3 Values That Make a Church Beautiful

Living in primitive one-room homes on the side of an active volcano, I experienced a church that personified beauty. Their beauty wasn’t found in ornate stained glass windows or plush carpet. Come to think of it, the church didn’t even have windows or flooring!

As we worshiped in Guatemala, looking around, I whispered to myself, “What a beautiful church – perhaps the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen.” Honestly, to return to the climate controlled, multi-million-dollar facility known as my church was a bit of a downer after worshiping in that little village close to the equator.

That church looked more like the first century church than mine.

I had an epiphany about why the church in Guatemala seemed so much more beautiful. That church looked more like the first century church than mine. They worshiped without time constraint, they certainly gave sacrificially even in poverty and it was apparent that God was doing things in that crowded room that I hadn’t seen God do before back in the US. So how can we make our church more like a New Testament church?

Here are 3 values of the early church. As you read them, think about your church. Identify some ways your church can take steps to capture the bliss of creating something beautiful in your faith community.

Value 1: Vibrant Prayer

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers. Acts 2:42 HCSB

Old truth. Still true. Prayer has to begin the process. Pray constantly as a fellowship! Take steps this year to make your church a house of prayer.

Schedule a night of prayer in which people come to the church to pray at allotted times throughout the night.

Teach your students how to pray. They must have this skill as the days grow darker.

Reboot your prayer room in the church

Make small group praying a part of your main worship experience. Don’t use it simply as transitions for the offering, sermon or music.

Value 2: Divine Activity

Everyone felt a deep sense of awe, while many miracles and signs took place through the apostles. Acts 2:43 (Phillips)

Look for God’s hand in what your church is doing. How is God at work. Not only in your church but around the world. We often tend to talk about how bad the world is becoming and we forget all the amazing things God is doing around our city, our state or around the world. Check out these videos . They’d be a great starting point to the celebration.

Value 3: Dangerous Generosity

All the believers shared everything in common; they sold their possessions and goods and divided the proceeds among the fellowship according to individual need. Acts 2:44 (Phillips)

It’s just a fact that God blesses a giving church. In Louisiana we have the opportunity to give together through the Georgia Barnette State Missions Offering . This offering is our statewide effort to make sure everyone in Louisiana could be impacted by the gospel through

  • church planting
  • evangelistic efforts
  • hunger relief
  • Compassion ministries
  • scholarships for emerging leaders
  • crisis pregnancy
  • missions education
  • training for new leaders
  • church revitalization
  • and the Here For You media campaign that has reached millions across Louisiana with a message of hope and salvation.

The generosity of churches giving away thousands to projects, ministries and missions outside their reach is a direct reflection of what the first church was doing.

As believers we personally have a great opportunity everyday to live with an open hand of generosity. Every weekend, as a church, we get to do it together. When we do that in a mud hut or a storied church plant we can whisper to each other.

The church is beautiful.

Does My Community Need a New Church? The Right Questions & Key Indicators

A common question I’m asked as a church planter and strategist is, “Why do we need new churches when we have so many already?”

Stated in other, more direct ways:

  • “We’ve got that area covered already, there’s no need for a new church.”
  • “Planting a new church will make pastors in the area feel unappreciated or like they’re not doing their job.”
  • “Why plant a new church when my church needs so much help?”
  • “Do we really need another ‘little’ church in this area?”
  • “Won’t a new church just take resources from other churches.”

These can be legitimate concerns, when brought with a kingdom mindset, and these concerns should be addressed by strategists and planters in the planning process. Here are a few better questions to help truly assess the need for a new church or ministry in our community:

  1. Is the community being transformed for the good or bad? Instead of starting by looking at ourselves (i.e. the existing churches in the community), maybe we should take a look at what’s happening in the lives of people in the area. Church planting should start with a desire to see the community transformed by the gospel. Is transformation happening as we need it to? Are we willing to admit that the task of transforming our community may be more than one church can handle? Are we committed to life change at all costs? What percentage of our population are actually attending church? What percentage is involved in a small group Bible Study?
  2. Are there places where the church is not? Flowing out of the first question, what do we find when we look at spheres of influence and places of engagement in the community? Are churches able and willing to engage the local schools? multi-housing complexes? business communities? correctional facilities? chat rooms? neighborhood associations? etc.
  3. Are there population segments or people groups that are not being touched by the Gospel? Next, are there language, socioeconomic, or lifestyle groups that are not being touched adequately by a consistent Gospel witness? Has there been an increase in ethnic groups in our area? What generations of people are missing from our congregations?
  4. What is God stirring in and for this community? God is in the world reconciling people to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). What is He doing in this community in that regard? When our Father’s work includes stirring the heart of an area church to multiply and send out its own to start a new church or launch a new campus or reach out to a population segment, we should not oppose what He is stirring. We can assess if this is a genuine call from God or a call to disgruntlement or if it is born out of divisiveness. We can also hold our planting teams accountable to be agents of transformation not division, focusing on where the church is not and reaching out to unreached peoples.

