Tag Archives: Pastor

THE UNBIBLICAL CALLING OF THE PASTOR

dr_pepper_logo_288x288How would you respond if asked, “What does Dr. Pepper taste like?” It’s hard to answer, because Dr. Pepper’s taste is the result of a blend, a marvelous blend mind you, of 23 flavors. And while the blend of flavors for this “DP” is outright amazing, there is another “DP” whose blend of flavors is downright stressing. I’m talking about what I like to call the “Deacon-Pastor,” a completely fabricated term, but a totally realistic thing, although it shouldn’t be.

You’re probably asking, “What is a Deacon-Pastor?” A “Deacon-Pastor” is an unbiblical hybrid position that merges the biblical responsibilities of the deacon and the pastor. The result is an expectation for the pastor to perform the responsibilities of both the pastor and the deacon, but often results in him not being able to do either.

Unlike Dr. Pepper, this is a dangerous concoction of flavors.

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE DEACON

The “deacon” is first found in Acts 6, when a complaint arose in the church over the neglect of widows in the daily serving of food. The twelve disciples called the church together and requested that they select seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, who could be put in charge of the task.

And thus the deacon was created, or at least the proto-type. In fact, the English phrase translated “serve tables” in Greek is diakonia, which is the same word used in 1 Timothy 3 for the English word translated “deacon.”

What’s interesting about the Acts 6 episode is that a strong distinction is made between the responsibilities of the twelve disciples and the seven men of good reputation. Of course the twelve disciples aren’t suggesting that they are better than the seven men of good reputation, only that they have a different responsibility, one that should not be jeopardized.

The responsibility is clearly laid out in their response to the complainers: “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.”

The word “desirable” implies that it wasn’t “proper” or “right” that they sacrifice their study time to serve tables. It’s almost as if the very thought of adding extra “flavors,” regardless of their importance, is morally wrong for the early church pastor. While it’s obvious that both studying God’s Word and serving tables are important, the response highlights the disciples’ calling to focus on God’s Word, and, for fear of diluting that, it wasn’t wise to to even consider doing both. So they delegated the responsibility to a newly formed role–the deacon. And if this isn’t clear enough, after implementing the deacon role, they said, “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (6:4).

In other words, the disciples emphasized their God-ordained responsibility both before and after their command to create deacons.

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PASTOR

The disciples were essentially the pastors of the early church, and thus the modern day pastor’s primary responsibility is biblically outlined as “praying and studying God’s Word.” And, likewise, the deacon’s primary responsibility is outlined too, which is to serve the needs of the congregation, especially the widows.

One focuses on the spiritual and the other on the physical. Together, both needs are met, the latter delegated so that the pastor’s responsibilities aren’t threatened.

But somehow, somewhere, the church reverted back to pre-Acts 6 and started expecting its pastors to wear a myriad of ecumenical hats. On top of prayer and studying for sermons, (and note that “sermons” is plural), the pastor is expected to do things like visit hospitals, homes, nursing homes, cast visions, implement new ministries, develop missional strategies, and sometimes even water the flowers.

This isn’t to say, of course, that a pastor shouldn’t visit. And it’s certainly not to say that he is too good to water the flowers (I’ve been there). By all means, a pastor ought to do these things if necessary. It is to say, however, that the expectation of doing this on a daily and weekly basis is, for the pastor, biblically unwarranted. And perhaps even egregiously sinful. Yet, many churches expect their pastors to do just that. It might even be in their job descriptions.

Biblically, there are certain “flavors” that belong to things like the deacon ministry, not the pastoral ministry. This frees the pastor to seek the Lord through prayer and study, instead of tying him down to what might well be described as public relations. One focuses on meeting the spiritual needs of the church, while the other focuses on meeting the physical needs. Both are good, but the pastor is called to do the former over the latter. Demanding that he do both is like adding uncomplimentary flavors to God’s recipe for the pastor.

TOO MANY FLAVORS

The unbiblical “Deacon-Pastor” is, I believe, one of the greatest reasons for pastoral burnout. One source cites that 50% of pastors feel unable to meet the demands of their job, and that upwards of 1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout. 

Suffice it to say that many churches are decorated with the tread marks of burnt out pastors.

Pastors are often hired with the expectation of performing all of the ecumenical roles laid out in Scripture, although Scripture clearly details that even the twelve disciples–the guys that walked and talked with Jesus–were incapable of such a feat.

