Halloweenie Handout

Tonight (Halloween Night), dozens of people from Church of the Suncoast will be holding a free cookout in their front driveways and yards. Why? Because I told them to!

The idea was simple. We had these posters made and handed them out this past Sunday for people to put up in their neighborhoods. Then tonight as floods of people pass by our homes we will have free hot dogs, cokes, snacks and invite cards for our new series "Battle of the Sexes".
Instead of battling over whether or not we should participate in this holiday we decided to leverage it for God's kingdom and expand our influence as a church in the community.

Execute (Part 2)

Last week I started a post about execution. At Church of the Suncoast we have come to the conclusion all we can do is execute. We can't make anyone do anything, and we can't even get people in the doors. All of that is up to God.

Execution allows the management team to look back over a weekend and see if we did all that we can do. The things we CAN control. Here is a list of our key areas and their items of execution:

Lead Pastor:
Did I pray for God’s blessing on the service
Did we get set up on time
Did I discuss any special transitions in the service
Did we rehearse the service on time
Did we start the service on time
Did I end the message & prayer under 35 minutes
Did my prayer, ann. and welcome make sense
Did I meet someone new
Did I encourage a volunteer

Worship Leader:
Did I pray for God’s blessing on the service
Did band practice end on time
Did we have the key musicians we needed
Were the songs executed (rhythm, tempo, right order)
Were the transitions & prayer smooth and seamless
Was the sound quality
Did the equipment work (lights, sound, projection)
Did I thank each band member
Did I meet someone new

Volunteer Care:
Did I pray for God’s blessing on the service
Did I get the volunteer central area set up on time
Did I go around and make sure the volunteers were OK
Did I get ushers and give them instructions
Did I meet someone new
Did I encourage a volunteer

Children's Director:
Did I pray for God’s blessing on the service
Did the Beach and Mangrove rooms get set up
Did the sign in kiosk get set up
Were the teams ready 15 minutes before the service
Did the teams have everything they needed
Were there at least two volunteers in each room
Did I encourage one of my teams

Sunday Administration:
Did I pray for God’s blessing on the service
Did someone help me set up
Did the hospitality, bathrooms, and info areas get set up
Was there food, coffee, and supplies
Did we have all the greeters & parking we needed
Were they in place 15 minutes before the service
Did we keep one full empty row in the back at all times
Did I encourage a volunteer

We meet every other week to look back over these areas. If it happened two weeks in a row then that makes a trend and you need to address that.

Original or Nothing...

One time a guy walked into Rick Warren's office ready to start a new church and he told Rick, "I am going to be all original or nothing!" Rick later tells he accomplished both...

Great article from a good friend of mine up in GA:



If you have been around the church world long then you know there is this natural pull towards complexity. Its pull is felt from communication to theology and from church calendars to philosophy of ministry. It other words the longer we go at this thing we call church the more complex we try to make it.

In the early days of a church plant things are simple, or at least they should be! You do Sunday mornings and maybe after six to eight months you start some small groups. You don't have the time, staff, or budget for anything else. But, as time goes by people will come to you with ministry idea after ministry idea. We should start a woman's and men's ministry. We should start a divorce care ministry. We should have a sports ministry. We should start having Bible studies... The list is endless. All good ideas... all good needs within your growing church.

BUT, here is my question: Name for me one person, or organization, that has truly changed the world and impacted lives that has done more than one or two things with excellence... I'll give you a moment... Times up! You could not do it could you? Billy Graham only did one thing and he changed the world. Campus Crusade for Christ changed the world because Bill Bright focused on the thing they could do well. We just got a 5 Guys Burgers and Fries and they have been voted the best burger for six years because they have a VERY simple menu. They focus on the one or two things they can do well.

"Now wait a minute are you saying the church should not try to meet every ones needs???" Let me be clear - YES!

The truth is many of our churches have been weakened because we invested too much time and money and man-power into things we could not do well! For the church to thrive in the next generations we have to get rid of the things that are good for the sake of what we can do the best.

In the book 7 Practices of Effective Ministry Reggie Joiner writes:
"The shift toward complexity is usually subtle, and it's rarely intentional. Passionate leaders introduce innovations; persistent members promote their agendas; new programs are established; traditions are born; new ideas are added to old programs. And over time the ministry begins to lose it focus, and the church becomes paralyzed by its inability to purge itself." (Page 101)

The conclusion: it is always dangerous to confuse activity with results!

The church that I lead, Church of the Suncoast, is only 18 months old and we have grown at a manageable rate from 9 people in my living room to over 130 people who call the Suncoast their home church. Even in this modest growth and young age we have already faced the pressure to start adding ministries and programs to meet needs. So it can happen fast!

