Don't Forget the Person Running the Sound

It takes a whole team of people working together to maintain an atmosphere of less distractions as people are connecting together through worship. The article below speaks to the importance of the person running the sound and how they need to put forward intentionality and preparation as much as the worship leader in front of the people. Perhaps one of the most striking points is that the person on the sound board should be committed to being a participant in worship and prayer, not just a facilitator.  

https://worshipleader.com/technology/the-sound-techs-5-rules-for-prayer-without-distractions/

Introducing Your Congregation to Lent

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We're on our way to the cross and the resurrection as we approach the celebratoin of Easter. In our Christian culture and practice we live daily with these realities and so preparing our people for this celebration requires intentional engagement. How do you approach Easter with your people? Here is an article with some suggestions:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2017/january-web-exclusives/introducing-lent-to-your-congregation.html

Churches Involvement in Justice Issues

Perhaps if we, as churches, got involved in Justice Issues on a local level it would be an opportunity to practically share the boundless love and amazing grace to all our neighbors. What are the needs in your specific community? Should the Church even care? Or maybe a better first question is something like: "If tomorrow your church simply did not exist anymore, would it be missed in your community?" 

Below is a link to an article that mentions some practical ways that we might engage in the justice issues represented in our communities. 

http://archives.relevantmagazine.com/god/should-your-church-care-more-about-justice

A Perspective On NOT Giving Up On Youth Ministry

Long hours, general moodiness of teens, small visible wins, way to much pizza, dealing with parents, and because it seems like nobody is listening... these are all reasons I've heard as people have contemplated getting out of youth ministry. While it is no walk in the park, youth ministry plays a vital role in the life of the church.  Here's one pastor's perspective on why we shouldn't give up on youth ministry. 

http://pastors.com/four-reasons-give-youth-ministry/#

The Hard Work of Discipleship

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Let me introduce you to my friend, Andrew. I know him as a committed leader who faithfully serves his family, church and community. He is deeply passionate and a joy to know. Here's a short bio and part 1 of his article on integrating people into the life of the church. 

Andrew Rehbein is the Lead Pastor at First Church of God in Pryor, OK.  Andrew has served this congregation for 13 years as an Associate Pastor and Lead Pastor.  Andrew completed undergraduate studies at Mid-America Christian University and graduate studies at Asbury Theological Seminary and Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan.  Andrew is passionate about revitalizing established churches, multi-generational ministry, and discipleship.  Andrew enjoys life and ministry with his wife, Courtney and two daughters, Andi (7) and Hope (4).

THE HARD WORK OF DISCIPLESHIP

Part 1:  Admitting our Problem

It doesn’t take much time in leadership of the local church for Dallas Willard’s words to ring true, “Most problems in contemporary churches can be explained by the fact that members have not yet decided to follow Christ.”  It may sound harsh at first, but the premise of Willard’s statement is based in the notion that “churches are filled with ‘undiscipled disciples’.”   From his book, The Spirit of Disciplines, Willard explores the notion that our modern church has abandoned aspects of Christ’s discipleship commission.  He suggests that there are three aspects to the Matthew 28 plan set forth by Jesus.  First, we are to make disciples.  Second, we are to baptize them in the name of Father, Son and Spirit.  Third, we are to teach them the commands of Christ.  Willard contends that today’s church has omitted the first and last aspect of this discipleship process.  We may be eager to baptize a new believer, but what preparation has gone into helping them understand the cost of followership?  What support emerges with them from the baptistery pool to teach them the way of Christ?

 

These questions haunted me over the past few years of local church leadership.  Our congregation was experiencing growth and unchurched people were being drawn to our fellowship.  I believe they were genuinely encountering Christ’s love at our church.  I believe they were convicted by the Word, and compelled to give themselves to the beauty of the Gospel.  Consequently, more people than ever before were accepting the saving work of Jesus in their lives.  They were seeking us out to become Christ followers and to be baptized.  I was overjoyed to see how God was moving in the hearts of people, and was so honored to be a part of this work.  I would personally visit with these converts and listen to their stories.  I have no doubt they were genuinely moved to a place of faith in Jesus.  I was honored to stand with them in our baptistery on a Sunday morning and baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Our congregation would applaud, we would celebrate the occasion with them, and we would chalk another tally on our annual baptism stats.  We would encourage these folks to get plugged into a Sunday School class and find a place to serve.  Many started with great zeal.  They would try a class or mid-week Bible study.  Some would find a place to volunteer for awhile.  But then I saw a troubling trend emerge.  