Many pastors, myself included, tend to think about a new ministry or church through the lens of what it may cost us. What if we thought about it in terms of the great cost to those who may never hear the Gospel, or those who are going through life’s challenges without a family of believers who can love and provide for them along the way? Can we look honestly at our communities and see the need and God’s activity – then partner together to plant for God’s glory and the good of our communities?

Check out the Louisiana Engage Map to research demographic info, locations of current churches, church plants and targets for new churches for communities across Louisiana.

4 Essential Truths about the Ministry Evangelism Movement

In a small town Baptist church in Louisiana, two ladies, both of them struggling with the grief of losing a child, approached the pastor about a new ministry. They connected with other families in similar situations. Out of their own grief, God instilled a desire to comfort others.

The church got behind it, sent them to some training and a new ministry was born that restored believers who were despondent and disconnected from God and church.  Over time they found reconnection and healing. In fact, some even felt called to minister as well!

That’s what ministry evangelism looks like­­. It’s reaching beyond the wounds and insufficiency of our own story to use the tools of listening, grace, support and comfort to slowly draw the hurting toward the cross. This can only be both through the power of the Holy Spirit and a pastor and church that is courageous enough to release the body to utilize their story and their gifts.

In the 21st century there is probably no greater tool for reaching the lost in your community than ministry evangelism.

Here are four essential truths about servant evangelism

  1. Ministry evangelism is more than simply ministering to the physical or emotional needs of people. It is intentionally evangelistic and its goal is to meet a person’s most important need, a relationship with the Lord. Some ministries stop short of offering the good news of Gods grace but that’s the whole point.
  1. Ministry evangelism is different from servant evangelism. Both are important and should be part of a church’s strategy. Servant evangelism is project oriented, one day to a few weeks. Ministry evangelism is long-term, hopefully years.
  1. Church size is NOT a factor! Some of our smaller membership churches believe it will work in a large church, but not a small one. But regardless how small the church, you can find a need in the community and begin somewhere.
  1. Ministry evangelism, like the early church, is organic. It’s not a program complete with DVD and learner guides. You begin with people! Find the needs in your area and look at the gifted in your church. Where they intersect is great possibility for ministry. You will find that ‘it starts in the heart’ of one individual willing to extend themselves in helping another individual in the name of Jesus.

A ministry-centered church reflects compassion, passion and intentional evangelism. As you and your church care for people’s needs and share Christ with them, God will use you.

Lagniappe: There is no better example than Dr. Charles Roesel, former pastor of FBC, Leesburg, Florida. Dr. Roesel did ministry evangelism at a small membership church in the Appalachians, in medium churches in Florida and ultimately at FBC of Leesburg, Florida. At the time, Dr. Roesel described the church as ‘frozen together by formality and rusted together by tradition.’ Soon the people bought into his vision and they began to average 300 baptisms a year.

Dr. Roesel will be leading ‘how-to” conferences all over the state September 21-24, 2015. You will learn how to establish ministry evangelism and be given Dr. Roesel’s latest book, “It’s A God Thing,” in which he shares 101 ideas on ministry evangelism.

Don’t miss this prime opportunity!

Register here

 

From Zero to Hero: 3 Ingredients for Great Church Videos

What if I told you the three ingredients that could take your church videos from “zero to hero”? In this digital age, church communication will continue to incorporate more and more video to share the on-going story of what God is doing in and through your church.

Here is a list of 3 key ingredients that a part of any great video.

1. Clear Audio

Often audio is an afterthought in video production but that is just not the case for your viewer. Commercial TV and Hollywood movies have an intimate clarity that is synonymous with a high level of quality. I often see videos that have huge audible barriers that prohibit the message from even having a chance to be received. Compare these two videos and determine which one is the most effective in conveying the message using clear audio.