Here is the bottom line. Be simple! Be simple! Ask yourself what are the one or two things you can do the best! Just because there is a need in your church DOESN'T MEAN YOU HAVE TO MEET IT. When you try to meet every one's needs in only feeds into a culture of "neediness" that will turn your church inward and away from the primary call of any church to seek and save the lost. Programs will always change but the vision remains the same.

You have to face the facts. To do more in life, you have to do less...

Tell me your story with complexity and simplicity:

Execute (Part 1)

At Church of the Suncoast our management team is constantly evaluating what we do on Sunday mornings. From the beginning we have been asking ourselves is this a relevant environment:

Was the context appealing?
Was the content helpful?
Was the presentation engaging?

Recently we have refined things to clarifying the win. A win for us WAS:

"If people feel comfortable inviting their friends and if those guests take a step with God"

It sounds great. It's simple! It lets us know if we are winning or losing. Or, does it???

After some interesting conversations with other church planters and a growing feeling that there might be something better to measure a win on Sundays we have come to one simple, but powerful conclusion:

We cannot control anything within our statement of what a win was! We can't control what people do. We can't control numbers. We can't control salvations. We can't control people taking their next steps with God... Only God can! So what can we do???

We can execute. We can make sure we did those things that we do have control over. Things like sound, lights, greeters, service start times... This fits better with our strategy of "creating relevant environments in which God can work".

Next time I will share more about what execution is and give you a sample of our Sunday list.

Tell me what you think??? Leave a comment.

The Warehouse

Church of the Suncoast just opened our brand new Warehouse this past week! We have leased a 2,400 sq ft warehouse in our target area and turned 1,200 into a comfortable coffee shop style meeting room. We will use this space for GroupLinks, Community Groups, Student Ministry, volunteer events, and we will use it for flexible office space during the day. The other half of the warehouse is used for storage and our trailer. We also have a conference room on that side as well. On Friday night we opened up the place with a near capacity crowd filling the room with laughter and conversation. It has been A LOT of hard work, but I know this will help having something "permanent" in the community.

F.A.C.E. A.N.G.E.R.

From Sunday's talk:

Feel the anger (let yourself get angry)
Ask yourself deep questions (what is the primary emotion)
Consider the cause (who or what is causing it)
Explore what God says (the Bible says face it)

Affirming the relationship (start with praise)
Negotiate around absolute statements (don't say, "You always...")
Guard the volume level (don't raise your voice)
Establish to resolve (don't walk away until its resolved)
Release the person (forgive them)

See you Sunday for Part 3.

Growing Pains

Great article from Nelson. Read it two times!!!


How to identify and break through the top five church growth barriers, no matter what your size

By Nelson Searcy

Are you stuck? Has your church growth leveled off or even started declining? I can relate.
When we launched The Journey Church (journeymetro.com) in 2002 with 110 people, I was ecstatic. What a great number for a brand-new church in the middle of New York City! Unfortunately, my excitement didn’t last long. The next week, only 55 of our 110 attendees returned. Not too bad, I reasoned—we’d kept half. Yet, over the next five months, with my dynamic leadership and powerful preaching, I “grew” the church down to 35 ... in a city of 8 million. Something was definitely wrong.

Without knowing it, I was already bumping up against growth barriers—the issues we all face at various points in ministry that stop or reverse our church’s growth. But I slowly learned to identify and break through these barriers that were standing in our way. Now, five years later with God’s blessing and a clearly defined system for dealing with growth barriers, The Journey is a multicultural, multi-site community of more than 1,200.

Most churches seem to face growth barriers at five key points: when attendance reaches 65, 125, 250, 500 and 1,000. In training pastors throughout the country, I’ve discovered that we all deal with the same inevitable barriers, so remember you’re not alone. However, by becoming proactive in learning to identify and break through these barriers, we can keep our momentum and continue growing for God’s glory.

First and foremost, as a pastor looking to grow your church, make sure you’re always asking yourself the right question about growth.

The Wrong Question: How do I get my church to grow? Your job is not to force growth. When you think growth is your responsibility, you will inevitably make bad decisions. Church growth is ultimately not about what we can do in our own power; it’s about God’s power and His choice to work through us. Refuse to settle for anything less than God’s vision foryour church.
The Right Question: What is keeping my church from growing? Healthy organisms grow. If you feel stagnation setting in, barriers are inhibiting your growth. Implement a plan to remove them.

Now that you’re asking the right question, I encourage you to make two affirmative decisions.
Decision #1: I believe God wants to grow my church. 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) tells us, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise to return, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so He is giving more time for everyone to repent.” Your church is part of that redemptive plan. Of course God wants it to grow. Growth signals repentance and life change.

