Introducing - Leverage To Grow Your Church

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I am very excited to announce that the Leverage Course is nearing completion and I expect it to launch early in October. This course is about leveraging social media and a simple online strategy to grow your church. I developed this strategy and implemented it at my own church and the results have been incredible. God has used these tools to grow our church in every way. My hope is that this content helps you reach people in your community as well. I hope you find this content helpful as you think through what it means to pastor, to reach people and to communicate in a fast world that lives in a social online context.

Knowing your audience is huge. You cannot communicate effectively until you know who your audience is. Deep dive into your target audience and spend some time thinking through their fears, their frustrations, their dreams. What are they hung up on? What hurdles are they facing? What are they worried about this week? Get to it (after you watch this video from leverage.)

5 Social Media Tips That Will Actually Grow Your Church

Our church is growing rapidly because we figured out how to leverage social media to reach people.

As soon as people learn about how our church more than doubled in size in less than 12 months largely through the use of social media, they immediately want to talk about the content we create and use.  What they fail to understand is that content is just one piece of the puzzle. 

It is true that if your content is terrible, social media does more harm for your ministry than it does good. 

It is also true that even if you have high quality, professional content the results from your social media efforts will be extremely limited if you aren't thinking about some other really important aspects to leveraging social media to reach people

The five areas below are absolutely essential to think through with your team before you ever do anything with social media as a ministry or church.

5 Social Media Tips That Will Actually Grow Your Church

The Strategy - Content is great, but strategy is greater.  If you really want to reach your community through the tool of social media you have to think about and develop a strategy. Ask yourself (or your team) "What are we trying to say?" and "How are we trying to say it?".  Clear and simple answers to those questions will help you develop and fuel your online social media strategy.

The Filter - Once your strategy is developed you will need to filter everything you do on social media through that strategy.  No more pot luck dinner announcements.  No more clutter.  If it doesn't fit with what you are trying to say and who you are trying to say it to, don't post it.  Spend some time deleting old content that doesn't fit the strategy you developed.  Filter all future content through your strategy.

The Focus - Social media really works well when you have a razor sharp focus on your target audience.  Clearly define the audience you are trying to reach.  Who are they? What are their fears or frustrations?  What are their dreams or desires?  What obstacles are they facing?  Use your focus on and understanding of your audience to drive your content creation.  

The Content - There is no excuse to put poor content on the internet.  We started leveraging social media with zero budget allotted for marketing and using free tools.  When you put out poor content you turn people off to your message.  Images should be modern and attractive without a lot of clutter.  Videos should be clear and steady.  Find someone in your church who is into photography.  Ask them to take pictures for you.  Get free stock photos at places like pexels.com.  Use free editing software apps like Canva.  There are a ton of tools available for you to up your content game.  Get on google and start searching.  Problem solve to improve the quality of your content.

The Health - If your church is unhealthy, if it does not have a healthy culture, if it has leadership problems, if it isn't focused on loving and reaching the unchurched, please don't use social media to try to grow your church.  Be honest and courageous enough to take a good hard look at the health of your church.  Take a good hard look at your health as a leader.  Don't make excuses, just work on the health and culture of the church.   If you use social media effectively and people show up to an unwelcoming, unhealthy church you actually cause more harm than good.   Your church won't grow.  You will create another barrier between people and Jesus making it harder for all of us to win influence and have a voice with lost people.   Please get healthy before you ever think about using social media to reach people.  Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. 

Hope you found this helpful.

Praying for you.

Your voice matters. 

Josh

thespeakingcourse.com

 

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7 Ways To Start Changing An Unchangeable Church

There are churches that feel unchangeable, but any church can experience change and become a healthy, growing, even multiplying church.

Before we get into how to change an unchangeable church we need to admit something together: If churches don't change, they die.  This is a reality we may try to avoid or ignore but it is very much true.  I know this because I was the lead pastor of a dying church.  Can I just paint a picture for you that too many pastors find all too familiar?  The church I was pastoring was stuck, out of date and resistant to change.  The people who attended this church had great hearts, loved God and loved people but somewhere along the way this community stopped changing, plateaued and shifted into decline.  People told me it would never change.  The average age of the church was 60 and it was located in one of the toughest rural counties (a place I love) in the country.  The church was dying but it didn't die.  Now, a few years later this church is still located in that county, the average age is 35, it is bursting with life, experiencing rapid growth and charting a course to multiply this next year.  The journey has been amazing, fun, frustrating at times and beautiful.  As I look back on the journey I am amazed at what God will do when we are willing to courageously follow him.  

