The Greatest Characteristic of a Successful Person

I believe the single greatest characteristic a successful person can have is self-realization. Too many people live life with an outward focus. Everything in life rises and falls on someone else. Now they may not come out and say that, but every part of their actions scream that reality. Their lack of success is always circumstantial or someone else’s fault. “This happened to me” or “they messed up” and this lack of self-realization has created a road block in their journey towards their dreams and purpose.

You must understand that you are your greatest ally or your own worst enemy depending on your viewpoints. Self-realization takes the focus off other people and circumstances and places the focus on yourself.

How are you developing the leaders around you?
Do you have enough talent in that particular area to succeed?
How are you dealing with the cards life dealt you?
How hard are you working to pursue your dream?
How committed are you to the long haul?

These are all very self directed questions that require personal responsibility. Unless you take responsibility for your life and your dreams you will never walk into your destiny.

As a leader it all rises and falls on me. If there is an issue in our organization where a staff member may be falling short it still falls on my shoulders. It is my responsibility to address the situation with the team member and my job to help them in practical ways move forward. When things don’t align the way I hoped for, unfortunately they rarely do, I still have to move past the circumstances that I am facing. I have had challenges from childhood experiences, to financial setbacks, to supporters backing out, to multiple building issues, and I go on and on. All potential dream killers that I could have used as excuses for me not reaching my dreams, but those things are small in comparison to the greatness of our God. I’m glad I chose to push forward and live my calling despite the circumstances. I remember clearly God speaking to my heart in one of my darkest valleys “Man did not call you… I did… Man does not finance you… I do” and that moment was a jolt to my faith that I had to quit trusting the circumstances and start trusting my God. That type of faith is not external, but internal.

Look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself “Am I committed to the process and will I take responsibility for my dreams”? God has already equipped you, but you have the option to be the servant with 5 talents and get to work or the servant with 1 talent that buries it. You are your greatest ally or your own worst enemy based on the level of your self-realization!

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed it, leave a comment I would love to hear from you!

How to Live your Dreams

I get many people reaching out to me for advice on how to choose their career or vocation. This is a big deal in our country I read a study where over 80% of people surveyed said they hate or strongly dislike their job and would quit if money wasn’t an obstacle. The reality is you must understand that what you are passionate about has to drive your vocation because if not your vocation will drive you.  Doing what you love is the most freeing experience and an experience unfortunately most people don’t ever get to live.  The reason most people never get to that place is because culture tells you either that money is the source of ultimate happiness or that dreams are just fantasies. However, I believe life is too short to work a job everyday that you hate.

My deepest passion is seeing people become who they were created to be.  To watch people live their dreams, develop as leaders, and live life with a mission that is bigger than themselves.  I desire that for you also! I wanted to tackle this today in the blog and of course you can’t say everything in a single post, but hopefully something I say will spark movement in your life! So lets look at how you can get out of that cycle and start pursuing your dreams

1. You must discover what you are passionate about.

Most people have no idea what they would do if they had the choice.  That concept is so far removed from their psyche that they haven’t dreamed in years.  This is where you find people that chase “good” ideas over chasing what they are truly passionate about. Good ideas are not bad and some people do feel called to create things from nothing. However, in my experience most people that are chasing ideas are chasing the money or success they think is attached to those ideas.  I hate to break it to you but contrary to what the world preaches money will never ever satisfy you!  You must pursue what you love. So to clarify that understanding you must spend your time asking yourself this question… If I could pursue today what God created me to do and time and money wasn’t an option what would that be? That is a HUGE question, but it is the question every single person must answer!  Because when you get to the core of who you were created to be in God’s eyes you start dreaming with mission and purpose and start living the life you were always intended to live.  Money and time are not objects to God, but excuses we place as roadblocks in our lives.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

Do you see that?  He planned for you to live your purpose long ago…

To discover your purpose you MUST:

  • So tune out what the world says is important.
  • Seek God.
  • Discover your spiritual gifts and talents.
  • Discover a need in this world that your gifts and talents can help fix.
  • Ask yourself would I be happy to doing that?

That may sound simple, but it takes pointed questions that make you focus on what really matters to this world and how you are uniquely created to be a part of that.

