The New Church Guest Challenge

For the whole month of October, I have been on a sabbatical. It’s been a refreshing experience for me. I’ve been able to read some books, spend time in prayer, and rest my spirit.

But being on sabbatical has also helped me gain a new insight on what it means to be a visitor to church. Each week I’ve attended a different church. It’s such an exhilarating experience, walking into a brand new place, meeting new people, hearing a sermon (instead of giving one).

However, what strikes me most is how out of place and strange it feels to be a guest in a church. Frankly, it’s kind of scary. Then it hit me, this is how EVERY new person feels when they walk into my church on Sunday. Just knowing what it feels like to be new helps to give me a sense of how I need to treat new each person that attends my church. So, I’m issuing “The New Church Guest Challenge” to you! Here’s how you do it

1 – Tell your pastor you’ll be missing for a week

It’s not that you need their permission–unless you’re volunteering every Sunday. Still, it’s nice to let him or her know what you’re up to. Truthfully, some pastors will be against the idea. Just assure them that your goal is to learn more about how to get better at welcoming new people to the congregation. If you go to a really big church you can probably skip this step.

2 – Decide to visit a nearby local church

Pick a church that is similar to your own. For example, if you go to a large Baptist church, don’t choose a small Pentecostal church to visit. Instead, do your best to match size and denomination. Also, pick a place where you don’t know anyone–that way you will have a truly “new” experience.

3 – Get the full experience

Arrive early enough to be greeted and maybe grab some coffee. Don’t come 30 seconds before they start and miss all of the uncomfortableness. Also, bring the whole family (if they’re willing). You will get some great insight from your kids on what it’s like to be new too. It could be uncomfortable, but at least you’ll be together.

4 – Remember what it feels like to be new

The goal is not for you to evaluate how well the other church does worship or preaching, the goal is for you to “feel” what it’s like to be new. You’ll notice things that you would have never noticed before and it will help you think of others and the way they feel when they visit your church.

You'll notice things that you would have never noticed before and it will help you think of others and the way they feel when they visit your church.Click To Tweet

5 – Talk about your experience with others

What was it that made you feel welcome? What made you feel like an outsider? Was it easy to find a parking space? Did you know where to go? These are things that you probably take for granted at your regular church but new people don’t.

6 – Go back to your regular church and turn your findings into action!

So now that you remember the awkward feeling you’ll be ready to react. For example, remember that long “meet & greet” at the church where you visited? If no one really came over to say ‘hi’ now you know that you have to be that person at your own church. Find the newcomers and make them feel welcome. Does your church need better signage to direct guests to the restrooms or nursery? Point it out to someone that can make a difference.

So give it a try sometime and then let me know what you found out. I’m convinced that if we all put our heads together and learn from our experiences we will be helping people find the church and find Jesus. After all, isn’t that the overall goal?

Six Surefire Ways To Alienate New People

Matheus Ferrero

Nobody tries to alienate people that are visiting church. As ministry leaders, we should be as inclusive as possible without sacrificing the message of the gospel. Even so, churches across the country are accidentally excluding potential attendees by simply forgetting what it’s like to be new. We need to be intentional about what we do, what we say, and how we say it.

However, if you wish to ostracize your weekly visitors then, by all means, try these six surefire ways to alienate new people at your church.

Sing Songs That No One Knows

I know that your worship leader has been working on his/her new album and that the congregation loves it. However, the new people don’t know those songs and can feel very alienated during the worship service. Even songs that were written and recorded by professional but little-known worship groups can be a challenge for the newcomer.

Solution? Consider playing at least a couple songs that are popular in case someone new shows up.

If you must play an obscure song, mix it into the set after you’ve brought the congregation into worship together and helped everyone connect to God.

Fail To Introduce Yourself To The Congregation

You wouldn’t think this would matter too much but you would be surprised. A new person has no idea who anyone is. So, when someone gets on stage and starts talking, visitors don’t know if that person is the lead pastor, an elder, a member, or some dude that had the guts to grab the mic.

