Secret Shopper

This past Sunday at Church of the Suncoast we had not one but two secret shoppers. We didn't plan on having two on one week, but we had two people who were from "outside" come and give us their gut honest feedback. The reason this is so important is after about 3 - 6 months you become blind to a lot of the things at your church. You don't notice things like someone with fresh eyes. The feedback from a secret shopper is also great because they are not emotionally tied to anything. They haven't spent hours working on something so they are free to critique without feeling the weight of that.

Here are some things to keep in mind if you have a secret shopper come to your church:
  • Make sure they "get it" whatever "it" is for your style of church. If they are used to traditional church and hate rock music then they would not have made a good secret shopper for us. So make sure they at least fit the style church you are.
  • Find someone who has never been to your church. Remember it is about fresh eyes!
  • DON'T tell people you have a secret shopper coming that Sunday or else everyone will be on their best behavior. You want their regular behavior.
  • Have them break down the experience into different categories like walk in, hospitality, visual, service...
  • Share the feedback with your staff or key volunteers even if it hurts a little. Don't try to sugar coat the truth. This is not God's opinion, this is one persons opinion, so realize that, but let all the feedback be seen and discussed.
  • Find out what things you can change easily and do them first. Then maybe take one of the big changes and work on it over a few months time. You can't "fix" everything at one time and you don't need to. Find the big ideas in the feedback.
  • Don't get your feelings hurt. This is about the Kingdom, not ours!!!

Hope that helps... would love to hear what you think. Leave a comment.

The Kind of Servants Every Church Needs

This morning as I was continuing to read the Book of Acts I came across this:

"And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35

Basically, Paul is saying his goodbyes as he is about to head to what he fears is his certain death, so He is giving his final words to the group of believers who will be carrying on the mission of that local church.

The part that struck me was the final line as he quotes Jesus, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Those are the kinds of servants / volunteers you need at every church.

I am blessed to have some people around me at the Suncoast like this, but you always need more, you need those people who will say, "I am not in this for me. I am not here to get something. I am not here to try to take over. I am not here to tell you how to do your job. I am not here to just take, take, take and then leave 6-months later. I AM HERE for whatever you need done because it is better to serve and be served."

We need those people, they fuel a church! BUT, here is what I want to leave you with...

It is different if you are one of those people. It feels different. You don't always get the warm fuzzies each Sunday. You will get tired and fight a bad mood some weeks. You will feel like you are giving and giving and no one even cares. You might even have some dry times with God as you serve wholeheartedly. But, then you would be no different than Paul. Paul was listing all the things he had done as if to say, "Guys I have given my life to this, and I am about to give my life for this... keep on! Stay the course. Remember WHO you are doing this for. You are doing this for Jesus. You are serving Him and GREAT is the blessing that is coming your way even when it doesn't always feel like it in this life."

What an awesome thing to find people who get that!

Thank you to everyone in my life like that!!!

Trying Something New

This Sunday we make a big announcement at Church of the Suncoast that we are doing something a little different with our Community Groups this summer. We are taking a big risk and I am not sure many other churches in the nation are trying this... but like most everything at the Suncoast this is a grand experiment. If it works, we meant to do that. If it doesn't then oh well, we tried and learned something that doesn't work.

So here is my challenge if you are a church leader... try something new!!! Really, change something up, try something you have always wanted to try but were too scared to implement. I don't think God is honored when we get so married to our systems that we can't move when He does.

Just some food for thought this Friday.

As for the big change in our groups for the summer? Ha... you thought I was going to tell you. Not until Sunday. Have a great weekend, praying for your church, try something new!!!

Leadership by Tony Morgan

Here is a great post from the guy leading my coaching network in South Carolina:

"Leaders are servants. It’s counter-intuitive. It may be unlike the leadership you’ve experienced in the marketplace…or even the church for that matter. But biblical leaders are servant-leaders."

Click HERE to

Are You In?

Yesterday, at Church of the Suncoast I put the challenge down about the local church. Here is what I said:

"God has entrusted us with His unstoppable vision. Here’s my question for you. I pray it haunts you and keeps you up all night long. Will you give your life to the church? In our plush, comfortable American churches will we give our life for the local church? Will you give your life to the vision?"

I know a lot of people got jacked up about what God is going to accomplish in the community and the world because of a group of people gathering in a middle school cafeteria in Land O' Lakes, Florida. Maybe you were one of them.

The church is the only hope for the world. It is not government (even though they would like you to think that), it is not institutions, it is the local church. Jesus died for the church and I believe He is asking us to do the same today. Is He asking us to literally give up our lives for the church like the early believers, don't know, can't imagine that in our country but there are people today in parts of this world dying for the church because they know how important it is. Most likely God is asking those of us in America to get off our blessed assurance and care for the church enough to give up whatever we have to give up to see if thrive and flourish.

