Monday, November 25, 2013

First of four from Mark Miller (

Monday, June 25, 2012


I recently started working on my 2013 calendar… have you? I’ve found over the years that unless I start thinking about the new year at least 6 months in advance, I spend a lot of time trying to catch up and make things work once the new year begins. My process is neither complicated nor original but it works for  me.
Big Rocks First
Many of you may have heard Stephen Covey talk about time and priority management. One of my favorite illustrations is when Covey takes a large jar and begins by filling it up about halfway with very small rocks. He says these rocks represent the day-to-day time demands such as meetings, emails, distractions, etc. I guess today he’d include text messages, Facebook and Twitter.
Then, he pulls out a half dozen larger rocks – each one about the size of a tennis ball. These represent the important things in our lives… one is for our health, one is for our family, one is for our friends, one is for our faith, etc.
He then tries to put these important things in the jar on top of the small rocks he had previously placed there. You guessed it, there’s not room for all the rocks! This is a powerful metaphor for your life and mine. How often have you felt there just wasn’t enough time to get everything done? But, the story doesn’t end there…
Next, he says, “Let’s try that again.” He empties all the rocks from the jar. He thenplaces the big rocks in first. “Now, let’s see if we have room for some of those small rocks,” he says. As he begins to pour the small rocks into the jar, a miracle occurs – they all fit! Yes, he has to shake the jar a bit to use every nook and cranny, but they all fit. I did this illustration in India in front of a couple of thousand leaders and at this moment in the demonstraton, the place erupted in applause. It was magical.
This principle of the Big Rocks First has made quite an impact in my life. For many years, I’ve tried to put the big rocks in my life on the calendar first. If, from time to time, there’s not room for everything, at least it’s the small rocks that don’t fit.
So, as it relates to my calendar for 2013, here are some of the big rocks I’ve already put on the calendar:
  • Vacation with my family
  • Personal Development (TED Conference; The Leadership Summit)
  • Important Meetings
  • Key Deadlines
  • Focus Days
As leaders, our time is our primary currency. Where we invest this limited capital makes a tremendous difference. I hope this illustration will help you think deliberately about your big rocks. What are they? Does your calendar reflect your priorities? Start now, so that 2013 will be your most successful year yet! 
What are the big rocks for 2014 that you need to put on your calendar now?

From Mark Miller

Monday, November 19, 2012


Last week, I wrote a post entitled, Start with the End in Mind. It was about the importance of taking the long view when creating a personal development plan. Let’s assume for the moment you do that and craft an amazing plan for the upcoming year. How will you respond when your plan doesn’t come together as you envisioned?
Back in the fall of last year, I created a wonderful plan for my life and leadership in 2012. Today, as I begin in earnest to work on my 2013 plan, I realize 2012 did not go as planned – for me, it never does.
So how do I leverage my 2012 experience to create a better 2013? The key for me is to learn from the past but never live there. It’s also critical to remember something Howard Hendricks taught me years ago:
Experience is not the best teacher; EVALUATED experience is.
Following are some of the key questions I use in my planning process; I hope you’ll find something here to help you make 2013 the best year of your life.
What did I learn in the last 12 months?
As I reflect on this question, several things come to mind.
  • I must continue to leverage my strengths
  • If I don’t put my priorities on the calendar, time will evaporate
  • I do my most important work in the white space on my calendar
  • Daily disciplines are critical for me
There’s much more I learned, but I’ll not bore you with the details.
What did I accomplish this year?
Even though I didn’t execute my plan as written, I did…
  • Celebrate 30 years of marriage!
  • Have great times away with my family
  • Launch a new book and finish the first draft of my next book
  • Write 140 blog posts to date (3 per week)
  • Visit a lot of Chick-fil-A restaurants – and ate more than my share of sandwiches
  • Reach platinum status on Delta by October – this was not one of my goals.
What did I fail to do that I planned to do?
For me, my greatest disappointment has been in my Fitness and my Faith accounts. I’ve struggled with the daily disciplines I need to stay grounded and fit. These will be at the top of my priorities in 2013.
Here’s what I’ve concluded after many years of creating personal plans: if I create an aggressive plan, I won’t get it all done. On the surface, it may look like the plan fell apart. However, for me, I accomplish significantly more by having an aggressive plan.
I’d rather accomplish 60% of a bold plan than 100% of a timid one.
My encouragement to you: aim high and don’t be surprised if your plan “falls apart.” As long as you’re growing, you’re winning!

