Use Offering Time To Tell Stories

  1. Donors want to hear how their gifts are being used in ministry. A financial statement doesn’t tell the whole story. Church leadership must share interesting stories of how offerings are being used.
  2. Find 52 compelling stories and insert those in the offertory time. If the church doesn’t have 52 stories, the church has bigger issues. Work with the worship leader to coordinate where in the worship the offering time will fall so that the offertory and its accompanying story add synergy to the service. Insert stories that relate to the sermon, to the liturgical calendar, to the school year, to seasons of the life of a church, etc. Make the story/offering time a key element of worship, not just a way to kill three minutes.
  3. During the year, give every ministry a chance to be on the platform telling one (and only ONE) story. Tell a story about real people, real events. Give ministries time to announce an upcoming youth event, a mission trip, Vacation Bible School, small groups, Christmas, or Easter activity, etc. This is “thank you” time (not an announcement time).
  4. Tell the stories using different methods such as interviews, slide shows, testimonies, songs, handouts, etc. Be creative each time and vary the method the story is told from week to week.
  5. Here are some examples:
    1. I’d like for you to see what our youth did on their summer mission trip. Because of your gifts, 13 kids spent a week that will change their lives for the next 60+ years. Thanks! (then comes slideshow with cool music)
    2. In two weeks we’re launching new small groups and we want you in one of them. If you can’t afford the study book, the church’s offerings will buy you a book. We’ll even pay for babysitting so you can be there. And yes, thanks to everyone’s contributions who are making this possible.
  6. Make each story compelling and have each presentation heart-touching. Always use the words “thank you” and “generosity/generous” – those words have no negative connotations. Soon, the offering time will be something people look forward to.

Lead On!

Steve – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

Community Invitation Campaign (Marketing)

Marketing works – the proof is that so many companies “Just Do It” (Nike) and “Think Different” (Apple). Churches used to do marketing when they advertised the annual revival or other special services. Today, most churches have forgotten the need to advertise to their own community. Publicity about the church on special occasions gets results. Here are some fairly inexpensive ways let your neighbors know you’re there and invite them to attend.

  1. In a one or two mile radius around the church, place door hangers on homes. Pairs of people can walk prescribed routes the weeks before Easter and Christmas.
  2. Ask members to distribute postcards to work colleagues and neighbors. The postcards must have a message and info about the church.
  3. Find the election polling locations near your church. Then distribute postcards and cool water or hot chocolate; put labels with info about the church on the water or cups. Distribute the materials by setting up a table attended by volunteers during election day. The table with your material must be at the legal distance from the actual voting site. Remember that everyone who votes at each location lives within a couple of miles and is thus a neighbor of the church.
  4. Hand out $5 Starbucks cards to people at various local events. Include a card inviting people to your church. Giving away $250 reaches 50 people directly and probably 250 with the ripple effect.
  5. Give away boxes of Girl Scout cookies. Put a label on them with a greeting and info about the church. No one turns down cookies.
  6. At local sporting events for children, set up a tent and provide snacks and drinks to the kids and parents. Give everyone a postcard or flyer, too.
  7. Print church info on magnets and distribute those at some of the above functions. People tend to not throw away fridge magnets. You can create your own fridge magnets pretty cheaply or have them made professionally.
  8. Have pens made and spread those around nearby businesses and restaurants. They are always looking for extra pens. Good pens are great marketing material.

Think of your own ways to advertise that are appropriate for your own community.

Lead On!

Steve – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

Marketing – Door Hangers

A couple of years ago I spoke with a guy doing political print ads. He said that the best way for a politician to get his point across was to speak directly to the voters. The second best way was for volunteers to put door hangers on people’s homes – the inference by the recipient is that someone walked up to their house and left the info. Voters see that as far more personal than a radio, TV, or web ad and respond favorably to door hangers.

Most churches don’t count neighbors within walking distance as potential attendees; we’ve become that much of a car society.  Decades ago, revivals and crusades used to be the church’s main form of growth and the church spent loads of money on those annual events. That was the marketing budget. The church doesn’t do crusades or revivals anymore and most churches don’t do any form of marketing much less neighborhood outreach. Churches must do something to tell the neighbors “we’re here; we’re not scary; come try us out at a special occasion.”

