People are worth the mess

People are worth the mess

My wife and son have been visiting family out of state for the past week, and life has been much… simpler.

It was weird. That first day coming home after being out of the house all day. It was exactly the way I left it.

No toys out.
No dishes to do.
No clothes to put away
Nothing to clean because…
It had been empty all day.

I had forgotten how simple life was by yourself. I immediately reverted back to my college days when I would have one plate, one bowl, one fork, one spoon, one knife, and one glass.

In many ways it was not only simpler, but easier.

But oh how I missed my family.

Sometimes I think we can desire a more simple and easier life, forgetting the benefits that God intends to be found in relationships.

I wrote recently about the importance of community and this is the same concept, just shown in a different way.

My life would be far simpler and easier in many ways without a wife and child, but I can assure you it would also not have near the joy. And, although most would tend to agree with me that having a spouse and kids are worth the work and complexity, let’s keep in mind that this same problems, and benefits, arise in any relationship.

One of my pastor’s favorite verses on this subject is Proverbs 14:4 which says, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.”

This verse reminds us that relationships bring many benefits and abundance, but with those benefits also come a dirty manger. Every relationship you have will include some type of work, sacrifice, effort, and complexity – but it’s worth it. (tweet this)

So whether you are struggling with a relationship at work, or with family, friends, church, or one of the many other areas we build relationships, don’t run away from the difficulty, but lean into it. Do the hard work, put in the effort, give yourself sacrificially. I can’t promise you that it’ll work out every time, but even the relationships that end up empty are majorly offset by the ones that prove to be the most worthy investments of your life. Let’s never miss an opportunity to love someone and build a relationship with them, because we never know what may come of it.

So yes, relationships will add work and complexity to your life, even sacrifice.

But they’re worth it.

(tweet this)

Desire to have proven character

Desire to have proven character

What do we value as a culture? By looking around its easy to see, we tend to glorify a life of beauty, talent, humor, creativity, etc. These things are all good, and even given by God to be enjoyed.

But what does God value?

Paul writes in Philippians that he desires to send Timothy and Epaphroditus to them (Philippians 2:19-30). In their qualifications, he lists four things (my paraphrase):

Faithfulness
Godliness
Serving
Caring

In summary: they had proven character.

He didn’t list how big their churches were,
talented they were (in any aspect of ministry),
how funny they were,
creative they were,
or anything else.

He spoke of their faithfulness and godliness.

Paul told them to honor such men. But don’t we so often choose to honor people based off of other things?

If Paul were here today he would tell us the same:

Strive for faithfulness.
Pursue Godly character.
Seek ways to serve others.
Always be caring.

And seek to honor those who do these things.

How can you live out these character traits today? And how can you encourage and lift of someone else who is displaying them well?

How to setup and utilize your church Facebook page

How to setup and utilize your church Facebook page

Social media is all the rage right now. Everyone is promoting themselves as an expert and there’s constant talk on how people are leaving one platform for another, what millennials are using, etc.

The fact is that Facebook still has the largest portion of market for engaged users and useful features for groups likes churches, but how do you set it up, and use it well?

Setup your account as a “page” NOT a person

It may seem confusing at first. There are groups, pages, special profiles, and personal profiles. For years many churches have setup their Facebook accounts as personal profiles – and this needs to stop. If you setup your church as a personal profile, you are violating Facebook terms and agreements and could get shutdown at any moment – and then you loose all time and history that profile has.

In addition, there are a lot of benefits to setting it up as a Facebook Page instead such as…

Collaboration

When you setup a Facebook page, you can invite others on Facebook to collaborate and even set a variety of permissions for each person. This means, for example, that you can have people that setup content, but can’t be published without approval from someone with higher permissions. This allows for a few people to help with managing the account without having to share passwords.

Call-to-action

Facebook pages give you the option to setup a “call-to-action” at the top of your page such as contacting you, or visiting your website, which is a helpful way to encourage engagement.

Visibility

Although Facebook is pay-to-play in many ways, one benefit of being recognized as a business is that you’ll show up in searches related to religious organizations or businesses in the area – which you obviously wouldn’t show up in if it was setup as a personal profile.