Decision #2: I want to see my church grow. Does thinking about the next barrier you’re facing scare you into inactivity? Don’t get discouraged. God never gives us a vision without supplying what we need to fulfill it.

When you’re asking the right question, and you know in your core that both you and God want your church to grow, nothing can stop you—but growth barriers can definitely slow you down. So whether you are growing a small church in the suburbs or a megachurch in a big city, you need to be able to recognize the top five growth barriers and know how to meet them head-on.

Growth Barrier #1: Space
Space is the most fundamental barrier we all face—and the easiest to overlook. As church leaders, we love full rooms, so we say, “Pack ’em in, there’s still a few seats!” But the truth is that when a room reaches 70% of its seating capacity, it’s full. Period. Here is a four-step exercise to perform frequently as your church grows:
Step 1: Determine how many seats you have in your main worship space.
Step 2: Multiply that number by .7 (70%).
Step 3: Determine how many people you averaged in attendance over the last month.
Step 4: Is the number in Step 3 greater than the number in Step 2? If the answer is yes, you’ve got to open up more seats, or find a larger location—fast.

At The Journey, I learned this lesson the hard way. Our first location in Manhattan was at a small comedy club-type theater. At capacity, the space could hold 110 people. Seven months after our launch, we were averaging close to 80 people each week; we would bump up to 100 every now and then, but our number would always return to below 80.

Why? It’s because we were full. We just didn’t want to admit it. People stopped inviting their friends because they perceived there was no more room. Some regular attendees stopped coming because it was hard to find a seat. Eventually, we caught on and moved to a space that was three times bigger—and our church began growing again.

I’ve seen many pastors of churches with fewer than 250 attendees start second services in an effort to circumvent this barrier. Starting a second service too early usually does more damage than good, so don’t think of it as an easy fix. For example, let’s say a church of 120 decides to start a second service. Inevitably, one service will have 100 people and the other one will have 20—it’s impossible to equally divide two services, although careful choice of service times does play a part. Over time, the 20 people will be disappointed with the small crowds and filter back into the larger service.

The better choice for a church of 120 is to find a larger space and grow to 300 or 400 before starting a second service. I encourage churches to be willing to move.

Growth Barrier #2: Self-Development
Growing churches are led by growing leaders. So, if you’ve stopped progressing personally, your church is not far behind. Jimmy Britt, pastor of Rocky River Community Church in Concord, N.C. (rockyriverchurch.com), recently realized the power of this truth. Jimmy had grown his church to 150 when he got stuck. After learning about the barrier of self-development, he set up a personal growth plan for himself, focusing on leadership ability and spiritual maturity. Sure enough, when he started growing as an individual, his church started growing again. An organization can never outpace the inherent qualities of its leader.
When a pastor isn’t growing: • The sermons are stale. • The congregation’s passion for ministry wanes. • The staff stops growing. • The church stops growing.

An intentional reading plan is the single best avenue for personal growth. Set a reading goal that will stretch you—perhaps a book a month—and spend focused time in the areas of theology, church history and philosophy, in addition to reading your Bible. Also schedule time to attend key conferences and plan opportunities to seek out and meet with mentors. Personal development is essential not only for your own health and balance, but also for the growth of your church.

Growth Barrier #3: Sharing
Churches stop growing when they become inwardly (instead of outwardly) focused. If you notice a decline in your number of first-time guests and an increase in discussion of inwardly focused programs, beware! You are about to fall victim to the sharing barrier.

In my experience, healthy growing churches will have a 5:100 ratio of first-time guests to regular attendees. If you are averaging 200 people per week, you should average 10 first-time guests per week. Watch this ratio carefully, and take its waning as a warning sign. When this barrier starts blocking your growth, here are some ways you can break through it: • Teach on relational evangelism. • Set an example by telling stories of how you’ve invited people to church. • Do servant evangelism outreach. • Challenge staff, volunteers and attendees to invite friends. • Read an evangelism or church growth book with your staff and key volunteers. • Ask someone who has experienced life change to share his or her testimony.

Growth Barrier #4: Worship Service
Your weekly worship service is the front door through which people are introduced to your church. If not done correctly, it can become a big barrier.

To keep your service strong, always try to look like a church twice your size. If you are a church of 100 people, intentionally create a worship service that looks like it’s for 200 people. Take your preaching up a notch. Energize your worship time. Create the excitement that would be present in a bigger crowd. Moreover, it’s essential to get in the habit of looking at your service through the eyes of your guests and regular attendees. What kind of impression are you giving them?

