How Pastors Can Kickstart Momentum for 2021

How Pastors Can Kickstart Momentum for 2021

Dedicating your life to the ups and downs of vocational ministry is like locking yourself onto a roller coaster of energized and exhausted. The life of a pastor or full-time church staff member is high on exhausting effort and low on immediate gratification. 

And whether you’re a megachurch pastor or a one-person operation at a smaller rural church, preaching on Sundays is not your only job. You’re likely wrapping up another year that required burning the candle at multiple ends. 

Aside from the regular duties of planning sermons, meeting with members of your community throughout the week, and overseeing volunteers, 2020 also forced you to migrate everything your church does online, find ways to reach new people in the digital world, navigate political tensions, and avoid contracting a potentially life-threatening virus. 

All while being the steady head among a sea of people losing their minds. On any given Sunday in any given year, we’d understand if you were running on fumes by early or late November. 

But in 2020, we’d be shocked if you have an ounce of energy left. We know you’re exhausted. 

With Christmas season lurking around the corner and a brand new year rushing right behind it, it’s easy to feel like you need a week off to recharge and prepare. If not a whole sabbatical. 

But rest isn’t going to solve the issue. 

A retreat to a quiet cabin will feel nice and solitude will surely reconnect you with the heart of the Lord. But it won’t give you what you need to make it through 2021 without fizzling out toward the end. 

You need momentum. 

It’s like a Dave Ramsey Debt Snowball, but for bringing your yearly vision to life and ending the year with more energy than you started with—the kind that will supercharge the start of a new year and grow with each passing day in 2021.

It’s time to break the vicious cycle of resting, working yourself dry, resting, repeat. Vision doesn’t spring to life and churches struggle to flourish when that’s the norm. 

You struggle to flourish when that’s the norm. 

Jump-start your year and maintain your emotional capacity to pastor a church with joy by doing these three things that will kickstart and sustain your momentum in 2021.

#1 – Move your body every day. No matter what.  

Start the year by taking your attention off of lofty resolutions and honing in on small daily practices and rhythms. 

These lead to small daily wins that build into a massively successful year. 

Too often, pastors burn out halfway through the year because they fail to unplug from their responsibilities and plug into their personal relationship with God. Yet we wonder year in and year out why we’re stuck in a never-ending loop of exhausted, refreshed, exhausted, refreshed, exhausted again. 

There’s certainly a place for vacation and taking extended time off to meet your needs. But in order to create and sustain momentum, you need to develop the regular habit of unplugging.

Making time for a 20-minute uninterrupted, undisturbed walk or exercise every day is a huge way to do that. No phones, no meetings, no company. This is your time to do an audit of your thought life, reflect on what happened yesterday, and look forward to what God has in store today. 

And just like author, speaker, and former Head of Global Sales at Disney, Dave Hollis, says, “Moving your body will change your mind.” 

Even Matthew McConaughey, the coolest guy on earth, said in his recent Joe Rogan interview that he has to move his body in the morning to get his thoughts in order. His thoughts are disorganized before and feel perfectly lined up when he is finished. 

When we asked our Church Fuel members if they have a daily exercise discipline, the responses certainly lined up: 

Creating new habits is difficult. Unhealthy habits are hard to break. But you can kick start your year with the healthy habit of unplugging from the world and moving your body. 

For help with starting new habits, James Clear writes in his book Atomic Habits,

“All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves and branches grow. The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.”

If you need guidance or accountability cultivating the delicate flower of a good, daily habit, consider our Church Fuel membership that gives you access to our incredible ministry coaches. 

Each coach holds their full-time position as a pastor for their church, so they know exactly what you are going through. They can not only walk you through starting this year off with a new habit, but they can walk WITH you as you do it. 

If you want to show up to work every single day of 2021 with enough mental real estate available to build healthy momentum in your church, start each day by unplugging from the world and moving your body for 20 minutes. 

#2 – Use. A. Planner. Please.

How many times have you started the week with intentionality and by the end of the week had accomplished nothing and were still unprepared for Sunday? 

Likely too many times to count. 

As a pastor and vocational minister, you need a planner. Not solely to keep you on track and organize your year, but to serve as a prayerful reminder of what is important and what will contribute to your overall mission in the church. 

There are plenty of planners and calendars out there that promote productivity and will challenge you to start the year with momentum and end the year with momentum. 

Jon Acuff’s Finish calendar is a really unique, helpful calendar for people who are big on achieving goals. 

The calendar is one big flow chart as opposed to a book of pages so it makes your year feel more fluid. People have accomplished things like building their own business and running their first marathon using his calendar. 

For a daily planner, Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner has helped thousands of people achieve a fulfilling year from wire to wire.  

Michael’s planner has helped business leaders break their gigantic vision into small bite-sized tasks that are manageable and achievable every day. 

