Archives For Brian Jones

If your church has spent more than five years in an attendance range of between 290 to 490, you are stuck at the 400 barrier.

In my experience, more senior pastors reach out for help at this size range than any other. That’s because the complexity of issues they confront at this size are fundamentally different from what had to be addressed to break the 100 and 200 barriers.

If you keep bumping up against this size range, consider these five most common reasons why this might be happening.

1. The Governing Board Still Operates a Small-Church Leadership Structure

As a church grows from 100 to 400, frequently the senior pastor has changed, and the church has changed, but the governing elder board has not. To move past this barrier, the board must evolve.

I’ve written elsewhere about the by-law shift that must take place at this size, so I won’t repeat that here. Governing board members must wrestle with this question: “Are we willing to change (and even lose our positions on the board) to reach people far from God?”

2. The Senior Pastor Hasn’t Shifted from Operating as a Hands-On Pastor to a Leader…

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ChristmasChristmas Eve attendance matters because 25 percent of all your visitors for the entire year will come (or not come) on Christmas Eve.

My experience has been that only 1 out of 10 new visitors who attend a church will come back, come to Christ, and grow to full devotion. That means if you want to grow by 100 converts, 1,000 people will need to visit your services in 2016, and 250 of those will need to come on Christmas Eve.

With this in mind, here are three free (or nearly free) things you can do that will potentially double the attendance at your Christmas Eve gatherings this year.

1. Offer services at times people actually want to attend (in other words, earlier in the day)

The biggest battle I have with Senior Pastors that I coach is helping them to understand that your Christmas Eve attendance does not grow in proportion to your seating capacity, but according to the services available when people actually want to attend.

You don’t need more seats. You need more services at times people actually can or want to attend. You can have a 100,000-seat sanctuary, but it won’t make a dent…

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Last night I walked out of the room shaking my head.

God, I don’t know how you pulled this off, but this team is simply amazing.

Unified. Visionary. Encouraging. Fun. Passionate. Gifted. Transparent. Gracious. These are just a few of the words I’d use to describe the people who faithfully serve on CCV’s Leadership Team.

Your church may use a different name – Leadership Council, Governing Board, etc. – we simply use the phrase “Leadership Team” to describe the group of people called to serve the function of what the Bible calls “Elders.”

Whatever you call them, my prayer is your group is as gifted and passionate as the volunteer servant leaders I have the privilege of serving alongside. I tell senior pastors that I coach that every church ought to know the joy of being led well.

Since these kinds of things rarely happen by accident, I’d like to share with you 10 reasons why I think this team is such a special group.

  1. I’m not the smartest person in the room.
  2. I’m not the best leader in the room.
  3. I’m not the most committed Christian in the room.
  4. I’m not the oldest

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For Senior Pastors to thrive they must discover, and then operate within, the framework of their unique God-given style of doing ministry; in what I call their “Senior Pastor Archetype.”

Most leaders, I’ve discovered, spend years fighting against their natural archetype because (a) they’ve never taken the time to discover who they are, (b) the way their mentors modeled ministry for them was decidedly different than how they’re wired, and (c) people in their churches prefer the style of ministry of the leader’s predecessor (or the style of the pastor of their most recently attended church).

The secret to thriving in ministry is to figure out how God wired you for ministry and stop fighting against your natural style. Discover who you are, accept how you are wired as valid, and then shape the church you serve around who you are as a Senior Pastor. You do this and you’ll drive congregational impact and experience personal fulfillment.

After coaching dozens of people from every denomination, age, personality type, and theological perspective, I’ve found that Senior Pastors fall into one of twenty-five different Senior Pastor Archetypes.

Steps To Discovering Your Senior Pastor Archetype

There are six steps to…

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I procrastinate on writing my messages.

I plan lots of time at the beginning of my week to study and write my message but inevitably something arises leadership-wise that causes me to take the time I planned for sermon development and devote it to some other worthy cause.

Why do I keep doing that? Let me pull the lid off this thing and examine it.

The Cause of Procrastination

First, I think I do this because writing sermons is tough work.

It is grueling. Sermon crafting is like having a baby – some come out with one push, others come out breach. Having a baby 48 times a year is tough. Sermon writing is just tough work. To do it well you have to be disciplined and sit at that desk whether or not the inspiration comes.

Second, I think I postpone sermon writing because I like to gravitate to something that is more fun to me – leadership challenges.

Leadership challenges energize me. They are reflexive. Leadership comes naturally to me. I know I have the gift of teaching, but it ranks second in my gift mix. Having the gift of leadership and teaching is a wonderfully troublesome combination.

Third,…

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One of the most common complaints I hear from churches is how they wish their introverted Senior Pastors were friendlier and more approachable.

The good news is this can be very easily addressed, without Senior Pastors running themselves into the ground.

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years to help introverted Senior Pastors practice being more relational:

1. Don’t focus on friendliness. Focus on displaying the fruit of the Spirit.

Nowhere are we commanded to “be super friendly and outgoing” in Scripture. But we are commanded to be joyful, peaceful, patient, and kind. The former is an unrealistic expectation for anyone, introverted or extroverted. It is perception-based. Trying to play to people’s perceptions is a fool’s game. Focus instead on exuding the fruit of the Spirit in every encounter you have.

2. “Many light touches, few deep touches.”

Years ago Steve Sjogren, former pastor of the Cincinnati Vineyard and author of Conspiracy of Kindness, told me the way he survived being a Senior Pastor in a thriving, chaotic church, was to be strategic about how often he’d do a “deep dive” with a person. His goal was to physically shake hands…

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If you want to initiate change, the best place to start is by creating a captivating sermon series. Preaching is the single greatest contributing factor to church-wide growth. It is also the one thing we have total control over as Senior Pastors. If we want to change, nobody is stopping us.

