Monday, September 24, 2007

Lessons from Disney

Devin Hudson is planting "Grace Point Church" on the northside of Las Vegas. I have his blog saved under "My Favorites" and came across this recent posting that caught my attention:

Lessons from Disney

Regardless of where I am, my wheels are usually turning as to how my present experience relates to ministry. It is difficult for me to get out of that mindset. Spending a week in Disney was a blast but it was also very frustrating realizing the impact a single mouse (or philosophy) has made upon much of the world while churches struggle to make an impact on the people who attend them not to even mention their communities or the world itself. Here are a few lessons I took from Disney.

1. First Impressions are lasting. If you have been to Disney, you know how well trained their "cast members" (employees) are. They are friendly, helpful, and always seeking to make your experience better. Sure you run into a fair share of employees who are not having a great day but the general tone of the park from the moment you arrive is friendliness and helpfulness.

2. First Impressions do not step once you have arrived. There is always help available. On more than one occasion I noticed a Disney employee approach a bewildered couple staring at a park map to ask of they needed help or directions. They are trained to look for opportunities to serve those at the park.

3. Efficiency and effectiveness are essential. The first time I went to Disney I was about 13 and I rode about 3 rides a day because you stood in line for 2 hours waiting for a 30 second ride. I hated it. If you have been to Disney in recent years, you know they have done everything they can to make their park more efficient which makes for a more effective experience. Fast passes and adding parks and rides has helped make the overall experience more positive. It also helps that we went during one of the slowest weeks of the year and rarely waited more than 5 minutes for a ride. Disney was already an enormous attraction without improving itself but it was not content to survive. Disney knew that to thrive they had to constantly improve their efficiency and effectiveness and that is what they did.

4. Excellence is a must. If you have been to Disney, you know how clean it is. You know how detailed it is. You know the high level with which they operate. Everything they do is done with absolute excellence.

5. A good blend of the old and new is not a bad thing. Disney has created some incredible new rides and attractions that are off the hook. Yet they have also held on to some timeless classics that draw huge crowds. What would Disney be without the Peter Pan ride and It's a Small World? They have not dismissed everything "old" as things progressed. They have built on the past for the future. Let me pause here to say that creativity does not always mean getting rid of everything "old". I have seen some churches that try to be so creative that they failed to build on the incredible foundation that has gone before us. Some elements of the church do not need to be replaced. Updated? Yes. Reformatted? Perhaps. But creativity does not always equal all things new.

6. There are some creative people in this world. Living in one of the most prominent entertainment cities in the world, I have learned that no church (yes that is an absolute statement) can "match" the productions that unbelievable creativity + unlimited money can put together. Grace Point is a creative church but we will never pull off a Cirque du Soleil show. Why? We do not have the millions of dollars necessary to put it together. There is no way the church can match the Fantasmic show that Disney puts on at MGM. We simply don't have the funds and it would not be wise to invest that type of money in entertainment even if we did have the coin. The creativity in a city like Vegas or a place like Disney is unbelievable. What we can do is tap into the creativity that God has placed around us to do what we can do with the resources God has provided. What we cannot do is be content with mediocrity because we do not have the same funding. We must learn to use what God has provided to be creative with simplicity and excellence. Here's the bottom line: a stage that can do a 180 in the air at a Cirque show does not impact someone's eternity. An animated cartoon character on a screen who can directly interact with the audience is impressive but it does not impact a community for Christ. Creativity for the sake of creativity or for the sake of sheer entertainment has no eternal value. We must seek creativity as a vehicle for the gospel but we can never seek creativity simply to "measure up" with a culture that is driven by the wrong values.

7. People will travel a long way for certain reasons. It is amazing how far people will travel to come to Disney World. I heard while in Orlando that over 50% of the people who come are international. I have heard that there are times when 70% of Vegas tourists are from overseas. It blows my mind how far people will travel and how much money they will spend to be entertained. What would it take for God to work in a church in such a way that people would travel for days to experience it?

