- We had a great weekend with The Children of the World. 15 kids from Uganda, Brazil, India and Burma, travelling the states for 10 months. Very cool group, and had a good time with Christa, Mike, Bill and . If you have a chance to host them, you should. I think Linda wanted to keep little Fiona.
- This is probably how you should NOT do it.
- October is shaping up to be stupid busy. Stewardship, outside video projects, getting ready for Christmas. Wow! I'm glad we have the logo done for stewardship.
- You should read this article on Jacobs Well. It's worth the read.
- Tuesday is meeting day. Wheeeeee!
- And finally, I have a new favorite blog. It's going to the TOP of my reader.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Friday, September 22, 2006
Greg says churches need to give up their tax exempt status. He makes the argument that many of the activities of a modern evangelical church don't "serve the community" by providing benevolence, should be taxable. Even salaries for pastors.
Greg, tell me exactly what you are suggesting. Are you suggesting that the church give up it's status as a 501c3 organization? That is the issue in question with the California church. This designation is not a right. It's a privilege, granted by Congress. There are restrictions. The question in California is whether or not the IRS is being arbitrary or capricious in its enforcement STRATEGY. Not whether or not the rule is right or good or fair.
Are you suggesting that church buildings go back on the property tax rolls? We actually pay property tax on portions of our parking lots, because they generate income by being leased to nearby businesses.
Are you suggesting that churches are taxed for unrelated business income, such as income from a bookstore or coffee shop? They already are, if they're following the law, which they should.
Or are you suggesting that they should pay corporate tax on the contributions of members? Or is it only on dollars expended that don't meet your criteria for caring for the "least of these?"
Where's the line?
Does the nearly $200,000 I spend each year on a television broadcast of a worship service get taxed? I'd be happy to show you a file full of tear stained letters from the elderly all over Kansas and northern Oklahoma who can't go to their own home church and are grateful beyond measure for a connection to a worshiping congregation. I think we make a huge impact on those who are marginalized by their age and lack of mobility.
What about dollars spent on a security system that protects the Preschool where more than half of the children are from homes in poverty and attend on scholarship? That was a cool $75K this year.
Oh... and the new lighting and projection and sound we're planning for a youth space. Taxable? The reason we're building it is because we're seeing kids show up who just plain want to learn about Jesus. We need the room, and we need to communicate with them in a culturally appropriate way.
Lots of questions here. Good and valuable questions.
Modern churches should be challenged on how much of their budget is directed internally, and how much is directed externally . I don't necessarily agree that *all* internal expenditures aren't fulfilling the Great Commission. Jesus said "Feed my lambs." He also said "go make disciples." That implies that program for the folks already here are part of the church's job, too!
These questions are real. They are complicated, and deserve real discussion, rather than broad over-generalizations and quick pronouncements on what is fat and what is not.
But seriously here, keep asking the question. Ask them often. Feel free to stomp your feet and shout a few times, too. Questions like yours help to keep the church accountable, and that is the difference between life and death.
My response has usually been to emphasize the value of planning, how it cleans up transitions, and how it forces people to prepare, carefully. We actually try very hard not to allow the TV tail to wag the worship dog. That is all true and valid. But I've never felt like it actually hit the heart of the matter.
Butch Whitmire and Mark Waltz from Granger Community Church added to my arsenal this morning, via Tim Stevens. Granger's planning process is even more detailed than ours. They are working on theme, metaphor and creatives 10 weeks out from a service.
"Some might think this doesn't leave room for the Holy Spirit to show up because things are so programmed. We just ask the Holy Spirit to show up early--and be with us all along the way in the planning process."
Sometimes you have to have someone else say what you're thinking!
Head over to Amazon.com and pre-purchase yourself a copy of Mark Batterson's soon to be released book "In the Pit With A Lion on a Snowy Day."
I just read chapter one. I can't wait to get my copy. This is going to be one of those "life-changing" books you will read more than once.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Tony has been doing a "walk through the bible" for the past several weeks, and this week he made it to the Song of Songs. Read about it here. But don't read it if you're not where you can laugh out loud!
Monday, September 18, 2006
Play It Here!
HT to Dale Shirk on the CSC list for this gem!
UPDATE: I can't figure out how to embed the file without it playing automagically. If someone is an html guru and can show me what I'm doing wrong, it will be much appreciated!
Friday, September 15, 2006
This week, Mark Batterson, the pastor of one of the most cutting edge churches in the US confirms my thoughts.
"People still want their church to feel like church to one degree of another... we need elements that keep us anchored.
Here are two elements that I've found help church feel like church for people from a church background. But they aren't really turnoffs for most unchurched people. They certainly aren't the only elements that meet this criteria, but they are two of them. The elements are benedictions and hymns.