From Mark Miller

Monday, October 14, 2013


A leaders’ time is their most important asset. If we are effective as leaders, where we invest our time yields a return. However, many leaders, myself included, have often pursued a different path. We chased the holy grail of improving our time management skills. We were wrong.
Yes, I’m a huge fan of eliminating time wasters and creating efficiencies – this is common sense. However, time management is a myth – you may have heard this before, but I’ll say it again…


Time is its own boss, and its metronome is set: 86,400 seconds in a day, 168 hours in a week, 24 hours in a day and 365.2 days per year. That’s it. You can’t manage that.
So, if time management is not the right paradigm for a leader to embrace, how should we approach the question of how we are to steward our time? I’m gaining more and more clarity on this – for me, the real issue is alignment.
Alignment as it relates to the investment of my seconds, minutes and hours toward the accomplishment of what really matters. Alignment is a challenge we can approach and a battle we can win – unlike attacking the impenetrable walls of time.
How does this idea work? Here are some of my recent thoughts.
Alignment begins with clarity on what matters most. As with much of leadership, this is much easier to say than to do. There will always be competing priorities and tensions that must be managed. However, as a leader, if you aren’t clear on a short list of YOUR priorities, my guess is you’ll never approach real alignment.
Alignment is enhanced when those around you understand your priorities. If you’re in a position of leadership, you’re attempting to lead people to some desired future state. True alignment requires people to know not only the destination but the path you’ll take to get there. It’s also helpful if those around you understand your role and personal priorities. Perhaps they can help you stay on course.
Alignment is challenged when we allow others to redirect our use of time. I’ve never met an effective leader who was in total control of their time. Part of our ongoing role is to respond to the unexpected. However, we’ve got to be extremely careful not to let others hijack our calendar. If we do, we can quickly become misaligned. Firefighters are rarely aligned with the long-term goals of an organization. How much time have you invested in the last 6 months fighting someone else’s fires?
Alignment is achieved when we invest our best energy on what matters most. This is probably stating the obvious. It makes sense;it is very hard to do. As we approach the new year, perhaps a look back is in order. Have you ever done a time audit? Consider a detailed review of the last year and ask yourself: How much time did I invest on my priorities?
Alignment does not guarantee success. It only enhances our chances. Sometimes, you and I can invest 100% of our time on activities that are of utmost importance and still fail to achieve the desired outcomes. That is to be expected from time to time. You will not win them all. However, if goals are not achieved, I want to be sure it’s not because I was out of alignment.
As you begin to think about your 2014 Plan, what are your priorities? How can you personally be more aligned in the new year?

From Mark Miller

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Steven Covey was the first person I remember hearing say, “Start with the end in mind.” I do this instinctively in my work, but until a few years ago, I had never applied this principle to my life.
Start With The End In Mind
When I started working with my coach, Daniel Harkavy, one of the first activities he asked me to do was to identify the primary “accounts” in my life. He suggested five to seven as a good number. Here’s what I came up with:
Faith – Fitness – Family – Influence – Finances
(I know, it would have been great to find a word for influence that starts with the letter F.)
Identifying the accounts wasn’t the hard part of the assignment. Next, he told me to block one day, eight full hours, to answer the following question:
What do I want to be true in each of these accounts 30 years from now?
That’s starting with the end in mind! He asked me to write a narrative for each account with as much detail as I could manage. He also asked me to write an explanation or defense of why I wanted what I had written to become a reality.
This was an extremely powerful exercise for me. In some ways it changed my life, and in other ways it defined my life.
As Daniel explained after I’d finished this exercise, the rest is merely execution. All I have to do is live my life so the things I wrote – my 30-year vision – become reality. My personal planning process is built on this concept. Here are the key steps in my process:
1.  Review my 30-year vision – I call it my Life Plan. I want to see if any of my aspirations have changed. The Life Plan is a dynamic document.
2.  Then I ask myself the following questions:
What did I learn in the last 12 months?
What did I accomplish in the last 12 months?
What did I fail to accomplish that I planned to do and why?
(I’ll write more about what I’ve learned about myself this year in an upcoming post.)
3.  Then, I often select an area of personal focus for the year – some call this a “Deep Dive.” I was inspired when I learned this was a practice of the legendary basketball coach, John Wooden. One year, his personal focus was rebounding. Imagine, a year of studying rebounding – that blew my mind!
4.  Next, I set a few goals for each account and the appropriate strategies and tactics.
5.  Finally, I write it all down. Last year, I also created a mind map to summarize my plan. I keep it on a card in my pocket and use it as the screen saver on my computer as a constant reminder of what I’m trying to accomplish.
I know I’ve included a lot of details here, but I don’t want you to miss the big idea:The 30-year perspective has made a huge impact on my life. It not only captures my heart, it is the heart of my personal planning process.
Start with the end in mind!
Have you started working on your personal plan for 2014? If not, a 30-year look would be a great place to start!

