Why Churches Shouldn’t Bring Every Ministry Back Post-COVID

Why Churches Shouldn’t Bring Every Ministry Back Post-COVID

When many church buildings were forced to close in early 2020, church leaders faced both an unexpected burden and an unparalleled opportunity.

The pandemic caused a quick shift to online-only ministry for most and brought a unique chance to re-evaluate everything.

Absolutely everything.

Rethinking the way the church building is used and consider expanding its use in ways that bring in more income for the church.

Giving leaders space to assess the church’s operations and be honest about what was working and what wasn’t.

Reviewing staff or volunteer roles and responsibilities, some of which have changed drastically because of the pandemic.

And there’s one more opportunity that churches shouldn’t miss: the chance to reexamine every ministry you offer.

There’s a joke making rounds on the internet about how replying, “In a pandemic?” to every request is an easy way to get out of things these days.

But jokes aside, this season is a rare time of constant change that churches can use to refine their list of ministries.

The “we’ve always done it this way” excuse has proven futile in 2020 where it worked in previous years. It worked to keep some ministry departments going when they haven’t worked for years.

And some of the ministries (and their events and volunteer roles) need to be seen in a new light. This year and all of its changes can be that “new light.”

Every ministry doesn’t have to come back post-COVID lockdowns. Most likely, there are some in your church that definitely shouldn’t come back. Here’s why.

#1 – It’s not on-mission.

Your church’s purpose hasn’t changed, but perhaps the specific actions you plan to take in service to it changed. 

If the church has changed direction, it’s worth asking: Is every ministry headed in that direction?

The mission should answer: What specifically do we want to see God do in our church in this next season?

Reach a certain number of people through online efforts?

Create 5 new volunteer roles in a mission-specific department?

Start a new ministry based on needs that arose during the pandemic?

Each ministry should play a part.

For example, a new, major part of your mission is to start 10 virtual small groups that anyone in your community can participate in. But there’s a snail mail marketing ministry that not only hasn’t shown any results or piqued interest in years but is also pulling away from the same volunteers you’d need to serve in creating the new groups. It may be time to revamp the mailing ministry and consider whether those efforts would be more useful elsewhere.

No matter your mission or new objectives, continuing to pour resources into ministry departments that aren’t on-mission will be detrimental to pursuing that mission effectively.

Check out The Senior Pastor’s Guide to Reaching More People for practical and actionable ideas for reaching more people inside and outside of your church.

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#2 – It’s not necessary. 

The COVID-19 pandemic made many people more aware of what’s most important in life.

It can also make churches realize which ministries are really necessary.

Some ministries hang around for years while not helping the church reach the community or work towards the mission, as mentioned above. For example, a few reasons and ineffective ministry might overstay are:

  • Someone’s great-grandmother started it decades ago and a few people have an emotional tie to it.
  • It began as a way to reach a particular goal and continued after the goal was reached.
  • It was established based on an assumed need, not facts, and hasn’t made a positive difference (some churches have shuttered their mobile apps for this reason).

If your church has a ministry area that doesn’t fill a true need and barely anyone would miss it, now is a great time to reevaluate. Make a list of every ministry in your church and review their purpose. Which ones are the most important? Which serve the church’s mission the best?

In the Church Fuel program, we call these Keystone Ministries. There are resources and training videos in our Rebound Course that help with repurposing ministries post-COVID and an entire section of the Building Your Ministry Plan Course that digs deep into discovering and investing in your church’s Keystone Ministries.

#3 – It’s not a wise use of resources.

It takes many resources (of money, time, and people) to make ministries run smoothly. But not every ministry is worthy of the church’s resources. Or they might need some resources, but not all of them.

Not because they’ve never been important or weren’t started with good intentions, but because they’re not the best place to steward resources right now.

When considering whether to bring back a ministry, ask:

  • Is this ministry taking resources from other ministries that can use them more effectively?
  • Are there finances and volunteers in this ministry that we need for other ministries that are a better fit for where the church is headed in the future?
  • Can this ministry be combined with another one? Can these volunteers easily shift to another area?

Getting to know your community in a deeper way can help. Once you know the needs your people are facing, you’ll have a better understanding of which ministries don’t need to come back or which new ones to start.

Don’t waste this time. Use it to reflect and return to semi-normal ministry life with a clearer strategy for every ministry department in your church.

Take the Next Step

Ready to bring clarity, alignment, and focus to your ministry? Start by creating a Two Page Plan® for your church using the training resources in the Building Your Ministry Plan course.