These guys could cast out demons and heal the lame, but they couldn’t serve tables alongside their prayer and Bible study.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the church that cultivates this mentality, it’s also sometimes, of all people, the pastor. Many pastors turn Acts 6 upside down by choosing to focus on everything else besides prayer and Bible study, such as chasing ambulances or honing leadership skills, both of which are good, but secondary things.

If the pastor says it’s okay to dilute prayer and study in exchange for serving tables, then we can’t blame the church when they expect the same.

As a pastor, I must confess that I find myself the most profitable whenever the church cultivates an environment for me to spend more time in prayer and in God’s Word. I’m less stressed, less overwhelmed, and, more importantly, I’m able to do precisely what I’ve been called to do, which is preach the word.

This is, as the old adage says, the epitome of quality over quantity, and it’s a far more refreshing beverage!

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A SOUTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR INTERVIEWS A HOMOSEXUAL

imagesIt was in sixth grade that I met Matt. He had moved to my hometown of Mabank, Texas from Colorado Springs. We met in band and became friends. We weren’t the best of friends, but we were more than acquaintances. Although we now live on opposite sides of the nation, through the magic of social networking we have been able to keep in touch. We regularly dialogue through both public and private channels about the cultural mood concerning homosexuality.

Matt is a homosexual, which, because of my Christian faith, is a lifestyle with which I vehemently disagree. And Matt knows this. Matt knows that I don’t agree with him and I know that Matt doesn’t agree with me. But we choose to share our opinions openly and respectfully, which is the intent of this blog.

I recently asked Matt if he would be alright if I interviewed him about his lifestyle. Matt was kind enough to oblige. The motivation behind this is inspired by comments I often read from Christians against homosexuality. Unfortunately, many Christians handle the situation poorly. While it’s okay to be outspoken against it, (and I believe Christians should be free to share their biblical convictions), it’s not okay for that outspokenness to present itself in hatred. Paul writes, “If I speak … but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1).

Needless to say, there is a lot of gratuitously loud noise on today’s social networks.

The following is the interview I conducted with Matt. I typed out the questions and sent them to him. Some of the information is also from follow up conversations. Each question includes Matt’s answer and some include my response, if it calls for it. You will notice that these are in blue.

I hope that anyone who has an opinion about homosexuality sees the respect that Matt and I have for one another in our disagreements, and that that respect is contagious as we continue to debate the issue in the public square.

PERSONAL QUESTIONS

When did you first think that you were gay?

I began to suspect something was different about myself probably in eighth grade. I remember always wondering why the guys around me seemed so interested in pursuing girls.

Are you currently in a homosexual relationship?

Yes I am. I have been seeing the same guy since I was twenty two years old. We met in college and have been together ever since. He even followed me across the country to a new job. Both of our families have met and actually rather like each other. I was really surprised by that. My Dad is someone I would charitably describe as a “Tea Party Republication”, but he has honestly shocked me with his acceptance of who I am and even the guy I am with.

What kind of social pressures did you experience in “coming out?”

My coming out was kind of an accident. I was twenty and in college and, I won’t bore you with the details, but my parents figured it out and initially we didn’t talk for 3 months. When we did start talking again, it was mostly my mom and I. My dad and I had a very strained relationship the first few years, but now everything is more or less the way I would imagine a regular person’s relationship with their parents is. I can’t honestly say, but I would like to believe that I am glad it happened the way it did, because I am not sure when I would have built up the courage to talk to them about it. Probably not until well into my twenties.

POLITICAL QUESTIONS

What are your thoughts on same-sex marriage?

This sounds so cliché, but my thoughts on same-sex marriage have greatly evolved since I first started hearing about it back in the mid-2000s. At first, I was staunchly against it, and I think a large part of that had to do with my upbringing in the church. I wasn’t, and nor am I now, against people receiving the same benefits and entitlements that marriage brings to everyone. But I was against the idea of calling it “marriage” because I felt that was reserved fully for straight people and the church. But that was back then, and this is now. I am not what you would call an activist for same-sex marriage, but I do believe now that if gay people want to get married, then they should be able too. Again, I can’t stress this enough, I really just believe that everyone should have access to the benefits that marriage provides, not the name or the title. I am sure my fellow gays won’t like hearing that, but it’s just the way I feel about the issue.

