by Ken Stewart
Has your church reached a size threshold that it’s having trouble breaking through?
Church leaders have a deep desire to participate in the building of Jesus’ church. So it’s not surprising that pastors and other leaders can feel discouraged when their church seems stuck on a plateau.
Many factors can account for a church’s expanding and contracting over its life span—too many to cover adequately in a brief post. (Earlier posts in this series can be found here, here, and here.)
Remember that the Lord is the church-grower. God gives the increase. The first place to go for guidance is to the Lord and His Word, because leading and growing the church is the Holy Spirit’s work first of all.
Church growth isn’t usually a straight line upward. A “stall” could be a temporary gift of refreshing from the Lord. A plateau provides a season for everyone to rest, rejoice, recover, and regroup. There are usually seasons of growth, then stasis or even contraction.
When a church finds that it’s been on a plateau for several years or more, it may be due to spiritual, organizational, or cultural factors (or a combination):
- Spiritual factors. A decline in numbers often signals spiritual concerns. The plateau may be a symptom of spiritual problems such as:
- Conflict among members or leaders
- Shallow busyness
- Neglect of disciple making
- Neglect of evangelism
- Organizational factors. Your church’s plateau may be as large as you will grow because of:
- The limitations of your structure. Having too small a staff for your membership or lacking a leadership-development process will impact how large your church can grow. Growth may have stalled because systems have not been scaled up or upgraded to match the new reality. Your current systems may not be adequate to sustain a church any bigger than it is now. Carey Neiuwhof wrote, “You know why most churches still don’t push past the 200 mark in attendance? You ready? They organize, behave, lead and manage like a small organization.”
- Even if a church is poorly managed, it still has a system, and that system produces predictable results. Management expert W. Edwards Deming famously said, "Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you're getting."
- Cultural factors. Both the church’s internal culture and the surrounding culture influence the church’s growth potential.
- Resistance to change is a major drag on growth. Now, not all change brings growth, but all growth brings change. A dying church is changing, but it’s not growing.
- But a church that truly seeks to grow will have to make changes, often significant ones. “Simply put, church size does matter for how a church is run, much like a married couple who some years later find themselves with a dozen children cannot simply organize their life as they did with their first child—everything must change.” Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church
- Leadership can be the reason a church’s growth has stalled. Asking “why?” can be a threatening step for leaders to take, because they themselves may be the primary reason growth has stopped. It takes a strong leader who is committed to the true welfare of the church and to the will of God to take that long look in the mirror.
- Demographics can account for a church plateau. There may be an innate limit to growth because of where the church is situated. It may be landlocked, or it may be located in a sparsely populated area.
Researcher Ed Stetzer offers some hope to plateaued churches:
“[If] a church is in a pattern of plateau, it can likely be kick-started . . . If a church is in decline, it will take longer to change things, and more things will need to be changed, depending on how steep and long the decline is. Moreover, some churches (there's no easy way to say this) need to die. Whether no one is left, the community has changed drastically, or those who are left are a self-defeating core, some churches have fulfilled their life cycle. The good side is that some dying churches have resources and assets that can be utilized to start something new (see www.legacychurches.com).” Ed Stetzer, http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-blogs/146139-kick-starting-the-plateaued-and-declining-church-part-3-contemplate-the-state-of-the-situation.html.
In the upcoming e-book version of this series, we’ll look more deeply at growth strategies for the plateaued church.
by Ken Stewart
If you have never thought of your church as a complex organization, adding a satellite campus will convince you.
And complexity multiplies with each campus a church adds. The same needs that exist in the parent church will exist in the satellite: visionary leadership, effective organization, and adequate resources (including technology).
The major step most growing churches take—buying or building their own facility—will be discussed in the Look Before You Grow e-book. Part I of this series laid out principles for managing church growth. Part II looked at guiding a fellowship to its first rented space.
The pastor's role is indispensable
Max De Pree said, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, a leader is a servant and a debtor.”
For pastors, defining reality includes describing both current problems and possible solutions. Effective leaders describe a desirable future and then help the people work to bring it about.
What’s the reality of your current situation at your church? Can you envision ways to improve it? Are there alternatives to adding a satellite campus (e.g., reworking the schedule to allow more efficient use of your existing building and resources)?
Why launch a satellite?
I’m tempted to say, “If you’re outta space, think satellite!” (Sorry for that one.)
Here is a fundamental question to consider: Is the addition of a campus being driven by necessity (i.e., you’re outgrowing your current facility), or is it an intentional part of your church’s mission? All other things being equal, the more integral growth is to your church’s ongoing mission, the more likely growth will continue.