Building Your Ministry Plan is an insanely practical course to guide you and/or your team through the process of creating a two-page “business plan” for your ministry. The course will guide you through what to put in each box of the Two Page Plan®, show you examples from other churches, and help you use your plan in real-world ministry settings.

It’s Time to Create Your 2021 Strategic Ministry Plan (Here’s a Template)

It’s Time to Create Your 2021 Strategic Ministry Plan (Here’s a Template)

There’s something fun about moving the calendar from December 31 to January 1.  

And this year more than ever, we’re going to turn the page on that calendar with force. Like many, I’m ready to banish words and phrases like…

  • Social distancing
  • An abundance of caution
  • Asynchronous learning
  • Rigorous safety protocols 

Let’s get this year over with.

But the reality is, starting a new year won’t necessarily solve any of the problems or challenges your church is facing.  

Even with the natural sense of optimism people have in January, your church, programs, ministries, financial situation, lack of leaders, and questions about engagement are still there.

It might be a new year. But chances are you’ve got the same problems.

Let’s change that.

You can head into the new year with a renewed sense of purpose.  You can leave behind the confusion of COVID and move forward with focus.

It will take some intentionality and good leadership on your part, but you can create a plan that doesn’t just rely on hope.

This Will Help Every Church

When you ask any question, one of the most common answers is, “it depends.”

  • How much does a website cost? It depends.
  • Who should we hire next? It depends.
  • Should we try this new product or service? It depends.

“It depends” is an accurate but frustrating answer.  You know that it depends, but you were hoping for a little more clarity.

I’m ready to make a pretty bold statement.

You need to write a 2021 Strategic Ministry Plan.

This is exactly what you should do. And it DOESN’T depend.

Regardless of your denomination, church size, budget, or staff makeup, this is your next step.

It will help you get to where you want to go…no matter what.

There’s a Biblical Reason to Plan

Whenever I talk about planning, I get pushback from pastors who would rather trust the Holy Spirit.

After all, strategic planning, proformas, and KPIs don’t sound very spiritual.

It’s not like a 17-point plan is needed to pray for people. A complicated planning spreadsheet won’t help you spread the gospel.

Of course, there is some truth here.

We’re not advocating for planning instead of faith. Planning that does not account for the supernatural blessings of God aren’t good plans. 

But God isn’t against planning and plans aren’t the opposite of faith.

You’ll find principles of planning throughout the pages of Scripture. Here’s an example from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.

Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.”  

Luke 14:28 says, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won't you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?”

Hopefully, Mr. Tower Builder prayed, got good advice, and had a vision for the tower. But the reason he failed was a lack of planning, not a lack of faith.

The Bible is pro-planning.

Your church should be, too.

There’s a Practical Reason to Plan

Jenni Catron writes this on Carey Nieuwhof’s blog: “There is nothing more frustrating as a leader than to have a God-given vision burning in your heart but the inability to see that vision become reality.”

When there’s a disconnect, leaders usually try harder to cast that God-given vision, leveraging all of their communication skills and passion to get people to buy into the vision.

But vision is overrated.

There, I said it.

For too long, people have been lifting vision up as the holy grail to get people on the same page. Experts constantly say things like:

  • People give to vision. 
  • Casting vision is how you get volunteers. 
  • You need a big vision to experience growth.

Blah, blah, blah.

Vision is an important piece, but it’s not going to get your church to where you want to go.  

Vision isn’t how you get people on the same page.

You and I can agree on the vision to go to Mexico, but if you want to take a boat and I want to fly a plane, we're not aligned. We agree on the destination, but we’re not on the same page about the process. 

Throwing more vision at people won’t help them get on the same page. People need to align around the plan, not just the destination.

If you’ve never created or clarified a strategic ministry plan, this should be the year. Even if you’ve created one in the past, it’s in need of a major overhaul. Here are a few reasons why you need this document this year.

Don’t Skip This Step

Because planning doesn’t sound very spiritual, and because most pastors would rather preach than plan, the tendency is to skip over this step and get right to the “real” ministry.

But don’t do it.

Don’t decide to start a new ministry, hire a staff member, raise money, conduct a campaign, hold a leadership retreat, make an important ministry decision, or head into 2021 without first creating a ministry plan.

There’s a lot at stake here and I’ve seen too many churches leave ministry on the table or get in over their heads in complexity all because they didn’t plan.

Without a good plan…

#1 – Everything seems like a good idea or a God-given opportunity.  

I know you’ve been in meetings where someone said, “We just can’t let this pass by.” Without prayerfully putting a strategic plan in place, you’ll say yes to every good idea. That will lead to ineffectiveness. A good strategic plan is permission to say no to what doesn’t fit.