It’s specific for businesses

By setting up a page over a personal one they setup your page to look slightly different such as an ability to leave a review, or having your location displayed (which will also then give you a location tag in Instagram, which is one more helpful piece).

Utilize Facebook’s features

Now that you’ve properly setup your Facebook page, you can begin utilizing Facebook. Some of the things that make Facebook specifically useful for churches are:

The about section

Make sure that after you’ve setup your page that you keep info about your church up to date. This means your contact info, website url, address, service times, and any information you have about the church and it’s mission/vision. It’s good to update your social media information whenever there’s a big change, and also at least twice a year to make sure that your information is current.

Events

If you have a church Facebook then you should utilize events. Facebook has become many people’s events calendar and they’ll often forget about things going on unless you remind them in as many ways as possible: including Facebook. Creating events for every service is definitely overkill, but you should create an event for any general church events, serving events, or special services.

“Pin to the top” feature

One great, and underused feature, is the ability to pin a post to the top of your feed. If there’s a specific event, video, or post that’s important for people to see first when on your page then you should pin it to the top. One that event or season is over, you can simply unpin that post and choose a new one. People post so much on social media (as should your church’s Facebook page) and so it’s great to be able to have the most prevalent information on top at all times.

Boosted posts

Although there’s plenty you can do without paying, one of Facebook’s most useful features is being able to target people in your area with posts and advertisements about your church. There are so many advertisements pulling people, what better way to invest money than to share the Gospel and encourage people to turn to Jesus.

Stay engaged

One of the biggest problems for businesses and churches alike on social media is that they setup an account and then never touch it again. However, it’s much more than just posting updates…

It is SOCIAL media

People don’t want to simply be talked at, but responded to. This means that if there’s a big event, you should have someone responding for your church to people’s Facebook posts on that event. You should be tagging people in photos and posts and generally just being social.

Encourage your people to share the page and content

Besides paying for your content to be seen, the greatest boost in people’s feeds is to have content that is shared. This is done by creating content that people want to share, but it’s also by simply encouraging your people to share the church’s posts with others.

NOTE: PLEASE do not encourage people to share the church’s posts by adding “please share” to the end. This looks tacky and puts a bad taste in people’s mouths because they feel more like they’re being used than engaged with.

The best way to get people engaged with your posts is to simply remind them in appropriate contexts. During team meetings, or church announcements. For example, we reminded the people who were majorly involved with our Easter service to be sharing the invite videos and posts and we saw great response.

Live videos

Facebook has been pushing Live Videos for a while now to compete with Periscope and Snapchat. What this means for you is that by jumping on board with Live Videos, your page will get extra boost from Facebook’s algorithm because you’re using the features they want people to use. This is just one example, but it leads us to the last point…

There’s always new features and strategies that develop in social media generally and on specific platforms so it’s important to not let your head get stuck in the sand but to continually look up and see how it’s changing: and keep up. This can take time, but it doesn’t have to suck your life away. This can be done well by simply asking people who are very involved in social media “what’s new” about once a month. It’s as simple as that.

I hope this post is helpful for you, however, never forget that information is useless without execution. So, now that you know all this, I encourage you to set up your church Facebook page and see how you can best reach and bless the people in your area.

Is old content hurting your church website?

Is old content hurting your church website?

Although this seems like it should be obvious, having old content on your website is far too common, and can be very damaging.

What is considered “old”?

When I say old content, I’m referring to past events, previous sermon series (being presented as current), and old notices or updates. Also incorrect information on the staff, location, contact information, etc. qualifies as old content too.

“Old content makes your website visitors wonder if you EVER update it.”

Whenever something happens in your church (new staff member, change in sermon series, event has passed, etc), you only have about a week of “website grace” amongst most visitors. Beyond that, and people will begin to question if you ever update it. I realize that this is unreaonsable, but this is what people have begun to expect in a world where most people update their social statusus multiple times a day.

Sadly, just as no one notices the sound guy in the back until there’s some feedback or the microphone isn’t working, everyone takes your website for granted but will quickly be critical if you do not have current information on it, and all outdated information removed.

