Resources for Ministry #1: High Impact Volunteer Ministry

reg_blue-Package-CoverI have spent the last several years working in ministries with high quantities of volunteers.  I have recruited and developed high-caliber volunteers to the point where they are running ministry with little to no staff oversight.  I have been in a ministry with 80% of the congregation volunteering in ministry.

But the High Impact concept by Al Newell is the best resource I have found for working with volunteers.  Al is able to articulate why what I was doing was working.  He is able to articulate why what I was doing was not working.  And he lays out a system of volunteer management that is second to none.

If you are working with volunteers in ministry, this resource will show you how to:

Recruit Volunteers without pulling teeth

Have a Process to Select Volunteers so that you get the best and not just the willing

Say No to Volunteers who don’t fit in your ministry

Think of Volunteers as Partners with you in ministry

Help you develop a Volunteer Management System

High Impact will help you think about your volunteers as partners in the ministry who need places to serve and not consumers of your programs.  It will transform the way you think about volunteers in your ministry.  Check out Newell and Associates and start a new chapter in your volunteer ministry.

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Did Moses Love the Egyptians?

Moses and Aaron (Photo Credit: Joe Alblas)

Moses and Aaron (Photo Credit: Joe Alblas)

There has been a lot said about the Bible Miniseries on the History Channel.  While there is much left to be desired (specifically the way the show depicts men and women acting in the name of God rather than God acting powerfully in history), one aspect of the depiction of Moses caught my attention.  I have read and heard and studied the Exodus multiple times, but I never wondered about Moses’ thoughts on the Egyptians.

Who are Moses’ People?

When I read the Exodus, I am caught up in the story of the Israelites.  They suffer, they groan, they are oppressed, they are remembered.  I am swept up in the mighty works of God.  He judges, he overwhelms Pharoah, he saves his people.  I rejoice with the Israelites when the death of the firstborn Egyptians results in their freedom.  I feel their pain and bewilderment when they are trapped at the Red Sea.  And I celebrate and worship with them as God destroys their enemies.

But what about Moses?  Unlike the other Israelites, his experience with the Egyptians is not simply one of pain and oppression, but also of love and family.  The Bible miniseries showed me a portrait of Moses I had not considered before.  In fact, in the miniseries, when the Angel of Death is drawing near to the Egyptian homes, Moses is not excited at the hope of freedom.  He declares of the now dying Egyptian children “I used to call them my people.”  He is a man torn.  He is working with God to free his people, the Israelites.  But in order to do so he must wreak havoc and destruction on his people, the Egyptians.

Then, as the Egyptians drown in the Red Sea, Moses appears downcast while the Israelites rejoice around him.  He has accomplished his mission, but at what cost?  The choices of his people, the Egyptians, have led to their own demise.  If they had allowed the Israelites to go there would have been no plagues.  If they had not chased them to the Red Sea there would be no drowning.  They have made their own bed, so to speak.  But still the people he grew up with have now drowned.  Sorrow mixed with Joy.

In short, the Bible miniseries depicts a Moses who loves his enemies because they are his people.  The book of Exodus does not give us any indication that Moses felt this way, but it does not give us any reason to think otherwise either.  Moses is an Israelite who grew up an Egyptian and so it is likely that he was both joyful at the rescue of the Israelites and saddened by the death of so many Egyptians.

Who are God’s People?

God was in the same position as Moses.  Who are his people?  The Israelites, obviously.  He has chosen them and rescued them from oppression.  But also the Egyptians.  In fact, in Isaiah 19:25, the Lord declares “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”  He worked mightily to free his people from oppression, but at the expense of his people who were oppressing them.  All people are God’s people.  He has made them, he sustains them, he loves them, and he is waiting for them to turn to him.  When they sin, he judges, but they remain his people.

Why have I taken so long to see that God does not delight in destroying the Egyptians?  And that he does not delight in seeing any perish, but desires that all might be saved?

What enemies do you need to love?  What people are you forgetting are God’s people?

What’s in a Name? Part Three

Part Three of a Three Part Series

Since many churches are changing their names or considering doing so, it is worth looking at why they do so and whether it is necessary or biblical.  Two assumptions lie behind most church re-branding: the idea that denominational affiliation is a detriment to evangelism and the idea that church attendance is somehow equivalent to evangelism.

In Part One and Part Two I set aside two of the main assumptions that lead churches to rebrand themselves.  In fact, denominational affiliation does not have a negative impact on the perception of the church by non believers, and getting people into the doors of the church is not evangelism.  If these assumptions are false, then is there a reason to rebrand a church?  Is it potentially necessary?  Is it biblical?

Brand or Mission?2010-06-churches-no-denominations-big

The name of your church is not important.  Period.  Call it whatever you want.  The mission and culture of your church is what is going to move it forward.  Even the most “authentic”, relevant, non-denominational church name is going to flop if the church isn’t about furthering the Kingdom of God.  And even the stodgiest 19th century church name is going to rock a community if the church is loving, caring and missionally oriented.

