Categories
Preaching

5 Reasons To Use A Manuscript When You Preach

I’ve been preaching or communicating from a stage for almost 20 years, and over the years I have tried all kinds of different styles, methods, and strategies. I’ve sat on a stool. I’ve worn suit coats. I’ve worn flip flops. I’ve used an outline, no notes, and word for word manuscripts.

I’m always trying to improve my craft and honor God’s calling on my life, so If there is a “tweak” or tip that can make me better, I want to try it.

After almost 20 years I’m beginning to feel comfortable with my delivery style, preparation routine, and I’ve decided to use a word for word manuscript. I’m not saying I will use a manuscript forever, but for the last few years I have used a word for word manuscript, and it has helped be more confident in my preaching. Let me give you 5 reasons why:

1. I’m confident I’m prepared

When I step to the pulpit with 5-8 pages of notes that I have processed, typed, and read through during the week I have confidence that I’ve done everything I can do to prepare. It doesn’t mean I will deliver it perfectly of course, but at least I’m not wondering how I’m going to start, transition, and end. I have become so accustom to a manuscript that in those rare instances when I walk on stage with a few notes or small outline, I’m a nervous wreck. I’m not suggesting that someone who uses outlines or a few notes scribbled down isn’t prepared, I’m just speaking for me, and the confidence of knowing I’ve been diligent in my preparation helps be confident in my delivery. Very rarely do I walk off the stage thinking, “I wish I would have said…”

2. It helps me stay within my time frame

It took a few months to learn my cadence and timing, but eventually, I figured out that (for me) every page will take around 3-4 minutes to communicate. I also know that I will stop probably once per page and say something unscripted. Knowing that, I assemble a 7-8 page manuscript so my sermon will be 30-35 minutes in length. Like clockwork, if I don’t use a manuscript I go over my timeframe, mainly because I don’t know how to end my sermon. Which leads to my next reason…

3. It keeps me from rambling

Preachers love to hear ourselves talk. When I’m not prepared to the best of my ability, I waste valuable time rambling or going down rabbit trails that don’t serve the greatest purpose for my sermon. I’m usually too dependent on the reaction or feedback from the congregation so I ramble until I feel like I made sense or connected, which usually takes way too long. This is especially true at the conclusion of the message. My dad always calls it “landing the plane” and if I don’t prepare how I’m going to land the plan during the week I just keep circling the runway repeating myself.

4. It keeps the content fresh

When I don’t thoroughly prepare my sermons, I end up winging it, and when I wing it, I end up preaching the same sermon over and over again. It may have a different title or scripture reference, but after 10 minutes of winging it, I end up making the same points I always make when I wing it. Every preacher has certain issues or soap boxes they are passionate about, and a lack of preparation lends itself to be ending up on the same soapbox I always end up on. A manuscript keeps me from retelling the same stories over and over again off the cuff. It forces me to find fresh research and stories because I’m structuring the message days in advance.

5. It allows me to reformat messages for different mediums

This is probably my favorite reason. When I have a 7-8 page manuscript, I have the ability to reuse the content in a variety of different ways with very little effort. I can create 2-3 blogs, or send out a recap email, or write a book in the future, simply by copying and pasting from my manuscript. I may need to make a few edits, but by taking the time to type out my sermon, I’m creating reusable content and killing three birds with one stone. Consistently, even when I have the best of intentions, if I don’t manuscript my sermon I never go back and type blogs or emails after the fact. Also, as a bonus, I can search past sermons and reuse them in new sermons if I feel the content is helpful. After years of using manuscripts, I have a digital catalog of hundreds of thousands of words available with a simple search.

These are just a few of the reasons I prefer using a manuscript, but I will admit that I’m still learning how not to be so glued to my notes. That’s the biggest feedback I get from other preachers who don’t use a manuscript. They say, “I don’t’ want to have to be glued to my notes.” That is a valid concern. Eventually, I want to get far enough ahead in my prep that I have time to memorize certain parts of the sermon, but for now I just do my best not to look down as much as possible.

Whether you use no notes, a few notes, or a lot of notes I encourage you always to be tweaking your preparation and delivery. Don’t be afraid to try something new or learn from someone else. The best communicators are always improving.