But pastoring a church and leading a church staff is a whole different ball game. The playbook for productivity and success is different. There are issues in the church world that can derail your entire year that would never arise in the day to day life of a business person. 

If your planner is not church specific, you’ll have to bend it as best you can to fit your regular schedule. 

What may help you most is a planner made by pastors for pastors. A planner that emphasizes momentum being the key contributor to your overall success in 2021.

Our Pastor’s Planner ensures that the demands of ministry won’t keep you from doing the actual ministry. Each page is digital so you can print one page a week, print all 52 at once, or keep everything online so your backpack isn’t stuffed with yet another book. 

Whichever way you decide to organize your weeks and your entire year is up to you. And you should pick the option that works best for your personality and style.

To plan every week with purpose, get our 2021 Pastor’s Planner here. 

If you want deeper instruction on how to set 2021 up for success, watch this exclusive replay of our training on Creating a Strategic 2021 Ministry Plan

Use these resources to keep your momentum on track throughout the new year. 

#3 – Control what you can control 

Nothing will bring your momentum to a screeching halt faster than worrying about things that are outside of your control. 

When your focus is on the various things going wrong in the world, or even in your own community, your mind panics. 

And when you panic, you stop working and start worrying. Every moment spent worrying about things beyond your control is a moment you could have spent working in your ministry. 

Think back to the beginning of COVID. Your church and every other church that wanted to stay afloat had to move the bulk of their in-person ministry online. 

The churches that chose to panic instead of pivot ended up sinking. 

Brian Beauford helped his church in Boston control what they could control by starting up weekly webinars as a form of community outreach when meeting in-person was flat out not an option. 

Hear more about how Brian decided to focus on what he could control by listening to his episode on our podcast here. 

Look outside of the church world and into the restaurant industry. During a year when eating out is heavily regulated, restaurants, have been faced with a choice:

  1. Let COVID and all of its chaos control their destiny
  2. Control what they can control and command their destiny

Restaurants that threw in the towel early were forced to close their doors for good. 

Restaurants like Canlis Restaurant in Seattle decided to control what they could control. Overnight, they transformed from an iconic fine dining restaurant to a drive-through burger stand so they could stay in business, keep their employees employed, and feed the surrounding community. 
At one point along the way, they started hosting drive-in movie nights in their parking lot!

Currently, they are joyfully still in business and serving the community around them. You can hear more about their story on Donald Miller’s Building a Storybrand Podcast here

No matter what 2021 decides to throw your way, control what you can control. Be stubborn on your vision and flexible on your strategy so you can stay laser-focused on the impact that is directly within your control. 

Try and control what you can’t control and you’ll fail. Every single time. 

Put all three of these little things together and pursue the small wins so that you can generate unbelievable momentum throughout the year.

You’ll kickstart your momentum in 2021 and never have to pause, catch your breath, or look back.

Church Bulletins: 3 Ideas & 4 Alternatives

Church Bulletins: 3 Ideas & 4 Alternatives

Keeping your church and visitors informed is challenging.

Every day, they swim in a sea of information.

From phone calls and emails to social media and television, they hear and see a ton of messages.

Over the years, churches have used printed bulletins to let people know what’s going on. But, with the introduction and proliferation of new technology—in particular, mobile phones—you may wonder if printing a bulletin is still helpful. It can feel like everyone is tuning out your church announcements.

First, let’s agree on one thing:

Keeping people informed in your church is essential.

No one is going to figure out anything by osmosis.

Besides, think about it like this:

Often when you attend an event—say a concert, gala, or game—you receive a program that informs you of the layout and tells you what to expect.

Today, if anything, the idea of church bulletins have become reimagined—not obsolete.

Below, I’m going to share with you four alternatives to a printed church bulletin. But first, there are three things you should consider before trashing your bulletin.

3 ways you can adapt your printed bulletin

Before casting your church bulletin into an eternal abyss, here are three things you can try:

  1. Reduce the size
  2. Print in black and white
  3. Print monthly, not weekly

Is your church bulletin ginormous?

Is it full of a tremendous amount of info?

Before ending your church bulletin, the first thing you can do is reduce the size. To accomplish this goal, really think through the purpose of your bulletin. What is its point?

When you answer this question, filter everything you usually include in the bulletin through this lens to see what does and doesn’t fit. If it doesn’t meet the criteria, then don’t include whatever it is—even if it is a promotion for Aunt Betty’s long-standing quilting ministry.

Do you print your bulletin in color?

If so, then consider printing your bulletin in black and white. If you go this route, you may have to remove images and colorful designs. But it will save you printing costs in the long run.

Finally, another option to consider is to print only one bulletin per month.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should print the same amount of bulletins every week. Instead, for this tactic to work, you’ll need to limit what you share, avoid sharing potentially canceled events, and reduce the number of copies you print per month.

