading growing churches, but still ask wrong questions like, “How can we close the back door?” or “How can we get everyone to know each other better?”

All of these are good questions, but none of them will lead to multiplication, and by asking the status quo questions we get status quo results. But there is one question, according to Dave, that most pastors are asking that keeps us from experiencing multiplication. What is the wrong question that most church leaders are asking: “How Do I Grow My Church?”

4 Reasons Why “How Do I Grow My Church” Is The Wrong Question

1. “I” – How Do I Grow My Church

We were not meant to do this alone or versus each other. The “I” should be replaced with “we.” Hero Makers know that the mission is accomplished only through the multiplying of other leaders.

2. “grow” – How Do I Grow My Church

This is only partially right. Yes, the church was meant to grow. And, yes, healthy things grow. But growth is not the endgame. Hero Makers understand that growth is not about creating more seating capacity; it’s about creating more sending capacity and expanding God’s kingdom.

[bctt tweet=”Hero Makers understand that growth is not about creating more seating capacity; it’s about creating more sending capacity.” username=”@daveferguson”]

3. “my” – How Do I Grow My Church

It’s not yours or mine; we are only stewards. We’ve each taught this stewardship lesson hundreds of times to our people regarding finances and every area of their life, but we need to look at our own ministries and giftedness. Hero makers know it’s all God’s, so they can “grow God’s church” rather than “grow my church.”

4. “church” – How Do I Grow My Church

It’s not just about the church; it’s about the kingdom of God. This question of how to grow the church is almost always asking with the lowercase c church in mind. That’s short sided. Hero makers are far more concerned about the growth of God’s kingdom. They see their church through a kingdom lens versus seeing the kingdom through the lens of their local church.

Most of this blog was taking straight out of the book “Hero Maker: Five Essential Practices For Leaders To Multiply Leaders” by Dave Ferguson and Warren Bird. I want to give credit where credit is due.

To pick up your copy of Hero Maker (and I highly recommend) click here.

Church Growth

5 Characteristics of Growing Churches

As the director of Next Level Coaching, I’ve had the privilege to visit many churches for on-site consulting. Pastors ask me to come and visit their church to provide a fresh perspective and offer simple solutions to help their church break through to the next level. On-site visits are a great way to move your church forward due to fresh eyes taking a look at your systems, service, and staff to see if there is a problem that you are missing because of familiarity.

Church Growth

10 Easter Planning Mistakes To Avoid + FREE Easter Planning Checklist Download

Easter weekend is fast approaching, and in most congregations, it is a time of celebration that brings worship services filled with enthusiasm and attendance larger than average. That’s a good thing, a really good thing. The chances are good that even without much promotion this Easter you will have a larger crowd than normal, whether it’s one visiting family or 100 visiting families, and knowing that should motivate you to plan the best most strategic services of the year. I’ve provided a free “Easter Planning Checklist” to help you and your church be ready for your biggest day of the year. Just provide your email address and I’ll email to you. In the process of planning, however, there are some mistakes you need to avoid, so with that in mind let me give you 10 mistakes to avoid when planning your Easter services this year.