If your church is consistently operating at capacity, gaining space is probably the most obvious benefit to launching a satellite. The building need not be completely maxed out before the church adds a campus, but the planting church should be solid, stable, and growing before attempting to add a site.
But planting a daughter church can do more than give you more room. It can
- Extend your presence into another community
- Add opportunities to grow new leaders (at both campuses)
- Recruit new workers
- Build unity and enthusiasm in the body
- Affirm the body’s steps of faith
- Celebrate successes
How to know if your church is ready
Adding a campus will likely be more difficult than you might expect—unless you go in expecting it to be difficult. The words of church planting expert Steve Pike bear repeating: “At least ninety percent of problems that occur in multiplication efforts can be traced back to unclarified expectations and assumptions.” If your church is considering adding a campus, your leaders should invest plenty of time and prayer into clarifying your expectations and assumptions.
Your church may be ready to launch a satellite campus if:
- You are consistently at 80% capacity or more in your current facilities.
- A desire to grow is part of your church’s character.
- You know that the satellite campus will meet an identifiable need in the new community.
- You have qualified, trained leaders in place.
- You have a core of dedicated men and women who will “seed” the church plant.
- You have the necessary financial foundation; the parent church is willing and able to take on the financing of the satellite until it becomes self-sustaining.
Many challenges, even more opportunities
As they shepherd their congregations through the challenge of adding a campus, leaders will find endless opportunities to define reality, to serve, and to say thank you—to the people, and to the Lord.
Up next: Reviving growth in the plateaued church.
When a church plant grows to a rented space
by Ken Stewart
Seeing God mature your small living-room fellowship into a growing church body is a uniquely exciting experience—one that the vast majority of believers, at least in North America, have never had. It can bring a sense of eager anticipation as your group ventures from the confines of a home to a larger, rented space. People wonder, what will it be like? Will we keep growing? What does God have planned for this flourishing fellowship?
This article is designed to help prepare your leadership for some of the unique challenges and opportunities that come with moving your church to a leased space.
See Part I of this series for insights that apply to the various stages of church growth. To recap: every stage of growth requires visionary leadership, effective organization, and adequate resources.
Moving to a rented space gives your church the opportunity to:
- Reach new people
- Recruite and train new workers
- Stretch their leaders
- Improve the overall experience for church members
- See God come through in new ways, in a new setting
What challenges will your church face?
- Problem solving. Every solution brings new problems. You'll encounter problems in your leased space that you didn't have to solve before. For example, how will you ensure the safety of the parking lot and stairwells?
- You'll need more staff and more money (see below)
- Opposition. You may lose some members, though founding members tend to be loyal, having been won and nurtured by the person or team who planted the church. Opposition can also come from people who live and work near the rented facility.
What resources are essential?
- Unity - not necessarily unanamity, though some reluctance to venture out is natural
- Workers, which implies a good recruiting process
- Ongoing training. While God will often send someone with particular skills and gifts to a new fellowship, Scripture indicates that He desires that a church fill its ministry needs by equipping and training its own members.
- More leaders. Since we're talking about managing growth, expect that the work will be more than the current leader/church planter/pastor can manage alone. One of the first things the Apostle Paul did when he planted a church was to appoint and equip leaders. Every wise church planter does that. Only put people in key leadership positions who have shown themselves to be faithful Christ-followers.
- Technology can help. A previous article shows how technology tools can improve the church's experience when they're meeting in a rented space.
How can leaders navigate the choppy waters of change?
Even though growth is good change, it's still change, something most of us naturally resist. Most of us prefer the comfortable and the familiar, and we will only give it up by choice if something better is being offered.
Big changes go more smoothly if the leaders:
Cast vision. Even church leaders who don't see themselves as visionary can describe a better future for their church. Casting vision involves describing the destination and guiding the journey. People are more likely to get on board when they know where the boat is going. They might row harder, too.
Delegate wherever you can. That's important if you want to create future leaders. The more people invest of themselves, the more invested they become. (Profound, right?)
Build an effective system of organization. Not all organizational structures are equal. Some of them focus more on keeping the system going than on helping the church and its members to thrive. In these organizations, the workers serve the system. In the most effective churches, the system serves the members, enabling them to minister effectively.
Expect occasional stalls and setbacks - even opposition. Few organizations get the change process exactly right from the beginning. Change is always messy. Learn and grow from setbacks.
Celebrate successes. Show your people that what they are doing matters, and that it's noticed and appreciated.