#2 – People get tired of bumping around from ministry to ministry and program to program.  

If your volunteer base is burned out, you have a strategic problem, not a people problem. A good plan will keep you from wearing out your people on things that are off-mission or not happening at the right time.

As a quick aside, our Volunteer Course will give you a good strategy for recruiting, training, and pastoring all of your volunteers. It’s a proven system to help you keep people engaged.

#3 – Your people will keep drifting.  

Staff members, leaders, and volunteers all naturally drift from what is most important, shifting focus to what is urgent.

It’s not that bad things are distracting them, it’s that disconnected, off-strategy ideas are pulling them away from what is most important. A strong strategic plan that’s simple to understand and follow will keep people centered.

Ultimately, your strategic plan will solve problems BEFORE they come up.

Two Reasons Ministry Plans Don’t Work for You

At this point, you might be convinced. Or you might still be skeptical that a plan will really help.

Maybe you feel like the work and effort won’t be worth it, considering most strategic plans end up in a filing cabinet or an outdated Google Drive folder.  You’re wondering if the work is worth the reward. It’s understandable.

Reason #1:  Too Complicated

Most church strategic plans don’t work because they are far too complicated. Most of the examples that I find online are way too long. One was 67 pages!  

People can’t follow a 67-page plan. Heck, they probably won’t even read a 67-page plan.

Churches are actually complex ecosystems…you’re not a business but you do business-like things. You’re a local organization that is a part of a global movement. You don’t sell products but you do raise money. You have staff, but most work is done by volunteers. It can get very complicated.

Where there is great complexity, simple plans are needed to provide clarity—not complicated plans created with the help of an expensive consultant. 

That’s why the template I’m going to show you is just two pages.

Reason #2: Too Generic

The second reason strategic plans don’t work is that they are too generic. With grandiose purpose statements or cute, alliterated phrases pretending to be a strategy, they fill up pages and pages but don’t answer any concrete questions.

I’ve read dozens of strategic plans that don’t answer the questions people are really asking and provide no clear direction to anyone in leadership.

That kind of plan isn’t helpful at all.

Your ministry plan doesn’t need to live in the clouds. It needs to be very specific, abandoning flowery language in lieu of actionable lists.  

  • This is what we’re doing.
  • This is how we’re measuring success.
  • This is who is in charge.

Those are the types of specific questions you need to answer with your 2021 Ministry Plan.

Introducing the Two Page Plan

To cut through the complication and help you create something that is both useful and actionable, we’ve created a template for you.

It’s just two pages but everything has a purpose.

The first page helps you clarify who you are. It’s all about getting crystal clear about your identity as an organization. 

The second page helps you clarify what you do. It’s all about getting clear on your programs, ministries, and activities. 

Since it’s just two pages, there’s no room for fancy fluff or meaningless phrases. Everything matters. Everything is focused.

All in all, the Two Page Plan has 13 boxes you fill in. They are….

  1. Purpose.  You’ve probably already got this written, but we’ll help you make it clearer and show you where to use it.
  2. Mission.  This will likely be one of your biggest “AHA” moments. It will be a big game-changer and, unlike most mission statements, it will rally your people toward specific actions.
  3. Vision.  This is a sentence or phrase that paints a picture of where you’re going.
  4. Values.  More than just fancy words, we’ll help you clarify and actually use your values to make actual ministry decisions.
  5. Strategy.  Big plans will never be accomplished without a corresponding strategy.
  6. Profile.  Who are you really trying to reach? Spoiler: The answer can’t be “everyone” and we’ll show you why.
  7. Distinctives.  What makes you truly unique? Once churches clarify these, we’ll help you lean in and leverage them.
  8. Keystone Ministries.  What are the most important ministries in your church? And yes, this means some things you do aren’t as important.
  9. Annual Events.  What are the big church-wide events that need everyone dialed in?
  10. Key Metrics.  Which numbers are most important for you to measure?  Every church is a little different but every church needs to be crystal clear.
  11. Key Processes.  There are a handful of systems and processes in your church that will help you solve problems once and for all.
  12. Annual Goals.  Goals inspire us toward a better future, and there’s a way to set them so people are inspired, not annoyed.
  13. Three Year Outlook.  Imagine what your church will look like and feel like three years from now.

The Two Page Plan is like a business plan for your church. It will help you clarify who you are and what you’re doing. It will help you get all your people on the same page. It will give you an easy-to-follow plan.

Where to Get It

First, it’s a PDF download from the Church Fuel member site.

