Category Archives: MultiSite Church

How to Effectively Cure the Church Budgeting Blues

Church Budget Blues

Working on the Youth Ministry Budget

Fall ministry around the church staff and leadership table usually means one thing: budgeting.

No other time of year strikes more fear, and evokes more creativity, in youth ministers than budget preparation time.
Test for yourself and say the word “BUDGET” at your next staff meeting and watch the ministry energy and excitement migrate across the table like south-bound geese to your Administrative Pastor.
The Resourcing Team at Auxano knows the challenges of leading during this season, and has put together a terrific plan to redefine the grueling grind of budget preparation through an engaging, visionary budgeting retreat.
Read more about leading a visionary budgeting retreat with this Guest Post from Auxano Campaign Navigator, David Putman and Director of Campaigns, Todd McMichen. Scroll down for a step-by-step guide to planning your first budget retreat.

We all desire to do a better job when it comes to our church’s budget. How many times have we had to move funds from one line item to another creating a lack of clarity, confusion, and frustrations among our board and staff? How many times have we over-funded the wrong program while under-funding the right opportunity? Imagine for a moment a way forward with your budgeting that is clear, concise, catalytic, compelling and most of all on point. Imagine leaving a budgeting meeting as a team energized about the next ministry season instead of weighed down by spreadsheets and numbers.

One way forward is a vision-based budgeting retreat. The following is a simple step-by-step process to consider.

Prep

Reconsider your languageLanguage creates culture. This is especially true when it comes to your church’s budget. Does your language indicate scarcity or provision? A church with a generous culture chooses its language carefully. A budget becomes a spending plan or investment plan that funds your vision. Your budget retreat becomes more about how you “finance the mission” and less about how you divide up the “money pie.” Regardless of what language you use, connect it to your vision.

Turn a “have to” into a “get to.” Long before your budget is due, plan an offsite meeting for the purpose of resourcing next year’s vision. Nothing frustrates a team more when it comes to budget than to be excluded or have budget planning sprung on them at the last minute. Budgeting can be stressful enough without creating unwanted urgency with last minute planning. People are down on, what they are not up on. This includes your staff.

Do some spiritual prep. Before the offsite, consider spending some team time working through a book or some devotions on generosity. Encourage your team to begin a journal noting how God is speaking to them related to their specific area of ministry and better collaboration as a whole. You may consider using a tool like Leading A Generous Church by Todd McMichen.

Work on your vision. The question we need to answer prior to any attempt at budgeting is, “Where is God leading us?” This is the question that underpins all of your stewardship. Remember, budgeting is about resourcing your vision. An excellent resource for working on vision is God Dreams, a book written by Auxano founder Will Mancini and Warren Bird.

A potential action point is to have a God Dreams Retreat six months prior to your budget retreat.

During

Start with your vision. If you worked on vision prior to the retreat, spend some time updating the team on the previous vision work. Let the team give you feedback. You can do this around four questions: 1) What’s right? 2) What’s wrong? 3) What’s missing?  4) What’s unclear? Collect the team’s responses on a whiteboard or flipchart. You can refer back to it at another time. Don’t allow the team to get bogged down. Remember this is simply about getting vision in front of the team. If they were part of your earlier vision work, this should move fast and create synergy. If you’ve failed to do any vision work prior to your retreat, you’re not ready to work on your budget. Remind the team that the budget is about funding the vision.

Evaluate last year’s ministry effectiveness. An additional grid for resourcing the vision is evaluating your ministry effectiveness. There are three types of results that you need to evaluate as you consider how you are going to invest next year’s resources – they are input, output, and impact results.

Input results by far are the easiest to assess. Numbers don’t lie. Output and impact results can be more difficult to measure. Have your team share stories related to output and impact results. For example, an output result would include a story of life change, while an impact story may include a story of community impact. Make sure you pause long enough to celebrate your effectiveness.

Pay attention to your financial details. Wow! Up until this point this hasn’t felt or been like any other budgeting meeting, but you must drill in and pay attention to the details. This involves paying attention to your finances at the macro and micro levels. There are a number of things to consider at the macro level in order to learn more about how people give and how you might disciple them.

