Well this is definitely an article that I can write about in full knowledge and expertise which is a blessing! When it comes to marriage, I can’t give you any tips. Want to know how to raise your children? Can’t do that either. Online ministry? Oh yes!
In 2012, I created and launched Girls of Royalty. For those of you who do not know about Girls of Royalty, let me fill you in. Girls of Royalty is a Christian Women’s Network for women of all ages. Our goal is to cast out fear and have you walk in your purpose. However, we don’t mean just your individual purpose. We discuss the purpose and intent of everything from marriage to finances. We cover every topic of life that we can discuss in the time that we have with our women every chance we get. Our main mission is to use the web and technology to enhance and change how the gospel is spread. We love to tap into new platforms and software all backed by the online web. I knew that this was something that was going to help us move forward in ministry when I began using Google Hangouts in early 2013 for live streaming bible studies. I was so happy to have found a way for viewers to tune into my teachings LIVE. It had a pretty easy back end and the audience felt like I was talking directly to them due to it being live.
As I reflect on all of this now, I would love to share with you some wisdom that I’ve come to have by doing online ministry for 3 years. Granted 3 years may not seem much but what we’ve done in just 3 years is more than many have done in 7-10 years. The online web has a way of accelerating your impact. Don’t believe me? What social media has done for businesses has accelerated sales for businesses that could only dream of being overnight successes back in the early 1990’s or early 2000’s. I’ve seen one Facebook Promo for a product turn a business into an overnight success. Ministry isn’t any different when it comes to exposure. However, I do want to balance this article out by talking about the things you should stray away from due to online exposure and just seeing so many things in this arena of online ministry.
1. Know Your Vision & Your Mission
When it comes to online ministry, the easiest thing to do is fall into the temptation of getting away with inconsistency and lack of vision. Just because you aren’t a church doesn’t mean you get the free card to just throw a cute vision statement up and roll with it. If I may be blunt the following statements don’t count as a vision.
a. Our vision is to help spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.
b. Our vision is to change the lives of women through God’s love.
c. Our vision is to motivate people to do God’s will.
None of these are a mission nor a vision. They aren’t specific enough. These three things that I have listed should be the vision and mission of EVERY ministry. God will give you a SPECIFIC vision and mission. When it came to Girls of Royalty, I knew that our job was to help women to become bold in their FAITH and understand their purpose. However, when it came to purpose, it was more than just their individual one. I wanted them to know the purpose of love, marriage, sex, relationships, sisterhood, finances, and more. Our motto is: No Fear. All Purpose. Our teachings are faith based and we teach more on faith than probably any other topic. The hilarious thing is that even if we are talking about another topic, faith always ends up coming in the teaching somewhere. Why? Because Faith is the opposite of Fear. We have taken this mission and vision seriously that we have done conference calls and have hosted online teachings for finance, vision empowerment, marriage/dating, and so much more.
Anyone can technically start an online ministry because the start-up finances are almost near to none. You don’t have to worry about heat, electric, a mortgage or rent. You save money in mailing out welcome letters and postcards to your members/recent visitors. The point is that it is a money saver. However, just because it’s easy to start doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. I’ve seen people do online ministry and waste years of their time because they did it due to popularity. People love being called “founder” and “president of blah blah”. Let me tell you this: Don’t pull a title that your character doesn’t have the weight to sustain. The ministry is only as good as the vision and the leader. So if you can’t lead, it will show. Delegating out tasks doesn’t make a leader. I know many “leaders” that can make some calls and get some people on a team. They take the team and delegate little tasks here and there. That’s not vision and that’s not a mission. A vision and a mission is when you’re focused and the ministry speaks toward that. This also means carrying a vision that isn’t the popular topic of the year or century. I know many leaders that felt “compelled” to a particular ministry because certain posts received more “social media love” than the posts that they really wrote from their heart. This is why it’s so important to know your vision and your mission. You can NOT shake from what God CALLED you to do and it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t get the “likes” you think it should.
Ministry is about tapping into the potential and power of your vision and mission. Many ministries don’t know how to market, have horrible graphics, and don’t tap into the power of their own online platform. So please do not switch your ministry and vision and then claim that God gave you a “new” passion. You can change your look 5 million times and it wouldn’t matter. You need to get back to what God called you to. Don’t follow after your favorite ministry trying to be just like them. You may get the fame but you are walking outside of the will of God and that is something that you do not want to be apart of. You can not allow people’s likes and comments about what they want to hear tear you away from what God has called you to do. At the end of the day, those hearts and likes online will not earn you a “thy good & faithful servant” sticker. You have to stick to the vision and mission no matter how tough it gets.
