In Episode 20 of The 200churches Podcast, Jeff and Jonny are joined by Rob (not his real name), a recent attender to their church. Rob has a bunch of new-fangled ideas as a twenty-something pastor’s kid who got very disillusioned with the church, and walked away from it.
In this episode he talks about why he left the church, how he thinks twenty-somethings think about the church’s relevance in our society, what attracted him back to the church and why he actually wants to be a part of it now, and what his generation hopes the churches of today would do in their communities – what excites them about the Kingdom of God.
This is a very revealing conversation outlining some alternative thinking about the Kingdom of God, the church, and the society we live in. We hope you enjoy the podcast. Please leave any comments below, we’d love your feedback!
Also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes by simply searching for 200churches, or click on the link on our About page.
Over two years ago someone gave me a small potted pine tree for Christmas. It has stayed for almost thirty months on top of my filing cabinet in my office, in the small, plastic pot it came in. It stayed small, that is, until about three weeks ago when I put it in a larger pot...
In the past three weeks, this little pine tree has almost doubled in size! It is much sturdier, hardier, and healthier that it ever was in the smaller pot. It has new green growth on the branches, and I think I can tell that it is generally happier than ever. He is glad I put him in a larger pot. He is happy for his Miracle-Gro potting soil. He is now, finally, going to be a big boy!
You know where this is going, right? Other than I use personification when talking about my plant. It is a "he" you know. But, other than that, Jonny was in my office the other day and told me that plant was a great illustration of what we try to emphasize at 200churches. The smaller the pot, the smaller the plant will be, and growth will be necessarily limited. The larger the pot, the larger the plant can grow, and the potential for growth will increase.
So it is with our churches! How big is your town, your pot? If it were 750,000 or up, the potential for you to grow your church would be greater than if your town were only, say, 500-1,200. Then, you would by virtue of sheer numbers, have a smaller congregation.
My 200church has 3.3% of my community in attendance. In comparison my friend's church of 2,500 has only .5% of his community attending. What does this teach us? One thing, respect your 200church and do not downplay the importance of your leadership in the Kingdom of God!!
As we look toward Wednesday and Episode 20 of The 200churches Podcast, I want to ask you to think about the demographics of your church. Do you have a lot of older people? A lot of younger people? A lot of middle age people? Isn't it true that many smaller churches suffer from a younger generation shortage?
On this week's podcast we talk with a recent new attender to our church who is 28 years old. Our conversation revolves around what the church is doing that is not relevant to the current generation, the twenty and thirty-somethings. We hope you are able to listen, because all of us 200church pastors need to know the generation we are trying to reach. They are different. It is a great conversation that will get you thinking about your 200church.
This week we've been focusing on how to encourage the members of your 200church. We have looked at various ways to stay encouraged as leaders and how to pass our encouragement on to the people that God has given us to serve. But how can you tell when people need to be encouraged the most? What are some signs and symptoms that your volunteers and members need a pep talk that only you can provide?
3 Signs Your People Need Encouragement
1. Volunteers seem to be burning out left and right
Have you noticed that some Sunday school teachers have been asking to "take some time off" lately? Have greeters been coming up with excuses to limit the number of Sunday's they're available? Maybe it's just a busy time of year, or maybe your volunteers are running on fumes. Take these natural cues and give people serving a break, but also take some time to encourage them! Buy them lunch, take them out to coffee, send that thank you note. No matter how simple the gesture is, it can go a long way to someone who is feeling low.
2. You're having Difficulty Retaining Visitors
Nobody can sniff out a discouraged congregation faster than a visitor. People are dragging, the glass is half empty, even the coffee seems extra bitter. If you are having a lot of people visiting, but not many people returning, your people probably need some encouragement! This is an opportunity for you to get relational with people, spend some time with families in your church, or even start a new sermon series focused on God's promises to His people. Take a cue from your visitors and build your people up!
