Monday, December 22, 2014

12 Ways to Use Social Media to Connect with Your Congregation this Christmas

My posting has really slowed down, I know.  It's been incredibly busy this year, but this one is great from The Rocket Company:

12 Ways to Use Social Media to Connect with Your Congregation this Christmas

We’ve put together twelve easy and practical ways for you to engage with people through Facebook and Twitter. These done-for-you activities will help you start faith conversations and build up folks.  Pick one or two of them and connect with your congregation this
  1. Copy and paste the lyrics of your favorite Christmas song on Facebook and ask others which is their favorite song of the season.
  2. Tweet and Facebook a picture of a wrapped present with the copy: “Guess what’s inside? Whoever guesses it (or comes close), wins!” Ship it to the winner. Here’s some ideas for the present: a nativity set, tree topper, ornament, Starbucks gift certificate.
  3. Invite people on Twitter and Facebook to volunteer with you this month to help people in your community. Share what you are going to do and ask them to share what they are going to do. You could sign up at a soup kitchen, ring a Salvation Army bell, serve meals in a homeless shelter, buy gifts for those in need or pay someone’s electrical bill.
  4. Post a photo of you celebrating Christmas as a child and share a holiday memory you have from that time in your life. Ask others to post a photo and share a memory.
  5. The Christmas season can be stressful. Tweet and Facebook an invite to send you a private message if they want prayer. Reply with a private typed out prayer from your heart for them.
  6. Challenge your followers on Twitter and fans on Facebook to find and take a picture of the ugliest Christmas sweater they’ve ever seen and post it.
  7. Tweet and Facebook the following question: “Do you remember what you asked Santa to bring you for Christmas as a child?” Share what you asked for with them.
  8. Briefly share why God’s gift of Jesus Christ changed your life. Ask your friends and followers to share an event that changed their lives forever.
  9. Post a picture of something that is symbolic within your church. It could be the cross, your baptistery, the piano, the pews or the front door. Explain why it’s significant. Ask your friends and followers to post items that are special to them this time of year.
  10. Tweet and Facebook the following question: “What is the best Christmas gift you’ve ever received?” Be sure to share your answer.
  11. Pick an annual event in your city. Perhaps, it’s the local Christmas parade or a celebration of the season. Tweet and Facebook that you’ll be there and would love to meet as a group to enjoy the event together.
  12. Share the following video on Twitter and Facebook: Few explain the meaning of Christmas better than Linus.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

10 Coaching Questions Every Leader Needs to Ask

The best coaches also receive coaching. They also regularly coach themselves. Let me explain.
If you are like me, your are enticed by routines because they allow you to feel comfortable. They help you manage the constant change in your world. Routines diminish the pressure to change and remind you that you are on the right track.
But routines can deceive you quickly. How many times have you allowed yourself to continue doing the same thing over and over even though you continue to get sub-par results?
A simple example is exercise. Another might be eating. But what about your work? What about your parenting? What about your marriage?
I’d like to challenge you to take a quick step back to evaluate at least one area of your life (ie coach yourself). The coaching questions below give you and your team a quick and effective way to step back, clarify, assess, and articulate a new plan forward.
You could look at any time period. However, I’ve provided a quick list of coaching questions for the next quarter. This process is called periodization. It challenges you to break the year down into 3 month segments and deliver results quarterly rather than just annually. (For more on periodization, take a look at Brian Moran’s book “The 12 Week Year“).
Give it a shot. Ask these coaching questions of yourself. Go through them with your team. No matter what you do, pursue clarity around what you are trying to achieve, how you’ll get there, and how you’ll know and measure that you did in fact deliver the intended result or arrive at the intended destination.

10 Coaching Questions Every Leader Needs to Ask

coaching questions

1) What are we trying to accomplish over the next 90 days? (Measure it)

This foundational question will likely be something you’ll need to return to regularly.
Be clear. Put it in writing. Make sure those around you have given input and are bought into what you are trying to accomplish.

2) What has gone well recently?

For you as a leader to properly assess yourself, your team, or your organization, I think you should celebrate the wins (both big and small).
What has been successful lately? What worked? Who do you need to applaud and learn from? But don’t stop there.

3) What hasn’t delivered your desired results?

