Archives For Leadership

Ticketing Software Helps Churches Save Time & Money (free whitepaper)

Kent Shaffer —  October 24, 2013

Every year in the United States, countless churches gear up in the fall for Christmas services, plays, concerts, and other big holiday events. But it is more than just pageantry.

People are more likely to attend church around Christmas and Easter, and many churches have found that special events are one of the best ways to turn this likelihood into a reality.

This doesn’t mean that every church needs to run off and start planning a big production. God will reach people through hundreds of ways this Christmas. But if your church is planning a special event this year, consider using ticketing software.

Special events require extra manpower and effort. But some churches have learned the workload can be eased with the right technology.

Last fall, ACTIVE Faith offered a free case study about Phoenix First Assembly of God’s success in using ServiceU ticketing software for their Christmas event.

This year ACTIVE Faith has bundled 3 more church case studies in a free whitepaper – 6 Reasons Online Ticketing Should be your Best Friend for Community Outreach.

Benefits of Ticketing Software

Ticketing software is a versatile tool that offers both convenience and efficiency. Here are 4 key benefits:

  • Easy Access: Offering tickets online and at a box office makes it easier to get tickets, which often boosts attendance.
  • Better Coordination: ServiceU’s ticket management provides early attendance forecasts, which helps churches more effectively staff and plan their events as well as determine if additional performances should be added.
  • Streamlined Process: Great software saves time and alleviates brain strain by automating things quickly, reducing box office bottlenecks, and reducing mistakes.
  • Free Up Staff to Love on People: Because ServiceU streamlines administrative tasks, churches are able to reduce their ticketing staff members and free up more staff to be able to interact with and love on attendees.

Download ACTIVE Faith’s free whitepaper – 6 Reasons Online Ticketing Should be your Best Friend for Community Outreach

Special thanks to ACTIVE Faith for supporting Church Relevance by sponsoring this post.

How to Blog 101 – The Ultimate Beginner’s Blogging Tutorial

Kent Shaffer —  October 15, 2013
Updated version of an earlier article.

I regularly get asked questions about how to start and maintain a successful blog. Here is my beginner’s blogging tutorial – How to Blog 101.

#1 :: CHOOSE A BLOGGING PLATFORM

I recommend self-hosting your blog and using WordPress. It the most popular platform among Technorati’s top 100 blogs and among Church Relevance’s top church blogs. Tumblr is on a major growth trajectory and is especially popular with teens and 20-somethings.

Self-Hosted Blogging Software:

Blogging Services (hosting provided):

Other options include LiveJournal, Blog.com, Weebly, and Wix (these last two are really websites with blog options).

#2 :: FIND A DOMAIN (if allowed)

As long as it is relevant, the shorter the domain is the better. A short domain is quick and easy to type, which will save you time in the long run and reduce the probability of you and your visitors mistyping it. Some of the tools

#3 :: DESIGN YOUR BLOG

Being a web designer or hiring one is no longer necessity. WordPress has thousands of template designs for sale and for free that are not too complicated to implement. If you are just starting out with blogging, we typically recommend finding an inexpensive theme/template (under $50). If you are just starting out, but do have a design budget, we typically recommend spending it on branding (logo and brand usage guidelines) rather than development.

Free WordPress Themes

Note: Most website themes also have a blog-as-home option.

Premium WordPress Themes

#4 :: USE TOOLS

WordPress is a great platform, but there are tools and plugins that can make it even better. I recommend at least using the following tools:

  • Google Analytics – free stats about where your visitors come from and how they interact with your site
  • Akismet Plugin – tracks spammers and helps keep them off your blog
  • WordPress SEO by Yoast – The first true all-in-one SEO solution for WordPress, including on-page content analysis, XML sitemaps and much more.
  • WWW Redirect – Redirects variations of identical domain requests to a consistent uri (i.e. http://abc.com to http://www.abc.com )
  • Redirection – Manage all your 301 redirects and monitor 404 errors
  • WordPress Database Backup Plugin – easily backup your core WordPress database

Other Tools:

  • ClickTale – provides movies and heatmaps of your visitors’ actual browsing sessions
  • Crazy Egg – supplement your analytics with stunning visuals and actionable data
  • Creative Commons – easily mark your work with copyright freedoms
  • Wufoo – Online form builder with cloud storage database.
  • PollDaddy – create free online surveys and polls for your blog

#5 :: HAVE QUALITY CONTENT

An aesthetically well-designed blog may entice visitors to linger for the first visit, but quality content is what will get those visitors to keep coming back. If you need topics, visit these resources:

  • Google Alerts – Emails from google containing the latest content on keywords of your choice
  • Reddit – users decide the top stories
  • Digg – discover and share content from anywhere on the web
  • Pinterest – A tool used to collect and organizing images of things you love.
  • StumbleUpon – discovers web sites based on your interests
  • Flipboard (iOS and Android)
  • Alltop – an “online magazine rack” of popular topics

#6 :: STUDY BLOGGING

If you want people to read your quality content, study the science of successful blogging and copywriting. Writing for a blog is different than writing for a book or magazine. My advice:

Unless you are blogging for personal reasons, focus on optimizing the reader experience. Offer only quality content. And make it scannable by using short paragraphs, bold text, and bullet points. Use as few words as possible without compromising quality (needless words waste readers’ time). And if possible, post consistently often.

Blogging Tips:

#7 :: MARKET YOURSELF

With blogging, two of your most powerful marketing opportunities are Search Engine Optimization and leveraging social media. Last year, 57% of ChurchRelevance.com’s traffic came from search engines. You should be using these resources:

  • Google Keyword Tool – discover which keywords and phrases are searched for the most. I use this often. In fact, three highly-searched keyphrases are in this post’s title.
  • Facebook – a popular social network likely used by many readers (follow me)
  • LinkedIn – a popular social network for professionals (follow me)
  • Twitter – stay hyperconnected to readers with this microblogging tool (follow me)
  • Google+ – the second largest social network which factors into Google’s search algorithms
  • Pinterest – A tool used to collect and organizing images of things you love.
  • Social Media Posting Guide - For regular people that do not have unlimited resources and time

WHAT ELSE?

Remember this is just the beginner’s blogging tutorial. But if you read all of these links, you will be on your way to becoming a blogging expert.

If you are already blogging, what would you add to this list?
What are your favorite tools?
What is your best advice?

7 Critical Areas for Church Security (free ebook)

Kent Shaffer —  May 22, 2013

We hear stories of shootings, child abusers, and natural disasters, but what should we do when they come to church? ACTIVE Faith has a free ebook exploring some practical steps.

We need to approach this with biblical wisdom. We cannot and should not ever underestimate the power of prayer. We must pray against opposition from both spiritual warfare and mankind’s sinfulness. I believe prayer thwarts harm more often than we realize.

We agree on prayer for safety, but what is our responsibility to prepare for safety?

The story of Nehemiah is one of prayer, pragmatism, and faith. In Nehemiah 4:7-20, foreign nations despised the Israelites and planned to harm them, but the Israelites sought God in prayer, posted guards, and rebuilt the city walls while trusting God to fight for them if trouble came.

Nehemiah 4:7-20
(8) And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. (9) And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.

(15) When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. 16 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, (17) who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. (18) And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me. (19) And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. (20) In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

I love that Nehemiah and the Israelites sandwiched their responsibility between prayer and faith. They asked God, did what they could, and trusted God to do they rest. They weren’t lazy. They didn’t invite trouble. And they certainly did not have a false sense of security. Instead, they realized that God was the key to safety.

Pastors need to spiritually and physically protect the congregation just like a shepherd protects his flock.

This doesn’t mean that we go to an extreme by shutting ourselves off from the world in order to be safer. We are called to be in the world but not of it, and that comes with risks and sometimes violent persecution. At that same time, we shouldn’t wrecklessly go out looking for trouble. We must be Spirit-led in our outreach and in protecting the flock.

7 Critical Areas for Church Security

ACTIVE Faith’s free ebook covers 7 critical areas for modern church security.

  • Background Checks
  • Check-in System
  • Disarming Friendliness
  • Emergency Action Plan
  • Triage Teams
  • Emergency Response Team Kits
  • Emergency Communications

The larger a church body becomes, the more important is to have systems in place to discourage wrong doing, prevent evil, and respond well to crisis. But in whatever you do, be sure you do it with much prayer and faith in God.

Download 7 Critical Areas for Church Security (PDF)

Special thanks to ACTIVE Faith for supporting Church Relevance by sponsoring this post.

You don’t have to be awesome. God is awesome.

Kent Shaffer —  February 18, 2013

Some pockets of Christianity create a false theology of what a pastor should be by hijacking the biblical roles of a pastor with their own cultural ideals. It is not intentional. In fact, they often agree on the biblical definition of a pastor, but their actions and culture don’t show it. Their culture perpetuates an epitome of pastors that binds them psychologically and drives their behavior.