Author’s Note: Many of my thoughts concerning this question can be found in this blog: The Meaning of Equality.

Would you say that today’s homosexual movement is on par with the 1960′s civil rights movement?

Yes, most particularly with the Supreme Court case, Loving v. Virginia (1967), which invalidated all laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Today, we draw inspiration from that time period, to fight for what we believe should be afforded to us to be treated as equals in the eyes of the law. People today think it’s crazy that blacks and whites couldn’t get married up until forty-odd years ago, but during that time period it was a punishable offense with jail time involved.

Author’s Note: I believe that by the time I am a grandparent that it will be unbelievable that homosexuals could not marry one another, and that by the time my kids are parents that people will be amazed that marijuana was at one time considered an illegal drug, and that by the time they are grandparents that people will be amazed that polygamy was once outlawed.

What would you say to someone who argues for things like bigamy, polygamy, and incestry in marriage (as an expansion of same-sex marriage)?

I think bigamy already occurs today and has been occurring for a long time. Certainly not on any level with large amounts of numbers or data to back it up. But you always hear the story about the man with another family in the next town over.

The problem with polygamy is that it almost always means one man with multiple wives. And when that happens you take away a wife from some other man. So in a polygamous society, you would have all these young, unmarried men who are unhappy with no wives. Same-sex marriage changes none of that, it leads us as a society away from that. Gay people just want the ability to marry someone instead of no one.

Incest is something that is just wrong on so many levels as it is, it’s not even really worth arguing over.

Author’s Note: I can see what Matt is saying in this, but I find it to be pragmatic. And I think pragmatism is a poor way to make decisions, although we all make decisions based on this philosophy everyday!

For example, would polygamy then be okay if we can manufacture a society where there are no unhappy unmarried men? What if the ratio of women to men was such that every man could easily have ten wives?

The point is that the issue runs deeper than mathematics.

Do you believe that there would be any psychological affects to a child reared in a home with same-sex parents (not having the traditional male and female examples)?

I don’t think there are any major drawbacks to a child being raised in a home by two same-sex parents as opposed to a traditional family set. In this modern age, children are raised by single dads, single moms, aunts, uncles and extended family. I think as long as all parties involved really love the child, then it will turn out alright.

Author’s Note: I believe that one of the biggest problems of our day is that a large amount of children are raised in homes without a stable mother and father. I have the opportunity to counsel many individuals and I can, nearly 100% of the time, trace the issue back to the lack of a father in the home.

RELIGIOUS QUESTIONS

Do you adhere to any faith religion?

I grew up Methodist, but just sort of stopped going once I graduated high school. I think even in high school I wasn’t really into church anymore, but it was definitely the place where all my friends went and it was a good place to socialize. I do believe that something or someone exists and had something to do with where we are in the universe today. I would say that I loosely identify myself as a Christian, but more like an agnostic one.

Author’s Note: I would say that it’s oxymoronic to be an “agnostic Christian,” although I can say that I know where Matt is coming from. His upbringing leads him to hold beliefs that are rooted in Christianity, but what he believes is not best described as Christianity. He has become agnostic, which means that he doesn’t really know what he believes, although he is still affected by what he learned during his time in the church.

What do you believe the Bible says about homosexuality?

I am not a connoisseur of the Bible, so all I can really say is that I know it’s mentioned a few times, but never directly by Jesus. I did, however, find this awesome article on the Huffington Post website which sums it up much more eloquently then I can: What Does the Bible Really Say About Homosexuality?

Author’s Note: The author of this article begins by suggesting that homosexuality is not as big of an issue as modern day Christians make it, because it is addressed relatively little in comparison to other issues in Scripture. But this is like saying that prostate cancer isn’t as big of a deal as breast cancer because it doesn’t have as big of an awareness month, one that prompts NFL players to wear hot pink highlighted uniforms and people to wear faddy bracelets.

The fact is that it is discussed in Scripture, (homosexuality that is), which makes it important. And when it is discussed, it is identified as sinful. The reason it isn’t discussed more is, arguably, because of the culture in which the Bible was written, specifically the New Testament Gospels. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that homosexuality wasn’t as big of an issue in ancient Jerusalem, the holiest place in the world at that time and the place that Jesus performed most of his ministry and made most of his claims, as it is today. Rape isn’t densely refuted by Jesus either, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t wrong.