A place that once seemed unchangeable is now a place that welcomes change and values flexibility.  To get there it took an intentional cultural shift that is reproducible in any context and I want to share how we made that shift with you.  

Most pastors feel limited in what they are able to accomplish in a stuck church.  It is easy to get lost in survival mode and be uncertain of how or where to start.  But, in any church, in any setting the place to start can be simple and clear.

Start with creating, defining, and communicating a healthy organizational culture.  

Lets set a goal.  The goal is to become a church that values flexibility.   Flexible churches adapt and adjust and do so with little or no tearing.  Flexible churches are amazing to pastor.  Flexible churches and free to grow and reach more people in an ever changing context.   Flexible churches make your job exciting.  To become a church that values flexibility first focus on creating a culture that accepts change.  Once you have a culture that accepts change you can start to cultivate a culture that invites change.  Once you have a culture that invites change it is easy to transition that into a culture that values flexibility.

Did I lose you?  I'll make it simple.  Move your organization along the stages below toward flexibility.  

Accepts Change - Invites Change - Values Flexibility

Where on this cultural journey is your church?

Listen, if we did it, you can too.  Start to develop a culture that accepts change with the list below, but warning, you will have to lead with courage.  If you can't lead with courage in the face of opposition you probably shouldn't be leading anyway.  If you are worn out maybe it is time to sit in support of someone with the energy to lead the charge.  (Here is how a pastor of 35 years managed that transition ushering in new growth to his church and revitalizing his ministry.)   

Still here?  Good. Let's start to create a culture of change.  If you want to turn a dying church into a healthy growing church this is the place to start.  

7 Ways To Start To Change An Unchangeable Church

1.  Make small changes often.  Ok, you probably can't make the big drastic change to your constitution even though your constitution was written in 13 BC, but you can make a bunch of small changes often.  Small changes are easier for your organization to digest.  Make a bunch of them.  Spread them out and implement them often.  Examples: Tweak the bulletin, change the lighting, adjust the seating, make changes on the website, make small changes on a Sunday morning, during worship, to the music, make small changes in how you communicate.

2.  Stop asking for permission. There are a lot of changes you can make without getting permission from a stuck board or a resistant congregation. Use wisdom and act in love but also be courageous enough to know that as the leader of the organization, you don't need permission for every decision you make.  If you are teaching and want to ditch the podium, ditch the podium.  Your announcement guy will figure it out.  Or better yet ditch announcements.  You don't need permission to buy a drum set and add it to the front of your sanctuary.  If you stop and think about it there are plenty of changes you can start to make without asking for permission.  

3.  Start with the things you can control.  You may not be able to control the power players in your church but you can control you.  Be intentional about what you communicate and how you communicate it.  In fact, be intentional about everything you do and have a strategy for communicating toward a healthy future.  Examples: Change how you preach, change up the sermon series more frequently, run meetings differently,  have more individual meetings with staff and make those meeting shorter, create a strategy and start to implement it before you even tell anyone about it.  

4.  Don't say or listen to statements that include "old way" thinking.  There are statements thrown around church that you should be ignoring and never, ever saying.  Such as: "This is how we've always done it."  "Trust me you don't want to change ________." "We never did it like that before."  "This isn't who we are."  "We don't really do things like that around here."  Have an example to add?

5.  Challenge team members to problem solve by thinking outside of the box. - Don't settle or look for easy answers or old answers or methods.  Get your team to come up with and think through multiple solutions to challenges you face.  Challenge "old way" thinking by asking good questions.  Such as: "What are new options or approaches we could take to address this challenge?"  "What can we do differently to get a different result?" "If we were to change how we did this, what would we change?"  "What is missing or confusing about what we are doing or planning to do?" 

6.  Stay Consistent -  Does that sound ironic in an article about change?  Consistently change things.  Don't allow yourself to settle in and get comfortable.  To change culture you have to be consistent for a long period of time.  Keep changing things.  Don't stop, instead learn how to pivot.