They include:

  • Did you meet budget?
  • Are you living under your means or over your means?
  • How many people contributed to your budget this previous year?
  • How does giving grow as an individual’s engagement in ministry grows?
  • What was the average gift?
  • How did giving break down by amounts?
  • How many people use some form of electronic giving? What were they?
  • Did you have unbudgeted expenses?
  • Do you have large capital needs on the horizon?
  • What are your cash surplus levels?
  • How is your debt to budget ratio?

Once you have a handle on the big picture, it is time to dig deeper and pay attention to your budget at the micro level or ministry level.

This includes:

  • Were there areas that were over budgeted?
  • Were there areas that were under budgeted?
  • What ministries are in growth, plateau, or decline?
  • What ministries did you see the highest and lowest return on invested dollars?
  • What ministry line items could be reduced or eliminated?
  • What ministry line items need to be increased or added?
  • What new investments do you need to make to support your one-year horizon and measurable results?

Be willing to give “up in” order to “go up.”  Give your team some time to make adjustments based on all that has taken place up to this point in the retreat. Let them work in subgroups. You will be surprised how this collaborative process will open up the willingness for team members to make sacrifices. When you include them in the process, they are more than likely willing to lead the way and the charge. Ask every team to give up something for the common good. Create a spirit of sacrifice by leading the way.

Conclude the retreat with a season of celebration and prayer. Model the way by affirming the contribution of the entire team. Celebrate the specific contribution of team members by highlighting how they have lived out the values of your church. Call the team to a season of fasting and prayer for next year’s vision.

After

Scrub the results before presenting the final budget. This next step requires time. Let the team know that the executive and finance team will pray and look at everything over the next few weeks before presenting the final budget to the entire team. Make sure you don’t over promise and under deliver. It is better to under promise and over deliver. Have a defined time when you will bring closure to the budgeting process. Informally include the entire team in the scrubbing process by soliciting feedback when needed.

We are recommending a process that is more vision based than most. Why? It keeps the process fresh and every year people know you rally around the vision. This will help diminish silos, personal entitlements, relational fears, and prevent you from just doing the same thing every year. Vision based financial leadership will also create the necessary clarity that when enacted properly will produce generosity, confidence, and surplus.

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23 Tips for an Engaging Church Website Welcome Video

EngagingWelcomesThis thought should consume every church communications point person:

 

Your Website is Your Church’s Digital Front Door.

A First Time Guest can feel welcomed, or unwelcome, before they ever set foot on your church campus to meet one of your oh-so-chipper welcome team volunteers. Every church with a website now possesses the opportunity create a great first impression with a simple, warm online welcome video.

I recently heard a popular film-maker unpack the growing “YouTube-ification” of digital content in a recent leadership podcast. This famous documentarian described the increasingly wide acceptance (and sharing and “Liking”) of video content made from iPhones and digital cameras. The cultural expectation-shift he outlined renders the absolute requirement for thousands of dollars worth of production equipment nearly obsolete for most web-delivered videos. The latest iPhone, model 6s, shoots video at a stunningly high “4K” resolution – which most home televisions cannot even fully reproduce.

With this growing cultural acceptance of less-produced content, the capacity on most smartphones to capture high resolution video, and the availability of online video editors (YouTube has an integrated “Creators Dashboard”), no viable reason exists to justify not having some kind of personable welcome video on your church website.

Here are 23 tips for creating an engaging church website welcome video. While no church website welcome video nails all 23, I have also included a few video links to good examples of some of these ideas in action.

  1. Avoid The Shakes – it is probably a good idea to find a less-caffeinated person than the Youth Minister or just employ a tripod.
  2. Use Good Lighting – shoot a test video and watch out for dark shadows or sun squints.
  3. Briefer Is Better – stay within the 2-3 minute timeframe if you want to keep the viewers attention and induce an action. Remember: your viewer’s time is a gift, not a given.

    Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 6.43.57 PM

    Newbreak Church in San Diego features short introductions from each of their Campus Pastors.