So here are three things I think we could give up for the church:

1. Our time

The bottom line is it takes time for the church to function on all cylinders. It takes tons of people all serving to see the vision become a reality. And, since the vision I believe is always getting bigger it always takes more and more people giving up more and more of their time. We need you to serve at the Suncoast or whatever church you go to! It is not someone else's job, it is your job and my job to make sure the church is working!

We could also give up our:

2. Our resources

It takes money to do ministry, you might could call it "Monestry". And, the Biblical mandate is we bring back to God the first 10% off the top. We bring that back to the local house of worship so that the vision can move forward. Even in the Old Testament before "money made the world go 'round" you see this principle laid out for us. If you are a Christ-Follower we don't get to play the "I could not afford it" card when we stand before Jesus! He says, "Trust me" and either we do, and we will be blessed, or we don't and our finances will be cursed. Read the Bible!

We can also give up:

3. Our need for control

The bottom line is you can't control the vision or the movement of God. As the church, we the people need to give up our control to the people God has placed in authority over us. We don't serve men, we serve God and God has entrusted the vision to leaders to equip the church to change the world. That doesn't mean we all look alike and act alike and listen to the same music and all agree on everything. But, we place our trust in Jesus and in the leadership who articulates that vision.

The bottom line is Jesus said take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Him. Guys, that is where we are going, are you in?

Series Begins SUNDAY!!!

This Sunday we begin a new series on the vision of Church of the Suncoast called "Unstoppable". For the past two weeks I have been pouring my heart out into three messages that I hope jack people up about God's church. If you are thinking about coming to the Suncoast this week, don't think, just do it. God has some big plans for us and you don't want to miss hearing about them over the next three weeks.

Keep Going When "They" Don't

Last week I talked a little about some of the feelings I have been feeling in this POST. Church leadership can be a tough place on your emotional and spiritual well being. Don't worry I am not about to jump off the Skyway Bridge, ministry has those seasons when things just dry up inside you. It doesn't matter how hard you pray or seek God things are just dry in you. Leading and starting a church does things to you that no other job will do. Not saying your job is easy if you are reading this and not in "ministry" but it is hard to put into words until you have been there.

At the church we have also had some people come and go over the past few months. I think it was Ed Young or Ron at the Springs that said, "Preach to the Parade" because people are always coming and going at churches. You never want to hold people too tightly because they might not be around a year from now. How true in a church plant. I think it was also Ed that said every church needs a backdoor but it needs to be small, like a dog door... you can get where that is going.

But you know church people will bolt on you and leave you hanging. Every person that has left over the past few months has been from another church and that is OK. I hope they find a church that challenges them, helps them grow, and gets them out of the seats and into the game. I only want God's best for them and I mean that. If you let people leave well then it is funny how they show up again a few years down the line.

The point is not that people leave, because they will, the point is not to get man, because that is not right either, the point is what are you going to focus on?

As I have been reading in the Book of Acts I cam across an example of this that God kind of woke me up to this morning. Paul has just been rejected by the religious people, they lied about him, kicked him out so the Bible says He "Shook the dust from his robe" and moved on, he moved on to the people that didn't know God, the gentiles. Later on that night God speaks to Paul and I think this might just be for you too if you are a pastor and things seem to be going like go sometimes. Check this out from the Living Bible:

"One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, "Don't be afraid! Speak out! Don't quit! For I am with you... Many people here is this city belong to me." Acts 18:9-10

God says to Paul "Hey man don't stop, just get back to the vision, get back to what I have called you to do and that is preach to these people that don't know me because many of them belong to me and they are just waiting to hear the Gospel."

Pastor, I think God is saying the same thing to you this morning. Don't be afraid. Speak out. Don't quit! The vision moved forward after the religious people rejected Paul. Move the vision forward!!!

Tony Morgan Coaching Network (2)

Church Growth Strategies in Ministry:

  • Listen to God and do what He says.
  • Learn how to be missionaries to our culture.
    (The Gospel has to be placed into a context. We can’t ignore the culture. The message comes first but has to be in a language everyone can understand. We live in a foreign culture but too many times we view ourselves as preachers not missionaries)
  • Build from the outside in on all levels.
    (The core never goes out, they never reach out. The danger is you don’t assimilate everyone, but can God be trusted to take care of them? Models Jesus ministry to the masses and then to the core.)
  • Prioritizing the weekend service in the U.S.
    (Build the biggest crowd you can and some will respond. Allows you to partner with people’s personal evangelist efforts.)
  • Focus on who you are trying to reach not who you are trying to keep.
  • Leverage word – of – mouth.
    (70 – 80% of the people that connect to a church comes through word-of-mouth. Where there is life change it will spread. Keep people focused on it is about meeting Jesus. Share the stories of individual life change. There is something about different… new message series, different elements in your service, create buzz. Can use marketing at times and that can be different.)
  • Act twice your size at every level… starts with vision.
    (Staffing – leaders who can lead at that level. Structure & systems. Volunteer development. Forces you to be ahead of the growth curve.)
  • Keep it simple.
    (Message & structure)
  • Empower other leaders.
    (Freedom within a framework. iPod delegation - initially, preferred, optional, discouraged. People want a framework but the freedom to work within that.)
  • Monitor the numbers.
    (Numbers represent lives. How else can you tell? Pay attention to the trends and maximize those, a week or even a month doesn’t make a trend. How does it compare to last year?