8. All experiences have positives and negatives - try and leave people with the positives. Our trip to Disney was a blast. We had as much fun on that vacation as any we have ever had. But sprinkled amidst the fun were a few moments of frustration, anger, discipline, yelling, and impatience. Yet what I will remember were the fun times. Every environment has its positives and negatives. Fighting crowds, standing in line, waiting for the monorail, spending 45 minutes to get to your car, these are not the positive experiences at Disney, but these are not the moments I will remember. What I will remember is my children laughing, my son riding every possible ride he could ride, the funny faces we made for the cameras, getting wet on the water rides, and all of the positive moments that made our vacation so enjoyable. Principle: not every moment of the environments we create will be positive. But our goal must be for people to leave remembering the positive and not the negative. I love loud music, but if our music is so loud that is all the people remember (and not the song), we have missed it. I love creative illustrations and videos but if people leave and only remember the cute video and miss the life-changing message, we missed it. I loathe screen errors and misspellings. Not because I am such a perfectionist (well that is part of it) but primarily because it distracts from the central point. Create environments people will remember for the right reasons and not the wrong. Having the loudest band in town is cool unless it prevents you from connecting to the ones you are seeking to reach!

9. Connect to the kids and you will win over the parents. I loved Disney World because my kids loved Disney World. Actually Disney is not an adult-driven park. It is kid-driven. There are very few good roller coasters. Most of the rides are for kids but families come by the droves because their kids love it. Create environments that kids love and you will attract parents.

10. Eternity is bigger than a stupid mouse. I have to admit that I left Disney a little frustrated - frustrated because so much attention and money was given to a fictional character that makes no difference in someone's eternity. I also left Disney with a renewed passion to get people excited about the most important thing on earth - the gospel. Walt Disney created an empire around a mouse. Yet the church is part of an eternal kingdom that God has been creating throughout all of history. Now that's something to get excited about!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I think Seth Godin's insight matters for pastors!

Two kinds of 'don't know' (posted by marketing guru, Seth Godin)

I don't know French. I can't play the piano. I have no clue how to catch a bony spinefish. This is the first kind of don't know. Stuff you don't know because you haven't been taught it yet. Books are awfully good at solving this problem, so are good teachers.

The second kind of 'don't know' is often confused with the first type, but it's really quite different. This is the person who says they don't know how to cook, or that they can't balance a checkbook. This isn't about technique or a lack of knowledge. It's usually either fear or lack of interest. People with this type of deficit won't find the answer in a book or (usually) in a seminar either. You don't learn how to cook from a cookbook.

The answer lies in trial and error and motivation and in overcoming the fear that makes us avoid the topic in the first place.

And why should a marketer (PASTOR) care?

You need to care because if you try to solve the second kind of ignorance with a manual or a PDF or a blog post or even a long infomercial, you're going to fail. If you discover that users are afraid or resistant to what you're trying to get them to do, more information is almost always the incorrect response. The effective technique involves peer pressure and support and in changing the design and inputs of what you're doing so that this group is more receptive to what's on offer. For example, internet penetration isn't up by a factor of 20 because people read a lot of copies of Internet for Dummies. It happened because of what peers said to each other over time, and because the act of getting online is a lot easier than it used to be. And you can help that happen.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Joel Gorveatte... pastors in new assignments

Joel Gorveatte, my brother and the new senior leader at Tuscaloosa - First Wesleyan, is an amazing pastor and gifted writer. I always enjoy his blog and thought this posting would be helpful to other pastors in new ministry assignments:


One of my recent prayers has been this: "Lord, I want to be teachable." Walking into this new situation, it is tempting to assume that you have all the answers and know how things should change.

Getting started as the new pastor at an established church however, I have realized the great need to first absorb things like a sponge. As I observe and learn, reserving judgments helps me to maintain a teachable spirit.

For anyone expecting me to immediately make sweeping changes at First Wesleyan Church, they may have to wait a little while. Instead, I am trying to get to know people. I am becoming a student of culture. I am asking lots of questions.

In conversations I am often floating out bits of philosophy to see how people respond. Some things need to be dealt with immediately, and that's what we've been doing. And we do know the ultimate goal: to become a church after God's heart, actively serving our community and bringing people to Jesus. But to accomplish that goal, our first priority is getting to know each other. And then...TOGETHER...we will figure out exactly how we're going to get where we're going.

In a recent article by Angie Ward, she wrote: "In addition to looking at ministry competence, one of the questions we continue to ask about potential candidates is whether or not they have it—that innate passion to keep learning and growing. It is much easier to fill in gaps in education than gaps in character. Teachability can't be taught.

Teachability is not determined by age, but increased age means an increased chances that bad habits and character traits are more permanently ingrained.

Neither is teachability directly related to giftedness. Again, there may be an inverse relationship: the more talented the leader, the more difficult it will be for her to be teachable because she may have been able to coast on giftedness. Give me a humble, teachable leader any day over the most talented pastor on the planet.