Thus the statement, “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, so it must be okay” is a weak and misguided argument.

It is also important to know that Jesus essentially did talk about homosexuality. The Bible describes him as the “Word of God made flesh” (John 1:14), and so anything that is included in Scripture is verified by Jesus. He was the living embodiment of every word of every claim of the Bible. And so if the Bible speaks against homosexuality even once, then Jesus essentially, by virtue of his nature, talked about it.

As for the rest of his article, he seems to argue from ignorance. That is, his argument is, “I’ve personally polled some scholars and commentaries and some of them say that we can’t really know the context of these passages that include language forbidding homosexuality. So, we shouldn’t forbid it without knowing the cultural implications of the day.”

This is a poor reason to refute something out of hand. He is taking shaky evidence and making what he believes is an irrefutable claim. That’s poor debate etiquette. 

Do you believe that people are born gay (is it a choice or a predisposition)?

This is honestly a tough question for me to answer. I think everyone is born with certain traits amplified and/or dampened down due to conditions in the womb/external environment, so I can’t say for certain that it’s a predisposition. At the same time, I am fairly confident in saying that it’s not a choice either. I guess I would need to see more research on the matter before I committed to saying it’s a predisposition.

Author’s Note (this is an edited excerpt from a previous blog): Scripture speaks of homosexuality as a sin (1 Cor 6:9), and therefore those that believe Scripture are simply trusting what it says. With that said, Scripture also says that sin is a “predisposition” (Rom 5). It’s something every person is born with. And as a predisposition, everybody has a “decision” to either act on it or not. Some act on it by lying. Others act on it by stealing. And some act on it by planting a bomb at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. It’s a predisposition to which every person is subjected. Thus, since Scripture speaks of homosexuality as a sin, (and since it speaks of sin as a predisposition), it is not unreasonable to say that homosexuality is the fruit of a decision rooted in a predisposed, sinful nature.

But this doesn’t mean that it’s okay. We would never, for example, suggest that rape is okay. No one could reasonably say, “Aw, leave that guy assaulting that woman alone. Stop trying to rewire his predisposition with your personal preferences. He can’t help himself.” This isn’t to say that homosexuality is on par with rape, only that a sin is a sin, and the tiniest sin is enough to separate man from God.

Do you think, from what you know about Christianity, that a person can be a Christian and live an openly homosexual lifestyle?

I think it is possible for someone to be Christian and a homosexual at the same time, yes. God created everyone the way they are for a reason, and whatever that reason is, only God knows. It’s impossible for me to say it’s a sin, because so many things that we do today are. Our culture and society is vastly different than the one that is written and talked about in the Bible. I think someone’s relationship with God, is just that. Their relationship. It isn’t up to you or I to pass judgement on the way they reach out to God.

Author’s Note (this is an edited excerpt from a previous blog): It is interesting that someone would desire to remain associated to Christianity if he also desires to refute some of its basic claims. I say this not against Matt, but to many celebrities, such as Macklemore, who attempt to do so.

There is an old illustration that describes this well. The illustration details a repair man replacing the parts of his boat. After purchasing the boat he begins to replace its every component. He switches out the motor, the hull, the deck, and the seats. Before long, there is no original element left of the boat.

Is it the same boat?

No.

Likewise, when one switches out all of the original components to Christianity, as determined by God primarily through the Bible, it is no longer Christianity.

Is there anything else that you would like to say or add that wasn’t included in this interview?

I just want to say that there will never be a time, no matter what happens, that I would actively hate someone for the beliefs they hold, or the religion that they practice. We are all immensely more complicated than these few social issues that bring out the worst in some people.

I will always be willing to rationally discuss and debate anything with someone as long as I am afforded the same courtesy. Which is why I like you so much Jared!  You are one of the few people I am still friends with where we don’t get into some heated screaming match over who’s right and who’s wrong.

Author’s Note: I believe that Matt is on to something here, and that even those that disagree with his lifestyle can learn from it. Christians should never actively hate people because they disagree with them. This is both counterproductive and unchristian. Jesus never hated those that disagreed with him. In fact, while hanging on the cross, he prayed for them. We may believe that they are separated from God, but hating them doesn’t advance the gospel. Our job is to share the truth, to share it in love, and to hope that God uses our efforts to save them and lead them to eternal life in Christ.

