Staff Stuff

I’m currently kicking around Southeast Asia, spending some time with two of our teams who are engaging with locals. If you missed yesterday’s post you can catch up here

Watch your language.

Our mamas teach us that foundational principle from the time we learn to speak: don’t talk back. Don’t use potty language. If you can’t say something nice…

I learned the cultural equivalent of this on Sunday, when I spoke at a local fellowship. I’ve learned the hard way that you don’t write a fresh message for a cross cultural context, so I pulled up what I thought would be an oldie but a goodie and started modifying.

I trimmed. And cut. And hacked and chopped and minced. I cut out every American inside joke and cultural reference I found and wished multiple times that I had a Southeast Asian joke book (1,001 Funnies to Laugh Your Way Through A Language Barrier). But in the end – even after cutting more stuff five minutes before I walked to the front – I learned a valuable lesson:

Familiar to the speaker doesn’t translate to understandable for the hearer.

You see this every weekend in your context: congregational inside jokes, ministry-specific names, obscure theological terms, and an assumption of biblical understanding that’s just not there.

So trim. Cut. Hack, chop, and mince. Do whatever it takes to make the message understandable. Because if they don’t understand it, it’s going to be hard to build on it.

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

I work in a church office. And while we have a good number of ladies on our staff, we have a huge amount of dudes. And basic math tells you that lots of dudes = lots of mess. Not to be too judgmental, but there are days when “looks like a frat house” would actually be a nice description of our office’s cleanliness. Messy desks, cluttered bookshelves, bathrooms with bacteria so big you could rope ’em up and ride ’em in a rodeo.

So a few weeks ago, the – ahem – neatniks on our team took some action. We developed a quick and dirty guide (pardon the pun) to keeping things clean around the office.

Why is that important? Is it because we like mandating regulations and ruling with an iron fist, crushing anyone who dares to violate? Well, yes. (Who doesn’t?) But more than that, it’s because we believe that a First Impressions culture has to start with the leaders. And if we can’t pick up after ourselves, we can never expect volunteers to help us keep a clean facility and therefore be ready to welcome company on the weekend.

Maybe your staff culture works the same way. Maybe “culture” doesn’t describe a code as much as bacterial crud. So with that in mind, I present our ten point manifesto, slightly amended for public use.

Enjoy. And keep it clean out there, kids.

Ten Practical Tips to Keep the New Space (and Old Space) Clean: 

1. Pick up the trash. Inside. Outside. Your space. Someone else’s space. If you see a gum wrapper, SummitKids pick up sticker, or discarded copy of People of God, consider it yours and throw it away.

2. Wipe down the sink. When you wash your hands (and you should), spend an extra fifteen seconds wiping up the water. Don’t forget faucet handles and walls that you might have splattered.

3. Be choosy with leftovers. We get it: your meeting participants only drank ¾ of that 2 liter and you want to bless others with it. But ask yourself: will anyone drink the Sam’s Choice Diet Cola in the kitchen? Probably not, because you’re cheap and it’s gross. Pour it out.

4. Turn out the lights. Make Al Gore proud. If you leave a room and you have reason to believe no one will reenter the room within 15 minutes, save some electricity.

5. Return the space as you found it. Scratch that: return it better than you found it. Chairs up, table clean, white board erased.

6. Pick up your packages. UPS, Fed Ex, and USPS delivers daily. As you’re wandering by the front, check the labels and take your stuff where it should go. And even if you didn’t order any stuff, somebody did. And if it looks good to you…

7. Clean the kitchen. Seriously…no one should have to say this, but your mama doesn’t work here. Facilities covers a lot of areas, but washing your dishes is a big NO in every category. If you’re not willing to wash it, don’t use it.

8. Report what’s broken. Burned out bulb? Chipped paint? Stopped up sink? You can always go to [internal form] and put in a request.

9. Take out the trash. This is varsity level stuff right here. If you’re at the end of an event or the middle of your work day, don’t assume that someone else will come along behind you to take out overflowing trash. If it’s full, bag it, take it to the dumpster, and replace the bag.

10. Keep your space clean. Having an office is a HIGH privilege at the Summit (ask any intern with a plastic folding desk). If you possess one, keep it presentable. Spending just 5-10 minutes per day straightening up can make a world of difference.


