Archives For Ministry

Measuring the Intangible with 6 Symptoms of Discipleship

Ben Savage —  September 16, 2014
Guest Writer: Ben Savage

When you work with church leaders for long enough, you begin to identify common themes and challenges. I have been involved in lay leadership in several churches and have worked with hundreds of pastors over the years, and one thing they all have in common is the desire for people to engage with their church and be transformed by an encounter with Jesus.

Setting the stage for these encounters takes many forms. Each church is unique, but all face a similar challenge:

How do we measure the intangible with the observable?

Spiritual growth and engagement is largely intangible. You can’t measure someone’s growing love for and connection to God using a yardstick. So we look for the outward signs of a disciple. This is not a foolproof plan either; we all know stories of individuals who have outwardly lived “as they should” only to reveal later that there was little to no real connection to the Father.

But one big reason that this approach breaks down is simply that churches don’t have the right tools to get a full picture of someone’s engagement and connection to the church.There are many ways people can live out their faith, but here are six common signs of discipleship:

  • Connection through Prayer
    1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 – Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
  • Engagement in Scripture
    Joshua 1:8 – Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
  • Being Present
    Hebrews 10:25 – Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
  • Acts of Service
    Isaiah 58:6-8 – Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness the LORD will be your rear guard.
  • Investment in Others
    Ephesians 4:11-13 – So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
  • Worship through Generosity
    Deuteronomy 16:17 – Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.

Arundel Christian Church, through the use of effective processes and a unifying church management system, measures people’s engagement and discovers effective ways to deepen their involvement.

Measuring the intangible can be tough — especially without the right tools. If you are using disconnected systems to track giving, attendance, and engagement, you might be making it harder than it needs to be. Eliminating data silos in your church can help you gain a fuller picture of an individual’s personal journey and involvement. How are you measuring individual spiritual growth within your church?

For more on this, read the story of three churches that eliminated data silos and increased their ability to engage people, invest in their spiritual maturity, and empower them to participate in ministry.

Special thanks to Church Community Builder for supporting Church Relevance by sponsoring this post.

The Bible App for Kids

Kent Shaffer —  November 28, 2013

YouVersion has partnered with OneHope to release a free kids Bible app for iOS and Android devices.

The Bible App for Kids

Oven Bits developed the app and has a great behind the scenes look at the creation process.

Download the Bible App for Kids

Act Like Men Conference 2013

Kent Shaffer —  August 12, 2013

Act Like Men Conference

In 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, Paul admonishes us to, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” It is a beautiful mixture of tenderness and toughness.

This fall the Act Like Men Conference will visit three cities to encourage men to follow God with obedience, lead others with grace, wage war on their own sin, and eagerly minister to needs around them.

  • Oct 4-5 :: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  • Oct 18-19 :: Long Beach, California, USA
  • Nov 8-9 :: Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Speakers include Matt Chandler, Mark Driscoll, Greg Laurie, James MacDonald, and Eric Mason with LeCrae and Vertical Church Band leading worship. Registration is only $69 to $109, but you have to act before August 15th in order to get the early bird discount.

Powerful things can happen when a group of men get away to talk about God. As a child, I watched my own newly-saved father benefit deeply from the Walk to Emmaeus men’s retreat. His excitement for Christ set the tone in our home. And the example of him and his godly friends had a great deal of influence on my impressionable mind.

I pray that the men who are able to attend the Act Like Men Conference will have such a real encounter with God. May their hearts yield to the transformative power of God’s Word. May their hearts be reformed and their minds renewed. May their hunger for God grow insatiable. May they decrease and empty themselves to make room to be filled by more of the Holy Spirit.

If you are going by yourself or with a group of men from your church, remember that events like this are about more than just good speakers and worship music. Make sure you take the time to connect with other men. Talk about God together. Pray for one another.

To learn more about the 2013 Act Like Men Conference, visit www.ActLikeMen.com.

Special thanks to Act Like Men for supporting Church Relevance by sponsoring this post.

Half a Child and the J127 Curriculum

Kent Shaffer —  August 8, 2013

David C Cook publishing is well known for their books and music, but not many people know that they are actually a nonprofit using a considerable amount of their proceeds for global ministry.

Recognizing that orphans and hurting children need more than food, clothing, and shelter, David C Cook created Half a Child to meet children’s spiritual and emotional needs, too. James 1:27 admonishes us to “look after orphans and widows in their distress.” For Half a Child, this means working with children one-on-one and ministering to their unique circumstances.