 

As a year drew to an end, I began revisiting those statistics.  Instead of being overjoyed by an historic number of baptisms, I was faced with the reality that a good portion of those new disciples had disappeared.  They had either fallen into old habits, had disengaged from the church, or were simply coasting on a path of nominal Christianity.  At first I reasoned that this was what the parable of the soils was all about.  Our job was to sew seed, but sometimes it would fall on rocky ground or be choked out by competing weeds.  This was the easy answer, but not the right one.  I began to ask myself, “What had we intentionally done to help cultivate the soil of these people’s hearts?”  The bottom line was that we weren’t being very intentional.  We had neglected part one and part three of the great commission.  We were eager to baptize people, but not diligent in our preparing them for a life in Christ.  Similarly, we were hoping for a more organic discipleship to emerge once people had been baptized, but we had no intentional strategy to help build the truths of Scripture or the core teachings of Jesus into their lives.  We were baptizing, but were we really making disciples?  Were we really doing our part to teach them all He desired for them?  I soberly concluded that we were not.

 

This set us out on a journey to do discipleship better.  We had to stop relying on discipleship happening on accident, and decide that we were going to do our part to make discipleship happen on purpose.  This meant that we needed a clear path for a new convert or new member to our church.  We needed to become more intentional in helping people identify where they were in relationship to Christ.  Once we could identify where someone was, we needed to relentlessly direct them to the right onramp to the discipleship path, and not allow ourselves to become distracted from helping them move forward on the road to Christ-likeness.  The following entries will map out how we have met each of those needs.  We are a work in progress, and are in the early stages of living out this intentional discipleship plan.  We hope that in our authenticity you will find encouragement to begin the hard work of mapping out an intentional discipleship plan that fits your context.  I would suggest that the first step in this process is acknowledging where you are currently deficient.  While this can be sobering, it brings us back to the center of what we are called to be, and reminds that making disciples is both our greatest reward and our greatest challenge.

 

I’ll leave you with these piercing words from Dallas Willard.  He reminds us that the cost of non-discipleship is far greater than any price we will pay in making disciples.  Here is what the toll of an ‘undiscipled disciple’ looks like:

 

“Nondiscipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God’s overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil.  In short, it costs exactly that abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring.

 

Questions for Consideration:

  1. What level of new converts are you seeing in your fellowship?
  2. What is your retention rate for people who come to faith in Jesus and/or are baptized?
  3. If you were to put yourself in the shoes of a new believer at your church, would you be confused about what comes next, or would next steps be very clear?

 

Rethinking Age-Specific Ministry

“Parents are so crucial that if you just split them up from their kids and the parents think that some ministry professional is taking care of it, that’s not going to be very effective,”

While this article is from 2011 and there isn't a one-sized fits all mold for healthy ministries, this article does ask some important questions for ministry leaders. I wonder how churches might structure ministries to best encourage singles, marrieds, children, adults.... all people who are in our communities of faith. 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/16/sunday-school-cancelled-churches-put-parents-in-charge_n_963110.html

Top 10 Worship Leading Tips

These ten tips are practical for leaders, it doesn't matter in what capacity you might be leading. This list is especially helpful as it humanizes the leader and those being led.

A few of the most practical:                                                                                                                        

  • "Don't Be Late" - This is a mostly simple way to honor the time and sacrifice of the people you are leading.                                                                                                                                                                                            
  • "Know Persons Individually" - People are all unique and should be treated as such... no one wants to be put in a cookie-cutter mold.                                                                                                            
  • Stay Filled Up - A few of these suggestions point to this... It is extremely important to stay connected with God and to come in to your weekly meeting already filled up... to come in with an attitude of servanthood. 