Categories
Church Growth

11 Things A Pastor Should Do If They Don’t Want To Reach Their Community

There are plenty of ways to fail to reach a community.  A lot of people view missions as something people do overseas.  As a result, they don’t see themselves as missionaries.  So, their pastoral roll is to caretake the fruit of a previous missionary.  Don’t be that guy or gal.

Assuming you are a missionary in your community pursuing mission aggressively, here are 11 things you should avoid doing:

1. Copy someone else’s church. 

Your community is unique. It vibes to it’s own rhythm. It has it’s own personality, past, and future.  It’s stresses and qualities are unique.  Yet, you’d rather build the church of your dreams than the church your community needs. A cool white guy church in the heart of Detroit or a southern Gospel church in South Dakota is silly, right? Yeah…but, a lot of people try to pull that kind of thing off. Don’t do it.

[bctt tweet=”Don’t build the church of YOUR dreams, build the church your community needs ” username=”travisjohnson73″]

2. Out kick your punt coverage.

You may have some great advertising ideas and be able to attract a massive crowd.  But, if you haven’t built systems of care capable of cultivating those people, you’ll shrink to whatever size your systems are equipped for.

3. Over promise. Under deliver. 

If you advertise the vision of who you want to be instead of who you are, people will come to see who you are and leave thinking you’re a fraud. They’ll tell their friends as well. So, avoid hype-filled words. Understate your strengths. And, wow people with a great experience. Then, they’ll walk away with a good story to tell their friends.

4. Be someone you’re not.

People have really good Bull-O-Meters. Be yourself.  You might be able to fake it for a little while. But, authenticity is the easiest note to play over the long haul.

5. Fudge it a little.

Tell the truth. If you hope to cultivate influence with your community, they have to be able to trust you.  If you play fast and loose with the truth, you’ll be dismissed in the long-term.

6. Value excellence more than multiplication.

You want things to be right? I do. Everyone does. That’s why sayings like “if you want something done right, do it yourself” come about. But, that’s the recipe for having a polished little organization.  If you can’t develop and deploy other leaders, you will be incapable of being anything more than a squad leader. So, hand the ball off even if it means someone might fumble. Just be there to encourage them to get back in the game if they fail.  And, be there to cheer for them when they get a first down.

7. Be afraid of insider language.

I know there’s a move to bring down our words to the lowest common denominator.  There is some logic in making things understandable.  The seeker sensitive movement was a response to a church culture that wasn’t speaking the language of the culture.  Seeker comprehensible is the better aim. Every tribe has it’s own language.  But, we’ve got to help people to know what is being communicated.  Use easily comprehensible words and symbols that define your tribe. But, avoid $2 words when a $.10 word is more handy.

8. Avoid conflict.

Pastors are famous for being conflict avoiders.  Don’t. Conflict helps define the vision. Conflict helps our words on paper translate into deeds-in-action.  If you aren’t willing to tow the line on the vision of the church, solid doctrine, or fair practices, then you shouldn’t be pastoring.  If you fail to conflict well and fairly, you’ll build a coalition…not a church.

[bctt tweet=”Conflict helps define the vision” username=”travisjohnson73″]

9. Spiritualize organizational conflict.

We love to blame boogiemen. We excel in finding spiritual reasons for why people fail, sin, argue, miss deadlines, etc… Instead of looking for a spiritual reason, understand that organizational conflict happens. That should be your first move. Deal with the issue without overspiritualizing it or over personalizing it.

10. Fail to take things personally.

It is personal. Weep over your city. Be pained when you’re betrayed. Be pained when you betray. Get close to people. Be sad when they move away.  Be sad when they don’t move but do go to another church…even when you know that’s what they should do. Shepherds love their sheep. They fight for their sheep. They look for their sheep when they’re stranded. You don’t help anyone when you train yourself not to take things personally.  It is personal.

