These are articles to help you make the most out of every message.

A Motto That Means Something

Last week I talked about a Motto That’s On Mission, and basically I said that your mission statement is too long – shorten it to a motto that is easily digestible for your audience. This week I want to continue with that idea of motto, but in a different direction. About mottos that mean something more than just an organization’s existence.

Theology is hard. Books and books have been written trying to explain all the intricate details of theology – and then more books are written about those books. But the point of faith is its accessibility to all. Anyone can believe, so the information for belief must be easily digestible. Just like a motto.

When it comes to preaching, the most important thing to keep in mind is the Gospel. But what is the Gospel? There are four books in the Bible that are called “Gospels.” They record the life of Jesus and much of his teaching here on earth. But when Paul talks about the Gospel (Romans 1:16), he’s probably not talking about Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, at least half of which weren’t written at the time. No, he’s talking about the message of salvation that Jesus’ first followers were spreading. He’s talking about information.

What if we could take that complicated information of theology and reduce it down to something as simple as the message Paul preached, the message that unbelievers accepted, and the message that formed the backbone of the 2000 year old Church? What if we could take complex, intricate ideas and make them simple for anyone and everyone to get? I believe that’s the whole purpose of turning thoughts into words into actions.

Here’s how I’ve done this. When I think of the Gospel, I think of the basic information someone would need to know to understand who Jesus is, what he’s done for them, and how they should respond. So I’ve come up with a motto that explains this quickly, yet fully:

“Jesus died so you don’t have to, and he rose again so you can be with him forever.”

That, to me, is the essence of the Gospel message. It’s quick, it’s simple, and it’s all encompassing. From this motto you can springboard into more detail – How did Jesus die? What kind of man would die like that for me? How does his death mean I don’t have to die? What kind of death do I avoid by believing in him?

You can take this idea of motto and apply it to any number of other doctrines – justification by faith, water baptism, evangelism, accountability. Take the long form idea – with all its intricacies and details – and then break it down into the very essence of what the idea means and does. Then reshape it in as few words as possible. Finally, deliver that motto to an audience needing direction.

What big ideas do you think are obstacles to people believing in Jesus? How can you turn those big ideas into mottos that will help more people believe?

A Motto That’s On Mission

If you’ve been in ministry for a while you’ve probably heard the importance of a good mission statement. Guy Kawasaki in his book The Art of the Start says you’re wrong. You don’t need a good mission statement – you just need a motto. He suggests we replace “highfalutin, all-encompassing” mission statements with short, easily digestible, right-to-the-point mottos, what he calls a “mantra.”

Kawasaki gives a few examples from the business world:

Nike – Authentic athletic performance

Disney – Fun family entertainment

Starbucks – Rewarding everyday moments

These mottos are usually employed internally to direct the day-to-day vision of the company. But it’s not hard to see how they would translate to the general public in a pretty easy way.

Mottos are not only catchy, they also help the audience know – right away! – what they’re in for. So how does this work in the church?

Craft Mottos, not Mission Statements

Chances are your church already has a mission statement. I’m not telling you to scrap it. It’s probably pretty important for driving vision. But you can substitute it for a motto. Maybe take a snippet of the mission statement and turn it into a motto. Or start with something fresh that you’ll advertise to everyone.

The church I attend, NorthPoint Church in Springfield, MO, has as its mission statement: “NorthPoint exists to create a safe place for people to find and follow Jesus.” That’s pretty short, it’s definitely to the point, and it’s not difficult to remember. But it’s still not a motto. Sometimes our mission statement is shortened to just: “Find and follow Jesus.” In the end, that’s what the church is all about.

You can also look at your values and decide what’s important enough to advertise to the world. Another way to think of a motto is this: “If I only had a few seconds, how would I describe my church?” I know a lot of churches that use the “Real, Relevant, Relational” tag as a motto. Or maybe it’s “Love God, Love People.” There’s really an endless supply of good mottos when it comes to the list of values your church has adopted.

Once you’ve crafted a motto, get it out there! Start putting it on fliers, on handouts and bulletins, on signs and walls all over your church. Start advertising it on business cards and mailers, splash it across billboards, and repeat it on the radio or TV. Get your motto out there!

