The 10 Commandments of Social Media for Churches and Church Leaders

Social media networks projecting out from smartphone. Editorial

I’m an avid social media user. In the early days of CoastLife Church we had no money for advertising or letting people know about our church. We barely had money for things like electricity and insurance. With no budget to use for typical means of advertisement we went to Facebook. It’s been a great tool to connect with our community. Did I mention that its free? Like most things there are pros and cons to social media. The same platform that helps get information out to large amounts of people instantaneously also creates disagreements and arguments. This started out as rules of engagement for the leaders at CoastLife Church, but I thought it might be helpful to others as well. Here are my 10 commandments of social media:

1. Use it – 1 billion people used Facebook in one day recently. There are 5 million more people who have a smart phone than a tooth brush. I have personally received friend requests from people who are homeless. People from all walks of life are on Facebook. We are called to reach, encourage, love, and inspire people. There is no better medium for this today than social media. Use it.

2. Be careful with politics – Ed Stetzer once said, “when you mix religion and politics you get politics.” I don’t personally endorse any candidates. My ministry is to people from across the political spectrum. If you aren’t careful with politics you will end up being the mouthpiece of a political party instead of being a minister to the people of all parties. You shouldn’t have to belong to a particular political party to feel welcomed at Church. It’s a fine line. I believe Christians should be engaged and active in the world, but I also believe we are called to serve people. All people, not just the ones who agree with us politically. I’m afraid if we aren’t careful we will win in our politics and lose in our purpose of reaching people.

3. Endeavor to keep unity – Division is a tool of Satan. Satan uses Facebook as well. Social Media allows every issue to be discussed and many times there is more than one side to the issue. No one wins when there is division in the body of Christ. Endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

4. Avoid foolish debates – Those are the Apostle Paul’s words and not mine. However, he probably had a prophetic vision of Facebook when he penned those words. Somethings just aren’t worth the time to engage them. Be careful about getting lured into a discussion that simply just doesn’t matter. If the whole world operated by this principle Fox News and CNN would only be on air about 2 hours a day.

5. Maintain correct doctrine – There are many different ideologies out there today. There are tons of motivational and inspirational quotes floating around. But there is only one source of timeless truth and that is the Word of God. If it doesn’t line up with scriptural doctrine don’t post it, don’t like it, don’t share it. The world is held captive under darkness, don’t help spread that darkness. Jesus really is the way, the truth, and the life. Share him, share the word in a life giving, grace filled way.

6. Don’t manipulate – Don’t heap guilt on people. Don’t shame people. For heavens sake, don’t try to be a religious bully. I’m tired of people trying to manipulate others. Now, prove how much you love Jesus by liking, sharing, and commenting on this blog.

7. Be loving towards non christians – It saddens me sometimes to see people struggle through life without Christ. It angers me sometimes when people post things that are offensive towards Christianity. Social Media is a place where people can flippantly say things in a thoughtless moment that they would never say directly to a person. I’ve seen things that both hurt and angered me. However, if I only love people who think like me, then the genuine love of Christ is not in me. Even the world loves those that think like them. It is the true benchmark of Christianity to love even our “enemies.” If someone is a serial offender I may unfriend them, but that is an extreme case for me. As much as I hate to see what they post, they need to see what I post. The love of Christ does prevail even over the most extreme of cases. Remember, no one was ever reached by being out debated or perhaps insulted.

8. Don’t go negative – Is there anything praiseworthy, anything lovely, of good report? Post about these things. Our speech is to be with grace. Especially when we are posting to the masses.

9. Never publicly speak against a church, church leader, or fellow Christian. Never. – The largest group of unfriended people for me are believers who speak negatively of other Churches, Pastors, or Christians. You don’t win when another Pastor or Church fails or gets caught in a scandal, only the enemy does. So why be a part of tearing someone down? When an accusation or rumor is stirred about a Church, Pastor, or fellow believer we need to use extreme caution in what we post. If you don’t know them personally don’t speak about it. If you do know them personally than deal with it personally and not on Social Media. Again, no one wins when a Church, Pastor, or Christian fails. I really believe we will answer for our social media posts in eternity when we take a shot at the “mega” Church or Pastor because we don’t like what they said or did. The kingdom of God isn’t advanced through that stuff only the kingdom of Satan.