7.  Cast Vision Like a Fly Fisherman -  Have you ever watched a fly-fisherman cast?  It is art in motion.  The heavy fly line creates a loop back and forth casting the fly out just above the water time and time again before finally finishing the cast, landing the fly at the most opportune time and place to move a fish.  Cast vision like a fly fisherman.  Keep throwing the vision out there, over and over again.  Constantly search for opportune times to plant a vision in the best places to move your organization and your people forward toward health.

 

What are your thoughts and experiences?

Be courageous.  God's got this, you just have to follow.

Your voice matters, 

Josh

 

 

3 Things That Can Kill Vision And Direction In Your Church

People follow vision and direction.  

Has your church plateaued? Note: A new person trickling in once in a while doesn't count as growth. 

Has your church been in decline? Note: Decline isn't measured in seasonal or short term attendance drop off.  Instead, decline means a sustained decrease in more than one area of your church. Are leaders leaving and finances dwindling? Is attendance dropping while volunteer recruitment has become next to impossible without tapping the same people over and over again? 

Are you feeling stuck and unsure what lies ahead for you or your church?  Note:  Being stuck can present itself in a number of different ways. Such as:  lack of clarity, unwillingness to consider change, a failure to consider new approaches to ministry.

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you aren't alone.  I have been able to answer yes to all of the above at some point in my role as a lead pastor.  

If you answered yes to any of the above questions the chances are one of the big issues you need to start with is a good, long and honest look at the vision and direction in your church. 

One of my main roles as a lead pastor is to drive and initiate vision and direction.  If you are the person at the top of your organization/ministry that applies to you as well.   Vision and direction needs to be initiated from the top. 

The problem: I'm not perfect and neither are you.  Ministry can highlight our insecurities and imperfections.  Sometimes ministry can just be down right tough and exhausting.  There are things that can get in the way as we try to find, initiate or drive vision and direction for our church and organization.

Here are three things that can kill vision and direction in your church.

  1. Pressure.  "I don't want to do it, but I will."  Pressure can become a driving force in our ministry in many different ways, but when it comes to the vision and direction of the church, it will sideline you.  Pressure becomes an unhealthy driving force when:  You give in to the power players at church who want the church to serve their agenda.  You are making the easier decisions instead of the right decisions.  Too many voices are considered in an attempt to please others.  
  2. Desire. "I want to."  You can easily lose your direction and vision when you put your desires and preferences above the needs of the church.  Desire becomes and unhealthy driving force killing your vision and essentially your church when "I" statements grab too much space in your heart.  Here are some examples: I want to have a big church.  I want to be a lead pastor.  I want to teach every week.  I want to retire in this town.  I want to be the most important person in the organization.  I want to write a book. I want to ___________. Seeking God's direction and casting vision is a constant removal of self.  I know you would never say those things out loud, but don't let them steal your heart's attention away from God's direction.  What if the vision and direction for the church should cost you your role at church?  What if God has something better for you?  What if the vision and direction of the church is bigger and better than you can imagine?  You will never be insignificant if you keep seeking God's direction.
  3. Fear.  "I am afraid to."  This one is so tough and it is the most common driving force that sidelines vision and direction.  The fears that pop up run deep.  Financial fears -> I won't be able to pay my mortgage if I lose this job. Fear of losing significance -> If I am not teaching every week, who am I. Fear of not having a future -> I can't do anything else if I lose this job.  Fear can be paralyzing, but you can trust Jesus through it.  Don't let your fears drive you to insignificance.  Step out in courage.  Here is a talk about my journey through fear  https://vimeo.com/240025716  You aren't alone.

  

The driving force of vision and direction is always and should always be faith.

You can get back on track as a visionary leader today in 2 simple steps:

 1) Evaluate the 3 driving forces mentioned above.  What pressures, desires or fears have you been wrestling with?  Have they been getting in the way of you initiating and driving vision for your organization?

2) Talk about them with a staff member/colleague/friend/spouse.  Once you start talking about these three driving forces they start to lose their power to push you away from the direction God has for you.

God is going to do awesome stuff through you as you continue to seek his direction for your ministry.  We all drift sometimes.  It's okay.  Realign yourself today.  Start leading with vision and direction and watch health start to blossom in your church.

Place your confidence in God. 

Let's do this.

Your voice matters.