2. It’s not about works. It’s about the call.
When I started tapping into online ministry, I wanted to be just like Heather Lindsay and Pinky Promise. The crazy part is I know some ministries who want to do the same thing and they are sadly: fools. Haha. I love everyone but I’m just trying to help you guys out. Pinky Promise used the technology of Ning.com which is a great platform to create your own social media site. Members have the option to create their own profiles, discussion forums, and so forth. The price point is stellar and it’s a great avenue for a ministry like Pinky Promise. Guess what? I tried to do my own version of Pinky Promise back in late 2013/2014 with Royal Girl Takeover. It was a FAILURE. Well, it wasn’t too bad. We did establish some Royal Girl cities and we did actually have groups that met up in cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, Alabama, and a few other cities. However, that isn’t our mission nor our vision. Yes, it was a good idea and it did draw out some people BUT it did not last long because I soon realized that I had to cut the cord. The crazy thing is that like 2-3 months later some of the ministries that followed us started doing the same such as establishing chapters and cities. I did see how these ideas also faded away in their organizations. When it comes to online ministry, there are a few things within this “Works” category that you have to be really careful of. Just because you do something online does NOT make it easy. Yes, it’s easy to get a domain and a website up. It only takes a 10 year old to setup some social media profiles. Like there are literally teenagers out here that do Instagram better than most of us young adults (haha). However, it also takes strategy and wisdom. Pinky Promise had MAJOR success. However, their focus was to establish these small groups in different cities with accountability and they made it that way. You can’t just have a website up and then start telling people that you’re also transitioning into physical engagement. You need to establish some presence first. For myself personally, I am not going to have GOR establish physical small groups until our online small groups have been established for at least 2-3 years. By that time, I want to have some back-end technology up and running for us to expand our online capabilities for our small groups and not depend on outside platforms.
Here are some additional reasons why when it comes to online ministry & establishing online presence:
- The amount of followers you have online versus ones that are going to physically come out aren’t the same. For every 100 members, we expect about 30-40 to be actually attentive. For instance we have a growing membership but on average we have a 40% open rate for our weekly emails. The click rate (how many people are clicking links to actually check out our website, files,ect.) is around 9% versus the average rate of 6.92% according to email marketing software like Constant Contact. (More info: http://support2.constantcontact.com/articles/FAQ/2499) So with all of this being said, we learned very early on that we can’t expect or base events on the entire population of our members. We base our events and activity now on those that are actively participating. Stop worrying about blowing up and start focusing on how to make your current participants more interactive with your ministry. Many ministries focus on getting more followers and more members. However, if the ones you have aren’t connecting already then you need to obtain a better strategy.
- Social Media Followers aren’t your promised audience when it comes to online ministry. It’s your email list. Not everyone is going to see all of your announcements on social media so don’t depend on it. I’m all for social media based ministries and I think their reach is amazing. However, always have a backup plan because you want your ministry to last for generations and not for a season. Having an email list with data never fails. People always get smart with me when I mention this but I’m trying to help people have their ministries last. Why put in so much toil and sweat into something God gave you and it become something of the past when a new platform pops up? Also, having an email list gives you a direct way to connect to your base. I know that for others they use an app that they offer to their audience which is another direct way. These are people who have added their information and have taken extra steps to stay connected to you. I’ve noticed how some social media ministries are adding at least a small website and an email list. That’s all you need.
Also, I think many online ministries have become obsessed with having 20 things happening in their ministry. That almost killed Girls of Royalty. I made a MAJOR mistake a few months ago and as a budding leader, you have to call out your own bull crap. For myself, 4A Ministries happened WAY to early. God did give me the idea but I pushed it out too early without developing it. I also put it in the wrong place when it came to strategy.
So 4A Ministries is basically the 4 Ministries that make up the family: Men, Women, Teens, and Kids. Girls of Royalty is what started the entire thing and has been at the forefront. Men of Royalty was started in 2015 but never had a good leadership team until actually a few weeks ago and I can’t wait for Mr.McCray to get that up and running for our men. Our Teen Program is thriving and it’s called Branded Teens. They actually have a solid team and are doing a phenomenal job all on their own. Our children’s/kid’s program is still in development but all designs and logos have already been put out and we do have our social media accounts for all 4 ministries. The crazy thing is that I put it out to soon and made 4A the face of all of our ministries instead of keeping them as individual ministries. 4A Ministries was meant to shine in the background keeping everyone abreast of very general basic announcements that concerned all ministries combined. I almost ruined the core brand: GOR. Let me tell you what “busy” does. Busy is when you boast of having all this stuff going on in your ministry for the sake of saying, “we’re producing”. God does not care about your 20 programs. He cares about the programs that are actually working and have the passion to sustain themselves.
So here is how I took a God-given move and prematurely used it. I took all our ministries and moved them to all one site. So GOR’s site was no longer there and it redirected them to 4A Ministries. No more girly. No more women focus. So now the bible studies were co-ed and all together. I had misunderstood what God wanted to do with 4A. He never meant for 4A to take over. However, that’s what happened. Our studies became generic and more importantly: unfocused.
So very recently before our 3rd birthday, I called up Alyssia. Alyssia is GOR’s social media head and also serves on the CORE team of GOR. The core team of GOR makes up the major decisions for the ministry. She told me that she had thought the same thing. We had lost what made people fall in love with GOR in the first place. Ministry is not about the doing. It’s about the mission and what God called you to do. So when our birthday came on November 5th,2015, we made the correct changes. We removed programs that were not stagnant and instead of killing them they went to the back burner. We placed 4A Ministries on a smaller site and made it more like a resource site where people could learn about all 4 of the ministries. However, GOR returned back to GirlsOfRoyalty.com and we placed the spotlight back on our women. We went back to the girly fonts and the pink. We resurrected our purpose and mission.
CUT STUFF OFF THAT ISN’T WORKING. YOU’RE ONLY HURTING YOUR MINISTRY!
Our membership during our 4A failure remained stagnant. I kid you not. Our numbers were at a standstill. This taught us that what we were doing was not productive because it wasn’t drawing people in. So I say this as an encouragement because some of you have gotten busy doing non-productive things. Get back to what God called you to do and tap into that mission and vision. Stop being busy for no reason and get active what your heart beats for. You will find yourself exhausted. I’ve seen many leaders become exhausted. They then blame their exhaustion on “doing the work of God” and how “leading a ministry with blah blah blah things is not for the weak”. No. You’re doing 300 things that don’t even align to your vision nor mission.