The Bible describes a pastor as a shepherd who feeds and protects the flock and ideally knows them by name. It is an authoritative intimacy with the congregation that feeds them spiritually with preaching, teaching, and relational discipleship while nurturing, protecting, and guiding their individual spiritual journeys.

In some pockets of Christianity, we’ve stopped empowering believers to use their spiritual gifts and created a culture where the pastor is expected to be the eloquent speaker (teaching gift), the counselor (shepherd gift), the CEO (administration gift), the visionary (leadership gift), the motivator (exhortation gift), the scholar (knowledge gift), the expert (wisdom gift), the soul-winner (evangelism gift), the buddy (hospitality gift), the prayer warrior (intercession gift), the spiritualist (discernment, miracles, & faith gifts) as well as a technologist, social media maven, marketer, sex expert, financial strategist, diplomat, comedian, blogger, vlogger, and more.

When you fail to emphasize the responsibility each church member has to own and live out their spiritual gift(s) daily, the pastor will inevitably feel the need to take the responsibility of all the gifts upon his shoulders. This is impossible and unhealthy. The eye can not be a spleen.

How to Maximize Church Volunteers (free ebook)

Kent Shaffer —  January 30, 2013

As a community of believers grows, its needs new leaders raised up to handle the increased ministry needs. This is true for churches that handle growth by multiplying into new locations and for churches that keep their growth in one location.

It is the story of Acts 6:1-7. The early church was a time of growth where 5,000 men could find Christ from just one sermon (Acts 4:4). Yet we see in chapter 6, that the Greek-speaking Jewish widows became lost in the bustle of growth and were neglected. Seven men of good reputation and spiritual maturity were chosen to meet that need.

Unfortunately, raising up volunteers isn’t easy. It’s hard work. And to have Acts 6 quality volunteers takes a culture well-equipped at discipleship and cultivating spiritual maturity long before being appointed to serve.

ACTIVE Faith is offering a free ebook on “How to Maximize Church Volunteers”. It is a great primer introducing best practices of modern churches for appointing, training, and supporting church volunteers. The more you grow, the more you need structure.

Volunteer Challenges Based on Church Size

The benefit of house churches (<25 people ideally) is they have no need for volunteers to run major equipment, maintain facilities, or manage ministry operations. What volunteer needs do exist tend to happen naturally, such as greeting newcomers and watching kids.

But as a church grows, even a house church, the need for volunteers and structure increases as the ease of relationships decreases.

For example, it is said that the quality of community intimacy declines after a house church exceeds 25 people. At this size, it is less likely for everyone to take part and more difficult to know each other deeply. At around 100-230 people, we experience Dunbar’s number – our cognitive limit of being able to know who everyone is and how they relate to each other. This is a medium-sized church (51-300) that still has some relational agility but still needs structure to meet all ministry needs and appoint believers according to their gifts.

Large churches (301-1,999) often undergo intense growing pains as they learn they can no longer know everyone. It is at this size and above that we more commonly see volunteer mistakes, such as:

  • not communicating volunteer opportunities
  • lack of clear leadership
  • lack of leadership training
  • lack of accountability
  • lack of volunteer appreciation
  • haphazardly appointing volunteers (lack of necessary spiritual maturity, abilities, etc.)

By the time a church grows to be a megachurch (2,000-9,999) or gigachurch (10,000+), they’ve usually figured out structure and now must work even harder at relationships and love. If left to itself, structure and management become cold and sterile. You can’t systematize love and relationships; trying just seems artificial and disingenuous. It is a weird tension because you need structure, but true love is sloppy. This is non-negotiable. It doesn’t matter how structured and high performance you are, if you don’t have love, it is in vain (1 Corinthians 13).

So each stage comes with its own challenges. Regardless of what size you’re at, download ACTIVE Faith’s free ebook and think through if there is anything that your church needs to change.

Download: How to Maximize Church Volunteers (PDF)

Special thanks to ACTIVE Faith for supporting Church Relevance by sponsoring this post.

How to Get Things Done

Kent Shaffer —  December 13, 2012

There are a lot of books, articles, and stage talks on how to get things done. In some ways, the topic has become so romanticized in Western culture that some love the pursuit of learning about it to the extent of not having time for real productivity.

There are a slew of tips and research worth paying attention to:

Start things (that’s the hardest part). Don’t multi-task. Pick one task and focus on it for a long, uninterrupted stretch of time. Be deliberate. Break large tasks into smaller steps. Eliminate distractions like social media. Schedule your day and tasks in the morning or the evening before. Write down your long-term goals and the milestones for achieving them. Checking email too often makes you stupid. Too much data can make you stupid.