This is really about turning your church inside out. For those who have never visited, how can you – in just a couple of seconds – explain what your church is all about? They may already have an idea, and that idea could be wrong. But with a motto, you shatter their preconceived notions and invite them to experience it for themselves.

How can you use a motto to increase your audience’s engagement? How can you incorporate mottos in your weekly teachings?

Feel the Need

I know there are a ton of different ways to plan your preaching calendar. Some love to take a book of the Bible and go verse-by-verse. Others like to make a list of doctrines and cross them off as they go through the year, making sure they cover each topic at least once.

One approach that I’ve found to be very effective is “Felt Needs Sermon Planning.” It’s preaching to specific felt needs in your audience. It’s about highlighting things that challenge people on a day-in day-out basis and helping them through those challenges.

Felt needs are just that – needs that people can feel. There are, of course, needs people can’t feel. Most people can’t feel the need for tithing, finding a place of service, or personal evangelism – all of which should be covered on your calendar. But felt needs are immediately recognizable by your audience. So when you talk about them, they attract attention.

Here are some felt needs that you can preach on.

  • Family Relationships
  • Finances
  • Addictions
  • Raising Kids
  • Being a Better Employee
  • Sex
  • Emotions

How does felt needs sermon planning work? First, identify the needs in your congregation and community. Take a survey of your church people – What are they going through? What challenges are they facing? What season of life are they in? Take a look around your community – What do people need? What are they struggling with? What was the last tragedy your community faced?

Once you know what needs are prevalent in your audience, start to string those needs together into a series format. Maybe you can talk about parenting, marriage, and friendships in a relationship series. Or perhaps you can bundle different addictions together into a month-long set of sermons.

Now that you have those series sketched out, take a look at your calendar and start placing them in. You want to make sure you schedule them at the most opportune time. If you’ve got a topic that will appeal to many in the community, preach it during a time when you know you’ll have the highest attendance. Or if the need really only affects those inside the walls of your church, pick a month when you know most of your attendance is your committed core.

Finally, don’t be afraid to preach from the standpoint of need. Jesus did. His Sermon on the Mount was a laundry list of felt needs preaching. He covered struggling with finances, sexual addiction, hate and anger – all of those were felt needs of his audience. And he did it the same way you’ll do it, by appealing to scripture and the heart of God.

There’s a lot more to felt needs sermon planning, but this will give you a start. And of course not every series will be a felt needs series. But when you pay attention to the needs in your audience, you’ll be more effective in meeting those needs.

How do you decide what and when to preach? Have you done any work in surveying your congregation or community?

It’s Notes or Nothing!

I heard a pastor the other talk about how he goes onto stage each week to talk to his church without notes. He walks up with nothing but the Bible in hand and the mic over his ear. He was proud of this. He even called notes “a crutch.” In his mind, using notes was breaking some rule of preaching. What rule that is I’m not sure. One rule I like to follow is good preparation, and I don’t see how using that preparation to your fullest is wrong.

Making sure your thoughts are expressed in words that your audience can turn into action requires clarity. And clarity is best established when you have notes. If you don’t use notes when you speak, you should! And here are three reasons:

  1. Keep On Track

Look, if you’re like me you like to talk…a lot. And when you start talking a lot, you tend to go from one story to another topic to a different idea all together. The only thing that keeps me on track when I talk is a good outline.

Every time I speak I have notes in front of me. I try to use them sparingly, but I always refer back to them to keep my place. I rehearse my sermon before hand to make sure I know what I’m going to say, but I keep those notes in front of me to make sure I’m on track.

This isn’t a sign of weakness but evidence of strength. As a communicator you want to stay on track. And strong communicators will have a plan set out in front of them and follow that plan.

  1. Play It Again

How many times have you asked, “Didn’t we say this already?” Or maybe you wondered, “Didn’t I preach this sermon before?” If you’ve got notes, guess what – you’ve got evidence!

