8 Good Questions to Evaluate Your Church

By Dan Reiland

It’s easy to get so busy doing ministry that you don’t take the time to evaluate your ministry.

But evaluation is how you get better.

It’s like your annual physical. No one wants to get a check-up, blood work, and maybe a test or two, but that’s how you learn what you need to know.

Then, of course, you need to act on what you learn.

The 4-point plan to get better:

  • Ask the right questions.
  • Give honest answers in a group process.
  • Determine the best-prioritized plan for improvement.
  • Take action.

It starts with asking the right questions.

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8 good questions that will help your ministry get better:

1) How is the unique culture of your church helping you make progress?

Sam Chand wrote an excellent book titled Breaking Your Church’s Culture Code. He states that more than vision, programs, money, or staff, culture has the greatest impact on your church’s future.

How would you describe your culture? Is it what you want? Is your church culture helping or hurting as you pursue God’s purpose for your church? What changes do you need to make? If the culture is healthy, what practices are in place to stay healthy?

2) How would you describe the overall morale of your church?

Are the people happy with your church? That question seems very subjective but is surprisingly easy to answer.

Do they trust the leadership? Are they fired-up about the mission? Are they passionate about following Jesus? Is there momentum? Are problems solved with relative ease (without significant resistance? You get the idea.

Morale and culture are closely linked. If you are struggling and the culture and morale are not ideal, I urge you to pour your leadership energy there first.

3) What is your approach to spiritual formation in your church?

Is there an overall sense that people are pursuing God? It’s not about perfection, but do you see progress? What factors do you consider important to help assess spiritual maturity?

Consider things like prayer, serving others, obedience, and financial generosity. How about the fruit of the Spirit like love, joy, and peace, etc.?

Do you utilize small groups? How is community developed? What priority does biblical truth hold? A great overall approach to assess spiritual growth is to gather stories of life change.

4) Are you developing new leaders?

Next to the favor of God, everything rises and falls on leadership. Do the leaders in your church demonstrate a strong spiritual depth and a servant’s heart? What is your plan to find and develop new and better leaders? You will not realize your potential as a church without a serious dedication to this process.

5) How would you describe the strength of your volunteer teams?

Are your volunteers part of vibrant and productive teams or a struggling band of survivors? Much of that depends on how you select, train, encourage and empower your volunteers. Do you recruit to a vision or just to get a task done?

All churches face the pressure of needing people to volunteer to serve, but how you build teams makes a significant difference. How would you rate the overall esprit de corps of your volunteer ministries? What is the first best step to strengthen your teams?

6) What are the financial indicators telling you?

It is relatively easy to measure results when it comes to money. The weekly offering defines reality. At the same time, one of the largest challenges a leader will ever face is successfully inspiring the people to trust God with their finances and remain faithful to generous giving.

Are you bold in your teaching of God’s truth about money? Do you offer practical training about money management? Do you personally model generosity? Where are you stronger regarding money, faith or practice?

7) Are you on mission?

You must first be clear about the purpose of your church. What is your mission/vision – exactly? Does your congregation have a good sense of what it is? Are you acting on that mission?

It’s essential that your leaders become and remain aligned together in that mission. It will always feel like you are swimming upstream if you are not headed in the same direction.

8) Do your people enthusiastically invite others to your worship services?

I have coached churches where the people had obviously lukewarm feelings about the worship service. They were not motivated to invite someone even if they had a friend they wanted to bring.

It’s not always the worship service, but it starts there. Is there anything about your church that would cause your congregation to pause about inviting their friends?

This is a huge evangelistic combination. If your people are committed to the vision enough to invite people to church, and your worship experience (from nursery to invitation) is worth inviting people to – that is the combination you work toward!

I trust these questions will be helpful to you and the health of your church.

I pray God’s wisdom for your leadership and His favor upon you!

This article was originally published at: danreiland.com

 

Are We There Yet?

By Scott Armstrong

“He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there (Genesis 12:5).”

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(Read Genesis 12:1-9)

What was the most incredible vacation you ever went on? Where did you go and what did you do? Did you go with family, friends, or both?

In Genesis 12 we read that the Lord calls Abram to go on a journey.  But it was far from a vacation.  Not even a majority of this trip was spent in green, lush land—and that makes a difference if you’re hauling cattle around.  This journey was long and hard, and most likely without many rewards.