I try to do a benediction at the end of services. While that sounds like high-church, I really think it is a pastoral function with biblical roots dating back to the Old Covenant priests. I take that part of my pastoral role seriously. I'm blessing people before they go. My fall back benediction is: May the Lord bless you, and keep you, and make His face to shine upon you. But I also love Ephesians 3:20. I also pull out the Jude benediction occasionally.
I've also noticed that when we sing a hymn at NCC it feels like church. : ) And it's a good feeling. We've been a little more intentional lately about mixing some hymns into our worship sets. It is amazing the way the volume and participation goes way up on hymns. It's like our congregation turns into a choir."
The bonus here is that these hymns and creeds can become a wonderful inter-generational bridge, and perhaps at least a truce in the worship wars.
1. To increase the quality of life.
2. To right a wrong.
2. To prevent the end of something good.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Today, the folks from Abode Home brought a photographer in to take pictures of my office. How cool is that!?! We're going to be featured in a print ad later in the fall and should be on their web site soon. I'll be glad to have a copy of the photos, too, because we're up for an awared from Worship Facilities Magazine and I have to send some stuff to them soon.
Some people have questioned why we spent the money to finish out our space so nicely.
I have a couple of responses.
First, we have invested more than a million dollars into our production facility, and Sanctuary improvements. The ENTIRE finish and furnishing budget was probably less than $25,000.00. I'm including floor covering, wall coverings, furnishings and the like. I think our choices were conservative. We bought accessories at Target. We were going for a cool, techno-friendly look, and I think we hit it right on the head!
The "why" behind our decision is more important. This is a creative space. Creative work and creative people just don't work well in cublicles. In addition, we knew that cool space would attact volunteers. Lots of folks didn't beleive me when I said we would staff our broadcast with volunteers from our own church. They said we wouldn't have enough skilled people.
Guess what? We did it!
Last night we looked at our broadcast from last Sunday, and at a number of other church services both locally and around the country. We stack up pretty darn well.
Our goal is to do great work for the Kingdom. I'm thankful that were willing to invest in space that attracts and brings out the best in our people.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
I'm humbled! I'm awed! I'm honored!
I got a mention in Church Marketing Sucks today. That's pretty darn cool!
But seriously... thanks so much to all of you who put together MinistryCOM this year. I know what kind of work that is. You should know that your work is already bearing fruit.
One of my (many) priorities for fall is to do a better job in scheduling, coaching and training. I need to do a better job of working with my team.
This relates to one of the points made by Anthony and Shawn and Greg talked about at MinistryCOM last week.
I need to get really ruthless about working within my calling... not just within my capabilities. If there is someone else who CAN do it, I shouldn't be touching it. If there isn't anyone else who can do it, then it's all mine. For me, a big piece of that is training, both my staff team and volunteers to take on more responsiblity so I'm free to work in the center of my gifts.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Mark Batterson posted on the same topic today, and quoted Andy Stanly.
"Saying yes to one thing is saying no to something else."
Ain't that the truth. The world in all of its glory is finite. And so am I!
- I finished logging tape and scripting a 10 minute video for an external client.
- I recorded and edited the voice track for an internal video project.
- I consulted with Ken and Todd on graphics and identity for a new youth department project, and approved some preliminary artwork for the same.
- I got final approval on artwork and identity for our Wednesday night adult programming from the ministry director and SP. (Awesome job, Erin!)
- I finished provisioning a computer for a new work area for clerical staff, and confirmed that her phone will be working on Tuesday.
- I met with our electrician to go over plans for the new middle school youth space.
- I dealt with three minor IT user issues.
- I approved a final proof for our new name tags (freakin' finally!) and set up the vendor to receive the list for staff and member name tags.
- I ordered new media for Windows XP and Office 2003, after finding out that we don't own any media that isn't pre-service pack 1 for either product.
- I verified equipment was in house and that we're ready to begin installing a new backup server and gigabit ethernet backbone through the facility.
- I ate lunch with Brett, but not until almost 2:00pm.
Still to come: A first read of the sermon for Sunday, a meeting with the Commission on Worship Music and the Arts, and I really need to watch last week's Prison Break before it erases off of the DVR.
What I didn't do was ANYTHING that was on my "To Do" list today. That's actually a pretty normal thing in my world. I'm learning that it's not a good idea to have much of a list that I'm COUNTING on accomplishing.
There are simply too many other variables that hit me on any given day. I do have a CRITICAL LIST of things that are deadline driven and have to be taken care of. The rest of the time, I'm responding to needs, and stealing whatever time is available between interruptions to work on projects. Having Erin in the office and closing my door is helpful!