This option will save you both time and money.

Have you tried these ideas? Or are you convinced you need to can your printed bulletin?

If so, let’s take a look at four alternatives you can pursue.

#1- Video announcements

Do you have the ability to share a video during your worship service?

Is your church open to the usage of video during the worship service?

If you answered “yes” to both of these questions, sharing announcements via video may be a viable option.

Before trodding down this path, you’ll need to consider how to go about making videos. There are two options:

  1. Produce videos in-house
  2. Outsource production

To record video announcements, you can produce them in-house. To pull this off, you’ll need video equipment, someone overseeing production, and a deadline.

Thankfully, you don’t need to invest thousands of dollars for video equipment. You can get a sweet set up for $1,000 or less.

To produce your video announcements, you’ll need to delegate responsibility and authority. Someone will need to be in charge of ensuring everything is produced on time and ready to share during your worship service.

Talking about deadlines, one thing that can quickly derail your production is not setting and adhering to a strict guideline. For example, if you don’t have a drop-dead date for announcement submissions, then your video announcement will barely  be ready by Sunday morning, since you’ll have to make changes constantly.

Trust me.

This is a recipe for disaster and burnout.

The next option you have is to outsource production.

Today, many churches outsource a variety of services—including church announcement videos.

If you outsource your videos, be prepared to submit your announcements in a timely fashion, and be sure whomever you work with can provide consistent production. You’d hate to get into a situation where the style and tone is constantly in flux.

Ready to produce videos?

Hang tight.

There’s one caveat you need to know:

The amount of information you can convey in an announcement is less than what you can share in print.

The medium (video) is simply limited by how many words you can share.

Think about it.

The average novel is 80,000–150,000 words, whereas the average word count for a movie script is 7,500—20,000.

What’s the point?

The amount of information you can share in a video announcement is less than what you can share in a printed bulletin. So, whatever you share needs to be clear and laser-focused.

#2- Email newsletters

Know what church members are continually checking?

Their email.

If you’re not already, you can send your weekly announcements to your church via email.

With email, here are a few best practices to keep in mind:

  • Don’t include everything
  • Send weekly emails
  • Include links (if applicable)
  • Be consistent
  • Include images
  • Write a captivating subject line

Regarding the first point above, you’ll be tempted to share everything, which makes sense. It’s a digital format, and you’re not limited by the number of pages or margins as in a print bulletin.

Don’t do this.

When you send a weekly newsletter to your entire church, most of what you share needs to apply to everyone. If you need to send a message for your music ministry or children’s ministry volunteers, then send this group a separate message. This small pivot in your communication strategy will vastly improve the effectiveness of your communication.

#3- Church apps

A church app can easily replace your printed bulletin.  

I know you may not be a fan of an app.

But there are some important tidbits you need to know.

With a church app, you can:

  • Add events
  • Share content—e.g., sermons, blog posts
  • Provide sermon notes
  • Include social media
  • Send push notifications
  • Share prayer requests
  • Encourage mobile giving

In short, a church app is one destination you can promote for your church members to stay in the know.

Thankfully, today, church apps are affordable. So, you won’t have to take out a second mortgage on your church facility to pay the bill.

After building an app, the only thing you’ll need to do on the regular is to encourage your church to download it and ensure notifications are enabled (they should be by default).

#4- Church website

A mobile website can also do many of the same things a church app can accomplish.

If you want to use your website to replace your printed bulletin, then here’s what you need to know:

  • Simplify your website
  • Make things easy to find
  • Promote your website

There’s one thing to keep in mind with your website:

Today, church websites tend to be the front door for potential visitors, and it may not be the best way to share information with your church community—especially personal info, like prayer requests.

Does this mean you can’t use a website to replace your printed bulletin?

Nope.

It’s just something to keep in mind.

Should you focus on your website or an app?

Again, it just depends.

A church app is different than a mobile website.

For the sake of your replacing your church bulletin, think through what you and your team can reasonably manage from a time and budget standpoint.

Is it time to get rid of your printed bulletin?

Well, that depends.

Before you make a decision, you need to ask yourself these four questions:

  1. How can we best inform church members?
  2. How can we best inform visitors?
  3. What information do we need to share to accomplish these goals?
  4. What are the best mediums (print, email, social media, etc.) to connect with our members and visitors?

After you think through these four questions, you’ll know if you need to keep your printed bulletin the same, adapt it, or replace it with something else entirely.

Why You Should (Seriously) Get a Ministry Coach

Why You Should (Seriously) Get a Ministry Coach

Leading a church can feel lonely.

Your church looks to you to cast a vision and make decisions.

You don’t have peers who can relate to what you’re experiencing.

When you feel stuck or run into a problem, you don’t have anyone outside of your church to turn to for advice. As you know, you can’t bare your soul to just anyone in your church about a church problem.

