Small church vs church planting

Leading a Small Church vs a Church Plant

Since starting in my new ministry placement this year I have come to realise that leading a small church is a very different style of ministry to either medium church ministry or church planting.  When I say that I’m in a small church, I’m talking about an average Sunday attendance of 25 people.  There are some real joys of small church ministry, namely the sense of connection with the people I’m in ministry with.  Yet there are some unique differences to ministry in other settings.

Small churches and church plant have small numbers but they are very different styles of ministry.  It was almost ten years ago that I tried to plant a church with a small group of 25 people.  Whilst the church plant closed after three years of ministry I learnt a lot from season of ministry.  Being with a small group of 25 once again, it might be tempting to borrow some of the lessons from church planting with my small church.  Yet I’ve noticed that there are some key differences between leading a church plant and pastoring a small church. 

The point of this post isn’t to suggest one style of ministry is better than the other.  This post is suggesting four ways that leading a small established church might be different to leading a small church planting team.  Even if both ministry settings have a similar size group there are some interesting differences to make not of.

Whilst I don’t really want to pit small church ministry and church planting against each other, here are four big areas where the two style of ministry are very different:

  1. Newbie or Founder – are you the founder of your ministry or are you the newest member?
    • Small church – when you take on a small church ministry placement it is likely that you are the newest member of your church. Some of the existing members of your small church may have been around a long time, it may be their only church experience.  These people have seen past leaders come and go, seen many styles of ministry come and go.  Your church members may not be that impressed with what you consider the new bright idea about ministry.  Whilst these established members can provide stability to your ministry, change management in an established small church will be much slower than in a church plant where everything is new.
    • Church plant – when you plant a church it is likely that you are the founding member of your church. You might be the first person to have a vision for your church plant; nobody knows the vision and the dreams of your church plant like you do.  As a church planter you will spend so much of your time explaining and casting the vision of your church plant to onramp others to the vision.  Whilst this can be repetitive, it can also be energising to share your vision with people and see them take hold of the vision.  The small group of people you are ministering to in the early stages of the church plant are relying on you to grow the vision.
  2. Legacy or Vision – are you running on the legacy of the past or the vision of the future?
    • Small Church – it is likely that the past is a dominating factor in your ministry in a small church setting. There is often a period in the past when the church was at its strongest and as the new leader you must find out what hold the past has on your church.  You need to discern if there are elements of the past that you can leverage for future growth in your ministry.  Is there some part of the DNA of your small church that is the key to future health in your ministry?  Perhaps there are ghosts of the past that are holding your church back until the church finally deals with them.  Small churches don’t lack vision however you need to build on the legacy of the past so that you can cast a strong vision of your future. 
    • Church Plant – it is likely that future hopes and dreams are dominating your ministry as a church planter. You have hopes and dreams of being bigger that you currently are, drawing more people into the ministry and having a strong future.  Your church or ministry doesn’t have a past so there is not much baggage to deal with, except any baggage from previous churches that your members may have belonged to.  The challenge for you as a church planter is to build something that can become a legacy for future generations to build on for a healthy vibrant church.
  3. Age or Youth – is your membership dominated by age and experience or youthful enthusiasm?
    • Small Church – small church ministries often are small because it got stuck with an older generation that didn’t hand off to a younger generation. Therefore, your church will have people with wisdom and experience but not a lot of intergenerational connections.  If you don’t want your ministry to die out then you need to get some youth and new Christians into the ministry to bring in fresh perspectives.
    • Church Plant – church plants often begin with young adults because of the youthful enthusiasm to start something new. Therefore, your church will have a lot of enthusiasm and drive but perhaps not a lot of Christians with wisdom and experience.  I’ve often heard church planters pray for one or two mature Christians who can mentor and disciple the new Christians.  If you don’t want your church ministry to be a flash in the pan then you need to get some mature Christians who can mentor and disciple the young people into your church plant.
  4. The burden of Maintenance or Poverty – are you struggling under the weight of maintaining your existing church buildings or the weight of no resources?
    • Small Church – if you are taking on a small church ministry in an existing facility then be prepared to spend a lot of time on maintenance and/or renovations. It is likely that you have facilities that you can use for ministry right away but the facilities are often tired or run down or outdated.  They might be built in a previous era when what was trendy is now considered ugly.  It can be hard to create a fresh look for your ministry because of the capital it takes just to maintain the current facilities let along renovate them to bring them up to date.  Whilst your church planting friends might be struggling to find facilities to use, your struggling to use the facilities you have.
    • Church Plant – if you are planting a new church then it likely that you are struggling to find the facilities and resources to grow your church. You need to buy everything and you can’t seem to get enough of money to buy everything you need to grow.   Whilst your small church ministry friends can use their old equipment until they can afford to replace it, you don’t have anything to use unless you buy it.  The challenge for a church planter is to decide what can you borrow, what can you buy second hand and what is the best option to purchase for now that will also work as your ministry grows.