Next in the series: moving from a single church campus to multiple sites.
By Ken Stewart
When a church begins bursting at its seams, its leaders will sometimes use the expression “This is a good problem to have!” Steady, healthy growth is something most church leaders dream of.
But as with most dreaming, there comes a moment when leaders wake up and see that the blessing of growth brings with it some new and difficult challenges.
How can leaders successfully manage the promises and pitfalls of church growth? This post is part one of a four-part series on managing the phases of church growth: from living room to leased space; from single campus to multi-site; and from plateau to new growth.
Whether your church is just beginning to outgrow its first gathering place or is long overdue for a surge of growth, there are some things your leaders should know.
True and lasting church growth is literally the Lord’s work. The Lord is the true builder of His church, according to Matthew 16:18 and Ephesians 2:18-22. It is spiritual work first of all.
A church has to know its context and its constituency in order to grow in a sustainable way. Those churches that have sustained their growth have done so because they researched, identified, and embraced their ministry context and the constituency they serve.
A church should study its DNA. Regardless of the phase a church is moving into, it’s a good time to evaluate what makes them the church they are. Why has the church grown as it has? If it’s because of qualities that are part of its DNA—say, small groups or expository preaching or caring for the community—then the church should work hard to ensure that those qualities stay central to its identity.
Growth will not automatically continue unabated. Such factors as geography and demographics will place a limit on the growth potential of a given church. Also, growth needs to be properly managed, or the church will get in its own way.
Growth can be caused by any number of factors, not all of them good or sustainable.To see this, you need only to imagine 100 new attenders who have just gone through an acrimonious split from their former church. Unless leaders respond wisely, that kind of growth can damage a church.
Growth does not always indicate total ministry effectiveness. A church may grow because it has begun a great children’s ministry, for example, but other ministries in the church may be weak and ineffective. In that case, some of the church’s other ministries may need to be reshaped or dissolved so they don’t impede the overall work.
Every stage of growth requires these assets:
Visionary leadership that can persuasively answer the question, “Why are we doing this?”
Effective organization—a structure that serves, not hinders, the growing church
Adequate resources—people and money
A growing family requires its members to adjust to changes. The same is true of a growing church—which is also a growing family, after all. Whether your church is transitioning to its first facility, a multi-site model, or new growth after a plateau, the next three parts in this series will answer these questions:
What challenges will you face at this phase of growth? What opportunities does this phase present? What resources are essential? How can leaders navigate the choppy waters of change?
Up next: Look Before You Grow: From Living Room to Leased Space
Is your church currently in a growth spurt? What’s been good about this growth? What’s been difficult? What advice would you offer to other leaders?
by Ken Stewart
I’m pretty sure that was the reaction most people had upon seeing Christmas displays in retail stores just after Labor Day. That’s still summertime!
As chagrined as most of us might feel about merchants stocking the shelves for a season still three months away, these months are the home stretch for many ministry leaders. Church teams are already in high gear, planning for the upcoming Christmas season.
As a former worship pastor, I’ve planned a lot of Christmas events. Sometimes my team and I were already out of steam by the time the event came around. For too many ministry leaders, the Christmas season is less about celebrating and more about surviving.
A lot of the holiday frenzy can be avoided with thoughtful planning. Whether your church’s Christmas events are simple or complex, your leaders and volunteers can enjoy the season’s special occasions when they know that the details are being taken care of.
It’s not too late to begin planning meaningful Christmas events for your church. (But don’t wait too much longer, or you’ll be able to sum up in two words the plan you will have chosen: winging it.)
Elexio is offering a free, downloadable planning checklist to help you and your team think through all of the details for your Christmas events.
Christmas gatherings, like most church events, typically need planning in these categories:
- Type of event. Will it be a concert? Worship service? Dinner? Party? Caroling?
Facility and resources. Where will your event be held? What rooms will you need to reserve? Will you need to rent facilities? Rent or purchase equipment? Will your event need extra funding? How will you raise the funds? Will you be selling tickets? How will you receive payment? How will you register attenders, particularly guests? Are online registration and payment an option?
- Volunteer recruitment. Will your regular ministry teams be enough, or will you need additional volunteers? How will you recruit them? How will you train them? How will you thank them?
- Publicity. How will you promote your event? How will you communicate with your teams?
- Follow-up. Will your greeters need training? Will your regular assimilation process work? Will extra team members be needed to follow-up on more guests than usual? The congregations that do the best job of welcoming guests and drawing them into the life of the church are those that make it an essential part of the church’s life.