2. Put together a plan.

Yep… You have to know how you are planning on getting there.  Once you know “what” you want to do then you have to start focusing on “how” that is going to happen.  If it takes degree to do what you want to do then you have to start looking at colleges.  If it is a business you want to start then you must begin formulating a business plan that breaks down everything from demographic you are trying to reach, cost to start and run your business, what you company will look like, etc… If you want to be a writer start a blog and build a following while you are setting a daily word count that you will write to achieve your goals.  Find that internship or become that apprentice.  You have to put a plan in place. Dreams don’t just arrive in your mailbox, but they achieved through diligent planning and discipline.

3. You may have to work it on the side.

I get that you may have a family to support or life to pay for so just quitting your job isn’t an option.  That is still not an impossible mountain to climb if you have the right work ethic. For four years I spent about 50 hours a week running a company that I did not love while I was pursuing my dreams on the side.  I worked late nights, early mornings, and during my breaks to pursue my dream.  Solomon got it right when he said in Proverbs 14:23 “Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty”. There are a lot of dreamers out there that do not have the work ethic to pull of their dreams.  Dreams without discipline are fantasies.  What is four years working extremely hard to be able to do what you love for the rest of your life? It is nothing! However, four years wasted with excuses is detrimental and you will live with the most gut wrenching feeling ever…Regret!

4. Keep expenses down.

Debt and unnecessary expenses are the greatest dream killers.  The American problem is we work jobs we hate to buy toys we don’t have enough time to even use.  To do what you love you must keep your cost of living low!  Pay off your debt, down size your home, drive an inexpensive car, eat at home, cut the cable bill, and I could go on and on.  Are those things really more important than doing what you love? For me personally I would rather drive a $2,000 car and do what I love than drive a $40,000 car and work a job I hate.  The trade off is a no brainer.

5. Don’t quit.

It will get hard, but if you don’t have grit and resolve you will never make it.  Know what you want to do and understand life happens in seasons and you just have to get through the season you are currently experiencing in life.  Too many people’s dreams go unfulfilled because they were to impatient and quit the process.  You have to build it in your mindset that you are not stopping! I heard Steve Green say recently, “The world doesn’t need stronger leaders, but more resilient leaders”. We need leaders that don’t quit!

6. Take the step of faith.

You just have to start.  You have to pursue.  You must understand life is too short to keep stalling! Don’t let the gnawing echo of “what if” haunt you throughout your life, but run after the destiny you were created to live!

I know without a shadow of a doubt that if you keep your cost of living low, your work ethic high, if you are resilient, and if you have the talent you will see your dreams become reality!

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed it, leave a comment I would love to hear from you!

 

HOW TO RETAIN VISITORS PT. 4 (SERMON)

So we are wrapping up this blog series on “HOW TO RETAIN VISITORS” and you can check out the previous 3 posts on 1st Impressions, Kids, & Worship.  Today we are going to tackle the sermon.  A recent study by Pew Research on the top reasons why someone chooses a church and the #1 pick at 83% of the people was the quality of the sermons.  Now if that doesn’t speak to the importance of being a good communicator I don’t know what will. Today I just want to hit 7 keys to delivering an effective sermon at you church.

1. Speak on Relevant Topics.

This seems like a no brainer right?!? Speak on topics people want to hear, but you would be surprised on how many speakers just speak on whatever they feel like.  Every great communicator knows you are not a great communicator if you ignore the very needs of the people you are speaking to.  Paul said it best in terms of connecting with his audience “When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.” 1 Corinthians 9:22-23

So how do you know who you are speaking to and to discover their needs?

  • Get your staff involved.  I love bringing my staff into our calendar planning and we discuss what topics are important to our church.  This allows us to expand our reach within our community as each staff member has weekly interactions with so many of our members through serving and Life groups which in return hits a wide demographic.
  • Send out a survey. I also like to get direct feedback from our people and to do so we will have a survey card we ask everyone to fill out once a year.  The survey card actually hits many important ares of our church, but one part of the survey is a list of topics that they would like us to speak on.  This helps us specifically identify the needs in our church.
  • Have a strong prayer life. I feel like every year God speaks a theme into my heart for our church.  2017 the theme is #TheYearofGrowth as we are going to continue to grow physically, but most importantly grow spiritually as our roots get deeper. In 2016 we saw over 600 people give their heart to Jesus and I was really seeking God on developing all these people that are new to the faith in prayer He spoke that theme in my heart.  Seek God and I know he will speak direction into your church.