The best times in the year to do marketing are Easter, Christmas, and August-back-to-schooI. These are the times of the year that people are most open to changes in their routine, especially if it involves going to church for the first time in years or decades. A simple door hanger will be a great form of introduction to the neighbors of who the church is.

The door hanger must include a graphic (to catch the eye), an invitation to attend (what you want the person to do), times, dates, & place (when and where the events are), and words of appreciation for them being the church’s neighbor and your desire for them to come and get to know even more of their neighbors.

Doing this once or twice a year will have an impact on your attendance. The door hangers can be placed out on a couple of Saturdays by volunteers walking the streets around the church. Draw a radius of about one mile out from the church and assign blocks to teams who will spend an hour putting out door hangers. After the volunteers are done, ask them to come back to the church for a snack and to tell stories of what they encountered as they put out the hangers.

And, most importantly, have fun doing this!

Lead On!


First Time Donors

Coming to a church for the first time is frequently celebrated. People are encouraged to introduce themselves, provide contact information, and are even given coupons for coffee or food. These are good steps whose goal is to encourage the people to return again and again.

Churches can take another step which is to send a thank you note to all first time donors. The first time someone gives to a church is a big deal. It is one thing to come but it is an even bigger step to pull out your wallet and financially support the church. That action should be acknowledged.

Every first time donor should get a thank you note from a church leader – the pastor, the treasurer, or the church administrator. This simple act will take about 3 minutes per card and cost a dollar or two including postage. But the benefits of that expense will be enormous – people will comment about that for a long time and they will be genuinely surprised and grateful.

Take the time to write a thank you note. It is a big deal.

 Lead On!




More Fish Pictures

2014 12-December 23 (585) Vatican; Sistine Chapel

A few decades ago I was visiting my best friend, Charlie, at his work when I heard a story about James Knight, the owner of Knight-Ridder Newspapers, and its flagship, the Miami Herald. Charlie worked for one of their papers, The Keynoter, a weekly tabloid-style paper aimed at residents and tourists in the Florida Keys. Every page has three things: a news story, advertisements, and a picture of a tourist with a trophy fish catch.

The manager of floor told me that one day, there was something unusual about The Keynoter and James Knight saw it. As Mr. Knight was proofing the paper after it came off the press, something caught his eye. Actually, it was the absence of something. He picked up the phone, called the editor, and told him the paper needed “more damn fish pictures.”

Mr. Knight knew that a large portion of the sales of the newspaper was by tourists who bought dozens of copies to take home to show their friends their trophy-sized fish. If there weren’t fish pictures then sales would drop off. Mr. Knight knew his business and he knew the power of images.

I’m not suggesting that churches publish more fish pictures, but I am saying that churches should use images and pictures more and words less. The current best example I can think of to prove the value and power of images is Facebook. We are naturally drawn to read stories and captions where there are pictures. When friends post only words, we skim what is written, but our eyes are drawn to the next post with a picture.

Use images as often as possible. Jesus used word pictures because there weren’t any images for the common person in Gospel days and people could see in their mind’s eye what Jesus was telling. Be imaginative in your use of picture and images. And use lots of them!


Lead On!


Degradation of Civility

I heard this term recently. It’s a good description of what we’ve all seen on social media: someone gives their opinion on a topic and others attack the person for his/her point of view. When we hide behind a computer screen, we feel we can be impersonal and even uncivil if not outright vicious.

  1. Attack the problem, not the person. Attacking a person is not healthy on your part – in fact, it speaks very loudly about who you are, not the other person. Besides, if you are that passionate about an opposing point of view, then surely you should have sound rebuttals.
  2. For Christians only: you must always value the person more than either your point of view or theirs. God loves people, not opinions. Christians don’t get a pass on this – non-Christians may get a pass (depending on their faith-teachings).

Do all you can to respect people even it means you will just barely tolerate their opinions. People can change their point of view but hearing uncivil words and/or even being attacked is downright wrong.


Lead On!