Small church ministry is not always a bad thing, research suggests that 90% of churches have less than 200 members.  Church plants might be a great growth strategy but the first five years of a new church are very different ministry in an established church. Taking a church planter and imposing them on a small church just because they have the same number of people can be a recipe for conflict. Both styles of ministry are a blessing to the church if you know what leadership style to apply to each setting. 

My hope is that you can lead your church to be a health church.  If you church is a fresh new church plant then I hope it becomes a healthy sustainable church.  If your church is a small established church then I also hope that it continues to be a healthy sustainable church for future generations.  Using the right style of ministry for the right context can make all the difference.

Please leave a comment on how you see small church ministry….

markoffaith, Mark of Faith, mrmarkmcdonald, Mark McDonald

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What is your comparison point?

We all compare new experiences to a benchmark we have in our head.  When we try a new cafe and we compare their coffee to our best coffee experience at our favourite cafe.  When shop in a new shopping mall we compare it to the benchmark that we have in our mind about our ideal shopping experience.  When we visit a new church or ministry we compare it to our ideal church or ministry whether we know it or not. 

So as the leader in your ministry what is your comparison point?  Sometimes it can be another church or ministry.  We tell ourselves if we could just do it ministry like church X or church Y then we would get it “right”.  These other churches may have totally different circumstance and resources to us but that doesn’t stop us from comparing our ministry to theirs.  The key thing is to know what your bench mark is so that at least you are honest with yourself and your team.

Perhaps your comparison point is not another church but a previous era at your own church.  Remember the good old days when we got ministry “right”.  Church members often compare your current situation to a previous golden era where everything seemed to work so smoothly.  The trap with this style of thinking is that our world and culture has changed so dramatically.  Imagine comparing youth ministry pre Facebook to the Facebook era; let alone comparing ministry practices from the 1980’s to ministry to youth today.

What ever your comparison point is you need to identify it so that the unconscious comparison becomes more conscious.  Comparison is not a bad thing as long it it encourages us to be better rather than it weakening us.

Finally it is most important to compare our ministry to what God is calling us to.  The Holy Spirit is moving your forward not trying to recreate the past.  Compare your ministry to what God has in store for you, not the previous golden era.

markoffaith, Mark of Faith, mrmarkmcdonald

The Welcoming Team

Some ministries have a real sense of welcome but often ministries miss the mark on this one. Often times the leaders are busy getting the service or meeting ready instead of being available to welcome people as they arrive for your event. Whether it is a church service, a ministry meeting or an event in your church you need to have a welcoming team. Perhaps in your ministry you have a dedicated group of people who are part of your welcome team or maybe you don’t. Either way every church and ministry could improve their sense of welcome.

There are two important principles that should drive welcoming in your ministry:

  1. Everyone is responsible for creating a welcoming ministry
  2. You need a specific group to enhance the welcoming procedures

Before we get into the role of an effective welcome team, I want to shift your thinking a little. Instead of thinking of the usual welcomers who just hand out bulletins before the service, could you think of your welcome team as customer service staff? Rather than recruiting people who can smile and shake hands, could you recruit people who will go the extra mile and help people feel a part of your community. A member of the welcome team should never say “I just hand out the bulletins ask a staff member”. Perhaps you might need to privately call them the customer service team so that they know they are not just welcoming people but serving the people who attend your church or ministry events.

