Perform A Church-Wide Evaluation
I’m convinced that the time between Easter and Mother’s Day is the best time to evaluate the overall effectiveness of you, your staff, and your church’s ministries. There are three reasons for that.
First, for most outreach-focused churches there’s a natural lull which affords the chance to step back and think. Second, for most outreach-focused churches their calendar naturally begins the weekend after Labor Day, not January 1st. Third, pausing between Easter and Mother’s Day affords a team five months to plan and execute.
Let me share a helpful exercise you can use to evaluate every aspect of your church. I learned this from my friends at Intentional Churches. They adopted this from business author and strategist Tom Paterson, who was influential in helping Rick Warren shape both his church’s strategy, and his personal life plan.
Pull your team together and for each specific area of ministry ask yourself the following questions. For instance, let’s ask your team to evaluate your preaching first.
Tom Paterson’s 4 Helpful Questions:
What’s right? (continue)
What’s wrong? (stop)
What’s missing? (add)
What’s confusing? (clarify)
Ask your team, “What’s right with my preaching?” These are the things you want to continue.
Then ask them, “What’s wrong with my preaching?” Make sure you prime the pump and share things you know stink about your preaching. Have them add their thoughts to yours. These are the things you’ll stop.
Then ask them, “What’s missing?” These are the things you’ll add.
Then ask, “What’s confusing?” These are the things you’ll want to clarify.
While brainstorming you’re going to want to press people to unveil what Doug Parks at Intentional Churches calls that “extra 10% of truth.” Too often we hold back for fear of hurting one another’s feelings. But, as everyone knows, real breakthrough ideas are always found in the rare zone of that extra 10% of truth.
Don’t let anyone hold back. Model Genghis Khan-like brutality towards yourself in uncovering your weaknesses, but model unflinching grace to others. You’ll be surprised at what your team thinks are your strengths and weaknesses when you are hardest on yourself.
Then repeat this exercise for other areas: staff relationships, children’s ministry, facilities, etc.
My suggestion is that you make a list as a team of the major areas you want to evaluate. Then send each area through Paterson’s 4 Helpful Questions.
Online Giving Push
Years ago I remember reading a newsletter from a pastor friend who was telling the church he serves that they only had $1,000 in their checking account and they were headed into summer. In church world there’s a name for that: lack of planning. Barring catastrophic circumstances there’s either a lack in budgeting and planning, a lack of a clear giving strategy, or both.
You need to make it your goal to collect 50% of your total giving through scheduled online giving. This is especially imperative BEFORE you head into summer. In fact, I suggest that you run your online giving processes through Paterson’s 4 Helpful Questions as well.
Plan Your Sermon Planning
Put together your plan for how you’re going to tackle advanced sermon planning. Some Senior Pastors take the month of August to reflect, read, pray and plan. Others do it different ways. When and how you do it isn’t as important as actually doing it well in advance.
Here are a few recommendations for things to think through as you plan how you are going to plan.
Pick A Theme for The Year
This summer I spent some time at Puyallup Foursquare Church in the suburbs of Washington. Since the beginning of his church, founding Senior Pastor Roger Archer has picked a “theme for the year” to focus his church’s thoughts.
While I’ve never done this, I found this picture fascinating:
It’s a plaque with theme and year for all the unifying big ideas they’ve had since the beginning. They are prominently displayed in the church’s lobby, and have served to advance the church’s mission masterfully. I was so impressed by their team, their vision and their impact in the community.
Whether you formally utilize a theme that is communicated church-wide or not, it is helpful to discern a clear direction Jesus is taking your church in your next ministry season.
Pick 3 Dancing Partners
Dr. John Stewart, my former ministry professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, used to say that every Senior Pastor needs dancing partners. What he meant was that we who are entrenched in ministry need to find non-Christian thinkers who tackle problems like we do, but do so in other disciplines and utilize an anti-supernaturalism presupposition in all their work. He believed reading, watching and engaging these non-Christian “dancing partners” would gives us insight into how we can improve both as preachers and sermon writers.
The three partners that I’ve been dancing with lately are:
- Outspoken atheist Sam Harris (who I find simply brilliant in the way he tackles opposition to his arguments)
- Author and lifestyle guru Tim Ferris (I find his thirst for knowledge and willingness to experiment on himself humorous and fascinating)
- Business author and consultant James Altucher (whose self-effacing personality is matched only by his sheer brilliance in thinking through problems in completely different ways than I do)
I read everything these three people write. I listen to their podcasts religiously. And I often ask myself how they would prepare if they had to preach every single Sunday.
Update Your Commentaries
Now is the time to prepare for in-depth study, not when you’re in the throws of it. By then it’s too late to order a commentary for a message that needs to be written in four days. Following Easter through Mother’s Day is the time for you to take stock of the king’s armory, to use Old Testament biblical language. I always keep my commentaries four deep in New Testament books and I’m working towards being four deep in the Old Testament. The minor prophets are my weakest area now.
One website that I’ve found incredibly helpful is BestCommentaries.com. Check it out.
Pick One Book To Read For Each Series
Once you lay out your roadmap for the next ministry season, pick a book that you’ll read for each series that you’re going to preach.
I only buy books that I can read on my iPad mini, but always buy hardcopies of commentaries. That way I can highlight quotes that can be exported into a Word file and then placed in Evernote for future access for sermon pulp.
Evaluate Your Technology
After 10 years of only using a laptop, I’ve decided to purchase an iMAC for my home office and use my laptop for remote study when away from my desk.
I also moved all local files to Dropbox so they can be accessed regardless of what computer I’m on.
I have also taken all of my sermon archives, planning files, and the like and have moved them to Dropbox and shared them with my Arts staff and those involved in helping me plan and execute messages. I have eliminated all emailing of files and messages.
My next to-do technology-wise is to update my Folders in Evernote. I’m finding that I haven’t taken the time to think through all the potential I can get out of that incredible resource. In fact, I will be asking my Assistant to walk with me through Tom Patterson’s 4 Helpful Questions in analyzing how we can take our use of that resource to the next level.
If you are interested in learning more about the types of coaching I offer, you can do that here.