Programs vs. steps

My favorite book on ministry strategy remains “7 practices of Effective Ministry“. Today’s blog is based on Practice #2.

Here are 3 great questions every ministry leader should ask about their ministry: “Where do you want your people to be?” “What do you want them to become?” “Is your ministry or program designed to take them there?”

Changed lives happen one step at a time. Don’t mistake activity for progress. Programs can lead to life change or they can just become a way of life. If all your activity isn’t taking people where you want them to go then it’s a waste of time. In fact, you’ll frustrate people by giving them a clear vision, without a strategy for achieving it.

A good step is – easy, obvious and strategic.

1. If it’s not easy for people to do, then they won’t do it. Ministries that claim “people are no longer committed” may mistake their own complexity for people’s lack of commitment.

2. If it’s not obvious, your people may go the wrong way. You don’t want them to have to guess what the next step is.

3. Each step has to be strategic. If a program isn’t a strategic step, then it can be a waste of time/money. Good things can knock you off target. “A flood is simply a river that couldn’t decide where it wanted to go.”

Competing programs can fight for budgets, calendars and volunteers. The gravitational pull of a church is usually toward over-programming. We must be ruthless at saying ‘no’ to everything that could keep us from arriving safely at what we have determined is the mission.

‘Programs’ are usually created to meet specific needs that have surfaced. In contrast, ‘steps’ having a primary goal of helping someone get to where they need to go rather than just meeting a need. A step is part of a series of actions that systematically take a person somewhere.

When you think ‘programs’ you start by asking, “What is the need?” and then you ask, “How are we going to meet that need?” The result is a program-orientated ministry – it is designed to meet a need. When you think ‘steps’ you start by asking, “Where do we want people to be?” and then you ask, “How are we going to get them there?”. The result is a ministry that works as a step – it has been created to lead someone somewhere.

Think about helping people take the next step in their spiritual growth. Your goal is to keep people moving toward spiritual maturity.

Our church’s discipleship strategy primarily moves people into small groups. It’s not that a small group is the only place for discipleship to occur but it just seems that it happens best with a group of friends who are ‘doing life’ together.

Faith + Compost

What if your current brokenness was the necessary ingredient for your future success? What if your future included spectacular opportunities because of today’s brokenness? It is. It can.

Last week while visiting Honduras, I heard a story of some amazing ladies who, despite everyone saying it was impossible, discovered a way to plant four community gardens with the help of an unusual solution.

You see 98% of all Hondurans are poor so food is precious. Having a garden is critical. However, in Nueva Suyapa (a community bordering the capital city of Tegucigalpa) the soil just could not produce.

Honduran believers began to pray that God would allow the soil to produce. Despite the bad soil, a group of ladies began prayerfully planting community gardens. Simultaneously, the Honduran government enlisted the help of scientists to develop a compost that could transform the soil into good soil.

A few years later, with the help of this new effective compost, there are four community gardens benefiting the entire community.

After one of these ladies shared her story with us, one of our team members rightly said, “It’s all about faith!” My friend and Executive Pastor responded and said, “Yeah! Faith and Compost.” So true!

Some cabbage from one of the Honduran community gardens we toured last week.

Maybe you’re struggling with your current job, stumbling from a deep hurt, devastated by a broken relationship, or overwhelmed by financial debt. It constantly feels cruddy doesn’t it? Perhaps your brokenness is the compost that was uniquely designed for you.

It’s tempting to wallow in self-pity slinging your compost on you and everyone around you but there’s a better way.

Here’s good news: Today’s compost + today’s faith = tomorrow’s garden.

Right now there’s a God in Heaven looking down and he’s waiting for you to lay it ALL down at his feet. It will take faith to LEAVE it there today. It will take more faith to resist picking it back up tomorrow.

Your unique brokenness forces you to look to God. Recognize today’s stinky compost as a necesary part of tomorrow’s garden. Trust that God is in control of it all. Repeat those last 7 words to yourself.