Sunday, November 24, 2013



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Just because a church is growing doesn’t mean it’s filling up with unchurched people.
How do you know you’re really making inroads with the unchurched?
signs you're reaching unchurchedFirst, you can find out whether you are attracting transfer growth or truly unchurched people.
At Connexus, where I serve, we ask new people to fill out a card (I’ll send a copy of that card to everyone on the Blog Insider’s Email List later this week. You can subscribe for free in the right column of this page). By that we’ve learned that 60% of our first time attenders self-identify as having no church background.
But you can also tell because of how unchurched people change the dynamic in your church. Your church will simply not be the same anymore.
Preparing to reach unchurched people is one thing (here are 9 signs your church is ready to reach unchurched people). But when unchurched people actually start connecting with your church, things change deeply.
When you see these 7 signs pop up in your church, you will know that you are really making inroads with the unchurched:

1. People Aren’t Singing Much During the Service

If you think about it, this shouldn’t surprise you. Christians are about the only people left in our culture who sing corporately on a weekly basis. Unchurched people may like your music, but they won’t necessarily sing it. Be okay with that. We’ve learned to be. Churched people visit our church all the time and remark on how few people sing (even though we have an exceptional band). I’ve just decided I don’t care. The goal is not to get unchurched people to sing…it’s to lead them into a growing relationship with Jesus. We limit the music to a few songs. Christians get to sing. Unchurched people appreciate the band. And people’s lives get changed.

2. Long Time Church People Are Unsettled

Not all long time church people will be upset, but some will be. They’ll be concerned that people who don’t look like them, behave like them or share their moral value system are now sitting beside them on Sundays or in group with them mid-week. This is a good sign. Some of those churched people will leave, but you will also have a group that have waited for this day all their lives. They have unchurched friends who are coming and they’ll be thrilled that the church is (finally) accomplishing its mission. Run with them.

3. Irregular Attendance is Regular

This unsettles pastors. Normally, if a church person is away for a month, it’s a ‘sign’ of something. Not with unchurched people. In the same way that if you don’t make it to the gym in a week you don’t panic, unchurched people will come when they feel like it. Remember: this is the most they’ve attended church ever. I wrote this post on how to get irregular attenders to attend more often, but just know this comes with the territory.

4. Your Tidy Categories Are Falling Apart

As you engage more and more unchurched people, you’ll realize that your neat and tidy theological and sociological categories for people will erode and collapse and you realize we’re just actually all people in need of a Saviour.  Gays and lesbians will become people. Rich and poor will become names and faces. That doesn’t mean your theology changes, but it probably means your compassion does. And it likely means that your easy answers instead become involved conversations.

5. You’re Getting Surprisingly Candid Questions

 As you surround yourself with unchurched people, you will see more of the pain and messiness of life. Long time church people often experience the same pain and life issues; it’s just unchurched people feel freer to talk about them. So get ready. Have a list of counselors nearby. And get ready to engage more real life issues from the platform. When you speak into real life, people listen.

6. Everyone’s Tolerance For Hypocrisy is Plummeting

 People with little to no church background hate hypocrisy. And they will call it out. If you don’t deal with it, they will leave. Churched people have learned to live with hypocrisy for years. Losing that tolerance is awesome for everyone. We’re preaching through that issue at Connexus in this series.

