Book Reviews: Andy’s 2022 Reading Experience

I will be sharing a brief review of every book I read this year. Hope you enjoy and hope it encourages you to keep reading.


BAPTIZED IN THE SPIRIT – by Randy Clark

I enjoyed this book for a couple of reasons:

  1. I am growing and learning in my relationship with the Holy Spirit and this book brought some goo foundations to that learning.
  2. Randy Clark does a good job of explaining the historical understandings of different denominations and theological traditions.
  3. Randy does a great job walking through the many historical revivals where the Spirit showed up in power – with similar displays of God’s power as many are experiencing today when the Spirit shows up.

If you are looking to grow in knowledge and experience of the power of the Holy Spirit in your life, this book is a great foundation to that. It helps you to see that some of the unusual experiences of recent revivals are not that unusual when compared to previous outbreaks of the Spirit. And it helps give a balanced understanding of what we might expect if we are filled or baptized with the Spirit.

This book leaves you longing for more of the Spirit – His presence and His power.

Planning Ahead Raises Your Level of Excellence

My wife and I are planning for a short holiday. We are planning ahead. We are planning for the middle of January 2022, about three months from now. Planning ahead his beneficial for a few reasons: we can make sure we have time off, we can get a cheaper price, we can make sure that everything will be taken care of at home while we are away, we can set aside a little extra money in the next couple of months, we can try to prepare for any covid-related restrictions or obstacles, and we get to build excitement as we anticipate some time for just the two of us away from home and the daily routine. Planning ahead means that it will be a much better experience than if we had just decided to wait till a few days before and then quickly tried planning something.

I’m sure you do some planning for events in your home. You plan to be at your kids’ sports activities. You plan for Christmas. Your child is planning for graduation.

Why is it that we seem to avoid planning too far ahead in our churches?

Sermons and services are prepared each week from scratch to be ready for Sunday. Meetings come up and we rush to make sure there is an agenda and then run off to the meeting. We arrange for a visit with church members, but hardly give it a thought until we arrive at their door. What if we planned ahead?

Planning ahead is valuable, and can raise the level of excellence in your ministry. Planning ahead:

  1. Demonstrates that you care about what you are planning – you have put some thought into it rather than just hoping it will all work out.
  2. Means you have a clarified vision and purpose – and gives you time to develop and apply those.
  3. Results in well-prepared events. You have time to research each aspect and prepare any documents or tools you need to make the event a success.
  4. Allows others to be involved in the planning process. You can work as a team, and can collaborate with others who are part of that event.
  5. Avoids conflicts. You can make sure to avoid any conflicting appointments or events at that time.
  6. Helps you test your plans. You have time to work on issues you may face at the event.
  7. Gives you more time to spend in prayer ahead of time.

Let’s look at how planning ahead raises the level of excellence of the event.

Meetings

If you plan ahead, you can make sure all the people who should be at the meeting are notified in advance so they can either book that time for themselves or let you know of conflicts so you can reschedule. Planning ahead allows you to ensure you have an appropriate meeting room, necessary research and documents are prepared, and an agenda can be created with participant input. You can even arrange for someone to provide drinks and snacks. This also gives you time to ensure that you are comfortable with the technology you will be using (and test any videos, etc.) or that tech support will be available.

Visits:

Most pastors will at some point visit with members, either at their home or over coffee at a local restaurant. You could just show up and hope the conversation goes well, or you could plan ahead. If you want to raise the level of excellence for a visit, do a few things to prepare. You could make sure you know who you are meeting, especially if you do not know them well. I once was asked by a funeral home to call and provide pastoral help, to a family who had lost a loved one. I called and asked for who I thought I was to speak to, only to realize I had gotten things confused and I was asking for the deceased father! Make sure you know who you are meeting with.

Even if you know them well, you may want to think of past conversations.  Have they asked for prayer recently? It might be good to check up on that. You might want to remind yourself of who is in their family, and the names of their children.

As the pastor, you might even think through where they are at spiritually and how you could use this meeting to help disciple them. Are there some issues that you want to challenge them with? Is there a volunteer position you would like them to consider?

And be ready to have a fun and enjoyable time with them.