By asking each speaker (announcements, welcome, offering talk, etc.) to start by saying something like, “Hi, my name is Bill and I’m on staff here..” or “My name is Paula and I’m a member here…” helps new people get some context for who is who.

This helps people feel more comfortable. By the way, when you don’t do this, newcomers assume that almost everyone up on the stage is working at the church.

Have An Exceptionally Long Meet & Greet Time

First of all, you should ditch the “meet and greet.” You know what I’m talking about–it’s the moment that the worship leader or pastor says, “hey there, take a few minutes and say hi to the people around you.” They might as well be saying, “hey there new people, for the next few minutes you’ll be standing uncomfortably by your selves while everybody says hi to people they already know.”

Too harsh? Not really. Ask anyone who’s visited a new church how they feel about being forced to meet new people in such a non-escapable environment. Only the most gregarious and outgoing new people appreciate the meet & greet.

Be Sure To Mention Situations and People Inclusive To The Church

How does it feel to be left out of a private joke? Pretty terrible. That’s sort of the feeling that new people have when the pastor is speaking about a situation that only the current congregation knows about. “Remember when Tom flooded the basement?” he might say. “That was a bad day!” Well, we can only guess because we weren’t there and we don’t know who Tom is.

You could say, “In 2001, Tom, our janitor accidentally impaled a water pipe while installing the new sign for the children’s area. By the time we figured out where the water was coming from we were standing in ankle deep water!” (autobiographical illustration, by the way)

That helps because you’ve given enough information to help even a first-time guest know what you talking about. They won’t feel left out of the joke that way.

A related habit that a lot of ministry leaders have is referring to Bible passages and stories casually, assuming that everyone knows them. If you refer to a well-known Bible story or verse, don’t assume everyone knows about it already. That’s insider talk and it subconsciously excludes people who don’t know the Bible.

Don’t Give People Time To Find Bible Passages

As a preacher, this is a huge pet-peeve of mine. The reason? I used to do this A LOT! When I first starting preaching I would place bookmarks in my Bible ahead of time so I could find them fast. The problem was that no one else in the congregation could find them as quickly.

For example, if you are speaking and you say, “please turn to 1 Peter 3,” you need to turn there with everyone else. Once you get there, look out in the audience and see if most people are done flipping pages. Once they are, then you can reference the verse you’re asking them to find.

You say, “but there will be a lot of silence while we are all looking.” Yeah, that’s ok. People won’t be listening to you when they are searching in their Bibles anyway. This is especially true for new people who aren’t as familiar with the Bible as everyone else. For many visitors, this could be their very first experience with God’s word. Make their first experience a positive one by helping them feel successful in finding the Bible verses you’re talking about.

And for Heaven’s sake (literally), use the Bible when you preach!

Overwhelm New People By Being Too Friendly

For a while, the greeters in our church were too happy to see new people. It’s true! I actually got that feedback from a visitor once. They said, “your people were too happy to see me.”

What they meant was that the greeters sort of bombarded them on the way in the door. It’s the same feeling you might’ve had the last time you walked onto a used car lot–the sales guy runs out of the office and attaches himself to your leg.

Smaller churches are especially susceptible to this problem for a couple reasons. First, because they tend to be so excited to see new people, hoping that the church will grow. Second, because there are fewer people it’s easier to determine who is new.

The solution? Whelm people. Don’t OVERwhelm them, don’t UNDERwhelm them either. Just ‘whelm’ them. Yes, it’s a word.

Be happy to see them and welcome them cheerfully. Then let them experience the church at their own pace. Most visitors don’t need to know everything about the congregation on their first visit.

Perfectionism In The Church Sucks

When I first got started in ministry many years ago, I worked with a few people who were perfectionists. I thought I was supposed to be that way too. I wanted everything in the church to be 100% flawless, the music, the video, the sermons, the coffee! I wanted the church to be as good as, if not better than, the “outside” world. But this is a trap and it caused me an incredible amount of disappointment in ministry.

Top ministry leaders talk about how God deserves our best. They say that anything less than pure excellence is less than pleasing to God. But come on, give me a break. No one can hit a home run every time, right?