11. Believe that your best days are behind you.

Now is not the time to coast because you think you’ve reached the peak of your capacity.  Even if you are functioning at the peak of your capacity now, you must know that the Holy Spirit is working through you. You may be outnumbered, outmatched, overrun, and overtired. But, You are on God’s side.  GOD + YOU = A MAJORITY

Categories
Uncategorized

Why your talent is keeping your church from growing

I know what you’re thinking, I think it all the time myself: “If I just had a few more talented people (singers, communicators, small group leaders, etc.) I could grow this church.” It makes all the sense in the world. More talent = more results, right? Not so fast.

I grew up in a “tribe” with the best singers and preachers you’ve ever heard. I’m serious. These men and women were/are the cream of the crop. Later in life, as I entered the ministry profession for myself, I began to reflect on the churches and incredible ministers I had grown up under, and arrived at a frightening question:

Why are all of these churches filled with the best talent not growing?

It didn’t make any sense. The best preachers and singers were preaching and singing to shrinking crowds or plateaued crowds at best. I guess the reason the question scared me is that I had spent my ministry preparation trying to increase my talent. I convinced myself that increasing my preaching or singing ability from a seven to an eight (on a hypothetical talent scale) is what my church needed to make the jump to the next level. I was wrong.

Think about this; Jesus was called the great teacher, but is that what made him great? The people say he taught like no one they had ever heard before but is that quality what built the church that has changed the world over the last 2,000 years? I would argue no. If it wasn’t his teaching talent, what was it? I would say it was his ability to develop the disciples. For Jesus ministry to grow and have the mass impact, He desired He had to duplicate himself and empower others. Jesus understood that talented leaders make a splash, but leaders who develop talent make a difference. The same is true for you and me.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Talented leaders make a splash, but leaders who develop talent make a difference.” quote=”Talented leaders make a splash, but leaders who develop talent make a difference.”]

Obviously, there is a talent minimum required to draw specific demographics to your church, but don’t we preach sermons about how God uses the unqualified? I’m convinced, now more than ever, what my church needs me to do to help us grow and reach more people is not develop more of my talent; it’s to recognize and promote the ability in others. The challenge is our expertise has taught us, “It’s easier if I just do it myself.” We’ve bought into statements like, “If you want it done right you have to do it yourself.” We have, and the small group of people who love our talent, keep telling us how talented we are, but are we making God’s kingdom better?

Recently during my devotions, I came across this verse in Exodus that I had never noticed before.

Exodus 25:34
And the Lord has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach their skills to others.

What a gift! What if you and I changed our desires and our prayer? What if we started asking God to give us the ability to teach our skills to others? I’m going to step out on a limb and guess we would be more satisfied with the ministry and our churches would grow. 150 people might want to hear you minister, but thousands of people in your community want a chance to minister, they’re just waiting for you to teach them how.

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Uncategorized

Passing the Church To The Next Generation with Willie & Whit George

Recently, at the Seeds Conference hosted by Church on The Move, Founding Pastor Willie George and new Senior Pastor Whit George discussed the process of transition and succession.

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Uncategorized

2 Things To Remember When Dealing With Difficult Church Members

It is my honor to coach pastors—pastors from small and large churches, from traditional and non-traditional settings. Regardless of context, leadership always involves leading people, and people come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Leadership is both an art and science, and despite your divine calling, you must learn the skill of leading your church, organization, and followers. In my experience coaching pastors, many pastors struggle to lead persons who may have a strong personality, high influence, are in opposition to the vision of the pastor, may be self-centered, or any number of other personality conflicts.

Carey Nieuwhof from Connexus Church said “leading people is harder than reading Greek” and I agree; It’s doable but challenging. Even Moses and the Apostle Paul struggled with some of the people assigned to them, and you will as well.

It is important to remember that you pastor ALL the people, not just the ones that agree with you. Here are 2 simple reminders that will help you lead difficult individuals in your church.

1. USE YOUR AUTHORITY AS A LAST RESORT.

There are 2 levels of leadership—relational and positional. In today’s culture, positional authority is not well received or followed. If you have to remind people that you are the leader, you may not be! The better approach is to build relationships, yes, even with those who are difficult. Of course, it’s easier to spend time with people who agree and support you, but the best return for your time may be spent with those who need to know you, to hear your heart and to understand the reasons for how you lead.  Rest assured, you will not win over everyone or get everyone to agree, but you’ll never regret the time you spend in this way. There may come a time when you have to use your positional authority but only do so as a last resort.

