Friday, February 27, 2015

Preaching in Smaller Attendance Churches

Preaching PhotoPreaching must be a priority for a pastor, regardless of church size. As the pastor of smaller attendance churches, I always looked for opportunities to preach sermon series that would allow me to draw deeper truths out of the scriptures. On Sunday and Wednesday nights, I frequently would preach through books of the Bible, do character studies of Bible personalities and in-depth studies of significant scriptural topics, themes and doctrines. I found that this approach gave a greater balance as I sought to preach the “whole counsel” of God’s word.

I also preached shorter series on Sunday mornings (often times 3 and 4 weeks long). These series were most times expositional in nature and had a higher focus on the application of the scripture passage, and not just knowledge. Since most first time guests visited us during Sunday morning worship, I really wanted to be sure the message was solid Biblically, but extremely relevant to life. For instance, for several weeks around Valentine’s Day, I preached a three-week series on “Real Love” from 1 Corinthians 13. Such a series of messages is doctrinally sound and highly relevant. By preaching shorter series on Sunday mornings, it also gave me more freedom to preach special emphasis messages around stewardship, missions and major holidays.

Since I was preaching 3 to 4 new sermons each week, I found it saved me time when preaching a series of messages. My weekly preparation time was reduced for each message and I knew where I was going each week as I prepared my next sermon. There was none of that “what will I preach next week?” It allowed me to be thinking ahead for illustrations and application of the scriptures we would be studying. At times, I even shared my sermon topics and texts with several enlisted church members, having them search for good illustrations from local newspapers, magazines and media. They loved helping and it saved me countless hours looking for current and relevant illustrations.

I recently came across a good article by Dennis Bickers on “Do people in small churches want in-depth preaching?” He has additional good ideas for preaching in the smaller attendance church.

Again, preaching must be a priority for a pastor. According to scripture, it is one of his key responsibilities. Pastors must make preaching a priority. Church members must make sure the pastor can make his preaching a priority.

What have you done as a pastor to keep your preaching a priority and preach the meat of God’s word?

The Most Important Thing
I have ever done! Read my story HERE

(Photo credit PhotoPin)

Friday, December 26, 2014

I'm Tired!

     Christmas was finally over and the pastor's wife dropped into an easy chair saying, "Boy, am I ever tired."
     Her husband looked over at her and said, "I had to conduct two special services last night and three today, and I gave a total of five sermons. Why are you so tired?"
     "Dear," she replied, "I had to listen to all of them."

Received from Thomas Ellsworth. - The Good, Clean Funnies List
A cheerful heart is good medicine... (Prov 17:22a)
Mail address: GCFL, Box 100, Harvest, AL 35749, USA

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Three-Month Rule for Change

Early in my ministry, I realized that my timetable and the timetable of my church were often very different. Our timetables were Photo-3-Month Ruledifferent especially when it came to leading needed change or implementing new ideas or ministries.
After several poor outcomes, I settled on what I called my “Three-Month Rule” for leading change in the church. It was not a "hard and fast" rule, but it was one that I followed most of the time. Here is how it works.
Let’s say that I attended a conference and discovered a great ministry idea that I thought would work effectively in our church. My inclination was often to come home and start the process of implementing the new ministry. Although the ministry had been highly effective in another church, I needed to take time to pray about it and closely evaluate it in the context of our church and community.
I learned to mark down the date I discovered the new ministry idea. That became my anchor date for prayer and evaluation. After three months, if the idea was still on my heart and mind, I determined that God could potentially use this ministry in our church.
At some point after my three-months of prayer and evaluation, I would begin to develop the ministry idea and discuss it with leadership. The benefit to our leadership was that they were assured I had taken time to process our context and who we were as a congregation. I had not just thrown the “latest and greatest” ministry idea at them without significant consideration.
When following this process, I often discovered that the original ministry idea would look significantly different than first imagined. Then once presented to our leadership, additional changes might be made before implementing it with the congregation.
My three-month rule was of great benefit to leading change, but it was not the silver bullet. At times, our leadership was still not convinced of my enthusiastic recommendation. In hindsight, I discovered that in such cases, they were usually right.
Regardless, my three-month rule proved itself to be extremely valuable. I would recommend it to any church leader.  
The Most Important Thing
I have ever done! Read my story HERE

Monday, October 13, 2014

Video Consultation on Church Revitalization

Thom Rainer has just launched a church revitalization video consultation series that can be accessed online. To my knowledge, this is one of the first resources of this type that is now broadly available. It is well worth your time to invest a few hours to be exposed to this helpful information on revitalizing congregations.

The first video consultation is "Seven Keys to Know How Your Church Can Revitalize." It is the first of four online videos in the series. The additional three videos in the series will be released over the next few weeks.

To watch this first video teaching click HERE. Be ready to take notes to use for your reflection and implementation in the church where you serve.

