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Whether your church is beginning to meet in person again or your plans to reopen are still underway, one thing is for sure.
People have experienced a lot of disruptive changes.
For many, it feels like a time of wandering in the wilderness, just waiting to return to some sense of normal.
For others, it’s a time to reevaluate everything and focus on what’s most important.
The local church is a place people can turn to for help, support, advice, and truth. We want your church to be the voice of hope, encouraging people through tough times but preparing them for what’s ahead.
And while there is much to lament and still much concern for the future, both churches and people can use this time to reset many areas in life.
That’s one reason we put together this three-part sermon series themed around the word “Reset.” It’s a look at how the early church focused on their mission after a time of great chance. It’s a study through the first few chapters of the book of Acts, helping people build new rhythms and fresh community.
We’ve put together everything you need to do this series in your church, including…
It’s great for when you reopen the doors. But you can use it whenever you feel like your people are truly ready for a reset.
Here’s a look at the first week in the sermon series.
Week 1: Reset the Church
Text: Acts 1:1-12
Topic(s): Waiting, Reset, Movement, Patience, The Holy Spirit
Big Idea of the Message: Setting things back to the way they are supposed to be.
Application Point: Discover where the Holy Spirit wants to direct you in this reset.
God specializes in resetting. Throughout the scriptures we see God resetting His people. We see it from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. We see it with Noah and with Moses. The crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus…a reset. Resetting is what God does best. The good news is the resetting is always for our benefit and for His glory. Sometimes the opportunity to reset is grace. Our struggle is that we always want to go back to the familiar instead of into the unknown. But resets are not about going back to the normal comforts of what we knew, but instead, a reset puts things back to the way they are supposed to be. As followers of Jesus, we have to move in the direction that God is leading us instead of moving back to where we use to be. We have to reset.
What if we were as intentional about the community we help create outside the church as we were cultivating within the Church?
This three-week sermon bundle is a part of the Rebound Course from Church Fuel, which gives you a full game plan to lead your church to bounce back so you can move forward. There’s practical help for church services and weekend activities, strategic advice for what happens throughout the week, and a plan to keep church finances healthy.
Because our members get everything, this sermon series is included for all Church Fuel members in addition to all of our other premium courses and 150+ documents and templates in our Resource Library. At $45/month with no contracts, this is a great option for most churches.
Many churches we work with have paid staff members, and all of them have volunteers who function like full-time staff.
Your volunteers are often the most needed yet most neglected group in your church.
Not because you’re intentionally neglecting them. It simply takes more than free donuts on Sunday at 5 am for them to feel noticed and cared for. They may not be your paid staff, but they still need to be managed.
It’s the lack of management that makes your volunteer team a revolving door instead of a solid, thriving team of people excited to contribute to the work of the church.
While managing your volunteer staff may feel awkward, it doesn’t take an MBA or an extra class at seminary to do it well.
So, save the extra tuition money and follow these three tips for free.
Your 8-5 job is working for your church (as well as your night job—we know).
But before your volunteers come to fulfill their volunteer duties, the majority of them spend 40 hours per week or more at a whole other job.
Volunteering their time and talents for your church is definitely a priority, but they still have to do their full-time job to keep the lights on and the mortgage paid.
So, when a volunteer no-shows the Tuesday night meeting or the 5 am Thursday meeting, it’s not that they don’t care. It’s that they have already worked a whole day and have kids with five games and thirty piano lessons before the sun goes down.
Don’t assume they aren’t committed. Assume they’re pursuing the family time that you have likely preached on a time or two.
If you’re willing to be flexible on time, your volunteers will be flexible in return.
And flexibility will precede grace when time commitments change or fall through altogether.
To set the standard and make your volunteers feel relief from the get-go, send them a quick handwritten note recognizing that they have full-time career commitments at their place of work.
From the start, they won’t feel neglected.
Without clarity, there will always be confusion.
Confusion on a volunteer team leads to the wrong job getting done, jobs being done incorrectly, jobs not getting done on time whether they are right or wrong, and frustration on both sides.
Frustrated volunteers will quit and take their talents elsewhere.
Get ahead of frustration with clarity. Clearly define what each volunteer team needs to do and clarify what each person on that team needs to do in order to contribute.