Try to avoid an acoustical nightmare. Sure, stained concrete looks cool but will it be an audible barrier for your viewer? You have been tasked with conveying an important message through video. It can be rich in aesthetics but still fall short in accomplishing the goal due to poor audio. Preferably a room with tall ceilings and a rug underneath is desirable. Pack a rug or two with your gear when walking into a new situation where you aren’t sure of the acoustics.

A well-placed boom microphone such as the Rode NTG1 will do wonders for giving you a clear three dimensional sound. For years I played around with clip on lav mics only to discover their limitations at reproducing a natural environmental sound. If you don’t have an XLR connection then there are lots of options for external recorders. I personally prefer Tascam recorders because of an extremely low noise floor. (Ain’t nobody got time for hissy audio!)

A little compression can go a long way towards making your audio sound polished. Compression is an audio tool that is common in most video editing programs. Used judiciously, it can really help punch up the audio and give it a perceived loudness that we equate with good quality. The way it works is that it controls frequencies that go past a desired threshold that you get to decide on. Once those are controlled then you can turn up the overall volume without having to worry about the loud passages peaking your audio meters. A good setting to start with would be a 2:1 ratio. Then lower your threshold slowly until you see 3 to 6 db of volume being reduced. Too much compression is like too much salt. A little goes a long way.

2. Soft Light

With the rise of DSLR video in church communication, soft light is extremely important to the storyteller. DSLR cameras have a plethora of contrast built into them and aren’t very forgiving if you miss the mark with your settings. Paying attention to harsh light in your environment can really payoff in the finished product.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

Grab a couple of softbox lights to get you started. Lowell makes some great starter kits. Turn off all of the lights in the room and begin to shape your light using the softboxes. This will provide maximum control to shape the light in a way that pleases the eye. As your budget grows consider getting a total of 3 lights for a standard 3 point lighting configuration.

Window light can be your friend. Most rooms have a window so it is best to try to use that light to your advantage. If for some reason your church can’t afford lighting at this time then move your subject towards the window and pay close attention that the light coming in from outside covers half of the face in order to create a cinematic falloff of shadows on the opposing side of the face. In most circumstances it will serve you well to turn off all of the lights in your room. There are no hard and fast rules so use your eye to discriminate between what works well and what doesn’t.

3. Great storytelling

Every story has a strong beginning, end, and some climatic moment in the middle. Make sure your story includes the same. When you are on location make sure that you work with the person you are interviewing to bring out those moments. Listen intently and learn to ask questions that provide opportunities for these 3 components to occur organically.

Ask questions that address the past:

  • “Why did you get started with this ministry?”
  • “How did you come to make this decision?”
  • “When did you start sensing the Lord’s calling in your life?”

Ask questions about the present:

  • “How is God changing your heart now for the people of India”,
  • “What are some recent things that your ministry has been doing,”
  • “So, what are you learning so far about the conference you are attending?”

Finally ask some questions about the future:

  • “What do you see your organization being involved with in the coming months?”
  • “Would you come back next year to this event?”
  • “Why do you think future college students would benefit from what this ministry is doing?”

Of course these are just generic questions so make sure the questions you ask are relevant. Don’t be afraid to ask the same question over to give the interviewee an opportunity to say it better. Make them feel comfortable and don’t forget to coach. Also, have a conversation about other things, joke with them, and this will go a long way to making them feel comfortable with you and the shooting experience.

Make sure to practice active listening so that you can draw the story out in the open during an interview. It is very difficult to do if you are fumbling around with equipment so you will find that the better you know your video gear the better at active listening you will become.

Recently I had the privilege of getting to work on the video above where all 3 ingredients (clear audio, soft lighting, and good storytelling) were present. There is definitely room for improvement but the fact that all 3 elements are there excites me. Incorporating these three ingredients will help you take your next video from zero to hero!

5 Ways to Have Fun and Reach Out This Fall

Fall is a favorite time of year for all of us in the South as weather cools and football season kicks off. Fall also offers some great open doors for reaching out to the community through your church or small group.

