Sheep have a tendency to wander. When they do any shepherd that is doing their job notices and goes to find them. Jesus shared a parable about sheep and their shepherds in Luke chapter 15. In Jesus’ story there is a shepherd that has a hundred sheep and one goes missing. Jesus, asks about the shepherd, “Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” The implied answer is, “yes.”
This story has an implied answer, but it also implies something else. Without stating it, the story makes the assumption that the shepherd was paying close enough attention to notice that he was missing one of his sheep. A hundred sheep isn’t easy to track, but the shepherd in Jesus’ story was diligent and paying close attention. He was watching to make sure that no sheep wandered off. He was always counting, and recounting. “97, 98, 99, hey, where did sheep #100 go?!”
Today many pastors struggle to keep track of the sheep in their care. Some are just not putting in the effort, they are not counting, and sheep are wandering off without them even noticing. Others are trying, but they don’t have the right systems in place to track their sheep effectively. So, how can pastors better track their sheep, notice when they are missing, and go after them when they are?
A lot of work goes into preaching. Most pastors spend between 10 and 18 hours a week working on their sermons, with many spending more than 20 or even 30 hours. With all that work going into preparing a sermon, it can be a bit disheartening to know that most people forget most of what they hear within days, if not hours.
Recently I was challenged to think more critically about my preaching, specifically when it comes to application. Often when we preach, the application of that preaching is for use in the church, or in our private Christian lives. It may be how to serve in ministry, how to pray, read our Bibles, or live out any other number of Christian disciplines. There is certainly nothing wrong with sermons that teach us how do any of this, as they are a part of Christian life and growing in these areas is drastically needed. We need to preach sermons that cover these topics. However, effective preaching, preaching that sticks with people, should cover far more ground.
There are not many seminars in New England geared towards helping pastors and church leaders grow their churches. This June, however, there is one conference designed to do just that. The New England Pastors Initiative is hosting it’s second annual conference, featuring guest speaker Dick Hardy. Dick is the founder of The Hardy Group (thehardygroup.org), an organization devoted to helping pastors navigate church growth challenges and remove obstacles to that growth.
This one day local conference, on Tuesday, June 13th, is designed to help pastors and church leaders create fresh momentum and energy in their ministries, promote and market their churches better within their communities, and so much more! In order to make the conference as accessible as possible, the cost is only $30, which includes a catered lunch.
If you are a pastor or church leader in New England you do not want to miss out on this special day! To register, or find out more information, simply go to nepastorsinitiative.org.
Every pastor I know wants to make an impact. They want their churches to grow and to make a difference in their communities. Many pastors, however, attempt to make an impact the wrong way.
Too many pastors go for the quick kill. They are looking for the one big event that will reach their community and bring hundreds, if not thousands, of people to their church. They start a new ministry hoping that it will immediately touch a felt need around them and reach a throng of new people. They are looking for a silver bullet, one that kills quickly all in one shot.
Pastors today face all sorts of challenges. They face the emotional strain of walking with people through the most difficult moments in their lives. They face the challenge of leading volunteers, who often have vastly different opinions on how things should be done. Pastors struggle with the tension of being trained in pastoral ministry, but being expected to operate the church with the savvy of a CEO. And of course, there is managing the multiple expectations of parishioners. No doubt, pastoral ministry comes with its unique set of difficulties and frustrations.
George Barna identified the top stressors pastors face several years ago, and I don’t believe the list has changed much at all. Here is what he discovered:
- Thirty percent of all pastors said the lack of commitment from the laity was their number one stressor in ministry. The number one challenge that pastors say they face is the feeling that they are expected to do it all on their own. Regarding the ministry at the church, they often hear verbally or through innuendo, “that’s what we pay you to do.”
Leaders are learners, and one great way to learn is through listening to podcasts. Podcasts give us the ability to listen to leaders speak on topics in just about any area of life. Whether you want to learn more on running, history, cooking, business, music or church ministry, there is probably a podcast just for you. When you are driving in the car, heading out for a run, or even just doing errands around the house, listening to a podcast, on a topic you want to explore, is a great way to use the time. I try to listen as often as I can, typically consuming several hours worth of podcasts every single week.
As a pastor, here are some of my current favorites…
Most people don’t invite others to church. Despite viewing their faith as one of the most important aspects of their lives, and despite believing that Christ has specifically commanded them to go into the whole world to tell others about him (Mark 16:15), most Christians still do not share their faith with others. A recent study by LifeWay Research found that eighty percent of churchgoers say they have personal responsibility to share their faith, but sixty-one percent haven’t shared the gospel with anyone in the past six months.
How can churches better equip, train and encourage their people to go out and share their faith? Although the list is no doubt extensive, here are five things that churches can do to get people talking about Christ:
Most churches do not strategically think about who they are inviting to church. They have service every Sunday with the hope and expectation that new people will come, but they don’t put much (if any!) thought into who they are going to invite throughout the week. Obviously, churches should be inviting everyone to join them, but who specifically should churches strategically be thinking about inviting?
- Friends and relatives who do not attend church. People should hear often about the importance of inviting their family, friends, coworkers, and other to church.
In Mark chapter 2, Jesus was teaching and there was such a crowd of people there that they were piled on top of one another. Literally, no one else could get into the house to see him or hear what Jesus was saying. There were some men, however, who had a friend that was paralyzed and they wanted to get him to Jesus because they rightfully believed that he could heal their friend. So the men loaded their buddy onto a stretcher and brought him to where they knew Jesus would be. When they saw the huge crowd and the fact that they couldn’t get anywhere near Jesus, I imagine they were a bit dismayed. They probably sat their friend down for a minute to talk things over and decide what to do. They didn’t give up, however, and came up with a somewhat outrageous plan to get past the crowd. Four of the friends climbed up on a roof, hoisted their buddy on the stretcher up, walked across the roof until they were above where Jesus was at, and then cut a hole in the roof of the house so they could lower their friend right down next to Jesus. Talk about commitment to get someone to church! They even risked personal injury, as I imagine the guy who’s roof that they had just cut a hole in was about to beat them up!
Here is the point, they didn’t just tell their friend about Jesus….they brought him to Jesus. They didn’t just tell their friend “Jesus is over there” if you can find a way to get there he might be able to heal you…no, they actually took him to Jesus. They didn’t just invite their friend to church, they brought him to church and when they couldn’t get in they went the extra mile and cut a hole in the roof to get him in (now please don’t get any ideas and cut holes in our roof of your church to get people to church!!).
Growing churches have several options available to them as they consider how to expand (as we have discussed here). One of these options is to add additional services at other worship venues through a multi or microsite approach. Typically, these services have live worship, a campus pastor, and the preaching comes either via video or the pastor from the main campus is able to be there and preach live. It is a great way to move forward, but starting a new campus comes with some pros and cons that every church should consider before launching a new one.
- Provides convenience. People will only drive so far to church. Even if you have a committed person that will make the drive, will their friends and family they would like to invite also make the commute? Putting a campus in their neighborhood makes coming easier. As Josh Hunt says about multiple worship options it “allows us to overcome the number-one obstacles facing the people we are trying to reach: inconvenience.”
- Allows for Variety. Each satellite campus should retain the first campuses’ DNA, but a new campus allows for a bit of variety in feel. It should be allowed to be a bit different to match the community it is in. This allows the church to reach new people as ”It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. The more hooks you cast in the water, and the more varied the bait, the more fish you will catch” (Hunt).