Be clear on expectations and role descriptions.
“Make dinner on Wednesday nights,” will not serve you or your volunteers well.
“Smoke brisket for the men’s group that meets in the fellowship hall at 6 o’clock on Wednesday night,” will get the right volunteers in the right place at the right time.
This may take extra work and thought on the front end but will develop thriving volunteer members and teams in the long run.
If you want to save the extra work, we have excellent role description templates you can find here. Download as many as you’d like so you can relieve your stressed volunteers with clarity as soon as possible.
Unsaid expectations are unmet expectations.
It’s easy to let a volunteer know what you expect from them, but it’s uncomfortable and challenging to let your volunteers know what to expect from you.
We have seen many pastors express anxious feelings resulting from volunteers swamping them with questions and needs while there are church members to meet with, facilities to take care of, sermons to plan, and various other time-consuming duties that come with being a pastor.
Unsaid expectations are unmet expectations.
You have the ability to fix it. It is not your volunteers’ fault or their responsibility to change it if you have not set an expectation of what you can give them.
When people join your volunteer staff, give them a uniform set of expectations for the jobs you can help them with, how much time you have during the week to communicate, and who the point of contact is for duties you do not have a responsibility for.
This way, each volunteer knows what is expected of them and what they can expect of YOU.
Like the rest of your congregation, your volunteer staff should always feel known and loved.
A huge part of knowing and loving them will be equipping them for success using these three tips to manage them well.
If you want further help managing your volunteer teams, we have a course dedicated solely to volunteers. Join Church Fuel to take The Volunteer Course.
This insanely practical course is designed to help you recruit, train, and shepherd healthy volunteers who will meet your church's needs and increase your impact on the community.
“I’m usually the last to know what’s going on.”
“All the work and problems are intensified because no one can meet in person.”
“This is a different, new level of stress.”
Church staff share many frustrations that are either unique to this season or made worse by this season.
And they’re sharing very little of it with their leaders.
So, we looked into what they’re saying. We talked to them and noted the changes they say would help them perform their roles more effectively.
Because leaders aren’t mind readers.
Because six months into a global pandemic, leaders need to know how to best serve and shepherd their teams.
Because when you don’t know what your team needs, you can’t address your blind spots or the frustrations that might be boiling under the surface and causing issues.
This insight from church staff serving in various churches across the U.S. can help you recognize what your own team needs from you as their leader.
It’s not that your team’s needs are wildly different and they need you to transform into a brand new type of leader.
But the changes that the world in general and churches specifically have gone through over the past few months introduced new problems to solve.
Remember these conditions and impacts as you consider what your church staff needs right now. Here’s what they said.
It’s not just that church staff are tired. To that, we’d join you in saying, “Welcome to the club.”
But for each issue they raised, there are action steps that church leaders can take to increase morale, prevent burnout, and provide a better work culture for staff so they can be effective in ministry.
These two are together because they go hand-in-hand for what church staff say is lacking right now.
With the loss of in-person gatherings, many of them also lost their main sources of communication with leaders: meetings.
The meetings either stopped completely or became sporadically virtual.
Or church leadership still meets but doesn’t include essential staff, which results in last-minute assignments, missed details that are relevant to their jobs, and increased stress.
What to do about it: Show your staff that you value and respect what they do by making sure they’re included in meetings that need their insight. Take another look at the guest list for meetings—is everyone invited who should be included in decisions and details? Should “brief the staff” meetings happen after leadership-only meetings to make sure everyone has what they need?
Even before the pandemic, church staff (and pastors, too) tended to struggle with boundaries and people having non-stop access to them.
Now, staff say that a life of “virtual everything” has made it worse. Leaders forget that they can’t sit in Zoom meetings all day—they have work to do!
The constantly flowing virtual calls, digital tasks lists, emails, and chats can leave them feeling frazzled and eat up the time they need to complete tasks.
What to do about it: “What I really need is space away from my screen,” one church staff member said. Leaders can help with this by being more considerate about flexible schedules and availability. Relax expectations for instant responses and schedules packed with virtual meetings. Create a healthy environment where it’s okay to block off space for focused work time or taking a mental break.