So what should this customer service team or welcome team do? Is it just about a friendly smile on the way into church or into your ministry event? The welcome team should do much more than smile and hand out bulletins. They should make people feel welcome, look out for visitors, locate toilets for people, explain the children’s ministry to parents, connect young people with the youth ministry and even help people find a seat if needed.

Here are some important things for the welcoming team to focus on:

  • Be available 20 minutes before the event – whether people arrive late or on time at your church, your welcome team need to be there before anyone could turn up. Someone is always running early and these are the people the welcome team have the most time to talk to.
  • Look out for visitors before and after the event – the welcome team should be looking out for visitors who are not familiar with how your church or ministry does things. They can look lost, unsure of where to sit. Visitors will check out your notice board more than the regulars do. Many visitors to churches and ministries make a first impression based on how they are welcomed and whether the first people they meet are open or closed to new people.
  • Be available 20 minutes after the event – if the welcome team do their job of connecting with people before the service then they are the best people to follow them up after the event. If your welcoming team think their role is about handing out bulletins then they tend to check out once that task is done. The welcome team needs to see their role as beginning before everyone arrives and finishes after everyone has left.
  • Focus on parents – having kids and working in youth ministry I really believe that our churches need to engage children and youth. Yet the reality is that parents drive children and youth to and from church events so make them feel welcome. At your youth events have someone on your welcome team that welcome visitors and some who talk to parents. The more you can engage the parents the more they will support your ministry. For sunday services the parents are often the most confused as to where there kids need to be or how the service engages kids so be available to answer their questions.
  • Help with logistics during the event – great welcome teams will also assist with moving and seating people during the event. Perhaps you need to arrange more chairs or simple ask people to shuffle in to free up seats. Perhaps you need to help move children in and out of the children’s ministry. The welcome team should be looking out for how they can help during the event not just before the service.
  • Know about future events – the welcome team will often be asked about the events in the bulletin or on the notice board so find out about other events in your church. The welcome team should never say “I don’t know about that ask a staff member”. When someone is part of the welcome team it is like they are a staff member.

There are many unique things that churches do for their welcome teams. Some have fancy tshirts, special name badges or set up special visitor desks. Often the welcome team at children or youth events also need to collect forms, sign people in or collect money. All of these elements are unique to your ministry and church setting so be intentional about tailoring the welcome team to your setting. Irrespective of your local context it still doesn’t change the fact that your welcome team are there to serve the people attending your church not just hand out bulletins.

Please leave a comment with tips from your welcome team.

markoffaith, Mark of Faith, mrmarkmcdonald, Mark McDonald

Does the Good News sound like good news in your public speaking?

When presenting the gospel to people in your ministry setting does it sound like good news? Sometimes as christians we get so used to our christian language that we present the gospel as it was presented to us, not realising that culture and language has changed. Recently I heard an evangelist say that is so hard these days to get people to understand how sinful they are and much they need a saviour. Whilst this is the heart of the gospel perhaps it is an outdated style, it certainly doesn’t sound like good news to me.

Our culture has shifted and we are no longer living in a christian society. The phrases and language that used to make sense to christians no longer has the same meaning in our society today. The self help industry doesn’t promote sinfulness and our inability to help ourselves, it promotes self help and your ability to work yourself out of any situation. The 24 hour news cycle promotes a constant flow of negative news and stories or horrific tragedy all the time. Perhaps people don’t need more negative news such as “you’re a sinner”, but that need some good news such the God who created the universe loves you personally.

For example Judah Smith, the pastor of City Church in Seattle, presents and speaks in a way that seems to captivate a younger audience and even the hipsters. When you listen to him he is constantly talking about Jesus yet it is hopeful, positive and motivating. Recently at a conference Judah Smith stated that we have to preach the gospel in a way that sounds like good news to an audience who doesn’t understand “christianese”.