Too much of that talk causes the local church to grow dissatisfied, feeling like nothing will ever be good enough. Small churches are especially vulnerable because they don’t have the budget or talent to support the production levels of larger churches.

It’s time to stop the madness. Here are four solid reasons why perfectionism sucks.

Perfection Is Unachievable

By definition, it is not possible to be perfect. Because to be perfect, you have to be perfect all the time–see the problem? There’s no way to be flawless in your life, your spirituality, your teaching, your leading, your parenting, and so on. It’s like when my dog chases his tail. He doesn’t realize that he’s never going to catch it. At first, he’s entertained by the chase, but after a while, he gets tired and gives up.

This is my story, and to be honest, I still struggle with it. On Sunday I want things to be good–no, I want them to be great. My motives are pure enough; I’m hoping that people will see that we are a quality bunch of people who love Jesus and care enough to do things well. However, sometimes my desire for high-quality is at the expense of our volunteers. They are only capable of doing their best based on available time, God-given talent, or persona aptitude. I’m realizing now that it is less about the result and more about the process.

Perfection Ignores The Journey

You’ve heard the phrase, “it’s about the journey, not the destination.” In the church family, that’s true. As a matter of fact, the church is the journey. That’s because our destination lies beyond the boundaries of this life, where perfection is provided by God himself.

Inside the church, it’s about spiritual growth and that’s a messy business. Any time a group of people get together, try to agree on common goals, and then attempt to live by those goals, there will be some chaos. Especially because different people within the body of Christ are at different phases of their spiritual growth. Remember, the Apostle Paul’s wrote all but one of his letters to correct problems within the early church. The believers were in process then, and they continue to be today.

Inside the church, it's about spiritual growth and that's a messy business.Click To Tweet

And besides, the point of a church isn’t “the show” on Sunday morning. The point is how we interact all week long. Are we encouraging each other? (Heb 10:25) Are we holding each other accountable? (Gal 6:1) Are we loving each other? (John 13:35) And, are we sharing the gospel? That’s the main business of the church.

Imperfection Is A Mark of Authenticity

Before I proposed to my wife, I remember visiting a jewelry store to look at diamonds. I was surprised to learn that the mark of authenticity within a diamond are the flaws – tiny streaks or flecks visible only with a microscope. Only fake gems are completely pure.

A church full of people is like a church full of diamonds. If we pretend that everything is perfect then we fall short of being credible. John said, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jn 1:8)

This is especially important when it comes to reaching people outside of the church. No one wants to be labeled as a hypocrite and people are generally considered to be hypocritical when they say one thing and then do another. Maybe we don’t say we are perfect with words, but we might hope to portray that image through our worship styles, clothing, and speech, lighting, etc. In a sense, perfectionism alienates people from the church, and ultimately from Christ.

Living With Purpose

It’s time to redefine perfection here on earth. Since no one can achieve it anyway, let’s do away with the word in our churches. Instead, you might like the word PURPOSE. Let’s do things with purpose. Let’s worship with purpose, speak with purpose, let’s make sure that we do our best – not because we are hoping to attain some level of perfection, but because we have a purpose to show the congregation and our community the beauty of God’s grace. The purpose is to grow as disciples. This happens best because we understand what we are trying to achieve as believers and why.

Our purpose can certainly have a sense of quality too. If we are doing things on purpose then everyone involved should give as much of their time and talent as possible. Because our purpose is more important than perfection.

Churches For The “Unchurched”

This is a guest post by fellow Tribe Writer, Melissa Joan Walker. Melissa is a teacher and writer. Her focus is the pursuit of spirituality and the search for God. You can read her work at melissajoanwalker.com. Get her free Ebook “20 Simple Ways to Connect with God (Even When You Don’t Believe)” by signing up for her email list. 


My friends and I are a liberal, unchurched bunch. But more and more of us are opting for church. Why? The usual reasons: We are looking for spiritual connection. We are looking for a spiritual home for our kids. We are looking for comfort in the painful world. We are looking for meaningful connection to our own inner life, and to something bigger than ourselves, to God, or, for those who aren’t sure, for a connection to SOMETHING.