I currently have 107 items in my TO DO folder, and haven't yet processed my physical inbox or cleaned the weekend off my desk. I have 22 open PROJECTS right now. Such is the life of a Communications and Technology guy! I actually really do love my job. At least most of the time.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Definitely a home run! I was expecting a session dealing with classic internal organizational communication. Kem did that, but really focused on the huge differences between working as a communications professional in the corporate world, and working in the church.
Wow! She nailed with amazing clarity virtually all of the issues I've faced. I wish I'd had this seminar a year ago.
Kem identifies three reasons people don't want to work with the Communications Department.
- We are controlling.
- We don't have a clue what they do.
- We make their job harder and we get in the way of their ministry.
Someone I work with talks about "playing a long game." Kem's advice falls in with that philosophy. Change on a church staff takes time and care and willingness to invest in relationship. It is about getting in touch with emotions, not just providing information and policy. This fundamentally redefines the roll of the communications department as it pertains to the church.
Kem uses three questions to guide staff in evaluating communications projects.
- Is it a tool, or is it just cool? Speaks to being finding the objective behind the project and being purposeful about communications.
- What problem is this solving? Again, drive to the purpose and objective.
- What will happen (or won't happen) if we DON'T do it? Move the focus to outcomes. What behavior are we trying to influence?
Move slowly. Ask, don't tell. Create opportunities for providing genuine service to other ministry areas. Look for key people who do get it, and use them to create a win. Leverage that win. Look for opportunities to have conversation. Create opportunities for coaching. Policy doesn't create conversation. Guidelines and tips, not policy!
Traditional "Corporate Communications" tools like a stylebook and graphics standards are needed, but they are tools for the Communications Department, not other ministry areas. In the beginning they will close off conversation and close opportunities. Instead, look for ways to offer service and solve problems. Drive to objective and purpose by asking "What are you trying to do."
And probably my key takeaway... Create Less to Do more. Limit the projects on the table and always know what your capabilities are. It is OK to say no, but offer an alternative. Find the "Yes" behind the "No." Never take something away from a ministry without having something to give them back. "Can we try..." or "You know what we CAN do...."
Kem, you rock. And, don't kid yourself. You are scarey smart. Like I told you on Thursday, you need to write this. Can you say... "Simply Strategic Communications" ?
The concept is a tagged bible, and you can search by tags. For an abstract random like me, this is fun. You start in one direction, and really never know where you will end up! It's also given me some fresh ideas for scripture reference for creative concepts we were working on.
Friday, September 08, 2006
Anthony did must of the nuts and bolts of the presentation. Note to Anthony… however much coffee you had Thursday morning, cut it in half!
The objective of media, metaphor and communications is really pretty straightforwared. Our objective is to make the Senior Pastor more effect. He puts 20 or 30 hours into the preparation of each message. Still, retention is a problem. With metaphor, and image, we have the ability to put hooks onto that message, to make it stick.
Working with a creative team should not threaten or diminish the authority of the SP, or of the preaching office. It does require that the SP has trust in his team. Most of the session involved outlining a process that Anthony has blogged about pretty extensively at his site. The process requires vision and a safe environment. He also encouraged the rotation of people in and out of the team. I get this, and having a fresh person in the mix occasionally would be helpful, but I’m not sure this would work in our setting.
- Other suggestions to keep things fresh.
- Change your meeting place. Environment will stimulate you.
- Listen to sound effects CD’s to encourage creativity.
- Mix up the core team every quarter.
- Solicit feedback from experiments. Everything should be an experiment.
- Expand your “go to” resource base. It’s not how much you know. It is WHO you know.
It is not how much you can do, it is how much you can get done. If I’m the only one that can do it, I do it. If ANYONE else can do it, I’m NOT doing it. Contrast between what you are CAPABLE of, and what you are CALLED to do.
Anthony uses the DeBono Six Thinking Hats model for creative team work.
Greg pulled out the easy/hard, big payoff/small payoff grid. Do things that are easy and have a big payoff. Use the grid to make decisions about the priority of tasks, and to evaluate ideas that come up in planning.
Probably the biggest takeaway for me was a suggestion that you never say no to a request for communications assistance, regardless of deadlines. See my earlier post for more on that!
Update: Greg is also on my blog roll at Church Video Ideas. It's worth adding to yours as well.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Yes, we can do that within your budget and by your deadline. Everyone is happy.
Yes, we can do that, by your deadline, but not within your budget. Client probably isn't happy.
Yes, we can do that, but not within your time or budget. Again, unhappy client.
Yes, we can get that done, and here's who we will outsource it to. Depending on the price, client may be just fine with that.