Worship Services

The Sunday morning worship service is the main event in a local church. While there are numerous moving parts to the service, it is amazing how many churches don’t plan very far in advance. Too often staff and volunteers rush around each week to be ready for Sunday. This means there is little opportunity to consider anything creative, and instead, to keep up each week, churches keep doing the same old service each week with just a couple of different songs and a new sermon.

You, pastor (or preaching team), would do well to plan ahead. I have tried to usually plan a year ahead. This allows me to think through the needs of my congregation, and plan around and for special days and seasons throughout the year. Taking this approach has allowed me to prepare a balanced preaching schedule, so I’m not surprised when Easter or Christmas arrive.

I don’t have every sermon prepared a year in advance, but I have a general idea of the scriptures and themes I will be addressing throughout the year, so that they are in my mind as I come across good quotes or creative ideas that fit a certain upcoming theme.

Planning the sermon text and themes ahead of time means I can better work with others, too. Sharing the upcoming sermon themes with a music pastor or worship planning team means they can also plan ahead. They might want to prepare special music around holidays or special events, or add creative elements such as preparing a skit or reading. This enables others involved in the services to prepare in a way that complements the sermon.

You raise the level of excellence when everyone involved knows what is going on and can make sure their part fits well. You raise the level of excellence when people can practice and prepare ahead of time for some more unique additions to your service. You raise the level of excellence by having the time to do better.

I want to encourage you to plan ahead. Not just for meetings and visits and services, but in all your responsibilities.

Do you want to raise your level of excellence? Planning ahead is a great place to start!

Keep looking up

Andy

www.elevatecoaching-consulting.com

Chasing Rabbits and Other Distractions

A pastor must know how to keep focused and avoid distractions. We probably all remember a teacher or professor who loved going down rabbit trails. If someone asked the right question, he would get distracted from the topic at hand and head in a completely different direction. Pastors face many distractions daily, and need to know how to keep focused on the right things.

Staying focused requires a sense of clarity in both one’s role and purpose. What is the vision of the church? What is your personal role in accomplishing that vision? What needs to be done this week or this day?

COMMON DISTRACTIONS

Unannounced Visitors  

Many pastors have methods of protecting their sermon preparation time. For example, they may have set “office hours” when they know they will be in the office and their door will be open to visitors. They may have a secretary who helps protect their schedule. The smaller the church, the freer people are to show up and wanting to talk with the pastor. Larger churches often have administrative staff or offices located in such a way that visitors can’t barge into the pastor’s office, but this is not always the case for small churches. The pastor may be the only staff, and the pastor’s office may be near the front door. There is no easy place to avoid the unannounced visitor. In these situations, the pastor could put a sign on his door asking not to be disturbed or choose to work in a coffee shop, or in their home office.

The Big Question             

When interacting with people, you may find yourself distracted by big questions. Some people love to ask their pastor specific doctrinal or theological questions. They may be wanting a real answer, or they may be hoping to just stump the pastor. You need to decide which questions need an in-depth study for you to respond, or which ones you need to redirect back to the questioner. You do not need to answer their every question.

We Should Do This          

Often a pastor will hear from one of their members, “We should have a program to do…” They suggest a program or ministry they heard another church was doing and think your church needs to do it too. You need to be clear on the vision and priorities of your church as you and your leadership have determined. When people bring suggestions, you can remind them of the priorities your church has set.

There are times, though, when someone comes with a question – or an idea and, may be speaking for God. They may actually suggest something that God would have you do. One man came to visit me at one church and asked if we had anything for single moms. His daughter and grandson had moved home and he thought they could really benefit from meeting other moms. This happened to be one conversation among a few others that made us realize God was asking us to do something. The end result was a Moms and Tots program which was very well received by both church and community moms.

Hobby Horses   

Years ago, I was in a church where one Adult Sunday School teacher would end up directing the attention of his class to “New Age” issues in every class, no matter what topic the class was supposedly studying. Recognize when members are getting hung up on hobby horses. Some pastors are like this, where everything comes back to one or two key issues. When they preach, they always have some reference to their pet topic. Beware of that, as it distracts from the message of the sermon.

