All posts from “November 2009”

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November 24, 2009

5 Leadership Books Worth Reading

Among the crowded field of books on leadership, some stand out.


Recently I talked with a senior partner of TAG Consulting, Kurt Andre. Among his many talents, Kurt is a certified Executive Leadership Coach. So I asked him which books on leadership he finds the most helpful. Here are his top 5:


1. Leadership Without Easy Answers, by Ronald A. Heifetz

Seminary equipped me to do many things, but not to tackle the complex challenges in leading the church. Heifetz distinguishes between problems that can be solved through expertise (technical problems) and problems that require innovative approaches, including preserving a church’s unique identity or code and the consideration of the church’s values (adaptive problems). For the church, an adaptive problem could include engaging a community whose demographic no longer reflects the church, buildings whose structure no longer meet the needs of today’s ministry, or navigating the tension between discipleship and outreach. Heifetz identifies four major strategies of leadership: (1) approach problems as adaptive challenges, and diagnose the situation in light of the values involved; (2) regulate the "heat in the kitchen" caused by confronting issues that increase people’s anxiety, by pacing the congregation through change; (3) focus on what is important versus what others say is important to them, and (4) shift the ownership for problems from the leadership (the pastor or elders/deacons or council) to all those affected by the necessary change.

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November 23, 2009

Is It Time To Build? 10 Questions to Ask

Key questions an administrator or executive pastor should consider.


In early 2008, we made the decision at Fairhaven Church to move forward with an $8 million construction project, even as the signs of recession popped up everywhere. Reports of other churches delaying or canceling plans for expansion were easy to find. We concluded that we should move ahead carefully, yet confidently.

Why? What questions did we wrestle through that led us to conclude that moving forward was the right decision?

Below are 10 questions to help you galvanize the issues that are important in balancing the uncertainties of the economy with the need for building expansion:

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November 18, 2009

Smart, Inexpensive Church Building Design Ideas

How to create superb ministry space for less.


Walk the streets of Disney World, and visitors are transported into a magical world of creativity and inspiration. Mel McGowan, a former Disney Imagineer and now president of Visioneering Studios, a national church architecture firm, brings this same expectation for creativity and inspiration to ministry facilities.

When McGowan speaks at the Cornerstone Knowledge Network conferences, WFX, and other facilities-related events, he shows slides of churches he has designed. Invariably there is murmuring in the crowd: "Those are really neat churches, but they must have cost a fortune." "We could never afford a church like that?"

At first glance, people assume the level of excellence represented in these church designs equates to top-dollar budgets. McGowan is intent on busting this myth. With the right materials and intentional design, he contends, churches can create sacred space that captures their uniqueness within the parameters of their budget. Case in point: Crossroads Christian Church in Corona, California.

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November 17, 2009

Prevent Volunteer Burnout

Three biblical models for lasting, effective ministry.


Josh was one of the most zealous workers we'd seen at church, but I realized he was three steps beyond "weary in well doing" when I read his letter: "My walk with the Lord is nonexistent. I've allowed the pressure of church work to crowd out time with God. Now it seems impossible to get back in touch with him. We've also gotten seriously into debt, and I've been trying to do 'ministry' while working five part-time jobs. I'm short with my wife and kids, and we're having problems. I'd like to talk to you."

To keep volunteers from stagnation, frustration, and burnout, I'm learning from several examples in Scripture.

Nehemiah: Create Systems

Jim, who was in charge of our buildings and grounds, once planned a church workday. Several dozen people sacrificed extra sleep for thankless toil. But I was disappointed to find that Jim hadn't organized the activities. A hallway needed painting; there were no paint cans, brushes, or drop cloths. Floors needed mopping; one old mop and pail occupied the janitor's closet. Most of us stood around trying to look busy, thoroughly frustrated. And only two people showed up for the next workday—so I was told.

Nehemiah went about it differently. He created systems. The projected wall was divided into manageable sections with clearly defined tasks. Some were stationed as watchmen, others as soldiers. Others provided food. Workers hauled off debris as it accumulated. Everyone understood his or her part, and the wall went up.

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November 12, 2009

Guard Against Copper Thieves

How to keep them from striking your church.


Copper remains a popular target for thieves because of the metal’s potential re-sale value.

Thieves steal anything containing copper in order to turn a quick profit. Air conditioning units, gutters, electrical wiring, pipes—all of these items are ripe for the picking. Even rooftop heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are being vandalized.

In the recent past, one Alabama church had its air conditioning units stolen twice in 10 days. Each time, thieves got about $300 worth of copper, and the church had to pay more than $3,000 for replacements. A church in Detroit, Michigan, spent more than $50,000 to replace heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units damaged by copper thieves.

In October 2009, thieves stole copper downspouts three times in a two-month span from a Massachusetts church. An article in the local paper said the value of scrap copper has diminished in recent months, but the article indicated copper thefts remain an option of choice, especially “to someone who’s obviously desperate,” the town’s chief of detectives said.