Before you throw your hands up in surrender, there’s a real solution you can pursue:

Get a ministry coach.

I’m not talking about a motivational speaker hyped up on Mountain Dew who tries to pump you up with pithy statements.

(You know that’s what you were thinking.)

Instead, I’m talking about a coach who can support, guide, and provide you with practical advice.

Now, here’s one caveat about ministry coaches:

A ministry coach isn't a mentor.

There are similarities, but there are some big differences.

Previously, we’ve shared why pastors need a mentor, and what it means to be a mentor and mentee. So, I don’t want to get into the weeds here.

In short, here’s what you need to know:

A mentor is unpaid and his or her focus is on providing advice, whereas a coach is someone who’s paid and whose focus is on helping you to achieve a goal or overcome an obstacle in your ministry.

As I said, there's overlap between a mentor and coach in how he or she helps a mentee or student grow. But there’s a big difference between their arrangements and focus.

In a moment, we’ll dig into the details of coaching.

But first, there’s one last point I’d like to address.

The different types of coaches

Coaches are different.

I’m not talking about their personality, experience, or ability to help you and your church.

What I’m talking about is the different ways you can receive coaching.

In general, there are two different types of coaching you can receive:

  1. Personal coaching
  2. Group coaching

Personal coaching can take place in person or online. Unlike someone who’s a mentor, a coach is someone who partners with you to provide support, guidance, and practical advice over the phone, on a video chat, or in person. The “medium” used to share their support doesn’t matter in this scenario.

When it comes to personal coaches, they should have experience in the area in which they’re providing support—in particular, they should know ministry inside and out. Since they’ve “been there, and done that,” they’ll be able to give you the advice you need to go from where you’re at to where you need to go.

Group coaching takes place with a group of people. During group coaching sessions, a coach normally discusses a general topic, such as church management, budgeting, or creating a work-life rhythm, and opens up the discussion for questions afterward.

In this scenario, you may not receive the undivided attention of a personal coach, but the advice he or she shares in a group setting can still be applicable and helpful for your situation.

At this point, you’re probably thinking:

What’s the best option for me?

At Church Fuel, we’ve found that providing a combination of personal and group coaching works best in empowering our members to fulfill God’s calling on their lives.

In seasons of your life, you’ll need a personal coach who can walk alongside of you, pointing out potential landmines and helping you navigate the way through the fog of unclarity.

In general, group coaching sessions are helpful for an ongoing basis. These sessions will force you to learn new lessons, and focus on growing yourself as a leader and your church in Christ.

The benefits of coaching aren’t theoretical—they’re extremely practical.

Let me show you what I’m talking about.

5 benefits of having a ministry coach

A ministry coach provides five powerful benefits. A good coach will:

  1. Push you beyond your comfort zone
  2. Guide you in creating a plan
  3. Help you overcome obstacles
  4. Help you create a life-giving, work-life balance
  5. Help you navigate the five-core ministry relationships

Time to take a look at these in detail.

#1 – Push you beyond your comfort zone

As a church leader, it’s easy to get stuck.

You’re on call 24/7/365.

You move from one fire of urgency to the next—all the while trying to prepare for your weekday activities or Sunday worship service.

Exhausting, I know.

When this happens, you’ll end up focusing only on what’s in front of you.

Over time, you’ll slowly neglect the mission of your church.

Not because of any fault of your own.

Rather, you get stuck in survival mode.

This is where having a coach can make a world of difference.

Like a coach in sports, a ministry coach can help you to step outside of your comfort zone. They’ll challenge you in your comfort, and help you break free from the shackles of your own limitations.

Unlike a mentor, a ministry coach will be more inclined to shoot you straight. Their job isn’t to be your friend per se. Their job is to support your growth as a church leader. In this arrangement, there will be times when they’ll have to say painful things. But this is all a part of the growing process.

Talking about the growing process, this leads us to the next benefits of having a coach.

#2 – Guide you in creating a plan

As a church leader, you need a plan to get better.

If you’re not learning and growing in your position, then you and your church are slowly dying.

Here’s why.

The world and your community is constantly changing.

Think about it.

New technology is regularly created.

How people interact with one another has been changed by social media.

Beliefs and values are in flux.

Basically, if you don’t plan on growing as a leader, then your ability to make disciples will be throttled. In time, what works today in your ministry will not work tomorrow. If you’ve been serving in the ministry for longer than a minute, you know what I’m talking about.

Thankfully, this isn’t something you have to figure out on your own.

A coach is someone who can help you clarify your vision, talk through your church’s mission, and create a plan to accomplish the work God has called you to fulfill. What is more, a good coach will also hold you accountable to accomplishing your goals.

If we’re honest, anyone can set a goal.

To accomplish a goal, you should reach for something realistic and attainable, and when you hit a roadblock, you’ll need someone like a coach to encourage you to push through.