Related post: Leaders Pick Up The Trash


My very real view this morning. I almost have the place to myself. This is a great time to practice my yodeling.

As I type, a portion of our church offices (including my own) are getting a quick paint job. Our offices are mostly populated by guys in their 20’s to 40’s, so the walls are not what you would call “pristine condition.” Sure, they started out beigey when we moved in a few years ago, but over time they’ve become rich shades of scuff mark gray and chair ding brown. (No, I don’t know how chair dings leave “brown.” It’s an illustration. Move along.)

But I digress. The paint job has required that we vacate the premises for a few days, because apparently painters don’t like you standing around watching them and making helpful comments (“That’s gonna need a second coat.”) or questions (“Can you do me a mural of a bear holding a sword?”). And so a couple dozen of us have left the building and been forced to fend for ourselves at coffee shops and fast food joints around the Triangle. Today is the last day of this great adventure, and I am both broke and obese.

I’ll admit: I enjoy the occasional day out of the office. Sometimes there’s nothing better than holing up at a local Starbucks to get caught up on email or finish a project while listening to some electro-pop-jazz-funk music blaring in the speakers over your head, all the while eavesdropping on the guy next to you loudly explaining how the Christians stole Christmas (true story).

To do that once every week or so? Glorious. But I’m discovering that working remotely for an extended period of time just ain’t my cup of tea. Even if the refills are free. (Did you see what I did there?)

In preparation for the exile, our Missions Pastor Curt Alan sent out a very helpful memo to remind us how to be good remote workers. I reprint it here without his permission, because I’m 96% sure he doesn’t read this blog so what does it matter.

Hi folks,

With our office and meeting space in transition, I suspect more and more of us will begin to “office out of” and hold meetings in local business (e.g., coffeehouses and restaurants).

As such, we need to be keenly aware that our neighbors (and small business owners) are watching and forming opinions of us, the Summit, and what and whom we represent.

To that end, I’ll offer some well-placed and very specific reminders:

  • When you hold a meeting of 5-10 people for several hours in a local business and only 1-2 people actually order something, people notice.
  • When you do buy something but don’t bother to tip (even minimally), people notice.
  • When you regularly office out of a local business for 3-5 hours at a time, multiple times a week, and only order a small coffee that you periodically refill (for free), people notice.
  • When you office out of or hold a meeting in a local business, rearrange tables & chairs, and then leave without putting things back the way you found them and not cleaning up after yourself, people notice.

This kind of behavior reflects poorly on all of us so let’s be extra vigilant.

(I would also add “Don’t leave your Panera pager on your formica-topped table and walk away while it incessantly buzzes.” I’m talkin’ to you, Lady-Who-Just-Left-Her-Panera-Pager-On-The-Formica-Topped-Table-Six-Feet-Away-From-Me.)

I appreciate Curt’s reminder to be good ambassadors not only for the church, but for the kingdom in general. So how about it, remote warriors? What other tips do you have for us? Or better yet, a question for the food service folks: what are your squatters’ horror stories? Comment below. 

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

I heard it again last weekend: another story from one of our guests who had contacted someone about something, and that someone never got back with them.

Nor did the next someone.

Or the next.

Or the next.

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a staff member, a ministry leader, or a volunteer. Allowing people to fall through the cracks is an all too real phenomenon in our churches. And before you check out of this post and write this off as a “big church” problem, you should know that this happens at churches of all sizes, every single day. A phone message gets lost. An email gets forwarded and reassigned and ultimately forgotten. A meeting request goes unanswered.

It’s happened to me, too. More times than I can count. I’ve been on both sides: the guy who falls through the cracks, and the guy who allows it to happen.

Can we totally eradicate it? Maybe not. Churches are made up of systems, structures, and people, and all three are going to be imperfect. But because people are the mission, we can’t hide behind an imperfect system and expect that “connect attrition” is just a sad reality. Nope, we have to be ever-diligent, knowing that every request carries a world of weight to the person who makes it.