Not only can you pull out your old notes, freshen them up and change the details for a new sermon, but you can also preach it again. As in preach the exact same sermon again. That will save you time in sermon prep right there. Of course I’m talking about preaching it to another audience. But even in the same audience, if it’s been five years you’ve got new people who have never heard that sermon before. If you’ve got the notes, then you’ve given yourself a chance to preach it again.

  1. Share With Others

When you were a kid and you had a friend over, what would your mom tell you before they got there? “Play nice and share.” She knew that if you followed those two rules then you wouldn’t get into trouble.

Now that we’ve grown up we think the first is still important but the second doesn’t apply anymore. But it does! The best sermon notes are those that get shared with others. In fact, the most prominent and successful preachers are those who share their outlines and notes all the time. And they don’t even charge for it!

So, share your notes with younger preachers who are just starting out. Share your notes with people in your church who lead community groups or teach Sunday school and need help preparing talks. Heck, go ahead and share your notes with the pastor across town. He may love it.


Now, one final note because I know what you’re thinking. You went to a conference or visited another church or watched a sermon online where the speaker didn’t use notes. They stood up with nothing but a bottle of water and talked for 45 minutes. But did they really? What you probably didn’t see was some monitor or teleprompter that had their notes on it. Don’t believe me? Just ask them.

The best communicators that I know use notes – whether written down in front of them or on a monitor. If you want to be one of the best communicators, I would suggest you do the same!

Do you use notes or do you try to preach from memory? How do you prepare your notes – full manuscript, outline, mind map, or something different?

Looking for Shortcuts – or – How To Read the Bible for Content

How do you do it? That’s what I get asked. How do you get the most out of your research? Where do you go to get the information you need quickly? In other words, gimme some shortcuts!

Well, the truth is there are no shortcuts in research. When you start to cut corners, you end up with a product of poor quality. And your audience is going to see it! But the first place I always go to when I start researching a series or a sermon is (wait for it…) the Bible. You knew I was going to say that, right?

But people also want to know how to find the best scriptures, the most impactful narratives, and the greatest moments in the text. They want to know how to find out what’s behind the words as well as what’s plainly written. And many think that it takes years of study in a seminary, arduous Greek and Hebrew classes, and stacks and stacks of commentary to get the full picture. But the reality is focused and consistent Bible reading is the best way to get the most out of your research.

So, here are 5 tips for getting the most out of your daily Bible reading, or how to read the Bible for content.

1. Get Ready

Before you start to read, get yourself ready by asking some important questions, the 5 Ws: Who,
What, When, Where, and Why? Who wrote this and who are they writing to? What type of literature is it? When and where are they writing? Why were they led to write it?

You won’t be able to answer all of those questions, but any good study Bible will give you an overview before each book that will give you an approximation. Knowing these things before you dig in will help you answer questions as you go along.

2. Get in Order

Some people like to do a One Year Bible reading plan, and that’s fine. I prefer to be a bit more organized when I read the Bible. The problem with most of those plans is that they have you jumping all over the Bible, reading it in chunks that are a bit out of order. To get the most out of your Bible reading, try reading it in order.

Now, you’ve got to decide what order you want to read it in. The most obvious is to read it chronologically. That means you read the Bible as a history unfolding, taking in the events as they happen. Or you can read it in the order it was written. That means taking it in as those who followed God did, each book as God revealed himself more and more to us.

Another way to “read the Bible in order” is to read it according to themes. Reading the book of Hosea along with Romans and Galatians is very helpful to understanding Paul’s viewpoint. And reading the first half of Isaiah alone with the first chapters of Matthew and Luke will give you even more context.

3. Get Through It

Try to read as much as you can in one sitting. Some books are just too large to read through at once, but most books were intended to be read that way. The Epistles were written with the idea that the entire church would gather together and listen to it all together. I think we should try to do the same.

It’s easy to do that with the smaller books, like Ephesians and Philippians and definitely Jude and Philemon. But with larger books, try to read whole sections at a time. For instance, in reading Genesis, try to read the whole story of Joseph all at once.

4. Get the History

Know the background of what you’re reading. Know the social setting, the political context, and the lay of the land as much as you can. This means you’ll need to brush up on some specific areas.