The day I changed everything back to GirlsOfRoyalty.com and we put out our new revised and updated logo and upgraded customized graphics, our membership started rising up. We had additional members on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram daily. It’s only been a few days since November 5th,2015 and the numbers are increasing. The engagement is greater
With Online Ministry, GOR could be doing SO MANY things. Matter of fact, let’s go to my second to last point to prove this.
3. Just because it’s a good idea, doesn’t make it good for you.
GOR (GirlsOfRoyalty.com) has the ability to do so much because it’s online. The web gives us so many options. However, just because you have the options doesn’t mean that you need to add additional lanes. For instance, I was looking at some an online ministry that has an encouragement text service. People can text to a chosen custom keyword and they are put on this text list to receive inspirational texts. I thought it was an awesome idea. I did not add it to what GOR does though because we needed to focus on what we were going to contribute to ministry. I think there is this feeling in ministry that if we see someone else doing something, we need to use it as well for what we do. Nope. It goes back to have 30 programs in your ministry and you’re running around like a chicken with your head cut off. I remember when I saw that Heather Lindsay was doing a teaching once a month on Google Hangouts a few months ago. I said to myself well she only teaches once a week to her members. Let me do the same. So we went from teaching weekly to once a month. I received backlash from our members. They wanted weekly interaction. That’s what they were used to because that’s what our vision and mission focused on. We wanted to be involved in our women’s lives on a daily/weekly basis. This is why I teach and harp on knowing your specific vision & mission well. I know ministries that want to be just like Saved in the City. Can we just stop with the copying? Learn how to make your vision and mission your own. Let me give you a perfect example. I love chicken. However, there are many ways to cook chicken. That’s a perfect and simple example for ministry. Stop cooking your chicken like Sally Mae and Billy Bob. People will love how you cook your chicken the way you cook it. Some ministries are using store cooked chicken but that’s for another article (haha). But seriously, let’s focus on making and doing what we do special. If anything, it’s out of respect for other ministries. For instance, our ministry is relaunching our empowerment calls soon. Tons of people do empowerment calls. I’m trying to figure out a way to do it differently than I’ve seen it. Even when it comes to our monthly curriculum, I write from my heart so that it doesn’t sound like anyone else. You have to believe in the words that God puts in your spirit to share with others. Some leaders don’t even trust the voice of God. I can tell because their online social media accounts would be filled with more custom content than reposts of other people’s inspiration. Do you not trust the words of wisdom that God can impart to you through prayer?
4. Know Your Platform & Limit Your Platform
If your ministry was built off of Instagram, you should be keeping up on Instagram and their developers. You should know what apps are best and how to use it to the best of your knowledge. Where your ministry is parked is your online home. Don’t use “I know God” as an excuse to be ignorant of tech and web development. You don’t have to be a geek or a wise guy to read a few articles on Google. God has placed us on the online world to spread the gospel. We have to take it seriously! If you have built up your platform on YouTube then you should look into how YouTube is helping content creators and how to increase your viewership and marketability. If you’ve built your ministry from a blog, then you should be not just reading great blogs but also doing workshops and training. Nothing hurts me more than when people say that they don’t know something that I found out just by typing words into the Google search. Some are so focused on getting their name out there that they forget to tap into what is around them. Stop focusing on blowing up. That’s an offense to God because it’s built on a base of pride and self-promotion. Put the ministry first and know how to increase the quality of your platform and output.
Lastly, learn that online ministry is NOT a church. Let me repeat this because some people are trying to make these online churches. Online ministry will NEVER replace the local body of Christ gathering together. So with this being said, don’t do anything online that would take people away from their commitment to their local church. At GOR, one of our brand values (every ministry should have brand/church values) is that we value the local church. We want to connect our members to local churches if they don’t have one already. This is a biblical truth. So please do not try to have people leave their churches to follow your voice. That’s not love nor is it biblical. Online ministries are another arm of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We should work alongside the church to help bring people who find us online to ministries around us that make up the local body. Online ministries should be pushing people to church and not replacing them. Also, just because you lead an online ministry does not make you your own pastor. You need a covering and should be active in your own local church. People who want to lead others online but don’t serve actively in their local churches confuse me. You must be a servant first to lead others. You should also be held accountable within a local body of Christ.
So what are your thoughts? Let me know! I know I covered a lot but I had to get these thoughts off my chest because I want online ministries to thrive and not just have an external impact. We need to make some real dents in the enemy’s plans to keep people held captive to their old lifestyles and habits. We need to make real changes and that starts with our leadership and having a clear vision and mission.
I love social media. As an entrepreneur and brand coach, I know how important social media is. For churches, it has helped spread the gospel even faster. Churches and pastors are now able to connect to members, visitors, and the world in just a few seconds. However, social media has also given many a platform to tear down the church walls instead of building them up.
I understand that we all have our opinions. However, it’s a really sad thing when we have more haters within the church walls than outside. When it comes to mega-pastors and televangelists, this is where I have come to draw the line. I’ve been trying to figure out if people are 3 year olds or mature adults who understand how to confront a brother/sister in Christ. In the bible, especially the New Testament, it brings up repeatedly how to approach someone within the faith that we disagree with. Instead what I see is pure mockery instead of praying. If I see another Joel Osteen or TD Jakes Meme tearing down these brothers in Christ, I’m immediately blocking that person. My main issue is that we’re producing more division instead of bridging gaps and promoting what we DO love within the body of Christ.
