Filling Seats on Your Bus

If you lead any type of organization — company, church, or department — you probably have an organizational chart of some sort. It’s one of those necessary structures that help delineate chain of command and channels of communication, among others.

When I first began leading a church (a typical organization in many ways), I was encouraged to envision the org chart 5 – 10 years down the road. What departments would be necessary? What divisions? How many layers? How many staff? I even went as far as putting my name in most of the “open” positions in this hypothetical org chart. Visually, it looked impressive and strategic. Personally, it just looked like I had too much to do!

I think this is a valuable exercise for every leader. If you’ve never done it, you should. But a few years into leading at Woodstock City Church, this exercise created quite the conundrum.

Here’s the dilemma I began to ponder:

Is it better to start with the org chart in place so you can then find the right people for each box, or is it better to find the right people and build the organization around them?

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11 Lessons from Announcing our Name Change

If you’re a leader, you’ve had to make and then announce a big decision before. How’d it go? I bet like me you learned a lot in the process.

At the church where I lead, we just announced we are changing the name of our church from Watermarke Church to Woodstock City Church. If you’re not in the world of church, you should know this is a big decision and a big announcement. It’s the equivalent of changing a company name where the name is the product. This change could be problematic in any size church, but with over 5,000 people attending our church every Sunday, our scale increases the possibility of resistance and complication.

Interestingly, with all the potential pitfalls of an announcement of this magnitude, thus far we have received nothing but praise on the heels of going public. Why? Well, partially due to the name we are leaving — Watermarke Church. Why the silent “e?” What does it mean? Well, nothing really. The silent “e” was added to avoid a potential lawsuit (very Christian-like, huh?).

But the real reason this change has been so well received is because of our approach.

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Creating Continuous Church Growth Through Steps, Not Programs

This is Part 5 of a blog series on Creating Continuous Growth in Your Church.

SERIES SUMMARY:

Every church leader facing a growth barrier desperately wants to break through, because every church leader, including me, desires a growing, thriving church. Not because church attendance is the only measure of success, but because increasing attendance is proof that people are being reached.

Here is a question I’ve begun to ask: What if instead of just breaking through a specific barrier we were able to barrier-proof our church? Pause for a moment and imagine never hitting a growth barrier again.

I believe barrier-proofing is possible for every church in any denomination, and that’s exactly what we are going to evaluate in this blog series.

I have uncovered 6 specific ingredients to create continuous growth in your church. In this post, we are going to look at the fourth ingredient:

Ingredient 4: PRIORITIZING STEPS OVER EVENTS AND PROGRAMS

The concept of “thinking steps, not programs” is ingrained in our ministry model. By nature we try to define where people are, where we want them to be, and how we can get them there. Programs and events don’t effectively achieve this goal. Easy, obvious, and logical steps, however, do.

As a church location of North Point Ministries, this serves as one of our Seven Practices of Effective Ministry. A simple Google search will provide you with more than enough information on this ministry model practice. In this post, I want to instead discuss why this approach is critical to barrier-proofing the church.

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5 Ways to Better Understand Your Unchurched Community

This is Part 3 of a blog series on Creating Continuous Growth in Your Church.

SERIES SUMMARY:

Every church leader facing a growth barrier desperately wants to break through, because every church leader, including me, desires a growing, thriving church. Not because church attendance is the only measure of success, but because increasing attendance is proof that people are being reached.

I’d like to ask a better question: What if instead of just breaking through a specific barrier we were able to barrier-proof our church? Pause for a moment and imagine never hitting a growth wall again.

I believe barrier-proofing is possible for every church in any denomination, and that’s exactly what we are going to evaluate in this blog series.

I have discovered 6 specific ingredients to create continuous growth in your church. In this post, we are going to look at the second ingredient:

Ingredient 2: KNOWING YOUR TARGET MARKET.

I spent a decade in the marketplace before transitioning into ministry. Most of those years were spent in marketing, specifically working with companies to better acquire new customers and increase the frequency of visits and/or purchases from current customers. As a business, that is how you increase revenue. It’s fundamental.

In the church, the same premise is true. We can grow attendance by reaching new people or increasing the frequency of our current attendees. The latter would make numbers look better and probably help each individual spiritually grow, but the Kingdom would not grow. And capital “K” Kingdom growth, not simply my church growth, is the real goal.

Therefore, to state the obvious, growth through sheep stealing is not good growth. If people leave another church to attend our church, the Kingdom does not win.

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6 Ingredients to Create Continuous Growth in Your Church

Every church leader facing a growth barrier desperately wants to break through, because every church leader, including me, desires a growing, thriving church. Not because church attendance is the only measure of success, but because increasing attendance is proof that people are being reached.

If that is true, then breaking through barriers is important. But, what if instead of just breaking through a specific barrier we were able to barrier-proof our church? Pause for a moment and imagine never hitting a growth wall again.

I believe barrier-proofing is possible for every church in any denomination, and that’s exactly what we are going to evaluate in this blog series.