Don’t ever mistake something that’s simple for something simplistic. The Two Page Plan is a simple tool, but it’s effective.  You can print copies of the plan, talk through it in meetings, and work to get it right.

Second, we built a digital version into the member site.

When you log in, you can create drafts, enter your information, save or share, and export to a PDF. By keeping your plan online, you can easily return to it.

Finally, the Two Page Plan comes with a premium course called Building Your Ministry Plan.  In this course, we walk through each box on the plan and give the principles and examples you need to complete each section.

The course and the plan go hand in hand and they will set you up for success in 2021. Of course, each year you can update your plan and let it guide you for years to come.

You get the course, the plan, and the digital tool immediately when you join Church Fuel.

4 Things Every Church Should Do at the End of the Year

4 Things Every Church Should Do at the End of the Year

When the end of the year rolls around, everyone in the church world knows what to expect.

Send the giving statements.

Draft up the annual report.

Cast a big vision for the upcoming year.

We’re so used to the year-end activities, they’ve almost become routine.

But 2020 hasn’t been a routine year. And for all that the church has had to change this year, I want to encourage you to make one more change. Transform the way your church does some of your typical year-end activities.

The usual way won’t cut it this year.

It doesn’t serve anyone to pretend that 2020 hasn’t been financially, spiritually, and emotionally damaging for many people with losses of income, time in corporate worship, and feelings of hope and normalcy.

As churches seek to move forward and bounce back from the lockdowns, the stakes feel higher. Making a few small-scale but impactful changes in the year-end efforts can make a huge impact for church leaders who are hoping to revitalize both finances and spirits.

#1 – Reporting

Many churches begin their vision casting for the new year and remind the congregation of their mission through the annual report.

This year’s annual report is a powerful venue to show people what hasn’t changed in 2020. Play that up majorly and don’t skimp on the details. 

The way the Church shifted gears and continued to do ministry earlier this year was incredibly moving. Use the annual report to emphasize how you found ways to still serve your community, baptize people, bring in new members, etc.

Annual reporting should do two things: share numbers and tell stories.

When churches present annual reports during in-person services traditionally, many churches choose to have multiple people present and report on their ministry area. This can still happen in 2020. You don’t have to resort to sending out a PDF—this is the time to cheerfully share what God has done in your church this year and inspire people to participate.

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to creatively engage people through the annual report virtually. You can break the annual report sections up into smaller chunks for social media.

Leverage the power of photos and videos, which helps the “TL;DR” (too long; didn’t read) people digest the details. Ask ministry leaders to record short highlight videos.

Not sure which numbers to track? Check out this article on the top ten numbers churches should track.

#2 – Fundraising

Churches tend to get a year-end financial bump since 31% of charitable giving happens in December.

But this year, there are likely many churches relying on year-end generosity to close the major financial gaps that occurred during the lockdowns. Early on in the pandemic, research showed that more than half of pastors reported that giving had decreased and 30% of those pastors said giving had decreased by at least 50%.

Make a few intentional adjustments to make your church’s year-end fundraising efforts more compelling and effective.

  • Make it multichannel. Too many year-end fundraisers tend to get a lot of in-service attention but are never mentioned anywhere else. Your church website is likely getting more traction than ever—why not focus it primarily on fundraising in December? Give your year-end campaign a prominent space on the homepage. And don’t forget that social media, email, and traditional snail mail are all other huge opportunities to give year-end fundraising a big push outside of weekend services.
  • Make it easy. We say this all the time at Church Fuel: evaluate your processes and make sure they’re as simple as possible for people. The easier you make it to give, serve, join a small group, etc., the more likely people are to participate. Most online giving platforms have a text-to-give option and services like Text in Church make it easy to send text messages to remind people about the year-end fundraiser.
  • Dedicate a special day (or join in on an existing one like #GivingTuesday, when people gave $3.6 billion online to non-profit organizations last year). A specific ask for a specific fundraising effort on a specific day gives people the details they need and prompts them to get in on a big, special day of giving alongside their church family.
  • Encourage non-traditional measures for a non-traditional year. People cleared out their closets and garages during quarantine so much that some Goodwill stores asked them to stop. Others reworked their financial assets and some discovered valuables that they plan to give away. Remind people that they can give non-cash assets to the church too, such as stocks, real estate, and vehicles.
  • Go to your most engaged people. While it’s important to also inspire those who don’t usually give or serve, it’s even more effective to reach out to the most engaged segments of your congregation. Nonprofit volunteers have been shown to donate at twice the rate of those who don’t volunteer. And it makes sense—those who have already “bought-in” to the church’s mission and vision and shown their commitment through their generosity in finances and service are likely to be the most motivated to help meet year-end goals.