10. Don’t forget to be genuine and personal – Here’s an idea. Why don’t you let people into your non Pinterest life? No, don’t post pics of your dirty undies in the laundry hamper. But not every pic has to be of a cappuccino with a perfect design and an inspirational quote. Not every post should be a deep and revelatory thought. You probably don’t walk around all day in the 7th heaven full of inspiration and revelation with a perfect cup of coffee. Post about sports, post about family, post something funny, post about whatever, just try to take people on an authentic journey of your life.

The Struggle is Real – 3 Tips for Preparing for Sunday

20130709-082438.jpg

It’s amazing. Those Sundays seem to come every week whether I am prepared or not. Every week I take a day and half of another one to put together a sermon for the weekend. In addition, I spend time tinkering all the way up until late Saturday night. I know that is probably an astonishing amount of time for a 35 minute talk, but I need every bit of it. Even with that amount of time dedicated to a sermon it is still lacking some weekends. Not all of us can be Andy Stanley. In my case, I’m just shooting for at least Andy from Parks and Rec.

I’ve struggled to both change and improve my preaching. This certainly isn’t written as an expert, but just to share my struggle. Here are 3 things that I have come up with that I feel like have helped me improve.

1. Content before entertainment

No one wants to be the person that sees a bunch of glows on the faces of the people you are speaking to. No, I’m not talking about the glow that Moses experienced after being in the presence of God. I’m talking about the glow of an Iphone that is visible on the face of people when you are speaking from the pulpit. I’m sure they are searching scriptures on YouVersion and not scrolling through Facebook, but either way no one wants to be boring. If you aren’t careful you can end up losing your message in jokes, illustrations, and other things that are an attempt to make the sermon palatable. My practice is to take one study session to just put the content together for the message. Later, I will come back and look at the message to see how I can make it funny, or more enjoyable to listen to. At the end of the day, heck at the end of my life, I won’t be judged by how good my jokes were, but whether or not I taught people the Word of God.

2. Fresh not new

The bible says there is nothing new under the sun. When it comes to teaching scriptures, coming up with something new can be downright dangerous. Some new thought and suddenly everyone is in robes, head shaved, and drinking a big glass of kool aid. My job isn’t to teach anything new. It’s to take old truths and established principles, and make them fresh. With the Holy Spirit’s help, the job of a communicator is to bring the ancient scriptures into today’s issues of life and help make them relevant. This is probably the thing that I struggle with the most. Making scriptures applicable and helpful on Monday and not just inspiring on Sunday is much more difficult than it sounds. This is where we need the help of the Holy Spirit giving us wisdom to teach the Word of God. Paul told Timothy, “a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15 Amp). The struggle isn’t for something new, its for something fresh. Fresh comes from the Presence of God.

3. Helpful not original

It’s actually a form of spiritual pride to withhold helpful information from people because you didn’t come up with it. I once handed a small group lesson to a guy who promptly gave it back to me because he couldn’t teach anything that God didn’t give him. The problem is that the stuff God was giving him wasn’t very good or helpful. I guess God was just having writer’s block or an off day. His group fizzled because he couldn’t be humble enough to use other people’s material. I enjoy writing and speaking. I love developing content and sharing ideas. However, my main responsibility is to equip people with the word and help them live a victorious spiritual life. I’m a preacher not an artist. There is an art to preaching, but I can’t elevate art above the preaching. Give credit where credit is due if you use material from other people. (This blog was inspired by a blog from Hillsong) Let people know where you got it so they can get plugged into great resources that will hopefully help develop them spiritually as well. It’s great when I come up with something that I think and perhaps others think is really good. I hope that I am constantly learning and developing original material. However, it’s not about me. I’m here to serve people and I want to do that with the best material possible whether it’s mine or someone else’s.