Steve’s Sayings

  • Pick and choose your battles (my mom said that first)
    • The single best piece of advice I’ve ever received (thanks, Mom). Not everything is worth fighting over. Decide ahead of time where you’ll put your energy, time, and knowledge. Decide what is most important and focus on that. Everything else is fluff and not worth your resources.
  • Simple is best
    • Complicated things are complicated and that makes life even more complicated than it is or needs to be. Keep it simple
  • Provide the right tools for your staff
    • If you don’t give them the tools, shame on you, and you can’t hold the staff accountable for your failures to set them up for success
    • If you do give them the tools and they don’t do what you’ve asked them to do, you need to have a serious personnel conversation with them
  • Training is one of the best tools for church staff
    • Provide constant training – it is not a “one and done.” Invest in your staff and then expect them to perform to the level they’ve been trained.
  • Every staff member needs a mentor/coach
    • No one is above needing a coach/mentor/accountability partner. It may be a group or an individual, but everyone (including pastors and CEOs) need an advisor/counselor.
  • Shadow a colleague once a year
    • Conferences are good and useful, but about once a year (at most every other year), skip the conference and find an organization that is already at where you want to go and then go shadow your counterpart there. Learning from them will help you avoid their mistakes and get you there faster than if you do it all by yourself.
  • Attack the problem, never the person
    • When you attack a problem, you find solutions; when you attack a person, everyone gets defensive and solutions take a back seat. Find solutions, not scapegoats.
  • God is inclusive, never exclusive
    • Non-Christians criticize the church for not following John 3:16: “because God loved the WHOLE world…” and Christians need to remember God never excludes anyone, even people who are not like us.
  • Financial numbers are best understood if you know their context
    • To fully understand why money is spent like it is, you need to really understand the whole organization. If you don’t want to take the time to delve in, then you only need a financial executive summary.
  • Do strategic things that eliminate future problems
    • Take the time to analyze why you have lots of little problems and then find a solution that resolves the root issue. It will take time, but it will save you time in the long run.
  • A financial crisis is a terrible thing to waste
    • A financial crisis is an opportunity to make hard decisions – and blame the financial crisis.
  • This is a personnel matter, not a management issue
    • Many times there is an issue that involves personnel but we often fail to address the people and their (in)action. You don’t always have to find a management solution, sometimes the solution is new personnel.
  • Never hire a ministry (Andy Stanley said that first)
    • Churches want to help people. That’s great. But NEVER put them on your payroll – you will become an enabler and never get them off. Give the person loads of benevolence, but not a paycheck. AND, just think what hiring a ministry does to the hardworking staff you have – what happens to their morale?
  • Develop people – gently push them farther than they think they can go and support them along the road
    • This goes along with coaching – we can do more than we think we can, but most of us need someone cheering and encouraging us down the road. Marathon runners love cheering sections; life is a marathon – get a cheering section AND be someone else’s cheering section.
  • My job as a manager is like a soccer coach:
    • give everyone a specific job
    • et them to play well together
    • stay inside the boundaries, and
    • keep everyone focused on the goal
  • Row together for the same horizon
    • A leader must set the goal (horizon) and then keep everyone aiming for that goal. If your rowing is not coordinated, you’re just going around in circles.
  • Outsource decisions to others as much as you can 
    • it frees you up and empowers them
    • if they do well in small decisions, give them bigger ones next time
  • The school of hard knocks is worth its tuition
    • The trick is to go through each class only one time
  • Use people but don’t abuse them
    • People are “tools” (that’s poor analogy but stay with me) and all tools should be used properly; abused tools will break or not work well causing you frustration when the problem is of your own making
  • Never embarrass anyone in public (Gary Fenton said that first)
    • ALWAYS talk to someone in private; there is no upside to public embarrassment
  • Everyone’s favorite subject is themselves
    • If you can get someone to talk about themselves, you’ll never lack for small talk at a dinner party
  • If nothing unites you then everything will divide you
    • Every church and every organization should have at least one clear focal point that EVERYONE can say, “Our mission is…”
  • Have conversations not confrontations
    • Conversations are dialogues; confrontations are usually one-way streets. Confrontations often lead to tense situations. Conversations usually lead to solutions.
  • Set people up for success
    • You will always be a better manager and leader if you help someone be better than they are now. Word will get around the office or organization and you will be seen as a leader because of the worth you place in people.
  • Excellence is the goal, not perfection
    • Some people are perfectionists; some seek excellence – don’t confuse those concepts. Excellence wants the best possible outcome using the currently available resources and it is willing to “make do” for now till something better comes along. Excellence, not perfection, must be the goal for all leaders.
  • Quality + Service + Cost = Value (adapted from Ray Kroc)
    • QSCV was the mantra of the founder of McDonald’s. I added some math symbols: value is the destination and that is achieved through excellent quality, outstanding service, and reasonable pricing. I’m always willing to pay more if the Q and S will be very good so that I get the best value.
  • Buy quality or you’ll buy twice
    • My dad said “we’re too poor to buy twice” – if you buy “cheap” it’ll break and you’ll end up buying it again. Be a wise money manager.
  •  Hire attitude first, then aptitude
    • You can always train people but only if they have the right attitude. The wrong attitude will infest your workplace and cost you dearly. The right attitude is invaluable.
  • One of leaderships greatest challenges is determining whether people are chasing you or following you
    • And sometimes people are doing both at the same time; sometimes even the same person is doing both.
    • Listen to the people who are chasing you; sometimes their criticism is helpful
    • The people who are following you need to be put to work as volunteers
    • Sometimes people will switch camps – that’s okay, they’ll switch back at some point or leave
  • Get & stay organized: your mind, your time, and your stuff. It will save you time and headaches later.
    • I’m an organization nut – I can usually find just about anything because everything has its place (just one place).
    • Organizing your time, your mind, and your stuff is short-term pain and long-term gain.
  • It’s not about how they act but how you re-act to situations. That shows your character.
    • You never control what others are going to do or say – you have total control over what you do and say in that situation. Be a person of character and not “a character.”
  • What is the wise thing to do?
    • This is from “The Best Question Ever” by Andy Stanley. This question will ensure you always do what is best IF you answer it truthfully.