What kinds of churches are we looking for?

Surprisingly, for a bunch of people who fancy themselves “independent” and “free-thinkers”, we are going pretty classical. Formal churches, rather than the new church movement is where most of my friends have landed.

The church I go to is Episcopalian. High Episcopalian, which means we have a lot of pomp and circumstance at our services. The dean goes up the middle aisle with the bible, holding it aloft. There’s incense. We are constantly kneeling and getting back up. I don’t know why.

It reminds me of one New Year’s Eve service I attended in Mexico. I don’t speak Spanish. I didn’t understand what was happening. The church was full of abuelas and teenagers dressed for a night out and babies.

The priest walked around the cathedral holding a baby aloft very seriously, a procession following him, and a solemn little girl in a pew a few rows ahead of us stared at us over her grandmother’s shoulder and made the sign of the cross. We couldn’t figure out if she thought she was the pope or that we were Satan.

And yet it was magical.

It was holy. The Spirit was present. I felt the mystery of the Lord, the mystery of creation, and, surprisingly, I felt my own place. I felt more sure of my own place in the midst of it all, in my confusion. I felt at home.

The Episcopalian church we go to now couldn’t be more different from the middle of the road Presbyterian congregation where I grew up. My parents dropped us off for church (that’s a sign about how important church really is), and it didn’t get much more controversial than the Golden Rule.

And to my childhood purist sensibilities, it was the most unchallenging version of the Golden Rule, too. Just love your neighbor, you know, by which we mean, just gossip behind closed doors and then drop off a casserole on important occasions.

But I looked for more righteous, less hypocritical congregations and found them wanting, too. After all, as the Buddhists say, I entered the temple to leave the world, and I found the world. Humans are humans everywhere, it turns out.

So, I left church. For a long time. It’s not hard to do. There are so many awesome things to do on a Sunday morning besides church.

TV called my name. Dating. College. Reading. Cleaning the house, and reading the newspaper. And you know brunch is on Sunday mornings, there’s a lot of good brunch to be eaten.

But then I got married. And before we got married, we started going to a church again. My husband grew up Unitarian Universalist so we started there. I liked the openness of the faith. I liked that there wasn’t a singular dogma but instead a set of principles at the core of the church.

But when our church changed pastors, the message was lost on me. Our Sunday attendance petered out.

When my son was born, we tried again. I want my son’s life to be easier than mine has been. I want him to have a rock solid faith to fall back on when life is too much for him. I want him to have what I couldn’t find in those churches.

So, now, some of my friends and I have settled into congregations, and most of us are at churches that are highly ritualized. Catholic. Jewish. Or, Episcopalian, like us.

God will let me know what I need to know, when I need to know it, and not before. @mjoanwalkerClick To Tweet

I like the mystery of the services. The ritual puts me in the right posture to hear God working in my life. Getting up and kneeling down over and over again, following along with the others, reminds me that, truly, I am on a “need to know” basis with God.

God will let me know what I need to know, when I need to know it, and not before.

I don’t need to know why we are standing or kneeling. I can just follow along in faith.

I am a part of the congregation. I don’t have to understand everything to be a person in good standing before God. God knows what’s going on, and that’s enough.

3 Good Reasons To Leave Your Church

Leaving Church

They say, “all good things must come to an end.” Often, that is true when it comes to the relationship you have with your church family. Leaving is never easy but in some cases it is necessary.

In a previous post, I suggested that there were some very terrible reasons for leaving a church. But, are there any good reasons to leave a church? Yes, there are plenty, and here are three:

Spiritual Abuse

If the leaders of your church use biblical pressure tactics to coerce or manipulate you in any way, it’s time for you to move on. I have heard of pastors that twist the Bible in order to guilt people into serving or giving money. I have seen pastors and leaders who reduce Christianity to a list of rules that must be followed by their congregation at all costs. When their followers fall short of these regulations they are shamed, disgraced, and penalized — often publicly.

