Three Ways to Help Your Church Operate More Intentionally

One of the biggest hindrances to effective ministry is a failure to operate intentionally. Many churches choose to live in the comfort zone of a rut. But as someone once told me, “a rut is simply a grave with both ends knocked out.” While it is difficult, we must be willing to operate intentionally. Here are three ways that will help.

Intentional Church

1- Know Your Purpose, then Pursue It.

If your church is going to operate in an intentional manner it must understand and embrace its God-given purpose. Know what your strategy is, talk about, and then plan to accomplish it.

Simply going through the motions of ministry will not help you actively pursue and accomplish your purpose. If there is a ministry or program that is not helping your church accomplish its purpose, either change it or get rid of it. Yes, making those decisions can be difficult, but they are necessary – especially if you are serious about pursuing God’s purpose for your church.

2- Love the Future More than You Love the Past.

When a church loves the past more than it loves the future it will be tempted to simply go through the motions of what has been done in the past with no thought given as to why.

In this atmosphere people are resistant to any kind of change. The question is not ‘will this help us reach people for Christ?’ but ‘is this different?’

Unless these churches change their mentality, they will eventually die. It is impossible to reach people in the present and strategize for the future when you are idolizing the past.

[Tweet “It is impossible to strategize for the future when you are idolizing the past.”]

3- Be Willing to Honestly Evaluate the Effectiveness of Everything Your Church Does.

Over time, programs and ministries tend to lose their vibrancy and effectiveness. Often these programs are allowed to continue for years even though they are not doing what they were designed to do. They are not necessarily bad, but they are not the best way to accomplish their intended purpose.

If there is a more effective way of accomplishing a goal, failure to do so is unwise and would make us poor stewards of the time, energy, and resources God has given us.

Let’s face it, there are many things churches do, not because it is effective, but because it is comfortable. We must resist the tendency to operate in this way.

While it can be challenging, churches must operate intentionally. Know your purpose, be committed to reaching people, and honestly evaluate everything you are doing. Understanding these three points will help your church operate more intentionally.

What have you found that helps your church operate intentionally? Please comment below.

9 Things Christian Millennials Want In A Church

I have been informally studying the millennial generation for quite a while. I have read many articles by many authors such as Thom Rainer on Millennials and worship styles  and  Meredith Flynn on her perspective of Capitol Hill Baptist Church—a church that averages over 1,000 in weekly attendance with 700-800 of those being under the age of 35-40.

I have had dozens of conversations with those in this age bracket about what is important to them as well as read many books on the topic. I am certainly no expert, but I feel confident in sharing my thoughts on what committed Christian Millennials want in a church.

I am going to assume that we agree that the church worship service is for Christians, not a tool to attract the lost. Good! Now that we have that settled, we can focus our attention on the millennial generation—those born between 1980 and the early 2000’s.

There are a lot of misconceptions about what Christian Millennials want in a church. Some (mostly the older generations) think this age group is just interested in hanging out. Others think this age group is shallow, wishy-washy, and ungrounded. For the record, these caricatures are generally untrue.

So what does resonate with committed Christian Millennials?

1- Genuineness

Many Millennials grew up witnessing the lack of genuineness that was prevalent in their parents’ churches. They want to see leaders live what they teach. They are tired of seeing people simply go through the motions.

2- Less Extra Stuff

Productions such as Easter plays and choral productions that were so common a generation ago are being abandoned. The quality usually isn’t that great, it requires a ton of time that simply isn’t there, and they are focused on entertainment – and that simply isn’t a draw to many Millennials. Likewise, special music such as solos, quartets, and the like are not much of a focus either. Even choirs are becoming less common, and the ones that still remain are usually filled with those in older age brackets.

3- Rich Content… the Sermons and in Songs

Sermons filled with fluff and music with no meaning won’t cut it. That rich content may come in different forms depending on the context. The music styles may vary, and the Millennials are okay with that—they are not tied to any one style as long as there is rich content.

4. Quality in All Things

Simply throwing things together at the last minute won’t cut it. People are used to professionalism in all things…at the daycare where they leave their children, at their work place, everywhere. If the church lacks quality it will be a turnoff to those in this generation.