Ancient History – this will cover at least the time of Egypt through the Assyrian and Babylonian empires in ancient Palestine. You don’t have to know everything, but getting a big picture of the major events will help tremendously.

Roman History – for the New Testament setting, knowing what is going on in Palestine during the time of Roman occupation will be helpful. Who were the main characters? Why are the Herods so important? What’s the deal with Roman soldiers and Roman money in Jesus’ teaching?

Religious History – get a background on the customs of Jewish worship and sacrifice. Get to know the Temple and priesthood as much as you can. Much of this is derived directly from the Old Testament text.

Redemptive History – this is the big one! Redemptive History is the big story that’s told from Genesis to Revelation. This is the story of God’s love for his people and how he redeems us, bringing us back to himself.

5. Get a Notebook

Finally before you start, grab a notebook and a trusty pen. You’ll want to write some things down. As you read certain truths will jump out at you. Write it down! You’ll begin to get inspired for a future sermon or series. Write it down! You’ll see some connections between texts that you didn’t see before. Write it down! Write all of it down.

Here’s the deal – if you don’t write it down, you will forget it. And the next time you speak about a certain subject you’ll be searching your brain for the answer. But you won’t find it because it’s hiding in the same place you put your car keys. But if you’ve got a notebook of ideas, it’s much easier to find that kernel of a thought. Then you can turn that thought into words that motivate people to action!

I hope these tips have helped you. The best advice I can give is to also get your heart and mind ready before reading. Just say a simple prayer that God would open your eyes, your mind, and your heart to those things your audience (and you!) will need to grow in your faith.


As a bonus, here are a few books that are handy resources for studying the historical background of the Bible:

Old Testament

Bible History: Old Testament, by Alfred Edersheim

Kingdom of Priests, by Eugene Merril

The Old Testament: Text and Context, by Victor Matthews and James Moyer


New Testament

New Testament History, by F. F. Bruce

New Testament History: A Narrative Account, by Ben Witherington III


Religious History

People of the Covenant: An Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, by Henry Jackson Flanders, Robert Crapps, and David Smith

An Introduction to Early Judaism, by James Vanderkam


Jewish Background of the New Testament

Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament, by Julius Scott

Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith, by Marvin Wilson

Jesus the Jewish Theologian, by Brad H. Young


Redemptive History

The Art of Biblical History, by Philips Long

Redemptive History and the New Testament Scriptures, by Herman Ridderbos


(note: some of these works are critical of the Biblical account and do not necessarily represent a true belief in the Bible as inspired of God)



How To Tell Great Stories: 3 Ingredients

If you’re going to talk, please tell us something interesting. The best way to make your talk interesting is to tell a story. Since we were cavemen scratching lines on the walls of caves, we have been storytellers. And the best messages are those that include great stories.

Storytelling is vital to any message. And if it’s important, then we have to ask “What makes a great story?” How do we tell compelling stories so that our audience knows what we’re thinking, hears what we’re saying, and follows through with action? Here are three ingredients that every story must have in order to be a great story.

1. It’s Relatable

Each story should be instantly relatable to your audience so they can pick it up and make it their own. If they can’t see themselves in the story, then they’ll likely check out.

The most relatable stories are those from everyday life. A story about dropping the kids off at school, going grocery shopping, paying your taxes, or even mowing the lawn. Most people in your audience will be able to relate to these stories almost automatically. The mundane can seem boring, but when told from the right angle these stories are very compelling.

Even if the subject of the story is unfamiliar to your audience – like the story of a professional athlete, a noble prize winning scientist, or an ancient ruler – it can still be relatable if you tell it from the standpoint of the person. A great story is one that gets into the life of the audience and walks around a bit.

2. It’s Relevant

What is relevance? It’s a connection to a greater truth. You might have had a very interesting experience while on vacation. Okay, you can tell the story…but why? What’s the purpose? What greater truth did you learn in the experience that you want to share with us?

And great truths aren’t always learned through great experiences. Sometimes the most mundane of stories can have a huge impact when it’s relevant to your audience’s life. Maybe you learned something about God’s love while coaching your son’s t-ball game. Or perhaps you found a new angle on grace while walking to your car in a busy parking lot. Those stories work because they are relevant, and they are relevant because they connect your audience to that greater truth.