[bctt tweet=”If you have to remind people you are the leader, you may not be!” username=”billisaacs”]

2. THE ISSUE YOU SEE MAY NOT BE THE REAL ISSUE.

People rarely give you straight answers, and most people never give the true reasons behind their decisions or actions.  More than once in my leadership, I have thought the issue was one thing only to find it was really something else entirely. I’m coming to believe that there are some things a leader cannot see until God opens their eyes to see it.  Elisha prayed for his servant that God would open his eyes to allow him to see what was really there. Once his eyes were opened, he saw the real truth of God’s provision.  The same is true of you and your leadership. There is often more going on than you can see with natural eyes. Be careful not to react to what you see but instead pray about what you are seeing and ask God for wisdom.  He loves to give it to you!

Your pastoral career will be marked by the people you lead, and they will bring you the most joy and the most sorrow. It is common to hear a retired pastor lament how much they miss the people they once led. At the end of the day, how you lead people and relate to them determines your measure of success in ministry. Lead well!

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Uncategorized

3 Ways To Love Your Husband When He’s Your Pastor

I remember when I told my mom I was going to marry a pastor. The first words out of her mouth were, “He better not move you away from me.” Much to her dismay, her question became a self-fulfilling prophecy, and I found myself living five states over, away from home, at twenty years old.

It didn’t take long for me to learn that living away from family was just one of the many sacrifices that ministry would ask of me. Being the wife of a pastor carries many unique burdens, expectations, and different ways of thinking, but ministry is also a life filled with favor, blessings, opportunities, and meaningful life experiences that wouldn’t come otherwise.

Jesus said, “A prophet is without honor in him hometown.” No doubt, it can be challenging to honor your husband when he’s your pastor (and sometimes boss) and honor your pastor when he’s your husband. Over the course of 14 years in full-time ministry, I have developed a few philosophies that I think are unique to pastors’ wives. These new “norms” for Jason and me have helped our marriage to remain healthy and thriving amidst the idiosyncrasies of life in the ministry.

1. Be his biggest cheerleader

This comes naturally for me because my general disposition is to be an encourager. Ministry is filled with highs and lows, and each high and low carries significant emotional swings. It is so difficult for pastors to not continuously be motivated and consumed with numbers. How many people showed up, how much money was given, how many AMENS were shouted? Numbers can dictate and control in a way that they shouldn’t, and I have found the best way to temper that control is to surround my husband with endless streams of affirmation. No one in the church should affirm my husband’s work ethic more than I do. We have all heard our share of lazy preacher jokes, but over time, I have learned that even when their hands aren’t working, Pastors’ hearts and minds are endlessly occupied. We make a big deal around our house about how hard daddy works and how important his work is, but no matter what is going on at the church, we think daddy is pretty amazing just because of who he is.

I have come to realize that regardless of how profound his message was, how large the offering was, or even how many people showed up, my husband is still the most amazing man in my life, and he needs to be reminded of that frequently so that his worth isn’t dictated by numbers that are constantly fluctuating. Celebrate your man with words!

2. Respect his boundaries

As naturally as encouraging comes to me is how unnatural the second philosophy has been to implement into our marriage. Being a young newly married pastor’s wife, I was eager to share my life with Jason.  It confounded me that he was not as eager to “share” as I was. I thought that living life together meant talking about life together, and it worried me when Jason didn’t tell me everything that happened throughout his day, especially in regards to church and ministry. I just assumed that if a couple was having marital issues and told Jason, I should know about those issues too. I was convinced that his love for me would be matched by his willingness to tell me all of his secrets. Several conversations (and complaints made by me) took place before it finally began to register that his integrity was what kept him silent, not his lack of affection. Not only do I now see it as I a positive that my husband does not share the confidential knowledge that he carries, I no longer ask him to. I’m so appreciative of his willingness to carry other people’s secrets because it allows me to keep an optimistic and innocent view of people in the church.