5. Authentic Community

Millennials do want to hang out, but there’s more to it than that. They want authentic community. They want to do life with other believers. They want the Christian life to be more than attendance at a church service. This is the reason they thrive in small groups.

6. Intentionality in Decision-Making

Doing something solely because it has always been done serves as Millennial repellant. If a church will not ensure that everything they are doing is accomplishing a designated purpose, then what’s the point?

7. A Community Focus

The Millennials want to make a difference in the community. They view this as an important part of the Church’s work. They want more than to simply hold events on the church’s property; they want the church to get out into the community.

8. A Church that Answers Their Questions

For far too long Millennials were simply told what to believe, but not why. As a result, many of them have questions, and they will not attend a church where they are discouraged from asking questions or where they do not get honest, accurate, thoughtful answers.

9. Committed to Simplicity

People are busier than ever. This reality cannot be avoided. In an attempt to be appealing to a consumer generation the church has tried to offer a plethora of programs at a plethora of times in an effort to be appealing to everyone. It hasn’t worked. In fact, the complexities of a program-driven church drives people away. The Millennials are looking for simplicity. They want to be committed to a church that understands this.

Do these characteristics define every Christian millennial? Absolutely not. But they do characterize many of them…at least many of the committed Christian millennials I know. If churches are going to reach the millennial generation, they must be aware of these realities.

8 Signs You Are a Victim of Spiritual Abuse

I have no doubt that you have heard of physical and emotional abuse. But a form of abuse that many people are unfamiliar with is spiritual abuse (specifically in a religious setting). While more attention has been given to this in recent years through the writing of books and articles, it is still ignored.

Since you may be unfamiliar with what spiritual abuse is; here are 8 warning signs that you are being abused spiritually.

1- You have a warped view of pastoral authority.

This warped view is the result of what you have been taught. The pastor and other leaders are not to be questioned — to question them is to question God. They are God’s men!

The reality is that they are not biblical ‘pastors’; they are dictators. And this kind of ‘leadership’ is nowhere taught in Scripture.

2- You are guilted into doing ministry even though you are facing burnout.

In this environment manipulation is common. It can come in a number of forms:

     Fear– “If you don’t make this decision God will punish you.”

     False Praise– “You do such a great job at this; I know it is God’s will.”

     Guilt– “Don’t you remember all that I and this ministry have done for you?”

     Public Recognition as a Tool of Control

3- You are discouraged from asking questions.

Asking questions is viewed as questioning authority. It is often presented as rebellion. “Don’t ask questions, just trust, obey, and submit to what you are told.”

4- Ministry involvement is built on duty, not a love for Christ.

If you constantly hear about duty as the motivation for being involved in ministry, you may be suffering from spiritual abuse.

5- You constantly hear other ministries criticized.

Sole allegiance and loyalty is expected to your particular ministry. Other ministries are constantly criticized, regardless of whether or not they are biblical, in order to keep that sole allegiance alive and well.

6- You are discouraged from reading on your own. You are told that your pastor is the only one who can really be trusted.

Should caution be exercised when reading unknown authors? Yes! Is it possible for new Christians to be misguided by what they read? Sure!

But the motivation for this instruction in this environment is selfish. You might just find out that all those “standards” you are being guilted and manipulated into keeping are not really found in the Bible.

I’m afraid the mentality is that “An ignorant Christian is a submissive Christian.”

7- The Bible is constantly misused to support extra-biblical positions.

Since people are not taught to study for themselves and since they can’t ask questions, they rarely realize this is happening. The Bible is used as a tool to get people to act how the leadership wants them to act.

It is when people start thinking for themselves and studying the Bible on their own that they begin to realize the abuse of this approach.

8- Legalism is being used as a tool of control.

No, it’s not called legalism. It’s called standards or separation or convictions. In these circles outward performance becomes the basis of spirituality.

Closing Thoughts

I have counseled many people reeling from the effects of spiritual abuse. The dangers are real, its power is subtle, the effects are lasting, and results are devastating.

This is not how God designed the church to operate. It’s not how He wants you to live the Christian life.

There is hope. There can be freedom. Healing is possible. Your joy can be restored.

Spiritually abused Christian, I pray for you today!