    Church Unique (Book)

Once your space runs out… what do you do? Multiple services then what?

Two key things. Video message or Live teaching and if video is it live or taped? AND, do you keep the brand the same and replicate everything or give them freedom?

It is a better use of financial resources than building one huge building. Once you have the first campus the fixed cost get spread out over more people.

Leverage current ministry structure and strategies.

Takes advantage of a gifted communicators skills. Take advantage of branding.

People are more likely to go if it is near their house and multi-site gets them that.

Pastors get to pastor and preachers get to preach.

Challenges: Can “it” be replicated? Where do you give campuses freedom? Where is the line? What do we control? How do decisions get processed? Who calls the shots? How do things get communicated? What about leadership development? Does it scale… is it scaleable at the next level? Can we keep it simple? How do we pay for it? Where do we find the volunteers?

5 Keys for the Right Campus Pastor: Can they execute the vision? Can they communicate the vision? Have to be relational!!! Have to be able to lead through others, like volunteers. Are they driven, will they get it done?

Coaching with Tony Morgan

Today I get on a plane and head to the thriving metropolis of Anderson, South Carolina. That is joke in case you didn't know it. Tomorrow is the second of six coaching sessions with Tony Morgan AKA "The Church Strategy Guru." I have been going up there trying to get my strategy on you know. Leading strategically is something I am constantly trying to work on. I will keep working on it until we hire someone that is actually good at it. We just did a strength study in the coaching network and mine were:

People who are especially talented in the Competition theme measure their progress against
the performance of others. They strive to win first place and revel in contests.

People who are especially talented in the Activator theme can make things happen by turning
thoughts into action. They are often impatient.

People who are especially talented in the Belief theme have certain core values that are
unchanging. Out of these values emerges a defined purpose for their life.

People who are especially talented in the Command theme have presence. They can take
control of a situation and make decisions.

People who are especially talented in the Responsibility theme take psychological ownership
of what they say they will do. They are committed to stable values such as honesty and

As you can see there is a theme there and strategy doesn't really fit. So I am investing a little bit of time on it and then I hope to be able to turn that over to someone who has that gift so I can work on capitalizing my strengths.

Check back tomorrow for my notes from Tony's group.

Fanatic Message Re-Cap

Feeling Dry (Just Like Florida)

For the past 3 years the State of Florida has been in a drought. In fact things have gotten so bad that you can't wash your car at home and you can only water your lawn by hand once a week. I even heard a guy on the radio this morning talk about brown being the new beautiful and how we can't keep all these nice green lawns anymore. Things in Florida are dry. And, what we really need is a Tropical Storm or two to bring us back to normal. We always fear Hurricane Season and we pray, "God please don't let one hit us" but that is how Florida for centuries has replenished it's water tables.

Personally, I have been in a little drought myself. Spiritually, emotionally, and even physically last week when I was sick I kind of feel "dry". I shared this with a guy this morning at breakfast and he said that was really good to hear that even the pastor goes through dry times. So I am going public with my dryness. If you are feeling dry spiritually today you are not alone. The Bible is filled with stories of people that chased hard after God but went through dry times in their lives.

And, like I said I have been in one for a little bit now. This year has been crazy busy. We lost a staff member at the beginning of the year and having to pick up that slack has been crazy. Trying to protect the "product" on Sunday's and still run the rest of the church has taken its toll on me all the way around and it really hit me on Sunday. I had a bad day you might say.

But, I find it interesting that we are doing a series that has been on my heart for a long time right now on worship. Kind of a God thing because just like Florida needs a storm to hit and just soak us with rain, we need to be hit by a storm of worship. Our corporate worship needs to be blown around with passion and excitement for God and all He has done. We need to be drenched in His presence before we ever even walk through the doors on a Sunday. How can we expect our "worship services" to "do it for us" if we have neglected to worship God the other 6- days of the week? The music, message, creative elements, serving... it will be like a drop in the bucket spiritually when you need downpour if we have not been worshipping all week.

So my challenge to myself and everyone else is lets come to church already worshipping this week and not show up to worship. Let God pour Himself out on you this week and let's come to church wet!

Keep the conversation going, I would love to know what you are thinking about this. Leave a comment by clicking on the comments link below this post.