3. There's Little Interest in the Business of the Church
Having low attendance at services and events? Can't get your elders to show up on a monthly basis? There's a good chance that your people are feeling discouraged about the future and direction of your church. When that happens, the vocal minority will always step in and push the agenda in their direction. As leaders of 200churches, we desire for the majority of our congregations to care about and invest in the future of the church. Take some time to talk up the mission and purpose of your church and cast a clear vision for the future. Encourage people by letting them know that your church is going somewhere and God is at the helm.
The business of the church is God's business and should be ours and our members' as well. Get intentional about communicating direction to your congregation and build back their interest in your church's future.
It truly is an honor to be called by God to serve in a 200church and to encourage the people that God has given us to serve. We hope that this week you've been encouraged by our blogs and podcast and that you can pass that encouragement to your volunteers and members. Have a great weekend!
Here is a new intro video we uploaded recently on our "About" page. So you can put a face with a voice... for better or for worse!
This week we have a special guest on the podcast to talk about ways that we can encourage members of our 200churches. David Craig is Jonny's Dad and has been in the ministry for forty years, the majority of those spent in 200churches.
As church leaders, we have a responsibility to encourage members of our churches. In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul reminds his church that they are to build each other up. As pastors and leaders, that command begins with us. In the podcast we share three ways that pastors of 200churches can encourage their members:
Pastors have to be encouraged themselves, in order to encourage others.
-God has big plans for you at your small church. Your church is not a "starter church," it is where God has placed you in order to do big things for him.
-Moving up to a larger church is not a promotion. The opportunity to minister at a 200church is an important responsibility, and one that we should be excited about.
-Jesus was the pastor of a "small church." If God himself came to earth for a small group, we should be encouraged that we have been given the same opportunity!
This week's podcast focuses on ways to encourage the members of your 200church, and (spoiler alert!) the first key is that YOU have to be encouraged first! We as church leaders are only capable of giving as much as we contain. A dry river can't provide any water, and a discouraged leader will find it very difficult to encourage his or her congregation. So here are a few ways -not mentioned in the podcast- to stay encouraged as a 200church leader, so that you in turn can encourage your people.
Both of us at 200churches are currently taking seminary classes so this is something that we can often take for granted (or worse, dread), but reading is so important for pastors. When I first started out in the ministry I asked a pastor who had mentored me for some advice. He told me to read. Specifically, he told me to read more books than blogs and more blogs than facebook posts. So close that tab that you have Facebook or Twitter open on, finish this blog (obviously) and pick up a book! There are so many books out there for church leaders, ask around for some recommendations and get reading. Also, make a feed of your favorite blogs/podcasts that help encourage you. We hope that we'll make your list!
Not everybody consideres themselves a writer, but chances are if you're a church leader, you at least know how to write. This doesn't have to be the great American Novel, it can just be a list of accomplishments. Of goals reached. Or it could be some poetry, or a blog, or a journal. Get the thoughts out of your head and onto paper. This is a great exercise to help you remember what God has accomplished in your life and ministry and also to look forward to what is still to come! John Maxwell talks about this process and we at 200churches believe it's a valuable skill for leaders to stay encouraged!
Want to be encouraged? Think of 5 people in your church or ministry that you can write a thank you card to and get to it! Telling someone thank you for their hard work will in turn encourage you that there are people who are invested in your ministry! Another pastor friend of mine makes this a part of every Monday. He writes thank you cards to volunteers and spouses of volunteers to let them know that what they're doing is important to him, the church, and God. That simple act encourages him and gives him a reason to keep on going! It's a two-fold win that is as easy to incorporate as buying some cards and grabbing a pen.
If you're discouraged it will be more and more difficult for you to lead well. At 200churches, we really want to be an encouragement to you and to help you be the leader God intended you to be. Are there any other ways you stay encouraged as a pastor? Leave some tips in the comments!
This week’s podcast was about plastic pastors. If you haven’t listened to it yet, do so, it will send you into some soul searching. Here are three more ways to not be plastic, to add to the five from the podcast…
Spend as much time out of the office as you do in it! This may seem impossible, but honestly, if you are spending most of your time creating stuff in your office, you will find you don’t have the relational bridges built to deliver those “creations” anyway. Sermons, lessons, administrative and strategic plans, programs, and even written devotionals – are all delivered best in a relational context.