4 Key Areas of Health

Health
When I started CoastLife Church I was all about growth. For good reason, we only had 15 people and without growth we wouldn’t survive. One day while reading the Parable of the Talents I received what I felt was a divine motivation to grow and increase. After reading that parable, maintenance and staying the course no longer remained an option for me. I think the pursuit of growth is a good thing and a God thing. However, I have come to learn that the approach to growth determines whether or not its right or wrong. At one point I realized that I was striving for growth, but what I really needed to do was to strive for health. Essentially our responsibility is to cultivate areas of health, and its God’s responsibility to give increase. In fact, I believe God has already established increase for your life and the result isn’t in question. The only question is whether or not we will do the work of cultivating an environment that is conducive to experiencing God’s increase. To put it another way, you don’t have to make a seed grow, God has already put growth inside of the seed. However, the seed will never do what it was designed to do unless someone creates a healthy, life giving place for it to grow. If you want to grow in your life here are 4 key areas that I think every person should focus on:

4 Key Areas of Health

This will be in order of priority from the least important to the most important, however, all 4 areas have importance in your life.

1. Physical Health

1 Timothy 4:6-9 (THE MSG)
You’ve been raised on the Message of the faith and have followed sound teaching. Now pass on this counsel to the followers of Jesus there, and you’ll be a good servant of Jesus. Stay clear of silly stories that get dressed up as religion. Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever.

All discipline is good. Paul said going to the gym was useful, but there are higher things on the priority list. Physical health is important because I don’t want to abuse my body and cut short my assignment here on earth. I believe many people have had greater years of God’s purpose in their life, but had them cut short because of battles with health that were caused by a lack of physical discipline. I never want to have to ask Jesus to heal something I caused by poor dietary habits. Keep the temple healthy, so the treasure on the inside of the temple can reach its fullest potential. However, this area is lowest in priority because our physical bodies don’t determine our worth. In a world that seems to be increasing in its vanity, it’s important to note that what’s on the inside is greater than what’s on the outside. Don’t abuse food, alcohol, or drugs. Keep your temple clean, but don’t base your worth on your physical appearances. The reason Paul said exercise was only useful for a little while is because whether you exercise or not you are still going to die. Let’s take care of our physical bodies, but let’s keep eternal things in mind as well.

2. Mental Health

Proverbs 24:3-6
3 A house is built by wisdom and becomes strong through good sense. 4 Through knowledge its rooms are filled with all sorts of precious riches and valuables. 5  The wise are mightier than the strong, and those with knowledge grow stronger and stronger. 6 So don’t go to war without wise guidance; victory depends on having many advisers.

Mental health can mean a variety of things, but for this purpose I am going to simplify it to mean wisdom and knowledge. Scriptures teach us that we “build” or grow through knowledge and wisdom. I believe there is a partnership between the natural and supernatural. I also believe what we don’t know in the natural can hinder our usefulness in the supernatural. The bible tells us to pray for wisdom, but not for knowledge. The reason, knowledge is found in books, classes, instructors, and advisors. God expects us to put in the work to gain knowledge. Wisdom comes from God and experience. Ask God for wisdom and listen to those who have gone before you.

3. Emotional Health

Proverbs 4:24
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

Fear, anxiety, doubt, depression, insecurity, anger, and bitterness are emotions that occur in the life of every person. If we don’t deal with them, eventually they will deal with us. The bible teaches us to guard the area of emotions in our lives very carefully because everything we do is drawn from that well. Every thought, word, or action is drawn from the well of the heart You will never pull out healthy words, healthy thoughts, or healthy actions out of an unhealthy well. Be very diligent to take care of your emotions. Talk to Jesus consistently and be honest how you are feeling. Talk to close friends consistently and be honest about how you are feeling. Talk to counselors if needed and be honest about how you are feeling. Keep your heart healthy and you will be able to draw out good thoughts, words, and actions.

4. Spiritual Health

Mark 8:36-37
36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul?

Take this whole world, but give me Jesus. If I have perfect physical, mental, and emotional health, but I don’t have spiritual health then I have lost it all. Our spiritual health is the most valuable, but often least focused area of our lives. I grew up thinking that you could never pray enough, read your bible enough, obey enough rules and it left me jaded. So, I swung the pendulum the opposite direction and found that I wasn’t growing spiritually. I don’t want to give you a minimum amount of time you should pray everyday, or minimum amount of verses to read. Each person has their own relationship with God. However, there are no substitutes for spending time with God. Be intentional about your spiritual health, after all, it’s worth more than anything in the world.