  4. Introduce Yourself Quickly – save your whole story for a membership class or special occasion, but clearly let them know who you are.
  5. Find Interesting Surroundings – unless there is a secret door behind them, do not shoot in front of your office bookcases. Shoot somewhere with visual interest, but not too distracting.
  6. Have A Point – ask yourself, what is the single most important thing you want a viewer to know or do? Make the video about that one thing.

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    Pastor Vern Streeter introduces viewers to Harvest Church in Billings, Montana.

  7. Fun Is Allowed – injecting some personality and levity may help ease a first time guest’s irrational and unfounded fears about attending a church.
  8. Don’t Be Funny – unless you actually are. One way to know for sure is to confirm that someone else other than your mom thinks so. Trying too hard to be funny makes a serious connection too hard for someone new.
  9. You Do You – self-confidence is attractive, so be yourself as much as possible. Use other staff and lay leaders to provide a personality balance if needed.
  10. Remember Who’s Watching – after your initial “reveal” the ongoing audience for your church website video will be 90% first time guests and friends of your parents. So, speak to the guest, not your church membership.

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    The first four (funny) words from Pastor Steve Madsen of Cornerstone Fellowship in Livermore, California immediately connect with the viewer.

  11. Start from Zero – even if you are the biggest church in town, assume that your viewer knows nothing. Communicate the most critical information – especially if your building is confusing or the parking lot is crowded.

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    Brentwood Baptist Church outside of Nashville, Tennessee navigates potential guests with engaging graphics.

  12. Share the Moment – leverage the personality, giftedness and diversity of other staff and volunteers. Give the viewer more than one person to hear from.

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    Good Shepherd United Methodist in Charlotte, North Carolina shares their vision and story through church members.

  13. Use Strategic B-Roll – include background footage of worship and kids spaces to sustain interest under dialogue. Do not just talk about an engaging children’s ministry, show it off!

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    Kensington Church, outside of Detroit, Michigan leverages compelling background imagery to introduce the viewer to ministry environments.

  14. Tell A Story – relate the experience of an attender who’s life is different because of God through your church. Testimony is the currency of transformation.

    Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 6.50.32 PM

    The Brook Church in Madison, Alabama uses church members with transformational experiences to share their story.

  15. Don’t Wing It – decades in the pulpit are still light years away from talking into a camera. Script what you have to say to avoid rambling and, umm, a bunch of, umm, filler words.
  16. Remember to Smile – your belief in the church and sincerity of message are unconsciously related to facial expression. A genuine smile will say more than your words ever will.
  17. Employ A Pro – even though the bar of cultural expectation is much lower than it was even 2 years ago, there is no substitute for an experienced visual storyteller. Professional videographers and editors will exponentially increase your communication effectiveness and will be worth every penny. That said, not having the pennies for a pro is no longer a viable excuse for not having a website welcome video.

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    Renewal Church in Chicago engages hearts through stunning imagery and visual storytelling.

  18. Set Experience Expectations – describe and show what a Guest’s worship experience could be, but don’t over sell it. The bait and switch technique only works for used car dealers.

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    The visual experience of a typical Sunday translates through video from Asbury United Methodist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina.

  19. Use Weekend Words – cute names of buildings, services and classes are fine for insider communication, but your video should speak to outsiders. Speak with words that a functioning, non-seminarian might use on a Saturday with their children.
  20. Conversationally Share Vision – you can state your values without reciting a list of values… just tell them why you do what you do as a church, and how it might make a difference in their life. If you have one, build communication around your Tag Line, not your mission statement (here’s why).

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    Dr. Richard Kannwischer relates the vision of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church of Newport Beach, California.

  21. Give Audio Attention – be sensitive to background noise and make sure the audio is clear and crisp. Most people will check-out before they lean-in and strain to understand what you are saying. Good background music also sets an emotional undertone.
  22. Highlight Important Points – when you say something profound or a web address and twitter handle is stated, use a text “card” like the old silent movies used to. Words create worlds, say them and show them.
  23. Post To Facebook – which may be the easiest invitation tool you place in your peoples’ hands. Encourage sharing and liking but note if that is not happening. You may need to rethink your video approach.