On one of my favorite shows, Worst Cooks in America, Chef Anne Burrell often points out when recruits (amateur cooks) start to “spin out of control” when preparing meals. She tells them that when they don’t focus and learn to enjoy the process, it shows in their final dish.
Some church staff are faced with leaders who started to “spin out of control” when the pandemic hit and all the sudden changes started happening. It’s an understandable reaction, but their teams wish they would remember to play the long game.
Like those dishes prepared by the worst cooks, when leaders change direction and strategy every few weeks, it shows in the final results that church staff rushed to make happen.
Of course, everyone has to make some shifts that might not be relevant this time next year, but church staff shouldn’t constantly work on the latest trends.
What to do about it: Create a ministry plan for your church and make sure that everything you decide to do is a strategic match for your church’s mission and long-term goals.
It’s no wonder the tweets and other messages that say some semblance of, “Are we working from home or living at work?” have been going viral online.
Many people have been noticing how this season is negatively impacting their mental health and begging their employers to see it, too.
40% of people said they’ve experienced work-related burnout since the pandemic.
37% reported working longer hours.
31% of young adults reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression because of COVID-19.
1 in 4 Generation Z employees have sought mental health help since the pandemic began.
The mental health effects of the current season span even farther, but you get the picture. Some of your church’s staff may have lost family or friends to COVID-19. Some are distressed about racial tensions in the U.S. Some are overwhelmingly anxious about the future.
And all of this can make it more challenging to be productive and perform jobs at the same level as before. It’s the case even for church staff, who know their hope is in Christ but are still experiencing the mental health impacts of this season.
What to do about it: Whether your staff has been struggling mentally or not, they need the compassion and concern of a pastor right now. Church staff still have jobs to do but leaders can help them by being more sensitive to their increased workload and the possible mental or emotional struggles that can make productivity more challenging—especially now.
Ministry can be a thankless job. And of course, we’re not in it for recognition.
But church staff report that feeling loved, appreciated, supported, and acknowledged by leaders makes their days working through this strange time a lot more bearable.
Those with leaders who don’t recognize their sacrifices and dedication struggle to stay connected with the church’s mission and the purpose of their roles.
What to do about it: Schedule more one-on-one time with staff and key volunteers. People appreciate being heard. This can be a time of encouragement and a space to get concerns or issues out into the open.
Low team morale can be caused by a number of factors, but it’s often a consequence of team members who aren’t spiritually healthy. Leaders can help by creating intentional time to disciple staff members.
Download our free devotionals to use with your team. They give you questions to ask your team that encourage spiritual health, a devotional message to read together, key Scriptures, prayer prompts, and space for notes.
You’re tired of navigating the new normal, dealing with the trying times, and acting out an abundance of caution.
You don’t want to hear about the unprecedented times, talk about uncertainty, or read that some retail store is in this together with you.
These phrases are worn out, and you’re tired of the sentiment behind them. You’re more than ready to move on and move ahead.
The people you’re leading feel this way, too.
They feel stuck between this desire to move forward and dealing with the current reality still facing them.
You don’t have the answers, but people are looking to you for answers.
You’re wondering what path to take, but people are looking to you to lead them.
Even if you don’t fully know what to do, your team needs you to cast vision for the future. They are tired of hearing about the past – they want to know where they are going and they need you to tell them.
Even though you don’t have all the answers, your team is looking to you to cast clarity. They need you to sit behind the desk of the Chief Clarity Officer and help make sense out of all the options.
Even though you may not know the best path forward, your team is looking to you to make decisions. And not just make them…own them.
But there’s something your team needs even more from you right now.
Some people might not act like it, but they need this.
Some people on your team may never say the words out loud, but they need you to show up in a big way.
They need it more than you may even know.
What your team needs most right now is for you to pastor them.
They don’t just need a leader.
They need a pastor.
Let me say it more specifically: They need YOU to be their pastor.
To borrow a Biblical metaphor, your people are looking to you to shepherd them.
We don’t encounter a lot of shepherds where I live in Atlanta. But the people living in the time of Christ could certainly relate to the job. It was a metaphor that made sense.
Peter encouraged a young pastor to “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” (I Peter 5:2-4)
Peter’s message to Timothy wasn’t just to preach, lead, and cast vision. It was to pastor like the Chief Shepherd.
