5 Things This Pandemic Has Taught Church Leaders

I write this in my home office as I just got off a call with our staff evaluating the plan to possibly reopen when the time comes.

We aren’t sure when we will re-Open, but we are drafting up a plan so that we will be ready when the time comes.

It got me thinking about my own leadership and what this pandemic has taught me. I bet it has taught you some of the same things…

1. Your online audience is a part of your church

Some churches already got this way before the pandemic. They viewed their online audience as part of the church. They welcomed their online viewers during the physical gathering, created virtual serve and group options, and connected with them.

Some churches already did that, but the majority didn’t.

The majority of churches use their online streaming as a means to get content into the hands of their church people who have to miss the physical gathering.

This pandemic has forced all churches (big and small) to recognize that online church is a thing and it is here to stay.

When things go back to normal, online church needs to be a part of your strategy.

Continue to engage your online audience. Continue to welcome them. Continue to connect with them through first time guest forms, live virtual hosts, and online prayer options.

All of the good creative online content that you have been doing, it needs to continue when the pandemic is over.

We have to start recognizing the online audience as a part of our church.

2. We aren’t in control as much as we thought we were.

This pandemic has taught me that I am not in control.

Now, if if I’m honest, I love to control things. I love to control my schedule, the tv, the gps, my house, my job, my kids (good luck) and pretty much everything else. I love control.

Well, control is cool until you lose it. 

Church leaders are good at working a stage. Crafting a sermon. Organizing a killer weekend service. We control a lot of this but now that everything is online and our programming is minimized, we realize how little control we have to begin with.

Church leader, you are not in control and that’s ok. You just need to know and cling to the one who is in control.

Run to Him.

3. People are more important than programs

Programming has been minimal lately. I mean every church has had to cut programs to some degree.

Our staff has made it a point to regularly call every person in our church as a routine “check up.” Now in our church, we have close to 2,000 people.

That’s a lot of phone calls and check ins.

But it’s well worth it.

This pace of spending more time calling people and less time programming has been a nice change.

Ministry is about people, not programs.

Hopefully after this is over, we don’t go back to over-programming but that we have the same focus and intensity for people as we do our programs.

4. We can be more creative and innovative than we care to admit

This pandemic has proved that your church (small or big) can be pretty creative.

Zoom calls for small groups? Who would have thought about that?

Virtual Easter?

Drive in church?

Online kids and students programming? 

The point is that you have been forced to be creative and innovative.

When things go back to normal, keep your creative and innovative personality.

5. Virtual work is possible for just about everyone

Meetings can be done online! In fact, online meetings tend to be more intentional and focused anyway.

Most of your responsibilities probably can be online.

I think that virtual work for church leaders is the way to go moving forward.

I don’t think you have to force 8-5 of office work time to your staff. Get your job done at a time that is convenient for you.

Those are just five things that I have learned. What have you learned during this pandemic? Comment below and let me know. 

Everyone is Busy!

busyEveryone is busy! (Say it out loud…Everyone is busy!)

Do you believe that?

I do. I mean when I speak to people and say “How are you doing,” they always say “busy!” It is the most used response at least in my experience.

So, I now believe that everyone is busy. Well, according to how they answer my simple, “how are you doing” question.

I am kind of tired of the expected answer, “I am busy.” The reason I am tired of it is because it makes me want to tell that person how busy I am. Especially when it is someone with less responsibilities than me. Right? Like my kids or the college students that I teach. When I ask them how they are doing, and they say, “busy”, it makes me want to sit them down and prove to them that I am busier than them. (Please tell me that I am not alone in this). It is true in the work place as well.

Everyone is busy. Students have assignments. Kids have homework and the pressure of extracurricular activities. Interns have responsibilities. Adults have work and family responsibilities.

Everyone is busy doing something. So, why do we always answer, “I am busy” if everyone is busy.

Here are a few things I am learning about busyness…

1. You are as busy as you chose to be!

Most of my busyness is my fault. I bet it is true of you as well.

I have complained so much over the past few months about how busy I am with coaching t-ball. Guess who made the decision to coach? Me! Did they force me to? No. I made the choice to coach.

You are as busy right now as you chose to be. This can be fixed with using the word, “no.”

If you chose to be this busy, stop complaining about it (I am speaking to the choir on this one).

2. Busyness is normal and comes in seasons

I will have busier months than others. You will as well. My busiest times are the fall and the spring. That is when our church is busier. I lead our interns during those two semesters. I coach t-ball, and I teach in our college during those semesters. I work hard during those semesters understanding that I may take some more time over the summer.

Everyone goes through seasons of busyness, and that is okay. Busyness is not bad in and of itself.

If you never feel busy, you are probably not doing much that has value.

3. Stay busy doing the right thing! 

This is where I go wrong. I get so busy doing things that do not matter or things that I could easily delegate to someone else. Even things that I am not passionate about.

I am a 9 on the ennegram which means that I am a peace maker. That means that I will gladly take extra responsibilities off of other people if that makes them happier. When I do this, I become busier doing the wrong things.

Stay busy doing what you are called to do in this moment.