If you’re a Church Fuel member, check out the Comeback Offering resource that’s included in the Rebound course. It provides everything you need to do a special offering (even scripts and graphics).

#3 – Vision Casting

Church leaders use the phrase “casting vision” a lot. But what does it mean to cast a vision? It doesn’t mean to be preoccupied with numbers and ignore God’s direction. It’s simply setting a strategic vision for ministry, including goals and objectives, that serves God and the church’s overall mission.

This year, transform your vision casting for the new year by expanding it.

Include your staff. Cast a vision that gives staff and volunteers clarity on their goals for next year and excited about their roles. This helps to improve morale and give some of the church’s most important “players” specific parts to play.

  • How can church leaders work with ministry leaders and volunteers to cast a new vision for each ministry area?
  • Did the pandemic expose any strengths or weaknesses in ministry areas that the church needed more emphasis or a new strategy?
  • Which of next year’s church events and initiatives can help move toward the vision?

Set ambitious goals. Don’t hesitate to enthusiastically share what you want the church to look like in 2021 even though this year didn’t turn out the way any of us expected.

  • How were you inspired by the church’s response to the pandemic?
  • What do you want to carry over into the new year and what do you want to stop?
  • What would you do if you weren’t afraid that the new year will be “unprecedented” too?

This doesn’t mean throwing all caution to the wind. It means putting aside fear and putting faith in a limitless God.

Don’t leave anything out. Does your church send out a year-end letter? This year, let honesty and transparency mark your tone.

Remember to mention the new vision and goals and tell people how they can help. Be honest about budget concerns. Thank everyone who gave, served, and attended in 2020 while also encouraging people to donate toward and participate in the future.

Your year-end communications are an incredible opportunity to inspire people to share in the 2021 vision and sign up to be a part of it.

If you’re a Church Fuel member, a Donor Update Email Template is one of the hundreds of documents available in the Resource Library.

#4 – Budgeting

While year-end fundraising and generosity can help churches finish the year financially stronger, it’s important to plan next year’s budget with a few things in mind.

  • Budget for new staff roles and expenses. The “new normal” for many churches will still include extra safety and sanitation measures which, of course, require extra money.
  • Budget based on this year’s reality. It’s fine to include space for a hopeful return to normal numbers but church financial experts have said that they don’t expect giving to bounce back until maybe Easter 2021. Don’t budget based on last year’s numbers.
  • Budget to fill the gaps that 2020 created. Plan for new income and not just expenses. There are multiple training videos and resources in the Rebound course that go into detail on how to do this.

Based on numbers reported from many churches, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that giving won’t return to normal for a while. Don’t plan in fear, but don’t plan the same way.

Take the Next Step

Looking for ways to reach more people in your community and invite them to church?

In The Senior Pastor's Guide to Reaching More People, you'll find practical and actionable tools that you can use to reach more people inside and outside of your church.


How to Make Any Idea Work for Your Church

How to Make Any Idea Work for Your Church

One of the most common questions we get from pastors as they consider whether or not to join the program is, “Will this work in ________?”  The question comes in a variety of flavors.

  • Is this helpful to a church with a solo pastor?
  • Will this work in Hawaii?
  • Will this help churches in the UK?
  • Do you have any multi-site churches on the platform?
  • Is this applicable in the African American church?
  • Will this work for ME?

And here’s the real answer: I have no idea but probably yes because it depends on you.

I’m not in Hawaii or the UK, so there’s really no way I can authentically answer those questions.  I wasn’t a solo pastor so I don’t have personal experience in that area. I can point you to people who are using the platform in those contexts, but there’s no way I can guarantee it will work for YOU.

Because how something works depends more on how you use it than what it is. It’s not only about the content, it’s about the application. It’s not all about the program; it’s about your commitment to it.

And this isn’t a Church Fuel thing, it’s true of just about anything.

I can’t tell you how many times I hear pastors questioning whether something born in the mega-church world will help their normal-sized church. It’s frustrating to read comments of leaders dissing ideas because they aren’t specifically created for their unique situation. It’s a form of lazy leadership.

Maybe you’re wondering if a curriculum specifically created for a denomination different from yours will work. Maybe you’re wondering if that tech solution will work in your older congregation. Maybe you’re wondering if a ministry idea really will help you accomplish your mission.

The answer is: I have no idea but probably yes because it depends on you.

When missionaries go into a new culture, they take the timeless truths of the Gospel and explain it in a way that makes sense in that language and culture. 

That’s what great leaders do. They see what’s working and what people are doing, and they process it through the lens of their own context. They don’t just copy. They learn the principles and get ideas.

