Church Planting, Pastors, Uncategorized

Church Planting Tips- Continually Improve Your Preaching

I think one of the biggest reasons that church plants fail is inadequate preaching.

The truth is, there is no excuse for being a subpar preacher. There are just too many resources out there on how to improve your sermons and delivery. And there are too many great preachers out there to learn from.

Need more motivation? The people in your church who have been believers for awhile know this too. They’ve heard great preachers. They know what’s possible, and they know when you’re not improving. Notice that I said, “improving,” not “perfection.” Even if our sermons don’t stack up to Andy Stanley’s, Rob Bell’s, etc., we can at least learn from them and get better.

Plus, pastors pay a price for less than adequate preaching. If you preach well, everything in your church will improve. The attendance will improve. Giving will improve. Volunteering will improve. Momentum will improve, and your task as a leader and vision caster will become easier. Continually improving as a preacher makes everything else in pastoral ministry a little easier.

I’m passionate about continually becoming a better preacher, so I’ve compiled a pretty good list of resources. Here is a list of blog posts over the last couple of years about improving your preaching, including a post entitled, “Preach like Mitch Hedberg.” You know you wanna read it:

https://ryangear.com/2011/10/11/the-emotional-movements-of-an-engaging-sermon/

https://ryangear.com/2011/01/03/tony-morgans-10-keys-to-better-sermon-series-planning/

https://ryangear.com/2010/12/26/adam-hamilton-sermons-3-things/

https://ryangear.com/2010/12/07/sermon-writers-block/

https://ryangear.com/2010/11/08/preaching-and-leadership-websites/

https://ryangear.com/2010/09/16/poets-prophets-preachers/

https://ryangear.com/2010/09/17/help-for-pre-sermon-jitters/

https://ryangear.com/2010/09/13/sermon-delivery-tips-ii-repost/

https://ryangear.com/2010/02/28/sermon-delivery-tips/

https://ryangear.com/2010/09/08/preaching-sermons-people-remember/

https://ryangear.com/2010/09/01/preach-like-steve-jobs/

https://ryangear.com/2010/02/28/sermon-writing-tips/

https://ryangear.com/2010/03/03/narrative-sermons/

https://ryangear.com/2011/12/27/preach-like-mitch-hedberg/

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Church Planting, Pastors

Church Planting Tips- Switching from Presentation to Discussion

Even if you’re careful to not hold an event unless you’re sure you will have critical mass (Read “Critical Mass“, there may be times early in a church plant when less people show up to an event than you expected. Maybe you scheduled a party to invite 25 new people, and you planned to talk for a few minutes about the church plant. Then only 6-10 people show up, and the group dynamic is totally different than you expected.

It’s probably time to ditch the presentation and switch to discussion. It’s hard to give a sermon-like presentation to 8 people. You can… but it will be awkward. It’s probably better to ask questions that facilitate a discussion rather than give a presentation like you would to a crowd of people.

It comes down to group dynamics. If the group is small enough that discussion is possible (2-12 people) most people would rather be able to talk than just be talked to. They want to contribute, not just listen to you.

When less people show up than you expected, it can be a huge emotional shock. You envisioned a certain turnout. You had a plan in mind, and now you have to completely adjust your plan on the fly. It is draining and difficult. Here’s the key…

Be prepared for it before it happens.

If there is any chance that less than 12 people will be at event, and you prepared a “presentation” of some kind, be prepared in advance to switch to discussion mode just in case. You might even jot down a few discussion questions beforehand.

It will still be disappointing that the turnout isn’t as good as you hoped. Being prepared, however, to switch from presentation to discussion will be better than totally bombing and regretting the whole thing.

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Church Planting, Pastors, Uncategorized

Church Planting Tips- Schedule and Boundaries

Church planting is an enormous task that simply requires more effort than a lot of people think going in.

If you’re not careful as a church planter, you will burnout, and if you have a family, you will neglect them. By being “careful,” I mean creating a smart, realistic schedule and sticking to it. It requires being able to think strategically and being able to set healthy boundaries.

You will work 60-70 hours per week to plant a church for at least a couple of years. Even with delegation, I don’t know how you could work less than that and plant a church in North America. There’s just too much to do.

My schedule looks something like this:

  • I’m a night owl, so my schedule starts later and goes later into the evening. Your’s may be different from mine depending on whether you work best in the morning, at night, etc.
  • The daytime for me looks like a typical 9-5 except that I do most of my work at Starbucks, so I can be in public and build relationships with people.
  • I make it a point to have dinner with my family every night at 5:00pm. This is a family routine that is important to me, and I believe that it is important to my 18 month old son. I spend dinnertime and the next hour or two playing with him.
  • Then I work more from 8:00pm on, stopping occasionally to watch something on TV or whatever helps to take a break. My night usually ends around midnight.