As ministry leaders we have to be aware of the trends in language and culture so that we can speak into it. We need to communicate the Good News in ways that people understand. It is very clear in the New Testament, start in 1 Corinthians 1-2, that the gospel can make sense to everyone; you shouldn’t need a theology degree to understand it. So my suggestion is that the next time you have to give a talk, a keynote or a sermon ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Would a non-Christian think this is good news? Even if you are speaking to a room full of christians we need to constantly practice speaking in a way that non Christians will understand. This will also train our audience to invite non Christian friends because they can trust that you will speak to them.
  2. Is there a sense of hope? Some ministry leaders are technically correct with their theology but there doesn’t seem to be any hope in their message. You can’t fault their theology but people don’t put into practice that theology because there doesn’t seem to be any hope. Being constantly reminded of our sinfulness doesn’t teach us to be new creations in Christ or that we can do anything because Christ strengthens us (Phil 4:13).
  3. Have I motivated people to want to know more? Some sermons leave people feeling “if that is what christians are like I don’t want it”. You need to motivate the audience to find out more about Jesus and the Gospel. Perhaps you can share your passion for the gospel as a way of motivating them to learn more. Perhaps you need to be upbeat and positive rather than factually correct. Perhaps you need to add in life based examples rather than examples from Christian history.

A word of warning – the bible is very clear that we are not to “tickle the ear” of others when we present the gospel. Whilst the Gospel should sound like good news to those who hear it, we still need to present the truth of gospel and not some feel good pop psychology. No matter what language we use, the gospel is going to be difficult for some people to hear because it challenges then out of their comfort zone.

Presenting the Good News is not easy in a world with so many conflicting messages. However if we are truly going to make an impact in your ministry, you need the Good News to sound like good news to an audience who doesn’t understand all the christian buzz words and images. Try to think through your language and adapt it to the community and setting that you’re ministering into.

Please leave a comment on how you have done this in your ministry setting.

markoffaith, Mark of Faith, mrmarkmcdonald, Mark McDonald

What happens when we need to take a break due to sickness?

Over the past few months I have been very sick, not only sick enough to take a break from this blog and ministry but sick enough to spend some time in hospital.  Without going into all the gross details of my illness, I had an inflammation of the large intestine that had me in hospital for treatment on two separate occasions.  The second trip to the hospital lasted nine days followed by twenty days of treatment at home by a community nurse.

In the past I had heard about ministry leaders getting sick but it had never happened to me.  I knew ministry leaders who suddenly had to take time off because of illness or a family crisis that needed their attention.  In this blog post I won’t focus on the break you need to take due to burn out, I have written on that before.  My thoughts have turned to the fact that being a ministry leader doesn’t except us from getting sick, sick enough to take a break for a few weeks even months.

Since the start of the year my ministry load hasn’t been that heavy, I help out at my local church where I can and I work a few hours a week in the ministry training centre.  At the same time I am completing my Masters of Divinity so there is lots of reading and writing to be done.  Yet when I got sick all of this had to go on hold because I couldn’t concentrate, I would often need to rest in bed or I was in doctors waiting rooms; ministry, study and blogging became the last things on my mind.

To make things more complicated the church where I serve could really have used my help over the past few months.  Whilst it can survive without me, two of the ministers were leaving so all the lay people had to step up to fill in until their replacements come in 2014.  So I could have been really useful to have around, instead I was either in hospital or at home receiving treatment.  As someone who has been in ministry for 20 years it was the first time where I knew what ministry needed to be done but was unable to help due to serious illness.

God uses everything to form and shape you, even when we don’t know why things turn out the way they do.  Even though I wasn’t able to be involved in ministry during this time I learnt a number of things throughout my illness.  I thought I would share these with because I have been off the blog for a number of months now so I wanted to update you on what I have been reflecting on.