The most common thing I discover when I begin a new coaching relationship is not that they don’t know how to preach. All are exceptional communicators. The common struggle they face is “putting all the pieces together.” This includes prioritizing, creatively planning, studying, writing, promoting, and executing the task of preaching week in and week out.

Oddly enough, what I find is that all the guys I coach have a home run sermon at least once a year. People love it. But when I ask what happens the following week, they tell me that they strike out. And the next week they barely get a walk. And the next week they get depressed, eat too much, and want to quit.

Great Preaching Begins With Consistency

As a fellow preacher, I’m not interested in home run sermons. Home runs are flukes. Home runs are statistical anomalies. Given enough time, everyone hits a home run. My goal in preaching is to…

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If you‘d like to get more done in less time, here are a number of my favorite time saving tips, tricks, apps and hacks for Senior Pastors in the trenches.

Brian’s Productivity Rules

3 Sentence Email Rule – Except in rare circumstances, I never respond in email with more than 3 sentences. If something warrants a longer response I’ll say, “See me Sunday” or “Bring this up at staff meeting.”

“Can You Email Me?” Rule – Stop telling people before/during/after services that YOU will contact them. Put the burden on them. Stop allowing yourself to be the revolving pinwheel of personal contact request keeping. Better yet, see below…

“Just Tell Me Now, Please” Rule – I can’t tell you how many people will approach me after a service and say, “Can we get together and talk?” I get asked this five times a weekend. The answer is, “No, just share with me now.” 99% of the time its something that can be answered in 3 minutes, instead of going to all of the trouble to schedule a meeting, carve out time, go to the location, sit down, and then hear the situation they’d like to discuss.

“No More Meetings” Rule – This has become a mantra for me. The…

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I believe churches only grow when their Senior Pastors have a crystal clear vision of where God wants to take their church, and that vision is broadly shared, and owned.

Below is a three-year snapshot of a twenty year plan we believe God has set before us as a church. It contains specific, actionable shifts that must be made and opportunities that must be capitalized upon to become the church God has called us to become.

Notice that while we’re keeping our twenty year focus in mind, this is only for what we must address in the next three years.

If you’re not operating off of a crystal clear three year strategy as a team, I would move heaven and earth to make sure you have one in place by the Fall.

I believe that you’ll find the process of identifying areas that need addressed, and formulating the strategy to make those changes a reality, both enriching and exciting.

CCV’s 2020 Vision

Since the beginning God has called us to plant a church in the suburbs of Philadelphia, which would grow past 5,000+ and in turn plant 20 daughter campuses of 1,000+ each throughout the metro area. This will happen by the end…

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If your church has plateaued it could be because you have tried to lead everything by consensus.

There’s a colossal difference between pseudo-leadership (leading everything by consensus) and biblically-based, godly, unifying, strong, decisive, servant leadership.

The Consensus Trap In Smaller Churches

I see this occur most often in smaller churches where a leader has rallied around themselves a small group of men and women to plant or restart a plateaued church. The problem that occurs is that as they try to grow from one stage to the next the leader looks around at the people who have sacrificed just as much as he has and feels that because of their sacrifices they deserve an equal voice in the church’s future direction.

That happens in part because in the early years the leader did in fact solicit everyone’s opinion in the group before making a decision. But at that attendance size and staff configuration that process was healthy and natural.

Along the way the leader was sure to measure everyone’s relational temperature, mitigating risk by putting out fires before they started. Everyone was in on every decision.

As time went on, that group, having been consulted in every decision early on, quickly developed the false perception…

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Take advantage of the decreased church-wide activity at your church over the next six weeks to prepare your congregation for it’s best Fall season ever.

Perform A Church-Wide Evaluation

I’m convinced that the time between Easter and Mother’s Day is the best time to evaluate the overall effectiveness of you, your staff, and your church’s ministries. There are three reasons for that.

First, for most outreach-focused churches there’s a natural lull which affords the chance to step back and think. Second, for most outreach-focused churches their calendar naturally begins the weekend after Labor Day, not January 1st. Third, pausing between Easter and Mother’s Day affords a team five months to plan and execute.

Let me share a helpful exercise you can use to evaluate every aspect of your church. I learned this from my friends at Intentional Churches. They adopted this from business author and strategist Tom Paterson, who was influential in helping Rick Warren shape both his church’s strategy, and his personal life plan.

Pull your team together and for each specific area of ministry ask yourself the following questions. For instance, let’s ask your team to evaluate your preaching first.

Tom Paterson’s 4 Helpful Questions:

  • What’s right? (continue)
  • What’s wrong? (stop)
  • What’s missing? (add)
  • What’s…

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Senior Pastors typically underestimate the impact their building has on their church’s future growth.

Building Too Late

Church planters believe the lie that they don’t need a building to grow, ignoring the fact that your chances of survival begin to plummet drastically after year six outside of a permanent facility (whether owned or leased). We will always find growing church plants past that age in rented/temporary facilities, but those outliers are breathing rare air.

Senior Pastors of established churches, likewise, face their own unique challenges.

Expecting A Silver Bullet

Many assume that simply “rallying the troops” and building a new building, or relocating to another location, will automatically ignite growth. What happens, more often than not, is the increased debt and facility expansion doesn’t overcompensate for the fact that the church hasn’t addressed the underlying issues that stalled their church’s growth in the first place. As the old Buddhist proverb states, “Wherever you go, there you are.”

Inevitable Bottlenecks

Others assume they can overcome the size limitations their facility places on their ministry. The rule of thumb when it comes to facilities is that there are three things that impact a church’s ability to grow: parking, seats in the auditorium, and…

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