Here’s a few ideas for getting on the “Go…” (Matthew 28:19-20) this Fall:

1. Serve the Local School

No matter how open your local schools are to church involvement, there are ways for you to serve them. And no better time to start then right at the beginning of the school year. Here are a few ideas:

  • Pray. Host a prayer meeting for school officials & teachers and send notes letting them know you’re praying for them. And of course, have special prayer for teachers and administrators that attend your church. Recognize them as missionaries to the next generation.
  • Lead a school supply drive for teachers or kids in low income school districts. Most teachers will have a list of needs or wants for their classroom and will know the kids that may need help buying school clothes and supplies.
  • Stock the teachers lounges of local schools with baked goods and notes of encouragement from your church for the first two weeks or so of school.
  • Get involved in the schools mentoring or tutoring program.
  • And of course, encourage members to volunteer, get involved in PTA, and add salt and light to one of the most influentials places in your community (like it or not).

2. Fall Festivals

Whether it’s a Halloween alternative event like Trunk or Treats or just a Fall Harvest Party, Fall Festival type events have proven to be great cultivative and seed planting opportunities for many churches. During the summer, new people relocate to our communities and a special event that invites EVERYONE to your church can give them an opportunity to connect with the body of Christ.

3. Outdoor Movie Nights

With weather getting milder and days getting shorter, outdoor movie nights make for a great fall outreach event. Our church has done these in local parks, in subdivision common spaces, or front and back yards. All you need is a projector, outdoor movie screen ($200 at Wal-Mart.com) or large white sheet, and a popcorn machine. If you’re trying to cultivate relationships you can show a newer kid flick or classic movie. If you’d like to be a little more evangelistic and harvest oriented, you can choose a more evangelistic or directly Christian film. Another lesson learned, made for TV kids movies work great, because they are shorter and keep short attention spans engaged.

4. Tailgate Party

With Football season kicking off in the Fall, the words Tailgate Party will be plastered in every store and commercial coming our way. Redeem this seasonal phenomenon by hosting a Tailgate party at your church with great food and a big screen and speakers blaring the pre-game show and/or game. There is also a variety of Christian sports personality testimonies on sites like Sports Spectrum and I am Second that can be shown during halftime or at a certain point during the game to make the event a little more evangelistic.

5. Hands on Service Project

Cooler weather also makes for a great time to get your hands dirty with a hands on Missions Project. In every community there is elderly and needy residents living in substandard housing. Connect with local relief agencies like the Council on Aging, Volunteers of America, or Parish Housing Authority about needs for wheelchair ramps, weatherization projects, etc. Or poll church members about widows and elderly living around them or in your congregation that may have needs. Wheelchair ramps are one of my favorite Fall projects.

Be sure to check with your local Association to see if their Block Party Trailer is stocked with what you need to pull these events off. And of course, whatever you do, don’t forget to celebrate and say a big thank you to the volunteers that implement and serve.

 

Louisiana World Hunger Offering

In a land of plenty, it’s hard to come to grips with the fact that 1 in 5 people in Louisiana live in poverty – and many of them are children.

As Louisiana Baptists, we are called to care for the needy. The Louisiana World Hunger Offering enables us to visibly show the love of Jesus by providing resources that are used to feed people across our state.

Our goal this year is $330,000 – 20% of which stays in Louisiana to meet local needs. The remaining 80% goes to Southern Baptist Global Hunger Relief to help feed people around the world.

Will you do what you can to help meet this need? Although the offering is scheduled for October, you can collect it any time during the year.

While there are government programs to help feed hungry families, it is simply not enough.

The Louisiana World Hunger Offering will do what the government can’t- share the Bread of Life, Jesus, with all who come.

There are many other ways you can show compassion to the needy. in your community. Please contact our office and allow us to work with you in establishing an ongoing effort in your area. Thank you for reaching out to hungry people in the name of Jesus through your participation in the Louisiana World Hunger Offering.

To get involved or learn more about compassion ministries, click here. You can also contact Jeff.Cook@LouisianaBaptists.org or join the Facebook group (Compassion Ministry of Louisiana Baptists).

New Offering Collection Idea!

Simply print the Can Label pdf below in black and white or in color. Cut the paper into two labels and then wrap the label around a clean 16 oz can. Now you can start collecting coins and folding money for the World Hunger Offering.

You could put the cans around the church. Each family could put a can in a prominent place in the home and collect loose change for a period of time. One church even has a city wide project of leaving a can on every door step in the city, and the entire city fills a can and brings the can to the church on a certain day.