3. It’s Remembered

I’ve read my fair share of police reports in my day. That’s because once upon a time I was an insurance adjuster. It always struck me how boring police reports were. They contain just the facts, ma’am. But when I would speak to someone involved in the accident, that’s when it got good! I got all the juicy details. And that’s when a mundane story turned into a memorable one.

If you want your story to be remember, you have to include details. Just giving us a list of facts about an event isn’t story telling – it’s a police report. But when you add in the details – the sights and sounds, the smells that were there – people transport themselves to the scene. And those are the times they remember your story.

When using stories in your message it’s always important to not lose sight of the end goal – the point of your message. But when your story is relatable, relevant, and remembered, it’s so much easier for that story to polish the point your making.

What are some to the best stories you’ve heard in a message? What made them so memorable?

Words that Work

It’s been about a year since Robin Williams left us. Many people still miss him. Not just his humor but his amazing words that encouraged us and made us dream big. One quote from him that’s been circulating lately is not his, it’s his character’s from Dead Poets Society:

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”

That’s what I’m all about – words and ideas. I love to create words that represent great ideas. I love to help other people turn their thoughts into words into actions. And since I work with words, I need to use words that work. That’s what led me to the recent classic by Frank Luntz Words that Work. Taking from his long history as a political strategist, Luntz shares some great insights into how to use words to produce results.

The main idea of his book is that it doesn’t matter what you say, it matters what your audience hears. That’s so important, especially as we try to shrink the communications gap. When our words work, they are focused at brining a clear message to the masses.

From the book, here are his ten rules of effective language:

  1. Simplicity: Use Small Words
  2. Brevity: Use Short Sentences
  3. Credibility is as Important as Philosophy
  4. Consistency Matters
  5. Novelty: Offer Something New
  6. Sound and Texture Matter
  7. Speak Aspirationally
  8. Visualize
  9. Ask a Question
  10. Provide Context and Explain Relevance

Some of these I don’t think fit so well with sermons (#5 and #8 for instance), but some are incredibly helpful (#3 and #10!).

Does this list pique your interest? Want to know more? Go ahead and grab the book! It’s a great read and will definitely help you hone your message skills.

How To Read a Book

If you’re like me, you’ve got a stack of books just waiting to be read. And there’s nothing more satisfying than that last page. You close it up and put it back on your bookshelf. But what happens then? Did you really understand what you read? And how can you use what you learned? For many of us, getting from the first page to the last page is all that matters. But people who are lifelong learners take a different approach. They read books differently than the rest of us, and it shows! Here are 5 tips for getting the most out of your reading.

1. What’s the Big Idea?

When you start reading a book, keep one thing in mind: What’s the main idea? What’s the author trying to say or prove or explain? If you read close enough you’ll know because they’ll tell you. Sometimes it’s as easy as finding a sentence that says “This book is meant to” or “I hope to prove that.” But sometimes that main idea is a little harder to find. It hides behind a story or in the middle of a paragraph about the author’s research.

Once you find that main idea, underline it or – better yet – writer it down in a journal. In fact, having a reading journal is a great way to keep track of what you’re reading and what the author is saying.

2. Where Are We Going?

Read the table of contents. No, seriously. Read it. The table of contents is the map for the book. It shows you how the author plans on telling their story, what route they will take, and what topics they will discuss. Also, it lets you know how many pages it’s going to take to get there. Knowing all of this will help you plan out how, when, and where you will read the book. Tackle it all in one sitting? Go ahead. Need some more time? Fine, just choose which chapters you’ll read and when.

3. Don’t Skip the Introduction!

This is the author’s first chance to talk to you. If they’ve done their work right, then they’ve put their best foot forward and the introduction will be clear, concise, and fun to read. I know, I know…that’s not always the case. But don’t give in to the temptation to skip the introduction.

