The Creative Process (Part 1)

A couple of Church Insider readers have asked me about the creative process we go through when putting a series together so here are some random thoughts:

Series Graphics
The first place I look for series graphics is:
istock has tons of photography that will fit any message series you can think of. I will find a picture that I like and then buy it. They range in price depending on the size and dpi you are looking for. A large 300dpi picture runs less than $10 usually.

(A helpful hint for making message intro videos later is to find a picture that has a similar looking video to go along with it, search videos and pictures)

From there I go to They have a great selection of FREE fonts that and not too many pop up ads to annoy the snot out of you.

Take your picture and using something as simple as Publisher (or whatever high tech Mac program you guys might use) create the look you want with the font or fonts you want. As you get familiar with the program you will find ways to add cool finishing touches, but at least you now have a cool picture and a cool looking font.

Save this as a 300dpi JPEG or PNG.

Series Music
Now it’s time to fill in those dead spots in the service with bumper music. Head to iTunes and search the store with some key words from your series. For example we are starting a series this week called so I searched for cold heart and found a number of great songs. You will then need to buy them and then create a playlist so you can burn them to a CD. You need to burn them to a CD so you can get rid of the copy protection stuff on them. Once you re-load them back onto your computer you can edit them as you wish with something as simple as Windows Movie Maker. You will use these songs during your countdown clock, message intro, and during the communication card time while people are filling them out. We also use them during the offering when we don’t have a live song from the band.

Countdown Clock
You can search for a countdown clock that fits your series. Sometimes you will find one that fits, but the music sucks. Again you now have some music so import everything into Windows Movie Maker and you are good to go.

Recently I purchased a program called that allows you to create your own countdown videos using your own message series graphics and music. I have made two of them now and the program is really simple!

Message Intro Video
The message intro video is a newer element a lot of churches are taking advantage of. In the old days the choirs finished and the preacher got up to speak. Sometimes if they were really stuck on tradition they waited until the stage was totally empty! With a message intro video you can give your worship band a chance to clear the stage and set a new mood for the message.

To create one again it takes nothing more than a simple program like Windows Movie Maker and some creative thought. You can take your message series graphics and import them into Power Point in various arrangements, with text, without text and then save them as jpegs or png files. Play around with maybe throwing in some big question you want to answer in the series. The sky is the limit. These can then be installed into Windows Movie Maker where you can add 20 – 30 seconds of music and you can also add effects. You can buy some really cool effects online at places like:

(You can also add stock video files from istockphoto if they match the series graphics)

Visit our YouTube page for some simple message intro examples:

More to come later…

Leave a comment.

Letting People Leave Well (Part 2)

See (Part 1) for more info...

People are going to leave your church. That is just a fact. We preach to the parade. So what do you do when they leave? Here are a few final thoughts:

3) Tell them it is OK for them to leave
We talked last time about not getting mad and this continues that idea. It is important to let people know that is OK for them to leave. That sometimes it is just not the right fit. Free them up to go! Don't try to guilt them into staying. Tell them, "God took care of things before you guys came and He will take care of things after. He took care of you guys before our church and He will take care of you after you leave our church. That is the beauty of the church. You can find one that fits if ours doesn't. Our church isn't for everyone and we know that." In other words take the pressure and the shame they might feel off them and let them know it is OK. No one is going to get hurt here :-)

4) Send them off with your blessing!
Shock the socks off of people by sending them off with your blessing. Say a quick prayer with them as they enter this new stage in their walk with Christ. Send them out with a blessing and something funny will happen. Give it 6 months, a year... and you might see them again. (As a side note never let them, as a rule of thumb, back into a place of power or leadership if they do...)

People are going to leave. Let them leave well. 1) Don't get mad and upset! 2) Don't chase after them! 3) Tell them it is OK for them to leave! 4) Send them off with your blessing!

One final idea that you will have to figure out for your setting. We don't send people out on a Sunday morning. Our services are always about who is coming and not here yet, not about who is leaving. For us it just doesn't send the right message to guests who are checking out the Suncoast that Sunday. Have some people close to them say good bye in some other setting if they were a key leader.

Let them leave well and you can keep things like this from becoming negative situations that might hinder your growth. Straight ahead!

YouVersion (online Bible and more)

Wow! You have got to try YouVersion.

YouVersion is a new online Bible site BUT it is so much more. You can search for a verse and then with just one click can see related content from all over the web. From videos to commentaries to sermons its all there to help make reading the Bible that much more relevant. You can also post your own content for any verse and write in your online journal.

Tell your church or a friend.

Letting People Leave Well (Part 1)

If your church has been around for more than 6-months then you know people are going to leave. And, when I talk about people leaving I am talking about "Christians". The already convinced are the ones that will leave your church.

Recently, at Church of the Suncoast we have had a few waves of people (believers) leaving. For each of them it has been mainly over the idea that the church is here for outsiders, the unchurched, and not here to take care of every need a believer has. In other words we will not have dozens of ministries to meet the church's every need! Why? Because we are focusing our limited time, talent, and treasure on creating environments for unchurched people to take their next step with God. Some people just won't buy into that...

So how do you send them off??? What do you do??? Here are two things and in part 2 we will talk about 2 more ideas:

1) Don't get mad and upset!
The worst thing you can do when people tell you they are leaving is to get mad and upset. ESPECIALLY, when they are leaving because they don't buy into your vision. It's tough not to want to rush to defend the vision and beat them over the head with the vision, but we can't. We have to stay calm, thank them for their time and service, wish them the best, and tell them they are always welcome anytime! Tell them that it is "OK" because not everyone will buy into this deal. You will never convince them that you are right so don't try to defend things and don't get mad even when they say not so nice things about you. This leads to the second idea:

2) Don't chase after them!
Don't try to spend hours convincing them of how they can still fit in your church and how you can change things for them. Stay true to what God has called you, straight ahead! After they tell you they are leaving, let them! Don't give them phone calls to check in and see if they have found another church yet... Don't try to lure them back. You don't want them back! Remember they left because they didn't buy into the vision! They are not bad people, they are just not the people you need to fuel the vision. Fact is you need their seats anyway for the new people God is going to bring.