This is a fun way to help the hungry. If your church thinks of another creative way to collect funds, share the idea on our Facebook group (search for the Compassion Ministry of Louisiana Baptists group on Facebook.com).

Resources

40 Fantastic Prayers for the New School Year

Father God, would you….

1. Strengthen my kids’ resolve to follow You.

2. Protect them from worldviews that will challenge their faith.

3. Allow my children to be influenced by godly men and women within our school.

4. Protect my student from bullies and others that would shame and destroy self-confidence and joy.

5. Make my child bold and brave when it comes to expressing their faith.

6. Give teachers a deep, mysterious understanding of how to best teach my son or daughter.

7. Help me to know when to step in and when to leave room for You to work.

8. Remind me of the power of prayer everyday and also remind me that I need to pray EVERY DAY for my child.

9. During times they are being transported before, during and after school please protect them.

10. Bring revival in the high school campuses in our city.

11. Reaffirm your promises to me as I do my best to influence the children in my home and their friends.

12. Help me to recall scriptures to share with my kids before they ever leave the house.

13. Give wisdom to my children about how many activities they will commit to doing.

14. Supply financially for the needs of the poor in our midst and allow me to be a source of that financial provision.

15. Disallow our government to restrict our rights to share our Christian faith within the schools and in our community.

16. Help us as we make decisions about food during school. We are so often careless with our food and our kids pick up on that!

17. Add steps to my child’s day and help him to travel with good companions and have a direct influence on students who are off the path.

18. Give my pastor the right words to say on Sunday which will ultimately prepare our kids for Monday.

19. Help us never forget to be thankful for all we have from buildings to pencils and then also to pray and find ways to help those who do not have.

20. Astound my child through science about your marvelous creation.

21. When my child is bored in math, bring to his mind the scripture reference numbers that we’ve been memorizing.

22. When conflict happens, give us wisdom and love enough to settle and bring reconciliation.

23. Remind us of our great need for racial reconciliation and help us be reconcilers.

24. Protect our children from disease and illness that often happens when kids gather on a daily basis.

25. Settle us down when we are testy and irritable during the year.

26. Use athletics to build character and humility.

27. Help us to celebrate the little victories.

28. Create relationships that are saturated in grace.

29. Show us how to really listen to each other, not only with our ears but also our hearts.

30. Help us make the most of every opportunity to encourage those who struggle.

31. Give us a spirit of empathy and understanding when things get messy and emotional.

32. Shield our children from sexual predators as well as any person who would chose to say or do anything that would sexualize our kids.

33. Prepare our kids for their future marriages. It seems weird to pray this, but even years before they meet, they will both need your care today.

34. Help my children to get rid of all mockery and sarcasm. And help me to not model this either.

35. Fill in the gaps of my kids’ faith through the influence of other Christian leaders.

36. Remind me to stop and take the opportunity to pray with my kids every day and not just at the dinner table.

37. Make my faith so vibrant that my kids know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I believe You are real!

38. As parents keep our heads on a swivel when it comes to being sensitive and alert to the needs of kids in our church.

39. Keep us aware of the spiritual warfare that goes on in schools all over the world. Make me vigilant to keep up my guard and be on the offense for the sake of love.

40. Help us to trust you throughout the year, because as hard as it is to believe, You love them even more than we do!

11 Ideas for Getting Your Church Away from the Steeple and Out to the People!

Last summer (July 2014) my husband and I were part of a mission team with other adults from our church to East Tennessee.  From the time the idea was mentioned, we knew we wanted to be part; we saw from the pictures that is was a beautiful part of East Tennessee, but we also learned that this area was ranked among areas with the highest poverty levels in the United States.

733The teams’ roles would involve a daily feeding program for local school-aged children, as well as meal delivery to homebound senior citizens. Home repair was one of the major opportunities as was working in the ministry center’s warehouse, and, on the night before coming home, we hosted a block party for families and children in a community about 8 miles from where we stayed.  There was even a very limited wellness opportunity.

Janie2It was a wonderful week.  The gospel was presented through the lunch program, the home repairs and at the block party.  Being the “hands and feet” of Christ was both challenging and rewarding. We came home with the same “mountain-top high experience” that most of us had experienced at youth camps and through college mission trips.  We knew we had been where God planned for us to be.