Many churches struggle to follow up with their guests. Does your church have an effective assimilation process? Elexio’s Fusion provides resources to assist you with assimilation. In fact, Fusion has features to help you with every aspect of event management and follow-up.
There’s no denying that a successful Christmas event takes a good deal of prayerful planning and effort. Even a labor of love is still labor. So above all, be sure to plan for regular rest and spiritual refreshment before, during, and after the Christmas season.
Walking in Christ every day is the most important preparation of all.
How is your church planning to celebrate our Savior’s birth this year?
By Ken Stewart
For multi-site churches and church plants, portable and church are synonymous. And portable technology tools make it possible for the portable church to have rich worship events each week despite lacking a building of their own.
Portable church can be a good option for churches of any size
Portable churches meet in all kinds of temporary locations—movie theaters, schools, storefronts, fire halls, and community centers. No matter how well-equipped the facility may be, the church will most likely have furnishings and equipment it will have to transport to the site each weekend (and store during the week).
The weekly challenge of setting up and tearing down is part of the life of the portable church. After all, part of the appeal of owning a church building is having everything permanently in place.
But consider a few of the portable church’s advantages:
- While they can be costly, portable churches tend to be much less expensive to launch and sustain than the traditional approach of purchasing land and building new facilities.
- When a church begins to outgrow its current facility, adding portable sites can be an effective way to provide more space and put more volunteers to work.
- When done correctly, the portable church is scalable and sustainable.
What are the tech essentials?
The success of a portable church doesn’t rise or fall on its technology, but on its leadership—having the right people in the right positions.
Diving into portable church without wise planning is, well, unwise. It’s vital that a congregation and its leaders think through their expectations and assumptions. Church planting expert Steve Pike has said, “At least ninety percent of problems that occur in multiplication efforts can be traced back to unclarified expectations and assumptions.” That said, once the leaders and volunteers are in place the technology takes on special importance.
With any portable church, staff and volunteers will put a great deal of effort into setting up and tearing down each week. Having reliable and smoothly functioning technology takes some of the burden off of preparing for the weekly gathering.
Must-have vs. nice-to-have
Determine what is essential for your portable church versus what would merely be helpful. Make every dollar count.
These elements are essential:
- Audio, video, projection, lighting
- Signage or other information displays
- Communication tools (and reliable support for those tools)
- Safety—especially of children—is essential, and communication is a critical component of security. Ensure the safety of the parking area, entrances and exits, stairways, restrooms, stage, and seating area.
- On-campus and especially during weekend services, all locations should be able to communicate with one another (e.g., nursery with auditorium or individual; portable church with the main campus; portable site to tech support, etc.).
- Off-campus and during the week, the congregation needs a way to communicate. Leaders need a system to keep everyone informed.
- A way to track information. Reliable support is needed here as well.
- Portable church usually has growing the Kingdom as its mission. Therefore, a must-have is a reliable, easy-to-use, scalable system, such as Elexio’s Amp Fusion ChMS, for keeping track of people’s data.
You may encounter technology hurdles
Assess whether Wi-Fi accessibility is going to be an issue, as it often is with schools, movie theaters, and multi-use facilities. Make sure that your hardware and software can function with limited or nonexistent Internet access. Touch, Elexio’s check-in system, can operate offline, so even without a reliable Internet connection your volunteers can quickly and easily check everyone in.
Determine whether you will invest in owning the equipment or will use what’s already in place at the location (e.g., a movie theater’s lighting and sound system). While it may be cheaper to use the house systems, the church will be stuck if it loses the contract with the facility.
Multi-site churches should consider using the same equipment models (e.g., sound boards, keyboards, lighting controls) at all their locations. That way the tech director is familiar with all the equipment, regardless of where it’s being used, making troubleshooting and substituting much easier.
“For communities that rent [facilities for church], the biggest issue is set-up and take-down…Trying to create as simple a system as possible, as efficient as possible for the people who do the weekly set-up and take-down is, obviously, the most important thing.” Sandra Nicholas, Site-Support Pastor of The Meeting House in Ontario, Canada
As a system grows, so does its complexity. So keeping things as simple as possible, even while growing, will be a continual effort. An overly complex system is frustrating and draining for those caught in it. Keep it as simple as possible at every phase.
The most important component of the portable church
Never lose sight of the mission—to help people know Jesus. Portable church is heavy on logistics and problem solving, and technology can play a major role in making it work. But don’t let that reality overshadow the bigger truth: the most important component of portable church is servant-hearted people who love Jesus and want to share him with others.