The Grind (Staying Fresh in Ministry)

Staying Fresh in Ministry
Staying Fresh in Ministry

Getting started is usually a great deal of fun. The first day on the job, the launch of a new endeavor, or the beginning of a new project usually contains a good bit of excitement. At this point I will politely and tactfully mention honeymoons without elaboration. Moving on. My kids just went back to school and were really excited about that first day. However, it didn’t take long for the excitement to wear off and for the early mornings and long days at school to start to take their toll. At some point the excitement wears off, the honeymoon is over, and the weight of responsibility begins to kick in. I call this “the grind.” I remember when I first became a Pastor. It was an exciting endeavor to me. It was something that I had prayed for and dreamed of for a long time. Then “the grind” set in. Those Sundays seemed to keep coming every seven days. The work and preparation for each weekend was now a responsibility and soon became a tangible weight. It’s inevitable that even the things we love to do will become a weight of responsibility and over time become a grind. The question becomes, how do I stay fresh in ministry when what I am doing is no longer fresh?

If you run out of gas in your car it will be inconvenient. In fact, this morning I picked up a gentleman on the side of the road that ran out of gas taking his little girl to school. We left his wife and daughter in the vehicle while I ran him to a gas station. He confided in me on the way to the gas station that his wife wasn’t very happy with the fact that he had forgotten to get gas. His daughter was now late to school, insert bible passage about a quarreling wife here, and you get the idea. It makes for a rough morning. If you run out of gas it’s inconvenient. However, if you run out of oil it’s going to be more than inconvenient, it’s going to be damaging. Some people are running out of gas and that can cause problems, but some people are running out of oil and that can cause major problems. In ministry it’s the oil of the Holy Spirit that keeps us fresh and running without burning out. The problem many people make is they think a vacation will solve the problem of feeling the grind. Vacations are great. A weekend away, a week on a beach, or trip to a favorite destination can be very refreshing. Everyone needs time to rest and recover. A vacation is a great way to reenergize yourself and to fill up your gas tank for another long stretch. The problem is that even with a full tank and energy to burn we still need fresh oil for our lives. A vacation is good for the body and mind, but we need oil for our soul. After 17 years of preaching and doing ministry, here are 4 things I recommend to keep the oil flowing in your life and to keep ministry fresh long after “the grind” has set in:

1. Find a worship environment that is more about the awe of God than the attributes of the service. Sometimes in ministry we attend worship services, but don’t truly engage God in them. The service and worship time is about making sure everything is going good and that all of the needs of the worshippers are met. I confess that many times my mind is on my sermon and what I feel like God has laid on my heart to share that day. Ultimately the worship time becomes about what I am doing for God. To stay fresh in ministry you need to intentionally seek out worship moments that are about what God has done for you and not about what you are doing for God. We are recipients of God’s amazing grace, His incredible love, and a multitude of His blessings. Be intentional about finding a place of worship that is simply about the awe of what God has done for you. It’s oil to my life when I worship God with a grateful heart.

2. Find a vision environment that is larger than your current vision. It’s cliche I know, but sometimes you can’t see the forrest for the trees. Sometimes In ministry and being faithful to tend to our one tree or group of trees we forget that we are a part of something much greater. One of the healthiest things you can do is to go to a conference of other believers and christian leaders to be a part of something larger than just you and your tree(s). It adds oil to your life to see what God is doing in the lives and ministries of others. My wife Heidi and I love to go to a larger church in our area at their Saturday night service. It adds oil to my life each time as I see the larger picture of what God is doing in our community through the local church

3. Find a prayer environment that lifts you up. I pray, I believe in the power of prayer, and I believe in praying for everything at all times. However, there are moments when I don’t need to pray, but rather I need to be prayed for. I still believe in the laying on of hands and I still believe in impartation. You need to be intentional about having someone pray for you. There have been strategic moments in my life when godly leaders have laid hands on me and prayed for me. It was oil for my life and ministry.