This is nothing new and Jesus opposed these types of leaders. In Matthew 23:4 he said, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” He criticized the Jewish leaders for holding their followers to a higher standard than even they were able to follow.

Spiritual abuse is a dangerous trend and is often disguised as the pursuit of holiness. Of course, being holy is something that all believers should aspire to (1 Peter 1:14–16), but our desire to live a Christ-like life should flow from our desire to please God, not the pastor.

Our desire to live a Christ-like life should flow from our desire to please God, not the pastor.Click To Tweet

Teaching That Is Unbiblical

When someone in the congregation says, “I’m not being fed,” it usually means they don’t like the preaching in their church. Sometimes their reasons for not liking the preaching are superficial. For example, they don’t think the pastor is funny enough, or his/her sermons are too long, or they don’t appreciate their style.

But there are occasions when a pastor falls short of their call to teach the Word accurately and consistently. Defective teaching is harder to judge, considering the wide variety of teaching styles and methods. But, if you notice that your teaching pastor consistently avoids using the Bible during his/her messages, turns every single message into a political statement, or adds their own ideas to the gospel, you should be on high alert.

The Apostle Paul faced this exact situation on a number of occasions. He wrote to the church in Galatia to warn them about perverting the gospel through false teaching. He said, “but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (Gal 1:7) A few verses later he says they should be cursed!

If your church leaders are preaching any gospel other than the simple truth of Jesus Christ, Son of God, crucified and raised for your sins to the eternal glory of God — it’s time to go.

Your Gifts are Needed Elsewhere

On a more positive note, there are times when there is no controversy and no abuse, however, the gifts and talents that you have been given are needed more in a different congregation.

About 7 years ago a good friend and member of our worship band came to me and told me he was leaving our church. He loved our church family and everything about the congregation. However, he felt called to be a part of the worship team at a smaller church across town. Since our music team was well-stocked with talented musicians and theirs was not, he knew his talents would make a bigger impact for the gospel in their church. We blessed him and his family as he left, knowing that he was leaving for the right reasons.

If you are a follower of Christ then you have been given a gift (1 Peter 4:10). Are you are using that gift to its fullest potential at your church? If not, find out how to get involved so that you can strengthen your church family and be a part of the gospel’s forward movement. However, if your gift is needed in a different church, then pray and ask God if it’s time to go. While it may be difficult to leave your church family, it’s always the right idea to follow God’s call, even if that means saying goodbye to a church you love.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Have you been a part of a church that abused its congregation? If you have let me know in the comments section. I would love to hear from you.

3 Terrible Reasons To Leave Your Church

leaving church leave

I have been a pastor for almost 15 years. In that time I’ve seen my share of people leave our church. Sometimes they go nicely, and for good reason. Other times they leave in a hail storm of controversy and bitterness.

Believe it or not, sometimes leaving a church is the right thing to do. Often times though, people leave for very bad reasons and when they do they cause damage to the body of believers.

Here are the 3 worst reasons you can give to leave your church body:

The Music Is Too Loud

Over the years I’ve heard this one more than a few times. If this is the only issue you have with a church it shouldn’t be enough to cause your exit. In almost every church in America (certainly every church under 300 people), the band and sound team are made up of volunteers. These well-meaning and dedicated men and women are not professional audio engineers. They are usually well-meaning folks trying to do their best on Sunday morning.

If the sound is legitimately too loud then I suggest you do a couple things:

First, volunteer to be a part of the sound team! That way, with your hand on the control knob you’ll be able to make sure the sound is just perfect for you. But be aware, you’ll likely field a number of other complaints such as, “I couldn’t hear my son’s guitar at all” or “why isn’t my daughter’s voice louder?”

Second, you could simply purchase an inexpensive pair of sound reducing ear plugs! I’m being serious. There’s no shame in doing this – especially if you love everything else about your church family.

I’m Just Not Getting Fed

Not only is this a bad reason for leaving your church, it’s not biblical. Actually, uttering the phrase “I’m not getting fed” reveals a lot about your lack of spiritual maturity. Only a spiritually immature Christian would think it’s the job of the pastors or ministry leaders to hand-feed them. As a believer, the goal is to feed yourself.