They take something created for one purpose and adapt it to fit their own needs.

They don’t make someone do it for them—they do it themselves. They don’t expect everything to fit right out of the box. They put it in context.

Contextualization is how you learn without copying.

You don’t have to be the naysayer, pointing out how every little thing isn’t perfectly pre-adapted to your church, passing blame to creators for not tailoring their product or service to your unique ministry situation. 

Instead, you can reap the benefits of just about anything, embracing your role as the steward of your community and filtering ideas, programs, ministries, and technologies through your cultural context.

You don’t expect everything to be perfect; you adapt it.  

Here are three ways to do this and an example of how it could work for your church.

#1 – Approach ideas with a growth mindset.

Healthy churches are usually led by growing leaders.

And a top trait of a growing leader is that they operate from a growth mindset. Leaders who embrace this philosophy say, “I can learn from anyone. Everything can help me.” Contrast this with a fixed mindset or a stuck mindset.

Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, summarizes the two mentalities.

  • A fixed mindset comes from the belief that your qualities are carved in stone – who you are is who you are, period. Characteristics such as intelligence, personality, and creativity are fixed traits, rather than something that can be developed. 
  • A growth mindset comes from the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through effort. Yes, people differ greatly – in aptitude, talents, interests, or temperaments – but everyone can change and grow through application and experience.  

We see this with pastors and churches all the time.  

Stuck Mindset Growth Mindset
Coaching I don’t see the value of expert opinions. Besides, I don’t have the time or money I can and should learn from anyone.
Change I’d rather keep things the way they are because what’s known is better than what’s unknown. Embrace change and lead through it, because it can lead to growth.
Challenges We avoid challenges. We embrace challenges.
Staff When we get the money to hire someone, things will get better. Let’s develop the people we have.
Criticism I tend to ignore critics completely or else I obsess over what people think. I don’t have to agree with critics to learn from them.
Volunteers Everybody who wants to do something and can do something is already busy. We will cast a big vision and make sure everyone finds the right place to serve.
Leadership Development There aren’t enough high capacity leaders around me so I’m comfortable telling everyone what to do.  If there aren’t leaders around me, it’s my fault.  Since I can’t do this on my own, I’ll be responsible for developing them.
Giving Giving isn’t great because of the economy, our area, or the kind of people we’re reaching. I’m going to be the best steward of what God has given me.


When leaders with a growth mindset encounter a new idea that may not immediately work in their setting, the growth mindset allows them to learn, adapt, and make changes. They refuse to be limited because the work of contextualization is not done for them.  

By the way, we’re doing a breakdown and a ministry insights video on Dweck’s book, Mindset, inside The Pastor’s Book Club.

#2 – Look for the principles behind the product.

Northpoint Community Church runs a program each year called Be Rich. It’s worth checking out.

Essentially, they vet tons of local and international charities who are already doing good work in the community. Choosing to cooperate not compete, they raise money for these charities, asking everyone in their church to give $39.95.

Over the last 13 years, they have raised more than $50 million, passing 100% of these funds on to great organizations. 

You can look at that and see big numbers and think “our church doesn’t have that kind of money.”

Or you can look for some principles behind the idea and pull them into your context.

You may not be able to partner with 610 organizations around the globe, but there’s probably one. You may not be able to raise $50 million, but you could encourage congregational participation in a pass-through-style program. 

You don’t have to copy the tactics to learn from the principles.

In fact, whenever you see an idea that sounds good, you should NOT rush to copy the tactics.  You should think about the strategy and you should look for the principles.

The principles are what allows you to contextualize the idea, not the idea itself.

#3 – Leverage your strengths.

Every church is different, with unique cultures, locations, leadership, and mission.

There’s a ton that unites us, and we might actually have more in common than we realize. But these nuanced differences are really important to how we operate.

The leaders in your church have unique strengths. Collectively, your church has strengths, too.

On the Two Page Plan, we call these Distinctives.

These are the things that make your church unique. You’re absolutely not competing with other churches in town, but if you were, these are the things you would call out. When you know your distinctives, you can build around them. You can build on your strengths.

When you execute the idea you’re considering, you do so according to your strengths as a church.  

That may mean the idea itself is different. Or it may mean you do it a different way.  

Putting It Together

Here’s an example of how all of this might work.

On Success with Groups Online, you learn from Brian Beauford that Grace Church is offering monthly webinars to reach new people in their community. 

