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Archive for June, 2015

The Big 5 Questions: Their Answers Will Revitalize Your Church – Part 14

No strategy for helping people find a place to serve is complete until we have a plan to both equip and evaluate them in their effort. Far too many churches seem to think they’ve achieved their goal at the moment someone says, “Yes, Pastor, I’ll be glad to help.” But unless there’s a quality plan for training and a system to give them needed guidance and feedback, their serving won’t be satisfying for long.

If you’re just joining us, we’ve been walking through the five questions every local church needs to be asking to bring new energy and life to their congregation. While we’re working on question four–How will we help people find a place to serve?–let’s take a quick look back at the entire journey.

Our first question—How do we engage new people?—helped us see the critical need to develop specific strategic steps for connecting with people throughout our community. There simply can be no new day at your church without some new life!

Our second question occupied us for several blogs—How will we treat them when they walk through our doors? As we said, it would be tragic to work hard to connect with someone only to drop the ball when they visited our church. Effective hospitality and assimilation strategies are some of the most critical elements of a church health plan.

Next, we tackled–How will we teach them how to follow Jesus? Here, we looked at both the content and the settings where discipleship teaching is delivered. You must have a plan for people to engage, and then, of course, you’ll need to encourage them to engage that plan.

When we ask our current question–“How will we help them find a place to serve?–we have already considered helping people find their gifts and find a place to use them. But, we can’t stop there. In fact, it’s really our efforts to equip, encourage, and evaluate that set us up for an easier time recruiting folks to serving posts. If you provide the needed support for helping someone to succeed, you’ll create the type of environment that nurtures others to say “yes” to your ministry invitation.

In this context, training simply means showing someone the “how” and “why” of their effort. Too many church leaders assume their people know what they know. Some end up in long-term teaching roles without ever receiving training. I can’t think of a community that would accept such carelessness in their school system!

Now training doesn’t need to be complex, but it’s caliber should connect appropriately with its level of responsibility. I can teach someone to be an usher or greeter in about twenty minutes, but training a good teacher will require a bigger investment. So, how do we do this at our church? is a very important question.

Your training should also include clearly conveying “why” we do what we do. It’s the “why” that helps people endure difficulty. When I know why I’m fulfilling an assignment, I can connect more easily to a meaningful experience. In general, your training should include “one part why” for every “two parts how.”

And don’t forget to encourage and evaluate. Every individual, no matter how gifted, needs a little fine-tuning in their ministry effort. Sadly, many good folks have developed bad ministry habits over the years, largely because no one was there to nip that behavior when it was forming. I once met a Sunday school teacher who used his podium to spout his political views each Sunday. (Terrible idea!) Unfortunately, he’d been doing this for years and now even his pastor was afraid to insert some correction. It seems likely that this good man would have been more open to a slight nudging away from this behavior early in his teaching career than he will now that he’s cemented this conduct in his “normal” routine. People will almost always be more receptive to correction in their earliest efforts than they will be later, so don’t miss those windows!

A training and evaluation plan lets people know how much you care about their success. When we give time to their ministry development, we show them that what they are doing truly matters and that we are fully invested in helping them be effective. So answering our fourth question really requires quite a lot. We must help people connect to a place where they can serve God in a meaningful way and then continue to monitor and guide their efforts for lasting success. If you do that, and do it well, people will want to be on your team!

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 234

  1. “I will come back and take you to be with me” (John 14:3).

This is the greater purpose of Christ’s return. He comes again, not so He can institute judgment–though He will do this as well. But He returns to gather, to reunite with His disciples and to take them with Him. This is who God is–Emmanuel. He is the God who desires to be with us. I have often thought it amazing that God’s idea of Heaven is to be with us. Surely, ours is to be with Him, but His desire to be with us forever defies description.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 233

  1. “In my Father’s house are many rooms” (John 14:2).

There’s room for you where I am going. That’s the message of these words in the literary context. Jesus has told His disciples that He is leaving them and they can’t follow yet, but in Father’s house, there’s room for them. His promise of eternity surely provides sufficient proof that the disciples were already members of His eternal kingdom. All that remained for them was the act of Jesus to open that door. So they shouldn’t lose heart, even when the evident situation looks bleak. Neither should we.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

The Big 5 Questions: Their Answers Will Revitalize Your Church – Part 13

As we continue to explore our 4th of these critical five questions–How will we help them find a place to serve?–we need to ask the question of gifts.

In today’s church, there’s much being made of discovering one’s gifts–and rightly so. Pastors and church leaders hope that when people discover their gifts, they will find a ministry fit that will provide them with the meaningful involvement that both changes their lives and keeps them involved. We all know that when people are involved in ministry that fits their abilities, they enjoy it and are so much more effective.

But before we grab a gift test off the internet and launch a congregation wide assessment of our gifts, let’s consider what we’re really looking for. Unfortunately, many gift searches simply explore someone’s abilities or personal interests. “I like doing that” or “I’m pretty good at that” have replaced the real idea behind God’s effort to equip His Church.

When God promised gifts like pastor, wisdom, mercy, faith, and a host of others, He was speaking of supernatural endowments provided by the Holy Spirit–not talents that we brought into the church door with us. While we don’t ignore natural abilities and interest, we know we have received a gift from God when we can’t imagine any other source. So a shepherd boy becomes a great king (David) or a scared farmer emerges as a great warrior (Gideon). I doubt Gideon would have scored high in “warrior” on his spiritual gift test!