Even though we love to lean into vision-casting, courageous decision making, and casting clarity, the people on staff and on teams in churches need you to embrace this part of your job description.
The people in your care need you to pastor them, not just lead them.
You’re doing things now that you didn’t imagine at the start of 2020. You’ve got all kinds of new skills you didn’t ask for.
In many ways, you’re leading out of your depth.
But so is everyone else. All these new responsibilities and opportunities can feel like obligations. That makes us tired and easily susceptible to burnout.
If you have people treading water, they don’t need an evaluation meeting. They need you to show interest in their soul.
When people go through a crisis of faith, whether it’s a big one or a small one, they need to talk things out with a pastor who loves them and cares for them.
They need someone to talk to and pray with. They need a guide who will ask questions, not another person to dispense directions.
Leaders at the top of the org chart handle change often because we’re used to instigating it.
But just because change doesn’t bother you doesn’t mean it isn’t hurting your team.
Changing goals, changing tactics, changing budgets…all of this tends to stress people out.
Of course, clear communication and good leadership will help. But don’t forget you’re dealing with the souls of people, not just leading a faceless organization.
Practically speaking, how can you pastor and shepherd your team?
Here are three things you can do.
Ask your team how they are doing and listen to the answers behind their answers. And while emails, text messages, and pings are great tools for quick communication, I suggest a more substantial conversation.
A phone call still works wonders. A conversation away from the office or conference room will make things feel more personal.
If you’re wondering what to talk about, consider using the “Personal Conversation” from our free 7 Conversations Guide.
Too many times in our staff meetings and team discussions, we’re diving deep into solving problems and working on tasks.
Redeem a little of that time and share devotional thoughts with your staff. Before you tackle the work of the ministry, talk about the goodness of God. Before you plan services, unpack a verse of Scripture.
We’ve put together another free resource you can use for this purpose: twelve staff devotionals.
If you’re meeting in person, use them as you begin a team meeting. Or just have the notes in front of you and record some thoughts for your team. Take a few minutes to send a video message that feeds your team spiritually.
Pastoring your staff or team means you protect them from what could cause them harm.
Burnout is real. It’s one of the seven causes of low morale on teams. You’ve got to protect your team from doing the wrong kind of work, the constant negativity bombarding them, and all the feelings that come from serving during a global pandemic.
Working at a church is hard in normal times. This is a new level.
This isn’t a free resource, but it’s low-cost. The Tired Team comes with video training for you and video training that you can share with your team. There are several “same page” exercises that will allow you to address the heart of the matter and preemptively protect your people from burnout.
H.B. London, writing in Christianity Today, says this:
“One of the most important aspects of being a pastor is fulfilling the role of servant-shepherd. Next to being faithful to God and attentive to spouse and family is the pastor's responsibility as shepherd—one who knows the flock, listens to the flock, watches out for the flock, cares for the flock, corrects the flock, and spends a great portion of time with the flock. Shepherds endear themselves to the flock. It's a wonderful style of ministry.”
Embrace your role as a pastor, not just the leader or vision-caster. Start with your staff or your leadership team. Begin with the small group of people closest to you.
They need their pastor.
The root of low morale and burnout is often spiritual. Taking the time to regularly pour into your team and encourage their spiritual health is vital.
To help establish a regular rhythm of pouring into and pastoring your staff, download 12 Devotions for Every Leader now.
Here’s one of the most important communications lessons I’ve ever learned…
Know your audience.
Whether you’re writing a novel, composing an email, answering a question, or delivering a speech, it’s of utmost importance to answer your question.
A novel written for military history buffs will be dramatically different from a romance novel intended for young adults.
You can truthfully answer the question, “Where do babies come from?” in a variety of ways, but your approach will largely be dictated by the age of your audience.
It’s great to be an expert in your field, but it might be just as important to be an expert in understanding your audience.
It’s not just your content; it’s about understanding the hopes, dreams, fears, beliefs, and style of the people hearing your content. The better you know them, the better you can connect.
This is true for pastors and church leaders, too.
For those of us in the Church with life-changing messages, programs that should reach people, and ministries intended to meet people where they are, we need to make sure we have “good stuff.”