As a church leader, your work doesn’t end with accomplishing personal goals.

Your calling isn’t only to be the best you you can be.

Your calling also involves serving Jesus and his church.

So, when it comes to accomplishing goals, a ministry coach can also help you to lead your church from where it’s at (point A) to where God is calling you to go (point B).

With this being said, there’s one BIG point I want to make:

Not every church leader or coach is right for you.

Let me explain what I mean.

Today, it’s easy to get enamored by church leaders.

There are many (good) church leadership books you can read, podcasts you can listen to, and events you can attend. Oftentimes, what happens after reading these books, listening to these podcasts, or attending a conference, you come away feeling like only “that” person understands you and can help you.

In reality, this is typically not the case at all.

God can—and will—work through people who are equipped to support you in your season of ministry. For example, a pastor who leads a church of 10,000 may not be the best person to help you break through the 200 barrier.

Here’s why:

The challenges you’re facing personally and as a church are probably miles apart from the person you think can help you.

When looking for a coach, you don’t need a celebrity. What you need is someone who’s a step or two ahead of you and can speak into the situation you’re facing.

That’s it.

#3 – Help you overcome obstacles

At some point, you’re going to run into a challenge you can’t resolve.

This isn’t a dig against you.

This is just the reality of being a human dependent upon God and other people.

Besides, church leaders have been running into problems since the inception of the church (Acts 6:1–7).

Whether it's managing internal conflict or breaking through growth barriers in your church, you’ll run into the limits of your experience. But that’s okay. When you run into these situations, you have an opportunity to seek God in prayer and to seek the help of others.

This is where having a ministry coach is super helpful.

Think about it.

When you’re facing a problem you don’t know how to resolve, wouldn’t it be beneficial to talk to someone who’s come up against the same thing you’re up against? Someone who can ask the right questions and clear the air?

Know what else?

There will be times when you’re stuck, and you don’t even know it—not in the sense that you’re dealing with an unresolved issue. But rather, there may come a time when you're not growing as a leader or your church isn’t progressing in making new disciples for Christ.

Again, when you have a ministry coach, he or she can wave smelling salts beneath your nose to wake you up to the plight of your situation.

#4 – Create a life-giving, work-life balance

Burning out will be one of the biggest challenges you face.

Like most pastors, you work well over 50 hours per week, and “balancing” your life isn’t going to work. Sure, you have family, friends, and church leaders to help hold you accountable. But it’s ideal to have someone from outside of your circle of influence to hold you accountable.

Enter a ministry coach.

Since a ministry coach is on the outside of your life looking in, he or she will have a clearer view of you and your workload. What is more, since he or she has ministry experience, a ministry coach understands what you’re going through, and he or she will be able to read the signs of your life to really know how well you’re doing.

For this to work well, you have to be willing to talk truthfully about your weekly schedule and how you’re feeling. Armed with this information, a ministry coach can help you to set healthy boundaries or encourage you to take a break to get refreshed.

#5 – Help you navigate the five core ministry relationships

If church leadership is anything, it’s relationally-based.

Everything you do revolves around working with or serving people.

What’s my point?

You’re going to run into a relational problem at some point.

When you work with a ministry coach, he or she will be able to help you navigate the five core ministry relationships of every church leader:

  1. God
  2. Church leadership
  3. Church members
  4. Family
  5. Friends

Let’s take a look at these in turn.

#1. God

For starters, as a church leader, the most important relationship you have is with God.

As we’ve shared before, you don’t get a pass on devoting your life to God.

Every day, you need to carve out time to talk to (pray) and hear from God (read the Bible).

Neglecting the Lord would be like not spending any time with your spouse. It won’t be too long until you feel cold, distant, and indifferent.

#2 – Church leadership

Working with your church’s leadership can be … tricky.

Depending upon your ecclesiastical structure (Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Non-Denominational, etc.), navigating the nuances can be challenging.

As a church leader, learning how to work with and through your church leadership is vital to the forward movement of the church you serve.

On the one hand, if your church’s leadership is divided, you won’t be going anywhere since everyone is going in different directions. On the other hand, if your church’s leadership works well together, then plan on experiencing forward momentum.

Regardless of the makeup of your church’s leadership, a ministry coach will be able to guide you in having critical conversations.

#3 – Church members

Not every church member is alike.

From saints to sinners, you’ll have to learn to work with a variety of church members.

Let’s be honest:

Figuring out how to relate to your church members as a pastor isn’t easy.

Depending upon your personality, you'll wrestle with either being too close or too distant.

There’s no right or wrong way you can build relationships with your church members. But having help in figuring it all out can reduce your learning curve and save you a tremendous amount of heartache along the way.

#4 – Family

Are you married?

Do you have children?