A new or growing passion might be a greater clue to what God is doing in our lives. A new capacity could be God’s gift. Years ago, a newly-converted and Spirit-baptized young woman stood before our congregation to sing a solo. No one knew what to expect, even her. When she began to sing, jaws dropped–even hers. God had given her an amazing gift way beyond her previous efforts to sing-a-long with the radio. A few weeks later, we discovered she could preach even better!!

Years ago, our church was searching for a Sunday school teacher for pre-teen girls. One leader suggested a certain shy and socially-awkward girl. We thought he was crazy. But it was his decision and she turned out to be an amazing teacher–the assignment literally transformed her into an amazing Christian leader. The gift had been given and somehow one guy was able to see it.

Gift tests are useful, but they can never replace the eye-test and heart-test. Remember that the Early Church didn’t use assessment tools to discern the work of the Holy Spirit. The gifts God had given were revealed by the Spirit and men and women simply stepped out in faith and began to use them. Okay, maybe “simply” is a bit optimistic, but they let their hearts lead their hands and soon found a power and ability they didn’t previously possess.

So, how do you help people discover their gifts? If you simply put them to work doing the same kind of things they do all week long, you’ll likely get good performance, but you may not find what God is up to in their lives. Encourage people to follow their heart, to listen to the voice of the Spirit, and to give their best to the needs right in front of them. Somewhere on that path, God will reveal what He has uniquely created and empowered them to do. And that will be amazing!

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 232

  1. “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1).

There is always much to trouble one’s heart, especially when your Master is about to be put to death before your own eyes. Here, Jesus wants His disciples to know the greater story behind what they are about to see. He is preparing a place for them. By His death and His resurrection, they will find a place in God’s eternal kingdom. Some have the idea that Jesus is promising to build them a place, but the Father’s house already has many rooms, and it’s unlikely that they need repair. Instead, Jesus is letting us see that by His death, He is giving us residence there. One could say that He is preparing us to be welcomed there.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

The Big 5 Questions: Their Answers Will Revitalize Your Church – Part 12

Well, we’re finally ready for our fourth of the five big questions that will help revitalize your local church. As you may have noticed by now, each of these questions comes as a step in the process of connecting with and discipling new people. Only when we achieve such an outward, people focus can new life come to a congregation and only such a focus will maintain the health of that local church too.

So, before we jump into question four, let’s review a bit. Our first question—How do we engage new people?—helped us see the critical need to develop specific strategic steps for connecting with people throughout our community. There simply can be no new day at your church without some new life!

Our second question occupied us for several blogs—How will we treat them when they walk through our doors? As we said, it would be tragic to work hard to connect with someone only to drop the ball when they visited our church. Effective hospitality and assimilation strategies are some of the most critical elements of a church health plan.

Next, we considered our third of these critical five questions for strengthening your church–How will we teach them how to follow Jesus? Here, we have given some thought both to our content and the “how” of our delivery system. The very nature of making disciples is delivering the life changing truth of Jesus’ teaching through the relationships we have with those who desire to follow Him. Every local church needs a plan for helping its people fulfill this critical commission.

Question four? How will we help them find a place to serve?

Serving is the only way you can follow a servant. There’s simply no other means of following Jesus than learning to put others ahead of yourself and give your best to their needs. Surely, I don’t have to tell you of the nature of serving. We know that it demands humility, love, and a genuine heart to see others grow.

But, a local church needs a plan for helping people shift to this life focus. No one is naturally servant-oriented. We all tend toward self-centeredness. So if we’re going to help people learn to serve, we must do more than just assign them a task. We must teach them the “heart” of a servant.

Here’s a mistake many congregations make. They think serving is simply finding something for someone to do. Help us with this…try this and see if it fits…Hey, we need someone to do this. Unfortunately, these “invitations” alone leave us still trying to connect with someone’s self-centeredness. So the “serving” questions become “Does this fit you?” “Are you enjoying your area of ministry?” “Are you finding fulfillment in your serving?” A real servant would be puzzled by such questions.

Serving requires an attitude of the heart that says, Whatever needs to be done…I’m willing. How do you teach that? First, by modeling that focus. People need an example of someone who sacrifices for the good of others.

Second, you must help people develop a humble spirit. In a self-focused culture, humility is hardly original equipment. Lessons that address the “why” and the “how” of humility are essential to those for whom such attitudes are foreign.

Third, you must connect the dots between serving and loving Jesus. It’s our love for Christ that ought to fuel our efforts of serving. The idea that we love what we do for Christ isn’t always true. But we love the One we do it for. Help people see that serving is the primary way we demonstrate that love or, as some have described it, love Him back. Truth is, there will be many days when your efforts to serve aren’t fun or exciting or personal fulfilling, but that’s where serving differs from being served. Servants don’t serve because it’s fun. They serve because of their commitment to their Master.

Next time, we’ll look at a second step in answering this critical fourth question, but there is no way we can overemphasize the important of this first step. Without a servant’s heart, a person will never learn to grow in Christ. Only when we learn to humble ourselves will we put ourselves in position to become true followers of the greatest Servant human history has ever known.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 231

  1. “I will lay down my life for you” (John 13:37).

It’s been quite a chapter for Simon Peter. Chapter 13 began with Jesus’ washing His disciples’ feet and Peter initially resisting his Master’s touch. Now, as he understands Jesus to be explaining the result of rising opposition, Peter tries again–this time insisting that he is ready to die with and for his Master as well. And, once again, Peter’s need to put himself forward is met with correction. He’s like a lot of us. We try hard. We want to insert ourselves into stories that aren’t ours to live. We want to do right, be right, and seldom give thought that we might need to just be still and do nothing. The moments confronting Jesus aren’t Peter’s to direct or control. Just as much of our lives aren’t ours to dictate either.

Categories: Leadership Journeys