3. Value his schedule

Early on, it was easy to feel like my husband had a crazy schedule that was never conducive to family time. Bible study Mondays, choir practice Wednesdays, two service Sundays, and here I thought that pastors played golf all the time. A pastor’s schedule requires unique responsibilities. One example of this came a few years ago when I began to realize that my husband really needed to focus on Saturday evenings. I was always asking him to hang out with our friends or take me out on a date, but I finally realized we could date any night of the week, and that he was more likely to want to go out on a Sunday night and take Monday as an off day. I can’t have it both ways. If I get to enjoy the benefits of him being able to take the kids to school, I also have to understand he may be called away or need to be left alone to prepare at different times. Our new norm is that Saturday nights are off limits.

Every marriage, man, and church are different, so you have to learn what is most important to help him feel loved and supported. I’ve only been married to a pastor for 14 years so I know I have so much to learn, but these are the things I try to keep consistent in our home.

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Finance/Giving

3 Ways To Create A More Generous Culture In Your Church

When I became the pastor of my church 10 years ago, our financial numbers were depressing for two reasons. First, because we were spending 99% of everything that came in on ourself; we had NO margin! We weren’t wasting money on glamorous things, it was just normal day to day expenses that had gotten out of hand.

Second, because only a small percentage of people in the congregation were financially supporting the church. Our attendance was 150+  but the giving units were way lower.

Fast forward 10 years later and everything is different. Our church operates on 79% of our income, and our giving/member ratio is much higher. We’ve given away over $500,000 to plant churches, build orphanages, and help families in our local community. God has been good to us.

There are many great blogs with strategies and tactics to increase giving in your church- I’m going to leave that to the experts- (honestly I was too dumb to know how to do it the right way) instead let me give you 3 things that I had to change about my leadership to create a more generous culture in our church.

1. Stop apologizing

When I would preach a sermon about giving I would start with preface statements and apologies. I wanted to make sure no one was offended, or if someone was visiting the church, they knew we weren’t one of “those” churches that wanted their money.

Looking back, I did a major disservice to my congregation because I was apologizing for talking about something Jesus loved talking about. It was also a disservice because I was apologizing for talking about a topic that was most prevalent in the lives of the congregation.

After doing an anonymous survey of the congregation, they said the issue causing their life the most stress and pain was “money trouble/debt.” I had a captive audience desperate for solutions to their biggest problem in life, and I was apologizing for preaching on the topic.

I made a very intentional shift in my mindset to never apologize for speaking on the topic of money again. It’s too important. As a matter of fact, I now do the opposite at the beginning of every message about giving. I say something like, “I’m so glad you’re here today because I’m speaking on the topic of giving and money management. I can’t think of a topic more relevant to your everyday life. If you are a guest visiting today, I’m really excited you’re here because you’re going to hear me speak on a topic I’m passionate about, and you get the chance to hear the truth about money. The culture tells you a lot of things that don’t work, but God teaches us the truth. I think you’re going to like what you hear today.”

The change in language sets the tone for the message. I don’t tiptoe anymore. I passionately preach the truth of God’s word. His way works and my way hurts. Everyone needs to know.

2. Stop Debating

There are people gifted by God to excel at scholastic debate. I marvel at it, but it’s not my gift. I’m not implying I shouldn’t be able to give a sound reason for why I believe what I believe, but you can tell the difference between the people who want to debate for kicks and giggles and those who are genuinely seeking to understand God’s word. I made an important decision to stop debating the validity of tithing.

In my experience, the people who wanted to debate if tithing was biblical were lifelong church people looking for loopholes. You can disagree, and I understand the New Testament doesn’t say as much as I wish it did on the topic of tithing, but I decided Matthew 23:23 was good enough for me to feel confident, “You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.” I came to a conclusion: “if I’m right, I’ll be obedient and blessed, and if I’m wrong, I just missed out on more steak dinners and retirement investing.”

Stop focusing on the minority. Stop trying to convince people who don’t want to be convinced. For every person who wants to argue with you about tithing, there are ten more in your church who are looking for counsel and guidance to take the next step in their faith. Focus on them.

