Social Media is a great tool to keep up with what God is doing in churches far and near. I love that! I noticed many churches had record attendances for Easter 2017 and I rejoice with them! Clearly God was moving.
However, failure to effectively follow up major “victories” in a church (like a record Easter) is a common mistake many churches make year after year. Simply put, they fail to leverage significant events and squander their momentum. Rather than attendance “spike and build” they go “spike and back” to where they were before.
Like some of you, Christ Church set a new attendance record on Easter. It was our first time over 4,000 and it was great! Our people were excited and enthused. They invited and people came and those who attended experienced a great worship service!
What now? We follow up!
Why Do Churches NOT Follow Up?
History is filled with military victories that could have been great victories if the victor had pressed the retreating army. There are many reasons why this happens:
- The victorious army is exhausted and in need of rest
- There is an underestimation of remaining strength of the victors
- There is an overestimation of remaining strength of the retreating army
- Victorious armies desire to celebrate
- Generals are unwilling to suffer additional casualties
- Generals are happy to leave the field with “a win in their pocket.”
- Mission becomes the comfort of the soldiers rather than the objectives of the army
Most churches have few real victories. Of the churches that achieve significant victories, most fail to follow them up for the same reasons armies fail to follow up. Churches that consistently grow must not only create victories but follow up victories in systematic and intentional ways. A great Easter does not insure a great year but it can be something to leverage toward it! So you have had a week to rest, I get that. But now it is time to follow up!
Following Up Easter
- If you set a record or had strong attendance, celebrate it! Get it out! Let the people in your church, community and region that you have “something going on!”
- Hotwash your 2017 schedule this week while things are fresh on your minds. What went well? What went poorly? What needs adjusted? What can be added? What needs replaced?
- Ask yourself what can be done to draw another 10% in attendance next year. Might you add or reinterpret a Thursday or Friday service? We added a full Saturday night service this year and it drew really well! We are shifting our Thursday service to a Night of Worship with communion. Expectations are high.
- Plan your 2018 Easter Week schedule immediately. Get the dates on your calendar. Keep other things off the calendar that week to free up your resources toward Easter.
- Thank your key players for their sacrifice. Posting photos of leaders on your Facebook page and hand written thank you notes are always a good start. Did a volunteer go “above and beyond” the call of duty, take them to lunch or buy them a gift certificate. People love being appreciated!
- Follow up on all leads or first time visitors. Take them something they will actually like (we take really good pies from a famous local bakery) and invite them back.
- Plan some sort of community service project or outreach in early May and invite your new folks to help your church “make the world a better place.”
- Work to get your “average” worship service and welcoming ministries up to your Easter level. You have established a new bar of excellence, let that become the “new normal!”
- Finally, lock in a compelling post Easter sermon series. Perhaps a “What Next?” series with a great graphic package where you explore the Great Commission. Advertise it and make sure it has appeal to your “C&E” crowd. Let’s face it, your regulars are going to attend anyway.
BIG IDEA: Don’t settle for a great Easter! Follow it up and have a great 2017!
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop, A Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church, has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997. Christ church has averaged almost 10% annual growth over the past decade.
Let me begin my stating my purpose. I am not being compensated by a capital campaign company, nor do I “moonlight” for one. I will make no money off of this article (though I am open to it). Let’s face it; no one makes any money writing anymore.
I have been a Sr. Pastor in one church for twentyyears and we have conducted four major building projects and four major capital campaigns in that stretch. We have grown from 200 to over 2,200. We have raised millions and changed our region’s skyline but there has been a somewhat “unanticipated upside” to these many campaigns I would like to explore because I think it could be helpful to pastors and churches and I love pastors and churches.
Many growing churches consider capital campaigns to be a “necessary evil.” I have heard the description countless times by colleagues. Campaigns are often viewed as being conducted solely to underwrite the cost of a building venture or paying down a debt. They are seen as regrettable means to a desirable ends. We all know if Christians tithed, we would not need capital campaigns. We need them, ergo a “necessary evil,” something we need that we shouldn’t need. Products of the Fall.
So we rationalize away the “evil” part of it because we just can’t shake the “necessary.” We tell ourselves that if we were not living, vital and growing, we would not “need” to have a capital campaign and that helps us feel better (aided in part by the fact it is true). And we intrinsically know we need to stay positive because capital campaigns are expensive (just try not hiring professionals), involve thousands of hours of “extra” of uncompensated work for everyone, play into the bias of critics (i.e. all churches want is money), hurt worship attendance and clearly stress some congregants (mainly the ones who don’t give).