Here are some practical steps to protect church property from copper thieves:

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November 11, 2009

Church Budgets: How Much for Staff, Buildings, and Ministry?

An executive pastor suggests a different analysis of expenses.


Paul Clark, one of Your Church's contributing editors, wrote an interesting post this week on his blog. Paul is an executive pastor who at one time spent several years in a managerial role with General Electric. His business background gives him an interesting perspective on how churches operate.

This week, Paul challenges three common questions often asked among church administrators: What percentage of a church's budget should go toward personnel expenses? Facilities? Ministries?

He writes:

"Those are great questions, but they are a bit narrow in their scope. The reality is that a church budget is a reflection of the overall strategy and focus of the church in a given calendar year. That focus can change from year to year and consequently, the budget percentages will change accordingly."

Paul then illustrates what he means, making the case for projecting expenses further into the future to truly understand overall budget ramifications.

Earlier this year, Your Church did a comprehensive survey with church leaders regarding church budget priorities.

The average breakdown in expenses for church operating budgets, based on responses from 1,168 church leaders:

- 38% toward salaries and wages
- 12% toward buildings/facilities
- 8% toward utilities
- 7% toward ministries and support

Our survey participants mostly hail from small- to mid-sized churches; organizations like NACBA and Leadership Network, both of which typically survey larger churches, report salaries and wages, on average, take up 45% to 50% of church operating budgets.

Like Paul asks, how does your church assess these expenses, and how those expenses reflect--or don't reflect--the church's direction now and in the future? Is an analysis like Paul proposes more instructive for current and future church budget planning?

November 9, 2009

How to Interview Your Next Church

A seasoned executive pastor shares how he learned about his next job.

One day, I received an e-mail from a senior pastor I didn’t know who leads The Chapel, an 11,000-person church in Ohio. As the founder of, I get a good number of “can you help me?” e-mails. In this case, Paul was looking for a new executive pastor. As I always do, I replied with some ideas on how to find one.

Paul wrote back with more thoughts, and before long, we sensed God was doing something. We began to talk about me coming to partner with him as his executive pastor. This caused me to shift from being an impartial consultant to being personally involved!

Before I took off my hat, I planned how best to approach an interview process. My conclusion: Although this church’s leaders needed to interview me, it was vital that I interview them, too!


Todd Wagner, the lead pastor of Watermark Community Church in Dallas, once said, “The best place to get fired is in the interview.”

The place to determine “fit” is in the interview, not in the first six months of the new ministry. I had to interview The Chapel so that I could determine my fit.

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November 5, 2009

10 Questions to Ask About Your Church’s Communications

Use these to help determine direction and strategy in the year ahead


Editor’s Note: Scott Vaughn, a church communications consultant, recently posed these questions in a discussion forum for church administrators. Vaughn, whose firm helps churches and faith organizations, is quoted extensively in “Bringing Joy to the World: A communications strategy to reach more people at Christmas—and beyond,” which appears in our current issue of Your Church magazine. We thought the questions serve as a helpful, quick assessment for church leaders and administrators; many of the themes addressed here also are covered in other articles of our current issue, including best practices for websites and using tech and nontech approaches for communicating with members and the community:

As you approach 2010, consider these 10 questions to discuss your church’s communication efforts:

1. How does our current communications methodology compare to what we were
doing five years ago? Are we changing with the way people in our church are

2. Do we talk about a communications budget as an expense or an investment? Are
we strategic in using our communication to advance our mission to make
followers of Jesus? (Remember, a successful communications strategy leads to increases in participation and giving to the budget).

3. Are we talking with, and listening to, our members and attendees and making
adjustments in how they want to “receive” information from us?

4. Is more than 50 percent of our communications budget needlessly paying printing costs?

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November 4, 2009

Top 5 Reasons Churches Wind Up in Court

Current legal trends that can help your church assess its vulnerabilities.


For many years, I've closely reviewed litigation involving churches to identify patterns that pastors and leaders can use to assess their own risks and potential vulnerabilities. In 2008, the following five types of cases brought churches to court more than any others:

1. Sexual Abuse of a Minor (15 percent of cases). Sadly, this type of case is typically the No. 1 or No. 2 reason churches wind up in court every year.

2. Property Disputes (13 percent of cases).

3. Zoning (10 percent of cases).

4. Personal Injury (9 percent of cases). This is a Top 4 issue every year.

5. Tax (7 percent of cases).

Based on this ongoing analysis, churches should note the following major risk categories they face and work to evaluate (and to minimize) their own risks:

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November 2, 2009

Simple Tips to Prepare for a Pandemic

Guidance for churches as the H1N1 virus spreads.


As a ministry leader, you may be wondering what you can do to keep your congregation healthy. Here are some important steps you can take to reduce the spread of the flu within your own faith community.

Read through the tips below, then take our free online assessment to see if your church is ready to communicate to staff and congregants during a pandemic.

From there, check out our electronic training resource, "Preparing Your Church for a Pandemic," on

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