7. You See Real Life-Change

This is the best part, of course. But people are in radically different places than they were even a year or two ago. Unchurched people have really only one motive for being at church: they want to investigate Jesus. And when they do, its changes many—deeply. Sure, not everyone decides to follow Christ. But then there are many people who have attended church their whole life who have managed to resist transformation for decades. When it comes to unchurched people, measure change over several years and you’ll be amazed at the progress.
So these are 7 signs that show you’re actually connecting with unchurched people.
What have you seen? Leave a comment!
- See more at:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Importance of Christmas Eve

It’s not too early to begin thinking about what you’re going to do to capitalize on the pagan holiday known as Christmas. Yes, you heard me correctly – Christmas is a pagan holiday. But contrary to what you might think, being a pagan holiday makes it even that more valuable evangelism tool than you think.
One of the great sins of the modern church is turning Christmas into an in-house celebration when it is one of the best evangelism nights of the year. Only 16% of the U.S. population is in worship on an average Sunday whereas 47% of the U.S. population is in worship on Christmas Eve.
And if that isn’t enough to convince you, more people who attend Christmas Eve will return in the future than those who attend Easter services. So, it is possible to say, from an evangelism standpoint Christmas Eve is more important to the growth of your church than is Easter. It’s hard to believe that some churches don’t offer anything on Christmas Eve night.
So, when you plan for Christmas Eve do you do it with the unchurched in or with your members in mind?
You can answer this question by answering some of the following questions:
  1. Do you have a lessons and carols type of services?
  2. Do you fail to have a sermon that night?
  3. Do you fail to have your best choir or band at the services?
If you answered “Yes” to any of these, unless you’re Catholic, and even if you’re Lutheran or Episcopalian, you are not thinking about the unchurched on Christmas Eve night. You want Christmas Eve night to be a close to what you do on a normal Sunday as possible, only better. You want people to see what they would miss if they fail to return the following Sunday.
So, what should you do?
  1. Have your best sermon
  2. Have you best music
  3. Have your best hospitality
  4. Don’t offer Communion
  5. Have your best parking lot team
  6. Have your best hospitality in play
  7. Make your best welcome you can possibly make
  8. Do whatever you can to have people register
  9. And follow up on those who do register within 48 hours
So start now on your sermon for that night and line up your musicians and hospitality teams to insure you are guest-friendly Christmas Eve.

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Additional Resources

Great Leadership Part One

Making a DifferenceLeadership is an elusive characteristic. It takes many shapes but you always know a great leader when you see one in action.
I’ve had the privilege of working with many of our nations best leaders, both secular and religious. And I hate to say it but I can divide them into two categories whether religious or secular – some are humble and some are arrogant. Some leaders make it easy for you to dislike them because of their arrogance; and some leaders just have a way of making you like them because of their humility – these are what I call Great Leaders. Their greatness stems from their humble walk whether in business or the church.
One thing stands out with all these Great Leaders – they measure their success by who, not what, they leave behind. They measure their greatness not by what they achieve but what they achieve through others. Great leadership is about providing an atmosphere in which people are transformed and empowered to be leaders in their own right. In the case of pastors they empower people to fulfill their God-given destiny.
My favorite metaphor for this kind of humble leadership is “Spiritual Midwife.” Like a midwife helping parents give birth to their child a Great Leaders assist those around them to become all that God expects of them. They provide an atmosphere in which people blossom and grow into all they can be. They measure their success by the success of others. They live to pass on to others what God has given them.
Here are my key bullet points on Great Leadership:
  • Great leaders are obedient to a call greater than their own life
  • Mission more than theology dictates their lives
  • Great leaders lead out of intuition more than education
  • Great Leaders grow people not churches
  • Great leaders are passionate about a few things and flexible on most things
  • Great leaders see some level of leadership in every person they meet and their passion is to midwife them into all they can be.
You can see by this list how being humble comes into the picture. It’s not about them – it’s about God and others.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

5 Keys to Explosive Growth
5 Keys to Explosive Growth
Bil Cornelius shares multiplication secrets they've learned along the way.
Acts 1 and 2 tell us that the early Church went from 120 believers to 3,120 believers overnight. But that’s not all. Acts 2:47 tells us that “each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.” The number of Christians grew daily! And Acts 4:4 says that many of the people who heard the disciples’ message believed it, and the number of believers totaled about 5,000 men, not counting women and children.

So, how many people are we actually talking about here? Conservative estimates at this point put the number of believers around 20,000. In the first year after Christ’s death, the number of believers grew from 120 to 120,000.

Not only is crazy, go-big, huge growth possible, it’s biblical. Like the early church of Acts, your church—if growth is part of your and your people’s vision—can go big with these five keys that both of us have discovered in our experience of leading churches and people.