 

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4 Bracket-Busting Plays for Welcoming Guests this Easter

bracketbusters

It’s time for March Madness.

In the sporting world, March Madness is the NCAA Men’s Division One basketball tournament, dominating the next few weeks of speculation and conversation.

In the church world, March Madness is Easter Sunday, and every service leading up to it, dominating the next few weeks of speculation and conversation.

Many leaders will go all out to connect as many people to the Gospel of Christ on this largest guest attendance weekend of the year. Savvy church leaders are presently focusing their attention on the pathway and points of entry a guest will take to attend worship services this Easter. Spring is a natural and necessary time of year to take a look at your Guest Welcoming and Hospitality ministry, and like 64 basketball coaches right now, make adjustments to capitalize on one shining moment.

In the spirit of March Madness, here are four bracket-busting plays for welcoming Guests this Easter:

1. Tweak the Fundamentals

Nine out of ten guests this Easter will go to your website first. What will they see? More importantly what will they not see? Some estimate that last year the number of networked devices in the world DOUBLED the global population. If you are not already solid in the fundamentals with your website, then you are behind.

Some Easter-critical tweaks could be:

  • a clear and prominent “I’m New” button or page
  • Easter service times, and stylistic differences of services, if any
  • your address, directions, parking information and a map
  • a short description, with photo, or video clip of the worship experience
  • information on Children’s Ministry, including security/safety procedures

2. Remember, the Best Offense is a Good Defense 

Once a de-churched or unchurched Guest decides to attend this Easter, the enemy will use everything possible to distract and dissuade them from attending. This means that your Hospitality Team should be on point and playing defense once that family or individual reaches the campus. Two types of defense are:

Zone Defense  – Just like on the court, positioning people to cover a certain geographic area of your campus is key. This may even include having vest-wearing greeters at a key intersection or navigation point off campus, joyfully directing people toward life-change in Christ. One fundamental advantage of a Zone Defense in basketball is controlling the tempo of the game. Employing a Zone Defense in your parking lot, hallways and information tables is the best possible way to ensure the best possible the guest experience. An effective Zone Defense maps out the strategic points of connection in each area, and plants an informed, smiling face at each one.

Man-to-Man (M2M) Defense – There are times however, when a direct, one-to-one approach is necessary in the Hospitality Ministry. One huge area to play M2M is in the Children’s Ministry. This is a great opportunity to recruit additional volunteers to walk guest families to each child’s classroom, facilitating or explaining the security and sign-in procedure along the way. This simple action provides direct reassurance to each new parent that their child will be cared for, and could minimize a significant distraction to Gospel receptivity. Other M2M defensive areas could include altar calls, next step tables and guest receptions.

 3. First Make Four Passes, Then Take the Shot

What if every guest you have this Easter receives at least four genuine smiles, four warm handshakes or four verbal welcomes before they ever enter the worship environment? Everything that a new person experiences, good and bad will impact their receptivity to the message of Easter. From parking lot to pew, if your leaders are trained and positioned to deliver four smile-passes to everyone who enters, you can be sure that your worship experience and your message will find a wide-open heart, ready for the salvation-shot.

4. Crash The Boards

Specifically, on your knees. Instead of praying for a billion-dollar bracket, this could be a season of prayer and intercession on behalf of those who will attend this Easter. The Holy Spirit is already at work in the lives of those who will come, needing to be transformed by the Gospel. Lead your welcome team to pray regularly, for your guests this Easter, and every Sunday for that matter. Watch what happens as leaders catch the vision to welcome life change at a door, in a parking lot or beside an information table.

Each year, just 12 players get to cut down the tournament nets in victory. However, every leader in your church has an opportunity to celebrate the use of their gifts to see the lost be found this season.

There is no better time than now to get out on the court and press for the win.

This post first appeared on March 18, 2014 and has been updated.

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Leaders Look Forward

LookAheadNothing compares to the moment a hearty laugh with a church team immediately shifts into a deeply poignant moment of congregational insight.