So here are five things that we can do to (hopefully) keep our people from getting lost in the system:

  1. Figure out your preferred communication style. I talked about this recently, but it carries weight here: you need to know what process will get your attention. For me, I’m really good at answering emails. But I forget all about voice mails, texts, and Post-It Notes. The trick is to get my “non-preferred” system to match up with my preferred system. (And yes, I may or may not have emailed myself the details of a voice mail before, just so I’ll be sure to handle it later. #nerd)
  2. Respond within 24 hours. Don’t let a “simple” request get buried under other things. Be insanely vicious about getting back with someone within one business day. Even if you don’t have the information they’re looking for right then, you should let them know (a) you’re working on it and (b) when they can expect to hear from you. And by all means, make use of your out of office reply. If you’re going to be out on a weekday, you should let folks know that.
  3. Take, don’t point. I’m ripping this right out of Mark Waltz’s First Impressions book. It’s intended for the weekend experience, but it equally applies here. You’re not Mr. Answer Person for every request that comes through. But rather than saying “It’s not my problem, here’s who you need to speak to,” go the extra mile. Email the right person on their behalf, cc’ing the asker. Set up a meeting. Walk them over. Do whatever it takes to make sure you’re not adding an unnecessary, burdensome step.
  4. Follow up. Whether you’re personally handling the request or asking someone else to, set a reminder for a day or a week or a month to make sure the asker got connected. This is where I blow it. For me, it’s “out of sight, out of mind” far too often. I replied to the email or returned the phone call or made the connection, so I assume everything is hunky dory. But that’s not good enough. Make sure you circle back around at some point in the near future.
  5. Set a structure for accountability. Great guest services and communication practices are everyone’s job within a church. We can talk all day about org charts and ministry departments and jurisdictional leadership, but if someone isn’t responding to requests, that’s everyone’s problem. So light a fire. Ask the question. Shake things up. Make sure this isn’t just a new practice for you, but for your entire team: paid staff, volunteer leadership, everybody.

What did I miss? Are there other items you’d suggest? And … (deep breath) … how have I / we violated this with you? Are there open loops that I can help close? Comment below or contact me via email. It’s my preferred style, you know.

(photo credit: Mike McKee)

(photo credit: Mike McKee)

You’re looking at a picture of this morning’s kickoff of the 2014 Connections Cohort. To give some context, last year we started a monthly meeting of anyone who’s paid to to Connections Ministry at the Summit: full time, part time, interns, First Impressions, Starting Point, whatever…if they got a check, we met. We discussed guest services and assimilation philosophy, theory, best practices: you know, heady, nerdy stuff that would make the average mortal cry bitter tears (in between dozing off from boredom).

But as year one wrapped up, we decided that the collaboration didn’t need to stop there. So not only are the paid folk continuing to meet monthly, we started another group and invited 1-2 “high capacity volunteers” (HCVs) from these ministries at each campus. This group began a nine month journey this morning that will serve to infuse them with the guest services DNA of the Summit. They’re already great at their craft…now they’re going to move from practitioner to visionary.

It’s not a light ask, by any means. We’re asking them to show up once a month…at 6:30 AM. We’re asking for 90 minutes of intense focus and conversation. We’re asking them to roll in late to work or school on those mornings. We’re asking them to read a book a month and show up ready to rock. And we’re asking them to drip this vision on down the line to the volunteers on their team and the people in their circle.

But in the end, it’s going to be worth it. So worth it. Even this morning as I watched the room come alive with discussion and saw the lights come on in their minds, I knew that we’d just scratched the surface of what God could accomplish through a team of willing, humble, servant-hearted volunteers. As conversations went on and one “aha” moment catapulted into another, I knew that they were taking their weekend task to a newer, deeper level. They were learning not only what hospitality looks like from a corporate worship standpoint, but how that translates into their Monday through Friday lives as well.

This is part of what it means to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. This is part of giving them the tools they need to serve well and to put the gospel on display in a huge way. This is what it means to replicate ministry, person by person, team by team, campus by campus.

Do you have a cohort? For years, I didn’t. For years, I received knowledge through books and mentoring and conferences and networks, but didn’t do anything to replicate that knowledge in others. But now I know what was missing. I know how I was squandering the things that God had generously shared with me. And by the way: lest you think that this is a 90 minute information dump where one guy lectures a room full of people, I was able to sit back this morning and listen to these incredibly wise men and women teach one another and learn from one another while I was able to learn from them. It was indeed the body being the body.

