Archives For Communication

Sermon NotebookHave you ever read something and all the bells went off inside you? “That’s it! That’s what I’ve been thinking!” The author has been reading your thoughts.

That happened to me recently.

Warren Wiersbe was the culprit, the reader of my mind. His book is titled “Preaching and Teaching with Imagination.” I notice that he autographed it to me, but have no memory of the occasion when that happened. Mostly, I wonder why I delayed reading this incredible book. (Published in 1994, it’s been around long enough for you to purchase it for a song at www.alibris.com or your favorite used book source.)

Dr. Wiersbe put this insight in the form of a story. I suspect it’s a parable, meaning he fictionalized it in order to make a point. (He has good precedent; our Lord did this.) Briefly, what he told was this:

Grandma Thatcher sits in church with a number of hurts and spiritual needs. Although she’s lovingly known throughout the congregation as a saint, she gets nothing but harassment and trials at home for her faith. When she gets to church, she needs a word from…

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A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit down with Social Media Church for a conversation about—you guessed it—social media. I had a great time talking about how I like to use social media as a connector and strategist. I also shared about a recent social media faux pas I made.

After the show, I thought I’d share the one way a lot of churches are missing it with Twitter. And it’s this…

Twitter is just as much of a listening tool as it is a sharing tool. It’s a two way street. If your church isn’t using twitter to engage with your members or people in your community, you’re missing out on the fundamental benefit of the social media network.

Here are a few practical steps you can take to use Twitter engage your community instead of simply sharing last week’s sermon or next week’s series:

  • Create a Twitter list of everyone you know in your church, responding to them when it’s appropriate.
  • Engage with influential twitter handles in your community. (e.g. – Chamber of Commerce, Events Around Town, Government Entities)
  • Set up proximity searches for terms like…

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lovePastor, you set the tone and atmosphere in your congregation. If you want to know the warmth of your church, put the thermometer in your own mouth.

I’ve visited some churches where the pastor’s lack of love is the main reason the church isn’t growing. Some pastors, by their cold demeanor and lack of personal warmth, virtually guarantee that visitors won’t come back. And in some larger churches, I’ve gotten the impression that the pastor loves an audience but doesn’t like people.

Great preaching without love is just noise in God’s view.

Every time I speak to at Saddleback, I repeat a simple reminder to myself. I never preach or teach without thinking this:

“Father, I love you and you love me. I love these people and you love these people. Love these people through me. This is not an audience to be feared but a family to be loved. There is no fear in love; perfect love casts out all fear.”

Let me suggest some practical ways that you can demonstrate your love:

Memorize names. Remembering names shows that you’re interested in people. Nothing sounds sweeter to a second-time visitor than hearing you use…

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Good leaders are good listeners.

If you want to be effective in ministry, you’ll need to be a good listener first.

Probably the greatest reason people fail in ministry is not immorality, a lack of intelligence, or poor planning. It’s insensitivity.

Most of us simply talk too much. James 1:19 (NIV) says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”

You may think you’re already a good listener. But there’s a big difference between hearing and listening.

  • Hearing is simply the vibrations that take place in your ear.
  • Listening is how you decode those vibrations in your brain.

Many times I’ve heard my wife, my kids, or someone at the church say something – but I didn’t listen. Listening is a skill. And if you’re going to be in ministry, you better develop it. It’s developed through practice, desire, attention and by simply wanting to become a good listener.

Here are four tips to becoming a better listener.

1. Withhold judgment and criticism from the start. Don’t evaluate until you’ve heard and comprehended it all. I’ll admit that this isn’t natural. When someone else is talking…

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — The greatest struggle the rising generation will have is knowing too much about the world around them — and so little about their own lives. With a few taps on a phone, we can call up the exact population of Lincoln, Neb., or find out what the purpose of our pancreas is. More importantly, we can jump to any verse in the Bible and find a wealth of commentary about it.

This world of knowledge, however, comes with its own psychological and intellectual issues. Specifically, we don’t have to remember stuff. We can skate by with a cursory knowledge of things and — when we need to — dive deep into a topic and have full knowledge of facts, stats and figures. As our minds, education and cultures adapt to this expansive yet unretained knowledge base there is a critical issue at hand:

Forgetting the details of our own lives.

If we don’t have to retain knowledge about how to make bread or some other random piece of hand-me-down information, we become accustomed to not needing to remember anything. And that goes for our…

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One of the most powerful aspects of small groups is the opportunity to offer prayer requests, to pray together, and then to see how God follows through on those prayers.  It’s amazing to see how God works over three months or six months or a year.  Prayers get answered, situations change, hearts change – your group sees God work in mighty ways.

Just as powerful as the group dynamic of prayer is the impact that a praying leader can have on his or her group.  A praying leader ministers to the group not only by showing how much he or she cares about their needs but also by modeling a life of prayer.