For one team, this happened in the midst of a common exercise on the front end of Auxano’s Vision Framing process. A connecting exercise that begins with a simple, yet insightful question…  If our church was a car, what make and model would we be?
Of course, the only appropriate follow-up question, if the answer has not already been revealed, is “Why?”

In this instance, the Pastor began to describe an older model Station Wagon. The team then developed the rest of this polariod-era picture, complete with plastic decal “wood” paneling, a black-cloud emitting diesel engine, and stick to your bare summer legs vinyl seat covers. For every leader in the room of appropriate age, the third row back seat evoked knowing smiles of michevious childhoods. Who didn’t love that rear-facing view as a kid?

As the laughter waned, the Pastor then went on with his “Why” explanation.

“Many of our leaders would rather be more focused on where we have been. And if we were honest, many really enjoy harassing others who moving faster than us down the road ahead… There are days when I feel like very few of us are facing the same direction looking forward.”

It is not scriptural, but still accurate to say that “where there is no vision, the people cherish.”

They cherish the past, because they do not have a clear picture of the future.
They cherish where we have been, without a vision of where God leads ahead.
They cherish the comfort of the known, without hope that transcends the unknown.
They cherish the tools and resources provided to accomplish our calling, rather than the actual calling.

The magnetic attraction of a living and active vision of the future, much more than just a one-liner vision statement, becomes instantaneously clear.

Calling leaders to face forward through the windshield toward the horizons of God’s preferred future, is not easy. Getting a fast-moving team to slow-down and think long feels impossible.

After all, looking backward from the third row was pretty fun… but leaders look forward.

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23 Ways Your Church Website May Be Driving Away First Time Guests

23WaysWebsite

Imagine if it was your first day on staff and you just discovered that your church’s front door was:

– hidden from view and hard to find

– still decorated from last Christmas

– covered in dirt and cobwebs

– cluttered with ministry flyers and notices.

Without hesitation, you would clean and repaint it immediately. You would then find a way to use people and signage, while leveraging every resource possible, to make the entrance beautiful, easy and obvious to find.

Your church website is more important than your front door. 

In fact, nine out of ten first time Guests visit online before visiting onsite, so your church website IS your front door. In 2015, the number of networked devices (phones, tablets, laptops) more than doubled the global population. Today, your church website is your digital front door for nearly everyone who will consider visiting your church, and then reconsider based upon what they find, or don’t find.

Here are 23 ways your website may be driving away first time Guests: 

  1. If it projects an “us vs.them” dynamic, using a term like Visitor instead of Guest.
  2. If it has your Christmas graphic on rotation… in February.
  3. When 80% of your web content is actually geared for members, making it little more than a very expensive calendar for a select group of people.
  4. If there are too many written words and the menu navigation becomes complex and confusing.
  5. When there are too many ministries and activities… because we all know today’s average family sits around looking to be busier.
  6. If your stock photography of diverse people projects an image far from your congregational reality.
  7. When you do not have a picture of the church building or of the front door.
  8. If your photos and videos are poor quality and improperly sized.
  9. If you have not given the Guest a clear next step to take in visiting.
  10. When you are missing a clear and obvious welcome of Guests with a link to critical information on visiting.
  11. If your service times are anything less than large and obvious, because that is really the main thing a Guest is looking for.
  12. When you have different service styles but they are unexplained… remember, one Guest’s idea of traditional worship might be another’s idea of contemporary.
  13. When your worship services or small groups have cute and creative names that are ultimately meaningless outside of those circles.
  14. When the pastor’s welcome letter is more about a Reformational Theology than a Great Commission Cardiology.
  15. When the pastor’s welcome video is too long and too creepy, and therefore not too inviting.
  16. If your photos are of lobbies and hallways instead of worship gatherings and people groups.
  17. When you are assuming that free coffee (which doesn’t taste all that great) is still attractional to lost people.
  18. If you have forgotten that social media is a great connector, because you still have a church directory and yellow page ads… it’s called Facebook.
  19. When you have made an obvious choice toward a low-cost and generic “church website” over a useful and attractive “digital front door.”
  20. If your content requires updating from multiple people, which never actually happens.
  21. When you post links for giving money when you have not linked giving to a vision beyond money.
  22. If the primary URL is a tagline or slogan instead of your church name.
  23. If there is no responsiveness to mobile device viewing, because smart phones are the new desktop computer.