Rainer also publishes a regular blog and leadership podcast at He regularly makes available valuable information for leaders in local churches. I would encourage you to follow him on his blog, on Twitter (@ThomRainer) or on Facebook (HERE).

Friday, October 10, 2014

Pastoral Prayers in Worship

Pastor in Pulpit 02
photo credit: Kevin Shorter via photopin cc
     I have long believed the pastor has a serious responsibility to lead his congregation in public prayer each week as they gather for worship. As a pastor, I learned that my time of public prayer during each weekly worship service provided not only a time to pray, but also a time to teach our people about prayer. 
     In time, I developed a simple outline that I tried to cover during each prayer so that I did not fall into the habit of redundancy in my public prayer. It also prevented me from just rambling through random thoughts that might come to mind as I prayed. To this day, I utilize this simple outline if called on to lead a congregation in the pastoral prayer time. Sometimes I just remember it and other times I write it down so I do not forget important prayer needs.
     My outline is simple. Let me share it and then explain briefly the significance of each.
  1. Praise God
  2. Confession
  3. Inside
  4. Outside
     First, I want to teach the importance of PRAISING GOD. Often times our people only spend time thanking God for what He has done. When we praise God, we should praise Him for WHO He is and not just for what He has done.
     I gathered a long list of the character attributes of God so that each week I could highlight a different characteristic of WHO God is to us. For instance, I would choose from my list and publicly praise God for being our provider, His omnipresence, His knowledge, His faithfulness, His goodness, His patience, His holiness, His power or any number of other attributes.
     Public CONFESSION is the second area I always want to focus on as a pastor leading the congregation in prayer. Although every individual must personally confess their own sinfulness, the pastor can pray for forgiveness of God’s people for their sinful behavior in general terms.
     As an example, I might pray publicly something like, “Lord, forgive us for our lack of trust during this past week. Forgive us for being so self-centered that we have acted in our own power and not relied on you as the source of our provision.”
     Again, I gathered a number of confessional words or statements to prevent me from falling into a rut. Some of the words or statements I might use include arrogance, bitterness, poorly spoken words, bitterness, distrust, lack of love for others, self-centered, inpatient, anger, and lack of commitment. Of course, there are many more.
     The third area for prayer concerns are those INSIDE our church fellowship and immediate community. Since I do not want this to become the sole area of focus, or the only area of prayer focus, I think through the most important church-related prayer needs to mention before the congregation for corporate prayer. Usually I choose needs that would be of concern to the most people. Typically, I select a maximum of three or four concerns from inside our church fellowship or community. That number might vary from week to week, but I remain cautious that this time is not too long.
     The final area of focus in my pastoral prayer is for concerns OUTSIDE of our fellowship. Generally, I pray for several major concerns or items of emphasis in our state, nation or internationally.
     As an example, I might pray for the many homeless and poor in our country as we remember World Hunger Day. Additionally, I might pray for the safety of our missionaries and military in the Middle East during these turbulent and uncertain times. If something has been of high concern during the previous week (i.e. a major disaster, crime, a social concern, etc.), I will pray for that concern specifically.
      Although this simple outline may not fit each pastor’s approach, let me encourage pastors to think through the impact of every word during the pastoral prayer. It holds great value for God’s appointed leader to be praying for, over and with the congregation he serves.

The Most Important Thing
I have ever done! Read my story HERE

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Healthy Systems in the Smaller Attendance Church

(Pastor’s Network Web Group)

To APPLY for this network group,
Click HERE
  The “Healthy Systems in the Smaller Attendance Church” Pastor’s Web Network group is designed as a virtual ministry development network to enrich the leadership capacity of pastors serving smaller attendance churches.
Bobby Gilstrap, founder of Dynamic Church Ministries, facilitates each class. In more than 33 years of ministry, Gilstrap has served as a state convention Lead Missionary/Executive Director, Associational Missionary, Church Planter, Pastor and Youth Minister.
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  The group will explore the seven critical systems in a small church. Each system is a part of a simple 3-line system map format. Once participants clearly understand each of the 3-lines of the small church system map, they will have the tools for leading their congregation to be healthy. The result of implementing the 3-line church system map will be effective outreach and missions and effective ministry within the congregation.
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  Beginning the week of October 13, 2014, the network group will meet on Tuesday or Thursday, for three consecutive weeks, for up to one hour per session. Each participant will also have the option of scheduling a one-hour individual coaching session with the network facilitator, Bobby Gilstrap.
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  All network meetings are held by web conferencing. Each network participant will need to have access to a web camera for maximum benefit.
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  Each network meeting is one-hour long. A typical session will include a 35-minute time of teaching followed by 25-minutes of open discussion by participants.
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  FREE. This three-week web network class is free of charge. Since all materials and consultants time are provided at no cost, it is expected that each participant will prioritize attendance for each of the three network sessions.
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  To APPLY for participation in one of the Healthy Systems in the Smaller Attendance Church” pastor’s networks, complete the brief application HERE (or Participants will be notified of acceptance to the network by email.