3. Have One on One Conversations

It’s tempting to use sermons to relay a message that would be more effective as a private conversation. Whether it’s people’s sin, church attendance, or giving, a sermon allows you to vaguely address the issue, without looking someone in the eye. Jesus was The Great Teacher, but He understood the power of a private conversation.

Once I made the decision to change the culture of giving at our church, I made a bold move. I’m not even sure I recommend this for everyone, but I knew it was something I needed to do. I asked our clerk to give me the names of every active leader/influencer in our church who I assumed tithed but didn’t. Not knowing people’s exact income she had to make a judgment call but decided if someone gave less than $2,000 they were most likely giving less than 10% of their income. After I received the list of 20+ names, I scheduled one on one meetings with each family.

To say I was nervous would be an understatement. I was still a young pastor, in my late 20’s, and most of the people I was meeting with were older than me. Before I tell you what I said, let me tell you why I said it.

I believe so passionately in the power of generosity; it keeps me awake at night. In my opinion, giving is as important a spiritual discipline as studying the Bible, prayer, and fasting. So if I found out one of my leader/influencers wasn’t reading their Bible, I wouldn’t hesitate to meet them for coffee and ask them why? I would do whatever it took to help them. The same is true for prayer. If one of my leaders wasn’t praying, and I found out, I wouldn’t hesitate to meet them, ask why, and help them find a solution. So why should it be different with giving? Yes, talking with people about money, sex, and politics is always uncomfortable but uncomfortable conversations are what sets apart great leaders from average ones.

With that conviction I met with each family on the list, and respectfully asked them why they weren’t tithing and, assuming they believed they should, I offered to help them take the next steps towards obedience to God.

I’m not going to lie. I assumed at least half of the people would be offended and leave the church, but I was wrong. One man left. The overwhelming majority thanked me for having the courage to meet with them and caring enough about them to bring it up.  The motive behind your words make all the difference, and thankfully the Holy Spirit helped convey my heart.

Changing any culture is never easy, but if you’re in it for the long haul, stay consistent, and truly believe in what you’re trying to accomplish it will happen. It won’t happen overnight but it will happen.

It’s worth mentioning that you can’t change the culture just by talking about it, you have to model it. I wrote more about that in this post, “3 Painful Reasons Your Church Isn’t More Generous” but “don’t get discouraged in doing good” as the Apostle Paul said, “at just the right time” the culture will change and eventually the thing you swore would never happen will be the new normal.

Categories
Finance/Giving

3 Painful Reasons Your Church Isn’t More Generous

There’s an old anecdote about a man who was trying to understand how big God is so he asked Him, “God how long is a million years to you?” God said, “A million years is like a second.” Then the man asked, “How much is a million dollars to you?” God said, “A million dollars is like a penny.” The man smiled and said, “God, could you spare a penny?” God smiled back and said, “Sure just wait a second.”

In all my years working with and being around pastors, I’ve never met anyone who said, “We have more money than we need right now.” You probably haven’t either. Interestingly though, statements about the lack of resources come from the mouths of leaders of all different church sizes. The need for more resources is not just a small church problem.

If your vision is bigger than your budget, you’re in good company. The Bible is filled with men and women called by God to accomplish something beyond their means. Moses didn’t have the speaking skills required to approach Pharaoh. Gideon didn’t have enough soldiers after God dwindled his army from 10,000 to 300, and the disciples didn’t have enough food to feed 5,000 people. If your vision doesn’t exceed your resources and ability, you’re not dreaming big enough.

I love the blunt honesty of the disciples in the story of the feeding of 5,000. When Jesus challenged them to feed the crowd, they didn’t know what else to say but “With What?” It was a valid question. There was no way they had enough food to meet the need.

Almost every pastor has felt under-resourced at some point or another. Maybe you feel under-resourced because you have nothing, or maybe you feel under-resourced because even though you have a lot, you don’t have what you feel you need to do what God has called you to do. That’s one reason comparison is so silly— resources are relative. You are only responsible for being faithful to what God has called you to do—It doesn’t matter what someone else has.