For more practical information on the portable church, check out these resources:
By Ken Stewart
First impressions matter a great deal. First impressions last. And your ministry’s website is increasingly the place where your church makes its first impression on a visitor.
A visit to your website is often the first opportunity you have to tell someone about your church and help them to decide whether it’s a good fit. If it makes a good impression and helps to draw them into your church family, the website will help them stay connected.
Your church’s website is more important now than ever. It’s Information Central for visitors, attenders, and members alike.
People now expect to have instant access to the information they want. And they want their church information to be just as accessible as the details about their favorite restaurant or sports team. So it’s worth the effort to create and maintain a great website for your ministry.
The qualities of a great church website
Two things matter most: how good your website looks and how well it works. Great content is important, but if your website is unattractive and frustrating to use, visitors won’t stick around long enough to hear what you have to say.
Your website should contain:
• Information especially for visitors, such as your location, directions, service times
• Media—worship services, sermons, video testimonies and announcements
• Contact information
• A basic statement (at minimum) that describes your ministry
Appearance—how good does your website look?
Your website is your church’s virtual front door. Does it have “curb appeal”? Is it inviting, or does it put visitors off with harsh colors or cluttered pages? With the professionally designed templates now available, it’s easier than ever to create an attractive website.
The effectiveness and visual appeal of your site can be enhanced by the use of video, slideshows, even and even static images. Keep the focus on people and activities, not buildings. Just be sure to use real church members, not stock photos. Visitors to your website want to see images that actually represent your church.
Function—how well does your website work?
Do visitors have to navigate a virtual obstacle course to find the information they’re looking for? If your church website is cluttered or disorganized, visitors will quickly move on. Easy navigation around the site should be a priority when designing a website for your ministry.
Can you update your site yourself? Your software should include a CMS (Content Management System) so that you can quickly and easily update your site’s content.
Does your website load quickly—in less than five seconds? That’s about how long the average person will wait before deciding to move on from a slow-loading page. If your site loads slowly, it’s worth having an IT professional evaluate it to see what’s causing the problem.
Know the "shelf life" of your website design
Your ministry’s website needs a combination of the fresh and the familiar—fresh content for everyone, and a familiar look for regular users. An attractive and smoothly functioning site will attract more and more regular users over time. Not only will users learn what to expect when they visit, but increased traffic will help your site rise in search engine rankings.
You want to consistently add fresh content, but the overall design should be more stable. Big design changes should be relatively infrequent—two to three years for a redesign. Small changes should be made gradually without disturbing the familiar look that regular users have grown accustomed to.
Give Google what it’s looking for
When they’re doing an Internet search, most users don’t look past the first page of search results. So it’s important to help your site rank as high as possible in the results. Since Google is the most popular search engine, make sure your site contains what Google looks for as it ranks web pages.
Google Analytics can help you to determine how visitors interact with your site, including whether people are navigating any deeper than your home page.
There are over 200 SEO (Search Engine Optimization) factors that Google looks for, but rankings are based primarily on these elements:
Keywords and keyword phrases. For example, if your church ministers to the disabled, putting keywords such as disability and special needs will cause your site to appear in the results when someone searches one of those terms. But to rank higher, consider using keyword phrases—such as ministry to the disabled or help for disabled adults.
Density—how often your keyword or keyword phrase is used. Don’t stuff a page with keywords or overuse keyword phrases. Try to stick with one subject/keyword phrase per page, so Google doesn’t think you are trying to trick it into raising your ranking position. Google screens out pages that are jammed with keywords.
It’s important to speak naturally rather than force numerous keywords onto the pages. Strive for clear writing.
Local search optimization. Ensure that the community can find you on their smartphones and mobile devices. Search engines are placing more and more value on this approach, and services, like YDOP, are invaluable atfor navigating this aspectmaking the most of searches done by “near users”. Remember, you’re not trying to touch the other side of the nation, but you’re trying to reach those in your ”backyard”.
Hyperlink names—Use links with actual terms links, like the one link in the previous bullet point, as opposed to “click here and here.” (And check to make sure your hyperlinks actually work!)
Named pages with relevant metadata. To go back to our disability ministry example, an effective name for the page that describes it might be “First Community Church Special Needs Ministry”.
Search-friendly graphics. Avoid Flash; it causes problems with some operating systems.
Frequently-updated content. This should be easy to dokeep up with, since the details of your weekly church events change constantly.
Elexio has solutions to help you create a beautiful website with features like calendars, blogs, audio and video, online donations, and event registration. Vibe is Elexio’s church website content management system (CMS). Design offers creative website design options. Both are part of Elexio’s Amp suite of church management software solutions.