For the last seven years, I (Bil Cornelius) have led Bay Area Fellowship in Corpus Christi, Texas ( Today, we’re 4,000 people strong and we’re focused on a goal of planting 10 churches a year over the next 10 years. Bill Easum has 35 years in pastoral ministry and is now one of the signature voices in church growth, consulting with  churches nationwide (

Here’s what we’ve learned:


People develop the habits necessary to create the future they want. Another way to put this: You get what you expect and believe will happen. Yet, most people don’t believe this. But we’ve learned that a large part of your future is what you picture it to be. So maybe what you need is a bigger picture of the future.

Picturing your church as twice its current size and living into that picture will help you assess how you currently spend your time and how you should be spending it. You’ll soon realize you can’t continue doing some of the things you’re doing and personally survive. Ask yourself: What do I need to stop doing now, and what do I have to begin doing?


When was the last time you challenged your church to pray for your goal of doubling the number of people finding Christ and worshipping with you every Sunday? Ask them to pray specifically for people they know who need God. But here’s the rub—you can’t ask your people to pray if you’re not praying.

One night, I (Bil C.) asked our church, Bay Area, to commit to praying for our church growth 10 hours a month. Then I told them that while they were praying that month, I would commit to praying 100 hours. Hundreds of people signed up to pray. And our church exploded once again. We cannot ignore the prayer principle: When we pray diligently, we get big results.

But don’t pray for rain without first opening an umbrella. Often, we pray for God to do something; yet, do we prepare for it to happen? It does no good to ask God to double your attendance if you’re not expecting and preparing for an inflow of people.

We constantly hear pastors say that they need more volunteers and servants but can’t find them. Answer this question: If 50 people knocked on your door and said, “I’d love to work in the youth ministry or the children’s ministry,” would you be prepared to involve them right then? Or would you have to respond, “Can I get back to you in a week?” If you’re not prepared for people to come, why are you asking God to bring them to your church? Think about these specific areas and evaluate if your church is expectant and ready:
Space. Do you have enough seating and children’s space to accommodate twice the size of your church?

Parking. Do you have enough parking spaces, and enough time, volunteers, etc., to transition cars on and off your property before the next service begins?

Servants. Do you have enough servant volunteers to keep up with the growth?

Money. Do you have the money to support new services and extra support staff?

Appearance of space. When you walk into your building, does it rival the quality of a popular mall or other 21st century venue that’s in the business of attracting people?
Does the atmosphere of your facility send the right message to first-time guests?
Does it say “God is moving today” or “God moved here 50 years ago”?

Remember, you don’t need a new or expensive facility to communicate a relevant message, but you should capitalize on the facility you’re using.

Preaching. If your worship services were filled with more non-Christians than Christians, would your preaching need to change? Is it filled with Christianese? Do you take time to explain a Bible story or summarize who the apostle Paul was before you quote him?

Most pastors preach as if everyone in the room is a Christian and grew up in church. Take time to evaluate your messages and delivery. And train your church to appreciate that you’re designing your sermons for the people who aren’t there yet. 

Personal appearanceDoes your appearance send non-verbal messages that you’re current or outdated? Don’t change who you are, but stay updated in who you are.
Dress conservatively, country or urban—whatever—just make sure you match who you’re trying to reach, while staying true to you.


If you want a full house, set a date and invite your entire community to church at the same time. It’s one thing to have visitors come now and then, but we’re talking about going big and changing a city. If God is leading you to do something big, don’t invite three or four people; invite thousands!

Galatians 6:7 tells us, “You will always reap what you sow”—a time-tested principle that will always be true. If you invite five people, don’t expect anyone to show up. But if you invite 150,000 people, there’s a good chance you might fill up the place! Focus all your efforts on one big day.

When we launched Bay Area seven years ago, we went big. We’d been meeting in a small group in an apartment. Soon, we outgrew our space and moved into a small storefront. The momentum was growing and so was the excitement. When our group reached 25 people, I (Bil C.) said, “Alright guys, we’re going to spend every dime we’ve got and blow it all in one weekend. Let’s launch. And let’s do this big.”

The first Sunday, 236 people showed up and Bay Area Fellowship was born. As expected, the next week’s attendance dropped to 150 people. But compared to the size of the group that launched the church, we knew we’d succeeded.

So how do you invite that many people at once?