Star Trek & Star Wars

Pick one of those two space sagas – I don’t care which one, choose your favorite. Okay, now, name the seven major (good) characters in each one:

Star Trek

  • Kirk

Star Wars

  • Luke
    Han Solo
    Obi-wan Kenobi

You may not be a fan of one or the other; you may not like either series. There are a few similarities and many, many differences between these two groups of characters but let me focus on one in particular as it applies to churches and their leadership: #6 in each list.

Uhura is more than the sex appeal for Star Trek, she’s the communications officer. She is on the bridge, sitting just behind the captain and ready to carry out his orders but also making suggestions based on her experience and knowledge of language and culture.

C3PO is the golden robot and comic appeal in Star Wars. He is also conversant in “more than 6 million forms of communication.” He talks non-stop to everyone especially his buddy and fellow robot R2D2.

Both are utterly critical to the success of each mission. Uhura and C3PO ensure that the message from the leader is spoken clearly and without misunderstanding (well, C3PO does mess up a few times) so that the story is moved along and that everyone knows what is going on.

Transition: who is the communications person in your church? Are you like most churches, relying on the pastor who is already doing everything else (preparing sermons, marrying, burying, counseling, helping members, leading staff, going to meetings, etc.)? Or are you intentional about using someone who is gifted in this area to take the message from the leadership and craft it in a multitude of forms so that the message is transmitted to everyone in every way possible? That person may not know six million forms of communication, but he or she is probably more knowledgeable than the pastor about how to disseminate the message.

Churches need to have a clear, consistent, comprehensive, and cohesive communications cohort. The pastor and other leaders must develop the message in a succinct manner. Then, they must work with and trust the communications specialist to send the message out in every way possible to the broadest possible audience.

The audience will see, hear, and read it in multiple ways. Marketing experts say that it takes a person seven views before the person will internalize a message. Communications people love the challenge of finding ways to tell things; most non-communications get weak-kneed at the idea of telling the same thing seven different times.

Even Hollywood recognizes the importance of communications in a leadership group. How much more should the church recognize the importance of communications since the church has the greatest message in the world? How intentional is your church in its communications? And what do you need to do to be more intentional about it?

Lead On!