I would like to suggest the possibility of a church leadership paradigm shift concerning capital campaigns. Campaigns can be a huge boost to the mission of the church if conducted properly! There it is, the “unanticipated upside!” Capital campaigns have aided us in our mission of “connecting people with Jesus Christ!”
Here are twelve “unanticipated upsides” capital campaigns offer a church which speak directly to the mission:
- Future Focus Getting people looking forward not only gets them all headed the same direction, it gets them in the right direction.
- Sharpens Mission Capital Campaigns force you to drill into your mission, clarify your strategy and target your message. All good.
- Unites in a Common Cause There is nothing more exhilarating than experiencing the synergy that comes from the joint pursuit of big goals and dreams.
- Challenges Staff Church staffs have lots of extra hours thrown at them during a campaign. This challenges them to look closely at what they are presently doing and ask some great questions like, “Is the way I have been working the best use of my time? What am I doing presently that does not need to be done at all?”
- Challenges Laity Every shred of research I have read says that “high expectation” churches thrive and “low expectation” churches die. Asking people to step up is generally met by people…stepping up.
- Creates Excitement In this Social Media driven world, buzz is good. A church investing in their future is a church trending in all the right directions.
- Develops New Givers Campaigns get additional attendees “on the board” as givers and we have found that they keep giving once the campaign has concluded.
- Provides a Clear Culture I often tell new folks, “If you are looking for a church to see how little you can do, how sparingly you can give and how small an impact you can make on the world, we are not going to be the church for you.” A clear church culture allows people to self-differentiate as to their involvement in it. Campaigns make it most uncomfortable to sit on the proverbial fence; people on the fence will either move in or out. That is also a good thing every now and again.
- Demands Teamwork Campaigns make all your “natural silos” cooperate with one another, require a holistic and strategic approach to ministry and unites staff and laity. We have discovered that the same process used to mobilize a church around raising capital can be used to mobilize a church around anything else a church wants to emphasize. Again all good.
- Allows Participation in a Miracle I had hoped to reach pledges of over $2 million in our 2015 “Raise the Roof” campaign. We nearly eclipsed $3 million. There was celebration going on in the house! Whether someone pledged $1,000 or $100,000, we all shared in a collective miracle.
- Encourages Discipleship The reality is that most pastors struggle to talk about discipleship when it comes to how we use our resources. The reasons for this are legion but the reality is that what we often fail to engage, was a favorite theme of Jesus. Making the paradigm shift from “How much of my money should I give?” to “How much of God’s money should I keep” is a 400 Level discipleship piece pure and simple.
- Celebrates the Power of Story Families are united as much by story as by blood. A church family, however, is united solely by story. As we tell our “small s” stories, we are invited into God’s “big S” Story. Through story we are nourished, empowered, included and given hope that the same God who moved in our past, we also be mighty in our future.
I have long argued that churches must do three things to be effective: 1) Make new Christians 2) Make disciples of them and 3) Send them out to make new Christians. If we are effectively reaching new people for Jesus, we are going to have to find places to put them and that is going to cost money…lots of money. And until everyone who attends church begins to tithe (which isn’t going to happen), we are going to run capital campaigns to raise that money. That is just the way it is.
My point in writing is elementary. The next time your church has a dream so big it necessitates a capital campaign (and I hope you have one soon), don’t waste an incredible opportunity to move your mission forward by settling for simply raising money!
Rev. Shane L. Bishop has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997 and has led the congregation through four major capital campaigns.
I was appointed to a congregation of just over 200 in 1997. We averaged over 2,200 in 2016. Here is what I have learned about leadership in these twenty years in one place:
Thirteen (Quick Hitter) Lessons in Leadership
- State Your Mission: We exist to connect people to Jesus Christ. It is our language for everything.
- Clarify Your Strategy: Our strategy is to reach out, welcome and disciple through worship and service.
- Have Principled Metrics: Determine what is important and determine how is that measured. Then lead people into them.
- Critics are not Your Enemies I have learned much from my detractors. They are often blessings in disguise. (Some feature VERY good disguises however…)
- Set Strategic Goals: Stated goals keep you doing the right stuff, keep everyone on the same page and define what a win looks like in your organization.
- Focus Energy Around Processes (not outcomes): Move the needle every day. Do the right things the right way and you will get the right results in the right time.
- Tenure Matters: Everything is about trust over time and everything is about relationships over time.
- Strive for Excellence: Show excellence and consistency every single day!
- You Can’t Cheat Time: Don’t put in a fraction of the time, effort, preparation and energy it takes to be successful and wonder why God let you down!