Word of mouth. The No. 1 way to invite people is by word of mouth. And the cost ratio for word of mouth is phenomenal: zero. The biggest influx of people results when your friends bring their friends, who bring their friends and so on. That’s why some churches can grow by a thousand people in worship in one week when it took them years just to get to that same number the first time. The larger a church grows, the more important word of mouth becomes.

Direct mail. We both repeatedly used direct mail and highly recommend it. Compared to other mass communication methods, direct mail is an inexpensive, effective way to tell your story. People have to pull it out of their mailbox and throw it away. And for half a second, they look at it before tossing it. But they did look!

The real power of direct mail is when it’s read the third or fourth time. Advertise in direct proportion to how you want to grow. However fast you want to grow is how much and how often you should advertise. The best time to use direct mail is when you’re announcing a sermon series or hosting a special event.

Television and cable. The larger the church, the more important TV advertising becomes, if for no other reason than creating and maintaining your church’s image. Both of us used TV quite frequently. I (Bill E.) found that 2% of my former church’s annual visitors came as a result of TV ads, and 95% of them joined.

We’re talking about running 30-second spots numerous times during a short period of time. If you enlist a knowledgeable person (a media buyer or someone who works in cable TV) to shop for and schedule these ads, chances are you’ll get some for free.
Don’t try to shop for ad placements yourself. You don’t know the questions to ask.

Prices for ad spots on both cable and network TV will vary regionally, so it’s pretty impossible to give you a figure for how much to spend. Whatever you do, don’t spread out your advertising. Focus it on a couple of days so that people see so many of your ads they wonder if you bought the TV station!

Web sites. A church Web site appeals mostly to younger Christians who are shopping for a church. It’s not likely that many non-Christians will seek out and look at your Web site. Nevertheless, a good Web site can close the deal. It’s now possible for any church to have a professional-looking Web site for very little cost. You can purchase the template and ask someone in your church who knows a little bit about Web text and design to manage the site.

Radio. This medium didn’t do much for either of us. If you don’t run spots during drive time, don’t do radio. But in some areas, radio makes more sense than TV due to the difference in costs per ad. Its real benefit is the ability to target a segment of the population that you can’t with TV. For example, radio has not worked well for Bay Area’s main worship services, but the student ministry at the church has found it to be very successful.

Newspaper. Neither of us puts much stock in newspaper ads, especially the church page. If you must use the newspaper, position your ad in the personal columns, entertainment section or sports pages.

Media combinations. The combination of multiple impressions in diverse media brings your advertising to a tipping point. We recommend using a mixture of word of mouth, direct mail and cable television to reach unchurched people.

At Bay Area, we put two direct mail pieces in each worship bulletin (we always print more direct mail pieces than we need for the actual mailing). At the end of each worship service, I (Bil C.) ask everyone to hold up their two mailers. Then I ask everyone to pray: God, would you lay upon my heart a friend or family member that I can give this mailer in my left hand to? And I tell them that when God gives them a name, write it on the mailer. Then we pray again—God, would you please give me a name of a neighbor or a co-worker that I can give this other mailer in my right hand to?—and again, I ask them to write down a second name. A deliberate prayer like this helps everyone understand that God put these people on their hearts. Then I commission everyone, in the name of Christ, to invite these people and bring them to church.

That same week, we send out the direct mail piece to as many homes in our area as we can afford. This way, people receive the mailer and are also approached by friends who ask them to come and check out the worship. We also run as many TV ads as we can afford. Using this strategy means that now people have received the mailer; had a friend invite them to church; and saw the church on TV. The odds are they’re going to check out our church because everywhere they turn they run into it.

Don’t think you can afford all this?
Look at your budget. How much money are you wasting on things that have never resulted in any growth?

Why not divert that money to causing a feeding frenzy around your church? I (Bill E.) have seen that most churches waste money on events and ministries which never result in more people finding Christ. For example, if your annual budget is under $500,000, you don’t need to pay someone to handle the money. Or do you have some support staff you could do without for a period of time?

Another option: borrowing the money. At one time or another, your church has probably borrowed money to build. Isn’t the salvation of people more important than buildings?

Or, what about savings? We know—you’re saving it for a rainy day; but didn’t the ark float by recently? Isn’t that money being wasted when it could tell your story to those who need to hear?


To retain people today, two things must happen. First, people have to form significant relationships. Second, they need to grow spiritually. Here’s how that happened for both of us.

