Easter’s Over, Now What?

Well, we made it.

Another Easter in the books.

Churches everywhere celebrated big.  My twitter, instagram and facebook feeds were full of pictures of crowded rooms, overflow solutions, stories of salvations and baptisms.  It was a great day.  Love won!

For church staff, Easter is like the Superbowl of Sundays.  So much work and preparation goes into this day in anticipation of God revealing his heart to those who don’t yet know him.

We also know that Easter marks the beginning of Spring… of outdoor activities… Summer just around the corner.  Graduations. Vacations.

All great things but all things that move church-going a little lower on the priority list.

As church staff, whether consciously or not, we can approach Easter as the finale.  We know people will be hyper-engaged on this day and then we also realize that all those great things about Spring and Summer will be the distractions that hinder momentum for ministry.

Time and time again I’ve seen church staff give up after Easter.  We check out until the Fall when the routine of life will make church-going convenient again.

I want to challenge you to think differently this year.

Choose to build upon your Easter momentum rather than let it fizzle.

Here are 3 suggestions for how to maximize your Easter momentum:

1) Make people feel human.  Whomever you connected with this weekend, reach out to them this week.  First time guests, new families, people who accepted Christ or were baptized.  Whatever step they took, find a way to connect with them.  Make them feel like an individual not part of the masses.  Reach out with genuine interest and care for how to help connect them further.  Let there name be more than a line on a card or an entry in the database.

2) Build a plan.  If you don’t already have reasons for people to engage with your church after Easter, make a plan.  Give them a reason to come back.  Make it compelling.  Meet a need.  Serve your city.  What’s the best way you can communicate that you care about the lives of the people you connected with at Easter?

3) Commit to work on it.  Rather than wallow in the frustration of lighter attendance numbers this Spring or Summer, commit to work on it.  What can you and your team do to improve ministry experience for those who will return this fall?  Does your guest experience need an overhaul?  Do you facilities need a spruce up?  Do your staff or volunteers need additional training?  Define what you need to work on and use the summer to make it better.

Don’t let this Easter pass without some thought for how you can maximize it!

 

#LentChallenge Holy Week

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Holy Week.

I feel a weight… an awareness… a conscious awakening to what awaits.

The church I’m now a part of participates in a number of Holy Week services… Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter of course.  Some of these are new to me.  They have not been a part of my past tradition and so I find myself engaged to understand.  To learn the history.  To extract the significance.

I find myself present in a different way.

Perhaps  it helps that my whole world is quite different this year with my recent move.  My husband is still back in Nashville selling our house and finishing our relocation, so I have a great deal of quiet time in a strange city with few friends yet.

My view of sacrifice… of loneliness… of quiet… is different these days.  I’m sure it’s still quite incomplete but nevertheless it’s shaping me… growing me… stretching me differently.

As we enter Holy Week I’m praying for a continued awakening in my soul to Christ’s sacrifice and to God’s redemption in my life.

What are you praying for this week?

#LentChallenge for a “Case of the Mondays”

Before the alarm nudged me fully awake I was overwhelmed by Monday.  The weight of the week was already bearing down on me.  Today was just one of those Mondays.  The kind where you want to roll over and wake up to a different day.

So when today’s #LentChallenge reading was the book of Ephesians, it was pretty much perfect.  I love how encouraging Paul is in this book.  Most of Paul’s writing throughout the New Testament deals with cleaning up messes and providing clarity (the daily tasks of a great leader).  But in Ephesians he reminds us of what’s good.

If your Monday needs a dose of encouragement like mine did, here are a couple of passages to inspire you today:

I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people”.  Ephesians 1:16-18

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  Ephesians 3:16-19

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!”  Ephesians 3:20 The Message

Careful Selection

“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.  When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.”  Matthew 6:12-13

Choosing the twelve was a significant leadership decision.

These twelve would be the core group that Jesus would invest in the most.  His focus was on teaching and training them to establish the church after he was gone.

Jesus knew his time was short.  He had limited time to teach a group of leaders how to carry on his work on Earth.

While he went about his ministry, he also was strategically building into and investing in this group.

He modeled for us what it looks like to invest in others.  He displayed what it looks like to do the work we’re called to do while also developing others along the way.

None of us know when our season will end.  In our modern world, career change is common and we must constantly think about who we’re preparing to take over for us when we’re gone.

The first step in succession is careful selection.

The verse above says that Jesus spent the entire night before he selected the twelve praying.  It doesn’t say that choosing the twelve was his only topic of prayer but given that the first action he took after his night of prayer was gathering the disciples and naming the twelve, it’s a safe assumption that praying about who those twelve should be was likely a key part of his prayer time.

Prayerfully selecting our teams is essential.  Many of us in the haste and pace of our lives hurry to add staff members without counting the long term cost of that selection.

Building teams is a critical responsibility for every leader.

How much time, attention and prayer are you devoting to selecting your core team?

#LentChallenge – What’s Your Gift?

As I was reading Luke’s account of Jesus birth, I was struck again by the significance of God choosing Mary to birth the Messiah.  Why her?  What stood out about her?  How did she get God’s attention and favor for this tremendous gift?

I don’t know why God chose Mary.  I marvel at how honored I would feel to be chosen for that responsibility.  I anticipate all the emotions that she must have wrestled with.  I wonder what I would have done in her shoes.  How would I have stewarded this amazing gift?