Final Note: I usually put the phrase “same sex marriage” in quotations, because I believe the term to be oxymoronic. That is, I believe it is on par with saying, “squared circle.” In this interview the term shows up from time to time without the quotations because it is included in Matt’s answers, and he doesn’t view it that way.

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THREE WAYS I’VE LEARNED TO RESPOND TO ANTAGONISTS

argueThere is an episode on the comedy sitcom The King of Queens, in which Carrie Heffernan is shunned from every nail salon in the neighborhood because of her poor attitude towards her manicurist. As it turns out, the nail salons are in cahoots with one another, and whenever she angrily leaves one they fax her picture to the others to make sure that no other salon has to unwittingly inherit her antagonistic behavior.

This is a funny picture, to be sure, but I cannot help but sometimes wish that churches had a likeminded network when it comes to antagonistic church members. And by “antagonistic church members,” I mean those whose sole job in life, it seems, is to cause grief for their pastoral leaders.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you (Heb 13:17).

I have served as a pastor in Southern Baptist churches since 2003, and in the span of these years I have had the privilege of pastoring three different churches. Unfortunately I have encountered antagonists in every single one of them. I’m convinced that every church has their village antagonist(s), which inspires me to consider how I have learned to deal with them over the years.

The following includes a summary of what I have learned, along with a few insights into each thought.

HURRY TO TRUTH

It’s not unusual to have arguments with people. And it’s especially not unusual to have arguments with people in the church. The church harnesses one of the two most vitriolic topics in the cosmos–religion. The other is politics. Even Paul, one of our great apostolic fathers, had a “sharp disagreement” with Barnabas, one that caused them to “separate from one another” (Acts 15:39).

Some arguments can be healthy, but others can be harmful. Unfortunately, many of the arguments that take place in church are harmful because they include individuals manipulating theological truth for personal gain. And sometimes theological truth is ignored altogether.

This is why, when facing an antagonist, the first thing every pastor ought to do is “hurry to truth.” This is a phrase developed from one of Paul’s letters to Timothy. He writes,

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15).

The word “diligent” means “to hurry.” And Paul’s advice to Timothy is to “hurry towards the word of truth.” In so doing there is no need to be “ashamed.”

Thus, some of the best advice a pastor can have to combat an antagonist is to “hurry towards truth.” Even if rumors and lies are spread by the antagonist, the pastor, so long as he hurries toward truth, can stand before God unashamed.

And there will be rumors and lies spread by an antagonist, about a pastor, throughout the course of his ministry.

In the same passage Paul details what it looks like to not hurry to truth. This is good advice for both the pastor and antagonist, but in my experience the content could easily be used as the mantra of antagonistic behavior. He describes how some engage in “worldly and empty chatter,” which leads to “further ungodliness” (16). He also says that such talk spreads like “gangrene.” Gangrene is a disease describing the death of body tissue.

Thus, antagonistic behavior, the kind that manifests itself in lies, can be likened to a disease that kills the tissue of the body of Christ [1].

And this is usually the primary goal of an antagonist. He might not articulate his desires in this way, but his goal is to have things his way, and he’ll gladly antagonize the pastor and church to get it.

The most important thing I have learned throughout the course of my ministry is to hurry towards truth, even if that truth is unpopular, and even if it upsets some. The pastor’s job is not to please men, but to please God, and sometimes the two aren’t compatible.

BE SILENT (BUT NOT COWARDLY)

In one of my former pastorates there was a man who had a resume of antagonizing pastors. If there were a club, he would have been the uncontested chairman. A day rarely went by when I didn’t hear from him concerning his discontentment with me, or hear from someone else about how he was discontent with me.

One evening I overheard him in the office next door to mine grumbling about me. Being inexperienced in this situation, I reacted the only way I knew how, which was by defending myself and arguing with him.

This made things worse.

If I could go back, I would not have handled the situation this way. It was unprofessional and unbecoming. When I look at Scripture, I never see Jesus handling antagonists this way. Jesus was gracious, kind, loving, and edifying. He did combat antagonists, but not the way I did. I was more concerned with defending my honor. Jesus was always concerned with defending the Father’s honor; He was concerned with defending truth.