4. Find a word environment that builds you up. I am a Jentzen Franklin fan. In fact, I got the chance to meet Jentzen a few weeks ago. When I met him I said, and I quote, “hey Pastor Jentzen, you are my man crush.” I thought it would be funny, but instead I think I embarrassed him and myself in the process. Have I mentioned that I am an idiot? Nevertheless, I listen to Jentzen’s podcast, Chris Hodges’ podcast, Andy Stanley’s podcast, and several others. Jentzen preached a message recently that was exactly what I need for this season of my life. I have listened to the message no less than 5 times and it moves me to tears each time I hear it. It’s oil to my life. If anyone knows Jentzen, please tell him I’m sorry.

I am a Joel Osteen Fan

bel__1174061646_uk_tour-landscape-small

Victoria, bless her heart. I’m from the south and that’s our polite way of approaching a situation where someone has said or done something that wasn’t wise. Usually its said with a facial gesture that is a mix of pain and bewilderment and accompanied by a slow head shake. To be proper it goes, painful facial gesture to show displeasure, slow head shake to show disagreeement/bewilderment, and the phrase “bless her heart” is used to show compassion. I’m not for sure when the video originally aired, but it has taken social media by storm over the past couple of days. It’s a video of her attempting to encouraging the church to worship, but it goes terribly off course and quickly. I think what she was attempting to say was that God takes delight in the worship and service of His people. I think she also was trying to say that the best thing you can do for yourself is to worship and serve God. Something about God loving a cheerful giver and delighting yourself in the Lord and all that. I think. What she said came out terribly off course. Naturally, the christian community filled with the love and grace of a crocodile has pounced on both Joel and Victoria. Which brings me to the point of this blog. Dishonor, in any form is dishonor. Whether it be in conversation, social media posts, or in action.

In my bible reading this morning I read the story of the bronze serpent in the wilderness. Snakes were attacking the Israelites because of their sin and a bronze serpent was raised up to save them. They could simply look at the bronze serpent on the pole and they would live. The interesting thing is the confession of the people. Their confession to Moses was, “we have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you.” Included in their confession is the sin of dishonoring leadership with their words. But Joel and Victoria deserve it. They are wrong. Joel has botched media interviews, Victoria has said something that most of christendom would find unbiblical. They deserve the ire of the public. Moses was doctrinally incorrect as well, but God still spoke to him like a friend, used him mightily, and ultimately received him into glory. A chapter before the people confessed about speaking against Moses we find the story of Moses striking the rock a second time. God said to speak to the rock and not to strike it. Moses disobeyed, he didn’t follow the word of God, he completely tampered with the doctrine of Jesus Christ who was once and for all stricken to meet the needs of humanity, and God dealt with him. This post isn’t to condone doctrinal error. Instead, it’s to point out that God both uses and deals with His leaders. If social media would have been around in biblical times I wonder what would have been tweeted about David when he had an affair and was an accessory to murder, but was still a man after God’s own heart. I wonder what the Facebook posts would have said when it came out that Abraham had lied and spun a story for selfish reasons not trusting in God’s protective hand, but yet was still imputed righteousness. I wonder how many people would have been quick to post videos of Peter by a fire letting the profanities flow in order to prove he didn’t know Jesus, but yet still kept preaching. I promise you that video would have gotten a lot of shares, comments, and likes. I wonder what we would have posted when God dealt with Moses for striking the rock and didn’t allow his leadership to extend into the Promise Land. Here’s the deal. Leaders are, have been, and always will be imperfect, but be careful because what you say can bite you. Social Media Pharisees love to point out the splinters in the lives of others all the while ignoring the beam in their own eyes.

I am not an overseer of Joel and Victoria. I trust and hope that they have good people in their lives who can talk to them honestly when something has gone wrong. You and I aren’t those people. I see people bashing “celebrity” preachers and pastors on social media and it really bothers me. First of all, God raises up leadership according to the hearts of the people. If you don’t like your leaders, look in your own heart. Secondly, I lost my voice of criticism and my rocks to throw when I started sinning myself many years ago.