This question is asking the opposite of #2. Here you are identifying what didn’t go very well.
Don’t be afraid to name these actions or projects. Failure isn’t a big deal unless you fail to learn from it. Identify where you or your team fell short and ask why. Determine if it was a process issue, a misaligned goal, or a lack of resources.

4) What could you do differently?

Figure out what you could do differently. Again, put this in writing. Start with a list of ideas before you narrow it down and prioritize.
Evaluation without shifting action is esoteric and exhausting. Make sure evaluation drives changes and creates innovative plans to achieve a different result next time.

5) Who could you ask for help?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve failed to do this. Don’t be like me.
Think outside the box about who could help you or your team. If you still aren’t sure, ask a colleague or trusted friend who you should ask for help. They’ll likely have some ideas that you can benefit from.
Asking for help creates a leadership development opportunity for you to delegate and for another person to lead. Don’t steal opportunities from others by hoarding all the responsibilities.

6) What tools are out there to improve your process(es)?

Tools can reduce your time spent and improve your work. Many leaders state that they are too busy for social media. While that may be the case, it usually is more of a process, tools, or strategy issue than a time issue.
Simple tools like BufferApp (scheduling social media posts), Dropbox (cloud storage and document sharing), and Nozbe (project management for individuals or teams) can shave off large amounts of time. Many leaders refuse to lead differently by using these because they’ve gotten comfortable with what HAS “worked” in the past.
I’ve written blog posts on each of the tools mentioned above. Why? These tools work and they make a difference on my team and many others. You don’t necessarily need to use these as they are only examples of the abundance of tools available for you or your team to use.

7) What are at least 2-3 things you should stop doing?

This question hurts. Frankly, it always seems easier to identify something you can add to your plate. But we all do things that don’t produce our intended result.
In the words of Bob Newhart, “Just stop it.” Take a risk and decide NOT to do 2-3 things you have been doing. This will also help you to guard yourself from over committing.
The simple rule: if you add something, something else must be taken away by stopping it, delegating it, or automating it.

8) How could you better train and develop others?

Oftentimes your results in whatever project fail to impress because you’ve failed to train others.
Never assume that you have no more training to do OR that you don’t need anymore yourself.

9) When will you evaluate and how?

Determine the frequency and the way in which you will evaluate. What gets evaluated is what gets done.
When you know a project or task will be evaluated, it creates positive pressure to get it done on time and well.
Make sure to clarify how you will evaluate as well. Otherwise you will meander through a vague evaluation that gets little done and people will think you wasted their time.

10) If everything goes well, how will your life be different?

This question creates excitement. Give yourself and your team a chance to picture how life will change if you succeed.
People respond to vision and clarifying how life will be different will put flesh on your vision for the future. Vision dearth leads to inaction and depletes passion. Communicate your excitement about a new future and paint a vivid picture that lights a fire under yourself and others.
If the coaching questions in this post have been helpful for you, I would like to know how. Feel free to also share how it could be improved or what questions you would add to the list.

Friday, August 1, 2014

5 Tips for Faithful Follow-up


Make sure guests don't go unnoticed.. Image Info:
Make sure guests don't go unnoticed.
Proactively following up with newcomers can transform an introduction into a relationship. Carmel Baptist Church in Matthews, N.C., developed a well-established system to make sure guests don’t go unnoticed.

1. Enlist a coordinator. Ask one person to coordinate a team of volunteers focused on follow-up and responsible for everything from creating contact forms for guests to complete to buying items for welcome baskets and assigning follow-up phone calls.

2. Begin at hello. When guests come through the door, greet them immediately, ask their names and be sure to memorize them to introduce them to others.

3. Learn their needs. Ask guests for their prayer requests or other needs. Then, when volunteers call or e-mail during the week, they can share that they’ve been praying for specific requests.

4. Invite them back. Using their first names, Invite guests to come back. Let them know you hope to see them again.

5. Make contact. Within the following week, ask volunteers to drop off a welcome basket of goodies and church information.

