Monday, February 28, 2011

Rich Enough?

There is an interesting story of the rich, young ruler that came to Jesus.

You likely know the story: A rich man comes to Jesus looking for affirmation of his faith. We all like affirmation and this certain man had much for which he would be proud for he said that he kept the commandments, he didn't murder or commit adultery. He said he wasn't a liar or defrauded anyone and he honored his father and mother (Mark 10:19-20).

Jesus had the opportunity at that time to remind him that adultery included lust and that murder including being angry with others which would have popped his balloon. Instead the Bible says that Jesus looked at him and loved him. Jesus did offer him something that was quite rare, he offered him the opportunity to become one of his disciples. "One thing you lack, He said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

There were very few that Jesus offered this opportunity. We know them all as Apostles.

The man went away however sad because of his unwillingness to part with his riches.

Perhaps he thought he wasn't rich enough.

That's the problem with earthly as opposed to heavenly riches. With the former, you can never be rich enough. The latter gives us the assurance and the affirmation that the rich man was looking for from Jesus. Jesus tells us that His assurance will come with these words, "Well done, good and faithful servant". (Matt 25:23)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Measure twice, cut once

I was never a very good carpenter. I didn’t have enough practice to be able to successfully cut a piece of wood to size. I was pretty good at following a pattern or a template, but typically the piece of wood was either too short or too long. Too-long slows you down, too-short wastes wood.

My father always had good advice for me. The advice was in carpentry, “Measure twice, cut once.

In the church, we need to follow the same advice. Actually, we need to just measure more. Developing some simple metrics for a church and watching some key indicators can tell you a lot. Church metrics are like business metrics. They provide key data for leaders for analysis and to monitor the organizations performance. All too often, church leaders are called to try to make a decision without some information that would really help them make better judgment calls.

What kinds of metrics are needed? Often churches keep track of attendance, giving, baptisms and perhaps even guests. If the church has a number of employees, some performance metrics are often used, perhaps an annual performance appraisal.

Metrics are never to be considered in the absolute, but always with regard to trends. For example, one weekend’s attendance doesn’t tell us anything, however, knowing that weekend attendance has been growing by 10 percent the past few years and has recently flattened out gives us much more information.

One of the questions I get from our church leaders is about the accuracy of the metrics. They are usually surprised when I tell them that absolute accuracy is not as important as consistency and timeliness. The key is constantly monitoring trends.

Attendance for example can vary from church to church. Some churches count just adults in a worship service, others count adults and children. I recommend that churches count everyone including volunteers, those parking cars and everyone on the stage. All of these methods can be fine metrics. As long as the count is being made the same way each week (and each service), church leadership has a tool to use that allows them to have information quicker, make adjustments when necessary and celebrate as appropriate.

Reprint from ChurchExecutive January 2011

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Things the Church could learn from Disney

My wife and I just returned from Disney World. It was a great trip as we have three in our family with birthday's the beginning of February. Celebrating a child's birthday at Disney is magical.

As we drove home, we had the time to think about how well Disney handles crowds, how welcomed we felt when we arrived and how pleasant the experience was, regardless of the crowd, weather or line.

The church could learn a lot from Disney. Here is the brief list we compiled:

1) As people enter the church lot and find a place to park, why not have an area and an entrance dedicated to parents with children that will need to be checked in? Parents with children have some unique needs and special consideration. If we tailor the experience to them, it will be better than if we had to have them find their way through the crowds.

2) Speaking of parking, while many churches have gotten larger and parking more expansive, only a few churches with large parking lots have shuttles and golf carts to transport people in from the outer regions. I'm not going to recommend we name the lots "Goofy" and "Mickey" but "Matthew, Mark Luke and John" could be interesting location names.

3) Rarely is the church as crowded any Sunday as Disney is on an off-day. However, we could learn a lot about crowd management from Disney for our Easter and Christmas services. Moving people from the lobby to the auditorium in a queue or at least with smiling people pointing the direction may be a little too "Disneyesque" but likely would work. Also, filling the seats from the front to the back and blocking off areas that are not needed only makes sense, which is likely why we resist it so much in the church.

4) Disney didn't build a park or a ride to be able to accomodate 100% of the people that may want to experience it. They expect that the park or ride will be utilized over and over, and that people would be somewhat indifferent if they got a chance to ride it now or 30 minutes from now.

While many churches have decided to offer multiple services so that they better utilize (i.e. be better stewards of) the resources they have, many churches continue to have expensive and over-sized auditoriums. Many churches unfortunately have entire buildings that are utilized no more than a few hours on Sunday and perhaps a Wednesday evening.

5) Disney ensures that every greeter, every attendant, every security officer, every retail employee wear name tags. I found out that 'Monique' was from my home town because her home town was also printed on her name tag. Disney calls all of their employees "cast members" and all are trained to be knowledgable, courteous and helpful. If people don't know the names of the cast members that work at Disney, it has little downside. However Disney believes names are important in creating community.

Conversely, how many people attend church on a weekly basis with virtual strangers? They see many of the same people weekly and may smile politely but have no name to go with the face. The opportunity to use name tags is an important start with those that we call ushers, greeters and volunteers. Wearing name tags can apply as well however to literally everyone that attends on a regular basis. If we want to be a community, it likely starts with a name.

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