Your future garden will benefit the entire community. We all need you to trust today so we can all benefit tomorrow. Hang in there. Praying for you.

Really? Pt 3

Do you believe you have an actual relationship with God? If so, I’m guessing you’d say it’s the most important relationship you have.

If it’s the most important relationship you have, how are you developing it?

That’s it. Would love to hear what you’re thinking.

Really? Pt 2

Yesterday I asked if you really believe that you have an actual relationship with God. If you believe you do, how would your life on earth be different if you didn’t have a relationship with God?

That’s it. Would love to hear what you’re thinking.



God is real. That’s easy to believe since I see his handiwork and design everywhere. (Although, if you’re still claiming to be an atheists then congratulations – because you’re a decreasing minority. Way to hang in there!) 🙂

God is real. But what about your faith? Is it real? Do you really believe that you have an actual relationship with God? How do you know?

That’s it. Would love to hear what you’re thinking.

19 days & counting . . .

We’ll cast votes for local and national elections in 19 days. The temperature is high right now isn’t it?

It’s easy to get cynical. It’s better to grow prayerful.

Since Scripture instructs us to pray for all those in authority over us, let’s join others and pray “U.S.A” for the next 19 days:

Unite us

Strengthen us

Appoint and anoint our next president

Let’s be united at the throne.

Be courageous and leap. But first listen to Felix Baumgartner.

Chances are by now you’ve witnessed the amazing video of Felix Baumgartner jumping from the edge of space. If not go to YouTube and enjoy.

My heart leaps every time I watch Felix jump. The man jumped from the “edge of space”!

In the moments before he jumped, with his nerves on complete edge, there were two sublte things in place that I found fascinating. Felix Baumgartner teaches us that two things MUST be in place prior to our leap of boldness:

1. Develop & Review a “pre-jump” checklist. 

The checklist helps ensure that nothing is overlooked risking the operation’s success. The task is too important to rely on memory.

Before your event, your project, or your presentation do you have a checklist to review?

In his book, Communicating for a Change, Andy Stanley reveals his pre-sermon checklist which includes 5 questions: 1) What do they need to know? (Information), 2) Why do they need to know it (Motivation), 3) What do they need to do? (Application), 4) Why do they need to do it? (Application), & 5) How can I help them remember? (Reiteration).

2. Don’t jump alone.

In addition to the team at mission control offering support, I love the encouragement the man with the mic offers: “that a boy Felix”. That must have been invaluable to Felix. Despite the distance, he wasn’t alone.

Leadership will often feel like a leap. But you shouldn’t leap alone.

You’re going to be bold and lead. It’s part of your God-given DNA. So be bold! But don’t take unnecessary risks and don’t go alone. Oh, and don’t forget the parachute!

4 things you should do when God seems silent

Are you wondering, “God where are you?” Does it seem like He is loudly absent?

Are you publicly convinced that God is in control of everyone’s life but privately wondering if you might be the exception?

Last Saturday our family visited Saddleback Church and heard Rick Warren kick off a new series. As he often does, Rick tag-teamed his teaching and this weekend he tag-teamed his teaching with Buddy Owens.

Buddy shared the story of having his music career unexpectantly end after 20 years. He was devastated and had no idea what was next. During the middle of his devastation a Godly man approached Buddy and said, “When God closes a door he always opens another. But waiting in the hall can feel like hell.”

Can you relate?

4 Things you should do when God seems silent:

1) Be still.

Don’t overreact. Actively pursue Him. Share your struggle with others who are actively pursuing Him. But resist the urge to be reactionary.

2) Re-visit your S.H.A.P.E (spiritual gifts , heart, abilities, personality, experiences) and focus on your preferred future.

One simple question can you help you discover your preferred future. Click HERE for that question. Your S.H.A.P.E. and your passion will help you decide “who” you want to become which far more important that what you want to “do”. It will also make the things you shouldn’t do more clear.

3) Find people who are the kind of person you want to become. Seek their counsel.

4) Move forward with determination and confidence knowing God controls your future!