--From Outreach magazine, September/October 2006

Thursday, July 24, 2014

10,000-hours-preachingIt takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert at something, according Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers. That’s not very good news for preachers. To reach that number, you would have to preach a one-hour sermon every week for over 190 years, if you only counted the time spent preaching your Sunday morning sermon. But there are many more ways than preaching alone that can help you grow in your expertise as a preacher. Before I suggest some of those ways, I want to defend the priority of seeking to become an expert preacher. Someone might rebut, “There’s a lot more to pastoral ministry than preaching, you know.” Yes, I know. Pastors are not just prophets, they’re priests and kings, too. That’s why this blog is devoted to help people become better all-around pastors, not just preachers. But there is no getting around 1 Timothy 4:13-15:

13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.

Verse 14 probably doesn’t describe your experience, but if you’re a pastor vv. 13 and 15 do. Paul calls
Timothy to immerse himself in the task of preaching. Do you know what the Greek word is for “immerse”? It’seimi, which means, “to be.” Be in them, Timothy. Never let the things of preaching be absent from you, Timothy. The call to preach is a call to a new atmosphere. Now you’re a fish, and the things of preaching are water. When you dive in, everyone who listens to you will notice that you are getting better. That’s a good thing. So what else can you do besides preaching on Sunday morning that is total immersion in the craft of preaching? Here are seven suggestions.

7 Shortcuts to hitting your 10,000 hours

1. Practice your sermon before you preach it. Maybe you already do this, but if not, it is a great way to work out kinks in your sermon that you didn’t know were there.
2. Add some time to your weekly sermon preparation. Thom Rainer has noted that almost half of all preachers study 12 or less hours on their sermon each week. Could you add another half-day to your sermon prep, not merely for the sake of growing as a preacher, but also to push your individual sermons to the next level?
3. Listening to other gifted preachers. I have found this to be extremely helpful, and I’ve shared what I’ve learned from other preachers here at the blog. The Gospel Coalition is a great place to go, having thousands of sermons and lectures from hundreds of pastors and professors.
4. Sermon feedback. Assessing how well you are doing is a necessary aspect of deliberate practice. There are various ways to get feedback on your preaching. You could watch or listen to each of your sermons to evaluate them. If you don’t trust yourself, you can enlist the feedback of others, perhaps from a trusted elder, or by starting a sermon feedback meeting.
5. Leading Bible studies. Although it is not strictly preaching or teaching, this is a way of helping people understand what the Bible says. Plus leading Bible studies is like doing reconnaissance. It helps you get into the heads of people who don’t think about the Bible all day, every day, making you more effective at application.
6. Reading books on preaching. If you haven’t read much on preaching, I’d start with ChapelPiper,SpurgeonMurray, and Helm if I were you. Then go slow through Broadus. If you’ve already read them, consider RobinsonStottAkin et. al.Greidanus, or Perkins. Reading books on rhetoric and communication will help you, too.
7. Blogging. There are numerous benefits to blogging for pastors. In terms of developing as a preacher, it gives you extra opportunities to address a problem Christians face and then solve it with a gospel-based solution (basically what you do in each sermon). It also helps you grow in as a communicator, and develop your “voice.” Just ask yourself a few questions before you make this plunge.

Now let’s do some math to see how these activities might add up to 10,000 hours. If you…

1. Preach a 30 minute Sunday morning sermon 40 times per year, and practice it for 45 minutes before you preach it (50 hours per year total)…
2. Spend 16 hours preparing each of those 40 sermons (640 hours per year total)…
3. Listen to one sermon from another preacher every week (39 hours per year total)…
4. Watch/listen to each of your 40 sermons, as well as participate in a feedback meeting 40 times a year (60 hours per year total)…
5. Lead a one-hour small group Bible study two times per month (24 hours per year total)…
6. Read books on preaching for 20 minutes, five days a week (83 hours per year total)…
7. Spend 2 hours a week writing a blog (104 hours per year total)…

…you will spend exactly 1,000 hours per year immersed in the task of preaching, thus hitting your 10,000 hours in just ten years – a much better alternative to 190. And I want you to know that I didn’t work backwards from 10,000 to figure out how to get you there in 10 years. I went the opposite direction, and the numbers coincidentally sovereignly came out that round. I tried to think what could be a reasonable target for each of the categories I laid out, probably even aiming low on how long and how frequently you preach. I hope the result of this exercise is that you feel like becoming at least an above average preacher is within your grasp, if you work at it. But allow me to encourage you that I believe that even becoming an expert preacher is within your grasp. Why do I believe this? Because between colleagues I’ve gotten to know in my own ministry experience and opportunities to coach pastors on their sermons, I’ve seen too many really good, but not famous preachers – guys who are on their way to becoming experts. Don’t think being well known is the sign reaching expertise in this field. The clue that you are exceptionally honing your gifts is simply that the people in your church can see your progress, not necessarily that TGC is asking to put your sermons on their resource page.