  1. The church will cope without me – my church were great at swapping my spots on the rosters and finding replacements for the roles that I was meant to fill.  Everyone likes to feel invaluable but in reality most ministries can and should be able to survive without you.  Someone always steps up to cover the hole that our absence makes because even ministry leaders get sick.  As a ministry leaders we need to trust God and trust our church that they can cope whenever we get sick.
  2. The church should care about me as a person – my church were great at caring for me as a person, asking me how I was going not just about who was covering for me when I was away.  Many people were worried about me as a person, they didn’t just pray for me so I would get back to ministry quicker.  People offered to cook meals for my family, pick me kids up from school and all kinds of other helpful things.  If you ever get sick I hope that you are involved in a church where people care about you as a person and don’t just see your illness as a problem to handle.
  3. There is still a bit of guilt – it is hard to let go of the things that I regularly do in ministry.  I felt guilty about letting the blog writing fall.  I felt guilty about have to swap out of a sunday roster.  I felt guilty about not being able to help the church.  Yet a number of good friends in ministry reminded me that it is good to rest and recover.  Self care is more important that pushing it for a few weeks.  Being sick reminded me that the correct theological perspective about work and ministry is that I am more than my work and ministry; whilst I may feel guilt at times, when I am sick I need to move beyond the guilt to focus on rest and recovery.
  4. Illness helped me to refocus on God – sometimes I get so swept up in ministry, blogging or theological study that I forget the daily practices that draw me closer to God.  When I was sick I had the time to read and meditate on scripture.  I had time to listen to christian worship music just to listen for God’s voice.  I decided that I didn’t have to blog every week or check twitter everyday.  My time away from ministry helped me understand that God rescues me everyday from a whole range of things whether I am serving in ministry, spending time at home with the family or sitting in a hospital bed recovering from an illness.
  5. There is always hope – when I was sick I would often read psalm 107 where God rescues a variety of people from a variety of circumstances, you should read it.  Two things struck me:
    1. In this psalm God rescues those who ask for help without demanding they change their behaviour before he helps them, check the psalm yourself.
    2. In this psalm God rescues people yet there is evidence that they still take some time to get out of their circumstances.  For examples the exiles are rescued but will still take some time to get back to Jerusalem.

In my case I knew that God was healing me and would rescue me from this illness, I just had to wait a few months for full recovery.  Perhaps you will get sick and need to take a break from ministry to recover, don’t worry there is hope.

Perhaps you haven’t ever had a major break from ministry due to illness but my guess is that you know someone who has.  Perhaps you had to step up and cover for a fellow ministry leader who got sick.  In reality if you stay in ministry long enough you will at some point have to take a break due to illness.  My hope is that you can honestly and peacefully take a break without feeling guilty.

It is ok to take a break

It is ok to rest and recover

It is ok to fall behind on email, twitter and blogging

It is important to trust in God that the church/ministry will survive without you.

Please leave a comment.

mrmarkmcdonald, markoffaith, markoffaith.net

The value of positive stories

Woman on ComputerLeaders spend most of their time either casting vision or solving problems.  Casting vision involves sharing a positive vision of the future for your ministry even though you haven’t got there yet.  Solving problems means taking a weakness in your ministry and looking for a solution even though it means dealing with negatives.  So telling positive stories from your ministry reminds people of the positive elements that they have already accomplished.

People can’t spend all their time living in the future or dealing with problems.  Our volunteers in ministry need to be constantly reminded that all their hard work and effort is achieving something.  Sharing positive stories helps to remind people of the things the ministry has already achieved in a hope that more success will come in the future.  Positive stories can remind people serving in your ministry why they do what they do. 

Several times a year you should hold celebration nights where people in your ministry share their positive stories with each other.  There is nothing better than hearing people share a story in their own unique way.  Get each person to share a story from their perspective which not only gives a different perspective on the ministry but it also helps you get to know their style and personality. 

So here are five questions to ask at your celebration nights to draw out positive stories from any group:

  1. What are the highlights from our ministry?
  2. When did we have a win? ask people to articulate how they think they have achieved part of the vision.
  3. What have you learnt?  Focus on what you will do better in the future rather than the mistakes of the past.
  4. Who are we proud of?
  5. When did you see someone grow?  This is perhaps the most important question because it is others centred.