But the verses we read simply state, “they set out…and they arrived” (v.5).  That’s like summing up one of my notorious family vacations by saying we set out from Kansas City and arrived in Toronto, Canada.  Just saying we set out and arrived doesn’t include the fights in the back seat between my brother and I, the threats of punishment from my parents, the awful memory of Detroit’s Grand Canyon-size potholes—you get the picture.  If you’re like me, you can imagine Abram thinking, “Maybe I got this wrong.  Did I really understand God? Why did he just say, ‘Pack up and move,’ without telling me where I’m going?”

But, like the Energizer Bunny, he just keeps going and going and going.  Time after time he stops and calls on the Lord.  Time after time he hears, “Keep going.”

There is an awesome lesson here.  Sometimes, like Abram, we have to keep taking steps even though we do not know where the Lord is taking us.  We all want to know what His big will is—those huge decisions that will affect our lives forever.  But sometimes He says, “You’re in my will.  Keep journeying on that road and the destination will become clear later.”  God’s will is not just the destination points on the highway, but the journey to and from those points.

Is there a large decision in your life that needs to be made in the next few days, weeks, or months? Have you worried about it? Maybe the Lord is showing you that you are right where you need to be and that He will provide the answer in His timing.  In the meantime, keep journeying.  Continue to draw closer to the One who will share His heart with you more and more with each passing day.  Rest assured that He has probably been doing that already.

Practical Points For Leading Difficult People

This is part two of the article published in the previous post written by Dan Reiland.

1) Discover what is underneath.

When a person becomes difficult, and the situation seems to persist, try setting the issue aside and take the conversation to a more personal level. 

Get “underneath” the obvious to discover if there is something deeper. My favorite go-to question is “What is really bothering you here?” It’s important to ask that question in a kind and caring way. 

When you connect with the real issue, it’s much easier to love and lead someone. 

2) Manage your own emotions well.

It’s vital to remain emotionally self-aware and in control. When you lose control, you lose. 

This does not mean to become bottled up and detached, but of all the things that could make the list in the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, kindness, forbearance, goodness, faithfulness gentleness, self-control is included! (Galatians 5:22)

When you become angry, you forfeit your leadership.

You can’t stop someone from pushing your buttons, but you don’t have to descend to their level.

Here’s a practical plan for when a difficult person is getting to you.

• Count to 5.

• Lower your volume.

• Sit back in your chair.

• Speak deliberately.

• Call time out if you need to.

Hot heads never win in the long run. 

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3) Set limits and boundaries.

So far, I’ve emphasized our approach with difficult people. How we manage our heart, thoughts, and emotions. 

But some people are just plain difficult nearly all the time. We don’t want to be around them, and it can be hard to love them.

Boundaries and limits are healthy and necessary. Here are the boundaries I use.

My first boundary is respect. The person can disagree with me, and express dissatisfaction with my leadership, but it must be respectful. 

My second boundary is alignment. We need to agree on the overall mission and head in the same direction. It cannot become all about their personal agenda.

My third boundary is progress. Difficult conversations are part of leadership, and it’s not uncommon to get stuck for awhile. But soon we need to make progress! 

4) Communicate clear expectations.

Setting clear expectations is vital to working with a difficult person. 

Think through what is needed for a healthy relationship, and progress in ministry and make that clear. 

5) Lead them to higher ground.

This is your opportunity to encourage and inspire.

It’s not about selling and winning, don’t close a deal like you’re in sales.

Help them see themselves and the situation differently and for their good!

  • • Establish common ground.
  • • Communicate their value. Affirm the person.
  • • Point toward the bigger vision.
  • • Warn them of the consequences of continuing in the same path.

6) Pick your battles.

Sometimes people will knock on your door with the intention of “picking a fight.” And sometimes the situation escalates to the level of a battle. 

Always ask yourself, does this battle need to be fought? Sometimes it’s important to set it aside to climb a bigger hill. 

7) Focus on solutions.

Resolution of some kind is needed. 

Productive solutions are best. 

The worst thing is to leave a situation in a mess. Someone needs to clean it up. If you don’t, someone else must. 

Two crucial questions that help bring insight and resolution:

  • • What would you like me to do differently?
  • • What do you want?

When you know what the person wants, you can be clear about whether or not you will be able to comply. In the end, sometimes you must say no and hold your ground. And sometimes you should remove the person from leadership.

There will always be difficult people you are responsible for leading. How you lead them can change you, them, and the church for good!

This article was originally published at: Danreliand.com

 

 

The Challenge is Urban

By Scott Armstrong

Last week I had the privilege of being in Panama where several leaders were gathered to brainstorm solutions for more effective ministry in three areas:

  • Urban Mission
  • Youth
  • Children

These areas have been declared our regional emphases in Mesoamerica for the upcoming Quadrennial.  And rightly so: although great things are currently taking place in each of these ministries, we have a long way to go before we see an explosion of fruit all across the region among children, youth, and our cities.