When people talk about orphans, they talk about adoption, but the sad reality is that most orphans will never be adopted. We must not forget to care for them, particularly those who have been abandoned, abused, or betrayed.

Half a Child J127 Curriculum

J127 Curriculum

After the Haiti earthquake, David C Cook noticed that trauma counselling distinguished the Christians from other humanitarian groups. Through focus groups across India, they also learned that childhood counselling is one of the major missing pieces.

So in response, they created J127, a curriculum for the developing world by the developing world. It is designed for 8 to 11-year-old orphans and features almost 500 sessions (3 times per week for 3 years). It weaves Christian teaching beautifully with collegiate-level counselling approaches but all in a way that is easy for kids to understand.

Currently, it is being extensively tested in India using trained and paid workers.

However, variations of it are also being used by the Church of Uganda (12 million members) and by 17 denominations in Bangladesh, including Presbyterians, Baptists, Pentecostal, Anglicans, The Salvation Army, and Reformed churches. They change the culture but not the theology of the program for each country. In fact, J127 functions well across global denominations and theologies. Rarely, has theology been an issue.

The intellectual property for the J127 curriculum is free of charge. However, those wishing to use it must be willing to be trained in how to use it and willing to share in the cost of printing and distribution. This customized curriculum approach involves teacher training, cultural tweaks, new lessons based on needs (i.e., lessons on child sacrifice in Africa), and rebranding if necessary.

The Story of Jesus in Korea

The Story of Jesus

Half a Child also distributes a simple comic version of The Story of Jesus. In fact, they’ve already distributed over 30 million copies of it through 1-on-1 relationships.

While certainly challenging, it is exciting to see that is possible to raise the bar for 1-on-1 discipleship and still have high numbers.

You can learn more about these initiatives and how to get involved at GlobalChurch.com.

70 Creative Church Set Designs

Craig Van Korlaar —  July 23, 2013

Creative Church Stage Designs List

We’ve updated our list of creative church set designs, which includes:

  • 9 new stages for 2013
  • 10 new stages for 2012
  • 1 new stage for 2011
  • 1 new stage for 2010
  • 1 new stage for 2009

Church set designs are becoming increasingly popular with the rise of creative sermons and multi-sensory worship experiences.

Environment can have a remarkable influence over how people feel, behave, and learn. So while nothing replaces the power of preaching the gospel and God’s Word, a creative church set design can help make a sermon more memorable and create an atmosphere that is more worshipful, reflective, and in awe of God.

View the list of creative church stage designs.

Global Perspectives from Ministry Leaders

Kent Shaffer —  October 15, 2012

At the Global:Church Forum, the pre-conference also hosted a panel discussion with ministry leaders featuring Menchit Wong of Compassion International, Stephan Baumann of World Relief, Sarah Davis of Ravi Zacharias Global Ministries, Jeff Lee of Wycliffe Bible Associates, Ajith Fernando of Youth for Christ, and Oscar Muriu of Nairobi Chapel.

From a ministry leader perspective, what does partnership with donors look like?

Fernando: There are different levels of partnership. Ideally, it is a spiritual fellowship where there is an interplay of each one giving from their riches to another. You may give to the poor, but they may teach you about prayer because they tend to be good at it.

Davis: Alignment is key to good partnership. Ideally a donor gives to something that matches their passions.

Wong: Partnership is a relationship not a transaction. We realized that for it to be genuine, it must be a relationship. If we have a common vision that God has given us, we must stretch ourselves together. A partnership must be mutually respectful.

Baumann: Partnership in its fully iteration is very messy if it is relational. At the same time, some partnerships are meant to be just transactional, and that’s okay. We’ve chosen to get messy with specific donors.

Lee: Transformational partnership is like a marriage. You aren’t always going to like each other. Time equals intimacy. It takes time, builds on core values, educates, and leads to participation. True partnership happens when everyone involved is changed.

Muriu: As a local pastor in the middle of Africa, I would define partnership as against the paradigm of 1 Corinthians 12. (1) Partnership is a relationship where we are one. How do we build trust? Trust becomes the fuel that lets us move forward. (2) Partnership is also an interdependent relationship that brings different types of equity to the table – financial, spiritual, relationally, etc. We must value what each person brings to the table. It will not be healthy if one equity is esteemed higher than another. (3) A partnership must build reciprocity into it. If one partner receives, receives, and receives and never has an opportunity to give, it will lead to co-dependency. It creates entitlement. (4) We must allow the receiver to have some way to give back. A partnership must not be built upon guilt. (5) A partnership must have humility that postures itself to learn before it offers to teach.