In my 20 years of ministry I have witness many times of celebration where people have shared their positive stories.  A few times have been whilst at a conference and our team have shared what we think we are doing right based on the speakers at the conference.  Often the positive stories come out over a meal when the ministry team have more time together.  The best celebration night I have ever been to involve everyone dressing up for a night of awards and storytelling; the night provided an hour of “open mic” time for people to share their stories.

The difficult in ministry is that we get so busy that we forget to share the positive stories until it is someone’s farewell party.  We forget to thank our team members until they leave.  Or we wait until the end of the year Christmas party to thank people for their hard work.  Wouldn’t it be great if we thanked people and shared the positive stories from our ministry once a month?  Imagine how much momentum it would build if we shared the positive stories a lot more than we reflected on the struggles.

So make a commitment to share the good news of your ministry within your church, after all we are meant to be people of the Good News.

How to hold a ministry meeting at church

Church MP900405058Sometimes you just have to gather your ministry on your church property for a meeting.  You can’t always head off site for meetings as it breaks the connection between the ministry and your church.  In the previous post we look at holding an off site meeting, so here we will explore a few tips for holding a ministry meeting on your church site.

Each church property has a different combination of church/worship space, chapels, halls, foyers, meeting rooms and office space.  Some church properties have great meeting rooms whilst others have a lack of space that is difficult to deal with.  Some churches have a variety of meeting rooms whilst others just have one large multi purpose room (that never seems to service any event really well). Often we hold meetings on the church property because it will involve a larger group of people than you would invite to a café or your house.  But there are some important things to consider when hosting a ministry meeting at church:

  1. Service or meeting – you have to decide is it a church service or a meeting?  A church service has a liturgical form that may not address the issues that you are meeting about.  Sometimes people get confused if you have to hold a meeting in the main worship space of your church rather than the meeting rooms or hall.  So if you are going to meet in the church or worship space then make it clear that this is a meeting not a church service.
  2. Avoid the pews – it is important that everyone can see each other or see the people presenting the information that the meeting is about.  Church pews are very rigid, especially the ones that are bolted down.  If at all possible find a space where you can move the chairs to help people see each other.
  3. Put out the signs: many church properties are like Fort Knox or a Rabbit warren where it is confusing how to get to the meeting space.  Don’t assume that people know where to go for meetings, put out a sign or some directions.  Many people will head towards the worship space out of habit so direct people to your meeting from there.  If your property is locked up like Fort Knox then put signs on the outside gates telling people where they can get in.
  4. Find the smaller spaces – if you are meeting with 15 people then the 200 seat church may not be the best venue so find a smaller meeting room.  Find the space that suits the size of group that is coming to the meeting, not to small or not to large.  The size of the space can set the tone and atmosphere so choose wisely.
  5. Do you need tables: if you are expecting people to take notes or do some work then you need to provide tables for people.  A board meeting or team training event will work well in a venue with tables and chairs.  However a meeting that is discussion based may be better in an informal space without tables.
  6. Create interaction – sometimes when people come to church they are used to sitting and listening so break this pattern up with interaction.  Have a brainstorm or buzz session where people can throw ideas into the mix of conversation.  If you are talking about a particular issue in your meeting then ask people to turn to their neighbour or form small groups to talk about the issue.
  7. Provide food and drinks – it is important to have a bit of food and a drink at the meeting.  Often people have this as the first part of the meeting whilst people are arriving.  If people have come straight from home where they have had a meal then perhaps hold food and drink until the end.  If your people leave straight after the meeting to go home then have food and drink in the middle as a break.

Don’t be scared of holding a ministry meeting on your church property; it helps build a connection with the physical space.  It is great for people to feel at home on the church property rather than only coming to Church for formal occasions  The more at home people feel on church property the more they are likely to volunteer for ministry in your church.  So next time you have to meet with someone from church consider meeting them on church property rather than in a cafe.

Please leave a comment with your advice

markoffaith, MarkofFaith, Mark of Faith, mark of faith, mrmarkmcdonald, markoffaith.net

How to hold a Church meeting in your home

In ministry we are almost always holding meetings, whether it is a team meeting, a planning day, a discipleship or mentoring session or a pastoral catch up.  The space that you choose for your meeting is really important in setting the boundaries and tone of the meeting.  Finding good spaces to hold meetings is part of your job in ministry.

