How far out do you plan your sermons? Three months? A year? How about three years? I’ll admit, I don’t hear many of us talking about a three-year preaching calendar. But, vision typically stretches out three to five years. If your sermon planning only goes out one year, how do you expect to push your vision forward?
The visionary leadership power of the pulpit is immense. I want to give you a free, 3-step Vision Preaching Calendar template to help you release your God-given preacher super powers:
Step 1: Engage Your Vision
Your church depends on you, its lead pastor, to listen to God and lead them in the direction He intends for the church. This vision work is yours, baby! No one else can do it. Begin your sermon planning with a clear, compelling, concrete vision statement. What needs to be accomplished and what do your people need to bring the vision into reality? If it’s going to take collective prayer, how will you activate them? If it’s a lot of money, how will generosity be raised? If it’s serving your city, how will you motivate them? List the vision and people needs necessary to reach your vision these next three years, then order the needs by importance and logical sequence. Finally, sort those vision needs by year. What must happen this year and into years two and three?
Step Two: Plan your Seasons
The church calendar has a repeating rhythm of two seasons—Grow and Disciple. The Grow seasons are fall and spring while the Discipling seasons are winter and summer. Tom Nebel calls this the Two-Hump Camel Church Calendar (watch his video here).
The Grow seasons are about reaching new people. They’re seasons of attraction when you address the natural impulses of life that open people up to the gospel. Use high interest sermon series during the grow seasons. Create space in your church for invitation and outreach The Discipling seasons are about consolidating growth and maturing people in the Jesus lifestyle. These seasons are ripe for vision-casting, textual studies, and topical lessons that resource people to grow as Jesus followers
With your vision and seasons firmly in mind, map out this year’s lessons so you know that your vision is being moved down the road. Once you’ve filled this year’s calendar with seasonal lessons, you’ve completed 80% of your annual preaching calendar. You’ll be leading your people from the pulpit in ways that make progress on your vision while using the natural growth and discipling seasons of your church.
Step Three: Insert for Balance
Use the remaining 20% of your calendar to balance out your preaching with the needs that arise because of life. Some of you might leave these eight or so Sundays empty to give you room to wiggle, to adjust dates, allow guest speakers, (or take your vacation!). Others of you will feel more comfortable inserting ideas to work on. Either way, these open Sundays allow you opportunity to adjust the content of your preaching calendar to the unanticipated events of life.
If you haven’t already downloaded your free Vision Preaching Calendar, do it now. Feel free to adjust this calendar so it meets your needs.
The difference between Training and Coaching is that Training is with those who are not part of the game yet. Coaching is with the people who are already in the trenches and need sharpening. What better people to sharpen than your shepherding leaders?
Outside of my passion for the Kingdom is my involvement with coaching competitive youth soccer. I have spent much of my life having the joy of playing the game of soccer, and enjoyed getting to play through my college years. As I have gotten older, my body has decided that it is no longer willing or able to perform the way it used to. Though my body was finished with the game, my mind was not willing to give it up. Getting to coach kids is very similar to coaching leaders within a church context. Both are wanting to lead, both are in need of improving and sharpening the gifts that they bring to the team.
There are more similarities between coaching youth soccer and coaching shepherding leadership within the church than you might think. In both cases, you are developing individuals to become better and more focused. You are coaching your shepherding leadership toward putting the Values, Mission and Vision of your church into practice. You are equipping them to serve better, love better, be better. If your leaders are well-coached, they will be pouring into their flock to move people from non-believer to believer, to worker, and eventually into leadership.
Take a minute and read Mark 9:14-29. Looks at Jesus’ example as he coached his disciples on the importance of prayer . He explained prayer to them, but first he practiced and perfected it in his own life.
Whatever you coach your Leaders to become, you should also be practicing. And whatever they encourage the congregation to be become, they should already be in the habit of doing. Here are 4 principles to keep in mind as you deliberately coach your leaders to leader the church.
