Thundersticks & Halloweenie

Two great ideas. One new, one old.

This past Sunday if you were to walk by the doors of the school we meet in you would have heard the bass thumping and guitars wailing but you also would have heard the sound of thunder sticks. Yes, Church of the Suncoast now has our very own thundersticks. We ordered these online (several places sale them) and gave them out for free this week before the service. It was awesome to hear after the worship set the sound of thundersticks ringing out to heaven. It also was a way for people who do not normally clap or outwardly participate in worship to do something less threatening.

Another idea we started 3 years ago now is Halloweenie. This is where you get the people in your church to have a free cookout in their driveway on Halloween night. We printed up some posters and gave out stacks of invite cards so they could get the word out and then connect people to the Suncoast. Props to Rita for getting a grill and some fake dogs to also dress up the table we gave out the posters on. Last year we had several people show up the next Sunday because they got a free hot dog, a drink and an invite to the Suncoast. We gave out over 150 dogs at my house alone!

John, the Suncoast, & Transition

Many of you have had the chance to meet John Donahue who we hired 3-months ago as the new (and first) Director of Ministry operations. I met John through the Innovative Network of Churches network I am a part of once a month. John also was volunteering at a friends church down in Tampa called Common Ground.

At the time Linda, who was our very first employee at the Suncoast, had moved to California. She was a do it all kind of person and we had to fill her shoes along with some other key roles that I needed to get off my plate and some areas that just needed some leadership. Rita, our children's director at the time also was looking to make a change within the church so she jumped over to Linda's old job and so that role needed to be filled now too. We hired John hoping to get to know him over a 90 day period and see how good of a fit it was here at the Suncoast.

This morning after a lot of painful, gut-wrenching thinking and praying it has been decided that John should no longer be a part of the Suncoast staff now that the 90 day probation period is up. This was not an easy choice because no one wants to ever do this, and it was not a quick decision made on some spare of the moment thought. We care about people and this is not just some giant corporation who hires and fires every week.

John and I both love Jesus. We both love HIS church. We both want to see people come to know Christ. We both want to see people take their next steps with God. AND, we both love our wives and families... so if you are looking for dirt there is NONE! Really, there is no dirt, there is no secret back story, there is no moral lapse, there is no hard feelings it just came down to this:

It just was not the best fit. That is the big scoop, really! It was a fit, but not the best fit. We needed someone with his skills. He was looking for a full time ministry job. He could do the job, BUT it just was not the BEST fit. And, what the Suncoast needs is the best fit. So instead of moving forward for a year or two and having a fit turn into hard feelings or frustration it is just better to stop after this 90 day probation period and both of us can move on to those better fits.

I have worked for churches before that were not a good fit and it is miserable from an employee's perspective! Just ask my wife. "So why do you keep working there then?" Well let's face it there is the reality of making a living.

So to make sure John and Sarah are taken care of we are giving them a financial package to make sure they can get by during this transition. It will give him the freedom to look for the best job without having to worry about the bills for a while.

As a leader I want to see people thrive and my hope is this will allow John to find a role in a church he can thrive in! So I would ask you to join me in praying for John and Sarah as they look for that role and for God's guidance as they walk through this transition.

As for the Suncoast we are now looking for a new children's director. We have been having some awesome numbers of kids each week and we have been in the process of ramping up our Coastal Kids ministry. We have some AWESOME, AWESOME, AWESOME volunteers in the Beach, Shore & Mangroves who will be keeping things going and my wife Cheryl and others will help with some of the logistics of scheduling and all that in the short term.

The Community Group leadership will fall back on my plate for the short term along with the set up and tear down scheduling, but I have talked with some people about heading that up and things will go on like they always have until we get someone new in to lead things again.

The bottom line for the Suncoast is nothing really changes and we have an awesome new series starting this Sunday called "Behind the Curtain" where we are going to talk about some of the issues we face as a church and how bright the future is. We also, in the second week, will be sharing some stories of how the Suncoast has impacted lives and you will not want to miss that. Bring your popcorn and tissues!!!

I love you guys, I love being your pastor, pray for John and see you on Sunday. Bring a friend who maybe is interested in learning about how church should and could be.

Brian :-)

PS - Don't miss the first 5 minutes of church this week. We have a gift for everyone!

New Invite Cards

We just had these printed... if you would like the PSD files so you can change the info to fit your church just e-mail me:

Volunteer Burnout (Part 2)

This week I am doing a two part post on the issue of volunteer burnout. To read part one click HERE. Also, I want to say again, at Church of the Suncoast we have not cracked the code on this. We are not a perfect church and we have over used and over extended people from time to time. Here is a great resource to read if you have ever found yourself in that place:

Mad Church Disease by Anne Jackson.

So here are the final three things that church leaders can do to keep people from burning out and dropping out of the life of your church.

Remind people of the big picture

One of the things that happens no matter how jacked you are about serving God and serving His church is you forget the big picture. The not so glamorous tasks can begin to frustrate you unless you keep in mind the big picture. This is not set up, this is creating an environment for God to come and change peoples lives. This is not taking care of kids, this is showing the love of Jesus to the next generations. This is not changing a poopie diaper... OK, so that one really is a poopie diaper, BUT when a parent comes and sees a fresh diaper on their kid they know someone cared about them!!! So get creative and remind people of why we do what we do.

Pair people up

My goal, and not one we have been totally successful at, is to pair people up. Never let someone do something alone. People need two things from you. A relationship and a responsibility. They have the responsibility if they are serving so now they need a relationship. Pairing people up gives you on the job training and it builds relationships.