How did your mockery or post bring a soul to Christ? How did your rant about why you hate or dislike a certain preacher or teacher teach someone about the love of Christ?
No where in the bible does it say that we are rip apart someone even if we don’t agree with their theology. Now if you can find it for me then I will edit this article. However, these types of actions do not mimic the heart of Jesus. What’s even more hilarious is that the same time we spent ripping apart someone else could be spent teaching God’s Word to others. Your hate and dislike is a waste of time. It’s also not done in love.
Many claim that they can discern but discernment is always done in love. Even when you correct another person in the faith, it’s supposed to be done in love. If we would be honest, many of our judgements are done in flesh and not by the Holy Spirit. When we judge another, it should be well-rounded. I will be honest. There are some teachers of God’s Word that don’t have the most sound theology. There are some that are selling anointing oil for $15.99 and charging you for a prophetic word. Do I agree with what they do?
No. However, I know that as their brother and sister in Christ, I must pray and continue to teach and spread the Word of God that I have been commanded to do. God will reveal and expose what He desires. However, if I can’t say or do something in love, my judgement is nothing but an opinion surrounded by stinky flesh.
“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim. 4:1-5).
The scripture above is used by many to talk about “sugarcoating” doctrine. Again, I do agree that there is unsound doctrine being teached. I do see teaching that is pleasing to the flesh. However, I love what it says at the very end of this passage. It starts off with BUT. In other words, yes all of this madness is going on BUT you need to focus on the work that you have been called to do. It says FULFILL YOUR MINISTRY. Notice that it doesn’t say fulfill another person’s ministry and take over what they are doing because you don’t like it. It doesn’t say to fulfill another person’s purpose or calling. It doesn’t say fulfill your jealous desires to compete with another person’s ministry. It says fulfill your ministry. It’s really simple. It’s just that as humans we make it really complicated. We take on this “judge” role and we begin to prosecute and indict other brothers/sisters in Christ as if we are God. Look, just focus on what God has called you to do. Either you love wasting your time or you just don’t want to pray for the same person you condemn.
Many stir up so much division that it’s worse than the sugarcoating preacher/teacher. Sometimes your hateful mouth does more wrong than horrible doctrine. Yup. That’s the real comedy.
I’ll never forget when people were talking about Creflo Dollar purchasing a jet of some sort. My timeline on Facebook was crazy. I sat here thinking about a man that was looking for hope or a woman that was about to give up on life and instead of you being focused on your ministry of spreading the gospel, you are filling up my timeline giving your 2 cents about someone else. I personally could care less about Creflo’s jet because I was too busy talking to people within Girls of Royalty and 4A Ministries about stuff that we needed to get done. It’s all about the mentality. The hilarious part is that the church had more to say than the world. We have too much to do for God to talk about nonsense.
Now let’s talk about jealousy within ministry. I think it’s time to really talk about this because it’s something that touches not just the leaders and members but also our perspective and purpose.
If anyone was to ask me what was the number one thing though that broke my heart when it comes to things that I’m seeing in certain circles within ministry, it would be competition. We’re humans. I get it. Ministry is about dealing with the heart. So it shouldn’t be surprising when you have people with competing spirits. People now compare churches as if they are God sitting on the throne. People make their own lists of who is important in the Kingdom of God like children picking crayons in a box. There are gossip sites and YouTube channels dedicated to gossip within the church and condemning pastors and rating their theology.
When something happens to a ministry a person did not favor, attack immediately comes out of their mouths. Some even rejoice when a ministry or pastor fails or a horrible experience happens. What has gone wrong in our local collected bodies? Pastors and members now compare the size of their church to others and discount the moving of God period as if God must have at least 100 people present in order to move. What’s going on?
You can always tell where a person’s heart points by how they lead. If they are always trying to outdo ministries that are in their area or within the same demographic pool, that’s an issue. There’s also an issue when members leave because someone has a larger facility or a cooler worship experience. The church is the body not the building. The church meets within a building because A/C and heat are a blessing! Within this building, the members of the body of Christ encourage and strengthen one another. The pastor educates the members with God-given and inspired teachings. Within this body of Christ, the Holy Spirit moves and the gifts of the Spirit (should) flow in full operation. The members contribute to one another and look to give more than they receive. I believe that one major reason why leaders find themselves competing is because they depend on members more than God. I learned this personally by looking at my home church. In the early 2000’s my grandfather was getting ready to leave the earth. He was the founding pastor of Revival Fellowship Church and started many churches in the North East and in the South of the USA. He was passionate about souls! I remember seeing him preach at tent revivals and in churches all over! He was committed to Christ and did not hold back! My parents had been put over a small church in New Jersey in a small town called Salem. This was probably the smallest location out of all of the RFC churches. The church was pretty much a storefront and probably didn’t hold more than 50 people. On certain Sundays, we would get a few people. There would be other Sundays where it would be only a handful. We had church rain or shine. It was about the body of Christ. I watched my parents follow God and not man. My grandfather soon passed away and my parents took over the churches.
People turned. Their hearts turned. The church dwindled and we were back to being a small church at one location in Delaware. What I saw was that people were following my grandfather but not God. They didn’t agree with my Grandfather’s decision to pass the church to my father and mother. They loved to hear him preach and they waited for his every word until he gave his last one. The same people that kissed me on the cheek as “Pastor’s Grandbaby” soon became ghosts of the past.
