13 Ways to Make Prayer a Priority

I hope I don’t have to convince you that prayer needs to be a priority in your church. If I do, just take some time to skim through the gospels and notice how many times and circumstances you see Jesus praying. He gives thanks for a lunch, teaches the disciples the “Lord’s Prayer”, prays for future believers, and on and on. If the Son of God felt the need to talk with his Father that much, then we should follow that example. If that is not enough, then search “prayer” on your Bible app and you will see the many times Paul taught about it. We know prayer is important, so, I am going to focus on the many ways you can make prayer a priority in your church, teaching it and practicing it.

1. Pray During Church Services

I visited a church, where the sermon was teaching on prayer and I could not recall them praying even once in the service. Open in prayer, pray for missions, offer a Pastoral Prayer, give a prayer of thanksgiving for the offering, and close with a benediction prayer.

2. Offer Prayer Following the service

Many churches give opportunity for people to come to the front or to a side room for prayer following the service. They may have heard God speak and need to spend some time in prayer or have a leader pray with them.

3. Preservice Prayer

I like the idea of people praying before the service, sometimes with all who are involved in the service. I have a caution though; I think it is very valuable for the pastor to be greeting members and newcomers before the service, so do your preservice prayer early enough that you are done in time to be available to greet people as they arrive.

4. Prayer Night

It might be good to have an occasional or regular night of prayer. You could teach a little on prayer, and then focus the rest of the time on actually praying.

5. Prayer Trios

Ask people to commit to pray with two others weekly for a certain extended period of time. They could meet at any time that is good for them for fifteen minutes or more, praying for a specific concern.

6. Small Group Prayer

If your church has small groups, encourage them to regularly have a time of prayer for and with each other.

7. Elders/ Leadership Team Prayer

Make prayer a regular part of each meeting you have with the leadership team, elders, deacons or board. Pray about your agenda, pray for specific programs and people each time you meet. Or have a monthly meeting dedicated to praying for the church.

8. Plan a Prayer Emphasis

There have been a few times where I led our church in a three-week prayer emphasis with preaching on prayer on the Sundays around it. I prepared special prayer guides for each person prepared to give direction as they prayed.

9. Teach on Prayer

Teach your congregation how to pray. You could even preach through the Lord’s Prayer which Jesus used to teach his disciples to pray!

10. Prayer Chain

The Prayer Chain was a staple in some of the churches I pastored. One person received the prayer request and then passed it on down the line, phoning the next person who phoned the next person. Today we can just email or phone everyone at once, but find a way to quickly inform your congregation of prayer needs. Use this often and regularly.

11. Pray with People

When you visit with Christian friends, take time to pray together. When someone asks you to pray for them, do it. Do it right then with them, and then commit to praying for them.

12. Pray Prayers of Dedication and Commission

There are many occasions of celebration, dedication, and commission in a church and each of these events are great opportunities to pray and ask God’s blessing, direction, and presence be involved.

  • Every September I invited all who were going to serve in the church in the next year to stand, or even come to the front, and we prayed a prayer of commissioning for them for the role they were taking on for the next year.
  • When we had missionaries come speak at the church, who were heading overseas shortly, we would pray for them as well.
  • I love Child Dedications and enjoy praying a blessing on the child incorporating the meanings of the child’s name.
  • It’s important to pray for those who have just been baptized to protect them from Satan’s attacks, like the ones Jesus faced after his baptism.

13. Pray for Healing

This is sometimes a scary thing to do, but pray for those who are sick. They may be healed, and they may not be healed. But scripture makes it clear, Jesus healed people in the Bible. James teaches that prayer should be part of the church, specifically calling on the elders of the church to pray. Go to those who call you to pray for them, or have times where you specifically invite people to come forward for prayer for healing after a service. Sometimes we would connect this to a Communion Service.

There are many creative ways to pray, teach prayer, and lead in prayer.. Make prayer a priority by doing it.

Keep looking up!

Andy

Ask People to Give

Reaching people for Jesus costs money. Running a church with all its ministries costs money.

The truth is, your church needs money. Bills come in regularly for the electricity, gas, insurance, and on and on. Salaries must be paid. And vision needs to be funded.

Conversations about money make some people squirm. Especially if it is about their money.

As a pastor, you can talk about money in a number of different ways, some better than others. For example, you can hammer them with Old Testament scriptures and tell them they have to give, or you can tell them they need to pay for their ability to enjoy the services, like a user-fee.

MONEY AND DISCIPLESHIP

Or, instead, you can invite them to listen to God, and give as He directs. I like the idea of talking with the congregation about their discipleship and how being a follower of Jesus means allowing him access to all areas of my life, including my money. If we don’t give him control, money can become the root of all kinds of evil. Like anything else we don’t hand over to Jesus, it can become our god.