I take Fridays off as a sabbath. Fridays just work best for me. Taking a day off requires discipline, and sabbath means no work. There is always too much to do for you to take a day off. You have to do it anyway. Welcome to setting boundaries. It’s hard work.

These are simple concepts, but the blunt truth is they can save you from burnout and save your family from hating the church.

I’m currently in the process of planting One Church in Chandler, AZ (onechurch.com). There are plenty of how-to church planting books, online resources and conferences. I wanted to share specific tips from my experience that church planters need to know that are often not included in other resources. Hope this helps.

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Church Planting, Pastors, Preaching, Sermon Illustrations, Uncategorized

Why are More Young People Doubting God’s Existence?

One of my dear love ones sent me a link to this article, “Millennials Losing Faith in God: Survey.” This is one of the main reasons that we’re starting One Church.

The article reports on a Pew Research Forum study finding that 25% of those born after 1981 claim “no faith,” while over half of those raised in a faith have abandoned it! I believe these findings because they square with my own experience while growing up and with many people I know. The survey also finds correlations between a loss of faith and views on politics, social values, etc.

My personal opinion is that there are several reasons for less younger Americans stating a belief in God (my assumption is that they are walking away from the Christian concept of God):

1. Younger people have generally been exposed to a larger view of the world than their parents, so they have a greater knowledge of various religions, cultures, scientific discovery, etc. Consequently, they are able to look at their own culture and religious background more crictically.

2. Especially since 9/11, Americans have now seen up close that horrible violence is sometimes committed in the name of religion. This has been true throughout history, of course, but we have seen it (and felt it) for oursleves now.

3. 80% of the church congregations in American are in decline. Most have failed to stay relevant and communicate with the changing culture.

4. In the media, the most visible Christians are often closely affiliated with a reactionary political agenda. Actually, they have an America in mind that never actually existed (ex. the founding fathers were largely Deists, not modern evangelicals or fundamentalists). The media often showcases Christians who seem to want to turn America into a theocracy.

5. I think a lot of younger people see Christians as narrow-minded, anti-science, anti-intellectual, and judgmental. This has been widely reported by Dave Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons in the book unChristian.

6. They are young and at a time in their lives when they’re exploring new ideas (there seems to be a greater loss of faith now, however, than in past generations).

With all of this, it’s not surprising to me that younger people question the religious ideas that have been handed down to them.

Followers of Jesus

Then, there are those who do value some aspects of Christianity, or more specifically, the teaching of Jesus (the Sermon on the Mount, loving your neighbor, the Golden Rule, the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, etc.). They are left with the challenge of taking those things seriously in a world in which “Christianity” has negative connotations for many people.

It’s a tension that a lot of younger people face. It’s definitely true for the people we’re connecting with in One Church. Because of this, some are even changing their self-descriptors, starting to refer to themselves as “followers of Jesus” instead of “Christians.” It’s more than just semantics. It’s a statement that, “I find Jesus to be vital, but I don’t associate myself with all of what “Christianity” has come to mean to different people.

Unfortunately, it might be a surprise to some that “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name.:) Christ is the English translation of the Greek word “Christos,” which is a translation of the Jewish term, “Messiah” (anointed one, chosen one). It would be more faithful to the original Hebrew word to call following Jesus “Messiahanity,” anyway. So, there is nothing sacred about the term “Christian.” It’s possible that it was actually first used as a pejorative term by those who opposed the Jesus movement, as recorded in Acts 11v26.

Regardless, actions speak louder than words. How one refers to oneself is not nearly as important as what one actually does. A significant number of American Millennials aren’t walking away from faith and the Church because of semantics. My opinion is that it has something to do with “Christians” not looking enough like followers of Jesus.

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Church Planting, Pastors

Church Planting Tips- Conversation Guide

Church planting is about networking, meeting hundreds of new people and gathering a crowd together to form the church.

When you meet new people, sometimes the conversation stalls. Even the most socially gifted people can get into a conversation that just isn’t going anywhere or is a little awkward.

Here is a good guide to help you keep the conversation flowing and make someone feel welcomed and listened to. When you’ve exhausted one topic, ask the next question… and listen to the person. Of course this is only a guide. One question may lead to an entire conversation without using the rest of the guide.

H.E.L.P.

Home– Where do you live? How long have you lived there?

Employment– What do you do for a living? How long have you been doing that?

Loved ones– Do you have children? Do you have family in the area? (Careful with this one because infertility or family dysfunction can bring up difficult emotions. Tread lightly on the topic of family.)

Past times– What do you like to do for fun? Do you have any hobbies? Where so you like to go on vacation?

I’m currently in the process of planting One Church in Chandler, AZ (onechurch.com). There are plenty of how-to church planting books, online resources and conferences. I wanted to share specific tips from my experience that church planters need to know that are often not included in other resources. Hope this helps.

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