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I’m sure you have listened to our Worthless Servants podcast recently (if you haven’t, seriously, what are you doing with your life?), and you know we have addressed all three of these issues in various episodes.  However, for the sake of this article, let’s focus on urban mission.

If you have heard my wife and I speak recently in any service or event, you know that we are banging the drum for urban mission.  Our ministry is GENESIS after all, where the mission is to make Christlike disciples in the urban centers of Mesoamerica.  We are sending missionaries to 28 strategic cities so that they may plant churches and impact communities with little or no Nazarene presence.  And it is happening!

Still, I admit that the influence a team of four workers can have in a city of 1 million+ is limited.  And what about the other cities that have not been identified as the 28 strategic, urgent sites that will receive missionaries? It is clear that our whole region needs a genesis and it will not come solely because of a dedicated volunteer missionary force.

This very week while we were in Panama, we received from Dale Jones in Nazarene Research (love them!) a list of all of the cities in the Mesoamerica Region with 100,000 or more in population.  The findings are intriguing and yet staggering:

  1. General statistics show that 72% of Mesoamerica lives in an urban area (this includes several cities of less than 100,000 that are still considered urban). Nearly 3 out of every four of us is an urbanite! When you think of urban, you may think of New York, Beijing, or Tokyo. But we are the region with the highest percentage of urban dwellers.
  2. In just two years we have grown from 169 cities with 100,000 people or more to 182 fitting that description. All over the world people are moving to the big city in droves, and our region is no exception.
  3. Of these 182 metropolises, 115 are in one country: Mexico. One. Five.  Reaching the cities of our region means especially reaching the cities of Mexico, many of which have no Nazarene church.
  4. After Mexico, the four countries that have the most cities with population of 100,000 or more are: Cuba (16), Dominican Republic (9), Haiti (8), and Nicaragua (7). In other words, 155 of the 182 biggest cities in our region are in FIVE countries. Would you pray specifically for urban impact in those five countries?
  5. The total population in Mesoamerica is 223 million. 42 million of us live in cities with greater than 100,000 people.  That’s 54%More of us live in a huge city than don’t.  Shouldn’t this effect the way we equip our leaders for ministry?

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  6. If the majority of our population lives in a big city, then that’s where all our Nazarenes are, too, right? Wrong. Only 32% of our members live in a city of over 100,000 people.  That’s 129,354 out of 406,000 total Nazarenes.

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  7. #5 and #6 above cause me to reflect: I know that we have many Nazarene members in these cities already and I praise the Lord for their witness. However, there is no doubt that in the great majority of these urban settings, we lack a true presence as a Church of the Nazarene.  Having a church building and holding services every week will not cut it.  In order to impact the city, sacrificial, creative, and missional discipleship will be required in the days ahead.
  8. A significant number of these 182 cities have recently been affected adversely by devastating natural disasters. Could it be that our entryway into these cities would come through comforting those who have lost all in hurricanes or earthquakes? Could it be that – even without natural disasters – acting as agents of compassion would be the healthy way to impact our cities anyway?

My intention is not to overwhelm you with statistics.  I recognize that each observation above must be digested thoughtfully for greatest understanding, and I pray you would do so!  Honestly, I share all of this not just to inform, but also to invite you to be a part of this initiative.

Would you pray?

Would you give?

Would you go and impact an urban context right where you are or even far away?

Comment below if God is turning your focus toward the city.  Communicate with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or at MesoamericaGenesis.org.  Listen to our podcast and tell others about it so the conversation about these topics spreads.

We need your help.  The statistics are clear and the call of God is clearer: let’s bring a genesis to the urban centers of Mesoamerica.

 

Leading Difficult People

By Dan Reiland

It’s probably true that the most difficult person I lead is me. 

That might be true about you too. 

But beyond that reality, there are those who seem to be genuinely unaware of the negative impact they have on others around them. And there are a few who appear to get a strange sense of satisfaction from creating problems and getting reactions from people. 

These difficult people might be a volunteer leader, a coworker, a staff member, even a family member. It can be almost anyone you are responsible for leading.

When you allow difficult people to “get away with it,” any environment can become toxic. 

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So how can we better lead difficult people and survive to tell the stories?

Let’s start with what doesn’t work.

5 common responses to difficult people that do not work:

  1. Avoid the person and the situation.
  2. Give in and surrender. Give them what they want, let them have their way.
  3. Allow the behavior to continue. You don’t give them what they want, but you allow the person to continue with negativity, gossip, etc.
  4. Pass the responsibility to deal with the person to someone else to handle the situation.
  5. Power up and conquer.