In either case, you have to get these relationships right. Why gain the whole world if you lose your family in the process? Not a good move.

If you’ve been in church leadership for more than a minute, you know this is easier said than done. The consistent requests can easily pull you away from family obligations. Next thing you know, you’re five years down the road and your family relationships are strained at best.

Before this is your story, a ministry coach can hold you accountable and make sure you’re prioritizing your family in the business of ministry.

#5 – Friends

Friendships are probably not what you’re thinking about.

If anything, you push friendships to the back burner for the sake of everything else.

Here’s the deal:

Friendships are crucial to your well-being.

Like everyone else, you were created by God for community (Gen 1:28). What is more, the Book of Proverbs has really strong words against isolating yourself (Prov 18:1).

Don’t believe you can be a Lone Ranger.

Remember, according to an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

If you’ve sold yourself short in the area of friendships, let your ministry coach help you make them a priority once again.

Need a ministry coach?

At Church Fuel, we want to help you lead your church like never before.

To provide you with the training and support you need, we relaunched Church Fuel. That's right. Our site. Our membership offerings. Our products and resources.

For less than the cost of attending a conference, as a member, you’ll get access to five powerful tools:

  1. Monthly video coaching
  2. One-on-one sessions with a ministry coach
  3. Full access to our resource library
  4. Team training
  5. Member forum

With Church Fuel, you get more than content—you get a community.

You’ll learn from a group of peers and a personal coach who are facing the same challenges as you.

When you join Church Fuel, you become part of a community to grow together, challenge each other, and celebrate your wins as a team.

Click here to join.

How Pastors Balance it All: 10 Tips on Creating a Work-Life Rhythm

How Pastors Balance it All: 10 Tips on Creating a Work-Life Rhythm

Trying to balance life and ministry can sound like a cruel joke.

Sermon preparation takes hours.

Pastoral care is never-ending.

There is a slew of church meetings to attend.

Family responsibilities don’t take a vacation.

And unless you have a staff or team, you’re on call 24/7/365.

What’s the moral of the story?

As a church leader, it’s really challenging trying to balance everything.

You work a ton of hours, every week looks different, and it can feel like an impossible task to serve your church well without burning yourself out in the process.

How do you balance it all?

Well, for starters, you don’t.

What you do is identify your guiding principles to help you create a rhythm for your week. There will be times when things are really busy, like Christmas and Easter, and then there are your “normal” workweeks.

To help you serve your church, love your family, and not lose your mind or soul in the process, here are 10 tips to help you find a good rhythm in your life and ministry.

#1 – Don’t neglect your first love

As a church leader, you don’t get a pass on devoting your life to God.

I know this sounds obvious, but hear me out.

When serving the Lord vocationally (as a pastor or church staff member), it’s easy to believe that the work you’re doing is a replacement for spending personal time with God in prayer or reading the Bible.

This isn’t something that church leaders do on purpose. In most cases, church leaders slowly drift away from their first love—God (Rev 2:4), which makes practical sense.

You spend your time serving, preaching, and taking care of others, and it’s easy to forget about your own relationship with God in the busyness of your life.

Don’t let this be you.

Before you dive into time-management hacks, take a moment to reflect on your devotion to Jesus.

How are you doing?

Do you feel like you’re walking closely with the Lord?

Or do you feel indifferent?

Before implementing any of the tips below, commit yourself to daily carving out time to talk to God (prayer) and hear what he has to say (read the Bible).

Don’t be afraid to block out a portion of time every day to spend with the Lord. If not, you may not get around to praying or reading the Bible.

“I schedule everything,” shared a member of Church Fuel. He went on to add, “When something needs to be done, I immediately put it on my calendar. If it’s not scheduled, usually it doesn’t get done.”

When you add daily devotions to your calendar, you’ll be able to create a habit, guard this time, and get ready the day before (e.g., go to bed on time if you want to get up early).

#2 – Create margin

To balance your life and ministry, you have to embrace this reality first:

Every week is different.

There are normal rhythms in your schedule, such as mid-week or weekend worship services. But outside of your normal programs and events, mentally prepare for every week to look a little bit different than the week before.

With this being said, here’s a big idea:

Create margin in your week by not filling your schedule to the brim. If possible, leave  60 unscheduled minutes in your daily calendar. If it’s mid-afternoon and you’re on track with everything you had planned, then feel free to use the time. But it’s best to have some wiggle room in your day-to-day so that you don’t get behind on anything.

Possessing this mindset will help you to better balance your life and ministry, which brings us to the next point.

#3 – Nail down your church rhythms

The first place you need to start in creating a healthy rhythm is to work with your church rhythms.

As you identify the big rocks in the life of your church, you’ll be better able to prioritize your schedule.