Some takeaways

1. Practice doing the actual preaching is the best practice. If you do everything except teaching and preaching, you’ll learn a lot about preaching, but you won’t really learn how to do it. But if you’re at a point on your ministry trajectory where you don’t have many (or any) opportunities to teach or preach, learning about preaching is better than nothing.
2. Associate pastors who don’t get many (or any) Sunday morning opportunities don’t have an excuse for waiting to grow as a preacher. There are plenty of other ways to hone your skills as you await your call to perhaps be the regular preacher at a church.
3. There is a difference between acting like an expert preacher, and having a humble attitude as you grow in your expertise as a preacher. Keep that distinction at the forefront of your mind as you pursue growth in this area. (Not that I struggle with that.)
4. Also, being qualified as a preacher and being an expert preacher are two different things. According to 1 Timothy 3, you only need to be “able” to teach to be qualified for it. But if you love money, you’re disqualified, no matter how good you are at it.
5. No one ever “arrives” as a preacher. Because culture constantly changes, you need to keep evolving in your communication skills, in order to reach the people of the day. Because each generation faces its own winds of false doctrine, you have to stay on your toes as a theologian. Because you are on this side of heaven, you have not attained perfect holiness, so you need to keep growing in your qualifications to preach in the first place.

(Image credit)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I've heard too many stories of how pornography has ruined lives and ministries.  So, the following article offers nine reasons why men should stay away from porn.  For clergy, this is an issue of honesty, integrity, and holiness.  If we cannot maintain a sufficient level of purity in our thought lives, we will be rendered casualties in the spiritual warfare that is very much a part of our Christian discipleship, including our service to our Lord.  ed.