What does the West need to learn in building partnership?

Fernando: Funding is easy to find for things that pull at the heart strings, so there is a great fear that what people like to give is what will be given regardless of if it meets the biggest needs. Fighting hunger often trumps spreading the gospel.

Wong: The people in the West have watches, but they don’t have time. People in the West are in a hurry for results, but transformation cannot happen overnight. We destroy the integrity of a person’s life if we demand for change overnight. We would not demand that our own children develop so quickly, but we expect ministries to produce impossible results. Even when the money is gone, the fruits of the work are in the people resources.

Muriu: People in the South want to spend time on relationships and the Northerners want quick results. We need to learn from each other. You don’t do real transformation by tomorrow. Child trafficking is not going to go away overnight. If you want to stop it, it will be a 50 year program. If you want to reach people groups, you are in a 100 year program. So just relax and recognize that it will take time, but also recognize it is about an agenda and not just relationships.

Lee: People from the developing world don’t say, “We don’t have what they have!” They just have fun and make the most of what they have. You have to spend time in culture. In Korea, white American men have the hardest time adapting because they only try to adapt for a short while before going back to their habits. Don’t give up. Keep adapting.

Baumann: When my family learned to create relationships without agenda while living in Africa, I learned to lay down the dominance of my culture (white Westerner) and embrace repentance. I think it is time for the global South to rise to greater heights, but it is not an either/or. It is God’s Kingdom.

What is the one thing you want to tell people who want to work towards better global ministry?

Wong: It is an exciting time for donors to get out of a checkbook mentality and look to get engaged. That’s really where the transformation and epiphany happens. Donors make us more accountable.

Lee: Leave room for the mystery of God to speak to you. Be vulnerable. Vulnerability is attractive. Vulnerability will create grace for our faults.

Fernando: Strategy is a wonderful idea, but define strategy biblically. What is strategy biblically ca seem the opposite to society. Very often when we are thinking of strategic initiatives, it often involves taking people away from their role and placing them in a strategic job. But this doesn’t reflect the Kingdom value of commitment. We need to model commitment.

Muriu: (1) It was hard enough doing mission and partnerships when they were just generous. But now that some want to be strategic, who decides what is strategic? It can lead to power struggles. The one who holds the purse strings decides what is strategic. (2) The most effective transformational movements I know are very small. And one of the dangers of working with Western donors is they want to scale things up. When you scale some ministries up, you destroy them. (3) Fifty years from now what will be left? What will be left standing? I am keen to ask what can we do that will continue to be a blessing to the Kingdom 50 years from today.

Davis: The shift of donors becoming is strategic is exciting as long as it keeps you on track with your vision and your mission.

Baumann: Set the agenda together, but let the local leaders lead that conversation.

 

How to Fund the Future Global Church

Kent Shaffer —  October 15, 2012

At the Global:Church Forum, the pre-conference began with a moderated panel discussion on ministry funding featuring David Wills of National Christian Foundation,Glen Hartson of SRG, Lauren Cloete of the Mergon Foundation, and Kn Moy of Masterworks.

With the growth of the global South and more and more ministries developing in the world around us (outside of the USA), how does the role of funders from the West change?

Wills: People are realizing that the West is not the only place to get funds. From a global resource standpoint, God is working from the top down and bottom up. These are environments where funding is indigenously being raised up without needing funding from the West.

Hartson: Through globalization, people are beginning to have a better understanding of where the pockets f the unreached are. Most of the current models are not workable models. The Far East has very significant wealth, but they don’t have the history of the Western Church of using the same model for 100 years. The Far East model currently doesn’t have the hurdles that Western Christians use to filter who gets donations.

Cloete: We are trying to be led by the Holy Spirit and not limiting ourselves to only investing in specific niches. We look for areas that lack resources.

Moy: There is something that the global South and East offer us as different models for doing Church and ministry. With some models, money becomes less important.

What is a good definition of partnership that uses Biblical values?

Cloete: Everyone brings something to the table. We may bring funding, but we can’t do the work in the trenches. It doesn’t make either of us better. Also, there is a sense that you want to have shared values. It is changing from a donor-focused approach to a steward-focused approach. What we are stewarding and allocating isn’t our own. We’ve had to learn hard lessons, and we’ve had to learn we’ve been wrong.