So even though I spent several blog posts musing on them, spend less time on thinking of a name for your church and more time loving justice, showing mercy, and walking humbly with God.  However, in the midst of the mission, you have to call yourselves something.  And that something is going to represent your mission and culture.  So spend enough time when you launch on your church’s name, just not too much.

Reasons to Re-brand

Is there a time when a church can or should re-brand itself?  There is, but not often.  Is it biblical to re-brand our church?  It is.  In fact, re-branding happens in the Scriptures.  Abram becomes Abraham.  Sarai becomes Sarah.  Simon becomes Peter.  And in Genesis 35, God takes Jacob and re-brands him as Israel, “one who struggles with God,” and he becomes the namesake of God’s people.  Looking at these examples, here are some reasons it may be beneficial or even necessary to change your church’s name.

A New Land:  Abraham was given a new name as he moved with God into a new land.  Your church may need a new name if it moves into a new location.  If you are First Church of Dallas, but your new location is in Fort Worth, it is probably time to re-brand.

A New Stage of Life:  Sarah was given a new name as she moved from the married class to the married with children class.  Her new life stage was an impetus for a new moniker.  Is your church moving into a new stage of life?  The transition as a long time lead pastor steps away.  A shift from being a church plant to a settled church.  A church split.  If you have a life-stage change, re-branding may be beneficial.

A New Mission:  Simon takes on a new mission and becomes Peter.  In the same way, if your church is changing its mission, it may fit to have a new name, especially if the new mission will have you encountering a new people group.  Your name represents your mission, so a major change in one may need to affect the other.

A New Multiplication:  As the promise to Abraham began to multiply through Jacob, the people of God took on the brand of Israel.  As a church multiplies itself, becoming a church planting church or moving to a multi-site model, it may be time to re-brand.  These multiplying ministries move the church into more locations, into influence with more people, and reach more cultures.  This may be the time to re-brand with a more universal name – from First Church of This Suburb to First Church of The Suburbs, or First Church.

Re-branding is biblical, and it can be necessary (moving the building to a new city).  But it should always be driven by mission and culture.  What are some other reasons a church may want or need to re-brand?

What’s in a Name? Part Two

Part Two of a Three Part Series

Since many churches are changing their names or considering doing so, it is worth looking at why they do so and whether it is necessary or biblical.  Two assumptions lie behind most church re-branding: the idea that denominational affiliation is a detriment to evangelism and the idea that church attendance is somehow equivalent to evangelism.

“Having Non-Christians AtteA Different Church Buildingnd Our Church is Evangelism”

While I don’t think any pastor in America would say it this way, our actions speak louder than our words.  Long ago a shift occurred from encouraging our congregations to share their faith to encouraging our congregation to bring people to our worship services.  The message lines up with American culture: let the experts handle this.  If you want your kids to be educated, take them to the teacher (expert).  If you want to become proficient in dance, sign up for classes with an instructor (expert).  And if you want your friends to know Jesus, bring them to hear your pastor (expert).

This isn’t exactly wrong.  In fact, the experience of Christian community and worship is an experience of Christ, and is a major step on the path toward entering the Kingdom of God.  However, this is only part of the picture, not the entirety.  The problem is that this trend has led us to a point where Christians never share their faith, but instead focus on inviting their friends and family to a church service or event.  We have intentionally or unintentionally taught our congregations that their part of evangelism is to bring people into a church building.

When people think this way, then they think that we need to do whatever it takes to get people to come to our church building/service/event.  Our church has to be named something that will get people interested or at least that won’t keep them away.  (As I mentioned in Part One, our assumptions about how people view our denomination leads us to change our name just in case it will keep them away.)

What this leads to is a focus on targeted marketing.  We have to understand the people in our community so that we can market our brand successfully.  And the goal of that marketing is to get them to visit our church building/service/event.  There is nothing wrong with presenting ourselves to our community, and we want to make sure we have a positive image and voice in our community.  But we are entering a world where people do not wake up on Sunday morning and say “Let’s go to church!”  In fact, the majority of people will never darken the door of a church according to Alan Hirsch.

Instead of doing what we can to get people into our church building/service/event, we should be doing what we can to get our church (people) into our community!  We are worried about what we can do to get people in the door.  But if we would worry about what we can do to get into the community – schools, community groups, our neighbors’ homes – it won’t matter what our name is.

People will become a part of our church when they have a relationship with us.  And if they have a relationship with us, they won’t care what our name is!

Re-branding our church in order to get people in the door isn’t wrong, it just isn’t effective.  People just aren’t coming, and it isn’t because of our name, it’s because of the culture we live in.