But God has given me (and you) a gift too.  He has given me gifts, talents, experiences and opportunities that he hasn’t given to anyone else.  He has given me these to steward, to cherish, to develop and to release into the world for his good, for his glory.

What he’s asking me to do is the same thing he asked Mary to do, just a different gift.  He asked Mary to be faithful to steward the raising of Jesus.  We too have been asked to be faithful to raise up the gifts that God has given us.  Would Mary have ever dreamed of starving or neglecting Jesus?  Would she have kept him hidden?  Would she abandon him or abuse him?  Would she scorn him or ignore him?  I don’t think so.  Mary knew the tremendous value of this gift that was her’s to steward and she was faithful to that responsibility.

What are you doing with your gift?  Are you cherishing it and developing it or are you ignoring it and squandering it?

Whatever you’re gift, your responsibility is to be faithful.

Satisfying the Crowd

Our #LentChallenge reading is helping me to see stories from a new perspective, to see layers beneath the common narrative of the text.

This week in reading the book of Mark, there was one short sentence that grabbed my attention:

“Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate releases Barabbas to them.” Mark 15:15

This was a pivotal point in the crucifixion story.  Pilate was reluctant to have Jesus charged and sentenced to death.  He wasn’t convinced a crime had been committed.  He didn’t find sufficient evidence.

But Pilate was swayed by the crowd.  He was afraid of a riot.  He was navigating the politics of his culture and rather than do what was right, he took the path of least resistance.

Have you ever been guilty of “wanting to satisfy the crowd” in your leadership decisions?

Some of my greatest regrets as a leader are the times when I chose to do what was easy rather than do what was right.

In what areas of your leadership are you satisfying the crowd?

#LentChallenge – Week 2: I Want to Know Jesus

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This practice of reading through the gospels is so good.  With each red letter I’m seeking to know Jesus just a bit more.  What was his tone, his demeanor?  What did his eyes convey as he spoke?  What emotion did he evoke as he taught or corrected?

For as wonderful as the words are, I still long to know his heart, hear the passion he emoted through what he said.

I’m grateful for movies and mini series that have attempted to portray Jesus, but for all of their great work I still don’t feel like they’ve captured my Jesus.  There is always something missing.  And perhaps that’s appropriate because how could any of us in our humanness really capture the essence of Christ?

So as I continue to read during this #LentChallenge, I find myself wanting to know Jesus better.  I’m praying the words continue to give me a glimpse of his character, an expression of his heart and that in the seeking he’ll speak and I’ll grow to know him better.

How about you… what are you hoping to take away from our 40 days?

 

#LentChallenge Begins

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One of the things I love about Margaret Feinberg is that she is always looking for ways to connect us more with Jesus.  The way she lives out her faith and seeks after her Savior inspires me.

Today she is kicking off the #LentChallenge.  A 40 day journey to read through the New Testament in this lenten season.

I encourage you to join us.  Commit to reading about 30 minutes each day and let’s see what God speaks to us through this time.

Plus, the great team at YouVersion has made the reading plan available.  Click here to subscribe to The 40-Day New Testament Challenge

Will you join us?

 

Consider the Lilies

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“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin”  Luke 12:27

I’m prone to toiling – defined as “hard and continuous work; exhausting labor or effort”.

I do this of my own accord.  It’s a drive to achieve, a desire to win favor, a pursuit of perfection.

Two lines before that Jesus asks, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”

And ultimately he reminds us that God provides.

All our worry, toiling, spinning is for naught.

What are you toiling over today?

Consider the lilies…

 

Why Are Church Leaders Such Poor Managers?

You would think that we as church leaders would be exceptional at managing people… we’re in the people business of sorts.  Our entire jobs revolve around creating worship experiences in which people can connect to God.  It’s a relationally charged environment. An extroverts heaven – lots of people all the time.  The majority of our work as ministry leaders is done by working with and through others.

And yet, ministry environments are where I’ve observed some of the worst people management.

Time and time again I’ve coached ministry leaders through management maladies.  For whatever reason we flounder when it comes to effectively leading employees.

Here are some reasons why I believe ministry leaders are prone to be poor managers:

  1. Seminary doesn’t focus on teaching us to be managers.  While our training equips us to be good pastors, it rarely teaches us the principles for people management.
  2. We’re less comfortable with conversations that require accountability.  As pastors we find ourselves coaching and spurring others on to Christ-likeness. As managers we must hold people accountable to expectations as well as deliver consequences for unmet objectives.  This feels like it runs in opposition to the grace message we communicate.  (It doesn’t by the way… remember the truth side of the equation.)
  3. Ministry teams are lean.  Human resources staff are a luxury, if you’re able to hire them at all.  As a result, training and development for managers is non-existent.

As leaders we’re responsible for the people under our care.  Hebrews 13:17 reminds us that we as leaders will have to “give an account” for how we lead.

We can not be content with disgruntled employees, under-performing employees, unmet expectations, poor communication, sideways employee/employer relationships.  We can not avoid these conversations.

We can not allow our ignorance or fear to keep us from leading well.

No employee should be the casualty of our poor leadership.

If an employee is not meeting expectations, it’s your responsibility as the leader to lean in and address it.

Have you found yourself in some difficult management moments?  What training do you wish you would have had to better equip you?