Hartson: There are more funders that are looking at funding as a mosaic. The world is now flat. Westerners do not have the impact that the thought they had. If they want to be successful then (1) it has to be God’s vision, and (2) you have to be vulnerable and leave your ego.

Wills: I wonder how long will it be before the West has the needs that the rest of the world used to have. We are seeing interesting trends like (1)  ministry-to-ministry collaboration like never before and (2) funders collaborating with funders and (3) even funders getting together with ministries to strategize together.

Moy: Collaboration works better than partnership. Partnership tends to get hung up on if we believe the same things. Collaboration pools resources for a goal but doesn’t wrestle with shared beliefs as much. If you want to move quickly, define things loosely as a collaboration.

Let’s talk about power. There is an idea that the funder has the power, but what is the truth?

Wills: Healthy funders level the playing field. If both sides come to learn and listen, things get accomplished.

Hartson: People say it is not personal it is business. But it can be both very personal as well as business. Some donors want to be very involved and invest their skills while others don’t want to be involved at all.

Cloete: Being a donor is an absolute pleasure, but it is also one of the hardest parts because we cannot meet all the requests. We look for long-term relationships. In Africa, there tends to be an entitlement mentality that doesn’t want to go through the process. We want to work with humble people, and they want to have humble donors. Even though I feel compassionate, I can’t go into a group thinking that I have solutions. You can’t solve a need without understanding the culture. In some cases, the donor relationship is viewed as a marriage where the husband gives the wife money to spend money on whatever she wants. This leads to false assumptions that lack accountability. We must take time to create relationships and communicate clearly.

Moy: We are seeing huge seismic changes in how gives give and what they are expecting. The world has transitioned from donors acting like command-and-control to a world of empower-and-engaging. Donors today want to know very clearly where their money is going.

What are some specific examples of an empower-and-engage relationship? And what are some failures that we can learn from?

Wills: There is a group of givers that have partnered with a group of ministries. It is called Every Tribe Every Nation, and they are working together to put Scripture into every language. Peer-to-peer engagement is powerful, and these collaborating ministries are accomplishing powerful things.

Hartson: There are no 2 donors that are the same. Some are juiced up by information-driven executive summaries. Some get juiced up by being in the field. We learned that we must have a structure that allows flexibility to meet to different needs of each donor. But you can still have structure over this to manage it all, but you need to have a one-on-one relationship with donors. Don’t have a one size fits all approach.

Cloete: Don’t let the relationship break down. Sometimes this happens just because you didn’t spend enough time investing in the relationship before you partner. Don’t rush vetting a relationship, or you may be stuck funding a ministry that never grows.

Moy: Yes, you need face-to-face flesh time with each high level donor, but when you have thousands of donors you can’t spend time with each one of them. However, you can make them feel like they have a relationship with the organization. As an organization, don’t treat people like all you care about is their money. God’s way is not to burnout donors.

What is one thing you would like ministry leaders who are seeking funding to know?

Moy: Boomers. That generation control 80% of all wealth and half of all disposable income. Boomers that give to charities are more generous than any other generation. It is an awakening for them. If you have limited resources to focus attention on donors, prioritize Boomers. But realize that engaging donors is different than engaging other generations. Their generation will reinvent how organizations engage donors because what worked for the Silent Generation doesn’t work for them.

Hartson: You have to have respect for others. I think the Boomers haven’t been addressed. Too much attention has gone to the previous generation. Boomers are looking for relevancy and impact, but in many cases what we don’t give them credit for is that they have time and resources other than money that they want to invest. At the same time, we cannot forget about the next generation. The Christian community is way behind the curve of engaging the next generation. Yes, the resources are at the Boomers, but the Boomers can also be the key to engaging the next generation because they are relationally connected.

Cloete: Identify donors that specialize in your area. Don’t create a sense of competition. Focus on working together. If you are looking for funding, don’t harass and don’t expect. Understand that each funding organization has its own personality, so get to know them and build relationships. Please pray for funders. They don’t have it all together. Sometimes they get stuck in their ways. They need to feel like they are part of your process in Kingdom building.

Wills: Don’t go at it alone. Be able to immediately answer who you are collaborating with and how you are doing it. Speak with urgency and momentum.

The White Umbrella by Mary Frances Bowley

Kent Shaffer —  October 8, 2012

For those of you with a burden to help victims of trafficking, consider checking out The White Umbrella by Mary Frances Bowley and Moody Publishers.

1 in 4 women have been abused by the time they reach adulthood. The White Umbrella tells stories of survivors as well as those who came alongside to help them to recovery.