Check out the link below to see the whole article:

http://churchleaders.com/worship/worship-how-tos/145412-10-very-best-worship-leading-tips.html

All Alone in Pastoral Care

Many times the shepherding and pastoral ministry of a church falls on one or two leaders. What happens though when the pastor reaches out to the other leaders in her church? What happens when Pastoral Care is taken on by a whole team instead of just a few?

This article is a personal story of a pastor who invited his elder team in the service of pastoral care:

https://shepherdandservant.com/2016/09/15/pray-through-your-church-directory-for-their-sake-and-yours/

Taking Visuals to the Next Level

Giving people every opportunity and medium to engage the Gospel message in our churches should be extremely important. This article points out the fact that many of our western protestant churches have been lacking in visual liturgy/ inherent beauty for years. Thankfully, there's been a resurrection of the importance of such practices. The current technological climate only serves to increase the possibilities to engage the world with the Gospel. 

Check out the article below for some helpful insights and tools to creating your own visual liturgy. 

https://worshipleader.com/technology/curating-a-visual-liturgy/

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Engaging with Broken Families

"Changed Parent = Changed Family= Changed neighborhood= Changed community=Changed world"

Many of the specific situations of our students can be overwhelming in our broken world. Finding practical ways to engage with these families proves to be challenging. This article uses our senses as a guide to engage broken families with Christ's love and grace. 

 

https://youthministry.com/can-you-equip-the-broken-family/

Developing Leaders all the Time

"Investing in young leaders is a sure sign that we're thinking about the future and not content with mere short-term success." -Scott Thomas

Even though the language of "developing leaders" is a little different from the Biblical command of "making disciples", I think the idea of developing leaders within the church is along the same heart as Jesus words and actions. Jesus chose a handful of persons to grow close to and invest in more specifically. Below is an article that will help you develop your own heart for investing in the lives of those around you. 

http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2013/winter/developing-future-leaders.html

To view this article, you must first register for free. If you're not able to do that, here's the 7 principles the article suggests for "Training the next generation of church leaders."

  1. Nurture Their Inner Lives
  2. Focus on Their Potential
  3. Let the Lead (and fail) and Lead Again
  4. Encourage Innovation and Risk Taking
  5. Think Long-term and Short
  6. Help Them Create Life Plans
  7. Model Humility

I think the article is a great reminder that we must invest in people. The people we are investing in are humans. They live, breath, and make decisions every day. The truth is that humans, unlike robots, have a tendency to be messy. As living organisms, there is a process of growth that must also have the capacity to fail. Without that capacity, no life could come. 

May we be a Church searching after people to walk beside in their mess, encouraging them along the way to grow in the grace and love of Christ.  

 

Lessons Learned in Worship Leading by Taya Smith (Hillsong)

Hillsong is one of those international bands that have been in front of millions throughout their existence. Their impact and continuous synergy has encouraged the church around the globe toward being followers of Christ in many ways. 

When I found this article I was particularly appreciative of how this tenured group was still driven to "Watch, Listen, and Learn every chance you get." It is so very important for us to continue our striving and learning of our craft and betterment no matter how long or how educated we might consider ourselves. Check out this blog post to see some other lessons learned from one of Hillsong's leaders. 

http://hillsong.com/collected/blog/2014/09/10-things-ive-learned-about-worship-leading/#.WI78kLGZORs

Space for the Artists in your Group

It's easy to get stuck in a rut of offering the same methods and spaces to engage with God. Sometimes it's important to have some new ideas on how to create something which will open the door for others to engage. Here are a few ideas for how you might create space for the artists in your community to engage with whatever theme you are teaching these days. 

http://www.youthworker.com/encountering-god-celebrating-art-in-worship/

Myths about Pastors of Small Churches

There was a key moment in a church retreat when our lead pastor realized we were never going to be the larger churches on the other side of town. He rejoined the rest of the leadership group and said "We are Park Place Church and in our neighborhood for a reason. Let us not try to be someone else, but work to be the best Park Place Church we can be." This moment was extremely important for the next 3 years of ministry. 

Many times it's easy to compare our selves, our churches, and our people to those down the street. This practice usually doesn't bring life, but only discouragement and distraction. This article speaks specifically to the leadership of small churches and looks to be an encouragement to those who give their lives in service. 

http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2014/february/5-myths-about-small-church-pastors.html