My parents did not mind though. I’m sure they were a bit hurt and probably confused. However, they understood that God did not call them to please the members. God called them to please Him and God would honor that. My parents were never too fond of being like other churches. Our church doesn’t have a lot of the latest technology. For several years our church had a Jurassic Park website (horrible looking). Because our church is small, our budget isn’t huge. However, we’ve learned to be really creative. We have some awesome things coming soon within our church. Yet, we’ve never been focused on what other people are doing. We’ve had people leave and tell us that we didn’t have enough programs. I remember someone telling us that we don’t have enough events and initiatives.
My response: Have a blessed day.
I’ve read some awesome books by leaders like Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel on church and church growth. The #1 lesson that I’ve pulled from these two is to be strong and firm on establishing your church culture. Every church has their own culture. Competition changes your culture and then pushes people into a direction that God never intended. You may grow but I’d rather grow slow with God then fast by my flesh and desire to top someone else. You will burn out when it isn’t God driven.
Here’s another thing. When you focus on competition in ministry, you stop building off of the creativity to do your “God-work” and focus instead of using your creativity for competition. This is the one arena where everything must be God driven. You will be driven by the success and the failures of others. When they achieve great heights, you will feel an urge to take your own vision and push it to overcome theirs. The moment they hit lows, you will feel as if you are in a better place than them and feel great. If you find yourself at this point, you’re in a sick condition. There’s nothing wrong with looking to other churches for inspiration but competition is a spirit that will drown your church and the members with it.
The moment we start looking at what people are doing, we will begin to compromise our purpose. God never meant for ministries to compete. He meant for ministry to support one another. However, many can’t even support each other because some are scared that someone will have the upper hand. We treat our churches like the stock market. Who went up today? Who dropped? Members begin to say: Should I sell? Should I buy?
Churches begin acting like companies. They push out products to compete with the other companies. They want to please their stockholders (members).
God is saying: This is not the stock market. This is the church. So we must ask about where the heart is and what are the motives.
- Rejoicing When A Leader Falls
This is the one thing that makes me sick (probably because it happened to my own family). When my parents went to prison in 2012, I then knew what jealousy in ministry really looked like. My parents were indicted for tax fraud for a family business a couple years ago and the enemy thought he had won. They shouldn’t have went (the accountants should have). However, that’s not the point of this article. In 2012, our church lost their pastors for a short period of time. How people really felt about my parents came out once the news had spread about what happened. People who used to visit and be members of our church years ago (when my grandfather was alive) begin to talk about how my parents deserved what had happened to them. These were apparently “brothers and sisters in Christ”. Did they pray for my family or even for me? Nope. Instead we had people prey on the ministry asking who would lead it. Some even tried to establish themselves as “substitute pastors” who were really just members looking to take their pride to the next level. Of course, they no longer attend our church. People were gossiping left and right saying that the church was going to close. When the storm came, people talked more than they prayed. People began telling others that they needed to go to another church and they even told them where specifically they should go.
People were waiting for something horrible to happen to my parents and when it did, they rejoiced in another man’s pain. See it wasn’t a matter of what was right or wrong. It was a matter of: Will you pray for your brother/sister when they fall? Will you help them get back up? Will you love in spite of? More people contacted members within our church for gossip than asked if they needed anything or if they were alright. They just lost their leaders for a moment of time. I’m trying to figure out where Christ was in all of their spiritual gifts.
I am reminded of Paul in Philippians 1:12-30 (MSG). I URGE you to read the entire thing because it’s that amazing.
I want to report to you, friends, that my imprisonment here has had the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of being squelched, the Message has actually prospered. All the soldiers here, and everyone else too, found out that I’m in jail because of this Messiah. That piqued their curiosity, and now they’ve learned all about him. Not only that, but most of the Christians here have become far more sure of themselves in the faith than ever, speaking out fearlessly about God, about the Messiah. It’s true that some here preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they’ll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that I am here defending the Message, wanting to help. The others, now that I’m out of the picture, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves. Their motives are bad. They see me as their competition, and so the worse it goes for me, the better––they think––for them. So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on! And I’m going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out. Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything he wants to do in and through me will be done. I can hardly wait to continue on my course. I don’t expect to be embarrassed in the least. On the contrary, everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose. As long as I’m alive in this body, there is good work for me to do. If I had to choose right now, I hardly know which I’d choose. Hard choice! The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful. Some days I can think of nothing better. But most days, because of what you are going through, I am sure that it’s better for me to stick it out here. So I plan to be around awhile, companion to you as your growth and joy in this life of trusting God continues. You can start looking forward to a great reunion when I come visit you again. We’ll be praising Christ, enjoying each other. Meanwhile, live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ. Let nothing in your conduct hang on whether I come or not. Your conduct must be the same whether I show up to see things for myself or hear of it from a distance. Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people’s trust in the Message, the good news, not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition. Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against:defeat for them, victory for you––and both because of God. There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting. You’re involved in the same kind of struggle you saw me go through, on which you are now getting an updated report in this letter.