Pray before each task

One of the best things you can do is to circle up your team before the event or task and ask them how they are doing and then pray for them. If someone is not in a small group then where else do people in your church have the chance for someone to just pray for them. Out loud. Where they hear it. Where they feel like these people really care about me. It takes an extra 10 minutes but the rewards are worth it.

Again, we have not cracked the code, and like I said in my last post, we have burned people out at times. But that doesn't mean it is "their" fault and as leaders we should do everything we can to make sure our awesome volunteers feel loved, appreciated, and feel like they are not just doing our work for us, but helping to build God's kingdom!

What say you? If you are a church leader or a volunteer I would love to hear what you think. Leave a comment and keep the conversation going.

Leadership 101, 201, & 301

So as I am reading along in 1 Samuel today I come across chapter 10 and WOW! Saul learns leadership lesson 101 - 301 in one chapter. Here are the three lessons for him and for us today!

Saul had just been anointed by Samuel and then Samuel begins to share about what is going to happen next. He ends by saying that God's Spirit will come upon him and from that day on: "Do what seems right because God will guide you." Verse 7. I have heard Perry Noble say "Leadership is as simple as hearing God." AND, that is what Sam is telling Saul. Trust the voice of God in you and do what seems right!

Now, they are about to publicly crown Saul as king but they can't find him. They look all over and finally one guy says: "He is hiding among the baggage" Verse 22. How many times as a leader have you been ready to walk into what God wants you to do when you stop and hide behind your "baggage". We all have "baggage" and Saul learned you just have to step up and lead.

Obviously, not everyone was buying into this Saul guy. He came from nothing and really had no experience. So some haters started to say: "Deliverer us? Don't make me laugh!" They held him in contempt and refused to congratulate him. But Saul paid them no mind." Verse 27. Saul learned the third lesson of leadership. People will hate on you. Pay them no mind!

That is a lot for one chapter of Saul's life. I'm sure he spent years unpacking these first few lessons. I am going to spend this fall doing that. How about you???

Money Made Simple Video

Shot in front of a Chase Bank in Tampa. The building next door was empty so we were able to make it look like I was in front of the bank. Simple video to show how we should manage our money from our Living on the Edge series.

Volunteer Burnout (Part 1)

This week I am going to be doing a series of blog posts on the issue of volunteer burnout. As a 3 year old church plant that hasn’t arrived yet (not sure you ever do) we have a limited number of volunteers to pull from each and every week. Obviously, we are always looking to plug new people into the church by serving but you will always have a limited number of people. So, how do you prevent volunteer burnout? How do you keep people from just flaming out and dropping off the map never to be seen from again?

First let me say these posts are dedicated to the awesome servants at Church of the Suncoast. You guys come early, stay late, and give and give and give. For those of you that have stuck it out and fought through you are my hero’s! There would not be a Church of the Suncoast today if it was not for you.

Second this post is dedicated to the people we have mowed through and pushed you too fast, too hard or too long. You might be at some other church or worse you might have stepped away from the church for a season of life. We are not a perfect church and we have not done a perfect job and our communication can always get better. I hope you know we care for you and that you are always welcome and in our prayers.

So how do you prevent this? A few thoughts today and then look for part 2 later this week:

Give people an out

Make sure you give people an out by either having them serve for a season or by constantly checking in to make sure they are doing OK. There also needs to be an open dialog that they are always able to take a break if they need it.

Let people try other things

One of the things I hope we can get better at is letting people know they can try different areas of ministry if the one they are in does not fit! The best way to find out how God wired you, and where you will get the most life out of your service and thus prevent burnout, is to search around until you find one that fits. There should be this willingness with your staff and key leaders to move people around as needed.

Publically appreciate people

Private appreciation is nice and needed. But, nothing beats being elevated in front of a group of people. So look for ways to elevate your volunteers in front of others when they knock it out of the park!

What ideas have you found that work? OR, if you are a volunteer, what could we do from your perspective??? Leave a comment and let me know.

A Must Read for Planters (Post by Steven Furtick)

By Steven Furtick

Minister of GCD
Here’s one of the most frequent questions we get from church planters:What position should I hire first in my church?

It’s taken me almost 4 years of reflection, but I think I’ve finally formulated my answer. Any guesses? I’ll bet some of you immediately thought: Worship Leader. Nope. Important, but not most important. You can pray and preach your way into the presence of God without any music for a while if you have to. Children’s Pastor? Again, it’s definitely a priority. But not the first priority. At least, not in my experience.

The very first position any church planter needs to fill is the Minister of GCD. That’s short for Getting Crap Done.

Notice I didn’t advocate a Minister of GTT (Getting Thoughts Thunk) or HLM (Having Lunch Meetings). The most important thing a senior pastor needs in the earliest days of starting a church is a support person that will enable him to fly at a high altitude. A good GCD Pastor is willing to be your children’s pastor, administrative assistant, executive director, and custodian. In the same day. A natural born CGD (Crap Getter Done) will learn to live for the thrill of freeing up the leader to do what only the leader can do. And the vision will flourish.

Over time, your needs will become much more sophisticated. You’ll want to hire specialists and people who deal in big ideas. But in the first year or so, you don’t need theorists. There’s no room for that on the payroll. The more limited the budget, the more important it is to fire the show horses and hire folks who know how to execute. Someone who specializes in follow through. Someone who’s not afraid to get his/her hands dirty, and can morph into whatever is needed from moment to moment.