Small groups that multiply. Any small-group pastor who never talks about multiplication doesn’t need to be a small-group pastor. Get as many people as you can into small groups, but keep the focus on multiplication. Too many churches look at small groups primarily as a place for believers in the church to learn or share. We don’t see them that way.

Small groups primarily serve three purposes: they are the training ground for the future leaders of your church; they are incubators of faith for new people coming into the church; and they are the catapults for sending Christians into the world to invite their friends in to discover the body of Christ.

Call every visitor. One of the most incredible discoveries I (Bill E.) have made as a church consultant is that the average pastor in a dying church seldom makes personal calls to the few visitors the church draws. That blows my mind.

When I pastored Colonial Hills Church in Southaven, Miss., I personally called every visitor until the church was 500 in worship. Bay Area was running more than 1,500 in worship before Bil C. turned over the calling of visitors to someone else. Both of us called each visitor on Sunday afternoon. You should too.

Every study we’ve found shows that people are much more likely to return to a church if they’re contacted within 48 hours of their visit. At Colonial Hills, the members, on their way home from church, took a gift to every first-time visitor. In growing churches, it’s not unusual for first-time visitors to receive three or four contacts with the church the first week they register their contact info.

Add a worship service. It doesn’t matter how many services you have. If you are anywhere near 80% full in any of the prime hours, it’s time to start another service. Three services now? Add a fourth one! If your vision is big enough, you can find a way to do it.

We’ve both seen that nothing grows a church as much as adding a quality worship service. Who would have thought that Bay Area could run 4,000 in an auditorium that seats only 750? The first thing Bil C. did when the church jumped to 90 people was start another service.

The key is to ensure that you have enough people in a service for it to feel big. Usually, this is about 50% of the capacity. If you have less than that, we recommend saying to your congregation, “Hey folks, there’s 50 people here today, which means that you need to go out and bring in another 25 people next week. You know you know them.”

Remember those two mailers in the bulletin? Ask them to take them out and write down a name and then pray the prayer we gave you earlier. They need to know you take it seriously.


Develop a creative sermon series with a high “felt need” appeal. When you put creativity and a high felt need together, you get real growth. Last year, I (Bil C.) preached a series titled “What Does God Have to Say About Sex?” and we saw an increase of 1,000.

Build services around special days. Special days help you break growth barriers quickly and enlarge the vision of your people for what they’re capable of doing when they work together.

A word of warning here: When your church is first starting out, on holidays, everyone goes home to mom. If you’re not a destination church, Thanksgiving will probably be your least attended weekend. As Bay Area grew bigger, we became a destination church, and people invited their parents and friends to attend with them to see what God was doing.

The best days for an event are secular holidays, like Fourth of July or Super Bowl Sunday, and Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter. Special days in the fall are optimal because it’s typically a season for great church growth.

Recognize. What about a teacher appreciation day? Find a local restaurant to sell you $20 gift certificates for $10—tell the manager they’re for teachers in the community. Then give them to all the teachers who show up that day. What other special days will work in your church without much money? Little League day? Firefighters or police officers day?

Don’t bring in special guests. If you have to spend a lot of money for an outside speaker, don’t! There’s no need to blow your budget on a special guest. If you do, they better be someone so incredible that their appearance will cover what you had to pay multiple times over. 

Sit down right now where you are and visualize what you’d have to do to double the size of your church. Remember, if it’s possible, you don’t need God to make it happen. If it seems impossible, He’s probably waiting for you to ask.   

Friday, November 8, 2013

busy-pastorFrom my last article at
Busyness in ministry is an epidemic. As our world moves faster and faster, pastors are being sucked into a vortex of tasks, projects, emails, and goals.
The problem is that when you get overwhelmed, you get tunnel vision. Your perspective of your church becomes as narrow as your to-do list. What inevitably happens is that the important, but not urgent aspects of ministry get pushed to the bottom of the list.
Yet, if we are honest, it is in those important, but not urgent areas where we make the biggest impact. It is where the best opportunities lie. But we sacrifice that for an empty email inbox.
What opportunities are you missing out on because you are overwhelmed in ministry?
Below I list three opportunities busy pastors might miss when they get too task focused. I’ll warn you, these are mundane, but their normalness ensures that every pastor faces them.
Click over to to read the rest!
(Photo credit)