What happened to my parents taught me a very valuable lesson about jealousy in the pews. It taught me that there is nothing more powerful than the gospel of Jesus Christ. When my parents went into their prison camps, they were able to spread the gospel. My mother told me that when she got into the prison, she would get up early to pray. The women would watch her. My mother wasn’t shaken by what people said about her. She knew that her light would shine even in the darkest of places. The women began to ask her questions about God. Soon, they would wait until she would get up and would pray with her. She began to lead women to Christ. My father did the same thing. He would ask us to ship him books from Christian authors. He would share the books and lead bible study in the prison. On Sundays, they would watch the word of God on television and then have a small bible study. My dad would pray for the men. My mother left after receiving early release. I will never forget that day. It wasn’t that she was getting released that hit me the hardest. There were women lined up on the hill that were all ethnicities. They were yelling and waving goodbye as she walked down the hill to the car. I couldn’t even believe that the prison had let all these women come outside to say goodbye. My mother had impacted that prison. For an entire year I was in pure agony from not having my mother physically near me but God was using that prison as a place of purpose for my mother. Just like Paul, my mother was given a pulpit. If you want to know where your faith really stands, get thrown into the lion’s den. My mother had lost weight and had received almost years back due to the rest she had received in the prison. My mother was a work-a-holic. This woman was a hard worker and that one year in prison gave her a required rest that she hadn’t had in years. When my father came home almost two years later, the years of our pain was at an end. It was almost hilarious as he went through the process of coming home. He stuck out like a sore thumb. My dad is a man of true faith. You would have thought that his experience would have silenced him or had taken away his joy. If anything, it fired him up. The energy that he has now for the things of God is nothing but supernatural. When He was inside the prison, he would send me emails with prayers and confessions. He preached to me from within the prison cell. I should have been encouraging Him but it was the other way around.
When people are jealous of you, they will try to throw rocks. However, I like what one of my father’s spiritual dads said. He said: I will not throw back at you the rocks you throw at me. Instead, I will use them to build a bridge because one day you will be following me.
Don’t take your eyes off of what God has called you to do. When I spent time heavily as a creative director for brands, I would always ask them one question. Why do you do what you do? Why are you passionate about this mission? The moment you start copying someone else’s vision or competing with it, you will instantly lose yours. There is nothing wrong with having a cool sanctuary and having a cool logo and flyers. However, there aren’t enough events, designs, and buildings that can overtake the anointing.
The one thing that I love about RFC (my home church) is that it was where God planted me. I have grown so much and have learned so much. As I assume the new role as Creative Services Director at this church as a full time volunteer, I am learning to stay focused. You have to be focused on souls and cultivating those who attend your church. Never be intimidated or feel defeated because of your size. No it’s not perfect. It has its flaws. However, it’s a church made of humans. If it didn’t have flaws, it wouldn’t be a church. Church is about growing with people and learning how to grow within yourself. I’ve learned where I have failed as a person internally and externally. The body of Christ forces you to evolve and change.
I’ve been to churches that are larger and have “cooler” things to do. However, whether you’ve been planted by God at a large, medium, or small church, know that you’re planted. That’s a wonderful place to be. RFC is a small church. Yet, we have never felt like there was an issue with our size. If you keep on having an issue with your size, the issue isn’t the size. The issue is you and how you see what God is doing. Every soul is important to God and if we can not care for the small, what good is it for God to send more? With our small community, I have accountability like never before. If I don’t show up to church, I’m going to get a text from somebody. I remember one of the older saints asking me where I was because they hadn’t seen me for some time. I appreciate that. I appreciate how at the small church I have the ability to be hands on with projects and help push our church further in technology.
I do believe that God has given me these talents to help my church. I believe that with my knowledge and expertise, I can push the vision of my parents (pastors) and really help impact our small body. You don’t impact with the goal to gain more people. You impact with the goal to impact those present and to change lives through God’s power. You have to have a pure heart with an intention to touch the people. Don’t look for a pat on the back from people. Never depend on people’s praises because ministry is not about you. It’s nice when people acknowledge you but ministry is something that you can not go into and focus on you. It’s the most unselfish position you can take. Some people rush to it with the idea for fame and money. It’s not a pretty walk through the park. You’re dealing with the flaws of man. The church is the home for the flawed. If you are seeking for a place that seeks perfection, try working at the makeup store or work in a plastic surgeon’s office. However, the church’s job is to help people deal with their flaws with the power of Christ. God gives us grace to change our lives into something that will testify of His goodness.
Learn to appreciate what you have. Learn to find the beauty in the work that you do. Our eyes must be focused on Christ. Read what Paul says again in Philippians 1. Yes there will be suffering. People may talk about you and may try to tear you down. You may feel as if your ministry or calling isn’t good enough compared to others. However, keep your focus on what God has called you to do. You’ve been through too much to give up. You actually can’t give up if you pray. Prayer is what kept my family and I. It is what will keep you. It will strengthen you in the hardest times.
Remember that the message of the Gospel is not about who can do it better. It’s about how can we serve God in a way that impacts and draws others to Christ. The enemy is busy doing his job. Just make sure you are doing yours.
In the past few years, I’ve visited many churches. It’s apart of what I do.
I come from a small sized church and it has been a blessing. Every church was small at one point. If your church is small, consider it the groundwork for major lessons. Within the past 5-6 years, I have spent more time than most 30+ year old adults learning about behind-the-scenes church/ministry work. During that time, I’ve seen where many traditional churches are slowly but surely seeing their numbers drift into the sunset. What worked 10-20 years ago is no longer working. We’re in a digital age filled with phones, iPads, talking vehicles, and Siri.
Here are the problems I see with many churches that are slowly but surely leading to their very own demise. It’s not that the Word of God isn’t being preached or that you are missing great people. It’s that the message isn’t being creatively promoted or marketed.
Before I get started on my list, please note that I’m not saying that every church should be a mega church. However, the goal is to draw people in to experience God with a body of believers. All I’m saying is that if you have the same number of members you had last year, something is wrong. If your membership is declining, something is wrong. You may not grow to ever have 5,000 or 10,000 members. Remember, that the goal is connecting to people to your church. Do not think just because you’ve done a million things that everybody should know who you are. We need to make church into a God experience not our own personal experience of how we think church should go or how it has gone for centuries.