What does this look like in your context? Maybe you’re not a ministry leader, but you are a business leader. Who are you raising up? Maybe you won’t gather 17 people, but could you invite one to sit down over a cup of coffee and a good book? Where are you replicating the gifts God has given you?

I’d love to hear your model and where you’ve seen success. Comment below.


Earlier this year I told you about Ministry Grid, an online training tool that will help you take church leadership development to a new level. I’m honored to be a small part of the Ministry Grid video family, and excited that the site goes live today. 

Following is a quick tutorial on what Ministry Grid is and how it can serve your church and ministry. Check it out and sign up today!

It’s finally here. Whether you have been waiting with baited breath or this is your first time hearing about it, Ministry Grid has launched. We are excited about this dynamic platform for training the church. We believe it will provide unprecedented opportunity for churches to develop leaders and servants in every area from the parking lot to the pulpit and are pleased to partner with them.

Ministry Grid bases their entire ministry on the vision of Ephesians 4:11-13:

“11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds[a] and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. . .”

Their vision is to see churches built up and equipped to do the work of the Kingdom, and they have provided a unique and unparalleled resource to do this.


Ministry Grid is a customizable platform designed to help churches develop all their leaders, no matter which area they serve in. Ministry Grid makes training leaders simple with content available to leaders anytime, anywhere, while giving pastors unprecedented control and insight into how their people learn. Launching with more than 1,500 training videos for pastors, staff, volunteer leaders, and every-day church goers, Ministry Grid covers, or will cover, every topic a church needs from the parking lot to the pulpit.


Ministry Grid’s Learning Management System enables your church to customize training to fit the unique needs and goals of your people. Select built-in tracks, choose from Ministry Grid’s 1,500+ video sessions, or add videos to create your own customized training. With tracking and administrative tools, Ministry Grid allows leaders to assess an individual or group’s skill level, assign training content, and view progress. It is accessible from computers, tablets, and smartphones with a native app that allows offline training, so users can train anywhere, at any time.


While video training itself is not a new concept, it has historically lacked a way to manage and track a user’s progress. A Learning Management System like Ministry Grid’s allows you to assign content and track the progress of every person using Ministry Grid in your ministry or organization. Ministry Grid’s Learning Management System gives unprecedented insight into how training is taking place, allowing you to easily view a group at a glance or see an individual’s progress, provide accountability, and measure effectiveness. Ministry Grid comes with built-in training tracks and assessment tools that can be customized according to your needs. You can also build your own.


Ministry Grid is for the entire church, with pricing based on your church’s average weekly attendance. Content is organized into four areas of development—pastoral, church staff, lay leader/volunteer, and personal development—with a wide range of topics videos averaging 15 minutes in length. Ministry Grid works with churches of any size, and because you can upload your own content, there’s no limit to how you can utilize the platform. Ministry Grid is also perfect for organizations and non-profits that are developing Christian leaders on matters relevant to their ministry.


Ministry Grid is unprecedented in terms of the quantity, quality, and range of training content available. Every aspect is customizable according to your church’s needs, including the ability to skin the site with your own colors, drop in your logo and church branding, and upload your own content. You may also choose from Ministry Grid’s 1,500+ video sessions or disable access to content not relevant to your assigned users. No other training platform comes close in its ability to perfectly fit your specific needs.


Yes. Ministry Grid features apps for iOS devices and Kindle Fire. The mobile app allows people to watch training content on the go. You can even download content to your device to watch when offline, and connect your mobile device to a project—perfect for churches that do not have wi-fi access readily available. The Ministry Grid app is a free download, but requires a Ministry Grid subscription to use.

Raise your hand if you’re sick to death of clicking on this blog and seeing posts about Church At The Ballpark!

(Oh, that’s right. I can’t see you.)

But I promise, this is the last CatB post. At least until tomorrow. I’m still just scratching my head at what God accomplished and how he was so gracious to allow us to see it happen.