Here’s a simple way to approach the seeming failures of leaders that you aren’t personally involved with:

1. Trust – Trust that they have people around them to correct them and trust that God will deal with them. God really is in control and in charge. He really does raise leaders up and take leaders down. He really does determine our times and seasons, and how long we experience His blessing and favor. Fortunately for me and other leaders, He has more grace than the general public.

2. Pray – It’s so simple it’s cliche, but it needs to be said more than ever before. Pray for people instead of using social media to besmirch their character. The only person who wins when a pastor or christian leader fails is Satan. Not God, not you, not me, not the church, the enemy wins when pastors and christian leaders fail. Pray.

3. Be life giving – There is a time and place to confront people who have done wrong. Churches and pastors need accountability in order to bring correction when they have done wrong. However, if you and I are not part of the accountability process then the best thing we can do is to use our words to build up rather than tear down. We can use our words to speak life rather than death.

I want to go on record. I am a Joel Osteen fan. I am a Joyce Meyer fan. I am a T.D. Jakes fan. I am a Jentzen Franklin fan. I am a Kenneth Copeland fan. I am an Andy Stanley fan. I am a Mark Driscoll fan. I am a Chris Hodges fan. I am a fan of the bivocational pastor who works 60 and 70 plus hours a week just to fulfill the vision God gave him. I am a fan of the pastor of the mid size church in the mid size city that most of us will never hear of. He fails sometimes, he succeeds sometimes, but he imperfectly walks out his calling before God. Ultimately God’s grace covers him and God’s glory will receive him when his time is finished. I am a fan of anyone who is trying to lead people to Jesus and build His church. I’m even a fan of Victoria, bless her heart.

Big Church in a Small Venue – Part 2 (Multi service/chairology)

Image

Okay, let’s talk multi service and chairology. First of all, one of the major perks of a small building is that it doesn’t require much growth in order to build momentum for your church. You can have a relatively small amount of growth, but because your facility is small you are now “packing the place out.” People will say things like you are “blowing up Bro.” You are crushing it, killing it, and several other serial killer type phrases. In reality you grew by 20 people, but your building is so small it makes it feel full. In order to grow you will need to create space. The best way to create space is by going to a multi service format.

Alert: This blog will be full of personal opinion. I, in no way, claim to be a multi service expert, but will share with you my real world experience and thoughts about the process. We currently offer 3 services on Sunday at 9, 10:30, and 12:00. 

My first observation is that percentages feel differently in a small venue versus a large venue. Many people look at how full an auditorium is by percentage when deciding on whether or not to offer multiple services. The idea is that you need empty seats in order to grow. Speaking of percentages, that is 100% correct. You need empty seats and room to grow. However, my opinion is that a small venue needs to maintain a higher percentage than a large venue. For instance my brother, Steve Warman, pastors a church with a facility that will seat 2700 people. I, the underachieving brother, pastor a church with facilities that will seat 150. If his facility is at 50% and my facility is at 50% it doesn’t feel the same. Yes, they are both at 50%, but there is a big difference when 50% is 1,350 people and when 50% is 75 people. Here’s the catch, in a small venue you need it to feel full and energetic. The feeling of an “empty” building can be a momentum killer even though you are adding services and growing. However, you also need to add services in order to grow. When you add a service you obviously split the percentages and end up with an awkward amount of people in your facility. So what do you do? Do you keep “blowing it up Bro” and not have future growth, or do you add a service and endure an awkward season of feeling like you are in an empty building? Here’s the deal… add the service and play chairology. The first time I heard the phrase “chairology” was from my friends Dan Lord and Bryan Larson from the Life Church of Memphis. I can’t remember which one said it first, so I will take credit for the idea.

Chairology 

If you are like me, you inherited your small facility complete with glorious wood and upholstered benches we call pews. The happiest day of my life was when a Haitian church from Fort Myers rented a large truck and came and picked up our pews and baptismal tank. I openly and unashamedly weep joy filled tears upon the remembrance of that glorious day. I would highly recommend getting rid of pews for any reason, but especially if you are planning to do a multi service format in a small venue. I’m not saying it’s impossible to do a multi service format with pews, we went to two services with pews, I’m just saying it’s going to suck.