Ok. Let’s get started on this list.
1. Lack of Communication to the Outside World
I’m starting to believe that many churches must use horse & buggy to contact their members and potential visitors. Many churches are using outdated software and antique ways to stay in contact with their members (adults & youth). I’ve seen churches who do not have a website (scary stuff). However, let’s assume that you have a website, you have social media pages, and you have a competent admin who keeps your membership in a particular software program. Now, you have 5 events coming up within the next 2 weeks. You have your regular scheduled events (worship & bible study) and then you have your special events (concerts, meetings, ect.). Here is the big problem: Announcing events JUST in service is a HUGE PROBLEM! Never depend on word-of-mouth when it comes to events. You might as well put an egg underneath a dog and expect it to hatch. You have to anticipate people and how they act.
Solution: Use Email marketing programs like MailChimp (free for up to 2,000 members) or AWeber (paid) or Constant Contact (paid). Mad Mimi (free) is also another platform that your church can use. Use these email marketing programs to promote non-regular scheduled events like upcoming group meetings, concerts, special events, and more.
Solution: Social Media should be your next go-to after in-service announcements when it comes to upcoming events, classes, and more! Upcoming events even include regular things like bible study, worship services, and repetitive things like group meetings and youth gatherings.
Solution: Create engaging graphics that are social media sized (square sized-at least 1000 x 1000 with 300 DPI) for easy sharing. Creating shareable content makes it (guess what?) easy to share. People are lazy so give them less work to do when it comes to sharing things. This is why you need volunteers/staff/ect. who have an eye for graphics & design. I guarantee you that your church has at least 1-3 people who do this professionally or as a freelancer. Make sure that these announcements are also on the website. This is why you need someone in charge of web maintenance. If your site is so hard to manage that you can’t even place up-to-date weekly events, work on that!
Solution: Having a team in charge of communications will help your church admin not lose their hair. If you have a smaller size church then your church admin should be fine with doing these themselves. However, it’s great to keep everything within one team. Giving cross responsibilities can turn into a tangled web. Keep communications with the communications side. I’ve also found that it’s best to train at least 2 people when it comes to things that need to be done on a regular basis just in case someone is not able to do it or is busy. Using schedule options within these e-mail marketing systems and social media platforms (new blog post coming on that!) will help your team stay organized.
Solution: Use the power of hand-held cards for sermon series that are happening. I’ve found that using VistaPrint’s extremely affordable postcard printing has helped churches with small budgets. I’ve designed graphics for churches promoting their Worship Times & Days on small postcards & it worked amazingly well. Churches were able to place them outside the sanctuary for members and visitors to obtain. You can also use them for Direct Mailing campaigns.
2. Putting Personal Opinions before Passionate Purpose
Many pastors have become micro-managers of their own churches leading their leaders underneath to be choked of creativity. Pastors who don’t delegate nor let their people create and enjoy serving will end up being the main reason for their church numbers to deplete. I’ve seen too many pastors try to approve every single detail and create loads of red tape for one thing to be approved. Pastors must learn how to effectively manage and create teams that have passion for their churches and an eye for souls. Loving God is one thing. Having a heart to understand this culture and how to reach souls strategically is another thing. Many leaders think that if they don’t come up with the idea, it’s worthless. Andy Stanley said the best piece of advice for pastors. During a Catalyst meeting, Andy noted that churches need people who don’t always see everything as “perfect”. You need people who see that your women’s ministry is not growing because your leadership is not correctly organized. You need people who see that because of X this is Y young people are not flooding your church doors. It’s not about just identifying problems but also having people who are knowledgeable about what actually works. If your youth ministry hasn’t grown in the past 3-5 years, you may need to look at your leadership. It’s not that you need to get rid of them per say. It’s just that every good church should be attracting good people.
I’ve seen great staff, ministers, and volunteers leave churches because they felt as if they couldn’t even use their gifts within the body due to pastors and leaders who wanted to control everything 24/7. “It’s my way or the highway” is something that will be the death of many churches. It should be “It’s God’s way or the highway”. God wants us to be creative and He wants us to be strategic in the placement of those gifts. So many people are scared that people will takeover their positions because truly those people aren’t doing their jobs right in the first place. Don’t let ego and pride ruin your church growth.
Strategy (1): It’s the fact that maybe one who knows social media, should do the social media. The guy who has experience in curriculum, should develop the lesson plans. The girl who is great at public speaking and creating amazing stories, should teach the lessons. The group of brothers who are good at singing should work with the youth music team.
Strategy (2): When creating or re-organizing groups or teams within ministry, look for people’s fruits and gifts. See what they are naturally good at by looking at what they do within their careers and extra-curricular activities. I remember working with a church in Philadelphia,PA who has a member who works for the Eagles Marketing Team. Guess who volunteers to do the church’s graphics & marketing? If there is a guy who works on installing tv’s & cables or works on computers, you may find your tech guy! Know a teacher who works in middle or high school? They may be perfect people to help you refine your youth curriculum.
It’s about sorting your volunteers based upon their gifts and not just based upon your personal opinions and who you think should do this or that. God made us to be wise. We need to put our personal ego aside and think about how we can win souls instead of making our flesh feel good. Your favorite preacher within the church may be good at preaching but he may not be good at leading. So just keep him in position as the preacher. However, you may need someone who is good at organization and equipping people for that particular group/organization. Many churches put experts in charge of specific groups because not only do they have a passion for it, but they know how to grow it. If you don’t see fruit, look for some better fertilizer or a new farmer!