To move our communities into our churches we are going to have to move our churches into our communities.  Any ideas how to do that?

What’s in a Name? Part One

Part One of a Three Part Series

Since many churches are changing their names or considering doing so, it is worth looking at why they do so and whether it is necessary or biblical.  Two assumptions lie behind most church re-branding: the idea that denominational affiliation is a detriment to evangelism and the idea that church attendance is somehow equivalent to evangelism.

“Our Denominational Affiliation is a Hindrance to Evangelism”Christian Denomination Logos

For whatever reason, many churches think that their denominational affiliation is a hindrance to evangelism.  That people in their community have such bad ideas about Baptists/Methodists/Episcopals/You Name It that they would never even consider attending a church with that brand association.  This has led to a rise in non-denominational churches and the use of the word community in many church names.  Churches with strong ties to their denomination take the name off but continue the affiliation.  I even spoke with a pastor who told me he didn’t tell anyone what denomination had funded their church plant because they might get the wrong idea about the church.

I think this is a misguided assumption.  In the early 2000’s, the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (or should I say the Southern Community Convention?) commissioned a study on the topic (information I obtained in correspondence with the Illinois Baptist Association, the study is no longer available in print).  What they found was that church goers had strong opinions about denominations.  So your denominational affiliation has a definite impact on Christians who are looking for a new church.  But those who did not attend church had no opinion whatsoever about denominations.  They did not care what denomination a church was affiliated with, because they didn’t know much about any of the denominations.

So, denominational affiliation may be a detriment to attracting Christians to your church, but that isn’t evangelism.  Denominational affiliation is not a significant factor for a non-Christian to attend a church.  The biggest factor for them is who invited them.  If you invite them to your church, they might show up.  If you don’t, they won’t.  And most new Christians choose a church based on who led them to the Lord.  They will attend church with that person, mostly regardless of denomination.

So why does this assumption stick around?

First, because people hear anecdotes from their family or friends about negative evaluations of denominations.  People are almost always more trusting of a story than a study, and so these hold a lot of power.  One negative anecdote can counter ten positives ones.  Second, because people have their own negative evaluations of denominations that they project onto others.  If I think it, then so must everyone else.  Third, because of the rise of post-denominationalism in American Christianity.  We are less committed to our denominations, so we hold them with less regard.

Let’s stop thinking that we need to change our name because of our denominational affiliation, and start focusing on living out our denominational distinctives so that people in our communities are drawn to Jesus.

What about you?  Let me know your thoughts on denominations and church names.

Re-branding Your Church

A current trend in the church today is to change our names.  First Baptist Suburbs becomes First Church of the Suburbs.  First United Methodist Church becomes Grace Church.  Two assumptions drive these changes.  First, the assumption that our denominational affiliation is a detriment to evangelism.  Second, the assumption that a “cooler” name will bring more people to our churches.  Whether or not you agree with these assumptions, churches all over are changing their names. They are re-branding themselves.  If you are considering changing your brand, consider the following:

Spend Enough

If you are going to rebrand your church, don’t assume that you or your congregation have the expertise required to do it well.  In fact, assume the opposite.  Create a budget for the re-branding process, including funds to do research about the area your church is in, to create graphics that support the change, to hire a consultant to assist with the process, and to buy all new everything that has your church’s name and/or logo on it.  In addition, make sure you spend enough time on the process.  Re-branding your church is not something that can be done overnight, or even in a month.  Make sure that you take the time to consult people who are key influencers in your church and community.  Make sure that you give your board enough time to really support the change before you go public.  And make sure that you take some time after you decide on the new name/logo to sleep on it.  Don’t announce it right away – you might not like it in the morning!

Value Input

Re-branding your church is a huge endeavor.  It doesn’t just affect you and your staff or board.  It affects the congregation.  It affects the community.  It affects your mission and vision.  And it affects everyone who used to attend.  Be cognizant of these groups as you look at re-branding, and consult key influencers.  If you have people on board with your change that others trust, they will be more likely to trust it as well.  Value their input, because they will be key to making the change successful.

Have a Plan

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when re-branding is to leave remnants of the old brand in existence.  You need to eradicate all references to the old brand when you switch to the new one (except for historical items or memorabilia, i.e. cornerstones).  Otherwise there will be confusion within the congregation and among the community.  A plan is necessary to accomplish this – don’t leave it up to chance.  Have someone designated to make this happen and ensure they have a written plan.  Think about every place where the old name/logo exist – signage, websites, documents, printed materials, everything.  Then write them all down and create a timeline to get each one updated.  This will also help with your budgeting, as these items will cost you.  If I am looking for your church, but Google gives me the old name, I won’t find you.  Make sure that doesn’t happen!

A good re-branding can rejuvenate a church and reach a community for the gospel.

Have you or are you considering re-branding?  What are you reasons for doing so?