Improve the quality of your service in the following ways: • Tweak your transitions. • Set up feedback and develop evaluation mechanisms. • Visit larger, growing churches and benchmark against what they are doing. • Attend cutting-edge seminars and leadership conferences.

Jeff Gunn, pastor of CrossWalk Lutheran Church in Phoenix (crosswalkinlaveen.org), saw incredible growth when he was able to overcome this worship service barrier. A few years ago, Jeff started a new congregation in a longstanding community that was being transformed by new development. As a strong communicator, he grew the church to 100 people in no time. But Jeff didn’t have a worship leader. In his Sunday services, he was cueing up and playing recorded music.

When Jeff made the decision to improve his services by bringing in a worship leader, he quickly broke the 125 mark and grew to more than 200 people. As he’s learned, sometimes you have to get out of your own way and do what needs to be done to create a quality experience for your attendees.

Growth Barrier #5: Staff
If your congregation suddenly doubled in size, would you have the necessary staff members to serve them? To keep your church moving forward, you will need to hire people on faith, so you’ll be prepared to receive the harvest God wants to send you.

Hiring staff is truly a faith issue. Many pastors want to put off staff hires until they have the money in place to support the positions. Sounds like a practical plan, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work. You will never have enough money in advance to hire the staff you need.
To overcome this barrier, change your perspective on what it takes to hire a new staff person. Say you need to fill a position that would require a $48,000 salary. Don’t look at it as a year-long position. Instead, think in three-month blocks. If you approach the new position as a three-month, $12,000 risk, instead of a $48,000 risk, you will be more comfortable filling it. Then, if the staff person you hire is good, the position will begin paying for itself after three months.

When you approach staffing with a faithful heart, you’ll be much more prepared to handle the growth God brings you.

All Grown Up
In our journey from 35 to 1,200, our church had to break through every one of these barriers—most of them more than once. Thanks to that process, I have come to understand that staying ahead of growth barriers is the most effective way of dealing with them. When we cooperate with God by taking action for His church, He will bless our efforts. As you learn to identify and diffuse growth barriers before they get you stuck, you’ll be able to keep your momentum and effectively expand God’s Kingdom for His glory.

Sunday 10.7.07 in the Rearview

It has been a while since I stopped and put some thoughts out there about our weekend at Church of the Suncoast. So here are some RANDOM thoughts from the weekend that was at the Suncoast:
  • This was our first weekend back to two set up teams. When we made the move to Martinez we went back to everyone there at 7am. We were down a man or two so it took us right up to 9:30am to get all the little touches wrapped up. It will get better as we go.
  • Our worship leader Steve (and our drummer) were on vacation so the band was on their own, but did a great job! The mark of true leadership is working your way out of a job. Steve has built a team that didn't skip a beat... no pun intended.
  • The attendance was down a little this week? I guess that long Columbus Day Weekend hurts you :-)
  • We started a new series called "Good N' Angry" about, well... Anger. We opened the service with a clip from Anger Management where Adam Sandler get's tazered on the plane. I could watch that scene a 100 times. Too funny.
  • My talk felt good. It's funny how the energy level of the audience affects your communication. When they are awake and laughing it just seems to go better. I think the content was helpful. There was only one transition I didn't nail. I will work on that for this Sunday...
  • The tear down went AWESOME this week. We spanked the tear down. We were out of there by 12:15 this week! We have a family that really works their tails off. From the dad to the daughters they all bust it. It's people like that, that make this thing work!
  • For the fourth week in a row someone made a decision for Christ in the service! Go God!!! In 18 months over 55 people have taken their first step with God here at the Suncoast! That doesn't just happen. God is still doing something here in this area! I am excited to see what the future holds for our infant church. It's all Him!

God Sized Day!

This past Sunday at Church of the Suncoast we had a God-sized day of life change!

We baptized 7 people!
We also had another person take their first step with God during the service!

All very cool stories from a guys mom getting dunked to a little boy who knew who Jesus was and that he was his savior and friend.

Go God!!!

T-shirt and the Post Office

One of the many things we do promotion wise here at the Suncoast is give away free Church of the Suncoast t-shirts. We have given away over 350 shirts in our short 18 month history. We get them locally here in the Bay Area for about $7 a piece and they have proven to be very effective. Since we have done about 5 different variations I have just about a shirt for every day of the week and since I have to wear something, I can usually be found wearing a Suncoast shirt.

This week I was reminded of why. As I was dropping off baptism certificates at the post office a lady who was behind me in line stopped me and asked about the church. She lived in the area and wanted to find a place where they didn't have to be members to attend. Wow! It just reminded me of why we started this church and why I proudly wear my Suncoast t-shirts.