- Have Some Fun: If you don’t enjoy your life, no one is going to do it for you
- Self Manage: Key is humility. Realize that anything you achieve has been made possible by God and the contributions of others.
- Give God Something to Bless: Give your very best and expect God to take things from there!
- The Only Things You Can Control are Effort, Attitude and Preparation So own them!
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997
I am a United Methodist and proud of it! This church has given me a context in which to live out my calling as an Ordained Elder and I am most grateful. Our historical roots are excellent. Our General Rules are golden. I have been graced to stay in one place and see my local congregation grow from just over 200 to over 2,200 over the past twenty years. Growing with this congregation has been the joy of a lifetime. God has been very, very good to me. The church has been very, very good to me.
However, it is increasingly difficult for me to get past our name: United Methodist. A fellow pastor was once asked by a Free Methodist colleague, “Are you really united?” He responded, “We are about as united as you are all free.” Seemed funnier back then. “United Methodist” seems a bit less like a moniker and more like an oxymoron these days. We are not united.
We are also not well. Clearly we are in decline. Have been for decades. It is no longer an insider secret and were it not for a handful of churches experiencing exponential growth, things would be even worse than they appear. There is serious debate around how many years of viability we have remaining. Some say three or four decades, others think no more than two. I don’t know anyone who believes things are going to turn around. No one. Regardless, when I look at our side view mirror, our institutional tipping point is “closer than it appears.”
For me, the primary challenge to the United Methodist Church is our collective failure in our mission to, “Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” I know people interpret this statement of mission very differently but the bottom line is that we are failing even to make enough disciples to replace the ones who are dying and the world doesn’t particularly seem transformed. Are we making a difference? Sure. Are we transforming the world? We can’t even transform ourselves. But we do fight (at times dirty) and our fighting is costing us people in the pews, dollars in the plates and impact in the world. Every year it costs us more to accomplish less and our few effective churches are being asked to direct more and more resources (they need to keep growing) to uphold the weary institution. The cycle is shortsighted and unsustainable. For everyone. At every level.
I tried to simply ignore the division in the denomination but it didn’t work. No matter how tightly I closed my eyes, it never went away. Now those divisions are affecting my pastoral ministry and in the aftermath of the 2016 General Conference the luxury of standing on the sidelines is behind me. My silence was being mistaken for not having a position. I have a position. I told people for years I would hold the middle as long as I could and then I was jumping right. I jumped right. Not to enter the argument but to weigh in on why the argument must be ended…and not by knee jerk reaction but by our own processes.
Yes, our denomination has a procedure in place to lead us and I am content to trust that process. When the outcome has been revealed, pastors and churches may respond according to their own sense of call, conviction and conscience. In the meantime; I am going to preach Jesus from the pulpit. Within our tribal dialogue, I will clearly state where I stand on the issues before us, let people see my heart, refuse to vilify those who disagree with me and control my own impulses. Yes, I am an orthodox Christian but I refuse to let anyone to get me in a bad mood about it. They just don’t get that kind of power over me.
I am praying for the Commission on a Way Forward. I know some of those folks. They are awesome! I am praying for our Bishops. I know some of those folks. They are awesome! I am praying for the Judicial Council. Don’t know any of them but I am hoping they are awesome. Their tasks are daunting. We need to collectively simmer, pray and let things play out.
The end game for me is not preserving our structure, it is recovering our mission. We all very much need better weather in which to conduct ministry (regardless of where we stand on the theological or political spectrum). We simply can’t both “fight the devil” and one another. I have eighteen years left before mandatory retirement. Eighteen. I want to spend those precious years head over heels in love with Jesus, preaching the Gospel and swept up in a movement of the Holy Spirit.
I am being led by four core ideas:
My Core Four
- I do not wish to fight or fuss. With anyone.
- I can’t do effective ministry in a hurricane. None of us can.
- I will not compromise my beliefs. I can’t.
- I do not expect others to compromise their beliefs. I won’t.
Let’s stop “kicking the can down the road” and get things quickly and decisively settled in the United Methodist Church. And let’s trust our own processes, pray fervently God reignites our flame and focus every bit of energy we have into the accomplishment of our collective mission.
And let’s realize that with every month we wait, we are slightly less viable.
We still have time.
But the clock is ticking…
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop, A Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church, has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997.