Stay tuned for the final two big ideas on letting people leave well and take a second to tell me what you think as a church planter / pastor.

Vision Meeting Re-Cap

[OUR VISION] To see thousands of people living along the Suncoast Parkway becoming fully devoted followers of Christ.

(Not just complaining Christians, not just complacent Christians, but fully alive, fully devoted followers of Jesus)

[OUR PURPOSE] Helping people take their next steps with God by loving up, reaching out & growing within.

[OUR STRATEGY] To create relevant environments in which God can work:

Sunday service - A great place to invite a guest
Lunch w/ the Pastor, GroupLINK, Starting Point (Coming Soon),
Celebrate Volunteering Dinner, Volunteering - Places to start getting connected
Community Groups - The place to belong and grow with others
Leadership - The place to give back and reach out

[WHERE WE ARE] - Since August
First Time Guests Since the move to Martinez — 56+
Decisions for Christ Since the move to Martinez - 10
Baptisms Since the move to Martinez — 7

This fall we also opened up the Warehouse (a gathering spot for the Suncoast) 14426 Black Lake Rd. Odessa, FL. 33556

Since then we have seen our Student Ministry’s numbers surge to 15 - 17 a week.

We have always been a church dedicated to taking risks, stepping out, and being church for “others”. We have always been more focused on influencing the community then our own “church” needs. We believe the Suncoast is a revolutionary God-thing and we don’t want to let the party end where we are. God has so much more for us, and this area.

As God has led we have followed even when it seemed backward or confusing. I and the staff are all grateful for your trust and “followship” even when you might not have known where. God has led us to move once again to the new Rushe Middle School back on SR 54 (just east of the Suncoast Parkway) where all this got started in 2006. We believe as God has stretched us back here at Martinez He is about to rocket us forward into a place of dominance over the coming months and years.

It all begins with you and me, together, being willing to take some more risks...

Make an intentional lifestyle of investing in and inviting people
(As we do more marketing)

Start serving somewhere like children’s, set up, greeting, parking
(As more guests come)

Start reallocating your money to fuel God’s purposes
(As we hire new staff)

Pray high risk prayers for God to use you
(As we pray for God to use the Suncoast)

Pray for the staff and leaders of the Suncoast
(As we pray for you)

>> Two Identical Christmas Eve Services - December 23 & 24
>> First Sunday @ Rushe Middle School - January 20th

Our Coastal Children’s Ministry is collecting the following items for Operation Shoebox as a part of their Agent’s in Motion mission. Please consider purchasing any of the following items and then dropping them off at the collection box in the lobby of the church.
(You can also drop items off at the Warehouse)

Donation DEADLINE is 11.25

· travel size toiletries
· dental floss
· wash cloths - green, tan, brown
· bug repellant (not-pressurized)
· sun block (SPF 30+)
· lip balm with sunscreen
· aloe lotion (for sunburn)
· foot powder
· anti-itch cream
· saline eye drops
· thick socks

· AA batteries
· small flashlight (mag type)
· personal battery operated fan
· hand-held electronic game
· miniature foam football
· Frisbee
· yo-yo
· puzzle
· small travel games
· balloons

· tea bags, coffee, hot chocolate
· gum and candy (no chocolate)
· dried fruit
· beef-jerky, pepperoni, slim jim
· pop-tarts
· nuts (shelled)
· camping type food
· cereal (individual servings)
· crackers (individually wrapped)
· 1 qt powder drink mix
· canned soup (easy open)
· cookies in tins

· zip closure plastic bags
· disposable camera
· prepaid phone cards
· sunglasses (black, no brand name)
· books/magazines (no pornographic)
· blank greeting cards to send back home
· journal
· bright colored pens
· Hand-colored picture from your child

Sling Shot

Back in August Church of the Suncoast was forced to make a move to a new location that was outside of our main area until we could get into a new middle school being opened up in January of 2008. Our old school was kicking us out, and we had a six month gap before we can get into the school we really want to be at. Six months trying to build momentum in a totally new community...

Going into the move God gave me a word picture that I didn't really appreciate until we have found ourselves neck deep in the challenges of a move like this (we have moved before, but not this far away). Of course we cast a big vision for the move and did several different marketing pieces but the reality is we lost people. I recently talked to one guy who said, "We just lost contact when you moved down there..." He is typical of the people who were on the fringes, the once a month crowd (1/4 of our church!). So the word picture God gave me going into this was a sling shot. A simple childhood toy.

In order to rocket an object forward with a sling shot you have to pull it backwards as hard as you can. You stress and stretch the rubber chords almost to the breaking point. Over the past few weeks I have felt the pulling of the sling shot. We have lost a few people (the Suncoast just wasn't what they were looking for, nothing major...), November is usually just a lousy attendance month, volunteers go out of town, the staff feels the strain, we feel the strain of needing to hire another person... it just feels like we are being stretched.

BECAUSE, I know God is about to rocket this church forward! My wife is usually the best person in the world at sensing where God is at work and what He is doing and she told me the other day we better get that new staff member in place and get our volunteers pumped because the sling shot is about to be shot! I agree. God is about to launch the Suncoast to a new level with momentum and growth.

I hope this little word picture helps you in your struggles as a church planter / pastor.

Tell me your story or your word picture. Leave a comment...