As a church leader, you want each person who walks through your church’s doors to find a welcoming environment. An inviting church website - your virtual front door - can be the first place to help them feel that friendly welcome.
By Ken Stewart
Unguarded use of the Internet can be tremendously damaging to your staff and congregation. With all the focus on fall ministries gearing up, it’s easy for church leaders to overlook the need to make sure their church’s Internet use policy is thorough and that their system is secure and up to date.
It’s essential that your church have a policy in place that protects people and guards confidential information while allowing access to the Internet’s benefits.
The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. –Proverbs 22:3 & 27:12, ESV
Failing to respond to the dangers the Internet presents is like having no locks on your church doors, filing cabinets, or desk drawers. Not very prudent. A smart Internet policy can help prevent a lot of headaches for church leaders and staff.
Review staff and volunteer background checks
Security starts with having the right people in positions of trust. Your church should require background checks of both staff and volunteers, especially if they work with minors or have access to finances or sensitive, confidential information.
Why your church needs an Internet use policy
• To protect information
Churches routinely handle sensitive personal information—addresses, phone numbers, emails, children’s ages, giving records, counseling notes, and so on. This information has to be protected against identity theft and other misuse of personal data.
• To protect minors
Digital media have made it easier than ever to publish pictures and video taken at church activities. It is vitally important that you know and follow proper procedures for the publishing of images, especially of minors. You can find more information on the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act at www.coppa.org.
• To protect staff
You will want to protect your church staff from exposure to illicit material such as pornography. While this is ultimately an issue of character and spiritual maturity, having the appropriate policy and practices in place (e.g., filters, accountability) can add an important wall of protection for your staff.
• Prevent infection by malware
Filtering out certain types of illicit sites helps here, because simply visiting the homepage of an infected site can allow malware to infect your system. Consider installing filters and malware protection and make sure they are activated and kept up to date.
Review security settings on your ChMS
Your database and website software solutions come with security settings. Take time now to review them and make sure they are set to provide the level of secure access your staff and volunteers need.
What your Internet policy should cover
All church-owned devices
Your Internet policy should apply to all church-issued devices, including desktop and laptop computers, telephones, smart phones, and tablets. Users should be made aware of their responsibility to securely use these devices so that the user’s integrity and that of the church are protected.
Your policy should define who the authorized users will be from among these categories:
• Paid staff
• Select volunteers
• Guests? For example, a guest speaker or missionary on campus
• Church attendees; will they have access to open or secure Wi-Fi?
Your policy should also describe authorized uses by staff and select volunteers. Will it allow for personal use of the church’s hardware or Internet connection? What categories will it allow? News? Shopping? Sports sites? Will it restrict personal use to select times? What activities will be completely off-limits at all times?
You might want to spell out guidelines for these uses in particular:
• Social media
Social media especially has great potential for both good and harm. To see how top businesses and nonprofits address this ever-changing medium, see http://socialmediagovernance.com/policies.php. The site currently lists the social media guidelines for 245 companies and organizations.
Consequences of unauthorized use
How will you respond if someone misuses your church’s Internet account? Whatever uses you authorize or prohibit, you should determine ahead of time what the consequences will be, and this information should be given to everyone that it applies to.
Your church website and other media should include the appropriate legal notices and disclaimers regarding the contents that appear on it.
While privacy and confidentiality should be regarded highly and respected in the church, users should be informed that designated staff members have the right to monitor all communications made on the church’s network.
The church’s Internet use policy should be included in the employee handbook and written volunteer guidelines. Workers should sign and date their agreement to abide by the policy, and this should be renewed at regular intervals (e.g., once a year).
A sample policy
Here is an example of a church policy that strives for that balance. (You may want your policy to be more detailed):
The use of communication tools and electronic media has exploded in recent years. Although practical and often necessary for business and ministry use, we ask that the use of these communication tools (e.g., telephone) and electronic tools (e.g., Internet, email) for personal use be very limited (e.g., emergency, necessity, break or personal time). Please note that _______ Church has the right to monitor any information sent or received on the ministry’s electronic equipment. If it is found that information is being sent or received that is contrary to _______Church’s Code of Conduct (e.g., viewing pornography), it may lead to discipline or termination of employment.
Your staff and congregation are invaluable. Be prudent; protect them and their personal information with a smart Internet policy.