T- Ball! Listen, if I am honest, it is a pain in the tail. I hate it sometimes. I have to be at every practice and it has made me so busy.

But listen, my son is 5 and he loves me being out there with him! Our relationship has grown so much during this season, and I know I cannot coach him forever.

You know what I have had to tell myself? Josh, stop complaining about t-ball and enjoy the time out there with your son.

When you are busy, you can get focused on the tasks that you miss the moments.

Be busy doing what matters and what you are called to do in this season.

4. Use the time you complain about being busy as energy to be more productive

If we stopped talking about being busy, and used that energy to be more productive, we would be!

Be disciplined.

Be more productive.

Don’t complain to others about what they could complain to you about (Read it again, it makes sense, I promise).

I guarantee you that your spouse could explain to you about how busy they are.

I guarantee you that your co-worker could explain to you about how busy they are.

Instead, use your conversation to check up on one another. Use the time to ask about each other’s family. Use the time to strengthen the community you have with others instead of complaining about how busy you are.

This post was for me! 

Listen, I am learning this. So, this post was primarily for me, and I hope it challenged and encouraged you in the process.





3 Things Every Volunteer Wants Answered

Blog Pic - Questions Volunteers haveSo you want to attract and engage more volunteers?

Of course you do, who wouldn’t?

We all want volunteers, but so many leaders struggle with recruiting, keeping, and leading volunteers.


Here are a few reasons that I have seen:

  • Unclear expectations
  • Overwork
  • No team chemistry
  • Lack of purpose
  • Unclear on ramps

We all want more volunteers to serve with us, and I think answering the main questions that volunteers are asking will help you land volunteers as well as keep them for the long haul.

So, what questions do volunteers have? Here are the top four questions that all volunteers are asking:

1. What Is Expected Of Me?

Expectations are crucial.

The more that I speak with leaders, the more that I find leaders being frustrated with their volunteers because they are not meeting their expectations. As I dig in, I find that the expectations were never clearly communicated.

If you want to lose volunteers, don’t communicate clear expectations.

If you want to keep volunteers, find out what you expect and communicate that clearly to the volunteer.

Communicate clear arrival times, don’t assume they know.

Communicate exactly what the specific responsibility is for the position they are serving in.

Communicate how long you will need them and when they are free to go.

Communicate if you expect for them to attend a service and serve a service.

Communicate how often you will need them.

Communicate how you intend to schedule and communicate with them.

Don’t assume that they are “in the know” about the way you manage volunteers. This is new to them and unclear expectations will frustrate them to the point of them leaving your church.

2. How Long And How Often Do You Need Me?

Volunteers need clear on ramps and they need clear off ramps.

Long gone are the days of volunteers signing up to volunteer for life. It just doesn’t work that way.

I recommend asking them to volunteer for a semester or a year. Whatever your terms, communicate it with them up front.

Communicate if you need them every week. Be clear.

Communicate if you expect them to serve for the entire hour of your service or only part of the service.

3. Will I Meet People While Volunteering?

Most people are signing up to volunteer to meet new people. Some do it for the purpose and the mission of the church, but many are looking for community.

Create chemistry on your teams.

Create the culture that new people want to be a part of on your teams.

Welcome new people and work hard at assimilating them on to your team.

It will be very difficult to keep volunteers if they are not relationally connected to the team.

4. Will I Be Making A Difference? 

The last main question that volunteers have is about the difference that they will be making.

Volunteers want to be making a difference.

Volunteers don’t want to be holding a door in your lobby if they do not understand why they are doing it or if it is making a difference in the mission of the church.

Volunteers want to see that they are making a difference in the mission of your church, and if they don’t feel that they are making a difference, you will likely lose them.

I truly believe that if you answer these four questions clearly, you will easily be on ramping new volunteers as well as keeping volunteers for the long haul. 

3 Steps To Breaking The Growth Barriers In Your Church

IMG_2578Every pastor that I have ever spoke with wants to grow their church. If they didn’t, they probably shouldn’t be the pastor at the church.

Growth is something that everyone wants, but not everyone experiences.

Now, growth in church is always a touchy subject. Here is what I am not saying in this post:

  • I am not criticizing small churches – I am not at all suggesting this. I have been a part of smaller churches, and have loved it and seen God do incredible things. I also think that some pastors are built and created to pastor smaller churches. I also believe that the city in which the church resides is a factor so I am not criticizing small churches.
  • I am not saying the favor of God is not at play – When you talk about growth, you always have to remember that God’s hand of favor is in play. I believe this and above anything else you read, you should want this. Sometimes He grows our churches in spite of our behaviors.
  • I am not saying that numbers are everything – This is the never-ending debate, and I do not plan to solve it, but in my experience, smaller churches are usually the ones saying “numbers aren’t everything.” Sure, they are not, but numbers can indicate health and we should track people because every person has a name, every name has a story, and every story matters to God.

Growth barriers are common and change as you face new barriers. For example, what got your church to 200 won’t get your church to 400.

As you grow, things change and the way that we do ministry changes.

The message never changes, but the methods have to if we intend to continue reaching people with the message.

1. As You Grow, Systems Must Become The Norm 

Think back to when you were small, like 100 or less in your church. Do you remember, you could text every guest every week. You could manage things without hardly any systems.