stay away from pornPornography has little to do with sex and everything to do with fantasy. And if not confronted, this addiction to fantasy can become a consuming fire threatening all quality of life.
So before you go looking again for that woman on the screen, here are nine reasons to consider against it.
1. Porn makes you unhappy and bored.
Research says that those who regularly indulge themselves in pornography are more likely to have higher levels of anxiety and depression and lower levels of self-esteem than those who don’t. The brain is to blame for this.  
Apparently, as one artificially stimulates the pleasure center of their brain with porn, it perpetually weakens in its ability to respond to natural kinds of pleasure. Before we know it, real life has to compete with the unnatural and artificial levels of chemical excitement that porn offers. Real life—and our marriage—often lose this competition.
Pamela Paul, the author of Pornified, puts it this way: “Pornography leaves men desensitized to both outrage and to excitement, leading to an overall diminishment of feeling and eventually to dis- satisfaction with the emotional tugs of everyday life . . . Eventually they are left with a confusing mix of supersized expectations and numbed emotions . . . and become imbued with indifference. The real world often gets really boring.”
Sex with our wives proves to be quite a different story. The natural chemicals and pleasure real sex creates doesn’t inflate our expectations or numb our emotions. According to studies performed by the Institute for the Study of Labor, real sex actually makes us happier. The same studies also show that married people have more sex than those who are not married, and even experience far higher levels of satisfaction in life.
2. Porn neuters you.
Some people believe that pornography can add excitement to their sex life. However, studies prove just the opposite. Porn actually produces less intimacy between partners, less romantic excitement, and less satisfaction in real sexual experiences.
Dr. Mary Anne Layden writes in The Social Cost of Pornography, “I have also seen in my clinical experience that pornography damages the sexual performance of the viewers. Pornography viewers tend to have problems with premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction. Having spent so much time in unnatural sexual experiences with paper, celluloid and cyberspace, they seem to find it difficult to have sex with a real human being.”                       
Because of pornography, men have trouble getting turned on by their wives who happen to not be cybersex slaves. As a result, they don’t enjoy real sex nearly as much as they used to. This is because porn makes us less satisfied with our partner’s affection, physical appearance, and sexual performance.
On the contrary, when porn isn’t a part of marriage, real sex proves to only get better with time. Sociologist Mandi Norwood discovered this socially unenforced reality after interviewing several hundred women. She found that married women are satisfied in the bedroom because of years of practice, less inhibitions, and the time to learn their partner.
3. Porn is not manly.
Though conquering that woman on the screen in your mind may make you feel like a man, there’s nothing manly about it.
Real sex involves you. All of your fears. All of your insecurities. All of your capacity to give. It also involves another very real person. All her needs. All of her baggage. All of her propensity to judge you and hurt your dignity.
Porn requires no work, no sacrifice, and no maturity. Real sex in marriage requires you to risk, to be vulnerable, to give yourself fully to another person. This kind of intimacy is not for boys. It’s for men only.
4. Porn doesn’t make friends.
Studies show that men who use porn commonly become isolated from others, highly introverted, narcissistic, dissociative, and distractible. In other words, it doesn’t exactly make you a likeable person.
Neurochemistry teaches that the more that you bond with fantasies on your computer screen, the harder it is to actually bond with real people. This is because the strongest bonding substance in our lives is oxytocin—the hormone released during orgasm. As this powerful bonding substance becomes consistently associated with porn, it becomes easier for us to feel connected in fantasy than it is in reality.
Porn kills human connection. And human connection is what relationship lives and dies by.
5. Porn is a professional liability.
Pornography is the master of preoccupation. According to recent polls, 18 percent of men who view porn regularly admit to be distracted by it even when not online, and 30 percent acknowledge that their work performance suffers because of this distraction.
In striking contrast, research also proves that across the board, men who have a healthy sex life make more money than those who don’t.
You decide what’s better.
6. Porn hurts your significant other.
It’s easy to think that your porn habit is private, and doesn’t affect anyone but you. Yet as we’ve already seen, porn inevitably kills a man’s ability to emotionally connect and consistently monopolizes his desires.
Whether your wife knows you are using pornography or not, your actions have already hurt her.                       
Rabbi Arush puts it this way: “A woman is not just a body, but a vibrant soul that thrives on intimacy, attention, communication, consideration, respect, and the love of two souls binding together. A husband that focuses on his own physical gratification doesn’t provide his wife with any of the emotional and spiritual gratification that is the basis of her vitality.”
7. Porn will turn you into “that guy.” (Tweet This!)
You know “that guy.” Most crowds have at least one. He’s the one who cares about no one but himself. He sees you and all others as commodities to be used, not people to be cared for. No matter how much you can’t stand “that guy,” as long as you continue to dabble in porn, you run the risk of becoming him.
Gail Dines puts it bluntly in her book Pornland. “In the story of porn, men are soulless, unfeeling, amoral life-support systems... who are entitled to use women in any way they want. These men demonstrate zero empathy, respect, or love for the women they have sex with.”
No one wants to be “that guy.” What’s more, no one wants to be with “that guy” who only sees women as consumable objects and cares for no one but himself.
8. Porn will never actually do it for you. (Tweet This!)
“Just as Twinkies are artificially enhanced,” says the nonprofit team Fight the New Drug, “and modified food that really aren’t good for you, pornography is an artificially enhanced and modified sexual experience that isn’t good for you either, and your body knows it.”
Lust, in its nature, is never satisfied. It only wants more.
9. Porn will kill your relationship.
In the eight reasons above, we’ve looked to science, social studies, and history to witness the effects that pornography has on those who entertain it. We’ve seen that it kills everything long- term love is built on: human connection, trust, and self-sacrifice. It’s no wonder, then, that at least 56 percent of divorce cases today involve one party who compulsively visits pornographic websites.
Your marriage may survive your habit for a period of time. However, if you continue to choose fantasy over reality, it will inevitably destroy your ability to love your wife.
As modern men, we certainly have plenty of unnatural things to navigate to keep our marriages healthy and alive. However, my hope is that—with a vision of a marriage that is worth fighting for—we’re more determined than ever to do just that.

Tyler Ward recently released "Marriage Rebranded: Modern Misconceptions & the Unnatural Art of Loving Another Person" where he explores more modern myths about marriage, tells awkward stories, and offers unorthodox best practices that are sure to help anyone write a better marital narrative for themselves. Order it now.  Or watch the book trailer here.