4 Principals of Coaching Your Leaders:
1. Major in principles rather than methods. Love. Obey. Pray. Serve. Teach the principles, but allow each leader to develop a personal skill set. It is amazing how God overlaps different people's talents to make one fully functioning body of believers.
2. Major in meeting the needs in people, rather than on developing and imparting techniques. Specifics on how to do ministry can shift with seasons and culture. Love is timeless. Hope has no expiration date. Care doesn't go sour.
3. Major in developing the thought processes, rather than the skills. Help your leadership keep the big picture in mind, even when urgent matters crop up. As God prepares the soil of your leaders' hearts, he will bear fruit in them and through them.
4. Major in how to trust God, rather than teaching theories on God. Does your leadership find strength in knowing about God or in knowing God? Do they function out of who and whose they are or how well they understand? Are they passing these truths along to the rest of the congregation?
Running technology is a constant activity anymore. Our computers update software automatically (yeah, right). Every now and then we have to turn our devices off and restart them because their brains get out sync. And then there are times we have to reboot everything with an upgraded operating system.
Leadership acts the same way. Sometimes we get into leadership ruts where it seems hard to do anything but the same thing, even when we know what we’re doing is not getting us where our church or ministry needs to be. Other times we’re hit by leadership jolts that throw us around and leave us feeling disoriented—or even downright nauseous. And then there are times we need to install a new operating system into our leadership.
The Kairos Discovery Lab is an opportunity for you to deliberately assess the state of your leadership in a supportive, spirit-infuse, highly engaged process. Discovery Lab will take you on a journey into your leadership that could change your life and ministry in just the way you need right now.
You’ll be part of a lab with other leader couples like you. People who are committed to their ministry leadership and ready to take it to the next level. The interview team will bath you in prayer and surround with support. You’ll leave knowing you are not alone.
I encourage you to put the next Discovery Lab on your calendar: February 18-22 at the COD Ranch in Tucson, AZ.
Right now, go to the Kairos website, download the Leader Self-Assessment, and get started on rebooting your leadership.
Father, I pray your courageous intentions upon these men and women who have accepted your leadership call in their lives. Fill them with your holy spirit for your glory and your kingdom’s good. Amen.
Have you read The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love (1993, 2011) by John Trent and Gary Smalley? The authors present the idea (or fact) that most people spend much of their lives seeking the blessing of acceptance but never receive it. I would be willing to bet that you feel like that a lot with your ministry. You work hard to do what you should do, to work well with your elders, and to minister graciously to your people but too often feel like in the end, it won’t really matter. You’re still going to get blamed or fired. I’ve sat with quite a few ministers (and their wives) who struggled through those bruising experiences.
We want to offer you a Discovery Lab experience of blessing, blessing that has the power to heal wounds, clarify the future and give you confidence for your journey ahead. At Discovery Lab you’ll receive three intentional, meaningful blessings:
First is the blessing of touch. Not everyone is a “hugger,” but we all need time in touching distance with others. At Discovery Lab the blessing of touch comes in the form of PRAYER. One of the comments we hear most often from lab participants is, “I’ve never been PRAYED over so often and so specifically in my life.” We will PRAY over you over and over again at lab. Get it, PRAYER happens a lot! You are important! You are doing one of the most important works that the world can receive. We will PRAY over and with you in groups and individually, in public and in private, up close and at a distance. We want you to soak in the bath of PRAYER to heal your wounds and soothe your bruises. See how many times PRAYER occurs here? That’s like Discovery Lab!
Second is the blessing of insight. In our over communicated world more and more people feel under listened to. At Discovery Lab the interview team is made up of people who are setting aside their regular life to come LISTEN to you. Have you ever had anyone give five days of their life just to listen to you? Now imagine TEN people who have come JUST TO LISTEN TO YOU! Not only will they listen to you, they will reflect back to you the insights that come to them from God’s Holy Spirit. These insights are our gift to you to speed you on your way through life. You’ll receive these insights both verbally and in a written report following lab.