Part 1: The 6 Ingredients to Barrier-Proof Your Church:

Have you ever been stalled by a growth barrier?

There are few things church leaders face more frustrating than being stuck at a number—any number!

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The Power of Proximity

Have you ever been passed over simply because you were not around when opportunity came?

Don’t feel bad—it’s the power of proximity, and it’s a normal function of organizational life. Those closest to the point leader often find themselves with the most opportunities. Not necessarily because they are the most talented, or the most capable, or even the best fit, but because they are there.

I’ll go ahead and say it for you: “That doesn’t seem fair.” It’s not, but neither is life, which doesn’t make anyone feel better, but nevertheless is still true.

Obviously, there are some drawbacks to proximity, but for a driven, young leader, the advantages typically far outweigh the disadvantages. Young leaders want new challenges and opportunities. They want to learn through experience and be coached on their performance. They want to better understand and contribute to the bigger picture, and there is no picture bigger than that carried by the point leader. Being near him or her matters.

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6 Strategies to Succeed in Portable Church (Discovering Permanent Success in a Portable Church, Part 3)

AT A GLANCE…

Read this if…
You are a church leader or church attender in a portable church environment looking for ways to help ensure success.

This post in one sentence…
Six specific ways we have learned to succeed in a portable church environment.


HERE WE GO…

As a church leader, I’ve spent the better part of my professional Christian life in portable church. I’ve learned a lot, made some mistakes, found some advantages, and experience success without a building. In the previous two posts, we discussed portable church challenges and opportunities. Let’s close this conversation by looking at the best ways to succeed in a portable context.


BRING ON THE PIPE AND DRAPE!

Any opportunity, regardless of size or potential, is worthless when not leveraged. In the world of portable church, this is certainly true. So many church leaders (and attendees) allow the challenges of portable church to overwhelm the possibilities. In some cases, I’ve even seen pastors lose their passion for the church in the face of portable challenges.

But being a portable church does not have to be a necessary evil while waiting for your own building. There are ways to make the portable church succeed, and in doing so, possibly influence more people toward Jesus than you could if you owned a building.

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6 Opportunities a Portable Church Provides (Discovering Permanent Success in a Portable Church, Part 2)

AT A GLANCE…

Read this if…
You are a church leader or church attender in a portable church environment.

This post in one sentence…
If we can see through the challenges of portable church, we can discover the many opportunities portable provides.


As a church leader, I’ve spent the better part of my professional Christian life in portable church. I’ve learned a lot, made some mistakes, found some advantages, and experience success without a building. In the previous post, we talked about portable church challenges. But there are also opportunities, and ways to succeed.

Let’s look at some portable church opportunities now, and then we can evaluate how to succeed as a portable church in the next post.


LOVING YOUR PORTABLE CHURCH

When you are in the midst of set up and tear down every week, it’s easy to forget there are advantages and opportunities that come with the territory. They are not readily evident at 5:30 a.m. when trailers are being delivered or at 3:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon as the tear down process concludes, but they are there. And when we look close enough, they become evident.

Like most difficulties in life, though, the frustrations and challenges of portable church can mentally and physically outweigh the opportunities portable provides. So before you get too frustrated with your portable challenges, consider these opportunities:

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How to Reach the Unchurched Right Now.

How can your church reach unchurched people right now?

That question is mission-critical as a church.

It stands to reason investigating churches already finding success with unchurched people would be a great start. After all, if they have cracked the code, we can just borrow the combination. So most church leaders set off to investigate and learn from the best. We attend services at other churches. We go to conferences. We go to more conferences. We read books. We read more books. We network our way into mentoring relationships with leaders we respect.

An in our investigations, we inevitably see massive production in church services. We experience the GREAT preaching. We take copious notes at each conference. Then we return to our church, under our leadership, with our resources, with our staff… and reality sets in. We think: “If I can’t do what they do, I’ll never reach who they reach.

And therein lies the issue with our investigation and learning exercises. Of course, learning from other successful churches is helpful and we should all prioritize learning from others, but relatively speaking, the only successful churches reaching the unchurched community we know about are mega-churches. We can study mega-churches all we want, but without the resources, leadership, and staff of a mega-church, replicating their execution is impossible.

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Tip 9. Making Church Easy to Attend (Shutting The Back Door in Your Church, Blog Series)

In this blog series, I’ve identified 9 tips to help keep people from leaving your church (i.e., shutting the back door). Here is the last tip:

TIP 9. Make Church Easy to Attend.

How easy is it for people to attend your church?

If you have a growing church (and you will if you shut the back door and keep people from leaving), odds are it’s getting more and more difficult to attend. Sometimes we don’t notice this as an issue, because when I arrive at church two hours before our first service begins, the parking lot is pretty open! But ask any of our 11:00 a.m. service attenders and they will paint a better picture. Maybe a disturbing picture.

At Watermarke, when we had a few hundred people, parking, checking-in children, finding seats, and all our other church activities was relatively easy. Actually, it was way too easy (more on that later). But as we began to grow, things became more complicated. The more we grew, the more complicated attending our church became.

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