There are many great studies and programs that churches can use to help teach their congregation how to handle money as God would want them to, and help the congregation see how budgeting can help them handle their money with purpose. Tithing is an act of budgeting, even for those who do not have an actual budget. The effort of deliberately figuring out 10% is the beginning of budgeting.

You can teach them how even a little savings each month can add up over time for when they need to make a bigger purchase without borrowing. Borrowing money, using debt of any kind, always means the costs is actually higher. Saving ahead of time means you may not have to borrow, or not as much, when that big need comes along. My wife has been slowly putting money into a separate account over the last number of years. Her money, along with a tax refund I had, enabled us to recently have enough money for a down payment on a house. We can finally own a home again because of the savings she did!

MONEY AND VISION

I like tying any conversation about money, with vision. Clearly, to do this, you need to have a vision to point to. If you have a vision for your church that you and your leadership have prayerfully worked through, then you believe this is what God wants your church to pursue. Explain to your congregation how their funding of that vision will help make the vision a reality.

If your church’s vision includes winning youth to Christ, you might point to how their giving helps pay the Youth Pastor. If your church’s vision includes providing space for local 12-step programs, show how their giving helps provide a space for the community to meet. And just maybe, when those who attend the community programming are looking for a church, they will check out yours. You could even highlight a certain aspect of the church budget once a month and show how it enables your church’s vision to be accomplished.

And you could point to how sacrifice is an important part of the Christian life. Maybe your congregation needs a challenge, and maybe a bit of sacrifice, in order to accomplish great things for God in your community!

MONEY CONVERSATIONS

Be creative in how you talk to your congregation about money and their giving.

  • I have used some video clips that were very well done and got the point across without me needing to say anything.
  • Include a verse about money and giving with other onscreen announcements.
  • Say a few pertinent words just before the offering is taken.
  • Ask some people who are willing to share a short testimony about how God has guided them in their giving.
  • And of course, don’t hesitate to preach a sermon, or even a series, on finances.
  • And feel free to share about how you handle your own money.

It is important to highlight money and giving as part of discipling your congregation. You could schedule different creative methods to be used on a yearly calendar. Make talking about money a priority. Don’t be afraid to do it.

And keep looking up,

Andy

*If you are wondering how well your church is doing in light of its giving, and would like an outside voice, I can work through a Financial Audit with your church.

Keep the Covid Wins

It has felt liberating to let go of the various covid restrictions on churches, as well as many other areas in our public life, since many restrictions have lifted where I live.

The tendency for many churches may be to go right back to doing what they did pre-covid, leaving behind the new creative ideas they were forced into as they tried to continue doing ministry while respecting the restrictions. This means that there will be some “throwing out the baby with the bathwater”. Some of the creative solutions you came up with to continue to serve your congregation during covid restrictions may be of great value to your church over the long haul. Churches are often slow to introduce new things, but the restrictions required both church leaders and church attenders to be open to try new things because they had to.

Keep the wins!

Each church has made unique changes to respond to and adopt new realities over the last year and a half. It may be difficult to picture what the church will look like going forward, but those who are willing to learn and adopt some new methods for their future will benefit in the long run.

As I have heard stories from various pastors, I realize there have been many creative adventures that can continue post-covid. Here are some examples:

  • Maybe the online option can be continued so that those who are not able to attend on a Sunday can observe from home, or newcomers can check out the church before attending in person.
  • One pastor said they had conducted some services outside on their lawn while adhering to covid restrictions. They bought a transmitter so people could even sit in their cars and listen if they chose. Some unchurched people had tuned in, and joined them when they moved back into the building. This creative idea was so well received that they will continue to have monthly “lawn services” throughout the summer.
  • One church continues to host Zoom small group meetings because they worked so well for them.
  • One children’s ministry volunteer was disappointed that their church no longer requires children to be pre-registered for Sunday School, because this information ensured that there were always enough staff for the number of children attending.
  • Some churches purchased thousands of dollars of gift card to local businesses and then dropped them off for the small business owners. They offered to pray for them as well. This was very well received.
  • One church began a Facebook prayer group for their town. Community member joined the group. They were amazed when the mayor joined the group, but were thrilled when she submitted prayer requests for community concerns she knew about.
  • The church I attend sent little care packages to singles in the church to make sure they knew the church was thinking about them. Many people were struggling with loneliness when quarantined at home, and they knew this could be especially hard for single people.

As you read these examples, you may be surprised at the creativity, or maybe cringe inside – not all ideas will work for all churches. Think through the ideas your church came up with over the past year and keep the ones that worked well, or adapt some for ongoing ministry.