As you grow, systems must improve. Weekly reports must become regular. The path to connecting people must become crystal clear and easy to navigate. The way that you do hospitality and first impressions must be manageable. The way that you check in kids and follow-up with kids must be clear. Security must be done well. Everything that you do at your church must have a system.

Many struggle in this phase, because the larger your church gets, the more business minded it must become. This is uncomfortable for many, because for years, the church did not want to function like a business.

Businesses have systems and a way of doing business. Churches must have clear systems if they want to grow.

Some churches do not grow because they are afraid of implementing systems in fear of losing the personal connection that small churches have.

2. As You Grow, You Must Evaluate Everyone And Everything

As I research and speak with growing churches, there is a common theme found in them and it is regular evaluations among their leaders.

For example, if the kids ministry is not being managed with organization, professionalism, and growth, an evaluation should occur.

If a church is not capturing guests, evaluation needs to happen.

What you want to duplicate, you must evaluate.

Small churches tend to keep leaders in positions longer than they probably should, because we are afraid of having the difficult conversation that could hurt a family but potentially help your church cross a growth barrier.

If you want to stay at 300 or less, don’t evaluate much. If you want to grow further than 300, you must evaluate everything and everyone. Call out what needs to be changed and if it doesn’t get better, you may have to let go of an employee or move the employee to a different department in order to move past the growth barrier.

3. As You Grow, You Must Engage As Many People As Possible

Carey Nieuwhof has been known for saying that attractional is not the new driver of attendance, engagement is. I totally agree with him.

If you want to grow, spend a lot of time, resources, and money on your connections process.

You need to be creative and try to engage as many people as you can to continue to push through the growth barrier that your church is focusing.

If you don’t want to get beyond 200 in weekly attendance, keep the launch team the way it is and don’t add anyone. If you want to continue to grow, you must be constantly adding people to groups, teams, and owners of your ministry. Engage them and make them a part of the community at your church or they likely will fall out of the community.

What are you doing to push through the growth barriers at your church? 


4 Tips For Making Multi-Site Work

blog pic - multisiteIn 2014, our church launched its second location. Our church has been in the city of Jacksonville for over 100 years, and we have always had a vision of reaching the entire city.

We felt that in order to continue with the vision of reaching our city in the modern church context, we must embrace multi site church.

So, we set out on this journey and launched a campus about 15 miles away in a growing part of our city. The campus would start in a portable facility, an elementary school.

We are four years in and preparing to launch another campus. I wanted to share a few tips on making multi-site church work from our experience:

1. Identify The Model Your Church Wants

Multi-site is awesome, but there are many different ways to do multi-site.

Are you going to have live preaching from your campus pastors or are you going to be a video venue.

Are all campuses going to be identical?

Are you doing multi-site with the eventual goal of making the church autonomous.

How aligned will your teams be?

Will you have a central support model or will your campus leaders have freedom to do what they want?

How big do you intend to launch in terms of gear? Are you going to launch big or small?

These are just a few of the different ways that churches are doing multi-site. Lifechurch with Groeschel does it differently than the Summit Church with J.D. Greear. Elevation Church with Furtick does it differently than Andy Stanley at North Point.

Everyone seems to do multi-site church differently.

If you want to be successful, find out your multi-site model early and go for it.

2. Be Flexible 

Piggybacking on point number #1, I want you to understand that the multi-site model that you intend to embrace may not work for you.

So you start with the plan of being a video venue, and after the first three or four months, it is not working.

How are you going to handle that? Are you going to stick with it and power through it, or are you willing to be flexible.

For us, we have had to be flexible in our model shift.

Some of the original model that we launched with looks a tad different four years later and that is okay.

Don’t be afraid to be flexible.

3. Identify Your Volunteer Structure Early

As you add services, changing structure becomes more and more difficult.

For example, if you set a structure of attending one service a week and serving in that same service, it is very difficult to change gears and ask people to serve one and attend one.

That is the dilemma that we are currently in.

It is much easier to launch a certain way than to change something four years in.

Your people are used to a structure and changing it becomes difficult.

Make decisions when you launch that are steps to where you want to be in five years.

4. Allow Engagement To Drive Your Attendance

In the past, attractional church drove attendance. So if you add flashy lights, super contemporary music, and a casual environment, they will come.

Well, everyone is doing all of those things in churches everywhere today. So doing those things does not guarantee that they will come.

Instead, engagement is the current driver of attendance. If you want people to come to your church, engage them.

This means that you must have a killer connections team that can engage people quickly after their first visit.

This means that you have to consistently connect people to volunteer teams.

This means that you have to consistently call people out of rows and into circles (small groups).

I am not suggesting that you do not invest in production, but I am saying that production isn’t driving attendance. Engagement is.

Let me put it to you this way, your production can be great and your attendance not be growing. It is impossible to be engaging your new people and not be growing.

Engagement drives attendance.

Recognize it, and engage as many people as you possibly can. Grow your launch team and add more people to the team.

Are you in a multi-site model? If so, I would love to know what you have learned in your experience. Comment below and join the conversation.

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