As Pastor J.D. said on his blog last week, the work is just beginning. Campus Pastors and campus staffers are processing through long, long lists of names, making phone calls, sending emails, setting up a time to grab coffee and begin or continue a fruitful discipleship process. We know that it’s not healthy to baptize and run. No, our commitment needs to be to stick it out over the long haul to see the gospel continue to infiltrate the lives of 554 baptized on September 15th, and the 83 more who were baptized last weekend.

I’ve seen our Campus Pastors take all manner of approaches to continue to preach the gospel to those who were baptized. One of my favorites came from our North Durham Campus Pastor, Ryan Doherty. Ryan sent the following letter to everyone from his campus who was baptized at the ballpark. And as good of a reminder as it was for those fresh out of the water, it was just as good a reminder for me, 28 years after my own baptism. I hope this encourages you to remember today.

September 15, 2013

We are so excited that you decided to take the next step in your faith by being baptized. I want you to know that it was my privilege, honor and joy to baptize you and to share this experience with you. I am excited about the work that God is doing in your life and can’t wait to walk this journey of faith alongside you. This is an exciting time in your life in that you got to publicly express before others, that God has saved you and that you are now a follower of Jesus.

I want you to keep this letter as a reminder of the decision you made this past Sunday at the Summit Church. I want your baptism to serve as a “marker” in your life that you can look back to when life gets tough. I want you to read this letter and remember the decision you made to follow Jesus. Especially when the enemy starts whispering doubts about God being good, doubts about God loving you and doubts about your salvation, I want you to be confident that in Christ, there is NOTHING you can do to make God love you anymore than He does right now. And there is NOTHING you have done, can fail to do or will do to make God love you any less than He does right now because of Jesus.

Remember that you shared your decision to follow Christ through baptism in front of thousands of people at the Summit Church because you wanted to be obedient to Christ’s command to be baptized. Remember also that you believed that baptism is not a requirement for salvation, but is an important next step for you as a Christian.

Remember that the waters you were baptized in were only symbolic to what has already happened in your life. This external symbol was showing others what has already happened in your own heart and soul. Remember there was nothing special or magical about this water you were baptized in. Durham’s City water didn’t save you-Jesus did!

Remember your new life as a Christian. “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). “For by grace you have been saved though faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Remember the symbolic picture of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection: “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). “Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).

Remember that your sins were paid for and you were given hope for eternal life because of Jesus’ sacrifice. Remember that you were completely submerged under the water to show that Jesus’ blood completely covered you from head to toe, removing ALL sin by washing you white as snow.

Remember that when I asked “do you believe that Jesus has done everything necessary to save you” You said, “Yes!” and then when I asked, “Since, Jesus is now Lord of your life, are you willing to do whatever He asks you do to and go wherever He asks you to go?” You said, “Yes!”

Always remember the day you decided to follow Jesus, it was the best decision you could ever make!

I am so proud of you.

Ryan Doherty
The Summit Church|North Durham Campus Pastor


Saturday, 11:15 AM. We snuck to Mellow Mushroom to wolf down some pizza before the set up team arrived.

These are my people.

This is the team that I get to do shoulder-to-shoulder ministry with on a regular basis. There are more people beyond this team: more that I love, more that I respect, more that I’m honored to serve alongside, but this is the core, in-the-trenches, alpha team that I depend on and trust in and want to give a public thank you to today.

Events like Church At The Ballpark can bring out the best or worst in teams. We learn more about each other’s work styles, personality traits, character flaws, and heroic efforts than we’d have the opportunity to do in any other forum. If one gear in the machine fails, we all feel it. If one team member goes above and beyond, we all benefit from it.

Several times over the last few weeks, people asked me if I was stressed over the Ballpark event. After all, it’s a one-shot, make-or-break, win-or-lose deal. There were no do-overs or take-backs.

And my honest answer? “I’m a little panicked that I have nothing to panic about.”

That answer was possible because of five people that were the unsung heroes of the guest services / baptism element of Church At The Ballpark. Will you indulge me in a little gratitude fest? From left to right in the photo above:

Josh LawrenceJosh is my special events volunteer coordinator. He managed to oversee a sign up list of 1300+ volunteers for the overall event. He fielded questions that had already been answered, special requests that were almost impossible to fulfill, and last minute cancellations that made him scramble to shuffle the decks. He owned that Google spreadsheet like a boss, and made every volunteer feel like their request or email was the first and only one he’d ever received.