Ministries often overlook the value of policies because of the inherent character that comes along with the staff and approved volunteers. However, we are all human and our humanity requires that healthy discipline and accountability be in place to protect our personal walk and influence on others.
How has your church managed this balance? And what encouragement could you offer to other church partners facing this same challenge?
by Ken Stewart
My family and I once sent a gift of Russian nesting dolls to a loved one. When we visited her sometime later, she showed us where she had proudly displayed the doll. One of my children took the doll down and twisted it open to reveal the next doll inside.
Grandma Dot was flabbergasted. She’d had no idea there were four more beautifully hand-carved, hand-painted dolls inside!
But wait—there’s more!
You might also have some undiscovered goodies waiting to be discovered. I’m referring to the unused features of the church database or website CMS you use every day. It’s likely that each of your church’s software solutions has extra features that would prove quite useful in your ministry, but they’ve been left unopened, as it were.
Who has the time to explore all those features?
Someone once said, tongue in cheek, “I don’t have time to stop and sharpen my axe—I have too many trees to cut down!” Obviously, sharper tools make the work easier. When I’m doing yard work, the time I take to stop and sharpen the tools is well worth it. The same benefit comes from taking the time to go deeper into your software’s features and sharpen your skills in using them.
Think about it this way. If you’re already taking the time to do something one way, isn’t it worth taking the time to learn a better way?
Extend your learning curve
Providers usually help you to get started quickly using their products, because they know most users don’t want to wade through a long manual before they start using the tool. “What a perfect evening to curl up with a good instruction manual!” said no one, ever.
But many users never go past the basics. They cut their learning curve short and never go back to discover what more their church software can do.
You may not aspire to being a “power user” of a particular solution, but you don’t have to stop at the bare essentials, either—especially when investing a little more time to learn more advanced functions could save you much more time down the road.
Where to find the how-to
Most reputable software providers give you ample online, video, and print resources to learn their solution and stay up to date. Regardless of the medium, you’ll benefit by staying current with your software. If it’s a great product from a strong company, it will evolve over time.
Used the Elexio Help webpages lately? See what’s new, learn a new feature!
Video tutorials are quite popular. Some churches use video streaming to share their experience with a particular software solution—say, a website creation program. Even though they may have created the help videos for their own use, these tutorials can benefit other churches who are working through similar issues. Check sites like YouTube and Vimeo for some of these practical helps.
- Workshop & training sessions
Consider attending a workshop or signing up for online training geared toward helping you get the most out of a particular software solution. Those few hours you invest could pay off in much greater efficiency.
Struggling with a particular feature? Sign up anytime for our Q&A sessions.
- Don’t forget to ask the experts
It’s easy to get stuck in the way you’ve always done things, and this can keep you from exploring and adopting new procedures and best practices.
Most of today’s providers are willing to roll up their sleeves, understand the challenge, and propose a solution. Ask them if they have solution experts who can come to you and provide some insight in a face-to-face setting.
Interested in an onsite ChMS bootcamp? Contact us.
It’s a matter of stewardship
Many users only tap into a fraction of their software’s capabilities. But that doesn’t mean those unused features are superfluous. The software providers have put a great deal of effort into analyzing the needs of the church and creating solutions that make ministry much easier, so it’s worth exploring your software’s capabilities.
This may seem counterintuitive, but skillful use of advanced features can free up time and allow you to spend more time connecting with those God has entrusted to you.
Making the most of what God has given us is a biblical value. You already have the tools, and you’re already spending the time using them for the Master. Even an hour or two spent exploring your software’s features could make you an even more effective and faithful steward of God’s gifts.
What shortcuts or features have you discovered that have been a great help to you?
by Arron Chambers
I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop for an interview with a local reporter about our church and our church’s love for our community.
When the reporter asked where I wanted to meet, without hesitation I said, “The Blue Mug.”
It’s my favorite coffee shop. I’m here about six times a week for meetings and to write sermons. They get a lot of my money (i.e. I pay to go there.) and devotion because they are really good at what they do.
As I’m sitting here at a place I love, I’ve started reflecting on what makes The Blue Mug my favorite coffee shop because I also think these qualities are the same qualities that could make any church someone’s favorite church.
Here you go.
Why The Blue Mug is a My Favorite Coffee Shop and How Your Church Can Become Someone’s Favorite Church:
1) They know my name.
It’s nice to be called by name. It makes me feel special. Are you, as a church leader, working diligently to make sure that everyone who visits or regularly attends your church has someone who knows his/her name?
2) They serve a really good product.