The writer of Hebrews illustrates this clearly by calling out the Jewish believers for their lack of understanding and for having the inability to feed themselves. He/she says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food… (Heb 5:12)” We all know that babies drink milk while adults eat solid food. Infants are hand-fed, but eventually learn to eat on their own. Spiritually speaking, it’s obvious – mature Christians should be able to feed themselves. In that way, the church is less of a restaurant and more of a kitchen. The teacher makes the food (teaching) available and perhaps even combines the ingredients (draws conclusions, points out an application, etc.), but the mature believer does the work.

The church is less of a restaurant and more of a kitchen Click To Tweet

Even if you think the preaching is subpar or if you’re not 100% interested in every topic your pastor chooses, as long as the Bible is open you should be able to get something out of it. You might just have to do some of the chewing.

The Church Is Full Of Hypocrites

Well, that’s just stupid. Yes, the church is full of hypocrites. It’s full of liars, drunks, and cheaters too. Complaining about a church being full of sinners is like complaining about too many sick people being in a hospital. Sick people belong in a hospital and sinners belong in a church!

Complaining about a church being full of sinners is like complaining about too many sick people being in a hospital. Click To Tweet

If you leave your church hoping to avoid hypocrites then you’ll never find a church home. Every church is full of men and women who are recovering from the effect of sin in their lives. When Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus he said, “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4:22-24)” Obviously, Paul has to say this because it’s not exactly happening–the people need a reminder. And guess where they are? In the church!

If you feel the need to leave a church because it’s full of hypocrites then the best thing to do is take a good look in the mirror. There’s a good chance you have a plank in your eye! (Matt 7:5)

So, are there reasons to leave a church? Of course! There are several good reasons to leave but they are all Biblical reasons. Stay tuned, I will write an article called, “3 Biblical Reasons To Leave Your Church” next week.

Mevo: An Affordable Option for Streaming Worship

You’ve probably seen some of the mega-churches broadcasting their worship services and wished you could do the same. For years, I wondered if we would ever be able to afford the technology ourselves.

As a church of 200 or so, it didn’t seem possible until we stumbled onto Mevo, an out of the box option that makes it easy to broadcast just about anything.

Mevo Camera

How It Works

The Mevo camera is small–about the size of a baseball. It connects to your wifi signal and to your phone, which enables you to stream video to Facebook and Youtube (as well as other services).

If you want to take your production to the next level you can send the signal to LiveStream, Mevo’s software solution that allows you to create a professional production by integrating other cameras, graphics, and social media into the feed. The battery lasts about 1 hour and charges via USB. Additional add-ons are available that allow for 10 hours of battery life.

Automation Makes It Professional

The most amazing thing about Mevo is the automation that comes with the software. The camera is able to detect faces and make flawless transitions between people that are on stage. For example, if you have a 5 piece worship team on stage, the Mevo will figure out how many people are involved and cut back and forth between them, all the while including group shots throughout. It seems unbelievable but it looks really professional! See an example of this.

Mevo Is Affordable

The price is $399 at Amazon for the starter setup. Truthfully, this is all you need to go live. If you want to extend the battery life and add a few bells and whistles to your setup then you can grab the “Pro Bundle” which includes the power boost and a case.
Considering the cost of an average professional camera these days and anything less than $1,000 seems like a steal.

If you decide to stream your worship services live then check out Mevo. So far it’s been working great and we plan to unveil our streaming worship service in about a month. For the cost, I think it’s a no-brainer. Check on your internet connection, you’ll need at least 1.5Mpbs to broadcast in standard mode, and about twice that to broadcast in HD.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission from Amazon if you make a purchase using this link. This is at no extra cost to you.

3 Solutions For Church Summer Slump

This is going to sound unbelievable but I assure you it’s 100% true.

When I was about 10 years old my family attended a little Baptist church in Detroit. It was a while ago but I’m guessing that there were about 100 members.