At times I have held meeting in a few places that just didn’t work.  Perhaps the meeting room was next to band practice or the café was so popular that we couldn’t get a seat.  One time the café was public that everyone from our church that walked past stopped in to say hello, interrupting the flow of conversation.  In this series I want to look at choosing the right location for your Church or Ministry meetings.

In this first post we will look at holding church meetings at your house.  When my wife and I had kids it was much easier at the time to have people over to my house for a church meeting.  It was great for social events with a ministry team or a planning day that was going to take several hours.  The home environment gave us a greater opportunity to offer hospitality but there a few drawbacks as well:

  • Cleaning up – every time we have people from church over to our house there is extra cleaning to be done.  Whilst you don’t want to put on a show for people, the house can’t have the same clutter that your family might put up with every day.
  • Getting people to leave – at the end of the night you just want to go to bed but how do you encourage people to your house?  You have to set a finishing time before you start so that people know when you are expecting them to leave.
  • Kids – everything goes well if the kids behave but what if they test the boundaries just when the meeting is starting?  You should establish some ground rules with your kids before your ministry team arrive.

Several years ago when my wife and I were starting a church ministry we held the leadership meetings in our house.  We had a big house with an upstairs living area for our two boys so the boys could play whilst we held the meetings.  If you have a meeting in your family home don’t make your family sit in their bedrooms whilst you take over the house for meetings.  If there isn’t room for your family as well as running the meeting  then meet somewhere else.

Recently I read about the guidelines for a Vicarage within the Anglican Church, these are the standards that all houses should meet for a minister in the Anglican Church:

  • Four bedrooms – which are off limits to guests
  • Two living spaces – one for the family to live in and one that could be used for meetings
  • Study or an office
  • Separate toilet for guests

Whilst your house may not meet those requirements, if you are going to use your house as a meeting spot think of the needs of your family.  The advantage of having a meeting at your home is that your family can be part of your ministry.  It is a great blessing for your ministry team to witness what a family is really like.  But if your home is not suitable or it places too much burden on your family then choose another location for your church meeting.

In the next two posts we will look at holding church meetings in other places:

  • Public spaces like a Café
  • Church property

markoffaith, mark of faith, Mark of Faith, mrmarkmcdonald, Mark McDonald, markoffaith.net

3 steps of an engaging presentation

What does a scenic flight in an aeroplane have to do with presentation skills?  If you reflect on the three stages of giving a presentation, there are a lot of similarities to an aeroplane flight.  There is usually a starting point to any flight the same as there is always an introduction to any talk, speech or presentation.  There are usually a couple of points of interest in any scenic flight, and in any presentation there should be a few points of interest too.  Every scenic flight must come to an end as should a good presentation.

Have you ever heard a talk that never really grabbed your attention?  Perhaps the introduction never got off the ground.  Or perhaps you have heard a talk or speech that went on and on and on; they didn’t know how to “land it”.  So here are three simple tips for giving a great presentation in your ministry setting using the image of an aeroplane flight:

1. The Take off:  When an aeroplane is getting ready to take off it uses the most amount of energy of the entire flight.  When you begin your presentation you will have to use a lot of energy to get the attention of the audience.  If you loose people in the take off you may not get them back, but they are stuck listening to you.  Even if you know your topic really well, you must give some thought to your introduction.

How you can kick off your presentation?

2.  Cruising: when an aeroplane gets into the air it aims for its cruising altitude and then turns down the engines to cruising speed.  An aeroplane doesn’t fly at full speed for the entire flight but cruises at an efficient speed.  In the cruising part of your presentation you might have to come off the energy level a little.  People can’t keep their energy up for the entire presentation so adapt the pace in the middle section.  Just like an aeroplane flight there are usually only two or three points of interest.  In your middle section don’t confuse people with 10 or 15 key points.  You want two or three key points that get you to your destination but add interest along the way.

What are the 2 or 3 key points of your presentation?