Technology        

The covid pandemic, and its accompanying restrictions on meeting, has forced many churches to adopt technology they never tried before. I am amazed at how many churches were able to find a way to stream their church services to people at home! But not all technology is necessary or helpful. Sometimes we get caught up in the amazing new options out there, and spend time and money on things that make no difference to our ministry, and may even distract us from achieving our vision. Make sure that what you spend time and money on will enhance your ministry, not distract from it.

Know Your Focus

What distracts you? What trails do you tend to veer onto? It may be something mentioned here, or something else. No matter the distraction, the best way to prevent losing focus is to be clear on what you believe is important. Time spent on clarifying your vision, priorities, and strategies as a church is time well spent. This narrows your focus and keeps you from being distracted. It is a tool to help you determine if something is a distraction and how you should respond. Everything that comes up can be measured against this purpose. Know your focus and you will spend less time on distractions.

If you would like help clarifying your vision and priorities contact me.

Keep looking up!

Andy

Your Church Website is Your New Front Door!

I like seeing houses with a bright front door that stands out from the rest of the building.

Every building, every house, every church has a front door. It is not just a great place to put an accent color for your building, but the place that people enter.

In the past, we saw the front door of the church as the place where newcomers first made contact with  your church. That has changed.

Your church’s website is your new front door. People look you up online before they actually come to your building and take in a Sunday service. They can get a sense of what your church is like before they even show up.

How welcoming is your “front door”?

Here are three of the most important things you need on your website.

1. The Physical Address

Make sure the first thing people see when they open your website is your physical address. I know a number of rural churches have a box number for their mailing address, but this is not what people are looking for. It is important that a potential newcomer knows where the church is. Include a Google map with directions to your church, and check for accuracy before posting.

2. Service Times

If someone is considering attending your church, they want to know what time to show up. Not every church meets at 11:00 am today. Churches with multiple services should also include any differences between services, such as different ages available for children’s ministry. Make sure to update this every time a service time changes. There is nothing worse for a newcomer to show up late because you forgot to update your service time!

3. What to Expect

Some churches have a short description of what people wear. A common example could be something like: “Most people come in jeans and shirts, though suit and tie, or a dress, are fine too.” Here is a personal example: If you have never been to a symphony, you might want to know what to wear. I went to my first symphony with my brother-in-law, and I had not come prepared. I had no suit like everyone else was wearing, and I felt really out of place. People who have never been to your church want to know how to dress.

You might also lay out how the morning works. If you have coffee available, let them know they can take it into the auditorium with them. If you send the children out to their classes part-way through the service, explain how that works. Add anything that you think a newcomer might need to know when they show up.

If you have these three, you are way ahead of many churches!

There are a few more items people look for. Easy to find visible links to the following items allow searchers to quickly identify how to find the information they are looking for.

4. Contact information

Have a link to a page with all the information. This includes the church phone number and email address. It might be good to have the same for your staff. And while I think about it, post your pastor’s name somewhere that is easy for people to find. I am surprised at some websites. It seems the pastor’s name is a secret they don’t want to share, or just assume everyone knows. You might even want to have a brief video welcome from your pastor on your home page.

5. Beliefs and Values

When I moved to a new city, I decided to look for a church by first checking out a number of websites. One of the things I was looking for was a church that believed the same way I did.

6. Ministries and Programs

Have links to all ministry or program pages.

Children: Most families want to know what to expect for their children. Be clear about whether they are included in the main service, or if they are dismissed to their own service. There should be no confusion on this issue at any point for. Also, make it clear that families can choose to keep their children with them in the main service.

Make it absolutely clear that you have a plan to protect children from any harm. Describe exactly what your protocols are and how you screen and train your volunteers who will work with the children. Include links to any outside regulations or certifications adhered to by your church and denomination.

Youth: Provide clear information on what ages these programs are for and when they meet. Include the same safety protocols as with the children.

Small Groups: Most churches have some form of small groups. Explain how yours function and how someone can join a group.

Other programs: Let people see what you offer and where they can be involved.

7. Sermons

Have at least a few recent sermons recorded and available to download on your website. People might want to hear a sermon before attending, so they know what to expect.

There are many other options, but remember that the target audience for your website is new people. Yes, there are some pages that might be for in-house information, but the primary audience should be the newcomer.

If you would like to improve your “front door”, you can check out a Website Audit here. Call me if you would like some coaching help to improve your front door welcome.

Keep looking up!

Andy