Clayton GreeneIn my first impressions cranium, Clayton is the frontal lobe. Or the hypothalamus. Or another part that I don’t actually know what it means, but it’s probably important. (And he’s cringing right now because he’s actually a medical person and knows I’m outside my element.) Clayton knows what I’m thinking before I say it. He’s got a plan before I ask for it. He takes all of my random chaotic options and tell me which one is the best and why. He gets guest services at a heart level, and makes our team 400% better.

Kristy BurgessKristy is the glue that holds our group together. An administrative assistant extraordinaire, she could single handedly lay out a plan to invade three small countries before noon. She’s never met a budget, spreadsheet, or system that she couldn’t tame into color-coordinated submission. Over the last six months she’s had to juggle the changes and reboots that come with an event of this magnitude. She keeps every last one of us focused on the big win and helps us remember how all the pieces fit.

David TalbertI don’t know a more humble, gracious pastor than David. He carried the burden of planning for hundreds of baptisms, and ensuring that every one of them would feel like a personalized experience. David prays by name for every name that comes through our processes, whether it’s on-the-spot baptisms or the monthly Starting Point event. He is a logistical genius, and knew down to the minute how long to plan for “x” amount of baptisms. Every towel, baptism t-shirt, and tank appeared on that field because of David’s leadership.

Bradley NorrisUtility man. Numbers cruncher. Overboard OCD. Those are just a few things that describe the guy who took a stadium map and figured out how to place over 11,500 people in seats as quickly as possible, how many offering buckets were needed per section, and how many volunteers it would take to manage such a crowd. Bradley kept detailed stats down to the level of excruciating pain for a non-numbers guy like me. But once I turned over the seating team to Bradley, I knew that I could keep my hands off of it. He owned it all.

Oh, and I should mention that with the exception of Kristy and David, none of these guys are full time. Even David just transitioned to a full time role two weeks before Ballpark went down. That’s right – they all made the event happen over the course of evenings and weekends on top of their full time jobs that actually pay a few bills…oh, and on top of already overseeing their respective ministry areas on a weekly basis, and on top of being husbands to Janessa, Kristen, Katie, and daddy to Cara (you’ll have to figure out who goes with whom). I find that remarkable.

So Summit Church, would you join me in thanking them? Most of your “wow” moments this weekend came as a result of their tireless labor over the last few months. You can do that by commenting below or tossing some love their way on their Twitter accounts (linked above).

By now most of y’all know that I use this blog to think out loud. Well, “out loud” if you have a fancy way of making your computer device read to you. Or if you have a butler so you don’t have to be bothered by things like reading. (In that case, I hope he’s British because I’ll bet that would make this content sound 23% smarter.)

I digress.

Here’s my thinking out loud post for the day. Fall is coming. And with Fall usually comes a big need for new volunteers. Every summer, pastors across the land are scouring the church roll and beating the bushes to get someone…anyone…to work with eighth grade boys. (News flash: no one is ever going to work with eighth grade boys. Give it up.)

I believe that we typically go about the volunteer search all wrong. I think that there are three ways that we can invite and retain more volunteers:

1. Soft sell

We can scare off volunteers by releasing too much information too soon. Americans are typically afraid of commitment; ask any guy who’s ever tried to muster the courage to buy a diamond. That’s why I think we should give potential volunteers an easy on ramp. Explain the opportunity. Invite them to get more information. And promise there will be no obligation.

We should provide potential vols the chance to ask questions before signing a contract. If they’re pressured into a decision, that decision usually won’t last.

Our model: we’ll frequently invite potential volunteers to attend a training – say, First Impressions – with no expectation required beyond that. Almost every month we’ll have people show up who “just want information.”


2. Deep vision

Once a potential vol shows up for training, we bring out the big guns and unload on ’em with both barrels. The strongest vision you ever give for any volunteer ministry should be at their initial orientation. That’s your first opportunity to enlarge their heart towards what you want for them. If your orientation is boring as C-Span and dry as toast, then you deserve to have a lack of volunteers. Tell stories, share wins, feed them, for crying out loud, and bring them into the inner circle so they feel like owners in the ministry.