At Auxano, we love serving as strategic outsiders to help churches realize breakthrough effectiveness on their website, through the lens of vision clarity. No service style or theological treatise will impact a true First Time Guest more than a clear sense of “who we are” and “what we are called to do” will.

Start a conversation with an Auxano Navigator today to learn more about our Vision and Communication services.

 

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5 Sure-Fire Ways to Guarantee Repetitive Pastoral Failure

GreatFailuresIt’s not really how you got lost as much as how you lead back to the right path.
Every great leader has experienced failure at some point, well… except one glaring exception.
So yeah, you are not Jesus, but remember:
     Steve Jobs, the man behind the iPhone, iPad and MacBook (likely what you are using to read this), was once fired from Apple
     Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player ever (not even a question Kobe and Lebron), was cut from his middle-school team
     Thomas Edison, the inventor of the phonograph (making him the great-grandfather of hipster music), was partially deaf
It is not a question of IF a pastor will fail in some ministry endeavor; it is a question of how they will lead as they learn their way back up. 

Some failures in pastoral leadership require a deeper investment in time, repentance and healing to overcome. Especially those failures that erode pastoral authority because of immorality or sexual sin. However, for the majority of pastors, recovery from everyday ministry failure is a matter of learnership as much as it is one of leadership. 
Because moving beyond a failure involves learning and advancing as a leader, after all:
Steve Jobs went on to build the NeXT computer with no real customers.
Michael Jordan went on to miss 12,345 shots in his career, more than half of all he took.
Thomas Edison went on to build 1,000 light bulbs that didn’t work before one finally did.

Failure happens to everyone and for those that refuse to learn and advance, it often happens over and over again. Here are five sure-fire ways to guarantee repetitive pastoral failure:

1. Ignore It – Leaders destined to fail again refuse to acknowledge failure when it happens. When the conversation turns toward what went wrong, they become defensive or change the subject altogether.
 Advancing leaders talk about their failure openly and freely share what they are learning from it.

2. Prevent It – Do everything you can to never allow failure to happen in the first place and you can be sure that when it does happen, you will never see it coming. If you never allow your leaders to fail, there is actually a better chance that they will never succeed.
 Advancing leaders create an environment for safe failure to happen and even celebrate failing forward when it happens.

3. Invite It – It is surprising how many pastors fail to ever plan, and inadvertently plan to often fail. Simple principles of leadership like calendaring, setting meeting agendas or leading toward a consistent vision are a great step toward making sure failure, when it happens, is not repetitive.
Advancing leaders are intentional in their planning, especially if it is not in their nature to begin with.

4. Overlook It –  Making excuses for failure, sweeping mistakes under the rug or simply minimizing the reality of the situation is a great way to find yourself with the broom again soon. A great strategy to repeat failure is to not get outside eyes to help reveal critical points of failure and create a plan to move forward.
 Advancing leaders invite strategic outsiders in to help see what was unseen and bring fresh perspective toward moving forward.

5. Magnify It – Publicly dwelling on your mistakes and failure seems, at first to be humbling and sacrificial. Under the surface though, giving undue and inordinate attention to ministry failure often masks insecurity and fuels ego. Over-magnifying a mistake happens in cultures where failure is easier to recognize than success.
 Advancing leaders define success of their Great Commission calling and celebrate those wins first, while appropriately handling the misses.

You may not go on to revolutionize the digital age, become the greatest basketball player of all time, or hold more than 2,000 U.S. patents, but God does have something significant and eternal for you to accomplish… no matter how hard it might have been up to this point.

How you learn from failure will directly affect how you lead after failure.

Failure happens in ministry, there is no guarantee against it. Therefore, when failure does occur, we must learn and lead from it, advancing to ensure that it does not happen the same way again.