As with most things, becoming a small group centered on prayer doesn’t just happen.  Here are 7 tips on how you can minister to your small group through prayer:

  • Dedicate the last half hour of each bible study to “personal prayer needs” time.
  • Write each member’s prayer requests down on 3×5 cards.  Bring the cards to every study so you can check back on their requests.
  • After the requests are given, pray immediately with your group.

“Religion isn’t a word often associated with technology — but it should be,” says Amanda Pittman in a Mashable story about how churches use social media. I agree.  And as I said in my comment on the story, when Gutenberg finished his printing press, the Bible was the first thing produced and churches utilized print media like crazy. When broadcasting took off, so did churches and some of the longest running programs on today are church broadcasts that started many decades ago. But with the emergence of social technologies on the internet, we’re slow to adopt. What’s up with that?

Check out this infographic put together by Buzzplant and tell us how your church uses social media, and why you think the church is slower to adopt internet-driven social technologies than past innovations.

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Paul in RomeWhile we know Paul’s inspired Biblical work first appeared and has been known for generations as letters, epistles, and singularly as verses, it is clear, that as a social media guru, he was the first.

After some 20,000 + social media ministry messages, I am always drawn to the fact that nothing can connect people like a Bible verse.  Especially Paul’s work because it is so clear, concise, and flat out inspiring to people living at the height of the Roman Empire, in an age no one had ever seen before… in other words, much like ours.

Here are some quick lessons:

1. Inspiration + Application = Story.

Look at a verse almost any Christian can quote, like Philippians 4:13: I can do all this through him who gives me strength (NIV).  Just on its own it has easily been tweeted more than a million times.

It inspires, makes God apply in your life immediately, and it sends you deeper for the story.  While the first temptation in reading this verse is to respond, “of course”; the second response is almost always “why”, and that is the introspection that leads directly…

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The most important question a church or ministry can ask about their online presence is this:

Who is in charge of the website?

If you can answer this, you’re light years ahead of most organizations. It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s not.

What ends up happening in most ministries and churches is that no one is in charge. Or everyone’s in charge. The debate is still raging for which one is worse, but I’m pretty sure Dante’s seventh circle of hell is reserved for website administration discussions.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

The bottom line is that you need to give someone the keys and say, “drive!” Answering the “who’s in charge” question allows the following things to happen. (By the way, you could answer with one specific person or department. What matters most is that someone(s) has ownership of the website.)


1. Eliminates role confusion.

Many a church administrator has been reduced to tears when trying to sort through the crushing content demands of a church website.

“This link is outdated. How do I change it?”

“I can’t find the information I need for the Underwater Basket…

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Apple Iphone“What do you see coming down the pike that will impact the church?”  A pastor asked me that a year ago and I surprised him by holding up my iPhone.  ”This is going to revolutionize how we do everything,” was my reply.  Now one year later I believe my statement is more true than ever.

Let me begin by saying that I don’t own Apple stock and I don’t sport Apple stickers on my car.  I am and continue to be a PC guy!  If only Apple could design good business systems I might convert totally.  For now my iPad is a toy and my iPhone is a tool.  For the serious stuff of life I remain committed to my Dell and Microsoft Office products.  If you are the typical Apple cultist I am happy for you but this post is really not about whose products are the best or trying to convince me that I should convert totally to Apple.

Having said that let me say again, Apple is changing how we live and will change how we in the church do business.  Apple has set the standard and…

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The StageThe stage (which is anything you communicate while you are in front of your congregation) is the most valuable communicating tool you have.  This is a time when we have the attention of a large percentage of the people in our church.  This is why it is important to be intentional about how you use this resource.  I’ve been in many services where there is no thought put into what really needs to be communicated from the stage other than the time spent preparing the sermon.  But if we realize that this is a perfect opportunity to cast vision and direction in snapshot segments, we can move our people down a path together.  Realizing this, I developed a team of people that would work within the Communications Team to make the best use of the stage.  It’s not a matter of using a lot of time, it’s a matter of how we use segments of time to convey our messages.  I developed a plan for Service Hosts, which I am including below:

Service Host Handbook

Thank you for serving as a part of the Service Host Team! Your role is…

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Helping Handby Toni Birdsong

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. ~Luke 12:48

As social media becomes more integrated into our everyday life, so too, the moral and social responsibility rises in step. Did you know there are three powerful tools on Facebook that can actually save a life? Hats off to Facebook developers who have wisely integrated the Anti-Bullying Initiative, the Suicide Referral System, and just recently, the Organ Donation Status.

By taking a few minutes to connect with each of these Facebook features and logging on with an “awakened heart,” as we’ve so often discussed on this blog and in our book, @stickyJesus: how to live out your faith online, your online time can impact that reaches beyond the everyday chatter.

While the Anti-Bullying Initiative and the Suicide Referral System can be powerful, practical ways to help Facebook “friends” in danger online, the Organ Donation Status could very well be a cultural game changer in the world of organ transplants. It’s estimated that more than 114,000 people in the U.S, nearly 10,000…

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