2. Add a Personal Touch.

Evangelism isn’t telling people what they need to do as much as it is telling them what God has done in you.  You have to share yourself with your people.  Being open with what God has done in your life builds trust with your listener and trust is what drops guards to allow them to receive what you are saying. As much as I wish people came up to me raving about how smart I am as I dropped some Greek or Hebrew knowledge on them it never really happens that way, but every time I share personally how I struggled or doubted and God moved someone is impacted.  Personal stories take it from a far fetched lecture to real experience that can also take place in their lives.

3. Add Humor.

This is probably the hardest thing to build into a message, but it so extremely necessary because laughter allows people to relax and get engaged. Now the better you know your audience the more you feel comfortable in this space.  A few things to think about is first you are not a standup comedian that needs to have an elaborate joke with a punchline so don’t put that pressure on yourself, secondly don’t  take yourself to seriously but be willing to laugh at yourself, thirdly thinking of a funny story or exaggerated examples that goes with your topic truly helps,  and lastly the more comfortable and relaxed you are on stage the funnier you are.

4. Add Applicable Points.

I like to build into every message either a “Take Home” or “Action Steps” which are practical points people can apply to their life.   It is one thing to give someone spiritual goosebumps and get them all amped on your fiery message, but it’s a whole new ball game when they actually start applying what you speak on. Many people want to apply the messages, but we use such broad strokes in our messages that they don’t seam practical.  So what I do is give them something physical to walk out the service to do in the week… Everything from joining a LifeGroup, to going on a date with your spouse, to writing out goals, to setting a specific devotion time, etc… We have to put action towards our faith.

5. Let Your Message Breathe.

Great messages unfold over time.  To many pastors throw their messages together at the last moment and in doing so haven’t given the message enough time to breathe.  I like to have my messaged outlined earlier in the week and finished no later than Thursday.  This gives me several days to tweak the outline and then two whole days to polish the finished message.  You will find humor is easier to develop after you have gone over the message many times, your transitions become smoother as work through them over and over again, and you are able remove material that isn’t really necessary.  Don’t wait to the last minute to write your message, but you have to build into your calendar planning and writing moments for your message every week.

6. Speak with Pace.

Pace is one of the most important factors to keep peoples attention.  Most speakers speak with a slower pace because they don’t truly know their material and so they are constantly going back to their notes.  I am a big advocate of speaking without any notes and I don’t even have a pulpit on stage.  I have confidence monitor set up in front of me that has my main points and scriptures. This allows me to have an effective pace and flow in my messages.  The key is not memorizing your messages, but knowing your message.  When you truly understand the content of each point and have went over your material enough you will be able to deliver what I believe is a more personal message.  No longer is your head down hiding behind a pulpit, but you are out front engaging your audience.

7. End EVERY Message with a Salvation Opportunity.

I have seen so many Pastors deliver powerful messages where you could sense people were ready to commit their lives to Jesus in the room, but the speaker just ends the service with no opportunity to except Jesus.  I am convinced many searching people leave Sundays still searching because as Pastors we didn’t communicate with them their first step. We live in a generation that wasn’t raised in church and to assume people know the sinners prayer is a mistake.  I cannot tell you the amount of people that have attended our church that don’t know what worship is, offerings is, who Matthew Mark Luke or John are let alone accepting Jesus free gift of salvation.  Every Sunday is an opportunity to expand the Kingdom of God and nothing is more energizing to a Church body than knowing they are part of a Great Commission church!

Lets be communicators that speak the life, the truth, and the hope of Jesus in ways that connect with our people week in and week out as we see more people come and then become involved in our church communities!

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed it, leave a comment I would love to hear from you!

