For church leaders, every time we turn around there’s a new book, blog post, conference, or podcast on church health. There are so many resources for leaders to build healthy churches, yet it seems so few churches are truly healthy.
Whether it’s leadership struggles, budget shortages, or declining membership, many churches have a hard time achieving health.
Sure, health is measured in many ways. What constitutes health for one church may not be a factor for another. And it’s even possible for a church to exhibit health in metrics like growth and giving yet behind the scenes the staff culture is anything but healthy.
I’d like to present five factors that I’ve seen contribute to the health of the church I serve. These are not meant to be inclusive of all health factors, but they cover a lot of ground toward overall health.
As a devotional, this post is outside of the prescribed categories of my blog. But since I shared this message in our staff chapel at Brentwood Baptist a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d let it pull double-duty. I hope it’s an encouragement to those who read it.
Philippians 4:6-9 (HCSB)
6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things. 9 Do what you have learned and receive and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
I would characterize myself as a recovering worry-wart. As a “high C” personality, I can easily find myself over-analyzing all facets of a particular situation. I walk through every possible scenario in my head, every possible outcome, and I can tend toward a pessimistic view of those possible outcomes. Just ask my wife. I’m very analytical. And you may agree with me that when healthy analysis becomes “analysis paralysis,” it can look an awful lot like. . .worry.
In the church, as in any organization, leaders exert power to achieve objectives. Power struggles seem to be one of the most common causes of dissension in the church. Such dissension almost always leads to ill-health and sometimes to decline. The way in which a leader uses his available power is one of the keys to organizational health.
There are two types of power available to the leaders of any organization: personal power and institutional power. Many church leaders have not learned the cost of depending on personal power nor the benefits of leaning on institutional power.
There’s been a lot written about the “3 Cs” of effective hiring – character, competence, and chemistry. While these may be a good check-list, among other best practices for hiring, I believe one of these three can be misconstrued if we’re not keenly aware of the influences that affect its misinterpretation.
The digital age has brought many benefits to interpersonal communication. But I think most of us would agree that much has been lost as well. There’s some general consensus that social media has changed our relationships with others, and not necessarily for the better.
One of the casualties of digital communication is the traditional thank-you note. It’s largely become a relic of past sincerity and etiquette. But should it? Unlike other forms of communication that have gone reasonably by the wayside, I think the traditional thank-you note is one that needs a revival. This is particularly true in church life where you need to be sure to acknowledge the generosity of your volunteers and leaders who serve and give faithfully on a consistent basis.
I’ll argue that a hand-written note, sent by snail mail, is far superior to saying thank you in an email. First, not many people send hand-written notes these days. When one is received, it demonstrates a level of thoughtfulness and intentionality that’s not conveyed in an email. Second, it’s more personal. When you’ve handwritten a note, the recipient knows you didn’t just cut and paste copy from a thank-you template you’ve saved in a file. Third, it’s special. Since not many people receive hand-written notes these days, yours will likely be appreciated and remembered more than all of the digital communication they received that week combined.
You may not have thought much about legal protection for your church logo or other “brands” you’ve developed as part of your church’s ministry initiatives. But understanding the implications of copyright and trademark protection so that you can make an informed decision is an important part of church communication management.
Given a few of our church’s more externally-focused initiatives, we’ve taken the extra step of registering some of our trademarks with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). A quick disclaimer: the information in this post is certainly not meant to be taken as legal advice but rather to share what I’ve learned through this process. Please consult an attorney for thorough legal counsel on this subject.
First, it’s important to understand the difference between the terms “copyright” and “trademark.” Copyright refers to works of authorship, such as literary, dramatic, and musical works, as well as artistic works such as poetry, novels, songs, computer software, and architecture. In order to be copyrighted, these works have to be “tangibly expressed,” or “published.” A trademark, on the other hand, is a brand name. It may be expressed in a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes it from another source that may provide similar goods or services.
My experience using image magnification (IMAG) in worship began way back in 1994. I started serving that year at one of the largest churches in America, First Baptist Church of Orlando. Two years earlier, the church had purchased a new in-house television system, complete with a rear screen video projector, in its 5,000-seat worship center. The brightest video projector available at the time, a GE “Talaria” was installed.
As I recall, it produced a whopping 2,500 lumens, less than a quarter of the brightness that size room calls for today; and a skilled technician was required to “tweak it” about once a month for it to maintain a decent image. But, despite the primitive nature of the new technology, I was fortunate to have been one of the early adopters of the use of IMAG in worship. There wasn’t a lot of precedent at that time, so we were breaking new ground.
With today’s much brighter and much cheaper video projectors, IMAG has become common in many, if not most, houses of worship. Of course, a minority of churches use projection for the live “re-imaging” of the worship leaders and the preacher with a video camera, the practice for which “image magnification” got its name. But the projection of song lyrics, Scripture, photos, videos, and other supporting graphics is now a staple in the realm of worship technology.
Whether your church is using video projection from a single source for graphics and video, or from multiple sources, including live camera re-imaging, here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years about effective use of IMAG in worship.
Like any organization, the church must be effective at communicating its message. The most important message, of course, is the message of the gospel. Ultimately, everything that’s formally communicated by the church should point to Christ. The gospel is the common message of every single Bible-believing church.
But it’s naïve not to acknowledge that every active and healthy church has ministry programs, initiatives, activities, service projects, and events that support the goal of reaching people for Christ and helping them grow toward Christ-likeness. Our church offers more opportunities than any one member could ever participate in. Communicating all of these opportunities in a consistent and effective way can be overwhelming.
Effectively connecting the right message to the right people at the right time is the ultimate goal of communication. In an extremely active church culture, this can only be done with a good communication strategy.
Part of my role in church communications has been to manage media relations. My “baptism by fire” learning experience came in October of 1999. I was serving in Orlando, Florida at the time, and pro golfer, Payne Stewart and his family were regular attenders of our church. You may remember the story. . .a lone Learjet was flying north with no response to air traffic controllers’ attempts to contact the pilots. A fighter jet was sent to intercept and made visual contact, only to find the windows fogged over with no signs of movement inside. Soon the chartered jet would run out of fuel and crash in a field in South Dakota, a thousand miles from its Dallas destination.
When I first got the call that Payne Stewart’s plane had crashed, I was ironically at the Portofino Bay hotel at Universal Orlando shooting a follow-up video package for a fundraiser our church’s crisis pregnancy center had recently held there. Payne Stewart was the honoree for that event, and I had been the emcee just ten days earlier. I had not yet gotten back to the church before the media calls began coming in.
It seems that often churches don’t have a well-defined process for hiring staff. Maybe that’s because many church leaders just haven’t experienced what a healthy process for personnel selection looks like, or they assume their network of church staff is broad enough to already know the “perfect person” for the job.
I’ve seen a number of cases where a new pastor comes to a church, and he insists on hiring staff from his former church. While this might seem to make sense in terms of building a team that already has proven working chemistry, I think this approach has more risks than rewards. It makes an erroneous assumption that the same team, working in the same roles, will be as effective at a the new church as they were in the previous one. There are just too many other variables to make this a reality. It might make the pastor more comfortable, but in my experience, it can be detrimental to the rest of the staff and even the congregation.
Whatever the reason, I believe we’d do well in the church to elevate the sophistication for how we identify, assess, and ultimately select our church staff.