But we also need to make sure that our messages, ministries, and programs truly connect with the needs of our community. We don’t just need to know our mission—we need to know our mission field. We don’t just need to run our programs—we need to understand the people who need them.
Too many churches forge ahead with programs and ministries, sermons and messages, without taking the time to really study the makeup of the people they are trying to reach.
That’s not good stewardship. Plowing ahead with programs and ministries without knowing whether or not we’re working in sandy, rocky, or good soil isn’t great faith or great leadership. It’s a missed opportunity.
When missionaries enter the mission field, they should devote significant time to learning customs, language, and culture. Most realize that they need more than passion and vision to thrive. They must connect with the culture and community.
Anna Wishart writes this about missionaries:
“People in different places think and see the world differently than we do. We are going to another culture, another language, another people group. They are human beings, real people with intelligence, history, feelings, thoughts, customs, and minds; and like the uneducated surgeon, our good intentions alone will not be able to enter into their world to help them.”
Stefani Varner adds this:
“Crossing cultures can help us learn valuable lessons in principles such as honor, respect, relationships, love, discipline, work ethic, and more. We have an opportunity for personal and corporate growth as we learn from each other. As we cross cultures for the purpose of bringing the life-giving message of the gospel to the nations, we must do so with humility. Having the mindset of a learner and gaining trust is critical so we can focus on building relationships and pointing them to the truth of the gospel.”
Learning culture is an important topic for missionaries, but it is just as important for pastors and church leaders. You’re a missionary in your own community. There might not be a language barrier, but there’s still an opportunity.
Many pastors know their mission statement backward and forward but have not put in the time and energy to get to know the mission field.
That’s a huge risk.
But where there is great risk, there is great opportunity.
The better you know your community (and congregation), the better you can match your programs, ministries, and communication.
Knowing more can help you be more effective.
You think you know your community, but what do you really know?
Do you just have stories or observations? Or is there some hard data?
There’s value in both, but if you can get data and insights, you’ll be able to make better ministry decisions.
Here are two places you can get the kind of data, statistics, and insights we’re talking about.
First, take a look at the Know Your Community report courtesy of Gloo Insights.
Once you create a free account and put in your church address, you can download a report containing a wealth of information about the people living in your area.
This information is anonymized, meaning you can’t see individuals. But an aggregate look at your community is well worth your time.
When you run your own report, you can dive into:
This type of “third-party data” is a valuable snapshot of your community. It can provide some fresh insight into your mission field. It may confirm some suspicions or shed light on why your people respond the way they do.
When you run your report, talk about it with some other leaders in your church. Did you see anything that surprised you? What do you make of the spiritual style section? Do your current programs and ministries match who lives in your community?
Second, gather information through surveys and assessments.
You can learn a lot from your congregation by asking them questions. This “first-party” information comes directly from your people.
Like a shepherd knowing the condition of the flock, pastors can use surveys and assessments to better understand the condition of the congregation. By asking questions, you can know rather than guess.
In recent months, we’ve seen churches make great ministry decisions after listening to the congregation. Here are just some of the options.
Surveys and assessments are more valuable than overreliance on the most recent story you’ve heard or the loudest voice in the room. They allow you to move from “people are saying” to more concrete evidence of perceptions and beliefs.
Taken together, insights on your community and answers from your congregation can give you a deeper understanding of the people you are trying to reach and the people you are serving.
Even if you feel like you have a decent pulse on this, the actual information can inform your ministry decision making.
Now more than ever, it’s important to know and match.
It’s likely your community has changed over the last ten years. In fact, things probably look radically different today than just one year ago. That’s why you should search out this type of information, even if you feel like you have a baseline understanding of your community.
Don’t let familiarity with your environment lead you to miss out on important changes or trends.
And because the mission of the church is permanent, pastors and church leaders are often resistant to cultural changes. We’re comfortable doing what worked in the past and are sometimes conditioned to ignore the changes around us.
Many churches are designed to meet the needs of a community that existed 10, 20, or 30 years ago.
Let’s be clear: Your purpose should not change.
The calling to “go and make disciples” should be the foundation for everything you do. The changing needs of culture do not alter the purpose of the church.
But your strategies and tactics should be informed by the audience you’re trying to reach.