That same opportunity was not open this summer and I have found myself wondering, “Why it was such an imperative to go last year, but not this?”  “Why does missions look so much more appealing and needed ‘out there’ than here in my own state, my own community?”  Not sure I have the answer to that question, but I do know there are mission opportunities all around – even though it is the end of the summer.

Here are 11 ideas to get out from under the steeple and out to the people.

  1. Help a group in your church be prepared for a mission trip – provide needed materials and supplies, sign up to be a prayer partner, give a few extra dollars to send them on their way, pray.
  2. Volunteer as relief help at a compassion ministry food pantry or food distribution center.
  3. Volunteer at a nearby church plant or ministry site to help with a back-to-school event.
  4. Go coastal.  Look for a maritime or seafarers ministry and take a batch of homemade cookies to drop-off as you go.  (This would be a great day-trip for senior adults, Women on Mission/myMission group or Sunday School class, even your teens.)
  5. When your family takes a weekend trip, plan to visit a ministry site or worship with a church plant on Sunday.
  6. Lead your church to adopt a UUPG (Unreached, Unengaged People Group) through the International Mission Board.  Information is found at www.imb.org.
  7. Prayer walk the schools in your neighborhood in the days before school starts.  Keep it up weekly during the school year and involve your children by walking on Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon.
  8. Gather the children’s gently-worn school uniform pieces and donate them to a family that needs them.  Don’t forget to purchase NEW underclothes and socks to go with them.
  9. Pray daily for the teachers in your schools.  Make it personal, “adopt” previous years’ teachers.  Let him/her know that you are praying.  Send a note at least once a month
  10. Volunteer to teach or help to lead a WMU/mission education group in your church.
  11. Be ready to participate in the Week of Prayer for State Missions and the Georgia Barnette State Missions Offering (September 13-20) generously and willingly.  www.GeorgiaBarnette.org

Surviving Super-drainers

Leaders have to be careful that they don’t spend most of their time around super-drainers. These are people who plug into you every time you see them, and they drain the blood right out of your brain – figuratively speaking, of course. They come in all shapes, sizes and denominations.

Here are a few whom you’ve probably encountered.

Human Bookmobiles

These are the people who hand you a book to borrow (they insist!) and you can bet that you’ll be quizzed on it in a week or two. Then they will ask you every time you see them if you still have it (that book you never asked to borrow) because they have to give it to some other poor soul.

The Wait-a-minute People

These are people who have 10 questions that require essays when you have only 10 minutes to be somewhere else. Like the old G.I. Joe action figure with the Kung-Fu grip, escaping their clutches is close to impossible.

The Up-front Gurus

These are the people who are a little too frank with you. He puts his hand on your shoulder before the business meeting and says something like:

  • I’m really concerned about your spiritual condition.
  • You don’t look so good.
  • Are you stressed?
  • Looks like you need more quiet time, friend.
  • Life is just passing you by.
  • Do you think maybe God has taken the mantle off your life?

The ‘Stand Up’ Super-drainer

This person says something reminds him of a joke. You love jokes, but these jokes take so long that your mind wanders and you begin thinking of something else. Then it hits you. I’ve got to find the punch line in his monologue or else he’s going to know that I wasn’t listening! Was that it? Should I laugh now?

Email Nukers

THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO PUT THE CAPS LOCK ON ALL THEIR EMAILS AND BEFORE YOU READ A WORD YOU ARE ALREADY DRAINED. THEY LOVE TO USE LOTS OF EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!!! YOU DON’T KNOW IF THEY ARE MAD OR JUST WANTING TO PLACE EMPHASIS ON EVERYTHING!!!!

Spiritual super-drainers are everywhere inside and outside the church. They have the potential to destroy your spiritual vitality. Jesus had spiritual super-drainers. Some of them, I’d imagine, were among His chosen disciples from time to time. But we have to keep in mind that God loves those people as much as He loves us. And sometimes these sandpaper encounters are God’s way of smoothing off our rough edges.

One thing my dad and others have taught me in the ministry is that it’s important not to let the super-drainers ruin your ministry. Smile and move on. But always surround yourself with super-chargers. They, too, are everywhere.

Super-chargers are those people who cheer from the grandstands of your life. When you spend time with them, you are guaranteed humor, understanding and new ways to look at things. They don’t force their stories, opinions or agenda on you. They make themselves available to you in the valleys and peaks of day-to-day ministry.