HOW TO RETAIN VISITORS PT. 3 (WORSHIP)

It is a great feeling seeing new guests walk through the doors of your church, but it is an even better feeling when you see them come back! We are breaking down effective ways to get your 1st time visitors to come back because retention is the only way to grow! Part 1 we broke down the importance of 1st Impressions and you can check that post out here. Then in Part 2 we looked at the immense value of an effective Kids ministry.  Today we are going to look inside the worship experience as we look at Worship and Transitions that create an inviting yet powerful Sunday experience.

A powerful Sunday service is intentional not accidental.  What I mean is that God truly blesses preparation and it is in being a steward of your opportunities that we see God move in powerful ways. Some churches argue that being organized and prepared takes away the authenticity of your worship experience and I see things very differently. I truly believe that when we honor God by giving our absolute best and working diligently to be stewards of the gifts He has given us that God actually moves in greater ways in our services.  So when you plan, prepare, rehearse, and deliver out of your spiritual gifts in a way that honors God and the people of your Church you will find that response from God is like the response He gave the Servant with 5 talents  “well done my good and faithful servant”.

So lets look at 6 ways to create a powerful worship experience for guests and members.

1. Begin with a Countdown

EVERY service must start on time no matter what! “Well Mike there is not that many people here yet so we are just going to wait until more show up”…. Ummm no! They show up late because they know you start late. It is unfair to a first time visitor that is there on time for you to start late because you are waiting for your regular attenders to get there.  What you are saying by doing this is that the members are more important than the guests, that running late is acceptable, and that your church is unorganized.

Start every service with a countdown that begins 5 minutes before the service is supposed to start.  We like to take advantage of this time and actually have created a 5 minute promo video for our church that is just B-roll of the city, our Sunday services, our Kids ministry, Baptisms, and our people hanging out.  It is a wonderful way to give a first time guest a preview of your church experience before you ever begin.

2. Start with energy.

Kick your worship service off with a high energy song.  This is the best way to get people pumped, get the morning blood flowing, and is a better environment to walk into as people start filing into your worship service.  I think that church should be passionate, fun, and have a lot of energy and the way you start really impacts the way you finish.   Now the problem many churches have is they are not able to pull off a fast song effectively and mainly it is because they don’t have enough musician to make the song sound full.  Luckily we live in a day and age where technology helps us out a great deal and that is through worship tracks.  Go on www.multitracks.com to find the songs you want to do and you can fill in the holes with tracks to give you a full sound and tons of energy.  Some people are scared to run tracks because they think the technology is too much for them, but you can even run your tracks from a iPad through an aux cable. Also don’t feel insecure about using tracks because very few worship teams have enough musicians to pull off everything you hear in a record so most fill in gaps with the worship tracks.

3. Build into Intimacy.

Worship needs to be worshipful and there is nothing like the sound of a whole church singing to our God in unity.  Your song selection is very important and you need to pick songs that are congregational which means they are easy to sing along to. So some great tips to figure a good song is first are the lyrics powerful do they get you pumped up and encouraged.  Secondly, does the song stay in your head after you hear it?  A great melody helps you sing along as you are hearing it and also the song stays with you throughout the day.

4. Share your heart.

You need to have moments where you have people on stage speak from their hearts and express what God is doing in their lives or what a particular song means to them. True authenticity is found when we are being open and real.  We personally have this take place in a few areas of our services.  Usually someone on the worship team will speak in between the 2nd and third song and then at the end of the set we will have another speaker come up and do a spiritual moment and close in prayer.  We are not just singing songs we are engaging God and by integrating sharing with singing it really enhances that experience!

5. Welcome Guests.

After the spiritual moment the speaker needs to go directly into the welcome.  We always welcome the first time guests (not pointing them out individually), we introduce ourselves, share our vision, highlight our worship guides and connection cards, and explain what is happening next in the service. From there we go into a 2 minute countdown before the pastor speaks the message. This gives time for people to get settled in their seats and for guests to fill out the connection cards.

6. Leave room for the Holy Spirit.

Though we plan our services very specifically we are also very sensitive to the Holy Spirit and leave room in our service that if we feel led we can go back into a song or share something more. Sunday services are all about people hearing, feeling, and experiencing God and sometimes we don’t know how or when that will happen so build into your services flexibility.  Not every service will need that time, but it is great to have it there when you do.  Don’t get in the way of God!