I’ll confess that I often struggle with facility envy. I pastor a church that was built in the 1970’s with an “A-frame” sanctuary, and a Sunday School square. We still have a functioning Sunday School bell if we wanted to use it. I’m grateful we’re debt free, God has been so good to our church, but our building doesn’t convey the personality of our church. I would be lying if I didn’t admit every time I visit a modern facility the “new building” smell sends me into a trance. Here’s what’s amusing though. I have a friend who pastor’s a church with a $6 million facility, and he’s jealous of my facility because he still owes a large portion of the mortgage. Resources are relative. For every person, you envy ahead of where you are there is someone behind you who feels the same way about you.

Every leader loves the rush of fresh, God-given, vision. However, when you lack the resources to accomplish what you feel God is inspiring you to do, you ask the same question the disciples asked, “With What?” You recognize a need but don’t feel you have the means to meet it. If you feel under resources in your current season, let me challenge you with 3 questions about your leadership.

1. Am I personally modeling extreme generosity?

Your church will never be more generous than you. Go back and read that statement again. You set the bar. You shouldn’t be the largest numerical giver in your church, but you should be the largest percentage giver in your church.

I talk to many pastors who are frustrated at the lack of generosity in their church, but when I ask if they tithe or how much they personally give, the conversation gets awkward, because they don’t. You better be buying what you’re selling, or people will see right through you. I don’t preach on giving because I want people to give more. I preach on giving because I have personally experienced the life-changing power of generosity and God’s blessing. I don’t want anything from them; I want something for them. There’s a difference, and it’s conveyed more than spoken.

2. Are my motives pure?

Only you know your motives, so only you can answer this question. Why do you want more resources? The answer may be that you want to reach more people with the gospel, but sometimes the noble answer masks selfish or self-promoting motives. There are countless inexpensive ways to share the gospel, a TV broadcast, new facility, or any other expensive option may not be right for right now. Be careful that you don’t desire good things for the wrong reasons because you’re comparing your church to someone who has a 10-20-year head start on you. Almost every great church and pastor I’ve met tells a similar story about how a season of desperation sparked innovation. Don’t allow a desire for more resources to rob you of the joys of your current season no matter how scarce they may be.

3. Have I been a good steward of my current resources?

One of the biggest myths in life and leadership is, “if I had more I would do more.” If you had more time, you would be more productive. If you had more staff, you would reach more people. If you had a better facility, your church would grow. The list goes on and on, and the “more myth” includes money as well. If you had more money, you would be more generous, right? Maybe, but not likely.

Jesus taught us that what we do with little is the best indicator of what we will do with more. Instead of looking at dollars and cents in your church budget, look at percentages and ask yourself, “does the way our church currently spends/allots money honor, God?” If the answer is no, or you’re not sure, stop making excuses and start making changes. There is no sure-fire formula for God’s blessing, but the Bible implies over and over again that blessing usually follows behavior. Do the things corporately you teach your people to do individually: budget, live below your means, put generosity first, and be content.

It is easy to be bitter towards people who don’t give, to be bitter towards God for not providing more resources. But before you allow your heart to become toxic ask yourself:

  • Am I modeling extreme generosity?
  • Are my motives pure?
  • Have I been a good steward of my current resources?

The answer to these questions might be yes, and for reasons unknown to me and you God still chooses to have you in a context with scarce resources. If so, be encouraged. God sent quail into the desert, a raven with meat to Elijah, and kept oil flowing for a widow. He multiplied two fish sandwiches into dinner for 5,000. God will always make sure you have the resources you need to do what he’s called you to do. Just because you don’t know how He is going to do it, doesn’t mean He doesn’t know how. Don’t allow limited resources to limit your vision; you serve a limitless God.

You may be interested in another blog I wrote called, “3 Ways To Create A More Generous Culture At Your Church.” I share 3 intentional things I did to help our church increase our giving and buy in to the vision. You can read it here.

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Church Growth

How To: Capture, Follow-Up, and Connect With Every Church Visitor

Have you ever had guests visit your church, maybe even return for another visit, but when you look up six weeks or six months later they’re nowhere to be found?

It’s one of the most frustrating parts of pastoring—trying to retain guests. There are many great resources available to help you attract and keep more guests, but this tutorial will help you create a step by step assimilation process using Planning Center’s FREE software “People.”