Our model: we offer a once-per-month First Impressions training that’s designed to share the “why” behind the “what.” It’s a 75 minute, high-energy vision session that focuses on touch, not task. 


3. Big ask

By the end of your training / orientation / whatever, you should have sold your vision so strongly that a volunteer is itching to join the team. True, you’ve said there’s no obligation, and you should stick to your word. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t end with a big ask. Lay out the expectations for a volunteer, explain the commitment level required, and give them an opportunity to sign on to be a part of perpetuating the vision.

Our model: there are a lot of “big asks” at the end of a training: attend one, serve one. Commit to a weekly schedule. Serve outside of your comfort zone. We set the bar high so the team’s quality will continue to increase.

Soft sell. Deep vision. Big ask. Is there one of those that is off base? Anything you’d add? I’d love your input (I am, after all, thinking out loud here). Comment below.

There’s a “Keller Clause” in the contract of all Summit employees. Because he and our lead pastor are besties, we have to quote Keller roughly every 20 minutes, or our tithing rate goes up significantly.

The following is a guest post by Clayton Greene, the First Impressions Director for Brier Creek’s North Venue on Sunday mornings (try fitting that on a business card). Clayton is one of the braniacs behind why we do much of what we do in the realm of guest services. If you’re looking for a robust theological defense of guest services, you’re going to love this:

I was recently reading Center Church by Tim Keller. This book, without directly mentioning first impressions, gives a framework for the necessity of intentional planning for your guests each weekend.  Chapter 23, “Connecting People to God,” is one of the chapters full of wisdom in encountering the outsider, specifically at your weekend worship gathering.

About halfway through the chapter Keller switches from talking about worship preferences to talking about what characteristics describe an evangelistic worship service.  The thesis of this section is that “The weekly worship service can be very effective in evangelism of non-Christians and in edification of Christians if it is both gospel centered and in the vernacular.” (ironically, I had to look up the word vernacular, which means “native language”.  Apparently vernacular is not in my native language)

He talks about Acts 2 and how the worship of believers should be attractive to outsiders.  This attraction can and should lead to conviction and conversion, therefore making the worship evangelistic.

In the last section he talks about making worship comprehensible to nonbelievers.  Here are some of the gold mines for why we do first impressions.

He starts off saying “our purpose is NOT to make the nonbeliever “comfortable.”  They will not be comfortable because as 1 Cor 14 and Acts 2 say, “a non-believer will be convinced by all that he is a sinner” and that “the secrets of his heart will be laid bare.”  These descriptions of a nonbeliever in a worship service describe anything but comfortable.  However, it is a conviction of the heart that is the goal here.  What he does not encourage is any personal offense other than the gospel.

Keller goes on to say we need to “speak respectfully and sympathetically to people who have difficulty with Christianity.”  He also says, “it is extremely important that the nonbeliever feels we understand them.”  Essentially, everything about our time together in and surrounding a worship service should be sensitive to the guest to allow the offense and un-comfortableness come from gospel application to the heart.

He goes on to discuss which truths of the gospel are discussed each week in their services and why some truths may not be discussed on Sunday morning.  Some truths are left out on Sunday morning because they are applications or truths that must come from the basis of an understanding of the gospel.  Although some truths may be left out, he says they are not pulling any punches with the nonbeliever in the service.  He says the truths they teach “are not only theologically substantial; they are also controversial.  But we are choosing to contend and argue for the basic truths of the faith, of the gospel.”  “Evangelistic worship is not avoiding the bold proclamation of the truth; rather, it is leading with the offense of the gospel instead of with the truths that are predicated on the gospel.” 

At the Summit, on our first impressions teams, we always say, “the sermon starts in the parking lot”.  So let me apply this discourse on the truths discussed in the sermon to what happens in the parking lot.

For our guests, we don’t want to lead the sermon off (in the parking lot) with any offense other than the offense of the basic truths of the gospel that will be on display through the worship and spoken truths of the worship gathering.  This is why our number one plumbline for what we do on the first impressions team is, “The Gospel is offensive, Nothing else should be.”

Are you allowing your worship service to offend the hearts of nonbelievers with the truths of the gospel?  Or is something else offending them before they even find their seat?

Next Page »