A good introduction gives you a taste of the author’s writing style, too. In fact, when you’re at a book store trying to find your next book, read through the introduction. If you like what you see, then it’s a good bet you’ll love the rest. (Also, many times Amazon and other booksellers will have the introduction available for preview on their website).

4. Don’t Believe Everything You Read

Even if you know the author, even if you’ve read some of their work before and liked it, even if they belong to some familiar circles, it’s so important that you don’t take everything they say at face value. I’ve seen books printed by prestigious academic presses that have typos in them. If they can’t use the right form of “there” in a book, couldn’t there be other errors too?

Every author has a bias that they bring to their book. Even if it’s a history book, they still have to make a decision about what information to include and what to leave out. In fact, every reader brings a certain bias to their reading, too. What do you know about the subject that either agrees or disagrees with the author? Use these biases when you read to either support or refute the author’s work.

5. Are We There Yet?

You know that main idea you underlined? That part of the book where the author tells you what route he’s taking you to the goal? Well, did you make it? In other words, did the author tell you what they told you they would tell you? And better yet, do you believe them? Or are there other conclusions you can make from the evidence they presented?

Here’s where keeping a reading journal really helps out. As you read, go back and check if the author is being consistent. Make sure their arguments are actually valid. You may even need to read the – GASP! – footnotes. But if you really want to get the most out of a book, you have to read it with a critical mind.

Well, there you go. Whether it’s a religious book, devotional book, history book, or a cookbook, I hope you feel more confident reading that tome from cover to cover and getting the most out of it.

What great book are you reading right now? What book do you want to go back and re-read with these tips in mind?

Welcome to the Gap

We’ve all been there. As pastors, speakers, and communicators we study all week, planning and praying, writing and editing, and even some of us rehearse what we’ll say on Sunday morning. Then the day arrives. We put all our heart and soul into the message and fifteen minutes later – it never fails – someone will come up to us and say, “That was really great. I especially liked when you said ____.” Of course that blank is usually filled with something we didn’t say. Sometimes it’s the complete opposite of what we said!

This is the communication gap. It’s the distance between what we say and what people hear. It happens to all of us, but the best communicators close the communication gap.

So what can we do to close the gap? Here are four tips I have found helpful in my two decades of speaking.

1. Be Competent

Some of us are natural born communicators. Others of us have to work at it. Regardless, we all need to practice honing our craft. Yes, we’re talking about practice. But if we take our job as communicators seriously, we need to be as committed to practice as pro athletes are.

Practice means setting aside time each week to work on your speaking. That doesn’t mean “on the job practice.” Sunday morning is not the time to work on your skills, it’s the time to put it all together. Practice can mean rehearsing – in front of a mirror, on video, or to a small group of friends who can deliver feedback. It can also mean taking voice lessons or a public speaking class.

One of the easiest ways to practice is by observing other speakers, not just preachers but any communicator. One of my favorite things to do is watch stand-up comics communicate. I’ve learned a lot by watching someone make people laugh.

2. Be Clear

To close that gap, our message needs to be direct and to the point. One of my professors puts it this way: “Get in and get out.” Try this: have only one point for your sermon. I’m sure you were trained to use 3 points, but give it a shot.

By the end of your message your audience should be able to tell you clearly what your main idea was. How do you do that? By repeating your main idea over and over again. Repetition is the key. Repetition is the key.

Ask yourself this: What’s the one thing I want my audience to know and the one thing I want them to do? If you can’t answer that, then they probably can’t either. This is not unique to church settings. In fact TV commercials do this all the time, and they do it in 30 seconds or less! They quickly tell you what you need to know (Our product is great!) and what you need to do (Go buy our product!).

3. Be Concise

If you can’t say it in 15 minutes, don’t take 45 minutes trying to. To show that I take my own advice, that’s all I’ll say about that.

4. Be Creative

You have about 30 seconds at the beginning of your message to grab your audience’s attention and keep it. That means it’s a good idea to front load your message with creative elements. But don’t stop there. Creative elements within your message give your audience a chance to stop, catch their breath, and think again about what you’re saying.