2 Reminders for Productive Ministry

Yet in the midst of a sea of how-to advice, I think it is important remember a few key things about ministry:

#1 :: God’s plan doesn’t always seem productive (or at least efficient).

Joseph’s journey from slave to Egyptian ruler wasn’t efficient. Moses waited 80 years before leading the Israelites. From a Western perspective, these timeframes seem excruciating. From a Western perspective, a few months can seem too long. There are certainly situations that need to be sprinted through, but the race Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 9 and 2 Timothy 4 is a patient marathon.

There is a big difference between being lazy and patiently working hard. At the heart of the gospel and The Great Commission is a responsibility we have to selflessly love, serve, teach, and proclaim. And almost the only way to do this is through the patient nurturing of relationships. In ministry we must fight against the desire to replace relationships entirely with big events, programs, and systems that give the appearance of results. These things are great when built upon a culture that invests in relationships, but without that relational depth, they rarely disciple people as well as we think they do.

When making disciples, do you want quantity or quality? God looks at the heart, but pursuing quality is often full of messy ups and downs that feel unproductive.

# 2 :: Do what’s most important.

The busyness of ministry always has more important things to do than you have attention to give. Focus on what is most important and trust God to take care of the rest. Focus more on God’s voice through Scripture and the Holy Spirit and less on the opinions of your church’s biggest donor or the best-selling author celebrity pastor.

My 5 Favorite Productivity Tools

I’m far from a productivity guru. I have, however, experimented with an abundance of techniques and approaches to getting things done. My workflow rhythm changes every few months, so I try to custom tailor my task management to each specific season of life. These are my 5 favorite tools from recent years:
  1. NeuYear Wall Calendar
    It helps to visualize the year’s biggest responsibilities, events, and milestones charted in one place for quick reference. It gives a sense of urgency that helps goad productivity towards the next fast-approaching deadline. It reminds me of what I need to do today to accomplish what need to be done next month. Perhaps most importantly, it’s helped me see if I am leaving enough room in my schedule to spend time with my wife and kids. I recommend the Dry Erase version of the calendar.
  2. Google Calendar
    Google Calendar weaves every aspect of my life, my family, and my workspace into one master schedule on my phone and computer.
  3. Gmail App
    Rather than using an app for notes. I write notes as an email to myself when on the go.
  4. Paper Notepad
    For daily planning and task management for a day in the office, I’ve found jotting down a quick schedule and to-do list each morning on a notepad to be the most helpful. It helps me focus on the tasks at hand by removing the clutter of future obligations. And I love the feeling of accomplishment from physically scratching off a completed task.
  5. Asana
    For long term planning and team interactions, I use Asana. It is free, less time-intensive, and a more versatile solution than popular alternatives.

For Discussion:
What are your favorite tools, tips, and techniques for productivity?

Measuring Ministry Effectiveness (free ebook)

Kent Shaffer —  November 29, 2012

Church leaders want to be good stewards of what is entrusted to them, but each generation has struggled to find an appropriate way to measure their effectiveness.

Businesses measure return on investment (ROI), but measuring return on ministry investment (ROM) is much trickier. Here’s a few reasons why:

  • The Inputs
    Healthy ministry takes more than money and heavily relies on a mix of time, money, talent, and obedience to the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. These inputs are a difficult mix to quantify.
  • The Results
    Even trickier is attempting to measure spiritual fruit – authentic conversions, maturing believers, discipleship, accountability, right heart attitudes, purity, and biblical obedience.
  • God’s Economy
    What is the most effective thing in ministry doesn’t always make rational sense. After all, God likes to use the foolish things of this world to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27). While it is good to be strategic and make wise choices in ministry, we must always be sensitive and obedient to leadings from the Holy Spirit. In other words, we must be willing to throw out our plans and programs and follow the Holy Spirit when He guides differently. Sometimes healthy and obedient ministry is reaching thousands of people, and sometimes it is spending 40 years to win one convert. What matters is obedience.

Reality is it’s impossible to measure ministry effectiveness with man-made metrics. There will always be some mystique to the way God works and what He truly defines as effective.

So how do churches measure their effectiveness?

While there will never be a perfect formula, churches have found supplemental metrics by counting attendance, finances, commitments to Christ, baptisms, small group participants, and volunteers. While not direct indicators, these metrics can be good hints as to a ministry’s health.