Josh 

https://www.thespeakingcourse.com/

7 Reasons Announcements Are Killing Your Vibe

As communicators in the church world do you ever think about more than just your sermon? Do you ever think about what the entire service communicates? 

I do all the time and that’s why, years ago, I killed announcement time in a dying church.

As we turned a dying church around into what is now a very quickly growing and healthy church we made all kinds of hard decisions that would upset a lot of people.  What was surprising to me was that killing announcement time was the one decision people complained about the most. They complained about it for years. Looking back it was a great decision for a number of reasons, but the most important reason was announcements were killing our church.  Ok, that’s not true.  Maybe announcements can’t kill a church but they can kill your vibe and limit your reach to new people.  

Here are 7 reasons why announcement time could be killing your vibe and pushing newcomers away. 

  1. People are conditioned to check out during commercials. What do you do when you see a commercial.  I pull out my phone and check social media.  My guess is that most people do.  We are conditioned to disengage when commercials start rolling.   Whether you want to admit it or not your announcements are commercials and if you look closely you will be able to see the soft bluish white glow of phones reflecting off of peoples faces during announcement time.
  2. Your announcements are filled with insider language.  I visited a church that I love.  Amazing people who love God and who desperately want to reach the unchurched people of their community.  We sang a song and then there was literally a 5 minute long series of awkward announcements.  I didn’t understand the insider lingo or jokes and I am a Pastor. I was frustrated but a newcomer would have just checked out.  
  3. You can’t always control the message.  Sit down with some old school pastors sometime and ask them to tell you funny stories about church.  One thing you will notice is the funny stuff happens when announcement time (or special music time - another thing to kill) goes off the deep end.  Someone goes rogue and asks the church to pray for their husband offering way too much information.  The head of the baking club promised it would only take a minute to remind everyone of their upcoming event and 5 minutes later they are knee deep in a lecture about how no one is buying their pies anymore.  Announcement time is a breading ground for weird stuff.
  4. It is a crutch for your leaders.   There are lots of ways to communicate your event or announcement.  In fact, if the goal is to get a measurable response to the information you are putting out there, announcement time is probably one of the least effective ways to communicate.  Try a personal conversation or card or email.  Try using video or social media or a church app.  Try something. Try anything.  Build a system. Your leaders love announcement time because it is easy and it gives the illusion of actually communicating to a large group of people, but it is just an illusion and it isn't accomplishing what you hope it is accomplishing.
  5. It makes you look like you are selling stuff.  People are hypersensitive to being sold anything.  The more we stand in front of them and push announcements and programs and “opportunities” the more they start to feel like we are just trying to sell them our programs and “opportunities.”  At best it becomes white noise.  At worst they leave because of the following point...
  6. It can easily make you look look like a needy church.  Have you ever had someone ask you or tell you the same thing over and over again?  You eventually get sick of it.  If they keep it up you are going to check out of the relationship, because they are just too needy. Announcements can make your church look needy, especially if you are pushing the same ask over and over again.  Instead of asking for volunteers every week upfront, pick some people out to personally be a part of what you need help with.  Or better yet, evaluate whether it is something you really should be doing in the first place.
  7. It doesn’t have an immediate next step.  We live in a world where we have to provide people with a simple, actionable next step. It is just the world we live in.  Learn from people who pay to study culture and people so they can build marketing strategies to sell those people stuff.  Apply those lessons for the benefit of the people you are trying to reach.  I’ll save you some time…provide them with a simple, actionable, next step every time.  Make that next step one they can take immediately. A button on an app or mobile device works extremely well.

Since killing announcements we have found effective ways to communicate important information with everyone.  This once dying church is rapidly growing and has a communication system that can successfully add a second Good Friday Service at 11AM the day of, fill it up and pull it off as if it had been planned all year.   When our people go on vacation and visit other churches they always come back and thank me for not doing announcements.  Crazy, right? Don’t let announcements kill your vibe.

As you think about what you communicate spend some time thinking about what the whole service communicates.

Was this helpful?  

How do you feel about announcements?  (Let me know in the comments.)

The best communicators aren't born they're developed. Improve your speaking/preaching in an instant.  Download the Speaker Checklist PDF

Will you still be able to communicate to younger generations?  Get the Top 10 Ways To Communicate To Millennials PDF here.

Your voice matters, 

Josh