I wouldn’t come to The Blue Mug if their coffee wasn’t good. Is you church producing a really good “product”? We never compromise on presenting the truth of God’s word. That being said, I believe it’s important to present that truth in an excellent way.
3) The environment is conducive to fellowship.
The Blue Mug was designed to encourage small group interaction. There are a variety of tables, chairs, and couches–all arranged for a small group of people to be together. I believe small groups are the heart and soul of any healthy and growing church. Does your church have a physical and/or philosophical structure that facilitates people interacting in small groups?
4) The environment also allows for privacy.
I’m by myself right now. No one is within 20 feet of me. I picked a chair in a corner because I needed some space to talk to the reporter privately when he arrives. I think it’s important for churches to also provide ample space and time for people to be alone with God.
5) The managers and staff talk to me–and everybody who comes in.
This is one of the first things that brought me back to The Blue Mug. It was brand new when I first started coming and the owners went out of their way to meet me and invite me back. I felt really special, but they do that to everybody. Even though I know they make money by selling coffee, it’s obvious to me that Art and Karla (the owners) are not really in the coffee business; they are in the people business. Last week, when I was in the hospital, they sent me free coffee every day (by way of my staff). On Monday, when I saw them, they asked if they could pray with me. What is your church doing to make people know they are special? Is your church in the sermon, Sunday School, and worship production business, or is your church in the people business?
6) They are very friendly.
Ask anyone who comes to The Blue Mug regularly and they will tell you the same thing: It’s a friendly place. Is your church a friendly place? In my experience, I’ve come to the opinion that being a friendly church is more than just having friendly people; it’s about having intentionally friendly people. In one of my ministries, I was hurt when I asked a guest his first impression of our church and he replied, “You are very friendly…but only to each other. No one, except you, has spoken to me.” Ever since that conversation, I’ve done all I can to make sure that any church I serve makes it a point to be friendly to guests and not just each other.
7) They always thank me for coming.
When I walk out the door in a few moments, Victoria will speak out, “Thanks for coming, Arron.” Does your church make guests feel, not only welcomed, but wanted? Does your church go out of its way to thank guests for visiting? Our church, like many other churches, gives guests a nice gift when they visit because we are so thankful that they chose to come to visit Journey.
8) They serve people really well.
They work diligently to make sure your order is taken and prepared properly. If it’s not right, they’ll make it right. If it’s something that needs to be prepared or if they are really busy and backed up, they bring your coffee, pastry, or whatever you order to your table. They even will often clean up my stuff for me while I’m in a meeting. They go out of their way to serve their guests. Does your church serve people well? People who visit? People in your community?
9) They play really good music.
Atmosphere is really important. It’s so important that entire companies exist just to produce the music that is played in department stores, restaurants, and elevators. Does your church give any thought to its atmosphere? At Journey we are very intentional with the type of music we use to facilitate worship singing because we know how important it is. We are also very intentional with the music we play before and between the services. I won’t say anymore about church worship music here because I’m not in the mood to stir up and deal with any drama. I’m listening to Nora Jones and she has me in a really good emotional place and I’m not going to let your griping and complaining about how much you hate the music your worship minister plays ruin my mood. You guys need to find your own favorite coffee place, drink some coffee, and work that our yourselves.
10) They accept everyone as they are.
The Blue Mug has no dress code. There’s no social code either. All are welcomed. Right now, it’s occupied with many different types of people: a pierced college student, an attractive 60ish-yr-old woman in a fancy dress, a woman who looks like a mom, a guy in skinny jeans who is probably a worship minister somewhere, a middle-aged man who looks like he just finished a round of golf, and a preacher in jeans, Sketchers, and a Florida Christian College volleyball t-shirt. Is your church the kind of place where people are accepted as they are or are people expected to dress, talk, and vote a certain way before they will be completely welcomed into the fold? For more on my thoughts on this, I’d encourage you to read my book Eats with Sinners.
So, an interesting thing just happened. I just finished my interview for an article about why some people love Greeley and why some don’t. I was interviewed because the reporter knows, based on what our church does for this community, that I love Greeley. I do. I really love my town. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
The reporter asked me to list some of the things I love about Greeley.
The Blue Mug was on the list.
I pray that one day, when people in this town are asked to list the reasons they love living in Greeley, Colorado, Journey Christian Church is one of the things on their list.
Author bio: Who is Arron Chambers? Pastor of Journey Christian Church in Greeley, Colorado, Author, Husband of a Lovely Wife, Father of Four Kids, Evangelism Champion, Leadership Consultant, Marriage Coach, and Blogger. Find his books here: Arron’s Books