The third blessing is the blessing of community. You go through lab with a community of other participants and the lab interview team. For those five days you truly see that you are not alone. After lab, you become part of that network of over 125 other couples and individuals who have bonded through the lab experience. It might not quite be a secret handshake, but you share something that opens up your relationship world with people serving the kingdom all over the country.
I encourage you to put the next Discovery Lab on your calendar: February 18-22 at the COD Ranch near Tucson, AZ.
Right now, go to the Kairos Website, download the Leader Self-Assessment, and get ready to start receiving your blessings.
Father, we are all blessing seekers and you are the ultimate blessing giver. Let us open our arms to receive. Amen.
Part 1 of 3
How is your church developing its Shepherding Leadership? Unlike established churches, new churches often have to spend very intentional time training and equipping leaders who are new to the role and calling of being shepherding leaders. The reality is that these leaders may have no formal biblical training and very little life experience in leading others in Biblical Godliness.
To intentionally develop these leaders, let's look at three areas over the next three months: Training, Coaching, and Mentoring.
Shepherding is about more than a bunch of meetings. It is a vital part of God’s design for the church. To train our shepherds is to take care of our congregation. But how do you train these leaders?
Training Shepherding Leaders
How much time do we take to train people in our congregations? We put about 90% of our time and energy into training church members, 9.9999% into our ministry leaders, and barely 0.0001% training our shepherding leadership or elders.
Our membership gets training though small groups, Sunday morning gatherings, and one-on-one contact. Our ministry leaders might go to leader meetings and training programs. But what about those we are expecting to guide and lead us? They have been largely neglected. If we want them to lead our churches, shouldn’t we invest in their development?
Setting the Tone
When we equip shepherding leaders, we should be training them to create and maintain an atmosphere of love. Here are some questions for your elders to consider as they help set the tone for your church:
Dependent on Prayer
A shepherding team that prays together, stays together. Their prayer is specific and authentic and permeates every gathering, not just the beginning of a meeting. Their prayers reflect their desire for God to lead the church. Members of a church whose leadership is praying for them should know they are being prayed for. Does your church know if you’re praying or not?
In the Word
Are your shepherds spending regular time in God’s word? Free them to read the Bible in order to shape their own hearts first. Let God’s view of your church as his bride define you. Work out your group’s understanding of Jesus. Who do you see he was in the Old and New Testaments? Who is he now as he moves through your church? Who will he be when he comes back?
How are you doing with your StratOp? While some of you may be doing OK, I have a sneaking suspicion that for most of you, keeping your StratOp vital and renewed has not been a high priority. Let’s be honest about our realities as church leaders:
This is a list of powerful demotivators. But remember, you invested a lot of time, effort and finances into your church’s StratOp. Wouldn’t it be a shame to lose the gain that StratOp can bring to your church?
One of the best practices of churches that successfully engage StratOp is the discipline of reflection and renewal. Reflection looks backward to what you have been working on during the past season. Renewal gets you planning the next season.
Right now, go to the Kairos website and download the StratOp Refresh and Renew worksheet. This 30-minute worksheet will get you ready for the new church season that begins Labor Day. (If you don't know what I'm talking about when I say StratOp, learn more here.)
Here’s how the worksheet is organized:
Download your 30-minute StratOp Renew and Refresh worksheet under Strategy here.
Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan. Ephesians 6:18-19
I have been praying for almost all of my life. At times, my love for it has waned and in other seasons my passion for prayer has surprised me above all. When I am praying well, I have noticed it has 3 key ingredients.
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray it was not because they did not know how to pray. Since the second Temple period, devout Jews prayed 3 times a day. What was it about Jesus’ prayers that these men wanted? They wanted his power; they wanted to see in their own lives the power of heaven coming down and changing their world in the same way they saw Jesus banish demons, produce miracles, and ignite hope. In Luke 11, Jesus tells the Disciples to expect the goodness of God. In your prayers, are you expecting the powerful goodness of God or do you have doubts something amazing could happen in your planting context?