Scripture gives us insight to a better way:

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

The context in this chapter starting with verse 9 is loving people. Verse 17 says “don’t repay evil for evil,” and vs. 19 says “don’t take revenge.” 

The passage provides in principle, the practical insight we need to deal with difficult people according to God’s heart.

It tells us how we should see people. Especially when you read verse 17, “be careful to do the right thing.”

Here’s a great practical summary:

  • • I am responsible for how I treat others.
  • • I may not be responsible for how they treat me.
  • • I am responsible for how I react to those who are difficult.

Set your heart first:

A) Difficult isn’t a disease.
Don’t run from difficult people you need to lead. It’s natural to recoil from difficult people, but it doesn’t help.

While it may be counter-intuitive to move toward difficult people, it’s important to accept that it’s part of your responsibility as a leader. 

It’s easy to love your friends and followers, but the real test of your leadership is how you influence those who test you. 

B) Forgive and let it go.
One of the most disheartening situations in ministry are leaders who become hurt, bitter and live with regret. 

This may primarily relate to the more extreme situations, but it still happens all too often. Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it’s always the best path.

This article will continue in the next post.

 

In Unexpected Ways

By Scott Armstrong

 
“Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy” (2 Kings 5:1 NIV).

(Read 2 Kings 5:1-19)

The commander of the army is at the end of his rope. Leprosy has eaten away at Naaman’s body and soul.  He desperately needs healing, so he goes to the prophet Elisha. The only problem is that Elisha does things a little differently. (Don’t believe me? Check out 2 Kings 4:32-35.)  Naaman expected Elisha to say, “Abra-cadabra” and cure his leprosy with a wave of his hand. But instead Elisha tells him to dip in the Jordan River seven times. The Jordan was a dirty river located in Israel.  Why couldn’t Naaman dunk himself in a cleaner river closer to home?

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Jennifer was a girl in one of the youth groups that we had several years ago.  She was an outstanding singer who had used her talent in the church’s praise team and in many school musicals.  One day, she found out she had nodes on her vocal chords.  The treatment required complete voice rest for 2-3 months.  Needless to say, Jennifer was frustrated.  One of the joys of her life was taken away from her!  Still, she decided that she would use this time to focus on what the Lord wanted to teach her through this experience.  She ended up using her normal rehearsal time at church to start a new prayer ministry for the youth group.  She had wanted to draw closer to God, but He certainly answered that prayer differently than she had expected!

God doesn’t always work the way we’re used to. He knows what’s best for us, even though it makes little sense to us at the time. Naaman eventually decided to try dipping in the Jordan, and his “incurable” disease was cured! What does God want to do in your life? Will you let him work in unexpected ways?

Good Teaching, Jesus!

By Scott Armstrong

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock…But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand” (Matthew 7:24, 26).

(Read Matthew 7:21-29)

The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ famous teaching that spans from Matthew chapter 5 through chapter 7. In these three chapters we witness the greatest preacher who ever lived preaching the greatest sermon ever recorded. And how would you suppose Jesus would conclude this incredible message?

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He ends his amazing sermon by telling us about two builders. One had common sense and constructed his home on a strong, sturdy foundation. The other—well, he pretty stupidly built his house on the sand. When the storm came, only one house was standing. A pretty basic story.  Not too complicated.  Why does Jesus end the greatest sermon ever with this story?

In this simple parable, Jesus emphasizes obedience.  The wise man is like “everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice.” The foolish man represents “everyone…who does not put them into practice.” Apparently it is possible for us to hear Jesus’ words without ever doing anything in response.  James says if we hear or read Jesus’ teachings and never change our lives afterwards, it’s as if we were to look at our face in the mirror, go away, and immediately forget what we look like (1:22-25).  I don’t know about you, but if I notice in the mirror that I have dirt on my face or a piece of food in my teeth, I’m going to fix the problem right away!

So why do we hear Jesus’ words and not obey? Why do we leave services where the Word of God has been preached and tell the pastor, “Good sermon, pastor,” as if it were a tasty dessert? Do we realize that these teachings can—and should—change our lives? Do we recognize that where we spend eternity depends on how we respond to God’s words (vv. 21-23)?

Read Matthew 7:28-29 again. At the end of the greatest sermon ever preached, Matthew leaves us hanging.  Were the huge crowds just amazed or did they put the teachings into practice?  We have no idea.  But now the question is for you.  Will you really listen to what he is saying to you today and this week? Will you put it into practice and obey?