When doing this, there are two things you need to nail down:

  • Weekly rhythms
  • Annual rhythms

For weekly rhythms, identify the weekly activities that take place in your church. As you write these down in your calendar, it’s also important to include the time you need to prepare. For example, if you preach, then you’ll need to guard a decent amount of time to prepare. What is more, if you have a weekly event, you’ll need to make sure everything is taken care of (more on this in a bit).

As for annual rhythms, mark down the following in your church calendar:

    • Major holidays
    • Vacation
    • Office closures
    • Staff evaluation
    • Big events
  • Sermon series preparation
  • Retreats
  • Leadership development

When you have these big rocks in place, you’ll be able to plan ahead and prepare yourself for really busy seasons of ministry, like Christmas and Easter.

#4 – Take one day off per week

A lack of rest is bad.

Like, really bad.

If you don’t plan to take at least one full day off per week (a Sabbath), then you can plan on having health problems, depression, and poor judgment, among other things.

God modeled taking a break during creation (Gen 2:2) and Jesus wasn’t afraid to get some shut-eye too (Mark 4:35–40). If God finds rest important, then you would do well to follow his example and take a break yourself.

By not taking a weekly day of rest—at a minimum—you run the risk of burning yourself out.

Do yourself, your family, and your church a favor and arrange for at least one day off per week.

#5 – Arrange for an extended trip

There’s one thing you need to fight for in your ministry:

Rest.

This is why I’m trying to get your attention about taking a break by emphasizing a weekly rest and now an extended break.

Now, what I’m arguing for here isn’t necessarily an extended Disney cruise (sorry). If possible, plan on taking an extended break (1–2 weeks) every year to pray through and plan your church’s annual calendar.

During this time, you want to unplug, spend plenty of time in prayer, and think ahead.

What is more, this isn’t something you have to do alone. At Church Fuel, we encourage church leaders to plan an annual retreat for their staff. You can click here to check out the details.

#6 – Love your spouse

Are you married?

Then don't leave your spouse on the altar of ministry. Working long hours isn’t necessarily a godly thing. If you have a spouse, and you work too much, then you run the risk of neglecting him or her, which is a big no-no.  

Instead, fight for your marriage by planning weekly or bi-weekly dates.

These dates don’t have to be fancy. From getting out for a walk or enjoying a cup of coffee together, schedule time for the two of you to get out of your office and away from your home for a few hours.

#7 – Make time for your family

Do you have children?

Well, you can’t leave them hanging either.

There are a variety of ways you can create a weekly rhythm for your family:

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
  • Movie nights
  • Activities

Depending on the age of your children, include them in different errands throughout the week. Think about it. You can turn a bland trip to the grocery store into an opportunity to spend time with your children.

Whatever you do, be sure to put something on the calendar every week.

Here’s the deal:
Spending time with your family will not happen by accident.

To make sure his schedule reflects his priorities, one Church Fuel member shared, “Set your priorities and make your calendar reflect them. Set a number of evenings you will be home for dinner with your family and don’t allow anything to compromise that.”

By scheduling these non-negotiable times in your calendar, you can create a rhythm around time well-spent with your family.

#8 – Take care of your body

The Apostle Paul shared this with his mentee Timothy:

“For the training of the body has limited benefit …” (1 Tim 4:8).

But let’s be honest:

As a church leader, you need to take care of yourself physically—from eating healthy to regularly exercising

By taking care of yourself, you’ll increase your energy levels, feel happier, and reduce your risk of chronic disease.

When you add these physical benefits together, you’ll place yourself in a better position to provide pastoral care for a very long time.

Can’t remember the last time you exercised or ate a salad?

That’s water under the bridge.

Connect with a personal trainer and/or doctor to get a physical and put together a plan to get started.

#9 – Get a mentor

Having a mentor is probably not what you had in mind to create balance. But like everyone else in the world, you—church leader—need a mentor.

Here’s the deal:

A mentor is someone who can give you an unbiased opinion and help you get your life in alignment.

In life and ministry, you’re going to get off course. With the number of hours you have to work and the pastoral care you need to provide, you’re going to get stuck or drift off course. This is why you need a mentor who can help you to maintain balance.

Michael Lukaszewski, the Founder and CEO of Church Fuel, added, “Get help from others. Family and friends need to know and support you during busy seasons.”

Regardless if you talk to a mentor, your spouse, or friend, be open about what you’re feeling and your workload. This will give people who care about you the opportunity to love and support.

#10 – Delegate work

Pop quiz:

What’s the one thing God didn’t call you to do?

Know the answer?

It’s everything.

If you’re the senior pastor, you may be responsible for everything. But this is different than doing everything.

Regardless of your position, as a church leader, you need to identify your primary responsibilities, know your strengths, and delegate any tasks that someone else can do or work that falls outside of your comfort zone.