We know Jesus prayed a lot. Hours of it. Big chunks of his day and night. He did this often. Amazing. I don’t know how to get behind the mystery of it. But prayer seems to be the physical structure that gets us into the place of spiritual warfare so that we become participants in the battle against darkness. I don’t know how to answer well “If God already knows what I need, why do I have to pray to him at all?” This question assumes prayer is just a communication device. Perhaps prayer has far larger capacities. Perhaps it is the difference between asking someone else to engage an intruder and picking up a weapon yourself. I don’t fully understand. I do understand Paul did it all the time and that is was vital in his church planting projects. How many minutes are you praying a day or a week? Do you have structures that help you pray multiple times a day? Don’t you want to enter into the Kingdom more so the love of Christ can flow through you?
This is to me is the flat out fun part of prayer. We get to pray about anything! Cats, goldfish, colds, cancer, marriage, finances, that grand step of faith – Paul says we should pray about all these things (Philippians 4:6). Many things tend to burden me easily. Specific prayers are here to clear my mind and to prioritize the more specific tasks God has for me today. Specific prayers place bets on the goodness of God for a specific person so that when that miracle happens they too get to know personally and indelibly the goodness of our great God. Are you asking folks to pray for you specifically for your planting needs? Are you rejoicing and letting your neighbors know when your lost coin is found? Are you willing to put God at risk by asking for a specific thing?
When these 3 ingredients are present in my life, I am wonderfully unrecognizable. May you have them in abundance as you pray!
In many cases, the time prior to the evangelistic event is as important as the event itself. This is your chance to train church members and have them identify and pray for their spiritually lost friends.
TO PREPARE YOUR CHURCH:
Communicate the Outreach Core Values. You might want to communicate that:
Help your people identify the spiritually lost that are in the natural path of their life.
IF THEIR FRIENDS COME, THEY NEED TO . . .
IF THEIR FRIENDS DON'T COME, THEY CAN . . .
Stan Granberg, PhD, Kairos Executive Director
There’s a lot of interest and activity surrounding discipleship today, and that is good! As I hear and read a lot of this discipleship talk, it often seems to be in the context of maturing those who are already believers—often lifelong believers. We need to continually remind ourselves that the discipleship journey includes life from unbelief to mature discipleship.
When we follow Jesus’ ministry we see a fairly seamless process as he meets people where they are and moves them from unbelief to active believer. Look at the Samaritan woman in John 4:1-42. When Jesus encounters her at the well she’s not a Messiah believer. Jesus begins by establishing relationship. Then the two engage in a series of back forth questions and statements. Ultimately, Jesus gets to the heart of her life,
Jesus: “Go call your husband” Woman: “I don’t have a husband”
“You’re right, you have 5” “I see you’re a prophet”
“Believe me woman” “I know that the Messiah is coming”
“I am he” “Come, see. Could this be the Messiah?”
By the end of this story the woman is confessing her commitment of belief to her towns people, who by this time are ready to go and see for themselves. I believe this is a classic story demonstrating how Jesus met this woman on her terms, then deliberately led her to conclude that he was the Messiah of promise and worthy of discipleship.
Here’s the question you need to answer: Do the activities your church provides give people a clear, well-defined pathway to faith in Jesus then growth towards active discipleship? Here’s a simple, effective five-step system that you can use to create a discipleship funnel to help your church create disciples while it grows in numbers and health.
Step 1: Encounter. If we believe that God is searching for and gathering people to himself, how do we meet these people? You must learn to turn encounters into meeting events. Your church needs specific meeting activities where you get to encounter people. Good meeting points often include one off events such as neighborhood parties, Vacation Bible Schools, and holiday activities. What truly characterizes a meeting point is you have to collect contact information, at minimum first and last names and their phone number or email. If you don’t get these, you can’t follow up. Not only do you leave people stranded, but all that energy you expend doesn’t do you any good. Your goal for encounter is to get to know people, listen for their spiritual story, and provide them opportunity for a next step. What are your most effective encounter activities that help you meet new people?