Like any little church, the dreaded “summer slump” arrived every June, July, and August as church-goers chose to spend their summer time on vacations, traveling, or at the beach on Sunday.

In an effort to drum up attendance the pastor came up with a brilliant idea. The idea was to make a life-sized dummy called, “Mr. Summer Slump.” Someone in the church made him by stuffing old rags into some second-hand clothes, complete with a head, a hat, and a painted on face. Seriously, it was creepy!

Each Sunday School class was made to keep attendance and the teacher with the lowest amount of people was forced to sit next to Mr. Summer Slump in the front row of the church! I guess embarrassing your key volunteers is the best way to provoke them to action.

I’ve been in ministry for many years and I’ve experienced the summer slump regularly each year. Here are some better ways to handle it.

Decrease Your Worship Services

It seems obvious, right? You’d be surprised how many churches don’t consider moving from 3 services to 2 for the summer, or from 2 to 1. The great fear is that you won’t be able to regain attendance in the fall. The opposite is true. In my experience, minimizing services is exciting and allows more people to connect. Plus, it’s a nice break for your volunteers.

I know this doesn’t help you if you already only have one service. However, you might even consider moving your regular service back an hour. A lot of people get used to sleeping later during the summer and that extra hour of sleep is just what they need on Sunday morning.

Rearrange The Chairs

Really? Can you do that? Yes! Is there anything worse than that oh-so-empty feeling in the auditorium? Whenever 70% or less of the chairs are filled on Sunday it sends a subconscious message to the congregation: “Where is everybody? And if they’re not here, why am I here?”

Try rearranging your normal chair setup. Okay, this isn’t going to work if you have pews, but if you have movable chairs you can minimize the size of your rows by a chair or two. You can also spread them out a little bit so that whatever space was taken up by 150 chairs is not taken up by 115.

Increase Your Social Media Connections

Many people miss church in the summer simply because they are on vacation. They aren’t really lazy or trying to avoid God, it’s just that they have been planning a family trip in the summer.

Try being really intentional about sharing all of what’s happening in the church family via social media. Obviously, that means uploading the teaching for the week but how about sharing the vision on a regular basis with those who are away? You can also connect by writing to your congregation through email or on a blog. That way it won’t feel like the only way to experience the church family is by attending on a Sunday morning.

And by the way, if you’re worried about breaking people’s routine or stepping on a few toes by changing stuff then good! That’s exactly what the summer slump needs. Something different. In the summer, different is good!

What The Church Is Not: Part 1

One of my favorite TV shows is Mythbusters. I love the way Jamie and Adam take a well-known idea and apply testing to confirm whether it’s true or just a myth. I plan to do the same in a new 4-part series called, “What The Church Is Not…”

Part 1: The Church is not a BUILDING, it’s a BODY.

In Matthew 16, when Jesus told Peter that he would “build his church” he was not talking about any kind of structure. He was talking about the founding of a group of people, called for a specific purpose. Much has been made of the Greek word Ekklesia, but the simplest understanding of the word is an “assembly or congregation.” Here are the biggest challenges Christians may have when they perceive the church as a building.

The Property Becomes More Important Than The People

When someone tells me, “Phil, I’ll meet you up at the church” I respond, “Yes, I’ll see you at the building where our church meets.

Frequently, I get eye rolls.

Yet, if we don’t get this right people will place too much importance on the structure–the steeple, the carpeting, the pews, the pulpit, and so on. Historically, this has lead to arguments about carpeting, decorations, remodeling, and a lot of other pointless things.

Plus, it can lead into an expensive capital campaign, causing the congregation to place all or most of their finances into erecting a structure rather than allowing the people to spend their dollars within the community where help is severely needed.

It might seem like splitting hairs but it is drastically important. See, Jesus didn’t die for the bricks and mortar that make up our building. He died for the people that fill the building each Sunday and during the week.

The Danger of The Stationary Church

Almost every church body holds at least one weekly gathering. Most of the time this is on Sunday. So, for one or two hours the people are being the church. But, the people should be the church during the 166-167 hours when we aren’t gathered together as well.