Depending upon your situation, you may be able to hire someone. If not, you’ll have to bank on finding a volunteer to help. If it’s the latter, it will take time to turn a volunteer into a leader. But your investment into his or her life will help you—and most importantly, help them fulfill their call.

Balancing it all

Don’t fight for balance.

That’ll place you in a position of trying to figure out how to do everything.

Instead, strive to create a healthy rhythm in your life with these 10 tips:

    1. Don’t neglect your first love.
    1. Create margin.
    1. Nail-down your church rhythms.
    1. Take one day off per week.
    1. Arrange for an extended trip.
    1. Love your spouse.
    1. Make time for your family.
    1. Take care of your body.
    1. Get a mentor.
  1. Delegate work.

It will take time and energy to make a change, and you’ll have to learn how to say “no” or “later” to different requests. But working toward creating a healthy rhythm in your life will help you have a long and fruitful ministry.

3 Things Every Volunteer Needs to Know

3 Things Every Volunteer Needs to Know

The need for volunteers in church isn’t going away anytime soon. Even though people are busier than ever, churches still need volunteers to do the work of the ministry.

That’s why it’s always a great time to take a look at your volunteer ministry: how you recruit, how you train, and how you lead.

When we talk about volunteer training, it’s easy to think about handbooks and meetings.

But training your volunteers involves so much more than that.

Whether they are serving with guest services, family ministry, or the worship team, every volunteer in your church needs to know these three things.

 

#1 – The purpose and mission of the church.

Every volunteer needs to know why your church exists and what you’re trying to accomplish.

Your purpose is the eternal reason your church exists. It’s your deep sense of why. It’s the big-picture and the fundamental calling God has on your church. It might sound something like this:

  • We’re here to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus.
  • We help people love God and love others.
  • We make more and better disciples who make more and better disciples.

Each of those phrases is really big picture. But when you look at them closely, they are never going to really be accomplished. They are long-term, even eternal in nature.

You’re never going to call a meeting and say, “Hey everyone…there are no more potential disciples to make. We’re done with that. So, what’s next?”

Your purpose is like an anchor your church, but what that looks like today can be hard to grasp.

That’s why every church needs a second statement, a mission statement.

While your purpose statement is forever, your mission statement is about now. It’s what you are trying to specifically accomplish in this next season of ministry. If your purpose statement is really broad, your mission statement is specific.

Here’s an example.

NASA might say their purpose is to explore space. That’s their big picture, but it’s always going to be ahead of them. They are never really going accomplish that.

NASA’s current mission might be to land someone on Mars. That has a timeline and a deadline. They can measure progress and one day, they will check it off the list.

See the difference? Purpose is big, but mission is current.

Here’s another example.

A church might say their purpose is to help people far from God experience new life in Christ. That’s a “forever” purpose because it’s always going to out there.

That same church might say their current mission is to start a second campus in the net 24 months. That’s much more specific and in a way, it’s much more relatable.

I know some people use purpose, mission and vision differently, but don’t let the specific terminology confuse you. You need to clarify and communicate a big picture purpose but also a time-bound, specific mission.

 

#2 – How they fit with that purpose and mission.

Once your volunteers know the purpose and mission of your church, the next most important thing to clarify is where they fit.

Don Simmons and Steve Caton write, “People want to get involved where expectations are high. They want to know they play an important role in the work of the church. If you can’t validate them through the ministries of the church, they will find a place that does.”

Your volunteers must be able to draw a clear line from what they do to the purpose and mission of the church. They need to know what they do, but they need to know why it matters.

If you lead people, one of your most important roles is not just casting vision but casting clarity. Your people are looking to you to clarify their role.

Answer questions like…

  • What I do actually do?
  • When do I show up?
  • What training is required?
  • How long is my “term of service?

And beyond tasks, they need to continually hear stories about how their tasks connect to the greater story. Greeters need to know how saying hello to guests is connected to the purpose of your church.  Small group leaders need to know how their activities help the church with the current mission.

The best place to clarify this information is on a simple, one-page volunteer job description.  Every single volunteer who serves in your church needs one.

Clarity like this won’t keep people from serving; it will help them say yes. And clear expectations are a sign of value.

If you’re a Church Fuel member, we have dozens of job descriptions available for you.

 

#3 – Where they go for help.

Lastly, every volunteer needs to know where to go if they have a question, concern, prayer request, need, or problem.  They need a single point of contact.

You can include this information on your volunteer job descriptions.

It’s also helpful to visualize your leadership structure by creating a volunteer org chart. Here’s one we made to organize our volunteer ministry.

This org chart let us visualize who was serving, who was leading them, and where we needed help. It helped us ensure that everyone serving had a volunteer leader responsible for their care.

  • Orange cards represented family ministry.
  • Yellow was the worship team.
  • Red was guest services.
  • And white was our new small group ministry.

Org charts aren’t just to show your direct reports; they are there to show your direct supports.