They are the kinds of people upon whom Paul lavished these words:

I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:3-6, HCSB).

These are the people that God uses to touch and bless your life when the super-drainers surround you.

9 Keys to a Successful Church Revitalization

Earlier this year, I got to spend some time with leaders from First Baptist Church West Monroe and The Way Church in Denham Springs to talk about their successful church revitalization endeavors over the last few years.

These are two great scenarios to consider when thinking about church revitalization, especially when it may include church mergers or multi-site development.

The Stories:

Fairbanks Baptist Church in Sterlington, LA, had a history of decline and was struggling to keep systems running in the life of their church. They reached out to First West Baptist Church which accepted the challenge of helping them revitalize. Fairbanks Baptist became First West Fairbanks. A campus pastor was chosen to restart the work. Today, several hundred worship where 3 years ago there were several dozen.

Calvary Baptist Church in Denham Springs, LA, had a history of decline and was struggling to keep systems running in the life of their church. The Way Church was in their third year as a church plant and had baptized over 100 in three years by successfully reaching unchurched young adults in the same community. However, the Way Church was paying very high rent and began looking for other facility options. David Brown, the Associational Director of Missions, connected Calvary and the Way and they began exploring the possibilities of sharing facilities or merging. Calvary officially closed its doors in the Fall of 2014 and the Way took over the property and today several hundred are worshipping each Sunday, where last year there were several dozen.

During a round table discussion with leaders from First West, that included sr. pastor Michael Wood, global mission Pastor Mark Fenn, Fairbanks campus pastor Chad Merrell and leaders from the Way, which included co-pastors Scott Cheatham and Josh Spinks, I wrote down 9 keys to a successful church revitalization that includes merging and multi-site development:

9 Keys to Revitalization

1. Healthy Church Life & Multiplication Happening

Both First West and The Way were growing, multiplying leaders and groups. Healthy systems were in place and functioning at both churches.

2. Healthy Relational Networking Among Churches in the Community

Both First West and The Way are involved in their local associations and these relationships laid a foundation for the development of merger talks. The Way Church had even began hosting a quarterly community worship experience where they first met the pastor of Calvary and conversations were initiated.

3. Realization of Need by Declining Congregation

Both Fairbanks Baptist and Calvary Baptist had reached a point where they were willing to admit their need of help from the outside. For most congregations this will probably come in the form of financial struggles. Many will be faced with a loss of pastoral leadership. But something happens to initiate the idea that help is needed.

4. A Healthy Mediator

In both scenarios a healthy mediator began the conversation of merging. For Fairbanks, a deacon at First West was good friends with some of their leaders and they asked him if First West would be willing to help. For Calvary and the Way, David Brown, the Director of Missions in the area, served as a healthy mediator beginning and walking through the details with the congregations.

5. Everybody Seeking God’s Will & the Good of the Community

There had to be a declaration by all parties that we’re not seeking our own will, but God’s and the good of the lost community around us.

6. Defining Terms

There had to be a moment where hard realities were laid out and hard decisions made. In these scenarios, the older congregations had to come to understand that nothing would stay the same and it was time for their congregations to die that something new may be birthed for the good of the Kingdom.

7. Accepting Responsibility

These transitions WILL NOT be easy or cheap. Both First West and the Way said you can expect it to be costly. Broken systems can create some messy situations with taxes and debt and building needs. Jim Tomberlin with Multisite Solutions says you can expect to pay about $250,000. Both First West and The Way spent that in the transition period.

8. The Right People at the Right Time

Everything rises and falls on leadership. The Way Church was blessed to have Scott Cheatham, who had a business background and knew the right steps to take to raise money, get the property legal, and assure the Calvary faithful few that their church would be in good hands. First West also had a businessman, Chad Merrell, who knew how to build great relationships and solve problems. These were the right people at the right time.

9. Keep the Good, Retire the Bad

Fairbanks Baptist had 70+ kids coming on Wednesday night for a Kids program. Chad Merrell made the healthy decision to keep that ministry going. At the same time, they held services off campus at the high school for a season, to increase their capacity for attendance and build relationships with the community. Moving back to the campus of Fairbanks meant they moved back into the gym, because the worship center was too small.

Merging and multisite are two healthy scenarios for churches in need of revitalization. These 9 characteristics of a healthy transition may help guide you through a process with a partnering church.