Teachability requires repeated long, hard looks in the mirror. It means constantly evaluating your effectiveness and developing new skills to meet the challenges in your current situation. It requires asking, "Am I the bottleneck here?" and having the courage to make changes if the answer comes back "Yes." It involves looking at your previous track record and recognizing that a history of repeated failures or bad experiences may reflect solely on yourself.

And it requires a commitment to grow in the context of community by letting others speak into your life. The teachable leader creates a culture where others can see the specks in their eyes because their leader is willing to pull the beam out of his own eye first. It is only when we are willing to learn from our mistakes that we will reduce the likelihood of repeating them."

Leader's Insight: It's Not My Fault
Why short-tenure leaders are doomed to repeat their excuses
by Angie Ward

Friday, September 14, 2007

Movitating Your People to Invite is another good site for pastors. Here's recent posting from Pastor Dave Ferguson:

Ask the Experts Discussion: Dave Ferguson

How do you motivate your congregation to bring friends and family each week?

Since the vision statement of Community Christian Church is "helping people find their way back to God," we spend a lot of time dreaming, discussing, and talking about how we can do a better job of motivating our people to invite their friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. As a result, during the last eight years, we have grown from 700 people in attendance to 5,000 people.

So here are a couple of suggestions:

Ask every week. We often overlook the most obvious solution—ask them! When is the last time you stood in front of your church and said, "Next week is going to be a great series to invite your friends, neighbors, family and co-workers to join you. Will you join me and ask someone who doesn't go to church to come with you?" We complain that people in our churches do not invite others, but do we ask them? Just about every week we ask our people to invite and include new people.

Ignite twice a year. Twice a year we do something we call "Ignite." Ignite is a combination of three key components: marketing, "wow," and invitation.

  • Marketing. For Ignite, we pick a high interest Big Idea and then spend some money marketing the series to the community. We have used a lot of different types of marketing: direct mail, billboards, newspapers, door hangers, and so on. Be creative.
  • "Wow." The "wow" is the reaction that we want from people who visit for the very first time. The "wow" will show up in every area of ministry—the "wow" of over-the-top hospitality from the time you pull into the parking lot to the time you leave. The "wow" will show up in our Kid's City and cause the kids to insist that they come back next week. The "wow" will be seen in our celebration service as we use our very best musicians and artists on those weekends. Everyone on our staff and volunteer teams takes everything up a notch to make sure we create a "wow."
  • Invitation. We challenge our people to bring three people with them during the Ignite series. We will give them high-quality invitations to put into the hands of their friends and remind them that 50 percent of all people who are asked to go to church will say "yes."

The twice-a-year Ignite campaign helps instill the value that we are all about "helping people find their way back to God" all year long.

(By the way, we learned a lot about Ignite from Cedar Creek Community Church in Toledo, Ohio—they are the experts and call it the BIG PUSH.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

AoG planning 1000 new churches in 2 years!

(August 30, 2007)

U.S. Missions Executive Director Alton Garrison (right) introduces MX9 church pastors at the U.S. Missions Luncheon Friday. The Assemblies of God Executive Presbytery, U.S. Missions and the ReachAmerica Coalition are embarking on an aggressive church planting initiative with the goal of starting at least 1,000 new churches within the next two years.

National officials outlined details of the creation of the Church Multiplication Network and its MX9 pilot program Friday afternoon at a U.S. Missions luncheon at the Marriott Hotel in Indianapolis.

The ambitious combined effort represents a doubling of the current church plant rate. The MX9 acronym stands for the Roman numeral for 1,000 by 2009.

Even before the unveiling of details of the strategy at the lunch, AG officials had received commitments from personnel in the Fellowship to launch 346 churches by the 2009 General Council. By the end of the lunch, after the explanation of the project, the total number of pledges for new congregations had risen to 610.

The new congregations won't necessarily have red bricks and white steeples. The church plants will be meeting in shopping centers, movie theaters, rented schools, coffeehouses and homes. Some will be satellite churches and video spinoffs of existing primary congregations.

Steve Pike, director of church planting for Assemblies of God U.S. Missions, said MX9 signifies a revolutionary way of thinking about how to begin a congregation.

The heart of the plan is a pool of matching loans that will be available exclusively to AG church planters in partnership with districts or parent churches.

The AG initially will match whatever funds local church planters raise for start-up costs, with a $30,000 per congregation cap. That limit will be raised later as money is repaid into the account.

The interest-free matching funds will be in addition to monies distributed through similar programs in individual districts. The Assemblies of God has committed $2 million to the Church Multiplication Network, which Pike is directing.