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One Big Challenge to Dream with a Vibrant Pastor’s Vision

DreamingAgain

Have we reached the end of pastoral visioning by dreaming of what should be?
Does a church leader in 2016, surrounded by marketplace professionals seeking a strategic plan, even have permission to dream anymore? Is a less-than-precise path to a God-honoring future unacceptable to staff members looking for immediate action initiatives?

Is it safe for pastors to dream about a future day, or should we continue to just keep the focus on the Sunday to Sunday mechanics of ministry and making budget?

Unless you were on a mission trip or under a rock last week, it was hard to miss the incessant media buzz about the 1.5 BILLION dollar lottery. Hundreds of thousands of people bought more than 635 million $2 tickets in the hopes of the immediate acquisition of a life of extraordinary wealth.

And what made last week’s Powerball drawing even more interesting is that I know of quite a few pastors, some of them prominent and actively justifying it – see Perry Noble’s post here, who were even drawn in to play the lottery. I’m sure many pastors who played the lottery instead chose to navigate what would inevitably be a hard question of “Why are you gambling Pastor?” with what would in the end be a rather easy conversation with their congregation… provided that they won: “Yes, I played… Here’s my tithe

But here is what was really going on behind the scenes with most people who played the lottery last week.
The most fun in playing a giga-jackpot lottery is the dreaming. 

What would you do… Rather what couldn’t you do with more than one and one-half billion dollars? Just look at all these zeros! $1,500,000,000.

Even though I never bought a ticket, I still channeled my inner John Nash with many nights of pre-sleep mental mathematical operations. I will readily admit, it was fun to dream about how I could giveaway hundreds of millions of dollars.
100 million each to NAMB and the IMB… because that moment of handing David Platt a giant check from lottery winnings would be epic… and there would be a giant check.
10 million to every church I have ever worked for, or attended. Let the heated deacons meeting commence!
1 million dollar education funds for my kids, my nephews and every child of a first second or third cousin… With the stipulation that it’s an SEC school and anywhere but Auburn.
Buying that hilltop acreage in Wilson County that call out to me for our family homestead every time we drive past.
And a beach house at Seaside, a Colorado mountain lodge AND a Chicago loft apartment.

You see, for those who did not ruin their family finances on a statistical near-impossibility last week, the lottery incited something written deep into our creation… The powerful ability to dream of a better day. To think long what could be beyond what actually is.

The problem with the lottery, one of many to be sure, is that every one of those dreams are disconnected from an ever achievable reality.

But for many pastors, the opposite struggle is real: the need for an achievable reality disconnects many from ever dreaming. 

Today’s pressures mount for many ministry: Pressure to perform. To make budget before the big missions offering saves the day. To have a cool hairstyle like that guy in Nashville. To reveal bulging biceps as you open the Bible. To increase attendance faster than last year. Or even to once and for all relocate the church.

The pressures of Sunday often mute the dreaming of one day.

Will Mancini recently addressed the subject of pastoral dreaming, thinking long about the future, in this blog post… It’s even in the name of his new book: God Dreams.

And for any in ministry, it was the capacity to imagine a better future, to picture God’s redemptive movement, to see beyond what is to what could be that got us us here to begin with. Everyone called according to God’s purpose does so with a Great Commission Dream branded on our mind and buried in our heart. The everyday-on-call mechanics of ministry and the overlooked-in-seminary reality of leadership serve to squelch our permission to dream as we did at that first moment surrender.

It is a great irony that we would commemorate perhaps the most famous dreamer in American history the week after we celebrate perhaps the biggest lottery jackpot of all time. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. should forever remind us that the capacity to dream and align people toward a better day may be the greatest human capacity of all.

So here’s to dreaming again…

Here’s to proudly using work hours to think long about Gods call and not have anything tangible to show for it.

Here’s to making time to truly vacation with your family because you’ve been spending time walking under open skies as a part of your day-to-day leadership.

Here’s to thinking out loud with a leadership team about something that may require more than one staff meeting to plan and just a few weeks to execute.

Here’s to being able to say “I don’t know yet” on how to get something Gospel-sized accomplished.

Here’s to what God used to get into this calling in the first place.

Here’s to the permission to dream again.

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