Joel Hunter, the pastor of Northland Church in Florida, said it best, “the church happens not so much when we gather, but when we scatter.”

The church happens not so much when we gather, but when we scatter. -Joel HunterClick To Tweet

Jesus said that we should “go into all the world” and share all that he had taught us (Matthew 29:19-20). Certainly, a weekly meeting of souls is part of that directive, but it’s not the sum total.

For many, a cool weekly gathering, filled with powerful music and an uplifting message is the first experience they may have with Jesus. But it can’t be only place they experience Christ. Many people will never venture into a church building…ever. By calling our buildings “the church” we unwittingly place the task of reaching the lost on the staff of our churches and on Sunday morning.

The Organization Vs. The Organism

The church is people, plain and simple. It’s a living and breathing organism. Every time someone new joins the congregation the body changes a little. It absorbs and takes on the new personality of those who are a part of it. We’ll miss that if we place too much emphasis on the organization and not the organism.

Pastors are often guilty of missing this point. I’ve said it myself, “I have a church to run.” You don’t run a church, you run an organization, a business, or an enterprise. If the church is full of people it should operate more like a family, not an organization.

So let’s remember that we are part of this great thing called “the church.” It’s a group of people who belong to something amazing, something ancient, something living.

“For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Romans 12:4-5

4 Simple Ways To Beat Stress & Avoid Burnout

Slowing down is a matter of survival. I learned this the hard way on a Saturday afternoon in 2013.

I was doing what I always did on Saturday–running around like a crazy person, dropping kids off at sports, texting church members about upcoming events, and fielding calls about an upcoming baptism at my house.

While I was driving that day I felt my chest constrict and I was having trouble breathing. “This can’t be happening,” I thought. “I don’t have time for a heart attack!” Reluctantly, I headed to the hospital. In the E.R. they ran all the usual tests, echocardiogram, chest x-ray, and so on. They found nothing.

“Everything looks good” the doctor said. “It’s probably an anxiety attack. Are you under a lot of stress?” When I told him I was a pastor and a police chaplain he flashed me a concerned smile and suggested that I see my doctor to talk about stress reduction.

Since then I’ve changed a lot about the way I work. Besides hiring an assistant, seeing a therapist about once a month, and taking a small dose of anti-anxiety medication, here’s the most important thing I do now.

I slow down.

 

If you have been feeling stressed here’s four simple steps you can take, along with the acronym “SLOW” to help you remember.

1 – SILENCE

Don’t be afraid of silence. It’s hard to be quiet in our culture. If I had time driving or waiting in line I would make a phone call or text. Now, I just allow myself to be quiet. Call it prayer or meditation, if you wish, but I’ve learned that my mind comes alive in the silence.

2 – LISTEN

Like silence this is difficult. Listening is an art form. I don’t mean listening to music or a podcast. I’m talking about slowing down enough to hear what people around you are really saying. This is not listening for problem solving, but listening for understanding and empathy. Also, in the quiet moments of silence you can listen for what God is saying to you too.

3 – OBSERVE

I had lost the ability to see and notice the beauty of the world around me. Taking time to notice things helps you remain in the present. Yes, life can be ugly, but there’s a lot that is appealing too. Make a decision to observe what’s good for your head and heart. That means avoiding the news for a while and going to an art gallery or taking a walk on the beach at sunset.

4 – WAIT

Learn to wait. We are so impatient! Next time you’re in line for something at the post office or tax collector’s office don’t whip out your phone, don’t text, don’t put in your earbuds. Try waiting patiently…quietly. This is a trick that I have to make time slow down. It’s a ninja-like skill to wait without distracting yourself with an electronic device. Waiting forces you to slow down and when you do it’s easier to observe and listen.

Since 2013 I’ve relapsed a couple of times. I’ve allowed myself to become over-involved, over-extended and generally worn out. Whenever that happens I come back to this acronym and put it in place again. It always helps.

So tell me, how do you deal with stress, busyness, and potential burnout? Consider leaving a comment and let me know!