You’re drawn to this strategy because you’ve been looking for a way to engage people online. A few leaders in your church think this might work for you, but soon, people begin pointing out the technical challenges. They remind you the people in your church have been resistant to technology. And they are worried about running ads on Facebook the way Brian does.  “That sounds expensive,” they say.

Approach the idea with the growth mindset.

You have to fight a little bit, but you convince your leaders to keep pushing. “It may look different for us, but there’s something here we can learn from. Let’s not dismiss an idea…let’s see what we can learn.” 

Look for the principles.

Webinars may not be the ultimate thing for you, but the principle here is that Grace Church is providing helpful content to people in their community. They are meeting people online and building trust with people before they ever walk through the doors.  As you keep discussing, you realize there are at least three transferable principles in this idea and you start talking about those with your leaders.

Play to your strengths.

Since your church and community really aren’t tech-minded, you decide an in-person workshop is a better fit. Webinars might be a phase two thing. Plus, you have people on your team who know how to run events. So, you organize a 60-minute workshop called “Parents and Screen Time” on Thursday night at the community center.

You just approached a new idea with a growth mindset, pulled out the principles, and launched it according to your strengths.

You didn’t dismiss an idea or force the idea-holder to contextualize it for you. That’s a huge win.

Even if you DID NOT execute anything as a result, deciding that this wasn’t something on strategy or in scope, having the growth mindset approach and fighting to pull out the principles helped you get better.

The goal isn’t to implement every idea or tactic or strategy. It’s to keep learning.

Take the Next Step

Looking for ways to reach more people in your community and invite them to church? For most people, the Sunday morning service is the front door to church engagement.

In The Senior Pastor's Guide to Reaching More People, you'll find practical and actionable tools that you can use to reach more people in your church.


4 Plans Church Leaders Need for Christmas

4 Plans Church Leaders Need for Christmas

Christmas season is often joyful for everyone except pastors and their church staff. 

Not that you don’t love the story of Christ’s birth and who you get to share it with. But while everyone else is singing carols and buying car-fulls of Christmas gifts as their house fills with the warming smell of sugar cookies, you are frantically trying to plan a Christmas service your church will enjoy. 

While also not vandalizing the integrity of the nativity story, or softening the truth of who Jesus is and why He came down to earth. 

And trying not to get caught up in the pageantry of the Christmas season. 

And trying to please everyone and their grandmother. 

Don’t implode just yet. We just want you to know that we understand.

Most of our Church Fuel family members have led a church through the Christmas planning hail storm or are currently serving in a volunteer role with their sleeves rolled up, working to ensure this year’s Christmas services are the best yet. 

Emotions and outside pressure aside, the Christmas planning season can absolutely drain you of all energy and mental capacity. Planning Christmas demands that you make multiple plans that work in unison to make the whole thing run smoothly. 

So, you’re not planning one thing. You’re planning multiple things that have to fit together and feed into each other. 

In reality, multitasking is a recipe for disaster and failure. Your brain can legitimately focus on one thing at a time. Introduce one more thing, and the quality of your planning starts to plummet. 

To bring everything into perspective and help you plan the right things at the right time, we wanted to give you four plans to have for Christmas. 

Read through each plan and use the resources we mention throughout. When you focus on one thing at a time, you’ll be able to plan the best Christmas your church has yet to experience. 

#1 – Sermon Series Plan

It’s tempting to phone in this part of your Christmas plan. It’s a story you’ve heard and told plenty of times before. 

But it deserves close attention to details every single year. Revisit the nativity story. Reflect on this past year’s struggles and how Christ’s birth can speak hope into the present moment.

Make a well thought out decision on what your three T’s are going to be. 

  • What’s your tone?
  • What’s your topic?
  • What’s your timeline?  

Our friend Stephen Brewster gave us incredible insight when he told us, “The trend is nostalgic more than traditional, but avoiding the word ‘home’ as much as possible.” When you go through the three T’s, prioritize creating a feeling of nostalgia in your congregation. 

They want to be somewhere familiar this Christmas as long as it isn’t home. 

Consistency in all three T’s will have a crucial impact on your message to the congregation and the ease with which you can plan the remaining pieces of your Christmas services.

#2 – Content Plan

Your sermon series plan covers what you say and what your congregation is going to HEAR.

What about what they CONSUME?

What are they going to engage with if they tune in online? What are they going to interact with when they’re with you in person? What resources will you give them to work through at home on their own, or at least in community groups? 

This is where the content plan comes in. 

Christmas is the prime opportunity to give your congregation and visitors resources that help them tap into the Nativity story’s power on a deeper level. And you don’t have to create these resources from scratch. 