Beneath your hurt

Has someone hurt you? Do you think about them often? Do you find that you unintentionally direct many of your conversations back to you and your hurt?

I know your pain. It hurts. It can become the filter through which you see the entire world. It’s exhausting.

Beneath the hurt there is an important belief that either provides needed hope or piles hopelessness on top of your hurt weighing you down further.

Here’s the issue you must decide: Do you believe your hurt is purposeful?

If you believe your hurt was unnecessary and pointless, you will pile hopelessness on top of your hurt. That’s a super heavy weight!

However, if you knew that today’s hurt was certain to grow you, that underlying purpose alone would provide hope. It wouldn’t remove the pain but it would remove some of the underlying hopelessness.

For example, if your shoulder hurts because you have a degenerative joint that’s inoperable and there’s no relief in sight that is pain without hope. However, if your otherwise healthy shoulder hurts after a good workout that’s pain with purpose. The same level of pain can be experienced in two different ways based on rather or not I perceive the pain to have purpose.

So beneath your hurt, what do you believe?

Here’s what I believe: Your pain can and should grow you. Your pain is the onramp for your personal growth. In fact, people who almost crush you provide you the greatest opportunity for growth.

So you could say to the person who hurt you, “You shouldn’t have hurt me. But I’ll be better off because you did.”

Gen. 50:20 “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

There is a sweet sense of victory when you turn your painful experiences into an opportunity to glorify God.

Beneath your hurt flickers a tiny but powerful flame called purpose.

How do YOU respond in a world obsessed with sex?

Last Friday night I was watching the Texas Rangers vs. Baltimore Orioles wild-card baseball game. The Rangers lost and their season ended. Friday turned into a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Something unexpected made it worse. During the game a commercial immediately filled our living room with scenes, language, and suggestions of illicit sex. It was an advertisement for ABC’s “666 Park Avenue”.

I was embarrassed because my kids were in the room and frustrated that I didn’t have the remote in my hand to change the channel more quickly.

I’m going to tell you something you already know: Our culture is sliding toward increased immorality.

“We live in the age of freedom of expression and freedom of lifestyle. X-rated movies and magazines are available in every city. Legislation to control pornography has failed in most places. The sexual fiction of yesterday is the reality of today. Magazines displayed in supermarkets present articles featuring unmarried couples living together. Sex manuals advocate extramarital affairs. Fewer and fewer teenagers leave high school as virgins. Prime-time television flaunts homosexuality and infidelity.” – Jerry White (Honesty, Morality, and Conscience)

This struggle is NOT unique to our generation. Jeremiah saw all kinds of horrific sexual and destructive behavior in his nation when he said, “Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush…” -Jer. 6:15

Here’s the deal: You’re not responsible for the pathway the culture chooses. You’re responsible for the pathway YOU choose.

So how do YOU respond in a culture obsessed with sexual immorality?

1) Flee

Don’t allow yourself to be exposed to inappropriate jokes, websites, explicit shows/movies/music.

God is super clear on this issue. “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” I Cor. 6:18

2) Friends

Your friends are a preview of the future you. (Join a small group, Bible study, find an accountability partner, find a mentor, establish a prayer partner, etc.)

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” Prov. 13:20

3) Filter

No one will care about the purity of your home, more than you. No one will care about the health of your marriage, more than you. No one will care about the innocence of your kids, more than you.

Filter your computer. Filter your TV. Filter your tablets and your smartphones.

 4) Frank

Be courageous and have frequent and frank conversations with your kids.

I recently talked with a Godly man who shared how he talked with his kids about sex and pornography beginning at a young age.

I respectfully thought, “Umm . . . WHAT?”

He said he gently approached the subject and admitted it was awkward at first. Over time it became less awkward. Eventually, his kids (especially once they became teenagers) talked honestly about their questions and struggles.

Wow! I want to prepare my kids like that.

Remember, you’re not responsible for the pathway the culture chooses. You’re responsible for the pathway YOU choose. Choose wisely!