I have learned that, sometimes, one of the best things that I can do to combat an antagonist is to be silent. And this is really only possible if I have hurried to truth. This means that if I have done everything in my power to be able to stand unashamed before the Lord, and an antagonist is still antagonizing me, then it’s not my job to defend myself. My job is to speak the truth, to speak it in love, and to honor the Lord. This is what Jesus did. And he did it at the most agonizing moment of his life, when the world antagonized him because of his messianic proclamation.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth (Is 53:7).

Jesus didn’t need to defend his honor. He had the Father to do that. In a few days he would be raised from the dead and in that day the antagonists would know that he spoke the truth.

I believe that pastors should follow this example.

This of course is not to say that our antagonism is on par with Jesus’ death and resurrection. But it is to say that, so long as we speak truth, that sometimes being “silent before our shearers” is best, because God will expose everything for what it is.

And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do (Heb 4:13).

And silence, the kind discussed here, should not be confused with cowardliness. By every means a pastor ought to confront issues, and confront them at their core. The silence suggested here is the kind that comes after the right things have been done, and when there is nothing left that can be done.

PRAY FOR, LOVE ON, AND HELP (IF POSSIBLE)

I would be remiss if I did not mention this final method of dealing with antagonists. At the end of the day, an antagonist is a human being who needs God’s grace and forgiveness just like the rest of us. He might not even be aware of his antagonism. In fact, he usually isn’t. And this is a very sad thing.

Unfortunately, in my experience an antagonist isn’t interested in considering that he might be the one in the wrong [2].

Pastors ought to pray for those that antagonize and have a history of antagonizing the church. They ought to commit the individual to prayer and find ways to love him and help him, if possible, instead of ways to get rid of him. Unfortunately a repeat antagonizer is nearly always impossible to work with. I’ve come into churches and identified an antagonist before he antagonized me, (although he had already antagonized others).  I did my best to work with such individuals and plug them in, but, true to form, they eventually showed their true colors.

Still, it’s unfair to hold a man guilty before a crime and a pastor’s prayers, love, and help might be what is needed, even after the antagonism, to help the antagonist become a viable and productive member of the church.

We are all broken people and we all have our shortcomings before the Lord. The goal should always be reconciliation and redemption. This is something a pastor can potentially accomplish with an antagonist when exercising the right amount of love, patience, and forgiveness.

[1] It is important to note that the context of this particular passage has to do specifically with lies concerning the resurrection of Christ. This blog seeks to employ the general concern that Paul seems to be suggesting in the letter concerning theological manipulation. While the context has to do with the resurrection of Jesus, I don’t think it is unreasonable to also use this passage to detail the various lies one can create concerning other issues too. This, in my estimation, is the height of “empty chatter.”
[2] And when a pastor is the one in the wrong, he ought to willingly admit it and seek forgiveness too.

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EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT: GETTING THE WORD OUT ABOUT YOUR CHURCH’S MINISTRY

AA040001The other day I received a text message from a fellow pastor inquiring about some of our church’s publication methods. This prompted me to consider all of the things our fellowship does to get the word out about our ministry.

This blog is thus a collection of ideas we have implemented over the course of the last two years that we have seen bring positive results.

For full disclosure, none of these ideas are unique to Mission Dorado (my local church home). They are a collection of ideas derived from other pastors, churches, ministries, books, conversations, blogs, and articles.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but a simple list of things you can do to help get the word out about your ministry.

CREATE A GOOD-LOOKING WEBSITE (AND KEEP IT UPDATED)

One of the best ways to communicate your church’s ministry is to have a website. Not having a website is on par with telling prospects that you meet in a barn, use haybails for pews and a chicken coop for a pulpit.

(In other words: You’re outdated)

Richard Reising, a church marketing guru, writes, “Internet presence has become the primary way people evaluate churches–meaning, of the ten websites they looked at, they evaluated all ten, even though they visited only one church. As a matter of fact, the website visit is the closest thing to being in your church a visitor is likely to experience” (Church Marketing 101, 42-43).

There are plenty of organizations that provide the heavy lifting for church website development. I have used both mychurchwebsite.net and faithconnector.com. Both are viable options, but the second provides a much better looking design (although it’s more expensive).

It is strongly encouraged that your website be updated often. Churches are dynamic entities and an outdated website can sometimes be worse than not having one at all. No one wants to visit a church website and read about a community picnic you had three years ago.