3. Using the same graphics from Word 2000 to promote events in 2015
It is 2015. I know repeating this year is pointless. However, it should ring as a bell in your head that you need to create a team that is good at bringing your graphics up to date. In today’s technology, you have no excuse using outdated software. Don’t use the excuse of cost because FREE software exists for graphics.
Solution: If you’re a pastor or leader, equip a team to be in charge in design & graphics. See if someone in your church is willing to maintain the church website. Choose another (at least 2-3 people) to operate your ministry’s social media pages. Social media is become a vital platform for ministries. Keep the pages active and constantly promoting upcoming events. Remember my #1 reason, lack of communication?
4. Not equipping your teams & volunteers with up-to-date training
This is one the main reasons why many churches still think that Facebook is the major platform where Instagram is becoming the #1 platform for many ministries to connect with their 40 and below crowd. If you’re not being kept up to date on what’s happening in the digital & tech world, your church will stay stuck in last year and the year before that. This is why it is vital to have people within your church (leaders) who are passionate about what they do. People who are passionate can tell you about what magazines, blogs, and books (CURRENT) that they are reading to keep themselves updated on what’s working and happening in these arenas. The Holy Spirit and you loving God is the base. However, knowledge and relevant understanding is what will help people see the amazing things that are happening in your church.
Solution: Volunteers who just want to help are great. However, those that lead those volunteers need to have the skills and knowledge to train the “helpers”. Enroll your volunteers in free training and webinars. Also, send your leaders and volunteers to ministry conferences that teach on church technology, design, and specific group training (youth, women, men, children, ect.).
Solution: Bring in a consultant! (Like Me) Church Consultants, like myself, have an eye to help ministries grow. We can help you identify and solve your church growth issues while also equipping your volunteers and team members how to effectively serve people.
Solution: Have your team members and volunteers read books like:
1. Doubling Groups by Josh Hunt
2. Lead Like Jesus by Ken Blanchard & Phil Hodges (A personal favorite of mine for Leaders)
3. It by Craig Groeschel
4. How to Knock Over a 7-Eleven and Other Ministry Training by Michael Cheshire (for Pastors & Leaders)
5. Building Your Volunteer Team by Mark DeVries
6. Leading Women to the Heart of God (Women’s Ministry) by Lysa TerKeurst
(Lysa is the founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries and an amazing woman who has built up a women’s organization that is nothing short of astounding. Take notes from who knows what they are doing!)
5. Not allowing change because of “tradition”
You will hear every excuse from leadership & pastors of why things do not need to be changed. However, if you asked them if they wanted more members or more attendees to their Sunday Services, you would get a yes. The problem is because people have come complacent and stuck on what worked 5,10,15 years ago. I’m all for tradition and keeping certain things in place. However, there are many things churches need to change in order to go past the level of “surviving”. I’m shocked when things that my parent’s small church does that many larger churches are scared of doing because of “tradition”. The funny thing is that while the small church is growing because of paying attention, the larger church is getting smaller because of ignoring it. I hear excuses like:
“God will send the increase”
“It’s not about the numbers”
“We’re working on it” (But haven’t made any actual changes)
“Things like this take time”
Here is the crazy thing. Put passionate people in place and watch things grow. Put people who are just obsessed about titles and being called X or Y and watch your ministry stay at the same level.
Personally, I want to see people love their church. I want them to love it and I want people to come to churches and love what’s going on. It’s not about being “cool”. It’s about growing your church through keeping your brand message consistent but making it up-to-date. We are in an age where people are visual. People don’t throw money into the offering basket like they do anymore. You can’t scream at people to give. You can’t throw a bunch of scriptures at them either. You have to create a culture where people are giving because they see growth (not growth from 10-20 years ago either). People will give when the culture of the church is one of community and growth.
Things do take time. However, it doesn’t take months to take a step of action. Here are some solutions for how to take these steps.
Solution: Create easily reachable goals for your ministry. (Example: We want to reach 100 people as visitors this upcoming Sunday. Create a special campaign (including social media) to promote people to bring a friend on a particular Sunday. Give away some cool prizes like like T-Shirts that promote your church, recent sermon collections, a ticket to an upcoming event, and so forth. Do video promos that promote people to bring someone along.
Solution: If you’re a volunteer/leader, talk to your pastor about some things that you want to do within the church to help it grow. It’s important to know what your pastor desires and how you can help that come to fruition. Come to the leadership with easily achievable ideas that can happen within a 1-3 month span. Include more far reaching goals (3-6 months) and then longer goals (6-1 year/1-2 years). Remember that things are not free, so take finances into consideration. If your goal costs money, include how you can cover those costs and some fundraiser techniques/creative ideas for people to give).
Solution: The #1 thing to really work on is how to get people in the door. Direct Mail is becoming something that many churches are doing because many people AREN’T doing it. Another idea is using the power of postcard sized graphics that promote your church. Ask your members to hand them out to their neighbors & friends. You also have to remember that transparency is powerful in ministry. Posting pictures of what’s happening during service to your social media pages help promote the idea that church is not only fun but there are people inside your church who love it! Have someone who has a professional camera volunteer as the official church photographer. Have that volunteer coordinate with your web & design team to use those photos for graphic design posts and marketing materials.
So what issues are plaguing your church in regards to training, tech, and design?
Have you found solutions to those problems? If not, why do you think those issues are not being resolved? Do you think you can play a part in helping your church grow?
I would love to hear your thought!