Step 2: Engage. Engagement is where people have opportunity to hear the gospel, ask questions, consider the gospel’s implications for their lives, and see how they fit with you, God's people. Good engagement activities are short-term, well-defined studies such as the Alpha course, Story of Redemption, or Let’s Start Talking. What I think makes these some of the best engagement activities is because they occur in small groups where there are multiple seekers. These small groups allow discussion and question asking; people get to think and process together so they gain a multi-dimensional look at the gospel. The believers in these engagement groups act as guides and gospel illuminators; they’re not teachers. The goal of engagement activity is to provide seekers the opportunity to make a valid decision about the lordship of Jesus in their lives. What activity do you repeatedly use so people can engage the gospel?
Step 3: Commitment. People need to have the opportunity to make a specific commitment to Jesus. Even more than that, they need people who care for them to ask them if they are ready to give themselves to Jesus. Good commitment activities include events like baptism days, special preaching series, and weekend retreats or summer camps. It's always important to give people the opportunity to respond to God's big ask in their lives. The goal of commitment is for people to make their confession of faith in Jesus and give themselves over to him in baptism. When and how do you ask people to make their commitment to Jesus?
Step 4: Essentials. When people are new Christians they need specific information, ideas, and guided experiences that help them integrate their new belief into practical life. In Kenya we had a year of specific teaching that oriented new believers to the Bible and we guided them through the basic practices of Christian life. Specifically prepared Bible classes and small groups for new believers provide good opportunities for new Christians to grow in an environment designed for their needs. The goal of the essentials period is to give new Christians the essential insights into Christian faith and life so their newly acquired faith can grow. What activities do you provide at your church where new Christians can be oriented to both scripture and their new life in Jesus?
Step 5: Experience. Again, in Kenya, we found it took several years of experience and growth for faith to become firmly rooted in people's lives. There was often a trial during this time where their faith would be tested. Sometimes they would make it, sometimes not, sometimes they would succumb then later return. Our role was to help them consider the possibilities and consequences of their decisions. Good preaching series, ongoing small groups, solid Bible classes and accountability groups are all good activities that allow experienced Christian living to form. How do you support your people through the trials of life that test their faith?
If you think of these five steps as a funnel, you want to always be putting new people into the wide end of the funnel where they can move down through these five sequential steps. The structure of such a process gives everything you do intentional purpose that creates movement. Without such structure, most churches find their activity becomes a hodgepodge of ever repeating events that simply maintains what they have. We find ourselves very active but without much movement or results.
I hope these ideas are helpful to you as you obey God’s great commission and make disciples of Jesus Christ.
by Stan Granberg, Executive Director
Is anyone else tired of the New England Patriots? Season after season New England rules the NFL, almost no matter who is on the team.
Tony Morgan, chief strategic officer of the Unstuck Group, developed a useful look at the church lifecycle with a unique twist to it. While the lifecycle idea is standard, the twist is seeing the two sides of the curve through the lens of “what got you here, won’t get you there.”
The left of the lifecycle curve is the growth side. As a church planter gathers, launches and builds momentum he can become the center of gravity for growth. Momentum growth can be accomplished on the basis of personality, individual relationships, and sheer effort. But once the new church breaks through the crowd size of 80 and into the low 100s, personality-based growth momentum typically stalls.
What got the planter through launch and into the momentum growth phase is insufficient to break through the barrier to strategic growth. Strategic growth is based around developing perpetuating processes that shift the focus away from a single person to a defined process, i.e. a system. This is master’s skill of Bill Belichick. Belichick has created a system for the Patriots that has been able to sustain itself despite the constant change of players.
If a church gets stuck at or below the 80 level it’s a SYSTEMS problem.
The right side of curve is the maintenance side. The issue here is one of focus. When the focus of the church turns inwards, towards its own people, the slide to decline begins. It’s pretty easy to test for a maintenance problem. Throw out a new idea and listen to the feedback.
If feedback to a new idea centers around how “our people” will respond,
It’s a MAINTENANCE problem.
If your church is stuck on the left side of the curve, build your systems.
If your church is stuck on the right side of the curve, refocus your priorities to people not yet in your church.