For great content, you can share:

Beyond the content that you bring in to share with your community, use tools like Facebook and Instagram to encourage your congregants to be content creators.

Visit our Church Fuel Instagram profile to share swipe files we’ve made covering how to celebrate this Christmas creatively. Issue a challenge in your weekly bulletin for families to list their top give Christmas activities and share it to your Facebook page. 

Give your people content to consume and content to create. 

After you’ve shared your message, your people can walk through the rest of the week, equipped to dive deeper into the story of our Savior’s birth.

#3 – Outreach Plan

You know what you are going to say and what you are equipping your people with. 

But how are you going to get new people to visit your church during the Christmas season? People in your community are likely to come during specific holidays, which will be no different this year.

Get creative and strategic with your outreach plan. Create ways for new people to discover your church and strategize how to engage with you leading up to walking in your doors on Christmas Eve. 

A few effective and innovative outreach tactics we have seen include:

  • Postcards with a QR code for people to scan
  • Adding “New Here” information to social distancing information 
  • Creating a welcome video to watch before coming to a service 

Christmas is one of the most significant inviting opportunities of the year. That hasn’t changed. Leverage new technology to provide more meaningful outreach and invitations. 

#4 – Giving Plan

Even in the secular world, Christmas is a season of giving. And in the church world, every season is a delicate season to talk about giving money. Pre-covid or post-covid, that will always be true. 

Find a way to be insightful and thoughtful in presenting the opportunity to give to your church. 

Draw out why you need resources heading into the new year and how a financial gift to your church will be used. 

Follow the example of highly successful giving campaigns like North Point’s “BE RICH.” One huge reason this annual giving series has created so many resources through the church is its focus on the outside world.

Andy Stanley leads the church in emphasizing the need to give into the surrounding community. The campaign isn’t about the church budget or a building project; it’s 100% focused on community and global outreach. It’s a message that resonates with people.

Take our Giving Course for more insanely practical advice on presenting giving to your church.

You don’t have to feel uncomfortable asking people to give. But you do need to feel confident, and your message needs to be precise. 

Focus on these four plans while mapping out your church’s Christmas season for this year. Instead of sporadically planning everything at once and recycling most of what you did in years prior, you can develop a cohesive strategy that will profoundly impact everyone who interacts with it. 

And for the first time in a long time, you’ll be able to effortlessly feel joy throughout the Christmas season instead of desperately fighting for it.

Why Churches Should Work With a Marketing Agency

Why Churches Should Work With a Marketing Agency

From the hand-written letters of the Apostles to the 140 characters on Twitter, the way the Church meets, communicates, and spreads the good news of Jesus has greatly changed over the past 2,000 years.

This isn’t to say that the message of the Gospel has changed, or that people are in any less need of Jesus. But how people find, engage with, and often give to a Church is radically different than it was even 20 years ago.

With the advent of modern technologies like the internet, mobile phones, and the ubiquitous use of social media, Churches now more than ever need to both understand and utilize these modern forms of communication in order to effectively reach and engage with new, existing, and possible future congregants.

The challenge that many pastors face, however, is that they didn’t go to school to learn how to build a website or create a social media account. They went to school to learn how to shepherd God’s people.

The reality today is that people almost exclusively use the internet and internet-connected devices to both find and engage with a Church.

And for pastors, this could potentially sound daunting as their already overwhelming schedule doesn’t have room to set aside time to learn how to build a new church website, how to implement SEO, how to manage a Google Ad Grant, or how to run digital ads across all the various social media and advertising platforms.

That’s where Missional Marketing can help.

Missional Marketing is a Christian advertising/marketing agency focused solely on helping Churches of all sizes to more effectively reach and engage with existing and new visitors.

They have over 25 years of experience and have helped hundreds of churches across North America by removing the stress on pastors of having to reach new people in their communities.

Their proven methods of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Search Advertising (Google Ad Grants program and Google Ads), and Website Engagement Optimization (improving website effectiveness) all work together to help Churches reach new people, increase online giving, and more effectively communicate with their local congregation.

The reason we’ve chosen to partner with Missional Marketing is not only their vast experience in church growth through digital marketing efforts, but because their goal is to be a valuable contributor to the Church’s overall success and to grow the Kingdom, not just to get more clicks. They want to see more people hear the Gospel and find salvation in Jesus Christ.

After all, that’s the only “conversion” that really matters.

About Missional Marketing

Missional Marketing is a Christian advertising/marketing agency focused on helping Churches of all sizes with church growth by improving their online presence. They have an “arkload” of experience and specialize in all areas of digital marketing, including church website design and development, Google Ad Grants, paid advertising, and SEO.