Some church leaders have borrowed tools from the business world, such as Harvard Business School’s Balanced Scorecard (BSC) for performance management. Nonprofits and businesses have been using the Balanced Scorecard for two decades to:

  • Align efforts with the organization’s vision and strategy
  • Improve communication internally and externally
  • Help prioritize programs and projects
  • Evaluate performance against strategic goals

Free Ebook

Ministry consultant Eric Soon has tweaked the Balanced Scorecard to better fit churches’ needs, and ACTIVE Faith is offering a free whitepaper – “Excellence in Ministry: Balanced Scorecard” – as a great introduction to using the BSC in ministry.

If your ministry is healthy and built on a strong foundation of prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit, then tools like the Ministry Balanced Scorecard can be a wonderful complement to your ministry and produce greater stewardship as long as you use it within the framework of your unique calling.

Special thanks to ACTIVE Faith for supporting Church Relevance by sponsoring this post.

Perspectives on Global Partnership

Kent Shaffer —  October 18, 2012

At the Global:Church Forum, a panel discussion shared the global partnership experiences of Ajith Fernando of Youth for Christ (Sri Lanka), Menchit Wong of Compassion International (Philippines), Oscar Murui of Nairobi Chapel (Kenya), Bishop Jospeh Garang Atem of The Episcopal Church of Sudan (South Sudan), and John Huffman of Christianity Today (USA).

What have you learned at the Global: Church Forum?

Huffman: Those of us who are givers need to be receivers and to listen for a season before talking. In fact, Westerners may be the receivers in the years ahead which will be tough.

Wong: We need to stop and reflect.

Muriu: There is a need for the Church to explore southern hemisphere to southern hemisphere partnerships.

How can leadership boards be better?

Murui: Bring the reformers in. Bring in fresh eyes that have no vested interest and can speak with honesty.

Huffman: You have to be willing to give up power in order to have global diversity. At board levels, this is a very delicate issue.

How do you maintain balance without creating power struggles?

Fernando: Come in with the perspective that God’s sovereignty is greater than us. Do not give up the idea that agreement is possible. Always punctuate meetings of conflict with prayer because it is difficult to be mean when influenced by prayer.

Atem: Give the Holy Spirit room to do His work.

Wong: Don’t call it a retreat when it is really a business meeting. We had to repent and humble ourselves before others and God. And as we set aside the business agenda and reflected spiritually, it was a time of great growth. When we pay attention to the Holy Spirit and less of ourselves, good things happen.

In some ministries there is an unspoken value of perpetuity equals success. But sometimes there are times that the work is done. How do you discern that? What are barriers to realizing it?

Huffman: If times change and a ministry model is no longer successful, you need to close it.

Fernando: What does our nation need? Is our group doing something that the nation needs? Sometimes you need to stop things. Other times you just need radical shifts.

Murui: Maybe we need to learn as Christians to work a timeline into the things we create. Without an end point, some ministries live on to drain Kingdom resources. If I was the Devil, I’d try to keep organizations alive.

Why are the majority of black Americans not investing in Africa as missionaries?

Murui: The black American Church has been asleep to missions because it is so caught up within its needs within the US culture – dysfunctional families, incarceration rates, etc. But we are beginning to see the black American Church wake up and start coming as missionaries. When we see a white come to Africa, there is some sense of suspension because of our history of colonialism. But when a black American visits, they have high credibility because Africa looks up to their music and sports athletes.

Will donors in the West start mandating organizations to start working together for strategic partnership? And should they?

Fernando: It is necessary for there to be chemistry, and you cannot mandate chemistry. I also think there is a move of the Spirit that will connect people together.

Huffman: Mainline denominations did use to mandate working together, but then they declined. What is happening now is a new paradigm of working together. The Holy Spirit is mandating us, but I don’t think it will be one-size-fits-all.

Wong: The work to be done is so big that we must have strategic partnerships, so we at least must be working towards them.

How do we help the Northern Church free itself from isolated independence and better engage in God’s mission?

Huffman: Friendship is the best way to engage and prevent isolation. These relationships are lasting. Partnership at its best comes from friendship. Not all partnerships have the luxury of 50 years of relationship first. Sometimes you have to move in fast, but always work for friendship.

Murui: There seems to be a romanticism for the West to go into extreme poverty and engage it while bypassing key churches around that poverty that would be a great help. Work with significant local organizations and treat them as equals. The Africa and India of today have changed from 50 years ago.

Wong: It is when God humbles us that we can truly experience great things. When an organization is proud of its vision, it is easy to miss the strengths of other groups. Invite other organizations into your gatherings so that you can appreciate their work. When you travel, remove your ideas and act as family. Mentioning your title can create barriers. Pray together.

Atem: Come and see, and you will know what to do.