Many times pastors will avoid creative elements because they don’t have a creative staff. Maybe they think if a creative element doesn’t include lights, sounds, and video it’s not worth doing. But a simple picture, an object lesson, or the telling of a great story are all easy ways to be creative. Video has been around for less than a century now, but creative public speaking has been around for millennia.

Creativity may mean you have to change your communication style or adapt to new technology. That means you need to go back to step 1 and go through the cycle again. Of course all great communicators are always working to hone their craft and be the best they can be.

I can’t guarantee that everyone who listens to your message will get it. There will still be some that are distracted, fiddle with their phones, or even fall asleep when you’re speaking. But if you follow these four steps – Be Competent, Be Clear, Be Concise, Be Creative – you’ll go a long way to closing the communication gap.

What are some times you’ve encountered the Communication Gap?

Building Teams That Work

LeBron James said it best: “Teamwork makes the dream work.” If you don’t already have a team that helps you with creative ideas or message content, you need to start. Two are better than one, and other people bring insight you’ve never even thought of.

But not every team works. Over the course of my time in church ministry I’ve worked with plenty of teams. There have been good teams, bad teams, and teams that were so ugly they ended in shouting matches and hurt feelings. The key is to assemble the right team before you even begin.

Here are some keys to make sure your team works!

1. Find People Who Are Passionate About The Church

It’s actually easy to find people in your church who are creative. No matter the size of your congregation, chances are someone has a background in drama, writing, art, or music. What’s not so easy to find is passion, especially passion for church.

In today’s culture, the church seems to have taken a beating. Some of that criticism is justified. But it’s this complicated, imperfect grouping of people from different walks and ways of life that we call “Church” that God is using to bring people back to him. So look for people who are as passionate about the church’s mission as you are.

2. Find People Who Think Like You Do

Some people like to get a big team together and throw out as many ideas as possible. Others only want two or three people on a team who really focus their ideas in one direction. No one way is better than another, and it’s up to the leader to decide how best to generate ideas and produce results.

Understanding how the leader thinks is important. No matter what, the team should reflect that leader’s style. If you’re a free thinker, surround yourself with people that can easily throw out fresh ideas every five minutes. If you’re a focused thinker, surround yourself with people who are analytical and task-oriented. Whatever thinking style you have, make sure the team can work well with that.

3. Find People Who Are Different Than You

Having said that, you also need the opposite. Look around at the people on your team. Do they all look alike, dress alike? Do they all live in the same neighborhood? Do they all share the same hobbies? Then it may be time to overhaul that team.

Having people on your team who are different than you will help you develop multiple viewpoints for your messages. Think about who your audience is. Hopefully it’s made up of people of different races, ages, and backgrounds. Make sure your team is representative of those differences.

In most churches, the men outnumber the women in leadership. However, in the pews it’s the complete opposite. For a male pastor, getting a woman’s perspective is vital in connecting with the women in the congregation. Don’t neglect this just because it’s always been done a certain way.

4. Find People Who Will Tell You “No”

The worst thing you can do is have a team that’s afraid to tell you when you’re wrong. If all they’re doing is rubber-stamping your ideas, then all your ideas will get through – even the bad ones.

You also need to make sure you can tell your team “no.” Be honest with your team. If someone has a bad idea, don’t tell them, “I like that!” and then do nothing with it. It’s so frustrating to give good ideas, be told they’re good ideas, and then not see them used.

If you like the idea and you intend to use it, tell them. If you don’t want to use it say, “I like that, but how can we make it even better?” If you don’t like the idea, just be honest. It usually takes a few bad ideas before the good ones start rolling anyway.

5. Find People Who Are Committed

Finally, make sure your team is committed to the mission and vision of your church. If they aren’t, then you could face rebellion. Also, when you assign action items at the end of meetings, make sure this is a team that will fulfill those items.

Above all, don’t let fear stand in the way of using a team approach to planning content and creative elements for your messages. I know pastors who are lone wolves, who would rather do everything by themselves rather than share the workload and possibly encounter delays or imperfections. That’s a great recipe for burnout!

But working with a team is really great when you have the right team in place. And by following these simple keys, I’m sure you’ll find the best people for your team!

How do you find people for your team? What are some other keys to assembling a great team?