Thursday, June 9, 2011

Four Things You Can Do

Often pastors will complain that their lay leaders block various initiatives they have tried in order to spur growth.  However, the pastor of a church has a number of things that are generally under his or her direct control.  As summer approaches, here are four things to work on:

1.    Improve your bio on your Web site
Did you know that site statistics usually show that the single most visited page on a church’s web site is the pastor’s bio?  People are looking for a point of connection to the face of the organization – and that’s you.  Craft your bio with the idea that someone wants to decide whether you are worth listening to.  Do you have something in common with him/her?  Will you relate to them?  You need to be asking yourself: “when someone reads my bio, what kind of person will they imagine me to be?”  (And it better be the truth.  You need to be the person they expect to encounter.)

2.    Optimize your answering machine/voice mail

Even before a complete sentence is heard, your recorded message has already communicated more than you think about your church.  What image is conveyed by the voice you choose?  Is it an elderly voice?  If so, your church sounds old.  Is it the pastor’s voice?  If so, your church sounds small.  A younger voice on your outgoing message will give your church a better image.

3.    Critique your bulletin
How does your bulletin stack up as a publication?  Does it hold to professional standards of appearance and content?  Are there typos or uneven spaces?  Is there anything that an unchurched person would find confusing?  We include the words to such liturgical staples as the Lord’s Prayer and the Gloria Patri; we don’t presume that everyone in attendance knows these words.  Raise the standard for the appearance of your bulletin.  Find someone with experience in graphic arts to critique your use of fonts and images.  Don't be text-only: use clip art libraries to illustrate announcements, use sidebars, use callouts.  Make it interesting! 

I periodically ask my congregants (esp. as summer approaches) to leave bulletins in my box from other churches they visit when they are on vacation.  It serves as a reminder that they ought to seek the fellowship of the church even when on vacation, and the bulletins often give me ideas for things to do and ways to promote them.

4.    Critique your preaching
Let’s face it: nothing is more important than your preaching.  The most important standard to set for yourself is to almost never have a bad week.  The reason is simple: one of the “riskiest” things your congregants will ever do is invite a friend to church.  They will be very reluctant to do so unless they are very confident that the sermon and the music will be something they can brag about.  On a scale of 1-10, it is better to be a 7 or 8 every single week than to be a 5 sometimes and a 10 sometimes.

I listen to my own sermon every week.  If your church doesn’t record your sermons, buy a small recorder (I recommend the Zoom H2, about $120 on eBay) and put it in the pulpit.   I listen (via podcast) to 3-4 sermons every week from other preachers I admire.  Delivery determines whether your content will be heard.  No preacher is good enough that he/she can stop working on getting better.  My goal is to never be lower than a ‘7’ (rating myself from 1-10) and to average an ‘8’.  A great resource is Andy Stanley's Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication.  It will help you stay focused on crafting messages that stick.

When you fix up your house and yard, it often spurs your neighbors to follow suit.  As you rigorously demand quality from yourself and the things you control, the other ministries in your church will follow.