Years ago I had an opportunity to do a training event with Senior Pastors and Worship Pastors throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.
I ended my morning session by sharing, rapid-fire, sixty things I wish someone had shared with me ten years ago.
It’s a rag-tag assortment of things that has helped our church growth and has helped keep me sane in the process.
Here they are…
Sixty Things I Wish Someone Had Shared With Me Ten Years Ago
1. Pick up a vice like cigar smoking or playing poker. The normal people in your church will thank you for it.
2. Fire people quickly.
3. Show videos of people getting baptized during your communion service.
4. Make a quarterly volunteer push in service with sign-up cards.
5. Make your website name memorable (instead of accurate). Redbanna.com or pinkfish.com or whatever is way better than christschurchofgeorgetown.com).
6. Make sure you have your own $5,000-10,000 personal mission budget to visit the missions your church supports, or to give one-time gifts to missions needs as they arise. You need to be able to respond to needs quickly, and there should always be money to do that.
7. Pass out free t-shirts for campers the Sunday following VBS. Make sure they go to church to get them.
8. Have your kids sing in your worship service at least 3-4 times a year to make young dads come to church.
9. Completely redesign the interior “look” of your church building every 3 years.
10. Put sign-up cards to get baptized in worship programs every other month.
11. Never allow anyone to mention staff kids names from the stage or in letters.
12. When sexual abuse suspicions arise with kids in church, ALWAYS call their school counselor and let them report it.
13. The secret to growing a church is three words: steal, steal, steal. As Mark Twain said, “the secret to originality is to conceal your sources.”
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14. Best “big month” sermons series idea—200 community surveys asking for biggest needs of their families—those become your 4-5 topics that month.
15. Have someone “packing” at all your services for protection of everyone.
16. Never use negative illustrations about your family—you create the church’s impression of them.
17. Insist on a competitive pay scale from your governing board (in writing).
18. Take one great vacation a year (the price of serving in the church).
19. Create your own conference by going to a city and meeting with 5-10 Senior Pastors in 4-5 days span. I find these self-directed learning opportunities much more productive than most conferences.
20. If you don’t have money to give raises, give raises in time off.
21. Send every staff member and their most important volunteers to one conference every year (church pays registration and hotel; they pay meals and airfare).
22. If possible, never host a church event of any size at your house (ex. predators in my house).
23. Have each department send their own newsletter with their volunteer schedules.
24. If you are forced to host at your house on a regular basis insist on getting a housecleaner (and don’t feel bad about it).
25. Put your volunteer schedules on your website.
26. Hold a “bullpen” evaluation meeting after your first two services with your key people on stage.
27. If you are on stage a lot, put a clothing allowance in your budget.
28. Email is a huge time-waster. I have a three sentence email response rule. Anything over that I say, “See me Sunday and let’s talk.”
29. My best outreach—coaching my kids’ sports teams.
30. If doing a funeral, meet with family 3 nights before and ask for a review of their whole life—birth to the grave—(a) great therapy and (b) great material for message—pull three points and use them in the funeral message.
31. If doing funeral of a non-Christian, always say, “I’m not sure about Bill’s relationship with God. But one thing I know for certain — if he took his relationship with Jesus seriously, we have no question where he is right now.” (This takes the burden off of you).
32. Create a wedding policy document and put it on your website (only marry a couple when one person is member of your church—this eliminates drive-by weddings).
33. Outsource all pre-marital counseling.
34. Charge at least $300 for each wedding and put it in writing in your document (more for the benefit of other staff members—not the Senior Pastor).
35. When hiring staff, ask for references from your references.
36. Senior Pastors should preach no more than 42 times a year.
37. If you offer Saturday night services give each ministry staff person one weekend off a month.
38. Stop doing counseling and partner with a professional counseling office.
39. Make it a staff rule that you are never allowed to meet with someone of the opposite sex alone off-site, period.
40. Put windows on your staff doors.
41. Always pay for limited counseling for your staff.
42. Always have a weekly staff lunch together.
43. Always study books together as a staff (and alternate between how-to’s and spirituality books).
44. Learn the names of your fellow staff member’s kids.
45. Hold an annual fun staff retreat.
46. Every ministry staff member should have the funds to attend two conferences a year.
47. All staff should have a liberal book allowance and use it completely.
48. Kill your invitation hymn and have your Senior Pastor say, “We’re glad you’re here. If you have any questions, I’ll be down here. If you’re new, I’d like to meet you. If you need prayer…”
49. Never go cheap on toilet paper or sound equipment.
50. Don’t allow yourself to get fat (I did). And if you do, go to a licensed dietician instead of reading the latest trendy weight-loss book.
51. When you have no staff, identify your five most important departments, interview the most qualified volunteers in your church and “hire them” by giving them titles. Meet once a week for a staff meeting in an evening. That’s how churches 200 and below grow fast.
52. Never talk about church crap in front of your kids. Ever.
53. On vacation, never go to church. Always sleep in and remind yourself of what your main competition to regular Sunday attendance feels like.
54. Always take 2 full days off and work no more than 2 nights out a week.
55. Get a professional massage once every other month (not the kinky truck stop massages, you know what I’m talking about!). Eating well, exercise, taking time off and an occasional massage has greatly reduced my stress levels.
56. Meet with a financial advisor every single year.
57. If forced to choose, choose to offend the Christian before you choose to offend the non-Christian.
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58. Train yourself to have ADD in your worship programming (constantly rearrange the staff, program, lineup, etc.).
59. The best thing that ever happened to me was starting a new church, pouring myself into that church for 5.5 years, and then driving away that last Sunday. I’ll never forget that feeling, looking in the rear-view mirror. I said, “I killed myself for that?” Remember: the people in your church are worth dying for, but church work is not worth dying for. Never confuse those two.
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60. Finally, the only time I ever get discouraged is when I hear someone else talk about their church and what an amazing job they’re doing and then they start to compare their church to mine.
My last piece of advice is this: as you walk out of this room today, take everything you wrote down today and drop it in one of the trashcans.
Everything you need to know about leading an outreach-focused church you already have: Love God. Love people. Be yourself.