Don’t just revert to the way things have always been done without carefully and prayerfully evaluating the new ideas you came up with, and holding on to the ones that will benefit you long term.

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

5 Steps to Own Your Day

Time is precious. Learn to use it purposefully. Own your day!

As a pastor, I sometimes felt that others had more control over my schedule than I did. When you work for someone else, there will always be requirements of you, but hopefully you can find a way to plan out your own day in your own way. You want to accomplish all that has to be done, and even some of what you would just like to get done.

Planning takes time, which may feel counterintuitive, but I assure you that if you plan, you will most likely get more things done that you want to get done. If you do not plan and schedule, then others will take your time. Or you will get caught up in scrolling through Facebook. Plan your day so that you decide what you do today, and when.

1. Acknowledge the Demands of Others

Hopefully you do not have too many of these, but sometimes there are certain requirements placed on you that you need to find time for in your day. If these expectations are placed on you, at least you can plan on when you will give some time to them.

At the same time, evaluate the demand. Is this really something you need to spend your time with, or is it just a suggestion? Days fills up too quickly to take on unnecessary demands of others.

2. Big Items

If you are a pastor, you know that there are certain activities required of you. As the preacher, you will need to give large portions of time to sermon prep.  If you are teaching, that adds to your list of big items. My preference for sermon and teaching prep is to break the process into sections and do them in the morning when freshest. For example, on a typical workweek of Tuesday to Sunday, I do research on Tuesday, finalize an outline by Wednesday, compile the notes into an effective sermon on Thursday, and take Friday to make the final touches. Saturday, I practice, and Sunday I preach. A similar approach of breaking down the process to be completed over time can be done with teaching prep or other Big items.

As a pastor, I realize the work is never done. There is always something else to put on the schedule, so it is important to remember to schedule in your time off as well. Choose a regular day off. I always had Monday off. Choose the day that works for you and your family, and do something to relax and refresh yourself on that day. You might need to intentionally book something relaxing for the day, such as a walk with your spouse, or some golf with friends. Make sure to take a day free from the regular work responsibilities.

3. Personal Passions

This is the fun part. This is where you make sure to schedule in some time to do the things that God has laid on your heart that may not be directly tied to your job description, but are an important part of who you are. You are the one who chooses what to do with your day. Make sure you do what makes you excited. If it’s writing, then write. If it’s spending time with young leaders, then spend time with young leaders.

At one church I had a weekly breakfast with a couple of men where we talked through the next Sunday’s sermon. I loved these times, and learned to see the scripture through other’s eyes. It made my preaching more impactful – and I enjoyed doing it!

What is it that God has laid on your heart? What are some of your God-given dreams that will not take fruit unless you deliberately plan it into your life?

4. Determine what you would like to do but never have time for

If you have scheduled your day with the first three points in mind, you will realize your day is already quite full, and you may find yourself still unable to do everything you want to do. Is there a book you have wanted to read but never found the time? Is there a topic you would like to research but never get to? Is there a person you would like to have coffee with but it just never happens? Plan it in. Own your day. It is yours to live.

I always have a running list of things I want to do, or research, or work on. Then at certain times I would go through the list and make sure I scheduled it into my day or week. Any time you have a slower day or week, glance through this list and pull a few into your schedule. These are the things that no one else will ask you to do, but you think would benefit you. Plan them into your schedule.

And don’t forget to have some fun.

5. Delegate and Outsource

This might be the most important point. Do not be afraid to hand off certain responsibilities to others. Maybe there is someone in your church that can preach for you occasionally, especially if you take the time to coach them through it. At one church I had the privilege of helping teach one of the men how to preach. He already had a desire to teach, and did a great job. It will be extra work for a bit, but then he will be able to do it without your help and you will free up time.

In the small churches I served it was sometimes expected that I choose the songs for Sunday. Did I really need to choose the songs for Sunday? Do you really need to choose the songs for Sunday? Instead, maybe you could give someone else the theme and scripture for Sunday and ask them to choose the songs. If you have a song leader or team, give them the freedom to do that.

When you are used to doing certain things, it might seem difficult to hand them off to others who may not do it exactly as you would, but give them a chance. Coach them along and you will be surprised how much you can hand off to qualified volunteers.

Evaluate your role and what your primary responsibilities are and the additional tasks you have taken on. Maybe there is someone else that can do the bulletin. Hand it off. Ask an elder to do the devotional at the membership meeting. Find a tech-savvy teen to be your Facebook and website administrator. Train a few people to visit those in the hospital.

Find others to do what you don’t have to do – especially if you don’t enjoy doing that anyway!

Find a way to own your day! Plan it out so you can be your best you. Own your day!

Keep looking up

Andy