Church Leadership

Why Church Leaders Will Never Understand Millennials

In the boomer and builder generations we shared so many common experiences that you could build a successful ministry using the church-by-demographics model. As long as you fit into one of the pre-designated groups, we had a great church experience for you.

That era is going and gone. The number of ways we give and receive information is vast and expanding. The life choices available to us are endless. This is causing us to be splintered like never before, but it’s also opening up opportunities that have never existed.

People Are Leaving for the Cool New Church! Now What?

There’s a disease infecting many of our churches. I call it Cool Church Cancer.

Every Sunday morning, thousands of church-goers drive past our front door on their way to dozens of cool churches.

That used to bother me. A lot.

As I outline in the second chapter of The Grasshopper Myth, “How Trying to Build a Big Church Nearly Killed Me – and My Church”, I tried to copy the cool churches. Then I got jealous of them. Then I got mad. Then I burned out.

Finally, I grew tired of feeling jealous, got help, started redefining success and changed my attitudes and actions.

Today, I’m a Cool Church Cancer survivor.

Here are seven lessons I learned the hard way. I hope they can help you so you don’t make the same mistakes I made.

Start In the Shallow End: Four Steps to Start Becoming an Innovative Small Church

Change is hard.

Don’t make it harder than it has to be.

If I could only give one piece of advice to pastors who are struggling to turn a dying, unhealthy, static church into a fresh, healthy, innovative one, this would be it:

Do the easy parts first.

It’s a basic principle of life that we sometimes forget in the church. You don’t start elementary swim classes in the deep end of the pool. There’s too much unnecessary risk. Pools have shallow ends for a reason.

Your church has a shallow end, too.

No, I don’t know what it is, because I don’t know your church. But you know. Or you should.

If you don’t know, find out. The future of your church and your tenure as its pastor may depend on it.

Here are four of the steps that helped me find and make changes in the shallow end of the church I pastor:

One Pastor’s Response to the Bruce Jenners In Our Lives and Churches

OK, I’m going there.

I don’t often use this forum to comment on the hot topics of the day. I’ve discovered that when topics are as fresh and popular as Sunday’s Bruce Jenner interview with Diane Sawyer, it’s hard for anything but the shrill voices on each extreme to be heard.

But I’m giving it a try today. Here’s why.

I know people like Bruce Jenner.*

I have spent many hours sitting, talking and crying with people who struggle with various gender and sexual issues.

I’ve also sat with their loved ones. Parents and grandparents, sons and daughters, husbands and wives. I’ve seen the pain and confusion in their eyes as they struggle to adapt.

What does it mean as a Christian to love a child, parent or spouse who has just told you they are gay? Or that they’ve felt trapped in the wrong body all their lives? (No, those are not the same thing.)

And who can help me negotiate what to do next?

Why Doing the Right Thing Isn’t Enough for a Healthy Church

Have you been struggling to lead your church to health and strength, but can’t seem to get there?

You’re doing what you believe God is calling you to do and you’re taking wise counsel from others, but there’s very little, if any progress being made? Not just numerically. But in health, discipleship, worship and the other essentials.

This post might be for you.

There are four ways to lead:

1. Do the right thing in the right way
2. Do the right thing in the wrong way
3. Do the wrong thing in the right way
4. Do the wrong thing in the wrong way

Only one of those combinations will produce a healthy church. Let’s take a look at all four and see what happens with each one.

4 Steps to Find, Support & Grow Your Church’s “Hidden” Ministries

Are you frustrated with trying to get people in your church to step up and do ministry?

I know there are churches with bad histories (and a bad present) where this is a legitimate issue. In fact, I pastored one. But in many churches, there may be more ministry happening than many pastors realize.

Pastors must learn to see, then support and promote ministry that’s already occurring within the church membership. But we often miss it because we have a far too limited view of what ministry really means.

Here’s an example.

Done With Church? Don’t Quit It, Change It

There’s a large and growing number of people who say they’re done with church.

These aren’t the Nones – those who who are increasingly checking the box marked “none” on religious affiliation surveys – these are people who often self-identify as Christians, but have intentionally stopped attending church.

According to several recent writings, including The Rise of the “Dones”, by Tom Schultz, the Dones are a growing percentage of society. Many of them have come from the clergy.