What can you do?

Thankfully, fixing this problem can be easier than it sounds. You should be able to keep up if you take only 10 minutes every week to revisit your website and make sure that everything is current. Those 40 minutes a month will be well worth the time spent in order to make sure that people don’t have to dig though old information in order to find out what is current.

And, in addition to happy website visitors, updating your website often is one way to help boost your SEO!

Leading others in spiritual disciplines

Leading others in spiritual disciplines

The call to being a ministry leader has many facets and “job descriptions,” but the primary one by far is to lead people into a deeper relationship with Jesus in every aspect of life, which includes spiritual disciplines.

We tend to polarize over the issue of spiritual disciplines. Some emphasize them as if they are what will get you into heaven, while others believe that we shouldn’t even suggest that someone is lacking in their relationship with Jesus because they haven’t done “x”. However, there’s a healthy balance in that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus and then we are called to follow Him in faith as He leads us into right-living that reflect what He would desire for our lives.

To paraphrase what John Piper has said about fasting, by engaging in spiritual disciplines we are weakening the grip the world has on our hearts, and we are strengthening our desire for Jesus.

I’ve written previously on the spiritual disciplines outlined in Matthew 6 which you can read them at these links: as you give, as you pray, as you fast, as you spend, and as you live.

However, this isn’t meant to be a reminder that we need to engage in spiritual disciplines, but that we need to bring others with us. Most ministry leaders realize the benefits of spiritual disciplines, but many of us feel weird to encourage others to do the same. How ridiculous is this? If we benefit from obeying Jesus’ call to give, pray, fast, etc – shouldn’t we encourage others to do so?

Yesterday, our church encouraged everyone to fast and pray. This is something the leadership does often, and will continue to do – but why don’t we ask others to join us more often? We will all rise or sink to the expectations given to us, so why not encourage them to live life to the fullest that Jesus has told us to?

So as you, ministry leader, give, pray, fast, study, serve, and continue to surrender your life to Jesus, please do not loose the opportunity to bring someone else alongside. Let’s all ask ourselves:

Who will I pray with?
Who will I serve with?
Who will I fast with?
Who will I keep accountable to give, study, and generally give their lives to Jesus?

Have you found a specifically great way to bring others into a lifestyle of following Jesus together? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Ministry for the long haul

Ministry for the long haul

To minister to someone literally means to “attend to the needs of [a person]”. It’s not an office held by the few, but rather a call for Christian’s everywhere to serve and love as Jesus has loved us.

Sometimes we get a glorified version of what being a “minister of the Gospel” really is. We can imagine it as having great status or power. Or we can imagine getting a great response from people: that they’ll change tomorrow, turn over a new leaf, follow God with all their heart and never turn back.

But this is often not how it works.

Instead, it’s a process. There’s a timetable of events in God’s plan and allowance, that doesn’t match up with ours. We desire to see outward change TODAY, while God desires change in people from the INSIDE out – which usually takes time. God’s time table works as those we minister to continue to grow, oftentimes slowly, and with set-backs along the way. But eventually we look back and see a great distance of change.

We are called to “ministry” not to a “change factory”. We are called to love people like Jesus did and to offer them the life giving power of His Gospel and Spirit, but it’s up to them to accept it. That acceptance is usually built up over time.

We can get discouraged when we haven’t seen someone for 6 months and wonder where they are. We can sometimes get even more discouraged when we see them again, because we wonder if they’ll actually stay this time. We can get discouraged as we wonder if God will ever truly change their heart and bring them into a steady relationship with Himself. But this isn’t our position of authority or responsibility. We are called to love, not to save. Only Jesus is Savior, and it’s best for us to remember this.

People will come and go in our lives, for good and bad reasons, but know that your job, as a Christian, is simple: “attend to the needs of… whoever.”

Whoever is around.
Whoever God brings.
Whoever crosses your path.

We have a holy calling as Christians to love everyone we can with the love God has given us: regardless of how they respond, and regardless of where they end up.

So let us not forget, lest we give up:
We are in this for the long haul.

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