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed it, leave a comment I would love to hear from you!

HOW TO RETAIN VISITORS. PT. 2 (KIDS)

We are breaking down part 2 of “how to retain visitors” and you can check out part one here. The reality is if we are not retaining a high percentage of our visitors then all our marketing efforts are in vain! I get Pastors all the time saying “we just got to get the word out on our church so people know we exist”. The greatest way to do that is word of mouth and the only way people are going to talk about your church is if they enjoyed their experience. When you retain visitors you are expanding your platform which leads to more word of mouth advertising.

The second part of this blog series I want to talk about is your Kids Ministry. Now I am not a Kids ministry expert, but I do understand its immense value and I am going to talk about the Kids Ministry through the lens of a Pastor.

So here is 5 important understandings about Kids Ministry:

1. Should be your first priority.

I personally, this may just be me, feel like this should be your first hire and definitely an area you need to get right out of the gate. The reality is a parent may love the worship experience, but if their kids hate their experience they are not coming back to your church. You can have the best worship and the best preaching, but if your kids ministry is falling apart your church is falling apart.

As Pastors we must understand the importance of having an out of this world Kids ministry and to do so we need to staff it properly and fund it properly. Find a leader who is a team builder, who is solution-oriented, and someone who is fun and enjoyable. Don’t settle and don’t just fill a hole. That may mean that other staff members may need to fill the role until you find someone that has the potential of growth to really run with the program. You also need to understand that a great Kids ministry also needs to be funded properly. Honor your families by providing the kids program with the resources they need.

2. We are not babysitting, but building leaders.

So many times churches can look at kids ministry as a place to put a few bodies to watch the kids until the adults are done with their thing. That is absolutely the last thing kids ministry is. As adults we try to tell ourselves that kids don’t have real problems yet the majority of adults are dealing with pains they experienced in their childhood. As a church it is our mission to disciple our young people and teach them to walk freely into the person God has created them to be. We have the privilege to radically change our communities because if our Kids walk in their God-given purpose then literally the future of our cities are changed for Jesus. That is why I believe every believer is called to kids ministry because every believe is called to our families and our communities!

I love the way our Children’s pastors structure our kids services to reflect what we do in our adult worship services. Our kids worship is comprised mostly of songs we do in our adult services so parents and kids are both singing the same worship songs. Our Children’s pastors work hard at aligning the topic of my message with the topic they teach in their services. Lastly and probably my favorite thing they do is at the end of their lessons they break off into small groups for a time of discussion and there they plug in the older students to help lead those discussions to the younger kids.

3. Communicate to the parents.

Parents love hearing about their kids and seeing what their kids doing! We live in a great day and age where there are so many ways to communicate what we are doing on Sundays and helping parents to get involved with their kids throughout the week. Social media is one of our favorite avenues through our main Kids Facebook page and also private parent only pages that we can post lessons, songs, games, activities, and pictures of the kiddos during church. Be active and post throughout the week to keep parents informed, but also peak the interest of people who have yet to come to your church.

Disclaimer: make sure you have permission from a guardian before you post any pictures of a miner online.

4. Security. Security. Security.

I can’t interject this enough parents are not going to trust you with their kids if they feel like security is not a priority to your church. You need to make sure you have a secure and efficient check in and check out system where kids are only picked up with matching tickets and by guardians that are in the system. You need to make sure no adult is allowed in the kids room without a background check or they need to be in the company of a kids ministry worker. Also it’s a great idea to position a security team at entrances and exits of your kids facilities. Parents notice when you take the safety of their children serious and it allows them to drop their guards so they can enjoy their worship experience in the adult service.

5. Have Fun!

Don’t take yourself to serious and get the children involved. Kids want to have fun! Laugh, dance, worship, play games…Have a blast!

To many churches look at kids ministry as an afterthought when it should be our first thought. If you make your kids ministry a priority a put the right staff in place, financially invest in it, and put in the time you will see your church grow and most importantly your young people becoming the world changers God created them to be!

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed it, leave a comment I would love to hear from you!