When you take time to understand your community and get to know your congregation at a deeper level, you can be more effective in ministry.
Do you want to dive a little deeper into this topic? Our newest course, Data Fueled Church, is a free resource that will help you process many of the ideas in this article. We’ll guide you through how to get things set up and help you take action with some of the information available to you.
This premium course is 100% free and includes videos and resources for you and your team.
No matter which feed you open, where it’s Facebook, Twitter, or even your own thread of text messages, you’ll see plenty of opinions about reopening churches for in-person worship after COVID-19 lockdowns.
But in a sea of noise, it’s wise for church leaders to focus on communicating to the audience entrusted to them…their congregation.
You can serve your people well by communicating with clarity—in this season and always. Here are our six tips for communicating about reopening.
We believe that the decision to reopen is a big one. But there’s no doubt that your congregation has questions about which decision the church is leaning toward, and the pastor’s inbox is likely evidence of that.
If your church has made the decision to reopen, communicate that to the congregation even if you have to say, “Details are coming soon, but we wanted you to know where we stand because we know that you have questions.” This helps people know what’s happening and why even if they’re not planning to return to the building any time soon.
In his book, Next Generation Leader, Andy Stanley wrote: “My enemy is not uncertainty. It is not even my responsibility to remove the uncertainty. It is my responsibility to bring clarity into the midst of the uncertainty.”
Sometimes the answer is “I don’t know” or “Not yet” but there are ways to communicate this reality that provides some clarity and relieves people’s anxiety.
When communicating through a crisis, one important principle to remember is to keep it concise.
There’s a lot that goes into making the decision to reopen and many things that could go wrong, but the congregation doesn’t need to know the brand of thermometer the church will use to check temperatures at the door or the level of disagreement the church elders had about the cost of hand sanitizer stations.
You want to communicate the facts concisely with the most relevant details in external communication (to the congregation and media). And right now, it’s even wise to share the cleaning policies that no one cared about before. But internal communication is the place for nitty-gritty details to guide your staff and key volunteers.
Even those who aren’t in a hurry to come back to in-person services are seeing the anguish around them and looking to their church asking, “How can we help?”
Give the people what they’re searching for—answers, hope, and ways to serve. There might be a place for them on the church’s reopening task force to help make the decision. Or families with urgent needs for groceries or childcare that they can help meet.
As the logistics of reopening become clearer, new volunteer positions will likely emerge. Share these with your congregation and give them an easy way to sign up.
In all of your reopening communication, give a nod to vulnerable populations who are advised to stay home.
Let them know they’re not forgotten. Share the options available to help them stay connected (online services and virtual small groups, for example). Make them feel noticed and cared for.
We can’t always control the angles that media outlets use to report a story.
But even if you don’t care what the media thinks of your church’s decision to reopen, it’s wise to care for your congregation and community’s perception by having a public relations (PR) plan in place.
Don’t allow the fear of unknown responses from the public to stop you from planning.
Nona Jones once put it this way: “Fear is an invitation to prepare. Fear is not paralytic.”
It doesn’t have to be long and detailed but prepare your response.
Know what to say when asked how church leadership reached the decision to reopen and what the safety measures are. Designate one person to respond to inquiries from the public (typically a Communications Director or Executive Pastor).
A PR strategy is helpful for churches all the time, but it’s especially valuable now. It’s not submitting to public opinion. It’s an opportunity to clearly communicate responsibility, concern for the community, and God’s love to those who are confused, hopeless, and hurting.
With the term “unprecedented” and the phrase “new normal” floating around all the time, most people are longing for normalcy and seeking hope for the future.
It’s true that there’s a new normal that we’re all getting adjusted to and it’s important to be honest about that.
But Hebrews 13:8 is also true.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Matthew 16:18 is still true.
…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
So, when you communicate about reopening, confirm what has changed. Maybe you’ll be wearing masks for a while, closing some hallways, and canceling some events.
But communicate what hasn’t changed, too. Clarity is comforting and your congregation will appreciate the hope-filled reminder.
Not sure what to say in communication to your congregation right now? We created these free, pre-written emails to give you a starting place and help in determining what your church needs to know right now.
You can customize the messages for your church context and use them as a guideline for what to say in emails, on the website, or in social media posts.