Check out our church’s website as an example of what faithconnector.com can do: missiondorado.com.

CREATE AN ONLINE E-NEWSLETTER

An online E-Newsletter is designed to be a once-a-month email that members can personally sign up for that includes a brief word from the pastor, the highlighting of special upcoming events, and a calendar of everything taking place in the month. It’s best if all of this is placed into a “single scroll” email.

One of the best parts about an online E-Newsletter is that there are a plethora of wonderful, free options. I have toyed with icontact.com and mailchimp.com, the latter probably being a little better. A signup link can also be connected to a Facebook page.

We keep our current year’s newsletters available on our website. You can click here to get an idea as to what ours looks like each month: Mission Dorado’s E-Newsletters.

DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF THE NEWSPAPER

In a world of e-books, e-newsletters, emails, e-this and e-that, we should not underestimate the power of the old black and white. It’s still the best way to communicate information to the community.

I encourage pastors to connect with the religion editor for their local papers and build a relationship. These editors are usually eager to meet you because you provide content for their articles and many will allow you to write a monthly article in their section, which is free advertisement. I often run into people in the community who recognize my name from an article I wrote, and I usually only contribute once every two or three months.

A recent example of the power of the newspaper was unveiled for us last week when a story was published about some of our current internet problems. Although we have a variety of neighbors who are able to use local internet companies, these same companies have denied us service. Instead, we have had to use a company located outside the United States. After the story ran we had three different local companies personally visit us. Not only are we finally on the path to getting some internet help, but the existence of our fellowship was made known to thousands of people in the community. This is not to mention that the reporter is eager to write a follow up story.

INFORMATIONAL BAGS FOR PROSPECTS

I received this idea from a large church in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. They made a bag available at the back of the church for members to take in order to “break the ice” with their neighbors. The bag included, among other things, a bag of chips and salsa.

We don’t use the chips and salsa theme, but we do offer paper bags that include a logo-ized cup, candy, a small booklet written by me, and a pamphlet with information about the church. Overall the bag costs us around $3 each; a worthy investment for prospective members.

The bag serves well as a tool for people to take home and give to their neighbors and especially for prospects that visit the church. We tell them that we will trade them the bag for their “visitor card” and we emphasize that it is a great way to learn more about our fellowship. And it is!

YARD SIGNS

In my previous pastorate I noticed yard signs throughout the community that said, “I Love My Church.” It didn’t matter where I went, I saw one of these signs on what seemed to be every corner of town. It was one of the greatest marketing tools I had ever seen.

Richard Reising writes, “at the very core of marketing is the connection of people to an entity” (Church Marketing 101, 21). In my estimation a yard sign communicates that the person living in the house is proud of the fellowship, (i.e., the entity), of which he is a part. Thus, when a new member of the community begins looking for a church, he will naturally think of the church he sees so consistently peppered throughout the yards of fellow community members.

I used signsonthecheap.com to order our signs and they cost just over $2 each.

OTHER MARKETING TIPS

Here are a few extra tips that I have picked up over the years that deserve a mention:

*Have a Logo: Every church should have some kind of logo by which people can easily recognize as identifying the church.
*Create a Facebook Group Page: This provides a place for your members to share prayer requests and other pertinent information. It’s an ongoing discussion for everyone involved.
*Create a Facebook Fan Page: This is not to be confused with the aforementioned group page. This is a page created so that people who “like” the page can read announcements and other important information in their newsfeed. I encourage you to also personalize the url name for such a page, (i.e., facebook.com/missiondoradobaptistchurch).
*Make Church Shirts: We try to make one shirt per year, and we introduce them each summer. They usually cost us about $8 each and we sell them essentially at cost, making the only cost a general amount that your local shirt shop requires for a set up fee. This is a great way to create a mobile advertisement for your church. Every shirt should have the website easily readable. We put ours on the back.
*Website Connection: Put the church website on everything. I mean everything.
*Sermon Graphics: Find a cheap way to have dynamic, fresh graphics made for sermon series’. I host my own graphic design ministry that offers significantly cheaper graphics than anyone I have seen on the internet. You can check it out at sermonspruce.com. Also, every dollar goes towards an adoption ministry.

What do you think is left off of this list? What has worked for you?

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