3. The Landing:  when an aeroplane takes off it knows where it is going to land.  A long “holding pattern” before landing can be hard for the passengers.  When you are giving a presentation you must know how you are going to land or finish before you begin.  What is your final destination, what is you final point?  Keeping the audience wondering when you are going to finish is not a good idea.

How are you going to finish your presentation?

These are three really simple stages to any presentation.  There is one more thought to add using the aeroplane analogy:
How many planes can a pilot fly at once? 
A pilot can only fly one plane at any given time.  So too you should have one only one key theme each time you present.  Some people will get up and talk for the allotted time, packing in as many themes and topics as they can.  Apart from confusing the audience, each theme is undervalued because it is not explored properly.
So the next time you are giving a presentation, preaching at church, giving a talk to young people or sharing the vision for your ministry remember the key stages:
  • fly one plane (theme)
  • give energy to the take off (introduction)
  • have 2 or 3 points of interest while cruising (body) and
  • nail the landing (conclusion)

markoffaith, MarkofFaith, Mark of Faith, mark of faith, mrmarkmcdonald, Mark McDonald, markoffaith.net

Where are you heading personally? Vision Part 2

In a previous post I wrote about where are you heading in your ministry.  Whilst it is important to steward your ministry well, most of us won’t stay in the same ministry our entire life.  So how do you work out a vision and direction for your life that fits into what God is doing within the ministries that you are planted?

When I was younger I thought my youth group was the best thing I had ever done.  Every Sunday night I would go to Church, during the week we would catch up, I would write talks, help out with meetings and do whatever was needed.  After three years of giving everything I had to this ministry I started to see life after the youth group.  It was like I grew out of the youth ministry as I grew older and I needed to move on.  Since then I have seen the same pattern repeat itself within every ministry I have served in; it is just the length of time that changes.  Sometimes it is six months sometimes three years sometimes 10 years.

In your life have you seen this pattern in ministry:

  1. Discover a new ministry
  2. Soak up everything you can from the group
  3. Devote everything you have to the ministry
  4. Pass on everything you do to other leaders
  5. Move onto the next phase of your life

It is Ok to spend a season in a ministry and move on.

The challenge for us is to be guided by what God is calling us to rather than drifting from ministry to ministry.  If you are going to stay in ministry long enough to contribute, you have to go through a period where it may not be as enjoyable as when you first started.  If you leave a ministry when ever it is no longer enjoyable then you are not moving by God’s call but by your own desires.

Here are four things to help you determine where you should be heading personally:

  1. What is your calling?  Your calling doesn’t usually look like a job description.  It isn’t often that your life’s call is Year 12 Geography teacher at Summer Bay High.  Your calling is some way that you will make a different in the world so describe it in unique ways.  Your calling is most likely not just the things that you are good at but the things that make you stronger as a person and as a disciple.  Your calling will never draw you away from God but will help you build God’s Kingdom in a special way.
  2. What season are you in?  You may be in a season of growth; you may need a season of rest.  You need to reflect on what season you are in because God may be asking you to sow into a particular ministry for a particular time.  If you feel you must commit somewhere for the rest of your life then you may miss the opportunity to sow into a great ministry for a short period of time.
  3. What are you preparing for?  Are you developing your craft for a future season?  We can be so focused on what we are doing now that we forget we need to be preparing for what is next.  This might be further study, it might be connecting with mentors who are at the next level, it might be reading more books or developing your platform.  Even if you are in a season of great productivity you should be preparing for the future.
  4. What is your life’s work?  Sometimes you need to imagine how you will view your life after you retire.  Whilst most of us have no idea about every single job that we will hold in our life, it is important to focus on what significance your life will make as a whole.  Some people will have three or four ministries throughout their life others will serve in 10-15 different places.  What difference will your life make as a whole in the Kingdom of God?

Whilst this might sound focused on you, I really believe that we have to let God be God.  We have to constantly be asking God how can I serve you?  It is not our vision but God’s vision that we should be following.  If you are heading nowhere in your life then you will get there.  If you want to be heading in the right direction then you have to be looking to God.

markoffaith, mark of faith, Mark of Faith