Some years ago (when I was still “young-ish” and in my early forties) my health was in a rapidly declining state. Christ Church was moving from 400 in worship each weekend toward 750 and it was literally killing me. Our staff was a dysfunctional mess, the congregation was kicking and screaming and I was doing the hard work of re-defining our church culture (without really having any idea what I was doing). I was packing on the weight (The Sweet Tea, Q and Stew Diet), my blood pressure was soaring and I could suddenly snore the paint off the wall (I awakened each morning and all the paint was on the floor). In addition, I developed a persistent cough and there were involuntary physical “ticks” being displayed early and often. Perfect. After a medical analysis, it was determined that stress was the culprit. My doctor told me that I either needed to learn to effectively deal with stress, find a new vocation or downsize the church to something I could handle. I chose Option A. In response, I dropped thirty pounds, got back in shape, developed a new mindset, started delegating ministry leadership and tasks and instituted some techniques to deal with some of the stress in my life.
1) Do your best to prepare I have caused many of my own problems over the years because of a lack of careful preparation. Since procrastination is often our worst enemy when it comes to stress, preparing takes our primary foe out of the mix before we even begin.
2) Leave it with God and don’t let it consume you I try to handle most things by myself but when something gets “in my head” I recognize that I need help. I begin by talking it through with those closest to me and I am not above getting professional help if needed. I am not Superman (though I am a cape owner)…neither are you.
3) Don’t take opposition personally Taking everything personally is really a form of spiritual immaturity and “self” centeredness. Get over yourself. Ministry is not about you…or me.
4) Believe that things turn out as they should A part of having faith is found in realizing that God is in control (and that would make us not in control). Looking back at some of my “defeats,” much good has come of them. If I had run the table (pool metaphor) and had things my way, history has revealed my proposed course of action would have been a mistake. Learning to believe that God can work though processes (as opposed as expecting processes to affirm your leadership) is a game changer.
5) School up on spiritual warfare There is a devil and he likes to tear crap up. If you are doing God’s stuff, he is going to put a man on you (this is a basketball metaphor). If you are doing God’s stuff effectively, he is going to put an even better defender on you (still basketball). Those on God’s side win but Satan has certainly not thrown in the towel (boxing metaphor).
6) Don’t worry about things you can’t control I place things into a mental Bucket #1 (things that are my problem) and Bucket #2 (things that are not my problem). As my Bucket #1 gets ever smaller, stress simmers down… Don’t let worry cause you to die a thousand deaths. Deal with things out of your control when they come rather than ruminate on them.
7) Realize stress is a tension to be managed, not a problem to be solved Stress is to be expected as we do ministry in a fallen world. Since we can’t eradicate it; we have to learn to manage it. Managing stress is an intentional leadership skill, not an involuntary disposition. Get a plan. Execute it.
8) Realize the pressure is on God, not on you At the end of the day this is either God’s stuff or it isn’t. If am not planning to take the credit (and I am not) then I have to let God carry the pressure.
These days Christ Church runs well over 2,200 per weekend with no end in sight. With four campuses and a huge staff, our systems have never been more complex. We have some real growth challenges in front of us, something is always going wrong, we are five million dollars in debt and there is always a major project looming just ahead. If I cannot handle the stress, God will need to find a leader who can. What God is doing here is too important to hold things up for me. Some days I still feel the stress but by paying attention to these eight things, I can at least sleep at night (most nights anyway).
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop a Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church, is the Senior Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois.
My Advice for Responding to Criticism (Don’t)
If you are a leader you are going to be criticized. Period. And if you are a significant leader you are going to be severely criticized. It honestly doesn’t matter if you are a good leader or not. That is just how it is. People criticize leaders. Always have. Always will. Get used to it.
I am sometimes asked how I deal with criticism and my response is simple. I don’t. I don’t defend myself. I don’t vilify people who criticize me. I don’t lash out. I don’t really think much about criticism at all. Frankly, my critics are not who I am trying to please.
If you feel called to lead but feel a bit “thin skinned” at times, here is some advice from a guy who has been in the trenches of leadership for a few decades:
- Base decisions on your…
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I don’t think it is a problem that people in America disagree on things. In fact, I think that is a good thing. If everyone in my life agreed with me on everything, I would live unchallenged. And as good as that initially sounds, it is antithetical to my growth as a human being.
The problem is that we disagree disagreeably. Most disagreeably. And it is getting worse, not better. The reality is that many people don’t know how to have civil discourse concerning the things upon which they disagree. It is not always their fault. Many Americans are simply not equipped to have difficult discussions so they keep silent and rob the public conversation of their voice. These people may well be the majority but we have no metrics to measure them. In fact, they seem inclined to say publicly what they are “supposed” to say and privately hold…
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