U.S. Missions Executive Director Alton Garrison, who came to the luncheon directly after being elected assistant general superintendent of the Fellowship, said MX9 is crucial because church planting is the most effective way to reach the unsaved. Studies show new churches have a much higher ratio of salvation decisions and baptisms than established congregations. In addition, while existing churches grow primarily from membership transfers, the majority of church plants attendees are new Christians.

"MX9 will be a great catalyst to help us move forward in our calling as Christians to fulfill the Great Commission," Garrison said.

Naysayers may conclude that the nation already has enough churches. In 1900, the United States had 28 churches for every 10,000 people; today it's only 11 churches per 10,000 in population. Most states have dozens, if not hundreds, of communities without an AG church.

Videos shown at the gathering highlighted recent progressive and non-traditional church plants.

Around 1,200 people attend church plants of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. The daughter churches meet for seven services in three locations. Pastor Mark Batterson said he believes the multi-site locations are biblical and ordained by God. The primary site is in the
middle of the nation's political marketplace, in a theater at Union Station, just four blocks from the U.S. Capitol.

Elevation Church in Layton, Utah, involves nine house churches that meet together Sunday mornings in a cineplex. Pastor Trinity Jordan started the work two years ago with three families.

Last year, Pastor Maury Davis of Cornerstone Church in Madison, Tennessee, allowed a staff member to start an Assembly of God elsewhere in the Nashville area. Three other staff members, all with different giftings and interests, have planted regional churcDavis said the
attitude of sowing has not diminished Cornerstone; the mother church actually has grown in attendance - to nearly 3,000 - since the daughter congregations began. And the four church plants combined are now as large as the mother church.

Pike said the Church Multiplication Network will create a perpetual fund that should allow a significant stream of new churches to be funded indefinitely. The MX9 kickoff includes a realistic replenishment strategy designed to sustain and grow the original pool of funds from the fruit of the harvest itself, he said.

The Church Multiplication Network also will cover the cost of district church planting boot camps, which pioneering pastors are required to attend. Pike asserted that fresh churches have a better survival rate if partnership is involved.

"There isn't any other way to invest our time and money that's as productive as combining our resources for church planting," Pike said. "We have to overcome the thinking that everyone in America has been presented with the gospel. There are millions of people who are isolated
from any meaningful contact with the body of Christ."

While pioneering new works proved to be essential in the early days of the Fellowship, Pike said the practice slowed by the 1940s, after the establishment of the first generation of churches.

A renewed focus on church planting began in the 1990s, with the Decade of Harvest emphasis. Though hundreds of new churches have started since then, Pike said MX9 represents the first centralized strategy as well as source of funding to promote church planting....

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What does success look like in ministry?

One of the occupational challenges of working in denominational administration is wrestling with statistics or trying to finding meaningful metrics for ministry. (Do alliterations get on your nerves?)

Nickels and noses are easy. You may have to find more sophisticated means of capturing attendance and offering data as your church grows, but every church needs some handle on these basic indicators. These two stats don't tell you everything but they do tell you something. Sometimes they are most useful as prompts to know which questions to ask next! For example: "Why is attendance up?" or "Why is giving down?"

OK, that's a starting point. We also have health indicators (NCD, etc.) that we can survey. There are also ratios that we consider such as baptisms to attendance (5% or better is considered positive).

But, I found myself working through success measures in light of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18ff) ... making disciples, baptizing them, teaching them to obey. What if our only measure of success was how well we were fulfilling the Great Commission?

But, how do you measure effectiveness in making disciples?

What if the only measure of that effectiveness was that those that you thought were disciples were themselves making disciples? In other words, the only way that you knew for sure that you had been effective was the the person you believe you'd discipled was in turn effectively making other disciples.

A disciple is "a learner." What are they learning? The Great Commission says they are learning to obey all the commands that Jesus taught...which ultimately results in discipling others to obey all the commands that Jesus live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ in increasing measure as they learn to obey.

So, could it be that measuring what really matters is ultimately about determining whether the people we are discipling (by example and word) are themselves discipling (by example and word) others ... (see 2 Timothy 2:2).

If that is the case, what do the results look like for most churches?

How many people in your ministry are, or have been, directly engaged in "making disciples" with the results evidenced by those other individuals being baptized, learning how to obey Christ in every area of their life and discipling others?

Is that true of 50% of your congregation? 25%? 10%? 5%? 2%?

If "disciple-making" disciples are the only measure of success in ministry, how am I doing? How is my church doing? What would I need to start doing differently? What needs to change in how we "do church?"

Or maybe it's just easier to count nickels and noses...