People really don’t want to know what you know, if they don’t really know you, but when they know you, they want to know what you know, and if you don’t care about sharing what you know with them then just don’t bother to get to know them or allow them to know you… :)
Determine quotas for personal visits, meetings, and conversations. How many personal conversations do you need to have with people, church members/attenders, new people, friends, etc. every week? How many face to face meetings do you need to have to develop and maintain good relationships with your leaders? How many homes to you need to be in every week, to stay connected to your people? You should know these numbers, set them as goals, and then execute!
If you get tied up in the office or the coffee shop too much, and don’t get enough face time with people, especially your church family, you will begin to plasticicize in your pastoral responsibilities. Yes, that is really a word. Now.
Talk with another pastor or leader about it. Develop an ongoing conversation with another pastor where you talk openly about the dangers of becoming plastic in ministry. Talk about your heart, your struggles, your challenges, your temptations, your failures and your successes, your joys and your sorrows. You can talk about these things with another pastor, when perhaps you are not able to with one of your church members. It’s a healthy practice.
I get together at least monthly, and often more, with another leader in my community and we talk about everything going on in our lives. It is simply a relationship of sharing, discovering, asking, confessing, encouraging, and caring. He is not a member of my church, and we have no official authority into each other’s lives. But just spending the time over lunch being completely real with another leader, that is gold for me. It has to be the right person too. If you do not have that person, ask God for him or her. Don’t stop asking God until you find him or her.
Plastic only counts with water guns and whipped cream bowls – it has no place in the heart of a pastor. Keep your skin in the game… no plastic!
Sickness has befallen the 200churches staff this week!! We had to skip our usual Monday blog post, but we are back with our weekly 200churches Podcast. We are in our fifth month hosting this podcast for pastors of smaller churches, and we have learned a lot in the process, about podcasting, but most importantly, about pastoring in a 200church. 60% of the churches in America are under 100, so there is a large group of pastors who lead, shepherd, and feed smaller churches all across America, and this podcast is for you!
This week we are on the topic of plastic pastors. I bet you never even knew such things existed did you? Well, they do, and sometimes you or I actually fill the role quite nicely. That is not the goal, so today we want to share with you five signs of plasticity in pastoral ministry, and then some suggestions as to how we can find our way back into our own skin, and be the kind of pastors our churches really need.
Here is the outline of our podcast today, but as always, there is much more material in the audio podcast…
Five signs that you’re a plastic pastor and how to get back into your own skin:
1. Your spirituality is more professional than personal
I might be one of the earliest adopters of technology for ministry… or maybe not. Let me take you back to the scene of the crime, tell my story, and let you decide.
It was a nondescript spring weekend, Easter in fact, 1989. The little church I pastored had thirty-three people on a typical Sunday. On Easter… thirty four! We met in a small building with three rooms on the first floor. It was a public building in Factoryville, PA, and we had just purchased it. For years it was the public library, and decades before that, the jail. There were still bars in the basement embedded in the walls.
We would remodel later in the summer and open up that first floor, making it our main auditorium. The entire footprint? Twenty five by thirty one feet. Minus a stairwell that would need to be cut in to get downstairs without going outside. Fifty people would pack the place out. We would hit fifty later that year, in October.
But that Easter weekend I would make a very daring move, a decision that my survival in that church could turn on. If I did what I wanted to do on Easter morning, I could be termed a charlatan, a light weight, a huckster pastor who was more interested in technology and entertainment than preaching a powerful Easter message on the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the pure, unadulterated, Word of the living God!
On Episode 17 of The 200churches Podcast, Jeff and Jonny are joined by Ryan Perz, another 200church pastor in their town. Ryan’s church is actually a “50church”, and he joins the conversation about the pros and cons of ministry in a smaller church.
Here are the cons, or the downsides:
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