Maybe I missed something, but I think there is another possible answer...
Yes we can get that done within your budget, but not by your deadline. I suppose the outsource answer covers that eventuality sometimes. Probably leaves the client unhappy, too.
The fifth answer allowed in this particular model is reserved for stuff that really doesn't matter where the end user wants to do it themselves. It's "Go for it. Knock yourself out."
There is an assumption here. Handling requests on this kind of a matrix assumes that you have already set a standard of excellence, and that you have the backing to say 'no' to the real question that is sometimes being asked. That question, often, is...
"I waited until the last minute, and haven't reserved an adequate budget to do this well, because I want to do this like I've always done it, even though I know that we're supposed to be doing things differently. Now that I've boxed you in, will you give in and let me do it my way?"
The answer to that question, I think, needs to be a firm "no." These four or five "yes" answers are the tool to enforce the "no" that counts, without (as Todd G. says) paying some of the tax for turning them down.
Mark spoke in the opening session of MinistryCOM. “We need lots of different kinds of churches because there are lots of different kinds of people.”
Mark’s passion is redeeming emerging technology for use in building the Kingdom. He started by sharing E-mails from folks all around the world, thanking NCC for their podcast. The E-mails were a powerful testimony to the value of podcasting and other technology.
“If it’s worth preaching, it’s worth podcasting. If it’s worth preaching, it’s worth blogging.” Mark’s core conviction: “There are ways of doing church that no one has thought of yet.” The availability of new technology causes us to rethink evangelism, discipleship, preaching. The message is sacred. The medium is not!
Our job as leaders is not to get people to embrace technology. Our job is to help people know how to think about technology so we can redeem it and use it for God’s purposes. That requires us to be tuned into culture, and willing to embrace change.
Mark says most pastors get A’s or B’s in biblical exegesis, but C’s or D’s in cultural exegesis. At NCC they believe irrelevance is irreverence. It’s not just a neat slogan that Mark uses. He pointed out that God is “omni-relevant.” He numbers the hairs on our heads. Kids who grow up in church drop out of church at a rate of 86 percent when they hit college! If there was something relevant at church, that rate would not be as high.
Blogs, podcasts, E-mail are simply new distribution channels. We are in the same position as the church was when Guttenburg invented movable type. Martin Luther said printing was “God’s highest and extremist act of grace whereby the Gospel is driven forward.” The reformation was driven forward on the strength of the printing press. God will use digital media in the same way, if we will let him!
Mark wrapped up with a nice reference to John Wesley and field preaching. Podcasting, he says is field preaching. Podcasting is circuit riding at the speed of light!
Mark wrapped up with ten ways to use technology, and why you need to use it… except he only had eight!
1. Encourage staff members to blog. It helps to bridge divide between clergy and laity.
2. Launch a podcast. Top of the list!
3. Hire a digital pastor or media pastor, if you can. Staff for these priorities!
4. Create trailers for sermon series. Post on the web. It’s a product sample. Far easier to get someone to the website, than to get them to church. The trailer is a product sample.
5. Shoot on location videos.
6. Do “word of mouse” marketing. Send E-vites to folks.
7. Start an INTERNAL podcast. Use it for training of small group or other leaders. Use it as another touch point with your core group.
8. Redesign your website ALL THE TIME. It’s the portal! It’s the front door. If they visit the web site and it’s good, the WILL visit you!
Great presentation. Worth the price of the conference and plane ticket, and we still have a day and a half to go. Thanks Mark!
They've cancelled Paul's session on cool tech toys. Why, you ask? Because his presentation was on a hard drive... and the hard drive crashed! Technology killed the Technology Session!
Mark Batterson is speaking now. More on the Carpe Digital dude later this morning.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
Today, I decided to check out Frazer Memorial UMC's broadcast on INSP. Fraser is a big church in Alabama. Big church. Seven services big. National TV big. Own their own low power TV station big.
I'll just say that I think we look very good by comparison. Very, very good.
One thing that blew me away. Remember in "Bruce Almighty" that Bruce had an E-mail application to deal with prayers?
Fraser advertises a prayer line during their services on TV. I've thought that we should do that, But worry about how to respond during "non-church" times. I'd be devastated if someone in crisis who had jotted our number down called and couldn't get someone on the line.
So, I called the Frazer Prayer Line. Three rings.
"Frazer Prayer Line." Click, Click. "This mailbox is full. Please enter another mailbox or press zero to reach an operator."
I pressed zero. I'm guessing it was a custodian that answered. I told him the prayer line mailbox was full. He told me it would probably get more full by the end of the holiday weekend. I asked him if there was anyone there who could pray with me at that time. Long, long pause.
"Nope, probably not," was the reply.