Yes, I know what many of you are thinking. This is just more evidence of our entitlement culture that doesn’t want to make commitments or be held accountable. I have to admit that thought occurred to me, too.

Certainly there are people leaving the church who fit that description. But there are regular church attenders and leaders who fit that description, too.

The Dones aren’t like that. They’re not lazy, apathetic or self-serving. Often they’re just the opposite. As Shultz says in his post, “To an increasing degree, the church is losing its best.”

Many of them may be like the kid in class who’s acting up and getting bad grades, not because they’re not interested in learning, but because their learning style doesn’t fit in a classroom setting. They want to leave, not because they don’t care, but because they hate having their time wasted.

Almost everything I’ve read from within the church about the Dones (and it’s a lot), has been written from one of two standpoints: 1) What can we do to win them back?, or 2) An attitude of “good riddance”, with an underlying, sometimes directly stated attitude of “they’re just lazy people who want everything done their way.”

I think that second attitude is inaccurate, dangerous and arrogant. But the first attitude may be missing the point too, since it feels a little like a salesman trying to woo customers back with a semi-annual sale. Either way, we don’t get it.

But everything I’ve read by the Dones (including conversations I’ve had with them) tells a different story. They’re not lazy or self-serving. And they’re not looking to be won back. They’re tired, frustrated and hurt. And they truly are done.

So this post isn’t written to church leaders to offer ideas about what we can do to entice the Dones to come back. Today I’m talking to the Dones or almost-dones, maybe even to fellow ministers in one of those groups, with a simple message.

If you’re done with the way we do church, don’t leave it, help us change it.

Kill Your Church Traditions Before They Kill Your Church

When people start attending the church I pastor, there are a couple realities we tell them early and often. Here’s one of them.

Don’t fall in love with anything but Jesus, the bible and the people. Because everything else is up for grabs.

If you’re coming to our church because you love the way we sing, the architecture or location of the building, the way we run our youth program, or the way I preach, that’s nice. But if you love any of them so much that you’ll leave the church or fight with other members when it’s time to do things differently, you might want to find another church now. Because at this church, all of those things are subject to change.

When do we change them? When they stop working. Or when we find something that works better. And we’re always assessing what works and what doesn’t.

If changing important, but extra-biblical church traditions bothers you, you may not want to read the rest of this post.

Seriously.

I don’t want to get into an argument with people who like their church’s traditions. I’m not saying my way is the only way. But it is the best way for our church. And, if you’re curious enough to want to read on, it might be good for your church, too.

The 6 Types Of Small Church Pastors (Descriptions & Cautions)

There are so many types of Small Churches in the world! The variety is staggering.

Correspondingly, there are a great variety of Small Church pastors, too. But as I talk with more of them (us), I’ve found that there are some patterns that keep repeating themselves.

Specifically, I’ve discovered that Small Church pastors tend to fall into one of six categories. Or some hybrid of two or more.

If you’re a Small Church pastor who doesn’t fit into any of these categories, that’s fine. Maybe there’s a seventh or eighth one I haven’t run across yet.

But I offer these six to you for three reasons:

First, to let you know you’re not alone. There are others who feel what you feel and know the challenges you struggle with.

Second, as a way of supporting each other. Once we know there are others like us, we can reach out and help each other.

Third, each type comes with areas of caution to be aware of. I offer those cautions today as well.

So here they are. You might be a Small Church pastor…

Church Is Not Efficient – And 5 Other Other Messy Truths

As a pastor, I was taught never to wrestle with difficult truths in front of the congregation. Give them simple three-point, alliterated answers to life’s problems.

That may have been the right thing to do years ago. Perhaps we really did live in a simpler era when answers were easier, God made sense and the church always did things well.

But not any more.

Today, people don’t trust answers that come too easily. At least not when we’re dealing with the big questions of life.

That has led some people to give up on the idea that we can find truth at all.

Not me. More than ever, I’m committed to the reality that there is a God. He does exist. That Jesus is the only way to heaven. And that the bible really does mean what it says.

But.

The details are messier than we’d often like to admit. So here are a few of those messy details that I’ve come to be OK with in recent years. I’m even OK with acknowledging them to my church, from the pulpit.

Just don’t stop until you get to the end of the story. The road may not be as smooth as it once was, but the destination is more than worth the trip.