A few helpful principles:

1. Get church chairs and chair dollies and get ready to move chairs frequently

2. Make your small venue even smaller. Instead of connecting your church chairs, space them a part about 8 inches. This will allow you to have rows that are in the same location as the week before, but you will have less chairs per row.

3. Increase the size of your aisle ways. Space between chairs and a little extra room for the aisles will eliminate a lot of chairs, but won’t drastically change the look of your auditorium. We have had as little as 120 chairs in our room without making the room feel “empty.” The seats look full and the building “feels” full, but there are less people in it because we have them spread out through multiple services.

4. Know your crowd. One service is going to be larger than the other. It’s rare that you get a perfect split every weekend. Typically, one service will be more attended than the other. Our ushers wheel chairs in and wheel chairs out depending on the service. Typically our 9:00am service is our medium service, 10:30 is an overflow service, and 12:00pm is our low crowd. We have a typical set up for 9, we add rows for 10:30, and we take them out for the noon. We have done this for a while until recently our church grew enough to make all 3 services typically “feel” full.

By the way, the percentage difference between large venue and small venue matters on Saturday night service as well. Typically, larger churches don’t get as full of a percentage on Saturday nights as they do on Sunday mornings. We tried Saturday nights in a small venue and found that it didn’t work for us. We have a much better percentage split with three services on Sunday. Again, this is an opinion based on personal experience and offered as food for thought.

 

Big Church in a Small Venue – Part 1

Image

 

This is part 1 of a blog series dedicated to building growing churches in smaller venues. If you research the methodology of most church planting organizations you will find they recommend starting in a venue with 300 or more seats. The reason, the size of your venue seems to shape the culture of your church. However, many churches and pastors like me, are fighting the fight to grow beyond limited facilities and build a growing church. Let’s talk excellence in a small venue. If you are going to build a great church it will require excellence. Excellence costs more and requires more, but it also produces more. There are many enemies of excellence, but one that is prevailing in small venues and small churches is particularly damaging to building a healthy culture that leads to growth.

Principle #1: Avoid the “it’s just us mentality”

I remember a Sunday night in the early days of CoastLife Church. We had planned a Team Night where we would assemble all of our staff, volunteers, and those interested in joining the team. With staff, volunteers, and people interested in joining the team we had about 12 people in attendance. We were small and we had limited resources, but we bought into a scripture that night.

Zechariah 4:10 Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin,

I literally tear up now when I read that passage of scripture. We truly believed that even though we were small, God was rejoicing to see the work begin. So how do you despise the day of small beginnings? By subscribing to the “it’s just going to be us” mentality. Our team made a decision that in spite of the fact that our average attendance was 30, we would operate with excellence as if we were a church of 300. For us, excellence was tied to our love of people. If we loved people we would operate with excellence. When someone special is coming to your home you typically clean more than usual, use better dishes than your every day plates and cups, and maybe even light candles and add some special elements. Our thought was, very special people are coming to God’s house this Sunday, we are going to attend to every detail, put out our best, and then add some special touches. Now that we are a church that has exceeded the 300 mark, this principle still guides us. The trap for small churches is that we don’t put in the effort to create an atmosphere of excellence because “it’s just going to be us.” It may just be your team of 12 people, but do it right, because God is rejoicing to see the work begin.

Here are some thoughts on excellence to keep a healthy culture in a small venue:

1. Excellence is connected to your love of people. Very special people are coming to God’s house this weekend. How can we do our best?

2. Excellence is connected to our love of Jesus. We have church for The One. If “no one shows up” we are still having service for “The One.” Regardless of the crowd size we are still conducting a worship service in the name of Jesus Christ. If we are going to attach the name of Jesus to our service, then we should give it our very best.

3. Excellence is connected to our love of the church. I love the House of God and I want the very best for it. I believe Hillsong Church in Australia coined the phrase, “Heart for the House.” When you have a heart for God’s house you will get there early, stay late, attend to details, and make sure it operates at its very best. When it’s in my heart to build God’s house, I will do this regardless of the crowd size. I will do it because I love His house.

The “it’s just us mentality” becomes a self fulfilling prophecy for many churches. Fight the fight, keep the faith, and operate with excellence because you love Jesus, people, and the church.